Saturday, April 26, 2014

Plenty of Women Work in Hollywood

Where are all the women In Hollywood? In March of this year, the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, which is part of San Diego State University, released its current statistics and studies, and they weren’t encouraging. Reading from their website:

For film:

Women comprised 16% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 (domestic) grossing films of 2013. This figure represents a decrease of two percentage points from 2012.
For Television:
In 2012-13, women accounted for 28% of creators, executive producers, producers, directors, writers, editors, and directors of photography working on prime-time programs airing on the broadcast networks.
These statistics got pushed into the limelight alongside Cate Blanchett when, in her Oscar Acceptance Speech she said:
"Those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences - they are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people."
I actually believe, but I don’t have the numbers, that there are plenty of women working in Hollywood, because I work with them every day. I just think they’re not being counted, or even being seen.
            That’s because the professional women I’m talking about work in the specific genre of “Reality” Television. From this point on in the blog post, I am going to refer to it as unscripted non-fiction TV, because that’s what it is, and what it should be called. The term “reality” (in quotes) was coined by journalists’ years ago as they tried to describe the new genre taking over cable TV, and the phrase stuck. No one working in the genre called it that, and when someone says to me that there’s nothing “real” about “reality” TV, I reply that I never make that claim. Also, the phrase “unscripted” (also in quotes) doesn’t mean it’s “unwritten” either, which is another contentious subject -- but I digress -- back to the women.
             I’ve worked in this genre for most of my career, moving up from editor to Executive Producer and Show Runner, and now I split time between editing and producing. I personally have worked with more women than men. I’ve hired more women than men, and now that I am an editor again, the people who supervise and guide my creative work are mostly women.
            I am working on an unscripted non-fiction show right now, and as I write this I am sitting in my edit bay before my workday begins. So far on this show, which is about young people working on a luxury yacht, I have edited material for five different episodes. The show runner is a woman, the lead editor is a woman, the story producers (I like to call them writers) for four of those five episodes are women, and the assistant story producers who find footage for me are women.
            These women are damn smart, too. Back in the early days of this genre, we didn’t even have non-linear editing. We didn’t have small lightweight cameras and we felt like we were creating something new and different. Can we tell a drama with this style of shooting? Can we graft a sitcom structure onto this kind of production? We thought we were breaking new ground because we could tell a story a new way. The technology has changed so much that I feel we were carving in stone back then.
            Now, a generation later, I am encountering people, mostly women, much younger than me who were raised on the genre, and they are completely comfortable as storytellers when they are in my edit bay. I’m like a rock-n-roll guitarist from the 1960s who thinks he helped invent rock-n-roll, who then encounters a phenomenal kid who plays guitar better than him, and the kid says, “yeah, I grew up listening and copying all your records. But now that I know all your chops, I’m doing my own stuff now...”
            These women are well-educated, smart, good leaders, great storytellers, and I enjoy collaborating with them. However, I suspect they may not be counted in the overall numbers because of a bias against the genre, even though it makes up over one-third of the television that gets produced.
            And that may be why women end up working there. It’s part of the history of women in the work place. The genre doesn’t really count as television, and therefore neither do they. From my experience, I also suspect there are more people of color and more LGBT people working in unscripted non-fiction television than in other genres as well -- yet I don’t think they’re being counted either.
            There’s a self-perpetuating feedback loop going on that is both positive and negative for the industry. In this genre it’s easier to break in, to find work, to rise, and it’s easier to get responsibility. If you’re a woman, or a person of color or you’re gay, there’s also a better chance that you’ll be working with other people like yourself. That’s the upside. The downside is that you’ll be underpaid, a union probably won’t represent you, and you won’t be able to take credit for the work you do.
            Wait a second! Women and people of color, working and excelling, yet not being paid as well as others, and not getting credit? Why does that sound familiar?
            I am editing an act of unscripted non-fiction television this week that will be hilarious farce, and my story producer and I keep going over the footage, parsing out the lines in the exact order to maximize the laughs. I’m not saying it’s Chekhov, but it’s a comedy of manners that will be pretty damn funny when we’re done. I turned to her today and said, “we’re writing this episode, you know.” She laughed, and said, “I know, but we’re not writers.” And she did what women and people of color have done for years when faced with similar work dilemmas. She laughed, shook it off, and went back to her desk. She knows what’s up. She’s writing something that’s not writing, in a genre of television that’s not really television, invisible and making a product that makes a lot of money in the industry. She wishes it were different, of course, but she’s not quite sure what she can do.
