Yes, I haven’t written anything on here for a while. But I swear I’ve been busy. Or “Ben” busy. The show I wrote and directed has finally been released upon the world. We’ll be putting out an episode per week for the next few weeks while we work on episode 5 to premiere at SIGGRAPH. So sit back and prepare to get Disrupted.
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Excerpts from A NANOWRIMO CAROL
By Brian Newlin
…The spectre floated before him, holding a towering stack of mismatched Moleskine notebooks. The expensive kind.
“Oh spirit, why do you carry so many notebooks?”
“These are my unfinished novel and screenplay ideas! In life, I carried them in my mind, but in death, they haunt me still! You have just as many, do you feel the ponderous weight of them?”
He looked down, expecting to see his own pile of abandoned work.
“Oh, wait, that’s right, you use a Macbook Air,” the spirit groaned, “But mark my words, soon the charging cord will be obsolete!”
“I don’t believe in you, spirit! You are nothing but an indigested bit of cheese, a fragment of Totinos Pizza Rolls, some of that weird kombucha!” he cried, pulling the LL Bean fleece blanket up around his ears.
“Hear me! Tonight you shall be haunted by three Spirits!” said his former writing partner’s ghost.
“Tonight? But the new episode of Westworld is on!”
“TIVO IT!” the spectre bellowed.
… “Why, it’s me! Look! Look how young and thin I am!” he exclaimed.
“Yes. This is you, years ago,” said the Ghost of National Novel Writing Month’s Past. “The light of creativity still shines in your eyes, does it not?”
“I think this is right before I received my first rejection letter.”
“That explains it. Now, behold!”
The writer watched as his younger self rose from the desk and went towards the kitchen. The sound of the chip bag rustled, and the clatter of dishes insinuated that many snacks were being prepared in the other room.
The writer and the Ghost peered at the flickering screen of the bulky Macbook.
“It’s a good start,” the Ghost sniffed.
“I know! I mean, it’s rough, but I remember loving that idea. Why did I not finish it, Ghost? Tell me! Why?”
The unmistakable chime of the Playstation powering up wafted through the air. With a defeated shrug, the writer followed the Ghost towards the waiting open window.
…The writer glanced through the window of the rear bedroom at himself earlier that day.
“And how does his novel go?” chortled the Ghost, his great flowing beard filled with many Post-It notes.
“I’m not sure, he seems to be writing something. Maybe it’s something decent, he seems amused with himself. If nothing else, he’s typing pretty enthusiastically- oh. Wait. Hold on. He’s back to Ebay again. Never mind.”
The Ghost threw his head back and laughed. “Yes! That is the way of it, so many distractions and excuses! You could turn off the internet, you know.”
“But what if I need to look up something, like the definition of ‘widdershins’? Or if I get an email back from agent?” the writer asked.
“Oh ho ho! Yes. Because that will totally happen, I’m sure.” the Ghost replied, smiling.
“Maybe I should try going to one of those cool writing retreats, where authors hang out in an idyllic farmhouse or cabin and write and do supportive critiques of each other’s work. I hear they’re inspirational and great for networking with publishers.” the writer sighed.
“Those are for people with incooOOOOooomes!” the Ghost replied.
“You’re kind of a dick, aren’t you.”
… Still the Ghost pointed towards the gravestone.
“Oh no, Spirit! No No! That’s me, isn’t it? Tell me, Spirit!”
The towering, ghastly hooded figure pointed again at the gravestone, then at him, then back to the gravestone. It seemed pretty annoyed to have to explain this.
“Oh God, it was all the Totinos Pizza Rolls, wasn’t it? I shall change, Spirit! I shall honour NANOWRIMO every November of the year! This I swear!”
….”You! My fine fellow! What day is it?” the writer called out into the bustling street.
“Today? Why, It’s November the first. And I’m totally calling the cops if you keep yelling at random strangers, mister.”
