I’ve never been good at making anything visually pleasing. Given step-by-step drawing instructions, I will draw a person looking like a hideous monster or a cat looking like a mongoose. I have difficulty painting or even coloring inside lines. Heck, even my handwriting is illegible. I could be all gender-normative and blame it on my general dudeness, but let’s not go that route. This is a (totally made up) problem for me, because sometimes I like to cook things (ed. note: Always I like to eat things). See, look at these mini pies I made for Thanksgiving, they’re all misshapen and deformed, and that’s the best example using the most flattering Instagram filter.

Either these are small or I have abnormally large hands (ladies?)

And so, rather than solving my problem, I’ve decided to work around it, making foods I KNOW I can’t make look bad.

First things first, I promise not to become a food blog, plenty of people cook and eat better than I. In the interest, however, of blogging more, and becoming a more well-rounded blogger (and because the only recipe I found online called for pre-made guacamole! The nerve!), I present to you a food post.

Quick backstory: I’m an omnivore (I’d say “a proud omnivore,” but that sounds a little too Rick Perry, no?) but plenty of my friends are vegan. They don’t make me feel bad for eating meat and I don’t cook bacon in their homes*, so we get along famously. Because they love me and because I love themes (but mostly because they love me) I’ve been adopted into a monthly potluck known only as vegan dinner club. I made this 7-layer dip for the latest, the theme of which was presents (food stuffed in other foods).

Layer 1: Refried black beans Really, I wouldn’t fault anyone for using pre-refried black beans, or just mashing up and frying canned black beans. But I did this the hard way, because I can buy a pound of dry black beans for $1.29.

I arrived at my apartment full of holiday cheer (booze) from two holiday parties at 3 am on a Saturday night and somehow remembered to measure out and soak two cups of black beans overnight in water an inch higher than the beans. When the cat woke me up at 9:30 the next morning, I found the water absorbed and the beans still pretty dry, so I separated them into two bowls and soaked for another 3 hours in water 2 inches higher than the beans for another 3 hours while I tried to go back to sleep.

The next step was a labor of love. And by that I mean I had to spend two hours watching Piranha 3D and checking on the beans only sporadically while they boiled. Drain the beans and put them in a large pan, covering them 2-3 inches in water. Bring the beans to a boil then simmer for the aforementioned two hours. Every 20-30 minutes stir the beans and make sure the water level is staying constant (I added about a cup of water each trip).

I tell you all this because Piranha 3D is a pretty good movie even if you’re watching it in 2D, and because I recommend soaking beans overnight in water covering the beans a full 2 inches.

Once the beans are soft/edible, it’s time for the mashing. I’d suggest doing this with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher. I didn’t have either of those things, so I improvised with a mason jar. Once the means are mashed (go to town for like 3-5 minutes), dice 1/3 of an onion and one jalapeno, combine with the beans and 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and fry in a pan for about 10 minutes until the onion is cooked, things have combined, all that. Mix in some salt and hot sauce of your choice. Layer the bottom of whatever you keep the dip in with the black beans.

Layer 2: Vegan cheese sauce I modified this recipe from Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food, a birthday present from my sister. Mix 1 and a half cups of plain soy milk with half a cup of nutritional yeast, 2 tablespoons of tahini, and quarter-to-half teaspoons of garlic powder, onion powder, salt, chili powder, and paprika (I used smoked paprika). I’d also put in a little bit of lemon juice here, because why not? Stir until it’s all combined, but you’ll probably still have chunks of pesky tahini. Empty the mix into a saucepan and heat on medium, stirring constantly, for 5-7 minutes, whisking away those tahini chunks with a fork the whole time. Layer the cheese on the beans.

Layer 3: Vegan sour cream dip This is seriously my favorite part of any 7-layer dip. It’s also the most simple, so why mess with something that already works? Take a 12-oz package of vegan sour cream and add about half a package of whatever cheating taco mix you can find. I had some left over from taco night at the lake. Mix thoroughly until the whole thing turns orange and you have to stop yourself from tasting it. Layer on top the cheese.

Layer 5: Fresh salsa You’re reading that right, layer 5. Just bear with me, it’s not a typo, you’ll see in a minute. Cut 4 roma tomatoes and half an onion. Squeeze a whole lime into the mix and add a finely cut jalapeno and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Put in a little salt and picante sauce and stir well. Set this aside.

