Hold on a second. *Picks up phone* "No, I can talk. Just writing this blog post for these people. What's up?"

I've been thinking more about this Tig Notaro clip. What a bold statement that was. The impulse for most people, I think, would be to go on a show like that and talk straight about the hardship they've gone through. I mean she overcame cancer. But she came out and shrugged that off. 

She used the opportunity to do a bit. It was nothing short of fantastic.

It also showed a better way to approach things. Showed that every opportunity is one where you can give the expected response or decide to blow people away with your words and actions. Her coolness, her calm serenity may have been learned through her struggle but she didn't dwell on it. She used cancer as her springboard which is absolutely stunning.

It's easy to wonder how many people would have done this. Taken what they were invited to talk about and flip it on it's head. Taken a chance on something that could fall completely flat and miss the opportunity to talk about the easy lesson. But by making a joke out of the situation, she allowed herself to do something different. A better way to talk about living in the moment than just talking about it.

Oh, and referring to Conan as "this guy" was brilliant.

Weekly Linkly

First, advice from Megan Ganz (former Onion and Community writer, current Modern Family writer) on drafts.

Spit Draft: you type garbage, bald lines to get the scene across. (ie "We are in a fight!" "I have a response.") @julygdiaz #comedyfest

— Megan Ganz (@meganganz) May 2, 2013

If you can't get through a spit draft shitty version, time to rethink your story. It might not have its own drive. @julygdiaz #comedyfest

— Megan Ganz (@meganganz) May 2, 2013

Amazing paper art illustrations

False Economics and Not So Elementary by Dave Trott. One reminds me of school, the other is about school. 

Paul Venables' ad for his own agency disguised as advice column for others. Very nicely played, Mr. Venables. 

I hated, absolutely hated, this post about lying by Sell! Sell! 

Perfect Moment by Dilbert creator Scott Adams. He seems to have figured out exactly how to make work feel less like work. 

Angela Natividad's missive about JCPenny's new commitment to listening to their customers. 

Tig Notaro is a very, very, very funny person.

As a TED talk this seems ridiculous. However, it turns out that it's better than 90% of the ones I've seen. It's absurd.

New BriTANick. 7 million hits in 3 days. Always great.

Seeing all the work that went into making Oblivion makes me want to see it.

The "creative process" is pretty much devoid of creativity

BriTANick, the guys behind hilarious sketch videos, recently did a Reddit IAmA. In it someone asked about how they come up with sketch ideas. Which is cool, because that's one of those "I shouldn't ask this because I don't want to feel stupid" kind of questions. But those are the questions a lot of people want to know the answers to.

And answer they did. Their advice for writing sketch is very similar to what many people believe to be the key to the creative process: talk until you find something interesting. Seems a little devoid of magic, but it works great. 

This ties back to today's other post about creativity. Keep things comfortable and messy. And good stuff comes out.

Kill it. Kill it with fire!

Designer  writer, and all-around digital guy Brad Frost made an excellent presentation about the deluge of digital stuff. 

It's a call to arms to make sure that the things put out into the world are put out with purpose. 

Because as the barrier to entry gets lower and lower good stuff can be drowned out by the crush of everything else. 

Buried under a mountain of physical and digital crap.

And although this post might be antithetical to the point of this presentation, it was so good I had to share it/catalogue it on here.

Tears Welled Up In My Eyes

Here's an fairly personal story I didn't expect to share about C2E2. But the more I think about it the more I have to.

So here it is.

C2E2 was a very strange experience for me as someone not tremendously well versed in, or intensely devoted to, comics. There was a layer between the subject matter and me that I couldn't quite penetrate. A level of excitement on some people's faces I envied from a place in myself that I'm not proud of in the slightest. 

However, the people I did connect with most were the artists on Artist Alley.

Artist Alley is the space on the expo floor for all the artists who aren't "superstars" (though not obscure in any way) to sell/exhibit their work. Everything from books, comics, sketches, prints. Aisle after aisle of artists. All lined up with their work pinned above their heads. Most were buried in their sketchpads, frantically drawing while someone else handled the customers.

It was surreal. So much art in one place. With the competition seated only feet away.

When I walked up to artists alley I was completely overcome with the anxiety I would feel if I was in that situation. There was just so much. How could you ever expect people to pick you and your art over the next guy?

The thought of that pressure was so intense that tears started to well up in my eyes.  What guts these artists must have to have to put themselves out there as people walk by their booth without a second glance. It was like an art show, except the styles are not all that divergent. How does one choose which rendition of Iron Man is better? I still can't tell you the answer to that question.

And it was hard for me, as someone who cares about how those artists feel, to pass them by. To largely ignore the work of many technically talented people.

But most of the stuff simply wasn't interesting. Because the artists were playing to the crowd. I got the distinct sense that to do this they had to sacrifice some of their own style. And that wasn't what I was looking for.

Still I felt bad because I saw a piece of myself, of any person who creates work or has the drive to create work, in the artists. I wanted them to do something interesting and different to give me a reason to support them. Most didn't. Because most people were trying for the easy sell to the guy who wanted Iron Man. I get that. It still made me sad.

