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Archive for the ‘Randomness’ Category

Kevin: My God, what a hateful baby.

Dave: It’s like the whole of human suffering wrapped in swaddling clothes!

Back in the early 1990s, I used to joke that my life was great except for two areas: personal and professional. Trust me, I have no particular longing for those times. But I have tremendous nostalgia for my diversions of the day: 97X radio, Twin Peaks, ST: Next Generation, Reservoir Dogs, The Crying Game, early Conan O’Brien, Letterman when he was still funny, Mystery Science Theater…and the Kids in the Hall.

So imagine the spit-take a few weeks ago when I was watching Battlestar Galactica and a commercial came on for the Kids reunion tour, coming to Charleston! I raced to the computer and snapped up two tickets faster than you could crush a head!

Cathy: Kathy, how do you stay so slim?

Kathy: I’m tweeking on crystal meth! Look at my pipe!

Cathy: Oooh, it’s shaped like a unicorn!

And then came the trepidation. Would the reality match the nostalgia? I mean, does it ever? Night of the show…we pull into the parking lot at the Performing Arts Center. There are about four cars in the lot. There are maybe ten people in the lobby. I’m getting a sinking feeling now, like the time I saw Dick Dale at Bogart’s in Cincinnati and 12 people showed up. Eventually, though, the lobby filled up with groovers, hippies, students-for-life, emo kids, and other assorted freaks. In other words, a Kids crowd.

SuperDrunk: Oh man, what did I do last night?

Bartender: You saved the world, nailed a waitress and pissed yourself. But not in that order.

The show was incredible. Almost a black-box performance with very few props, just folding chairs and card tables mostly. Digital projection provided the scenery, as well as a few taped bits. The show was more than just a nostalgia trip with several of the old characters and a couple of old sketches. Don’t get me wrong, it was certainly that, but even if you had seen every episode, and I’ve come close, there was still fresh stuff to enjoy. And the writing—always my favorite part—hasn’t slipped a bit. Sure the Kids, like the rest of us (mostly me,) have gotten older and fatter, But they had the same manic energy that actually intensified as the show progressed.

“So, his attempted statutory rape of a retarded foreign exchange student was his way of telling me he loved me?”

(Insecure gay guy, suddenly feeling better)

As for your old favorites, there was Gavin, the weird little kid; Cathy and Kathy; the Chicken Lady; and Buddy Cole doing a monologue about Jesus being gay that had conservative Charleston laughing and squirming at the same time. Of course, the encore was an appearance by Mr. Tyzik, who is CRUSHING your HEAD!

Friends, I know I’m not doing the Kids justice here. All I can say is that if this gem makes it to a town anywhere near you, see the hell out of it!

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The inevitable conclusion to Celluloid Dreams!

There’s this actor. Young guy, kind of a lunk, but a decent dude. He’s been in We Were Soldiers, Private Ryan, Remember the Titans and a few more (go on, guess!) He formed his own production company and went looking for scripts. He found me, and the tentative dance to option my screenplay began.

As long as the conversation was artist to “artist” (the one in quotations would be me) things were great. But there came a point when he was obligated to pass me off to his agent. From there, it promptly went to hell.

The agent is supposed to make an good faith offer. A dollar figure, and a length of term for the option. Instead, this dude asks what kind of deal I was expecting. Not as in, “what sounds fair to you, Mike?” More like, “Let’s see if this Cincinnati hayseed knows his ass from his elbow.”

Well, of course I didn’t. Sadly, I’m not so sure my attorney did, either. He set out to show this Hollywood douchebag that we weren’t going to get pushed around. By gosh, there are rules and standards for optioning scripts!

Um, yeah. There are rules and standards, except when there aren’t. And a screenwriter… check that, a first-time screenwriter…I mean, a first time screenwriter from Ohio… has no rights, no leverage, and no recourse. It got ugly fast, and the whole deal was incinerated in something like a week. I still have the angry, illiterate rejection email from the agent to my lawyer, and I quote: “your cleint is being terrible naeve.” Which, I suppose I can’t deny.