Layers 6 and 7: Black Olives and Green onions Cut these, or buy the black olives pre-cut like a poseur (me). Again, set them aside

Layer 4: Guacamole Smash up two ripe avocados with a fork. Add any of that onion you have left, the juice of half a lemon or lime, 3 cloves of garlic, and a hint of salt and picante sauce. My usual guacamole has chunks of tomato and pepper, but I omitted them because they’re in the salsa. Layer the guacamole on top of the sour cream mix as close to serving time as possible, because I have bad luck with guacamole that begins to turn brown after an hour or two. In this case, the guac was still good 3 hours later, so maybe this isn’t as much of a concern.

Layer the salsa after the guac, then the green onions. Put on the black olives last. Fight off heartburn all night after eating with chips.

In the end, this turned out to be quite the hit, and it even looked ok! So if you want to bring something delicious, but cholesterol/cruelty free the next time you go watch a football game with your bros, pack the dip! If you want to make sure awful people don’t eat it, hammer in that it’s vegan. Horrible people can’t stand the thought of vegan food.

The rest looked and tasted just as delicious

*or ever

 

I’m embarrassed.

I don’t even want to say how long it’s been.

If we’re being honest, save for a brief fling in November 2010 (a few hours, tops), it’s been two years since I last wrote anything.

Of course, we’re not talking tweets or blogs (though it’s been a long-ass time for that, too), us Creative Writing Graduates have a secret code. We say write the way someone might emphatically say “SANG” after a particularly good performance in a movie, a reality show, or some other kind of trite, scripted scene.

I went almost two years barely thinking about fiction. I haven’t had an excuse. I haven’t been busy, I haven’t had some new creative indulgence to take up my time, I sure as shit haven’t had a ladyfriend keeping me occupado.

And then I had an idea. One I knew probably wouldn’t translate well to a novel. One that was actually more of a premise. See, ideas are usually fleshed out. This was “wouldn’t it be funny if…” It was a setting, two characters, a few jumping off points. Things it lacked included an overall voice (my ideas move from funny to dark to darkly funny day by day), a clear direction, an overall message for existing and character development (I said it had two characters, not that either of them were particularly good). In October I decided I’d take the plunge. “These things will come to me,” I think. “I got by in college classes just using writing prompts, didn’t I?” In the biggest conceit of all, I think “I’ll start outlining as November draws near.”

Then it’s my birthday, I’m daydrunk, drinking coffee on a porch while a marching band plays in front of the Wendy’s across the street and I realize that November starts on Tuesday and I don’t have anything outlined.

Then it’s November 3 and I realize I’ve forgotten to write for the last 2 days, but I’ve got an hour to kill before Community starts…

I write 1800 words in an hour. At this pace, I can catch up by November 30.

I write for 6 days straight, each day getting closer to where I should be. “I’m doing this!” I say. The ideas are coming, thinking ahead, who needs that?

Except around day 8 I do.

And then I’m kind of doomed.

Tonight I’ll go home and, after about an hour, stop writing at 20,000 words. Because completing 2/5ths of National Novel Writing Month somehow seems less pathetic than completing 19196/50000ths (4799/12500ths reduced).

But I’m not going to regard those 2/5ths as failures. Instead, here’s what I’ve learned this month.

