Thursday, December 31, 2009

Obligatory New Years Post

So, looking back on 2009, a lot of things changed. I started a MA degree in eLearning at the University of Colorado, I published a book, I sold a house and bought a new house, and then I assisted in having a baby (meaning, I was there when the baby started and change diapers after it arrived).

How could I possibly top that in 2010?

I don't know if I can. But here are my personal goals for 2010. (The professional goals continue to be 1) Make money, and 2) Make my employer money.)

1. Be a better dad.

This should be easy. I was only a dad for 10 days in 2009, so the baseline is not that great. I still have to introduce her to country music (that is, the good kind of country music), get her to say "Bah bah," and maybe take a few steps. If she is able to go, "Awwww, snap!" by 2012, I have done my job.

2. Fulfill my 2009 obligations.

There are a lot of side projects I verbally committed to in 2009 and then had to set aside because of all the work, school, and baby commitments. I haven't been blogging as much as I would like. I haven't participated in discussion boards as much as I would like. And, most importantly, I haven't responded to Cyber D, who sent me a draft of his novel and asked for feedback. I have read large chunks of it, but sadly, have not given him the feedback he asked for. This is wrong and should be changed.

3. Pimp my book.

So I wrote a book. It is a good book that serves a vital niche that no other book fulfills. Sales have been good, but no where near enough to buy that island in the Bahamas I've had my eye on. The Mrs. (who is in marketing) reminds me that it is not enough to write the book. I have to promote it as well. So that is what I plan to do while I work on the sequel.

4. Continue my education.

In my quest to be the smartest smarty pants know-it-all in the room, it wouldn't hurt to have a stack of advanced degrees. I am just sayin'.

5. Make a short film.

This one might get pushed off until 2011 or 2012, because of my #1 Goal. I want to make a short film just to say I've done it. I have many scripts to choose from, but I want to do the financing, set design, auditioning actors, directing, and submitting-to-a-film-festival-only-to-get-rejected piece that is essential to being a pretentious artist. Because there is nothing like spending weeks and months on a project that will be over and done with in less than five minutes.

I think it is going to be a good year.

This is the Most Interesting Radio Story I have Heard in Awhile

Real post coming soon. Until then, here is something to tide you over.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

So the scheduled C-section happened a little early....

Instead of her scheduled 12/31 birthday, Margaret Ellen decided to show up on 12/21 instead.

This means, on her 103rd birthday, the date will be 12/21 2112. How cool is that?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Oh, yeah. I have blog.

I haven't been updating this much. Between work and school and the impending kiddo, there hasn't been much time.

This is post number #447 in this site, and I would like post #450 to be the birth announcement. Having said that, I have to think of something to write for the next three posts.

So... something will happen here between now and the end of the year. Not sure what, but something will happen.

Meanwhile, here is an email from one of my professors:

Hi Robert-

As Jackie noted, I'm letting people know where they stand for their final grade...

Based on the points you have earned and with the expectation that you will turn in the final reflection, your course grade for IT5660 is:


Thanks for all of your hard work during the semester.





Monday, September 28, 2009

Repost - The things I do for breasts...

So back on October 8, 2006, I wrote this blog entry to raise money for the Susan G. Komen foundation. In case you don't want to click that link, I've reposted the entry below.

This year, I do not have the time to walk, but that won't stop me from campaigning for friends who are walking.

If you like this post, please consider donating to a team of my friends who are walking a three-day, 60 mile marathon to raise money for cancer research. You can donate money here.

So, here is the old blog entry with a new donation link.


Dear Friends and Family,

It is difficult to write about breasts.

Sure they’re everywhere, and I should really just be an adult about this, but I know my mom is going to read this email and quite possibly my in-laws. When I think of them reading an email of me rhapsodizing about mammary glands and then asking for money to keep them healthy, my hands lock up about two inches above the keyboard. Sorry, I’m just a little repressed about these things.


I’m trying not to be dirty about this, but breasts are absolutely wonderful, and healthy breasts are even better. There, I said it.

I could quote statistics, but we’ve heard them, and frankly dismissed them, before. I will share with you something better. Something real.

I have two ladies in my life who have struggled with breast cancer. One is in remission and doing great – she’s even walking in the race this year.

The other one went through the surgery, the chemotherapy, and everything… only to find that it didn’t work. She has to start over at square one now, with another surgery and another round of chemotherapy and another round of tests and… another everything.

It is tough. It is tough to see this and to live through this, and I’m just on the sidelines. When you let someone into your heart, you let in all the love they have to offer, but you also let in all their hurt. It bothers me that someone so good and so undeserving can hurt so much.

There has to be a better way to fight breast cancer. There has to be a cure that doesn’t hurt the body more than the sickness. We are capable of so much, we should be capable of finding something better. A cure for all cancers would be incredible; a cure for breast cancer be amazing, but something better than what we currently have… something better is well within our grasp.

So this is what I’m doing to make something better happen - I am walking 5 km in the Komen Dallas Race for the Cure on October 21, 2006. I will wear a T-shirt and will try my best to be a good husband and not to stare at all the breasts when I walk.

