Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays 2010!

I am pretty sure I won't get back to the ol' blog until after the first of the year. So I thought I would break the internet in half with the sheer cuteness of this picture.

Hope everyone has a happy holiday season!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Some web comics I like

There are two. One is Ferocious Introvert.

Seriously, this comic about the grilled cheese shame spiral is sublimely wonderful. Some really good stuff there.

The other one is Hark! A Vagrant. The Dracula comics made me laugh so hard, especially these two:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 30 of 30 - Blogger's Choice

Long Way Home by Tom Waits

Well I stumbled in the darkness,
I'm lost and alone
Though I said I'd go before us
And show the way back home
There a light up ahead
I can't hold onto her arm
Forgive me pretty baby but I always take the long way home

Money's just something you throw
Off the back of a train
Got a head full of lightning
A hat full of rain
And I know that I said
I'd never do it again
And I love you pretty baby but I always take the long way home

I put food on the table
And roof overhead
But I'd trade it all tomorrow
For the highway instead
Watch your back if I should tell you
Love's the only thing I've ever known
One thing for sure pretty baby I always take the long way home

You know I love you baby
More than the whole wide world
You are my woman
I know you are my pearl
Let's go out past the party lights
Where we can finally be alone
Come with me and we can take the long way home
Come with me, together we can take the long way home
Come with me, together we can take the long way home

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 29 of 30 - Hopes, dreams and plans for the next 365 days

I hope to live another year. Life is pretty good right now, and I always get a little nervous and neurotic when I am too fortunate for too long. Hopefully, I can just work through the nerves and enjoy being happy.

I want to be a good father to the Little Peach Pie in my life.

I want to finish the many many many sequels to my book I have sketched out.

I would like to make a short film, or have one of my scripts optioned or made into a film of some sort.

I would like to be in a place where I indeed have Too Much Time on My Hands so I can write an occasional blog entry.

I think that is enough for now.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 28 of 30 - This year, in great detail

December 21st, 2009 - Margaret is born.

January and February - On paternity leave while taking care of the new baby. Take many pictures.

March - Go back to work. Get on a plane to California. Get elected to the board of the Dallas Screenwriters

April - Finish California assignment. Get a work from home assignment.

May - Finish a work from home assignment.

June - Back in California.

July - Going to Canada for work. Swim lessons with the kiddo begin.

August - Have interest expressed in one of my web series pitches. A producer and I have a series of phone calls and emails about this. A completely different producer expresses interest in a feature film pitch I sent her, and asks me to send her a copy of the completed script. However, I don't have a script, just the pitch. So I focus on writing the script.

September - Back in California for work. Do a lot of writing. Do some job interviewing, with mixed results.

October - Resign from my travel job in favor of a non-travel job. Take my kiddo to swim lessons. Finish that script from August, but the producer who showed interest has moved on. I now have a script for sale for any interested parties, and it is AWESOME! Also, in October, I completed a blog challenge.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 27 of 30 - This month, in great detail

October -

I take the 30-day blog challenge. I don't like the "in great detail" command of the last week's worth of blog entries and instead decide to just brainstorm random facts about the month for one of the entries.

Sunday nights, I fly to Northern California (primarily San Francisco, but I go to Fresno and San Ramon as well). Thursday nights (and sometimes Friday mornings) I fly back to Dallas. I alternate my clothes so one week I am wearing browns, and the next I am wearing blacks. My dry cleaner loves the business.

Saturdays are swim lessons with the kiddo. She is teacher's pet, and one day I really want to post a video of her swimming. Some where in there I cook dinners.

On Friday the 8th, and 15th, I visit the site of my new job and get orientated. On Friday the 22nd, I am there full time. Also on that date, I give my exit interview at my old employer.

I shop for a Halloween costume for the kiddo. I am really disappointed in the options available for the 6 to 12 month age, and am really surprised at the over-sexualized children costumes in general. I am definitely a parent now, hissing slightly to myself that, "No daughter of mine is leaving the house wearing a 'Sexy Little Girl Devil' costume."

