Xmas cookie brodazzle video

Well, I’ve been writing . . . rap lyrics.  This is the culmination of a month or so of collaborating with my writing partner.  We’re working on more stuff, so this is just a start.  We’ll publish under the name “Very Good Listeners,” so keep an eye out for that.  It was a fun process – the back and forth edits, giving each other notes, recording the audio (we have some work to do on that), and filming / editing the video.

Without further ado, our xmas cookie rap video, “Brodazzle”

In Which I Want To Be Creative But Don’t Do Creative Things

A few of you have noticed that I haven’t been blogging lately.  Thanks to those that have taken

asleep at the keyboard

When creative slumps attack

the time to say something.  I’m encouraged, knowing that I have some sort of audience.  It’s not that I don’t want to be creative, it’s just all of the hard work of DOING creative that gets in the way.

I guess you could say I’m in a bit of a creative slump.  I relate to Dan Harmon, creator of the sitcom “Community,” who recently blogged about the need for an outside stressor to motivate him in his creative writing pursuits:   ” . . . if nobody’s waiting to hear from you, why say anything, if you’re not saying anything, nobody’s listening, slipping you deeper and deeper into a creative coma.”

Dear reader, please don’t think I’m calling you “nobody” or dismissing you as not worth writing for.  It’s just that you don’t give me a paycheck.  You don’t fire me if I let a deadline slip a few days or months.  I’ve made myself the promise that “I’ll write a little something every day” countless times, but it’s just not working.  I always peter out.  Even though I dream of one day quitting my day job to write funny stuff professionally, I apparently don’t have enough internal motivation to take the small steps necessary to make that happen.

Interestingly, in some areas of my life, I have incredible willpower, and can just pull myself up by my bootstraps and make big changes without requiring external pressure.  Eating, for instance.  I’ve let myself go a few times, and have put on 20-30 extra pounds.  When I decide it’s time, I can instantly start eating better and shed the pounds at will.  I can resist desserts and high calorie temptations on my own without any special diet or food overlord.  Why don’t I have this kind of self-control when I comes to creative pursuits?

So, writers and creatives, I could use your input here.  What keeps you in the game?  What tricks have you learned to keep you on task?  So far the only ideas I’ve got are:

  1. Be a better person
  2. Quit my job and starve my family until I hit my stride and strike it rich as a sitcom writer

There!  I made it all the way to the end of a new post!  I shall reward myself with a cookie.

Google Voice Transcription #2

Here’s another Google Voice transcription gem

Hey Brian, This is done. Sincerely stardom hit the 6th. It doesn’t seem right now that the fixtures wereconfused you when you 6 6 is take a lot 5 that 7 minutes 9 at six. When you get the black screen foralright. 3045 seconds and so or 7 done. And then we could use it and then. It doesn’t make sense andoff so gimme a call. Thanks. Bye.

I should probably break this one down and respond accordingly:

Hey Brian, This is done.
Thank you.  Please place it on my desk or park it in my driveway.

Sincerely stardom hit the 6th.
That is bad news.  Please keep your horse off the golf course.  It is not a polo field.

It doesn’t seem right now that the fixtures were confused you when you 6
Indeed.  That was a fragile and confusing age for me.  Thank you for understanding.

6 is take a lot 5 that 7 minutes 9 at six.
Yes, math is hard, but I still expect you to be at work at carry the 2 minus the hour 7 seven.

When you get the black screen for alright.
I also prefer that to the blue screen.  I’ll pass the compliment on to the rest of the IT staff.

3045 seconds and so or 7 done.
Yes, RENT was my favorite musical, too. Wicked is right up there, but there’s something about the way they were just able to freeze time with those number lyrics. Magical.

And then we could use it and then.
Just let me know when it’s done and when

It doesn’t make sense and off so gimme a call
To further proliferate, the request has made too the many, therefore, and which is which. Dial giraffe.

Thanks. Bye.
And just what the heck is that supposed to mean?

Google Voice soup kitchen bus

Google Voice Transcription #1

I switched my voicemail provider to Google Voice a while back to try the transcription service.  I’m never going back.  Here’s my most recent voicemail.

Good evening everyone. This is your friendly neighborhood soup kitchen. So I’m calling to tell you thatit’s still raining outside, tomorrow. The buses of the district will be traveling as normal. But due to theexcessive amounts of rain, our drivers. I’ve been informed use extreme caution in the areas. We Are,Flooding is, but any of that busses cannot travel the road safely to pick up your child is normal.Please note that been informed not tourist the safety of all. If you have concerns about your childgetting to school. Please call your child’s respect to the school. And we will speak to you at that pointin time. Have a safe evening. We had a good weekend. Thank you.

