A Pumpkin Story

A jack-o-lantern sat staring off into the distance on a porch. The edges around the opening to his eyes, nose, and mouth were darkening. His face slowly curled inward as he quietly imploded. This time on the porch gave him a lot of time to think. About the falling leaves, about people passing by him, about death.

Another pumpkin sat outside jolly and whole. It was decided his fate was to sit happily on a stoop, uncarved and plump until long into the winter. Hands were too clumsy to carve him so the family let him age. On the outside he looked confident, commanded the season in a decorative way. And even though he was rotting on the inside, he stood strong until one snowy December day, he sighed and collapsed in on top of himself.

Other jack-o-lanterns on the block had a more sudden departure. A swift kick demolished three of them at once. In the morning, their pieces lay strewn about on the sidewalk.

“I’m not ready to be compost,” thought the jack-o-lantern.

The jack-o-lantern was given the official name “Jack” by the family who carved him. It was a title that supposedly gave him a personality and defined his character. Made him stand out. But in truth, Jack never really felt comfortable in this face he was given. He felt it was hastily created. Jagged. His features weren’t defined as much as the other jack-o-lanterns he saw. His appearance was frozen into a careless, toothless smile of feigned astonishment. Vacant eyes staring in fake disbelief as if someone spoiled a surprise party for him and yet he still had to act like he didn’t know.

He wasn’t even given a votive. So he sat blankly in the dark as clueless as everyone. He was mad.

“I can help,” he thought. “I can light the way and keep away whatever frightens you in the dark.”

Even despite his facial expression, he felt like he could muster a snarl if the right ghost crossed his path. There were no ghosts, but the family’s cat perched by him and kept him company.

In the beginning of his stay, the family moved Jack around the house. First on the porch, then on the window, but eventually he was brought in and sat patiently on the kitchen table, facing the hearth. He felt hollow inside–not just because his insides had been roasted and devoured, but because he started to think those seeds were the only reason he existed.

“They don’t care about me,” said Jack.

“What makes you say that?” asked the cat.

“I can’t look outside anymore.”

“They like seeing your face. You’re always smiling,” said the cat.

“They just want my seeds.”

“Sounds like a way of saying they care about what’s inside of you,” the cat said smugly, pleased with his statement.

Suddenly pumpkin understood why he was there. He wasn’t looking outside at a world who didn’t need him, he was looking inside at his family. A family who loved his insides and didn’t care about the way he looked. They liked his company during Halloween even though their time together was limited.

That single thought brought him peace. And so, throughout the remaining weeks of November, when cardboard witches and cotton spiderwebs were put back in boxes, the pumpkin sat proudly standing guard and slowly said goodbye to his family. His skin folded in on itself and his smile seemed less surprised. He eyes sagged in quiet contemplation. His expression wilted, but not his spirit.

The family put the pumpkin outside in the crisp autumn air to preserve him longer–he didn’t mind–but the pumpkin didn’t particularly want or need to see the winter’s snowfall.

“Pumpkins are for fall, not winter,” he thought.

The pumpkin once believed he was dead the moment he was plucked off the vine. Being carved was just a quicker way to exit this world. But as he watched his family smiling by the hearth he realized he was like them in some ways. It wasn’t dying he was experiencing, it was life. He left the cozy womb of the pumpkin patch and lived until his body had had enough. Both him and his family knew when it was time to say goodbye to one another. And so they did. And it was a happy Halloween.

Unbreakable Pocket Comb at the Midwest Independent Film Festival

Can’t wait to be able to share this short video, but if you’d like to see it sooner than later, you can join us November 4th and see it on the big screen.


Chicago indie rock outfit The Nurse Novels will premiere a music video for the song “Unbreakable Pocket Comb” as part of the Midwest Film Festival Advertising Community Shorts Night.

The video was directed by Justin Reid Tvedt and produced by Tony Mendoza, who wrote and recorded the song with The Nurse Novels.

Tony and Justin collaborated to create a story of passion set in a paper craft world, inspired by the elaborate artwork found on the covers of romance novels.

It features Irene Marquette and Peter Renault as a troubled couple on their way to somewhere out of reach, with Aarón Alonso as a villainous ranch hand. Meanwhile Thea Lux plays drums to Tony’s Farfisa organ, until they too unravel.