  1. Failure is totally ok. I didn’t do NaNo last year because I knew I wouldn’t be able to complete it. This year I told myself I could, I didn’t, but I still have 20,000 words on my computer that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. And I can guarantee at least ¼ of them are good.
  2. I like to write. A few days in November, I (gasp) looked forward to writing! I said to myself “I can watch The New Girl on Hulu later, I want to write now” (OK I lied, it was How I Met Your Mother, I actually left a writing session that was going pretty well to watch The New Girl. But still.)
  3. I can make time to write. This, of course, is my biggest problem with writing. I don’t have time, I’m overbooked. So I made time. I wasted less time looking up obscure wrestling videos on Youtube. I watched fewer bad movies (at least, alone). I changed over my Google Reader schedule to “strictly at work.” I spent less time writing messages to girls who won’t write me back on the OKCupid. You know what, I even turned down or delayed a few hang-out opportunities with friends, because they’re still going to like me ok if I get drunk with them one less day a week.
  4. Writing groups are important. I could have never had my 8-10 good days of writing without the few writers meetings I had with my friends Ben and Shawn. We’d meet, get coffee or treats (later beer), make self-deprecating jokes about the feebleness of our mission, and then write largely uninhibited. Of course, it was the natural interruptions that happen when three unsupervised people with computers in front of them get together that provided welcome reprieve from writing, a chance to compose myself and get back outside of whatever scene I was working on and into the bigger picture of what I was trying to accomplish.
  5. Writing at a bar=Not a bad idea. GAME CHANGER! I live two blocks away from my favorite dive bar in the city. They have WiFi, $2 beers, a roof deck, and a back room where no one’s going to bother us. And despite the allure of Taco Tuesdays, the bar doesn’t get loud or crowded enough to force me to leave.

    Celebrating my 10,000th word on the roof of The Red Derby

  6. I want something to come of this. Writing in general. Writing forces me to talk about writing. Which forces me to answer the tough questions. “So do you have anything published?” A sheepish no is acceptable, sure, but not when I haven’t even tried. I know I have what could be a few really good novels on my computer, but I haven’t looked at them in years. Haven’t edited them once. Who knows what they could be if they just stay there like the ark of the covenant. Maybe I need to open the vault and risk the melted face if I ever want writing to be more than a hobby.

I’m going to write more. I’m going to blog more (probably about how I can’t bake anything that looks good or how I feel about certain rap albums). New Years Resolutions be damned, I can do this stuff whenever I want. Let the year of living dually selfishly and productively commence.

I was horrified a few years ago by news of Nate Dogg’s deteriorating health. Nate Dogg passed away last night, but lucky for us, there’s Youtube. Here are some of his smoothest jams.

Regulate introduced most people to Nate Dogg, unless you were me and didn’t hear the song until college. While I was listening to country music with my mom and sister, Nate Dogg was ushering in a new G-Funk era, and regulating any stealing of his property. Unlike most songs where Nate is relegated to blowing up the hook, this is a proper duet.

During certain parts of the Area Codes chorus, it becomes clear that the only person who should ever be harmonizing with Nate Dogg is Nate Dogg himself.

To this day, I’ve been known to stop someone saying something amazing or clearly wrong with “Hold Up”

Threatening physical violence to a woman who accuses one of giving her an STD kind of bothers me, but Nate Dogg is so good on the chorus/his verse that I have to listen every now and then. Plus him singing while getting shaved with a straight razor is awesome.

Fabolous is kind of horrible, but Nate Dogg makes this song.

And here’s a dramatic re-imagining of the events that led to the nation’s introduction to Nate Dogg.

If I had to do a true “Best of 2010″ mix, it would mostly be Kanye West, Joanna Newsom, Best Coast, and a bunch of Dubstep I hear on Annie Mac. So, in the interest of accuracy, I’d call this mix more 2010: A year in review. It’s by no means chronological, but by all means awesome. You can download it here.

1. Salem-King Night: While I prefer the syruped out rapping of King Night’s “Trapdoor” and “Sick,” the title track provided a better segue into the mix. And yes, part of it was probably the temptation to listen to a song that creepily samples “Oh Holy Night” around Christmastime.

2. Swedish House Mafia-One (ft. Pharrell): Pharell tends to do 1-3 awesome collaborations a year, this one is my favorite by far. The dirtiest baseline and by far the easiest lyrics to learn on the mix.

3. Chromeo-Hot Mess (ft. La Roux): The addition of Ellie from La Roux turns this track off of Business Casual into something completely different and, if you ask me, better.

4. Big Boi-Shutterbug (ft. Cutty): Sir Lucious Leftfoot was by far the most pleasant surprise of the year for me and all of the other hipsters who (oh so wrongly) assumed Andre 3000 was the mastermind behind Outkast’s weirder stuff.

