Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bad Idea for a Love Story

This is an idea for an epic romance that will actually make money. Every day, after she gets back from the salt mines, Elizabeth writes in her diary – not about the grueling, soul-shattering drudgery of hewing precious saline crystals from the living rock, but about the world that only exists in her mind. About the idea that sustains her through the desert landscape of her existence, where no plant grows save the thorny cactus, and the thought of rainfall brings nothing but the bitter knowledge that life, real life, is a mirage – and the dull toil of living is merely a perfect negative of our steady, downhill crawl towards an inevitable grave.

The idea is of a boy – youthful, earnest, and full of a hopefulness that her soul yearns for with the same urgency that her body aches to hold him in her arms. To forget, for a moment and forever, that there is anything in the world beyond the softness of his skin and the gentle warmth of his breath against her neck. Her visions of him take many forms, but when he comes to her, he comes always as a supplicant, carrying in one hand a perfect white rose, and in the other, a cold, frosty Miller LiteTM, full of delicate hops and a smooth, satisfying taste that will never let you down.

There could be other sponsors too. For instance, I have this idea for a part of the novel where it turns out that her visions are not the tragic delusions of a broken woman in a featureless world, but real memories of a vibrant past, dressed up as hallucinations so as to dull the pain of loss – and, like, the illusion is shattered one day, when she's walking home from the salt mines, and she stops short because he's just standing there, waiting for her, a beautiful dream from her childhood come to life – come to rescue her from her solitude and her despair and her empty, barren future in a brand new 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee with heated seats and a V8 Hemi multi-displacement engine.

The boy, of course, had been lost in a storm many years earlier, and Elizabeth's grief had driven her to accept a job in the brutal salt refineries of her hometown where the harshness and the tedium of her work might eventually come to serve as a proxy for the agony of her lost love. But instead of being killed in the storm, the boy was miraculously rescued by a kindly old man who gave him the education and the training he needed to become CEO of Morton Industrial Salt, which, in addition to being a kind and benevolent employer, offers the most complete line of salt grades and salt-related products in the industry.

After that, there'll be a few chapters about how the power of their love for each other (plus a bolt-action Smith & Wesson Winchester rifle) finally frees her from the clutches of her cruel employers and her doomed town, and by the end of the story, she's blissfully working as Director of Product Development for Morton Salt Inc. In the final scene, they'll be lying together in the fully-reclinable passenger seat of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, lost in the warmth of each other's touch and the reassuring hardness of their custom Smith & Wesson rifles, as the memories of their years apart fade into the quiet absurdity of a bad dream that will never return.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bad Idea for a Dating Site

The problem with dating, right? Is that it all starts out like this really exciting thing where you suddenly know someone who's at least not openly repulsed by the idea of touching you and, like, maybe just maybe you've found a real human person who will be there to stroke your hair and, I don't know, coo at you while you're drunkenly sobbing yourself to sleep at night. So much so, actually, that you're willing to overlook the fact that this chick has a psychotic fixation with, e.g., trying to talk to you while you're on the fucking phone with someone else.

But like before long, it turns out that having someone ask you who you're talking to every single time you pick up the telephone is actually the single most annoying thing in the entire world; and on the flipside, she's actually not all that into the fact that you're this oddly defective human being who bursts into tears for no apparent reason, and she starts telling you to, like, why not just cheer up? Which somehow just makes it all so much fucking worse.


But so this dating site takes care of that problem from the beginning of the process. Through a comprehensive 42-question survey, we'll identify every insecurity, nervous tic, bad habit, fear, psychosis, or piece of questionable taste that you have, and assemble this accurate-as-shit composite of what you're really like, so we can pair you up with someone who's fucked up in similar ways.

So for instance, if you have this deep-seated anxiety about physical intimacy, we'll find a partner for you whose germophobia is so intense that s/he would never be able to touch you anyway without the aid of a powerful sedative and a pair of heavy-duty burlap gardening gloves. Or, right? If you're one of those people who just can't keep the difference between "your" and "you're" straight in your head, we'll find you a life-mate whose degenerative brain disorder is so severe that they'll never be able to fully comprehend just what a monumental fucktard they've been paired up with.

