Mental Flotsam, Mental Jetsam

Because the only thing that beats going crazy is going crazy with somebody else

Friday, May 30, 2008

Once Was Lost, Now Am Found

Okay: There is brilliance, and there is brilliance. Then there is McSweeney's. It's f*cking brilliant.

Losties, enjoy.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Contributing Factors.

Well. It's been a heck of a week or two. Let's stick to the shop talk for now. I recently finished the first draft of Head Games. I was thrilled, I was exuberant, I was pleased with myself. I sent it to a few friends for their appraisal and the response has been unanimous; more or less. It needs work.

On the road this weekend for several hours, I found time to give the first act a once-over with a red pen and made some notes; aware on some level that the changes I was scratching down to implement later were largely superficial. Cosmetic. They wouldn't fix the underlying structural issues; they wouldn't fix the second act.

Tonight, it may have come to me. Something came to me, whether or not it ends up being any good remains to be seen; but that's why we save in drafts and don't just scrap what we've come up with previously.

Partly to thank was seeing the movie The Comfort of Strangers tonight. (Chris Walken at his creepiest. I couldn't tell if he was trying to do an Italian accent or not. Anyway. Good flick.) It opened my eyes to some interesting couple dynamics.

I'm going to give Head Games an overhaul. Dramatically (heh heh) alter the script. New arc, an added character. Steal a trick from Proof and weave in a scene or two from the past. I feel as if I may have been holding back before. This new draft will be even more complex, more convoluted, and hopefully more satisfying. I also hope that it will sound more like I wrote it. No more holding back. If the new draft sucks; I can always go back in and try again.

That's the news on Head Games. Other scripts of mine are getting some attention, and not from me. Yellow Brick Monologues will be produced in Maryland in the summer of 2009; if all goes well. Dead & Breakfast will be read through here in New York in time to possibly be put up for Halloween.

We'll see! I'm not counting chickens... For now I'm just watchin' em cluck.

Still. It feels great to be working on things. Truly great.


Friday, May 23, 2008


I'd just like to point out. Lost. The Shape of Things To Come: Claire, whose survival of a house exploding has caused some debate, utters "I'm a bit wobbly but I'll live." Miles takes one look at her and says "I wouldn't be too sure about that."

Miles. Who, before coming to the island, made a living
talking to dead people.

The Island is screwed up as it is. Dead people pop up like weeds. No reason I see to exclude the possibility that Claire's just joined them.

Brilliant stuff. Can't wait to see what happens next.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Comic Art of Cliffdropping, Part 1

*Spoilers, aha, below.*

Once again, DC Comics has demonstrated why it's such a great place to exist: Though the crime rate may suck, (High security asylums can't keep tabs on crooks worth a damn) it still beats the real world. Why, you ask? You don't have to be Jesus to come back from the dead!

Stephanie Brown, aka the Spoiler (and briefly, Robin the 4th); is alive again. According to the lady herself, she was never dead to begin with. That sure is a load off.

So: I'm reminded of a plot device as old as Scheherazade: The cliffhanger. Ms. 1,001 Tales ensured a stay of execution by keeping her captor a captive audience by ending each story in suspense. He couldn't kill her because he wanted to know what happened next. Brilliant. Thomas Hardy published a serial novel and used the same device to ensure readership stayed healthy; literally ending a chapter on a cliffside.

That's great. Suspense is a wonderful thing. But that's not what's happening in comics. They're not using cliffhangers-- they're employing cliffdroppers. That's what makes it so annoying.

How annoying, you ask? Well, I've put together a scale to determine the exact level of egregiousness-- how bad the crime against a consistent, accurate narrative really is.

With a score of 0; we have the time-honored tradition of killing someone off and have someone else take up the mantle. No laws of time and space have been broken. Happened to Captain America, Blue Beetle and Abomination; it happened to Batman (when his back was broken) and Green Lantern (when he went batshit). It's actually respectful, in a way.

