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Date: Tuesday, 20 Jul 2010 23:40
This is the story of a Procedural.

So I'm at a meeting with a producer the other day and he's pitching me a tv idea. As way of emphasizing why I need him and his idea, he brings forth a piece of paper. On it, my credits. He doesn't actually hand it over to me but he says this:

PRODUCER: I've been looking over your credits, pretty impressive.
ME: Thanks, we try.
PRODUCER: Seems to me you're just missing one thing from these credits. And I'm gonna tell you what it is.
ME: Please do.

At which point he turns the piece of paper towards me and I see he's written in bold black marker near the top, pointing to the list: BIG FUCKING HIT TV SHOW.

ME: Well, yes, I am missing that. Very true. I think about that a lot.

PRODUCER: That's all right. Because I'm here to change all that.

At which point he launches into his pitch for what may or not be "my big fucking hit tv show."

Now, I leave it to you to debate whether pointing out my shortcomings is a good or bad sales strategy (it rarely works for my dad but often for my wife), and I'll leave it to me to decide whether or not the idea he pitched me was the answer to my problems.

I will say this about the idea, however: IT WAS ENORMOUS. The concept, the scope, the budget, it was resolutely and irresponsibly EPIC and for that I was totally grateful. Because if I'd been pitched one more aspirational character-driven procedural you were going to have to peel me off the Barham asphalt.

Not that I don't understand the impulse for procedurals. They're the golden retrievers of television. They're cheap. They're endearing. Not too hard to understand. And they won't cost 3.5 million per ep, pull in a 1.4 rating, and pee on your favorite tauntaun sleeping bag.

On the other hand, there's been a lot of recent attempts at "event" television and almost all have been utter failures. Even some of the ones still on the air stagger around like a drunk who woke up with a Season 2 and have no idea who drove them there or how to get home (I'm looking at you, V.).

With the death of Lost and 24, we find ourselves looking for the next bit of pop culture big-fucking-dealness that we can get ourselves all worked up for. And when I say "we" I'm referring to Fans of TV with a capital F and not simply those for whom TV is the thing that occupies the space between dinner and the sleep apnea machine. We Fans of TV want that Big Sexy Going Down the Rabbit Hole Feeling and no matter how much my mother loves Simon Baker, The Mentalist just isn't going to do it for us.

The Mentalist, is, however, going to make a shitload of money for all involved. It's easy on the eyes and is habit-forming much in the same way two glasses of red wine a night is: you'll get a nice, warm buzz but you're not gonna get really wasted and wake up with Cobb's malevolent freight train blasting through your cortex. The Mentalist isn't the best sex you've ever had, but it's also not likely to leave you to finish yourself off while your partner falls asleep to reruns of "Cheaters".

The Character-driven Procedural works for a number of reasons, but the biggest and the best of them is this: they almost never get picked up to series without a Serious Asswhipping Actor in the lead. Simon Baker. Hugh Laurie. Tony Shaloub. Kyra Sedgwick. Angie Harmon. These are legitimate cleanup hitters in any TV lineup. They might not be the favorites of the genre crowd. You might not stand in line for their autograph. And you are not going to see them down at Comic-Con doing funny panels with Jeff "Doc" Jensen. Why? Because they are too busy making the other twenty million people who watch tv every night love them.

"Event" television, on the other hand (and here we can probably insert the word "genre" or "science fiction"), usually demands a big canvas, a big cast of characters, and a large concept that often dominates. It's ideas first, characters second, and that, dear friends, is often a recipe for tv disaster. FlashForward tried to balance a lot of character work on the big bouncing back of their elephantine idea but the show never found a proper stride and a lot of people were knocked off into the pachyderm shit. Warehouse 13 works for SyFy because it's what X-Files would be if Mulder and Scully took Ecstasy and dry-humped their way through a Freak of the Week. Which is to say, a quirky procedural.

Aaah, but what about Lost, you say? Explain Lost, or at the very least, explain Lost's success? Big ideas, lots of characters, no big alpha stars, lots of story, lots of...lots?

I'm not the first to say this, but Lost is a freak show that will never be repeated. It's the Michael Jackson of television. No one should try to deconstruct the Lost phenomenon ever again. There is nothing to be gained from studying Lost's success. It's a Black Swan, or an Outlier, or one of many other books on my Kindle I'll never read now because, let's be honest, it's on my Kindle.

You can't construct a phenomenon from the outside-in. You can't will a show into the public's consciousness. Both of this year's breakout hits, Glee and Modern Family, had big buzz coming into the season. But that's because people who'd seen them knew they were good. They didn't just decide they needed them to be good and then set out to market them so, they actually KNEW they were. Both shows also have very strong creators who know television, know their own minds, and know what show they're making. These are not shows that could've been created by anybody--and that's not something you can say about most television. They are also decidedly NOT procedurals.

The stories I love often involve world-building. But most people working in the tv business are terrified of building worlds. They want shows that are relatable and recognizable. They want real worlds with real people that will under no condition make viewers uncomfortable or remind them of anything remotely strange and unknown. No Ordinary Family is a perfect example of this: the family is Absolutely Ordinary until they're NOT. And when they're NOT, they respond to that very NOT-ness just as any other Ordinary Family would.

But much of our most successful and daring television is, if looked at broadly, Fantastic with a capital F. Ryan Murphy is a world-builder, Matt Weiner is a world-builder, Vince Gilligan is an 800 lb world builder. Breaking Bad exists in a strange Albuquerque Dream State that is at once the most surreal and also the most achingly real drama I've ever watched. These are "genre" shows, maybe not exactly science fiction, but certainly not traditional "dramas", either. They are as weird and off-putting and daring and out there as any "space ship show" that the networks refuse to put on every year. And that was even before mother and daughter sang "Poker Face" to each other across a grand piano.

But I digress.

This is a story of a Procedural. Specifically, mine.

Last Sunday night the wife and I were sound asleep at 1145pm after a night of Entourage, True Blood and Schadenfreude. Because I have the iPhone4 and thus cannot use it as a phone, I had forwarded my cell phone to our home phone. At approximately 11:47:52, the phone rings and my wife answers it. Here is the call as has been best reconstructed:

WIFE: Hello...Who is this?
WOMAN: I need to speak to Josh.
WIFE: What? Why? Who is this?
WOMAN: Let me speak to Josh. He owes me money.
WIFE: Money? Call back in the morning.
WOMAN: I need to talk to him now. I'm in his office. He owes me money.
WIFE: (to me, handing over the phone) It's for you.

WOMAN: Josh? I need my money. I'm in your office.
ME: I don't know what the fuck you are talking about. What office?
WOMAN: Your office. In Larchmont. I'm there.
ME: You're in my office? At midnight. On Sunday? Describe my office.

At which point the woman gives me a very detailed description of my writing office--a second floor one room/one bathroom space that I rent because as much as I love my family...well, The Shining.

ME: Okay, fine, you're in my office. Why? And again, who are you?
WOMAN: You know why I'm in your office, Josh. You've been here with me for the last three or four hours.
ME: Lady, I don't know who you've been with in my office, but I haven't been there for two weeks. I mean that's a problem itself, my lack of motivation, but lets get back to what you're doing there?
WOMAN: Well...I met someone claiming to be you on the internet and he paid me to come to your office and have sex with him. Only he didn't pay me. He left. And now I've wasted my whole fucking night.

At which point I write the word "hooker" on the bottom of the envelope I'm using to take notes and hold it up for the wife. Now, it is perhaps a testimony or a condemnation to the way that I've lived my life that at no point during my conversation with this hooker calling me from my office and asking for payment does my wife for EVEN AN INSTANT think that perhaps, yes, she should be concerned that a hooker is calling her husband at home asking for payment.

Now I don't know about the rest of you, but this is a first for me, and my mind is racing. What to do? What information do I need? How do I go about getting it? I'm proud of myself for writing "hooker" on the envelope but I know I've got to do better than that. What pops into my head is: WHAT WOULD THE MENTALIST DO?

So I begin asking questions, trying to extract as much information from her as I can. Eventually I convince her that I am Not the John She is Looking For. At which point she says:

WOMAN: Well, now I'm feeling creeped out. Someone in here was pretending to be you. I think I'm gonna leave and go to my car.
ME: Great idea!

I ask her for the description of the guy:

WOMAN: Six two, white, clean cut, good haircut, nice jeans, cool Adidas sneakers, purple with green stripes, like the African soccer team. And by the way...can I say...I'm not proud of of what I do, but I'm not ashamed, either. I'm in school, single mom, two kids. I do what I've gotta do.

ME: I understand.

(Holy shit, really? Could she really have a heart of gold?)

ME: Could I have your full name and your phone number. In case the police need to talk to you?

WOMAN: Sure.

At which point she gives me HER FULL NAME AND HER PHONE NUMBER. My God. The woman really does have a heart of gold. But I can imagine the network notes:

NETWORK NOTES: We don't find the prostitute character believable. She's so helpful and well-adjusted. I don't think any prostitutes act like that. And the kid thing is so cliche. Shouldn't our cop have to earn that phone number with a little more detective work?
ME: First of all, the guy's not a cop. He's a quirky amateur who's also the victim in this case.
NETWORK NOTES: Feels a little premise-y. I thought we weren't doing a premise pilot.
ME: Second, go fuck yourself.

Finally I hang up with the plucky hooker and call the LAPD, pumped up by my amateur detective skills and excited to HAND THEM A FULLY MADE CASE.

What follows is fifteen of the most Kafka-esque minutes I've ever spent on the phone:

ME: A hooker and a john pretending to be me had sex in my office tonight. I need a patrol car to go to my office.
COP: How do you know?
ME: The hooker called me and told me.
COP: How does she have your number?
ME: I don't know. She's spent four hours in my office with a guy pretending to be me.
COP: You need to go to your office and see if anything's been taken. See if a crime has been committed. Then call us and we'll come out there.
ME: People are fucking in my office. In the middle of the night. For money. Without my permission. Certainly there's a crime there. And it's a brand new Ikea leather couch. I would say the couch's innocence has been taken if nothing else.
COP: You need to go up there and see.
ME: I'm scared.
COP: It's Larchmont, sir. It's safe.
ME: I'm gonna beg to differ.

Eventually the officer and I come to an agreement: I will not go to my office by myself in the middle of the night and see if the mysterious woman on the phone was telling the truth about why she was in my office and he will absolutely not send a car over there to check it out.

NETWORK NOTES: We don't really like the cop here. He's not very sympathetic.
ME: Agreed. But that's the law. There's a shortage of cars and they can't be sending them all willy-nilly everywhere.
NETWORK NOTES: Well someone should say that somewhere. Have the cop say he would go but the regulations won't let him. It's the system.
ME: That's not what the story is about.
NETWORK NOTES: And, you come off as a real pussy.
ME: No argument there. I'll see what I can do.

The next morning in the warm light of day I decide to go to my office and investigate. It's 8:30 am, and I'm feeling much braver after a full night's sleep and a lumberjack's portion of Ativan. My office entrance is on the exterior of a two story building with an outside set of stairs, ostensibly the only way into my office, in case you wanted to break in and screw a hooker and then ditch her.

I turn the doorknob, it's open. I curse my favorite hooker for not locking up afterwards but I understand she was a little spooked when she left. As I step into the office, A MAN steps out of my bathroom.

This is the moment time freezes: he is across the room and I immediately do a tilt-pan from head to toe, like the third act of a thriller when the hero is confronting the murderer: Tall, white, good haircut, nice jeans...wait for it...purple and green Adidas sneakers!

He is certainly as unhappy about this encounter as I am, but as he's probably had more experience playing the bad guy then I have playing the quirky amateur detective, he speaks first:

MAN: Oh..hey..Sorry...my buddy said to wait for him in his office...Is this the wrong office...? Damn. Sorry...

Watching someone lie and hope to get away with it is a fascinating experience. You know the answers to the test that he's currently trying to bullshit his way through, but you want to give off the impression that maybe you're buying it so you don't let him know that the jig is completely up. Which, of course, it most certainly is.

But then he does something downright creepy: he edges his way to my desk, sits down at my computer, and begins clicking keys and closing windows.

ME: DUDE. Are you fucking kidding me? Get off my computer!
MAN: Sorry. I was just surfing while I was waiting for my friend--
ME: DUDE. Do you have ID on you? Name? Anything?
MAN: Yea, of course. Wallet...Hmmm...can't find it. Shit...

He stands...

I know that at different times in this blog I've referred to myself as a fat, lazy fuck. But in truth...who am I kidding. That's exactly what I am. However, in the last year I've become a less fat, less lazy fuck. I've hired a trainer, mostly at the behest of my wife, who doesn't want me to die young and leave my child fatherless. My own motivation for working out is mostly to postpone my death at least until my wife is old enough that she can't remarry anyone that would sexually threaten me when I watch them fucking from Heaven.

For the last year I've only done one kind of exercise, three times a week: I'VE BOXED. And if my trainer is to be believed, and why wouldn't you believe a man who spent five years on British Gladiators and is nicknamed RHINO, I have a right hook like a SLEDGEHAMMER.

So as the tall man stands up from my computer, holding up his hands in a "no problem' kind of gesture, I'm thinking to myself: release the sledgehammer, Josh. Release the fucking sledgehammer. He doesn't know you're onto him, step in as if to shake his hand, pull him close and drop him like a rock...That's what any good hero of any decent show would do...release the fucking sledgehammer...

Here is also what is going on in my head: I'm gonna have to put my backpack down...but my iPad's in my backpack. What if he grabs that and swings it at me? What if he has a knife in those jeans of his, what if he guts me like a fish? For what? If I swing at him will my new iPhone fall out of my shorts pocket? It falls out all the time in the car, these shorts pockets are so shallow, I should've gotten the case for the phone, then it'd be less likely to fall out and break...if I had the case I probably would get better reception in my house and wouldn't have forwarded the call to the home phone...I never would've answered the phone last night...I wouldn't be here face to face with this guy...Bring the sledgehammer, Josh...

Here's what I said:

ME: Why don't we go outside and talk? I need to make a phone call.
MAN: Sure.

At this point I notice he's got a skateboard leaning against the wall. He casually grabs it as we head outside, down the stairs and down the long driveway to the street. I'm hoping someone else will be out there so maybe I can grab him and a mob will form and help me hold him down, but no one's there...He keeps repeating one phrase over and over as he edges to the street:

MAN: I don't want any trouble, I don't want any trouble...


His eyes go wide and he stumbles onto his skateboard, paddling for the street. I half-heartedly jog after him, trying vainly to take a picture of him with my iphone4, yelling nonsensical things like: "Come back here and I will fuck you up!"

He does not come back.

NETWORK NOTES: We don't like the detective very much here. He doesn't stop the bad guy, has no plan, and at the end sort of just puffs after him yelling like an idiot.
ME: It's real. It's what really happens when people are confronted with these types of things. Especially quirky amateurs.
NETWORK NOTES: Again, seems like a pussy.
ME: I get that. Maybe he'll just seem flawed but in an endearing way.
NETWORK NOTES: We also don't understand why he says the part about not paying the hooker. Why does he consider that to be relevant to all this?
ME: He's got a good heart. The hooker seemed so nice and he feels for her.
NETWORK NOTES: He's not gonna do something stupid in the next episode is he? Like call the hooker and meet her at a coffee shop and pay her the money she's owed.
ME: Ummmmm...No.

