What happens when you combine “West Wing” with “House of Cards”? My new script…
A lot of people want to know how I did it. How did I rise to the middle of the freelance writing game? They come up to me on the street and they’re like, “I want what you got. I want an eight-year-old compact car, an old PlayStation and a streaming-only Netflix account—I want to live the life.” And I’m always like, “Slow your roll, young buck. There’s a lot about this game you don’t know.” It’s not all bylines and Facebook Likes. This is work, and it’s not easy.
For example, when you’re employed full-time by a company, you never have to ask it to pay you on payday. You just get your money. But when you work for yourself, you have to remind companies all the time to pay you your money. If it was up to them, they would keep it and spend it on a new office chair or something. So that’s one thing about The Freelance Game many people don’t realize. Everything a human resources department does, that’s on you now. Don’t know Excel? You better learn it, son, or your invoicing system will be a catastrophe.
That’s just one practical aspect. There’s also the mental challenge. You set your own schedule. That means you can wake up at 5 AM and have all your work done by 2 PM if you want to. Or you can 9 to 5 it. Or you can sleep until noon and work into the night. But it takes discipline. You have to sit your butt in that seat and put in the time. The urge to Facebook or do the dishes or drink the finest Trader Joe’s brand rum all day can be overwhelming. It’s the ability to focus on the task at hand that separates the writers like me who can afford to vacation once a year in the state where they grew up from those who can’t. When I’m on that domestic flight in the economy section eating peanuts from a Ziploc bag I brought from home, people know I’m a baller.
Some people say The Freelance Game will spit you out and break you down. Yeah. I’ve seen it happen too many times. People can’t hack just barely making enough money to stay alive. They want the fresh threads, big house, the Escalade with the putting green. That’s the mountaintop, and not everyone will reach it. So they quit The Freelance Game and take jobs as teachers or whatever. Those jobs pay more and can be very rewarding, but when’s the last time a teacher worked all day in his underwear without getting arrested? Money isn’t everything.
So what’s the key then? How do you do it? Like I’ve said, be organized, put in the work and don’t quit. And there’s another thing—the biggest thing. It’s who you know. People like to pretend it’s their writing skills that land them great gigs, but the truth is a mediocre writer who knows an editor will get an assignment over an outstanding writer who doesn’t know an editor almost every time. That’s not fair, you say? Then get the hell out of The Freelance Game! Fair? You care about fair? You chose the wrong, profession. The only fair you should be concerned about is a job fair.
Meet people. Make connections. Good help is hard to find. If you can deliver, you will get hired again and again, and your editors will refer you to other editors, and you will get assignments out of the blue. That’s when the real money starts rolling in—the we-can-afford-an-apartment-with-two-bathrooms money. Tiny stacks on tiny stacks on tiny stacks. But that’s not going to happen on Day 1, Week 1 or even Year 1. Keep on your grind and maybe someday you can be like me – rolling in so much paper you do not qualify for Affordable Care Act subsidies. The high life.
The Super Bowl is this Sunday, and like most Americans I will watch the Denver Broncos play the Seattle Seahawks while drinking beer, eating chicken wings and yelling at the TV, often simultaneously.
I will watch the pre-game show, because I’m a fan of any TV program in which five millionaires sit around a desk and fake-laugh while veiling their mutual contempt. I will watch the commercials because some of them are more entertaining than whole movies. I will watch the halftime show in case there are nipples. But I will not watch The Puppy Bowl. The Puppy Bowl is terrible.
The Puppy Bowl launched on Animal Planet in 2005. Like a sucker, I tune in every year expecting improvement from the puppies, but they continue to disappoint.
Animal Planet, it’s time someone said it: puppies are terrible at football.
I hardly know where to begin. Let’s start on offense. The puppies have no offensive strategy. There is no huddle. No plays are called. Is there a quarterback? No one seems to want the responsibility. Worse, the ball is often left unattended in a corner with no effort made to retrieve it. As a Cleveland Browns fan, I’m used to that. I expect more from puppies.
The defense is a joke. Most of the players seem more interested in socializing than stopping the opposing team. Defense wins championships. It’s about tenacity. It’s about the will to win. It’s about scratching and clawing and breaking the opponent before you. You cannot break an opponent’s will by sniffing his derriere, especially if he’s open to it.
What’s sad is that all of this terrible play might be prevented if the referee un-swallowed his whistle and called a foul once in a while. Every play is a laundry list of penalties – illegal formation, offsides, encroachment, clipping, holding, late hits, you name it. And I’m sorry, but Unnecessary Ruff-Ness, Illegal Use of the Paws and Illegal Retriever Down Field are not real penalties. The ref only seems to blow his whistle to call attention to when something adorable is happening.
Since when can you bite and then hump your own teammate during a game and it’s OK?!? (Outside of Oakland.)
The problem, I very much believe, is the Puppy Bowl culture. In Puppy Bowl VI, Jake the Chihuahua Pug was awarded the game’s MVP award by Animal Planet (see video) for nothing more than running around. Jake didn’t score, kick a field goal or make a goal-line stand. This teaches the impressionable puppies watching at home to value the absence of skill, teamwork and sportsmanship. It’s probably why most puppies today are so immature and most of the puppies who make it to the big game don’t know how to handle the spotlight.