Unfortunately it only goes down from there. Down, way down, to the bottom of the cliff. Splat.


The Comic Art of Cliffdropping, Part 2

Okay. This entry's too long not to have paragraph breaks. Otherwise it's an eyesore. So. Picking up where we left off; the negative scale of cliffdropping-- like a cliffhanger; only the character in jeopardy dies and is then resurrected. Lame.

-1: A character is killed and brought back in the following issue. Kill 'em dead gone dead; and the alien / mystic equivalent of CPR delivers them back to the land of the living in no time.
Examples: Cyclops did it. The corpse hasn't even had time to grow cold. Everyone saw it coming. Give 'em a slap on the wrist.

-2: A character is killed, they're acknowledged as dead (it helps when there's a body) and another character goes about the very difficult task of bringing them back to life. Usually takes at least an issue or two. The impossible becomes merely... very tricky.
Examples: The White Queen, as a living diamond (okay) was shattered. Hank McCoy spent several days putting the pieces back together and Jean Grey zapped 'em. Where were they when Humpty Dumpty needed them?

-3: A character (usually a villain) is killed or at least shown not leaving a deathtrap situation and return some time later with a very weak explanation.
Examples: Baron Zemo survived falling into a volcano because he was wearing a magma-proof costume. Doc Ock survived an island-destroying nuclear explosion because his appendages shielded him. Doctor Doom was actually a robot-- a lot.

-4: A character (usually the Joker) is put in a deadly position, shown not leaving and comes back without a scratch or an explanation. They just have nine hundred lives. It's accepted as fact.
Examples: My favorite one? The Joker's fleeing in a helicopter. He's shot in the chest with an automatic rifle, at which point the chopper crashes into the ocean and explodes. A similar exit on a speedboat (that exploded) prompted the Commish to ask Batman, "Do you think he's really gone?" The Dark Knight's reply: "In my heart of hearts, I doubt it." Good call, Bats.

-5: A character is killed and acknowledged as dead, then brought back several months later. It doesn't matter if they're given a reason or not-- the extra negative point is for when they make it An Event. Punctuating the death of the character only to wuss out later... bad form.
Examples: Death of Superman, Death of Green Lantern, Death of Spider-Man. Death of Captain America-- Oh. Wait. He's still dead. For now.

-6: A character is killed and acknowledged as dead (a funeral, the works) and brought back years if not decades later.
Examples: Jason Todd and Bucky... whatever his last name is. What is it about scrappy domino-mask wearing sidekicks that makes them come back from the dead and become bad-asses?

Colossus deserves a special mention-- He was resurrected and he didn't want to be. An otherwise tired plot device finds a little gravitas.

-7: A character is killed and acknowledged as dead and it's later revealed that they never died in the first place.
Examples: Norman Osborn, Stephanie Brown.

Osborn's lame 11th hour 'healing factor' aside, the Spoiler's return goes very much against the grain. The "replaced her with a drug user who overdosed" thing could have worked if not for a few things. Such as, she was dead. Batman identified the body. The world's greatest detective is standing two feet from the body of his partner and he can't tell that it's somebody else? This isn't A Tale of Two Cities. Stephanie appeared in the afterlife. Her ghost appeared to Batgirl on two occasions. A neat trick for someone who's not actually dead.


I know I'm complaining. It sounds a lot like whining. But Stephanie's return... breaks the rules. It says "Hey! Ignore what we said before. Look over here at what's shiny. Continuity, schmontinuity." If earlier parts of the story can be dismissed as unimportant or simply wrong; it cheapens what remains. Publishers sell comics by getting you to care about the story. The more they screw with things, the less I care. Quite a stink to raise over a comic book.

Anyway. In poignant opposition to this debacle is Alexandra DeWitt. The original Woman in the Refrigerator. She's dead. She's stayed dead, so far. With all due respect, I hope she stays that way. Rayner's faced temptation from two or three sources that offered to resurrect DeWitt; and he turned them down because he knew it was wrong.

