Free Film School: Freshman year

I moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 2016 with the intention of becoming a filmmaker. I grant the loftiness of this statement (and intention), but at this stage in my life, at the tender age of 30, I have no other ambition worth pursuing.

I never went to film school.

As it turns out, you don’t have to. Hell, it’s almost better if you don’t. (You don’t even have to go to school school. The barriers to entry are so low, that anyone with a pulse and half a brain can probably find work as a production assistant.)

Strangely, the more ‘outside experience’ one brings to a job, the more easily one stands out. You at least have better stories. I’ve long held the belief that knowledge is the only commodity that matters, and that time is the only resource of value. Perhaps attending film school could have amplified the former, and shortened the latter, as it took me quite a few more years to realize I could actually get paid to make films.

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Peak Postcards

My obsession for postcards grows with each new find.

A few weeks ago, I had to kill a little time near Pico-Rivera, not knowing anything about the area. I wound up in Whittier, near the college, inside Half Off Books — the name did not disappoint. Neither did their substantial collection of Charles Bukowski. (I keep forgetting he’s an Angeleno).

But the true surprise came from the lonely hearts club of postcards hanging askew from the rotating wire rack. When one is especially lucky, a collection surfaces. That day…


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This Thursday, at 8pm come to Junior High for a night of comedy and edutainment centered on one theme: Immigration.

All proceeds and donations go to the performance space/art gallery/ephemera shop.

But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
the nice part of Leviticus


Have You Seen Her?

Yesterday would have been a good day for a man to give me a yellow mimosa.

That’s a flower BTW. Not a drink to go with your brunch. It’s also how the Italians recognized Women’s Day– a holiday so bound up with worker’s rights that it grated my nerves somewhat to come into the office. Silicon Beach is a dick-fest.

Click to Listen

Of course, I could have taken the day off, but I and my fellow female coworkers reported for duty, because let’s be honest, when it came to the Day Without Women, the word just did not get out.

Disappointing too, because I can appreciate how impactful a bit political theater can be, and how historically, strikes led by women have led to significant action (read: change). The concept of a general strike stoked my imagination with such fury, that reality couldn’t possibly meet my expectations. I hoped for a scene reminiscent of 28 Days Later, empty streets, eerie in their peace, like one of the ghost cities of China. Instead, silicon beach resembled The Silence, streets choked with men, their leers lingering on the soft curls and airy sundresses adorning oblivious women.

No matter how much I try to live my values, rather than bark about them, I feel at odds with collective demonstration. There’s something painfully ironic about being shamed for not taking part in marches or rallies. Isn’t that exactly the kind of logic we’ve been trying to #resist — the insistence that there are things I must do because I’m a woman?

I guess I’d rather lean into my instinct for individualism, even as it divides me from others. But this even is a false dichotomy. For a nation so into isolating itself, we don’t tolerate those that go the other way, those who ignore the rhetoric echoing off facebook walls, those who go against the grain, and do it so well. When did political agreement become a precondition for friendship? When did we stop seeking challenges to our own worldview?

In reading about the history of International Working Women’s Day, it was the accounts of women-only dinners, outings and salons for which I found myself pining. I normally abhor homosocial attitudes, as personally I’ve found little difficulty locating male allies. (For those of you who have, I do empathize.) But the thought of giving as good as we get is too delicious an idea to pass up on March 8th.

Perhaps it is my relative lack of any social circle here in la reina de los angeles that causes me to hunger for more than just a family dinner. I miss the community of the living room, the spirited exchange of ideas and still-forming opinions, and the almost-maniacal laughter that erupts as yet another story reminds you that you are not alone.

My own observance of the day concluded with a screening of Thelma and Louise at the Wiltern Theater, an event preceded with a panel of creative women that out-shined their somewhat unremarkable moderator. Among them, the screenwriter Callie Khouri brought a plainspoken wisdom to the event that calmed whatever inner turmoil I felt in regard to my place as an individual voice within a “cacophony” of mouthpieces and borrowed ideas.

Khouri shared recollections of the wisdom her mother passed along, to be excellent and offer kindness, but it was her father’s advice that seemed more important today than ever: “If you can’t say something new, or different just keep your mouth closed.” Khouri acknowledged beforehand that it sounds discouraging, but that instinctively, she knew what he said was true.

Khouri wrote Thelma and Louise because “there was nothing out there that spoke to me– there were no stories about, for, and by women at that time.” A viewing of the film confirms this reflection, as two seemingly soft, feminine women set out on a journey through a dirty, rough, world of denim, cowboy hats, roaring engines, oil dereks, and filth– only to be strengthened by it, to absorb it, and to never return.

“Something’s crossed over in me and I can’t go back, I mean I just couldn’t live.”

It looks just like Skinny & Sweet. Except for the little skull and crossbones on the label.

Tonight, the Cinefamily presents 9 to 5, the 1980 feminist, labor comedy starring Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda– and I couldn’t possibly be more primed: Leaving an actual 9 to 5 job, in a male-dominated office space, on the first day of my period.

Pour yourself a cup of ambition.

It doesn’t hurt that this evening’s selection comes to us from the astute Greg Proops, maestro of improvisational wit, and possibly the greatest male feminist I can name. (His introduction will be available as a podcast later this week).

