NYC Midnight challenge round 3

Somehow, I managed to land in the middle of my group last round, and squeak by into the next one.

Of course, I thought it was going to be this coming weekend - and Yahoo glitched and held my mail from Thursday night through Saturday night... so I didn't even read that I had made it until Sunday am. I had to think of an idea at work, and come home and write it in a couple of hours.

Though, really, 2-3 hours seems to be par for this course. I always end up writing the script in about that time.

This one went more smoothly, as it was a more comfortable genre and setting for me: Fantasy in a Cemetery. The object was a first aid kit.

I uploaded to Google docs, since some folks find the Scrippets format hard to read for more than a few lines.

I had fun. Let me know what you think. Cemetery Lanterns

NYC Midnight challenge round 2

Genre: Comedy
Setting: The North Pole
Object: Crutches

Pole to Pole



CHRISTINE, a perfectly coifed Asian woman in a tropical print dress addresses the camera.


They've made it to the finals. Our Pole-to-Pole contestants have traveled for hours, and now arrive at their secret destination.

Behind her, a huge screen shows brightly a painted helicopter landing on a vast expanse of ice. A CREW MEMBER opens the door, and helps 4 CONTESTANTS step out. They wear blindfolds.


CAMERA OPERATORS, MIC OPERATORS and CREW swirl around the helicopters.

The 4 blindfolded contestants, 2 men, 2 women, are taken by the hand and walked to a flag stuck in the ice.

They stand there, attempting to look heroic.

In the background, a head in a pointed cap pops up from a crack in the ice. No one sees it, and it ducks away again.

Trucks and generators are all on one side, leaving the view behind the contestants empty and imposing.

THE DP walks out from one of the trucks, and shouts


And...cut. Keep your blindfolds on. Stay in place, OK.

The contestants are bundled up in fashionable gear.

TOM, late-30s, square-jawed and not much over 5'2", flaps his arms across his chest.


Fuck it's colder than a witch's tit out here.

BRANDI, 21, with blonde braids and cocoa skin, tilts her head, and puts her hands on her hips.


Are you for real? Who says that?


Hey, can you fucking guys get it together? Are we ready to proceed here already?

The camera operators huddle together. They ignore Tom.

CHAD, mid-20s, tall with dark hair, is shifting back and forth, and tugging at the neck of his coat.


Where are we? I didn't think anyplace was this cold in July.

STEPHANIE, late-20s, perks up.


Actually, the seasons in the southern hemisphere are reversed. They must have brought us south of the equator.

She tilts her head back, trying to see under her blindfold.



Unbeknownst to our finalists, one camera has continued to film them.

On the video screen:


All I know is this [beep]-ing place is [beep]-ing cold and I'm [beep] [beep] that this is taking so [beep]-ing long.


What is it with you and that mouth?


I just hope this doesn't chap my skin. I don't want my cheeks to be all red.


The DP approaches, camera and crew move back in place.


All right, folks, we're going again. And five, four, three

He motions 2 and 1.

The contestants put on their game faces again.

One of the boom operaters seems to have shrunk in size. And... are his ears pointed?

The contestants pull off their blindfolds with clumsy, frozen fingers. They look around.


Well, I'll be f....

He looks at the camera a moment.


...a monkey's uncle.


You have a serious problem. I don't know what kind, but you got it.



He spins in a circle.

Stephanie pulls a compass out of a pocket.

She excitedly steps up and down, and starts bouncing around.


This is so cool! Do you know where we are?

The others just look at her.


The North Pole!


Where are the elves?

Brandi rolls her eyes.

The tiny boom operator slowly backs away, and slips away from the crew. An ASSISTANT carrying coffee sees him, and his jaw drops.


Christine walks over to a stage with a stripper pole, and the logo "Pole to Pole".


They've danced all over the world. Now, our contestants must dance in freezing temperatures, on a pole at the North Pole.


The floor is ice. Chairs are set up in front of a small stage with a stripper pole. Heaters are set around the stage.

The contestants stand in front of it staring.


I suppose the pole might be warm enough once the heaters get going.


Fuck this.

He stops out of the tent.


I never understood how that troll made it this far.


Tom stomps past the crew trucks, muttering. Something catches his eye. He goes to a crack in the ice, and suddenly the elf reaches up, grabs his ankle, and pulls him down.

He gets stuck a moment at chest height, struggling to pull himself back out. Then stops.


Fuck me.

He disappears from sight.


The other three contestants are at a sound board, getting their songs ready to go.

The elf darts out, holding a pot, and runs to the stage. He smears something greasy on the pole.


A small audience hoots and hollers, while music plays.

Chad stretches, to the side of the stage, with big movements designed to draw attention. Stephanie hobbles on crutches.

Brandi, in a sexy dress, tries to dance, but can't get any friction on the pole. Every time she tries to climb up it, she slips down fast.

The audience boos.