I return to my office and call the police. Two and a half hours later they arrive, turning my USA detective show into a hard-boiled network cop series. Two female uniforms, serious women, women who clearly do not want to be hearing from some jackass waving an envelope with the word HOOKER! written on the bottom.

I detail my story, knowing how impressed they're going to be by the number of clues I've already amassed...

COP: Sir. Before you continue...I want to say something to you.
ME: Of course, officer.
COP: I need you to understand that it is against the law to file a false police report sir. It is a crime.
ME: Are you kidding me?
COP: I am not.
ME: Are you suggesting I'm making this up? Why? To cover up for the fact that a hooker has called my home demanding money from me? Do you think I'm a whore-r? (sp?)
COP: It's a strange story, sir. Very strange. Doesn't add up. They seem to know a lot about you.
ME: They were in my office for four hours! I'm pretty sure they weren't having sex the whole time. God knows I couldn't.

NETWORK NOTES: We like this part. Conflict between our guy and the system. Of course they would suspect that. Maybe our guy did do it. Maybe it's all a scam. Like Usual Suspects. We love that movie. People wouldn't expect that.
ME: He didn't do it. There's security camera footage which shows the plucky hooker and the big tall John.
NETWORK NOTES: We need to see that. Security camera footage is always cool.

So there I was: scanning security camera footage with one cop while the other one took the phone number for the hooker and called her to confirm my story. There was definitely a moment of panic when I considered that the hooker was going to deny the whole thing and make me look foolish, but God bless her she SANG LIKE A CANARY!

I am not making that up. That is what the police officer said when she got off:

COP: My God. That woman SANG LIKE A CANARY."

(For those of you who've never hear that line in real life, trust me, it's even better than you imagine it would be.)

So between my new best hooker friend and the security tape footage, the police finally believe my story. (Another FYI: the security camera adds, like, fifteen pounds.)

So what do they do?

They do nothing. Wait. That's not true: they leave.

ME: But...I've got a glass here with his fingerprints on it! He left a shirt! It's wet! Full of DNA! There's a muddy footprint! Don't you want to take a cast?
COP: We're good, sir. Nothing's been taken. No property damage. We'll pass it along to the detectives but...I don't even know what we'd charge...
ME: Breaking and entering? Unlawful sex and non-remuneration of a prostitute?
COP: Sir.
ME: Well, are you going to send a forensic computer expert out to go through my computer? See what he was poking around in? See if he's stolen my identity for real?
COP: Nah. You can go on your computer. It's fine.
ME: Really.
COP: Really.

NETWORK NOTES: Well that just seems like lazy writing.
ME: But that's what happened.
NETWORK NOTES: It's not satisfying. The amateur sleuth's gotta go on the computer, use his own sleuthing skills, figure out the perp. You know. MacGyver it. We need more of that. More MacGyvering. Less being a pussy.

So that's what I did. For the rest of the day, another tv writer friend and I scoured the office and computer for clues, photographing footprints, analyzing the back window of the office for smudges...We discovered that the end of the paper towel roll I'd left over there had gotten caught in the window, obviously evidence that the window had been opened and shut (never by me). We found a print by the window, a smudge on the sill, we discerned the wet shirt was from the rain the Saturday before, also explaining the muddy footprint...We created a timeline of entry, cross-referencing with the time codes from the security footage...He'd come in off the adjacent roof, through the window...bringing the weather with him...

We went through my computer and discovered he'd gone through every one of my files only a half hour before I caught him in the office. This included deal memos, accounting emails, pictures of my family. You name it, he'd seen it. I canceled all of my credit cards, alerted the credit unions...

We went through my browser--he hadn't had time to erase his history--and found that he'd spent a good portion of the morning ordering ANOTHER HOOKER. We blew up stills of webpages, recovering a possible email account...I imagined how impressed the detectives would be with me when I provided them with all of these new leads...I was an amateur forensic genius profiling motherfucker...

We found out that my hooker with a heart of gold had spent some time the previous night doing what many of us do while waiting for a john to return from a smoke break: editing photos on facebook. A few clicks and we'd learned that everything she said was true: she was a single mother of two, attending college...Her photos were full of friends and family and happy memories, and I couldn't help but wonder about a world where this woman would do what she did and then retreat back into her world, if only through photos...

NETWORK NOTES: Too much. The whole photo thing while waiting for the john. Ick. Maudlin. It makes me feel sorry for her and now I'm getting a little creeped out by the detective. This is not blue sky. This is the opposite of blue sky.
ME: I was thinking of a Coldplay song over a montage.
NETWORK NOTES: Oh we love Coldplay. That'd be really powerful.
ME: So that's how it'll end: The amateur detective mooning over the hooker with the Coldplay song in the background, pushing his way forward all alone, the system ignoring him, looking for a break that may never come.
NETWORK NOTES: But not dark or serialized or anything like that, right?
ME: It'll be case of the week. Like The Mentalist.
NETWORK NOTES: We love Simon Baker.
ME: Who doesn't.
NETWORK NOTES: Does it have a title?
ME: Yep.

Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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CON!   New window
Date: Wednesday, 22 Jul 2009 01:51


After years of sharing The San Diego Convention Center venue with Comic-Con, organizers of the JoshFriedmanCon Corp. have decided to finally take the ridiculously lucrative Convention devoted to all things Josh Friedman out on its own.

"There's a number of reasons we've decided to end our partnership with Comic-Con," says JFCC co-founder Josh Friedman. "It's become clear recently that Comic-Con's interests and Friedman-Con's interests were beginning to diverge. Comic-Con has gradually changed from its early roots as a colorful sanctuary for the comic book industry and its fans to something more akin to a corporate trade show focusing on broader marketing objectives in all corners of entertainment culture. JoshFriedmanCon, on the other hand, has been and will always be singularly devoted to Josh Friedman. And that's what our fans want."

Last year 120,000 people visited the combined Comic-Con/JoshFriedman-Con. The organizers of JFCC detailed a number of things that caused them concern regarding the quality of their fans' Con-Experience. Friedman cited some alarming statistics:

"Of the 120,000 visitors to Comic/Friedman-Con, 97% of them self-identified as 'Josh Friedman Fans' or 'Friedman Fans' or 'JF Fans' while only 8% considered themselves 'Fans of Movies or TV or Comics which did not in some way involve Josh Friedman.' 63% of THOSE visitors self-identified as 'West L.A. douchebag d-boys trying to fuck a Bud Light Bakugan Girl on his expense account.' After analyzing these numbers we came to a series of conclusions: first of all, there's a lot of douchebags in Los Angeles. Many of them do not like Josh Friedman. Frankly, we don't know why. We've always gotten along really well with douchebags and in fact, have partnered with them a number of times on film and tv projects. Second of all, and we think Mr. Comic-Con would agree with us, at some point you've gotta take the training wheels off. You can only lean on someone else's fan base for so long. Whether Comic-Con can survive without us remains to be seen. If it does, certainly we'll welcome them as a healthy and vibrant part of the Con Family. If they don't, well, I'm sure we all remember what happened to Pheasant-Con and Foam Hand-Con."

Said a spokesman for the Convention Center: "This came as quite a surprise and disappointment for us. We've counted on Friedman-Con to bring in the majority of the attendees, I think everybody knows that. But what people don't realize is the amount of food and drink consumed by the average Friedman-Con goer is approximately three times the amount consumed by the average Comic-Con visitor. I remember last year six fans dressed as College-Aged Friedman shut down an entire Pizza Hut concession. And I'm pretty sure two of them were girls."

Last year Friedman-Con had experienced some backlash from hardcore fans who felt that the "F-Con" had "sold out" by aligning itself so closely with Friedman's sci-fi show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Especially angry had been some of Friedman's online backers.

From FriedmanOnlineDailyChatVerse commenter FatFurryBastard:

"FWIW if JF continues to waste his/our time creating television shows and writing sh*t m*vies then I will consider the promise br*ken. U can troll-slap me and so be it but no one has been a bigger JF supporter than I have been--fan since Schwayder Camp '77-- and even stuck with him through late 30s cancer (YAWN). This year's main Friedman panel sucked. Waited three hours to sit in back of 6A and what did I get? Five questions for JF, none of which discuss '08 decision to grow out hair, three of which cover high school (HASN'T THIS BEEN COVERED FULLY IN GRAPHIC NOVEL PART 3?) and TWO f'ing question about SUMMER GLAU! SUMMER F'ING GLAU? Are any of us sitting there dressed like Summer Glau? Chr***. I can't wait for that p**** of ****** to be cancelled so those other mot***fuckers can get off his stage. But YMMV."

When the show's ratings dropped precipitously in the second season, Friedman's supporters staged fan rallies in front of WB and Fox, carrying placards which read "The Show Must Go Off" and hanging Summer Glau in effigy. A "FREE JOSH FRIEDMAN" campaign was organized as fans mailed in thousands of half-eaten Twinkies and empty bottles of Don Julio tequila to Fox President Kevin Reilly.

In May, Friedman's fans got their wish when Fox Broadcasting Co. declined to renew Sarah Connor for a third season. Said Friedman at the time: "The fans' passion for cancellation spoke volumes to WB and Fox. I know that I was extremely moved by it and did everything I could to convince Kevin and Peter that this donkey had no balls."

The blogosphere concurred. Typical was this response:

IDoLoveaJew1967: "About frakkin' time. Just about everyone on Television Without Josh had pretty much given up on JF. I thought he'd pulled a Whedon or a Moore on us but I think we all owe him an apology. He got that show cancelled right quick and now JF CAN GO BACK TO DOING WHAT HE DOES BEST: BEING J FUCKING F!"

According to Friedman: "I knew the cancellation was gonna be a big boost to JoshFriedmanCon. Everybody's always loved me most as a cocky, fat, unemployed lazy hefty bag full of neuroses teetering inches from self-immolation. That's sort of my thing."

Organizers also were excited about FriedCon's new locale, the bulk snack food aisle in the 3rd st. Smart and Final. An all-access JF-Con pass allows a fan the opportunity to purchase bulk treats from BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE, including both the savory and the sweet.

Friedman: "I know many of my fans were frustrated both by the vastness of the San Diego Convention Center as well as its strange smell of printer's ink, vinyl and animal sex. I've toured the new set-up at the Smart and Final and want to assure everybody that the more intimate atmosphere will be nothing short of ELECTRIC and the smell is a wonderful mixture of spanish peanut, pink and white animal cookies and lox by the box."



As is traditional for the opening day of Friedman-Con, all of the panels revolve around something humiliating that happened to Josh while he was naked. Among the highlights:

Panelists will include Darlene and Alan Friedman (Josh's parents) Aunt Terri (Darlene's sister ten years her junior and a frequent babysitter) and a guy named Matt. A.V. Presentation included.

Panelists include Todd Grant from second grade, John Karp of the Jewish Summer Camp Karps, and that guy Matt's dad, Murray.

How Josh had an asthma attack while losing his virginity. Panelists include Josh Friedman and A Girl Named Christa who now goes by her married name. We suggest you arrive early as the aisle will be at full capacity.


The traditional Friedman-Con celebration of Josh's self-destructive eating habits. Highlights include:

SOCIETY FOR CREATIVE ANACHRONISM PRESENTS TACO NIGHT! Fastidiously researched and recreated, the SCA will re-enact the Friedman family tradition of turning home-cooked taco night into bloodsport. Don't miss watching Josh's "Dad" elbow Josh's "brother" out of the way to get to the hamburger meat while "Josh" protects his fragile psyche by power-guzzling three large burritos. Mary McDonnell guests as Josh's mother whimpering in the corner.

A highlight of every Friedman-Con has been the Friday night costume party. Participants are encouraged to come dressed as different high and low points in Josh's fifteen year, eighty-pound roller coaster cycle battle with weight and self-loathing. Awards will be given to those who most creatively express this year's theme: "I Don't Need a Trainer, I Can Do it by Myself".

There will also be a breakfast pizza eating contest.


An eclectic series of panels relating to the work of Josh Friedman. Including:

Panelists include Josh's 7th grade English teacher, his tenth grade football coach, his High school JV basketball coach, that girl Christa who goes by her married name, and Josh's Dad.

Panelists include Josh Friedman, Josh's therapist Esther, Bryan Fuller and Bryan Fuller's therapist Kristin Chenowith.

The highlight of Saturday's panels is a barn burner: Josh Friedman sits down for a funny and insightful one-on-one conversation with his Blog. One-time intimates but now barely on speaking terms, Josh and his Blog reunite for what promises to be a crackling hour of accusations, back-pedaling, furious rationalization and insane resentment. Topics to be covered include: Snakes on a Motherfucking Plane, David Koepp, The Literary Criticism of Anonymous, Whose Cancer is it Anyway, and exploring the answer to the age old question: YOU SUCK.


As usual the highlight of the final day will be THE ANNUAL MUSICAL. This year we will be dramatizing the idea that under certain sonic conditions, like if it's really loud or windy, the names "Josh Friedman" and "Joss Whedon" sound almost exactly alike.

All parts sung by Kristin Chenowith and Josh's Dad.

And despite the fact that ticket prices have tripled due to what Friedman calls "the economic climate," the Man Himself wants to reassure the fans that it'll all be worth it.

Says Friedman: "It'll be our best Con yet!"

Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Thursday, 04 Jun 2009 02:28
So where was I?

Oh. Right.

I had this little scary robot show and for whatever reason couldn't convince enough people that it was a) scary enough b) robot enough or c) in English. Add that dim sum combo of factors to a red bean paste of non-monetizable early adopters dvring the show like motherfuckers and now I'm unemployed.

Everyone says having your show cancelled is like a death but I've been dead before and at least when you're dead you don't get thrown off the Warner Bros. lot for haunting your old parking space. They probably mean it's like the death of a friend or a family member but that shit only hurts when it's YOUR friend or family member and even then it's mitigated by age, lifestyle and whether that person was a Hollywood friend or a real one and whether that family member left you money.

Losing your show is more like a surprise divorce where you get served papers in the morning and your (ex)wife is fucking Human Target by three in the afternoon using the same time slot your child was conceived in and also where she did that one thing that one time on your birthday.

People say the bright side to losing your show is gaining time to spend with your family but I'm pretty sure that waking up next to your ex-showrunner spouse whom you haven't seen for two and a half years is pretty close to waking up next to that special someone you met the night before at Carlos n' Charlie's in Cancun on Spring Break.

WIFE: Oh...It's you.
WIFE: You look...different than I remember.
EX-SHOWRUNNER: I've gone a little grey.
WIFE: Or a little fat.
EX-SHOWRUNNER: Pretty sure it's grey.
WIFE: Pretty sure...fat. Was I...drunk?
WIFE: I don't know. The whole time?

You should own your self-inflicted wounds if for no other reason than a) they are yours and b) you inflicted them, you dumb motherfucker, but I do want to say in my own defense that it takes a special kind of someone to work seventy hours a week where it is HALLOWEEN 24FUCKING7 and not pack on a few--

WIFE: Dozen.

A dozen--

WIFE: A few dozen.

a few dozen pounds fine I get it. A few dozen pounds consisting mainly of but not limited to: Chocolate Pop Tarts, Twinkies, Ding Dongs, double-decker PB&Js;, pink and white animal cookies, duck sandwiches, maricopa almonds, stinky cheese, french bread, deer in a thai curry peppercorn sauce, trail mix with the peanuts picked out, breakfast sausage, pistachios, Diet Coke, large Jamba Juices, those little Butterfingers, lox when we had Zvi the Israeli P.A., and sushi.