I tell myself how it would have likely gone down. They would have optioned it for twice the typical term for half the typical money. They would have pissed the time away, not getting funding while making me rewrite the thing six times. And in the end, I’d be back in Ohio with a script I no longer recognized and my option money long gone (I mean, we’re talking hundreds of bucks here.)

But who knows? Maybe I would have been the next Charlie Kaufman. More likely, I would have been that guy who had that one kickass screenplay and you never heard from again. I can’t recall his name.

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What made you want to write? Was there a particular novel or film that inspired you? Or was it something less romantic than that?

I remember killing time in a grocery store thumbing through the paperbacks. Of course, there was the Harlequin type crap for the ladies. For the gents there was a bunch of serialized action-adventure nonsense with covers depicting some grimy, scarred-up mercenary clutching a shredded American flag silhouetted against a blood-red atomic twilight. A typical description on the back cover might read: “In the post-apocalyptic future a rag-tag band of special-ops assassins battles their zombie/mutant/space Nazi overlords!”

And I remember saying to myself, “I could write this crap!”

Believe me, I gave it hell. I thought I had a pretty interesting setting and some compelling characters. It was speculative fiction, which is what you say when you don’t want to admit to science fiction. I’d describe it for you, but you’d swear I stole it from The Matrix, even though I started writing it in 1990. Anyway, after fits and starts and long stretches of inactivity, I’ve got 200 pages in a binder somewhere that will never be completed. First of all, they went and made The Matrix. I suppose I could change some elements to make it less Matrix-y. But, truthfully, the story is very bleak and hopeless and, thank the Lord, that’s not who I am anymore.

But it was a lesson learned regarding the various divergent paths of writing. There’s always somebody who thinks they can do it better. Like some pine-head in the supermarket that thinks he can write post-apocalyptic pulp fiction better than the guys making a living at it. Or the client who’s willing to spend $5000 for website design, but decides he’s going to write the copy himself.

So, for better or worse, the Novel That Never Was is what first stoked the fires. It got me thinking about the possibility of a future of not spent lugging 300lbs of video for the rest of my life. And bit by bit I started taking the steps to transition out of full time video and into full time writing.

By the way, I am Matrix fan numero uno. Just the first one, though. Reloaded and Revolutions both have the dubious distinction, as Bart Simpson once observed, of both sucking and blowing at the same time.

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If you make it through the first five minutes of The Savages, wherein a frustrated, confused old man writes his sentiments on the bathroom wall with, well, you know what, then you are in for a gently challenging, ultimately hopeful movie experience.

In last week’s review of Lars and The Real Girl, I referred to of actors who typically play pent-up, tightly wound characters in pent-up, tightly wound little independent films. In The Savages, out on DVD, we have two of the finest in the business playing their muted best: Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Fortyish siblings John and Wendy Savage refuse to grow up (as their Peter Pan-inspired names would suggest.) Wendy works a series of temp jobs and wastes office supplies endlessly applying for grants in order to chase her dream of playwriting. John has chosen “college for life” and teaches theater. In the romance department, neither sibling is getting anywhere. Wendy is involved with a married man with no intention of leaving his wife. John has a longtime live-in, a Polish prof he loves, but whose visa has expired. He refuses to marry her.

And yet, each is content in their little bubble…until their lives turn upside down. Their perpetual adolescence is shattered by the fast-forward disintegration of their elderly father (Phillip Bosco.) Seriously, the first ten minutes is tough to watch as we see Dad’s dementia destroy every bit of his dignity (the bathroom wall is just the beginning.) Sadly, he has enough of his mind left to witness his own degradation.

In coming to terms with what to do with the old man, John and Wendy each think their stale lives is more important, and that the other should make the sacrifices. Each stands his ground, however, and the resulting friction causes cracks wide enough for growth and change to seep through.

Obviously, this isn’t the delightful whimsical tale that Lars was, but it is a good story (Oscar-nominated, in fact.). If you happen to be 40, and thinking ahead to that thing we must all face, it’s sure to hit home. It definitely drags you through the hard choices, but ultimately leaves you hopeful. Rent it!