But there were some extreme bright spots. When I found someone doing different things the conversations I had with them were incredible. I got where they were coming from. Why they were representing their ideas in this medium. Why someone would put out a comic book full of nothing but onomonopia. Why Richard Nixon was throwing a pokéball.

The best experience I had with an artist, however, was away from Artist Alley. It was with this guy named Brian Schrank. The art he had hung up was so shockingly different from everything else that I was instantly drawn over to his booth.

He was offering postcards of the stuff for free (rather than charging $2-$5 like the other artists). And demanded I take a few. When I complimented his work on being different this is how he responded:

"That's really nice of you to say. I never know if I should do these things because the work is so different from everything else. I worry about it being too weird for these crowds."

Then he did a very soft pitch for his book Gentle Carmel that was almost so soft I missed it. Until he said this: "It's the story of the journey of an autistic boy who recedes into himself, becomes homeless, then becomes a superhero."

Little did he know that my goal for the entire day was to find the least approachable, most out there art at C2E2. Because that's the stuff that will move any industry forward. This was exactly the thing I was looking for.

We talked for a while more about how he got there. How he came to the idea to do a book like this with so many styles and such evocative images. To segment the character's personality so you felt how he felt at different stages in his life. It was absolutely tremendous.

The book cost very little compared to most things at the expo, just ten bucks. I was sold.

Brian tried to run my credit card using Square but his phone's service was acting wonky. I had very little cash left in my wallet, not enough to pay for the book. And he told me to take it, because our conversation had given him faith in his work. 

But I know that printing and creating a book costs money so I insisted that he take what little money I had left. He insisted I take it for free. We argued about this point. An artist trying to give his work away for free, and a customer so enthralled he wanted to give the author a little something to offset costs. A token of appreciation. And, taking a step back from it all, it's amazing to think how wonderfully surreal the whole scene would have looked to any passerby.

It was an awesome moment. A moment that I'm so, so glad I had.

Eventually Brian gave in and took my three dollars. We both thanked each other profusely and parted ways. Ever since then I cannot get this scene out of my head. It was a perfect moment and I felt more present then than I have in a long time. Going into C2E2 I did not expect to have nearly as good of a time as I did. It was moments like this that made the entire experience unforgettable.

If you would like to read Gentle Carmel, Brian has posted it to his website as a free(!!!) PDF. And if you love it as much as I did you can buy a copy on Amazon to support him. I really think you should.

Wise words from Patton

Not General Patton, though I'm sure he had some wise words too. I'm talking about the Guru of Geek, Patton Oswalt.

This weekend I saw a Q&A with him at C2E2. He was overly generous to the audience. Funny, of course, and tremendously energetic. Stupidly, I forgot a notebook. But I took down some quotes in my phone and thought I would share them here. If they ever release a video of his talk (which you absolutely should, C2E2 people reading this post!) I'll throw it up here.

In the meantime, these quotes will have to make do.

The first is a quote that specifically directed to a young comic. He was only a month and a half into the business and wanted to know when it starts to come together. When this whole success thing was going to pay off. The advice Patton gave could apply to any number of industries though. Including Advertising. Just take out "comedian" and replace it with the thing you want to do.

"Becoming a comedian is the easiest thing in the world. You just get on stage. STAYING a comedian is really hard."

"Just go on stage. Go on stage. Go on stage. Nothing you do now will not (sic) help your career or hurt your career."

If I had to guess, this advice bummed the young comic out. But it was really a gift. It's advice everyone has heard and ignored hundreds of times before.

If you want to do a thing, then do that thing.

Patton also talked about why he's not doing comedy clubs for the time being. Or many shows at all.

"Nothing is worse for a comedian than being the funniest guy in the room. It allows you to coast. You get lazy"

He said he loved going to comedy clubs where young, hungry comices made him think about his delivery. Made him uncomfortable about his own skills. It was an interesting point and it shows that he's still pushing himself. Even though his success is very well established.

The last point that really stuck with me was something he said to an aspiring director/writer/editor (aspiring is a horrible thing to call yourself by the way, just be the thing). The director asked how people were supposed to break into the filmmaking business today. Patton, almost dismissively, mentioned that we have this great thing known as the internet that lets everyone, EVERYONE put their work out there. He said brilliant films are being uploaded to YouTube every day and that if you want to make things today you should jut make them and put them up. You have to make the work you want to make and then hope that people are as enamored with it as you are.

That's a tall order but it was the best advice he could give. Like I said earlier, this was a really good Q&A. One of the best I've ever been to. Even though the auditorium easily held a thousand people it felt like an intimate conversation with him. It was personal and laid back. He would even occasionally read off mean texts Brian Posehn was sending from the back of the room. 

I really do hope someone posts that video.

An Exhilarating Feeling

Like most writers, at least most honest writers, there are times that beginning to write feels like an insurmountable task. Simply impossible.

So the laptop gets shut. The notebooks--oh how many notebooks I have--remain dormant. Unsullied by my semi-legible scrawl.

