Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Pavlov's Dog, the Candle, and the Lava Lamp

Hello boys and girls, and now for your pleasure and mine, the Cocmeister (yes, Cocmeister) presents, "A Happy Fun Moment in History."

Rougly a century ago, a most excellent physiologist (yes, I'm doing the Bill & Ted thing) by the name of Ivan Pavlov stumbled upon what came to be known as the "conditioned reflex".

Now, a reflex is obviously something our body does on its own. It's subconscious and, at best, an action we only have limited control of... like blinking, breathing, salivating, or tackling people when they talk in movie theaters.

What Pavlov discovered was, given enough time, he could condition brand new reflexes into an animal's brain... namely, his dogs.

When Pavlov's dogs ate, they would salivate. Duh. What interested Pavlov was how they would also salvite whenever the man who fed them entered the room, regardless of whether he had any food on him not. (Yeah yeah, maybe they wanted to eat the man.)

Deciding to try an experiment, Pavlov began ringing a bell each time before his dogs would be fed. He continued this until one day he removed the food.

Now he had dogs who would salivate on cue whenever he rang a bell.

Keep in mind now, that the dogs had no control over this, hence a "conditioned reflex."

As cool as this trick is though, I still thing it takes a close second place to feeding your dog peanut-butter.

So why am I rambling on about old Russians and nasty pranks to play on your dog? Well, shaddup and keep reading.

I've got all sorts of junk on my desk. The computer, remotes, a clock, speakers, a candle, a lava lamp... etc. (Yes, just like the title of this blog entry. You're very smart. Have some peanut-butter.)

Anyways, while working on one of my more recent projects, I found myself under a heavy deadline. For some reason or another (I still don't know), I began a routine of lighting my candle and turning on my lava lamp before I'd begin work. This routine somehow became an inane ritual. Light the candle. Turn on the lamp. Work.

I finished the project and stopped doing the ritual...

The last script I wrote was the hardest project I've ever worked on. The writing process dragged on for a year and a half as I wrestled with the story to get it to match up with what was in my head. (The average script takes about six months.)

Suffice to say, about a year into I began fighting burn-out. I was tired of the script. I sick of writing and I wanted to at least move on to developing something else.

Then one night, for no apparent reason, I finished three times the amount of work that I usually do. It wasn't until later that I realized I had at somepoint lit the candle and flipped on the lava lamp.

The moral of this story of course is that, like dogs, screenwriters are trainable and will do just about anything if properly conditioned or given food.

Beware of producers bearing bells.