She makes one last desperate attempt, flinging her legs upward, and wrapping them around the pole - only to slide down and land hard on her butt.


Someone greased this pole.

She hobbles off the stage, fuming.

Chad steps up, rips open his coat, and flings himself at the pole, trying to swing around it. His hand slips off, and he ends up falling off the other side of the stage.


Ow. Not fair.

Suddenly, Tom walks in, wearing shades. But...he's even shorter. And his clothes are baggy. It's the elf.

The other contestants stare.


Fucking cue my goddamn music, bitches.

A moment of dead silence, and then a song starts.

The elf hops onto the stage, and whips off his scarf. He wraps it around the pole, and shimmies as he rubs it up and down, cleaning the pole.

Off come the hat and sunglasses. The audience gasps.


On the big screen behind Christine, Tom, Brandi, and Stephanie sit in the yurt, bandaged. Stephanie's crutches are beside her.


And now, based on your votes from all across the nation, our first Pole-to-Pole champion!

The elf comes out, wearing nothing but a tiny thong and shades. He looks like a male model - shrunk in the wash, with pointy ears.


Thank you! Ever since the workshop branched out into adult toys, this has been my dream.

He takes a bow.


The Lie that Tells

Art is a lie but a lie that tells the truth.
- Pablo Picasso

In real life, how often do we address the truth directly? Do we discuss what personal history makes us act as we do? Do we bare our feelings? Do we admit our wrongdoings? How often do we even stop to examine these things? And does not examining them usually require a stop from the movement and action of our lives?

OK, yes - as artists, most of us probably engage in far more examination of truth, history, and motive than the average person. But most people (I have come to realize from the blank stares I sometimes get in attempting to start conversations on such matters) rarely think, much less speak, about such things.

In fact, I've dated men who act like the question, "Why?" was not even in their vocabulary, and who genuinely had never in their lives thought to question their motivations.

This is vitally important to understand when you are writing a screenplay. We must know the truth behind our story, the history of our characters, their feelings and wrongdoings... but they must rarely, if ever, speak of these things directly. Instead, they inform the choices and actions our characters take.

To discuss these truths too openly will make your story ring false.

I was reminded of this during last week's episode of NCIS. The team had a man in interrogation. At first, he lied, to avoid the consequences of his actions. His ranged from tone was matter-of-fact and casual to offended and outraged. Then, after further questioning - his tone changed and became more urgent. One of the observing characters noted that he was probably telling the truth because he was not pausing before answering, his answers were not overly elaborated.

This made me think: to communicate a believable truth in my writing, I need the character to have a sense of urgency, to act without hesitation, and to show things simply without excessive elaboration. (Think action movie)

And, to the opposite effect, if I want to communicate avoidance of truth (which is sometimes the whole point of a story) I should slow down the pace, add hesitation, and elaborate at length - particularly over irrelevant details. (Think drawing room drama)

In either case, however, the characters show or avoid the truth through their behavior and the tone of the dialogue - not through specifically speaking about it. Speaking about truth quickly becomes either pedantic and preachy or like watching a video of someone's therapy session.

There is an excellent post here examining some specific cases.

I will add, finally, that there can be times in a screenplay to reverse the rule and have a character directly speak a truth that's been only implied up to that point.

One use is comedy. Highlighting an aspect of a relationship or action that the characters involved have been avoiding. "Get a room already, you two." Best done by a tertiary or minor character (so as not to disrupt the primary relationships). A good example was also this last episode of NCIS, when a someone referred to one of the characters as a sidekick. This then played out through the rest of the episode in small comedic actions as this character attempted to step out of that role...but was not addressed directly again. Some screenplays even have a "fool" character whose role is primarily to say that thing that everyone is thinking but won't address.

Another use is the turning point, especially the mid-point. When the character is at their wit's end, and cannot figure out what else to do, they might have a moment of reflection in which they examine, find, and possibly even articulate their real motivations. The "a-ha" moment that gets them moving again and gives them the strength to face the rest of the challenges the story will throw at them. Just... keep it brief. Like the soldier being interrogated, they should speak the truth simply and with urgency.

Not to say there is no place in art for lengthy internal examination. Novels are an excellent medium for this. Film, however, is an external art. Moving pictures are most engaging when they are, well, moving.

Lemons: A Love Story



Hilltop and Grove, the intersection of two streets that cut through open fields of tall grass and wild sunflowers. On one side perches a small bench, protected from the sun by a shingled hutch. A small metal sign marks it as a bus stop.

Across the street is a smug ranch home with a neat green lawn, tight beds of primroses and pansies, and a lemon tree bearing small yellow-green fruit. An short, open lattice fence defines the little patch of civilization.

Across one of the fields, a boy and a girl come running. MELISSA, in denim cutoffs and a red gingham shirt, is in the lead. TOM, in baggy overalls, closes the gap as they reach the bus stop. The pair are about ten years old.


I dare you to go pick lemons off that tree.

