Storytelling tips inked by animation

For nearly 10 years I have subscribed to exactly zero YouTube channels. Impressive for someone so excitable. That all changed this weekend though. “Every Frame a Painting” is a YouTube channel that produces short documentary-style videos about the art of, well, video.

Topics include a look at how Vancouver, a city riddled with IMDB credits, never actually plays Vancouver in a film, or how Jackie Chan masters the art of being funny while kicking ass or, even harder, taking a hit to the jaw or various other soft spots.

The one that hooked me though is this thoughtful look at character development in the Looney Tunes series. I had never thought about how difficult it would be to follow a similar format episode after episode and keep each one feeling fresh. This video illustrates how the artists did this through storytelling and character development; the takeaways could be applied to almost any kind of writing.

Some of my favorite points:

  • The story should sell itself by the way it moves.
  • Big gestures and small gestures can both convey lot of meaning.
  • Since animation lets you do anything, you have to think about what you won’t do and enforce those boundaries. Oh, this just applies to so many things in life, no?
  • When developing a character you must have discipline in regards to what that character would and would not do so that viewers have a subtle intuitive sense of consistency. For example, the audience knew Bugs Bunny would never pick a fight or that the dancing frog only ever sang that one song.
  • Artist Chuck Jones’s advice for success: “Reading. Read everything.”

Enjoy. Subscribe.

From the Lost and Found

The best thing about the Internet graveyard is finding gems like this Tumblr account, called Columbus Now and Then. No one has posted on it since 2011 but there are plenty of pages to click through of historical images that you won’t find in our city’s guidebooks. Here’s my favorite:

Lady cop.

Lady cop.

Five Columbus Police Officers dressed as women on a sting to catch a suspect who had been molesting women, 1955.

(Columbus Citizen Journal)


Looks like a still from “Some Like it Hot.” Weeeoh weeeoh weee. Weeoh weeoh wee.


“They were significant to me”


From “A Long Conversation” by Adrienne Rich

“I come from hod-carriers, lint-pickers, people who hauled cables through half-dug tunnels. Their bodies created the possibility of my existence. I come from the kind of family where loss means not just grief but utter ruin — adults and children dispersed into prostitution, orphanages, juvenile prisons, emigration — never to meet again. I wanted to show those lives — designated insignificant — as beauty, as terror. They were significant to me and what they had endured terrified me. I knew such a life could have been my own. I also knew they had saved me from it.

— I tried to show all this and as well to make an art as impersonal as it demanded.

— I have no theories. I don’t know what I am being forgiven. I am my art: I make it from my body and the bodies that produced mine. I am still trying to find the pictorial language for this anger and fear rotating on an axle of love. If I still get up and go to the studio — it’s there I find the company I need to go on working.”

We are all made of stars

Bad for me, you burn my mouth.

I used to think we were soulmates but

I don’t believe the dark matter that belongs

with mine could ever be as harsh as yours.

You are rocky debris and whiplash tongue,

asteroidal flesh and ideas that are a billion years old.

Did it hurt when you looked for the moon

and found you were a planet without one?

Photo collage by Brazilian photographer Luciana Urtiga.

Photo collage by Brazilian photographer Luciana Urtiga.



Notes on work

Charlotte, Miranda, Carrie and Samantha!! Oh, wrong show?

Charlotte, Miranda, Carrie and Samantha!! Oh, wrong show?

In honor of Labor Day, here’s a non-comprehensive quarter-life checkin on work so far/ things I would tell my recently-college-graduated self without giving too much away and thus scaring her into never leaving the house again:

  • Getting to work hard at something you love to do is an honor. Don’t accept anyone’s shame for feeling that way.
  • Getting paid to do something you love is rare. Give gratitude for this regularly.
  • Doing that thing you love will take many forms and may never be exactly what you thought it would be, but it will still make you happy. Don’t micro manage the way your life takes shape. Let it happen.
  • Don’t be afraid to move on and take risks. These conversations will never not be hard.
  • Getting along with co-workers will come naturally, but try to build real friendships with those who want to. It’ll be so worth it. <3
  • Don’t make your email signature cutesy.
  • Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in to your bosses.
  • Work will always be there and you will be excited about so much of it. However, you have a tendency to take too much of it on. Pace yourself. Make room for your artistic passions or you will burn out.
  • You will never feel like you have enough money no matter how much you make.
  • Don’t give your hard-earned dollars away to people who don’t deserve them.
  • You can also vote with those dollars. In fact, voting with your dollar probably does more for making change than your actual vote. Spend thoughtfully.
  • Work your ass off, but make time for yourself.
  • Take all your vacation days and don’t think you’re too important to take a sick day when you need it.
  • The job/ career/ passion is not nearly as important as how well your relationship with yourself is going. Treat that relationship like your most important job. Your “real job” work will vastly improve if you do this.
  • Girl, you are one smart and sassy boss bitch in a sensible pants suit.

Life goes on

Home is where the heart, evil eye, coffee pot, cat and warm bed is/are.

Home is where the heart, evil eye, coffee pot, cat, journal, mascara and warm bed is/are.

“Every morning I stay in bed for ten minutes to ponder my place in the universe. Then I wash my face…” — Drew Barrymore

That time I saw a drag queen’s leg break

In July I started rehearsals to be a backup dancer for the West Family of drag queens. We were gearing up for matriarch Virginia West’s annual summer production, titled “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Freak show-inspired, we sweated and danced, sewed and swirled our way to an illusionary big top under Axis Nightclub’s stage.