This was a very informative message. Up until this point, I had no idea that:

  1. We had a neighborhood soup kitchen
  2. They can predict the weather, presumably with the help of a time machine based on the verb tenses
  3. They provide a bus service
  4. They are philosophers (“We are, Flooding is”)
  5. They don’t like to drive on the roads
  6. My child is normal
  7. The busses pick up children AND tourists
  8. If I call my child’s respect on the phone, the soup kitchen will answer
  9. But it’s all good, because they had a good weekend.

Support your local excellence

Does supporting local business really make sense

Does supporting local business really make sense

I’m not a big fan of requests to support your local business/band/artist/whatever. That’s not to say I DON’T support these entities. I just don’t care for marketing strategies that employ “support your local” pleas. There should be a reason besides proximity that compels my support. What do you have to offer that is excellent? If you can’t compete on price, is there something else you provide that will earn my loyalty? Better service? A stream of new and exciting material to engage your fan base?

Are you striving for excellence in your craft?

The mom and pop tire shop down the street gets my business even though their prices are a few dollars higher than Wal-Mart. The owner treats customers fairly, pumps up my kids’ bike tires with a smile, and doesn’t make me feel stupid when I forget to have my tires rotated. I get my coffee beans from the local coffee shop because their beans are more freshly roasted than the Starbuck’s from the grocery store and they don’t cost any more. I listen to a friend’s local radio show because he just runs an excellent show. He introduces fans to new music and provides interesting backstories many of the artists and songs.

Similarly, if you have aspirations to do something bigger and better than your current gig, start being excellent now. Don’t wait until you’ve “arrived” to bring your best to the table. Even if you’re bagging groceries or flipping burgers, there is room to go beyond what is required and do excellent work. Give people a reason to appreciate your work beyond sentimentality.

Vegan Zuppa Toscana soup recipe in the style of Olive Garden

Vegan Zuppa Toscana soup (in the style of Olive Garden)

Since I’m spilling my guts here, and in the interest of full disclosure, my guts these days don’t contain any animal products (besides my own).  I made the switch to a vegan diet about a year and a half ago after learning that I had some high cholesterol levels.  And now that I’ve made the switch, I don’t think I’ll ever go back.  I’ve had a lot of help from newsletters, blogs, and cook books like The Vegan Coach, The Sexy Vegan, and Chef Chloe.

One of the skills I’m learning is how to transfer specific knowledge from following recipes into general knowledge of how to cook something from scratch without a recipe.  Sassy (the Vegan Coach) has been especially helpful in this area.  I’m at the point now where I can take a few glances at the fridge and pantry, make a mental list of what’s available, and throw something together quickly using basic cooking methods.

I’ve been making a lot of soup recently, as I am wont to do during the cold winter months.  One of my favorite pre-vegan restaurant soups was

Vegan Zuppa Toscana soup

Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana.  Creamy, spicy, hearty, incredibly satisfying Italian comfort food.  So, I set out to make my own.  I did a quick google search for a copycat recipe, glanced over the basic ingredients, and quickly adapted the main ingredients to vegan equivalents.  Here’s what I came up with.  This serves about ten people (or one person for five days of lunch and dinner if you hide leftovers in an empty Folger’s coffee container in the back of the fridge).  This soup took me about 35-40 minutes to make, including conceiving the recipe, prep, and cleanup.

Ingredients:

  • 1 leek
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • 8 medium potatoes (I used Yukon golds and russets, but whatever is fine.  Red would be good)
  • 8-10 cups vegetable broth (I use Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base)
  • 1 can coconut milk (you can use a “lite” version of this which will have less fat, but I don’t recommend it for this recipe)
  • 1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk (soy, rice, almond, etc. OR just add another can of coconut milk.  Permission granted to use a lite coconut milk for this part)
  • 1 1/2 tsp thyme (fresh, if available)
  • 1 tsp rosemary (fresh, if available)
  • 1/4 – 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (I used 1 tsp, which the adults liked just fine, but kids said it was too spicy.)
  • 2 tsp black pepper (or less, to taste)
  • Many handfuls of chopped/stemmed kale (probably around 2 cups worth? I didn’t measure.  Use what’s comfortable for you)VegeUSA vegan sausage chunks
  • 1/2 lb vegan sausage crumbles (I used VegeUSA vegan sausage chunks, as pictured.  You can store these in your pantry, as they come packaged dry.  They expand quite a bit and have flavor and texture remarkably similar to the real thing)

Instructions:

  • Put the broth in a large pot and turn on the burner (pressure cooker NOT recommended for this.  It cooks quickly enough without it, and you don’t want your potatoes or kale to be overcooked)
  • Wash and cut up your potatoes (leave the peels on), throw ‘em in the pot
  • While the potatoes come to a boil, dice the leeks and onions, and sauté in olive oil until clear
  • Add garlic, turn off heat, and sauté a few seconds more until aromatic
  • Add onions/leeks/garlic to pot, as well as all other ingredients (except the kale)
  • When potatoes start to feel almost done, add kale – about 5-10 minutes should be fine.  You want it soft, but some texture should remain
  • Turn off the burner when the potatoes are done
  • Eat until your belly can’t take any more, take a breath, then eat two more spoonfuls

