Check out this commercial!

I’m so stoked to be able to share this internet spot for the app, QuizUp, that I worked on with the super duper team over at Sandwich Video. It features some awesome actors and comedians, cool tunes, and a hilarious cameo from the Chancellor of all things Sandwich, Adam Lisagor (“Friendship is magic!” guy).

See me pwn some folks in My Little Pony here:

 

<3

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My mom the squirrel shooter.

I remember my mother yelling at squirrels as a small child. If she spotted them hanging out in places like the bird feeder or her roses, she would stop whatever she was doing and grab a broom or anything long enough to get a good swing in. Then she’d run out into the yard and just go to town. It wasn’t unheard of to be in the middle of a conversation with her and watch her morph from a chatty southern woman into a wild, back yard viking. Her battle cries could be heard from the porch:

“They’re stealing all the pecans!”

“They’re eating up all the bird food!”

“They’re chasing my cats!”

Our yard boasted three massive pecan trees that yielded generous quantities of nuts each season. That combined with all the acorns made our house a prime hangout for squirrels. I knew that there were a ton of them, but I had no idea that it bordered on infestation for years. I simply accepted that Mother had an inexplicable hatred of squirrels and accepted her campaign against them as a fact of life.  Besides, I remember experiencing pangs of resentment whenever I found a pecan pod that looked ripe for eating… only to turn it over and find that a squirrel had beaten me to it.

If Mom was tired, or had experienced a particularly trying day, or if we had simply been home from school for more than two days in a row, she might send me or my sister out against the squirrels in her place.

“Go chase those squirrels away from the garden and my bird feeder,” she’d say, “and make sure they are good and far away before you come back inside. Scare them good.”

At first it was fun to run around the yard and wave my arms, screaming loud enough to wake the neighbors across the road. Eventually, though, I could never muster up the same vigor and pent up rage as my mother did. Unlike Mom, who somehow seemed replenished after a good squirrel run, I couldn’t seem reap the same benefits.

“Try raising three kids and managing a business with your father,” she’d say later, “You’d be surprised at the little ways you cope.”

After all of her us were grown and out of the house, Mom and Dad got serious about their lawn. They built a stone patio off the side of the house. They installed a fire pit and set up a hammock. They really stepped up their game. Apparently this meant they had to step up their defenses.

I learned that Mom bought a gun when I called my dad one afternoon and he said,
“Wanna talk to your momma? She’s around here somewhere. I think she’s shooting squirrels in the back yard with her new toy. Lemme go holler at her.”

“I’m sorry,” I asked, “Mom’s got a gun?”
“Oh, yeah!” he replied, “She bought herself a BB gun and she goes out into the yard and shoots those suckers. She’s getting to be a pretty good shot.”

By the time I was able to go home next, Mom had graduated to a .22 caliber rifle. It was open season at the Sams house; a territory war of domestic preportions.

“These squirrels were running around in packs,” said Mom, staunchly defending her position, “I mean they had t-shirts and rolled up sleeves and camels tucked in their jackets. They were thugs.”

I couldn’t help but think of those old evangelical propaganda booklets – you know, the ones where all of the sinners tried to lure the protagonist away from Christ with their cigarettes and cool leather jackets.

This is the way my mother chose to depict the squirrels. You know, right before she shot them.

I kind of love it. I wish I had been able to go home and see her shoot one on Mothers Day. She probably would have taught me how.

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Like so many other people the world over, I, too, went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron this weekend.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I have a sizable feminist twig in my asshole. I am tired of male driven everything.

I like to watch films with badass, funny, or at least prominent female characters. That said, I absolutely do NOT think that Avengers: Age of Ultron is worthy of a feminist backlash. SPOILER ALERT.

By now I’m sure that you’ve heard the hoopla surrounding the scene where Ultron kidnaps Black Widow and how her teammate, Bruce Banner, rescues her. By the way, this all happened right after she jumped out of a truck hundreds of feet into the air to push an android incubator into a moving jet.

Apparently, some people were so offended that they took to Twitter to make threats toward Joss Whedon and his children. Whedon, whose canon of work boasts an impressive number of strong, intelligent, and powerful female leads, left Twitter – presumably to write a version of Avengers where Ultron destroys the earth because it’s just a bunch of assholes.

It’s the assholes who beg to be saved.

There is this alarming, growing theme in movies where the human race has to defend and/or account for itself. The hero’s argument is always, “Yeah, we’ve turned the earth into a giant piece of shit and we are absolutely doomed and have rejected pretty much anything and everything that can save us in favor of indulging classism, racism, systematized poverty, destruction, irreversible pollution, war, genocide, etc., but it’s our piece of shit and there’s beauty in that, so fuck off!”