“It’s the first day of November! I haven’t missed it! The Spirits have done it all in one night! Hello! You! Uber Eats driver! Bring me the largest, finest pizza in all the town! I must write!”
The writer scrambled back onto his couch, until later that day when he went to a coffee shop and wrote there for a while as well. He wrote his novel, and maybe started a new screenplay outline if he had time. It may not have been the best novel, and it may never get that publishing deal he ever dreamed of, but his own heart read it, and that was quite enough for him.
(But seriously, a publishing deal would be pretty great too)
It happened one dark and stormy night, the way these things so often do.
My parents went out to dinner and said “Your sister will be watching you.”
“What’s for supper, sis,” I asked, “What will you be feeding me?”
“You’re on your own, you little creep, I’m going to go and watch t.v.”
So there I was in the kitchen, looking for something good to eat.
I decided to make a waffle because they are a perfect dinner treat!
I cracked the eggs, I poured the oil,
I stirred until my arm was sore.
I checked the bowl for little lumps, and then I stirred some more.
Then I had a crazy thought: why stick to the same old thing?
I’d make THE ULTIMATE WAFFLE! I’d be a Waffle King!
First I added chocolate chips to make the waffle sweet.
Then I added bacon bits, ’cause it’s my favorite breakfast meat.
In went cheese! In went lettuce! In went peanut butter!
In went things I can’t remember, the kitchen filled with clutter.
In went cherries! In went pickles! I finally had to stop,
I poured the batter in and closed the waffle iron’s top.
What happened next was shocking! It really gave me quite a jolt!
With a thunder CRASH and a FLASH of light, my waffle was struck by a lightning bolt!
The waffle iron shook! The waffle iron spun!
I covered my ears and got ready to run!
And then I saw the weirdest thing that I’ve ever seen:
A strange little waffle, fresh and hot, popped out of the machine!
It’s hard to believe, but I’m not telling lies,
The weird waffle coughed and opened it’s eyes!
It had chocolate chip freckles and crusty gold skin,
and it’s syrupy mouth was starting to grin.
It’s smile grew wider and it jumped in the air
…then it threw peanut butter right into my hair!
It smeared the phone with jelly and honey.
It told me bad jokes and thought they were funny.
It kicked over the milk jug and broke all the eggs.
It could run really fast with those short little legs.
I realized then this was no friendly Waffle.
It was mean! It was rude! It really was awful!
It ran up to my bedroom on the second floor
and ignored the “Stay Out!” sign nailed to my door.
The Waffle opened my closet and pulled out my toys,
It bit giant holes in my best corduroys!
It messed up my room and un-made my bed.
It ate all my homework, and danced on my head.
From my room to my parent’s room, the Waffle scurried out.
“Now stop right there, you awful thing!” I began to shout.
It put shaving cream in Dad’s favorite hat,
then wrapped toilet paper around the cat!
It tied giant knots in Mom’s best pantyhose!
Then stuck it’s Waffle toes right into my nose!
I chased it all around the place,
but the Waffle slid down the back staircase.
I almost caught that Waffle, but I must have been too slow.
It ran between my legs and opened up the kitchen window.
The Waffle gave an awful laugh and leaped out into the night.
It turned and winked it’s awful eye, then vanished from my sight.
I knew I was in trouble when my parents walked into the room.
They saw the mess and grounded me, then handed me a broom.
No one believes an Awful Waffle could have made this mess,
or stuck Dad’s stamp collection on my sister’s favorite dress.
Or filled the Mom’s saxophone with shampoo.
Or taught the fish to play kazoo.
But now I’ve learned my lesson, I’ll never make the same mistakes.
Next time I fix my dinner, I’m gonna stick to pancakes.
Ok, so this is a day early, but since I’ll probably be spending the last day of 2015 preparing our house for a guest/knocking back various cocktails and drunk calling Jeffrey Katzenbeg, I thought I should write this today.