Also too, it's a network, right? So you can have friends write testimonials for you that will help fill in information that you may have been too modest to include. Like,

"If you can deal with the fact that Jack will always be more emotionally committed to his music collection than he is to you, then go for it."

"Diane will often have a dream that you did something fucked up and then actually hold it against you."

"Stephanie genuinely enjoys reality television."

And then the real bonus of this site is that when your partner leaves you because you're "not the person they thought you were," you can be like, "Well maybe you should have read my fucking profile."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bad Idea for a Movie

Here's an idea for a Monster Movie. Everyone's trapped in an amusement park – no, a brothel. OK, no, everyone's trapped in an underfunded semi-annual conference for Social Media and Emerging Technologies. It's called "Harnessing the Social Web." And it's in Detroit. No, that's absurd – it's in an old space station orbiting a distant, sunless planet. OK, no, so it's in Jersey City. And the characters – what the characters don't know (there are five of them – old friends from high school, and they all look like they're out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue, plus this talking snow-leopard attorney named Augustus, who provides comic relief.) So what the characters don't know is that the conference, which is called "E-Commerce: From Networks to Net Gains," is actually a front set up by this shadowy group of vampires or, like, zombies, or social conservatives or something, who want to trap them and eat their brains. Or, like, no, it's a cult, right? It's this cult of Satan-worshipping tech bloggers, who are fanatically obsessed with finding "the next Google" so they can use it to somehow summon a demon.

And the lawyer, right? The talking attorney who's their faithful companion. He's the only one who knows that something's fucked up about the conference, which is called "Is Facebook the New Google? How to Keep Up in a Web 2.1 World" – but he can't say anything about it because he has this pathological fear of expressing any sort of opinion, so the only thing he can do to warn them is, like, grunt and, like jump around in this agitated kind of way.

But yeah, so the climax of this movie comes when they're all at this panel discussion about, like, Social Media Marketing and the Occult, and they're all Twittering at each other that it's a trap, and the lawyer is freaking out and grunting and generally disrupting the panel discussion, which is actually getting pretty fucking interesting, and these mystical forces start converging and, like, it's fairly clear that this scary-ass demon is going to materialize right in the middle of the PowerPoint display, and all the electricity suddenly goes out, and the group has to work together to find a way to somehow stop the demon without using the Internet.

And then I haven't figured out how the ending works yet, but it turns out that the real monster is their own greed.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Man Family

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Note to Self

My Dear Jack,

I regret to inform you of a policy change which will significantly affect the scope of your responsibilities, and the liberties you may take in interpreting them henceforward. By way of elucidating the motivation behind this decision, I would ask you to remember that, while we maintain the utmost respect for your rights as an individual, it is essential—for your sake as well as ours—that you in turn respect the obligations that apportion to your role as a stakeholder in the aggregate of Jacks both present and future, which may be thought of as encompassing the atemporal quality defined as “Jackness”.

To wit: It has come to our attention that for some years now, you have—in an outright contravention of the wishes of Evening Jack and an apparently willful denial of the projected desires of Future Jack—been taking it upon yourself to decide that the agreed-upon time for Jacks to wake up in the morning (which, we will note, is marked by the ringing of an alarm clock that will have been set by a previous Jack who is just as entitled to a stake in overall Jackness as you are) may be postponed indefinitely to suit your own needs.

This cannot be allowed to stand. We recognize that your duties as a Jack—getting out of bed, dressing, grappling anew with the soul-shattering realization that one day must of necessity follow upon another—are not perhaps quite so enriching as those of (for instance) Bedtime Jack, Snuggletime Jack, or Beach-Fun Jack, but we must implore you to sacrifice your own fleeting comforts to a greater good that will benefit all of us in the long run.

