this I know for certain:

Cluttered home, cluttered mind?

Is it autumn yet? I’m drinking pumpkin coffee anyway. With nutmeg! I don’t care if it is 73 degrees outside here in sunny Los Angeles.

Speaking of the seasons changing, I foresee myself on “Hoarders” sometime in the not-so-distant future. Earlier I took a break from this screenplay I’m working on to look for a few of my old notebooks—just to see if I had any old ideas I could draw some inspiration from. You see, I have unfortunately hit a roadblock in my story, and I’m not sure how to push through it.

It wasn’t long into my search before I realized how absurd the amount of books, magazines, journals, sketchbooks and, above all, random drawings, thoughts, observations and tiny poems scribbled on scrap paper that I have accumulated. Piled on top of my dresser, in my closet, beside the living room couch (apologies to my roommates), in various cabinets—I have random stuff crammed everywhere I can think to stash it. Not only that, but I have all sorts of small objects, empty containers, buttons, Chinese fortunes, ticket stubs, receipts and a plethora of other unneeded crap that I should probably just toss. It’s really only a matter of time before I entomb myself in a fort of scrap paper and empty jars, and the guys from “Hoarders” are forced to intervene. I guess that’s one way to break into television?

But seriously, why do I have so much stuff? I have always hated throwing things away. I am very avid about recycling, and if I think I can use something again, I keep it. The problem is, I can justify absolutely anything. I always think, oh, this could be cool for a collage someday! Or, I could hold all sorts of stuff in these shoe boxes! And while these thoughts may be true, I have plenty of shoe boxes already, and I can’t remember the last collage I made.

I used to think that I was saving all of this stuff so that I wouldn’t forget anything—that all of it could be useful in the future. Now I’m beginning to wonder if all the physical clutter is also cluttering my brain? I may wish that it were autumn, but I think it’s about time for me to do some spring cleaning.

Independent zombie comedy “DeadHeads” is surprisingly well done

I have always been an avid horror fan, and have a soft spot for a good zombie flick. That said, with the ever-expanding zombie-craze at its peak, the past several years have brought more downs than ups in this particular genre.

Although I hadn’t heard much about “DeadHeads” before watching it, I won’t lie to you—I went into this with low expectations. I fully assumed that this would be little more than another plot-less gorefest littered with unnecessary nudity and mediocre special effects. Within just minutes, however, I found myself pleasantly surprised. Despite a few logistical discrepancies (why do only select zombies have full brain function? And I have both scientific and moral concerns regarding the zombie-human relations and its inevitable ties to necrophilia should the star-crossed lovers decide to consummate their love), the point-of-view spin on this zombie comedy is certainly intriguing. 

In addition to the very original ill-fated love story at its center, the buddy roadtrip humor along the way definitely lends itself to the film’s success. While some of the acting done by minor characters comes across as cheesy and over-the-top at times, the chemistry between the two main zombie pals, Mike (Michael McKiddy) and Brent (Ross Kidder) is what keeps you grounded in the story. In addition, Thomas Galasso is surprisingly likeable as a rogue convict-turned-zombie hunter, and let’s not forget their loveable pal Cheese (Markus Taylor), who becomes a sort of brainless zombie pet to the others. 

Despite it’s incredibly tight budget, the zombie makeup and special effects in this movie were also quite impressive. There wasn’t a single moment during which I was taken out of the film due to amateur mistakes, which is rare in this genre. The filmmakers behind this little zombie gem definitely know what they are doing, and other budding independent filmmakers will do well to take note.

Overall, I would say that this is a film worth watching for just about anyone—particularly those with a penchant for buddy comedies or zombie films. Sprinkled with pop culture references throughout (I especially appreciated the homage to “The Evil Dead”), “DeadHeads” does a great job of paying tribute to similar films of the past while telling a story that is still fresh and relevant to current times. 

Inspiration Station: Pursuing new ideas without forgetting the old

Hello all! So I know that it’s been quite a while since my last post, and I can’t apologize enough for that. All those pep talks about sticking with your ideas and breaking bad habits, and then I turn around and completely ignore my blog for a solid month. What a hypocrite!  What a sham!

Here’s the thing: my tendency to take on multiple projects at once dates all the way back to childhood. I could never decide which hobbies to pursue because I wanted to do everything. Rather than focusing on just one activity (like say drawing or playing piano) and getting really good at it, I tried to do it all. As a result, I have always been pretty good at a lot of things, but not really GREAT at anything. A major side effect of this has been that I often become so absorbed by whatever passion I am pursuing at the moment, that I tend to disregard everything else.