Huh. I think he may be on to something, there.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Just Peachy, Thanks For Asking

At the risk of sounding maudlin; rain on a day like today seems like hemorrhoids on a cancer patient.

It's just overkill.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Real Record Breaker

I cannot remember the last time I felt this bad without heartbreak being involved. I'm so miserable right now I feel like I could vomit. Not an exaggeration. Actual nausea.

I've been on a waiting list for writing classes for months, now. Specifically, How To Write For SNL. (If you don't know what SNL is, you have no business reading this blog.) I have been a fan of that show since I was twelve. Fantasies of starring on (or being in any way involved with) it were part of the reason I moved up here: To chase those dreams.

The minute I heard about the class, I knew I wanted in. It was sold out at the time. Today my inbox held a bombshell: the class is being offered again.

The timing could not be worse. It could, however, be better. If I'd gotten this information, say, three weeks from now, I would be able to sign up for the class, paid in full. But I heard about it today. Can't afford it. Not even close.

I hold no illusions that taking the class would pave the way to working on Saturday Night Live. But at least I would know how to apply. My writing would potentially be in better shape. I'd have a better direction in which to push myself. I've been here over a year and my direction has been almost non-existant.

I'm a bit angry with myself. If I were better with money, I wouldn't be in the mess I'm in now. I'm livid. I could sign up for the damned class and that'd be the end of it.

I have no idea when the class will be offered again. Probably in another few months. There's no guarantees. No promises.

Yes, it occurred to me to ask to borrow the money; but I won't. I can't. I've already tapped family enough in times of emergency; as important as this is to me it isn't actually vital to anything. I hate borrowing money for serious things; there's no away I'd do it for icing.

Damn it. Damn it. I'll get over it. Writing this out helps somewhat. Still. Damnation.

Oh yeah. I am sterling company right now.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Superb Villainy of Obadiah Stane

***Iron Man Spoilers Below, You've been warned.***

Let's face it; any hero is only as good as the villain he fights. (What would Peter Pan be without Captain Hook? Bored, that's what.) A protagonist hoping for superhero status requires an archenemy likewise up to the challenge. For your consideration, I submit the near-perfection of villainy that is Obadiah Stane in Marvel Studio's Iron Man.

At the film's start, Tony Stark is a carefree womanizing narcissist, more devoted to his own hobbies than work or social obligations. The man arrives late to a sales meeting with the army. He respects no-one. He's a tool. Granted, a cool one. He has charm and wit, he shares his toys/stewardesses with abandon; but he's still a tool.

One terrorist blitz later, the focus of his entire life dramatically shifts. His eyes are opened. He's not back in town ten minutes before he takes his business and his life by the reins. Necessity is the mother of invention (and what an invention), but without the catalyst, Stark would have gone on blissfully, irresponsibly ignorant.

Enter Obadiah. Father figure, business partner, snappy dresser; Stane inadvertantly engineers the birth of Iron Man when he takes out a contract on Stark in Afghanistan. Without Stane, there is no story.

While the same can be said of any good antagonist; take a closer look at Stane's technique. He hits all the points of archetypal villainy and he does so with panache.

What's his motivation in the first place? Greed. Understandable, but Stane is already rich. He co-runs Stark Industries, which has afforded him every luxury. The magnificent bastard wants even more of the pie when he's already stuffed.

The man has class, he delivers bad news with pizza. From New York. He's hands-on with his schemes: He calls Stark minutes before the Afghanistan ambush to ensure his victim's in place.

A good villain is still human. He has a vulnerable side. Stane's violent exasperation over the fact that his best engineers can't re-create Stark's masterpiece is wonderfully telling.

