Drew Tube

1. Drew Tube

I’m thinking of entering into the world of video blogging, but I don’t want to be another run of the mill media critic. I need a gimmick, a hook that let’s the viewer know that I have no shame and I’m not afraid to prove it.

The following is a collection of v-blog pitches, some are sheer brainstorm brilliance while others are train of thought train wrecks. At the end, you can vote on which ones are which.

Genre Fiction Mad Libs

Author, Christopher Booker believes writers keep recycling seven basic plots. Let’s prove him right. Collecting over-used film tropes I’ll outline the templates for making a romantic comedy, a home invasion horror movie, and a dystopian teen empowerment fantasy. I’ll compose five minute mad lib plot lines and invite the audience to help fill the character details in. A week later we’ll see the results unfold.

Pitch Perfected

Viewers suggest the worst movies they can think of and I’ll pitch them like they’re awesome, polishing these steaming turds into Oscar statues.

Listen to me pitch The Phantom Menace as a political intrigue thriller. Jar Jar Binks, a Gungan without a country, assumes the role of bumbling imbecile to trick members of a religious order into saving his world from a genocidal conspiracy.

Listen me intellectualize The Room as one woman’s descent into terminal narcissism, an unflinching examination of how personality disorders play into infidelity, a film that holds a mirror to society, forcing us to take a critical look at ourselves.

Listen to me call Gigli a shocking exposé of the mental healthcare industry, a rallying cry for the handicapped, and a mature look at sexual identity.

Listen to me nominate Troll 2 for inclusion in the Criterion Collection, calling it a film with a strong message about the environment.

Nostalgia Nostradamus

Nostalgia Nostradamus predicts which beloved children’s cartoon will be turned into Michael Bay’s latest series of sunsets and tracking shots. Thunder Cats? Voltron? Gargoyles?

The trick in Nostalgia Nostradamus’s tricorn hat is his ability to predict how producers of these reboots will get everything wrong:

- He-Man cries, “I have the power” as he raises the barrel of his new lightening gun.
– She-Ra’s wind resistant skirt is replaced with pants.
– Filmation’s Ghostbusters get’s rebooted. Not the team with Egon, Ray, Peter and Winston, but the one that drives around with a gorilla in a talking ghost car.

Nintendo controller by Bitter String Art. Check them out at https://www.etsy.com/shop/BitterStringArt

Nintendo controller by Bitter String Art.

Feminize a Video Game Franchise

I come up with plots for female leads in male dominated video game series. For example:

An Assassin’s Creed game starring Vultur, a Romani woman struggling to save her family from the Spanish Inquisition. Vultur uses theatrical weapons to strike fear into the hearts of Templar witch finders.

A Zelda game where Zelda takes the starring role. The sorcerer, Ganon abducts Hyrule’s princesses to use their blood to open a doorway to the dark world. Breaking out of her cell, princess Zelda works her way through Ganon’s dungeons, collecting weapons, freeing her fellow captives, and ascending the dark lord’s tower for a final confrontation.

A God of War game that takes place in the aftermath of Kratos’s resignation. Goddess of War follows a Spartan woman who stumbles upon the Blades of Olympus while the minions of a new crop of Gods burn her village down.

Stock Photo Theater

Original programing made with unoriginal pictures. Stock photo sites are all too happy to provide the cast, their blank business figures are begging to be turned into actors. All I have to do is supply the dialogue.

Shutterstock already has so many images of people laughing, isn’t it time they put out a sitcom? How about a whodunnit? Turns out the boardroom meeting, in this picture, is a gathering of all the suspects. How about a science fiction series where angry desk jockeys fight their technology? With all the shots of people shouting at their screens, we already have everything we need.

3. Point the finger at

Batman or Ingmar Bergman

A game where viewers guess whether a line of dialogue came from a Batman movie or a film from existentialist director Ingmar Bergman.

1. “… the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of death.”
2. “One day you stand at the edge of life and face darkness.”

3. “I wake up from a nightmare and find that real life is worse than the dream.”

4. “There is something out there in the darkness, something terrifying, something that will not stop until it gets revenge… Me.”

Answers:
1. Batman
2. Bergman
3. Bergman
4. Batman

Franchise Fixes

Franchise Fixes

I pitch reboots for your favorite ailing film franchises, raising Hellraiser, reviving Highlander’s immortality and calling Howard the Duck back to earth. Find me a series that’s at death’s door and I’ll bust out the defibrillator. Just call me Dr. Drew.

Writing Confessions

I list all the dirty tricks I use to ensure my output, like describing a setting before I know the characters or conflict that will fill it, writing dialogue with the intention of discovering the action, or planting the setups for my plot twists in later edits.

I’ll confess everything from how I spare my darlings to how I repurpose fan fiction.

Wednesday Watches

I recommend low budget, soon to be cult classics, for you to uncover on Netflix. They’re not always great movies but they’re entertaining enough for a Wednesday evening.

Clickbait Writer’s Room

A sketch comedy series, where a team of freelancers set out to ruin journalism, in order to rase their demon master Mammon. Writing titles with cliff hangers, the clickbaiters target would-be Nobel Prize winners, distracting them from their discoveries. Upsetting viewers with the first half of their captions, the clickbaiters promise to restore the world’s faith in humanity with the other, but they never do.

This coven of content creators will churn out listicles, slideshows and viral videos. Casting darkness over everyone’s newsfeed. Once they’ve sacrificed enough of our time, Mammon will rise up and claim his digital dominion.

4. Error Drew

This is my first round of ideas. Please vote on the ones you like and leave suggestions in the comments.

Sadder Batman (Design Gallery Updates)

Gothatrex for managing the symptoms of Sad Batman Syndrome

Gothatrex for managing the symptoms of Sad Batman Syndrome

See Sadder Batman and the rest of the insanity in my design gallery.

Check out Sad Superman and find out if you or someone you love are living with Batman Syndrome.

Soul Donor

Busted

Busted

Something haunts the attic of my imagination, locked in an old trunk, it watches my movements through the keyhole. While I stack character traits, it lies in wait. While I lay scenes on the card table, it bides its time. While I wave my marker, connecting plot points across the wall, it stares at my rolling chair with bright green eyes, a prince watching a throne, waiting for his time to come.

Entering the attic of my imagination, I find streaks through the floor boards. The trunk sits beneath the window, the keyhole positioned to see out into the real world. Trying to drag it back to its place, I give up part way. Distracted, I read the notecards scattered across the table, I toss half of them to the floor. There’s just no room for them anymore. I need this section of my imagination to process something I’ve been thinking.

Jotting a word down, I set it on the open space. The card says: INDECISION. The floorboards creak. Thunder claps off in the distance. I set the word OBLIVIOUS in an empty spot. There’s a thump. The lights flicker. I set the word UNREQUITED down. There’s a crash behind me, a click, followed by the groaning of a rusty hinge. Turning around, I find the trunk has moved. Its lid has opened on its own.

Peaking inside, a swarm of locusts engulf my eyes.

