blogging

Writing Samples

Since I am again looking to break out of academia and into a new career, and the pandemic continues to flourish, I am now focusing on copywriter jobs. It’s a tricky thing, though–I’ve been stuck in my academic career for about 20 years now, and it’s difficult to concoct a good looking portfolio of writing work for the very different world that is Marketing.

So here’s what I’ve decided to do: I’ve gathered together a small collection of my linkable work that I think shows how good a writer I am, and also shows off a little bit of my writerly versatility. This way, I’ve got one blog post I can direct interested people to, where they can easily see an array of examples, in lieu of a business marketing portfolio, until I start working in that capacity and can build one. So, here ’tis.

One last note: These aren’t all the absolute best of my writing, nor are they the pieces that have been most prestigiously published. What I hope these samples represent is how I work in the type of writings that a copywriter would need to produce in a marketing capacity (and where I already have done so, successfully).

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Best Burger Restaurants: I was a primary copywriter for Your Boulder for a few years before it changed hands and changed its look, then I wrote for them again at their return for a few years after that. Several of my business features, listicles, and blog posts have gotten very successful, SEO-wise, and my weekender articles were among the most popular searched for pieces about Boulder. The article I’ve linked here about Boulder’s burger restaurants was one of the most engaged-with that I wrote for them.

Thief 4 Review: Now-defunct website Nerds In Babeland was one of the go-to hubs of all things geek culture, from around 2012 to 2015. I was a regular staff writer for this site, and my main work there was in writing reviews. Books, comics, and the occasional game were all subject to my critical eye, and my “mini-interview” series of authors and other well known nerds was a big hit. This is an example of one of my reviews.

Problematic Tropes: These came about as a series of cultural critique style articles, which began with the Problematic Badass Female Tropes series on Writers’ HQ, and continued with the Problematic Toxic Masculinity Tropes on Writers’ HQ and then A Wandering Road. The first PBFT article is called The Marion Effect, and the first PTMT article to appear on A Wandering Road is titled NERD!!

Actually, Don’t: This article is another piece that centers on cultural commentary, and goes a little into messaging, branding, and analyzing a meme. You might also say it’s a calculated rant. It appeared on my personal blog, and was the catalyst for much engagement and dialogue on my social media.

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Thanks for reading, whether you’re exploring these pieces recreationally, or as a sharp-eyed recruiter.

What do you think? Do I get the job?

Xmas Carol Parts 2-5

See how bad I am at keeping up with this blog? I’ve been doing the daily readings of Christmas Carol and posting it…like, everywhere else? So anywho. Here are the installments I’ve done since last I was here. Please to enjoy.

Part 2: https://youtu.be/6O-QRxvjrJ4

Part 3: https://youtu.be/0vZo4OIZtWU

Part 4: https://youtu.be/k31A7Ztt7KQ

Part 5:

Learning From the Lieutenant

Hello, lovely lurkers! Say, I have a wee work-in-progress that I think you’d enjoy. Check it out: I was asked recently to discuss how Lieutenant Columbo (of the self-named 1970s detective series) and his masterful way of getting self-important murderers eating out of the palm of his hand, can relate to marketing techniques in business scenarios.

What a fascinating correlation! And I was rereading bits of Chris Voss’ Never Split the Difference, a book on negotiation techniques and how they apply to the biz world, at that time, and so my brain got into a fun spin. Here below are some rough-spun ideas in both those veins, that I’ve been playing with. I would very much appreciate commentary, creative tangents, explosions, or, maybe just One More Thing, to help with my revisions…

How to Columbo

The concept that I want to talk about is that of STATUS. Actors use status shifts all the time to convey clear character relationships. Status in this case refers to social status, not economic status (though of course the one can influence the other). 

Humans are herd animals—we constantly microadjust our status in all social situations, professional or personal. You can raise or lower your own status, or raise or lower someone else’s. We do this in the things we say aloud and in our body language. 

