Pop Culture Might Pay My Bills

So today I auditioned for a role on a new Bravo series called Dishing. David, my boss at my essay job called me and told me he'd recommended me for the part. The casting director is a good friend of his, and he recommended Ted Allen, who is on Queer Eye For the Straight Guy. So she took him pretty seriously and voila! I am auditioning to be a talk show host. I don't know anything about the show, other than it's a multi-host, gay-friendly show about entertainment, pop culture, media, etc, described as The View meets Real Time With Bill Maher meets Talk Soup. I like the last two shows, so I guess that's something.

The audition went thusly. I chatted with a very nice man about Tom and Katie ( called it the Manchurian Pregnancy, which they liked, but fumbled a joke about the fetus getting a two-picture movie deal), Daniel Craig becoming Bond (Yes! Quoted earlier post on Steve McQueen reference), chatted about the evil that is Star Jones, my embarassing addiction to my DVR, etc. Most importantly, I talked about my embarassing reality television addiction (The Surreal Life, Filthy Rich Cattle Drive, any monstrosity that cable will throw my way)...All that background noise while I'm typing might actually get me a job and pay my bills!

The audition seemed to go very quickly. Perhaps I shouldn't have worn the fishnets. Or perhaps it went quickly because time flies when I yak my head off about this stuff. But callbacks are next week.

Interestingly, this also coincides with the pop culture themes in Wicked Women. My editor and I both agree that it should be both contemporary and very pop culture-y, which is really exciting, because I was afraid she wouldn't like the pop culture part. So if I do this show and then the book comes out....(I am rubbing my hands with glee. I so rarely feel glee.) Of course, this is problematic because callbacks are next week and I'm supposed to go to California then, but we'll see....

As I've always said, television can be good for you...

Television Says My Cabdriver Can't Get Laid

A word to the entertainment community: Enough already, with cowardly, dorky, sex-starved Indian men. Seriously.

I grew up with some pretty cool Indian guys--investment bankers who could discuss Moby Dick and play guitar, doctors who worked with AIDS patients, artists, musicians and dj's. I do not see these men on television. I do see cabdrivers and doctors and newstand owners and computer programmers and convenience store managers. Unlike many Indians, I do not find this inherently insulting. A lot of us ARE doctors and cabdrivers, etc. etc., and after having grown up with no Indian role models in the media (even my beloved Apu, alas, cannot be seen as a role model), I am just happy to see us represented. That's the first step in assimilating into a culture, after all. The media, always with an eye on the trend, is always the first to acknowledge and legitimize the existence of a minority; political systems are much farther behind.

Invariably, early portrayals are negative, or, at least limiting. Hence the fact that almost all Indians portrayed in the media are Indians Fresh off the Boat. This, too, is fine with me, although, thank God for that the Bend-It-Like-Beckham chick on ER. They all have accents, and most often the accent gets the laughs. Okay. I can be big about this and overlook that too.

But do they always have to be horny, frustrated, chickenshit dorks? Ajay Nadu in Office Space--funny as hell, couldn't get laid. I endured the dorky Indian sidekick in the otherwise excellent Van Wilder because I was sure he had real talent. He did. Kal Penn later played Kumar in Harold and Kumar White Castle, a brilliant stoner with enough passion to imagine making out with a giant bag of weed, and enough game to get himself laid. With Kumar, I thought we were done with the Indian nerd stereotype.

And now this new guy on my beloved show Weeds, Maulik Pancholy, playing Sanjay a....dorky science major who's goofily in love with Mary Louise Parker but runs away, yelling "Forgive me" every time she's in trouble. Weeds is such a good show because in its skewed universe, nobody--not cancer patients, ten-year olds, deaf girls, drug dealers, stoners--is predictable; nobody acts the way you'd expect them to act. Except the sexless Indian guy.

Once upon a time the drunk Mexican in the poncho was de rigueur if you were talking about Latinos. Once upon a time all laundrymen were Chinese and wore pointy hats, or talked like Charlie Chan. Once upon a time, black matrons were supposed to be plump and wear kerchiefs and raised their employer's white kids. All that is Not Acceptable in the mainstream media of today. Let's send the impotent, skinny, FOB-y Indian-American sidekick there as well.

As for the real life impotent, skinny FOB-y Indian-American sidekicks...they need some decent role models in the media so they can class up their act. More Kumars, less dorks. Then we can start give the Indian-American women some representation....

But one step at a time.

Consider This

The following are well-known facts.