The first time I saw 9 to 5, I held a job as an administrative assistant for a graduate engineering program at a Big Ten college. The position was my first “real job” with salary, bennys, and vacation time, and came after six months of temp jobs, freelance contracts and other stop gap employment. Attaining such a position shouldn’t have been such a remarkable feat– but for a 20-something, 21st century human, the achievement proved uncommon (particularly when compared with the limited success of my graduate school colleagues).

Perhaps it was this scarcity of prosperity, coupled with dissatisfaction with my work, that I collapsed into a depression the like of which I have never known.

Acting as the intermediary between the marketing department and the program faculty, I owned nothing philosophically, made no impact professionally, and found no purchase for new ideas. Staff turnover was high, and roughly half of my employment was devoted to covering the other empty positions. I resigned myself, and became a custodian of paperwork, and a rather unwilling buttress to weak management.

Like Violet, Judy, and Doralee, I knew that the work I did was important– that my skilled efforts kept the program moving– but that I would never attain anything close to respect while acting as caretaker to male bosses.

Unlike Violet, Judy and Doralee I had no allies.

I took little comfort in the humanity around me– an odd duck in a pond of engineers and scientists who could appreciate only the most formulaic of wit. Without conscious motion, and almost against my will, I found myself enslaved to the clock– impossible to rise earlier than the calculated 27 minutes needed to get from bed to desk. No breakfast. No shower. Just unkempt misery until quitting time.

Super-charging my self-awareness with a course of psychotherapy, I took a leave of absence, and plotted my escape to that alternate reality: Los Angeles, California. Today, I help make movies, instead of watching them alone in my apartment– though in all honesty, I still do a lot of that too.

Highway Hypnosis

parking ticket

At fifteen, I began my career as a driver. Growing up in southwestern Ohio, in the suburb of a small city, I knew nothing of public transportation. The regional transit authority consisted of a few buses with limited service– highly stigmatized as something “poor people” used. It didn’t help that the non-bus using public actually rallied against proposed additions, routes and stations, fearful of what schedule-waving trash might hop off at their shopping mall.

Freedom of motion in such a community required two conditions: a license (ideally valid), and access to a car. Like many of my affluent teenage contemporaries, I began my driving career at fifteen with a learner’s permit. At sixteen, I enjoyed the bizarre thrill of operating a vehicle alone for the very first time. I grinned uncontrollably.

Yet I still envied my urban counterparts — those people who lived above cafes, takeout joints and dry cleaners. People who could walk to… something. Anything. The closest establishment (a 20 minute bike ride away) was the Circle K, a franchise soon replaced with alternate management, and a less enchanting logo. Many an afternoon my friend and I would consume ice cream sandwiches, sitting the concrete barrier that protected the store from reckless parking jobs.

I commuted to high school, and college, and graduate school, in a Tempo, Saturn, and Sonoma respectively. I actively patronized drive-ins, drive-thrus and drop-off windows, and carried AAA memberships. I learned the all the scenic routes and co. roads my memory could hold. I drove toward blinking lights, just to find the ground they rose from.

When I moved to Chicago, I sold my car and embraced the CTA. When I moved to L.A., I faced the road and became an Uber driver.

Though driving retained its familiarity, I seem to have taken a step backward, as the isolation destroys my adventurousness, and the rigors of urban driving depress my energy.

Iggy Pop Came to Me In A Dream


I was travelling across country, lodging overnight at KOA’s and national parks. During the course of my travels I stopped in for a sandwich and beer at a sports bar in Missouri– I know it was Missouri, only in way one can know anything in a dream, through the marrow of my bones.

Tired, and miles from the encampment, I cooled off in the dark and artificially chilled air. I took a stool at the center of the beveled wooden bar, facing a mirrored wall that seemed to double the number of bottles resting before it. A few seats away, a man with straight, shoulder-length hair quietly drank from a glass.

He asked me where I had come from, and I recognized him instantly. So had the rest of the bar patrons, who repeated each word of our modest exchange in loud whispers. As if to prove my difference from the audience that watched from the corners of the bar, I avoided imposition, and maintained the kind of casual conversation one can’t recall after waking.

He spoke with ease and confidence, reminding me of a rakish uncle. I wrote my name on an index card and slid it across the bar, explaining that I used to live in Dayton, but now I live in L.A. “No number?” he asked.

Behind us, the bartender dragged a drunk to the door by his shoulders. Barely conscious, he still held his last bottle of beer to his lips. “Just like a baby,” Iggy said.

Adventures In Commerce – Chicago Zine Fest 2016

Self-Publisher’s of Chicago (SPoC) tabled at Chicago Zine Fest 2016.

Several hundred small bills circulated the Plumber’s Union Hall this past Saturday. ZInesters, bookmakers, and comic artists displayed their wares while attendees displayed their cares.

This Morning, My Coffee Maker Stopped Working.


And I became furious.

Mostly because it made about 1/3 of a cup before going on strike, leaving me with a tasting portion to consume, and a half-damp filter filled with grounds.

Like a 21st century human, I turned to Google for answers.

At first, I looked for a solution to the mechanical failure. Then I remembered that people used to make coffee on the stove, and modified my search terms. Heat, water, and ground beans brought together under a watchful eye can produce astonishing results.

I’m beginning to like the extra space on the counter.

Every Legitimate Excuse You’ll Ever Need

I discovered this little gem neatly folded between the pages of Women by Charles Bukowski. I like to imagine that the last owner of this Black Sparrow Press edition missed a lot of work days ( maybe to read more Bukowski).

absence slip, note