Some of the work I've done over the past few years. More samples available upon request.
Growing up in the NYC area, I used to have to watch all movies shot in the city twice. Once so i could try and pick out each location and another so I could follow the story. I love everything about Louie—and yes that includes location spotting. Prior to the start of season three, I set out to find some of the prime locations from the prior two and wrote about it for Splitsider.com, a website dedicated to all things comedy.
I reluctantly moved to Hoboken from Jersey City in 2009 to be with my now wife. I wasn't a big fan. Leading up to Superstorm Sandy, I was indifferent at best. This story, which was re-published by local blog Hoboken411, shows the transformation I made from reluctant to proud resident in the week after the worst natural disaster ever to hit our town.
I'm not saying I'd put R. Kelly in the same musical genius category of Prince, but I've always had an odd fascination with the man. When the time came to pitch a feature article to Nerve.com and the pressure was on, I didn't even stop to think what the ramifications could be when I blurted out the following to my editor: "I want to spend an entire evening using the same romantic tactics as R. Kelly on my girlfriend and write about it." Somehow, the relationship lasted.
Sixteen Things We Wish Still Existed
I was sitting on a couch at the Nerve offices listening to my favorite Janet Jackson song, "Got 'til It's Gone," when I started to get really nostalgic.Working backwards from the video which was released in 1997, I started thinking about all the things from my youth that I longed for. Two hours later, I had this...
As a new decade begins, technology and evolution have made us a society that essentially has everything. We can get anything we want, when we want it, on our own terms. The world is our oyster. But progress is a double-edged sword, even as it clears the path ahead it cuts away a lot of stuff that, in retrospect, we kind of liked. Here's a look back at sixteen obsolete things we long for.
1) The Inaccessibility of Porn
At thirteen, my friends and I rode our bicycles for forty-five minutes in the August heat to a construction dumpster allegedly filled with dirty magazines. The rumor was true, and we vigorously dove into issues and issues of Club and Barely Legal. When I was fourteen, I would tear up the woods behind my house looking for porn, and I'd celebrate my findings as if I had just uncovered the Dead Sea Scrolls. At fifteen, I spent a week growing a beard so I could buy the latest Pamela Anderson issue of Playboy. I tell thesestories not to illustrate what a cool teenager I was but to prove that once, a guy had to work for his porn. You appreciate it more.
2) Records/CDs/Album Packaging
I literally just stole a copy of Boston's Greatest Hits in my underwear. Thanks to iTunes, or torrent sites if you're a thieving bastard like me, you don't have to go to the record store anymore. Today's kids will never understand the excitement of thumbing through the used bin at Vintage Vinyl, or of taking a CD home, ripping off the plastic wrapping, and taking it all in; the lyrics, album art and of course, the music. With internet music distribution, a lot of the magic is taken away. Inviting a group of friends over to smoke a bowl and geek out over Dark Side of the Moon will always work. Replacing Floyd with an iTunes Genius mix built off of "Poker Face" just doesn't.
3) R. Kelly Operas
In 2005, when R. Kelly announced that he was putting out an opera, we all laughed. Then, we saw it and laughed some more. But then we realized the guy was a genius. A man that writes lyrics like "Gimme that toot toot/Lemme give you that beep beep" shouldn't be the Mozart of R&B, but he is. With its gay preachers and midget sex, his opera offered a little something for everyone. R. was supposed to put out another set of chapters in 2009 — but it never happened. I feel abandoned — to my mind, R. Kelly should should release an opera every week. Went to the grocery store? Write an opera. Enjoyed a little bump 'n grind on the down low? Opera, baby.
4) Pauly Shore Vehicles
Long has the Weasel (pronounced "weeeh-zul") been ridiculed for his lameness, but there was a time when Pauly Shore was a movie star. We make of fun of his shtick, but have you tried saying, "Hey buuuud-deee" lately? It's fun! Mocking Mr. Shore is an easy icebreaker, on par with "How 'bout those Yankees?" But try this: wake up, stay in your PJs, order up some General Tso's chicken, and watch Encino Man. A Pauly Shore movie is a great way to spend a lazy afternoon. If only there were more.
5) When P. Diddy Was Puff Daddy
Yes, the shiny suits were ridiculous, but back in 1997, if Sean Combs had his hands on a song, chances are you danced your ass off to it. Between Biggie's Life After Death, Ma$e'sHarlem World, and his own No Way Out, in 1997 Puff Daddy took the world by storm. Then he lost his way. Gunshots were fired, Led Zeppelin samples were abused, and before you knew it, the man said he was Diddy and started making clothes. Puff, hip-hop is just not the same without your "uh huhs" and "yeahs."
