What to Expect at a Jeopardy Audition.

august 20th, 2015

Continuing to write the show's name as Jeopardy, no itals or quotes, no terminal exclamation point, not out of disrespect, but for to increase readability.

On Sunday i auditioned for Jeopardy. Thus i am automatically entered into the candidate pool for the next 18 months. Maybe they'll call, maybe they won't. Long con.

erica dreisbach | white pantsuit | Jeopardy audition | fly as fuck

Sunday morning i wandered around the third floor of the Westin looking for the audition site. Knew i was in the right place when i found a couple dozen excited nerds in business drag. My people. The vibe was super collegial, super friendly. And the casting directors and producers running the show were super televisionary. My people also.

We sat row on row in a windowless conference space like every conference space in every US hotel. They played a short video from Alex Trebek. If felt like watching a video postcard from a divorced dad explaining to the kids why he couldn't be there in person. You understand, kids. Daddy's busy.

Then a 50‑question written test, then we ran through 20'ish questions of a mock game in sets of three, followed by personal interviews at the end of each mock game. The whole audition was all of us together, all in one room, all in front of everyone. i liked that. No secrets. They gave us a Jeopardy ballpoint pen that looked like a buzzer. At the very end they gave us free earbuds in a little Jeopardy‑branded sack. No food or coffee, just water in the back. i maintained even blood sugar with grapes and a couple Lara bars i'd brought in anticipation of just such a snack supply. #selfmothering

How did i do? Really well! Felt solid and confident in the mock game. And possibly as few as 5 out of 50 incorrect on the written test. For reference, by my count i had 12 out of 50 incorrect on the online test in January. The casting directors said most people find the written test harder than the online test, and the grumbles in the room seemed to agree. So all that hard work of studying perhaps paid off?

Yah all that studying, and also practice games. Shout out to Notorious Marcel, Colleen, Jesse, and Becca B for running game after game from J Archive with me. Shout out to Jon G for his notes and advice, shout out to Sascha for the love and support. Shout out to Vlad, the Sweet One, my sheep and my goat, who not only ran games with me but kept me calm, and waited at a Starbux near the Westin so he could bookend the whole audition for me. Also, and this was very important, at my request before the audition Vlad repeated back to me, “even if you get every question wrong, I'll still marry you, and I'll still think you're smart.” #truelove

Had expected to feel drained, collapsed, tearful after the audition. Instead i felt incredibly satisfied, energized. No goshdarn‑if‑only feelings. Like: this was the Best Of me. If Jeopardy needs more, well then they need more than the erica dreisbach entity has to offer. Like: [opens chest on a hinge, moth flies out, nothing else in the cupboard]

A couple hundred thousand people take the online test. Of those, the casting people said that 4,000 are asked to audition. Of those, 400 are asked to the show. So my odds are low regardless. But i feel radiant, extraordinary, connected to a magical world of possibility and experience.

You guys, i think it's also that i just love show business. i know, right? Breaking news.

re: lingering feelings of “i don't want to be on the show unless i WIN”
For sure i still have summa those, well but so at no point am i required to cede what i have now, which is my fantasy of being a multi-week Jeopardy champion. It's true that barring eligibility for the Tournament of Champions i only get one lifetime shot at being on the show. But even if i blow it, my fantasy life is not restricted to the realm of possibility. i have a very strong imagination. My Jeopardy championship can live there forever, unmolested by reality.

But also: it can live there without dictating what i opportunities i go for in this plane.

Or like De Niro as Mr Solitano says, “when life reaches out, it's a sin if you don't reach back.”

Contractual Cuddles.

august 19th, 2015

Continuing the ongoing experiment to refer to myself in lowercase. Pls continue to indulge!

On Saturday Vlad and i fly to Vermont, and over the next week our families will arrive, and the next Saturday after that my brother Chris will marry us in my parents' front yard. Vermont is particularly relaxed about who can be marry couples in the state. Neither Vlad, nor i, nor Chris need be Vermont residents. Just fill out a simple one-page form and mail Vermont a hundred dollars. Vermont says, “thank you!”

i like to refer to the legal marriage as “contractually‑obligated cuddles.”