For the past month, I have been developing a series of screenplays surrounding two characters. I think about these characters when I wake up, in the shower, at work, when I attempt sleep, and nearly every moment between. Eventually I hope to complete the feature-length script through which this burst of inspiration first appeared to me, but for today I will settle for a collection of short films. I finished the first draft of the first film yesterday, but the story is far from over.

When an idea hijacks your brain and won’t let go, you have to run with it. I think that when it comes to creative endeavors, it’s ok to jump from project to project—as long as you eventually make your way back through. You can’t control what inspires you, but you can control whether or not you act on it. If you are lucky enough to be inspired by many things at once, then just do your best and see what happens.

I spent a large portion of my life waiting for some magical burst of inspiration to hit and change everything. You can’t do that. Work with what you have and create your own inspiration. Flesh out old ideas; take your time. And when eventually something new possesses you, don’t worry about leaving everything else behind. There will always be another moment when you’ll feel lost or uncreative. The power to revisit and re-inspire yourself with old ideas is always in your hands.

I work in an enormous bookstore that is nestled in the center of an upscale Los Angeles shopping center. Pretty much the only thing that anyone has asked for lately has been Fifty Shades of Grey—or some mangled variation of this title. We have sold out of this book so many times over the past few weeks that I have stopped keeping track. Men, women—even teenagers who probably have no idea what they are in for—have been asking about it. Groups of women have purchased armfuls for their book clubs, and stand in small huddles as they flip through its pages and giggle like nervous school girls. 

A few of my coworkers and I have been joking about starting our own book club and reading it together—just to see what all the fuss is about, of course. It is our job to know these things after all. So at work yesterday, I picked a copy up from the shelf and flipped through a few pages. Although it’s certainly not a complicated read, I had a hard time getting through even a paragraph without setting it down or jumping ahead. Maybe I’m not as comfortable with my sexuality as the rest of these women, or maybe I’m just a little immature, but Ellen’s reaction in this video perfectly sums up my very brief experience with the runaway bestseller, Fifty Shades of Grey.

Is technology making us awkward?

I watched an episode of How I Met Your Mother the other day that explored the effects of technology on human interaction. It got me thinking. While the idea of technology creating distance between us is definitely not a new concept, it’s something that is often overlooked in today’s fast-paced society. Believe me when I tell you, I am every bit as affected by the draw of technology as the guy next to me uploading photos of his lunch via Instagram. However, there are certain telltale behaviors that are becoming harder to overlook.

For instance: I am a bit of a creeper. By this I mean that I genuinely enjoy people watching, and one of my favorite pastimes is finding a shady, slightly obscured area from which to gawk at passersby. These days, the crowds that shuffle down the sidewalks of Los Angeles tend to keep their heads down and eyes focused on the tiny screens in their hands. The only actual interaction you see is when someone is so deeply enthralled in a particular game of Words with Friends or rereading old text messages, that they collide with another person doing the same. I won’t lie to you, I once turned a corner and plowed face-first into a telephone pole because the text I was sending was just that important—there is definitely no judgment coming from my corner. That said, you would be surprised by how frequently these small technology-based accidents occur.

Let me be clear: technology is great. The advancements made in modern medicine alone more than justify its continued growth. Furthermore, I for one cannot go a single day without my phone or laptop before serious withdrawals start to kick in. However, the amount of people who claim that it is hard for them to make friends (real friends, not Facebook friends or “followers”) these days is overwhelming. Likewise, the use of the word “awkward” as a self-description is a downright epidemic. I am completely guilty of both of these things. Talking to people makes me incredibly nervous. Whether it’s face-to-face or over the phone, I am constantly worried that I will not know what to say. In turn, I tend to avoid interaction with others as much as possible, and then complain that I don’t have any friends. I am convinced that if I could just have all of my conversations through text messaging, I would be a lot more popular with my peers.

No matter what anyone says, we all care about what others think of us to some extent—even if you just want everyone to know that you don’t care. Social networking sites allow us to create a persona and put forth only the qualities, thoughts and photos that we want others to see. In face-to-face situations, you can’t always control what happens or which direction the conversation will steer itself. This can be nerve-racking for all of us self-proclaimed awkward folks.

So what is it about the growth in our use of technology that contributes to this? With access to endless information right in the palm of our hands, you’d think we’d have a little more to talk about. Many experts believe that by interacting with each other so frequently through some sort of device, we have forgotten many of our basic interpersonal social skills, such as tact and empathy. While I am certainly no expert, I think it’s safe to say that they may be on to something.

As I said before, I am one hundred percent guilty of all of the above. Rather than preaching the evils of technology and smashing my phone, I decided to come up with a few simple reminders to help stay grounded—without giving up a thing.

