Thursday, March 27, 2008

Another Story from the Video Store

One of the interesting things about video stores is how people assume the people who work in the store have real connections to the entertainment industry.

And by real connections, I mean people think they can come and complain about contemporary films and somehow, the video store people will fix it.

Back when The Hunchback of Notre Dame was in theaters, one guy decided to come into the store to let us know exactly what was wrong with this film so we could magically command Disney to take it back and pretend it never happened.

"You don't understand!" he told me after 30 minutes of harassing my employees. "The Hunchback of Notre Dame is NOT a kid's story. It is a serious examination of French society and religious hypocrisy! It is SERIOUS LITERATURE! It does does not need talking gargoyles or musical numbers! It's disgusting what Disney is doing! Absolutely DISGUSTING!"

And to prove his point, he waved one of our Hunchback dolls for emphasis.

"You heard about Disney's next cartoon, haven't you?" I asked.


"Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. Raskolnikov is this guy who can talk to the street rats. One rat gets on each shoulder and they sing a song about the nature of good and evil with one 'evil' rat whispering in one ear and a 'good' rat whispering in another. We're selling the T-shirts in about a month. It should be really exciting to see how they pull it off."

I am sad to report that we permanently lost a customer that day.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ain't It Cool News Style Guide

Dear Interested Writer!!!!

We are SOOOOO EXCITED!!!! about your interst in writing for the BEST!!! AND BADDEST!!! entertainment website IN ALL OF EXISTENCE!!!!!

We here in the SECRET AICN LAIR(!!!) are all for INTRSTING!!!!! and PROVACA-… PROVOCO-… CONTROVERSIAL articles so we are giving you, yes YOU!!!! a copy of our OFFICIAL AICN STYLE GUIDE!!!!!

Even tho our styles are set in stone, THEY ARE NOT REALLY SET IN STONE!!! You should HAVE FUN (!!!) and above all EXPRESS YOURSELF!!!! Remember: We are not as strict about spelling and grammar as the LOLCATS sites – We believe in the CREATIVE EXPRESSION OF THE INDIVIDUAL!!!!


1) Bold everything!!!!

There is no point – NO POINT – in writing ANYthing unless it can be BOLDED!!!! and OCCASIONALLY ITALICIZED!

2) Begin ALL!! OF!! YOUR!! ARTICLES!!! with a ramble about yourself.

We here at AICN (!) insist that our writers have a RICH FANTASY LIFE!!!! This should be AT LEAST 3,000 words!! and should include INCREDIBLE DESCRIPTIONS OF YOUR SECRET LAB, YOUR LAIR (!!!) or YOUR ELEET NETWORK OF SPIES!!!!! Describe youself as DASHING!! and HANDSOME!!! Do not be afraid to use the occasional line similar to, “Fat lovin is good lovin!!” Because that will make you seem MORE LIKE A REAL PERSON.


Believe me, I know the temptation to add three!!! exclaimation!!! points!!! but you should just stick to TWO!! unless the sentence is REALLY!!! IMPORTANT!!! A THREE!!! EXCLAIMATION!!! SENTENCE!!! IS!!! A!!! SPECIAL!!! SENTENCE!!!

Remember, we strive for subtlety and restraint in all we do.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I can't help but be a nice guy....

This site is certified 72% GOOD by the Gematriculator

This site is certified 28% EVIL by the Gematriculator

Thanks, Gyuss for pointing me to this site.

Guest Blogger - The Mrs.

This is a busy week for me, so there won't be much in terms of casual writing.

HOWEVER, the Mrs. has kindly offered a story I alluded to earlier in the comments. For those of you unwilling or unable to click the link, the story is about the early days of our courtship and how I came to be known for a brief time as "Chocolate Boy."


Since these events actually unfolded at my office, here is my version of the story for RT to embellish. [RT Note: I won't embellish.]

I had just started working at an African-American owned technology startup. It was a pretty big change for me, a new refugee from Fortune 50 telecom company I’ll call FacelessGigantiCorp.

To express whatever one expresses through chocolate (sweetness, love, lack of concern over weight gain in one’s beloved), then-boyfriend RT had developed a rather nice habit of sending me Godiva. He stepped it up during the first weeks of my time there, and little gold boxes were stacking up at my desk. This did not escape the notice of my new colleagues in the way that it might have at Faceless GigantiCorp. They were pretty happy to share in my good fortune, which they freely did. [RT note: She was project managing a tech group. I do not know how this can be done, or even if it CAN BE DONE, without food.]