You might think that in an important business interaction that it would be best to always try and be the highest status person in the room, that a higher social status would be the most powerful. Very often that’s not true. Frequently, it’s lifting the other person’s status or even lowering your own that’s the most potent choice. How is this possible?

Nobody in all of fiction better exemplifies the power of lowering one’s own status and raising another’s than Lieutenant Columbo, of 1970s’ TV fame. This show’s pleasing pattern is to pit a rich, powerful, intelligent and arrogant murderer, who thinks s/he has taken care of all their loose ends and is above the law, against little, rumpled, scruffy, shambling and cigar-smoking Columbo. In almost every instance, you can see how the doughty Lieutenant paves the way for the self-satisfied murderer to paint themselves into a corner. He does this by precisely and systematically lowering his own status while raising the murderer’s. The murderer thinks Columbo is slow and stupid and clueless until it’s far too late. 

You’ve read those sales and negotiation manuals that maintain it’s a great idea to not out-power the other person but to deftly guide them into thinking they’ve made all the choices you wanted them to make. You can’t do that by commanding them, most of the time. 

So how do you actually do this? Well, how does Columbo do it?

Let’s look at a specific example: 

Season 1, ep 2: Death Lends a Hand

-I highly recommend watching the whole episode (contact me for my house Columbo drinking game). 🙂

-But! the scene I’m dissecting begins at 25:32 in the free Amazon Prime Video version. The scene begins with Mr. Kennicut entering a lavish red room with Columbo following doggedly behind.

-CHARACTERS:

  • Mr. Kennicut, a huge newspaper mogul, widowed husband of the murdered woman.
  • Lieutenant Columbo, most brilliant detective in the world, though very few people know this. 
  • Private Investigator Brimmer, former police detective, now a high powered and very wealthy PI with his own state-of-the-art firm. Just recently investigated Mrs. Kennicut for adultery and attempted to blackmail her. This turned into an accidental murder. 
  • BACKGROUND NOTE for this scene: Kennicut doesn’t know anything about Brimmer’s part in the murder, nor that his wife was having an affair (Brimmer told him she had a “clean bill of health” after having hired him to find this info). Columbo has not met Brimmer before he enters this scene. 
    • Also: notice before anything is spoken aloud: how Columbo’s physical mannerisms, posture, and mode of dress already establish him as someone of lower status. The moment a rich and egotistical murderer takes one look at him, any danger he may have felt from him pretty much goes away. There’s no way *this* guy is the smartest one in the room. Right?

Now let’s see how Lieutenant Columbo gets vital information out of these two very high status men:

Watch the scene in question, and look for these moments:

MOMENTS OF NOTE:

  1. Talking to commissioner the other day / I’m only here in a supplemental capacity
  2. You worked security for him? / no a personal matter 
  3. I’m grateful for all the help I can get 
  4. I suddenly feel much more optimistic 
    1. Launches right into palmistry 
  5. Seizes Brimmer’s hand before he asks for permission 
  6. Wrong door—praises the look of the clubs
    1. Questions about clubs, says they’re not important 
  7. Brimmer: police techniques have changed

What do these moments tell us?