She twirls one of her short braids, adorned with gingham ribbons, in awkward imitation of a flirtatious older girl.


They aren't hardly even ripe, Mel.


Tommy Morgan, I think you're afraid of old Grumps.


Yeah, well, you think right.


He's just one old man.

She saunters into the road, heading for the yard.


Mel, don't. Are you crazy?


I was gonna make you lemonade, but now I will jus hafta keep it all for myself.

He runs toward her, but she's already scrambled over the fence. He stops at the barrier.

Melissa jumps up and grabs a lemon off the tree.

From the shadowed front stoop emerges the barrel of a shotgun followed closely by old MR. SIMMONS.


I told you damn kids, stay offa my property.

Tom freezes. The blood runs out of his face.

Melissa passes him, waving the purloined lemon in his face. One of her hair ribbons falls to the ground.



He fires the shotgun into the air.

Tom snaps back to himself. Starts to run, but turns back and reaches through the lattice to pick up the lost ribbon, then runs past the bus stop, back across the fields.


Same corner, but a few of the fields have been replaced with homes. Long ranch-style homes mostly, with expansive lawns.

The bus stop shed is weathered and grey.

Tom, now 17, sits on the bench reading a book. His clothes still look too big on his skinny frame.

Melissa walks up, her hair cut like Farrah Fawcett. A TEENAGE BOY hangs out the door of an orange Pinto that rolls past.


Who woulda thought Mel would grow up into Mel-iss-a.


Oh, shush.

She flips her hair, flirtatiously. The car revs its engine and zooms away.


Hello, Melissa.


Oh, hi Tom.

She barely looks his way, watching the Pinto as it does doughnuts in an empty lot.

A bee lands in her hair.


Um, Melissa.

She waves him off, without turning to look at him.

He pulls a red gingham ribbon from the back of the book, and marks his place.


Mel, there's a...

He stands, and reaches up to wave the bee away, but before he can, she runs a hand through her hair.

Her eyes get very wide.


Oooh, CRAP. Oh shit.


I'm sorry, I tried to... there was a bee.

She waves her hand, and the sting swells up.


I know something that can help.

He looks across to the lemon tree in Mr. Simmon's yard, now just visible over a tall whitewashed fence.

He gets a running start, and manages to get over it, leaving black scuffs on the paint.

A dog barks when he lands on the other side. The tree rustles.

Tom's head pops over the fence. He loses his grip and falls.

The dog growls, and there are sounds of a scuffle.

Tom scrambles back across, his pant leg now torn at the hem.


Tom, are you OK?

She blows on her bee sting, and winces.

He holds up a lemon.


These can help relieve a bee sting.

He pulls out a Swiss army knife, and cuts the lemon.

Gently lifting her hand, he rubs the juice onto the sting.


When did you get so brave, Tom Morgan?

Melissa beams at him.


The wood hutch at the bus stop has been replaced by a concrete shelter. The fields are now entirely replaced by houses, small and close. The paint on Mr. Simmon's fence is worn.

Tom, 24, carries a briefcase as he waits on the bus. His clothes not only finally fit, but are a little tight across his muscular arms and thighs.

A car pulls up, a LITTLE GIRL in the passenger side.

Melissa gets out of the car, and smacks the roof. Her Farrah hair has been replaced with a poodle perm and bandanna.


Is that you, Tom Morgan?

Tom cocks his head, and takes her in.


Melissa? Well, it's been...I haven't seen you went to college.


Yeah. Just visiting the folks. Had no idea you were back here.


Never left.

Melissa takes him in a long moment, then nods to the child.


Came to show my daughter my favorite lemon tree.

The little girl is climbing through the car window.


Oh? Well, hello. What's your name?


Jessica. I'm this many.

She holds 6 fingers in front of her face.


Wow, you're 6.

He looks at Melissa, and back at the little girl.

A car screeches around the corner.

Tom grabs Jessica and pulls her from the car as it crumples from the impact. Melissa is knocked back and out of sight.

The girl's scream pierces the air.


Trees are grown tall, and the bus stop has been spray-painted by gangs. The bench is missing a plank.

Beside the concrete shelter a cross is in the ground, tied with a worn gingham ribbon.

A middle-aged Tom, bends down, takes off the old ribbon, and replaces it with a fresh one. He steps back a few paces, wipes sweat from his brow, and looks up at the sun.

A car pulls up. It idles a moment, then stops. A YOUNG WOMAN steps out, wearing a dark suit.

She goes to the cross, and sets a candle at the base.

Tom watches her light it.



She turns slowly, and nods.


Tom Morgan?

Tom nods yes.


You were there.


Yes, I was.


I was going through old papers, and. Mom never told me, but I think you may be... might be my...

Tom nods.


Tell you what. Why don't you come inside for some lemonade, and we can talk.

He gestures across the street, where a new mailbox is labelled "MORGAN". They cross, he opens the gate, and they disappear into the yard.



Well, I did it.
Stuck with the micro-epic screenplay idea.