6) Sega Genesis
Where's the love for Sega Genesis? Sure, you can still play a lot of Genesis classics on newer consoles, but Genesis doesn't get the same respect that Nintendo does. Sonic the Hedgehog might not have the same brand appeal as Mario and Luigi, but he's still a good time. Remember, when Biggie was dead broke, he couldn't picture owning Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis, not just the former. For NHL '94 alone, the console should get infinite respect.
7) The REAL Real World
When MTV's The Real World debuted in 1992, it forever changed the course of American pop culture. You had your young Southern virgin who had never seen a black person, your aspiring musician (three of them), your gay guy, your pretty guy, and your angry and misunderstood black guy. Sound familiar? That's because every subsequent season followed the same formula. One season after another, as the roommates got more beautiful, they also got even more annoying. Usually, I enjoy promiscuity, sexual exploration and loose morals as much as the next guy, but at this point I think they're better saved for sleep away camp. What made the show interesting to begin with was that it was truly a social experiment. How can the results be interesting if they keep using the same materials?
8) Michael Jackson
Last June 24th, Michael Jackson was a freak. On June 25th, MJ was the King of Pop. Even his biggest critics reminisced about Michael's golden days. The truth is, as long as people have legs, at a wild house party or your cousin's Bar Mitzvah, we will always dance to Michael Jackson. Even in a thousand years when we're cyborgs with robot legs, we will dance to Michael Jackson. Now that he's gone, the same people who trashed him and called him a freak are suddenly recognizing his genius. A small part of me wonders if, had we been a little nicer to him, he'd still be around.
9) Life Without Social Networking
Recently, a clinically depressed woman was dropped by her insurance company because of Facebook pictures showing her frolicking on the beach in a bikini. First of all, if you're depressed, you should go to the beach. Second, these days, you have to go through a whole cover-up just to enjoy life and not get crap from your "friends." Last week, I didn't go to one party so I could go to another one instead. This shouldn't be a big deal, but people run around with their cameras like the paparazzi and then post them on Facebook for all the world to see. Which means liars like me have to dodge the cameras like we're '70s-era KISS, out at Studio 54 without our makeup.
10) Phone Booths
Superman. Bill and Ted. Prostitutes. Once, just about everyone had a use for phone booths. Now, they're nothing more than a place to stick your gum. As essential to modern society as cell phones are, we forget the comfort that a functioning phone booth once brought us. You could be broken down on the side of the road, lost and scared, but once you saw that blue sign, you knew everything was going to be okay. These days, God forbid you forgot to charge your phone. You'll go into panic mode within minutes and probably eat your passengers to survive.
11) Very Special Episodes of Sitcoms
Years ago, almost everything you needed to learn about life could be learned from a very special episode of a hit sitcom. Like the time I was able to diagnose my ex-girlfriend as bulimic thanks to a Very Special Diff'rent Strokes. Today's shows are too sexy about issues. In a recent episode of the new 90210, one of the main characters unknowingly dates a drug dealer. As viewers, we know this kid is a bad egg, but we're too distracted by everyone's hotness to take any real lessons out of it. I say bring back Very Special episodes... and hire more actors that look like Conrad Bain.
12) Video Stores
Going to the video store used to be a treat. With thousands of movies and games, candy, and the beaded entrance to an X-rated Xanadu, this was truly paradise. Then Netflix (and Netflix's "Watch Instantly" feature) came around. I can watch the entire Pauly Shore catalog without ever leaving my apartment. It's a convenience I love, but I do miss the guilt of entering that adult section. (Or of renting Bio-Dome, for that matter.)
13) Paula Abdul on American Idol
When Ellen DeGeneres debuts this season on American Idol, you'll wish Paula Abdul were forever your girl. However much you made fun of her, Paula was an important force on that panel. Simon and his obnoxious demeanor are obviously irreplaceable. Randy is harmless (though there's nothing interesting about overusing the word "dawg" at this point). But Paula was essential. Sure, Kara DioGuardi is cute and sane, but Paula is cute and insane, and that's compelling TV. Go ahead and see what happens. Unless Ellen pops fifty Vicodin and cuts a rug with an animated cartoon, American Idol will be a shadow of its former self.
14) The Sanctity of Old TV Shows/Movies
I was such a fan of the old G.I. Joe cartoon that when the live-action film was announced, I was as excited as anyone... until I saw the trailer. Bad dialogue, terrible acting and... is that the kid from Step Up as Duke? Unfortunately, ruining things from our childhood is all the rage. Hollywood takes a beloved toy, hires a hot chick, then kicks back and lets CGI do all the work. Everyone should take a cue from the new Melrose Place: bridge the gap between the old and the new, then add the hot chicks, and you'll be golden.
