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Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

This Has Not Been A Test…

In blogging, Just Because..., no excuses, writing on June 20, 2015 at 9:48 pm

I should be writing more.

This is something I do not dispute.

Now there’s an incentive for me to write more… The Clarion Writers Workshop, which moved from Michigan State University in East Lansing to the University of California San Diego within the past few years, is holding their sixth Clarion Write-a-Thon.  They explain it using the walkathon model as an example; the more steps toward a goal that the writer gets, the higher total of pledges the writer piles up to go to charity.

My Beautiful Wife, who holds a much higher opinion of my writing talent than I do, has convinced me to sign up to participate in this endeavor; I have set myself a goal of 75 script pages completed by the end of the period – 22 June to 1 August.

For your part, I ask that you go to the site, Clarion Write-a-Thon, and pledge something to my account.  If you pledge fifty cents a page, and I complete all 75 pages I have undertaken to do, you would be donating $37.50 to charity.

Not an exorbitant amount, right?

You are free to pledge any amount you wish, and there are a choice of 69 authors (so far), including myself, who have signed up.  If you don’t want to pledge for me, then maybe there’s another you do want to pledge to.

Hey, I’m easy.

Just do this, okay?  Thanks.

Year’s End…

In beginnings, Just Because..., no excuses, screenplays, Think About It, writing on December 23, 2014 at 6:58 pm

How’s the saying go? “I was crazy once…”
2014 was not the “ideal” year for me in many senses of the word. I got hit with unforeseen circumstances up the wazoo, had some bad times, had some good times, and tried to get my felgercarb together.
Not that it worked
Dealing with insurance companies, alphabet-soup Federal agencies, collection agencies “cleverly” disguised as mortgage companies, the university I graduated from sending me letters asking for money, the high school I graduated from forty years ago sending me letters asking for money, seemingly endless streams of “junk mail” coming my way asking for money, and the things I really need – like inspiration, discipline, motivation, and the gumption to stick to a project until it’s done – in perilously short supply.
All this, and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. won’t be back until March, and Agent Carter won’t be here for another couple of weeks…
How is one to survive these holday times?
I don’t drink, and haven’t for a bit over thirty years… I gave up smoking a few years ago… I don’t cheat on my wife… I have an astounding number of food allergies, and can’t eat wheat, rice, barley, buckwheat, rye, hops, and many other things. Yes, this means no beer… the last one I had, a “non-alcohol” beer, had me being taken to the emergency room with severe anaphylactic shock; my throat swelled shut.
I want pizza. I want Chinese food, Mexican food, Thai food.
You always want most what you can’t have.
So, when you think about it, is it any wonder I’m conflicted? I want what I can’t have, and can’t seem to do what I want to do.
When I figure this out, I’ll let you know what’s going on with me… until then, I’m just trying to get by.
By the way, I’ve been in a short screenplay contest… It appears I won’t make it through the elimination rounds, but I’ll let you read the five-page screenplays I had to write in 48 hours for the first two rounds.

Sometime again!

Judgment Day, And Then Some…

In Film and Related, screenplays, writing on December 4, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Well, the scores for Round One of the screenwriting contest I’m in came back this morning.
Early this morning.
Apparently, my five pages weren’t good enough to place in the top fifteen entries, and earn points to be added to the second round scores.


I have read postings of others in my group (very few have uploaded their scripts for peer group review), and I thought I was at least as creative as they… but that might just be my ego talking.
Well, even though my chances are diminished of making it through to the third round, I will be focusing my attention on the second round, which will begin at approximately 11:59 PM (Eastern) tomorrow.

Illegitumi non carborundum!
(Otherwise, “Don’t let the bastards wear you down!”)