Very interested in the feedback on this one. I enjoyed writing it, but is it any good?

Will post it as soon as I get confirmation from the contest organizers that it's good to go.

An Epic in 5 Pages (or less)??

I must be crazy, but I am actually attempting to write a story that spans 35 years and two generations in my short screenplay challenge.

AND (the crazy part is) I think it will work.

Surfacing - Second Life, Role Playing Games, a new (old) challenge

Sometimes I just need to shut off for a while. Sometimes that while is several months. So I've been engaging in hours of mindless and sometimes downright filthy activity through various avatars in Second Life.

What I learned there is that even the most detailed carefully constructed characters (some of my avatars ROCK), set in the most fascinating and detailed environments (some the the SIMs are very well imagined and meticulously designed) are still boring if nothing happens to them.

You can go out and try to make things happen, but initiating action only goes so far if the responses are uninventive or poorly executed. Really, very few people can get the hang of role playing when the animation isn't doing all the work.

So, I return now to writing one month before my 40th birthday (when the fuck did I get that old??) and just in time for the NYC Midnight screenwriting challenge.

I got open genre for my first assignment, with a bus stop for the setting, and "a lemon" for the object. Ya know, I've sat at many bus stops, in multiple countries over the years, because I didn't learn to drive until I was 32. Yet there is one particular stop that comes to mind above all with three or four others close behind.

Well, I have an idea... off to create enough conflict to make my 5 pages or less sing!


I love the refinements that Netflix has made to their suggestion system. If you haven't gone through the entire questionnaire, I recommend you do. It made me think about my interests in ways I had not. For instance, I'm interested in movies with a father-daughter theme, but not a father-son theme. Logical, I suppose, but not something I'd been conscious of.

The Sub-sub-categories it now comes up with for recommendations are also illuminating, and have me thinking about my taste in terms of my writing as well:
Visually-striking Suspenseful Psychological Movies
Dark Dramas with a Strong Female Lead
Critically-acclaimed Cerebral Movies from the 1930s
Scary Foreign Thrillers

It's been interesting seeing what comes up, but also seeing adjectives like "dark" or "gritty" or "scary" applied to categories I hadn't thought of attaching it to. Scary thrillers as opposed to horror, for example. I do love scary thrillers, perhaps better than horror. I also like horror films that have a thriller element, the anticipation and the chase. I don't care for the cheesy gore-fest that the genre seems to have been pigeon-holed in.

It's got me turning the kaleidoscope on some of my writing a little bit, twisting the colors and playing with how it looks.

Re- re- re- re

I just wanna say:
A redux is a remake.
So is a reboot.
There is no difference.
If they had to get the rights to the previous film, if the story and characters are basically the same, it's a remake. The other terms are just marketing. Don't be fooled into thinking they are any different. Some may be more well done than others, but they are all remakes. Just like Midol is the same exact drug as Advil is the exact same drug as generic Ibuprophen - a reboot is a redux is a remake.

A Rebound, on the other hand, well, that's a different thing altogether.

Amazon's response


Thank you for contacting

This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles - in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

Thanks for contacting us. We hope to see you again soon.


Customer Service Department

Dear Amazon

I have had several authors tell me in the past that they would prefer I not order their books through Amazon, as they make a smaller residual through them than any other portal. But I've continued to do so for the most part, as a matter of convenience.

Now, however, I find out that Amazon has removed the sales ranking for several Gay and Lesbian themed books.

They use the excuse that they want to preclude Adult material from showing up in searches - but may of the works concerned do not have any graphic sexual content. From Young Adult novels like "The Filly" to classics like Erastes' Transgressions and modern works of literature like Oranges are Not the Only Fruit and the Well of Loneliness.

However, you can still find books with explicit heterosexual content, including photographs.

So I wrote t hem and informed them that I would not only be removing all my wish list content, and no longer doing business with them, I would not link to them when recommending books and I would not do business with their other websites.

Blatant prejudice is especially offensive coming from a purveyor of books.

Getting Frenzied

I'll be participating in Script Frenzy this year. I've filled in the points on the Blake Snyder beat sheet, and will be attempting to write an entire screenplay in the month of April.

Actually, my goal is even more ambitious. I plan to finish it in 20 days (6 pages a day is not unreasonable for me), and have time to polish it a little by the end of the month.

Working title: Spaz

A teenage girl hides her epilepsy to convince a former CIA agent to be her mentor, and ends up in over her head with the local Mexican mafia.

I've got the beats laid out. Now, time to write!

Write Badly

Billy Mernitt, you have just knocked my favorite crutch away. My best excuse for procrastination. The reason I end up spinning in circles and efficiently avoiding forward progress on my screenplays (or any writing, really.) I don't have to get it "perfect."

According to Mr. Mernitt, who has every reason to know, it's not only OK to break the "rules" of screenwriting, sometimes it helps you achieve the one goal that is paramount for any screenwriter: make them empathize with the protagonist. Get them to feel. If it takes parentheticals, unfilmable asides about the character's internal thoughts and intentions, or lots of ellipses, then so be it.

