20 (ish) People Who Are More Popular than Donald Trump in Upstate New York


Donald Trump, 2013. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

If you haven’t heard, Donald Trump is running for President of the United States of America. Too much has happened for me to summarize it here, but it’s been an interesting election cycle. Neither party has a definite winner, with the Republic race particularly divided. For the first time in decades, voters in New York have a meaningful opportunity to support their candidates in the primary election on April 19. This, of course, means that people are paying attention to our state.


Months ago, Ted Cruz criticized “New York values,” and Trump, always good for a sound bite, recently claimed that he is “like the most popular person that’s ever lived, virtually” (CNN, February 21) in Upstate New York. As a lifelong resident and proud Rochesterian, I am confident in saying that he is incorrect. Here are a lot of people who are more popular.

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It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia: Sweet Dee Gets Deported

Below is an excerpt from my first completed spec script. If anyone from Sunny sees it, I will accept payment in the form of a signed script or poster. Read the complete script here.

And muchos grazzias to you, too.
Frank hangs up the phone.
What's going on? You're talking
Spanish now?
I found a new investment, I was
talking to my new employee.
What kind of investment, dude?
Tacos. Everyone loves tacos, and
Mexicans love making them. I
figured - why not get in on some
of that?
Yeah, that's smart. So, like, a
Mexican guy is gonna come here and
make us tacos, or –
No, no. Taco carts. I stopped for
a quick bite on my way home from
lunch and met this guy named
Pancho selling tacos. I loaned him
some money, and his kids are going
to start selling tacos in other
You're going to have kids working
for you?
They're forty years old. Adults,
working for their father's
business selling addictive,
unhealthy garbage. A couple of
All this talk is making me hungry.
You wanna get something to eat?

Creative Writing in Customer Support

I recently ordered a set of Pyrex dishes from the good people at Woot. Unfortunately, one of them arrived broken. Knowing Woot appreciates creative writing, this was my note to them.

That morning was hard for me. When I woke up, she was gone, leaving no note, no explanation, just emptiness. As I dragged myself to the kitchen, hoping to pack a lunch to sustain myself throughout the meaningless day without her ahead, I discovered that she had left me in a position worse than I had imagined. As I scooped the sad, cold linguine with red sauce from its couple-sized container, I looked about the kitchen for a heartbroken loner-sized glass dish… but found that as she fled the house, our house, she had taken only her clothes and our collection of Pyrex dishes. How was I to go on living? The red sauce would stain our… my, rather, plastic storage containers, and without the durability and heat-resistance of Pyrex, every heaving sob would put the remains of our last meal together in jeopardy.

How fortunate I was to find a fine collection of dishes available for such a reasonable price. I eagerly ordered, hoping to fill my now-empty cabinet with a cheery collection of colorful lids and strong glass bowls. After days of anticipation, the sight of the package on my doorstep elicited emotions stronger than I’ve felt since she left. As I eagerly rushed to pick it up, my elation was quickly replaced with dread. As I tipped the box to its side, wave crashed against its inner wall like a great wave crashing against a seaside cliff. I trudged up the stairs to my home, fighting back tears, reminded of how quickly those we love can come into, and once again leave our lives. I gingerly placed the box on my dining room table, and peered inside. Like a mother dog, the postal service had delivered nine precious, delicate babes to my doorstep, but sadly, one had not survived.

I turned to Pyrex to provide me strength in my time of weakness, but I never thought it would inspire me to find the strength within myself.

This is my story, primates of Woot. I hope you will find it in your hearts to help me in my time of need.


FESTIVAL REPORT: Wizarding Weekend, Ithaca, NY


Though the world has already fallen into a Star Wars frenzy, the streets of Ithaca, NY, are filled with the sounds of a different John Williams soundtrack this Halloween. In this Finger Lakes college town, scarves may be all-season attire, but today, most of them are red and gold stripes (I’ve been crossing the street when someone is wearing green and silver). Today, this is home of Wizarding Weekend, a fan-created street festival celebrating all things Harry Potter. Fans from all over New York (and likely further) have descended on downtown Ithaca, many in elaborate costumes, for their chance to experience a little bit of Britain right here in central New York.

