American Horror Story: The art of using all the things you can think of, all at once.

A while ago I wrote a little bit about my brainstorming process. Basically, I filled a page with ideas, big and small, that inspired me. Some of these things were totally disconnected, but tethered together by the fact that I have a strong interest in exploring both topics (e.g, American folklore and one-eyed dogs).

This process comes to mind as I watch the second season of American Horror Story on FX. Over all, I enjoy the show and really can’t get enough of the weirdness. But my hypothesis is that creator Ryan Murphy must have sat in a room with his writing partner and simply asked the question: “What’s scary?” The one rule? Leave Nothing Out.

I say this because of the insane soup of horror elements that are thrown into each episode. It’s shamelessly packed with disparate conventions, each of which is deserving of its own series. But they all sit on the same bus, “alien abduction” wedged next to “demonic posession”, while “murderer on the loose” looks glumly out the window and then back to his iphone.

No, no there’s no iphone. We’re in 1965. So, from the more typical monsters, Murphy and company move to a subtler, sometimes scarier set of creepers: The homophobe, the racist, the religious hypocrite (chills). They’re all on this bus, and the bus is headed straight to hell. Or is it Danvers, MA? I think the show is supposed to be set in Danvers.

Yes, the show has troubles. The Chloe Sevigny character, for example, had a awkwardly earnest monologue about sexual repression in the most recent episode. I could feel the grumbling head shaking of every creative writing teacher in the nation as she talked, and talked, and talked, without interruption, about sexual justice in a “tense dramatic moment”.

We get it, Ryan Murphy. No one disagrees with you. Things were bad for the more free-wheeling ladies of the 1960’s. Here’s something though, the virgin/harlot dichotomy is way out of control this season on the show. I mean, literally, the nun is wearing red knickers. The prostitute is forced to dress up like a nun. It’s…just…we get it.

But that’s all beside the point. What’s the point? Good quesiton. I think the point is that sometimes it’s fun to just throw everything in the pot and see if you can draw plot lines from A to B to 231 to Guatemala. American Horror Story is a grab bag of weird, and I know I’ll be watching until the trapped lesbian reporter has an illicit affair with a zombified Hitler or some other inevitable breaking point.

Lady on the verge of a very bad few weeks.

The Bearable Lightness of Being…Pregnant

About 10 out of 10.4 women in this country have some kind of trouble, real or perceived, with the way that they look.*

This isn’t news. It’s an over-documented fact that we all know and never fix. We understand that TV, film, and Photoshop professionals do it to us, our sisters, daughters, moms…andit never stops.

Too fat, too skinny, weird nose, wide hips, narrow hips, sloped shoulders, broad shoulders, acne, bacne, smacne, crackalacne…you get it. It’s a very handy trick. A way to get women to self-edit and silence themselves with out having to actually say “shutup, ladies”. Hats off, society, really.

For me, because I’m so dreadfully original, I’ve always been hyperfocused on my weight. It’s the thing I carry around with me that makes me feel inferior. It’s the little nugget of self-loathing I always keep in my pocket just in case I start feeling too awesome about myself.

But something happened when, for the first time in my life, I got legitimately super-big. It’s baby-big. I’m a very obviously pregnant woman right now. Strangers will make comments congratulating me because it isn’t a risky proposition. I’m Central Casting pregnant.

I realized very recently that for the first time since probably 4th grade, I have no weird body issues. I’m pregnant, and this is how someone looks when they’re pregnant. I’m not trying to shoe-horn myself into an idealized mental image. Little girl is calling the shots. She is shaping me. And she’s awesome, so I’m totally OK with that.

I know that once I give birth things will go back to the way that they were. I’m going to try to drop the baby-weight fast. Nutrition, exercise, all that stuff. But man, what a vacation these few months will be. I mean, there are a LOT of physical things that are uncomfortable, some have been even scary and painful. But on a very shallow- outward level, this body is pretty fun to be in.

*SCIENTIFIC SCIENCE**

** …which I made up.

4 Point Plan

With the upcoming election, we’re all hearing some professional-level simplification of complex issues. Everyone’s got their 5-point plan, and I see the appeal of these sound bite-friendly solutions. So much so, that in my ongoing “Okay… but reeeallly what should I be doing?” internal conversation, I came up with one.

Spoiler Alert! This might be dumb.

OK, so when thinking about your job/career/potential work situation, I think I’ve isolated the four key components that need to be in place in order to be satisfied.

1. Sustainable: This means that you’re in a field/ industry with a future. You’re not selling lead paint to preschools or investing heavily in floppy discs. Also, this point speaks to security. You’re in a well-run organization that isn’t going to have to make a decision between canning you and not paying the electricity.

2. Meaningful: I guess this depends on the person, but if I HAVE to wake up before 9am I want to feel like it matters. I think a person can feel “meh” about their job for a long time and have it be OK, but there usually comes a point of crisis. And I’m just speaking from personal experience here. A moment when you realize that you spend a lot of time during your life at work. And your life only happens once. So…it should mean something?

3. Enjoyable: If you hate what you do, even a little, that’ll bite you.

4. Lucrative (at least enough to be comfortable…): I know a lot of brave warriors who have given themselves to the arts and are living on the edge of financial stability. I honor these people. I admire and am jealous of these friends. I, however, can no longer be that guy. It probably has something to do with the tiny person inside my belly who is going to want to eat and have awesome birthday parties. But I think this holds true for a lot of folks. It’s good to feel like what you do is important enough for monetary reward.

So, that’s it. That’s my glib, 4-point plan to career satisfaction. What are your thoughts? Would you add/subtract from the list? As I said, it’s based on my views and experience, but everyone’s different.