5. Rusko-Hold On (ft. Amber Coffman) (Sub Focus Remix): Rusko singlehandedly sold me on Dubstep this year. Hands down. The best parts of the remix are clearly Sub Focus’ work, so I don’t feel bad seguing into…

6. Rusko-Woo Boost: Listen to this song. Imagine a giant monster stomping through a city. You’re welcome.

7. MIA-XXXO: Sure she went full-on cray cray this year, but her album wasn’t anywhere near as bad as some would have you believe. Sure XXXO could have just as easily been a Rihanna song, but who said there’s anything wrong with that.

8. Riva Starr-I Was Drunk: Because who doesn’t love everything faux-Baltic nowadays?

9. Hot Chip-I Feel Better: The second best use of Autotune this year (after Yeezy’s Lost in the World).

10. Lil Wayne-I’m Single: The slow jam and I have never been tight, but, like 2008’s Mrs. Officer, Lil Wayne proves the exception, except, you know, this one sounds like how I assume everything sounds when you’re sippin on the sizzurp.

11. Kanye West-Monster (ft. Bon Iver, Rick Ross, Jay Z, and Nicki Minaj): You know a rap song is a good one when Kanye West’s verse on it is actually the weakest.

12. Nicki Minaj-Roman’s Revenge (ft. Eminem): This is the first thing Eminem’s been involved with that I’ve liked in about 5 years. While Nicki’s album was, indeed, kind of disappointing, I have a long history of loving angry rap whose lyrics I don’t necessarily agree with, from Party Up to Move Bitch. This continues that tradition.

13. Joanna Newsom-Good Intentions Paving Company: Look, I had to work really hard to put Joanna Newsom into this. I may have sacrificed the flow of the mix, but it’s Joanna!

14. Ratatat-Party With Children: The best video of the year that didn’t contain lesbian overtones, for sure.

15. Theophilus London-Give it Up, Dad: The only mix tape this year that samples Vampire Weekend and Marvin Gaye.

16. Vampire Weekend-Giving up the Gun: It’s not the best song on the album, but it made a great segway.

17. Gucci Mane-Gucci Time: Best sample of a sample of the year. And who can’t love a song that asks you to “report to the dance floor”?

18. Sleigh Bells-Kids: This is the hardest song about going to the beach you will ever listen to.

19. Uffie-MCs Can Kiss: Fine, I’ll admit it, this album was kind of worth the 2 years I’ve been waiting for it. Love you forever, Uff!

20. LCD Soundsystem-Dance Yrself Clean: I probably should have included this song in it’s 9-minute glory. It’s that good.

21. Janelle Monae-Tightrope: I mean, are you even surprised. Does anyone not love Janelle Monae?

22. DJ Khaled-All I Do is win (remix): Remix included for the sake of Nicki Minaj. I kind of love DJ Khaled. Sorry.

23. Yolanda Be Cool-We No Speak Americano: This song annoyed me the first time I heard it on Annie Mac, but hearing it 5-7 weeks in a row really sold it for me.

24. Kate Nash-Kiss That Grrl: Not as Little Mermaidy as the title would lead you to expect (though it IS sung by a ginger), but a lot more 60s/awesome.

25. Ludacris-Sex Room: Fine, I liked TWO slow jams this year.

26. Stepdad-My Leather, My Fur, My Nails: I may be biased on this one, but I’d like to think I would have included it even if lead singer Ultramark wasn’t my friend/possibly my long-lost brother.

27. Caribou-Odessa: I’ve been listening to the song since January and still can’t stop.

28. Katy B-Katy on a Mission: The problem with liking an artist early is that you have to get by on the total of 3 songs she has out right now. But they’re all great.

29. Ke$ha-Your Love is My Drug: Look, I’m not going to explain my love of Ke$ha here.

30. The Arcade Fire-Sprawl Part II (Mountains Beyond Mountains): I feel like only The Arcade Fire could get away with that synth line.

31. Marina and the Diamonds-Hollywood: Actually, she kind of does look like Catherine Zeta, now that you mention it…

32. Best Coast-Bratty B: I’m a sucker for “whoa-ohs”

33. Kanye West-All of the Lights (ft. too many awesome people to name): If you tell me this is not the best song of the year I will argue with you forever unless you concede it’s at least in the top ten (but you’ll still be wrong because it’s number one).

I’ve always envied those who take risks.