  1. Spend a little time every day without your phone or computer. Take a walk outside without any electronic devices, or sit under a tree and read an actual book—anything that doesn’t require a power outlet. Also, don’t forget to wear sunscreen.
  2. While having lunch or coffee with someone, don’t check your phone every five minutes. Put it on silent, turn it off, leave it in your car—whatever it takes! Try to give the person you are with your full attention and politely ask that they do the same.
  3. When you need to talk to someone, give them a call rather than always texting. It may not seem all that significant, but having that kind of immediate interaction makes a world of difference.
  4. Here’s an easy one: smile at someone. Maybe you’ll make a new friend or maybe you won’t, but acknowledging the presence of others is something so basic that is often forgotten these days. Besides, everyone knows that smiles are infectious.
  5. Always remember that most of those so-called “awkward” moments you seem to keep having are probably in your head. Don’t psyche yourself out! Your nervous cackle probably sounded totally normal to everyone else. 

Some days are harder than others

 

My best friend has this weird thing with numbers. Whenever she sees a set of numbers that mean something to her, like for example the date of her mother’s birthday or an old anniversary, she automatically thinks of its significance. These little reminders are everywhere—on clocks, street signs—even in measurements of things. Although I thankfully haven’t been cursed with this habit, we all have certain dates of the year that we would rather avoid. 

This week marked both my father’s birthday and the anniversary of his death. He would have been forty-five years old this past Tuesday, and sometime tonight he will have been gone for five years. The story of my relationship with my father is long and tenuous, and I’m not sure if I will ever be truly ready to discuss everything that happened—certainly not today. I tend to avoid human contact on these days (mostly for the safety of others), but this year I have to work, so I‘m giving myself a few reminders:

We all have events that we would rather not remember. For me, being around people can make things especially difficult. At times like this when I am hypersensitive, it’s easy to take my emotions out on others. It’s important to remember that each of us have days like this, and not everyone I come across is out to make me cry. I’m not saying that it will ever be easy, but taking a step back for a deep breath really does help. And if I cry a little on the way to work after hearing an ACDC song, that’s ok too.

Kicking the abandonment habit (and how others can help)

Like many others, I have a nasty habit of leaving things unfinished. This tendency has affected just about every aspect of my life, from writing to personal relationships. A trail of unfinished poems, songs, drawings, stories and scripts can only attest to this. Although abandonment is never my intention, when the initial excitement of something has passed—or worse, when something even better appears—my instinct is always to move right along and forget it ever happened. 

You see some variation of it everywhere: in books, in movies, on the Web—the flaky girlfriend, the guy who won’t commit, the college student who can’t decide on a major. This problem seems to be especially prominent during our teens and twenties. But why is it so hard for these individuals to just stick with something?

For myself, I think that my inability to see things through is usually routed in a combination of fear and discontent. For most of us (and this is certainly true for me), there is no harsher critic than ourselves. The fear of not being good enough can be crippling. It’s no wonder that it often seems easier to walk away from something too soon, than to see it through and possibly fall flat on your face. 

For example: in relationships, I am constantly worried about what the other person thinks of me. An eternal pessimist, I tend to assume the worst and keep them at a distance—that is, if I don’t shut them out altogether. When I am able to take a step back and examine the situation, I rarely have any evidence to support my insecurities. Instead, I usually realize that I have projected my dissatisfaction with myself onto the other person. Still, the fear of what could have happened if I had put myself out there is pretty hard to overcome—and by this point I’ve jumped ship anyway. 

This negative attitude translates to my writing as well. I get ideas all the time, and sometimes I get really excited about one. At first, I’ll put all my energy into it. I’m always so pumped about how great this idea is and all the possibilities it could lead to. Once the initial burst of inspiration is over, reality sets back in and I decide to put off finishing it until later. Excitement is then replaced by anxiety and doubt—and as anyone with this problem knows, I never go back. 

The reason I spilled my guts about this is that I recently decided to write a novel. I have never been much of a fiction writer, but I had this bizarre, incredibly vivid dream a few weeks ago and woke up with an entire world inside my head. While this is certainly not the first time that a dream has inspired me to write, this feels different—like it’s something I have to do. That said, aside from a painstakingly thorough outline, I have made very little progress since those first few days. Although I usually don’t discuss these things (that way if I totally blow it, no one will know), my hope is that by sharing this, I will be shamed into working on it. 

Whether this turns out to be a good plan or not, perhaps simply sharing your feelings and goals with others is a step towards kicking the abandonment habit. Although I believe that it’s impossible to be truly happy with anything (or anyone) until you are first content with yourself, having someone there for encouragement certainly helps.

You, readers, are my insurance policy against my own bad habits. Let’s just hope it works.