It’s been almost a year since the big announcement. I still have days when I wake up thinking I’m going to head into PDI and see everyone, and I still miss that studio and the people there. Once we sold our house and moved (during which I thought my head was going to explode into a colorful display of rage confetti) I was finally able to focus on the “what’s next” stuff. Our new place is incredibly nice, and I don’t think we could have hoped for a better neighborhood and school for our son.
Transitioning into a stay-at-home dad/writer has had its ups and down. On the upside, I get to wear super comfy pajamas most of the day, volunteer at Em’s school (I put on outside pants for that. And a incredibly snazzy bright orange vest when I help out with the morning kindergarten dropoffs. Sorry ladies, I’m taken!), and spending a LOT of time with the kid. On the downside, starting midlife on an attempt to be a writer isn’t exactly easy. Writing Social Medium has been a great learning experience, and I’ve met a ton of amazing people because of it. We’re still waiting to see what’s next, but I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished so far.
This year has seen the start of a few projects, some are more public than others. Really excited to see where The Adventures of Crash Tucker goes this year. I wrote the pilot episode for a friend and he’s been working hard to bring it to life. I’m writing and directing a show with Nimble Collective, and I’m genuinely amazed by how well it’s turning out (not by how amazing the work is going, but that I’m so lucky to be working with them).
There’s a couple other projects in the works at various stages that I can hopefully talk about soon. I’m spending my days writing spec screenplays, making phone calls, reminding people I’m still alive. I have no idea where this will all lead, if anywhere. I’m mostly just really grateful for Jen’s support, Emmett’s inspiration, and the cats for only throwing up on my side of the bed once a week. There’s a ton of other people that have, for whatever mysterious reason, have believed in me enough to point me in direction I hadn’t thought of, introduce me to new connections, and generally encouraged me to keep going. Why, I have no idea. Do I owe them money?
I tried to pick my Song Of The Year, but it’s going to have to be two. I hope all of you made it through 2015 relatively unscathed. Keep making shit happen.
“That Old Black Hole”- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ojf0waAxpL0
“Fake Headlines”- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nGBscw6QHw
“Hi, Doctor. I know this is weird, but while I was waiting in the lobby, I checked your Yelp reviews and read that this dentist office burned down in a mysterious fire.”
“It did. I am an evil dentist ghost.”
“Oh no! I’ve got to get out of here!”
“But I’m accepting new patients.”
“Huh. Not many offices are. No! Your eyes are black and you’re obviously holding a bloody dental cleaning hook thingy behind your back!”
“OK, you caught me. I am. And it’s called a hand scaler, by the way.”
“I do accept HMO.”
“Really? Well, OK.”
In a spooky old town, on a spooky old hill, in a spooky old house, there was a spooky old ghost named Eyeball Ghost.
One spooky Halloween night, Eyeball Ghost was in the spooky old backyard behind his spooky old house, grilling up a few hot dogs on his spooky old grill. He was pretty excited. Everybody knows that the only thing ghosts love more than eating hot dogs is to scare kids on Halloween night.
Eyeball Ghost was listening to his favorite song and doing a little dance when a dark cloud passed overhead. “That’s weird,” he thought to himself, “It’s not supposed to rain tonight.” Just then, with a loud BOOM, a bolt of lightning crashed down and struck the hot dogs! They sizzled and leapt and shook!
“Oh no! My hot dogs! I’ll save you!” yelled Eyeball Ghost. He looked around with his eyeball to find something to put out the fire. He grabbed the only thing nearby: a big bucket of radioactive goop. He picked it up and threw it onto the hot dogs, which started to smoke and bubble and glow. “Oh no! That didn’t help at all! Why did I even have that bucket of radioactive goop out here? This is the worst Halloween ever!” he cried.