Thinking about it, I am reminded of something I learned when studying poetry in college. It struck me while reading Sonnet: On the Sonnet by Keats. The Sonnet is a very structured form. Not the most difficult, but still fairly rigorous. (I laugh when people complain about screenplay form being too limiting.) In this sonnet, Keats breaks the rhythm in one line - and does so with the explicit intention of making the reader pause, of drawing attention to the one line.

I learned two things from that poem: 1) Let structure serve a meaningful function. The actual rhythm contributes to and/or echoes the content. 2) Drama and meaning can be derived from breaking the form - but there has to be a form there to break for that to work.

So I think my feeling about using such things as internal unfilmables, is that they should be used consciously. They should be placed in essential spots, to break the form a little, change the pace, make the reader stop and think. But to achieve that effect, the rest of the writing has to be fairly clean and straightforward.

I know the examples on Mr. Mernitt's blog include a script that seems to go beyond the selective use idea... but I also found it a difficult passage to read. Maybe it reads differently in context.

Have I come full circle? Have I just proposed something even more difficult than perfection - perfection with intentional flaws? Shhh. I don't care. I need to go write.

Reminder to Self: How to Sell a Script

You pass it on to your connections. A screenwriter without connections very rarely makes a sale. Hollywood is the most incestuous industry aside from the mafia. Even porn is more open to outsiders.

So how do you get connections? I hate that phrase: "get connections." Connections are made and maintained, they are something dynamic and living - not a purchasable product.

You start by talking to people, getting to know others who are interested in the business - sites like Triggerstreet help for those of us not in Hollywood. Read blogs by those devoted to the craft and participate in the dialogue in the comments.

If there are local film/screenwriting groups or organizations like a local Screenwriters Association or Women in Film, participate. (There are both in Dallas. I need to join them.) Go to film festivals. And talk to people (a tough one for many writers), get their contact info, follow up a couple of weeks later to say it was good to meet them, and only hit them up after that when you have something relevant to them, such as updating them on what you are doing (provided you are actually doing something worth updating them on).

Otherwise: look up the production companies for films you like that are similar to what you write. (use the Hollywood Creative Directory) Mail them (e-mail or snail mail) query letters asking if they would be interested in reading your script.

Look up the screenwriters for those films, and find out who represents them, and get the contact info for those agents or agencies at least - and contact them

Don't expect to sell your script, so much as to offer it as a writing sample. You should have 3-4 solid scripts (as in ready to produce,) and if told that one is not what they are looking for, you can offer the others. This also shows you're not a one-shotter, and may have the stuff to be a professional writer - so you might get considered for assignments. Most produced screenplays are assignments (and adaptations at that) rather than specs.

Dreaming Myself Awake

I've posted some links on Twitter recently, to, and wanted to delve into my perspective a bit here. I've read a little on the subject, and while I don't consider myself a kabbalist, I have been told by those who do (consider themselves) that my ideas are quite similar to theirs. I also draw from Christain mystics, Sufis, Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, Jesuits, Hindus, Athiests and more - so it would never be accurate to ascribe my understanding of the world and approach to life to any particular religion or philosphy.

I believe we are each created toward a specific purpose, designed for a specific role in the story of the Universe. That story is larger than any of us, yet each of us is essential to it.

We play that role, wittingly or not, according to our natures, our true or essential Will. We can better understand our Will, and better fulfill our role simply by following the internal compass of joy. What it is that makes us joyful, that satisfies us on a deep level, that makes us feel right and at peace and happy - that is our Will, or at least a part of it.

I find this sense of joyful purpose giving massage, especially when I am relieving pain. I find it in my writing, when an idea comes and I dive into it and let it flow through me, transmuting it to words in my own voice. The sensation is similar to lucid dreaming, taking control of an unconscious process and turning it in another direction.

I also find it at moments in other activities: noticing a beautiful contrast of a rusted yellow warehouse against a blue sky, watching my dog play, catching a glance between two people in love. The part of my purpose found in these moments is learning to appreciate the world.

We can also seek to understand how or own role fits with the larger dream of the Universe. This begins with the recognition of two things: 1) Each and every person has a role to play, and in this, we are all equal 2) the Universe is in constant communication with us, but we can only narrowly perceive the messages it conveys.

In addition to our bliss as a guide, everything around us is imbued with meaning - the arrangement of letters and numbers, the pattern in the branches of a tree, the "chance" crossing of our path with another person. Through introspection, study, openness and perception we can catch glimpses of this meaning, and as we do so, while continuing to follow our Will using our sense of joy as a guide, then we can progress spiritually.