The day starts off with our Muggle version of Quidditch. The event here varies slightly from the version played on college campuses all over, with each team’s Seeker perched on the back of a motorbike, driven by a teammate. The action is fast, though with the players remaining firmly on the ground, the danger is greatly reduced. The crowd for the day’s first game lined the streets and surrounded the parking lot converted to Quidditch pitch. That shouldn’t be a surprise, though, as this game featured fierce rivals Gryffindor and Slytherin. After a few quick  goals by both teams, the Golden Snitch was introduced to the pitch. The players mixed game play with theatrics, reenacting scenes from the first game described in the series. While the commentary may not have had the magnitude of Lee Jordan, it was a great help for the fans more inclined to read than follow sports. After a tough match, Gryffindor came out the victor, 210-50.

Walking along Ithaca’s streets, many local businesses, from the candy shop to the bank, replaced their signs to fit the festival’s theme. Harry Potter clothing and accessories line the shelves, while regular products have new, magical, names. Even the sci-fi food truck switched their menu from Spock to Snape.
The main gathering area, a repurposed parking lot, is home to a Ford Anglia, of the non-magical variety, and a huge basilisk made of balloons. Each of Hogwarts’ houses has their own common room, and visitors help their house earn points through the Horcrux Hunt by visiting seven different sites around town. There was no shortage of butterbeer, and plenty of variation. Hot or cold, thick or thin, alcoholic or not, I sampled almost all of it.

Unlike the conventions I have visited around North America, the attractions here are mostly free or inexpensive. Hand-written, personal Hogwarts acceptance letters attached a line stretching an entire city block, with the lines for State Theater’s showing off all right movies was not much shorter. Much like Harrys experience in the real Diagon Alley, each street revealed a new surprise. I have walked thousands of streets in cities big and small, but never stumbled into a life-size game of Wizard’s Chess before today. Never have I believe in magic more than after seeing a German man balance a bowling ball on a pool cute in his chin, while hula hooping.

Fan reaction was as strong here on the chilly sheets of Ithaca as the convention halls of San Diego or New York. Let’s hope that the festival’s second year is as eventual as (though less dangerous than) Harry’s.

IMG_2284Costume Tally:

Hagrid – 2

Professor Trelawney – 5

Moaning Myrtle coming out of a toilet – not nearly enough

Seinfeld and Tinder? Swipe Right on This Match | Popculturology

Jerry, 36

As a recently-single man in my mid-20s, I have started using Tinder. I downloaded the app, with its little flame icon, out of curiosity. I was not trying to meet anyone, but after hearing stories — both successes and stupendous, hilarious failures — about the people being met, I felt it was time to get in on some of the action for myself. Around the same time, I also started re-watching Seinfeld on Hulu. Episode-by-episode and swipe-by-swipe, connections were being made between the classic series and my experiences. While I started this journey into left and right swipes out of hesitant curiosity, these past two weeks have changed my attitude. Tinder’s role in my life has changed. I want a perfect Tinder encounter the way a shorter, stockier, balder man wants to use a perfect comeback line. I am obsessed.

On Seinfeld, Jerry is known for breaking up with women and rejecting non-romantic acquaintances for petty, minute reasons. There is perhaps no better way to describe how Tinder works. Whereas Jerry ended relationships because women liked Dockers commercials, having “man hands” and being a “low talker,” I have rejected women — likely perfectly nice women — because they seem too invested in sports, misspell words (or use only emoji) in their profile and use low-resolution photos. In my case, I swipe left (that’s the bad direction) on about 70 percent of women based solely on the very limited profiles they provide. If I were meeting these people in the wild, Jerry’s claim that 95 percent of the population is undateable would likely prove correct.

George, of course, fares far worse than Jerry does. While Jerry rejects women on a near-weekly basis, George struggles to attract them at all. Tinder’s entire platform is based on matching. You swipe right on them, they swipe right on you, and the app lets you message each other. If one person swipes right and the other swipes left, though, you’re left with nothing. Nothing, Jerry! So far, my matches have been very limited. As the wise Mr. Constanza states, “When I like them, they don’t like me. When they like me, I don’t like them.” It is not uncommon to swipe right on someone who seems great and just wait. How can she not like me? I’m a very likable person. But the days go by and no notification comes in and I move on. A desperate man may choose to do the opposite of everything they would normally do, but, for now, I do not.

Then the self-doubt starts to creep in. If the gym photo guys can get matches (“Go home to your dumbbells. Work on your pecs. I’m really impressed.”), why not me? Unlike our good friend Elaine, there is no smelly car to blame when I start to question if I am as attractive as I think I am. Occasionally, a match comes in. You’re excited — this is a person who you think might be nice and who apparently thinks you might be nice too. A little confidence gets you to send the first message, and you wait. And wait. And wait. Days go by, and no response comes in. Why join, why swipe, if you’re not going to talk to anyone?