Eyeball Ghost saw four strange little shapes rise up from out of the smoke. “That’s weird. Those look like.. no! It can’t be! My hot dogs!” he yelled. He couldn’t believe his eyeball. The four hot dogs that Eyeball Ghost had been grilling, that were then struck by lightning, and then covered in radioactive goop, were now alive! Even weirder, they were dressed up as Halloween monsters: Count Sausagela, Frankenfootlong, Were-Weiner, and the Mummy-in-a-Blanket!
Eyeball Ghost looked at the Halloweiners. The Halloweiners looked at Eyeball Ghost. “RAAHHHHH!” they roared at him. “AAAAAGGHH!” screamed Eyeball Ghost. The monster hot dogs jumped off the grill, past Eyeball Ghost, and into the night.
“Well, I’m glad that’s over,” Eyeball Ghost sighed, “I’m sure everything will be just fine.”
But everything was NOT fine. Eyeball Ghost could hear crashing and screaming coming from the neighborhood. “I bet that has nothing to do with those monster hot dogs I just made,” he said loudly to nobody. But Eyeball Ghost knew, deep in where his heart used to be, that he had to do something.
Eyeball Ghost floated out to the neighborhood and looked around. Kids wearing Halloween costumes of every kind were walking up and down the sidewalk, going house to house and yelling “Trick or treat!” at the top of their lungs. But there, running around the kids, were the Halloweiners.
“Raaahhhh!” roared the Halloweiners. “Aaaghhh!” screamed the kids. Laughing, the Halloweiners grabbed their candy and ran away. Eyeball Ghost felt awful. HE should be the one scaring those kids and stealing candy, not some crummy monster hot dogs! A couple of the neighbor kids ran over to Eyeball Ghost and cried, “Help us, Eyeball Ghost! Help us! Killer kielbasas are attacking our town!”
“Well, actually, they’re hot dogs. Not that I would know anything about it, because I had nothing to do with this, and I definitely did not create them with radioactive goop, why would you even say that?” Eyeball Ghost replied. The kids just stared at him. “Uhhh, okay. So how can we stop them?” they asked.
Eyeball Ghost thought about the problem. He stuck out his tongue. He scratched his head. “Eureka!” he shouted. “What? What?” the kids shouted back. Eyeball Ghost wasn’t sure why he had shouted “Eureka,” it wasn’t something he usually said. But he did have an idea of what to do.
“What is the one thing that Halloween monsters fear the most?” Eyeball Ghost asked.
“Fire?” suggested Sally.
“Pitchforks?” offered Jack.
“Bedtime,” said Eyeball Ghost “Bedtime is what Halloween monsters fear the most. Follow me.”
Eyeball Ghost and the kids went to find the Halloweiners. They weren’t too hard to find, they just had to follow the trail of candy wrappers and upset trick ‘r treaters. “Hi guys! How’s it going? Having fun?” Eyeball Ghost called out to the mutant hot dogs. He took some candy from one of the kids’ bags and laid it on the ground. The Halloweiners snatched it up and gobbled it down.
Laying a trail of candy treats, Eyeball Ghost led the Halloweiners back to his spooky old house, up the creaky old stairs, and into the bathroom. He filled the bathtub with nice, warm, bubbly water. The Halloweiners hopped into the tub and giggled as Eyeball Ghost wiped off their scary Halloween monster makeup. He dried them off with a fluffy clean towel, put them into their PJ’s, and tucked them into a little bed made out of a shoebox.
After he read them a bedtime story, Eyeball Ghost kissed each Halloweiner goodnight. He turned off the light and went back downstairs. The trick ‘r treaters were still on the spooky old front porch, waiting for Eyeball Ghost.
“Did it work? Are we safe from the Halloweiners?” they all asked.
“You are. Until next Halloween,” Eyeball Ghost sighed.
Eyeball Ghost smiled. The trick ‘r treaters smiled back.
“RAAHHHHHH!!!” roared Eyeball Ghost. “AAAGHHHH!” screamed the kids and ran away, dropping all their candy.
