Earthquakes vs. Lightning

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Some Tips On How To Be A Successful Freelancer

multi-tasker2Eight years ago today — the day before Thanksgiving — the digital agency I worked at for two years laid me off.  Since then I have worked as a freelancer/contractor/person not bound by salary and benefits. How have I managed to find dozens of jobs in the past eight years?  Sometimes I need to remind myself.  Here are some actions that I believe have served me well.

1) A flurry of communication (aka, a squeaky wheel).  
While gig hunting, I send out emails, texts, Skype, Facebook and LinkedIn messages, tweets and I even make phone calls (gasp).  Many of these are ignored. I often feel like a 7th grader trying to get a “cool” kid to pay attention to her.  But the reality is that most people barely see them, or glance at them, or forget, or email me weeks later.  I have come to understand that people in 2015 Los Angeles hardly register an earthquake, let alone my emails.  Nobody is thinking about me because —amazingly— people have their own problems, too.  Sometimes, when I finally get in contact with someone after what seems like a torrent of communication, I might hear a surprised, “Hi Solange, Good to hear from you! ” I realize that all those emails impacted her like Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons.  I don’t notice them until I need to buy some sheets.  Most people are drowning in responsibilities.   It’s up to me to make a loud “squeak.”

2)  Stay connected with colleagues over coffee or lunch.  Sometimes an acquaintance will ask me to lunch or coffee and I’ll worry about losing a few hours of job hunting or writing time, even though it would most likely be spent scrolling Facebook for cat videos and heartfelt political rants.  I don’t mean to spend time reading a TBT picture essay about their 11th grade year abroad, but, let’s be real, it’s part of my “process.”   Once I forego the Deer Loves Dog video mashup, and I go to Peet’s to meet a flesh and blood human for caffeine, something magical happens.  I find out that he/she just got a new job, broke up with someone, has a sick parent; basically, has real troubles just like me.  He/she also may know of someone who might need someone to do this thing.  This weird human connection thing happens and, unlike an email, it won’t disappear in two seconds.  Networking is cheesy and exploitive and possibly creepy.  But real human connections can result in solid colleagues or actual friendship.  I have gotten many jobs from acquaintances that I bothered to get to know and care about.

3) Help other people find work.  If you want to live in the murky waters of freelancing, help keep your fellow peeps afloat.   Someone needs an art director? Flash programmer?  Tutor? Cleaning lady? Psychic? Dog sitter?   I love when I refer someone to a job and find out that they stayed there for a year or two.  It’s not just good karma, but a sense that my actions are part of the machinations of good. Without sounding like a movie star out of rehab, we are all connected.

4) Talk to Recruiters.  But be careful.   Yes, recruiters.  Sure, they take up to 30% of your hourly rate, and, yes, I’ve met some who would sell me to a brothel for a $100 referral fee, but they also desperately want to place their clients.  I know a couple of recruiters who I trust and respect, but I vet any new ones lest I end up interviewing for a start-up in Tiajuana for $.50/hour. (Please note: working directly with a company is always preferable, but not always feasible.)

5)  Faith.   This is a hard one.   I often cave to fear and take the first job that comes my way, even if the business is carpeted in red flags. If a work environments reeks of sad, unsmiling people, who roam grey hallways with jugs of coffee and that lost, bewildered “this is my life?” look on their faces, then I’m better off living in the uncertainty of unemployment.   The compensation from such a job may momentarily ease financial strain, but in the long run, will result in  lots of frantic calls to my therapist, or some cortisol related illness.  I’ve learned this lesson many times and I now try to remember the proven fact: THERE WILL BE ANOTHER JOB.

6) Learn a variety of skills.  I make most of my money as a project manager. BUT I get hired as a PM because I can also make wireframes, user flows, write copy and blogs, and fix things in Photoshop.   I learn programs, read best practices, and, like any technophile, try to predict the future.  I also love making technology more intuitive, a sadly unsung requirement in this world.   Being versatile has keeps me marketable, but just the fact that I have curiosity seems attractive to clients who understands that digital technology thrives from creative thinking and problem solving.   Some could say I lack commitment, but I like to think that I’m a Jack Of All Trades Master Of Keeping An Employable Skill Set.

7)  Keep Hustlin’.  A friend described me as a cat, I always land on my feet. I don’t  have a superpower, I just don’t give up.   I know that freelancing has created a happier life for myself and I’m willing to do what it takes.

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What A Female Comic Sits Through For Stage Time

A misogynist comic can have great jokes about everything but women.

A misogynist comic can have great jokes about everything but women.