And I'm willing to own that. Especially the sushi part.

One of the hardest parts of having your show cancelled is the part BEFORE it's cancelled, when it's "on the bubble". The absolute hardest part of that, besides the phrase "on the bubble," is everyone gets it in their head that you actually know what's happening with your show and you're just not telling them. No one believes the show's fate is in the air, they believe the fate's been decided, you know the fate, but you're just not sharing it with anybody. Now understand this: at any one time on a show there are over TWO HUNDRED people working on a show. OVER TWO HUNDRED FAMILIES DERIVING THEIR INCOME FROM YOUR LITTLE CREATIVE ENDEAVOR.

What kind of fucking asshole would I be if I knew they were all going to be out of work in a month but just didn't feel it was politically expedient to tell them?

CONSCIENCE: Hey. Buddy. That grip's wife is having a baby in two months. He's thinking of leaving to work on a feature.

ASSHOLE ME: We're cancelled in two weeks.

CONSCIENCE: We gotta tell him.

ASSHOLE ME: Nah. People leaving. Bad for morale. Not politically expedient.

Who but a heartless cocksucker would stop someone from getting other work knowing they had no future at their current job? (Other than William Morris and Endeavor, that is.)

But I progress.

I guess there were signs that the show was in trouble (other than the 1.3 rating and the four share). First there was the day I was in my office and looked up to see Chuck Lorre and a Warner Bros. facilities manager standing in my doorway pointing to various features and using their hands to take "air measurements." (Chuck tried to play it off like waving to me God Bless him, but I know an air measurement when I see it.)

I know what you're all thinking: Chuck Lorre needs office space? What the fuck for? Doesn't he already have office space spread out all over half the fucking studio? Isn't it enough that Charlie Sheen's trailer is the size of Waylon Jennings' tour bus and it blocks the best way to ride a golf cart from a certain scary robot writer's office to a particular scary robot sound stage? There's only 2 and half men for fuck's sake, and one of them's like, six years old or something.

You think MR. CHUCK FUCKING LORRE that just because you've pimped my show on Big Bang that you can stand out in my hallway with a basket waiting for the guillotine to fall and my head to roll right to you? Do you think you can do that? Air measurer?

Damn right you can. You're Chuck fucking Lorre and you own my ass.

But Chuck didn't take my office--I believe he said something about my private bathroom having a non-platinum sink--and what I thought was good news soon became anything but. Because while you may be a bubble show to your family and your fans, as far as the studio goes the minute your show wraps you are a deadbeat renter who's already forfeited his cleaning deposit.

It was Open Season on the Sarah Connor Suite as My Room of Ones Own soon became the Potential Room of Any Jackass Pilot Producer who Thought His Show was getting Picked Up. And believe me, there's a lot of those assholes. Poking their heads in, hopped up on good test scores in the key demos, power-drunk and showing off their spanking new laminated Warner Bros. ID card hanging off a lanyard like a slutty USC freshman and her Spring Weekend mug.

And yet. No one took it.

I was starting to feel like Grandma's hand-knit afghan at the garage sale that starts out a keepsake you couldn't part with but ends up as the substitute for styrofoam peanuts when you need to wrap up the six matching sunflower pattern kitchen glasses your mother gave you when you left for college.

Eventually I cracked and started taking the whole thing personally. I'd hear them coming and start screaming "Vultures! Vultures! Come in vultures!" It was that John Irving novel with the orphans and the older ones just know they're fucked and they start rejecting the parents before they can be rejected--

(It's here that I just want to note that I haven't read "that John Irving novel" but I'm pretty sure I saw a movie based on "a John Irving novel" and I feel like that scene was in the movie and should've been if it wasn't.)

--I really did this. Forget the John Irving thing. I really did yell this at people. No one thought it was funny. Well. I did.

I also considered renting the office back from Warner Bros., myself. It was a romantic gesture, or a lazy one, as I had a huge stuffed cow and a Lego Tower of Babel that I couldn't fit into the back of my Chrysler. As it turns out, the studio will rent you back their offices, but at THE SAME RATE THE PRODUCTION PAYS, which, while I can't remember the exact amount, worked out to something around $450,000 a month. But that did include the private bathroom with the non-platinum sink.

Eventually the day came when I was evicted from the room I'd written thirty episodes of my very first television show. I packed a very large SUV with a very large amount of computer equipment, scripts, DVDs, Sarah Connor memorabilia, something that may or may not have been many half-empty tequila bottles, some office supplies I don't want to talk about, and possibly some gum and trail mix. Despite the show NOT yet being cancelled, I was the last person to leave the empty building and would've turned the lights out if I was paying for the electricity.

I drove up to the security gate and prepared to be waved through, knowing there was a good chance this was the last time I'd be on this lot in my capacity as Executive Producer of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It was after 8:00 and that meant I was guaranteed a "trunk check," a phenomenal Hellerian ritual by which the guards checked your trunk and NO MATTER WHAT WAS IN THERE let you leave the lot. I had never known ANYONE to EVER explain themselves regarding the contents of their trunk during the trunk check ritual. I think this has even happened:

GUARD: Trunk please.
ANONYMOUS TV PRODUCER: Sure, Frank. How's the kids?
GUARD/FRANK: Good. Good. (Checks trunk) Is that Bugs Bunny in there?
ANONYMOUS TV PRODUCER: Yeah. I roofied him.
GUARD/FRANK: Sure. Yeah. Looks that way.
ANONYMOUS TV PRODUCER: I'll probably bring him back tomorrow.
GUARD/FRANK: All righty. Make sure to call him a drive on, though. Otherwise we can't let him on.
ANONYMOUS TV PRODUCER: Of course. I'm no rookie, Frank.

So on my final official day on the lot I pull to the guard shack with my SUV full of EVERYTHING.

GUARD: Hey. How're you tonight?
ME: Last night, Frank. Last night on the lot.
GUARD: Looks that way. That your whole office in there?
ME: Pretty much.

As I start to pull away--

GUARD: You got your property sheet?
ME: Excuse me?
GUARD: Your property sheet. Like an inventory sheet. With all of this inventoried and signed off on by the production.
ME: What?
GUARD: I'm gonna have to ask you to turn around and return to the lot, go to your production offices, and get an executive to inventory all of this, certify it as yours, and then sign the sheet. Then you can leave.
ME: Frank. Let me explain something. There is nobody else. I'm it.
GUARD: Well someone is going to have to list, certify, and sign.
ME: Someone? Like who someone?
GUARD: Someone. A producer. Someone.

And then it hit me.

ME: Frank! I'm that someone! It's my show! I am the someone that I'm looking for!
GUARD: Wait. Who are you?
ME: I'm Josh Friedman, Frank! And until I drive past this guard shack I am the Executive Producer of this tv show! I am the someone! Can't I give myself permission to leave?

At which point Frank went to the guard shack. A line of cars had formed behind me, wondering what kind of fuck up was holding up the line at nine o' clock at night. Frank returned with a form, in triplicate.

GUARD: List the items. Certify they're yours. Sign off.
ME: I am, in essence, authorizing myself to leave and thus no longer be the Executive Producer.
GUARD: As far as we're concerned, yes.
ME: Works for me.

And so I did. And so I had. And so I wasn't.

As I drove off I rummaged through the questionable office supplies for a piece of gum. Stuck it in my mouth, accelerating onto Barham Blvd. into the night. I blew a bubble.

It would be another month before it popped.
Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Tuesday, 05 Feb 2008 07:23
So I'm trying something radical this week and in lieu of vanity-Googling four hours a day I've cut it back to damn near three and am using the savings to read a book. It's Marc Norman's "What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting." I know that's not much of a stretch but even in the best of times I'm a pretty self-absorbed motherfucker so you can only guess what I'm like when I've got nothing else to do but contemplate my own navel.

The book's well-written, well-researched, and just about all the other wells you could want out of something like this. It starts back in the silent era and paints a pretty good picture of the screenwriter through time. And by pretty good I mean colorful and informative but not always complimentary. To wit:

"...writers (in the 1930s) lived in a caste system of their own construct, along financial lines. At commissaries at lunchtime the $2,000-a-week writers like the Parker-Campbells sat with others at the same salary, the $500-a-weeks with their own, the junior writers--$50 a week, if they were lucky--off in a corner. These distinctions transferred to their social lives; a screenwriter approaching a house one night with a writer friend said he could not enter it and the party inside, they would not want him there, he was not making enough."

Reading this I flashed back ten years ago to a screenwriter dinner I was invited to where I was absolutely the youngest and least accomplished of the fifty screenwriters present. Everyone was nice to me but every conversation was some version of:

ME: Hi, I'm Josh Friedman (But that means nothing to you, does it?)
OTHER GUY: I'm ACADEMY AWARD WINNER (But you already knew that didn't you?)
ME: Great to meet you! (Of course I did.)
OTHER GUY: Likewise! (I've already forgotten your name. Oh Thank God there's Bass.) Excuse me, would you?

And I was left for the seventh time that evening holding a glass of white wine, a paper plate of pasta salad, and my rapidly shrinking dick.

Still, those monthly gatherings were always a thrill for me. People were generally polite and I would mostly shut up, get drunk, and fantasize about one day having a house big enough to host a gathering. Or at least a movie credit better than Shared Story on the Keanu Reeves Extravaganza Chain Reaction. At the time I thought it was going to be The Black Dahlia Directed by David Fincher. Huh.

Those were the glory days when we knew we'd been fucked on the DVD deal but no one really knew HOW fucked and if you were a tv writer you probably didn't think you'd been fucked at all. Those were the glory days when I was being paid less for a feature script than I currently am for a television pilot and yet felt wealthier than I could've ever imagined. In those days I knew a little of what I know a lot of now--it's not about making money, it's about making movies.

Because any jackass can get rich writing scripts; most of them won't, but any of them can. And a few of them do. Bad comedies and Bruckheimer action movies have kept any number of my friends in the business for quite a while and had I been a little looser with my special writing place I think Joel Silver would've bought me a beach house by now.

This is neither to suggest nor deny that writers are rich: a few are but almost all are not. I would never insult anyone and deny I've made more than most everybody else in the American work force, but for every writer I know that lives high on the hog I know twenty who buy their bacon at Costco.

Says Dorothy Parker in the Norman book: "I want nothing from Hollywood but money and anyone who tells you that he came here for anything else or tries to make beautiful words out of it lies in the teeth."

So let me lie in my teeth. While there is much pride in supporting my family there is little pride attached to the amassing of wealth. It was never wealth that I envied when I met my writing idols; it was those credits attached to their invisible name tag: Nice to meet you, CallieKhouriThelmaandLouise. How you doing ChrisMcQuarrieUsualSuspects? More wine SteveZaillianSearchingforBobbyFischerSchindler'sList? Lemme just get out of your way RobertTowneSeriouslyDon'tGetMeFuckingStarted.

There is no greater compliment a writer can pay another write than: "Damn. I wish I'd written that."

So I am at my core a star fucker and I only hope I've got my stars aligned correctly. I practically drooled on Ron Moore's shoes when I met him and it will probably not surprise you to know that impressing Matt Weiner has taken on a higher priority these days than making my father proud. (Probably easier, BTW.) Props from your peers are the crack hits on David Simon's Writer's Corner and I'm no better than Bubs when it comes to that.

And of course it's much more desirable to become friends with successful people than it is to have friends who suddenly BECOME successful.

God knows that sucks.

Because spreading out in front of Writer's Corner is Schadenfreude Circle, a bloody, bullet-strewn part of the city where lawless envy takes headshots at every homejew who dares try to pull himself up by his Final Draft bootstraps, jump straight to the A-list and get the fuck out of the Guild Minimum Ghetto.

Your friends in your writing group, people from your film school class, that ex-partner you wrote that one comedy with when you were just "experimenting" at USC Film School...They will try to drag you back down faster than Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips flipped on Mike Vick.

As you would them.

Because you can rise up my friend, just do not for a second think that it's cool to rise up above ME.

Hollywood is a fetish store for lists and labels and screenwriters are nothing if not for sale. Autistics obsess less than a D-girl does over a writer list for her empty assignment. There are good lists (A) and bad lists (black) and you don't have to be Dalton Trumbo to fall from the former and end up on some version of the latter. The lists are fluid like mercury and that shit flows up down and sideways without signalling first.

We've all been away from the game for three months now and you'd think the strike would be a chance to shirk the labels and the lists we've been yoked to and forge a more perfect writer union. No one should give a shit whose credit is what when you're all standing in the rain at Paramount and it's still dark. (Not my shift, by the way. John August's.)

And to some extent I think this is true, I've seen a mix-and-match on the strike lines which one could easily read as encouraging and I've heard a lot of sweet anecdotes about younger (read: less successful) writers picking the brains of more established (read: those who live in Malibu) writers.

And it warms my grinchy motherfucking heart.

And then my heart is flash frozen when I return home to this:



Or any version of a rumor involving A-List writers, influential members, powerful showrunners, fi-core, petitions, trade ads, chain e-mails, back-channel grumbling, etc.

And I'm a big believer in rumors because I know many of them are true and for a second I get all crazy poppins and then I remember something:

Who the fuck cares?

Why do I care what a bunch of "A-listers" think? Not that their opinion is any less valid, but why should it be more? Of course fifty rich successful writers are pissed. So are fifty poor ones, and probably a group of semi-successful fifty, and also a few subsets of any Ven diagram you want to find for me. We're not ten thousand clones...dissent is to be expected...democracy's a messy business...blah blah blah and fuck kumbayah...

But we cannot ascribe to someone a worthier opinion just because his credits are impressive. Some dude writes a couple movies that made the studios a billion dollars? Good for him. He should be commended and given a chance to do that again. Doesn't mean he knows jack shit about internet streaming just because he's got studio presidents on his speed dial. Big showrunner's got a hit show on a major network? Give him another show. Doesn't make him the go to guy on ESTs just because he hires and fires other writers.

But there are those who will argue thusly: "Those of us who actually WORK in this business should have a weighted voice here. We have the most to lose, we employ the most people, we've lost more than we'll ever make back with those fucking residuals anyway so we've made more sacrifice..."


Because when you have a strike for the middle class it's that upper class that feels left out. And they're not used to being left out. Or remembering what it was like not be who they are now--preferring to believe they were dropped fully-formed into their current position like a perfect angel made man.

Which is why its usually good to wait until you're dead to meet your gods.

Our negotiating committee is packed with A-listers and there seems to be two reasons why this happened. First, the belief (probably incorrect) that the AMPTP would be less likely to stare down our captains of industry and screw with writers they actually KNOW, and secondly (probably true), that we would feel more confident knowing that we have an all-star team working for us and not some WGA Committee lifer who may know every issue backwards and forwards but doesn't have a career we envy.

The first idea was a nice try if a little pollyanna, the second a little more cynical and thus probably more effective.

Of course, by now even the most dilettantish of the negcomm members is functioning at a higher level than all but the most wonky of us, so they've graduated from celebrity chess set to actual role playing characters with their own AI.

A few weeks ago Paul Haggis wrote an essay ostensibly debunking the "thirty A-list screenwriter cabal" theory which I found more hopeful than accurate. I know there are groups of prominent writers who are pissed about the strike. Have been since before we struck. Again, I'm not at all surprised by it and couldn't care less if there are. Like gathers like and as Britney would say about the voices in her head: it's a rainbow coalition, y'all.