Stane's status as lifelong friend to gullible Tony only makes the betrayal that much sweeter. That he creeps into Stark's home and ala Claudius pours poison in his ear (so to speak) displays his flair for the dramatic. And like any good villain, he monologues-- as he's literally prying the life out of Stark's chest, no less. Outstanding.

He has his vices, like drinking at work. During his scene with Pepper Potts, he is visibly inebriated. Not merely drinking, drunk. Kudos to Jeff Bridges for playing it convincingly: His speech is over-enunciated, his body language is forcedly aloof. Well done.

Henchmen? Check. Halfway around the world, Stane can arrange a wet-works team to escort him to the camp of the Ten Rings, and casually order the execution of a dozen men or more. He engages the services of a terrorist organization, then liquidates them without batting an eye. Evil!

So: what's left for a comic book bad guy to do? Put the damsel in distress? Check. Pepper's life is in danger from the moment he realizes she's downloading his secrets for Tony.

Back to the hero/villain dichotomy, the bad guy must be on the hero's same platform. In this case? Armored rich guy vs. Armored rich guy. Stane's suit is just bigger, stronger and better-armed. Much better armed.

When the chips are down and it's time for the last act of a desperate man, Stane delivers. Why? Pepper Potts spells it out in one simple sentence: "He's gone crazy." Couldn't have put it better myself. Putting civilians in danger, launching rockets and mini-gun rounds on the streets of Los Angeles; and delivering pithy one-liners.

Finally, I have to salute any supervillain that cannot be beaten by his opponent alone. Watch it again: Stark is bruised, battered and out of juice when Stane is taking his time to blow Stark to smithereens. The Iron Monger has beaten Iron Man soundly, and his tone at this point is dismissive; as one would address a bee about to be swatted. "Stand still, ya little prick." It's Pepper that saves the day and sends Stane to that big Iron Forge in the cellar.

To review: Obadiah Stane may be one of the best comic book movie villains to come along in a very long time. He's intelligent, he's direct and he's not afraid to get his hands dirty. He is Iron Man's equal in many ways and where he isn't; he steals what he needs to level the playing field. Short of actually winning in the end, I can't think of how he could improve his performance-- or Bridges', for that matter.

Well done. Well done.

Go Figure.

I find myself in a funk, today. For no particular reason; I am in a funk. Can't explain it.

I don't have a great deal to complain about. Money's okay (not great, but okay), Shawna's doing well at work, I'm employed for at least another two months; hell, I'm even getting some writing done. It's off-putting to be feeling a bit low for no discernable reason.

I haven't been to the gym in a while-- something I'm going to rectify tonight. Part of me hopes it's as simple as blowing off some steam.

The last voice-over gig I had was a week ago; the first in months. A good friend up here is getting into VOs herself; I hope to ply here for contact info while the getting is good-- she's taking classes and speaks highly of the trainer/agent. No idea why it's worth mentioning but there it is.

What is this? Boredom? Ennui? Something I'm not facing? I have no idea. True flotsam of the mind. Well. At least there's truth in advertising.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A Minor Feat

I have just finished a new script. One that's been sitting on the back burner for months.

I love a good script. Discovering Sleuth in college was one of the better moments from that period (so what does that tell you about college?). I later fell in love w/ Deathtrap for the same reasons: Both scripts are damned clever, very witty and riddled with credible twists-- provided one suspends his disbelief. I've wanted to write a similar script ever since.

Head Games is my attempt in the genre. It's not brilliant but it'll do.

Anyway. My first finished script in a while that doesn't break the fourth wall or depend on source material to stand alone. I loved writing Yellow Brick Monologues but at best it's an extrapolation on Wizard of Oz. So. There that is.

I have to give credit where credit is due. Spending time with Shawna has been very relaxing, and... stimulating at the same time. Maybe she got the creative juices flowing. Who knows. In any case, I'm grateful. I hadn't touched the script in a few months and two weeks ago I picked up where I left off and now it's finished. That feels pretty damned good.

Okay, I'm done. Have a good night, folks. Be well.