freelance


Cracked: ‘Frozen’ Fan Theory: Hans Is a Pawn

I had never heard of Frozen  the night I went to see it, appropriately, in a blizzard. I just wanted to try a new ramen restaurant with my lady, and we didn’t want the evening to end. So: tip — you can give Jin Ramen in Harlem a miss; it’s pedestrian. Go to Ippudo or Totto instead. If you’re that far uptown, hit up Tampopo. But as long as you’re in the neighborhood, do visit the AMC Magic Johnson Theater, which is everything a neighborhood movie theater should be.

Anyway, I enjoyed the movie very much; it’s a funny film that overturns tropes like Prince Charming, Love at First Sight, and the Wicked Queen. It ended the only way it really ought to have.

Two things stuck weird with me, though: first, it feels way more like a Broadway musical than a Disney musical. Second, Hans’s reversal comes out of nowhere. It’s kind of a neat trick, and I don’t think it requires foreshadowing, but it’s so contrary to everything he does, that it klunked with me. It’s one thing to play wholesome while crawling towards your sinister goals. It’s another to thwart those goals throughout your journey. Hans is sending mutton stew back to the kitchen and protesting “No thank you, I don’t eat that because as you can plainly see by my clothing, I am a sheep.”

Anyway, that was about that till my buddy Steve told me he had pitched a fan theory to Cracked that Hans was never the true culprit of Frozen. It having recently been approved, he invited to write it with him. I heartily accepted, as that point had stuck out at me so sorely. Also, I don’t think we as a popular culture are talking enough about the fact that Elsa has the power to create sentient life. That’s a really disturbing power for a hero to have.

I gleefully accepted, but didn’t have much to add to his very well-structured points. I noticed a few details, added some one-liners, cut and condensed, and a few rounds of collaboration and a week later we had a complete story. This was a fun one.

This way down the rabbit hole.


New Thrillist Piece: The Best Free* Viewing on Amazon Prime

Hey, look! New article by me at Thrillist: The Best Shows & Movies to Stream on Amazon Prime, in which I run down the broadcasts most worthy of your time, both native and immigrant to the streaming service. Is Veronica Mars on there? You’d better believe Veronica Mars is on there. And also some neat stuff you’ve probably never heard of.

Moment of honesty: I don’t have Amazon Prime, so I had to go by critical reviews on a lot of their original programming. But now I really, really want to see Mad Dogs.

 

*Assuming you paid for Amazon Prime

**Why’s that article say I do? I dunno! Why does the BBQ book solicit copy say I’ve “long been a darling of the NY BBQ scene” before such a thing even existed and has ever done so without me? Life is strange.

My New Gig at Thrillist: Unsung Heroes

I put to pen the praises for regionally popular sandwiches that aren’t ubiquitous in the United States yet but damn well should be over at my other new gig (see? I told you you wouldn’t have to wait long) with Thrillist. It’s a welcome return to the damn good sandwich series I did at Maxim and Man Cave Daily. And one of the sandwiches is brains. So look forward to that.

 


Hedy Lamarr Was 007 + Q

Pursuant to today’s Google Doodle, here’s a piece I wrote for Maxim years ago, about why Hedy Lamarr is your hero and/or fantasy woman:

TIME CRUSH: Hedy Lamarr

Listen, brother, there are more ladies in Heaven than Earth, and these are the ones we dream of in our philogyny. If Maxim were around in Ancient Egypt, we’d flirtatiously interview Cleopatra. And then she would find a creative way to have us killed, but–look, that’s not the point. The point is you need to know who the attractive women are in any time period, just in case you’re too busy looking at your phone to watch where you’re going and stumble into a black hole one day. Case in point: Hedy Lamarr.

Most actresses want to play Bond Girls, but Lamarr actually was one. Her first husband was a weapons manufacturer (Moonraker) who treated her horribly (Tomorrow Never Dies, Casino Royale, etc.), and threw parties attended by Hitler and Mussolini, where he presumably unveiled schemes for satellites that would wipe Buckingham Palace off the map. Less certain: whether anyone awkwardly told Hitler he was attending a party thrown by a Jewish couple.