At one point in his essay Haggis lists a number of writers as examples of A-list--amongst them the oh so fresh to the scene Diablo Cody, writer of Juno (this was before her Oscar nomination). I was listening as a few writers discussed the Haggis essay--mainly disagreeing with him--and a few focusing in on the inclusion of first-timer Diablo on the A-list as reason enough to discount everything Haggis said. She hadn't put in her time, her movie was overrated, she's got a fake name...could this fresh-faced little cherub from the Heartland fleshfarms truly be considered A-list after one screenplay?

Exactly the fuck yes.

Because whatever else the A-list is, it's written with disappearing ink. And all that matters at any given moment is: when they make today's list (and remember, THEY make the list, we DO NOT)...are you on it? It is nothing more than a snapshot--today's Dow Jones number--reflecting THEIR want of YOU.

Like Heidi Klum says: one week you're in, the next week you are out so verflucht schnell it'll make your pencil skirt spin.

So Diablo, (Babbling Brooke as I like to call her) is in. I may not like the way she's used the strike time as her own personal publicity pole dance (I guess old habits die hard), I won't fill out a WGA ballot for her because of it, but she's paid the one script minimum and no amount of hating the playa is gonna keep her out of the player's club.

Which is all it takes, people. One script. One feature. One pilot. One credit. No one in or out of this Guild is more than 120 pages away from the A-list.

If rumors are true (and aren't they always), we may soon have a contract to vote on. When that happens there will most likely be a) people who will absolutely approve it b) people who will absolutely NOT approve it and c) people who don't know what to think about it.

And category C is what will drive categories A and B to apoplexy. I've got ten writers in my writers' room and there are those that will stab their staff brethren in the HEART if Tuesday is healthy wrap day and not Thai food day. That's writers and God bless us every wild-eyed one.

There will be lists, petitions, appeals, threats. And I don't think I have to tell you who will be on those lists, my friends.

Your gods. Your idols.

The celebrity writer culture descending from Mt. Olympus (or a couple miles further up Laurel Canyon) to convert the unwashed masses while basking in each other's reflected glow.

Ignore them. Or better yet, get your ass into the temple and smash them into clay shards.

And if I'm lucky enough to get onto one of those lists, ignore my ass, too.
Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Tuesday, 04 Dec 2007 08:54
So my wife is on her third round of antibiotics and her first batch of steroids for what the doctors believe is a sinus infection migrated south to retire permanently in her lungs as bronchitis. My son has awakened us every night for the past two weeks complaining of a recurring nightmare involving a bad man with a tail who lives in a lamp. I have a rash that I don't want to talk about, and my dog has had a recurrence of something that requires its own special canine dermatologist.

So something's up.

Because besides the bee death cult and the devil dreams and the wife's death rattle chest, there's also now the flood.

In my previous post I believe I mentioned the possibilities for floods?

Sometime last week, possibly on Thanksgiving but who really cares, a very small pinhole leak developed in a hot water pipe in my attic. An attic, that, due to a condition I possess which I can only define as "ladder-impairedness," is hardly a place that I frequent. It's dark up there, lots of air-conditioning ducting, a creaky wood beam floor, and most likely very large furry jumping spiders from Brazil.

This leak, tiny as tiny can be, sprayed hot water continually for days and days, drenching the creaky wood floor of my attic until such wood could no longer contain all of the water and passed it along to various portions of my house. The ceiling of my office. The wall behind a built-in bookcase. A large wall along a staircase. The ceiling in my kitchen. And the wall of my basement.

It was a very ambitious little leak, an uptight little overachieving leak, the kind of leak you want to beat the shit out of in high school. One that did its dirty work under the cover of darkness until paint started bubbling off my walls and small, amber colored drops of water started landing in my King Vitamin cereal at breakfast.

So for two days now my house has been the L.A. equivalent of the Amish barn-raising scene in Witness except you take out Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis and replace them with my handyman George and four other dudes who, every time you walk by them, smile and shake their heads and say: "Mucho trabajo." Which I understand now is Spanish for "Isn't this black mold?"

It's enough to make a man pine for the Hochleitners.

Plastic hangs over my doorways like a Dexter death room and rolls of butcher paper have been spread all over my floors with such enthusiasm that I am beginning to feel like a pork loin. One wall was dried out and plastered over and six hours later that wall had turned an ugly shade of brown--suggesting that it was not actually dried out in the first place or I am living in Fucking Amityville.

In my previous post I rolled these bones and saw signs of the labor apocalypse. And given the AMPTP's recent "New Economic Partnership" proposal it's certainly possible that the latest pox on my house is simply an anaphylactic shock brought on by the Big Media Beast as it slouches towards the Ivy to eat crab cakes and Rickey's Fried Chicken.


As devoted father and loving husband it is my DUTY to explore alternate explanations for whatever dark materials have found their way to my family and my hearth.


If we are to eliminate:
a) nature and all naturally occurring sources
b) the Old testament and related religious explanations
c) coincidence
d) the possibility that I am a delusional paranoid hypochondriac who is so fucked up that his family, pets, and house suffer from Munchausen's by Proxy--

We are left with only one option:

Joss Whedon is very upset with me for casting Summer Glau and has somehow invoked a powerful curse and relocated the Buffy Hellmouth underneath my home.

I saw how the Hellmouth operated for many years, I know its signs and symbols. And while there may not be any vampires yet to slay, I swear to God I saw Alyson Hannigan tongue-kissing a werebear in my laundry room when I was washing my strike shirt.

What kills me is I saw Joss two weeks ago at the Showrunner March. We talked about Summer. I didn't sense anything weird. Looking back I do remember seeing Shawn Ryan and the dude from the 4400 both give packages to Joss that at the time I assumed were Mrs. Beasley's muffin baskets but now I clearly believe were animal sacrifices.

(At another point during the march I saw Joss and Ron Moore huddled together but when I tried to eavesdrop on what they were saying I got this hot burning sensation in my ears and I may have blacked out and peed for a second.)

So because I think there is no other choice and also because I'm on strike with a lot of time on my hands I decide to make a donation to the Church of Joss.

I buy the Firefly boxed set (24 cents to Joss); I watched Serenity on cable (maybe .5 cents to Joss), I already own and have watched the entire Buffy series on DVD (75 cents to Joss). I have spent DAYS OF MY LIFE devoted to the works of Joss Whedon and I'm pretty sure I haven't even sent A WHOLE DOLLAR OF RESIDUALS in his direction.

Which is obviously not enough of a sacrifice to break the curse.

So I'll offer up one of the most humiliating moments for me as a professional writer:

Some years ago I am invited to a dinner party for screenwriters. There's about fifty of us there--including most of the A list people I had always wanted to call my peers. At the time the only credit I had was a shared story on Chain Reaction but I knew a couple of the people throwing the dinner and so I was invited. Terrified, but invited. At some point I am introduced to a writer/director whose work I had admired for years. He was a little older, kind of a legend. Here's how the conversation went:

ME: God, I can't tell you how great it is to meet you. I love your work. Especially (BIG MOVIE).
LEGEND: No. the pleasure is mine. I'm such a huge fan of your writing.
ME: Really?
LEGEND: Of course. It's fantastic. My kids absolutely love Buffy. Just love it.
ME: Uhmmm....
LEGEND: They're gonna be so impressed I met you. They're always going on about you...
ME: Uh, Mr. Legend? As much as I want to be Joss Whedon right now...I'm not. I'm Josh Friedman.
LEGEND: Josh Friedman?
ME: Josh Friedman.
LEGEND: Hm. Oh. Well, I'm sure you're a good writer, too.

And then he walked away.

So please, Joss. Do my family a favor. Take Back the Hellmouth. I know it's fucking huge and you might not have room for it at your place. Maybe you could donate it.

Maybe we could include it in the New Economic Partnership.

Just a thought.
Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Monday, 03 Dec 2007 18:27
For those of you who wake up every day and think to yourself "My God my life isn't complete because I haven't been able to walk the picket lines with scribe-o-bloggers Craig Mazin, John August, Jane Espenson and Josh Friedman" here's your chance.

The four of us will be hitting the bricks together at Warner Bros. Gate 2/3 on the 8am-11am shift Wednesday.

I'll be the one wearing sweatpants.
Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Wednesday, 14 Nov 2007 07:22
Three years ago my wife and I pulled into our driveway and just as we were about to get out of the car my wife grabbed my arm and pointed. Hovering over our car some thirty feet in the air was an angry black cloud of bees, probably fifty thousand of them. We could hear them from inside the car, and it wasn't a buzzing but a deep thrumming, a low electric sound, like a power line.

I've seen that bad movie so like the pansy I am I backed my car the fuck up and drove it around to the other side of the house where my wife and I could sprint into the house squealing like the terrified children we were/are.

Three phone calls later and a man shows up, dressed in a bright yellow hazmat suit carrying some sort of vacuum cleaner type deal. He proceeds to fill a very large bag with bees, focusing on getting the queen and removing her from the premises. My wife is extremely PETA proud but at that moment if the bee guy had told her he was going to take out the queen with whatever cruel and unusual method bees hate the most, she probably would've tipped him an extra twenty bucks to do it quicker.

The vacuum cleaner did the trick, however, and afterwards we knocked open a wall in our porch and pulled out an enormous beehive which had been built inside. Free of the terrifying bees, there was an air of sadness to the whole affair, and the various pieces of broken hive reminded me that in this story I am Legend, the Omega Man who hunts and kills mercilessly and yet considers himself not monster but persecuted victim.

But I'm sensitive like that.

So we've been bee-free for years and whether or not that's a good or bad thing for the ecology of my own little biosphere I can only say what is what.

But recently I have this:

Every morning for the last few months I walk out onto my driveway and find it covered in dead bees. Not a few, or a dozen, but hundreds of them, curled up on the concrete directly under my porch light. I know they're attracted to the light at night, I see them buzzing around there when I take the dog out. But some time between then and morning something wicked this way comes and I have no idea what it is.

Of course there's a rational explanation for this, and I've heard the cell phone theory and a few others, but finding hundreds of dead bees on your doorstep every day tends to get a body feeling apocalyptic. I fear a bee death cult, and a very determined bee Marshall Applewhite leading thousands of others to their demise wearing the tiniest of black bee Nikes.

Why the bee death cult has picked my house is currently unclear but surely my fault. More than likely (and certainly more than once) I have not thanked the correct authority, or bent my knee to the proper idol. I cut sugar out of my diet two months ago and lost some weight, but in the last week or two certain stressors have caused me to revisit an old friend (breakfast pastries) and make a few new ones (waffles and beer). I'm sure there is a curse attending those actions, but I've been fat before and it never brought a rain of dead insects down upon my land.

If I didn't make it clear before I've always been afraid of bees; it's not just the stinging but the hive mind that freaks me out. Is it that they actually think the same thing at the same time, or is it that they communicate with the queen so quickly it's as if they're of one consciousness? Either way and with apologies to Alice Krige it scares the fuck out of me.

So it's even weirder when I consider the thousands of bees who have made their way to my home recently in order to buzz around my light one last time and die. Surely if there's something specifically deadly about my house, something murderous to bees and all bee brethren, surely if that's the case at least one or two of them could get word out to the others to stay the hell away from me. I'm sure what happened three years ago is legend in the bee community--if my bees were relocated as promised then it's certainly part of the larger Bee Diaspora; and if the guy in the hazmat suit was full of shit and he killed my fifty thousand bees then surely their names are written on some wall somewhere so the other bees will Never Forget. In any event, if the bees are harnessing the horsepower of the hive mind like I think they do, then it is inexplicable why they would ever venture near my property lines.

Still, they do. And they pay for it. Every night. So maybe something takes them by surprise and they don't have a chance, or even lures them in with some carnival barker's promise of a resurrected Queen. It's Los Angeles, after all. Shit like that happens all the time.

Our city is nothing if not dramatic. She will not be ignored or left off the front page. We have earthquake weather and droughts and storms of fire. These recent days I look through the haze to the Hollywood sign and all I see is the Statue of Liberty from Planet of the Apes and wonder if we're already living in the Forbidden Zone but nobody's told us.

Instead of pilot season it's plague season. The power-mad and the craven and the greasy quisling fat from the king's scraps huddle nightly to plot their next incantation. Perhaps the bees are just the first wave. There may be frogs next. Or locusts. I recall reading of cattle-death, and darkness. But this is ultimately a battle for the firstborn, and the concrete scar we call our River teems with orphan baskets thrown over the wall in a last desperate attempt to save our babies.

There are those who would burn our city to the ground, scorching the earth to smoke us out. They would have us believe the fire is ours, that we are the masses of our own destruction. They would have us believe this but we do not. The tremor in the city is not a tremble but a quickening, and I choose to read the bees at my doorstep as a sign and not a curse. Our numbers grow, in the streets we move as one. For this is not a planet of apes but a city of Infinite Monkeys. And if there is a hive-mind at work it creates, it honors sacrifice and does not destroy. The red you see is the bloodmark we've written on our doors, protecting our children from a wrathful God. The sound you hear is not a buzz but a thrum, like a power line, or a chant. And all the pharoahs hiding behind their walls should hear it loud and clear:

Let my motherfucking people go.
Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Tuesday, 06 Nov 2007 07:53
So it's been a little while and you've all found other roadside attractions and ten months without a post is brain death for a blog so I get it if there's no one out there when the digital tree falls in the binary forest.


An Infinite Fucking Monkey walking a near-infinite number of footsteps around Warner Brothers for eight hours fueled by chex mix and two burrito supremes starts to wonder if silence does truly equal death and if taking back the day means riding the blogosphere deep into the night.

Which is to say:


Since I visited with you last I have shot a pilot and eight episodes of television on my wonderful little art house show we like to call "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles." (Those of us in the know call it "Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles" for short.) Unfortunately, I've only locked picture on the pilot and each one of those other eight precious little diamonds is now sitting uneasily in an editing bay like a toddler whose parent has passed out on the couch from too much Vicodin.

In this case, the couch is the picket line and the Vicodin is my vow that I will do NO WORK on my show until the strike is finished. No writing, no editing, no sound mixing, no casting, no notes calls, no publicity, no NOTHING.

What will happen to our work of the last year? Couldn't tell you. Ask the AMPTP. It's their show now, along with a hundred other shows whose creators and showrunners have chosen to walk the picket line instead of doing their producer duties.

(There was some confusion that I was actually doing this work due to an NPR report about my show this morning that quoted my NONWRITING producer as to his feelings about the strike. I was NOT QUOTED in this report because I had refused to be interviewed--I initially thought it was to involve promotion of my show...Still, some people thought it was me on the radio. It was not. In fact, the AMPTP would probably tell you that radio is still an immature and unknowable media, and the fact that some people could confuse me with my nonwriting producer because they didn't see my face proves that we should wait a few years before trying to figure out how radio might be used.)

AMPTP: Wow, Ms. Prostitute. That was some great sex we just had.
PROSTITUTE: Thanks, AMPTP John. That'll be three hundred dollars.
AMPTP: You're kidding. I'm not paying you.
AMPTP: I paid you three hundred dollars for sex last week. I consider this promotional.

So Tyra was just the tip of the iceberg and now Kate Winslet's fully soaked and blue-lipped as twelve thousand of us try rowing to shore in the good ship Norma Rae. After one full day I can say with certainly that I have a particular facility for standing in one place for hours at a time but chanting while standing seems to escape me. I was asssigned to Gate 4A at Warner's--a very small gate only frequented by executives. I thought this was sort of the generic toothpaste of gates until a few fat white dudes rolled past us into the executive lot driving eighty thousand dollar cars and giving us the finger.