The trunk was filled with all of my romantic compulsions. Every time I develop feelings for someone, the infernal crate starts filling. The self doubt, the jealousy, the fear of rejection, all these things start rumbling. I can stack books atop it, hammer nails in, put it in a dark corner of the room, but sooner or later the trunk bursts open.

Once that happens, darkness takes over my imagination. My characters break down, my plot points get painted over, and my scenes get scattered. The story I’m developing disappears as the specter of a doomed romance leaves its mark on everything.

2. Trunk

I wrote the following in my early twenties, back when my best ideas were abandon in favor of an overwhelming urge to vent. Its wordy, silly, embarrassing, and completely honest. Recently, I dug it up and gave it the musical treatment. I hope you like it.

(If SoundCloud is down, download the track)
(Download the instrumental version here)

Soul Donor

The third law of thermodynamics
The one we all love to hate
I poured my heart into something
That didn’t reciprocate
I syphoned out all my good parts
To feed your perceptually aching machine
I slowed myself to crawl
Just to keep it going

Like a vampire blood donor
Like an eleventh hour Valentine
I put so much of myself in you
But you’d never be mine
You’re feeding off my entropy
I’m running out parts to give
I’ve been dying long enough to know
That dying is no way to live

It’s safe to assume
It’s safe to foresee
Even if it makes
An ass of “u” and “me”
It takes an addict
To spot another addict

Ah fuck it, I admit it
I really am psychic

The only law that Murphy had
The one that we all try to break
I left so much room for error
Our foundations were bound to shake
I always came when you were jonesing
For the high only I’d provide
Who knew you could quit cold turkey
And let this whole thing slide

Who knew you’d leave me in this bath tub
In this motel up the street
Dry ice freezing my skin off
You only take the parts you need
When I signed on to be your lover
Did I sign on as a soul donor too?
How could I hate myself enough
To give my love to the likes of you?

It’s safe to assume
It’s safe to foresee
Even if it makes
An ass of “u” and “me”
It takes an addict
To spot another addict

Ah fuck it, I admit it
I really am psychic

3. Ghost Hand

Horror Clichés in need of an Exorcism

People who know me, should've suspected my demon nature for some time.

People who know me, should’ve suspected my demon nature for some time.

(This article was inspired by a conversation in Red Letter Media‘s review of Deliver Us From Evil, check it out)

In film, certain paranormal plot devices have overstayed their welcome: exorcisms, found footage movies, forbidden objects sold at the mall, and the claim that there’s a true story behind them all. We used to find these themes intriguing, until we did our research.

Now we know that sleep paralysis causes hallucinations that look like ghostly visitations, that sleep deprivation turns shadows into forms, and that night terrors are a product of neurology not demonology.

We know that the regression techniques used to uncover alien abductions relied on leading questions. A hypnotherapist would ask, “How high is the light off the ground,’ and their patient imagined it in the sky, based on the implication.

We know the same techniques caused the Satanic panic that had patients crying “Cultists!” at their family and friends. In the 1980s, many women claimed they were forced to sacrifice their children, until medical examinations proved they were still virgins.

Our suspension of disbelief has dropped. Our intellect has adjusted to scare tactics. Our tastes have become too refined for cheap thrills. We want to be scared, but our bullshit filter keeps catching everything Hollywood throws at it. That’s why these clichés must be upgraded if they’re going to frighten us again.

I'm available to design your cover art if you ask nicely.

I’m available to design your cover art if you ask nicely.

Exorcism Stories

When The Exorcist premiered in 1973, audiences were fainting in the aisles, forty-one years later, audiences are falling asleep for other reasons. The mystique is gone. We’ve seen so many demons get dispatched, we’re questioning their intelligence. Why break out of hell, when they can be sent back with a few measly blessings?

As Hollywood keeps telling variations of the same story, we keep piling on the questions.

What if the demon isn’t allergic to holy water and crucifixes? What if it doesn’t speak Latin? What if Catholicism isn’t the cure every time? What if it responds to protestant prayers? What if the Kabbalah is its kryptonite? What if it takes a Wiccan spell to send it back to hell? Would polytheists call on a pantheon of Gods to deal with it? Would Scientologists audit the evil out? Would Buddhist’s even bother?

NBC’s new show Constantine gets around these questions by having the hero recite the ‘co-exist’ bumper sticker of exorcism prayers, name dropping elements of all the world religions. It’s a solution that doesn’t address the real problem.

The problem is assuming the rite of exorcism still resonates with audiences. Not everyone wets themselves at the mere inclusion of a demon, we weren’t all raised to believe in possession, we expect our scares to come from better storytelling.

In The Exorcist, the demon Pazuzu tricks young Regan into texting him through a Ouija board. After a month of flirting, he moves all his stuff into her brain. Soon Regan’s dropping F-bombs on her mom and directors on the pavement, practically begging for an MRI scan. Crab-walking down the stairs, coughing up blood, levitating furniture about, Pazuzu wants to get found out. He wants Mrs. MacNeil to call on the clergy. Pazuzu’s insidious goal is to consume a holy man’s soul.

The Exorcist works by humanizing these confrontations. Father Damien isn’t just reciting verses, he’s grieving over his dead mother, he’s finding his faith again. The director gives the audience the feeling that it’s not Damien’s words hurting the demon, it’s his newfound belief in their meaning, and the lesson he’s learned through the course of these events.

Recent exorcism movies abandon the message in favor of the creeds. They put symbology over substance. These are films that started strong but ended with the same tired chant.

The Rite spends so much time setting up Anthony Hopkins’s possession, but when his student figures out what’s going on, the demon is dispatched with a quick round of tongue-fu. The Exorcist: The Beginning does the same thing. In The Conjuring, the demon flings things at the Warrens, to keep them from getting through the exorcism. The tension comes from how fast they can read before they get hit with something.

After seeing the same scene play out so many times, it loses its impact. Yellow contact lenses, flaking skin, and dated obscenities just don’t have the same effect on me. Possession could be a frightening theme, but these incantation evictions have gotten underwhelming.

I’d love to see more demon possession movies where the traditional methods don’t work, where the demon has a calculated goal, a long con revealed in a third act twist, and an ending that favors an emotional encounter over a dramatic reading. (See The Exorcist 3 for a great example of this).

Demons clearly use yellowing strips.

Demons clearly use yellowing strips.

Found Footage

Found footage movies are a guilty pleasure of mine. While most film critics have given up on the genre, I always find a few examples that redeem it. VHS showed me the direction grind house movies are going, Afflicted showed me what turning into a vampire is like from the vampire’s point of view, and Trollhunter showed me just how serious Norway is about pest control.

If you’re making a found footage movie, commit to the bit. If you want wide shots, have your characters place those cameras in the location, don’t cut from crane shots back to hand cams and expect us not to notice. If the characters can’t see from that perspective, then we shouldn’t either.

If you want to sell us on the idea that this footage was discovered, then leave it somewhere where it can be found. If all the camera operators end up in the belly of a demon, then how are we even watching this film?

