Friday, July 31, 2009

Why?

This appeared today about a guy making a documentary about Big Lebowski festivals. Somehow this 1998 Coen brothers film, that barely recouped its budget, became a huge cult hit.

I didn't like it the first time around. After Fargo the movie seemed disjointed and gratuitously odd. (Which I'm not against in general, but my expectations were high and "Lebowski" left me puzzled.) A few years ago, they ran the movie a lot on cable. Every time I surfed, there would be "Lebowski." I'd watch a little and move on. Next time I'd watch a bit more. Finally, I'd drop anchor and see it through. Then I read an article that "Lebowski" was the Coen's homage to 40s noirish detective films. Sure enough, behind the bowling pins lurked a lot of Chandleresque characters and conventions from the Sheriff of Malibu, to the crippled soldier, to deceptive females. Instead of a hard-bitten protagonist seeking justice in an unjust world, there was Dude, a lazy bum with a passion for bowling and White Russians who finally figures it all out.

Now I'm a fan, but content to be alone in my fandom, not seeking out my kind, but, like the Dude, I simply abide.

h/t: FaffandNatter

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Troy Benjamin's Graphic Novel







Congratulations to Troy Benjamin - Freakazoid DVD director extraordinaire. His graphic novel series Only in Dreams has been optioned by Fineprint Productions. Troy was also featured on a podcast, opines on the late Michael Jackson, and is scoring a new opera to be sung by members of the Department of Fish and Game. More here on Troy's busy creative doings.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hip News

My physical therapist is a young guy who digs sprint triathlons - 800 yard swim, 12 mile bike ride, 3.1 mile run. Examining my knee, he said we must locate the weakness that led to excessive stress. A few more exams and the culprit was unmasked: weak glutes and hips. In addition, my calves are stiff as an oak table. So I received six exercises to perform daily. I'll go back next week and, if the indicated parts have strengthened, obtain even more exercises. I like this guy. He understand the whole exercise/goal-setting paradigm. Hopefully, he's not a vision.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Friday at the Con


Behold, many costumed characters! And this was taken at San Diego City Hall. The convention was much stranger, filled with wonder and the power of imagination plus large, billowy men who hadn't seen the sun since the last days of dial-up modems. I ran into Stan, an old Batman and Batman Beyond writer as well as catching a glimpse of Bruce Timm. MDW bumped into a sci-fi and fantasy author friend. At my agency's posh annual party, I saw an executive I know from Cartoon Network, an agent, the owner of our agency, and the guy serving Thai egg rolls. Overall, a brief, but festive, adventure.






Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pre-Post on Comic Con

One of my favorite comics from childhood. I hadn't read a copy of "Cameras are Filming" in many years so you can imagine the nostalgia that washed over me like a big storm surge. My wife wanted to buy a large pretzel and rest, but I couldn't be torn from this relic of my past. In the end, MDW snapped a photo so that I might stare at it, recalling all the thrills and excitement that were mine every month as I raced to the drug store to purchase the latest "Cameras are Filming." They say there's a movie deal in the works, but I hope not. They'll soil what is pure.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pre-Comic Con

Started my latest story for Esquire's fiction contest. Sadly, I will not have marinating time like I did on "Bane Fish," but I think I know where the story leads.

Knee is swollen from aqua running and the gym. Too much, too soon. I start physical therapy next week. Let's see what these learned folks think.

Off to Comic Con on Friday. I'll look up a few people, stop by my agency's annual party, and return via exotic desert by-ways, passing factory outlets and Indian casinos broiling in the July sun.

Now to barbecue!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Delightful News from Prose, TV Animation Front

Writers bask in the following words from a story editor: "Notes were light. I'll do 'em. Go ahead and invoice." Such basking was my lot today.

An old joke goes like this: an actor comes home to find his house on fire and his family murdered. A neighbor tells him that the actor's agent drove up, went nuts, torched the place and shot the family. The actor stared in disbelief: "My agent...actually came to my house?" 

Well, my agent called from New York to say she really enjoyed the short story "Bane Fish," but didn't have a place for it. I'd already sent it off to an anthology, but thanked her none the less for complimentary news. When she's not dealing, my agent is reading stuff to deal, or stuff that has been dealt, so it's hard to get ahead of her. But "Bane Fish" did. Thanks once again to Takineko, Keeper, Katie, and Ernesto, among others, for helping out. I'm working on another short story for a contest at Esquire, and a third for an anthology with a September 1 deadline. Never enough hours in the day when you're under employed. 