(I secretly suspect, based on these really terrible children costumes, that the Halloween stores only hire sex offenders and pedophiles. The employees certainly don't looks like happy people, especially considering they are surrounded by such morale-boosting merchandise like fake fangs and candy. I suppose, like rodeo clowns, they must be troubled souls, channeling their aggression and rage into a marginally acceptable career in the hopes that society will accept them for who they are. I would like to say that deep down inside, I accept them and that I am not one to judge. However, I AM one to judge. Sorry, you unhappy probable-pedophile Halloween store workers. That is how the candy corn crumbles. Some yokel with a blog judges you and says some terrible things to the five people who will read this. Never fear, he will probably apologize once he sobers up and realizes what a horrible mistake this entire paragraph was. Even though it is in parenthesis and should not be taken seriously. Bottom line - the Halloween store creeps me out. In more ways than one.)

I write at least one blog entry while drinking. (Hint: It was this one.) Then I rest. So ends October.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 26 of 30 - Your week, in great detail

The Week of October 17th, 2010

Sunday - Play with the kiddo all morning. Fly to San Francisco. Realize I forgot to pack my toothbrush when I check into the hotel that evening. This revelation happens about 11pm San Francisco time, which is about 1am my body time.

Monday - Work. Get toothbrush. Drive to Fresno for work. Actually, this day is detailed in this blog entry.

Tuesday - Work. This is a big day on the job. We have two training classes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Lunch is fish tacos, which are delightful. That night, I slink off to see "The Social Network." I really like the film, particularly the sound design. I am upset that they still haven't figured how to apply make-up to people being films with those nifty RED cameras. This film looks better than "Zodiac" or "Mission Impossible 3," but there are still quite a few scenes where it is obvious all of the dudes are wearing rouge.

Wednesday - Drive from Fresno to San Ramon, where my company gives me a going away lunch. This week is my last week at my previous employer. I absolutely love my previous employer, and am grateful for the lunch. I spend the evening grading papers and writing reports about the training course.

Thursday - I finalize my work for the project I have been working on this week. I complete a series of documents and load them onto the network. I say good-bye to everyone. "I wish I had a chance to work directly with you," one co-worker says. My response? "Just imagine the best work experience you have ever had and project that feeling onto me."

Friday - Exit interview with old company, first full day with new company. The new company really appreciates the fact that I gave a two-weeks notice, but really wanted me to start immediately. So I have been doing some general onboarding and orientation for the past two weeks, which is more difficult than it sounds considering most of it was over the phone and with two time-zones between me and the company. Still, it is good to be at the new site. I get a badge and am, once again, disappointed in my badge picture.

Saturday - Day or rest. I take the kiddo to swim practice and then work on some coding for work. My Rock Band 3 keyboard comes in a few days early and I try it with Rock Band 2. It doesn't work, so I will just have to wait a few days until Rock Band 3 arrives. I make some mac and cheese casserole from this cookbook, and go to bed stuffed and happy.

The End

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 25 of 30 - Your day, in great detail

So here's my dirty little secret about this whole blog challenge -

I write the posts in advance and then schedule them to be published on the specific days. I started this in early September in anticipation of an October 30 deadline.

So, when I go into my day in great detail, it will not be today or yesterday. It will be Monday, October 18th.

Monday begins in Sunday for me. My 7pm flight to San Francisco from Dallas was delayed until 9pm. Which means by the time I get off the plane, get my luggage, ride BART to my hotel, and check in... it is 1230am Pacific time. This is 230am Central time.

So when I begin my Monday by snoozing the alarm for a full hour (from 6am to 7am), do not judge.

Between 7 and 8am, I get dressed and ready for work, drop by the bagel place for a bagel, go to the ATM and load up with cash for the week, and get to the office. While walking to work, I listen to the Creative Screenwriting podcast (the movie they discuss is RED).

At the office, I begin answering emails, submit an expense report, and begin revisions on one of my assignments (an end-of-course assessment I wrote has some feedback from a manager). Already, I have removed 2 items from my daily To Do List (Expenses, ATM run).

