Posts Tagged ‘that’s not funny’

From Cold to Stupid Cold

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Well, after last week’s snowluge (that’s a snow-deluge, where the snow gets too deep even for a luge), the inevitable Siberian cold front has moved in and the temperature has plummeted from reasonable single digits (on the centigrade scale) to ridiculous numbers like -10 and -27. See, this is my big problem with the centigrade scale; it makes everything MUCH colder than it has to be. Okay, in fairness, blaming centigrade is truly just killing the messenger, so I’ll let that go. But I’m here to tell you that I have neither the clothing nor the temperament for snot-freezes-in-your-nostrils cold, which is where we’ve arrived at today.

I felt it in the air yesterday when I took my latest sightseeing stroll around Sofia. Highlights included the Natural History Museum, where I encountered this intriguing theory about the origin of the Cyclops myth: It turns out that the bones of extinct elephants littered the ancient Mediterranean world, which, if you didn’t know better (and how could you, since you’ve never seen a live elephant?) you would think the skeletons resembled a hugely over-sized man — a giant. It turns out that elephant skulls don’t have much in the way of eye-sockets, but do have a big, gaping trunk-socket — which, again, could look very much like a single eye hole to a primitive person trying to glean meaning from old bones. One thing leads to an other and voila, you’ve got yourself a cyclops myth. Why those bones should add up to a cranky blacksmith, I don’t know, but then again I’ve never gotten how those random stars of Ursa Major add up to the shape of a bear. Maybe it has something to do with ancient alkaloids.

I did some brief, frigid shopping at the flea market of Soviet-era flotsam, but somehow couldn’t bring myself to load up on looted Nazi swords or medals, be they real or reproduction. Magnifying glasses. I bought some nifty magnifying glasses. I’m exactly that kind of nerd.

High point of the stroll was the exhibit of relic religious art in the crypt of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Here are some shots from there.

As you can see, even after hundreds of years, the colors are still quite vivid. So is, er, the imagery.

That shot was taken from “the Life of St. George,” who, as you can readily judge, had a hard one. I guess once you’ve slain the dragon, it’s pretty much all downhill from there.

Finally I leave you with this proof that time travel exists; how else does one explain the presence of the Bee Gees in 18th century religious iconography?

Rock on, Christ Pantocrator, rock on.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go outside and freeze some bodily fluids. Good times!

More later, -jv

NOW Pay Attention

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Hey campers,

My brand-new book on sitcom is now available. Here’s the blurb:

Writing situation comedies isn’t really that hard. So much of what you need to know is already defined for you. You know that your script needs to be a certain short length, with a certain small number of characters. You know that your choice of scenes is limited to your show’s standing sets and maybe one or two swing sets or outside locations. You know how your characters behave and how they’re funny, either because you invented them or because you’re writing for a show where these things are already well established. Sitcom is easy and sitcom is fun. Sitcom is the gateway drug to longer forms of writing. It’s a pretty good buzz and a pretty good ride, a great way to kill an afternoon, or even six months.

And now, thanks to comedy writing guru John Vorhaus (author of THE COMIC TOOLBOX: HOW TO BE FUNNY EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT), writing situation comedy is easier than ever. In THE LITTLE BOOK OF SITCOM, you’ll find a whole trove of tools, tricks and problem-solving techniques that you can use — now, today — to be the sitcom writer of your wildest dreams. Ready to write? Ready to have fun? THE LITTLE BOOK OF SITCOM is the big little book for you.

Tell your sitcommy friends: this is an ebook they’re going to want to have.

More later, -jv

1000 New Words by Christmas?

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

I’ve been having fun making up new words lately, sort of as a hobby or a mental exercise more fruitful than Sudoku. Some recent goodies…

Gagnostic. Someone who believes God’s a joke.

Panticlimax. A dry hump.

Rantiquity. An old, old argument.

Hobotheosis. Elevation of the bum.

Wordsword. When you can’t say anything nice, use this.

Not all of ’em are winners of course, but, to quote myself, “Is the point of the game to win? Or to have fun?” And I’m having fun, so much so that I’m contemplating giving myself the challenge of coining 1000 new words by Christmas. These I can then package, I suppose, and sell as a slender ebook, A THOUSAND NEW WORDS BY CHRISTMAS, VOLUME 1 (which would set me up for more of same mayhem next year, but whatever.) I think I may do it, for I’m like a dog with a bone with these things, but on the other hand, will I kill the fun of it when it becomes an obligation? Or maybe I’ll just do as many as I can, and then package them as, say, 475 NEW WORDS BY CHRISTMAS. No one will know except me and both of you, my readers. So what do you say? All in favor of new words say, “Neologos!” The neologos have it. More later, -jv

I’m All A-Twitter

Friday, June 17th, 2011

So I decide to spend this week honing my social networking chops, and now I’m more social than ever – but also more confused. I started by friending everyone in the known universe (well, in the universe of people known to me) and I’ll friend you, too, if you but ask. I’ve bulked up my twitter feed (@TrueFactBarFact) to almost 200 (well, almost 170) followers. Then I pimped out my Amazon author page, adding photos, videos, news of upcoming events, blabbity blabbity blah blah blah. I think I’ve even arranged for this blog feed to go straight there, so if you’re passionate about reading the same thing twice, why, now you can.

But you know what? It all seems like a great big circle somehow. I point my Facebook friends to my Twitter feed, tweet on Twitter that I can be found here in my blog, blog about my Amazon page, and promote my Facebook presence on Amazon. Goodness! Is it any wonder that I have a big, fat, socially networked headache right now? Meanwhile, my lovely dog, Temp, dozes at my feet, and the only social network he cares about is the one that delivers him treats.

