Friday, December 30, 2005

Jack Sums It Up

After a particularly rigorous or stressful writing session is coupled with a hard day at work, this verse of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” always surfaces and breaks through the ice of my conscious mind (the italics are mine)...

I'm going to Wichita
Far from this opera for evermore
I'm gonna work the straw
Make the sweat drip out of every pore
And I'm bleeding, and I'm bleeding, and I'm bleeding
Right before the Lord
All the words are gonna bleed from me
And I will think no more

Say what you want about the White Stripes, I only listen to their hits, but check out their lyrics and you’ll have to admit that Jack White is great lyricist.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Constant Erle Stanley Gardner

Let me preface this post by saying that people leave books around at work after they are done with them. I've discovered such gems as Faye Kellerman's Peter Decker & Rina Lazarus novels and somehow stayed awake through the other books that were basically cliff-hangers that ran out of steam in the end and offered up all the nutritional value of said steam, as mind food.

I've just finished "Shills Can't Cash Chips" by Erle Stanley Gardner, known as the author of Perry Mason to you but known mostly as a crossword clue to me as this was the first thing I've read by him. I have read and heard praises of him through mystery fan pages, through friends and the Internet. The book was from 1961 and it had three times as much titillation and sex as anything else that I've read from that era. Of course, it was all hinted at.

There were, though not literally, "tell-tale panties" in this novel which you would imagine that even a starving Edgar Allan Poe would never have bothered to go there. The protagonist is strictly a ladies man yet he is by far the wimpiest hard-boiled detective ever. Richard Simmons kicked more ass at that airport incident than this guy would in four lifetimes. The real giveaway is the protagonist's name, Donald Lam.

His partner in the detective firm is Bertha Cool ("birth of?") or "B. Cool" as it says on her door. She's of mannish proportions and is the worst representation of Hammett's Continental Detective Agency's boss that I've ever read. She constantly harps on: his expense accounts, his detecting methods, that he's a little too good with the ladies, and her main reservation is the fact that the firm's secretary is in love with him. Thus, reducing her efficiency.

As a matter of fact, you wonder why she throws in with this guy at all because she doesn't trust him one lick and regards him as a two-bit gigolo except of course, he gets results. Bertha gets to spout such dialogue as "fry me for an oyster!" (four times, no less) and "dice me for a carrot!" That's right, Bertha is not just a cheap caricature of a boss, she is also a stew that's served from Bangor to the Bay Area.

She even goes prison matron on a culprit just before the denouement to get a confession, reducing the suspect's clothes to tatters. A police chief even deputizes her as such after the molestation to "make sure that the suspect gets dressed to go down to the station house."

This novel does make you ponder from a procedural standpoint just what life was like pre-Miranda rights as all the cops conveniently wait a few paragraphs to mention to the protagonist that anything he says can be used against him. "CSI" or "Law & Order" this ain't, yet a half-way decent real attorney should've been able to get the whole case tossed with very little effort.

You have gratuitous mishandling of evidence, illegal search and seizure, confessions clearly derived under duress, contamination of the crime scenes, and a police sergeant that willingly tells the protagonist that he will be framed for a murder because it's all too convenient for the court (cue Claude Rains at the end of "Casablanca").

Contrast that with what you might have read about how Stanley Gardner did so much to educate America about law through his Perry Mason character and you have to wonder if he just slapped this particular novel together to just meet a contractual deadline and just said to hell with the legal accuracy, it'll only get in the way.

I didn't enjoy this novel initially as much as I should have because my expectations were much higher as a result of the author's reputation and after mulling it over, I find it a little more enjoyable now. I recognize that is was not intended to be a pure mystery or study in detection, but the anti-hard-boiled book that it is.

Realistically, it's pure camp. A low-fi satire or subdued "Showgirls" without the "All About Eve" references, if you will.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Christmas And Thanks To All

Procrastinator Jr. is in his neo-cubist phase at nine and he came up with this Christmas card that won't upload either directly from the computer or from so thbbbbbpfffft to the blog engine. Still, I would like to thank my few customers for helping to make this season a special one, you have made my heart sing and my pride soar.