A rough sketch of what rehearsal looked like.

A rough sketch of what rehearsal looked like.

While no animals or dancing goat men or four-legged women were harmed in the making of this performance of oddities, one very important drag queen was.

You don't need all those legs do you, circus girl?

You don’t need all those legs do you, circus girl?

Opening night. The crowd was as hot as fresh elephant poop and the anticipation as high as a sequined star flinging from trapeze to trapeze.

One song, two song, three songs done. Then… a dark cloud descended upon this happy little show of song and dance. Obviously, it was PAT BENATAR.



Some of the crowd swears they saw lightning flash when Virginia West first took the stage to dance to Pat’s love-rage anthem, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” It should have foreshadowed to all that Pat’s mischievous presence was in the building and ready to take down any queen who tried to best her!

Indeed, the bitch hit Virginia. During the big moment where our tucked-and-wigged goddess performed a hitch kick into the splits — a move that is as muscle memory to her as giving a good Old-Fashioned — the star’s heel broke and down she fell. A snapped bone, a torn ACL, a traumatized backup dancer who saw the whole thing (!!!!!).

Virginia’s leg left literally broken.

A true professional and dedicated leader of a confused cast, Virginia stayed backstage and didn’t leave for the hospital (still wearing her women’s panties) until the show was over hours later. However, the fortune teller in the cast was immediately fired.

Alexandar, vintage man-splainer.

Alexander, vintage man-splainer.

The very next night, Virginia West was back in the ring. She added a few dance numbers in wheel chairs and thanked the cast members profusely for their help in making sure the show went on, as it always must.

Even the doggies behaved.

Even the doggies behaved.

But it was the cast who owed the thanks. Freaks who fake it usually felt like freaks for real at some point. Outcasts, misfits and people looking heartily for their tribe have a way of finding each other as adults and being the most badass of the bunch. 

Virginia West proved that the hits are going to come, and when they do, stand up as best you can, adjust your wig, and smile.

Long live the queen.

Long live the queen.

Find of the Week: Audio Books on YouTube

Guys! Did you know you could find audio books on YouTube? Yeah, I guess I’m late to the party. I’ve been hooked listening to them as I clean, shower and generally do things where actual reading is impossible. There are many nonfiction self-help books and lots of literature. The Brother’s Grimm stories and ancient Japanese ghost stories are weird #af, so have at it if you’re looking for something creepy in an “I don’t know how we got here. What is happening?” kind of way. Here are three short audio tales perfect for the seasonal transition between summer and fall, when nights get darker earlier, cuddling gets more appropriate (because temperatures dip) and planning for winter activities begins.

“Six Creepy Tales” by Edgar Allan Poe

No one does it like you, Poe! Tickle me with that necktie, boo! Here are six tales of murderers, madmen and language at its spooky-sexiest.

“The Whisperer in Darkness” by HP Lovecraft

Oh la la! It’s like the X-Files from 1931 but with less David Duchovny and more Cthulhu. Don’t let that deter you.

“The Four Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss

Because you are a well-rounded listener of the YouTube, and creating a four-hour workweek (or, more likely, creating a system where you’re getting more done more efficiently because real job’s time commitment got you like ugh) for yourself will create more time to listen to free audio books online. See what we did here?

When you give a girl a cookie

the pursuit of cookies

At work there’s a wok station in the cafe. I don’t know if they actually use a wok but it’s how I differentiate from the grill.

At the grill you get your burgers and fries. At the salad line you get self confidence and a hungry belly two hours later. At the wok station you get fortune cookies.

More than once I’ve gotten something from the wok just because I wanted a fortune.

Fortune cookies are like most things we use to distract ourselves. Things to find hope in or maybe, just maybe something new and different.

As I waited for my whatever to get tofued and toasted, something I would slather in soy sauce anyway, I contemplated my options from the cookie bowl.

Drawing a fortune cookie takes serious consideration. I usually go for the one at the bottom. The loneliest, seemingly last to get picked always beckons to be the most promising. “The Pursuit of Happyness” of fortune cookies.

I picked my plastic-wrapped future and waited for my food to finish, reminding myself to wait to finish my meal to crack open the cookie because otherwise you have seven years of bad sex or something. I can never wait.

As I stood by the station, though, another cookie caught my eye. On the top of the pile, resting near the rim of the bowl, the cookie was completely cracked. Little white edges of its sheet of destiny shone through the pieces, like a ray of sunshine breaking through a cloud.

I must have that one, I thought. But wait. I already picked my fortune cookie. Can one have two too many fortunes? Is it selfish to take more than one fortune cookie?

I decided both the idea of relying on a fortune cookie for guidance and feeling like you are only worth one are both bullshit so I surreptitiously grabbed the second, lest the cook see my indulgence of cardboard-tasting treats.

Back at my desk I quickly finished my meal and waited a while to decide which one to open first. My two little rejected cookies I had saved. The things we do to entertain ourselves. The way we picture ourselves saviors when we are truly reliant on the thing we thought we saved. The way we believe our future is not in our own hands and the only thing in our own hands.

I don’t even remember which I picked first. I just know I didn’t eat either cookie but kept the fortunes.

Both slips of paper alluded to change. Happiness. Happyness. Relief on a piece of trash.

When people lie to others, it should come as no surprise when they lie to themselves.

fortune open