Monday, July 20, 2009

1969 Thoughts

A pair of generations ago... on July 18, 1969 Ted Kennedy left a party with a young woman, crashed his car into a river, went home with woman and car still submerged, and didn't call the cops until the next day. The woman drowned. Ted, though ill, is still a U.S. Senator and never saw the inside of a jail except on Lockup. It pays to be rich.

There was no room in yesterday's Cronkite post, but to give you some idea of Vietnam's savagery: starting at the Tet Offensive in January 1968 and continuing until October 1969, the United States lost at least 500 men killed a week. The South Vietnamese, who were often rightly disparaged as weak, corrupt and ineffective, always lost more. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong topped even that.

Last year's moon post summoned it up well.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cronkite, Vietnam and South Park


At the last Cable Ace award ceremony ever held, Paul Rugg and I encountered Walter Cronkite in the Men's Room. We passed within a yard of the famed newsman as he told a joke about a nun. We were on the move and missed the punch line, but, hey, that was Walter Cronkite!

In any case, Walter was really wrong about the whole Tet Offensive business.

On the Vietnamese Lunar Holiday (Tet) in January 1968 - after months of good news war stories, buffed to a mirror-like shine by the Johnson administration - the Viet Cong launched country-wide attacks throughout South Vietnam. (My cousin Danny landed in bullet-riddled Saigon the second day of the assaults. As ranking naval officer on his flight, he had to deliver orders to a headquarters across the city from the airport, negotiating his way past street fighting and wondering how the rest of his 365 days would shape up.) In any case, there was a sense by the American media that the U.S. was involved in a stalemate. After a trip to South Vietnam, Walter gave a famous speech in which he said our only way out was to negotiate.

As it turns out, the enemy was guilty of pumping sunshine up their army's ass. Viet Cong troops were told they'd be welcomed by a grateful population, the South Vietnamese army would crack like a fortune cookie, and the Americans would be chased to their big coastal bases where they'd drink beer and grumble. Instead, elite Viet Cong cadre attacked and were chewed up by U.S. firepower. The population played it cagey and the South Vietnamese army fought. The Viet Cong were demoralized and, except locally, never a nation-wide factor again. North Vietnam shouldered the brunt of the war. (After they finally won in 1975, the North Vietnamese refused to allow any Viet Cong units to march in the victory parade. A cynic might think the VC were set up to be decimated.)

In any case, Walter Cronkite got a little jumpy and traded on his good name to make policy pronouncements. Maybe he should've waited to see how the fighting shook out, instead of punching his own team in the neck during a tough go.

As to the 1997 Cable Ace awards, that night, Freakazoid lost out to some trendy, limited animation thing called South Park. Paul and I laughed. How long would that show last?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Half-Blood Prince: Middle Movie

The Empire Strikes Back and the The Two Towers are examples of middle-movies: part two of a three-part film series noted for unresolved endings and a two-year wait for the conclusion. 'Half-Blood' had that feel, even though it's woven into a much longer arc. Other Potter films managed to wrap up an immediate story, while teasing the inevitable battle between Harry and Voldemort. However 'Half Blood' had no extra wrapping for a neat ending. The only alternative was a nine-hour film. (People around us in the theater wouldn't have minded.) Nevertheless, as a Harry Potter fan, I enjoyed it. I especially admired the Weasley twins who drop out of school, launch their own business, and prosper in dark times, having a few laughs along the way. They reminded me of my friend, restaurant and theater owner, Tim O'Connor, except the Weasley's get Christmas off.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Visiting Mr. Potter


Off to see Harry Potter this afternoon. I always thought a good story would involve Ron, Hermione, and Old Man Potter from It's a Wonderful Life. ("Say, that Hogwarts place would make a fine subdivision. Might have to poison those weird animals; drag their bodies into the lake. No one has to know. How 'bout it, kids?") Instead of a positive leader and friend, Old Man Potter would serve as a daily moral test. Wearing his Hogwarts uniform, riding around in a wheelchair - placing a broom under the wheelchair so he could cheat at Quidditch - Old Man Potter might prove more than a match for Voldemort and a thorny pest for Dumbledore. ("We could sell that sorting hat to a carnival; make a lot of dough. You only use it once a year. Keep it?!! Why that's a load of sentimental hogwash.")