And while I have had many suits in many forms over the years tell me to figuratively fuck off as they mangled my screenplays, it is not til you see that actual finger from an actual person do you realize how few times in your adult life someone has actually told you, to quote the great Arnold Schwartzenegger in Terminator: FUCK YOU, ASSHOLE.

And I have to admit that it pleased me just a little because I'm tired of the polite and earnest way we get screwed by them every other day of the year and sometimes you just want someone to slap you on the ass and scream in your fucking ear.

So now it's day two and we know where they stand and they know where we stand.

And we will continue to stand there.

All day.
Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Monday, 01 Jan 2007 20:43
Are they gone yet?

It was crazy there for a little bit, what with the all the snakes and planes and depalma and tyra and cancer and killer cyborgs and the apocalypse and that one monster spammer and the fever dreams of anonymous that I should be better at what I do, more of what I was, less of who I am.

It was the rise and fall of the Infinite Monkey, loosed from his cage but unmoored from his tethers, a breakaway pop-culture Rose Bowl float cobbled together from poisoned burritos, free sushi, diet coke and used wax icarus wings bought on Ebay Right Now! for $129.99.

(From his unsteady vantagepoint the Monkey sees one writer's strike crushed without mercy but a labor tsunami at Fairfax and Third poised to swamp this town and drown its inhabitants as they cling hopelessly to the small pieces of scrap and wood that we sometimes call DVD residuals.)

The cinema-world evolved as I knew but would not say: the movie I became famous for and did not write was better reviewed and out-earned the movie I spent ten years writing (and wasn't even invited to the premiere.) Or sent a one-sheet. Or a DVD.

A great moment from the L.A. Black Dahlia Press junket, the only junket I was invited to...

ME (wandering the hallways with my pr handler on my way to my ONE press event seeing a headlining actor/ess from the film also wandering the hallway with his/her pr handler: Hey ACTOR/ESS! It's Me! Josh Friedman!
ACTOR/ESS: Right! Of course! What are you DOING here?
ME: Uhhhh. Press.
ACTOR/ESS: Oh. Right! Me, too!
ME: Yeah. I know.
ACTOR/ESS: (Gesturing maniacally towards a bank of elevators) Well...gotta go...they got me running ragged...
ME: (Ambling slowly towards my death) Yeah. Me, too.

(BTW: There were two types of Dahlia reviews: the ones that never mentioned me and the ones that mentioned Brian Helgeland. I preferred the former.)

So Saddam's dead and Michael Bay's alive and the world's a more dangerous place because of it. I haven't slept in three months and I'm living on whatever's inside the tortilla and any drink they refill except water. I found a free Chipotle Buck in my desk last week and made a special trip to the Grove for carnitas with my Ipod and a seven hundred page Alistair Reynolds novel. I wondered if this is how Mark Twain would have written Huckleberry Finn and pretty much decided he would not consider eating the same as writing. He was and is my idol and if you haven't figured it out from the url I named my son after the first truly great character in the first truly great American novel.

But certainly I would trade the inspiration I've received from his work for the reassurance of knowing that if Samuel Langhorne was alive today he'd be just as much of a fat fuckup as I am, writing in the narrow window of time between the hours spent worshiping false internet prophets and the days spent catching up on back episodes of Battlestar Galactica and Dexter.

We can't all be him and frankly, despite what many of you think of my talents, we can't all even be little old motherfucking me. Seriously. I try to be me all the time, the me I love, the inspired me, the clever boy, the cobbler elf for whom time stands still while I polish up the perfect sentence or word. I try to be that me but not too hard because the me I've perfected is too tired, his back hurting from the burden of his belly, his scar extending from the one to the other as if an arrow drawn there by God to remind me of his inescapable laws of causality.

The me I've perfected is the me I hate.

So bitch, complain, criticize, wheedle, want, love, hate, poke, prod and pimp. Just know this:

You'll never be first post.
Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Monday, 14 Aug 2006 17:43
Don't think I've forgotten about you, Tyra.

You can pretend you're not part of what's going on down there at Santa Monica and Sepulveda, Tyra. You can pretend you're just "talent" and bear no responsibility for the strike. But that's what makes you all the more culpable, sweetheart. You're not legally required to get involved or take a stand or make things difficult for the rest of the sweatshop owners over there at the C/W. But that's what doing the right thing is all about. Doing it because you CAN AND YOU SHOULD not because you HAVE TO.

And you can. And you should. You're morally obligated to speak up. And you know what? I don't even care if you disagree with what they're doing. Stand up and SAY THAT. At least have the courage of your convictions.

I can't imagine the size of the Mrs. Beasley's muffin basket you sent to Mel Gibson thanking him for getting your name out of the trades for a little while. And yeah, sure, being a drunken bigot's a little rougher than being the postermodel for the Reality Sweatshop Movement, but at least that motherfucker knows how to make a strong choice and COMMIT TO THE MOMENT. He's like some fantastic Stanislavsky/Martin Boorman love child conjuring sense memories from his Holocaust-denying father while staggering Kurtz-like through Malibu waiting for Leni Refenstahl to yell cut and fix it all in post.

But I digress. The point is, at least Mel cares enough to call.

You, on the other hand, twiddle while the writers who make your show burn. I went down to the picket line. I walked with these people. They love their job. They're good at it. Some of them have been with the show for FIVE SEASONS. You know them. You like bringing your mom on the show? These people are your family, too.

And by the way? They're writers. Nobody working for the show has suggested they are not writers. And all that bullshit about making them go through the NLRB and doing a formal petition for a vote? Did that happen recently when your EDITORS became union?

Uh, no.

So you're swaddled in handlers and PR birds circle your head and sing in your ear and every day another celebrity gets drunk and pops off and ruins it for all the other drunk celebrities and God knows that's just another reason to hunker down in your hurricane shelter made of chinchilla, good intentions and leftover plywood walls from the season six top model house. Who can blame you for closing your eyes and clicking your Manolos and hoping that the whole thing blows over and you with nary a hair out of place?

But you're not really Dorothy in this story, are you? You're more like the Cowardly Lion.
Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Tuesday, 01 Aug 2006 21:49
Look people. I get it. I'm a great disappointment to you all. We had a few giggles, shared some digital sushi and Diet Coke, we made New Line an extra fifty million dollars and had a good time doing it. I bared my malignant soul and made you believe I understood, and then I fucked off for three months.

It's annoying. But that's what you get for hitching your blog star to the fat lazy fuck that is the Infinite Monkey. John August said I would burn out and if we know anything in this crazy world it's that John August is NEVER wrong. Of course, John has an assistant that brings him breakfast and a house that is immaculate and his life is organized and witty and light-filled like a Richard Curtis movie. Meanwhile, my desk is covered in loose pennies, baby toys, bottles of antiseptic canine itch spray and a number of snot-filled hankerchiefs from when my son had a cold two weeks ago.

Jesus Christ what do you expect? Even my child is embarrassed to be kin to me, recently changing his name to "Ernesto" and mine to "Franny the Dog."

But I have not forgotten you people. I read your comments. I appreciate your input and for the most part cannot find fault with your opinions. I resolutely delete my incredibly voluminous spam, wondering if it is simply a pox upon my house brought upon by my various blogging sins. Megabytes of binary lamb's blood marked on my door calling to the Angel of Death to wipe out any record of me while I meekly beg mercy to Blogger Help because my files won't republish. I betrayed you by abandoning Hollywood anecdotes and writing about my illness; most of you take Hollywood more seriously than cancer and why shouldn't you? Cancer can only kill you but a funny blog entry can make Dr. Pepper shoot from your nose. And fuck knows we could all use a laugh these days. The world's exploding in a fireball--a planetary IED buried by a wrathful God and triggered by mankind's jackbooted footstep.

And believe it or not I've had things to do. I owe Mr. Fox Broadcasting Company one very large Terminator script and was determined to get it done before our very own nuclear apocalypse made the one in the script feel "dated."

(Note to self: Find/Replace: Skynet/Bush Administration).

But I'm back. Not in a statistically significant way, and maybe never again, but today. And what could bring me out of retirement? Well nothing short of this.

Seriously. Because there's something you don't know about me (very little, but this is some of it): I love America's Top Model. Love it. I love Tyra, I love Jay. I love the other Jay. I love Nigel Barker and think he kicks the shit out of world-renowned fashion photographer Gilles Bensimon. God knows I love Janice and don't think I didn't watch her spinoff show where she started her own modeling agency.

The only problem I've ever had with Top Model is that there's never been any top models on the show. Not a one. While they've always had the staples of any good reality series--drunks, rubes, lesbians, catfights, drag queens, makeovers, confessional cameras and at least one crazy bitch from Brooklyn, the only accurate part of the title "America's Next Top Model" has been "America."

So finally last year on Season 5 there's this girl Nicole and every time she did a photo shoot she whined like Chris Webber but at the end of the day her pictures were great and my wife and I would turn to each other after the episode with this knowing sort of look and say: "Well, that Nicole. She's a fragile little flower. But goddamn that pansy can MODEL." Of course I thought there was no way she could win--Tyra's all about the positivity and Nicole sort of projected this Shleprock loser vibe when she wasn't in front of the camera. But I remember keeping her in my prayers at night and hoping for a little justice in the world.

At some point I decided I wanted to go to that season's finale party so I could root that sad little Nicole on in person. Now the only premiere I've wanted to go to in five years is War of the Worlds and we all know how that went. Most industry events give me the heebie jeebies, and if you ever go to one of these parties I'm easy to find. All you need is the address to my house.

As usual, I waited until 24 hours before the event to decide I wanted to go. My wife asked a friend of ours who was on a UPN show and while she was going she couldn't get us in because it was a "tough ticket." I called TV Agent, who obviously has nothing better to do than bug UPN and try to get me and the wife into a party which is, also according to him, "a tough ticket."

Think on that a minute.

But damn I wanted to go to the America's Next Top Model Finale Party. First of all, and maybe this seems obvious, there were going to be Top Models there. But don't get them confused with "top models"--the ones you see in magazines--you can see that kind pretty much ANYWHERE IN LOS ANGELES.

No. These are Top Models. And Top Models are first and foremost REALITY TELEVISION STARS. And that means two things: a) I know them all intimately from my time spent with them every week and b) they're all fucking crazy.

I don't think I need to explain to you the special kind of insane that comes when you combine nicotine, a desperate need for television acceptance, and less calories per day than those spoiled bitches get on Survivor.

And here's more reasons I wanted to go: a) there was a pretty good chance I wouldn't know a single fucking person there and b) they were showing the finale on a big screen.

So basically it'd be like watching my favorite show at home but eating other people's food. And I don't think I need to write any more about free food.

I still don't know how but TV Agent begs and wheedles and gets me two "tough tickets". I'm jumping up and down at home chanting "Top Model! Top Model!" but the wife finds that a little scary and I stop. Later that day I put on a clean shirt and my one pair of black pants and drag the wife out the door an hour before the event begins.

By the way, I had never even considered wearing sweatpants to the America's Next Top Model finale party. At the time I had too much respect for Tyra to do that. Tyra was like Oprah if Oprah was Tyra.

As usual, because the wife and I (okay, I) are absolute dorks, we arrived before the doors opened. Waiting in line I get a call from Variety wanting to interview me about my part in the Snakes On a Plane phenomenon (I hear there's a phenomenon). The interview goes well but eventually includes this exchange:

VARIETY: It's sort of loud where you are...
ME: I'm waiting in line.
VARIETY: What are you going to see?
ME: Tyra.
ME: I'm waiting to be let in to the finale party for America's Next Top Model.
VARIETY: Huh. Well, we'll just keep that between us.

Whatever, dude. Just because at the time I'd been too sick with the flu to work or play with my child but I was standing outside the Avalon in shortsleeves waiting to watch wannabe models be fierce on the runway doesn't mean you have to assume I'm in some sort of horrible shame spiral. Because I wasn't. And I'm not. Really.

While in line I begin thinking of poor little model Nicole as the screenwriter in the Hollywood that is America's Next Top Model--talented, original, a lone voice of excellence in a world where every one else is too short, too old, or can only make that one face where they don't look you in the eye but want you to look at THEM. She was also immature, self-absorbed, self-loathing and completely unaware how her bitching looked to the people who pay her bills. Like I said, screenwriter. I loved her.

So we finally get in to the party and we're within the first TEN people there and the wife and I cannot be happier. There's free liquor and table service and fried chicken and make your own guacamole and taquitos and pasta and corn bread and lemon squares and brownies and holy shit there's a make your own sundae bar where honest to goodness TOP MODELS are actually EATING! They've got Season 5 sequestered from us but all of the rest of them are out there and goddamn those girls are tall and even a few of them look like MODELS except they'll actually talk to you because remember they're not really models they're REALITY TELEVISION STARS. So if you sidled up to one of them with your camera phone you wouldn't actually have to wait 'til they turned the other way to sneak a picture of the two of you standing together as if friends. Not that I would do that.

And then we all settle in and watch the finale on a big screen - hundreds of UPN employees, transvestites, gay guys, industry bitches coming to see if they're hotter than the Top Models, and me.

We get to the end and holy shit my poor little Nicole charges past Nic and Bree and wins! There is justice in the Top Model world. Talent will win out in the end, and perhaps there is hope for the rest of us little shlubs who simply want to take our little box of beans and sell them for a fair price at the market.

Tyra came out and spoke and goddamn she brought a tear to my eye and I thought I truly loved and was inspired by her AS A PERSON and maybe this was what it felt like to be on the Freedom March or to hear Kennedy speak or maybe it was the lemon square dipped in the brownie sundae and I should just let my wife carefully walk me out of the building before a restraining order was issued.

But that was then. Not anymore. This is now.

And now, well, now she's FUCKING WITH MY FELLOW MONKEYS. She's sitting in her trailer, hair weave more expensive than a week's worth of a writer's salary, footloose and fancy free with her SAG HEALTH CARE and SAG RESIDUALS. She's a suit. That suit may be Balenciaga, but she's a suit nonetheless. My ex-hero Tyra, she of the patent leather bootstraps that she is so fond of reminding us that she pulled herself up by... My ex-hero Tyra, the champion of justice and hard work and keeping your original breasts and smiling with your eyes...Remember on her talk show when she dressed herself up in the fatsuit so she could feel what it would be like to be discriminated against for her looks? I guess that was more fun than dressing up in a WRITERSUIT and feeling what it's like to work sixty hours a week for The C/W's flagship reality show WRITING and not get a proper wage, writing credit, residuals, health care, or the OPPORTUNITY to have your contract negotiated by the Writers Guild of America while your supermodel boss says nothing and hides behind Executive Producer Ken Mok and his legalese doublespeak horseshit.

You have done something miraculous, Tyra, what with your silence and indifference towards those who work for you. Something my wife hasn't done in seven years. You've made me change my mind.

I used to love you, Tyra. I thought you were someone I could follow. But now I know better. You may think there's nothing sexier than watching a dozen underweight and oversexed models work it out on the catwalk, but I will tell you that there's nothing hotter than watching a dozen overweight and undersexed writers work it out on the picket line.

Be fierce, Tyra. Do the right thing.

I'll be watching.
Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Tuesday, 09 May 2006 21:50
So. I'm alive. Fat, furry, lactose intolerant, but singing like a motherfucking rooster at sunrise.

