30 Signs I'm in My 30s

Since I neglected to post a birthday blog this year (forgetfulness alert!), I thought I'd compile a list of things I've noticed about myself lately. Consider this another example of me being overly observant and self-aware as I settle into Thirtydom and attempt to make sense of the controlled chaos I call my life.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's found himself waxing nostalgic about trivial things like mix tapes and Netscape, and I know I'm not alone when I say that I've been content staying in on a Friday night with a couple of DVRed episodes of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

So grab a pencil. Because some of you may want to use this as a checklist...

1. Falling asleep on a friend's couch on a Saturday night...well before midnight...while watching a Woody Allen DVD.

2. Falling asleep in bed on a Saturday night...well before midnight...while watching old episodes of Felicity.

3. Adjusting to the reality that my "little" cousins are now posting pictures of their dorm room shenanigans on Facebook.

4. Educating my younger coworkers on the discography of Ace of Base.

5. Having phone conversations with my mother about her retirement plans.

6. Having phone conversations with my father about his senior discount at McDonald's.

7. Surfing through radio stations in the car...and stopping on LiteFM.

8. Being able to read 50 pages of a novel without interruption...and considering that a vacation.

9. Having no problem whatsoever leaving a club or bar before 1 in the morning.

10. Choosing a dirty martini over a Midori sour.

11. Thinking "that bucket list isn't such a bad idea."

12. Fully understanding the differences between a 401k and an IRA.

13. Realizing the Class of 2012 was born the year I started high school.

14. Rolling my eyes if more than half the tracks on a pop artist's new album contain "featured" guest artists who contribute nothing to said album.

15. Considering the MTV Video Music Awards a non-event.

16. Avoiding T-shirts with obnoxiously large logos.

17. Avoiding the urge to shop at retail stores with posters that resemble an AARP ad.

18. Familiarizing myself with baby and bridal registries...for other people.

19. Getting thoroughly excited when Trader Joe's brings back my favorite pre-packaged meal.

20. Being thoroughly disappointed when Trader Joe's discontinues my favorite snack.

21. Having fond memories of Netscape.

22. Stressing over my protein and sugar intake.

23. Developing crushes on CNN and MSNBC news correspondents.

24. Choosing Urban Home and Crate & Barrel over Ikea.

25. Finding the trunk of my car to be taken over by reusable grocery bags.

26. Transitioning debates from Backstreet Boys vs. NSYNC to Mad Men vs. Breaking Bad.

27. Having a hard time saying no to people (because I treat everything as an opportunity I wouldn't want to miss). *Not so much as an age thing; it's just something I've realized that explains why I've been having less and less "me" time.

28. Understanding how your parents must feel when their childhood idols pass away. While they cling on to two of The Beatles, I shall cherish the time I have with the last of The Golden Girls.

29. Falling into a slight depression while accepting the fact that the 90s started 20 years ago.

30. Updating my Facebook status with links to blogs about being 30.

Granted, some of the above doesn't have to be about "being in your 30s." Some of it simply signifies a life mostly spent in front of the TV...and for that, I have no shame.

That all said, I leave you with this brilliant, funny-cuz-it's-true video that went viral earlier this year:



Does this Tommy Hilfiger polo make me look lame?

@TheFirstEcho


My Gig with Gaga

Way back in January, I had been booked on a rather exciting assignment.

The company that usually pimps me out to commercial directors -- in order to help them write treatments and presentations that they send to advertising agencies -- hooked me up with a gig writing for world-renowned photographer Steven Klein. Apparently he had been in talks with Lady Gaga's Haus Laboratories in Paris to help direct and produce a short film announcing her new fragrance, Fame, "the first ever black eau de parfum."

Having already come up with an initial concept that would make this stand out from other perfume campaigns, Steven needed to flesh out his ideas and translate them into a coherent narrative. That's where I came in (sadly, there were no creative meetings directly with Mother Monster herself). And now, after nine long months of secrecy, I can finally say that I am proud to have been a (tiny, little) part of this visually stunning (and hella abstract) project.

Check out the final product below:


Needless to say, this is going in my portfolio.

@TheFirstEcho


Sneak Peeks: Jenna Dewan-Tatum & Drew Roy


Another day, another chance to shamelessly plug some stuff.

First up, the lovely lady on your left is Jenna Dewan-Tatum, who plays Adam Levine's wife in next month's American Horror Story: Asylum and stars in the high school reunion dramedy 10 Years (with real-life hubby Channing, now in theaters). I interviewed the dancer-actress for Bello's Obsession issue, which hits the App Newsstand in October.