We are quite certain that matters will not proceed this far, but we feel it our duty to warn you that a failure to make improvements based on this appeal to your better judgment will result in punitive sanctions. It is not in our power to physically prevent you from hitting the “Snooze” button after you have read this note, but we can, if pressed, ensure that future Morning Jacks wake up without bedding, air-conditioning, an absence of air-horns, or indeed any of the material comforts to which you have become accustomed—and which you have evidently begun to take for granted.

Please take this all in on your own time, and once you are fully awake, hand over the reigns to Breakfast Jack. Do not go back to bed.

Yours always,

The Jacks

Friday, July 25, 2008

Five Easy Ways to Fuck Up a Job Interview Before It Starts

On Tuesday, inexplicably (unless you are willing to grant that the universe is ruled by a malicious and spiteful entity who likes to kick people when they’re down and who believes, deep down in the core of his petty little soul, that I am a great big loser) …

Let me start again. On Tuesday, God crashed my hard drive while I was conducting simultaneous Internet searches for job opportunities in New York and naked pictures of celebrities. Suddenly, a lot more depended upon the solitary interview that I had managed to scrabble together—as a brand-new Mac laptop costs more money than I have ever even imagined.

So, on Wednesday, the morning of the interview, I woke up early and looked at the notes I had jotted down from my brief conversation with the prospective employer to make sure I was prepared with everything I needed. Which brings me to my first, easy tip on fucking up a job interview before it starts:

1. If they ask you to bring something, show up without it

At the time of our conversation, both the friendly woman who was setting up the interview and I considered it an exceptionally reasonable request that I bring with me a printed copy of my résumé and references. But at 9 a.m.—two hours before the interview itself, when I turned my thoughts to this request in earnest—I realized just what a monumental challenge I had been presented with: A pathological lack of foresight means that I have ever lived my life without such amenities as printer paper, printer ink, or, indeed, a printer. And even had I been able to overcome this particular obstacle, my useless, whimpering hard drive was a stark reminder of the fact that divine intervention had quite recently deprived me of almost all traces of my résumé as well.So I spent the next hour amusing Our Lord by attempting to install a driver for my roommate’s new printer while frantically cobbling together a résumé and set of references from the salvaged wreckage of earlier endeavors. Which brings me to my second tip:

2. Leave the house looking like a middle-schooler at his first "semi-formal" dance

With just five minutes to go before the absolute last second I could leave the house and still stand a chance of arriving at the interview on time, I looked up from the pile of cables, malfunctioning printers, and paper jams that had become my personal hell and processed the dawning realization that I was still in my boxer shorts, and that this would simply not do.

I rushed to my closet and pulled out my nice dress pants, which have a pin-stripey thing going for them, a shirt that looked like it was at least vaguely familiar with the concept of an iron, and my only tie, which is actually a good tie and does not generally make me look like an idiot. But fortunately, I would not be calling upon my tie to perform such a role just yet, as my suit jacket was quickly pressed onto stage for the part: Something you will know if you know these things is that a black suit coat and pinstripe pants have the exact opposite effect from what’s intended—i.e., they make you look like you just got out of fucking clown school. But there was no time. No time for anything except a swift kick in the pants from Jesus Himself on my way out the door.

3. A little stain goes a long way

For no good reason except to deliver a final, crushing blow to my sense of self worth, my nice tie, instead of sitting quietly in my closet for the past three years like it was supposed to, was busy creating out of thin air a small brownish stain right in the middle of itself. This tastefully positioned blemish is just a few shades darker than the rest of the tie, but it really stands out quite prominently in, for instance, daylight, as if to say to anyone who would listen: "I'm a nice tie, but the guy who's wearing me is a bum! A bum, I tell you!" I did not notice this stain until I stopped briefly in front of a mirror to curse at myself as I sprinted towards the subway. Which brings me to my penultimate tip:

4. Develop a limp

If you have ever tried running half a mile in dress shoes that are two sizes too small for you, you will know what I’m talking about here. The pain is exquisite, and, no matter how much you might want to look like a normal human being (as opposed to, say, a drunken Orangutan) there is very little that you can do to stop yourself from lurching and grimacing with agony every time you move. Potential employers do not generally find this endearing. Fortunately, I had one last trick up my sleeve.

