Sunday, July 30, 2006

Everyone else is linking to it, why can't I?

Here's a popular video making its rounds on the Internet.

A higher quality version can be found here:

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Speaking of Scripts

One of the ways to break in as a television writer is to write a spec script of an existing show. I don’t really dream of a career in television writing, but I am tempted to write a spec script for the show Arrested Development because – hey – it sounds like fun. Yes, the show is cancelled and, yes, I haven’t seen the third season, but there is no other TV show out there that comes close to matching my writing style.

Television sit-com scripts have all sorts of rules to them. They have to be 22 pages with at least three jokes on a page. The pacing of Arrested Development is so off, though, that there can be as many as five or six jokes per page. And most of these jokes aren’t really build up build up punch line, but instead just a continuous fire hose of nonsense. How to approach a script like this? I just started brainstorming odd scenarios. I scribbled all sorts of things on yellow sticky notes and left them in my cube at work.

Imagine my surprise when, coming back from a coffee break, I found a co-worker in my cube, looking at little yellow notes with phrases on them like, “Magic trick goes horribly wrong and Gob's skin is stained red,” “Tobias tries to get George Michael into male modeling,” “Buster writes a blog, not realizing that he is sending emails to the entire company” and “You are a pee laugher! PEE LAUGHER!!”

My co-workers don’t quite know what to make of me, now.

My greatest dream, darkest nightmare is that somehow I lose one of the sticky notes and it winds up on the Found Magazine website’s Find of the Day.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Motivation through Deadlines

No blog entries for at least a week because blog entries don’t have deadlines. And nothing motivates quite like a deadline.

July 24th is the submission deadline for the Screenwriting Expo Screenplay Competition. When I survey the 98 unfinished screenplays on my hard drive, I found four short film scripts that can be polished and submitted by the deadline, so I’m focusing on those. If they don’t win or place, I’ll post the screenplays either on the blog or on Trigger Street. Or maybe I’ll produce them myself and just post the entire film.

Oh, the possibilities.

Monday, July 10, 2006

SALON-a-thon: What SALON does for Musicians

Bridging the gap between amateur and professional is difficult in any profession, especially an artistic one. Because art is dependent on human interactions, moving out of the practice room and in front of a crowd is a big step. For musicians making folk music, there are coffee shops and cafes a plenty. For aspiring rock stars, there are open mic nights at clubs and bars.

But what is there for the aspiring jazz or classical musician? Most jazz musicians performing have been doing it for a long, long time, and newcomers are out of their depth. Many classical musicians aren’t given open performance spaces. Occasionally there is a string quartet in a bookstore, but you’ll never see classical pianists or an opera singer.

SALON provides what a musical artists needs most to grow – an appreciative audience. Folk musician Nick Drake often complained about going on tour in smoky bars where people would be drinking and laughing and TALKING OVER THE MUSIC. At SALON, the audience members are there to listen.

Every SALON is filled with human interaction. Not only is there music for everyone to enjoy, but there is a friendly atmosphere where people can ask the musicians questions (“Why did you choose this song?” “Who are your influences?” etc.). Musicians seem to enjoy the experience, the attention, and the donations.

Tommaso Cogato is one such musician. A graduate student at Southern Methodist University, Tommaso was gracious enough to let us record him playing Chopin Ballades. Here he is performing No. 1 in g, op23.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The South Beach Diet Makes My Head Hurt

I am allergic to sugar.

Ok, I’m not really allergic, but my body reacts to sugar. And by react, I don’t mean it makes me hyper hyper hyper and until I bottom out and compact into in a quivering heap, only to wake up 30 minutes later with a craving for powdered donuts. I mean that sugar gives me headaches. Bad tension headaches that start at the base of my neck and work their way up and around my scalp.

This never happened until I went on the South Beach Diet.

I’m not bad-mouthing the South Beach Diet; I’m just saying that they need to be a little more explicit with the warning labels and side effects. Because this diet alters your body chemistry to the point where sugar hurts. In a very real sense, this is what all diets aspire to do, to stop motivating dieters through secondary re-enforcers (new clothes, people telling you how slim you look, school children stop taunting you with Eskimo pies, etc.) to primary re-enforcers (throbbing pain at the base of your skull 15 minutes after you eat a cream-filled eclair).

