Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

This blog won’t be the last thing to fail you in life…

March 3, 2008

 

So, you might have noticed I’ve not blogged in a few days and that I also missed my Friday “Post-Id Notes” commitment.  Due to this, you are probably inclined to call me a failure.  

Well, that’s fine.  But, guess what, if you want to call me a failure you’re gonna have to get in a very long line behind most of my family members, friends, the faculty at Carson-Newman College, and the teller at my bank to do so. 

Anyway, I don’t have any long-form reviews or essays today.  Instead, I’ll just throw out a handful of things that are percolating at the top of my brain can… 

TERMINATOR:  THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES: 

I haven’t had a chance to mention this, but I was actually surprised to find that I like this show quite a bit.  I think the lead chick (Lena Headey) is quite compelling and Summer Glau as the female Terminator is playing one of the great odd-ball characters of recent sci-fi.  And, though I’m not the biggest fan of emo John Connor, I like how they’ve found a great story to tell that fills in the gaps between the film series. 

That said, I have yet to watch a single episode all the way through in one sitting.  It’s like something in the Fox transmission signal triggers this narcoleptic condition I never knew I had.   

It’s weird.  It’s not a boring show.  It’s got a good lot of action that isn’t completely mindless, interesting characters, and an automatic “IN” with me on concept alone.   

But still, tonight is the season (possibly series) finale and I’m still 3 episodes behind on my Tivo.  I can’t figure it out.  I keep trying to watch it and keep falling asleep. 

Now, to top it all off, the episode I’m stalled out on currently is the introduction of Brian Austin Green into the series.  Yeah, I’m doomed.  All they need now is for Ian Ziering to appear as a Terminator and I’m all done. 

“Even we are concerned with how boring we are.”  

YOU TUBULAR: 

I saw this clip today at Gawker.com which linked it from kottke.org which got it from You Tube.  But, I couldn’t help myself.  This was too cool and I’d hate for anyone to miss it. 

We comic fans love a good “What if?” and this is a great one.  What if Saul Bass designed the opening credits for the original Star Wars film…  Brilliant! 

THE CONSTANT: 

Last Thursday’s episode of Lost, “The Constant,” is exactly the one I would point to as exhibit A for someone who doesn’t understand my fascination with/adoration for this show. 

In said episode, one of the island-dwellers, Desmond Hume, travels back and forth in time from the present (2004 on the show) and the year 1996.  But, this time-travel isn’t done in a Delorean, a phone booth, or any physical means whatsoever.  It’s actually his consciousness that is travelling back and forth between his current and past self due to heavy exposure to a powerful electromagnetic force. 

This is a heady sci-fi concept and they don’t skirt around the science of it or the inherent paradoxes that time travel stories are typically rife with at all. 

Now, before you tune out, that stuff, while catnip for your hardcore Phillip K. Dick fan, is all very much beside the point.  If it was just about the mode of the time travel and the puzzle that the audience has to piece together to understand it then it would be alienating to most and I wouldn’t win over a single convert. 

But, in this episode, the writers have used the concept for all its metaphorical weight in order to tell a very compelling, heart-breaking love story that culminates with a simple, lump in the throat, phone conversation between two separated lovers struggling to get back to each other’s arms. 

Lost, for all its mysteries, literary references, creepy smoke monsters, and pseudo-scientific minutia is about the characters first and foremost.  It is populated with a cast of broken people who are trying to escape who they are and somehow overcome great obstacles to become who they are supposed to be. 

The greatest mystery being explored on the show is that of the human heart and how you heal it. 

Even the creators of the show have lost track of that from time to time, putting the mythology first.  But, as the strange Ms. Hawkings says in Desmond’s last time-spanning episode in season 3, the universe has a way of course-correcting. 

So too does this show and I think this episode in specific and this season in general have done just that.  It’s once again about being lost and hopefully being found. 

WHAT IN THE FREAK IS FREAK?: 

So, one of the reasons I’ve been not feverishly writing this blog is that I’ve been feverishly writing something else.  This something else is turning out to be all-encompassing to me and I’m completely obsessed with working on it lately. 

It’s a screenplay that takes place in the year 1985.  As happens with my writing, I often have a song playing in the back of my head when I’m working.  These songs usually become themes or evoke a mood for me that I’m trying to get across in the story.   

The song lately on this particular script has been Whodini’s 1984 rap classic, “Freaks Come Out At Night.”  It was mainly the chorus that was thumping in my head but due to the glories and conveniences of iTunes, I grabbed up the song for 99 cents and have been listening to it.

I shouldn’t say “listening to it.”  I should say “living in it.”  What happens is that sometimes I’ll play a song in the car when I’m with my son and if he likes it (“Someone Keeps Moving My Chair,” by They Might Be Giants was the last one) he asks me to play it over and over again until I want to throw myself out of the car window. 

As a result, I’ll venture a guess that over the course of the past weekend I listened to this song more times than it may have ever actually aired on the radio.   

I’m not out of love with it yet.  But, prolonged exposure to it has made me realize that I have no idea who the “Freaks” in this song are supposed to be.  I guess when I first heard it in the 80’s it was fresh off of the still brilliant “Thriller” video and my own Fangoria-obsessed childhood and so I naturally thought the freaks were some sort of ominous, shuffling contingent of the undead prowling the nighttime streets in search of brains.   