And this is what you can do - support in the form of a cash donation. You can skip the Grande Half-Caff Vanilla Latte one morning and send the $5.00 to the Komen foundation. You can put off that iPod purchase for another few months and send a few hundred dollars to the Komen foundation. Whatever you feel is appropriate, I will appreciate it. Your donation is tax-deductible, so you can’t beat that.

You can follow this link and make a donation…

…but if you distrust this internet, please send a donation to this address.

Komen Dallas Affiliate & Race for the Cure®

460 NorthPark Center

P.O. Box 12010

Dallas, TX 75225

I really appreciate time, your contribution, and your attention. You are such a good person.

Love the breasts,

M. Robert Turnage

Friday, September 25, 2009


I ran into a friend at a restaurant the other day.

"So how's the new house coming along?"

"GREAT! I just installed ceiling mounts for my speakers. When I get my new TV this weekend, I am going to have the BEST entertainment center EVER!"

"How's the baby's room coming along?"

"Dude, the baby isn't going to be born until January."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rules for the New Parent

I never knew it would be so complicated...

(click to make the image larger)

Dallas Graffiti is Erudite and Celebrates Science Fiction Classics

You might have noticed a lot of new pictures on the blog recently. That is because I went and purchased a Nokia N85 for the sole purpose of learning why you needto also purchase a data plan when you buy a smart phone.

In the meantime, I have become a little addicted to taking pictures and uploading them from the phone. This is especially true when it comes to graffiti.

Dallas has amazing graffiti. Most people just like writing their names in barely-legible letters, but not Dallasites. They like scribbling on bathroom walls famous quotes from T. Jeff, who I can only assume is a DJ of some sort.

Also, there is the message so important, so overwhelming in sheer brilliance, that it needed to be SCRATCHED IN to the door of the men's room stall.

By now you are probably asking, "What are you doing taking pictures in a men's room stall?" And the truth is, I liked the graffiti. It did lead to an awkward moment, however, when someone walked in on me doing it.

This phone is going to get me into trouble.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More Work in the Library

So our four bookshelves weren't cutting it. We had to buy three more.

And we bought a CD case that was a real bugaboo to assemble.

The trick was to move the CDs from the top of the kitchen counter into the CD case alphabetically.

It is working out. I moved all of my comics to the three new bookshelves, freeing up the old bookshelves for the opera scores and other books that are still in boxes.

Comic book shelves (complete with the ghost of a fan in the window - our house is haunted by a cool, cool breeze).

Shelves for opera scores, sheet music, and other assorted literature (in progress).

Current CD shelf.

It still looks like an absolute mess, but the house is coming together. Slowly but surely, our crap is getting in order.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

Work in Progress

So the house has been taking up a lot of time, unpacking and getting things comfortable. There is enough improvement for a few pictures.

The library now has books on the shelves. Only about half of them are organized, though.

The kitchen still needs some work. I have cooked a few meals on the stove top. Right now, there is shelf paper everywhere from where we were papering the shelves.

The dining room now has a place where you can sit down.

Same goes for the living room. Both are still in progress, but look much better than they did a week ago.

Here is my office. Yes, it is typical for me to have dual monitors and a laptop going all at once.

And the other half of my office which contains a futon, a lamp, and more shelves.

Monday, August 24, 2009

After the Move... Before the Cleanup

We're in the new house and have sort of unpacked.

Now all we need to do is start cleaning up the mess.

Living room


Looking out into the front yard

Dining Room

Friday, August 14, 2009

More Sonogram Pictures!

I will not do something no one else in the history of the internet has done . I will share cute photos of my kid.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Internet, meet the Critter!

So I haven't been posting as much as I would like, and when I post it is usually a YouTube video instead of something strange and wonderful that has been rattling around in my head.

Not to make excuses, but I've been busy. On July 10th, we placed our house on the market and on the 16th, we got an offer. So all we need to do (as of this writing) is find a new house. That was a lot of work, but that is not all!

I also wrote and published the best book in the universe, and spent three weeks in California for work, but that is not all!

I still have grad school starting this fall, but, seriously, that is NOTHING compared to news about the Critter.

Yes. That is right....

The Mrs. and I are having our first kiddo - a little girl that we have not named yet. Before we knew the gender, we started calling it the Critter, and that name stuck, much to the chagrin of people who do not like to think of children as crawly animals, only bigger.

We are pretty excited, and it is about time the internet in general knew about this.

Oh, and if Facebook is any indication, this baby thing is going to be fun.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Book is Out!

I am proud to announce that my book, 26 Short Screenplays for Independent Filmmakers, is available now exclusively from the website The book is a collection of Creative Commons screenplays that filmmakers can use to make their own films. Each screenplay is tied to a type of film project. For example, there is a project called "The Meet Cute Scene" and it consists of two characters meeting in a really cute way. Other projects include "The Car Chase," "Pseudo-Documentary Style," and "The Horror Short." The idea is that an independent filmmaker can use these scripts to develop a portfolio showing his or her versatility.

I know everyone who reads this blog wants to support the book in whatever way possible, so here is a list of things you can do to show your support.

1. Buy the book. I know it is stating the obvious, but the more people who buy the book the more money I make. And I like having money.