Fed up with all the domestic torture and Hitler-coddling, Lamarr fled the arranged marriage disguised as a maid, and got a divorce in Paris. You may choose to believe the Deleted Scene version of her escape, in which she went to a lavish party wearing every piece of jewelry she owned, drugged her husband, and fled on rocket skis down the Alps, accompanied by a mysterious Englishman in a tuxedo. Okay, we only made up half of that sentence.

Speaking of deleted scenes, prior to her marriage, the 19-year-old had already filmed nude scenes in her acting debut Ecstasy, a Czech film about an older man who mistreats his insanely hot wife, because life imitates art. According to her, the sex scenes were real, but her orgasmic expression was caused by the director poking her rear with a pin, which…are we supposed to be turned on by that as well? We can’t tell in this kooky set of 1930s sexual standards. All we know is that exposed knees are scandalous…and hot.

Over the next thirty years she made as many millions of dollars (and that’s then-money, not now-money, which is worthless), and spent it all. On what? Nobody knows! So here’s an unsubstantiated guess: moon bases. Because Hedy Lamarr took her big math brain (The World is Not Enough, Moonraker again) and applied everything she’d picked up as her husband’s constant companion at military design and production meetings to file a patent titled “Secret Communication System.” The frequency-hopping scheme was used to keep radio-controlled torpedoes out of enemy control, and became the basis for much of the nifty technology we enjoy today, such as Wi-Fi and the nudity we enjoy over Wi-Fi, such as Ecstasy. My god–it’s all connected!

Brendan McGinley invented time-travel, but accidentally prevented himself from ever inventing it


A Freelancer’s Guide to Editors (by a Freelancer Turned Editor)

My day gig is editing CBS Man Cave Daily (no, not the other, crappier Man Cave Daily. The good one). One of my writers asked me for advice going full-time freelance and my advice is: WOAH! Have a spouse, because that is not something you want to do and also pay for health insurance, which for some reason gets more expensive the smaller the company you belong to.

But if you do go freelance in New York City, which I did, and only managed to drain an incredible amount of savings, this is my advice to him on how to dig up work and hang onto it. It’s based on what worked for me then and also what I’m most looking for now.

Don’t ask me how to become a Cracked columnist, though. I still have no idea how I got that lucky. The only reason Dan O’Brien and Robert Brockway aren’t dead of alcohol poisoning is they live too far away for me to buy them drinks every day.  


I got into freelancing by asking a buddy of mine from publishing if he’d recommend me to his editor at AOL and he said sure. There’s so much editorial turnover that soon the boss who was sharing me with her co-editors had new co-editors, but the old ones were still hiring me at MTV and other companies.

Browse Mediabistro and stay away from Monster or Craigslist. Nobody on Craigslist wants to pay you what you’re worth. I can’t say anything about LinkedIn because I’ve never used it. Don’t write on a “based-on-page-views” amount unless it’s a backend bonus like we offer for a monthly top traffic bounty. Get paid for the actual work. Site’s a startup? !*(% you, pay me. Views are down this month? !*(% you, pay me. You offer valuable experience and exposure? !*(% YOU, PAY ME.

Getting work is really is as easy as just asking. Somebody, somewhere, is looking to hire you. You’re not going to waltz into Esquire and you hopefully won’t let a site reap your work without paying you in anything other than experience (you can always say no to terms. If they won’t barter remember you can always walk). But yeah, I consider pretty much everybody who e-mails me and I’m less concerned about their history and more concerned about the quality of their writing and ideas.

You would be AMAZED how many “professional” full-time men’s interest writers are godawful in every possible regard: sentence structure, grammar, spelling, deadlines, communication. I would trade nine of the commonly known bylines in this world of dude-blogging for one young woman with an interest in writing and the topic she’s writing about, because even if she has no plans to make a full career of it, I guarantee you she’ll make my life easy and she’ll probably pull 5x the traffic as the guy who just wants to write “The Five Beers You Drink in College.” I’ve done it and it’s a trade-up six times out of six. And the weird thing is how many writers like that either want to but think they can’t or never thought about doing an internet article full of jokes even though they’re giving it away for free on Twitter.