Soundscapes can be used to great effect, from the chorus of babies crying in The Blair Witch Project to the thunderous footfalls in Paranormal Activity. Don’t break the suspension of disbelief by adding a score. Linking the look of cinema vérité with mood music is like making a chicken omelet, the pairing feels funny.

The Last Exorcism did this, opening as a talking head documentary, before devolving into series of low droning strings and chord stabbing jump scares.

Anyone who sets out to make a found footage movie needs to deliver on their promises. If you mention the possibility of a ghost, alien, or cryptozoological entity, show us something by the end of the movie.

"Is the demon in this mug shot the one who attacked you?"

“Is the demon in this mug shot the one who attacked you?”

Forbidden Objects

Ouija, Hasbro’s spiritual sequel to Battleship, follows a group of teens who try to contact the ghost of their friend with a spirit board. The trailer cycles through a switchboard of stock horror movie sound effects, filtering every shot through the same old color palette. The only new thing it brings to the table is a toy that has been debunked over and over again.

We know how spirit boards work when tested under scientific conditions. With a stack of chips tied to the planchette, we should see them lean away from an invisible hand, instead we see them lean from the direction of the living participants. This is a trick of the subconscious. Ideomotor actions cause the participants to push the planchette without even realizing it.

Just watch the experiment in action.

(If you want to see mentalist Derren Brown take this Ouija board scam to a whole other level check out his Seance Special).

Still, Time magazine says, “the terrifying seance-conducting game will finally be getting the starring role it deserves.”

Does it deserve it? For me this Parker Brothers plaything is just as frightening as a Magic 8-Ball, or a pile of fortune cookies. How scary can something filed between Apples to Apples and Yahtzee really be?

The smart way to make a mystical MacGuffin work is to draw attention to the evidence against it. Say what you will about M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, but the film points out that crop circles could be made by hoaxers with boards and string.

The X-Files did this all the time, hanging a lantern on a dispelled myth, only to reintroduce it with a sophisticated new bag of tricks. Agent Mulder gave the audience a refresher on an urban legend, while Agent Scully explained it away with science. What they were looking for was always something in between.

Maybe this new Ouija board movie does just that, but judging by the trailer, Jumanji was scarier.

Officer Ouija is on the case.

Officer Ouija is on the case.

Based on Actual Events

Every trailer ending with the words “based on actual events” needs an asterisk beside it, followed by a screen full of annotations.

The Strangers claimed to be based on actual events citing the Manson family murders as inspiration. That’s insulting to the victims, their families, and the audience’s intelligence.

The Quiet Ones ends with a still shot of the real researchers the film is based on. Turns out the people in the photograph are actors. Everyone involved in the study that inspired the story is alive and kicking.

The Fourth Kind ends with footage of a talk show that happens to be hosted by the film’s director.

Though the caption “Based on actual events” brings in box office revenue, the phrase itself has become worthless. If I can dismiss your premise with a quick Wikipedia visit, then you’ve lost me before the opening credits.

The true claims these films make aren’t always harmless, especially when they further superstitions that impact people with mental illness. The Exorcism of Emily Rose altered the facts to make its Priest more sympathetic. The impression it leaves the audience with is that epileptic seizures might be caused by something demonic.

Adds a whole new meaning to the phrase "bright eyes."

Adds a whole new meaning to the phrase “bright eyes.”

Before you go writing that found footage based on actual events exorcism picture with the prominently placed Ouija board, ask yourself: how long will these elements frighten audiences? How could you upgrade them to work in this century? How could you scare skeptics?

We want you to psych us out, to subvert our expectations, and give us something more terrifying than we could possibly imagine.

For more on horror clichés, check out my articles on overused monsters and how to reinvent the jump scare. To see how I’d reimagine the classic exorcist scenario, check out my short story Eviction Notice.

Feel free to completely disagree with me in the comments, or better yet, suggest horror movies that use these themes right.

An Object Gathering Dust

Toy soldier gathering dust

Toy soldier gathering dust

If relationships in my early twenties taught me anything, it’s that I left women with a sense of buyer’s remorse. I didn’t turn out to be the man they saw in the shop window. My first impression ran out of steam. My bravado deflated into cowardice. The image they tried to project on me, no longer fit.

There’s how a man ought to be, then there’s me.

In 2006, I wrote a poem about a toy soldier losing the admiration of his owner. What started as a piece about a waning romance, became a critique of the ideal man. The poem broke down the expectations set by the greatest generation, chipping away at Americana idealism.

This has always been one of my favorite pieces, but every time I set out to share it, I held back, thinking it was too personal. It took the support of my readers to shed those reservations. I hope you like it.

An Object Gathering Dust

Window shopping on main street
A gust of wind
Snatched the scarf from your neck
Blowing it across the boulevard
Leaving it on the window sill
Of a vintage toy store

Where you saw a clean cut,
Broad shouldered, toy soldier
Decked out in World War 2 apparel
Iconic in its shrink wrapped chivalry
A throw back to an era
Of courteous square jawed gentlemen
Who lived to open doors and hold hands
A Norman Rockwell day dream
A sparkle toothed smile
Complete with the sound of a glass tap

This toy soldier
This prince charming
All your girlhood fantasies
Wrapped up in cellophane

You altered your work route
To walk by my window
Your left hand shaking
Your right hand deep in your purse
Clinging to your wallet
Fighting the urge

One night a dream
Carrying a vision of your man
Walking down the white staircase
Of an aircraft carrier
Burned itself into your mind’s eye
You had to throw fifty dollars on the counter
To appease the Sandman

My attempt to make myself look like a plastic toy soldier

My attempt to make myself look like a plastic toy soldier

You took me home
Unwrapped me
And sat me down
As the guest of honor
At the head of your tea party table

You stared into my half moon eyes
With all the love the world had
For Jimmy Stewart
For Humphrey Bogart
For Frank Sinatra

In Michigan I was a lump of plastic
Lying on a conveyor belt
But in your arms
I became the spirit of a decade
A symbol of an America
Revered by the rest of the world

When I slept beside you
You dreamt of an approaching cavalry
Parading through small town streets
Of boy scout meetings
Of slippers
Newspapers
And corn cob pipes

You were Audrey Hepburn
With her man on her arm
The belle of the ball descending the staircase
In her long velvet gown
An airbrushed pin up
On the nose of a jet
That all the fly boys
Just had to tip their hats to

A sudden flicker of random eye movement
And we were French kissing on Ellis Island
With fire works off in the distance
Our hands cupping one another’s elbows
The moon framing our silhouettes
We became the skyline

But one day you woke up
To find that the green of my uniform had washed out
That my jaw had chipped at the edges
That the half moons of my eyes had faded
And my frozen salute had lost its meaning

You still took me out to the bar
But my smile couldn’t compete
With touch screen Gin Rummy
You buried me in your purse
When my shadow
Eclipsed today’s cross word puzzle
The spirit of the 1950s was gone
America was a different place
With a different skyline

I went from a Christmas miracle
To an impulse item
Yesterday’s playmate
To today’s inanimate object
And all the love you had to give
Went back to being a lump of plastic

You took me off your pedestal
And put me on your shelf
Never to be played with again
A relic of your sense of romance
Looking down at you through incense clouds
An object gathering dust

Here’s looking at you, kid

Caught Cheating on My Novel

1. My Novel has caught Me

Jill fidgeted beneath the booth, struggling to find a comfortable spot on the cushion. Feeling her movements, I dared not ask what was wrong. She’d been straying from eye contact all night, afraid I’d see something I didn’t like.