May your Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or what ever holiday that you celebrate or don't celebrate be extra special. And may the coming year be the most prosperous ever for you and good health to you as well.

P.S. That goes for all and not just my customers and the people that post.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas Tree 1, Procrastinator 0

...and today in the warm up to the Christmas Cup, there was a shocking upset. Christmas Tree, literally the most fiery of inanimate objects thrashed Procrastinator one-nil.

I worked with a former U.S. Army sergeant some thirteen years ago and to add lemon and salt to the paper cut so-to-speak, he used to top off a difficult situation with this wonderful saying: "What, you're having trouble with that? Are you saying that an inanimate object is smarter than you?"

That's the last thing you want to hear when a piece of machinery is getting the best of you and you have zero mechanical aptitude.

I love Christmas...only so much. It's like lobster in the sense that I would miss it a lot if I never had it again, but I could live without and not go through any major withdrawal. Christmas brought out the worst in my family years ago when I was a kid and now when it brings out the worst in the people wherever I go, it brings back me right back to those marginal Christmases.

My joy is always derived vicariously through the Missus, Procrastinator Jr. and the in-laws. When they're happy, I'm ecstatic.

The centerpiece for Procrastinator Jr. is the tree, it ain't Christmas to him without it. The tree is the very thing besides the faux "peace to all" that I abhor about the whole damn holiday. I'm paranoid about the fire factor and the news media fuels this every year by showing all the poor families that were displaced by tree fires. So as a result, we never get a tree before December 8th as I'm paranoid that it will dry out too soon.

Two birthday parties and a Costco run displaced the tree purchase two weekends ago and this past weekend was a rainout of epic (for California) proportions. So this past Monday was the only dry day in the forecast until Thursday and if I let it go 'til Thursday, the Missus would be playing "which will give out first, Procrastinator? The Circulon wok or your head?" You see, she'll only allow procrastination to apply to certain things around here and Junior's happiness is paramount.

If you don't know by now, we live in a rent-controlled shoebox which is only a bargain by Manhattan/Tokyo standards, yet decent by San Francisco standards. So the 780 sq. ft. is a juggler's nightmare in terms of space, one chair or coffee table book not only f**ks up the feng shui but also means that something is going to be to donated to Goodwill or thrown out.

So me being the spatial genius that I am, I come up with the idea that this year's tree should be four feet tall by about three-n'-half wide because a bookcase that is supposed to help organize my screenplays (yeah, I might as well use the submerged library of Alexandria while I'm at it) has displaced the tree space.

With those dimensions in mind, Procrastinator Jr. and I pick out the perfect tree and it's gorgeous. I mean, God knew what he was doing when he pointed at that pine cone because it's the Frank Lloyd Wright of trees. I mean, you would want to date this tree if you saw it except that it's full of sap, it's bristle-ly and well, it's a tree you pervert! Get away from it or I'm calling the FBI and the National Arbor Day Foundation!

We get it home aaaaannnnndddd...the tree stand is too big. Let that be a lesson, ladies. It's true what they say about big rings, big trunk and the diameter being the tree equivalent of "big hands, big feet." So it's too close to the working hour for me to go to Walgreen's without being late for work to get a smaller tree stand, so the Missus and Junior go instead. They get a smaller stand, so I guess size doesn't matter and that it is true what they say about tree kismet aaaaannnnndddd...there's a branch in the way.

I mean, you can't just snap this branch off because the tree is not only nice and green, it's woody. We need pruning shears but of course we don't have any nor do the neighbors because the back yard is a concrete garage and it's now fifteen minutes until I have to get ready for work. So I tell the Missus that I will go to the Walgreen's in Daly City during lunch because they're open twenty-four hours and they have the greater selection of things out of all the twenty-four hours stores in this area.

So I get to the store aaaaannnnndddd...they don't have pruning shears. Not a problem, don't panic, relax, regroup, the tree won't dry up because you had the Missus add a little water to the stand. I'm up and down the forty or so aisles of this place and there's nothing but Christmas crap.

