From the mystical land west of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge

So, Vince and I have been working on a podcast, and I’d love it if you’d give it 20 minutes of your time, a listen and a look-see. It’s called Radio Free Tacony. Comments and criticism are welcome.

Who would win in a fight?

Bill Hader hosted Saturday Night live this past week, and, surprisingly, ranked historically low ratings. Despite Hader’s status as an SNL favorite and his new movie, The Skeleton Twins (with fellow SNL favorite Kristen Wiig) out in theaters, even I didn’t watch it. I like Bill Hader, particularly for his bizarre portrayal of Julian Assange.

The one character that seems to resonate most with the zeitgeist is his adorably esoteric nightlife pundit, Stefon. His mannerisms- the face-covered giggle, the sleeve plucking- remind me of my nephew, and his love of surreal entertainment usually cracks me up.

Honestly, I think I’ve been to some of those parties, particularly when Vince was playing with The Absinthe Drinkers. Preponderance of guests with mechanical arms? Check. Improvised jazz theramin? Check. Woman using a live python as a hair ornament? Check. Three witches making out under a giant paper-mache tree? Check.

Two things bother me, though. Hader’s inability to keep from laughing on camera rubs me the wrong way. I don’t find it as endearing as  the character. It’s wonderful to be reminded that this is live, and chaos can happen, but it just seems like whoever’s operating the teleprompter is playing a joke on the audience.

The other bothersome thing is when Stefon’s love of the freak-show element becomes the disturbing recurring gag about human machines, which inevitably turn into some kind of riff on dwarf-tossing.  If it were a woman being shaken until she says “ask again later,” it’d be rapey; if it were a person of color, it’d be censored. True, Stefon’s descriptions are lavished with variance in ethnicity, gender and age, but a person being used as a machine seems less consensual and more cruel.

Peter Dinklage has appeared on SNL’s Weekend Update, as a Drunk Uncle, and he was no stranger to cruel humor. It’s surprising that SNL’s writers would continue to make the human machine joke, if the popular, award-winning and really fucking smart Dinklage is a friend of the show.  What I’d really, really, really love to see, is for Stefon to get started on one of his explanations of human traffic cones/fire hydrants/boom boxes/suitcases/kites/piñatas/Magic 8 balls/whatever, and have Dinklage slowly, deliberately, roll up right next to him, just out of his line of sight.

stefon-tyrion

I mean, come on, writers. If you’re going to do rough comedy, do it in an interesting way.

 

Comments and Search Terms, or SEO Writing and Pat Smear

IMG_2296  SEO (Search Engine Optimized) Writing seems to be the main topic of interest that anyone ever comments about here on this little blog of mine. It’s fascinating. With all of the writing that I and sometimes my husband do about pop culture, music, theatre and the occasional recipe for canine cuisine, the one weird trick that always comes through in the Comments section is something like this:

Good morning writer and hello to you your website should have more traffic driving it I can make with SEO content your website traffic increase by one thousand and ninety seven percent, SEO is the wave of the future just like jetpacks and flying cars SEO Writing is a rare and highly specialized skill to use SEO keywords optimized to bring the highest Google results and increase your market potential my SEO experience and background in writing fluentest English extensively can bring SEO to your website now and make lots of more big dollars for you and myself huge potential contact me now sir more info about SEO Writing. 

To which I say, wow, thank you for the word salad, and hit delete.

I’ve done a fair amount of SEO writing, and I’m not a bad SEO writer. A client contacts me, because they want some content on a particular topic for their website, and they want someone to do the research and write about it in an accessible way.  They tell me how many words they want, usually around 300-500 per article, and what topic. I research it, write about it, rewrite it again to make it more concise and reader-friendly, and send it. They pay me, and everyone’s happy. They get clear, concise, accessible, researched website content to explain more about their product or service, and I get paid to do something at which I’m good and that I enjoy.

800px-Stipula_fountain_pen  The difference between SEO writing and other kinds of writing is the search engine optimization.  In order for the article to rank highly in search engine results, it has to use the same keyword as many times as possible. So, if you write an article that used the phrase “SEO writing services” once in the entire 500-word article, its page won’t have as high of a rank as, say, one that includes the phrase “SEO writing services” seven or eight times in those 500 words.