A few weeks ago I met a brilliant young designer named Emma who interviewed me about an exhibit she plans to curate about Women in Comedy. (Details will be forthcoming.) Prior to meeting her I sent her all the blogs I’ve written about being a female comic (like this, this and this).  When we met she asked me why I stopped writing about this delightful topic and I came up with something about not having the energy to be angry and how a lot of these misogynist comic guys are a little sad anyway.  Kind of true.

Then last night I went to an open mic near my apartment that I would consider relatively friendly, not a cold dungeon of social misfits, more like a hippy enclave of West LA misfits.  I have not felt “triggered” (therapy word) by an open mic in a while. Years of open mics, (ugh on the word “years”) have taught me to develop some measure of built-in psychic ear plugs to filter out bad jokes, general disturbing ideas, hackneyed premises, and, yes, misogyny.  Maybe it was the PMS, but several of the  “premises” I heard threw me into the old “what-am-I-doing-with-my-life?” existential plunge — a pretty common experience in comedy for all genders — that kicked in my instinct to flee any place with an amp, coffee, and depressed white men.

What did I hear at the mic last night?  Nothing that unusual. A guy said that he’s getting married because he likes to “suck on his wife’s XXX.” So you can see the level of comedy genius we’re working with here. The problem I have with such remarks has to do with the numbers, the volume,  (not the mic volume, though that too) but the amount of material of this vein.

It struck me as odd that a liberal wealthy enclave of Los Angeles would tolerate the lady hate vibe.   This coffee shop is in Mar Vista, next a soap shop, a pet store, and a vinyl store.  People sip on $4 on coffee while they wait their turn to play their ukelele or read poetry. People who would not tolerate gay bashing or racism. And, yet, a white male can go on stage and talk about how he humiliated a prostitute and call it “comedy” and nobody bats an eye.

When people talk about political correctness ruining comedy, I’m a little confused.   If we are politically correct now, what did comics say about women thirty years ago?  Comedy seems more violent and denigrating to women than ever. Even a smart comic might seem like a really intelligent and astute about everything, until he talks about women.

But maybe it’s just a reflection of our society.  Compared to the bloodied images of women’s naked bodies on TV, video games and movies that making a clearly offensive joke about a prostitute seems almost tame.  Violence against women has become a “television staple.”   The serial killer who employs genius and bizarre creative executions of sex murders has been played out on True Detective, The Killing, The Following, and now Wicked City.  I recall watching Kevin Bacon have a whole casual conversation on The Following in front of a bleeding crucified Jesus-Christ-style blond sorority girl.

I rarely, if ever, address this at open mics.  There is some comic credo of not attacking other comics for their material.  But I also wonder if I should spend precious stage time reacting to these dumb ass jokes that usually bomb anyway.  But this type of comedy behavior is exactly why I’m the only female comic in the room.   If I speak up, I fear I’m less of a comic…but second to writing a blog (done), it’s all I can do.

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Eight Months

IMG_3001 (1)

My mom, while pregnant with me, and dad. (1972).

(WARNING: Post may incite some sadness).

It’s been eight months since my mother died. I don’t think people die all of a sudden, so it’s been a eight months-ish.

I have accused myself of sharing too many intimate details on this blog.  However, given the choice between compulsive oversharing and depression/crippling anxiety, I’ll risk judgment from the imaginary professional acquaintances in my head…so judge away.

There really is no way to deal with losing your mother.  Something goes wrong and I want to tell her about it.   Something goes right and I want to talk to her.   I wanted to tell her about my tooth that still might need a root canal.  Or that I worked as a “background artist” in my friend Maria’s show.  (They did give me a dressing room) Or that I had a reading of my next play where I Deviled Eggs because I (finally) figured out the magic of mayo and mustard, or about my amazing fur vest find at the Jewish Women’s Council thrift shop during the unbearable LA heat wave. I wanted to tell her about her memorial (and her funeral) and how many people showed up, or about the Dia De Los Muertos altar that we are making.  Nobody talks about death in our culture because nobody wants to accept that there is no right way to deal with it.  You can’t write a “How To…” list or any kind of list.  Just sit there and feel loss and, maybe, if you believe in that kind of thing, hope to get a sign from beyond.  (They say to wait a year before contacting a medium.)  Basically, shit gets real and you just deal.  Welcome to the crappy part of life.


My mom always loved Ricardo Montalbán….but how creepy was this show?