Well, not singing really. And definitely not at sunrise. This would be a more accurate picture of the Friedman house at sunrise:

ME: (re baby monitor) I'm pretty sure he said mommy.
WIFE: Yeah, maybe. But he said daddy first.
ME: Maybe he'll just fall back to sleep. Besides, he hates me.
WIFE: You know his pajamas are soaked with urine.
ME: Yep...he said mommy. I definitely heard mommy.

Because that's how a world-famous blogger rolls, bitch. We don't change urine-soaked pajamas, we don't fix our spam filter and we sure as shit don't post in order to reassure people we didn't die undergoing cancer surgery.

Especially when that surgery was in December.

Now, if I was to write about my cancer surgery (which I'm not), it should be understood that the closest I'd ever come to surgery previously is the opening montage on Nip/Tuck. Which, if truth be told, is coincidentally the exact time in each episode I go pee.

But I will say that part of Surgery Morning went like this:

I leave the wife in the hospital waiting room and change into the hospital gown for pre-op flight check. Blood pressure (elevated, motherfucker, wouldn't yours be?), pre-op pee (three times), and the application of some very striking panty hose to keep blood clots from forming and bursting in my brain. Which, I gather, is bad.

In comes the anesthesiologist: a bright looking young boy of fourteen whose name escapes me right now but I'm fairly sure was some form of "Jimmy." He starts joking with me about finding a vein for my IV and I swear to God the nurse behind him makes that universal "he's stoned" toking sign with her fingers.

At this point my mind goes back to my previous surgery experience and I wonder why on Nip/Tuck it's Roz the anesthesiologist who turns on that fancy B&O; stereo for the surgery montage. Is she choosing that music? It's so ironically appropriate for the surgery at hand so you think it'd be the doctors, and yet, that Roz...she has such an air of ownership with that thing...

I refocus on Jimmy the Anesthesiologist.

JIMMY: I'm gonna give you something to relax you now.
ME: When you say "relax me" do you mean "take the edge off" or "count backwards from 100 and try not to float to the light."
JIMMY: I mean the second one. Anything else you need?

Now, I guess if I'd have thought about it, I might have requested my wife come back for one last reassuring hand squeeze or something like that. Here's what I say instead:

ME: Will there be music? There's always music.
JIMMY: Your surgeon doesn't much like music.
ME: (disappointed) Oh.
JIMMY: Why? You have any requests?
ME: Is there...a request line?
JIMMY: Hit me with it. I'll see what I can do.
ME: Springsteen. Born to Run.
JIMMY: No problem.
ME: Seriously?
JIMMY: No problem.

Now there are people in this world--we all know them--when they "no problem" what they're really saying is..."I am gonna say whatever I can to make this yahoo stop talking to me so I can go about my business of fucking him over." "No problem" is the everyguy's version of putting on the shiny flightsuit and posing on the aircraft carrier. You can choose to be reassured by it, but you'd be an asshole.

But then there are a few--we're lucky to know them--when they say "no problem" what they really mean is...

No Problem.

(By the way, in Hollywood these people are almost always assistants. They make three hundred dollars to work a sixty-hour week, they're immensely overqualified, and you know their parents are lying to their friends about why their daughter graduated third in her class at Yale and spends her day stocking Diet Dr. Pepper in the office mini-fridge. Or, in the case of my agent's assistant, tracking down episodes of America's Next Top Model for an unnamed client whose fucking Tivo refuses to prioritize the Season Pass correctly no matter how many fucking calls have been made to said client's Tivo Service Representative.)

So I ask for Springsteen's Born to Run and he says no problem. And perhaps you're wondering whether I'd thought about this ahead of time or whether this just popped out of my mouth. Because, again, as I've mentioned in earlier posts...without being morbid about it--if I was gonna get some music before I went under...there was a chance that this would be the last thing I ever hear.


But, you know, who knew at the time? Most of us aren't gonna commit capital crimes either but I can't be the only one who's figured out what my last meal on death row would be, right?

(Which, now that you ask, is a Family Size box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.)

Blog disclaimer: The makers of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and its associated family of food products do not condone nor would they ever encourage capital crime. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese has never been convicted of a capital crime and should not be considered a possible agent of capital crime. And they certainly do not appreciate funny letters sent to them which may suggest an ad campaign centered around celebrity inmates and their desire to eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese as their final meal. They really think that's stupid.

So it's Springsteen's Born to Run and it's no problem, he says. I honestly can't remember if I'd thought it out much before but I do know that in the time since, I haven't heard a record and thought "Shit! That's what I should've asked for." Now, I grant you I haven't had a chance to really huddle down in my basement with the liner notes to Nick Lachey's "What's Left of Me" and crank that fucker up. So...you never know.

But I ask for Springsteen and Jimmy says no problem and that's all we say about it. I do wonder momentarily if, assuming I survive, requesting The Boss as The Last Sounds I Hear on Earth will affect my chances of becoming his close friend, colleague and collaborator. I quickly reassure myself that it'll probably be something we'll laugh about when we're drinking and will in no way come across as either creepy or cloying.

Of course, what I'm really thinking is this: This person is about to knock me out. This person and nobody else will be in charge of monitoring me during surgery and making sure that when it is time to bring me back to the land of the living that I am actually living and can be brought back to that land. And what I'VE asked this man to concentrate on, to focus his energies on...IS FINDING ME A FUCKING RECORD TO PLAY WHILE I'M FALLING ASLEEP.

I drifted off in the pre-op room. I don't remember them wheeling me down the hall. There were no faces floating over me, no reassuring nod from my surgeon, or the nurses, or whatever it is I'd seen on television. I'm sure I'd forgotten my request.

I only remember this: the large bright overhead light of the operating room; the sense of being in a large space; and the unmistakeable sounds of Ernest "Boom" Carter's drums as they drive the introduction to one of rock and roll's great songs of Escape. Carter would leave the band after recording Born to Run, his only song on the album. Did he know he was playing himself off the stage? Would he have done it any differently, had he known? Would any of us?

I wrote a while ago that I debated ever writing about any of these events. Despite strong evidence to the contrary, I'm not such a starving narcissist that I'm compelled to wring a drop of sympathy from a bunch of strangers. I am such a starving narcissist that I'm compelled to keep writing this blog, if for no other reason than to have a place to thank those who EVERY DAY become the most important person in someone else's life.

Let us take a moment, then, to consider the few, who, despite having much better things to do with their time, think it's a worthwhile endeavour to answer all requests "No Problem."

Consider yourselves considered.
Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Tuesday, 28 Mar 2006 12:28
The morning of my cancer surgery I woke an hour before my son and gathered up the few things I would take to the hospital. My wife had made me a photo album to keep by my bed and this went into a small bag along with my ipod, a portable dvd player, and some toiletries that would never see the light of day. I had to be at the hospital two hours before surgery and my biggest worry was leaving before my son woke up. My second biggest worry was not leaving before my son woke up.

As it turned out, he woke up a few minutes before I had to leave. I hugged him, told him I loved him and that I would see him later. Toddlers have no sense of time and as far as he was concerned, the word "later" meant either "when you walk around the corner" or "oatmeal."

I knew that "later" meant one of two things: either "five days from now when they let me out" or "never."

There are rare times in your life when everything crystallizes and you can for good reason wander around your house saying things like: "this could be the last time I look out this window" or "this could be the last time I take a hot shower." Or, as was the case with me, "this could be the last time I stand out on my fucking lawn waiting for this neurotic dog to poop."

Because we all know that there'll be a last time we do everything and that time and that day may be closer than we think. There's already things we've done for the last time, maybe because we don't do those things anymore, or maybe they don't do us. I won't anchor the 400m relay again, despite the fact that leaning into the curve of a black asphalt track with the baton in my hand, the finish line in front of me and the field behind me is the closest I'll probably come to heaven.

Of course, I've had an asthma attack while losing my virginity for the last time, so maybe things even out.

These are lasts long lost, but they're buried in the shallows and you don't need cancer's sharp edge to dig them up. We all straddle the past and future, and the present's jammed up our ass like Tom Sawyer's fence picket.

When I was young my parents took me to the funeral of a family friend. I'm sure at the time I thought she was old. I now realize she was probably younger than I am. She died of cancer, I don't remember what kind, and who really cares. Dead is dead and no one ever asks the families of shooting victims what kind of bullet it was. What I remember was she had written her own eulogy. I don't remember a single word of it, but I remember hearing her voice in the words. It felt like she had traveled some way to find us, and I was happy she had taken the time to visit. I missed her less, and wasn't nearly as scared of where she had gone. She was real, she was present, and while she was less than alive she was much more than dead.

Back then I knew that words were fun toys and that I was a clever little boy who pleased the grown-ups who watched him play with pen and paper. I could rub two sentences together but did not understand that doing so might create fire. This was the first time I had witnessed a spell being cast.

I wonder sometimes if all these years later her children ever read the eulogy and if it still has the transportational powers it had that day. Just thinking about it works for me, but I admit I draw different lessons from it than they would. I'm a writer first and foremost so I've always loved the magic I discovered that day even though I can't remember the spell.

But I'll let you in on a little secret that only my wife and my therapist know:

I've spent the last twenty-five years composing my own eulogy. I've never written it down, never even started it. But I've written it a thousand times in my head. Ever since I was young I've been obsessed with all aspects of my funeral. Who would speak, Who would be there...What they would say...Where it would be held, what kind of music would I choose...What kind of food would be served at the afterparty...I'm an incredibly arrogant sonuvabitch, and it probably won't surprise you to know my funeral's a pretty tough ticket it's so fucking crowded with mourners.

I've brought myself to tears dozens of times with this masturbatory/fetishistic reimagining of my final words washing out over the assembled masses. Sometimes funny, chiding yet touching, my eulogy at all times insightful and peaceful and reassuring to the thousands who have gathered to mark the passing of one of the great unheard voices of a generation.


My ultimate words.

At the end of the day, why do we write? We write to remember, we write to be remembered, we write to discover who we are, or determine it for others. Our words will always outlive us, immortalizing us if not always powerful enough to make us immortal. Although if we choose our words well, there will always be a way back to life, a way to and fro through time. Someone will always feel us like it was yesterday, someone will smell our skin again, if we choose our words well.

If we choose our words well there need not always be a last. If we choose our words well there will always be a way to find us.

I have chosen my words. They are:

There are motherfucking snakes on the motherfucking plane.
Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Monday, 13 Feb 2006 15:55
My wife and I had dinner with some friends the other night and before I'd even managed to massacre my second basket of free bread the subject of my blog came up. This happens quite frequently--mainly because I tend to bring it up. This particular time it was my friend:

FRIEND: So, Josh. Read your blog today.
ME: Thanks for taking the time.
FRIEND: These people, these studio executives. The ones that make the decisions to hire you...Do you think they like it when you call them shitbags?
ME: Is that what I did?
FRIEND: Quite clearly.
ME: I didn't think it was that clear.
FRIEND: You call them shitbags. I used to be one of those shitbags.
ME: And I call myself shit. It's an analogy.
FRIEND: Do you hate your career so much that you just want it to go away?
ME: I love my career.
FRIEND: Well you are a dumb motherfucker.
ME: Is that cheese bread?

At this point the conversation took a hard right-hand turn as Michael Caine walked past me and sat down at the same table as Anjelica Huston. I tried to hear what they were talking about but it soon occurred to me that the chances they'd read my blog were quite slim. So I returned to my food.

My friend continued to berate me for my suicidal tendencies and (because he used to be one) argue that most zookeepers aren't smart enough to distinguish between a metaphor and actual monkey shit flung at their face. In fact, for most of the monkey population (or in my friend's case, monkey sympathizers), it's an easy answer to impugn the intelligence of the people on the other side of the cage. We've all got authority issues, and it feels good to look down on people for their giant key rings and their high powered hoses and their striking similarity to Nazi guards.

It feels really good.

But it's...wrong.

Hollywood zookeepers are among our country's most educated, intelligent, and qualified work force. They are high achievers, highly motivated, very focused, and, by and large, very well dressed and pretty. (Especially the boys. The boys are very pretty.)

In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say there are far more bad screenwriters than there are bad executives. There are some seriously American Idol Audition Episode-quality screenwriters whose only qualifications for being considered a screenwriter is the mastery of Final Draft and the ability to thread the brad through the hole without tearing the paper.

That said, I'll also say this: while the number of horrible screenwriters outdistances the number of horrible executives, the number of outstanding writers also exceeds the number of outstanding executives. It's extremely difficult to be a great screenwriter (or so they tell me). But it's damn near impossible to be a great executive. The system doesn't allow for it. Human nature doesn't allow for it.

Because to be a great executive you have to be able to do...nothing. You have to have the security, the sensitivity, the balls, really, to read a script and say to your boss: "You know what? It's pretty fucking good the way it is."

And who the hell's gonna do that? First off, most scripts aren't pretty fucking good the way they are. Most scripts fucking suck. Most screenwriters suck. Most movie ideas suck. Most of the reasons a particular movie is getting made suck. So executives are conditioned to think EVERY script has a pretty good dash of suck. It's a good bet to make. It's like betting with the house.

Even the best scripts have a hint of suck in them. A scene pushed too far, an extra character beat, an internal moment which could be dramatized...Whatever it is...The trick for development folks is to recognize those few sucky things in a good script and then...ignore them. Just...let them go. Get a director. Get an actor. Get the fuck going with what it is that you and only you can do better than anybody else: pick up the fucking phone and get people excited to make a movie.

Because if you think your job is to make a bad script good, or a good script great, or God forbid, a great script perfect, well...now you are a fucking idiot. These are quixotic quests, rarely achieved. And never achieved without the consent of the writer. (You can lead a monkey to water, but you can't make him amp up the stakes for the protagonist.)

It's not your fault. I don't blame you. You're not "trying to justify your job." This is your job. You're not "creatively frustrated." Or if you are, you sure as shit aren't as creatively frustrated as I am. In fact, I'd argue that the more "creatively frustrated" an executive is, the better he probably is at his job.

Because (and I'm paraphrasing David Mamet) unless you're an artist, unless you've written drama, unless you've been HUMBLED by the process of MAKING IT ALL WORK you will still maintain the arrogance drilled into you from birth and solidified by your graduation from Yale that YOU KNOW THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION.

And most likely you do not.

Recently there's been an extremely painful and fascinating exchange over at the Artful Writer site. The subject is mostly the vanity credit and we can thank Craig Mazin, Josh Olson, et al. for their passion on the topic. I won't weigh in here--I can't imagine having anything to add--but I am interested in a particular C-storyline discussed: namely, whether or not Craig Mazin's friendly relationship with the executives he works with: a) colors his view re the writer's place in the industry, and b) if true, does it make him more "studio sympathetic" and less "writer-friendly" and c) if true, as Craig is our WGAw board member and has drank the Kool-Aid, aren't the rest of us sincerely fucked?

And the answer to all of it is: I don't have a fucking clue.

But there are two types of writers in Hollywood and I'm not here to guess who's one and who's the other. To put it simply there are those who fall in love with the johns and those who don't. The ones who don't are the ones who embrace the idea of the Infinite Monkey. They are catankerous, perennially defensive and passively antagonistic to their employers. They're fat and ugly and unshaven and if they've succeeded in the industry it's usually in spite of themselves.

They're usually miserable.