To express their gratitude, or whatever one expresses through such a thing, they dubbed the unseen benefactor “Chocolate Boy.” [RT note: Legends grew in that office about the mysterious Chocolate Boy who would swoop in and give the Project Manager an unending supply of sweets and goodies. Everyone would go to my pre-Mrs.'s desk and ask about the latest adventures of Chocolate Boy. Then they would eat some chocolate as a way to pay homage. Then they would leave her desk and promptly miss all their deadlines. Ok, so maybe I embellished a little. But not much!]

These tales and stories did not come to the attention of the African-American CEO/founder until after he had actually met RT at a bring-your-S.O.’s function.

The exchange went something like this:

"Hello, Mr. CEO Bossman. This is my boyfriend/S.O., Chocolate Boy."

“Chocolate?!? Chocolate!??! That boy ain’t chocolate. White chocolate, maybe.”

Drunken Movie Night

Back in the days of my misspent youth, I was a video store manager. One of the benefits of being a video store manager is that you get to hang out with video store employees ALL THE TIME.

One of the many things we did to entertain ourselves was to have a little event we would call Drunken Movie Night. The rules were simple: 1) We would drink, and 2) We would watch movies.

Video store employees are competitive consumers, and Drunken Movie Night gave us the opportunity to show off our unique and specialized tastes (or general lack of taste, after a few sips of Jack Daniels, one isn't quite as picky).

When Scott Kurtz posted his Candyman story yesterday on PVP, it reminded me of a very special episode of Drunk Movie Night. It was about 2 or 3am, and we were starting our third movie of the evening, Candyman.

For those of you who are uninitiated, the premise of the movie is this - if you look in the mirror and say "Candyman" five times, the Candyman appears and kills you. Sometime during the movie, one of the guys decides to test this out. He goes to the mirror at the end of the hall and starts talking loud enough for everyone to hear.

"Candyman! Candyman! Candyman! Candyman! Candyman! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!" And then we hear a string of obscenities.

And we all laugh because 1) It is funny, and 2) His lame attempt to scare us didn't work.

And then he comes out of the hallway, white as a sheet and shivering. He was really scared.

"Something grabbed me."

Now my buddy is a pretty good actor, but he isn't that good. And now the whole group of boozed-up video store employees is a little freaked out. So we decide to go into the hall to find out what the heck really happened. And, because we are still in a state where reality is a bit of a challenge, we decide to flick on hallway the lights first.

And there...

Beneath the mirror...

Licking its teeth...

Looking straight at all of us...

... was his pet cat.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

So I've Been Sick the Past Couple of Days

The great state of Texas had this great idea this year to give everyone flu shots for a the wrong flu strain. As a result, everyone in my office, my wife's office, and the greater North Texas area has this really nasty sickness thing that causes you to cough up green goo.

This, of course, reminds me of my Mother's high school.

The wild, in-jokey madness that is my family cannot really be explained, but I am going to try to do so at least once. Here's how it works - a person tries tells a story, another person makes a joke, and then the first continues to tell the original story with the other person (or people) expanding, embellishing the joke into something new strange and wonderful.

So here is a conversation that happened one time long ago between my mother, my brother, and myself.

"Mom, what was your high school mascot?"

"The crane."

"Your mascot was construction equipment?"

"No, the town is named 'Crane' so our mascot was a Golden Crane."

"Why not a Whooping Crane?"

"Yeah, that way when you had football games you could go, 'Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!"

"No, it was the Golden Crane."

"What about the Whoopin' Cough?"

"YEAH! Your mascot was the Whoopin' Cough! And your team cheer was *hurrck hurrk huurk*"

"No, our mascot was the Golden Crane!"

"Yeah, and there was this big bucket and at halftime, all the people in the stands hocked into it!"

"And they would go *hurrck hurrck hurrck* Go whoopin' cough! *hurrck hurrck hurrck*"


"And at the end of the game, they dumped the bucket on the other team."

"Yeah! So even if the other team won, the they still got the whoopin' cough and died."

"Your high school was so awesome, Mom."

So now that I am coughing up stuff, I like to think I'm rooting for my Mom's home team.

Go Crane Whoopin' Coughs! *hurrck hurrck hurrck*

Mysterious Face Manifests Itself in Chip!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Audio Visual Mish Mash

This image comes from the song chart photo pool on Flickr.

It reminds me of an old PowerPoint I started as a gift for my wife and never finished until now.

Here is the PowerPoint. (You will have to double-click it to start it, and then click through the screens to get it to work.)

Here is the song that goes with it. Play the song, start the PowerPoint, and feel the love.

When Conservatives Pitch Television Series....