“That’s better,” Eyeball Ghost said loudly to nobody. He munched some candy. It had been a pretty good Halloween after all.
Auntie Em’s, Eagle Rock- “This place makes the best pancakes, right? Two thumbs up!”
Donut Friend, Eagle Rock- “Did you take a bite of mine? You’re the worst.”
Jewel City Bowling, Glendale- “This place makes the best hot dogs, Dad! But we can save this for later. Can I have a milkshake?”
Travel Town Train Museum, Glendale- “I guess I really don’t like shavey ice. You can have this. Can I have ice cream?”
La Cabanita, Montrose- “This looks weird. I don’t want to try it. No thank you.”
Central Park Cafe, Pasadena- “This place makes the best butter pasta! One hundred million thumbs up. It’s way better than what you make.”
L.A. Zoo- “This place makes the best chicken nuggets, better than the whole wide world. Why can’t we feed the gorillas? This is the worst day ever. I want cotton candy! Why not? I hate you! (remaining transcript is unintelligible sobbing)”
If anyone is still checking in on this big, I promise I’ll be back really soon with new stories. It’s been a batshit crazy whirlwind of the past few months as I was laid off from Dreamworks, sold the house, and moved to Los Angeles while my wife continues on at the studio here. I haven’t had much time to actually sit and write since this all happened, but now we’re finally settling in, the kid is about to enter kindergarten, and I’m going to attempt to actually get paid as a writer instead of going back to animation layout. For the moment, I’m still working on the new season of Social Medium (a series on Youtube I created) and a series of animated shorts in production at an extremely cool little animation studio founded by some ex Dreamworks animators. Help to see you back here soon!
“Together, they peeled the urine soaked sheet from the child’s bed. He glanced at her in the 3 am moonlight and felt a familiar stirring. Perhaps… perhaps there were still some Frosted Mini Wheats in the kitchen cupboard?”
“She knelt to switch on the portable wet vac, which began sucking up the cat puke. ‘Should I pick up more bread on my way home tonight?’ he asked, barely audible over the spot cleaner’s rhythmic hum.”
“How about I pick him up from daycare today, hit the grocery store, and pick something up for dinner?” he asked, the cel phone cradled against his ear as he left the office. The reply was swift and urgent, exuding a raw, passionate, primal heat he hadn’t heard in years- “Thank you.”
He quickly brushed and flossed his teeth and popped an Advil to quell the dull ache in his lower back sustained from carrying the wailing child several blocks home from the neighborhood park. He entered the bedroom, pausing for a moment to gaze at the impossibly graceful arc of her neck and shoulder in the flickering light of the television. The low rumbling snore indicated that he was too late, so he decided to watch a rerun of Brooklyn 99 and call it a night.
Warmed by the crackling blaze fed by 10 years worth of old tax documents and employment contracts, they worked their through the last bottles of the cheap wine and languidly scrolled through realtor.com
“How long do you think we have?” he whispered, glancing into the living room. “He’s on the iPad, playing that Lego game,” she replied, “We have at least twenty minutes.” They moved quickly, fervently to the shadowy recesses of the walk-in pantry. With animalistic grunting, they tore the wrapping from the last of the Oreos and stuffed them into their mouths. Their eyes locked, wide and dark and wet with satisfaction, and they knew they would need to brush their teeth so their son would never uncover their secret.
“Her trembling fingers quickly unbuttoned the tiny mother of pearl buttons of her crisp white blouse, her bosom heaving as she gasped. She took the garment in her hand and threw it into the washing machine, setting it on Delicate. She had a faint glimmer of hope that perhaps the peanut butter stain would not set in, but in her heart of hearts, she knew better.” – Harlequin Romance For Parents.