A sense of the connection we have to the larger story is essential for the human race to survive. We can see from the echoes and repercussions occurring through the economies of the world right now. Our personal integrity is important, but it is also important to do our best to strengthen others - because if they fall, we will stumble. it is important, too, to remember that we cannot carry them, or try to direct them on the road to our own goals - because each person and each nation must discover their own Will, and learn to embody it. (I'm an advocate of micro-loans rather than charity or larger government loans.)

The most powerful thing we can do is to set an example by living our Will, and sharing our joy. In so doing, we inevitably inspire others to do the same.

Destiny and other problems

Slumdog Millionaire. Definitely one of the best films of last year. Not on my top ten list for the decade, but an enjoyable film that really struck a chord with audiences.

There has been a lot of debate over the film, including some points I think are worth taking a moment to address.

1) It's emotionally manipulative.
Well, uh, yeah. It's a movie. Seriously, though, this is I think one of the oddest complaints and its one I've seen directed toward other popular movies, like E.T. I've never been sure whether the problem is that it's transparent about the emotions it's working to evoke, that it does so clumsily or incompletely, that it becomes melodramatic, or that it does so too well. Nearly all films, including documentaries... in fact, nearly all art, is emotionally manipulative. Whether it's simply trying to share a sense of the wonder of a panorama, or to get us to share the soaring hopes and failures of a character, that is part of what movies do. Do you really think There Will Be Blood was not manipulative?

2) It's culturally biased.
Well, the Indian co-director did her best to help temper cultural insensitivities, and my impression is that she did an excellent job. A little of this is unavoidable any time you have a film being made about a country and culture that the director is not native to. I think it's far less culturally insensitive than, say, Last of the Mohicans is about Native Americans, or The Hunt for Red October is about Russians. Even a native Indian director would have their own bias: muslim/hindu, Mumbai native or from another city, etc.

3) It glamorizes poverty/It makes the poor look bad/It makes Mumbai look like a crime-ridden slum/It only shows one side of India
I did not find that it made poverty look appealing. I can't imagine any kid watching Slumdog and thinking it would be cool to be poor like that. Nor does it portray all the poor folks in the same light (all good or all bad.) I don't know how anyone could see the harshness of burning out a child's eye so they will make more money begging as "glamorizing," unless they were just looking at the pretty colors and the lovely cinematography. And in the two brothers it shows the choices that most poor face: embrace a life of crime and try to profit at great risk, OR work hard and be honest and hope that destiny will deliver you to a better life.
As for only showing one side of India or portraying Mumbai as a slum: The only slum larger than the one portrayed in Slumdog is in Nairobi. Dharavi is home to millions, and it is most definitely a slum (though one that is beginning to be redeveloped.) And since when has it been the responsibility of any movie to accurately portray an entire nation. It's not the job of a movie to give an accurate and balanced view of India, and this kind of criticism only points out how much further world cinema has to go.

4) Destiny? That's weak.
A lot of people were frustrated by the plot revolved which around a character who felt he was destined to achieve what he achieves. There are three things they miss.

First: Destiny holds a much more important place in the thinking of a culture where most marriages are still arranged and where poverty is a much less permeable barrier than in the US. The film's character believes in destiny.
Second: Most Hollywood Romance movies, and many other films, rely to a large extent on destiny. They found each other because they were meant to be together. It's a fairly common device.
Third: Destiny... or the sum of a life's choices? How can you tell the difference? is there one? I am sitting here now writing this blog, and I can go back and point to various instances in my life that led me to be exactly where I am and who I am now, that led up to this precise point. They were things that happened to me, and how I responded to them. To say that a character is Destined is only to say that what must occur does occur, or what does occur must. Destiny is no mystery. Destiny does not negate choices, it simply uses our choices to manifest itself.

5) The acting was weak.
OK. I concede this one. At least as far as the leads were concerned. I think that Dev Patel was flat, and am glad that he was only in a fraction of the film. The younger actors were full of spark and life and were completely wonderful. Frieda Pinto's performance completely lacked nuance - but that does not matter for reasons I'll get to shortly. The other actors, however, were great, including the older Salim. So I don't think Dev Patel should win any awards for his performance, but he did manage not to muck up the movie as a whole.

6) Latika was a golddigger, or Latika was way underdeveloped
There were subtleties in the character that a better actress could have brought to light. She sacrificed her virginity to save Jamal's life, but part of her wanted him to somehow stop Salim. Instead, Jamal ran away, and left her to become a trophy to the local mafioso. So yeah, when he showed up again it took her a little while to warm up to him. And she knew that if she ran away, the bad guys would come after her - so it would take some money to get someplace safe. Asking about money was practical, but it was also defensive - fear of being judged, criticism of Jamal who had abandoned her for so long... but ultimately, Latika's character and her feelings are unimportant for one simple reason.
I'm surprised that no one seems to have seen her this way, but Latika is not so much a character, as she is the MacGuffin.
Latika is what motivates much of the key action in the film, not just because she is what Jamal wants above all else, but because that desire directs many of Salim's actions, and desire to possess Latika motivates the beggar-king, and the mafioso.
Latika is the MacGuffin. It doesn't matter one bit if she loves Jamal. It's the journey toward her, toward the object of desire, that gives an order and a meaning to the otherwise apparently random string of events that make up Jamal's life.

technical problems

OK, one of the barriers in recent months to more frequent blogging has been that I switched to Safari as my browser of choice. Safari is wonderful for reading text online, as the fonts are crisper, clearer, and darker than on any other browser. The problem is, Safari runs into incompatibility problems with some website features - mostly music players. Sometimes they just don't show up.