2. Tell people about the book. To the best of my knowledge, there isn't a book like this out there. There are a lot of "how to make your film" books and "so you want to be an independent filmmaker" books, but there aren't any other "screenplay cookbooks" out there. And feel free to mention the website.

3. There are snarky T-Shirts on the website, too. Thanks to the power of Cafe Press, they cost more than the book. But, hey, T-shirts are cool and cool is priceless.

4. Make a short film using one of the screenplays and send it along. Every film made from one of the scripts gets featured on the website.

I know some people are not made of money and don't feel comfortable sending hard earned cash to an exciting and vibrant website. Not a problem, because there are things people can do to support the book for free.

1. Follow the blog at I will use this as a bully pulpit to talk about films, screenplays, and intellectual property law.

2. Follow the Twitter stream at This will be like the blog, but more fine tuned for those of us with ADD.

3. Follow the 26 Screenplays YouTube channel Everyone who submits a short film from one of the screenplays will be featured here.

So there you go. This is why I haven't been writing on this blog as much as I wanted to and why I probably owe you an email. Thanks for your interest and I hope you become as excited about this new book as I am.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Photographic Obsessions

There is no way to truly know how you are going to react in a stressful situation. You can mentally prepare for it, you can train for it, but when the actual moment happens, there is a moment of spontaneous, unrehearsed reaction.

And sometimes people take a picture of this. We call them mugshots.

There are some websites that specialize in mugshots. The Smoking Gun has a regular feature where they display police mugshots. I have followed this for years and have even used the for photoshop experiments.

For example, this mugshot of an angry young K-Mart employee:

Becomes a motivational poster.

And this fella who has had a hard life:

Gets a little love after a trip to Olan Mills.

So you can imagine the joy that shot through my cynical heart when the Denton police got its own mugshot twitter feed.

I am completely obsessed with this. Every time someone is booked, a new photo is posted. I have been known to click through these pictures for hours.

Part of me wonders why I am so obsessed with mugshots like this. Is this sense of entitlement and superiority because they are criminals and I have not been convicted of anything? Is it a celebration in the way people don't really look like Hollywood starlets or Glamor Shots? Or is it because I am awaiting the day I see someone I know in one of these line ups.

Maybe it is a combination of all three.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Discussion from a Recent Trip to Austin

"So what was it like to relocate to Austin?"

"Austin has everything. Cowboys, hippies, nerds, and politicos."

"And those are just the school mascots."

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Today is Going to be a Good Day Thanks to Swine Flu

It is amazing how little things can make you happy.

This week has been a particularly stressful week. There is a lot of jobstress and bookstress happening right now (the book is in the final final editing phases just about ready to go to press). On top of that, yesterday, I got a speeding ticket. (Which is not THAT big of a deal - I just need to take defensive driving and fill out some paperwork and it is stricken from the record. It is just the hassle of going through the motions of penance when I know I am going to drive the same speed on the same stretch of road at the same time of day in the same levels of traffic and not get a ticket. This is why it is called a daily commute. I think that is why most people get so angry at speeding tickets - I have done the same thing I always do without consequence, why are there consequences all of a sudden. The only thing that is different about this situation is you, Mr. Police Man. And because you are different, I will not heap all of my frustration on you. But I have digressed...)

Today, looks like it is shaping up a little, though.

I have a twitter feed ( that I use as a steady stream of casual venting. I use it to complain about the jobstress or to make jokes about popular culture. It is really there to amuse myself (and/or the Mrs.) and to communicate with some friends who send me those @ replies.

Today, though, the local neighborhood website featured me as their Twitter friend of the day. May 6, 2009.

Wow! That just makes me happy.

Here is the exchange:


@gamookie is our featured Twitter friend up top on Who wants to be next?


@neighborsgo Wow! How did that happen? Wow... Thanks! All I did was be me.


@gamookie You had us at "the first rule of swine flu is that you don't talk about swine flu."


So there you go. Make a joke about swine flu comparing it to Fight Club, and people love you.

I learned something new. It is going to be a good day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Witty" Banter with a Fifteen-Year Old Kid on Facebook

I am a Facebook friend to the children of some my friends, including this lovable fellow who loves music by U2 and The Smiths yet somehow hates the 80s.

Too bad I am not a KISS fan, otherwise I would have continued the banter.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Write about What You Know

Or rather... what I've heard happen to a friend of mine once or twice back in Middle School.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Office Meeting

So I went and made one of the Xtranormal films myself.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Not Quite Sure What to Make of This

I think the song really makes the trailer. Not so sure if the filmmakers will be able to pull this one off.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dollhouse Episode 6 - Things Get Good

I am only doing this because I wrote about Dollhouse earlier.

This episode has several good things going for it. Here are a few.

1) Patton Oswalt. He really took it up a notch in terms of acting. He brought his A game and it shows.

2) The twists. I counted three great twists in the storyline. Two of them I saw coming, but they still took me by surprise when they happened.

3) The dialogue. Really seemed better here than previous episodes. "Good hand." "No, it was a bad hand well played."

4) The structure. Mixing in the newscaster story with the man on the street interviews was a great way to present the story and concept. Because I can easily imagine a lot of people ignoring the first five episodes and just starting with this one. This structure provides a nice introduction to the series and the series concept.