That’s a little more disturbing to me than the scene where Black Widow gets kidnapped. It’s more disturbing than some man throwing the word slut around in regards to Black Widow on late night television when we KNOW that Tony Stark is Marvel’s supreme big old slut.

Vision just grinned and said, in so many words, “Humans will destroy themselves, those cute little buggers.”

I recall a similar message in Simon Pegg’s The World’s End. I recall a similar message in a lot of movies and shows, actually.

Apparently our right to slowly take advantage of and destroy each other is something worth defending.

THAT is what’s more disturbing to me than Black Widow and her place in the current incarnation of The Avengers. Here’s the thing: a team of writers can save the character of Black Widow.

They can’t save us.

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Taxi #Caturday

It’s Taxi Cat-urday. I’m going to start posting cat stuff on Saturdays because Taxi is regal as shit and eats awesome food all the time and is the size of a small Shetland pony with the attitude of Garey Busey.

Here are the two best photos of Taxi Cat from this week:

I love a #TaxiCat! #cats #catsofinstagram #siamese

A photo posted by Jas Sams (@jas_sams) on

 

You’ll never catch it, #taxicat. No matter how hard you try. #catsofinstagram #cats #siamese

A photo posted by Jas Sams (@jas_sams) on

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Something cool happened in one of my classes. It wasn’t related to acting or improv, but it was a big step for me personally.

Maybe you’ve read this entry, “Abuse and the Lingering Idea of Relationships as Traps.” It’s a long one, but I think it’s worth a look.

The class exercise called for two people to sit beside each other and have a conversation in which they played “larger than life” versions of themselves. Think Jerry Seinfeld on Seinfeld. I partnered up with another lady and we took our seats in front of the class as the instructor asked for a suggestion.

“Nitrous!” someone said.

I blurted out, “I used to work in a Ben & Jerry’s.”
“What?!”
“Yeah. There was this kid there named Nick who was totally deep and listened to really cool music and he would do whip its with the nitrous oxide.”
“How long did you work there?”
“Three months.”
“Did you leave or did they fire you?”
“Well. I had to leave.”
“Why?”
“Well… I was dating this terrible guy who controlled my money and didn’t let me have friends or see my family that much and he told me the job was damaging our relationship.”
“WHAT?!”
“Yeah…”
“So is that what you told them?”
“No, I actually told them I had – this is so terrible – I told them I had a heart condition and that I couldn’t work there anymore.”

Yes. I said heart condition. A beat passed before some of my classmates gasped. Others laughed. Some gasped first and laughed second.

“Holy crap! Why did you lie?”
“Because I was too embarrassed to tell them I was leaving because my idiot boyfriend felt emasculated by my ice cream store job.”
Laughter.
“Yeah, but couldn’t you have… you know, just quit? Why did you lie?”
More laughter.
“Um. Well. I was young and stupid.”

I should have added, “Maybe it was a subconscious plea for help,” or, “Because I felt like I owed them something, anything more than, ‘Well, I’m caving into pressure from an insane person.”

A couple of things. One: This story is 100% true. I blatantly lied about having a heart condition because I was afraid to tell people that I was in an abusive situation. Two: it was the first time I had managed to tell a story about him and laugh at it. It’s weird and fucked up, but if you laugh then… it kind of loses its power.  I found this approach works with many memories. It’s better to make something funny than to allow others feel sorry for you. It’s better for people to think that you’re funny and have great relationships with the people close to you than to learn how you really feel about loaded issues from the past.

I have not talked about this particular story or the ones like it to anyone since it happened.  I’d rather not remember them and coast through life, blissfully unaware that any of it ever happened in the first place. To bring it up to people and hear them laugh at the ridiculousness felt, simply put, good.

I promise that the scenario didn’t feel nearly as heavy in class as it might come across here. It’s a big deal to me because I have never been able to use a story from that time to entertain. I made fun of him on my blog a few times before, but I always ended up taking them down because they still felt too open. Too personal.

With time, however, I have been able to take things back. Movies, shows, foods; I have avoided certain things for years because the associative memories involved were too much. With (much) time, however, I began to reclaim them for myself. Along with my sanity. I know that I will never entirely forget that it happened, but now I am working on the next best thing –  re-purposing the memories themselves.

I feel like the following graphics accurately describe the evolution of his place in my memory.

I call it the Mel Brooks approach.

FullSizeRender IMG_0394

 

He had  gone from monster to tiny, Napoleon-esque, sad little man. Nothing more than a story to tell people.

And with luck, one day that’s all he will be – a story.

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Temping and the passage of time

Sometimes you finish all of the given work at a temp assignment after a long, hard day where you forfeited almost five hundred American dollars to get your car registered in California so that you can safely travel to Arizona for your friend’s wedding.

Sometimes you just need to stuff your face with gum and pretend that you no longer exist.

