Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy Holidays

In a few hours, I will be getting out of bed and getting on a plane with my Recognized-by-the-State-of-California-Domestic-Partner. Two weeks in New York.

The blog will be taking an editorial break until January 1. Have a great holiday. Love your family, you might as well. Love your friends, even if they are not at their best. Love yourself, for no reason at all.

And relax...

Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I've Stopped Reading the Newspaper & Atonement

I’ve been very busy and I’ve stopped reading the newspaper. I had to.

I do not miss the news.

I do miss reading. When I am in normal work mode, I read two or three hours every day. Lately, I’ve only read emails.

Articles are better than emails. Books are often even better.

I need to get back to my reading.

On the short list is The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler and The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

Short movie review: Atonement. Don’t go see it. If you liked The English Patient, like I didn’t, then you might like this snore fest. If you love beautiful cinematography but don’t mind hearing the words, “Come back to me” repeated over and over, go see it. However, if you have something else more pressing to do, like say, checking the pharmaceuticals in your medicine cabinet for expired pills, then I’d say, do that. I was Out of Africa bored with this one. The stagnant shots of people standing in front of graphic framing was laughable. Filmmakers. Poor dears. Imagine, if you will, a sweater that is all about yarn and not about shape.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Let it Snow

For Cheryl

Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 14, 2007

What I Learned at the Thursday Night Holiday Show and Chrismas Party

Tonight, I was in the Holiday Show Choir at Comedy Central’s Sit ‘N Spin. It was a light hearted event with send-ups of Christmas songs, a short red-headed guy in an elf suit, original scripted pieces about the holidays, a Kwanza joint and the Chanukah Blues. This well attended event was followed by a raucous party, one I insisted I was only going to stop by for an hour. We got home close to 2AM. It was a master class in excess. This is what I learned tonight.

1. The reason it’s called medical marijuana is because after you smoke it, you need the attention of a physician.

2. Maggie Rowe is an excellent writer, and seriously leggy.

3. I am not the only Biology major from Tufts University who ended up in show business. Eric Schwartz, also performing tonight, went this route, too.

4. At any live event with comedians, Richard Belzer might be found sitting with his dog in the front row of the audience. The dog, for the most part, may behave like a psychiatric ordained comfort dog. But it will spend some time, on its leash, sniffing around the front of the stage. It also might bark once at the musicians. Everyone knows children and animals remove the focus from adults. I think?

5. Hollywood writers and musicians will get fucking tanked on a Thursday night after they do a show a couple of weeks before Christmas if given enough booze, weed and cookies. Especially if there is a Writer’s Strike. No amount of residuals in the mail, stocks, soaring real estate equity or trust funds will ease their anxiety. It takes mind altering substances and a rock band in the living room.

6. Even though Bill Maher and I have spent time together, he doesn’t necessarily want to speak to me. His use of a marijuana bud as mistletoe is inspired. It cannot be easy to be famous at a party. If you are having a conversation with someone and a gay, middle aged man approaches the conversation to join in, you might just have to turn away.

7. If women cheat, they want to have an affair. Men, they just want to get blow-own.

8. My literary “agent” from the big fancy agency I am “with?” will show up at almost every party I go to this time of year and he will repeat this sentence at each one, “I will definitely call you tomorrow to give you notes on your The Closer spec.” But you know he never will. So you think about calling Endeavor.

9. American Spirit cigarettes are just as nauseating as Marlboro Lights.

10. If you have been taking Airborne for two days to stave off that nasty cold you felt coming on, you will eventually have to speed home to the bathroom because its active ingredient, Zinc, like chemo, will kill the bad bugs and the epithelial walls of your colon with equal fervor.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Clone Me

I have an idea for a story. I probably should not publish it here because someone might steal it. But maybe the story has already been written. I'd like to write about a guy who makes a clone of himself to do all of his slave work. It all starts out pretty great. But then there are complications. The clone, having the same underlying personality, suffers greatly under bondage. So it manages to free itself but then dies from DNA dysfunction. It's all the tragedy of watching yourself imprisoned by yourself, followed by getting free, too late, and then dying, too young.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Crash of '07

I was moved to using paper today. It was relaxing. A nice break. But there was a terror...