  1. Notice how Columbo is letting the two high status men talk as much as possible. Brimmer comes right in with raising his own status, saying he was at a party with Columbo’s boss. He puts him in his place while condescendingly referring to his “understanding” of Columbo’s working class problems. 
  2. Columbo hasn’t spoken hardly a word until he asks how the two men know each other. Brimmer makes the mistake of mentioning that his work for Kennicut was a “personal matter,” which of course would make Columbo immediately see it must have had something to do with Kennicut’s wife. Already Columbo has gotten the idea that Brimmer is somehow involved with her murder, since he’s horning his way into the case, and was involved in that “personal matter.”
    1. In the scene just before, Columbo echoes Kennicut’s odd phrase, “a clean bill of health” to mean his wife was faithful. Not a normal way to describe that, and so already Columbo is thinking maybe there was some kind of professional investigation. Brimmer then mentioning “a personal matter” pretty much verifies that he was involved. 
  3. By saying he’s grateful for the help, Columbo is going along with Brimmer’s assertion that he needs the help. By doing this, he affirms Brimmer’s high status, while lowering his own. He also makes sure Brimmer feels comfortable involving himself—that is, Brimmer won’t likely notice any suspicion on Columbo’s part since he’s being so buttered up. So now, Columbo can keep him close by, to keep an eye on him too, without him knowing he’s doing so.
  4. “I suddenly feel much more optimistic about this whole thing” is a pretty clever piece of snark by Columbo—he’s basically thanking Brimmer for walking right into his hands.
    1. Columbo then launches immediately into all that palmistry nonsense here, just to keep Brimmer still feeling superior and to lower his own status again (also probably to ease whatever sharpness that earlier phrase may have shown). But look what powerful moves he’s able to accomplish by prattling along this way. The men let him do this because they don’t feel threatened.
  5. Columbo looks at Kennicut’s palm first because he’s already created a rapport with him (he can also pretend to read his recent calamity accurately in his palm). Notice Columbo grabs Brimmer’s hand before asking permission. Just in case Brimmer gets offended or worried by this (or tries to pull his hand away), Columbo comes up with a whole lot of nonsensical praise: he touts Brimmer’s ambition, distinction, power, etc. This both continues to lower his own status while raising Brimmer’s even more. And it keeps Brimmer’s hand in Columbo’s–he’s got plenty of time to gather clues.
    1. At the end of the episode when Brimmer is caught, Columbo admonishes him: “You should never have let me read your palm.” During this whole palmistry bit, Columbo is getting the details of Brimmer’s ring, which is a damning clue as it matches the cut/bruise on the murdered woman’s cheek. But Brimmer is so caught up in the praise and in his own condescending amusement at Columbo’s antics that it doesn’t cross his mind at the time.
  6. Whether or not Columbo meant to open the wrong door, the bumbling further lowers his status (I happen to think he opened that door on purpose, but I can’t find textual evidence either way). This means he can pepper Kennicut with all these new questions without there being any worry on Brimmer’s side. Brimmer basically thinks Columbo is an idiot, while Columbo continues to extract some very important clues.
    1. Columbo praises the clubs before touching them, which is what allows him to grab them, which is how he discovers they’re ladies’ clubs and belonged to the murdered woman, which is how he discovers she was taking golf lessons. He would never have gotten all this new information if he hadn’t bumbled into the closet. 
    2. The golf clubs are a big clue, as the man Mrs. Kennicut had the affair with was her golf instructor. Had Columbo attempted high status choices here, he would never have gotten this far. 
      1. The camera does cut to Brimmer during Columbo’s golf club interrogations but if he starts to feel like Columbo is getting anywhere, Columbo assures them that his questions aren’t important. Columbo further lowers his status once more and soothes Brimmer by cutely asking, “is this the right door?” before leaving. 
  7. Success! Brimmer’s smug comment about police techniques being different these days tells us he’s sufficiently been pumped up, is feeling superior and safe, and sees nothing sharp or dangerous in the Lieutenant. 

Now obviously I’m not saying you should dress like a slob and act like an idiot in order to soothe your potential clients into entering a deal. But in Columbo’s extreme example you can see how the high status choice isn’t always the most powerful, and that letting the other guy speak, or praising them and listening for a while, instead of plowing forward with your own agenda, can often work much better. 

What Day is it?

I mean, what even is time anymore…

Not that that’s an excuse. It’s really that I’ve been using other types of social media, the microblog type ones, to do colorful updates, commentary, and all that jazz. But I have missed this longer form platform for more composed musings, and so here I am. And now the party can start again.