The next part of the day is prepping for the drive to Fresno (I have to be there Tuesday morning). I set up my Android phone to map me to the hotel. I print out a copy of the map, just in case. I go get on Facebook to make a "funny" comment on a screenwriter's status. (She wrote, If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I'd like to do is to _______" and I responded with "Mix it with some tequila and call the drink 'Hammer Time.'")

At 1030am, I make a run to Starbucks for a jolt of coffee, and I continue to work until noon, when I head towards the airport. I don't get on an airplane, but instead rent a car and drive to Fresno. On the drive, I listen to the audio book for "The Murder Room." The book is interesting, but a little fragmented. It doesn't have a story as much as a series of vingnettes. That is ok, though because it is a non-fiction that profiles several members of a club that solves crimes.

I check into the hotel and do a few more phone calls and emails. I have some friends who live about an hour outside of Fresno, and they graciously decide to visit me while I am in town. We have dinner and go shopping at Costco, where a nice older lady gave me cheese sticks.

After dinner we all go back to my hotel room, where we try to make each other laugh until about 10pm. Then my friends leave and I go to bed.

The End

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day 22 of 30 - A website

I love short films, and the Everynone website features some really brilliant ones.

They are short, powerful montages that really show off the power of great cinematography and editing.

I found this site through the NPR show Radiolab, which occasionally features their films.

WORDS from Everynone on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 21 of 30 - A recipe

From the Unibroue beer website.

Sautéed Shrimp with Beer and Cilantro

Beer : Blonde de Chambly
- 1½ cup peeled shrimp (fresh or thawed)
- ¼ cup Blonde de Chambly
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 1 red pepper, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp. butter
- Fresh cilantro
- Lime (optional)
In a skillet, fry onion, garlic, and pepper in 1 tbsp. of butter for about ten minutes. In another skillet, sauté shrimp in the other tbsp. of butter. Once shrimp are fully cooked, add beer and reduce slightly. Add sautéed veggies to shrimp and beer mixture. Serve with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 20 of 30 - A hobby of yours


I have several scripts as well as some pleasant inquiries from producers. I am also on the board of the Dallas Screenwriters Association. For what I consider a reasonable fee, I can review your script and give notes. For an even larger, yet reasonable fee, I can help you write your script.

I also have a book of screenplays available here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 19 of 30 - A talent of yours

I prepare food.

Not this food, but I have cooked up some stuff in the past.

I will also let you know that I have this rare and unusual talent to make food that tastes AMAZING but always winds up looking like a big pile of slop. Like when I make polenta (like the type pictured above), it never holds together enough to stack it up. But it tastes good.

So... yeah... This is my talent.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 16 of 30 - A song that makes you cry (or nearly)

Exhibit 13 by the Blue Man Group


The Blue Man Group's tour for 'The Complex' is by far the best performance/installation art piece of the last 20 years. By drawing parallels between the rock concert experience and tribal rituals/proto-religion, the Blue Man Group illuminates and reflects on unexamined aspects of contemporary life. Plus, they have very a very solid instructional design aspect behind their experience. (As an instructional designer, that makes me incredibly happy.)

Their first encore (and the last song on their album 'The Complex') is an instrumental ditty called 'Exhibit 13.' When I first saw them perform it, they played an enigmatic video of paper falling on a screen while padding out the music. The crowd went nuts, whooping and hollerin' (remember, this concert was in Texas), and cheering through the song.

On the second leg of the tour, when they came back through Dallas, they did the same show with the same encore. Except this time, instead of cheering and laughing through 'Exhibit 13,' people were somber, quiet, and reverent. I think some of them even started to cry.

What caused this change? The only thing I can think of is that people visited the Exhibit 13 website and found out that the song is about September 11, 2001, and the bits of charred paper displayed in the video came from the World Trade Center.

In the past decade, I have been shocked numb by images of the towers exploding. Now when I see them, I get angry - not at what happened, but at the person or organization who is showing them to me in hopes that my emotional reaction will somehow sway my thinking to their side of whatever debate is happening. Those images are too loaded and political now, and they have lost their power over me.