Me personally, well it once took me 5 minutes and an onslaught of my friends singing The Final Countdown for me to even step up to a rope swing.

And I was 23.

As a kid, I would never jump off the swing. I would get as high as the other kids, sure. We would have contests to see who could swing the highest and while the other children jumped off at the peak, took a tumble, wiped off, and got right back on, I dragged my feet across the sand, kicking up a lot of unnecessary dust and waiting for the swing to come to a complete stop before gingerly stepping off.

By the time I was 19, I figured it was time. I was at a family reunion for my mom’s best friend and was swinging with the friend’s granddaughter, about 3 years old, while the adults drank sangria. Once I made sure the child wasn’t watching me (I didn’t want to teach her bad manners), I decided to go for it, I jumped off the swing.

I immediately twisted my ankle. Hobbling back to the pagoda where my mom’s friend’s female-dominated, shower-you-with-love type family immediately brought me prescription pain pills and a glass of sangria.

It worked wonders. I was back on my feet within a half hour, and in a much more elevated mood from the vicodin, to the point where I didn’t even care that I had suddenly found myself the 3-year-old’s official babysitter for the rest of the day. In fact, I seemed to be enjoying myself so much that a family barbecuing nearby offered the little girl and I hot dogs. I realized why only after, they felt sorry for what they saw as the young father and his little girl. Obviously, a babysitter wouldn’t be that enthused about playing with a child.

So my first risk certainly didn’t offer a reward, but it didn’t turn out too bad. Two years later, we went swinging again, I took a second jump. This time, my fear paralyzed me, while the rest of my body jumped, part of me, namely the finger wrapped around the chain, wanted to hold on. In the end, I broke my middle finger and had to spend a month in a ridiculous looking finger sling.

This happened

At that point, I could have learned one of three lessons. Never take a risk again, never take a risk without committing to it fully, or get off the swings, dude.

So I didn’t move out of Michigan until I had a job.

And when I lost that job, I stayed put and found another one.

So far, things have worked out pretty great not taking a lot of risks, but it’s time I learn to man/lady the fuck up.

So I’m doing it. I’m applying to teach English in France. I’m going to have to rush a doctor’s appointment, I’m going to have to write 500 words in French, which I haven’t written in a year, and I’m going to have to spend $200 getting and expediting my passport, plus $40 to even apply to the program.

But I’m going to do it. Here’s my risk, I’m about to jump.

Recently, I’ve started taking a new commute to work. It saves me $4 a work day, which is really going to add up, but it also means having to spend a half hour longer on my commute (and waking up a half hour earlier) and, perhaps worse, it means taking buses (three, to be exact) the entire way. Not only are they bumpier and less serene than DC’s (comparatively) sterile Metrorail system, but because of that, I can no longer read on my commute into work. Desperate to find a way to spend 80 minutes that doesn’t involve listening to the fantastic “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” I’ve turned to something, like reading, that I find both stimulating and entertaining enough to make me not realize the horrible way I’m spending the first waking hours of my day, I’ve started listening to The Tobolowsky Files.

Stephen Tobolowsky is one of those guys you see everywhere, a character actor who’s appeared in everything from one of the best movies of our time to The 6th Beethoven Movie. I’m ashamed to admit that I first recognized him not from his more popular roles in  Memento, Groundhog’s Day, or Glee (fun fact, I’ve only seen one of those 3), or even from his role in Freddie Got Fingered or The Country Bears (both of which I have seen, one of which I actually, legitimately enjoyed), but from his role as Bob Bishop on the pretty dreadful second season of Heroes which was saved, for me, only by a handful of appearances by Kristen Bell.

I first started listening on my big West Coast Road Trip with my good friend Caitlin almost two months ago (I refuse to accept it has really been that long). During the trip, we had one particular stretch from San Francisco to Portland that took, literally, an entire day of driving, even considering we ultimately stopped for the night in a suburb about 20 miles outside of Portland. Caitlin, always seeking something more educational than the 10-hour 90s rap playlist I ultimately would have created and chosen, loaded up her iPod with Podcasts, some of the best. This American Life, Radiolab, and the aforementioned Tobolowsky Files.