Then hours pass. Weeks. Sometimes even (and this hurts to admit) months. And the desire to write fades. Supplanted completely with the fear that I haven't written in X minutes, X hours, X days.

It's like falling off a horse and being frightened to get back on. The longer the layoff the more I'm trying to prove myself. To prove that this layoff was worthwhile.

That's complete and utter bullshit.

Time off does not create good writing. Or good thinking. All it creates is wasted minutes. Minutes spent fretting. Trying to psych myself up. Taking care of that little thing that I've been putting off for far too long as long as that thing isn't writing.

Then, on an unsuspecting day, an urge to link ideas together reintroduces itself. Manifesting in the only way I know how to express ideas. 


I sit down and write out some nonsense. Then something with a bit more sense. Then something I'm vaguely happy with.

And it all comes rushing back. 

The power of words. The excitement of sentences. The power to bend language to my whim. Coursing through my veins like some mystical power that has been graciously bestowed upon me.

Because the ability to write was never truly lost. The rest of me just got in the way. Remembering that is an exhilarating feeling.

Yeah, Marc Maron's show is really good. Not that that was unexpected.

So right now I'm basking in the afterglow of watching the first episode of Maron, Marc Maron's IFC show. And I have to say I'm beyond impressed. It's in a similar vein to Louie (though that's probably to be expected) but the shot composition and writing blew me away. 

Not sure why I expected anything less. For weeks all people have been showering it with praise. And they did not let me down. This is certainly going to be an interesting show to watch. Further proof that Marc Maron is a juggernaut of making things people connect with. 

And they posted the whole first episode on YouTube! How cool is that? Watch it. I think you'll like it too.

Myths, mythmaking, and hagiography

Legends are an obsession of mine. Or, rather, how regular people become legendary figures. 

Because outliving mortality, however narcissistic, is something I have been extremely interested in for as long as I can remember. It's a constant lingering thought in the back of my brain. 

So imagine my delight when I came across a term I'd never heard before about legends: hagiography.

Hagiography is, in the simplest sense, an uncritical biography of saints. A text that essentially proves their saintliness.  Holding them up to the standards of the Supreme Deity, and the lives of everyone else up to the standards of saints. 

The intended effect is to provide a scrubbed version of history. Like passing entire lives through a myriad of photoshop filters then denying any retouching.

In turn this creates this archetype that's nearly human, but ultimately unattainable. All of the good, none of the naughty (not that saints are cavorting around causing havoc). A myth out of a man.

Then, years down the line, these stories, these myths, become the truth. They aren't stories. They're standards. They're concrete. These things happened. 

And so we see ourselves in a negative light when compared to the legends.

This doesn't just happen with biblical figures. Although that's the progeny of the term, we can see hagiography all around us. Perfectly manicured online personalities, "legends" in every walk of life (the TV series "Men Who Built America" comes to mind), brilliant profiles of subjects in the documentary-of-the-month. It's insidious. And it creates a very negative vision of ourselves, if we buy into it.

However, hagiography is a very powerful tool to understand in advertising. Because what is advertising if it isn't setting the standard for what people are trying to be? It's, ideally, providing the solution to every little problem people didn't know they had. A version of themselves they could be if they had/used product X. That's why the Economist work will resonate as long as people can understand language. 

This understanding also takes a little bit of pressure off of advertising. It's not important, potentially, to dwell on the bad parts of the product. The answer could be there, with a negative blown into a beautiful positive. But that's still the best aspect of the product.

The Hagiograpic conception of it.

Sometimes that's the best you can do. And it's the best thing to do for a client. 

Fifteen Good Seconds is Better than Fifteen Bad Minutes

Since the beginning of the year there has been some really good creative work. (At least in my oh-so-discerning opinion.) And, much to my surprise, the vast majority of commercials I've enjoyed have been fifteen seconds long.

This is strange. The 30 second spot was, for the longest time, the gold standard. It was what people worked entire careers to make. 30 second spots were the dream. They showed restraint. Showed skill. 

And now we don't even just have the 30 second spot. People are making increasingly longer content. 90 second cuts. 5 minute brand films. The stuff that people call "content." (And isn't everything today "content"?)

The majority of those longer films are torturous to watch. They're full of unnecessary stuff. Mildly interesting at best. And are so in love with themselves (or the brand that they're promoting) that they might as well be 90 seconds of on-screen masturbation. The whole experience leaves the viewer feeling hollow and abused.

(Now that's not true for everything. But it is for more than we might like to admit.)

Back to the 15 second spots. They're good. And I think this is a product of the post modern humor that's in vogue. The problem with weird is that it takes a lot of skill and love and tinkering to stretch it out.  Weird works best when it's something short. Something that's just long enough to leave you with a message and a sense of bewilderment.

So I suppose it should be no surprise that really good 15s are coming out with greater frequency. They are 15s conceived as 15s. Not cut down 30s (which are sometimes fine) but things that are meant to be the length they are. Not forced. Not overdone. Just 15 seconds of joy. Here's four I've really liked recently (and it'll only take you a minute to get through):

Long live the 15 second spot.