            This where it gets tough. The Writer’s Guild of America agrees that what she does isn’t writing, and although they’ve raised the idea of story producers and editors getting credit as writers and getting union representation; the idea has been left on the negotiating table during the last two WGA strikes.
            The Motion Picture Editing Guild is doing a good job. As I write this, the editors on “Last Comic Standing” are getting union representation after a short strike, although the editors are getting the contract, not story producers.
            And then there are the directors, who aren’t really directors, but they are called field producers, unless it’s a big enough network show, and then they are called directors and represented by the gets complicated.
            But it’s all worth examining and analyzing, and it’s time for Hollywood to recognize the redheaded elephantine stepchild that’s sitting in the middle of the living room, mostly because of the money it brings in. The cable networks depend on the fast money they can earn from reality shows, and they often provide the liquidity they need while they’re waiting for the bigger expensive dramas like Breaking Bad and Mad Men which require a lot of money up front but take more time to produce.
            There are several camps of “unscripted” non-fiction. First, the competition shows, which include both Survivor and The Voice. Then there are the lifestyle shows that appeal to men first and women second, like the shows about fishermen and ice-road truckers, working cops and people searching for aliens or ghosts. Then, there are the lifestyle shows which appeal to women first and men second, which include the shows about rich housewives, Mormon families, little couples, and young people working on yachts.
            I believe that female storytellers are well represented in all three of these sub-genres, but they are especially well represented in the last one.
            Part of the problem is built into the genre itself. I believe that much of unscripted nonfiction which in a broader sense can also be called “melodrama,” which has its own historical baggage. From Wikipedia comes this definition:
            A melodrama is a dramatic work that exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions, often with strongly stereotyped characters.
            I’ve also heard melodrama described as relying too much on conflict between similar characters in a limited context. Two rich housewives arguing about a party is melodrama, because there doesn’t seem to be much at stake besides their vanity and pride. However, if one is a CIA spy in danger, or a Queen on Game of Thrones, or one of the housewives is battling cancer, then it suddenly no longer qualifies as melodrama, because emotions and problems aren’t being exaggerated. The drama of the underlying situation is doing a good enough job creating obstacles that the characters must overcome, and it’s now a “higher” form of drama. Until that happens, it’s just melodrama. It may be incredibly popular, but it’s still just melodrama.
            However, melodrama can become art -- like the plays on Anton Chekhov, which are biting melodramas about an upper class world worth laughing at, which is why he called his plays “comedies.” 
            Some unscripted non-fiction melodramas are very good, a lot are decent but average, and some are crap -- but that’s true of all movies and TV. The ultimate truth is that doing good original storytelling is hard work no matter the genre in which you work. Some of it is great, a lot of it average, and some of it is bad, and the success of any of it has little to do with the quality. But generally, unscripted non-fiction melodramas are dismissed as entertainment fodder, the digital equivalent of the tabloids, like today’s newspaper, which the fishmongers will us to wrap tomorrow’s “catch of the day.” 
            And maybe for that reason, women end up here. It’s not because women are better at melodrama -- that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that since it doesn’t get the same respect as other genres, there’s a subtle message that this is the genre where she ought to go -- where she can go -- and get work. Maybe where she herself decides she should go.  She won’t upset the status quo. She’ll be tolerated. She won’t have to fight some larger societal battle. In this way, women may be half guilty of perpetuating the work situation that employs them and at the same time limits them.
            Times are changing however, and it’s only a matter of time before all workers in the genre will be recognized for their work and how much money it brings into the industry as a whole.
           Nora Ephron comes to mind when I think of the people working in unscripted non-fiction. Nora Ephron was a great writer, a great screenwriter, and a great director. However, she got her start writing for those crappy tabloids. People still turn their nose up at them, but if you wait long enough, that rough-and-tumble world, full of crazy characters and crazier stories, looks quaint in the rear view mirror, and people wax nostalgic for the good old days of tabloid journalism. That’s when the tabloids were good, right?  It’s also a world where she learned how to drink, how to take a punch, and how to write a story -- a world she wrote about and celebrated in her Broadway play, Lucky Guy.  What this genre needs are a few Nora Ephron’s to make a big splash in other genres.