When considering applicants, law schools look at precisely two things: your undergraduate grades and your LSAT score. That is it. Don't fool yourself about recommendations or the essay. They just don't care. They also don't care that, oh, you did a thousand times better in your graduate school than your undergraduate college because they simply don't care that you have a graduate degree. Your LSAT score, on the other hand, better be well about 99.9% to get into a top law school.

However, when considering applicants, business schools really don't care much about your GMAT scores or undergraduate grades. The thresholds are pretty low and many, many qualified applicants pass easily. However, Harvard has a total of seven 400 word essays about your goals, leadership skills, personal life, extracurricular activities, work experience and accomplishments. No listing. You'd better tell some interesting stories. In other words, it is extremely hard to get into a top business school straight out of undergrad. They want people with work, extracurricular, and charity organization experience.

Now, what does this mean?

Clearly, the students going to business school are more adult, simply because they're older, have more work and life experience, and need to be able to prove their managerial and leadership abilities outside a school setting. In fact, they must all have some business experience as well as specific goals for their future. These people have the ability to think in complex situations, deal with people, be adults, live in the real world.

The law students, however, are uniformly unformed. Most come straight out of college. They have varied undergraduate experience which may encompass no business, government or law experience--despite the fact that the majority will work in the private sector or the government. They are required to be good at taking tests, specifically the SAT, which the LSAT strongly resembles. They are also required to have been organized and focused enough to have done academically well from the age of 18, even if that means skipping interesting courses or jobs during a time traditionally held for self-exploration. Think--tunnel vision, good at interpreting data, able to take orders and respect larger systems, no experience dealing with people. Surprisingly, however, despite the law schools' emphasis on analysis, (or, because law school does not require business, government or pre-law courses) many of these students are creative or artistic as well. This is what is known as a weakness.

Why is it this way? MBA is for leaders and entrepreneurs. Law is for traditionalists and analysts. An MBA is expansive, ambitious, big picture. Law is restrictive and drowns in minutiae. An MBA seeks to connect with others. The legal profession is essentially isolationist.

And why is this bad? Because law firms are still companies, and lawyers are managing other lawyers. Very, very badly. The ridiculous morale and dissension in law firms is because a) some creative types have been sold a book of goods on a profession that doesn't exist and find their creativity is suddenly a handicap b) lawyers have no training and no required experience managing people in a non-adversarial way, so they end up hazing, manipulating and cannibalizing each other c) the absurd amount of money thrown at 25 year "lawyers" doing intern work is to essentially buy labor rather than create cohesive community d) the lack of business and government requirements to get into law school, and the lack of law school offerings in these courses, means that a lot of untrained associates end up staring blankly at your financial documents.

Just think about it.


I raised my rates a few months ago, which was an interesting choice because I actually had no work. But it was an important step in my career.

It seems counterintuitive that raising my rates would result in an overload of work, but that's exactly what happened. I'm not sure why, but deciding that my time and my work was worth more than the X dollars I had been getting for a year or so has made my writing better, and attracted better clients. Science resists this logic; it makes no sense that people would be attracted to the concept of spending more money for writing, but I think the reality is that people always get what they pay for. Now, roughly making 3x as much money as I had in the spring, I allow myself to spend more time on writing, get more creative, take more risks, deliver a better product. I feel appreciated, and therefore am a better employee.

What's funny is that none of this happened until I said "I deserve more." Oh, how Hallmark, I know, but there you have it. I come from a family of scientists; I hesitate to belief in auras or energy or luck, but something has changed in my life. I know the work I'm doing is far more interesting and intellectual, and helping people with their graduate school essays seems, well, important. To them and to me.

In the end, I think it really matters who you work for. My current employers have a high regard for my opinion, and don't constrain me. That is nice. I had figured since I was making zero dollars at X dollars an hour, nothing would change if I suddenly started charging X+Y dollars an hour. But things did change. I think people are willing to pay your rate if you really believe in what you're charging--that your time is worth X+Y dollars even if you do all your writing in a blue kimino with a cat on your lap and the E! True Hollywood Story in the background.

Ask for what you deserve, but first, find out if what you deserve is the going rate. My rates were well under what other writers charged, because I still felt guilty about getting up at 10:30 and having a glass of wine while I edited. In the end, those things don't matter; the work product did.

I can't escape the feeling that it was my attitude, rather than external factors, that kept me broke all this time. It goes against what I know about the world, but hell, I learn new things every day.