“i'm signing a paper that says i have to cuddle you as much as you want, forever!” i say, and Vlad swoons. On the other side, when i make a particularly goofy pun and Vlad groans, i say, “there's still time! You can save yourself! Because the puns are only getting worse!” But his groans are another form of swoon.

All existing problems inside and outside the marriage feel manageable, solveable. Like for instance: there'd been ongoing tension about chore imbalance. i tend to do more household chores than Vlad (dishes, laundry, sweeping, &c). So we introduced a new chore protocol: every night at brush‑teeth time, Vlad loads the dirty dishes from the sink into the dishwasher. Oh it is so nice to wake up to an empty sink! And it turned out that nothing more radical was required to restore a feeling of balance.

Thus for the first time in my adult life, i have become a dishwasher person, using the machine on the regular. This vaguely cuts against my values for reasons of excess energy consumption, but sooo worth it for the peaceful house. And thus i focus on reducing my carbon footprint in other ways. The marriage's carbon footprint.

Refrigerator is Running.

august 9th, 2015

i've been running again for the first time in a year. Remembering fitness levels of 2012 and 2009 when i would run 10, 12, 14 miles at dawn and then shower and go to work. Remembering that a fitness level can fall away soooo quickly. Remembering too that it can also be rebuilt quickly.


i've run two marathons fairly untrained. One in 2011, one in 2013. In my experience, if i can run three miles, i can push to six. If i can run six miles, i can push to eight. If i can run eight, i can push to ten. If i can run ten, i can push to twelve. If i can run twelve, i can push to fifteen. If i can run fifteen, i can run a marathon. That's how it works.

Right now i'm back to eight+. Next is ten. On track for marathon 2015.

Another of my running mantras: “always stop for pain; never stop for despair.” Part of the running is to practice disciplined mind. Part of it is straight chemical release. If i run 30 miles a week i maintain optimal sanity and emotional fitness. Not right now in this moment as i type, after nine miles this morning and then letting my blood sugar drop too low, and Vlad has left me with a pile of emergency snacks while we wait for these dried mangos to restore my adult coping mechanisms.

But generally, 30 miles. A high price to pay for happiness, but then, what price happiness?

Selfish and Cool and Cutting and Grey.

august 6th, 2015

i have a controversial definition of “selfish.” To me it means believing there's not enough, so taking more than your share. Cutting someone off in traffic to save two or ten seconds of travel time. That's selfish. Interrupting: almost always selfish. i'm selfish that way a lot.

Many people apply the word selfish to acts of self‑care. “I was selfish and got a massage.” In the context of: that was supposed to be the family's grocery money and the speaker used it to get a massage, then yes, selfish. But in most contexts that's self-care. Not selfish.

There's the other side: people who masochistically spread themselves dangerously thin doing work at work or work at home, and don't take care of themselves. This, too, i consider selfish. “I have to take on more than my share. It destroys me, but there's not enough.”

Most saints and martyrs are sociopaths when you read their hagiographies with the right perspective. The extremes are ends of a great circle meeting at the same point, where the snake eats its tail and perversity abounds.

Chrysopoea of Cleopatra, courtesy Wikipedia

i have a controversial definition of “cool” in the sense of “a cool person.” A cool person makes you feel cool. That means the “cool kids” in high school (exclusion and unkind laughter) are actually not cool.

It's a relational definition. Your cool people are not my cool people.

Sometimes a person is dressed so cool, with such a cool attitude and a chill spirit, just looking at that person makes you feel cool. Feel magical. The person feels like a friend. The threshold for making mistakes with that person feels high. Which is freedom. Which is the goal of improv—to yield flow states where each next step is revealed but two steps ahead obscured, and there is joy and discovery, and no anxiety or strain.