“Don’t stop now! You’re so close, you’ve almost got it!” she whispered hoarsely. Beads of warm sweat dripped down his brow and back as he strained with the effort. “I’m sorry, sorry, I just need a break,” he grunted. Her leg spasmed, sending a cascade of tiny wooden pegs skittering across the well worn living room floor. They swore, lying only to themselves, that this would be the last time they bought a bookcase from IKEA.
“What’s that smell? Cookies?” she asked, dropping her purse on the table. “Yeah, I just remembered the school bake sale tomorrow. I found your mother’s recipe and made a few dozen. I also touched up the paint on the hallway trim, that spot that you said was bothering you,” he replied, walking out of the kitchen and placing a freshly made vodka gimlet in her hand. “Hold on, let me get the sheets out of the dryer.” He smiled, and she knew that tonight she would do something she didn’t quite enjoy doing, but knew that he wanted… tonight she would be hemming those new jeans of his.
They stumbled home, senses still reeling from the perfect wine, the exquisite dinner, the soft, hushed, flirting conversation illuminated by warm, enveloping candlelight. Breathing in the cool night air, they smiled at each other and felt, for a moment, like they had that first night many years ago. “Could you..?” he whispered, motioning downward. She reached deep into his pocket, grabbing the keys. Opening the door, they were immediately greeted by the haggard face of the sitter glaring at them as the decidedly awake children ran screaming around her, wielding lightsabers. Handing his wife the doggy bags, he realized, with sinking horror, that he had totally forgotten to stop and get cash.
She slid into the warm, candlelit bath, the aroma of lavender bubbles filling her senses with pure pleasure. The house was, at last, devoid of the sounds of protesting voices and plastic toy cacophony, replaced with the soothing melody from a favorite album murmuring to her from the next room. Sinking even deeper into the dark ocean of the old porcelain tub, she reached a slick, dripping arm out to grasp the washcloth, wipe her face, and slowly realize that someone had definitely blown their nose on it the day before and not put it into the goddam hamper.
Rinsing the steaming, sudsy water from her long, slick hair, she ran the rough sponge across his back. Their bodies were intertwined in the tiled shower, and she remembered why she had been so insistent that they chose such a large, luxuriant showerhead. Arching her back away from him, she lathered her left leg and attempted a complicated yoga position to run the razor up her calf. She emitted a muffled gasp of shock as the curtain was ripped aside to reveal the small child perched on the potty, demanding to be wiped. Hand clamped to the now bleeding leg, she watched as he leapt from the shower, toothbrush still clenched in his teeth, and wondered if it really was their carpool driving day.
“My darling, my angel, my everything, you look so wonderful tonight, PUT THAT DOWN, I can’t believe how lucky I am to have you in my life, CUT IT OUT. You are my sun, my moon, DO NOT SPIT THAT OUT SO HELP ME, my stars, my everything. I want to kiss your eyelids, your neck, EAT SOME CARROTS OR NO DESSERT, your shoulders, NO I AM NOT KIDDING JUST TRY ME, your lips. I cannot imagine my life without, OK THAT’S IT, THREE MINUTES TIME OUT NOW, you.”
Their eyes met across the grassy field. A shy smile, a subtle wave. They approached the other couple near the fountain, hearts racing with anticipation. “Do you think they’d be into it?” she whispered to her spouse, trying to appear not overly eager. It had been months since the last time, and they both craved that feeling of connection again. Just as she was about to pose the question to the strangers, however, she heard a loud wail behind her. Turning to look, she saw her child whacking their child on the head with the sand pail. She knew, in that moment, that there would be no playdate.
“So, like this?” he murmured, his hands fumbling with the soft silky red ribbon. “Almost, just, wait, just let me do it. Did you get the batteries?” she replied, brushing the hair from her eyes. “What? No, I thought you did.” he whispered back. “I don’t think it’s going to fit in there. Try a different one. Hurry up!” With a frustrated groan, he stacked his poorly wrapped present atop the pile beneath the tree and decided that next year, the kid was just getting cash.