I mean besides the usual decorations and knick-knacks. Christmas film, Christmas Twinkies, Christmas batteries, Christmas fortune cookies, Christmas salsa, Christmas feminine hygiene products, everything but Christmas matzo balls and don't you believe that they didn't contemplate it. Still, no pruning shears and the tools were sparse in general, having been displaced by door alarms and LED carabiner key chains (WTF do they have to do with hardware anyway?).

So I had to settle for poultry shears, believing in my superior writing mind that the branch would have the same density as a chicken bone. Mind you, I'm also the guy who ran around telling everybody to wait until Microsoft hit $120 a share to sell because Windows 98 was going to be a great improvement and launch the stock into the stratosphere.

So I get home and pull the tree up, forgetting that the Missus added water which is now all over my feet dredging up memories of a neighbor's incontinent poodle. Great, dry off the feet, dry off the plastic lining under the tree and those plastic bags taped together are the only foresight I've exhibited these past couple of weeks. The poultry shears? Let's just say the situation was not inspirational and I might as well have used a butter knife.

The tree? Mocking me in its handsome, perfect tree-way except I'm mocking it right back because it can't sit upright. So when I get up to drive Procrastinator Jr. to YMCA Winter Camp and I get back from the hardware store with saw in hand? It will not go well with my history of tools and I will wind up feeling like a tool and another inanimate object will lord another victory over me and just call me "Stumpy."

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Now, That's What I Call Satire!

Thanks to Gian Donald Carlucci for pointing out this straight outta Canada, an I.B.W.A 9-5 with an attitude
Praise be to Communicatrix
for putting the spot light on this guy who so far is the best thing out of Boston since Sam Adams beer
And last but not least, Janey Godley
who is the best thing out of the iblog community. I've got to get my hands on some of that Scottish pound sterling if I'm not harrassed by a badly dressed Kray brother

Originally Titled "No More Salt, Please."

So I posted with a link to a New Mexico article and there went the equlibrium of the blog, pushing the links and post archives diagonally to the bottom like some misshapen textual BMW logo or a checkerboard pattern gone wrong. It was a link with a solid line of text with an RSS at the end.

Let's try this again without the link...

A group of screenwriters will gather in Albuquerque this weekend to take on the ambitious task of writing a screenplay for a movie in 72 hours. Led by Christopher Coppola, the team will write the script for a project called "Big Bad Voodoo Mama," which will be filmed in 16 days in New Mexico at a cost of no more than $350,000.

The writing process that goes on this weekend will be broadcast via Web cam at starting today at noon and lasting through the weekend. Writing with Coppola will be Nick Paine, Jim Graebner, and Nick Johnson.

Coppola's new media company,
EARS XXI, the official sponsor of the Duke City Shootout, recently wrapped production on a television pilot titled 'Biker Chef,' and is in pre-production for another untitled film project that will be shot entirely in New Mexico.

I've tried posting the link without the RSS and it still sends the entire right side of the page falling like an oldster in a Medic-Alert commercial. Sooo, my post to the above article was that...

"This is an interesting experiment conducted by Francis Ford's
nephew (the blog-skewing link was inserted right here). I know they're not aiming for an Oscar or Independent Spirit Award so much as they're probably doing it just for experimental purposes. Still, I'm more curious to see if too many cooks spoil the broth.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Because Sometimes You Have To Explain It

Some people at work who enjoy mindless action films cannot understand why I get worked up about a complete collapse of logic or inconsistent and/or lazy plotting in said films.

So basically I came up with this slogan

"It's A Screenwriting Thing (you wouldn't understand unless I pitched it to you)!" It works on many levels and not just when you're trying to get across why spectacular stunts and explosions do not excuse shoddy deus ex machina endings.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Location, Location...

The Scribosphere is spreading across the planet and in our new world order, we promise to be both firm and benevolent. We will be merciful with producers, only making them get coffee for us and run errands. The studio suits? No Camp X-Ray for them, just a "reconditioning site" where they will be forced to watch quality movies until they get "it" or they can't go home, period.