But the scraps of paper...

Every day, we leak. We leak thoughts. We leak emotion. We leak information. And we are surrounded by people and things who catch our leaks. Our loved ones ask us what is the matter. Our computers record our emoticons. And our paper...

I spend my day surrounded by paper. I fill out forms. I write reports. I document the world as I see it. There is a tactile sense to paper - and somehow writing down things on it make them more real.

This song and this video make the pain real. There is no way getting around it. There is no way to sugarcoat it. And this particular presentation of certain events is very difficult to politicize; all it shows is a document of a series of lives that were suddenly and brutally disrupted.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day 15 of 30 - A fanfic

"Don Vito Corleone isn't an issue anymore. He's an old man. He's weak."

"Which is why we need to take him out now. Don Vito is vulnerable."

"Even if I agree with your logic, which I don't, what would be your brilliant plan?"

"Poisoned orange peels."


"We put some poison in the orange peels. He pops them in his mouth and - BOOM! - the man keels over."

"Why the hell would a man like Vito ever put orange peels in his mouth?"

"Are you kidding me? What old man doesn't love putting orange peels in his mouth? He has grandkids."


"You know. To chase around in the garden."

"With orange peels in your mouth?"


"Ok, let's pretend your poison orange peel plan works, which is a real stretch of my imagination. Who could do it?"

"There is only one man who could pull it off. He's what you would call a specialist. He makes good food deadly."

"You don't mean..."

"Get me Chef Boyardee."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 14 of 30 - A non-fictional book

I spend more time reading non-fiction than fiction books. Since I married a wonderful person, I have been reading more business books than I ever thought possible. Two books that are the cornerstone of my professional life are The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used. I recommend these two books to anyone who is unsatisfied with his/her career.

But that is not what I want to talk about. My current favorite non-fiction book is How Not to Make a Short Film: Secrets from a Sundance Programmer. This book is filled with practical advice for the filmmaker. It is a great companion book to a certain 26 Short Screenplays for Independent Filmmakers. It is insightful and funny, and you get a good sense of the author as a creative person instead of a faceless automoton barking orders on how to be creative.

Roberto Munroe has made a few short films and has programmed a few film festivals. She knows what she is talking about and doesn't mince words. This is the type of book I love love love.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day 13 of 30 - A fictional book

Here is the current book I am reading (and loving!):

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

I haven't finished this book yet, and am only about halfway through. However, from what I have read so far is very impressive in terms of craftsmanship and ambition. It is supposed to document an entire South American literary movement known as "visceral realism." The first section is a series of journal entries from a visceral realist poet, but the second section is where it goes off the deep end in an amazing and wonderful way.

The second section of the book is a collage of newspaper articles, academic journal entries, correspondence, and interviews all intended to document the entire visceral realist movement. This literary collage jumps from author to author, each with a different intent and voice. It is incredibly ambitious and could fall flat in many places. Surprisingly, it does not, and gets even more compelling as I read further.

A cursory glance of the Amazon reviews show that people either love or hate this book - there are almost as many five-star reviews as one-star reviews. I can understand this - the book contains a story that could only take the form of literature. This is a celebration of life and language and the way great words shape and influence our lives.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 12 of 30 - Blogger's Choice

Another rant, this time about comics. Apologies in advance.

So I read Wolverine: Old Man Logan on the recommendation of the Alter Ego Comics podcast. Most of the time, their recommendations are pretty solid, but this book is the personification of everything I dislike about current super hero comics.

Specifically, I did not like the following:

The In-Jokey Nature of the Entire Story

To put it blintly, the over-dependence on backstory is ridiculous.

So many of current comics reward and praise their extremely core audience (or, as I call them, The Super Fans!) often at the expense of the new reader. So many moments of this story make no sense unless you have been actively reading Marvel comics for the past ten? twenty? years. You have to come to the story with an encyclopedic knowledge of the characters and the relationships for the story to have any emotional impact whatsoever. The story itself does not draw in you in, but instead expects you to bring your own emotional baggage to the table to be manipulated.