Automatic windows update was doing its thing when I shut down to go outside for the day’s business. When I came back, the machine was slumbering and when awoken, it was stuck on “Installing 2 of 9 updates. Do not shut off the computer. It will shut off by itself.” Ah! No budging. It just kept spinning at that message, forever. So I did what you do when your computer won’t budge. I pulled out the power cord and unclipped the battery. Off.

But then, when I rebooted, it wouldn’t. My computer had become a doorstop. This was a terrible thing. I had so much to do. But I did not panic. I bothered my friend, Jeff, quite a bit, (Sorry Jeff)—and I did take his advice at one point and I booted up using the original disk to no effect, I think. I restarted in safe mode, backed up all my files onto an external hard drive, chose to restore at certain restore points (for those who don’t know---your computer, if it is a PC, will save the exact configuration of Windows at various dates. You can then pick a former date to restore the machine to.) However, I was still stuck. Going nowehere. I could not restore. I was out of choices and readied myself for a trip to the computer fixers in the morning.

But what seemed to work was this: I went out to dinner. I ate enormous amounts of pasta and drank a few glasses of heavy red wine with my writing group, Moose Purse. I came home, started up the frozen beast again in safe mode, restored the machine to December 1, 2007. And it booted up. I have NO IDEA why. Except, I think the computer was happy to have a break. And I was happy to have eaten.

My gut feeling is that a corrupt Norton, mixed with a very large Windows Update and having not run any anti-spy for a while, this combination did it in. So, I fixed up Norton. I set the Windows update to Manual. I downloaded the simple Yahoo toolbar with anti-spy and killed the spies. And now, I’m humming along.

It was interesting to be without the computer. In fact, I felt freer than I have felt in years. I imagine one could live a life without the computer. I am sure. If it’s just you and a piece of paper, it’s so calm. When the computer is running, even if you are concentrating on your work, there is always that nagging sense that you are connected to the entire world. Blech!

Final note, though. Make sure you have an external hard drive. And back up once a month. You just have to.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cotton Balls

I turned to Adam, my Recognized-by-the-State-of-California-Domestic-Partner, and said to him, “Give me a blog topic, quick.”

Quickly, he responded, “Cotton balls.”

So cotton balls it is. I don’t have much to say about cotton balls. I rarely use them. Once in a while, when my face is a bit greasy but I’m sick of washing it, I’ll take down the glass jar with the metal lid, purchased at Restoration Hardware, from the top of the wooden medicine cabinet connected to the wall, and I’ll pull out a cotton ball. Then, from inside the cabinet, I’ll bring out the bottle of rubbing alcohol, purchased at Rite-Aid for 89 cents, and I’ll unscrew the cap, place the cotton ball on the opening, turn the bottle over, drench the ball fully, and rub down my face. The cotton ball turns black. I love Los Angeles.

Sometimes, I have used cotton balls with rubbing alcohol to clean up other ward off disease. But this is not that kind of blog.

Some people use cotton balls to decorate Christmas trees on their property to appear snow covered. The effect does not work. However, there is a house down the street that has covered their entire lawn with rolled out flat cotton as snow...and then covered the entire cotton lawn with Christmas lights, on the ground. On top of all that are tons of blinking snowmen, an inflatable Christmas Merry-Go-Round and a big plastic Christmas Ferris wheel. Without the cotton, I bet it would look tacky.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Small Stories--Chinese Times

Eventually, the studio-network-satan complex (SNS) may commit, forever, to their feudal position and destroy the will of the WGA by no longer recognizing it as an institution. When you give all the power to a few very rich people, they feel they can do anything.

If this comes to pass, what could the union do? If the SNS goes rogue and ceases to recognize the WGA, then things become very interesting. Will new studios crop up that give writers better deals? Will small production companies form that will produce shows and then negotiate, per show, with the SNS for a pay scale depending on risk/star/time slot/economy?

Will narrative material cease to exist? Will people go back to spending much more time reading because all visual content is only visual? Will this be a boon to alternative film making? Improv? Juggling?