No more of that low six figures against that mythical mid-to-high six figure stuff paid to scribes. Screenwriters will actually get the latter number from now on and no fictitious or "monkey" points on the back end, either. Yes, you will enjoy life under the Scribosphere because all will prosper when the writers prosper and...

what? It's not that kind of organization? Um, never mind.

Anyway, I was looking at where they placed me on the map because it's by zip code and what should I find out? I'm living at the Golden Gate Park Equestrian Stadium and the arrow has me just southwest of the stables. That's like thirty-eight blocks away from the apartment and I doubt it is even in the same zip code.

Not a problem. I'll have the Missus buy a saddle, someone have the Maestro cue Ginuwine's "Pony" and feed me some sugar cubes.


Lists And Bill Murray

I was going through my yahoo mailbox and they send to me relevant information from the web using the keywords "script" and "screenwriting."

I go through it and Cinematical claims that these are the seven screenplays to read.

I take this with a grain of salt because all "lists" are simply decent all the way up to great ploys by magazines, sites and TV shows to generate both controversy and readership and/or viewership. The typical list will be filled by mostly legitimate candidates for greatness, a few sentimental favorites of the author(s) and a few ringers just to send everybody to the far side of apoplexy.

I loved all of these in the theater with the exception of "Cider House" which I have yet to see and I haven't read the screenplays for these which is a shame because I am one of those screenwriters that loathes to read professional screenplays. I always know where I want to go from a dialogue and plot standpoint, but I should always read up on others and see how they attack the limits of this medium.

Look, there's "Groundhog Day!" Does it get any better than that, people? A great foundation in that script (listen to Ramis's DVD commentary to hear what was improvisied), a great director who knows comedic timing and a perfect cast. Especially Bill Murray who could make a technical manual for a septic tank hiliarious by his asides and riffs.

My third most favorite Murray movie is "Scrooged" though I haven't seen it in years. You have your "It's A Wonderful Life" people, your "A Christmas Carol" people and your "Scrooge" people. Then you have people like me...the few, the proud, the "Scrooged."

It puts one of the best spins on Charles Dickens' tale. Irreverent, yet oddly faithful to the original with a refreshing noir-type of cynicism. Hell, this film is more noir than any other contemporary film this side of "The Last Seduction" or "Red Rock West." Yet, it doesn't hold up as well as the "Scrooge" with Albert Finney or "Wonderful Life," being too chock full of pop culture references and a style that keeps it from aging well aesthetically.

The film embedded itself in my psyche long after I could remember all of its details because of one catchphrase. Everytime something at work would go wrong or surreal, Bill Murray would sound off in head, "oh, I'm having the weirdest day!"

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Word Verification Or A Blog Engine's Procrastination?

I love my blog engine, I love my blog engine, I...grr, love my blog engine.

I love this engine ten times better than the last, I've posted about this subject on my blog and on others. I've told everyone who has considered blogging to try this one out. Sure you have to learn a tiny bit of html, but reliablility wins out over simplicity in my book. This has been a smaller learning curve than anything else I've dealt with this side of twenty-five, so it was worth the headache.

But what I cannot stand about this engine when I post is the "word verification." First, the letters are more Cyrillic than English. I only know two phrases in Russian, I cannot read the stuff and no offense to Russians, I have the damn thing set to English so I expect the letters to be in English. Please Spah-si-ba!

Second, Lord help me if the letters that are to be typed in are
in red. It is a coincidence that the word verification gibberish always works when the letters are green and red letters are like a BMW driver where they may or may not stop? I have a sixty-seven percent chance of posting that particular day and the other third? I have to save to another file and post it another day. Please get the word verification together like the rest of it, folks.

Monday, December 05, 2005

No "What" For Mr. Greybeard?

My wife should be leaving me any moment. Not according to her, though I'm sure she's comtemplating it every other minute nor according to me because I remind her often that she's the only one who will put up with me.

No, according Keith Hernandez and Walt Frazier. Why? Because I have some grey hair in my beard.