Now, when I was a wee lass learning to write out on the Quaker farm, where we still used paper and pencils, we were taught that repeating the same word too many times is tiring to a reader. And of course, since it was a Quaker school, wasting paper and graphite was a terrible sin. We learned not to bore our audience by repeating the same word over and over again. Sadly, the Internet was a gleam in the eye of a developer, and “page rank” was never discussed in seventh-grade writing classrooms.

But now, in the writing marketplace, repetition is good. However, a good SEO writer has to find inventive ways to make sure that the finished product is a clear, informative, helpful article with genuine information. It can’t just be a string of keywords, like a pattern of colored beads.

Currently, on Elance.com, writing is the second most high in demand skill, second to Web design. You’d think that a good SEO writer would be working 9-5 every day and making $40 an hour. Unfortunately, the offers are very strange, relative to the expected product and service an SEO writer provides.

As I write this, mostly based on experience, my current word count is 618, and it’s taken me roughly 20 minutes. I’ve barely done any research on this topic, other than a few quick glances at Elance. If I were to write an article with citable examples and footnotes, it would have taken longer. Furthermore, a shorter article takes more time, because of the thought process involved in condensing a topic. There is a reason that the haiku is an art form.

Most clients offer, for a 500 word researched article, using SEO writing, less than five dollars. I have been offered as little as six-tenths of a cent per word.

I have been fortunate, in that clients I’ve worked with have paid more, and they’ve been happy with my work. Unfortunately, these clients are few and far between. It’s really sad that the ability to write well is so undervalued, and it sincerely makes me wonder what I’m doing with my life sometimes. But, I’m really good at this, I can’t stop doing it, and this is what I want to do for a living.

In other news: The search terms used to find this blog, relative to the actual content, are often interesting. I think of this as a place for us to write about our music and theater projects. The most popular search terms used to find this blog are as follows:

m/s song of norway david bowie t-shirt

what strings does paul weller use

bowie video thank you for shopping

Now, I don’t know if I want to turn this into a British blue-eyed soul blog, but maybe there’s a play in this somewhere. If people are mostly interested in the secret hidden meaning behind David Bowie’s marketing artifacts and Paul Weller’s string choices, bless their hearts, they’ve come to the right place.

Only one of the search terms used to find this blog was phrased in the form of a question, and it’s a good one. I’ll try to answer it.

I am 16 do I need pat smear

"Patsmear" by Andrewbootlegger at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Patsmear” by Andrewbootlegger at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Pat Smear is, of course, a guitarist in the ubiquitous Foo Fighters, and was occasionally an additional live guitarist for Nirvana. Both bands are and have been among the most popular music in America, and I’m sure that if you turn on any rock or college radio station in America and wait a few minutes, you’ll certainly hear “Learning To Fly.”  I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, it’s just that it’s everywhere.  So since you phrased your question in terms of need, I’m not sure that they answer is yes.

Could you benefit from Pat Smear? Sure. But do you need to seek his work out, like a signed first edition of To Kill A Mockingbird?

If you’re going to do that, I recommend starting with work more indicative of his particular style than the latest Foo Fighters album, or Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged In New York album.  I think it’s time that you catch some Germs.

Okay, you’re sixteen, which means that the Los Angeles punk scene’s heyday was long before you were born. The Germs, however, are widely considered to music historians as one of the most influential bands in punk. Pat Smear played guitar, Lorna Doom played bass, Don Bolles was the drummer and their lead singer was Darby Crash.  Joan Jett produced their one studio album, (GI), in 1979. Despite critical acclaim for this album continuing to the present day, the band broke up following Crash’s suicide in 1980.  You may want to get your friends together to watch Penelope Spheeris’  documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, as well as the biographical film What We Do Is Secret. 

As you’re watching this, take a look at how these individuals were able to rebel against corporate capitalism without using the Internet (to say nothing of cell phones or Pitchfork), as well as how women presented themselves as agents of their own fortune and/or victims of male rebels. Ask yourself, what is victimization, and what is power, and how do these individuals make use of these systems of domination and control?  Do they win or lose? How and why? Then pick up a copy of (GI), and congratulate yourself on confusing the hell out of your parents by embracing an important part of American history.

At age sixteen, do you need Pat Smear? Yes, but you also need Joan Baez. You need music that will fan the flames of your adolescent curiosity and ambition and fuel you to make the most out of your life. Go for it.

I realize that it is entirely possible that what you meant to write is “I am sixteen do I need a pap smear,” in which case, that is a personal decision you should make with a doctor or nurse practitioner.

However, if you are really concerned about cervical cancer, here are some resources which may be helpful.