Read about the work done at the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film:

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Shout About the Rainbow Later. You're in the Rat Race Now.

Having children teaches you to live in the moment. There is no clock when you’re an infant, or a two-year old, or even a five-year old. When my daughter was hungry, she let me know and I fed her. I had to return to the real world and present for her, regardless of whatever other plans I’d made, and no matter how rushed we were, she always shouted with glee when she saw a rainbow, reminding me yet again to live in the moment.
            And now that she’s eight years old, it’s time for me to crush her innate ability to live in “the here and now.“ Sorry darling! This is the age at which she learns to compartmentalize her life and divide up her day into set hours. It’s time to parse out her needs, her pleasures, and her pain according to the clock. There is no present, there is only what must be accomplished in the future, and what we did not successfully accomplish in the past. It’s time for her to learn to rush and multi-task. You’re in the rat race now, darling, so pick up the pace. Shout about the rainbow later.
            Meanwhile, all the adults I know are trying to re-learn what she does instinctively.  Simplify. Meditate. Live more with less. Be present. Stop and smell the roses. Unplug. While we’re amping up our kids so they’re ready for the modern world, we’re trying to reclaim our personal lives. It’s a schizophrenic life.
            In our house, the hour between her waking up and going to school encapsulates this tension. We have our schedule perfected down to the minute. If everything falls into place, we all get what we want -- mother, father, and daughter. If we’re off by five minutes, plans start to unravel. My daughter Lily has always been good at articulating what she feels, better than me, in fact. And she’s quite right when she says, “It’s stupid to worry about five minutes.”
            Here’s our schedule:
            I wake up at 5:00 a.m.
            I exercise until 6:15, and then wake up my wife Robin.
            I make coffee and start making my lunch until 6:30. Robin checks the computer for the weather and any changes in the day’s plan.
            We wake up Lily at 6:30. We used to have to go in, but now she emerges on her own, between 6:30 and 6:35.
            Our goal is to leave the house at 7:35 to be at school by the first bell. All of us must accomplish a lot within that hour, between 6:35 and 7:35: Bathing, eating, brushing, planning, packing lunches and reiterating the plans for the day.
            For Lily, she must eat breakfast, brush her teeth, put on her school clothes, and then sit down to get her long hair combed and braided. Depending on which day it is, there’s also a homework folder, or a letter for the office, a dance bag with a change of clothes or two snacks instead of one. All must fall into place by 7:35, on the nose.
            If it’s done by 7:35, I can walk Lily to school, which is a pleasure for both of us. We can actually walk faster than the traffic on Laurel Canyon, and we get to enjoy the seasons. Walking with umbrellas in the rain is fantastic, and walking without a jacket in springtime makes her want to run. We can linger at a flower, or pet and scratch the neighbor’s dog, Sparky, who runs up to the fence to greet us. We can walk with neighbors, or Coach Marty, who lives two blocks down. Sometimes the sprinklers make rainbows, which is still her favorite.
            If it’s 7:40, we have to drive, because we may not get to school in time. Even though school is only half a mile away, I must avoid crowded Laurel Canyon and sneak through residential streets. We still make it to school on time, but then we must join the tumbling rush of parents and kids jockeying for parking spots, and then a good position in the crowd so we can dash across the street before the crossing guard blocks us and makes us wait until the next light change.
            If It’s 7:43, we are screwed, because there will be no parking spots left at school, and then life becomes tense. We’re tripping over tree roots as we run up the sidewalks, and then we haul ass across the playground to get her to her classroom before the second bell. Of course, all the rushing makes her tense, and when you’re tense you have to pee, so we make a mad dash to the bathroom first, which narrows the window of remaining time even more.
            What a difference eight minutes make. 7:35 versus 7:43.
            First bell at 7:55, second bell at 8:00 on the nose.
            If we’re all ready at 7:35, then we live a blessed and balanced life where we can live in present with one another and notice the changing seasons and the world around us. Look! There’s a bird! She made a nest in our rain gutters! Isn’t life grand?
            I can even afford to have a snooty attitude about the rushing parents yelling at their kids as they yank their arms and fling them across the street. But if we don’t leave the house until 7:43, I’m hunched over and frothing at the mouth like the rest of them.
            Lily can tell time, but she doesn’t care that much about it.  Why should she? She’s eight years old. I’ve tried to explain to her how important it is to be done at 7:35, and that 7:43 is bad, and she looks at me like I’m insane. And it IS insane. From the look on her face, she knows that I drank the Kool-Aid, and now she must drink it too.
            I have to justify this collective madness we all share, which I am now forcing on her. I must reinforce the status quo. I decide that all this is good for her.
            Kids must learn how to plan. They must have good “executive functioning,” which is identifying what needs to be done, creating a strategy, and following through on it.
            Kids must also learn to persist at a task. You follow your schedule today like you did yesterday, until it becomes a habit you do without thinking. That’s persistence.
            And when life throws a monkey wrench into the plan, you must be able to adapt, change the plan and still get it done. 
            Plan, persist, and adapt. That’s what she has to learn. It’s good for her.
            I’m no expert; it all comes from the latest parenting book I’m reading -- How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character, by Paul Tough. It’s a good book, you should read it.  Best of all, it helps me feel better and less guilty about torturing Lily every morning over the importance of eight stupid minutes.
            She wants to walk to school. That’s the goal. So, we created a strategy. We made a chart together, which she can look at every morning. If she’s done eating at 7 a.m., she has ten minutes to brush her teeth and get dressed. If she’s back in her chair by 7:15, she can watch Hannah Montana on the iPad while her mom rebraids her hair, which takes ten to fifteen minutes. If she’s later than 7:15, there’s no iPad allowed, because we have to rush. It always takes five minutes to gather everything together, remember what’s happening that day, do final reminders, put on jackets and say goodbye. That means we’re walking out the door at 6:35 if we’re lucky. That’s planning.
            She’s learning that if she gets out of bed every morning at the same time no matter how rough a night she had, and follows her schedule, she’ll get what she wants, and the more she does it, the easier it gets. That’s persistence.
            She’s learning that sometimes her amazing long hair is such a tangle that it takes her mother more than fifteen minutes to unknot it and braid it again, which changes everything. No matter how well she followed her steps, our plans could be dashed and she’ll have to adjust. That’s adapting to unforeseen change.
            See! I’m a good parent! She will have grit and be a success in life, just like the book promises!
            However, what I’m really doing is forcing her to change her entire outlook on life. She no longer lingers as she chooses her breakfast in the morning, deciding between her two favorites -- cheesy toast or Puffin Cereal. She picks fast, the plate slaps down and she glances at the clock as she chows down like a good little girl. You have fifteen minutes to eat, starting now. Obedient little drone. Watch the clock like your daddy does. See how he eats his yogurt over the sink before rushing into the shower? Be like him. Eat at your desk at work. Live by the clock, like the rest of the world. If you think ahead, you can beat the commute! Stop looking at that rainbow, this is important. And you better get good at it, because the world is just getting faster, faster, faster and faster.
            I see her chewing and glancing at the clock, and she tenses up as she wonders if she’ll make it. She’s been awake less than twenty minutes and her world is now stressful. My heart breaks. No more early morning shouting about rainbows. Her mind is in the clock now, and I’m the one who put her there. Soon she’ll be just like me, dividing her entire day up into precise 15 minute increments, checking items off life’s list.
            She’s still not sure why she’s doing it, it’s just what she’s happening in her life right now. Then again, I’m not sure why I’m doing it either. Oh my god, I just realized that I’m late. No more time for this, I have to go. I don’t have time for fucking rainbows.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