I guess all I care about is treats, too, where treats = presence and, ultimately, book sales. Because that’s what all this social networking is all about in the end. I’ve got books to promote (the new one, DECIDE) and workshops (LIVING THE WRITER’S LIFE in Pasadena on August 13) and, more broadly, my “brand,” such as it is. One thing I’ve learned as an author is that no one promotes you harder than yourself, not your publisher, not your publicist, no one. So if the word is going to get out, it’s up to, well, me to make it so.

It could be a colossal waste of time, of course, but you know what they say: “Self-indulgence is its own reward.” So follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, www.losthours.com. Or, you know, don’t. I’ll be wasting the time either way.

Speaking of wasting time, I just searched losthours.com and it turns out that no one owns that domain name yet. I’m bipping right over to my GoDaddy account to register it right now, because who knows? It could be the big viral breakthrough I’ve been looking for.

Off to Amsterdam tomorrow. Reports to follow.

More later, -jv

What Do You Think of This?

Monday, May 30th, 2011

I’m writing my memoir. It’s called BUT IT’S FUNNY IN RUSSIAN: A WRITER’S ADVENTURES IN TEACHING OVERSEAS. I’m posting the first chapter here, and I’m interested to know what you think. Do I sound snarky? Sincere? Is this a book you’d invest time and coin in? I welcome your comments here, or via email through the link you’ll find on this page. Tyty. -jv

ONE: MR. NEEDY

The story starts with a job I couldn’t hold.

It was the late 1980s and I was writing for a situation comedy called Charles in Charge, not the original network show but its reincarnated syndicated cousin, starring the estimable Scott Baio as a college student-slash-nanny to three problematic tweens. I had scored big with a freelance episode called “Dorm Warnings,” in which Charles gets fed up with family life and moves into a college dormitory with his buddy, Buddy (the somewhat less estimable Willie Aames), and hilarity – as it so often does in sitcoms of a certain ilk – ensues. I’d also written an episode called “May The Best Man Lose,” which featured, as God is my witness, a dunk tank. On the basis of these twin triumphs, I was offered a six-week contract as a staff writer for the rump end of the 1987 season, running from late October until the Christmas wrap. This was my first staff job on a TV show and I was agog at the pay: $2,000 a week, which was big money in 1987 dollars and not chump change even today. (more…)

Duffy of the Desert

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Maxx has reached the desert portion of her Indian sojurn. I’ll let her words and pictures speak for themselves.

March 9, 2011: We are now in the desert – Jaisalmer – which is in the northwestern part of  India, very close to the Pakistani border.   We are told by our driver that the desert road is of the highest quality (translation: it is a smooth road) so that the military can get to the border quickly if necessary.  For the political buffs, the tension between India and Pakistan remains at a 60+ year standstill over Kashmir.  India feels it is rightfully theirs as the ruler of Kashmir in 1947 when given a choice to become part of India or Pakistan, the ruler chose India, even though Kashmir consists mostly of Muslims (Pakistan is Muslim; India is mostly Hindu).  Pakistan claims that the ruler was unduly influenced and Kashmir should belong to Pakistan. Fast forward, in 1998, tensions between India and Pakistan increased after a series of nuclear tests.  It got worse in 1999 as hostilities flared between the two countries when India launched military strikes against Kashmiri insurgents. Today, I am told by the locals living close to the border that all Muslims (Pakistanis and Kashmiris) and Hindus (Indian) are living in peace though each country remains committed to Kashmir.

All I can tell you is this:  the Indian desert is beautiful — golden hues shimmering off sand dunes or buildings; camels lazily snoozing by the road, and people who have that look of contentment in the simplicity of their lives.

More later, -jv et al

Guest Post

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

My lovely wife, Maxx Duffy, is traveling in India these weeks, and since fans of this blog seem to like trip reports from exotic climes, I thought I’d share a missive or two with you. Take it away, Maxx..

March 2nd: Tomorrow is the last day of the conference I am attending; I will then spend 9 days on tour.  I can already tell you that India is a land of opposites – the most striking being the wealth/poverty line.  I am currently immersed in an oasis of splendor on the campus of the Indian School of Business.  Just outside the campus’ gates (protected by security) are the slums that one hears about — but seeing those slums is shocking.  Though I have been to many 3rd world countries, I have never seen it is here.  The streets are lined with thousands of makeshift tents or tin huts (having tin is a step above). Children as young as 3yrs old begging; grasping your leg; adults with little to no clothing lying in the roadways with cars skirting around them. It is very difficult to absorb all this.

In my sessions at the conference, they admitted that India has no way of really knowing its population because those that live on the streets are not accounted for easily.  They also admit that while there are many initiatives from trying to get identity cards for slum residents (which can then help them get some financial assistance) to improving housing and healthcare (62 infant deaths for every 1000 births versus the U.S. statistic of 2 deaths for every 1000 births), those initiatives are only a drop in the bucket in terms of the long road they have ahead of them. In the days to come,  I will start sending photos of the sights …

And when she sends ’em to me, I’ll send ’em to you. More later, -jv

The Comic Toolbox: Excerpt

The Comic Toolbox: How to be Funny Even if you’re Not
by John Vorhaus

Chapter 2: The Will to Risk

comic toolbox

A newspaper reporter called me not long ago.  Since I’m now some sort of soi-disant expert on the subject of comedy, this reporter wanted to know if I thought there were people with absolutely no sense of humor.  Was it possible, the writer wondered, to be completely and irremediably unfunny? (more…)