What can be done? Well, we can’t ignore the Puppy Bowl. It’s too big. It’s ingrained in our popular culture. So we have to fix it.
Before these puppies are ever put on national television, they should be taught how to block, run, pass, receive and tackle as a team unit. We’ll need to start puppy football teams on college campuses or create developmental leagues where puppies learn that the gridiron is more than just a place to run around like a fool.
For the puppies who have the right stuff, the Puppy Bowl and perhaps even a roster spot on the Cleveland Browns await.
Behold one of nature’s rarest spectacles–the double toilet. This pic was snapped at the Olympic Biathalon Center in Sochi, Russia, right before the Winter Olympics.
Now I know what you’re thinking.
Big deal. So what? We’ve seen this before on “Saturday Night Live.”
No, that was the Love Toilet you’re remembering, which is an altogether different type of double toilet. Whereas the Love Toilet is romantic, the Sochi Double Toilet is functional. It’s all business–two Russian rings of Olympic Zdravstvuj.
A reasonable person might wonder, “How could such a thing happen? How could any professional build two toilets next to each other, thus defying all of the international laws of toilet privacy as set forth in Geneva in 1957?”
I have two theories.
To explain the first theory, I will have to share with you an unsavory experience I had while covering the 2002 Winter Olympics. Mitt Romney ran the Salt Lake City Games, and unlike Vladimir Putin, Romney enacted a sensible single-toilet policy. (Had Romney played up his public bathroom policy in 2012, I’m fairly certain he could have won the election.)
As a reporter for Scripps-Howard, I covered a variety of events, including some skiing and snowboarding. It was while covering one of these outdoor events that I nearly lost all faith in the Olympics’ dedication to international peace through athletic competition.
Something was clearly amiss from the moment I entered the men’s room. The men’s room, as men know, is not a room where you ever want anything to go amiss. Men’s rooms should be predictable, always. There should always be toilet paper. It should always be reasonably clean. No strangers should ever talk to you, even if some of your clothes happen to be on fire. But this men’s room wasn’t predictable. It took a moment to register, because it’s not something you expect to see, but there he was–a member of the Russian press seated on the toilet with the stall door wide open.
The man made no attempt to close the door. He offered no apology. When he saw me looking at him, he looked at me like I was the jerk. I left the men’s room, walked outside and held it for three days.
When I explained this situation to some of my friends in the press, no one was surprised. Apparently–and this is the lesson to be learned here–there are nations on earth where closing a bathroom stall door is considered high-falutin’.
So that’s theory No. 1 – the double toilet is a cultural choice, an homage to Russia’s gritty, leave-the-stall-door-open style of living.
Theory No. 2 is that when any government that is routinely elected with more than 99 percent of the vote gives out billions of dollars worth of contract work, corners will be cut. For example, an ice skating venue might be built entirely out of corrugated cardboard.
One envisions a Russian contractor being told to install a certain number of toilets in a sports venue. The work orders do not specify that there should be any stall doors. So, no stall doors. Nobody on the crew objects because installing stall doors sounds like more work, and what are we? Canadian? It should shock no one if we learn in coming days of triple and quadruple Sochi toilets.
At moments such as these, and by that I mean global bathroom fixture crises, we gain insight into nations and leaders and even ourselves.
Much ado was made before the start of these Olympic Games about Vladimir Putin’s controversial views regarding homosexuality. Talking heads railed against him. Organizations protested. Our president heroically responded by kind of doing something. But perhaps we judged the Russian leader too harshly.
His words say that two men should not be naked together.
But what do his toilets say?
That is the measure by which you judge a man.
Joe Donatelli is the author of Full Griswold: Stories from a Honeymoon in Italy.
UPDATE: Some nice double-toilet coverage here from the Los Angeles Times and Conan O’Brien.
UPDATE: Someone found an audience toilet in Sochi. It’s like someone is making an Olympics out of my nightmares.
Friend of The Humor Columnist David Stern–who was last seen in this space promoting the very important Balding Handbook–has found a new way to
fleece the public make money doing something other than real work. Stern is the proprietor of The Pothole Store, which sells the naming rights to Chicago area potholes as well as their contents to pothole-loving citizens.
This is the Pothole Store promise:
Our mission statement has always been simple: To provide the highest quality 100% Authentic Chicago pothole products at the lowest prices. These fourteen simple words have guided us from day one. These fourteen words have demanded that we only use the ripest and freshest crumbling asphalt from around Chicagoland. These fourteen words have been our template throughout our tireless dedication. These fourteen words have made us the largest purveyor of 100% authentic Chicago pothole products in the world.
We humbly welcome you to The Pothole Store, where only the best pothole products are sold. All our products come with a Certificate Of Authenticity (COA) assuring that you’re only getting the very best. When you open one of our products for the first time and take in it’s rich fresh aroma, you’ll say to yourself…”That’s Good Pothole”.
The amount of work and effort Stern put into offering potholes for sale on the Internet probably could have been used to start a more useful small business, which is why I applaud his efforts.
This is “pothole expert” David Stern being interviewed on WGN about his pothole store.