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Poker Problems

Most games of poker that I’ve played have been boring, because we’ve played for chips. Without anything a stake no one folds. Without anyone folding, you cannot bluff. Because you cannot bluff, it is mostly a game of chance.

Twice in college, I was in games of ‘almost strip poker.’ It seemed like these games should be engaging with something at stake, but they were short and surprising uninteresting. There were more men than women in the games. The men were mostly interested in unlikely possibility of seeing a woman undress. The women insisted on special rules to ensure the game wouldn’t go very far. Obviously, the lack of commitment hurt the game, but beyond that I perceived there was something wrong with the rules we had intuited. If people shed about one article of clothing per hand the game would be over quickly. Players on the fence would bolt quickly.

I asked some friend if they had any insight, but they reacted with ‘gay panic’ as if I had been trying to entice them in to an all guys game (it was the 80′s). The answer came from an old episode of “All In the Family,” in which Gloria and Mike are preparing to go out wearing multiple layers of clothing. The punchline was that they were going to play strip poker. I saw how this could make the game work. If you came to the game with a lot of clothes it could work. You could bet multiple items and win clothes from others. The game wouldn’t go so fast.

At my present age, it seems unlikely that it will ever test this theory in a real game, but it does feed a project idea that I have had for a while. More to come…

 

2014 Year End

So this is the highlight reel for 2014. 2014 was a long year, unhealthy and that’s a good thing

I know that I am supposed to believe that time speeds up as i get older. I get it. Sometimes I’m surprised that Seth is in middle school when I can clearly remember dropping him off at kindergarten. I’m dazzled that now I have been married 13 years, mind It feels like those wine parties in my old apartment could have been a few months ago, healing but it has been almost 20 years. But it is only a trick of memory. All those years were hard won.

Years remembered for milestones, career advancement, exotic vacations, and birthdays ending in “5” or “0,” soar by. 2014 includes memorable experiences with friends and family. Some that come to mind are:

  • New Years – Bundled in the cold around a fire at Jessica’s with marshmallows. A neighbor lectured Pam on the tyranny of public educations.
    Chicken shit bingo with the family and Trish and Hobbs followed by trailer food on East 6th.
  • Chasing sheep on the grassy peninsula on the North Sea of Denark. And in general the whole trip to Europe was great. Highlights included visiting Debbie, Tina and Rion, seeing Pam, Lassa and their children, Russia, Tivoli Park, and the bakery!
  • Thanksgiving in New Orleans. The streetcar driver took a liking to Seth. It was great to see my friend Susan Prevost, with whom I used to scheme on artistic projects in the mid-90s.
  • Game nights with lots of folks playing Werewolf, Cards Against Humanity, etc.
  • Games with Seth at Emerald Tavern and Pinballz
  • Comedy festival with several folks (Pam, Sean, Carol, Allison, Crawford, Giles, Jennifer) Saw Louis CK, Sarah Silverman, Hanable Burgess and more. Sat with lots of friends.
  • Downtown Weekend with Pam including a improv show, the teeter-totter on the roof of the bar, and jazz at the Elephant Room.
  • Storytelling: Carol Ramsey started a story telling group. It was a challenge for me to write and perform personally stories. I attended Mortified and Katie Pendra’s “Do Go Work” show. I later performed at the work show describing my stakeout with the “Robert Redford of Russia” when I lived in Hollywood in my 20’s. The storytelling group fizzled out in the summer with Vanessa, Paul Sontag and I were the last holdouts.
  • Chalice Circle: The previous Fall I joined a Chalice group discussion group at the UU church. The minster provides curriculum which the Chalice Circle uses as a basis for discussion. I initially enjoyed these discussions, but somehow the group never jelled for me. Perhaps I never gave myself fully over to it. One of the late topics was “authenticity” and I realized that I no longer worried about being authentic. I feel authentic enough with still being able to get along with others most of the time. Ha! The group came to a natural close in May. In 2015 i would like to find a new way to explore spirituality.
  • Bangers on Rainer Street.
  • Bastrop Forest Post-Disaster: Bastrop was my favorite hikes nearby. This was my first time back since the disaster of 2011. It was a long how walk through the burnt pines for Pam, Seth, and Pam’s cousin Leeza and me.
  • Former co-worker and friend Micha Light died from complication of Lymphoma. I hadn’t seen her in several years and I didn’t anticipate seeing her except through Facebook. She had a huge personality and will not soon be forgotten.
  • In 2014, now a year after my father’s death, I felt like we were finally coming out of the cloud of sickness and sadness. Though he is still very present, I felt like I’d finally left the battles of 2011 behind (see http://brianwittenbrook.com/?page_id=101).
  • Seth’s first semester in 7th Grade was rough. He had lots of new responsibilities. There were a lot of late nights, self-blame, and stress. Lego Robot team took up a lot of time.
  • Alice’s Restaurant in California with work folks – unfortunately it was not THE Alice’s Restaurant.
  • Lost 35 pounds with Weight Watchers.
  • Mini Maker Fair
  • Austin Playhouse with mom: The Liar, And Then There Where None, & Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Tiger Lilly (Some of these might have been in 2013, I’m not sure).
  • Scavenger hunt for Melissa’s birthday – Melissa moved to Turkey in October.
  • Halloween. We went trick or treating with the Gutierrez. Seth’s friend got sulky because he was trying to catch up with a girl he liked. I told Seth that this was the perfect Halloween coming of age story. November 1, we had a post Halloween party.
  • Trish’s 50’s birthday. Saw Laura & Ryan for the first time in years
  • Lots of snow days in Austin, but no snow.
  • 3 trips to California for work. I got grumpy working in a small lab with lots of people
    Seth traveled most of the summer: Grandpa Q’s ranch, Scout Cam at San Isabel, Europe, Houston, the Beach.
  • Krause Springs for birthday party. Seth jumps of a cliff into the pool.
  • St. Patrick’s Day – Shoulders with Pam and Ellen! All time favorite Austin band. I got sick the next day.
  • Wine and Cheese night. Lots of sticky cheese. A great group of people.
  • Playing pool Lala’s Little Nugget with Pam, Birgit, Paul against the local pool shark.
  • Karoke/Hooka night. Started with a brewery where Pam, Birgit, Paul and I met Sarah and Nick from work. Then we sang out hearts out for 2 hours. Somehow we were still up for trying a Hooka at the place on Airport.
  • Also good Karoke nights with Seth followed by interesting desserts at Yammi, and
  • Karoke Birthday party for Pam.
  • Ellen and Brett’s Jewish/Buddhist wedding. I was honored hold a corner of the huppa.
  • Pat Lockley! Ellen’s wedding gave me the chance to catch up with my college friend Pat Lockley and his wife Julie. I hope to see them in New York in 2015.
  • “Mean Mean Streets,”  my upcoming web video series. I’ve completed one episode and written several more. I drive many miles with Pam, Seth, Jared, Michael M. and Paul S. to get footage. I need a lot more.
  • Trip to Garner State Park in the Spring. Met the Ramsey’s out there. Hiked, went into caves, played with balloons.
  • Bastrop Fall Festival with Corn Maze with the Gutierrez family.
  • Top Golf with O’Cleirighs
  • Drinks at Midnight Cowboy followed by terrible standup comedy at the Velveeta Room with Pam, Birgit, and Paul.
  • Beers with Michael and Sean
  • Arpeggio with Jared and Rie.
  • Frisbee Fridays at work with Jeff, Jared, Gail, Kristen, Birgit, and others
  • Commiserations sessions with coworkers – you know who you are.
  • Favorite films for the year include Boyhood, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The One I Love.
  • Pam and I finally remodeled our office/sitting room (almost complete).
  • Chanukah Party at the Larkins
  • Holiday Party at the Wieners
  • Castroville with Annie, Julian, Madeline.
  • I finished rewriting my first novel, FAILUR, again and I am working with an editor to polish it.
  • Started acupuncture and continued yoga.
  • Seth and I had kolache taste test on Columbus day.
  • Seth travels much of the summer – Europe, Beach, Houston, Oklahoma.
  • Pam and I went on train to Burnet, TX for Snow Piercer (An Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow.)

Folly at “The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf”

I’m frequently struck by how much I don’t have to say – or at least not post.

I’m in far south Austin. Seth’s robot team meets down here for 3 hours each Saturday. I’m glad he is going it, but the session are boring for me. The other parents seem decent enough, though much more serious than me. Today I retreated to the “The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf” a mile away.

I need to work on the Mean Mean Streets. My web series about a guy driving around and talking about how “mean’ the streets are. Though no one anywhere is exactly asking for it, I’m building out a series of 13 episode. I’ve gotten about 10 scripts which I previously considered ‘close-to-done’ but recently I’ve discovered a loose arc to the series, and I’m going back to rewrite. i understand this is the definition of pure folly, but I want it.