Pap tests and HPV tests, Planned Parenthood

Is a Pap test necessary every year? by Debbie Saslow, PhD

New Guidelines Discourage Yearly Pap Tests, by Mikaela Coney, ABC News

It’s a full-service blog here, I will tell you what. I can provide excellent music advice and SEO writing.

Any questions? 

You have never been in love until you’ve seen the stars reflect in the reservoirs

140514-morrissey-twitter-follow-tweet  Earlier this summer, I was browsing through different lists of playwriting opportunities, and I found one that reached out to me like a beacon in the dark.

TEATRO MOZ,  sponsored by Real Women Have Curves Studio, is sponsoring a short play contest. Do you have a dramatic memoir about the first time you fell in love with this Charming Man? Do the lyrics or title of a Smiths/Morrissey song inspire a story in your soul? Submit a short MOZ-themed play for a chance to win prizes and a staged reading of your piece by professional actors later this year!

I thought, that sounds so crazy it has to be fun.  I know next to nothing about Morrissey, but I bought “You Are The Quarry” when it first came out, and loved “Irish Blood, English Heart.”  I listen to The Smiths’ older hits quite a bit, and the sense of desire and longing, maybe desire for desire itself more than fulfillment, speaks to my inner gay man. Usually themed play contests and showcases are about heavy topics, but I’ve never seen anything like this before. I thought, I love this.

Morrissey blue satin jacket  So, I sent a quick e-mail to my friend Rhienna. She is a DJ and creative connector (as DJs tend to be) in Portland, and every year she runs the annual Morrissey Mobile Disco bike ride as part of Pedalpalooza.  Basically, a lot of people get together and ride a pre-planned course, with decorated bicycles, Morrissey look-alike outfits, and, of course, music, music, music.  I thought if anyone knows anything unique and fun about the phenomenon that is Morrissey, she does.

We had a cross-country confab. Oddly enough the deadline for the play contest was immediately following the next annual ride, so she had plenty of fresh material. We talked about Morrissey, his cancelled tour dates, loving him from afar, how his appeal transcends boundaries of sexuality and gender, and how the ride is a really fun time.  and how riding bikes with a group on a gorgeous summer evening is a fun young and in love or in love with love thing to do.  Their course’s goal was the Joan of Arc statue in Coe Circle, and since it’s beautiful and Philadelphia also has a Joan of Arc statue, I had to work that in.

She gave me a lot of information, helped me sort through ideas, and I typed it up and sent it.

Today, we got an e-mail from Teatro MOZ that Pretty Petty Things was picked as one of ten finalists! Which means it’ll be in the showcase!

Morrissey and good-looking men on bicycles

 

Not only am I excited about this, I’m excited about what this means. Basically:

Someone in LA loves the phenomenon that is Morrissey and his music to say, “let’s put up a short play festival about this thing I love.”

And a professional theatre said, “Sure. This is new, this is different, yes, we’ll back it.”

And they sent a call for entries out.

Meanwhile, in other cities in other parts of the country, two women said, “You know what, that sounds like fun and it’s something I know a little bit about, I’ll work on something and send it in and if they like it, they like it.”

Basically, once again, as Lorna Howley said, what is theatre but a big party?

I love the idea of people getting positive ideas and putting them together to make something bigger and better. which, in my opinion, is what theatre is all about. 

and I can’t wait to find out why the celebrity judges are. I’m secretly hoping for Thomas Lennon.

tumblr_ltw84b5cng1qafrh6

 

 

 

 

 

Hello?

This is specific enough to be odd.

Today someone in the UK visited this blog five times, specifically pages referring to Traveling Light.

So, uh… hello? I can’t see what your search terms were that led you here, but if you want to discuss the play, let me know.

Thanks for stopping by.

A public service announcement regarding your health and well-being.

tumblr_m9so5cg1iF1revsmeo1_500  ‘Tis the season for complaining about the heat, and keeping our mouths shut about one of the least fun by-products of summer: Other People’s Odor.  Sure, a little bit of someone’s musky personal scent is nice if you’re intimately involved, or would like to be.

Unfortunately, this time of year means that more often than not, you get exposed to an awful lot of the following:

  • Bacteria Stink
  • Cologne Stink
  • Both.

tumblr_mt59p7HiLO1qeyvhfo1_250  Or, at least, I seem to get exposed to an awful lot of the following, so please consider this a PSA from myself and most of the people who work with the general public during the summer.  There’s something about my workplace’s “movies and air-conditioning available at no cost to you” policy which attracts a lot of Pungent-Americans.