The tenth guy (or gal), though, he’ll be fantastic. That’s why you see names like Dan Seitz or (before he took an editorial gig) Ian Fortey everywhere on the web. They’re fast, funny, and fresh. Editors talk. We trade recommendations for writers because we can’t always give everyone all the work we want, but we’re still avaricious of our top talent.

Ask not what editors can do for you but show what you can do for editors. Most editors are overworked and just want to be sure their content is correct, catchy, and queued up.

Deliver more than is expected. Once you’ve got the work, give them the baker’s dozen. Is it due Tuesday? Have it in Monday. Did they expect it to be mildly funny? Make it hilarious. If an editor knows they’re going to get what they want but better you will always have work. That doesn’t mean 1000 words is better when the assignment is 800 but if those 800 require zero editing, editors will love you. My favorite writers to read aren’t just the best in terms of content, they’re also the best as an editor because there are no typos, no mistakes they should know better than to make. All I have to do is read and enjoy it, throw in links and images, and call it a day.

Some key areas in which a writer can demonstrate his/her value to an editor:

DEADLINES: If an editor knows they can rely on you (and again, even have it in early) you’ll get work.

EASE: Do you require a lot of editing? Do I have to remind you deadlines are coming up? Are you going to leave me waiting around the office at 7 p.m. when you promised I’d have it by 4?

ACCESS: Depending on the subject. There’s a guy who’s a huge pain in the neck to edit, but he gets great subjects to interview so I can never really cut ties. He’s not even a good interviewer, but he’s the one who’s going to get me subjects I can’t on my own. Or bring me story ideas I haven’t heard anywhere else yet.

To use a negative example: I just had a PR person call me at my desk (which I hate because even if it’s useful to me it’s a guaranteed two-to-ten minutes when I could glean all the info from an email in under 30 seconds) and go on and on and on about this thing she was pitching. And it’s like, “Lady…I don’t care. You called me. You wanted me to care. So make me care.” Even if I was intrigued I’d say “Great, send me the details in an email” because unless it’s a drop-everything opportunity, I guarantee I’m in the middle of something else when you call and I need to stay in that zone. And if I’m not intrigued I’ll still say “Okay, send me the details in an e-mail” just to get them off the phone.

Most freelancers are either artisans or factories. Artisans tailor their work to the site and usually rise up pretty fast. Editors want to get them before they’re out of reach with someone else who has more budget. Factories work for everybody and they’re not really writers. They excel at the side of the job that’s making contacts with publicists, sending out a vast flood of pitches to multiple sites. Then they just hammer out the product. They’re not worried about how it looks, they’re not worried about site voice. Writing’s the fastest part of their job. They’re never very smart. They’re just very determined. They ALWAYS *@^(ing argue with me when I reject a pitch, telling me why it would be a good idea and I should reconsider.

They have their relative worth, but in the long term I hate working with them. They always take more editing, and only half of them submit their work by deadline. They’re often sketchy and try to see what they can get away with. I had one who listed herself as one of our writers on her site and all her social media for months and months despite never selling me on a pitch. When she finally did sell me on one, she double-sold the article to another site than acted like she had no idea it would be a problem, although she might not have been acting because I guarantee she never read any of the documentation I sent her saying she couldn’t do that.

Don’t be a factory. Factories are people who write. Artisans are writers.

Editors can tell which one you’ll be almost out of the gate. When a new writer emails me I have different responses based on how much I actually want to take someone up on their inquiry of work, although I don’t reject anybody out of hand because I could be wrong. But you don’t want an editor thinking “Is this guy going to be more trouble than he’s worth?” You want them to feel like they’ve found a diamond mine nobody else knows about yet.

Read ClientsfromHell for a laugh and memorize the common problems you’ll encounter. Thankfully there’s less of it in the world of NYC’s corporate-backed blogging. But still.


My Cracked midterm review

Oh man, I have not been good with the posty-posty about my Cracked work this year. I’ve never had my computer on so little as in 2015. I’m getting about one article a month up between my day job and a couple high-yield freelance opportunities I can’t talk about until they’re reality (but oh boy oh boy when I can–!) but that is steadily improving. I’m closing out old projects and being careful before opening new ones.