15) Door-to-Door Salesmen
When I was thirteen, a guy showed up at our door shilling encyclopedias and my mother considered buying. When he returned the next day, only to find she had lost interest, the salesman lashed out at Mrs. D, and I slammed the door in his face. With the internet, the door-to-door business model seems to have disappeared. On one hand, that's probably for the best, since it's a little scary to have some hotheadappear at your door. On the other, spending an hour making some guy think you're actually going to buy his steak knives is a lost art.
16) The Scariness of '80s Metal
Back in grade school, I knew a metal kid. He had an unkempt mullet and serial-killer glasses, and always wore a jean jacket with a pentagram on it. He scared the bejesus out of me. So did those album covers, which promised an entire adult world of evil behavior. Now that I am an adult, it's hard to find any music (certainly not current metal) that scary, and that's kind of a drag.
Mental Health: Insane in the Brain (and not ashamed)
At elearners.com, I was once asked to write a piece in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. I was given no instructions, other than I had two hours to complete it. Naturally, I relied on my excessive knowledge of '90210' to get through this one.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, dedicated to the awareness of mental illnesses and suicide. Didn't know such a month existed? Neither did I. Nonetheless, in these tough, modern times it's certainly a relevant and necessary topic tospend some time on. In fact, online psychology degrees are some of the most popular programs on the site. It's also Lupus month but my money's on mental health awareness as being the more relatable issue.
There was a time in pop culture where seemingly the people under psychiatric care were either sociopaths or neurotic New Yorkers. Otherwise, Hollywood and beyond dictated a world in which there was not a problem you couldn't fix on your own. Real men learned to deal with whatever came at them and psychiatric help was reserved for the true loonies. Of course, we've come a long way since then. No longer is mental health assistance relegated to Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest or Woody Allen in anything he's ever done. There's now a middle ground. Couples work out their marital woes on shows like HBO's In Treatment, The Bachelor's Brad Womack needed to consult a shrink on even mundane decisions like whether or not to wear a shirt (though he almost always opted for not) and even the tough, Gary Cooper-admiring Tony Soprano had a weekly appointment.
Oddly enough, possibly the most telling example of how societal perception of mental health issues has changed is the Beverly Hills, 90210 franchise. During the original show's second season, which aired in 1991-1992, main character Brandon Walsh dates Emily Valentine, a punk rocking bad girl who kind of puts a damper on the relationship when she spikes his drink with the drug U4EA. When Brandon breaks things off (you go, Brando), Emily goes off the manic deep end, starting with dozens of creepy phone calls to the Walsh house, peaking with the threat of arson and self-immolation, and ending with her in a mental hospital to deal with what many perceived to be bi-polar disorder. Out of the show's 10 seasons, Emily Valentine appeared in 12 episodes over four seasons and was never heard from again. By comparison, in the franchise's latest incarnation, 90210, one of the main characters, Silver, is absolutely bipolar. It's not something they suggest or allude to through clever writing and it's not something that was prominent in one episode, she figured out how to deal with it and everything's hunky-dory. It's a recurring storyline and something the character and the people around her have to deal with. Just like in real life. One can't help but think that the evolution of the way the franchise has dealt with mental health is not only a sign of our culture's change in acceptance and understanding of mental disorders over the last 20 years but surely also serves as an aid to that kid out there who might be struggling with their own issues but is afraid of talking about it.
If anything, we live in a day and age where mental health in the media is almost more rule than exception. Dr. Drew has had a slew of successful reality shows that deal with addiction and mental health, programs like A&E's Intervention and Hoarders are ratings hits and the psychiatric statuses of celebrities is often, with the help of the tabloids, a water-cooler topic. Whether it be Charlie Sheen's profitable yet train-wreck of a meltdown, or Catherine Zeta Jones' more elegant handling of her bipolar II diagnosis, it's almost strange to not see this topic in the news. On The Howard Stern Show, Stern discusses almost daily his visits with his psychiatrist and not only is analysis encouraged, members of the show are occasionally picked on for not seeking professional help.
I myself was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder nearly twenty years ago and at the time, the diagnosis was a foreign concept for most. Every afternoon, a classmate and I would be ushered into the nurse's office, with no explanation to others as to what we were doing, to get our Ritalin fix on so we would not only meet our potential as learners but also so we wouldn't run around the classroom causing a scene. These days, it seems likeeveryone has A.D.D. People brag to me all the time that they swear they have it too (which is bizarre - I don't think I'd say toca cancer patient: "Oh my God, you have cancer? That's so funny, people tell me all the time it looks like I have cancer.") And everyone seems to be in on the diagnosis. I've heard many stories of parent conferences where teachers have suggested a child would thrive on medication. Not that I think this is right at all, but at least A.D.D. and other disorders are now a part of the dialog. No longer are we expected to be immortals with bullet-proof psyches who hold everything in. In this day and age, who can afford to be?