"It is a cross between a make-over show and one of those shows where someone gets dared to do more and more outrageous things."

"What's it called?"

"Right now, I'm calling it, 'Get a Job!' But I'm not married to the title. We can come up with something better. What we do is this - we get people in their late teens or early twenties. The ones with lots of piercings or pink hair or something like that. Pretty much anyone who works at a Starbucks or Whole Foods."

"I love shopping there."

"Oh, I do, too. But it is like they have a dreadlock dress code or something like that. Anyway, we get them on the show and then we dare them to take out their piercings or cut their hair or get their tattoos surgically removed. Each time they modify their appearance, they move up a level."

"So, what's the endgame?"

"In the final round, they are offered a choice, a business suit or jeans and a T-shirt. If they pick the jeans and a T-shirt, they are politely sent on their way with a case of Turtle Wax. But if they pick the suit, they will win one million dollars."

"How will we be able to pay out one million dollars a show?"

"That's the beauty of it. The one million dollars will be paid out over the course of twenty years."

"So, what does that work out to? $50,000 a year?"

"Yes. and in exchange, they will get the pleasure of being in an office from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, a nice benefits package, and two weeks vacation per year."

"I don't know if that seems fair."

"That's more than fair. After all, they will have won this. This will be their prize."

"Couldn't you just give them a car or something?"

"They can use their one million dollars to buy themselves a car in easy monthly payments."

"I don't know if I'm feeling this show or not."

"Ok, how about this one? I call it 'Mark of the Beast' and it involves turning members of heavy metal bands into corporate lawyers. At the end, they get to tell us which lifestyle is more evil."

"If we can get Rob Zombie to host it, you've got yourself a deal."

Monday, March 03, 2008

Another Conversation I Didn't Enjoy Having

"Yeah. She's all right."

"What do you mean, 'She's all right'. Dude, she is totally hot!"

"She's ok. I'll give her cute, but I have to disqualify her because she looks too much like her dad."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Whenever I see a woman who looks like her father, I do not find her attractive. It is this thing with me."


"Yeah. And I don't like talking about because I usually get into pointless arguments about allegedly hot women."

"Like who?"

"Angelina Jolie."

"No way! Get out of here!"

"I'm serious. That is Jon Voight with breasts. I do not find her attractive in the slightest. Same goes for Liv Tyler."

"You're killing me, man. She was in Lord of the Frikkin' Rings."

"And the whole time, I was going, 'Oh, good Lord they cast Stephen Tyler playing that woman's role? Why would Viggo want to kiss that dude looks like a lady guy?'"

"What about my daughter? She looks just like me, and she is the most beautiful woman in the world."

"Your kid is cute, but I do not find her attractive for two reasons. One, she looks just like you and, two, she is only three."

"If we continue this conversation, you're going to get seriously hurt."

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Shut Up and Eat Your Vegetables

"I'd like the bacon sausage egg casserole, please."

"You can't order that!"


"Because Jess is meeting us for breakfast."


"Hello? Jess is a vegetarian."

"So? Vegetarianism not contagious or anything."

"But Jess is going to see what you're eating and tell you that 'meat is murder'."

"That's a myth."

"No. Jess is very serious about not eating meat."

"No, I mean the insanely rude vegetarian is a myth. No one with a lick of sense wants to start a conversation with an insult. A vegetarian who starts out conversations by assaulting your dietary choice is just like an Evangelical Christian starting a conversation with 'You're going to Hell.'"

"You're going to Hell."

"I'm serious here. Insanely rude Christians are a myth just like insanely rude vegetarians are a myth. People are a lot more sensible than that."

"I'm not sure if vegetarians are that sensible. Because a lot of them secretly believe meat tastes better."

"What do you mean?"

"Facon. Tofurkey. Gardenburgers. They go out of their way to make their vegetables taste like meat. By doing so, they are implying that meat tastes better."

"So keeping with a tradition of an established food type automatically makes them insane?"

"Yes. And that is why you shouldn't order meat around them."

"Look, I am going to order what I want, and Jess can order something vegetarian and the only discussion we will have is when I ask, 'How's your food?' and Jess goes, 'Good, and yours?'"

"We shall see. Oh, hey there, Jess!"

"Hey there. Sorry I'm late. Have you already ordered?"

"Yeah. I ordered the bacon sausage egg casserole."

"Meat is murder."

"Yeah, well, you're going to Hell."

Notebooks are a Constant

I am one of those people who watches and likes Lost.

And last week's episode made me like it even more. Do you know why? Because Faraday uses a notebook.