How to Meet Someone in Los Angeles

Calling all gals! Calling all fellas! Are you looking for love? Do you work in entertainment, TV, music, or the movies, but you’re finding it difficult to find the man or the woman of your dreams? Is toiling in the dream factory destroying your mojo?
            My advice is to leave Hollywood and enter Los Angeles. True, one is a subset of the other, but it’s also a mind-set. I have concrete advice that will get you on point immediately.
            Working in the entertainment industry is exciting and wonderful, but when you’re in Hollywood and everyone is chasing the brass ring, a few attitudes can sneak into your life without you realizing it. Years ago I read a line in an article in LA Weekly that stuck with me -- “If you’re at a Hollywood party, half the people there are worried that there’s a better party somewhere else that they’re missing.” I remember witnessing this first hand, when I was at the MTV Movie Awards, which was by far the biggest Hollywood party of that particular week, yet dozens of people were on their cell phones checking out what else was going on in town and planning their next move. It’s a fun roller coaster, but ten years can disappear in an instant. When my wife Robin left entertainment and joined the regular world again, she felt relief, and said -- “I’m looking forward to finding out who my real friends are.”
            On the flip side is Los Angeles. I remember being at an art opening at the old Wacko Soap Factory and Luz de Jesus art gallery on Melrose, and a movie star showed up with a camera crew in tow.  The publicity was going to be mutually beneficial to the movie star, the artist and the gallery, but people resented the feeling that the camera’s presence somehow legitimized the event and only then made it real. I heard mutterings from the crowd -- “I hate it when Hollywood invades Los Angeles.”
            Now take that tension between the dream industry and the city, and lay it like a blanket over the single dating world. The over-judging, self-doubting and ceaseless worry can drive you crazy. I see so many talented and attractive young people with whom I work, torturing themselves with their Hollywood blinders on, just like I did fifteen years ago. But here’s my advice for you:
            If you want to find someone -- leave Hollywood and go to Los Angeles.
Forget the screenings, mixers, clubs and bars. Los Angeles is vast and confusing, but she’s getting better at providing a way into her mysteries. Here’s one coming up:
                        Dance Downtown, at the Music Center