I thought I’d begin anew this Fall-into-Winter by doing one of those life activity summaries that those of you who are left seem to enjoy reading. Here tis, in a nutshell:

WORK: I’m concluding a course at DU called Genres, in which a dozen Professional Writing Program students peruse various literary genres, analyze them, and even create some of their own. I always wish we could go over *actual* genres like Mystery, Fantasy, Romance, etc. but that’s not the way PWRI be. Which is okay. That’s over in a couple weeks. At Metro, the Intro kids are concocting their big final projects, which are one-act plays. I’m very excited (as I always am) to see how these turn out. This semester, they’re required to make a trailer for them, too, which should be a lot of fun. The Staging Cultures kids are winding up reading their last two plays (M Butterfly and Angels In America), and then they’ll be finished up too.

Once a week or so of many holiday snacks go by, I’ll be back online at DU teaching Art and Interpretation, as well as a translation class! That ought to be quite the hoot—I’ll have to revisit my Cyrano or Arsene Lupin translations. Then it’s Staging Cultures again at Metro at mid-month. It’s not looking likely that I will ever be given Stage Movement again there, so. We’ll see how much longer I linger there, before I get fully shouldered out. After momre than 20 years, 16 at that department. Hey, it’s adjuncting. What can you do…

Well, one thing I maybe can do: I’ve been serving on MSU’s Faculty Senate as affiliate (adjunct) rep, and will soon be also on the Faculty Welfare subcommittee. So we shall see what kind of things I can make better there…

Speaking of one-acts and adjuncting, I’m WRITING (about) both right now. I will be writing a holiday themed one-act for TCL’s festival again—last year, I wrote a play using the lyrics and situation of ”Baby It’s Cold Outside.” This year? I’m not quite sure yet, but I get the feeling that the Grinch may be visited by Scrooge’s 3 ghosts. The memoir project is officially complete. That is, I finished the writing part. Now to do a bunch more editing and get some paratext stuff together (like Tables of Contents, a query letter, etc.) and it should be ready to shop out by my birthday. Yipes and wow.

In THEATRE land, Blue Dime Cabaret came back and conquered! We had two shows at Dangerous Theatre, one of which completely sold out! The high level of talent that came back to appear for us never ceases to amaze me, but especially this time. I even got PB to come do a song with me. We plan on doing a First Fridays thing at Dangerous once the new year breaks, but of course everything depends on the pandemic still at this point. I had a great time doing the fights for Always a Bridesmaid at TCL, and I might have another fight gig coming up at Vintage, but I haven’t had confirmation on that one yet, so maybe not. Oh, and one thing that counts as both writing and theatre? I read some of my work at a Punketry show, accompanied by a punk/jazz band.

As far as just LIFE stuff? I’ve been finally, after too long, getting things like prescriptions and dental work done for myself, which is a good thing. I’ve been suffering recently from a bout of some kind of piriformis syndrome / sciatica type thing which has flattened me nearly completely for almost two weeks. That isn’t such a good thing, but having my body put the brakes on for me does make me perforce do some stopping, and thinking.

And writing. Which is a good thing to come out of that.

More longer form stuff to come. No, really—there’s a few things fleshed out in my notes that have gone dormant since my book project, that I would like to wake up and see if they take. Stay tuned.

Punketry was a hoot. My Beat profs at Naropa would’ve been proud.

Link is the Hero, Not Zelda

Well here we are again, lovely lurkers–time for a list of links, for your educational and/or entertainment needs. Please to follow any and all of these, and enjoy!

Denver Unique Week of Fashion was the first in-person live theatrical type event I did as the plague began to clear up a bit. It happened in April of this year, and it’s happening again at its normal Fall time of year. This event is focused on local designers and showcasing those designs on all kinds of beautiful models (not just the conventional type). I know right know I’ll be walking for Misfit Missy on that Friday, and will likely be strutting the catwalk on M and W as well. Keep up on my Insta to see more.