5. Remember these phrases: "I'm sorry" and "Thank you"

Being British originally, I have a deeply rooted "survival mode" which consists of alternately thanking and apologizing to anyone who happens to be within earshot. Think Hugh Grant right after he got caught with that prostitute, except, like, nowhere near as charming or sexually fulfilled. The more stressful the situation, the more feverish and inane my expressions of gratitude and remorse become—the idea being that whoever I’m talking to will either take pity on me or just for God’s sake leave me alone. In England—where we consider actually communicating with other humans extremely impolite—this mode of discourse is universally understood and respected. Unfortunately, behavior of this sort tends not to go over quite so well at an American job interview, where you are supposed to say things like "utilize" and "proactive" instead of, like, "I'm so sorry I didn't bring my résumé and I'm limping and there's a stain on my tie. Thank you so much for being so understanding, but would you mind terribly if we printed it out from my email? I’d be ever so grateful. Awfully sorry about this."

"This is the shortest résumé I have ever seen," she said, once we had finally obtained it. She was very nice, and I thanked her profusely for her time. I'll let you know if I hear back.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dark Knight: A Review

I watched this film. In it, a very small man named Christian Bale makes himself appear larger with some help from Morgan Freeman, a pair of black, pointy ears, and a tank. There are no pretty girls in the film, as unforeseen budget problems created by the recent rise in pleather prices required the producers to hire a woman named Maggie Gyllenhaal to play two roles, as Batman’s love interest and the girlfriend of District Attorney Harvey Dent.

My favorite part of this movie is when Batman patently ignores international extradition laws and the Geneva Convention to bring an Asian accountant to justice. I have often felt that foreign accountants deserve to be plucked from their workplaces by giant bats and left hog-tied in front of an American prison, and it was nice to see a movie that clearly shares this ideal.

Overall, I would say that I definitely liked this movie, even though it was very dark and intense and I had to watch it on opening weekend in New York from the end of a line 34 blocks away from the theatre, via a tedious and emotionally exhausting game of Telephone. What possessed them to include a character named “Pooface” in what is otherwise an extremely serious picture, is still lost on me.

In conclusion, this movie made me feel a lot more comfortable about my sexual orientation than Brokeback Mountain, even though Heath Ledger does wear makeup in this one as well.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hellboy II: A Review

I watched this film. In it, a large red alien named Hellboy and his best friend, Niles from Frasier (played as a fish in this film, by Doug Jones) work for a shadowy government agency called the INS. The red alien and the fish team up with a piece of skirt named “Selma Blair”, whose superpower is being surprisingly hot, and the threesome embark on a quest to find the mysterious “Golden Army”, which is an army made out of gold. Along the way, they meet a number of bugs.

I liked this film because it reminded me of another film by the same director (also about bugs), called Pan’s Labyrinth. In conclusion, Selma Blair really is exceptionally good-looking. Somehow, I must have missed that during The Sweetest Thing. Possibly because the advertisers of that film failed to mention either aliens or bugs in their promotional materials. As a consequence of which, I failed to watch it.

For more reviews by me of movies that Selma Blair was apparently in, see Waz.


This is a wedding video. It will primarily be interesting to those people who were present at the actual ceremony, or to others who know Sean and Becky or else who, like, like love. I don't want to spoil anything here, but this one ends happily. For those of you who are more romantically, or ecclesiastically, inclined, the full, uncut video of the ceremony itself can be viewed here. There are also some nice pics here. For everyone else: Just click play and witness/relive the union of Sean McCarrick Fagan and Rebecca Lynn Olson. (And subsequent revelry.) Congratulations, you crazy kids.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Videoblog 3: Shave My Soul

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Videoblog 2: U.S. Site 447

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Monday, April 7, 2008

What I Did This Weekend (or, I try videoblogging)

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

An Open Letter to Hayden Christensen

Dear Hayden,

Hayden Christensen JumperAs you know, Jumper is a movie about superpowered individuals who can travel vast distances in the blink of an eye, using merely the power of their minds. An ancient sect of religious fanatics has been following these superheroes since the Middle Ages with the intention of wiping them out for good. It should be impossible to ruin this movie. But you did, Hayden. You ruined it.