5) The debate. This is what really sold the show for me. It wasn't the action or the set pieces or the twists or what have you; it was the conversation between Patton Oswalt and Tahmoh Penikett about the nature of the Dollhouse. Oswalt made a convincing argument, clouding the whole "the Dollhouse is nothing but evil" morality of the first five episodes. This made the series seem a little bit more intelligent.

6) The mythology. I will say one of the things I did not like about the first five episodes is that the concept of the show seems limited. This episode hints at a bigger mythology behind the show.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Why I am Such a Terrible Student

Because I apparently don't have enough to do, I am taking some college classes and preparing for grad school in the fall.

For someone who tests well and is considered somewhat smart sometimes, I can be a really terrible student. Not in terms of grades, but in terms of being a general pain in the buttocks. Part of it is because I do corporate training for a living and I have a pretty good sense of what is effective adult learning and what is not. And by saying "I have a pretty good sense of" I mean that I know this stuff backwards and forwards and I can be pretty snotty and arrogant about it if pressed.

I also know just enough of interface design and interactive programming to be dangerous. So when I take an online course, I am not only evaluating the information presented, I am evaluating how the information is presented - what is being rewarded and what is being graded. I tend to take a lot of screen captures and make elaborate notes, many of which I share with my professors.

This is dangerous, because I run the risk of coming across like I am telling the professor how to do his or her job (aka Insta-Fail!). However, if it is couched in a particular way, (aka "I was not sure if you noticed how those crazy internet people screwed up your grand vision of this course, but check out what they did. Because obviously, professor, you are brilliant and would never make a mistake like the one I just found in this online course.") the results can be beneficial.

This also makes me a bit of a handful. I have several personal, sometimes strained-polite emails, from my professors telling me how much they appreciate my enthusiasm for the course and for learning in general. They then end the email with a polite little, "And do you plan on taking more coursed from me?" Sometimes I read a slight cringe in the emails, but that is because most professors don't use emoticons.

Anyway, mid terms are this week. In the middle of my work schedule, my avid movie watching, my hours of goofing off on the internet, my book, and my blogging thing, I get to show the world how much I know about Accounting. I know my professor is anxiously awaiting to hear my opinion of the effectiveness of the test questions and how they relate to the course objectives.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pleasant Conversation I Had with a Lawyer

"So I have worked out five different business scenarios that could be mutually beneficial to all parties involved. The first scenario-"

"My client just writes you a check."

"-iiiisss that your client just writes me a check."


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Crazy Things I Used to Do

I am in the finishing stages of putting together my book and thinking of creative works I have actually finished. See, once a project is completed, it has to go out in front of people who will either love it, hate it, or more likely than anything else, feel completely indifferent to it.

This is a terrifying process.

So, right before the project is finished and ready to go out in front of people, what my brain does is generate about a billion new ideas for new creative projects. "Don't finish that book," it says, "I just came up with a great idea for a musical!"

I haven't decided if this is creativity run amok or just a form of ADD. Fortunately, I have tried to leverage this ability into my creative projects.

For example, the post card novel I wrote.

Inspired by the Griffin and Sabine books, I wrote a story on the back of 102 postcards (1 introductory chapter, 100 chapters, 1 conclusion chapter) and then mailed them out.

I followed up that with a 30-chapter X-Files postcard story told on the back of X-Files post cards (which were, conveniently, sold in packs of 30). That story was about a serial killer that used postcards to slay.

The secret is to take the weakness and make it a strength. This is not a bug, it is a feature.

My current project is a book contains 26 short film screenplays. Whenever I got stuck on one, I switch to another. Of course I have a million other ideas for things that I could be doing instead.

Fortunately, if I can just focus on 26 of them, I will have the perfect sequel.

And maybe one of them will be a musical.

Monday, March 16, 2009

So... How are things?

Every once in awhile I run into someone I haven't seen in a few years. I know they don't follow the blog or Twitter or Facebook or any of the other ways I talk about myself. And, as much as I like them and enjoy their company, I always feel a little like a doofus when talking to them.

The reason is that there are two story lines in any person's life at any given time - the day-to-day "these are my daily worries, issues, and problems" story and the big "this is an overview of my life" story.

I can tell a decent day-to-day story because every day something strange happens to me. For example, every day, someone I know announces to the internet that they are bored and every day I whisper to myself, "Set yourself on fire - that's pretty exciting." And then I feel guilty because if I actually said this to the bored person's face, they probably would end our friendship out of sheer boredom because they are so bored they could just die, but if they set themselves on fire, it doesn't really solve their terrible boredom problem as much as would entertain me.

Every day I have a pleasant exchange with someone on the job that I can later retell with me speaking normally and the other person talking in a funny voice. And every day, someone of dubious lineage does something stupid in traffic.

These stories I embellish and retell to the Mrs. every day when she asks how my day was. And sometimes I use puppets.

I have a problem, though, when I talk to people who I only see every couple of years. Conversations go something like this:

"So, what are you up to?"

"Don't you read my blog?"

Blank stare.


"So... how are things?"