One of the exchanges that leaps to mind is the exchange between Emma Frost and Old Man Logan. Unless you have been reading X-Men comics and know about Emma Frost, Logan, and their relationship, the drama of the moment makes no sense.

If this were a movie, this is the point where every casual viewer leans over to the hardcore fan and whispers, "Who is that lady and why is she so mad?" The book needs annotations for the uninitiated, and when the narrative drive and emotional context exists only in the footnotes and annotations, that spells real trouble for a storyteller.

The Rampant Mysogony

During the course of the story we see the following female characters (and the story's attitude towards them).

Maureen, Logan's hard-working sturdy pioneer woman/wife (Saint) who's main purpose seems to be becoming a martyr so Logan breaks his vow of pacifism. She is such an underdeveloped character, she barely merits a name. I am sure most people who read this won't remember her name is Maureen, just that she is Logan's wife.

Hawkeye's damsel-in-distress daughter who desperately needs to be rescued (Saint)...

...but then turns out to be a major villian (Whore).

Emma Frost, a traitor who everyone hates (Whore).

And, uh... that seems to be it. Three women, no real characterization, and the attitude towards them is either one of extreme idealistic love or extreme hate. Plus, they are all defined by their relationship to men. Even Emma Frost, who was a fairly independent character in other comics, is now primarily defined by her marriage to Dr. Doom.

The Non-Conclusion Conclusion

The story ends with Logan walking off into the sunset, wandering the earth looking for adventures. This is not a satisfactory ending, but instead a set-up for an ongoing story. This is the ending of a television pilot, not a satisfactory ending of a solid book. So you have a story without a real beginning (because the beginning is really the backstory) and without a real ending (because this is just a set-up for another story).

Yep. This is not enjoyable or satisfying at all.

The Over-Reliance on Cultural Stereotypes
Comics are not realistic; they simplify and streamline. They also traffic in stereotypes to convey a meaning. Great comic creators are aware of this and use this aspect of the medium to their advantage.

However, in the hands of a reckless artist, this can be incredibly offensive. I am thinking of the conclusion where Wolverine confronts the most horrible evil ever known to man, the cousin-screwing redneck.

My personal convictions don't favor a grand concluding statement expressing that the best way to approach the poor and uneducated is with a good ass-whoopin'. Seriously? This is heroic? I was disappointed to see that the story concludes with the violent smackdown of a one-dimensional idiot and his even more one-dimensional inbred idiot children.

I just didn't care.


The ultimate praise I can give a comic is that I pass it along to someone else, telling them, "Oh man, you GOTTA read this!" This is one of those comics I am afraid to show someone else, because the inevitable response will be "You... like this?"

This is not my desired response.


Having said all of that, I will say the comic gave me some rare and fleeting moments of pure nerd joy. I am talking specifically about this panel:

This is a picture of dinosaur with alien skin.

I repeat.

A dinosaur with alien skin.

Oh my inner thirteen-year-old's brain just goggled at the possibilities of that sentence. That is freakin' cool. Not cool enough for me to recommend this comic, but still, pretty freakin' cool.

There is a time and place for certain types of entertainment. I honestly wish I was in a place where artists were creating stories that I found engaging and I would, in turn, shower them with money. Right now, the super-hero comic market and I are in different places.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Day 8 of 30 - A photo that makes you angry/sad

Here's a rant about geek culture.

I am a super-geek in many ways, but I have never, NEVER understood the creepy slavery fetish that saturates Star Wars fandom.

Slavery is wrong. It is so wrong, we had a war about it. And yet... we're presenting it as something fun and a little goofy. I just don't get it.

Every year I see dozens of ComicCon photos that look like this. I never see any African-Americans in these pictures, and I have yet to hear or read what I consider a defensible position of the phenomenon. (And "Dude, she is hot," is not what I would consider a defensible position.)

I am all for bikinis and I am all for dressing up as Star Wars characters, but this is wrong and not even close to being erotic or fun.