I won't say that I'm not still emotionally scarred from Star Wars: Episode II, because I am. But I never blamed you personally for that. Sure, I disagreed with your decision to portray Annekin Skywalker's complex metamorphosis from a benevolent idealist into a hate-filled lord of darkness by "acting like a douchebag the whole time," but I was willing to chalk that up to monumentally bad directing. And yes, it did strike me as a trifle awkward that the male lead in the movie was outperformed by a floppy-eared, irritating, uncomfortably racist animation, but I was willing to focus my hurt and anger about what I call "the Jar Jar paradox" towards George Lucas, who seemed to be the real mastermind behind the crime spree that we've come to know as the Star Wars prequels. Now I'm starting to rethink that position.

Because I believe that you are evil, Hayden.

It's the only logical explanation. Your acting isn't soul-shatteringly awful — it only seems that way. The fact is that your acting is too good. You play the part too well, Mr. Christensen, and I'm onto you. No one but a highly trained master thespian with a heart full of the purest evil would be able to pull off a piece of work like your performance in Jumper. The effortlessness with which you have managed to take a screenplay written about a handsome, troubled adolescent who discovers that he is a central figure in a timeless battle between good and evil and turn it into a depressing biopic about an emotionally bankrupt, intolerable frat boy is already a feat worthy of Hollywood's finest character actors. But to have done it twice — such a coup could only have been arranged by a dangerous sociopath.

So my question to you is this, Hayden: Why are you using your powers for evil? Your unrivaled ability to suck all the fun out of an exciting adventure, to turn a love story into a nightmare worthy of Kafka, to drain the life and energy out of anyone who so much as walks into a room with you — these are abilities that could be used for the greater good of our nation. You could be weakening the resolve of terrorists in interrogation rooms, extracting confessions from violent criminals with a glance, ending hostage situations by confronting kidnappers and sapping their will to live ... but instead you elect to use your talents to ruin perfectly good action movies? Why, Hayden? Why?


Jack Shepherd

P.S. My friend Ashleigh thinks you're cute.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Waz is a very specialized term that I came up with in high school, originally to describe the effects of a cat tranquilizer called Ketamine, which is not fun at all, but not so completely lacking in fun that you wouldn't do it again so you could go ahead and not have a good time on Ketamine as an exciting change of pace from just not having a good time, which is pretty much what high school is all about.

It soon became clear that there are a large number of very common activities in life that are exactly as fun as ingesting a bunch of cat tranquilizers and sitting around not having a very good time. Relationships, for instance. And watching movies about superheroes. Waz was much more than a piece of druggie jargon that only made sense to me, my friends, and a generation of house cats—it was a vital piece of emotional vocabulary that had been mysteriously omitted from the list of descriptive terms we're expected to use to describe what kind of a time we're having. Like leaving "red" off the color wheel. For instance:

Girlfriend: Was that as good for you as it was for me?
Me: It was pretty fucking waz, actually.
Girlfriend: Well, that's the last time I take you to watch a movie about a superhero.

So imagine my relief this week when I learned that they've come out with a feature film about waz. They've got a Flash website and everything. The tagline is "What Would it Take to Make You Kill the One You Love?" Since we all know that the answer to that question is "A seven layer burrito and a coupon for a free Journey ringtone of my choice," it's pretty clear that the geniuses who crafted this rich filmic experience have a firm grasp of what's waz and what's not waz.