Then, to your right is Falling Skies actor Drew Roy. My interview with the fashionable heartthrob appears in the mag's September issue. But it's now available for your reading pleasure here.

@TheFirstEcho

"Will tweet for food."


8 Movies Everyone's Seen But Me


If you were to look at the subtitle in the above banner of this blog you would see that I fancy myself a connoisseur of all things pop culture. While I realize that self-proclaimed title can appear presumptuous, I admit that there have been some things I've missed out on. Therefore, I thought I'd take this opportunity to out myself, not as a charlatan, but as someone who isn't capable of knowing every frickin' single movie, album, and TV show out there. I mean, nobody's perfect, right? Unless you're Roger Ebert or Leonard Maltin, chances are you, dear reader, haven't even seen half  of the films in existence.

Here's a short list of films that, to this day, I haven't had the chance to view. Go ahead. Drop those jaws. Scold me all you want. Let's get it all out, shall we?

1. Aladdin (1992) - The beloved Disney classic is one of the big ones that got away. I was 12 when it came out in theaters, and although I did enjoy "A Whole New World" on the radio, I never familiarized myself with Genie, Jasmine, and the titular hero who, to me, looks a lot like a tanned, turban-wearing twin of The Little Mermaid's Prince Eric.

2. Braveheart (1995) - Back when Mel Gibson was a bankable box-office star I preoccupied myself with other things 15-year-olds enjoyed: The Brady Bunch Movie, reading Stephen King novels, and Alicia Silverstone. Historical battle epics wasn't one of them.

3. Manhattan (1979) - One of two films on this list that was released before I was born, Woody Allen's black-and-white love letter to the city I love (and grew up near) was lost on me. I do plan to watch it someday and see what all the fuss is about.

4. Annie Hall (1977) - See item #3.

5. Philadelphia (1993) - I had friends in high school who swore by this drama, which nabbed Tom Hanks his first Oscar. The subject matter may have been a bit out of my demographic at the time (I was 13), but now I'm feeling the shame for never catching up on this cinematic slice of social commentary.

6. Terms of Endearment (1983) - This is the one where the daughter dies at the end, right? Thanks, but I've already seen (and own) Steel Magnolias.

7. Boyz in the Hood (1991) - A crime drama set in the mean streets of South Central Los Angeles did nothing for me during my summer after fifth grade. My apologies to John Singleton.

8. Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) - Or as I like to call it, The John Hughes Movie I Missed. And you know I appreciate some Lea Thompson and Mary Stuart Masterson.

I'll let you know if I come up with any more. Till then, who wants to lend me some DVDs?

@TheFirstEcho


Just How Prepared Am I for the Big One?

Now that we've had two earthquakes in one week here in Los Angeles (one bigger than the previous), it's about time my friends and acquaintances hunker down and seriously consider protecting our asses if and when the seismic shit goes down.

According to the L.A. Times, "experts now recommend that disaster survivors be prepared to be self-sufficient for up to seven days, although having supplies for at least three days had been the norm. Here are lists of supplies to have at home, in the car and at work..."

Let's take a look at what I should have stocked up in my apartment, shall we?

•  Nonperishable packaged or canned food - So you're saying the can sardines I got in my cabinet isn't enough?  Mental note: next time Spaghetti-Os go on sale at Ralph's, load up.

•  A gallon of water per person per day (Replace every six months and count pets as family members) - Good thing I pilfered that Crystal Geyser jug from that Labor Day beach party.

•  Manual can opener - Got it.

•  First aid kit and handbook - Isn't that just Band-Aids, rubbing alcohol, and ointment? If so, I got some 99-cent healing strips, several bottles of Absolut, and a dozen samples of designer body lotion. Does that count?

•  Clothing, rain gear and sturdy shoes - Rain gear? Hello, this is L.A. And sturdy shoes? Do my pair of New Balances I use for hiking count? Remember: we do flip-flops 365 days a year here in the City of Angels. And ladies, I'm not entirely sure Uggs qualify as sturdy.

•  Blankets or sleeping bags - Yes and yes.


•  Portable radio and flashlight, with spare batteries - Luckily I had grabbed an old portable radio the last time I visited New York and brought it back with me to L.A. with the intention of using it as a cool vintage piece to place on a shelf. I guess it'll do.

•  Essential medications - Thankfully I don't have any medical conditions that require these, so I'll label this N/A.

•  List of family physicians and the style and serial number of medical devices, such as pacemakers - Physician? Last time I checked, unemployed means uninsured, so I'm not sure if I have my last doctor on speed-dial. And fortunately, I have never had to rely on a "medical device".

•  Extra pair of eyeglasses - That would imply I could afford buying another pair, which is ridiculous.