A cool person is a magical person is a friend.

creative feedback
i have a controversial take on valuable creative feedback. If you've been with me so far on this post, prepare yourself, because this one often infuriates people.

i believe it's more important for feedback to be truthful and encouraging than truthful and harsh. People haaaayt this. Especially writers. Writers i've talked to want writers' work to be ripped apart, afraid of their nightmare [fantasy] of indulgent bad writers type‑type‑typing away and never hearing one critical word, polluting the world with their shitty shallow work that will never get better, beCAUSE [pause for breath] because no one has the courage to tell them that their work is terrible, that their work is insulting, and how dare they call themselves writers?

People get upset with me as if by encouraging artists, especially new artists, i put the world at risk with more “bad art” and “bad artists” and “my opinions.”

The only thing that helps an artist develop greater trust in instinct, more original vision, more flow [no mistakes], and become more radiantly themselves tapped into the source and channeled through art, is practice. Encouragement yields practice. When you discourage an artist from making more art, you discourage practice, and you discourage that artist from growing stronger and maybe one day producing art that you like.

Of course i believe in challenging artists. That's different from ripping artists apart, or their work apart.

twilight / 50 shades of grey
Still with me? Here is where our voyage may yet end. This is my most controversial opinion yet. i do not hold this opinion merely to be contrarian, or ironic, or devilish. i read all of Harry Potter and all of 50 Shades of Grey, and i don't think the latter is worse literature than the former. The prose in each falters. Both tell a fun adventure story that i couldn't put down. i thought about both for a long time after reading them.

To people who asked about the former i'd say, “if you don't like young adult fantasy, you probably won't like Harry Potter. It does not transcend the appeal nor the sins of young adult fantasy.” To people who asked about the latter i'd say, “if you don't like Twilight, and fan fiction, and erotica, you probably won't like 50 Shades of Grey. It does not transcend the appeal nor the sins of Twilight erotic fan fiction.”

i loved reading them both at the time. Then immediately after 50 Shades i started Eco's Foucault's Pendulum and, “oops, haha, yah this is some writing!” But i won't alienate myself from my own enjoyment.

When people say this or that art is “bad,” that just means they don't like it. The art doesn't have special magic immutable Bad qualities just because they don't like it. Like, they can't build a case in Art Court and have an Art Judge rule that other people have to not like it, because the Bad Art breaks Art Law. There is no Art Law.

Something about Twilight and 50 Shades seem to drive the intellectuals i know livid. Is it because they wish that the popular books were the books that they liked? Or because it's fun to push back against culture, even as they tow the party line of their own subculture?

Sometimes the case built against 50 Shades and Twilight sounds like: the ideas in Twilight and 50 Shades are damaging to young girls and women. That young people can't distinguish between fantasy and reality. That humans can't be trusted with their own minds. Buh.

contrarian opinions
For years i insisted i liked the music of Coldplay. “What about Clocks,” i'd say. Then one evening when Vlad and i were listening to Brazilian music from the '60s, i said, “i like Coldplay so much, i'm going to prove it right now! And we are going to listen!” Then i put Yellow on YouTube. Then we white-knuckled it through the next three minutes. And then i put the Brazilian music back on.

“Ok. i don't like Coldplay,” i said. Change is possible.

A few weeks later i was at CVS waiting for one of the self-serve checkout kiosks to open up. The dude in front of me looked a little tweaky, and dirty maybe from an honest day's work outdoors, or dirty maybe from train hopping. One of those edge cases where it's hard to say. Coldplay's Clocks was playing. Dude and i were both tuned in. i still remembered all the lyrics from back when i genuinely liked Coldplay. And when Chris Martin sang

am I part of the cure?

dude and i both sang at the same time

or am I part of the disease?

and i was singing harmony, and we were riding the same frequency of sweetness, and it was magical.

“I love this song,” dude said to me and smiled, because we were friends. Moments of consonance, connection, synchronicity like that are what i live for. Thank you, Coldplay.

July 2015 September 2015