This is a tough conversation for me to have because I know I am going to be starting a conversation that will not be continued for another few years. If I talk about a particular health problem, I know I will have to revisit that topic long after that goiter is gone. And that is uncomfortable and socially awkward.

And the truth is that big things don't happen to me all that often. I got married once and plan on never doing that again. No kids. Just the job and the goofy hobbies. And who wants meet someone after about five years and hear about theories about the secret meanings in the 'Lost' TV show.

I have developed a professional "elevator pitch" for myself. The idea is that if you are stuck on an elevator with an executive, you have to 30 seconds to explain to that person why they should hire you and/or what you bring to the table.

I have decided to develop one of those for my personal life, just so I don't get stuck in socially awkward situations.

Let's try it out...

Things are great! We're still happily married. No kids, but we have Rock Band, so it is like we are still kids ourselves. I play guitar unless I have a few drinks, then I sing. Job is going great. I have to travel sometimes, but it is totally worth it because I love my company. I know you don't read blogs, but I have one of those. Yeah, the URL is some sort of alphabet soup, give me your email and I'll send it to you. I'm on Facebook. I write screenplays as a hobby, including a really bad bad one called "Zombie Prom Queen." I have a book coming out sometime soon. "Lost" is really about Buddhism. How are you?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Daily Show vs. CNBC

I know everyone has posted this already. Here it is again.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

My uncle is such a good filmmaker.

Pleasant and relaxing.

Viral Video Idea

If you can make this video, please do so. I don't have the time or resources to do anything except write about it, and the shelf life for a joke like this to be funny is limited.





A kid puts on some goggles.



A set of furry arms wraps around the kid.

Let's go.


From the director of Watchmen and 300...

...comes the greatest comic adaptation of all time.


POV from the wagon going down the hill.

The grassy hillside rushes past as a wagon races down the hill. The two voices make kind of a "who-o-o-a-a-a-a" noise as they bounce along.

POV looking at the wagon.

A boy and a tiger hit a rock in slow motion. Their velocity and force launch them into the air. They scream.

Techno music begins to blare.

As the two fly through the air in slow motion, screaming, images strobe.

SUSIE DERKINS, setting up a tea party.

THE MOM, preparing a grotesque dinner.

ROSELYN, rolling up her sleeves.

THE DAD, gritting his teeth because his car is blocked by DEFORMED SNOWMEN.

MRS. WORMWOOD, passing out a test.

SPACEMAN SPIFF, fighting for his life.




LOGO - Zach Snyder's Calvin and Hobbes.


The wagon crashes into the ground, spilling the passengers everywhere.


Let's do that again!

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Bonds of Facebook Friendship

Here's my Facebook profile.

I do not Facebook Friend people lightly. Even though we may be friends of friends or might know each other from blogs or discussion boards or maybe we went to elementary school together and haven't talked for twenty years, we are Facebook friends now and with that, there is a certain level of respect and decorum I will try to keep.

Here is what I will do for you, Facebook friend.

1) I will remember your birthday and write something on your wall on or around the date.

2) I will occasionally comment on your status and/or notes for the sole purpose of making you laugh. The risk is, of course, the joke falling flat, offending you, and destroying our friendship forever. Sorry, that is what happens when you live on the edge like I do.

3) I will try to make my statuses fun and interesting. Nine times out of ten, this means using song lyrics in them.

4) I will NOT tag you on any note. I may post notes, but in NO WAY will I force you to read them or ask you to write a note in response.

5) If you tag me in a note, I reserve the right to respond to it or to ignore it. I am very fickle about these things.

6) If I have a potentially embarrassing photo of you and you name is NOT Will Turnage, I will ask permission before uploading it and tagging you.

7) I will not knowingly share any of your Facebook information with any third parties.

8) I will probably not use offensive language because I'm also Facebook friends with my wife and my parents. This also means I will probably delete offensive language off my wall if you choose to post it.

9) I will not knowingly end our friendship unless there is a good reason.

10) I will probably not loan you money, so don't ask.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Thoughts on Dollhouse

Here's a comic from HijiNKS Ensue about Dollhouse.

So I've watched the first three episodes of Dollhouse - the new Joss Whedon show that looks like an Alias rip-off. It is not a great show, and not even a good show. It is an ok show, which means if it is on, I probably wouldn't change the channel. However, I also wouldn't seek it out if it WAS on at the time.

Since I don't have a television, though, it doesn't matter. I usually give a show a couple of episodes before rendering judgment. Firefly didn't hook me until somewhere in the middle of Disc 2 of the DVD set. Buffy didn't get good for me until the back half of Season 2. I've only watched three and a half seasons of Angel and that hasn't hooked me yet. Very few shows, like Arrested Development, hook me from the get-go. Heck, Lost didn't even hook me until the first John Locke episode in Season 1 - what was that? About four or five shows in? The American version of The Office didn't get good until well into the second season.

What makes Whedon's work interesting is that he makes the subtext the text and flaunts genre conventions. This lulls the audience into a state of relaxation, after which the work suddenly adheres to genre conventions, which is both shocking and amusing.