            Starting Friday evening, May 16th, and continuing every second Friday night through the middle of September, you can come to the open plaza between the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Mark Taper Forum and dance with complete strangers.
            Imagine this --
            After a long week at work, you knock off early on Friday, let’s say 5:30. You have nice set of evening clothes with you, so you can change outfits at work. Guys trim their beards and don their small fedoras while girls slip on colored skirts with long sleeved lace tops and a statement necklace.
            You head downtown early. The earlier you go, the cheaper the parking is, but you can arrive as late as 6:30 and pay 8 to 12 dollars to park at the Music Center itself.
            The weather is perfect in a way that only happens in Southern California. It’s warm with a light breeze, and there are no bugs. The sky is golden as the sun starts to set, lighting up the Grand Park and City Hall in the distance below you.
            You know those temporary moveable dance floors you see at weddings? They put one of those down, but big enough for two hundred people, right in front of the Lipschitz stature to World Peace, and a night of open air dancing ensues. Every second Friday is dedicated to a different dance style. This year the schedule features 60‘s dancing, Colombian Cumbia, Tango, Two-Step, Bollywood,  K-Pop, Samba, Disco, Salsa, and more.

            From 6:30 to 7:30 an instructor will come on the microphone and teach you the basics of that night’s dance style. As the sun begins to set and the sky darkens, they turn on strings of Chinese paper lanterns that they’ve strung across the dance floor, so it really does feel like a wedding for two hundred people. There’s beer and wine for sale, some people bring picnics, some people bring cakes and dessert to share, just to strike up conversation. Wander around and chat and have fun. You’re now in Los Angeles.

            And then, you notice the women. Or, if you are woman, you notice the men. You’ll spot the dance fiends in the crowd right away. They’re wearing beautiful tailored clothes in colorful silk and linen, usually sharp retro fashion from a better-dressed decade, but loose and comfortable enough for dancing. Yeah, they’re showing off, but they’re pulling it off too. Almost everyone else is in their version of their Sunday best, and men and women circle the perimeter of the dance floor, checking each other out and making eye contact. It feels like a cross between a Sunday promenade in Mexico or Italy, and a dance from the 1940s. You spot someone you like on the dance floor, and you and your wing woman (or wing man) move in.
            You’re supposed to line up and pay attention to the instructor, but you spend as much time glancing around and smiling awkwardly at the people around you. Relax, it’s okay, because everyone else is doing it too.
            The instructor makes you rotate partners, even if you came with a significant other, so you‘re forced to meet a lot of people. And you’re forced to touch them. You’re supposed to touch, folks, it’s dancing. Hands hold hands and you twirl. A man puts his hand on a woman’s back and they both say “hello.” You’re allowed to stand close and move in rhythm. It’s not just allowed, it’s required. A foot steps on a foot, you laugh and apologize, and you try to pay attention to the instructor while you look into your partner’s eyes and trade small talk. It’s a safe and easy way to meet someone disguised as a dance lesson. Plus, I think you can size up someone pretty fast on a dance floor.

            From 7:30 to 10:00, it becomes a public open-air dance, with men and women just having fun. Some people are slick show-offs, and others hang on the edge of the dance floor, afraid to reveal that they have two left feet. The men look rakish and sharp, and the women are chic and well-coiffed. It feels grounded and natural, and it gives people an excuse to meet, talk, and to stay together longer, or to move on. There are people from every decade of life, from every background and race, and you will spot someone alluring who is within five years of your age and you will feel a magnetic tug. Let celestial gravity draw you close enough together to fall into each other’s orbit. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
            People dance, people eat, people drink, people talk------people hook up. I’ve seen it every time my wife and I have gone. And there’s no pressure. There’s another one in two weeks, so if people want to see each other again, but don’t want to trade numbers, they’ll be another one soon enough. As the sun sets you can stay and dance, or go out to dinner -- and there’s plenty hip eateries downtown.
            When I’m there I always feel like I’m part of Los Angeles. It’s quaint compared to the high-powered Hollywood party going on somewhere in the hills above Sunset, but it’s fun. Both are good and both have value, they’re just different.