•  Extra set of house and car keys - Thanks to the inconvenient, tandem-style parking we have in our our garage, my roommate has my extra set of car keys. As for those house keys, they're around here somewhere...

•  Toilet paper, toiletries and feminine hygiene items - I have a leftover supply of "toilet bags" from when I went camping at Big Pine Creek back in 2009. Do they count too? Toiletries, check.

•  Fire extinguisher - Um, no.

•  Pet food, water and leash or carrier - No pets. Again, N/A

•  Cash and small change - That's hysterical. Who carries cash anymore? And besides, if you were to see the balance on my bank account, you'd find that hysterical too. 

•  Water purification kit or unscented liquid bleach (eight drops per gallon when water is first stored) - Really?

•  Any special foods and supplies for babies, the disabled or the elderly - I am a childless 32-year-old man who's responsible for no senior citizens or persons with disabilities. N/A.

•  Plastic eating utensils, paper cups and plates - I got some leftovers from last year's holiday party and a bunch I stole from Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. 

•  Heavy-duty aluminum foil - Yep.

•  Paper towels - Always.

•  Knife or razor blades - To defend myself during the subsequent zombie infestation? Kidding. I got a good blade or two.

•  Candles and light sticks - Vanilla scented. It's nice to know my nights without electricity will at least smell good.

•  Matches in waterproof container - Got plenty of matchbooks from various restaurants I've dined at. Should I put them in some Tupperware?

•  Work gloves and broom - Got the gloves. And a Swiffer.

•  Hammer and nails - Yes.

•  Coils of rope and wire - Who am I, MacGyver?

•  Ax, crowbar and shovel - What, for when I bury the dead body of the man I murdered?

•  Small tool kit - You say "tool kit." I say old Sketchers shoebox filled with random shit.


•  Cheesecloth (to strain water) - I don't even know what the hell that is.

•  Large and small plastic bags - See? Saving all those Target shopping bags came in handy!

•  Two tarps, 8 feet by 10 feet - Sure, because I work in construction and paint a lot.

•  Local street map and compass - Why can't I use Google Maps? Oh wait...

•  Paper, pens and stamps - Yes. However, as for the stamps, I doubt the U.S. Postal Service will be up and running when there's rubble blocking every boulevard route.

•  Entertainment pack of family photos, notebooks, reading material and games - Have you seen my bookshelves? Got that covered, including a crossword puzzle book, some albums, and plenty of blank journals ("Dear Diary, today I saw three survivors eat a dog under a collapsed overpass of the 405 Freeway...")

In conclusion, I'm screwed.

What about you?

@TheFirstEcho


Afterburn: The 2012 Fall Playlist, Vol. 1



You know autumn is upon us when Staples sells out of Crayola crayons, "pumpkin" is the flavor du jour at every cafe, and there's a new Resident Evil movie hitting theaters.

The weather may be cooling off, but things are just getting warmed up. Cut to: me spending my Labor Day weekend laboring away to perfect a playlist that just might help you get through those unavoidable Halloween costume brainstorming sessions...

1. "Your Body" by Christina Aguilera -- We kick off this compilation with The Voice judge's anticipated first single from her fifth studio album (seven, if you count those holiday and Spanish releases). It takes a couple of listens to settle into the suggestive lyrics and seductive bassline. Next thing you know, you'll be clamoring for the nearest warm body on the dance floor and grinding till the world ends.

2. "She Wolf (Falling to Pieces)" by David Guetta feat. Sia
3. "Say Nothing" by Example
4. "Sleep Alone" by Two Door Cinema Club

5. "We Come Running" by Youngblood Hawke -- My theme song from August also doubles as a perfect playground anthem for elementary schools everywhere (and anyone who appreciates celebratory alt-pop). Recess will never sound more awesome. Teachers, you're welcome:


6. "Sunlight" Bag Raiders

7. "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons -- Yep, it's the song that was used in the trailer for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and everything about this barroom sing-along soars:


8. "I Got Soul, I'm So Wasted" by Wallpaper
9. "Wildest Dreams" by Brandy
10. "Love Sea" by Alphabeat

11. "Little Talks" by Of Monsters and Men -- Sure, this single from the Icelandic folk-pop band may have been around since February, but it's finally gaining some traction, and rightfully so:

12. "Feel Again" by OneRepublic
13. "Get Up (A Cowboys Anthem)" by Kelly Clarkson
14. "The Night Out (Madeon Remix)" by Martin Solveig
15. "Take Off" by Conor Maynard
16. "Don't You Worry Child" by Swedish House Mafia feat. John Martin:


17. "Hall of Fame" by The Script feat. will.i.am
18. "Madness" by Muse
19. "Years" by Alesso
20. "Dancing in My Head" by Avicii feat. Eric Turner

21. "Too Close" by Alex Clare -- Consider this one emo-dubstep.