For example, instead of making a subtle parallel between vampirism and alcoholism (i.e. the characters are addicted to something horrible and damaging to themselves and others), the parallel is explicit. The vampires meet in a twelve-step program, and say phrases like, "My name is Vladmir, and I am a bloodaholic." The subtext is the text, and everyone laughs because a vampire support group is funny and absurd. The audience is laughing and relaxes because this is a spoof of genre conventions. But then a vampire falls off the wagon and kills people - and doesn't kill a minor, faceless character, but instead kills a character that the audience has a significant emotional investment. Suddenly, by adhering to genre conventions, there is excitement and delight.

A great example of what makes Whedon's work so interesting is Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog which does this exact thing. It plays with genre conventions until the audience cares about the villain and hates the hero, then it suddenly adheres to genre conventions, reminding the audience that, hey, they've been rooting for the bad guy, and he's, like, a BAD GUY.

Dollhouse doesn't have that going for it right now, because it is hard to classify in terms of genre. We don't know if it is a sci-fi story or a spy story or something else entirely. There isn't a way for it to cozy up to us, and let us think we know what it is really about, only to have it kick the chair out from under us later.

Plus, there is the challenge of making a character interesting when the only distinguishing thing about the character is her utter and complete blankness.

The third episode in the series is the closest so far that the show has come to finding its voice - the Dollhouse characters are no different from the manufactured pop sensations that are forced down the throat of popular culture. The show is a metaphor for the entertainment industry as a whole, specifically focusing on how women are treated.

This is the closest the show has come to asking an interesting question. I am not sure the high-concept of the show is sustainable for many episodes and story ideas, though, unless something radically changes soon. Hopefully, something will.

Having said all that, I have watched the show enough to get a sense of the formula. Hence, I have two plot ideas for shows.

1) A Paris Hilton-type media figure wants to enter the Dollhouse because she thinks it will be the cool trendy thing to do.

2) An aging multi-millionaire approaches the Dollhouse and requests that one of the dolls bear him an heir.

If you are interested in watching the first three episodes, here they are:

Episode 1 (not very good)

Episode 2 (gets a little better)

Episode 3 (gets a little better than episode 2)

Thoughts on BSG

So I was at my in-laws the other night for dinner. Because my father-in-law and I are men of science, we were watching the Sci-Fi Network. Ironically, they were showing some show about vampires, which have nothing to do with science, but that is beside the point.

The point is, during the commercial breaks, we saw the same commercial for Battlestar Galactica played over and over about ten times.

"Do you watch that show?" asked my father-in-law.

"I was really into it for the first two seasons, but by the end of the third season, the show went off the rails for me."

"Was that when they found out about half the crew were robots?"


"You know, I can get into a show about people fighting robots, but when it is robots fighting robots, what is the point? I saw that show before and it was called 'Battlebots.' The only thing we need robots for is to need to make me a sandwich."

"Can I put this conversation in my blog?"

I am Seeing This Movie Friday Night

Friday, February 13, 2009

iPod Shuffle Contest Answers

So the music snob in me is kind of pleased my taste in music is so obscure no one could guess any of the songs. On the other hand, the needy blogger in me is kind of upset no one could guess any of the songs.

Nevertheless, it it time to post the song list.

1. Pink Moon - Nick Drake (seriously, 9/10ths of the lyrics are "Pink moon. Pink pink pink pink moon.")

2. Recycled Air - The Postal Service

3. The Anchor Song - Bjork

4. Dark Haired True Lover - The Carter Family

5. Drinking Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee - Richard Thompson (although if you said Jerry Lee Lewis, that is perfectly fine)

6. Feeling Yourself Disintegrate - The Flaming Lips

7. History of Lovers - Iron & Wine

8. Asheveille - They Might Be Giants

9. Windout - R.E.M

10. Disco Inferno - The Trammps

11. S' Wonderful - Ella Fitzgerald (but practically everyone has recorded this song so the performer shouldn't count)

12. Honeymoon Suite - Suzanne Vega

13. Mother of Pearl - Nellie McKay

14. Strong Hand (Just One Miracle) - Emmylou Harris

15. Mad Lucas - The Breeders

Duplicate bands omitted during the initial shuffle include - R.E.M., The Carter Family, They Might Be Giants, and Suzanne Vega.


Still trying to come up with an idea for a real blog post. Whenever there isn't any activity here, it means, I don't have too much time on my hands.

An iPod Shuffle Contest Thing

I got this idea from R*.

And it looks like Recovering Sociopath is doing it, too, but without any sort of prize.

The idea is this - put your iPod on shuffle and write the lyrics of the first 15 songs. Whoever gets the most right gets a prize of some sort. And everyone is not supposed to use Google.

I actually cycled through about 35 songs to get this list - the rejects are at the bottom of this post.

All of my Facebook friends have a pretty good idea what I listen to day in/day out because I regularly use song lyrics in my Facebook statuses. Examples include: M. Robert saw her standing there; M. Robert is made of these - Who had a mind to disagree?; and M. Robert is like ra-a-a-a-ain on your wedding day.

What's the prize? I don't know. I will mail you something, though.