There are two big things about South Beachin’ that no one tells you. The first, and most important, is that it mucks around with your body chemistry. The first couple of weeks on the diet (what the diet book calls ‘purging’) is just about painful. And the diet doesn’t pull any punches; it tells you you’re going to be in for a rough time. Your body chemistry changes and the transition from one state to another takes it toll. What the diet book doesn’t tell you is that when you fall off the wagon by re-introducing sugars and carbs into your diet, your body goes through that transition all over again, but into the other direction. And, in my case, headaches happen.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make you keenly aware how much sugar is in everything, and how the new and improved South Beach body doesn’t like swimming in it.

The other big secret about the South Beach Diet is that all of the recipes cost you about 400 calories. What I mean is this – all of the recipes are labor intensive. There is chopping and cutting and pressing and sautéing and roasting and blending and sprinkling and serving and… finally… the eating two bites before collapsing out of exhaustion. There are no shortcuts or cooking cheats in these recipes, and absolutely no way to sneak in a little microwave use to make things easier.

My guess is that someone thought it would be great to combine an exercise regimen into the diet and just not tell anyone. So they worked daily exercises into the recipes. The diet hooks you with the promise of every meal being an order meat with a side of meat, and then it tricks you into chopping celery 2 hours a day.

I don’t understand why diet books feel this need to be sneaky. They should be upfront about what they’re promising to do, and then capitalize on it. Can you imagine diet books named “The Sugar Hurts Diet” or “Simmer to Slimmer : A Collection of Calorie-Burning Cooking Exercises.” Best sellers, all the way.

The downside of thinking along these lines is, of course, making up diets just to be creative. Because diets are all kind of absurd to begin with, it is only a slight veer from the world of “eat right and exercise” to the world of “silly.” I used to joke about the soon-to-be-released Lose Your Appetite: HR Geiger’s Ultimate Weight Loss Book until too many people believed that it was a real product. Dieting has become an art form. I can imagine an art school instructor giving the aspiring performance artists a "Create and Market a Diet" assignment right after the "Cover Yourself with Peanut Butter and Insects and Scream for 10 Minutes" assignment.

Ooo! Ooo! Or how about a Diet Reality TV show? People lose weight by performing outlandish meal preparation tasks? This wild gazelle recipe only works on Pike’s Peak where the atmospheric pressure is different. Our contestants must scale Pike’s Peak, wrestle a gazelle to the ground, dress it, and put it in the pressure cooker before the kids come home from school. Can they do it in time? Find out, after these messages!

Whoa. I just read what I wrote. Maybe I need to lay off the sugar.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Listen Up: Hide and Seek

As we move from a more organic culture to a more electronic one, it is interesting to hear how electronic distortion can be mixed with something as intimate and personal as the human voice. So many times pop songs get you with the hooks. The song Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap gets you with the sound of it.

To call the song a cappella would be misleading. Although there is no instrumentation other than a faint piano plunking at the song’s closing, the vocals are so distorted, layered, and modulated that they act like a new musical instrument. This makes the song not only listenable, but interesting. In pop music, it is becoming increasingly rare to be confronted with new sounds. So it is a wonder when confronted with the simple and strange sound of the human voice. It is so versatile and surprising that each new phrase fills the listener with delight.

For the most part, the lyrics can be taken or left. They merely describe fragmented scenes of desolation and loss. Normally something like this would be bothersome, but, in this case, the lyrics seem just as lost in the world of sound as the listener is.

Until the climax of the song, that is, when everything becomes clear and the singer confronts the listener.

mm what d'ya say?

that you only meant well, well of course you did

this it's all for the best, of course it is

that it's just what we need, you decided this?

what did you say?

This rush of emotion, confrontational in a half-mocking tone, moves the song from goodness to greatness. The delivery is incredible and the ending is perfectly haunting. Well worth a listen.

Listen Up blog Entries focus on one song. They include links to the song, either in iTunes or directly to an .mp3 file.