She set her phone on the table, like a paramedic waiting to be called away at a moment’s notice. When it lit up on its own, she read the screen out of the corner of her eye, failing to hide her smirk.

This was the first time I’d seen her long locks up in a big bun. The frizzy strands stood spiked up in the back. In this light, with the dust particles falling slowly, her hair looked like a crown.

“What is it?” She caught me staring.

I motioned toward the bun. “I like what you’ve done with the topmost region of your head.”

She rolled her eyes until they landed back on her phone. “Aren’t you supposed to be a writer or something?”

I bit my thumb. “Sorry, I meant to say, the upper hemisphere of your face has many fine attributes this evening.”

She laughed, easing my tension until she picked up the phone and started typing. Peaking over the top of my menu, I watched her eyes glaze at something on the screen.

I cleared my throat. “What’s a good wine pairing for Mexican food?”

Jill shrugged, this was her area of expertise, but she couldn’t care less.

When the waiter came, I ordered the chicken enchiladas with a glass of Rioja.

“You’ll want something stronger.” Jill cut in. Offering the waiter an empty smile, she ordered, “Two Tequila Sunrises, heavy on the tequila.”

I fumbled through the drink menu. “So that’s a better pairing?”

Jill shook her head. “No, but you’ll want it.”

She waited until our food arrived to spoil my appetite.

Plucking the umbrella from her drink, and casting the straw aside, Jill downed half of her cocktail in a single gulp. Gasping, she gripped the side of the table. “The reason I called you out tonight is that I wanted to do this in person.”

I froze, an archeologist standing in the middle of a rickety old bridge, watching the ropes unravel.

Seeing my panic, Jill chuckled. “No, it’s nothing like that.”

It was exactly like that.

Jill searched for her words on the happy hour menu. “You’re such a prolific writer. I envy your artistic temperament, I really do. So many people are trying to get published, but you’re one of the few who’s going to make it. I honestly believe that.”

She swallowed. “It’s just that your life is going in a different direction. Your work requires you to lead a solitary existence, while mine keeps me social.”

Jill rubbed her hands together. “We’ve always been a few degrees off. When I’m getting warmed up to go out, your process has drained the life out of you. When I just want acknowledgment, you give advice. When I ask for advice, you play Captain Hindsight.”

I stayed frozen, fearing a nod would be an admission of guilt. Glancing away, I noticed my fork wobbling across the plate.

Jill lay her hands flat, a diplomat reaching across the table. “I think I’m speaking for both of us when I say, neither of us are very happy with this relationship.”

Ripples spread from the center of my Tequila Sunrise. The cubes in my ice water bobbed up and down.

Jill sighed. “I knew this would happen. Now you can’t even look at me.”

A droplet shot out from the center of my cocktail.

“No, it’s just that my drink is going all Jurassic Park on me.”

Feeling vibrations through my shoes, I looked over my shoulder.

A giant hardcover book barreled across the parking lot. Its angry eyebrows cut through the title. There was teeth in place of the author’s name. Its eyes glared with the smooth reflective texture of raised print. It charged toward the restaurant on tiny yellow laceless shoes, hopping from one leg to the other. I didn’t recognize the book until its cover shown red beneath the streetlight.

Crouching into the booth, I turtled up inside my suit coat. The window behind us creaked, the hardcover was leaning on it, rubbing its four fingered gloves against the glass.

Jill squint at me, “Do you know that thing?”

I couldn’t help but peak up. To find the first edition focusing its big bulging eyes on me, its breath fogging up the glass. Howling, it burst the parking lot lights, set car alarms off, and shook our silverware off the table.

The book stomped toward the entrance. Punching the handicap button, she entered sideways. When a greeter stepped into her path, the book knocked her into a bowl of peppermints. When a bus boy came to the greeter’s aid, the book grabbed him by the vest and flung him over the bar. The entire wine menu came crashing down on him.

I ducked under the table, cursing Jill. “Why did you have to look at it? You could’ve just kept texting, but you had to draw its attention. Whatever is about to happen is all your fault.”

Jill drove her stiletto into my toe. I screamed.

The hardcover spotted me falling into the aisle. A string of drool seeped through her teeth, spilling over the words: A NOVEL. Drinks toppled with its every step. Ice crunched beneath its tiny yellow shoes. Entrees landed face first on the floor.

A wet clump of something warm plopped into my hair. Cheese streaked down my forehead, followed by a dollop of sour cream. My enchiladas landed in my lap, searing my thighs. I tried to wipe them off, but it was impossible to see in the shadow of the hardcover. The great book huffed, covering half my face in spittle.

2. I'm in trouble now

I turned to find the hardcover pointing at Jill. When the book’s mouth opened and closed, my name flickered across her face.

“Who the hell is this?” The hardcover’s voice boomed.

Jill crossed her arms. “This was just leaving.”

The hardcover lift me up my collar. I had to cock my head to avoid getting scalped by the ceiling fan.

The book’s eyebrows crossed into an angry V. “You kept putting me off and putting me off. There was always something, wasn’t there? You had a stack of dishes weighing down your countertop. You were buried under a pile of laundry. You had to get up early for an interview. You kept telling me how important I was to you, but it took weeks before you did anything with me. Now here I find you wining and dining some bipedal bimbo.”

“First of all,” Jill placed the toothpick umbrella in her palms, “this isn’t wine it’s a cocktail,” she spun the umbrella, “and second of all, I’m not dining tonight,” she pointed to the empty table, “and third, wait, what was the third thing you said?”

The hardcover grit her teeth, towering over Jill, the girl that dare defy her.

“You’re nothing special, missy, just the latest in a long line of distractions.”

The hardcover flung me into the booth. The salt and pepper shakers spilled into my hair. Jill spun around, making sure her phone was alright.

The hardcover positioned itself to block me in. “Remember that mystery minx, that crime caper streetwalker, that noir whore you tried to run away with? What about that Sci-Fi-siren, that steampunk-strumpet, that little retro-history-hussy? Neither of them stuck in your head as long as me. None of those horror-harlots, terror-tarts, and jaw-dropping-jezebels had a premise like mine. Remember how you kept telling me how original I was?”

Jill’s phone vibrated. Looking at the caller ID, she grunt, letting it go to voicemail.

The hardcover bit its lip. “I’m not stupid. Of course I knew what you were doing. I just kept telling myself, ‘He’s just experimenting with those tragedy-trollops and fantasy-floozies, so that when he comes back, he’ll share what he’s learned with me.’”