Speaking of live events coming back, we at BLUE DIME Cabaret are in talks to come back in September. We are still in very early preliminary talks, so no deets yet, but the place to find updates is our FB page.

Burlesquey friends of BDC are doing a horror themed burlesque show called HQ of 1000 Corpses, over at HQ Bar in Denver, in early October. I’ll have a sexy bloody act, and will be helping the whole show with the gory bits, too.

The Problematic Tropes (both of Badass Women and Toxic Masculinity) series of mine on Writers’ HQ were defunct for a short bit whilst they updated their website, so all those links in the earlier posts here aren’t working. Now they’re back, with all working gifs and such. And of course, the last few in the series are still up on Friend Jason’s blog.

My memoir is going swimmingly, as coached along by author Herb Childress. His book was an inspiration for the project, and his blog is also some very well written food for thought, on a much more regular basis than my posts here.

Finally, as I have had the hesitantly joyful experience of shooting some firearms over at a range near the SO’s family’s place, I have therefore become more interested in firearms in a theatrical context. I’m a sword guy–the gun thing is a big gap in my expertise when it comes to stage combat. Luckily, a local-ish colleague of mine is an expert in these things, both having written a stellar textbook on the subject, and heading the fantastic video content over at his Youtube page, called, cutely enough, PewTube.

Me awkwardly shooting a pewpew. It’s pretty fricking fun, as bad as I am at it.

My 20 Cents’ Worth on Columbo’s Top 100

Eminent blogger and cultural influencer The Columbophile has begun a series of “best of” posts about everyone’s favorite detective: Lieutenant Columbo. Before embarking on this Herculean endeavor, however, he consulted 12 experts/fans, asking them what their Top 20 1970s Columbo moments were (let’s just avoid talking about the ’90s episodes, shall we). Having gathered this data, he has concocted a Top 100, the first two posts of which are already published to his blog, here.

And the panel of experts? Some pretty awesome names: Steven Moffat (yeah, *that* Steven Moffat), Mark Dawidziak (who penned the most famous Columbo compendium, The Columbo Phile), Jenny Hammerton (of Cooking With Columbo fame), and… wait for it…

*ME!!!*

Yep, I’m on this stellar panel, and I am ecstatic to be in the company of such high level fanpeeps! Follow this series on The Columbophile’s blog, and I’ll let you know which ones were my choices as we go. Spoiler alert: none of them in these first two entries were on my Top 20, but that doesn’t mean I don’t agree they should be here–they are all fantastic moments, and it’s so cool that the clips of same are there to enjoy.

peter-falk-colombo

Oh, just one (hundred) more thing(s)…

Deconstruction Workers episode 4.1 (&2): academics on academia in the pandemic

Please to enjoy my latest guest appearance on the Deconstruction Workers. Part 2 coming soon! UPDATE: Part 2 is HERE! https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-deconstruction-workers/id1396862014 

https://blubrry.com/podcastdcw/57757504/s04e01-coronapocalypse-2020-part-one/

PTMTs on the Outrider #7: Violence is Normal

And with that, we conclude the fantastic Problematic Toxic Masculinity Tropes on Friend Jason’s podcast, The Outrider. This week, Paul joined us again, and we hashed out the world’s problems tipsily, as we are wont to do.

Thanks so much for all of you who listened in, and do leave me comments here if you’d like me to finish those articles that WHQ isn’t taking. I need external motivation, or I’ll never get it done.

PTMT #7 on The Outrider: Violence is Normal

PTMTs on the Outrider #6: Mr. Mom

This week on The Outrider, Friend Jason and I discuss the Mr. Mom trope. Remember that for the last two tropes, we don’t have heavily edited & published articles, and not even outlines like for the 4th & 5th. So we’re hashing out the details of what the trope will be when written as we go.

Original descriptions of the 7

Outrider PTMT #6: Mr. Mom