Here's the list

1. I saw it written and I saw it say

***Sorry, folks. If I write out any more lyrics and it will give the song away.***

2.Knuckles clenched to white
as the landing gear retract for flight
My head's a balloon
inflating with the altitude

3. I live by the ocean
And during the night
I dive into it
Down to the bottom
Underneath all currents

4.Take back every word you have spoken
Let it be as though we never met
For tonight I'm a poor boy heartbroken
I'll forgive but I'll never forget

Wine Wine Wine Elderberry
Wine Wine Wine Oh Sherry
Wine Wine Wine Blackberry
Wine Wine Wine Huckleberry
Wine Wine Wine Oh Lord
Pass that bottle to me

6.Love in our life is just too valuable
Oh, to feel for even a second without it
But life without death is just impossible
Oh, to realize something is ending within us

7.Louise came to rescue me, missing the irony
Blood made her heart change its beating
I hope that she’s happy I’m blamed for the death of
The man she found better than me

8.Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm the orange peel
You don't remember
But I was once part of your orange

I'm the peel that you left on the floor
You took the good part and walked out the door
And I hate you for that
I hate you for that
I'm the orange peel

9.There's no doubt - that you're feeling fine
No doubt - that you're out of mind
No doubt - that you're young and red

10. To mass fires, yes!
One hundred stories high
People gettin' loose
y’all gettin' down on the roof -
Do you hear?
The folks are flaming - out of control

11.Dont mind telling you, in my humble fash
That you thrill me through, with a tender pash,
When you said you care, magine my emoshe
I swore then and there, permanent devoshe,
You made all other men seem blah
Just you alone filled me with ahhhhhhhh......

12.he said a hundred people
had come through our room that night
that one by one the old and young
asked if he was all right

one by one the old and young
lined up to touch his hand
he spent the night explaining
they had come to the wrong man

13. Feminists don't have a sense of humor
Feminists just want to be alone (boo-hoo)
Feminists spread vicious lies and rumor
They have a tumor on their funny bone

They say child molestation isn't funny
Rape and degradation's just a crime (lighten up, ladies)
Rampant prostitution, sex for money (what's wrong with that)
Can't these chicks do anything but whine

14.He was a tall man
Raised up from the fields out pickin' cotton
In a hard land Where the ground was poor and the wood was rotten
But when he saw her
All those bad times were forgotten
And he believed, he believed

15.Arise, wash your face
From cinder and soot
You're a nuisance
And I Don't like Dirt

I will let you know these were the songs I omitted because I thought they would be unfair:

Big Top Pee Wee - Danny Elfman (no lyrics)
Christ Rising Again - Thomas Tallis (lyrics in Latin)
Perfect Stranger - Eleni Mandell (pure laziness - there wasn't a website for me to copy/paste the lyrics from)
Someone Loves You - Simon Bonney (laziness)
Shout, Lulu (the version I have more or less goes "Shout Lulu, shout shout/Shout Lulu, shout shout for three minutes - it is good banjo music, though)
I Like to Score - Moby (no lyrics)
Sourire - Les Nubians (lyrics in French)
Apache - Jorgen Ingmann (no lyrics)
Charlie Brown Theme - Vince Guaraldi Trio (no lyrics)
Fake Purse - Joey Santiago (no lyrics)
Uneasy Street - Big Lazy (no lyrics)
A lot of Sigur Ros songs (lyrics in Icelandic or "Smilish" the made-up language the band uses for some of their songs)
A lot of Charlie Christian songs (no lyrics)
A lot of Charlie Parker songs (no lyrics)
Any duplicate band (and there were a few that won't be mentioned until the next post)
Any mashup I downloaded from the internet (and there were a few)

Monday, February 02, 2009

I Love Larry Wilmore

I have been to those church services.

This Much Hottness and Cuteness in the Same Place at the Same Time Should be Outlawed

I had no idea two of my favorite actresses made a video together. Seriously, so much hottness and cuteness in one place at one time should be illegal.

Fortunately, I am married to someone who is living breathing much more cuteness and hotness, so a legal precedent is set. The Mrs. says to Natalie Portman and Rashida Jones, "You're welcome."

Obligatory Birthday Post

February 8th is my birthday.

This is what I have accomplished in my life.

1) Married the best person in the universe.

2) Wrote a horrible train wreck of a novel, but, hey, it is a novel, and I can always rewrite it later, because there are at least two good bits in it.

3) Wrote four feature-length screenplays. All need serious work, but they exist now. And the popular myth is that you have to write about ten bad screenplays for each good one. So I am on track to write 40% of a good screenplay.

4) Wrote several articles, essays, short stories, and comics, some of which have been published and generated some money. (I include in this output the 400 blog posts on TMTOMH. This is blog post 400, by the way.)

5) Have an actual honest-to-goodness book in the works. This should hopefully generate enough money to support my hobbies, like the owning-a-huge-flat-screen-TV hobby and the owning-a-wicked-sound-system hobby.

6) Have a decent career with a company I love, which is a major accomplishment for someone who, until in his mid/late 20s, never really felt there was a place in the world for him.

7) Have become fairly decent at Guitar Hero/Rock Band and now actively seeks out parties where they play Guitar Hero/Rock Band because, thanks to the power of video games, I can finally be social. (Especially if they decide to play "More than a Feelin'" because I TOTALLY ROCK ON THIS SONG!)