Times That Bind…

In blogging, no excuses, screenplays, writing on December 3, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Here it is, early in the month of December, and I haven’t written a post since August.
I could dither about, offer lame-sounding excuses, and try to place blame other than where it belongs… squarely with me.
I have not posted. I have not seriously thought about posting. I have been moving from my ancestral domicile to our new (to us) home, and I was entered into a screenwriting contest where I get a genre, location, and object to use, and have 48 hours to produce 5 pages of script. The first two rounds are judged, scored, and the top 5 scores from each group of writers advances to the next round. After that, the top 5 from Round Three groups advance to the finals in Round Four.
Today, the third, is when the scores from Round One come out… and they probably won’t appear for two more hours, Eastern Standard Time.
Oh, my.

Excepting Perceptions…

In Just Because..., Think About It, writing on June 23, 2014 at 9:09 pm

What do you hate?

What do you fear?

If that’s what you’re looking for, chances are that’s what you’ll see.

What do you love?

What do you admire?

Seek these things in others, and you’ll find it in yourself.


Platitudes?  Yes.

That doesn’t stop them from being true.  (In point of fact, the truth of the proposition would seem to contribute to the likelihood of that proposition’s being a platitude to begin with.)

Many of the things we are taught from childhood onward could be considered platitudes, clichés, or “old folk wisdom”… their familiarity makes them easy to remember, and hard to forget.

But when, as you grow, you learn something that contradicts one of these ingrained messages, it takes a while to replace the older pattern with the new.  Some people, it seems, never replace the old patterns… and they become more and more out of sync with those who do.  These holdouts don’t seem to experience any cognitive dissonance between what they believe and their perception of the way the world is.

This is, it seems to me, a shame… these people waste a learning experience that way, because they won’t – or can’t – adjust their view of the world.  You can’t live someone else’s life for them, though… much as we’d want to, sometimes, to make it easier for them.

Personally, I still struggle to keep old habits of speech and thought from interfering with who I am, and who I need to be.

It’s not easy.  It never was.

Nothing good, it seems, ever is.

Topics, Topics, Who Wants The Topics?

In activity, It Bugs Me, Think About It, writing on March 19, 2014 at 9:11 pm

There have been any number of topics that have come up over the past several months. And, as a result, most so-called “opinion shapers” I’ve been coming across have been teeing them up and swinging away like they were inside a golf worm with unlimited buckets of balls.
The will to resist putting my own two farthings worth in has never been very strong… many of the other things I’ve written over the years can attest to that. It’s just that the motivation, the drive to write down my opinion just hasn’t been there for most of these topics. There hasn’t been that need that gets down in the pit of your stomach, and lays there, and burns.
Many of the above-referenced topics, which I haven’t specified, are issues I care about, and have fairly strong opinions about, but I just don’t feel the need to get up on my soapbox and orate, when others are doing it more eloquently than I feel I could.
As an example, how many times can someone call out the imbecility of the extreme right-wing conservatives and their shocking illogic without sounding like a zealot themselves? How many ignorant, education-resistant, fundamental religious bigots – and make no mistake, they are bigots – can you try to refute before you become as strident as they have been?
Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher, said the following: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” In other words, we must guard against becoming the enemy we perceive.
If we, as functioning members of our society, wish to truly be honorable persons, instead of merely being perceived as such, we need to have our principles. We need to live according to these principles. We must NOT be enslaved by them… We live, we learn, we grow; so also must our principles. Living a fifty-year-old life according to the principles of a twenty-year-old isn’t necessarily going to work.
As we age, we gain a certain amount of perspective… at least, if we’re paying attention, we do. We are able to look back and see what worked in our lives, and what didn’t, and how we can learn from that. You find what works now.
And that, my dear friends, is the philosophy course for the day… Aloha. (A very handy word, by the way.)