            Robin and I had our first date down at the Music Center. It wasn’t this event, but the fact that our first date was in Los Angeles and not in Hollywood made a difference, I think. I was out of the dream factory and in the real world long enough to be awake and see what was around me. It was also when I started to fall in love with Los Angeles.
            And it’s FREE!! You just pay for parking, or for the subway if you ride Metro.
            Guys, girls, pick your outfits, pack your picnics, bring your desserts and be ready to dance and meet someone awesome. It’s funded by the James Irvine Foundation, it’s all to benefit the Music Center, the arts, and downtown Los Angeles:

Saturday, April 5, 2014


As I helped my daughter research her 3rd grade project on Giant Pandas, I was struck by a couple of things:

1. How cute they look at first glance.

2. How utterly creepy, moronic and disgusting they are once you really get to 
        know them. 

Let’s start with their appearance.  Those sweet, fuzzy faces with the adorable black patches around their eyes?  Look again, and you’ll see that a panda is nothing more than a giant furry black and white bear costume with a smaller demonic person inside.  No, seriously.  Look at the little human eyes inside the black patches.  Eww.  Creepy. That might work for a plushie or a furry (sexual deviations you can look up elsewhere), but it doesn’t work for me.

When they are first born, panda cubs are pink, blind, toothless, and completely helpless. They weigh between 3 and 6 ounces, and are about as long as a stick of butter. A stick of rancid pink butter. They look like hairless pink rats and are repulsive to look at (though maybe my particular disgust stems from an encounter with a pink hairless dog in Bali, but that’s another story). They are 900 times smaller than their mothers -- there is no other mammal mother who has babies that are so small compared to her size, which is weird in and of itself.

Two is a good number in Chinese culture. There is a Chinese saying, "good things come in pairs". That’s why you see double symbols in Chinese product brand names, e.g. double happiness, double coin, double elephants. But that doesn’t translate when it comes to twin panda cubs. If a panda Mother has twins, she lets one die so she can take care of the stronger one. Be strong, little panda cub!

Giant Pandas are notoriously sex averse. Panda Girl can only conceive 2-3 days a year and that is the only time she sees any action.  Well, she doesn’t actually “see” the action, because Panda Boy takes her from behind, Panda Doggy Style. The rapturous lovemaking goes on for a laborious 30 seconds. That’s it.  No after sex cigarette, no pint of Haagen Dazs in bed and definitely no morning afters. It’s not a one night stand, it’s a 30-second stand.  

Who’s your Daddy? That 375 pound, 6 foot tall lug disappears after the 30 second love fest, never to be seen again.

Because Giant Pandas are endangered, Chinese scientists have spent millions of dollars and gone to extraordinary (some might say absurd) lengths to perfect a captive breeding program for the notoriously shy, sex-resistant animals. Using methods ranging from Panda porn movies (watching other pandas copulate—
it’s unknown if lacy red lingerie and stiletto heels are worn, but that image amuses me) to electric rectal probes and Viagra (yes, Viagra; and no, it didn't work), they were able to cough up some new panda cubs.

Their taxonomic classification is carnivoran, meaning that Pandas are carnivores (meat eaters), but, get this: the panda's diet is over 99% bamboo! And they can’t digest plants! I guess nobody told them about their species, so they just keep eating food they can’t digest… as much as 45 pounds of bamboo a day! Pandas eat fast, and they spend up to 16 hours a day eating. They also poop about 60 times a day. They are sluggish because they need to conserve their energy, since they get none from what they eat. They should be eating burgers instead of bamboo! And that is an illustration in Panda Stupidity.

Speaking of food, who wants feces and urine for lunch?  Panda mom raises her paw and says, “I DO!” After she nurses her cubs, she licks them all over “down there” to stimulate them to go Number One and Number Two.  And while she’s down there she hangs around for the best part…eating their poop and pee.  Yum!
It’s said she does that to eliminate smells, though I think a spritz of Glade air freshener beats that hands down. Note to Panda moms: You’re taking “odor eaters” a bit too literally. 

Not enough potty talk?  Giant Pandas mark their territory by spraying urine as scent markers. Nice.

And back to the cute factor.  Giant Pandas are not aggressive, but they will attack if annoyed. So don’t annoy them.

I think the whole panda phenomenon can be summed up with this quote found on Yahoo Answers from Eggman: “They are really cute, so people tend to think of them as harmless, but they will kill you and eat you if you aren't careful around them.”