The hardcover placed a tiny glove between its massive eyes, a gesture that looked faintly like she was rubbing her forehead.

“I kept my head down, trying to ignore all the short-skirted-short-stories you’ve been chasing, all the fan-fiction-vixens you’ve been posting, and all those Lovecraftian-Lolitas you’ve been publishing.”

Jill cocked her head. “Jesus, that’s the most alliteration I’ve ever heard come out of anyone.”

“I’ve been meaning to edit that.” I whispered out of the side of my mouth.

Jill’s phone vibrated again. Ignoring it, she covered her mouth, directing her speech at me.

“She’s list heavy too. All her examples come in threes. She sounds unnatural.”

I nodded, “I went a little crazy with the thesaurus when I started her.”

Jill picked up the phone. She muttered. “Hey… No, we’re still in the middle of it… We got interrupted… Yeah, no I’m fine… That’s not necessary… Really, I’ve got the situation under control… No… Oh, God damn it.”

The hardcover snorted back its tears. “Who is she talking too?”

Sitting up in the booth, I saw myself in the book’s big wounded eyes.

That’s a good question.” I said, shaking the salt from my hair.

Jill buried her phone in her purse. “That? That was no one. Just um…”

Before she could come up with an excuse the floor shook again. Reaching for my cocktail, the ceiling fan came crashing down onto the table. I rescued my drink in time. Guzzling it up, I found the ‘sunrise’ portions eclipsed by the tequila.

Looking over my shoulder, I saw a giant laptop computer pacing the bar. Its eyes took up the majority of its screen. Its teeth made up the center of its keyboard. Cartoon arms had sprouted out of its monitor. A pair of little legs supported its base. It waddled toward us, knocking over carts as it came.

I pointed my thumb over my shoulder. “Who the hell is that?”

Jill ducked into the booth. “I never wanted you to find out like this, but the entire time we’ve been together, there’s been a blog in the picture.”

Slamming my glass, I said. “I knew it.”

Phase 2 of Facebook’s Emotional Manipulation Study

The following is a work of satire. I’m leading with this disclaimer, because many of these examples of Facebook’s attempts at mind control sound a little too believable.

Facebook's emotional experiments give user mixed messages

Facebook’s emotional experiments give user mixed messages

Phase 2 of Facebook’s Emotional Manipulation Study

This week, Phase 1 of Facebook’s emotional manipulation experiments came to light. Having altered their Data user policy to include “research,” Facebook performed a study to test its influence on users’ psychology.

Positioning positive posts in the first test group’s feeds, the social network manipulated users to make merry messages of their own. Satiating some in sullen cynicism, they found these users were prone to mope and moan. Inspirational influencers led to delighted updaters, while pensive peers led to cocky contributors.

In his article Digital Market Manipulation, Ryan Calo believes companies “will increasingly be able to trigger irrationality or vulnerability in consumers.”

Like the copywriter in the Film Roger Dodger says, “You can’t sell a product without first making people feel bad… you convince them that your product is the only thing that can fill the void.”

There’s speculation Facebook implemented these studies to appease its shareholders. These suspicions would make sense, had evidence of Facebook’s second study not surfaced. It turns out these early experiments were the tip of the iceberg.

Phase 2 Experiments:

The Relationship Status Randomizer

Toying with eagle eyed ex lovers and potential stalkers, Facebook implemented the relationship status randomizer, listing married users as single, turning their private phone numbers to public, then posting “Feeling lonely” as their status on the hour every hour.

The Bogus Baby Broadcaster

Since baby announcements get the most engagement, Facebook posted pregnancy news on behalf of couples who weren’t expecting, pulling random ultrasounds from Google image search. The Bogus Baby Broadcaster asked family friends to vote on children’s names. The most popular choices were: Link McFly Skywalker, for boys, and Buffy Ripley Croft, for girls.

Open House Mode

Taking advantage of their Oculus Rift acquisition, Facebook started mapping real spaces for Virtual Reality. Rift owners have reported early access to a feature called Open House Mode. Stitching architecture together from users’ pictures, Open House Mode allowed beta testers to go on virtual tours of their friends’ homes. Rendering intimate living spaces, complete with exteriors from Google Street View, Open House Mode points out structural vulnerabilities like flimsy locks and windows that can be pushed open. When pressed for comment, Facebook’s lawyers said this feature was for users who wanted to throw surprise parties for one another.

Facebook's new mind control features are its best ever

Facebook’s new mind control features are its best ever

The Celebrity Death Generator

Attempting to stir up grief, Facebook filled users feeds with links that falsely reported celebrity deaths. A candlelit vigil, for actor Steve Buscemi, caused a twenty block traffic jam in downtown Atlantic City. The show runners for Boardwalk Empire had already hired Digital Domain to create a CGI stand-in, by the time the real Buscemi appeared on set, hungover, but still breathing.

Bladder Triggers

Promoting posts containing the words “hand soap, linen towels,” and “quilted tissue,” Facebook found an uptick in geotags to ‘home thrones.’ Once users were in their bathrooms, Facebook blasted them with footage of kayakers going over waterfalls, three story fountains, and animated gifs of lemonade flowing from bottles. This drew criticism from the American Society of Plumbing Engineers, fearing the effects a mass flushing incident will have on the nation’s sewer systems.

Samurai Shaming

Manufacturing outrage, Facebook posted updates as ESPN, tricking users into believing the Washington Redskins were changing their names to the Washington Yellowskins, replacing their native American logo with that of a crude cartoonish Samurai. Soon after, the hashtag #YesAllShoguns started trending.

Penicillin Petition

A petition to ban penicillin emerged, after Facebook made an article linking the antibiotic to childhood obesity trend. Medical authorities flooded the net to refute the claim, taking over the conversation in a matter of hours, but not soon enough to prevent media personality Jenny Mccarthy from endorsing the original findings. In the aftermath of the incident, Orange County has reported an outbreak of typhoid fever.

The Title Lengthening System

Some users awoke to find the phrase, “You Won’t Believe What Happens Next” tacked onto every link in their newsfeed, others saw, “… is the worst kind of discrimination.” Some reported seeing each link wrapped in the phrase “What… did is genius.” Everyone exposed to this title lengthening system reported feeling disturbed by the trend, as if they were the only ones noticing it happening.

Phantom Zuckerbergs

Businesses, sports teams, and families reported finding phantom images of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer, in their photos. In each image, Zuckerberg appears to be interacting with people, bringing his hands in for a team building seminar, hitting a beer bong at a keger, even wrapping his arms around someone else’s grandmother. Those who noticed the phantom CEO, said he appeared immediately after they uploaded their pictures, as if he’d been there all along. One group experimented with the feature, pointing to a camp fire in mock horror, posting the photo, they found Zuckerberg emerging from the fire.

Facebook’s Milgram Experiment

Members of the psychoanalytic were horrified when the social network conducted it’s own interpretation of the infamous Milgram Experiment.