Endings, Beginnings, & All Points In Between…

In beginnings, film, Film and Related, writing on December 15, 2013 at 11:03 pm

I resist writing about the ever-increasing maw of consumerism that now has coopted Thanksgiving, and threatens Halloween next, in the mad dash for Christmas profits.
That’s something I see no need to add an opinion to.
Instead, something a bit more personal…
The middle of the month of December, from the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (all you Catholics, or recovering Catholics like me, know that’s the 8th of December) until the Solstice (usually the 21st), has never been a time of resounding joy for me… at least, since the year 1963.
Fifty years ago.
On the 13th, I was living with my grandmere and Uncle George, and Grandmere laid down for a nap before tea. In the early afternoon Uncle George sent me in to ask her if she wanted a cuppa… I found that she had passed on in her sleep.
Not exactly a pleasant memory for a boy three days shy of his seventh birthday…
The succeeding days, including my birthday, went by in a hazy blur, and I was brought to the funeral home to see her lying in repose. (She was not an official of any kind, other than being in the Altar Society at our parish, so she did not “lie in state”.) Her casket was driven to our parish church, a short distance, and she was brought in for the funeral Mass. (If I remember right, since this was pre-Vatican II, it was a Latin High Funeral Mass.) At the conclusion, her casket was taken out to the hearse, and I was brought to the cemetery along with the other mourners, to see the graveside service. (They still did those at that time.)
The sixteenth, of course, is the day of which I speak somewhat fondly, the anniversary of my arrival. 9:07 AM, Central Standard Time (10:07 Eastern Standard Time), in Chicago, Illinois. The hospital is no longer in existence, and I am given to understand the location is now part of the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology, on the South Side. (Chicagoans know that particular locations in the city are Capitalized that way; Old Town, the Near North Side, et cetera.)
Within fifteen days from my birth my grandmere, of whom I spoke earlier, had taken the bus to Chicago and brought me back home to Detroit. (I was baptized at our parish church on the 31st of December.)
Three days after my birthday, the 19th, is the birthday of My Beautiful Wife Megan’s baby brother, Bobby. Bobby was the last of six children my mother-in-law had borne, and was therefore that much more precious to them all.
My wife’s family had a tradition… there was a gentleman in the American Legion who played Santa Claus for a few special people, and he showed up at my in-laws’s house for several years. This time, on Christmas Eve, when he showed up, he said he had a special present for my wife, who was then almost eleven years old. He handed her Bobby, bundled up like a doll. Well, she took that to heart, and was going to bed him down in the doll crib in her room (which he fit quite well); when her mother came in, she didn’t want to give him up, saying “Santa gave him to me! He’s mine!” {Or words to that effect.}
Needless to say, there was a special closeness between the two dating from that very day… and when Bobby was killed in an auto accident in 1977, there was a great deal of shock and trauma.
My being born nine days before Christmas (and Bobby being born six days before) had an influence on how we viewed the holidays; forming my perceptions more deeply was the fact that my Uncle George worked for the Post Office as a clerk, which meant from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Day, the P.O.D. (remember, until 1971, it was a part of the Department of the Interior) would have mandatory overtime… I still have an award Uncle George received for working twelve hours, coming home, getting an hour or two sleep, and going back in to work another twelve hour shift during the season. For six weeks or so, I barely saw him at all. There was no real time to be festive, to decorate everything, to be filled with the “holiday spirit”. Before Grandmere died, we had an early artificial tree; it had the aluminum tinsel branches on twisted wire, inserted into a wooden dowel for a trunk. After Grandmere died, that tradition pretty well faded out, too. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were at about two o’clock in the afternoon, so Uncle George could watch football befoe getting some sleep before his midnight tour.
I don’t have a lot of festive memories of the month of December; any traditions Megan and I have are agreed-upon between us, and have been honored more in the breach than the observance this year… It’s not been a great time.
Still and all, we have each other (for whatever that’s worth), we have our two cats, Gabrielle and Babe, and we have a small cadre of friends.
Sometimes I hope it’s enough…

Motor City Comic Con ’13 – A View From the Peanut Gallery

In Just Because..., Roughly About Films, shoot, writing on May 23, 2013 at 10:20 pm

About a week ago, as I write this, at the dirigible hangar they call the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Motor City Comic Con’s 2013 iteration went down. We were there to sell things at Megan’s artist table, and I was trying to get some footage for my documentary, The Costuming Mind. I got a fair bit of b-roll, and some good stills. (The footage is currently being edited.)
There were a goodly number of costumes out there, and some were really phenomenal.


I took a fair number of stills, shot a couple of interviews, and shot a good bit of B-roll footage. I think that I can help the footage I took already for the documentary plan.

