The Western Blog of the Dead


SPOILERS & WHATNOT: If you’re reading this blog post, I’m assuming you’ve seen the entire first season of True Detective and are up to date on the second season. If that’s not you, I can’t imagine this will be of interest. I do not consider myself a professional reviewer or authority on anything I might cover in this post. I am simply a fan of the show, and I love thinking about it. This is for a few friends and myself.

Ideas and thoughts that follow are my own, but there will undoubtedly be parallel thinking among other writers. I will make all effort to credit authors whose ideas I’ve read. My plan is to write two blog posts per episode. The first will be a shorter first impression type thing. The second will be informed by reading other people’s work and some secondary materials.

Here we go.

Louisiana through the eyes of True Detective’s misanthropic Detective Rust Cohle, played by Matthew McConaughey, is how the state always looked to me when I lived there; verdant, decadent, hopeless, beautiful, doomed. There were no mythologized Mardi Gras Indians. Jazz did not spill from the doorway of every neon lit French Quarter bar.

Strange things were afoot, and they were not friendly.

To understand the first season of the show, you have to absorb the idea that the show is intentionally formulaic. It’s essentially Lethal Weapon in the swamp. Rust Cohle is the basically the same troubled cop with a tragic past and deadly skillset as Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs. Woody Harrelson’s Detective Marty Hart is the “I’m too old for this” partner equivalent of Danny Glover’s Roger Murtaugh.

The show’s writer/creator, Nic Pizzolatto, uses a by-the-book cop drama to deliver a nihilistic perspective influenced by horror writers and philosophers like Thomas Ligotti, Eugene Thacker, H.P. Lovecraft, E.M. Cioran, and Frederick Nietzsche. During the first season, there were claims of plagiarism. I have some thoughts on that, but will explore them in later posts.

Season 2 appears to be framed on the California noir genre. Films you might recognize in it include: Chinatown, L.A. Confidential, Sunset Boulevard, and The Big Lebowski. An ambitious fan could write an entire film studies PHD thesis on this genre.

California noir is all about tone and setting. The main characters are usually some kind of detective or investigator. They are given the magical ability to move between the upper worlds of fame and power as well as the lower worlds. If this seems familiar and you studied Italian classics, you might also recognize this shtick from Dante’s Inferno.

Most of the action takes place among lower class to normal people prone to weakness and valor in roughly equal measure. Conspiracy and evil trickle down from unseen powers. Wealth and fame are often mistaken for power until the story evolves, leaving the audience to understand that Hollywood glamour never comes without a price.

The plot is often set up with a series of coincidences. A body is found; a rug is pissed on.

This can rub some viewers the wrong way, but look at your own life. There is no mystical show writer setting up odd coincidences (It should be noted, despite my interest in nihilism, I am not an atheist, but I also don’t believe in an interventionist deity). Things happen, and we assign value to them later. Because a show is a show, these coincidences are manufactured, but they are not necessarily unrealistic.

Just because coincidences bring most the main characters together at the end of the first episode, doesn’t mean there is an actual teleological imperative to the rest of the show to be that way. You have to start somewhere.

Next up: an actual episode 1 recap

Local Messaging for Whole Foods Market

This is one of my favorite bits of copy I’ve ever written. It was for a tote bag handed out at a farm festival, but it still gets used here and there for advertising local produce and things.

I decided to go with the British spelling of “travelled” instead of the American spelling because I was re-reading The Hobbit at the time and was feeling a bit whimsical. I thought it seemed a little more old-timey and magical that way.

We changed it later to match the original inspiration, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

2013 Nike Women’s Marathon



The 2013 Nike Women’s Marathon was my first time taking a crack at the full 26.2 miles. The picture above is me at the finish.

Whole Foods Market was the co-sponsor this year and I worked on all of the copy. The line on the water barrel above is an example. One of the cool things we did was work with a company to provide water refill stations instead of handing out bottles of water.

The previous co-sponsor provided 30,000 disposable bottles, so I think it’s fair to say we kept out at least that many, considering the marathon was even bigger this year. Not too bad for a day’s work.

I’m a huge fan of experiential research; like if you’re working on a car campaign, you’d go out and drive the car you were writing about for a bit. Actually training for and running the marathon gave me a great perspective on what sort of messaging was appropriate and fun.



That One Time I Was in a Video with Reggie Watts

A few years ago (well, more than a few) I was working in a vintage store on Haight St. I used to rock these cool vintage suits and a director came in and scouted me to be the male lead in a video for the band Maktub.

I’m the dude in the brown suit.

Maktub was comedian Reggie Watts’ band. It’s a trip to see him having so much success with his unique comedy. He’s pretty much exactly like his act in real life.

I still don’t think my wife (girlfriend at the time) has quite forgiven me for not mentioning I had to make out with a model.

Whole Foods Market Culture Zine #3

CZ3The Culture Zine is one of my favorite projects to work on. I created this thing and I serve as the editor. This particular cover is my favorite. It was designed by Justin Devine, an incredible illustrator and sign maker at the Whole Foods Market Oakland store.

John Mackey’s book is featured on a pedestal. We happen to know he is a huge Lord of the Rings fan and apparently he got quite the chuckle out of this cover.

You should really check Justin’s website out: Sticks and Stones and Herringbones