Testing blind obedience, the Milgram Experiment urged subjects’ to commit actions at the expense of their conscience. Subjects took on the role of a teacher administrating electric shocks to a learner, an actor who was in no real danger. Every time the learner failed to answer a question, a man in a lab coat would instruct the teacher to hit them with shock treatment. Ignoring the actor’s cries, this authority figure would tell the teacher to up the voltage. The goal was to see how many of the subjects would protest, halting the experiment before the lethal jolt was given.

Facebook introduced a virtual version of this experiment. Believing they were administering electric shocks to prison inmates, users became executioners by way of an application. The app gave users a video stream of both a researcher, commanding them to move forward, and a prisoner writhing in agony.

Stanley Milgram found that 65 percent of his participants administered the lethal dose. Facebook, on the other hand, had a 100 percent success rate. In fact, the only user to report distress, was a man in Texas, claiming to be “bummed out” when the app disappeared from the service.

Conclusion

As social networks become more prevalent in our virtual lives their effects will be felt in the real world. If the cost of connecting means surrendering control of our bowels, most of us will pay it. If the price of admission is submitting to a full body scan, most of us will jump right in. We’ll accept, that if Facebook wants us to be happy, we’ll be happy, and if we’re sad, it’s because Facebook willed us to be. The social network works in mysterious ways.

We’re just guinea pigs, hitting ‘Like’ to get more food pellets, wandering through this maze of messages, looking for meaning. The all seeing eye of Zuckerberg watches us share pictures of our plates on first dates, engage in political debates, and when we think our cameras are off, he watches us masturbate.

Ours is not to question his reasoning, but to trust in his plan. We must open our minds and accept his influence.

Is Facebook toying with your emotions

Is Facebook toying with your emotions?

Check out my April Fool’s post Facebook Buys DrewChial.com and my article on how The Facebook Bait and Switch is already effecting authors.

Sad Superman (Updated)

I have a cutout Batman, then I have a cutout Superman. What's the first thing I do? Put them in this situation. I guess I'm a romantic.

I have a cutout Batman, then I have a cutout Superman. What’s the first thing I do? Put them in this situation. I guess I’m a romantic.

When director Zack Snyder released a photo of Ben Affleck, looking somber in the new Bat suit, Photoshop savvy netizens inserted him into sorrowful scenarios, and the Sad Batman meme was born.

When the studio released a photo of Superman from Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice they put rain droplets in the foreground, preventing enterprising satirists from developing yet another meme. They underestimated the power of Photoshop. May I present Sad Superman: cut out, with the droplets removed, and polished to perfection. I even threw in a colored version Sad Batman, with feet and a cape I’d added on.

Copy the PNG files and send these characters out on your own adventures.

To see more of the crazy things I’ve done with Sad Batman, take a look at my article on the perils of Living with Batman Syndrome, and don’t forget to check out my Design Gallery to see other comic book and movie parodies.

It's hard for Kanye to be sad when Superman's giving him a lift to the studio.

It’s hard for Kanye to be sad when Superman’s giving him a lift to the studio.

Now Batman has nothing to be sad about.

Now Batman has nothing to be sad about.

If a ride on Superman’s back doesn’t cheer Keanu Reeves up, nothing will.

If a ride on Superman’s back doesn’t cheer Keanu Reeves up, nothing will.

These are the original photos:

Ben-Affleck-as-Batman1 qsJ0Vie

And these are my cut outs:

Since the original photo cuts Batman off at the knees, I grafted on a pair of legs from an action figure. Same with the cape.

Since the original photo cuts Batman off at the knees, I grafted on a pair of legs from an action figure. Same with the cape.

In addition to clearing out the droplets, I used an image from Man of Steel to complete the cape. I also made him brighter and enhanced the color so he could fit into more daytime scenarios.

In addition to clearing out the droplets, I used an image from Man of Steel to complete the cape. I also made him brighter and enhanced the color so he could fit into more daytime scenarios.

Have fun.

Constantine Pilot Review

An Obsessive Hellblazer Fan Reviews the New Adaptation

How does NBC's Constantine stack up to the original Hellblazer Series?

How does NBC’s Constantine stack up against the original Hellblazer comics?

I’ve seen the Constantine pilot months before its October 24 premiere on NBC. As someone who owns every issue of John Constantine: Hellblazer, someone who’s been following the series for twenty years, someone who took his long locks to the barbershop, pointed to the cover of a comic book and said, “This,” I think I’m the right guy to review it.

Spoilers ahead.

Pilot Summary

Laying low in Ravenscar Asylum, recovering demonologist John Constantine is trying to put the past behind him. Strapping himself in for electroshock, he’s desperate to wipe away the memory of an exorcism gone wrong. When a spirit possesses a patient, to make a mixed media mural with paint and cockroaches, John stops kidding himself. The writing’s on the wall and it’s spelt out a name.

Liv Aberdine is having car trouble. The anti-crash system is convinced there’s someone behind her vehicle. Crossing the lot, she’s nearly swallowed in a sinkhole explosion. That’s when Constantine, sidestepping the 14 hour trip from Ravenscar to Atlanta, hops out of a cab. He’s under orders by the ghost of Liv’s father to protect her, which he does by giving her his card and leaving her to walk alone.

Sliding into the sinkhole, John meets Manny, the angel of vague leading statements. Swooping down to prophesize how eventful the legions of hell will make the series, Manny tells John that he’s going to need his help in a fight, before fleeing at the sound of sirens.

Liv meets with John after a friend in her complex is murdered. Their conversation is cut short when the same friend’s reanimated corpse crashes into her office.

John teaches Liv the art of seeing dead people, with the help of her father’s magic amulet. The pair venture to her father’s hideaway (the set piece we’ll probably be seeing over the life of the series) where they find a library of enchanted objects.

Consulting an ancient text for information on electric apparitions (Benjamin Franklin harnessed lightning in 1752 so the age of the text is debatable), John realizes they’re dealing with a demon named Furcifer. Fur, as in wool, Cifer, as in Louis C-fifer (names are always tough for writers).

Manny returns to play the metatron of forced exposition, telling John he might be able to win his way out of hell with good behavior, something John was doing despite Manny’s divine intervention.

John consults Ritchie Simpson, a techie who uses buzzwords like “data-mining,” to help him hack a power grid.

Using Liv as bait, Constantine tricks Furcifer into breaching a weak protection circle, only to become vulnerable when Ritchie cuts the power. Conjuring up a manifestation of Astrid, Furcifer let’s the audience know that this is the carrot the series intends to dangle over our heads. When Astrid is revealed to be a psychic forgery, John dispatches the demon with a series of vague spiritual incantations.

Using her father’s amulet to “scry,” Liv bleeds onto a map of the United States, finding people in peril, setting up future episodes.

Channeling John Constantine through Tim Bradsteet's original cover art.

Channeling John Constantine through Tim Bradsteet’s original cover art.