Never leave me alone with a pantry stocked with #orbit #gum. #temping #chewing #sidehustle #disgrace

A video posted by Jas Sams (@jas_sams) on

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This morning, as I left the women’s restroom, I noticed one of the men in the office walking my way. We made eye contact, gave each other a nod, and then for some reason I instinctively held the door open for him – to the women’s room. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know why. Stop it with the “why.”

He closed his eyes and gave me two tiny shakes of the head with a curt smile as if to say,
“Oh, none for me, thank you; there’s another room where those with penises go to pee.”

This reminds me of the time I took a greyhound bus from Atlanta to Savannah. I had never taken the bus before and it reminded me of a time when experiences still felt brand new – like being seventeen and going to Target by myself for the first time. Ads that promised free rides home to teenage runaways covered the Greyhound station walls! The food court was a nacho stand! Someone beside me tried to recruit me into their MLM scheme!

It all seemed so exciting.

I made it halfway to Savannah before I had to use the restroom. A bathroom on a bus! What an adventure! Or at least it would be once I figured out the mystery of the door that wouldn’t open! I tried for a couple of minutes before I turned to a man who had decided to sit in the seats by the toilet. He was a laid back Latino guy in a sweatshirt and cowboy hat. A traveling soul getting from point A to point B, just like the rest of us.

I made eye contact with him and motioned to the bathroom. It was a gesture which, at least to me, obviously translated into, “Do you know how to open this door?”

He looked to the door. Then he looked to me. He looked me up and down.

Then he shook his head as he held up his hands in refusal.

minibus_layers (1)

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jas

Me – at the ripe old age of NOT HAVING A CLUE. 

My childhood concept of adulthood clashes so violently with my current reality that I wish I could go back in time and shake myself as I scream things like, “STUDY HARDER! LISTEN TO MORE CLASSICAL MUSIC! LET GO OF YOUR ANGER! START WATCHING SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE BEFORE YOUR MENARCHE!”

As a child, I dreamed that I might one day have a house. I would fill that house with a TV and a lifetime supply of chocolate croissants. That house would have a yard that I would fill with hundreds of cats and dogs – if not thousands. I thought a house was something you got when you graduated from or dropped out of high school. It would be my house! I wouldn’t have to share it with anyone!

That was a a simpler time. A time when I once saw this old documentary about a building that collapsed on a giant ballroom full of people and said to my mother, “I don’t see why everyone is panicking. All they need to do is hide under a cardboard box.” A time when it never occurred to me that things like toothpaste actually ran out. A time when I was five or six years old and a tube of toothpaste was infinite. 

I survived childhood and became an adult in the technical sense of the word. True, I can rent a car; but I still feel like a novice in in an office full of grown women with real world gripes. They’ll sip their coffee in the kitchen and share horror stories about husbands, boyfriends, and bosses and I try not to feel like an impostor as I laugh along and sigh something like, “Oh, men!” out of lack of anything substantial to contribute to the tribe.

However, I now know that toothpaste can’t last forever. I no longer believe in a world where cardboard boxes provide adequate protection from a 17 story building collapsing around me. There is no house; only a studio apartment that I share with my boyfriend and my cat, Taxi.

A studio apartment is an awfully small space for two adult humans and a cat the size of a small Shetland pony.

Housing is one of the trickier parts of adulthood, especially when you live off of side hustles. I adore my significant other, but the cost of living living in LA is why we moved in together. It’s also one of the many reasons I do not have a house full of croissants and cats.

It makes no sense to pay rent for two apartments when you spend the majority of your time at one of them. It was nice that D always had a place to go in case we fought, but we never did and he rarely went home. The clothes he brought over began to accumulate. His things began to find homes among my things. He slept over every night. He began to say things like,  “I left it at home,” and it was understood that “home” meant my apartment.

I haven’t really elaborated on his personality here, but D has obsessive compulsive disorder of damn near Howie Mandel like proportions. Perhaps this is why I first toyed with the idea of living with him when he didn’t cry and/or break up with me after I forgot to flush the toilet. This was after a particular grizzly exorcism. Dirt and unwashed hands are bad enough, but the contents of a toilet bowl after a lapse in flushing? That’s like kryptonite. So if he could get past maximum grossness… well, maybe co-habitation could work. Besides, having him move in meant I could pay off credit card debt instead of accumulate it. It meant we would both have significantly less money to pay. It meant that now both of us can complain to the landlord about the weird grunting noises that my neighbor makes in the middle of the day!

That’s some medieval logic right there. Combine the two kingdoms. Love and strategy, hand in hand! It’s far from the idea that everything magically falls into place once you leave the 12th grade.

I tell myself that it’s OK; that adulthood is a work in progress.