Justin employed in-camera special effects to achieve a childlike sense of realism. The sets – both oversized and miniature – were constructed with cardboard, construction paper and glue, adding a whimsical hue to an otherwise dark tale.

The Midwest Film Festival Advertising Community jury selected this video to be showcased at this year’s shorts night, held at Landmark Century Centre Cinema.
After the festival the video will be available via Vevo and Vimeo.

The Nurse Novels “Unbreakable Pocket Comb” Music Video
Midwest Film Festival Advertising Community Shorts NightTuesday, November 4, 2014 – 6pm
Landmark Century Centre Cinema
2828 N Clark, Chicago
$10 general admission

A conversation with Renée Zellweger

Hollywood: Don’t age.

Renée: But…I have to?

Hollywood: Look young.

Renée: But you hate plastic surgery.

Hollywood: Listen, there can only be like, two older women on screen at a time. Ignore every decrepit, sagging, pockmarked leper of an overweight male actor over 60 who has consistently worked regardless of his fluctuating waistband or decaying youth. You’re not Judi Dench or Meryl–don’t bring up LuPone, she’s stage. Anything goes there. Those two hold the only spots right now. You either have to battle them to the death as they did with their predecessors or just stop pursuing what you’ve dedicated your life to and let us criticize you regardless. Cool?

Fine Tuned – Full Short Film

Premiering at the Buffer festival and on your own computer screens, Craig “Wheezy Waiter” Benzine brings you “Fine Tuned” as part of the New Form Digital incubator program. Happy to be in it and hope it goes further!

Wheelchair Werewolf

I am always happy when talented friends ask me to be a part of their projects. Here’s Joe Avella‘s trailer for Wheelchair Werewolf, coming to your screens in the Halloweens.

Watch it not because I’m in it, but because it’s funny and I’m in it.

Fine Tuned

Trailer for Fine Tuned is up. The whole shebang will be up later this week on Wheezy Waiter’s channel!

the new haps

Posting life updates into the void.

Internet bearded hero, Wheezy Waiter is making a short film, which I’m honored to be a part of. Go watch everything he’s done if you have 3 years to spend in front of a computer to catch up on his extensive catalog.

The Nurse Novels newest video is done. But since we’re submitting it to film festivals in the fall, all I can do is post stills. Beautiful, beautiful stills.

In October, TUTA Theatre presents The Anyway Cabaret (An Animal Cabaret). I’ll be slinging banjo riffs and harmonies with a talented cast. It’s being co-produced by the city and we’ll be at the Storefront Theater downtown with all the fancy folks.

Pitch Your Humor

In an effort get myself motivated, I put together a list of humor sites I should (will, I promise) pitch to. I hope you find it helpful and let me know if you know of a site that should also be included.

rejected pitchfork itinerary

Sometimes you write a Pitchfork itinerary for a chance to win tickets from the Chicago Reader and don’t get picked but feel medium-okay with what you wrote anyway. This is such an itinerary.

3:00 – This being my first Pitchfork, I pregame at Gold Star to rid myself of any sort of crowd-related anxiety and immediately replace that with port-a-potty anxiety.

3:30 – I’m going to kiss a pedicab driver each time I hear a musician singing like she’s just woken up from a nap and struggling for breath. Hundred Waters and Factory Floor get me a driver’s phone number!

4:00 – Selfishly check if the Numero Group has a booth and if they’re still sporting a sign I painted them. Spend life savings.

5:15 – It’s quite possible Haxan Cloak’s ominous soundscape could summon The Nothing.

6:25 – I settle into a spot and start playing the game “Normcore or Over 30?” during Sun Kil Moon’s folky hug of a set.

7:15 – Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks got a Chicago crowd to uncross their arms!

7:30 – Promise myself I’ll swing by the Goose Island Tent the next time I see someone wearing a thin headband.

7:45 – Giorgio Moroder – Sweet, sweet robot melodies.

8:30 – Right now everyone’s asking themselves, “Do I watch Beck or go walk my dog?”

5 Lesbians Closes

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche closed last week after a great run at the Chopin Theater. Next up, TUTA Theatre presents “The Anyway Cabaret (an animal cabaret)” at the DCA in Chicago.