We shall see what we shall see…100_0273

Stringing It Together…

In arts, blogging, Just Because..., no excuses, writing on March 22, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Words, and the way they fit together to make visible our thoughts, have been a preoccupation of mine for most of my life, even before I knew how to do anything of the sort.

The visions that the proper combination of words can produce verges on the magical; in fact, as I’ve heard it defined, magic itself is produced or controlled by the proper combination of words, placed in the proper order.  Like computer programming and magic, writing is entirely dependent on the correct choice of terms, placed in the correct sequence.

“It was a dark and stormy night.”  How often has that phrase, the first in the novel Paul Clifford by Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Baronet, been quoted, misquoted, and misattributed?  But it is remembered.

Words can weave a spell to transport the reader to Middle Earth… or to the cradle of the Foundation… or to the outer reaches of a red giant star… or in a General Products hull in a hyperbolic orbit around a neutron star.  Words can create vistas in your mind that a Super-70 mm Ultra Dolby 7.1 3D Imax extravaganza couldn’t match, even with a budget the size of the Gross Planetary Product.

And yet… Reading is becoming less and less popular, from what I hear.  Twitter limits posts to 140 characters, which I exceeded in my third line, if I’m not mistaken.  Attention spans fall dramatically year by year.

Few there are who would even try Nova or Dhalgren by Chip Delany; and I couldn’t think of anyone who would try reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, or Dostoievski’s Crime and Punishment.  Dickens’s Bleak House, one of his more acclaimed works, is a doorstop in paperback, and even more recent works, like William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, approach it in sheer volume.  Reading tomes such as these is hardly considered as entertainment anymore, and even the shorter-form writers like Fitzgerald and Hemingway get shorter shrift.

It is a crime and a shame to ignore the writers of the past; the stylistic flourishes of a Dickens give way to the spare prose of Hemingway, which inspired writers of more recent times like Capote, Ken Kesey, Thomas Wolfe, Mailer, Gore Vidal, and some we see in magazines today.  Only by reading the words of others with your own “inner ear” can you find the “voice” that informs your writing.  It’s akin to learning to talk by listening to those around you.

I do not condemn others for their lack of breadth in reading, but invite them to widen it on their own.  Read J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, James Joyce, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sir Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Mark Twain, Garrison Keillor, Dave Barry, Woodward and Bernstein, Nora Ephron, Erma Bombeck, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, or any number of other authors I could name.  Expand your horizons.  Question your thinking patterns.  Question your choices.

It could be an illuminating experience…


Seth MacFarlane: Oscar Threat Or Menace?

In arts, film, Film and Related, Just Because..., screenplays, writing on February 25, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Well, Seth Mac Farlane had his turn at hosting the Academy Awards® ceremony last night.  The reviews were, to put it generously, mixed.

Personal opinion?  I didn’t much have a problem with him.  He did better than Letterman (remember “Uma… Oprah.  Oprah… Uma.”?)  did.

Critics are going to find fault with everybody… even if Bob Hope or Johnny Carson came back from the dead to host the awards, there would be people criticizing.

So be it.

The surprises of the night (for me, at least) were the wins for Anna Karenina and Life of Pi – and Argo winning Best Picture.

Jennifer Lawrence?  Christoph Waltz?  Anne Hathaway?  Okay… I can deal with that.  Searching for Sugar Man?  A happy time… since Rodriguez, the subject, actually lives here in the D.  Skyfall as Best Song?  Sure.

Argo winning Best Adapted Screenplay?  Tarantino winning Best Original Screenplay for Django Unchained?  I can deal.

Ben Affleck getting shut out of the Best Director nominations?  Spielberg losing to Ang Lee?  Hey, these things happen.

The Best Sound Editing tie between Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall was a surprise… there usually aren’t ties in Oscar® voting.

It just goes to show you that award shows are funny (not in the sense of humorous, but in the sense of odd)… they don’t always listen to the same “conventional wisdom” that gets put out in the hype for these shows.

Discuss among yourselves.

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