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