I listened to one episode and was hooked. While I had no emotional investment in Stephen going in, I liked him almost immediately. His storytelling style wins you over in a heartbeat, even when one can’t relate to his stories of life on the road, acting school, and living in a haunted house. This, I think, listening, must have been what life was like before television or the internet. It’s a silly thought to think listening on a piece of technology that didn’t exist 10 years ago to one man talk to another man over a crystal clear internet connection while I’m traveling from Washington, DC to the suburbs on a bus, but it’s true. The oral tradition, once the only thing keeping societies together, has all but been phased out. It’s something that’s particularly striking to me, someone who never had the chance to meet either of my mom’s parents.

Most important, though, is the fact that Stephen, an actor with 201 appearances listed on IMDB, who teaches improv, and is involved with his family, takes the time out to write and record these segments for free. Listening to the podcasts, you hear the excitement in his voice when he talks about the first time he gets recognized, in public, for his work on the podcast (which takes place 5 months after the first recording). There appears, then, to be a greater purpose to his work. As he tells these deeply personal stories—tales about life, love, and the entertainment industry, he calls them—you hear him laugh, you hear him cry, and sometimes, if you have a heart or a sense of humor, you’re going to do the same.

The following excerpt was originally scheduled for “Fashionably Poor,” an upcoming men’s fashion blog from my friend Chris and I. But I really wanted to write and post this now, and Fashionably Poor isn’t ready to go just yet.

Five years ago, during my fashion-unconscious time, I couldn’t have even told you what a cardigan was.

“It’s like, what? Some kind of blouse or something?” I assume I would have stated. “For girls, right?”

What a difference 5 years makes. Last week, my friend, looking at my particular getup, asked me “so how many sweater-vest things do you have?” I leapt on her “They’re called cardigans, and I have 7, I think,” I said, pausing to count on my fingers as I whispered “tan, purple, blue, green, blue with a hole…”

I lied. It was 8.

Unlike some of my odd neuroses, I can pinpoint the start of my cardigan obsession. Senior year of college, one could call it fashion envy, an acquaintance at the time who, like me, dressed primarily in t-shirts and jeans, suddenly began wearing a cardigan out. Not only did it look comfortable, but he suddenly found himself the object of girls’ attention, which was never a problem for this guy in the first place, but I was still jealous. There was a way, I knew, to co-opt that. The next week, as if by magic, I saw a Cardigan, half off. it was thick and blue, more cozy than fashionable, but it got the job done. Soon I, too, was making Mr. Rogers jokes, telling everyone how warm and comfortable I was and, most importantly, having girls tell me how much they liked my sweater.

I didn’t go about TRYING to buy more cardigans, the next one came about two years later, an impulse buy at Urban Outfitters. A third the next week, under similar circumstances. A fourth the day before I started the job I now have, a tan number purchased on sale in early September, what was probably the coolest day we’d had in months. The purchase or the weather caused the pretty girl ringing up my purchase to exclaim “I love Fall.”

Somewhere inbetween buy 1 and buy 2, I realized a Cardigan could not only be used as a comfortable blanket alternative around the house and a jacket alternative outside, but as a work article of clothing as well. To this day, I think, it’s what draws me to them. The versatility. It’s like a Transformer, only less racist.

Author's note, I've never seen Transformers 2

Take, for example, my latest obsession, this bright yellow cardigan I got at a thrift store in San Francisco.

I got the cat at the thrift store, too

I can wear this pastel cardi and skinny tie number into work and get a few stares, but only for the first few hours of the day before my coworkers realize I’m no more interesting even though I’m dressed significantly better than them.

You don't have to match your socks to your sweater but I swear, it helps.

But, on this particular day, I had a particular conundrum. I was set on wearing my yellow cardigan until the exact last moment I had to take it off (right before I passed out). The problem is I had a concert to go to, and not only did I feel like a tool wearing a tie to a concert (what am I, the fucking Hives?), but it was The Blow, which brought with it the potential not only for dancing, but almost certainly for sweating.

So what’s a guy to do? Transform.

Ta dah

And now, I am set for a concert, and also now standing up, making it a bit more painfully obvious how kind of tight in my the cardigan is, but a) it’s a medium and b) it’s still awesome. Underneath, representing a sense of kitsch and in a failed attempt to catch the eye of Portland-based lead singer/only real recurring member of The Blow is a shirt which portrays a cat walking on the word Portland because, well, because why not?