So... yeah. One of my rants.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Day 6 of 30 - Blogger's Choice

So the hospital where we had our kiddo required new parenting classes. While I was travelling for work, the Mrs. went to one of the classes alone and didn't like it. At all. Suddenly, there was an edict and I had to attend all of the classes with her.

In one sense, I become a total guy about these things. I am not the one giving birth, so why should I be the one going to the classes? And what could the classes tell me that I couldn't find on the internet for free, right?

But then I started attending the classes, and totally understood.

You see, there is this little portion of the class where they talk about the procedure known as an episiotomy. (Seriously, don't click that link.)

The nurse who was giving the presentation, who spent the entire class streaming through her PowerPoint slides at a rate of 24 frames a second, suddenly decided to stop one one rather graphic image, stop, and talk to the class for what seemed like 47 hours straight. The entire time, this image of a particularly painful incision seemed to pulse on the screen above her head.

No one was listening to her, but, believe me, everyone was paying attention.

The Mrs. felt a little distressed until I whispered to her, "Look around the room for a second."

She did. A whole room full of mommies-to-be stared at the image.

Half of them had this expression:

The other half had this one:

All of them, despite their pregnant bellies, managed to cross their legs.

The Mrs. began to laugh. And then I began to laugh. And all of a sudden, we became two snickering teenagers in the back of the classroom.

At that moment, the Mrs. whispered to me, "You are the only person who could make me laugh at a time like this."

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Day 5 of 30 - Your favorite quote

Once again, a tough one for me to decide.

I will probably go with my dad, who gave me this advice the night before my wedding.

"Every argument you will have is 10% what is going on now and 90% of what went on before."

Monday, October 04, 2010

Day 4 of 30 - Your favorite book

I do not read nearly as much as I used to, although I am quite fond of the audiobook. Probably the book I have read and reread more than any other has been the Bible, but I don't think that would be a satisfying answer to the 'Your Favorite Book' question because it is too trite and obvious.

At times I have gone through phases where I read the complete works of Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Vonnegut, Clive Barker, John Irving, Joe Hill, Neil Gaiman, Neil Postman, and Walker Percy. I am a big fan of 'Confederacy of Dunces' as well. I am one of those obnoxious people who completely adore '7 Habits of Highly Effective People' and I have to admit that most of my reading over the past five years or so has been limited to non-fiction. (I also have lots of love for 'Flawless Consulting' - seriously, that book helps me every day.)

However, I am going to dodge all of these books and just say that my favorite book is the one I wrote - '26 Short Screenplays for Independent Filmmakers.'

I love this book, even going as far as to write a five-star review of it on Amazon. It makes a good Christmas present. It makes a good birthday present. By just putting it on your bookshelf, you become more interesting. People will think you are an independent filmmaker and will treat you with awe and respect. The Sundance Film festival might just call you to say, "Hey." You never know what will happen when you buy the book.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Day 3 of 30 - Your favorite television program

I completely understand why many people hate television. Where movies are about telling a story that satisfies a person with a solid beginning, middle, and end, television shows have a strong beginning, intriguing complications, and... no real ending.

Traditionally, television is designed not to provide a satisfying conclusion, but rather to perpetuate watching. Each act break builds to generate interest to engage the viewer and then the viewer is presented with... a message from our sponsors.

The shows I gravitate towards are the ones that don't have commercial breaks, whether they be from other countries or on cable (the BBC version of 'The Office,' HBO offerings, etc.), or the ones that don't require sustained viewing (like 'The Twilight Zone' or 'The Carol Burnett Show'). The standard template for shows draws me out of them. (I think that was one of the big problems with 'Arrested Development.' As much as I loved watching the show on DVD, when I tried to watch it on television, the commercial breaks made it fall flat.)

Having said all that, my current favorite television show is a Canadian show called 'Slings & Arrows.' It has just the right mixture of artistic ambition, inspiration, and humor to have me completely enthralled. Plus it is Canadian, so you can make a drinking game out of how many times people apologize.