As a child, my mother limited my television viewing schedule to Saturday nights and one hour on Sunday.   However, in the last years of her life my mom’s opinion of TV, along with many established critics, changed and she watched a lot of it.   She loved “Grimm,” “The Big Bang Theory,” and, yes, “Castle.”  For a librarian and English major who loved Masterpiece theater, her taste in TV shows remains a great mystery to me.   Sure, we once lived for “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island,” but that was in 1980.  In the past few years I sat through more than a few episodes of  “Castle” in a state of exasperation.   It was either that or ‘Step Up Revolution’ (“It’s about dancing” she would say).   However, nothing could compare to ‘Frazier.’

I wish I could watch terrible TV with her now.

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“The Leftovers” Is More Confusing Than Ever But I’m Still Obsessed With It


Justin Theroux and Kevin Carroll face the mystery of weirdness…or something like that.

Yes, I made fun of the first season of “The Leftovers,” but I’m secretly — well, it’s not really a secret — obsessed with it.  It has a lot of problems.  As  this Grantland article explains, the show suffers from the disease of Pretentious Bullshit as a substitute for the difficulty of depicting the complicated human experience of being alive in a changing world. (Yes, deers need to stop being a symbol of wisdom and piety. So do doves.)  However, the show does have a hold on many things that we experience in our culture, like the casual weird acceptance in the face of the inexplicable violence.  (For example, a guy shoots up a community college in Oregon and we all react with creepy normality because…”stuff happens”?)

I did almost drown in the barrage of metaphors that began with the Quest For Fire woman having a baby post-earthquake apocalypse and ended with fish flopping around on an empty river bed. We get it. Death.  Primal woman.  They Mystery of Nature.  (The book by Tom Perrota had none of this and actually depicts grief better than anything I have read or seen.)

Ok, so here’s the recap of the first episode of the second season in one paragraph. Ready?….Go! Upper middle class black family in Miracle, Texas survive Star Treck Beam of Disappearance along with the rest of  this Jesus Freak town.  The family seems kind of perfect…you guessed it, too perfect. Adorable Daughter sings in a choir and Sweet Son feeds the town vagrant who dresses like a medival wizard and lives in a tower.  The Good Dad does good dad things like play catch with his Adorable Daughter.  But he also functions as one of the town’s Secret Service Police who terrorize those who espouse any spirituality outside of Christianity.  Even if it’s his childhood pal, who now conducts a  psychic practice from his home. Psychic Friend tells Good Dad that “something bad is going to happen.” (What kind of psychic delivers news this way?!  The correct phrase is “you will face some challenges.”) Later, (possibly in reaction to this bummer news) Good Dad throws Psychic Friend out of his window and burns down the house.  A little extreme?  We later find out that Good Dad served time for attempted murder so what’s a little arson? The next day everyone goes to church like nothing happened.  Bad stuff  does happen at the end and (SPOILER ALERT) Adorable Daughter disappears along with the water that tethered the flopping fishes who, like the characters, are now out of their element.  SYMBOLISM.

Also, a lot of strange things happen like a farmer brings a goat into a restaurant for slaughter in front of patrons and, apparently, the entire cast of “Perfect Strangers” did NOT depart/disappear in Star Treck beam.  (Ok, so this was two paragraphs…)

Next episode?  More weirdness, please.

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I Watched The Entire Fourth Season Of “Girls”


No, this is not a still shot from “Girls.” Still, Julie Hagerty was brilliant in “Airplane.”

I thought this kind of stuff only happens to other people.  But, no, I laid down on my couch one night and watched the entire fourth season of “Girls”.   Yes, I know I’m way late to the party on this, seeing as the season premiered way back in January…but, like I said, this wasn’t supposed to happen TO ME.

Maybe it’s the earth tone colors, or the idea that New York is still an Artist’s Town where people sculpt things or debut their folk songs at brunch.  Or the notion that twenty-somethings have time to just hang out and brood about life like real care-free young people. Everyone I know who moved to New York after college seemed to turn 40 overnight.  And that was in 1994. (Yes, I’m old).

Yes, I know, you’re thinking. Solange, weren’t you once in your twenties?  Following every whim and rando guy who paid you five seconds of attention?…Yes, I was.  I was everything the “Girls” are: self-absorbed, self-important, self-everything….and, arguably, still am.  But the difference is that if someone had said to me at 23, “We want to make a television show of your life,” I would have invited them into the three bedroom cat urine and pot-smelling Venice house that I shared with three other people and asked, “Do you really find this interesting?! WHAT WE TWENTY SOMETHINGS DO IS A BORING LEARNING EXPERIENCE THAT OLDER FOLKS ALREADY HAD.”  Maybe I had little to no respect for my own life experience or, more likely, it didn’t even seem interesting to me.