WHAT WORKS:

John is Great

Fans of Hellblazer will be happy to know the show runners are drawing their inspiration from the original series, ignoring the 2005 movie, and the New 52’s take on the character. This version of John uses spells and incantations, rather than a crucifix-shaped shotgun. I don’t think we’ll have to worry about him getting kicked out of the Batmobile for smoking, or dressing up as Shazam.

In this universe, John is a Brit, Chas is an adult, John’s original sin is not a botched suicide attempt, but Astrid’s exorcism. The pilot even teases series mainstays Newcastle and the First of the Fallen.

The Constantine in the pilot I saw smoked, he never put a cigarette to his lips, but he put one out in an ash tray. This doesn’t bother me. I don’t need to see John blow smoke rings in every episode, but I’m glad they left the lung cancer plot line on the table.

I’m not one of those fan boys that demands dogmatic adherence to the source material. I don’t care if John is a bleached blond, wearing a thin tie, and tan trench coat, what I do care about is the spirit of the character, that’s what they get right here.

Matt Ryan, the man who helped redeem the Assassin’s Creed franchise (voicing Edward Kenway in Black Flag), nails the character. Smirking in the face of evil, he’s charismatic, cocksure, with a hint of cowardice. He’s an underdog with swagger, with the iconic look of Tim Bradstreet’s Hellblazer covers. Matt Ryan is everything the 2005 movie was missing.

It will be hard to imagine Guillermo Del Toro doing the rumored Justice League Dark movie with another actor.

Does NBC's new Constantine series have the bite of the original Hellblazer comics?

Does NBC’s new Constantine series have the bite of the original Hellblazer comics?

WHAT NEEDS WORK:

In addition to being an über Hellblazer fan, I also have a professional background in script analysis. I liked the pilot, but I want this series to last. These things will need work if it’s going to do that.

The Supporting Characters

The show runners got John’s character down, but everyone else feels flat. There are too many tropes filling in for the supporting cast, IOUs where characterization and compelling goals should be.

As a True Blood fan, I know Lucy Griffiths can be great on screen. Here she feels like she’s reprising Rachel Weisz’s character from the 2005 feature. Liv is a Jill-everywoman, destined to be out shined by her leading man. My fear is that the series bible just has the words “Noble, stoic,” and “headstrong” next to her character.

I want to see her take on an argumentative role, be the Agent Scully to Constantine’s Mulder.

As a Lost fan, I know Harold Perrineau has a broader range than he’s allowed to show here. Here’s to hoping the angel Manny has more dimensions than a tool for exposition. I’d love to see him visit other conjurers, hedging his bets.

Does NBC's Constantine dogmatically follow it's source material?

Does NBC’s Constantine dogmatically follow its source material?

Pacing is a Problem

Breakneck speed isn’t good when you have to rubberneck to follow the plot. Here’s to hoping the scene count goes down in future episodes. Horror needs a slower burn to reach a boiling point. The jump scares go by so fast that we shrug them off.

The pilot rushes through a series of events, but it fails to connect them. Liv is attacked by an electricity demon AND THEN she meets John Constantine who tells her she’s in danger AND THEN John investigates a sinkhole AND THEN an angel appears to tell him of the rising demon legion. Are you sensing a pattern? There are far too many AND THEN’s in place of BUTs and THEREFOREs. Future episodes need a better balance between cause and effect.

The Dialogue

Apart from Constantine’s lines, which have just the right mix of British slang and quick wit, the banter left a lot to be desired. It reminded me of watching ABC’s Elementary, Johnny Lee Miller’s Sherlock Homes is great, but the show defaults to a cheap cop drama whenever he’s not on screen.

The Blood Map

The blood map is too convenient. These dots across the US are a weaker plot device than the visions from the Powers that Be on Angel, John Winchester’s paper trail on Supernatural, and the machine on Person of Interest. The days of syndicated reruns are long gone, this is a series that needs to follow the model of serialization. The blood map sets up a standalone structure.

Does NBC's Constantine have a prayer of saving supernatural horror?

Does NBC’s Constantine have a prayer of saving supernatural horror?

The Demons

As moviegoers we’ve seen our share of white-eyed stretch-marked possession victims. Show us something this summer’s Deliver Us from Evil isn’t bringing.

The demons lacked imagination. Rather than look to the horned goat-legged etchings that every show like Sleepy Hollow draws from, I implore the show runners to check out Joel-Peter Witkin, the photographer who inspired the creatures in Jacob’s Ladder, Dave Mckean, the Sandman cover artist, or even the creature design in the Silent Hill video games. Horns and hooves are so last century, now it’s all about disfiguring abnormalities.

We measure our hero’s worth by their opposition, based on these monsters, John isn’t long for our TV screens. He needs worthy opponents, foes that play him against other demons. In the books, the denizens of hell are territorial, feuding mob families using John as an unwilling go between. Hellblazer has more in common with The Big Sleep than The Exorcist, the show runners should play with that.

John tricks demons into fleeing, playing one faction against the other. There are hints of this in the pilot, but nothing like a proper grift.

The Magic

In the comics, Constantine’s spells have a dark poetry to them, combining charms, vices, and every day house hold items.

In the pilot he shouts esoteric gibberish. Why does Constantine need to recite a greatest hits of the world’s religions? At one point he says, “By the star of David I command you?”

If the show runners are afraid to go full-Latin-exorcism, than they need to modernize John’s methods. Have him bluff his way through a spell, making up a curse using things tacked to the wall, like a warped homage to The Usual Suspects. Have him use the MacGyver method, building an emergency talisman with objects he has on hand.

Can NBC's Constantine live up to the original Hellblazer series?

Can NBC’s Constantine live up to the original Hellblazer series?

It’s Too Soft

The pilot is a PG outing. There’s no way you’ll mistake it for premium cable offerings like Penny Dreadful, True Blood, or Salem. Even by network standards, this is tepid horror. The X-Files conjured up more frightening demons. We’re told Astrid was ripped apart by Nergal, but we see him use a telekinetic tractor beam to gently tug her into a light.

Relying on the same makeup and effects we always see, the spirits are more cartoony than scary. Constantine needs to distinguish itself from shows like Grimm. The show runners should take a page from their network sibling Hannibal and go harder.

Conclusions

The pilot is worth watching, but our screens are over saturated with supernatural horror. The series needs to establish a unique identity. The mysteries should ride out longer, here John just opens a book and knows he’s dealing with Furcifer. They need to take time to develop the characters.

I’d like to write a spec script for Constantine. Drafting my own episode, I’d lower the seen count, the locations, and the effects budget. Hell, in some of the best Constantine stories, he’s just tied to a chair. I’d start there.

Will NBC's Constantine give weaker supernatural TV shows the two finger salute?

Will NBC’s Constantine give weaker supernatural TV shows the two finger salute?

A Recovering Troll’s Guide to Netiquette

There's a right way to eat Twitter

There’s a right way to eat Twitter

How Twitter keeps teaching me to watch my bad behavior

Are you a constant contrarian, interjecting heated points into lukewarm discussions? Do you escalate things, directing conversations into your level of enthusiasm? On Twitter, do you tag users’ names after they’ve stopped responding? Do you reply after the fact, when no one’s paying attention?