Perfectionism vs Progress

I have a tendency to guard myself against failure by taking protective measures.  I over-prepare for new tasks.  When my son asked me to paint his bike, I spent two days googling “how to paint a bike,” pored over every article, developed opinions on competing methods, and read reviews of different brands of spray paint before I had even picked up a piece of sandpaper.  And in the end, the bike looked about as good as every other dad-who-doesn’t-know-what-he’s-doing paint job.  This self-protective tendency stems from perfectionism.  My desire to know all the variables, plan every detail, and avoid bumps in the road often keeps me from making any progress.

So, recently, I’ve been taking small steps toward my goals, even though I can’t see the complete path.  Last weekend I took my very first improv comedy class at the St. Louis Comedy Connection.  It’s one piece of the puzzle in my goal to create Brian 2.0.  There was nothing particularly revolutionary or life changing in the content of the class, but it was ACTION.  I wasn’t just watching youtube clips, listening to podcasts, reading comedy books, or researching improv – I was actually doing it.  We learned about the about the concept of “Yes.  And . . . ” where we force ourselves to agree with our scene partners and build on each other’s choices, rather than forcing our pre-conceived notions of where the scene should go.  I need more improvisation in more aspects of my life:  Taking more risks, learning from mistakes, facing my fears, acting before the plan is complete, and pushing through the terrifying moments.

I’ve also begun working on a sitcom pilot idea with my writing partner.  It’s something neither of us have done before, but we’re sticking our necks out there and learning as we go.  We don’t have hours and hours each day to dedicate to it, so our brainstorming and writing times are done in really short bursts.  Again, though, it’s action, and it feels great.  Our current goal is to have a script done in time for a sitcom pilot script contest, which is helping us stay focused and pace ourselves accordingly.  We’re probably making a lot of mistakes, and our writing times aren’t very efficient, but we are making progress and learning.

What are you putting off for fear of failure?  Is the desire for perfection keeping you from progress?

Distractions

One of my favorite author-bloggers, Kelly Barnhill recently wrote a great post about the antics of her son and his friends entitled If those boys would stand still for five minutes, they’d write a damn good novel.  Based on their conversations, I think I’d get along handsomely with these young men:  “Okay, fine. We all speak fluent Wolf.”  “Toe jam is just the nice way of saying toe poop. No one likes to believe that their toes can poop, but they do all the time.“  “We have to stop Dr. Nimblenuts and his atomic EXPLODING ANTS!”  If I could only capture that kind of wild creativity in my own writing!

But it wasn’t so much the boys’ dialogue that struck me as much as Kelly’s summary question, “What’s distracting you from your writing today?”  My answer came quickly, as I’ve been in a distractible state lately.  Like Kelly, I have been enjoying the distractions, so I’m reluctant to move on and do the work that I know I need to do.  I have the goal of writing a sample sitcom script, and I’ve been “researching.”  I’ve read how-to books and articles, watched (too?) many sitcom episodes for inspiration, listened to several hours of Ben Blacker’s Nerdist Writers Panel podcast, downloaded script writing software, read scripts from Community, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation – everything but write my own sitcom script.  All of these activities are important and justifiable, but they’re all ancillary, and it’s time for me to buck up, face my fears, and start writing that script!

I’ll close with the same question Kelly asked, but slightly broader.  What’s distracting you from your goals today?  What excuses are you making to yourself?  Are you stuck in preparation mode, afraid to take the next steps?

Funny Friday: Top 10 Funny Things – Feb 1 2013

Ten things that I found funny this week.

1.  It’s a trap!

It's a Trap!

2.  From a friend, context irrelevant

If I hadn’t been stuffing my face with nachos, I would have been more emotional.

3.  From my uncle on Facebook

Quote of the day- “Ask a college student what they’ll be doing after graduating and they’ll tell you they don’t know. Ask them what they’ll do at the zombie apocalypse and they’ll tell you immediately and in great detail.” – a Montana Tech student.

4.  Sunbathing robots

Sunbathing Robots

5.  A four year old dance student to her teacher

Student:  “Why’d you bring beer in here?”
Teacher:  “What?  It’s not beer.  It’s Diet Mountain Dew.”
Student:  “I know what beer looks like, and that’s BEER!”

6.  I’m a sucker for Key and Peel skits lately.

7.  Baby + treadmill

Baby and treadmill

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.  I very much want to test this theory

glock-minnows

9.  I’ve been working my way through Community, and found the physical comedy of this hilarious.

10.  Not necessarily funny, but a fantastic article by Tom Ceraulo, writer for the very funny “30 Rock” about the final days of the show.

Behind The Scenes At The Final Days Of “30 Rock”