Like after the commercial strike of 2000, things will never be the same after this strike. The businessmen want to maximize profit, naturally. This is a bump in that direction. Writers, get ready. As the Chinese proverb/curse goes, “May you live in interesting times.”

Friday, December 07, 2007

Prejudice in Art

OH my. I am casting a play right now. Word went out on the wire for six roles. Over five hundred people submitted their pictures.

Then, I got out the strainer. It is such a ruthless enterprise, casting. It is racist, weightiest, hairest and who knows what else.

You start looking at the submitted pictures online. Your heart goes out to these people, but a job must be done.
First, you get rid of all the wonderful people who are hair challenged, weight challenged and all people of color. (My fault. I should have stated Caucasian.)
Then, people with real long faces or very pointy chins. Gone.
Then, anyone with inappropriate clothing, overly dyed hair, strange prop glasses or scarves. Delete.
You keep going, until what you have are a lot of regular looking people. No one trying too hard. No one aching for attention. It’s the simple photos, backed by great credits. That’s it. That’s the trick. Them.

One tends to gravitate toward very neutral features. It seems. Especially when building a family. You figure, if you choose toward the middle with everyone, you can probably pull off casting a somewhat believable family.

There are so many extremely beautiful people, too. But for some reason, they don’t seem that useful for a family drama/comedy on a small stage. And then, how would you get enough talented-beautiful people to make a group? Impossible.

I started into the stack yesterday. I felt terrible not choosing people. I felt their souls. I felt the pain of actors posting and being ignored. Within twenty-four hours and five-hundred pictures later, I simply became, “Man, I don’t think anyone wants to look at a face like that for more than five minutes.” Delete.

It’s awful. Maybe people are just awful for the sake of speed. Casting requires swift decisions.

Other odd note: It is the most neutral looking people that seem to have the best credits. So, this process of the bland evolution is happening from the get-go. Those people are being chosen for to have careers. Interesting.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Savages

It’s a slight film, The Savages . This is the best criticism I can give for a movie that deals with abuse and death. Humor is very important during these dark days. The writer/director, Tamara Jenkins, is very funny. The lead actors, Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, deliver the goods at a perfect pitch.

This is not a life changing movie. But it’s much better than most. Is that a sad comment on what is being offered to us? Perhaps. What I liked the most was that these two adult characters, in the middle of their messed up lives, just lived their lives and didn’t complain too much. They had awful childhoods filled with abandonment and abuse, followed by grown up years with severe intimacy disorders, yet they remained smart and funny and forged ahead. With tenderness. Bravo.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Possible Endgame of the Union Busters

If the studios and networks succeed in breaking the spirit of the union, and I do not believe they will, but if they do, there is something interesting that could happen.

Writers could band together, hire a producer, and have their shows made, cheaply, and then sold to providers of content on entertainment sites on the net. The writers can construct whatever deal they want to with these providers. Every deal can be different. Viva la chaos! If a provider chooses to not give the writers what the writers want, then the writers can look somewhere else for the deal that makes sense.

While the writers are out there putting their original material on the net, the studios and networks can buy already made garbage. There are plenty of people out there who will make a studio movie or television show, with the requisite guns and boobs or the fat husband and unrealistic hot wife. These things can be made by nonunion getups out near the landfills in the Mojave Desert. Let the studios have them.

If the break between the narrative artists at their laptops and the snorting hogs of the studios and networks is to arrive some time soon, then the new world order in entertainment could prove to be very interesting.

Creativity has all the power. The problem with creative artists is they always think the distribution force has the power. It does not, ultimately. This distribution force of Hollywood does not see its writers as viable assets. This is like the owner of Sears not caring about all the people involved in producing their highly popular energy star appliances. Or even more simply, if I sold candy apples, I would certainly take care of my apple trees. So the trees whither. If the trees could walk away, they would. Writers, though often chubby, can walk.

If the writers and the studios split forever, it will pain the writers at first. But soon, the studios will have nothing to hawk but fart shows and mean spirited contests. This is not a good business model. Greed is so blinding.

Monday, December 03, 2007