8) Served on a number of organization boards, proving to the world that I can sit through an entire meeting without rolling my eyes, making snoring noises, or drawing cruel caricatures of the other meeting participants complete with word bubbles that read, "I am a big dorkus malorkus."

9) Worked through pretty much all of my issues with my parents and family. Or, at least, got to the point where I can truly enjoy the company of my family. They are a bunch of pretty neat people. Except that one we all shun. (Ok, that was a joke, because I'm pretty sure all of my relatives reading this thought to themselves when reading that sentence, "I am the one they all shun." No one in my family is shunned. Everyone is complained about, but no one is shunned. Think of it as a lovable quirk.)

10) As Mario, I saved the Princess.

These are my goals for the next few years.

1) Want to get a MA before I turn 40. Already enrolled in classes and working towards it.

2) Want to do a three-day, 60-mile Susan G. Komen walk this autumn.

3) Want to finally make a short film of some sort instead of just talk about it.

4) Want to make a music video of some sort instead of just talk about it.

5) Want to leave the world a better place than I found it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why I Like Formulas

I can be a jerk sometimes when it comes to entertainment, because it is not enough for you to like the right movies and television shows, but you have to like them for the right reasons as well. (I am working on this, but it is hard.)

If you like don't like Pulp Fiction because it is a meditation on the American identity from a class and race perspective, ultimately drawing the conclusion that what makes us truly Americans is our shared love popular culture, and instead like the movie because it is freakin' cool how Bruce Willis chops The Gimp with a samurai sword, I will probably tell you I am not a big fan of Quentin Tarantino's work.

(Although, truth be told, I freakin' love Pulp Fiction because it is a mediation on the American identity from a class and race perspective, ultimately drawing the conclusion that what makes us truly Americans is our shared love of popular culture. And, ok, that samurai sword bit was kinda freakin' awesome, but only because it was SYMBOLIC.)

I am a horrible snob about some things and try to keep this in check. Sometimes it eeks out. For example, when someone dismisses a movie or television show because it is too formulaic, I go nuts.

My quip is usually a sarcastic, "Well, yeah. Because dramatic structure is never formulaic." Then I roll my eyes. Then I look down my nose. Then I point to their shirt and say, "You've got something right the- OOOOP!" and I flip their nose as soon as they begin to look down. Because that is the formulaic behavior of someone who is being a condescending jerk.

Formulas are great. No one should complain about something being formulaic because the fundamentals of storytelling can be distilled into simple formulas. Three Act Structure. Five Act Structure. Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, but Boy Finds Girl Again and Girl Turns Out to be a Killer Robot from the Future. These stories have been with us since the Ancient Greeks and probably earlier. As long as Robot Girlfriends are going back in time, we will have formulas.

I can understand how someone might get perturbed because they understand the formula enough to predict what is going to happen thus destroying any sense of tension and drama, but the criticism should not be leveled at the formula, but the execution of the formula. People know how Romeo and Juliet is going to end, but that doesn't stop them from watching it again with different actors. Don't blame the structure, blame the interpretation.

For someone who aspires to be a creative writer in the mediums of film and/or television, it is important not only to respect formulas, but to be able to interact with them and make them your own. Understand the rules of this particular universe and add variables that are uniquely your own.

Of course, all of the blog post up to this point is a ruse to trick everyone into hearing me talk about things I have written.

To become a television writer, you have to write scripts for existing shows and add them to your portfolio. This shows agents and people who might hire you that you have a fundamental understanding of the characters, the expectations, and the limitations of the show. In other words, you show how well do you use the formula.

Because I am bored a lot and because I daydream about being an underpaid and overworked television writer, I have written two such scripts for my portfolio, an Arrested Development script and an Office script. I shall now pitch you the scripts and you can determine how closely I was able to adhere to the formulas for each show.

If you are not familiar with the shows, this is going to sound like utter gobbeldygook. However, if you have seen these shows, imagine how these ideas fit in with a typical episode. And if you think I missed the mark, feel free to tell me how. I won't be getting a job in the entertainment industry any time soon, so telling me I don't have a future in Los Angeles will not hurt my feelings.

Arrested Development - Gob wants money so he can open a woman's clothing store named Perfectly Fit. The idea is that there is only one size of clothing available, and it is GOB's idea of what a perfectly fit woman's proportions should be. Michael misinterprets an overheard conversation and thinks George Michael wants to become a male model. Michael agrees to fund Gob's venture if he hires George Michael as a male model. Buster has an uncomfortable moment in a men's room which leads to him getting a stalker.

The Office - The Friday before Labor Day, Michael has accidentally approved vacation for everyone, giving everyone the office (except him and Dwight) a four-day weekend. No one is there to attend the Labor Day party Michael was planning (this year's theme - "Going into Labor"). So Michael and Dwight go from house to house, telling people to come back into the office and have some fun before they have their now three-day weekend. Stanley tries to have a barbecue.

So there you go. Formulas in action! Thank you for your time.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Facebook Shennanigans

This is an example of what happens when you are friends with your parents on Facebook.