Here’s what I did for my beloved Cracked in the front half of the year:

5 Times Gold Made Something Less Valuable — I really enjoyed doing this one because I felt it was a different concept than the standard fare, I dug up some cool research, and I got some good lines in. I still chuckle at the stunned disbelief of “They added gold to money and managed to devalue both.”

gold ramen

 

6 Reasons Valentine’s Day is Going to Suck This Year — For some reason I crap on Valentine’s Day every year even though I enjoy it and I’m pretty good at it. This is that.

no fat chicks

5 Reasons Irish People Don’t Love American St. Patty’s Day — Oh, this was such a fun one day. Luke McKinney and I collaborated on it after kicking around the idea for a couple of years running and then finally prepping well enough in advance. I proposed we just compare our experiences, but I think he’s the one who wisely morphed it into how American St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t half resemble the Irish one.

It was like playing a game of catch. We threw down a bunch of thoughts, had a fun discussion, then trimmed it to a manageable amount, adding jokes in each pass. It was a different way to work, but it was cool to watch an article grow even if you felt you’d said all you could.

Luke’s from Donegal, and every Irish person I’ve ever met who’s used to humoring Americans has said, “McGinley, eh? A fine Donegal name.” Our branch of the McGinleys is actually from Derry, but it’s still nice to figure Luke and I probably have a great-great-great-great-great-grandmother in common or at the very least, were always meant to be drinking buddies.

st patricks day

5 Extremists It’s Impossible to Take Seriously — All of them, right? But this is a special brand of “Can’t even tell if you believe your own bullshit” entirely. There are human beings who believe leprechauns exist and they vote.

tapley


Damn Good Sandwiches for National Sandwich Day

Once you’ve had a Mago Barca, which, PS, I invented, you’ll never enjoy anything else. Except a banh mi. Or a grinder. Or the Mackenzie. Or…dang, man, there are just too many incredible sandwiches to be had. But I began the manly catalog of them with Damn Good Sandwiches for National Sandwich Day.

(more…)


You Have a Responsibility to Be Funny, Adam Sandler

We know Adam Sandler is funny. We’ve seen it happen. It’s not a fluke. And look, everyone has their missteps. But at least something like Little Nicky, you can say he tried for an intriguing idea, or Zohan, you can see why it would be funny in the right hands.

But I don’t think he’s trying anymore. Would you, when you can make 5x as much bank while taking sweet vacations? Because that’s what Blended is. It’s lazy. It lacks a compelling premise. And it didn’t have to be because they had Terry Crews RIGHT THERE. They could have just let him be terrific for ten minutes and gotten more laughs than their entire semblance of a plot.

You know, The Room is a terrible movie made by a compulsive liar. But at least it had a goddamn vision. Sandler is the Guy Fieri of comedy — started off making enjoyable plebian fare, and now it’s just Blorp! Glop. Splorg. Fart. 

Anyway, that’s why I wrote a Eulogy for Adam Sandler set 20 years from now. And this is probably a good time to mention I have a Twitter account called News in 20 Years.

They also peed in the blood.

They also peed in the blood.

This article owes a huge debt to Will Leitch’s magnificent Deadspin screed, It’s Not Okay to Be Shitty. (Seriously — click that link. It’s on the very short list of articles I’ve saved to my Pocket favorites, and this column is greatly influenced by it.)

Here’s your customary apocrypha:

With the clock ticking down on a terrorist threat to decimate New York, Chuck & Larry admit they’re just big, flaming gaybags for each other and they shouldn’t have to hide who they are to be happy. As they finally confront their feelings, they are evaporated in each other’s arms.  

I’m proud of this joke structure, but the fact is Chuck & Larry are FDNY, and I didn’t want the question of whether I was touching on 9/11 to distract from the joke, when in fact I just think it would be sweetly fatalistic for them to fall in love a moment before their destruction.

Jack lights a cigar with the Magna Carta and high-fives the CHILD, who is in fact, TIME-TRAVELING BABY DREW BARRYMORE, and not yet neglected by people trusted to care for her.

You’ve suffered enough, Drew Barrymore. You don’t need my taunts.