Everything tastes better when it’s shaped like an egg

Although I have never been an especially religious person, Easter does hold a special place in my heart. When I was a child, I spent every Easter at the beach with my dad. I never really questioned why the Easter bunny insisted on bringing me little plastic baskets with a stuffed rabbit and Fun Dip when I was with my dad, while a giant hand-woven basket with movies and chocolate always waited at my mom’s—I just assumed that I was lucky he could find me at all when I was away from home. 

While I treasure every second that I spent with my father, the weekend before Easter was what I really looked forward to each year. I always spent this weekend with my grandmother who, in the grand tradition of grandparents across the globe, essentially spoiled me rotten. Each year she would boil somewhere between two and three-dozen eggs for us to dye before she even picked me up from school. Afterwards, we would go to all the supermarkets in town to find the best egg dyes and pick out more Easter candy than one child could ever hope to consume. We spent all night on a sugar high, messily dying eggs and watching old movies, until our enthusiasm was replaced with exasperation and we were forced to call it quits. For days afterwards my hands stood as a proud rainbow display of our perfect weekend.

Years have passed since I spent Easter this way, and while I wouldn’t trade these precious memories for anything, there is one tiny drawback: the very serious addiction that I now harbor for all things edible and egg-shaped (and I know I’m not the only one). 

As a result, a few Easters ago my best friend and I decided to conduct a purely scientific experiment. At midnight, we traveled around to all the 24-hour pharmacies and supermarkets we could find. That night we bought over 30 lbs of discounted Easter candy (literally, we weighed it), shown above. Although consuming that much egg-shaped candy over the weeks that followed was rough, we needed to come to a solid conclusion. After much deliberation, we decided that our childhood hypothesis was correct: almost everything does taste better when it is shaped like an egg.

If anyone needs me tonight, you will most likely find me lurking around the West Hollywood CVS with my best friend, waiting for the midnight discounts to kick in. Try not to get in the way though, because I will fight you for that last bag of Butterfinger eggs.

I hope you all have a safe, happy and delicious Easter!

Uncle Lynn’s advice for not folding under the pressure of your to-do list

What is it about having a free day that seems to completely cripple my ability to get anything done? I spend all week thinking: on my day off I am going to do laundry and go to the bank and buy more coffee creamer and read the stack of magazines sitting beside my couch and finish the book I’ve been reading for weeks and write a poem, and a short story AND the breakout essay that will launch my career!, until the day arrives and I have morphed into a useless pile of sweaters checking my email every five minutes and rewatching episodes of How I Met Your Mother on Netflix. 

Although I would love to be seen as a laid-back, easygoing kind of girl, it would be fair to say that, at times, I can be a bit high-strung. I tend to set pretty high expectations for myself, but when my mental to-do list begins to read more like a novella than a few simple bullet points, the urge to curl up in a ball of fuzzy blankets and tune out the real world becomes pretty irresistible.

An excellent example: within my first two weeks of college, I joined eleven campus organizations. Obviously, this was a huge mistake. For one, there was no way that I could attend that many weekly meetings and go to class and maintain my very first part-time job. And of course I couldn’t just sit at the meetings, listening and occasionally offering my opinions. Oh no, I had to take on some actual responsibility! Inevitably, this gross undertaking quickly led to me lying in a comatose state for a week while watching the first five seasons of Scrubs on dvd. In a single semester, I went from being a total campus rockstar! and a proactive college representative!, to being in ZERO campus organizations and getting my first and only D+ after skipping my oceanography class for nearly three full months (Oh, you mean this course doesn’t involve hanging out at the beach and crafting with seashells?). 

Eventually, my Uncle Lynn (with whom I was staying at the time) decided to intervene. After sitting me down at the kitchen table and forcing me to eat something other than Ramen noodles, he gave me maybe the most obvious yet valuable advice I have ever been given: Pick the most important task at hand and focus all of your energy on it. When you’re finished with that, then you can move on. You can only worry about one thing at a time; the rest will just have to wait. 

Although this is certainly not a revolutionary idea, having this little mantra to repeat to myself has made all the difference since. There will always be a million things to do, and rarely enough free time to do it. The most important thing is not to let the weight of it all overwhelm you, or you’ll never get anything done. Believe me, I know.

As for my use of free time today, at least I updated my blog!

Delta Spirit performing “California” from their new self-titled album for Converse Rubber Tracks.

Am I ever going to stop listening to this song? Probably not. This entire album is every bit as addictive as the previous two have been. These songs make me want to run out into the sunshine and dance around in the Pacific, or at least roll all the windows down in my car and go for a long drive. If you love this song as much as I do, be sure to check out some of their other stuff as well. Their first album, “Ode to Sunshine” came out a few years ago, but I still keep it on repeat. Definitely be sure to check out the track “Strange Vine” from that album, it always puts me in the best mood.