The poster for this movie, which depicts a woman who has accidentally covered the non-disfigured side of her disfigured face with the hood of an anorak, shows us that the graphic designer was not afraid to use the Greek symbol for the letter "d" to replace the only vowel in the only word in the movie's title (knowing that he could just write it out below in capital letters, thereby negating and undermining the entirety of his role in designing a graphic for the title in the first place), and also that the film stars Hollywood leading lady Selma Blair—two powerful indications that not only will the uncompromising auteurs behind this cinematic event depict waz experiences to their viewers, but they will also ensure that their viewers experience waz for themselves. Much like how the guys who made A Thin Red Line showed countless moviegoers that war is dreary and monotonous by making their movie 13 hours long and completely impossible to watch without the aid of hallucinogenic mushrooms. The Waz official movie site, which I encourage everyone to check out, has a "storyboard" section which shows many of the waz moments that putative viewers can expect during the film. After ravenously devouring every element of this storyboard, I have decided that I will not be watching this movie in theaters, but as soon as it is released for rental, my cat and I intend to cook up a vial of Ketamine, pop the DVD in the player, and rate it on a scale of 1 to waz. I'll let you know the results in a few months.

I'm also told that in the UK, "waz" is used to mean "urinate".

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I'm trying to postpone 30 for as long as I reasonably can (and if possible, to prevent it entirely), but the fact that things have come to this stage at all implies a considerable degree of negligence on my part up until this point—which doesn't inspire an awful lot of confidence in my ability to stave off the impending disaster in a state of red alert. My point being, I've had 29 years to address this problem, and whatever emergency measures I may be able to enact at this late stage will hardly be sufficient prophylactics against a cataclysm that I have systematically failed to forestall during the ample time that has been allotted to me for the task. I have only myself to blame.

Nonetheless, a summit has been called and drastic measures are being considered. The gravity of this situation is not lost on me. We have discussed at length the potential for a radical plan to reduce or eliminate any pleasurable or interesting stimuli from my life in order to make time pass as slowly as possible while our scientists explore further options for defending ourselves against this tridectuple onslaught. Agents have been dispatched to explore the existential validity of simply denying that the disaster has occurred (in the unthinkable event that it does), i.e., if I don't admit that I'm 30 and others are taken in by this deception, will we have any legitimate recourse to a claim that perceptive reality is more reliable than an uncertain but objective truth (such as that I am, in fact, 30)? We do not have much hope for this line of defense.

Meanwhile, our most reliable officers are working around the clock to determine whether the very concept of "30" might not be vulnerable to an assault on its objectivity. Do we have incontrovertible evidence that 29 always leads to 30, rather than to 28 or, let us say, 19? Certainly, this is the norm, but then so was authoritarianism, patriarchy, religious dogma. If we can openly question these once irreproachable ideals, can we not also cast some doubt upon the flimsy—and indeed profoundly unlikely—notion that all beings must turn 30 exactly a year after they have turned 29? I hope that this society is not so repressive as to object to an intelligent inquiry into the haphazard and heretofore unregulated computational methods it uses to establish the relevant longevity of its citizens.

While we martial our defenses and exhaust our other options, I can tell you nothing more than that we will not give up hope. We will not accept this imposition without a fight. We will not allow ourselves to be overcome simply because the odds are stacked against us.

We will not go gentle into that good night.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


There is a double-entendre going on with the title here. It's suppose to refer both to my current state and to the months that have passed since I last wrote. Anything. There's a temptation to leave it at that, honestly. But one does sense a need for an update.

In the last month, I turned an extremely unlikely age, had intercourse on one occasion, read three books in a science fiction trilogy, watched roughly 38 hours of football, learned of two deaths (including Bobby Fischer) and one conception, drank somewhere in the ballpark of 120 beers, revived one old friendship, failed to turn up for one exam, consumed 15+ adderall, drove 500 miles, had one prophetic dream, apologized at least five times, and ate the same meal almost every night.

My prose has not much improved, and neither has my honesty, though I would rate myself a little higher in 2008 for humility than in previous years. This is related to growing older and seeing oneself more in the scheme of things. Which is related to pride.

Introspection is at an all-time low.

I have discovered that I am not the following things: Management material, tan, irresistible, solvent, decisive, unflappable. Though, on a more positive note, it does seem evident that there are some things I'm good at.