Finally, you have the wild card. The girl whose profile is blank or it has so much information you can’t understand it. Her photos are either group shots or extreme closeups of her eye. The Kramer. They are pods. They say whatever they’re thinking, with no regard for how the humans might perceive them. They’re out there, and they’re loving every minute of it. But after swiping through people who take themselves too seriously, someone a little weird, a little “Cosmic,” is as refreshing as a Junior Mint in an operating theater.

After all this, I’m not sure how much longer I will use Tinder. Maybe I’ll meet my Jeannie, my Susan or my Puddy and not need it anymore. I went into this experience out of curiosity, not desire, but now I am deeply invested. To borrow a phrase from a Seinfeld universe art collector, Tinder is “a loathsome, offensive brute, and yet I can’t look away.”


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My Afternoon at CBS: Filming THE PRICE IS RIGHT | Popculturology.com


The Price Is Right, the long-running television favorite of retired people, sick (or faking) school kids and college students with carefully-planned schedules, airs every weekday and combines the thrill of winning great prizes with helpful information about reverse mortgages. If you watched yesterday’s episode, it adds one more exciting element — you will get a glimpse of my face. No, I did not win. No, I didn’t even make it to Contestants’ Row, but I did have the privilege of breathing the same oxygen as the great Drew Carey.

Getting tickets to the show is easy. I’ve seen plenty of articles claiming you have to get there very early in the morning and wait in line for a chance of getting in, but the much smarter option is to request tickets online. If you register early enough (I registered about five weeks in advance), you’re guaranteed admission as long as you arrive on time. For the afternoon taping, we were required to arrive by noon. Once through the gate, we were given cards with our contestant numbers. If you’re waiting in line, try to avoid standing next to someone that annoys you, because the producers make sure you stay in the correct order until the moment you enter the studio.

Now you’re inside, and you’re excited. A CBS page comes down the line, passing out release forms, followed by another page — who has been specially selected based on handwriting skills — to give you your iconic yellow name tag. Unfortunately, this is where you find out what is in store for you. To one side is a CBS gift shop, with souvenirs from the shows that film in that studio. The other side is a food stand, whose staff will repeatedly shout that you have about six hours to go.
After about an hour of waiting here, the line starts moving. Each person has an individual picture taken (I later figured out that these photos are to help the producers find the contestants in the audience), then a group picture with your friends or family in front of a green screen. Around a corner is another line of benches … where you wait some more. After quite a while — two hours, maybe — 20 people are taken from the line to talk to the producers. Most people get one question (“What do you do?”), and the line moves on.

Around another corner we get to stand in the sun for a little while, watching the crew come back from their buy-one-get-one lunches at Macaroni Grill next door. A few audience members were excited to get a glimpse of a soap opera star, but I was more distracted with the bees living in the flowers next to us. After a short wait, we had to check our phones. The remainder of our time was spent phoneless, forcing us to make conversation. Fortunately, the overhead televisions soon started playing an older episode of the show. Another food stand was available here. For low, low prices*, you could refuel before the hour-long clap-fest you were about to endure. The overhead episode was cut short to show an informational video hosted by George Gray about the dos and don’ts of The Price Is Right. Unfortunately, it ran on a loop for the next hour, until the doors finally opened to the main attraction.

The studio itself is tiny. There are a total of about 300 people in the audience. The stage, which appears to be very large on TV, is actually not. Clever set arrangements and close camera angles keep the illusion going for the home audience, but there are many parts of the show that the studio audience simply can’t see. Enthusiasm is kept up by a man named Matt, constantly encouraging the audience to applaud. The stage is reset during commercial breaks, where the audience is treated to the comedy styling of the host. Drew Carey makes a great effort to connect with audience members, and it helps to relieve some of the tension from an afternoon worth of waiting. The show itself goes by quickly. It is 44 minutes at broadcast, and takes a little more than an hour to shoot.

Overall, it’s an exciting, if long, experience. If you live in Los Angeles and have nothing better to do, it’s a slight chance of making some money or winning prizes. If you’re just visiting, it does take up a fair amount of your time, but might still be worth it. As a television lover, it was an easy choice.

“My” episode filmed on April 15 and aired on June 10. If you see us in repeat (or want to find it on YouTube), you can find me a few rows back at stage left.

*Prices were not very low.

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