As a writer I understand the need to create flawed and irritating characters… hello, “Seinfeld” and even “Sex and the City”…but much of “Girls” misses a level of satire that lets a character get away with murder or whining.  I once watched the movie “Airplane” (yes again, I’m old) with a Serious Actor Boyfriend who pointed out that Julie Hagerty could both act the part of Elaine and comment on that performance.  Ricky Gervais did this in the British version of the “The Office.”

Snide judgments aside, I will give it up to Lena Dunham who  kind of rocked the satire this season. I loved anything that makes fun of Iowa Writing School and  Hanna’s unwillingness to take herself that seriously.  I also liked Ray Ploshansky.  Peter Scolari (loved “Bosom Buddies”) could do so much more.

That’s all.  I don’t know if this will happen again.

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Hey, I Made A Meme


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“Narcos” and Other Misogynist Subcultures


Wagner Moura, who plays stoic Pablo Escobar, gives a stoic toast.

I got sucked into the binge vacuum of Netflix’ new quasi-historical series, “Narcos,” about Colombian narcotraficante Pablo Escobar, aka “The King Of Cocaine” or “Mustached Guy Who Could Stand To Do Some Sit Ups” depending on who you talk to.    Along with being a rhinoceros-owning psychopath, Pablo Escobar’s credited atrocities include the bombing of a commercial airplane, the death of 25 Supreme Court Justices, an assassination of a presidential candidate, and the death of thousands of police, civilians, politicians and their children.  “Narcos” is essentially a more destructive and, unfortunately, true version of “The Sopranos” in Spanish with mustaches and lots of references to “putas.”   Like Tony Soprano, Pablo Escobar was a “Patron” who — if we believe the Netflix version —was also a “family man” who adored his wife, mother and daughter (his mistresses and random prostitutes, not so much).  I found this strange since in Real Life the vast majority of violent psychopathic men kill ONLY their wives and girlfriends as at least a third of all women murdered in the US are killed by their partners.

Nonetheless, I, like many Americans, am fascinated with the fictional duplicitous white male psyche (and Pablo E. was no dark skinned man) — the Don Drapers and Walter Whites — at the center of any fictional misogynist subculture (the real ones, not so fun or fascinating). Personally, morality does not interest me so much as the circumstance of being on the receiving end of orders dictated by a dominant and unreasonable male personality whose failed execution has severe consequences.  Caught between fealty and the gut instinct that that there is no such thing as sincerity, support or job security in a drug cartel (Corporate America), the Narco lackey has one option.  Do your crappy job or die.

I have never worked for a drug kingpin but I have worked in advertising.  Except for the “kill or be killed” ethos, the Narco peon seems not so different from, say, a Project Manager.

A few weeks ago, The New York Times ran a now-famous article about Amazon’s brutal and Darwinian work culture that reminded of a) a few jobs I’ve held in the past ten years and b) mafias and drug cartels.  For most of my employed corporate white-collar digital pandering work life, I have felt much like a thug doing my part to help someone of questionable mental health turn a profit. Prioritizing anything in my life other than The Client’s needs has not worked out too well for myself anyone I have known.

Years ago, I worked at an agency where project managers fell like sicarios in a police shoot-out.  One day Pete Campbell (pseudonym) would set up a meeting to discuss The Client direction and the next day I’d show up to find him mysteriously absent.   I remember sitting in a conference waiting for Ken Cosgrove when someone whispered, “Ken is no longer with us” in a hushed tone and we all just stared at each other in silence until upper management carved up his job and gave it to us in little pieces.  This same agency laid me off the day before Thanksgiving. They seem to have job openings. (Yes, I sometimes check).

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Not Too Close To Nature

Not so adorable now.

Not so adorable now.

In the history of my life, 2015 might be the Year I Kept It Together…(Sort Of) In The Face Of A Lot Of Shit.  And, yet, I realize that it can always be worse.   On top of difficult loss, I’ve had a growing list of small, will-be-hilarious-someday-not-now annoyances to contend with: my web site got hacked, I had several brief job stints at work places that would make Jeff Bezus proud (more on that in my next post), and after months of chewing on the left side of my mouth discovered through the great communicator of Pain that my right molar has cracked.  My dentist gave me a temporary crown, put me on the Advil drip, and we’re now waiting to see if I need a root canal.  I mean it’s not a…no, wait, it IS a root canal.