It's there, I promise.

And, should the dancing get to be too much, well, I had the perfect solution for that, too.

The rest of my burlesque act censored for your good and my own. Also, I don't know why my head looks so weird in this one, but it really does, right? That's not just me?

While I’m no Bumblebee (despite my yellow and black work getup) just yet, I’m well on my way to living out my childhood dream of becoming a real transformer. Until then, I’m on the hunt for lucky cardigan number 9. Any suggestions?

It’s a time-honored tradition every November that along with Thanksgiving, voting, and scrambling to buy plane tickets to Michigan for December, I’m usually also writing.

National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) was probably started by a writer who got sick of people telling her to get a real job, so she decided to ask everyday people to step a month in her shoes (Note: Confirm/cite) and write 50,000 words in 30 days. This seems like a lot to the average person, until you realize most real novels are WAY more than 50,000 words begin to thank your lucky stars for your desk job.

For the last 3 years, I’ve taken the plunge. I’ve dedicated 1-2 hours a day, for 30 days, to 3 completely different stories. Some funny, some bummers, some not really hashed out well at all. Well, if we’re being fair, all not really hashed out well at all, but I’ll get to that.

For the last 3 years, I’ve had at least some semblance of a plot, some characters, some actions that I would like, a denouement, usually, even.

But this year? I had nothing. I had 3 semblances of an idea. A horror novel/social commentary that wasn’t going to go anywhere and would have kind of borrowed too much from The Dark Knight; a fictionalized account of meeting my friend Kari Ferrell, The Hipster Grifter, which would have just been weird given that we’ve evolved into actual friends; and a story which would have turned out far too personal and a little bit of a bummer (though one that I may ultimately rephrase as a dark comedy).

I was ready to go on and just work on one of the options and make it up as I go along.

But then my friend sold a book.

This friend and I were in Creative Writing Classes in college, we worked together on the newspaper, he’s as old as me.

And he sold a book.

And I have 2 mostly finished novels and one not-at-all-finished-but-50,000-words novels sitting on my computer. Ones that haven’t gotten a second look not just in years, that haven’t gotten a second look ever. NaNoWriMo isn’t designed to give one time to look over the work that is being created, the goal is create, create, create, edit later. For three years I’ve neglected step 2, honestly the harder (and certainly the least fun) of the steps.

So I proclaim this month, nay, this year, National Novel editing month. Hopefully I can come into NaNo next year refreshed, full of ideas, and with at least 2 novels ready to show.

Halloween 2007

Halloween is my favorite season, mostly because it’s the day after my birthday, so I associate it not only with scary things (and cats!), but also with getting birthday gifts!

So, for the second year in a row, I’ve compiled a Halloween mix! This year’s is a continuous mix, something I like to think I keep getting better at.

Marilyn Manson – This Is Halloween
Psycho Theme
Busta Rhymes – Gimme Some More
Salem – Sick
Shakira – She Wolf
TV on the Radio – Wolf Like Me
Goblin – Suspiria
Kanye West featuring Bon Iver, Rick Ross, Jay-Z, and Nikki Minaj – Monster
Misfits – Hybrid Moments
Gucci Mane – Gucci Time
Justice – Phantom Part II
La Roux – Tiger Lily/La Roux – Tiger Lily (Rusko remix)
Fat Boys – Ready For Freddie
The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff – Nightmare on My Street
Rob Zombie – Living Dead Girl
Bette Midler – I Put a Spell on You (From Hocus Pocus)
Bobby Bare Jr. – Rock and Roll Halloween
The Talking Heads – Psycho Killer
Theme from Halloween
Stevie Wonder – Superstition
Fever Ray – If I Had a Heart
The Cure – The Lovecats
Electric Light Orchestra – Evil Woman
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon Rising
Ennio Morricone – A Silhouette of Doom
Ice Cube – Fuck Dyin
Air – Ghost Song
Tracy Jordan – Werewolf Bar Mitzvah

You can download the mix here!