22. "Finally Found You" by Enrique Iglesias feat. Sammy Adams

23. "Gangnam Style" by PSY -- If you haven't heard what is basically the Korean "Macarena," you will.

And yes, Volume 2 is already in the works.

Enjoy.

@TheFirstEcho


Portrait of the Artist as an 11-Year-Old

If you know me -- or if you're one of the three people who follow this commentary-ridden chronicle I call a blog -- you know that when I was younger, I was an enormous bookworm. On any given day at any given moment throughout most of the 90s, chances are you'd find me with my nose buried in the pages of a paperback novel.

What I may have also briefly mentioned in past posts is that, from the ages of 9 to 12, I filled up five 5-subject notebooks with short stories I wrote.

Most of these stories were heavily influenced by the genre that fascinated me: horror.

While spending one Saturday night in my L.A. bedroom watching old episodes of Felicity (jealous?), I dug out three of these notebooks that I had brought back with me from my childhood bedroom in New York. Flipping through the fading wide-ruled sheets, I realized several things: 1) I was a total ripoff artist -- but isn't that the nature of a child writer, to mimic what you see, learn and enjoy? 2) I was all about creating my own title fonts. 3) My descriptive skills weren't the best and 4) I absolutely loved coming up with names for my characters.


Above on your left (click on it to zoom in) is the prequel of a Friday the 13th-esque series I created called Camp Nightmare. From what I remember after revisiting my scribble, it was about an unidentifiable killer who chops up teenagers in the woods near a place called Camp Tungaroga, a summer destination with a gruesome history (something about a boy who went berserk after finding out his girlfriend cheated on him). After enjoying writing eight installments (you can see some of those titles below), I thought it'd be a great idea to do a prequel -- did I even know what that was? -- and write an origin story. Pretty impressive for an 11-year old in 1991.

And surprise! I didn't have a lot of friends back then.

Then, on your right, you'll see my first attempt at a spy thriller. It was called When The Clock Ticks. (I thought the title was pretty cool back then.) Loaded with romance, international intrigue, and danger, it took place in London and starred a woman named Dawn who, if I remember correctly, falls for a man who's involved in some obscure conspiracy. All within the span of 12 pages!

As for my other stories, there was my Halloween series, surrounding the bloody exploits of mass murderer "Fred Michaels." My Frightmare franchise, which was clearly inspired by all of the Nightmare of Elm Street movies I caught on TV, dealt with some deadly dreams. And then there were countless other titles: Westkill (young people get butchered at a ranch during a horseback riding weekend), Alone in the Dark parts I-III, My Vicious Valentine, Forest Lake (an all-star murder mystery that takes place at a cabin in the woods), The Great Quake, Hurricane, 2015: Year of the Meteor (I was really into disaster flicks too), The Mysterious Locket, The Evil (a haunted house series which ran for 8 installments) Whodunit Hotel (an idea I actually might turn into a television pilot, now that I think of it), an "epic" thriller called The Halloween Conspiracy, and the post-apocalyptic The Sound of Dying Birds, a tale about an old man and a little boy who share a park bench amidst devastation and watch birds fall from the sky (mind you, this was 15 years before Cormac McCarthy published The Road).

Agent and author Betsy Lerner once wrote the following:

"I have found that the impulse to write, to record one's private feelings, often appears at a very early age; with few exceptions, most authors started writing in childhood. If as a child you gravitated towards books and kept diaries or made up stories, it speaks to an inherent aptitude for language...The child writer may be intensely verbal or intensely withdrawn. One thing is certain: his urge to write things down is predicated by the need to validate his experience. The child who makes sense of his world, escapes or remakes it through reading and writing, may never find another home as welcoming." 
- The Forest for the Trees (2003)

Some of my childhood memories involve me sitting at a table, pencil in hand, scribbling away for an entire Saturday afternoon. When I look back at those moments, I remember how much I was consumed by the act of writing...and reading (I once tore through R.L. Stine's The Babysitter in one sitting). The outside world didn't exist. All I had and needed was a notebook, a pencil, and an urge to create. As lonely as it sounded, it was all I knew.

In hindsight, I wouldn't have had it any other way. I am now able to fully appreciate and understand that so much of what I did, what I wrote, and what I read back then informs who I am today.

And with that, I give my thanks to the horror and mystery novelists, the screenwriters, and the filmmakers who left an impression on a little boy from New Rochelle, New York and inspired him to inspire others.

Yours truly,

@TheFirstEcho