Stupid Candy

stupidcandy

I worked in California last week. I flew in early last Sunday so I could spend the day in San Francisco. I hung out with Uncle Joe, not really site seeing, but wandering around the city. Joe wanted to go to the World Market by the wharf. While he shopped for soaps for his new girlfriend, I found a 75% off sale on what World Market called “nostalgic candy.”  Nostalgic candy consists of brands that were popular sometimes between the 70’s and the great depression. We are mostly composed of 90% sugar shaped into gelatinous or crispy blocks and generally tasting vaguely of fruit or peanut butter. At work we have another name for these: Stupid Candy. After Halloween bags of leftover candy appear at work. The Snickers, M&M, and Skittles are gone by November 2. What remains are the Dots, Juicy Fruits, mini Chick-O-Stick, and those gray and brown crunchy rectangles that taste of peanut butter. While it is clear that these are stupid candies, some of us at work discovered a mutual affection for these, and have been known – on occasion to buy these on purpose and bring them into the office. The most divisive of all the stupid candy are the Circus Peanut. Circus Peanut are study orange marshmallows shaped roughly like peanuts and tasting somewhat banana flavored. Most people claim to hate these, including apparently World Market’s clientele. I was able to snag bags of Circus Peanuts, Pixie Sticks, and Squirrel Nut Zippers for 50 cents each (actually, I have never had Squirrel Nut Zippers before and had bought them because of the band popular in the 90s.) In the office on Monday, stupid candy provided as unpopular and divisive with people I was working with in California was it was back home. Fortunately, I knew that my coworker Kara, who was also traveling from Austin would help me with the stupid candy.

The stupidest candies of the week were M&Ms from the “honor bar” in my hotel room. These were stupid because of they were priced at $7, they probably cost the hotel about 40 cents, and I was charged nothing. This was real stupid candy – a fiction of value. The hotel gave me $10 credit toward their ridiculously high priced candies that cost them almost nothing.

I ate them anyway. I’m not going to pass up free M&Ms.

Hertz gave me a Prius this time. I appreciate Priuses, but I don’t really like them. Visibility is obstructed and when you go in reverse, the car beeps on the inside. I’m not sure what that is about. They gave me a Prius 2 year ago. I had trouble starting it. There were a lot of buttons, i wasn’t sure which to press. Most cars, I turn the key and lightly tap the gas. In a Prius, if your foot is not on the brake when you push the start button, you are completely screwed – you have to shut the whole thing down. This was not intuitive to me. I kept trying to push buttons in different sequences. I sat there stuck in the parking lo, until I finally called my dad who owned a Prius. We was already in Houston with Mom by that time chasing a cure, and I still called him for advice sometime. Except for the crappy visibility, I had no problem with the Prius this time. But I missed my dad’s voice.

 

 

 

 

 

They were in a bag banded with the hotel logo slightly larger than the “King Size” bags found at the gas station convenience store, and like everything else in the honor bar, they ridiculously overpriced, but the hotel had given me $10 credit  .  I guess

Unexpected Boobs

The trouble is that unexpected boobs are popping up at work on the iPad in the gym while working out on the elliptical in the company gym leaving me fumbling to find the off button.

In both cases boobs were motivated by the story. In “The Comeback”, price a young, unhealthy attractive, pharm unselfconscious actress (Malin Ackerman) undresses making the neurotic had-been older actress (Lisa Kudrow) feel even more uncomfortable and insecure. In “Orphan Black,” Tatiana Maslany (or body double?) flashes side boob and a lot of butt, so her character, Sarah is trying to distract her doppelgänger’s boyfriend to keep him from realizing she is an impostor. The real motivation is more likely that these were both pilot episodes hoping that boobs and the promise of possibly more boobs would get repeat viewers. Pam and I have started watching Orphan Black (at home) and further boobs have not been seen.

At the gym at work, I started watching the HBO mini series, “John Adams,” thinking that Abigail Adams (Laura Linney) would probably not flash her boobs. So far she has not, but about 3/4 in an unruly Boston crowd angered by the Crown’s mandates strip a man naked, so now I’ve got penis flopping about on the iPad at the gym.

Shadows and Falls

Seth jumped off a cliff at Kruse Springs last weekend. It took a while. He sat at the edge for several minutes daring himself to do it. But he did it. I never would have done that at his age and I have no intention of doing it now. Rationally I think there is a very low probability that I would get injured, view but I don’t like falling.

He is much braver than I was. Yet, Seth is still afraid of the dark. Nothing wrong in that. Life will eventually force him to deal with it and he will grow out of it. When I was young (maybe 7), I remember brushing my teeth. The bathroom was across the house from my the family room where my parent were that night. As I brushed my teeth I saw something rush behind me. I looked up, but nothing was there. A little later it rushed back. I ran in terror across the length of the house. My parents tried to sooth me, but shadows don’t shrink at parent’s words. They told me that sometimes the lights flicker in the mirror, or sometime like that. While I don’t believe that I actually saw was dangerous or unnatural, but also, looking back, I realize my parent’s explanation was utter nonsense.

Everything Down

All of the post below this I wrote a while ago. I’m sure they are quite clever, but I largely do not remember. Likely the best thing for me to do would be to purge them (at least the worse of them) so that I can present a consistent personal brand. However, for the moment, I’m leaving them intact. Perhaps some time, I will revisit those posts and compare to the new ones: see what I’ve lost, and see what I’ve gained.