All that set the stage for the, hopefully, final episode in the Weird Random %$#* category of my summer.  In May or June these adorable pigeon/doves (still not sure if they are the same thing) made a home on my porch.  The mama laid eggs which hatched into baby birds, I took pictures and yabbered on about the wonder of nature and the miracle of life, like a super-bored housewife.  A few weeks later, I got ready for bed and prepared to fog out on the final episode of “Orange Is The New Black” when I felt this itch on my stomach. I scratched.  A second later I felt itchy on my shoulder, knee, finger, leg…I tore off my clothes (in an non-sexy way) and found, a teeny, tiny, looking spider insect on my stomach…and then my arm.   Over the course of the next few hours, I mopped the floors, threw out all my bedding, washed my couch cover, and covered myself in alcohol.   The next day I called my building manager and she hired a Pest Control Professional.

The good news: these were not Bed Bugs, but Bird Mites.  Bad News: equally gross.   They come from bird feces, which can be found anywhere a bird has nested.  Maybe I don’t find nature so wonderful, after all.

More disturbingly, Bird Mites find a single host to “feed off” and then send pheromones out to the family, basically saying, “Hey, we got happy hour between 11-7 am on this lady.” My boyfriend didn’t get a single bite; I was covered.   A lesser woman would have gone crazy. I may be a lesser woman.

Thanks to the Pesticide Guy, anything with more than two legs has not set foot in here in weeks and I have concluded that between the bear attack in Yosemite and the mite attacks in my  bed, humans should not commune with nature anywhere but the Internet.

Note: This post was a public service announcement.

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I Appreciate The Muppets On A Much Deeper Level Than You

Janice is my spirit Muppet.

Janice is my spirit Muppet.

The other day I listened to Marc Maron’s interview with Jason Segal (Writer of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “How I Met Your Mother”) on the WTF podcast. I am a regular listener of this podcast and while Maron has become less of a curmudgeon-y caustic interviewer that I, selfishly, prefer, I still enjoy his ability to draw guests out who might otherwise hide behind their professional success.  (For example, his interview with Terry Gross was great).

However, I had forgotten that Jason Segal wrote and starred in the last Muppet Movie, The Muppets (great name…*sarcasm*).  This fact struck me as one of the most horrible things I had ever heard of in show business.  When the movie came out I could hardly contain my disgust and anger at what, to me, looked like pure appropriation of an misunderstood genius on the part of many (Frank Oz, Jim Henson, Dave Goelz, Jerry Juhl…).  Any Muppet creation not led by any and all surviving members of this team (Frank Oz) struck me as pure appropriation and a fundamental lack of respect or understanding of the show.

In case you can’t tell, I am a Muppet Snob.  I put everything that came after “The Muppets Take Manhattan” in a different category of Muppet Work.  I own the DVDs for the entire television series and a shirt that say,  “I appreciate the Muppets on a much deeper level than you.” (Which is true).  (Both were gifts, appropriately chosen based on my obsessive and evident fandom).    When “The Muppets” (even the name creeps me out) came out I attempted to watch it with my mom and sister, but I only lasted a few minutes until I left in disgust…the horror…

So maybe Jason could shed some reasonable light on his decision to essentially rape the muppets.   Here’s what he had to say about his inspiration for writing: “The Muppets never made fun of people.  They never got laughs at other people’s expense…”


The Muppets insulted each other constantly.  Any research on the creators will state that “upstaging each other” was the ethos of the show.  If anything, the Muppets get irritated, angry, annoyed,  they can be self-absorbed,  violent, or a Republicans or a psycho who blow things up or capable of domestic violence.  If anything, they are very, very, human.

I kept listening.

This is what I learned about Jason Segal: he grew up in the Palisades, attended Harvard Westlake (prestigious high school) and, on a whim in high school, decided to act in a play (Edward Albee’s The Zoo).  It just so happens that the President of Casting of Something saw him and contacted his parents (or something like that) who sat him down and said something to the effect of, “You have a future in show business.”  Who says that? Does life really work that way for anyone? I have friends who explode with talent (literally, it gets all over you) who have stood in front of producers and casting people time and time again.

Ok, so he lucked out and won the socioeconomic and genetic lottery.  You can’t blame someone for being born white, male and rich.  It’s what you do after you’re 18 that matters.  He got cast in “Freaks and Geeks,” a cultural hit. But after four years he no longer had a job.  Also, fine. I’ve been unemployed about a thousand times and it’s pretty scary.

But then he tells Marc:

“I thought either I make it in show business or I move in with my parents. I never thought of getting a real job.”

This made me nauseous. Not as nauseous as cultural appropriation of The Muppets, but almost.   “A real job..?” I’m not sure he realizes that “a real job” keeps most Americans from the street or homelessness.   At least have the sense not to say that out loud.   How can someone who has never had a “real job” make entertainment that resonates with 99% of us?

I stopped listening there.

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