I have been using notebooks for years now. They are often employed by the really brilliant (see Faraday on Lost) or the really not-so-brilliant (see that guy in that movie The Lookout).

The first two pages of my notebook consist of Current Creative Projects. Basically, this is just a list of random ideas. When I fill up the notebook, I copy the best parts of first two pages over to the first two pages of the next notebook.

The previous blog entry chronicled some of my past writing "accomplishments." This one lists out some of the creative projects I am currently in the midst of or will be doing in the near future. Because this blog is kind of the dumping ground for creative shenanigans, consider this a preview of things that may or may not appear in the upcoming months.

Personal Myths - Last year, I wrote a novel for National Novel Writing Month. It didn't turn out as good as I wanted it to be, but there is enough in there for me to attempt to rewrite it.

The premise of the novel is this - a reality television show called "America's Next Hot Young Playwright!" comes to a college and basically wreaks havoc on the academic population. The main two characters are an English Professor trying to teach his students about great literature and a television producer giving them stunts that involve writing dramatic scenes for Scott Baio.

Plus, Scott Baio only agrees to do the show if he can go during Spring Break when all the allegedly wild co-eds go on an alleged rampage. Mr. Baio gets disappointed to find out that college isn't populated with lots of naked women and instead is filled with students who want to study.

Hodge - This one is already in progress in the hopes that I can submit it to the AAA Screenwriting contest in June (or in April for the early submission discount rate). This is my attempt at writing a super hero movie. The main character is a super hero dude named Hodge because Hodge is such an awesome super hero name. Can you hear a villain going, "Foiled again by Hodge! Hooooodge!" I have come thiiis close to insisting my coworkers start calling me Hodge, I like the name so much.

Age of Magic - I do not understand why there are not hundreds of books, comics, television shows, and movies trying to fill the void of Harry Potter now that it has ended. Anyway, this is a comic book about magic coming back to the world.

Imagine one day everyone in the world can do magic, but no one really knows how to wield magic. It would be the mystical equivalent of everyone on the planet suddenly getting handed a gun with unlimited bullets. Anyway, after some adventures the main characters decide to establish a school of magic. To be honest, this project is more in the spirit and tone of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell than the Potter books. Except it is in an contemporary setting, and it features the Bat Boy (Found in Cave!) from the Weekly World News. I'm not joking.

Brownsville - Historical fiction about the Brownsville Raid in Brownsville, TX. Basically it follows the lives of some dishonorably discharged soldiers from the Theodore Roosevelt administration to the Nixon administration when they were retroactively found innocent. Oops. Gave away the ending.

Redux - A short film about a guy who dies and gets reincarnated as himself. He gets to live his entire life all over again with full knowledge of how his old life was. He befriends Dionne Warwick and founds the psychic network.


And because I started out talking about Lost, please allow me to use this space to ask a couple of questions.

1) Why is Faraday using the same notebook from ten years ago? I go through about four notebooks a year. He must not write very much.

2) If Faraday is looking for a constant from multiple time periods in his life, and he's carrying around the same journal for ten years, wouldn't that mean the journal is his constant? It would certainly save him from the awkwardness of tracking down Desmond and telling him how much he loves him and how he's always loved him. I'm just sayin'.

The Road to Divorce

Haitian Divorce is the fifth feature-length screenplay I have written and the first one that I consider close-to-good.

I listen to the Creative Screenwriting podcast and in almost all of them, the screenwriters say, "This was my fifteenth screenplay. None of them were produced until now."

"Will you ever make your old scripts available online?"

"No. They're all crap."

"Aw, come on. I'm sure they aren't all that bad."

"Yes. Yes, they are."

Before I actually wrote a screenplay, I was all on the side of the journalist. If there isn't a chance of the screenplay getting produced, then what is the harm in posting it online? People (like me) love downloading and reading screenplays. Adding more to the stack wouldn't really hurt.

Then I wrote a bad screenplay. And another. And another.

I like the concept of white out. I like totally obliterating what has gone before when I don't like it. But if you've ever actually used white out, you know that it doesn't really hide your mistakes, but instead makes them all the more obvious thanks to the huge chunks of white goo surrounding them.

So, instead of pretending the Haitian Divorce is my first screenplay and it magically turned out to be sort of good (or, at least, not-all-that-bad), I will devote the rest of this blog entry to the big pile o' crap that has gone on before.

The four previous feature-length screenplays penned by myself are as follows:

Comicon Pimps - This was my first screenplay. I tried to be both funny and geeky and it didn't come out all that right. Basically, it was about a pimp contest at a comic book convention. Pimpin' ain't easy, especially when the potential clients would rather have a Star Trek Collector's plate instead of the company of a good woman dressed up as Catwoman.