Before Sunrise / Before Sunset – Short Review

Watched Before Sunrise and Before Sunrise back to back on Netflix. “Sunrise” was like those rare relationships in my 20s and early 30s that were magnificent, help exciting, and very short lived. “Sunset” was about romanticizing those relationship and bemoaning the complexities of a sustained relationship. The charm of the movies is the connection between the characters. Sure, we want the main characters to get together, but there is a reason why movies are about the beginning or end of relationships and not about the day-to-day.

As a side note – turns out Julie Delpy has the same birthday as me.

Hanna – short review

The plot is stock action movie. A teenage girl bred & trained to be a killer must defeat forces bent on destroying her. It’s also a weirdly artsy coming-of-age movie. A silly conceit is that Hanna only knows music from the dictionary definition, but In her travels she gets to discover music from many different cultures. I liked how they wed action tropes and a sense of wonder. Don’t think about it too hard and Hanna is an fun film of self-discovery and graphic violence.

Killing Time

I’m still mostly killing time. I’m playing lots of solitare in that time I have reserved to to great things at the computer. I’ve concluded that being a novelist is a crappy job and that fame is a racket. It doesn’t stop me from wanting to publish a novel. Perhaps I will rewrite FAILUR.

The dog died yesterday. She was old and sick. We could just say ‘it was her time.’ I listen to my son, 7, tell his friend on the phone that “these things happen.” Even babies die sometimes in their mother’s bellies, he says. I’m freaked out, but cool outside.

 Watched the new V series tonight. It was way Cheesy. In an hour they raced through the introduction of the alien visitors, public reaction, the “relevation: the aliens weren’t benign, and the formation of the resistance movement. The character were thin and the dialog was bad.

 There were elections today somewhere. A lot of idoits are talking about them being a referendum on Obama. A lot of people need something to talk about to sound important.   

Chewing on Rejection

I sent out my first batch of queries today for November Underground and got my first rejection. I don’t feel – as I did before – like I’m in a big hurry. Maybe I can take this slow. See if I can learn something. It’s clear to me I have no idea what I’m doing. That’s not exactly true, ed following the prescribed route. I’m researching agents, polishing queries, following guidelines. I’ve learned the rules. The problem is that the rules overwhelming lead to failure. The problem is that I have been writing too long, and my head isn’t in this selling/distribution game. It’s not tangible enough. It’s not something I can chew on. I can’t taste it yet.

I am actually reading now. I just finished a book called The Art of Racing in the Rain. It’s a drama narrated by the family dog. What made the book was the voice and the racing analogies. The plot was thin.

Abandoned

There is a quote that an author never finishes a novel, just abandons it. I’ve abondoned my manuscript tonight. I’d guess it won’t last long. I’d called it finished last week an then turned right around and found 500 words to remove. In finding those words I became edgy about some key scenes. But after staring at them another hour, I had to turn away, or else I would tweak them forever. The difference between improving and tinkering is sometime so subtle its imaginary.  I had to force myself to walk away.

Potential Problems with First Novels

I still believe the biggest problem with my first novel is that it’s quirkiness and genre bending makes it hard to market. I have come to believe that it needs a rewrite. Whatever else is true of my second novel, cheap I will easy to describe. People will be able to “get it” much quicker.

I have heard it said that writer’s rarely publish the first novel they write. If this is true – I’m not sure that it is – then the most obvious reason is because most authors’ first novels suck. After their first novel, ask they work through some problems and their next novel is better. While this is a likely explanation, treatment it is not my favorite explanation. One possibility is that writers improve their skills to market their writing. My favorite explanation is that an author’s first novel is the most personal, innovative, and idiosyncratic. Perhaps many author start writing that truly personal vision into their first novel. Then again perhaps the line between personal and idiosyncratic and sucking is real but very narrow.

Excerpt – The Market Plan of the Mall Gypsies

I’ve posted my first excerpt from my novel, FAILUR. It is a scene that happens earlier chronilogically than most of the action in the story. The protagonist is only a couple of years out of college. He has a godd job with a consulting firm something like Accenture. He is a little arrogant, but he is already beginning to sense something is wrong. I wanted to include a gypsy warning, like in an old black and white Universal horror movie, but I wanted to make it very modern. His dealings with the gypsy will have reprocussions later in the story.

Click here to read the excerpt.

Arrrgh!

The spell check is broken on MS Word!

Why is there a Brian Wittenbrook song?

Steve McAllister has a series of CDs called Weirdo Deluxe. All of the songs on disc 1 and most of the songs on disc 2 were inspired by names of friends and family members. The “Brian Wittenbrook” song isn’t actually about me (as most of the songs are not about their namesakes), ask but how can you not like a song that asks the musical question: “Brian Wittenbrook, do you have a hook for a hand?”