After my Internet Girlfriend Kari Farrell posted her own jailhouse love letter to Lindsay Lohan, I decided it was my turn to cash in on this opportunity for internet fame/my crush on a pre-blonde, pre-tanned, pre-coke Lindsay. Here’s the letter I plan on sending her this evening.

Lindsay,
You don’t know me and I don’t know you and, frankly, we’re both kind of better for it. Though if you would have kept your hair red, I would maybe wish I knew you.
Because you’re a) a celebrity and b) in jail for a kind of bullshit reason, all things considered, I certainly hope this makes it to you before you’re excused on good parole, there’s a faux internet backlash, and you hit the talk show circuit and try to resurrect your career.
I don’t think “I Know Who Killed Me” was all that bad. Well, it was, but you weren’t all that bad in it. You were kind of good, not Mean Girls good, or even Parent Trap good, but still pretty good.
I personally hope you have something better to do in jail than read the mail from a series of crazy, antisocial internet people. Though, I suppose, there are some worse things you could be doing/that people are doing to you. I’m not expecting you to write back. I’m writing this at work, so I’m getting paid the (not so) big bucks to write to a disgraced actress/pop star that I had a pretty tremendous crush on until you (allegedly) got on the coke and dyed your hair blonde. (Seriously, I will never let you live that down).
I would hand-write this and include fancy drawings, but alas, I can barely handwrite legibly, drawing is most certainly out of the question, but here’s a picture of my cat, she’s pretty cute, yes? I’m sure she has jumped out of this letter and into your weak-from-all-the-drugs-and-booze heart.

But let’s stop dwelling on the past (and how cute my cat is). Look at this part in two weeks. You’re 24, my baby sister’s age (hardly a baby any more!), your life isn’t over, let’s look at your options!
1)    Return to acting: This one’s tricky, because acting may=partying and bullshit, which is ok in small doses (and when Notorious BIG is rapping about it), but hardly a way to live your life. It made you go from hot to not in about three months. So there’s that, if you can avoid the party bug monster. Maybe get in some kind of superhero movie so all the geeks will like you, because once they all get boners for you again, you’ll be set. Can I just recommend dying your hair back and undergoing some sort of intense de-orangeifying process beforehand?
2)    Motivational speaker? Because why the fuck not. Just don’t get caught being a hypocrite, only Republicans and religious folk can pull that off.
3)    Politics: Because stupider people have gotten pretty far and we’ve already had one president with a history of drunk driving and coke problems and there’s a league of racists who can’t spell who “miss” him, apparently.
4)    Fade into obscurity/become a trophy wife and then everyone will remember you as cokehead Lindsay, this is a bad idea.
5)    Recording career: Because that one song about your dad being a jerk wasn’t bad per se.
Don’t like ANY of those ideas? Well first off, way to be a picky, stuck-up jerk. Imagine I’m your high school guidance counselor, this personality test will help you decide what’s best for you.

1.    I feel most happy when I’m ______
a.    helping people.
b.    on drugs.
c.    helping people find drugs.
d.    helping people with drug problems.

2.    I most regret _______
a.    Samantha Ronson
b.    Herbie: Fully Loaded
c.    that time I showed my ass to all those kids at the Nickolodeon Awards.
d.    that time I showed my ass to all those kids at the Nickolodeon Awards afterparty.

3.    My ideal hours are _________
a.    9-5
b.    8 pm-4 am
c.    work is for peasants.
d.    up all night, I fuckin run this town.

4.    If a friend asked me to break that law again, I’d _____
a.    give a short speech about my high moral code, using my best acting chops not to laugh before I snort the line.
b.    claim “I’m the law” and snort the line.
c.    snort the line, then drink my guilt away.
d.    brandish a knife and make clear my desire to never go back to “the joint” again.

5.    My ideal next acting role would be ______
a.    a young woman suffering the pains of addiction, constantly making poor decisions and, rather than overcoming her disease, ultimately dying at a young age.
b.    reality television.
c.    both A and B.
d.    Herbie Fully Loaded Two: Electric (Car) Boogalou

Please fill out this free personality test and mail it back to me, along with a small $75 processing fee, and I’ll mail you your results!
Have a good rest of your 14 days in prison! I hope you meet the woman of your dreams (because that would be awesome).

Vodka is not your friend,
Frank.

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