I don't mind opening Firefox for listening to music. I don't listen often anyway. or the occasional images that just don't want to display in Safari. What I do find frustrating is that Safari, at least on this machine, locks up whenever I try to type a post in blogger. What's up with that? Blogging, reading AND WRITING, is the whole reason I choose Safari. I've tried looking for answers or suggestions, but I don't find any evidence that there are a lot of people experiencing problems using Blogger on Safari (for Windows.)

Not much of an excuse, but I keep starting posts and forgetting until I'm three or four lines in and it locks up...

Los Angeles - grime and traffic

In response to a post on John August's blog where he discusses the following quote:

Can you figure out which of the following is accurate?

Los Angeles’s air is choked with smog.

Los Angeles has developed in a low-density, sprawling pattern.

Angelenos spend more time stuck in traffic than any other drivers in the nation.

Thanks to the great distances between far-flung destinations, and perhaps to Angelenos’ famed “love affair” with the car, Angelenos drive considerably more miles than most Americans.

Los Angeles is dominated by an overbuilt freeway system that promotes autodependence.

Los Angeles’s mass transit system is underdeveloped and inadequate.

As someone who grew up in LA in the 80s (Palos Verdes), and lived back there a few years ago (Koreatown), and who has also lived in several cities around the US plus in Europe - this is my take.

The orange haze from the 80s is gone. BUT my apartment in Koreatown was constantly covered with a layer of soot-like black grime. So there is still a LOT of crud in the air, it’s just not orange anymore.

Definitely sprawling, but only moderately low-density… and this is improving over time. Neighborhoods are getting more defined (in a good way) and downtown and adjacent areas becoming more self-sufficient. Compared to DFW, where I live now, it’s definitely got more going for it in terms of density, which I consider a good thing. A 30-40 mile work commute is not uncommon here, and the suburban areas are generally really generic, as they haven’t developed much neighborhood flavor.

More time stuck in traffic? I dunno. Depends on where you’re traveling and when. Most learn to adjust their schedules to avoid peak traffic times, and many employers offer work scheduling that takes that into account (like allowing people to come in at 7am or at 10am for an 8-hr shift) but when I was living in K-town and working in Pasadena, that short drive could take a very long time in the evening rush.

Angelenos love their cars. This is true. I see more classic and more souped up cars driving around LA than any other city I’ve lived in. But more miles altogether? Nah. I’m sure it takes more driving to get around DFW than it did in LA. I mostly stayed within a handful of neighborhoods, walked (gasp!really!) a lot, and found lots to entertain me. Well, when I was in K-town that is. Great location close to everything. Growing up in PV, well, getting anywhere meant driving over the hill. I actually took the bus from Rancho Palos Verdes to USC for a full semester before my parents relented and helped me get into a dorm room. Oi. So, I guess it depends on where you draw your circle and call it “LA” - how far you get into the suburbs. I’m sure people who live in the Valley drive a lot. Those in Hollywood, not so much.

Wouldn’t call the freeway system overbuilt. Seems about right for the area, and not so much more than many other metro areas.

Now as for the mass transit. Hm. It exists. With care and planning you can kinda get around. But it’s really pathetically inadequate. In Prague, I could leave a theater after midnight in one outlying area, and get a tram or subway back to an outlying area on the far side of the metroplex. I might have to wait 20 minutes, or even 30 on a Sunday. Getting around the heart of the city was effortless. Small towns like Boulder and Santa Cruz have great bus systems. Of the places I’ve lived, LA is only better than one: DFW. DFW has the most inadequate sorry-assed attempt at public transportation as any place I’ve lived. In LA, I could walk or ride a bike most places. In Dallas there are huge areas where it’s hard to get across the freeways if you’re not driving. It’s like coming across a rushing river in the middle of the urban jungle. You sometimes have to traverse the banks for miles to find a bridge.

I love LA. I like it a lot better than Dallas. My only real problems with LA are the following:

* The pollution. Seriously, maybe it's not so bad if you're further from downtown, but my apartment would get *filthy* with grime. My car windows were too grimy to see out of if I didn't wash them every week. (In Dallas, I can go 3 or 4 weeks. Unless it's pollen season or we've had dirt thrown on the roads for ice.)

* The poor public transportation.

* and, more than any other by far - The cost of living as compared to the wages. It's 3x more expensive than here, but wages are about the same or even slightly lower. This means most folks work 2 or three jobs, housing is not affordable, and stress levels are generally much higher than anyone wants to admit because it would ruin the laid-back sunny zen-smoking image Angelenos like to keep up.