It was pretty much a one-joke premise. I cut out all the filler and rewrote this feature-length monster (about 100 pages) as a four-page short film script. It is much better that way, and, in a way, oddly similar to the movie Gyuss Baaltar posted on his blog the other day, although (in my opinion) my script is a little bit funnier. It is filled with all sorts of pottymouth language, so I don't recommend it for anyone too young to be impressionable and too old to disapprove of my childish actions.

Zombie Prom Queen - I have new respect for the Troma Film guys. I tried to write a Troma-esque film and failed. Miserably. And, to add insult to injury, after I finished it, I found out that there was a short film named Zombie Prom already out there.

Hell Breaks Loose - Demons terrorize a small West Texas town. But they're in the fight for their lives, because everyone in West Texas is armed. Yeah. You heard me.

Scablickers - I wrote this one for the Slamdance Horror Screenplay Contest. This one is another horror film that involves a lot of people licking each other's scabs. And, no, it is not very good, unless, of course, you are into that sort of thing. I thought maybe David Cronenberg would like it.

So now you know why I don't share all of them. The next batch is going to be better, I promise. For one thing, I think I have the whole "cheap horror film" thing out of my system. I'll talk a little about the current batch of creative projects tomorrow.

Happy Episode #200 Filmspotting

Filmspotting is one of the best film criticism podcasts around. It is one of the three film review podcasts I listen to and the only one I consider actually having some worthwhile film analysis and criticism in it rather than just summarizing/reviewing the film and then giving an arbitrary star rating at the end of an uninsightful ramble.

I really dislike the current state of film criticism. I wish there was some sort of film critic's exam that people had to take and pass to become film critics. And believe me, if I wrote it, people like Rex Reed, Gene Shalit, and half the people on Amazon would not pass.

When I first started listening to Filmspotting with the launch of iTunes 4.9. I want to say the first episode I heard was Cinecast #18. The one where they reviewed Batman Begins. My first impression was that I liked what I heard. The guys on the show seemed like nice enough, intelligent enough people. I wanted to nitpick (they had really similar tastes so there wasn't much discussion, there was a profound lack of female perspective, etc.), but really it was a solid show.

But THEN the guys kept talking more about movies they had NOT seen as opposed to films they actually watched. And some of those films they proudly and stubbornly refused to watch were on my list of minimum requirements for knowing a blessed thing about discussing movies. (Seriously, Gone with the Wind? That's like saying you've never seen The Wizard of Oz.)

So I sent them cantankerous emails, ridiculing them for their profound lack of knowledge. And, to show that I wasn't totally evil, I also sent them donations and gift certificates with little notes like, "Please use this to watch 'Once Upon a Time in the West'." or "How can you pretend to understand the work of Brian de Palma without first learning a thing or two about Hitchcock. Here is some money, please buy yourself an education."

They responded by calling me their Nemesis (or, as Sam liked to call me "Elegant Nemesis") and making fun of me on their show whenever we disagreed on something. Once, Adam even sent me a private email wherein he called me a bastard.

I believe it read as follows:

RT -

You bastard!


But like with any good back-and-forth, the guys on the show did nice things for me, too. They let me announce on the show my favorite movie of 2006 (Children of Men) and when Adrienne Shelley died, they let me pick my favorite scene of hers to run on the show (it was from Trust and it was the speech about... well, about trust).

Anyway, the culmination of my relationship with the Filmspotting guys happened around episode #166 when Sam pitched a movie about a Steely Dan cover band called Haitian Divorce. I thought it was a smart enough premise and decided to make a screenplay out of it as a Christmas gift to the Filmspotting community. (You can read about it here.)

I didn't really finish the screenplay by Christmas. I got a solid 60-page draft out there and posted it just in time for the holidays. The plan was to flesh it out, get it to the 90 to 100 page range, and repost it by episode #200.

And I sort of made that goal. Episode #200 posted last Friday morning, and here it is Sunday night when I have my draft posted. (It is called Haitian Divorce. Click here to download it.)

Part of me really wishes I was one of the Filmspotting guys. They are living a dream of mine. On some days when I am stuck in meetings I don't want to attend, I daydream about being a globe-trotting film critic, interviewing the likes of Ellen Page and trading witty barbs with that guy who directed Brick. But I can't be one of the guys. The closest I can get is to be their Nemesis.

But, you know what?

It is good to be their Nemesis.

Here's to 200 more shows.