But, read a snippet of the lyrics and you tell me who the freaks are supposed to be because I have no idea… 

Now the party’s jumpin’, the place is packed
And when the crowd’s like this, I’m ready to rap
But before I could bust a rhyme on the mic
Freaks are all over me like white on rice
Freaks come in all shapes, sizes and colors
But what I like about ’em most is that they’re real good lovers
They do it in the park, they do it in the dark
But most freaks are known for breakin’ hearts
You could never tell what a freak was thinkin’ of
And you may never catch a freak without at least one glove
And they don’t walk, when they step, they strut
And nine times out of ten they drive you nuts
But take my advice, you don’t stand a chance
Freaks are so bad they got their own dance
So if you wanna live a nice quiet life
Do yourself a favor, don’t come out at night, ’cause
 

Now, let’s pull out a few attributes of the freaks from this.  They’re good lovers, they engage in lewd exhibitionist behavior, they break hearts, they generally wear at least one glove, they strut, they drive you nuts, they’re bad, they have their own dance, and most importantly, they come out at night. I may have been on to something with the “Thriller” connection.  But, it’s not the undead we’re talking about here.  It’s Michael Jackson, right?  I guess the big giveaway is the one glove thing.   

That being said, the song is “Freaks” plural.  Which, as terrifying as it is, means there are more than one of him, right? 

Yikes.  I guess I’m staying in at night. 

Okay, that’ll have to do it for now.  I’ll try to show up again tomorrow. 

But, if I don’t, please know that I love you and I miss you like the deserts miss the rains.

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All I ever learned about writing came from a slightly above average 1980’s Billy Crystal comedy.

February 11, 2008

Okay, so I hope you didn’t think that when I said I was going to “blog every day” that I meant I was going to blog every day! Come on, people. 

Obviously I meant every WEEK day.   

Seriously, though, I realize that I just am not even near a computer enough over the weekend to put out anything worthwhile so I’m going to stick to a 5-day a week schedule, if that’s all right with you? 

Hearing no objections.  Let’s move on. 

I have a few items on the agenda I want to get to but I thought I’d go off on a bit of a non-Steve Austiny tangent today.   

You see, I’m a writer.  Okay, maybe you don’t see.  From the handful of entries on this site that may not be readily apparent.  But, regardless, a writer is how I identify myself.  My boss doesn’t pay me to write and neither does anyone else but I think that if I’m going to reach my goals it really doesn’t pay to say “I want to be a writer.”  That and $4.50 only really gets me an Americano at Starbucks (or one and a half issues of “New Avengers”). 

I AM a writer.  I’ve always been one.  I’m just easily sidetracked and that’s why you haven’t heard of me yet. 

And as a writer I find a lot of ways to waste time and not write.  Much of this time-wasting is, I tell myself, research.  I think any writer reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about here.  You convince yourself you’re gonna start that screenplay just as soon as you finish reading these five books on Quantum Mechanics and re-watch every episode of “The Prisoner” in the correct order this time but you know you’re just treading water, trying not to drown in the sea of your own wicked procrastination. 

The other thing we writers do to avoid writing is we read books about writing and read interviews with writers.  There’s no end to the advice available out there.  A lot of it is great.  (I’d point to Stephen King’s memoir “On Writing” if you’re only going to allow yourself one)  All of it is completely unnecessary. 

But, so what, right?   

I know that it’s just getting in the way but I still persist on taking in a steady stream of writing advice every day.  I listen to a host of podcasts where screenwriters and comic book writers are interviewed, have subscriptions to writing magazines, check out every hot how-to from the local library, and read an endless stream of websites on the subject.  There is just no end to it.   

So, I’m going cold turkey.  Less thinking about writing, more writing about writing! (Okay, well, it’s a start.) 

Now, as a way to clear house I was going to list my twenty rules of writing that I keep taped up near my computer.  It’s just something I’ve culled together over the years from all of the “fantastic” writing tips I’ve gotten.  But, then I realized that that was sort of a waste of time in and of itself and obviously that’s just what I’m trying to avoid here. 

Really, what it all boils down to, I think, is just one important rule.  It’s a rule that comes from (but didn’t originate with) Billy Crystal’s character Larry Donner in the modern American masterpiece “Throw Momma From the Train” and it’s a line that’s repeated often throughout that film… 

“Owen loves his momma.” 

No, that’s not it.  This is it… 

“A writer writes, always.” 

And that really is it, right?  That’s the whole kit and kaboodle.  You can’t really learn to write until you’ve written.  All of the interviews and books and helpful hints and bromides are completely useless unless you’re putting finger to keypad every single day and just doing the work.  Getting through it.  Writing up a forest of pages full of drivel and crap until that one magical day when you write a sentence or even a phrase that at least one other person can read without wincing. 

A writer writes.  Always.  

 This is something my buddy EG and I keep coming back to when we discuss the subject.  It’s the principle reason we’ve both been blogging.  Get in the writing every day whether you like it or not.  Of course, you don’t have to go any farther than the beginning of this blog entry to find me breaking this cardinal rule but, still, I think it’s the only way.    

The only other thing, and there’s always another thing, is probably this… 

“A writer reads, always.” 

This happens to be the second reason that this site came to be.  I’m obviously not talking about reading about writing here.  I’m talking about reading honest to goodness books and such.  Ones with pictures and ones without.  Anything that tells a good story or even a bad story.  You can probably learn from them all.  Heck, I venture to say that I’ve learned more about writing from the contents of my pull list the past couple of years than all the mountains of “How To’s” I’ve ingested.   

So, there you have it – more writing advice.  And from a writer who doesn’t write enough and who has so far been unsuccessful in his writing career.  

Okay, I’ve got more writing to do.  See you tomorrow.