The show is about a fictional Shakespeare Festival, and the difficulties that occur when they try to produce plays (Season 1 is 'Hamlet'; Season 2 is 'MacBeth'; and Season 3 is 'King Lear'). The show is smart, witty, and thoroughly engaging. And it also does a great job of showing how great literature can enter and affect our lives.

Without getting too esoteric or metaphorical, I am am always amazed at this wondrous gift of received culture and history. There are so many good stories that have been passed down to us, how can do anything except revel in them and have some fun?

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Day 2 of 30 - Your favorite movie

Whenever anyone asks what my favorite movie of all time is, I always answer "Little Shop of Horrors."

I first saw that movie when I was thirteen, and it has just about everything a nerdy thirteen-year-old boy would want. The nerdy guy gets the girl. It has chopping up and singing. It has a gloriously insane Steve Martin. And did I mention the nerdy guy gets the girl?

Many times when I watch movies, I nitpick. I would have done this differently. I would have changed this camera angle or interpreted a character differently or used different music. The exact opposite happened when I saw "Little Shop of Horrors" for the first time. I wouldn't change a thing. Part of (maybe a lot of) that is just being a thirteen-year-old, I know, but I haven't had the same complete syncronicity with a film before or since (maybe with the possible exception of "The Muppet Movie").

Since then, I have really impressed with other films ("Vertigo" is a real stand-out) but I approach them as an adult. I don't completely lose myself over to them the way I did when I was younger.

For me "Little Shop of Horrors" is a great synthesis of stylized performances, set design, and musical numbers. It is a singular vision of one of my favorite stories - the Faustian legend.

Plus it has this song:

Friday, October 01, 2010

Day 1 of 30 - Your favorite song

Let's start off with a tough one. Songs are incredibly emotional and emotions, by their nature, are transient.

With that in mind, I can tell you my favorite song at this moment will not be my favorite song tomorrow or next week.

So, after a preamble like that, I must say I am incredibly fond of The Arcade Fire's "Wake Up."

In the classic sense of singing parts of the song without really understanding the lyrics, I hum a line from this song to my daughter almost every morning, "Children, wake up!" So now my kiddo thinks this song about regret and death is about jumping up and wiggling at the crack of dawn.

What originally hooked me on this song was a misheard lyric. The songs ends with the narrator/singer going on a rampage, culminating in the last line, "Better look out below."

When I first heard the song, I heard it as "Better look out for love." Which I think is a stronger single line from an angry narrator, warning others of the reckless abandon that accompanies true passion. However, now that I know all of the lyrics, I think the original line suits the song better.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The 30-Day Blog Challenge

Inspired by my pal R* and her amazing blog performance, I have decided to take the 30-day blog challenge. In case you aren't one of those ultra-cool bloggers in the know, here is the challenge.

The Posts:

Day 01 — Your favorite song
Day 02 — Your favorite movie
Day 03 — Your favorite television program
Day 04 — Your favorite book
Day 05 — Your favorite quote
Day 06 — Blogger's Choice
Day 07 — A photo that makes you happy
Day 08 — A photo that makes you angry/sad
Day 09 — A photo you took
Day 10 — A photo of you taken over ten years ago
Day 11 — A photo of you taken recently
Day 12 — Blogger's Choice
Day 13 — A fictional book
Day 14 — A non-fictional book
Day 15 — A fanfic
Day 16 — A song that makes you cry (or nearly)
Day 17 — An art piece (painting, drawing, sculpture, etc.)
Day 18 — Blogger's Choice
Day 19 — A talent of yours
Day 20 — A hobby of yours
Day 21 — A recipe
Day 22 — A website
Day 23 — A YouTube video
Day 24 — Blogger's Choice
Day 25 — Your day, in great detail
Day 26 — Your week, in great detail
Day 27 — This month, in great detail
Day 28 — This year, in great detail
Day 29 — Hopes, dreams and plans for the next 365 days
Day 30 — Blogger's Choice

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Really funny/strange video

I found this hilarious.

From friends of friends. And by "of friends," I mean the Filmspotting podcast.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Book is on Amazon!