Being introduced to you in an olfactory way, before I can see or hear you, is not fun.  Sometimes it’s like having your open palm plastered up against my face without warning. Other times it’s more like your foot.  In urban environments, with a lot of car exhaust, open trash containers, and so on, bacteria in the air will be more likely to stick to your skin and grow smelly, without your being aware of it.

I’ve known a lot of people who say that deodorant and anti-perspirant are toxic and harmful. Another thing that’s harmful is not being clean. I don’t care what kind of magic crystals or baking-soda pastes you want to rub all over your tender parts, if you don’t start the day with a clean slate, you’re going to smell disgusting.  Even if you live on a diet of home-grown shredded carrots, alfalfa sprouts and springwater, and are directly descended from Saint Bjorn of Liliodeur, the bacteria on your skin will mingle with your nice healthy sweat and turn it into The Army Of Stink.

Which brings me to my next point.

It seems that the warmer and more humid the weather in this magic valley between two rivers becomes, the more people think artificial scent will cause a cloud of welcome to manifest itself around them.

Octopus running away saying NOPE

Overused? Maybe. Get you to pay attention? Possibly. How I feel? YES.

Remember how I said that if I smell you before I can see you, it’s like introducing yourself to me by booting me in the face? Okay. If I can smell your cologne, perfume, rare Arabian body oils, or what have you, it’s like having a pot of warm mystery chemicals dumped on my face. Some of you are so generous with your application of mystery chemicals that it leaves a trail behind you.

Flower, the Disney skunk character

Flower is cute. You might not be.

If your smell precedes you and leaves a wake, that is not good. It’s gross. It’s as if you’re an animal marking its territory. It’s gross if you’re dirty and smell like it, it’s rude if you’re spreading a chemical hangover, and it’s double plus creepy and sickening if you’re mingling bacteria, body stink and chemicals.

When I was but a wee lass, I remember reading in Cosmopolitan magazine, “Use scent to invite, not repel.” This is an odd thing for a magazine to have printed in it when it was full of paper cards painted with enough perfume samples to choke the censer department of the Vatican during Easter Week, but I digress.  Further, it said that if you could smell the perfume, you were wearing too much, because we can’t really smell ourselves generally. True, by that point, it’s too late. (Yes, I read Cosmo when I was a kid. I learned early about the war on women.)

 

Uncle George Takei's personal fragrance is a clean, bright, light scent.

Uncle George Takei’s personal fragrance is a clean, bright, light scent.

All human beings have their own scent, caused by genetics, diet, exercise, and local temperature. Layering the trendiest liquid on your skin isn’t going to make people like you any more or less (provided you were awesome to begin with). But sometimes it is kind of fun.  Drom Fragrances’ perfumer Kevin Verspoor offered these perfume-application tips to Allure Magazine. 

  • Applying scent to your pulse points intensifies the chemical reaction, because your veins provide heat. (Oh, wait, what was this whole thing about already? Not choking other people to death during the warm season?)  Even if the label says “body spray,” that doesn’t necessarily mean you should spray it all over your whole body.  He also suggest applying the scent to spots lower on the body, such as the back of one’s knees, further from the general population’s nostrils, to give it time and distance to dissipate.  I apologize to the vertically challenged.
  • Layer. Verspoor suggests layering a favorite cologne mist over a scented body wash or lotion.  In my opinion, be aware of what you’re adding and how they mix. If you’ve added Marlboro smoke, Budweiser and garlicky pizza to your body on a hot day in the last hour, no quantity of Hugo Boss will make you smell good.
  • A little dab’ll do ya, just like Brylcreem and Chinese Five Spice. Give the scent an opportunity to mix with your body’s chemicals and make a unique smell, don’t shove everyone’s nose into the bottle. You don’t need to re-spritz throughout the day.

tumblr_muxdhmDqNg1s8a3u9o1_250Please, out of kindness to your fellow summer-sufferers, bathe. The Axe Effect is (mostly) a lie. Hosing yourself down with a variety of unguents won’t hide your stink, it only makes it worse.  We know you know where the nearest public restroom is. Neither deodorant nor cologne should be a substitute for water.

Actually, nothing should be a substitute for water. Remember; hydrate, bathe, don’t overdo it.

For more information about How Deodorant Works, James May has a straightforward explanation for you.

Thank you. Have a wonderful day.