I love the way bare trees look when their branches are encased with a layer of ice, especially when the sun hits them and the melting ice refracts the light in little rainbow sparkles. The fact that it's dangerous just enhances the beauty.

Took me over 2 hours to drive to work on the icy roads. (My usual commute is 45 minutes.) I didn't mind, as driving on ice is fun - as long as you remain focused. It's the other drivers who are a potential problem.

Orange-glazed scallops with ginger and scallions... I've been trying to think of a good orange-glazed scallop recipe that didn't need to be spicy but would still have enough contrast with the sweetness of the citrus. (My sister can't tolerate hot spices. She gets blisters.) That would work.

Do I keep writing pages for the Co-write contest, or do I work on developing my own first ten pages that I created with that contest in mind? Or both, if I can manage it. The two stories may evolve from the same logline, but the opening they chose will take that script in very different directions than mine is going.

Here's my answer to the stupid High-Fructose Corn Syrup ads:
HCFS suppress the chemicals that tell us we're full, leading to gorging
Products made with HCFS likely to contain Mercury
and the FDA knew about it, and did nothing

Obama needs to invest in trains.
Trains can reduce vehicle emissions, reduce traffic, reduce the stress on roadways, increase the ability of workers to travel for work, develop new technologies, and employ large numbers of people.
Bush severely cut funding for the commuter train system, but increasing it could help address a number of problems.
Seriously - we really should have more trains.


This is a sidebar to the Character Arc debate in Mystery Man's blog. Just some scattered thoughts I wanted to jot down before bed.

In some films, the central character does not serve to propel the story forward in a direct manner. Nor do they change. Yet they still are at the center of a dynamic story, and they are part of a mythical tradition in storytelling as valid as the Hero's Journey.

These catalytic characters fall into three main archetypes: The Fool, The Trickster, and The Messiah

Now, it is more common to find them as the antagonist (especially the Trickster, The Joker being an excellent example) - but they are sometimes used as the protagonist. And there are some cases of these characters being written with an arc, though that is not really in their nature. The story with these characters is the change they create in others.

The most obvious fool is Forrest Gump, however, not the most catalytic.

Butch and Sundance are Fools. The archetype has nothing to do with being stupid, but is of one who travels through the world on a journey, blissfully unaware of the changes/chaos they create in their passage. For Butch and Sundance, it catches up with them.

Indiana Jones is part Fool, part Trickster - and is very much the same man with the same desires and drives at the end of the first film as he was at the beginning - but he definitely triggers events, simply by being present.

Ferris Bueller: rarely has there been a better example of a Trickster catalyst in film. Absolutely drives the film, does not change, and inspires change in his friend.

Ghandi is a classic Messiah archetype. He inspires others to great change, while remaining very much the same himself. (The movie Ghandi, not to be confused with the real man, who very much changed over the course of his life.)

Captain Jack is a trickster and clearly a catalyst. Whose desires and actions drive central storyline of the Pirates trilogy? (OK, there are arguments for both Will and Elizabeth, but it's Jack's presence that gets things moving, and Jack who spurs them on.)

Another great trickster is Redford's character in The Sting, who does not himself change and yet is the catalyst for the rest of the characters to come together and to revive their old interests, and even to stretch their abilities.

Chance the Gardener in Being There is a combination Fool/Messiah, and one of the best examples of a catalytic character in film. He is clearly the protagonist, but he does not change, and is, in fact, incapable of changing. However, he triggers great change in the people who encounter him.

Powder: messiah... pretty blatantly so.

The Prestige, trickster (but is Bale the Protag? or the Antag?)

Axel in Beverly Hills Cop - Trickster

from TV: The Doctor (as in Who), Trickster

Bruce Willis in the 6th Sense was a Catalyst, but does he fit one of the above types?

Same for Poitier in To Sir with Love - arguably a Messiah, though teacher/mentor may be another archetype.

The lead in Seven Samurai... been a while, but as I remember, he starts off pretty much the same person he is throughout, but inspires other shogun to come together and protect the village.

Cool Hand Luke, again - it's been a long time. Other than accepting his fate (sacrifice), does Luke change?

McMurphy in Cuckoo's Nest?

Ethan, especially in MI 2, is portrayed as a Messianic figure.

hmmm... forgetting something that I started off wanting to talk about....
OK, need to go off to bed. Up much too late.


I am now on twitter. We'll see how much I use it.

I have re-committed to my writing. Expect to see more posts, and to see me participating at Triggerstreet.

I have a tendency to try to accomplish too much, then get nothing done. I end up avoiding all of them and playing Warhammer for hours.

I have come to the conclusion that I really need to focus on one thing at a time. Once writing is a habit again, I can add on other goals.

I can do just about anything I set my mind to. I just can't do everything. At least not at the same time.