FYI after weeks of emailing and filling out forms and general wrangling, the book is now available on Amazon.com.
Here is the link.

And here is the photo of the book cover.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thoughts on Being an Artist and Making Money

I attended the Dallas Comic Con this weekend and had a great time. However, the show also gave me pause. I have been going to comic conventions since I was a kid and it was called The Dallas Fantasy Fair, but this one seemed a little less thrilling than normal, even though the guy who played Chewbacca was there.

I am sure we all have gone through this as we get older; the one thing we were so passionate about years ago doesn't inspire the same level of dedication anymore. Twin Peaks did not change the world. Beanie Babies did not put our kids through college. LINUX didn't turn out to be the operating system of the future.

One of the more heartbreaking moments at the con was seeing James O'Barr, creator of The Crow, sitting at his booth with all this merchandise and no one - NO ONE showing any interest whatsoever. There was a time people would beat each other up for a chance to just look him in the eye, and now... nothing. (To be fair, I was only there for a few hours. Perhaps all his fans like to sleep in and his afternoon was spent being held aloft by people dressed as killer mimes.)

That evening, I watched two movies that both made me think about how artistic people survive and prosper in a business world. The first film was Fredrick Weisman's La Danse - a documentary about the Paris Ballet, and the second one (viewed at 2am after being waken by a crying baby) was Anvil: The Story of Anvil.

La Danse is an almost three-hour documentary about a season of the Paris ballet. It covers not only rehearsals and performances, but the maintenance crew, the cafeteria workers, the costumers, and the administrative office. My favorite person in the film was the Artistic Director because she obviously "got it" as far as balancing artistic freedom and experimentation with the financial restraints and market forces. In every scene with her, she was brilliant, whether she was talking to a choreographer, a prima ballerina, a fund-raising team, or even the business manager. She knew how to work with people to make the magic happen - to maintain the balance between challenging art and art that alienates an audience.

(Just a side note - ballet is hard work. It takes work to make it look good and it takes work to enjoy it. Some poor guy in the theater fell asleep during the film and started snoring loudly during the same ballet sequences that had me completely enthralled. Seriously, Medea is disturbing in ballet form.)

The second film, Anvil: The Story of Anvil, was more along the lines of depicting artists who don't get it. Anvil had some minor success in the 80s "hair band" era and have refused to change their sound or look with the times. In some ways, their lives are little time capsules, trying the same thing over and over again until they get it right.

The most heartbreaking scene for me was the one where the dude from Anvil plays his demo for a record company A&R rep. Not even thirty seconds into the first song, the rep stops the music and starts talking about the "current radio landscape" and other trends in popular music. The guy from Anvil has no comprehension whatsoever about what is being said. His response is, "But this music just rocks."

And that is the issue. Their art calls them to make something very specific. Which is wonderful, but they somehow think they can make a substantial amount money off of it, which is horrible. They have the art side down, but not the commerce side.

This, of course, reminds me of Aimee Mann.

I saw an interview with Aimee Mann on The Tonight Show once. Jay Leno trotted out a picture of her in her full 80s glory and tried to shame her on national television by reminding the world of how stupid she once looked. Ms. Mann was completely unfazed. "As an artist, you have to decide if you want to be completely in the moment of if you want to be timeless. And to be completely in the moment, you have to be fearless and not ashamed then the moment passes. In the 80s, I was in the moment. Now I am striving for something timeless."

It easy to divide art into two worlds - one that is hollow and commercial and another that self-indulgent purity. But this sort of division is wrong. True art strives for a sense of transcendence. It seeks to be timeless. The people involved in making this art still need to eat. They can't be completely high-minded about personal expression to the detriment of everything else. So the money becomes a necessary component to the process.

These two films were about how there is an art to managing money. There is an art to managing a ballet production company and securing funding for edgy, modern choreography that might alienate people. There is an art to generating enough income to hire a great producer for your heavy metal album. And both of these films, both of these stories of struggle, were transcendent and timeless in their own way. Let's hope they fare better fifteen years from now than The Crow did.