Then there are the screenwriters we rarely talk about: They're at every premiere and at every birthday party at the Chateau Marmont. Their Treos are packed with the home phone numbers of producers and their kids have weekend playdates with the kids of the newest VP. They shun the spirit of the sweatpants and at Hollywood's Ellis Island they are the first to shorten their name and remove the consecutive consonants. They're slim and pretty and shop at Fred Segal and are almost always more successful than the other Monkeys.

They're usually miserable.

Because at the core is an inherent tension for writers in Hollywood that is rarely true in other businesses. If you're a writer in Hollywood almost ANYBODY can be your employer. ANYBODY. That kid you pushed out of the way to get the last German pretzel at the farmer's market? His movie just sold at Sundance for $6 million. That really cool guy you "accidentally" showered with in college and never called again? His boss just put him in charge of hiring a writer for that one book you've always wanted to adapt.

Anyone can hire you. Anyone can fire you. Anyone can give you notes. And will. Whether you love them, hate them, fear them, embrace them. It doesn't matter. Eventually the power dynamic rears its ugly head. Despite my love of the free sushi lunch, I make it a point to pay my own way when I'm socializing with my zookeeper friends. It's humiliating to have a friend expense your tequila at the bar when all you've talked about is your kids' poop. Even Julia Roberts had her limits in Pretty Woman. (Actually, I don't think she did have her limits. But I can't really remember the movie that well. Was she a whore or a princess?)

Some years ago a friend of mine brought me in for a job. It was a big opportunity--pretty much a greenlit movie with a major international action star fully committed. We always talk about the movie pitch. Well, this was a movie CATCH. All I had to do was meet the star, hear the movie he wanted to make, and nod my head. The job was mine. That was it.

My friend takes me to this enormous house International Star is renting in Beverly Hills. It's completely void of any furniture save a kitchen table and some chairs. Beyond that I saw the biggest living room I've ever seen in my life. In the center of it was a very large metal pole that had little to do with stripping and everything to do with the high-level acrobatic training done by the International Star and his very acrobatic entourage. At least that's what they told me.

I was introduced to the International Star, who, for reasons soon to be obvious, I will refer to as International Star. After some small talk, I settled in to hear the movie. What happened next was forty-five of the most entertaining and annoying minutes I have ever spent in the film business. International Star stood across from me and proceeded to act the movie out, giving me examples of action scenes, stunts, sight gags, etc. He never stopped moving for the better part of an hour.

And here's what he kept saying the entire time:

INTERNATIONAL STAR: So...we have a bar scene first. Maybe...a bar fight? Six men against me...I'll balance on a chair like this...take out all six...do my funny International Star thing...maybe drink their drinks...then we have some story bullshit...After that...I rescue this girl from...the whorehouse? Maybe bandits...I'll do my funny International Star thing...like with this chair here...Then some story bullshit...and I find this other girl tied up...there's a chair gag...then some story bullshit...

Here's the conversation I have in the car with my friend afterwards.

FRIEND: So...you're in, right? It's fucking awesome, right?
ME: You've gotta be kidding me.
ME: Story bullshit? STORY BULLSHIT? My part in all this is...story bullshit?
FRIEND: Oh don't be so senstiive. That's just International Star. He's...international.
ME: He refers to my job as bullshit.
FRIEND: Which is exactly why I need you. You'll make it better than bullshit.
ME: No way. Not doing it.
ME: I don't, actually.
FRIEND: I already told him you would.
ME: What!
FRIEND: I told him you'd do it. I told him you were perfect. He'll take it as a personal affront.
ME: I don't care.
FRIEND: I stuck my neck out for you. You can't fuck me like this.
ME: I'm afraid I am fucking you like this.

And so I did.

Two weeks later I got this phone call from my friend:

FRIEND: So. I just wanted to give you an update on the International Star thing.
ME: Look, I'm sorry if I made you look bad--
FRIEND: Don't worry. I fixed it. We hired someone else.
ME: Good. That's great. How did you--?
FRIEND: I told him that I had second thoughts about you. That after thinking about it I decided you weren't a good enough writer for the project.
ME: Wow. You're fucking good.
FRIEND: Aren't I?

By the way, I always told my friend I'd give him the heads up if I decided to blog about this. It's the least a friend can do for a friend.

Heads up.
Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Thursday, 09 Feb 2006 12:11
So my wife recently introduced biodegradable dog poop bags to our household and I can't say it doesn't vex me just a little bit. First, it's called "The Business Bag," and while I understand where the name comes from I can't say I like it. I've always taught the dog that pooping falls under the rubric of "play" and not "work"--so this whole "business" thing seems to be sending the wrong message. I'd secretly been hoping that the dog was going to take the lead in potty-training my son, but if she's going to take all the fun out of it for him I may have to do it myself.

Secondly, and correct me if I'm wrong because my personal expertise is in differentiating mouse shit from rat shit, it's my understanding that dog poop is, by its very nature, biodegradable. I'm sort of vamping here, but after spending six hours this morning on GoogleEarth I was unable to find a single mountain over 1000 feet high made completely of petrified dog crap.

So nature intended dog poop to sit out on the lawn unattended. But man would have none of it. Fair enough. It's our job to fuck with the natural order of things until the world cooks like one big poached egg. I've stepped in enough dog poop (real and metaphorical) to appreciate the need for some sort of poop isolation system. So here's where we're at now: the biodegradable chihuahua poops out her biodegradable poop and I'm supposed to pick it up with the biodegradable bag. I guess I'm willing to accept the chain of command up to this point--but here's my question:

Shouldn't it be perfectly acceptable for me to LEAVE THE BAG ON THE LAWN? Wouldn't that most closely approximate what nature intended while also giving my neighbor what he fairly has come to expect--namely, not to track my dog's poop onto the floormats of his Lexus 470? Granted, the bag probably won't dissolve in his lifetime, but that's a bit selfish and shortsighted, isn't it? Surely harboring a few hundred biodegradable "Business Bags" on your lawn for a few years is preferable to the intellectual dishonesty required to throw a biodegradable material containing another biodegradable material into a non-biodegradable plastic trash can until it's picked up by an enormous garbage truck burning our last drips of fossil fuel in order to dump it on someone else's (only sometimes metaphorical) lawn.

And yet that is exactly what I'm required to do. And frankly, little pisses me off more than when I'm required to overcomplicate an idea which, in its original form, is almost perfect. Of course, the reverse is equally upsetting. Namely, to be required to simplify and perfect an idea, which, in its original and best form, is both complicated and imperfect.

Which is why Hollywood is the greatest purveyor and consumer of biodegradable poop bags in the civilized world. No other community is so determined to take a good idea, be it simple or complex, wrap it in earnest intentions and, in doing so, completely suffocate whatever was special and strange about that idea in the first place.

Hollywood is truly terrified of its own poop and they have created an entire class of people (the development executive) who function as biodegradable poop bags. Now obviously in this metaphor the screenwriter and/or his script is the poop. And I'm okay with that. The monkey is a dirty animal, nothing like a cat or even my very anal-retentive dog. So I embrace the very poopiness of what I do and who I am. I didn't make myself this thing. I was just a writer looking for a way to do what I love to do and not starve doing it.

I didn't grow up loving movies, I grew up loving books. I didn't grow up making little 8mm films starring my brother and the local apple dumpling gang in my neighborhood. I grew up writing stories and practicing my alphabet and handing out self-published pamphlets to my babysitters so they could get to know me better. I got a video camera in high school and my friend and I tried making claymation shorts. You wanna know what? They sucked.

So I've always felt screenwriters should be writers first and screenwriters second. It's an important distinction because writers respect their own voices and speak them for a purpose. Writers think words are important, not simply as ideas, or expositional tools, but as powerful totems to be carefully protected and shared.

Most screenwriters, on the other hand, especially screenwriters who never really wrote until they were screenwriters, use words as tools to service the film story they (and others) are trying to tell. And it's the "and others" part which is problematic. Because the script development process strips the writer of his specialness--the power structure requires him to accept the premise that anybody is qualified to have a good idea. Some think this creates an atmosphere which reinforces the (bad) idea that "anyone can be a writer." Nothing can be further from the truth. Instead, it creates a (worse) dynamic where NOBODY is a writer. Not the development executive. Not the producer. And once he's ceded his artistic authority, not the writer.

And here's why it really matters:

Last year I wrote and sold a spec screenplay called "Orphan's Dawn" to Fox. It was the first spec feature I had sold since "Dead Drop" (aka The Keanu Reeves MegaHit Chain Reaction). For those of you who read this blog regularly you'll recall the joy I had selling "Dead Drop" while simultaneously being dumped by a completely insane actress. Ten years later, having pretty much recovered from that excess amount of joy, I wrote another one. The script is a very dense and complicated science fiction story set in a very dense and complicated non-Earth future world. I like to believe that it is a very detailed and well-realized vision of a very particular future. Nothing was left to the imagination. It was also the first in a trilogy.

I sent the script out and it was met with resounding...curiosity. Unlike ten years ago when I sold the script in six hours, the spec market had changed significantly and studios are much more circumspect about spending high six figures for material which doesn't end in the word "Hazzard."

So I took meetings. And conference calls. And more meetings. I talked about the other two movies. And whether or not there were aliens. And what they might look like. People were earnestly interested in my "vision" for the film. I was encouraged.

But then I had this conversation. AND THEN I HAD IT MORE THAN ONCE.

STUDIO EXECUTIVE: So. Josh. Really interesting script.
ME: Thanks.
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: Very detailed and well-realized vision of a very particular future. Nothing is left to the imagination.
ME: Thanks.
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: So what's the source material?
ME: Huh?
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: What's it based on? Is it a book? A comic book? Who wrote it?
ME: Who WROTE it?
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: Yeah. Who's the author?
ME: I am.
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: You wrote what? A novel?
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: Really? Wow. Because it feels like it's based on something.
ME: It's not.
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: Huh. Strange. And what did you say the aliens looked like again?

Not one conversation like this. Not two. At least three. Sure, I guess I could feel good that people thought the world was so detailed and imaginative that I COULDN'T HAVE WRITTEN IT MYSELF. But the reality was that three different studio executives could not imagine I COULD ACTUALLY WRITE.

Which probably says less about who they are and more about what I've allowed myself to become.

Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 27 Jan 2006 11:24
So first I'd like to thank everybody again who's sent me well-wishes, prayers, support, etc. I'd especially like to thank those who have shared their own cancer stories with me. Granted, sometimes the stories send me spinning down a rabbit hole of fear but that's real life and there's no reason to run from it. I'm feeling stronger every day (almost every day) and there are moments when I almost feel like I did before any of this started (which isn't necessarily all good, either). I do intend to write more about it but haven't been up to it recently.

John August tagged me with this meme that's going around and it seemed like a nice opportunity to check in with a post that's a little more light and fluffy than the last few. Of course it relates to film and pop culture, which many of you treat more seriously than cancer. Fair enough.

Without further ado:

ONE (1) earliest film-related memory:
1975. A huge year in film for me. I had a summer pass to the six-plex and my mom would drop me and my brother off outside. APPLE DUMPLING GANG. ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN. Two of the greatest Disney live-actions of all time. And then they accidentally took me with them to see JAWS.

Best. Summer. Ever.

TWO (2) favorite lines from movies:

I only have one. And it's the title of this blog.

THREE (3) jobs you’d do if you could not work in the “biz”:
High school English teacher
Sushi Chef
Poet Laureate of Rhode Island

FOUR (4) jobs you actually have held outside the industry:
Ran teleprompter at Christian Science Monitor Daily news program
Busboy at New York Deli on Boulder mall (home of Mork)
Scorekeeper and Announcer for men's softball league
Wrote advertising copy for local Denver cable company

THREE (3) book authors you like:
Neal Stephenson
Tim Powers
Terry Pratchett

TWO (2) movies you’d like to remake or properties you’d like to adapt:
Orson Scott Card's ENDER'S GAME (God knows I've tried)
Neil Gaiman's THE SANDMAN

ONE (1) screenwriter you think is underrated:

Robert Riskin

Robert Riskin wrote many of Frank Capra's best movies and yet we never have or will hear the term "Riskin-esque."

One other bit of news...The WGA, using the same wisdom it used when it decided to give the studios a break on VHS and DVD residuals, has asked me to moderate their annual Words Into Pictures Panel next Thursday night February 2nd. The panel traditionally consists of all of the writers nominated for WGA awards. So it'll be those guys. And me. Years past the event has sold out the Writer's Guild Theater (it's open to the public I think) and there's lots of press and fancy people there. And me.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I know I am.
Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Tuesday, 10 Jan 2006 14:08

One of the many reasons I debated writing about this whole kidney cancer thing was a fundamental problem of genre. Namely, I never intended this to be a thriller. As I mentioned in the previous post, this whole ordeal began for me over Thanksgiving. We're now in January and, as much as someone can know these things, I've got a decent handle on the third act. I didn't really have a plan for how I was going to lay this all out, but it seems clear from the outpouring of concern that it would be irresponsible of me to dole this out chronologically. My family and friends have lived through it that way already, and trust me, it's a rough ride that no one else should have to take, even strangers who simply know me through my blog. Of course, my father claims he's learned more about my life through the blog than our thirty-odd years together, so consider yourself blood.

Despite the fact that it is at its core dramatically unsound, it's only fair that I give you the most current information I have. Maybe later I can double back and reflect on the path I took to get here, and perhaps it will free me up to approach the whole thing from various angles, as opposed to the more traditional lone protagonist three-act structure. Maybe I won't write anything about it after this. Who knows.

Here's the deal: I had a malignant tumor growing on my left kidney. I use the past tense because on December 27th I had what is known as a partial lower nephrectomy. Removed from my body were: a malignant tumor some two and a half inches around, approximately 10% of my kidney, and half of my eleventh rib. The rib was a surprise. I remained in the hospital five days, and have been home since New Year's Day recovering. I have an eight inch incision in my side. I cannot drive, lift my son, sit up in bed, or sneeze without crying.

Biopsies performed during the surgery indicate the cancer had not spread. I will be scanned every 3-6 months for the next five years but will require no chemotherapy and no radiation for this particular cancer. Without being too dramatic about it, there is a very good chance my bout with food poisoning saved my life. Which goes to show, if you see a taco stand and it looks even the least bit sketchy, get in line.

I do not believe in God, and I do not believe in fate. The last two months have been tough on this particular atheist, but as an infinite monkey I have little choice but to bow down to the powers of natural selection and mutation, even when it's happening inside my own body. There are those who suggest a greater power must be looking out for me. But the greatest power I know was doing last minute post-production on Munich so I didn't bother calling on him, either.

I do believe in poker. I was addicted to cards, and so I quit. But they converted me to their ways. I believe in math, random chance, probability, and mostly, luck. Professional card players understand that poker is short-term luck (good and bad) eventually balanced out by long-term skill. Living, more likely, is long-term luck balanced out with occasional bouts of short-term skill. In this case, the luck is all mine and the skill belongs to those who found my tumor and took it out.

I did not fight cancer and I certainly did not beat cancer. One night cancer came and grabbed me hard by the arm, yanked me down the stairs and stood over me on the landing while I begged for mercy and waited for the rain of blows to come. Some did, enough for me to know I couldn't have withstood the whole barrage.

And then without explanation it disappeared. And let me live. Like some monsters do.

Thank you everybody.
Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Monday, 09 Jan 2006 17:20
The problem with being a hypochondriac, similar to a paranoid, is sometimes you're right.