Rather than contest a social norm, do you argue semantics, choosing abstract targets to sound politically correct? Are your rhetorical questions veiled attempts to express your feelings? Joking about sensitive issues, do you reveal too much truth in your jesting?

Is your profile page a minefield of polarizing statements, you wish someone would step on, just to give you a reason to go off on a tangent? Do you see yourself as a delegate for your beliefs or their defender? When you champion a cause, do you lead with a white flag or a bayonet?

There’s no shortage of assholes on the internet, but ask yourself: if you run into more of them than any other type of person, who’s the real asshole?

You might be a closeted troll and not even know it.

Don’t worry, there’s help. You can still hold your chin up without having to perform complicated mental gymnastics.

The goal of this article is not to scare you into the middle, to sway you from ever bringing religion or politics to the Twitter table. Its aim is not to whitewash your sense of humor, to take the teeth out of your sarcasm, or the venom from your satire. I’m not interested in silencing critics, getting psychoanalytic, or converting cynics into romantics.

I’m here to help you avoid transforming into a troll and to give some tips for dealing with those who have.

2. Chewing

Humble Thy Self: Admit your Mistakes

When designer Rob Sheridan posted a video on the internet’s shrinking attention span, I was so eager to recommend Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows, that I paused the clip right before it mentioned the book. Seeing my Tweet, Sheridan called out the irony of my actions. I had no choice but to agree. Humble is the user who favorites posts that call them a Jack-Ass.

For someone who Tweets a lot about writing, I really ought to proofread more. Undermining my authority, my typos betray me. That’s why when someone calls out my mistakes, I try not to make a scene.

If a grammar fascist comes knocking, my personal policy is to thank them for their services, and hope they move on. I’m always seeking evocative adjectives to spice up my musing. Sometimes I mix up words that don’t mean what I intend.

Someone called me out for substituting ‘unrequited,’ as in unwanted love, for ‘unsolicited’ as in free advice. Having swapped these two out for so long, I forgot that I’d taken an artistic license. Maybe I needed to be made a laughing stock to learn my lesson. The trick was to laugh with my unrequested editors.

If someone catches me using “prey” instead of “pray,” like “I prey the Time Warner Templars aren’t aloud to join forces with the Cult of Comcast.” my default response is “It’s National Homophone Day, I’m just raising awareness.” It’s my way of saying, I recognize my mistake, thanks for catching it, now we’re both in on the joke.

I also celebrate Opposite Punctuation Day whenever I use an apostrophe in the possessive pronoun “Its,” and Dangling Particle Day whenever my sentences confuse the relationship between two nouns and a verb.

If you put a lot of content out there, you’re increasing your odds of someone spotting an error. There are funny ways to admit your mistakes:

- I’m not a reckless storyteller, I switch tenses to pique the public’s interest in time travel. I’m a scientist.
– Mislabeling the tragic “ironic,” I’m the king of irony, misusing the word as an homage to its actual meaning.
– I literally used the word “literally” in place of “figuratively” to see if you knew the difference. Congratulations, you passed my test.

Sometimes I need a reminder that “loose” is the condition of my pants without a belt, and “lose” is what happens to my pants if I run without that belt. Sometimes I just have to fess up to my Freudian slips, hang a lantern on my redundancies, and make a monument to my oxymorons.

When all else fails, I blame my phone’s autocorrect function, especially when it’s something I actually typed on my computer.

3. Drinking

Dealing with Trolls

Watching my favorite authors’ Twitter feeds, I’ve noticed a trend: the more followers they have, the bigger targets they become. You have the power to put out a flame war before it ever gets started. Here’s some of the best methods I’ve seen them use.

Troll Jujutsu

This is the art of using a troll’s force against them. Put their insult in lights for all your followers to see. Usually, Twitter users can only see conversations when they follow both participants, but if you put a dot in front of the other user’s Twitter handle, you broadcast their ravings to everyone you know. Another trick is to take a snap shot of the troll’s posts in case they try to delete them.

Troll Jujutsu is a great method to draw awareness to harassment campaigns. If you blog about sexism, only to find yourself besieged with sexist trolls, rebroadcasting their behavior can draw out supporters.

Turning the other Tweet

One of my favorite Tweeters has her writing advice challenged constantly. People have called her a self-indulgent narcissist, point blank.

Her response, “Yep, that’s me. I know I am, but what are you?”

Her’s is a method of non-violent resistance. Some users take abuse in stride, a sure sign their following is big enough to take on strays.

Another one of my favorite social media figures, automates her Tweets, posting links, quotes, and articles on writing 24/7. She replies, retweets, and writes live statements too, but some users are critical of her presence when she’s obviously sleeping.

Her response, “I’m just trying to run a business. You can always mute or unfollow, you have options.”

Link them to their Fallacy

Why argue with a troll’s reasoning when you can defer them to pages that have refuted their claims in advance?

YourLogicalFallacyIs.com is an excellent resource for this, cataloging and defining unsound statements, from the classic Straw Man: misrepresenting an argument to make it easier to attack, to the Middle Ground, claiming the point between two extremes is the truth. Each example has it’s own page so you can copy and paste the link when needed.

Not only is the site a great collection of comebacks, it’s a way to challenge your own style of arguing. Reading through the definitions, I can’t believe how many of them I’ve been guilty of.

4. Raising a glass

Starve them Out

If social media is your business and your profile is your brand, you might not have the time or energy to deal with escalation.

I’ve posted a couple of articles with the hashtag #GayRights, and I’ve got some hateful responses. These trolls never bother to click on the links (one article is on how hate monger Fred Phelps struck an accidental blow for gay rights, and the other is on how laws that deny rights to gays, on religious grounds, should deny rights to left handed people too). These trolls just searched the hashtag #GayRights and carpet bombed anyone who posted anything.

These weren’t hearts and minds I could win. They weren’t worth my time. That’s why I just hit the block button, end of discussion.

5. Napkin

How to Stop the Transformation

Even though I know better, I still have to fight the urge to air my grievances in online forums, to give into my reactionary nature and harass public figures.

When it comes to arguing points, it’s hard to make irrefutable statements in 140 characters. This is what a blog is for. Writing editorials in the longer form, I see where they work and where they need to be reinforced with research.

If you’re known for flying off the handle, letting the Tweets flow every time you turn on the news, don’t be surprised when you hemorrhage followers. You can bring light to important issues, but don’t forget to offer your readers something that’s distinctly you.

The best way to avoid becoming a Twitter troll is to balance your tirade to praise ratio. For everything you dump on, you’ve got to find something worth celebrating. For every polarizing statement, you’ve got to put out something magnetic. For every irrefutable claim you make, you need to ask questions that invite participation.

In the past, every time I championed a cause my followers left me to fend for myself. It wasn’t that these causes were toxic, it’s just that my tone was. One of the hardest lessons Twitter keeps teaching me, is to err on the side of positivity.

6. Stack of Twitter