"Oooh, shut down again. No action for Mr. Greybeard!"
-from the "Just For Men" ad
I've had grey hair since I turned twenty which was about...I can't tell you because if I'm to achieve a career as a screenwriter, I'm to lead you to believe that I'm only twenty-five. I've had a hard life gathering and gaining experiences toward my writing, so I only look older. Yeah, that's right. Actually I'm twenty-five and six months.
Young writers are alledgedly desired by Hollywood because they are more in touch with the youth culture, thus more in touch with the key demographics or so I've been told. There was a female screenwriter that passed herself off as nineteen year-old on a WB show which made her extra precocious and desired as a writer. Of course once they found out she was thirty-two, she got the boot. Writing ability be damned.
So people tell me that until I'm an established name, to play it young. Yeah-ah, I luvz that rapper Forty-Cent. I play his jellys, er, jamz, at my crib all da time, yo!
Getting back to the present as opposed to the delusional future...after a rather intense writing session, my grey hair has a tendency to stick out. Both on top of what is left at the top of my head and on the beard. It never fails that a coworker will point out to me that I have grey hair as if this were entirely a new revelation.
Whoa, Procrastinator, your hair's turning grey!
"Whoa," is that right?! And you know, fish swim, the sky's blue except over Los Angeles, and (insert your own obvious Bush-bashing joke right here)! I laugh it off the first two times until the same damn coworker(s) bring(s) it up again the third time without a hint of irony or sarcasm. I realize that I'm not quite at the salt & pepper stage, but my hair does not turn entirely to black and back to black and grey at whim.
Why do I tolerate this verbal abuse anyway? I'm here, my hair is grey, get used to it! Forget about "gay" rights, what about "grey" rights?!
Now excuse me while I try to convince the Missus not to leave or push me in the face like a hottie at a bar, just because I don't use the "rejuvenator."


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Look at The Pretty Letters...They're Floating...

Insomnia can be a wonderful thing. Throw in the complimentary OCD that often comes with it, a headache and you have an interesting stew. Hold the salt and the nap, please. Thank you.

I became obsessed with getting the cafepress shop in order and not only does it have greetings in five different languages, it now has page-folder-icon-thingies that can take you to the product of interest complimented with catchy descriptions for said products. I finished that around 4 AM and while bragging about it in a post on the old blog, I decided that the new blog needed to have its links reflect the variety of the old one.

My new blog now has all the author and tribute links that the old one did, so now the blogs more or less match up. Then I had to pare the descriptions on the links on the new one a bit, they're literally getting long in the tooth.

So right about now, I have the shop and blog right where I want them and I'm happy. I'm also sooo tired that the letters are floating, so I'm going to do something that comes once in a delirium:

The first person to post on this post gets one item of their choice,
plus two-day shipping. All for free if they live within the continental
United States. You should have an email address on your blog or
wherever you want me to respond because I'm not Kreskin or Ms.
Cleo. I'm dropping the friends and family catch, the first person to
respond to the offer, gets the offer. Capisce?.

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Friday, December 02, 2005

I Call Blingo!

Web + log = "Blog "
Blog + lurkers = "Blurkers "

Quoth the Don Henley, "are you with me so far?"

So I was thinking last week that I will stumble upon a really good blog every so often. Maybe not always depthwise, but at least humorwise. If that particular blog can impress me with four really good bits or routines of humor or writing, I call "blingo!"

Blog + bingo = Blingo!

So I call blingo on

Not just because of the link which has so much promise for my household, but also because of the Vin Diesel piece that he linked from and this because Procrastinator Jr. made me teach him that song over and over again when he was about six. Nothing like dredging up good memories after a long work week.

Last but not least, the quote at the top of his page...

"Last night I was having dinner with Charles Manson, and in the middle of dinner he turned to me and said "Is it hot in here, or am I crazy?" -Gilbert Gottfried

Plus, I call blingo on and because every other thing these ladies post is hilarious.

Blingo on and 'cause they leave a big dumb grin on my face.

Unfortunately, I just Googled "blingo" and it's already owned. Not like I was going to do a Pat Riley and copyright it or anything. I'd just like to see something nice to offset "blurkers" which I have yet to actually hear someone use in conversation and I hope dies a quiet death back in the bowels of the reporter(s) that spawned it.