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Web-addicted? Addiction is such a strong word. Let’s say I’m “web-dependent.” Sometimes, it’s unavoidable. Much of my clientele is elsewhere, so I am often waiting for some file to come over the wire. But, other times, when I am merely hitting F5 over and over to refresh the Yahoo entertainment headlines, I realize it’s time to yank the high speed line and get some work done.

I have folder upon folder of favorites bookmarked, but I seem to hit these most often:

  • Media Life: Daily news magazine covering TV, cable, print and the advertising world
  • By Ken Levine: Prolific TV screenwriter and veteran of M*A*S*H, Cheers and Frasier holds forth daily on the art, business and frustrations of the Hollywood writing trade.
  • Rotten Tomatoes: At ten bucks a pop, I don’t go to the movies without checking the Tomato’s aggregate scores compiled from dozens of film critics. I don’t always agree, but I do often enough. Also, when that charming little indie film you heard about finally hits Charleston (on DVD!) you can go back and dig up the six-month-old review before you head out to Blockbuster.
  • Terrace Theater: If by chance that charming little indie DOES hit Charleston in first run release, it will most likely hit at the Terrace on James Island. And, they have a liquor license…how cosmopolitan!
  • Politics: Bleh. If you must, try Real Clear Politics. It’s hard to find balance on the web, but this portal comes pretty close.
  • Music: Other than iTunes, it’s the one and only woxy.com, one of America’s premiere sites for modern and indie rock. Once, when it was an FM station in Oxford, OH it was my only companion on my 90-minute daily round trip from Cincinnati to southeast Indiana. These days, I admit I am more of a fan of their old fartvintage” feed.
  • Moral Guidance: Pointe North Community Church, Moncks Corner SC.

Finally the hard stuff, my biggest weaknesses, the monkeys on my back:

  • Cinematical & TV Squad: Sister sites that provide news, reviews and lively discussion about movies and television. Do me a favor…go there, find a loudmouth commenter called Cincinnati Mike…and please, tell him to GET BACK TO WORK!

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Ever heard of a Real Doll? I beg you not to Google it, especially if you are at work. A Real Doll is a shockingly lifelike…partner…for lonely men. You might recall they made one of Kelly Carlson on FX’s demented “Nip/Tuck“…though it’s a wonder they had any silicone left over from making the actual Kelly Carlson to construct a doll! Anyway, forget everything you may know (or suspect) about these dolls, because it’s not that kind of story.

In Lars and the Real Girl our shy and painfully backward hero lives a life apart. He is an enigma to his co-workers, the folks at church, and even to his brother and sister-in-law, who live in their inherited home while Lars chooses to sleep on a cot in the garage. One day UPS unloads a crate at the house, and that evening Lars announces he is bringing a guest to dinner. Smash cut to stunned relatives staring at Lars seated at the dinner table next to a sex doll…a doll he considers real in every way.

The town shrink advises his family, co-workers and the townsfolk play along in hopes of helping Lars work through and shake this delusion. That commitment, and the healing that ensues play out in ways that constantly surprise us, because it never gets weird or hokey or over-the-top. The script by Nancy Oliver (Six Feet Under) is subtle, sweet and hopeful and truly deserving of its Best Original Screenplay nomination.

Lars is played by Ryan Gosling, seen previously in his Oscar- nominated turn as the strung-out teacher in “Half Nelson.” Other prominent names include Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson, actors who typically play pent-up, tightly wound supporting characters in pent-up, tightly wound little independent films. This, along with the bleak Canadian winter, really sets a stark tone for the proceedings. The sterile isolation of the picture’s opening presents a startling contrast to where Lars and the entire town eventually end up. Maybe too startling to be entirely believable (and not all the film critics were on board) but I found myself gladly going along for the ride.

Bottom line: A film about a guy who falls in love with a sex doll…that you could recommend to your mother? I’m as surprised as you are. So, get thee to a video store and rent the hell out of it!

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I think it’s unavoidable; whatever it is you do for a living, you observe others doing the same thing and you judge. I once had a friend who was an architect, and every building we would pass was too busy, too vertical, too…glassy-and-stony, and so on. One guy was a bartender, and the last place you wanted to be with him was a bar in his off-hours. “Geez, could you put MORE tonic in that, you hack!?”