And hey – at least I have a more realistic understanding of human mortality than I did when I was six.

building

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Purina Cat Food VO spot!

purina

A few weeks ago, fellow Atlanta Rockstar + director/photographer Chris Wong messaged me and asked, “Do you do British accents?”
My response: “I’ve only seen Spice World eighty-seven times.”

And so it was that I got to record a Purina Cat Food voiceover! Check it out!

PURINA | Gibson from chriswithcamera on Vimeo.

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country

I recently had a discussion with someone with regarding the Indiana and the RFRA.

Back story:

The governor of Indiana signed a bill into law that ensures religious freedom to companies, which could allow them to deny people service. Most businesses don’t really care what you do as long as you pay them, but apparently enough do that we still have to have laws like this. This law has been active in over half of the USA and, for reasons I can’t even, states are STILL passing it today. I suppose I shouldn’t act so surprised. Women often get paid less, black and Hispanic people are still looked over in the job application process for being named something other than John, Michael, or Ted; and birth control is still considered a “controversial issue” despite over population and a culture where ridiculous amounts of people rely on entitlements because, as it turns out, it’s fucking hard to raise a child as a single parent who makes less than 24k a year. Hell, it’s hard to be two parents raising a family on 50K a year.

I digress: my point is: America is progressive, yeah, but it’s also ass backwards on so many things. , I shouldn’t be so surprised that the RFRA is still a thing.

One of my friends disagreed with me. They brought up a gay couple that wanted to pay a bakery a pretty sum of money to bake them a cake for their wedding day.

PAUSE: This happened in Colorado. Not Indiana. I don’t know why the cake example continues to come up, but it does and since it did, let’s continue.

The people who ran the bakery in Colorado *basically said, “You mean for a gay wedding? No. We will not serve you. We are against gay people because Christianity is all about being a butt queefing shit rag to people we disagree with. OUTLAW COUNTRY.”

Back to Indiana and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – an act that would make situations like the one I just mentioned way more difficult to deal with in court.

I joined the millions of people in raising an eyebrow and muttering a crass phrase of disapproval of the governor’s actions. I laughed when Gen Con said, “Bye, Felicia,” and Salesforce pulled their expansion plans out of Indiana.

“I don’t think that’s right,” my friend said.
“How?” I asked, “Salesforce has every right to pull whatever they want to from wherever they want to for whatever reason.”
“Would you sue a Muslim restaurant that won’t serve pork to cater to non-Muslims?”

Of course not. However, this isn’t about pork and it isn’t about what you do or do not serve, but rather whom.  Muslim restaurant owners aren’t going to deny their services to me because I am not Muslim. I can go into any Muslim owned restaurant I want and order whatever I want off of their menu. I happen to know that Muslims aren’t all about pork products, so I don’t go into their restaurants demanding bacon.

Even if I did, they would say,
“We don’t serve pork because… Um… Well, I don’t know how to tell you this without sounding like I’m talking down to you, but we have never eaten pork in the history of ever, so we don’t serve it in our restaurant. We can definitely serve you something else, though, if you want to stay.”

The people who ran the bakery told the gay couple, “No cake, no way, we will never serve you. Period. OUTLAW COUNTRY.”

Unlike the hypothetical Muslim restaurant that doesn’t even keep pork products in their building because the bulk of their clientele won’t order it, the actual, real life bakery had cake. They just, you know, refused to make the cake for the gay couple. Good grief. Just sell the damn cake. Let the couple take care of the cake toppers (which is what usually happens anyway, if I’m not mistaken) and sell the damn cake!

Why. Is. This. A. Thing.

I fail to understand. Even Chik Fil-A will serve gay people. Chik Fil-A, a company that funnels money into gay-rehab camps and may have funded organizations that bombed women’s health care clinics in the 90’s, will still serve homosexuals.  

I’m not religious, but I don’t need some intangible authority figure to tell me that you shouldn’t be a butt queefing shit rag to other people. Isn’t that easier? People can eat cake, people can live without bring ostracized, and people will be able to travel somewhere without fear that they will be abducted and brutally murdered on camera.

Actually, I’m pretty sure that Jesus said something similar, albeit in a much more pleasant way than I just did.

You should treat other people well. You should lead by example. You do that by living and loving well yourself.

You don’t do it by pitching a hissy baby fit over other people and the way they live.

My friend disagreed with me. Whatever. I didn’t yell at my friend. Instead I explained my position, listened to theirs, and the universe didn’t collapse. BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU AREN’T AN ASSHOLE.

Don’t be a butt queefing shit rag. It’s just not that hard to be decent.

Edit: There was no appropriate place to write that I think this is all a huge distraction to keep the USA from focusing on a covert operation to nuke something. There is a bomb. We are all going to die. And they don’t want us to focus on the fact that humans only have about 200 years left before we all kill each other.

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