Some of you may remember I used to write a blog around these parts, and occasionally waxed glib about my doctor Fish and my inability to convince him that whatever small ache or pain I felt that week was, from what the internet told me, cancer. Many of you (if there's any of you left) will remember that sometime before Thanksgiving I fell ill with one motherfucker case of food poisoning and was hospitalized for three days--whereupon I began a serious relationship with heavy narcotics through an IV tube. I managed to kick the junk--or "stop" as they say in the common parlance--only to become extremely addicted to the world of daytime television and self-loathing. Which brings us right up to the "Diary of a Mad HouseJosh" portion of the program.

Some days later the Fish calls me in for a follow-up visit. It goes something like this:

FISH: So...You feel okay?
ME: I feel good.
FISH: All right. Good. Well. You know the CT scan they took of your abdomen when you were in the emergency room last week? They found a couple little anomalies we need to check out.
ME: Anomalies?
FISH: Shadows. Masses, really. One on your kidney and one on your adrenal gland. I'm sure they're nothing.
ME: They're masses.
FISH: They may not be.
ME: You said masses.
FISH: We really don't know. We need to do more tests.

Now as a practicing hypochondriac I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have fantasized about my doctor sitting across from me at his big desk and telling me I've got some rare and amazing disease that I will soon battle and heroically conquer, thereby earning myself the respect of health care professionals across the world. I always imagined the jokes I would make in the face of probable death, and how Lance Armstrong could just kiss my ass.

Here's how it really went:

ME: But....but...what?
FISH: They're probably cysts. Harmless. Don't freak out.
ME: I'm freaking out.
FISH: Well don't.
ME: Well too fucking late. When can I do more tests?
FISH: I'd like you to do them today.
ME: Today! That soon?
FISH: You're freaking out.
ME: Are you even really a doctor?

That afternoon I went to get an ultrasound and an MRI. The ultrasound tech wasn't old enough to drink and for my money seemed to enjoy his job just a bit too much. As I lay on the ultrasound table my wife held my hand and the tech pushed the probe across my belly, pinging my insides for foreign submersibles. I thought of the ultrasounds I'd enjoyed with my wife as we'd watched our son grow inside her and I couldn't help but think that this was almost certainly not as fun as that and in fact if it was any farther from what I've known my life to be I'd be wearing ruby slippers and my wife would be Toto.

TECH: Yeah...there's that adrenal...that looks like a cyst.
ME: Well that's good news, right?
TECH: I don't interpret, dude. That's not my thing. Let's move on to that kidney...

It took him a while to find the spot on my kidney. He had to check the CT scans, confer with the radiologist, and then dive back in. Finally:

TECH: Dude...There it is...Man...See how I almost missed it? It almost looks like your kidney tissue there...
ME: Cyst?
TECH: That's no cyst, dude.
ME: So what is it?
TECH: I don't interpret, dude.
ME: You don't wanna guess?
TECH: Not my job. But...lemme just say this...I see a lot of gnarly shit. A lot. Seen a dude in here with testicular cancer...I thought...that dude is so fucked. Year later he's back for a follow-up. Completely clean. So you know anything can happen. Good luck, dude.
ME: Thanks, tech.
TECH: By the way...the radiologist who looked at your CT with me said "I hope that guy's getting himself an MRI really quick" and I told him you were getting it today and he said "Cool." So...cool.
ME: Well thanks to both of you. I feel very reassured.

The MRI was fairly uneventful because you're stuck in a tube and can't really cross-examine anybody with any sense of accuracy. Besides, I was starting to get a funny feeling about where this whole thing was heading and I decided maybe the safest place for me was laying quiet in a big tube holding my breath.
Unfortunately, the hospitals don't cotton to patients parking themselves in their MRI machines until they get the results they want. So my wife drove me home instead.

I will spare you the next twenty-four hours of absolutely excruciating hell waiting for Fish to call me with the results and skip right down to it. The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving weekend I hear this:

FISH: Well. You've got a cyst on your adrenal gland. Harmless.
ME: That's what tech said.
FISH: As for the mass on your kidney...It appears to be a tumor.
ME: Tumor as in...tumor? What else can you tell me about it?
FISH: Well...we need to have a specialist look at it.
ME: But...
FISH: But it does not appear to show any benign characteristics.
ME: Meaning...
FISH: Meaning we cannot say it is benign.
ME: Does it show "non-benign" characteristics?
FISH: Yeah. You could say that.
ME: Is it time for me to freak out?
FISH: I would.

Finally some fucking advice I could follow.

I hung up the phone after getting the name of an oncological urologist and one other piece of advice from Fish: under no circumstances was I to get on the internet and google anything including the words "kidney" "cancer" or "tumor." I was specifically to avoid phrases such as "kidney cancer" "kidney tumor" and "Josh has kidney cancer and will be dead in three months."

That last one was a certain no-no.

For the last month I have debated whether or not to write about these events and the ones which have followed. Up until recently I had decided not to do so. Frankly, I could see no benefit. If you're a reader of the blog, you're pretty familiar with the way I approach things. I like me the jokey-joke and it pleases me to jump up and down and do my monkey-dance in my monkey cage for the tourists. The blog is fun for me and wouldn't be nearly so if I didn't press "publish post" at the end of each long blogging day.

But this is not that.

This is not fun for me, nor do I think it'll be fun for you, either. You won't learn much, because I'm a fucking ignoramus. I never did like research and I certainly didn't start for this shit. Some people want to know all they can about their disease, but I figured it would only keep me on the phone longer explaining it to my friends. Besides, Fish told me to stay off the internet. So I did.

There is little inspirational to my story--I'm not an inspiring guy and if you're looking for inspiration here you have stumbled across the absolute wrongiest blog you could find. If you've come here after googling "kidney" or "cancer" or any such combination, God be with you and return to the search results page and click the next entry. If, on the other hand, you got here by googling "monkey," "sweatpants," "burrito," or "coward" then belly on up to the blogbar, my friend. I can't tell you much about where I'm going, but I'll tell you where I've been.

Stay tuned.
Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Monday, 05 Dec 2005 12:03
There's this little noise your I.V. machine makes when the bag is empty or the timer reaches zero and they don't want you to have any more morphine. It sounds like a truck backing up, and that's dead on because when the pain meds are gone, the truck arrives soon after and more often than not parallel parks on top of your stomach.

I hear that beep-beep in my sleep, coming from loud over my shoulder or the room next door where the Russian woman is yelling at the nurse for her methadone. She yells mostly in Russian, but the nurse is Russian, too, and after she yells back at the woman the beeping goes on for another five or forty minutes as the nurse bids for Christmas presents on e-bay and the patient next door passes out from the pain.

I have no idea if, when they ask for a stool sample, they want to know immediately when I've got one, or whether it can wait until they bring my cream of wheat and icey sprite. I'm guessing it can wait, because the few times I ring the bell to tell them I've got one I don't see anybody for an hour. After a day of this I wait until they come into the room and then tell them, forcing them to acknowledge the sample. A little person in a hazmat suit shows up presently and something happens but I look away.

It takes me a day to learn how the television works and two days to realize I can control the bed. I'm rooting hard for food poisoning over stomach virus--it sounds edgier and there's little chance my son will catch it from me. Tests come back inconclusive and I can only wonder whether things would be different if the samples were collected on time. I make a mental note to ask the doctor but am so struck by his similarity to Jack Kemp that I forget.

I return home one day earlier than my body thinks is appropriate, but when the doctor told me I was ready to be discharged "unless I'm afraid" I understood it to be a challenge to my manhood and signed the papers. My wife helps me up the stairs to my bed and I do not come down for five days. I AM afraid--I sincerely believe that without an IV drip I will get dehydrated, and there's a pain in my side that gets worse the more I think about it. My wife suggests that perhaps I'd like to return to the hospital, but the prospect of all the paperwork and the beeping and the rubber mattress and the History Channel on a loop is too much to bear.

People I work with send me get-well baskets, but because I can't eat anything I miss out on all the Mrs. Beasley's cookies and chocolate and liquor. I get blankets and dvds and picture books and tea, which make me feel like a small French child who's just had her appendix out.

The beep-beeping is still there, in my head, but I think it's my career sounding an alarm, warning me that it's been neglected too long, that the bag is almost empty and the pain is soon to begin. Sitting at the computer makes me queasy--it's the little words or the radiation or a sudden understanding that I've been very unplugged from this drip and if I don't start giving I won't start getting.

I watch Bruce Springsteen's "Making of Born to Run" documentary. The engineer from the album describes a 24 year old Springsteen standing in front of a microphone working on a guitar solo. Every time he finishes a take he turns to the engineer and simply says "Again." He does this for twelve hours straight. The recording of the song "Born to Run" takes six months. The drummer and the keyboardist quit and don't record the rest of the album. Thirty years later they asked the drummer how he felt when he heard the song today. He said "I feel like running out into the middle of traffic." He sort of laughs afterwards, says he was happy to be a part of the album, but you know the day he quit the E Street Band plays over and over in his head like a fever dream.

I want to believe I'm Springsteen but worry I'm the drummer.

Why do we do what we do? I don't ask the question anymore. I've long since forgotten the answer, or maybe the answer's changed and I don't want to know. But most screenwriters are racing dogs and writing the Great American Movie is that little robotic rabbit just ahead of us on the turn.

I loved to race, once. When I was young.
Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 18 Nov 2005 18:08
So my last big post includes a whole conversation with me and my doctor Fish about what a fucking hypochondriac I am. Twelve hours after posting such post I am stricken with the worst stomach flu/food poisoning of my life. Sunday I am admitted to the hospital and put on a an IV bag full of morphine, dialauded and antibiotics. I was released Tuesday night and have spent the last three days in my bed. Today is the first day I have eaten food that doesn't have bread or jello as its main component.

There is little funny to say on this experience.


In lieu of a new post by me, I give you my first guest post--the identity of the author to be found below...

Thank you for your patience.



As we all know by now, the infinite monkey keeps banker’s hours. It just so happens he works at a bank that is only open every other Thursday, from 3:47 p.m. until 4:14 p.m. The bank has approximately eight customers, all of whom must provide the monkey free meals (sushi) for the opportunity to give the monkey their money. Banking attire is all things with an elastic waistband, formal wear prohibited, and shoes with bright colors and athletic insignia preferred. Banking business may never be conducted more than 2.5 miles from the monkey cage in order to ensure the monkey’s presence, unless special treats will be provided.

In fact, if Harvard Business School were to conduct a case study on the monkey’s productivity, the data would be quite . . . er, informative? Metrics based on Josh’s throughput, yield, and man hours spent watching Tivo compared to the number of units sold would make the U.S. Postal Service look like the General Electric Corporation in comparison.

To my astonishment, however, despite living the motto of “the only things really worth doing in life are those that you should procrastinate from doing,” the infinite monkey has never missed a deadline -- not counting the technical, bureaucratic (and arbitrary according to Josh) deadline set by USC Film School for meeting graduation requirements. More amazing, and important, is during banking hours the infinite monkey is able to produce meta-level quality work and a voice to his writing that is second to none (the definition of none obviously excludes the Koepps, Mamets, and other more successful writers than Josh).

Due to the oppressive working conditions foisted upon the monkey – the very same conditions Cesar Chavez fought for years to eradicate (obviously to no avail) – the infinite monkey must take frequent, but long, respites from the bi-monthly posts on this albatross of his. . . er, I mean blog. But true to the Hollywood work ethic, when one needs a rest from this type of grueling schedule, he just taps his elbow that is exhausted from typing and calls for a relief blogger/guest host.

That is where I come in. I am coming out of the blogosphere bullpen to write a few innings of relief for the big-right handed monkey. During my short stint today, I thought I would type a little chin music by answering two of the most pressing and unanswered questions that have gripped those who read all things monkey.

First, and foremost, how in the world could our beloved infinite monkey risk committing career suicide by limiting his writing opportunities to only those jobs borne out of meetings involving free, high-end fish?

As with most acts that appear on their surface to be dangerously self-destructive, one should peel back a layer (or ten) of the onion to fabricate a rational reason for such conduct. The answer here has its origins in the years when the infinite monkey was but a wee, occasional monkey. During those formative years, there was an event that changed the monkey forever, setting in motion a chain of events that has led to his current understanding that his opposable thumbs are good for two things and two things only: Hitting the key board space bar and providing lower support for the chopstick grip.

I take you back to circa 1981, when the occasional monkey was fourteen years old. His dad came into the monkey’s room early one evening and the conversation went something like this:

Dad: Come on I’m taking you and your brother monkey out to dinner.

Monkey: Nah, I’m really into this book Jaws and am looking forward to my twelfth consecutive dinner of Mac’and Cheese.

Father: It’s a meeting just with the Friedman boys to talk about our future. Let’s go! Put down that book and put your pants back on.

Upon entering the parking lot to the restaurant, the occasional monkey’s primate survival instincts kicked in. He had been able to survive the jungle warfare that raged on the mean streets of Boulder, Colorado during his youth by having a honed awareness of every nuance in his environmental surroundings. He could sense the slightest imbalance in the ecosystem, which would immediately touch off alarms in his mind and scream danger ahead. On this occasion, the monkey’s nostrils’ flared instantaneously, and he started into a high-pitched screech while bouncing up-and-down in the car seat (that seat being the backseat having lost one-hundred-and-two consecutive calls for “FRONT SEAT” to the monkey’s younger brother).

Monkey: DAD, DAD, this is not a Chinese or Mexican food restaurant. What the hell is going on? AAAAAARRRGGGHHH!!!!!

Dad: Don’t worry son, everything is fine.

Monkey: Liar, goddamn liar, it’s a trap!!!! AAAAARRRGGGHHH!!! Run for it brother monkey . . . save yourself!

Having never been there, the restaurant was a breeding ground for all things the monkey did not trust. It was dark, filled with families whose kids were smiling, and the menus had pictures on them. The urinal puck was shaped like a turtle. Monkey needed to confirm his suspicions that his father was up to something and monkey was in grave danger.

Monkey: Dad why are we here? There is only fish on this menu and you always say that ordering fish in a restaurant is wasting an opportunity to taste flavor?

Monkey Brother: Fuck, there is no shrimp cocktail on this fucking menu.

Dad: Don’t worry about the food. I brought you two here to talk.

At this moment the monkey positively knew something potentially life-altering was afoot or his father was a chimera. The monkey’s father proceeded to tell the monkey and the monkey’s brother that he and the boys’ mother were having some rough spots in their marriage, but it had nothing to do with the monkey boys. Monkey’s father went on to say that he was going to sleep away from the house for a short while until things settled down. In an unprecedented sharing of emotion, monkey’s father reassured monkey and monkey’s brother that he loved the monkeys and would always be there for them – no matter what happened. At that moment, he made the monkeys feel the illusion of safety in the face of family tumult and horrific, cheap seafood.

Need I say more? Some of us find security in routine or rituals and others find safety in numbers or creature comforts. Then, there are those of us who feel indestructible shoving spider roll after spider roll down our gullets – FOR FREE! Where would one duel with the devil if one could chose? Nozawa with chopsticks in hand makes as much sense to me as anywhere.

Having answered question number one for all of those who follow the monkey’s slow and plodding movements, I now turn to the second pressing question asked by almost all of the readers (I counted two). Does the infinite monkey indeed have a brother simian? Of course he does. How do I know this to be a fact?

I was there at the Red Lobster -- circa 1981 -- sitting next to my brother, the infinite monkey, searching unsuccessfully for my shrimp cocktail.

Josh feel better . . . Your bro’.
Author: "josh (noreply@blogger.com)"
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