With me it’s movies and TV. Long before I wrote for a living, I had spent 15 years in video production. So I am always noticing lighting, shot composition, camera moves, etc. Trust me, this is not a point of pride. It’s sort of an OCD thing that too often takes away from the experience.

When watching a film on a Friday night, I tend to drive people around me crazy with arcane observations (often accompanied by rewinding the DVD to illustrate) about some aspect of story structure. I once had a fantasy about doing film reviews for some alt-weekly somewhere. But you need to live somewhere large enough and cosmo enough to get early screenings. Sorry friends, Charleston is not that place.

Also, I tend to be very forgiving. I “get what the director was trying to do,” even if I don’t love the results. Real critics are paid to take a stand, however bitchy. I suppose, as Mr. Burns lamented on The Simpsons, I’m too nice.

Anyway, a small (!) circle of friends does take pity on my film affliction and asks my opinion from time to time. So I make mental notes when something really stands out, and once in a while I may share them with you. Tune in tomorrow!

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This is a touchy subject. If you wish someone a Happy Administrative Professionals Day, they will either A) thank you, or B) take offense that you consider them a “secretary.” Regardless, it’s a risk I am willing to take..but you can bet I try to be cool about it!

When you deal with the big corporate client, you are likely to spend most of your face time…or ear time… with an Admin. She routes your calls, sets up the phone conferences and, most critically, tracks down those invoices! If she is not your best friend on the inside, then you just don’t get it!

So take a moment to send her an email, or one of those dumb animated greeting cards!

Note to A: thanx for the reminder!

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Well, it snuck up on me yet again, and I barely had time to shop. I am referring, obviously, to Creativity Day. A revered tradition ever since I discovered it in a Google search three days ago, Creativity Day is celebrated in 46 countries across this world of R’s. It began in 2002 and is generally celebrated around the week of Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday.

I attended an ITVA conference (bonus points if you remember what that means) in Seattle many years back. Looking ahead, I realized I didn’t want to be hoisting 300lbs of video gear around airports when I was 40. So I decided to start developing my writing, which I had neglected since college.

I signed up for a seminar on Fostering Creativity. It turned out to be an hour-long tribute to Yoshiro Nakamatsu, the Japanese inventor whose name always seems to come up in these discussions. Dr. Nakamatsu is the Japanese answer to Thomas Edison (if Edison didn’t spend the second half of his life suing people’s asses off for patent infringement.) He is credited with inventing the floppy disc, the CD and the digital watch, and 3200 other things.

The details of this seminar are lost in time, but I do remember a few things. In his house (stately Nakamatsu Manor) he has a room made entirely of metal, a room of wood, an arboretum, etc. He meditates daily in each of these rooms, challenging his brain to adapt to each of these different environments. He also shakes up his routine, like taking a different route to work every day.

I recall an exercise that has stuck with me forever…and this was at least ten years ago. Try this… cross your arms, but don’t look. Which arm is on top? Whichever arm it is, that is the one that is ALWAYS on top. You don’t even think about it. Now, cross your arms and purposely place the other arm on top. It just feels WEIRD. That feeling, according to the mad doctor, is the sensation of new neural pathways being formed. Or something.

And so, there is a message of hope on this joyous Creativity Day. When the ideas refuse to flow (or maybe only flow in little clots) shake up your routine. It certainly can’t hurt. As for that dream of not hoisting 300lbs of video gear at age 40? Well, it was a nice dream, anyway. At least the equipment has gotten smaller…thanks to guys like Yoshiro Nakamatsu.

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This is only vaguely related to copywriting, in that I write at my desk, looking out at the vast potpourri of nature that is Goose Creek. Anyway, this morning I noticed one of those big-ass crows swooping down to street level-then another, and another. Around here that usually means that some critter “up and got dead,” to use the scientific parlance, and now it’s snack time.

So check it out…

Snake
I did a quick search on teh intarwebs, and I am pretty sure this is a snake. Satellite imaging suggests it is about four feet long. Yeah, I guess you have to travel to Charleston to witness this level of natural, um, beauty. The closest I ever came in Cincinnati was having a rat cross my path as I sat in the drive-up line at Burger King!

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