Watch for Old Man Potter and the Magic Slum, coming soon somewhere.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Twilight Time

Netflix delivered the vampire film Twilight. I didn't even order it. A DVD showed up in my mailbox with a hand-written letter that said, "Don't cry, weakling." I'm not even sure what that means. But right now I'm wondering if the mailman might be responsible: given me a neighbor's movie and added that note. Mailman or psycho at Netflix? How to respond? Could there be a clue in the film? Is there a scene where a post man fights off a yappy dog, but fails to spot the vampire teenager that turns him into the undead? How am I responsible? More research is needed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Baby, We Were Born to Use the Elliptical

That's my exercise world for the next two and a half months, along with swimming and various other non-running actions. As the leg mends and the new cartilage adjusts to knee life, I'm glad things have progressed so well and that no mistaken amputations or unauthorized organ harvesting have occurred - at least to me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What's Up, Doc?

I've been waiting a few days to say that. My Monday appointment was scratched because the doctor drank too much at a "medical convention" and missed his flight. That's not true, but made better reading than "his flight was cancelled." Tomorrow morning I shall learn what exercises are permitted with the knee. I've been aqua running a few times and all has gone well. But a little more cardio is in order.

A friend and I are going to write a Da Vinci Code parody. I've been working through the book taking notes and am highly encouraged. Dan Brown's writing is really dry, garnished with cliches and, yet, over 40 million copies were sold. (One of them to me.) Possibly we can write something half as long, twice as bad, and sell 20 million copies. In any case, I'm spending money as if I'd already received the advance. That's known as unwarranted positive thinking. I believe it's the cornerstone of our nation's financial planning.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Webless Sunday

Yesterday, for the first time in a long while, I stayed off the Web. I actually got fidgety, like when I quit smoking. As my time online has increased over the last few years, I've found my attention span decreasing. I read fewer and fewer books and they tend to be short ones.

As my old t'ai chi instructor might've said: "You are unbalanced. You are also late with this month's payment. Be balanced. Write me a check. Or I'll kick your yang into the next time zone."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Birth of Acme Comedy Theatre


Bob Petrella reminded me that today (a Tuesday?) back in 1989, M.D. Sweeney held the first class for what-was-to-become the Acme Comedy Players. Present were Bob and myself, Sherri Stoner, Ken Segall, Jim Wickline, and possibly a few others from our days at the L.A. Connection. We worked out of a small theater on Tujunga Ave. in Studio City, just down the block from the restaurant where, in later years, Robert Blake shot his wife. (We hadn't much money so we never ate there. They could've shot a celebrity wife every week and we'd still be dining at 7-11.) Months passed as we worked on basic improvisational comedy, added a few more cast members (including Adam Carolla), and, that fall, commenced working on written sketches as Sweeney wanted us performing live shows beginning in early spring 1990. (Bob will know the date.)

My life was better in people and events from attending that wee improv group. Happy Birthday, Acme!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Nature of the Enemy

Soldiers in Afghanistan say the real enemy is the camel spider. These things are fast and like to fasten on the bellies of camels and goats - or the leg of a sleeping trooper. After numbing the area, the spiders feast and the victim doesn't feel a thing. Men in Colin's outfit packed rat traps to kill any that might wander around their position. Just another unsung military occupational hazard.

h/t: spiner507

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Randy Beaman's Cool Army Stuff

Colin Wells and the Strykers will be hauling lots of high-tech gear into the field. Twenty-three years ago when Aliens released, the film depicted Space Marines equipped with fascinating gear-of-the-future. Now, we've surpassed them as our troops can enter battle and simultaneously watch Seinfeld reruns. "Kick ass and multi-task," the 21st century warrior's cry.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Why My Knee is Injured

My old home and neighborhood really gave my knee a work-out. There were stairs all over the place plus the yard was steeply graded. If I went for a walk or run around the block, I negotiated steep hills. No wonder I'm injured.

Marathon running only occupied the last three and a half years - with months off for an inflamed tendon, broken fifth metatarsal, and torn calf muscle. 

What does this mean? I blame my house and neighborhood. No lawsuits, but I'm starting a whispering campaign that they're intolerant of knees. Well, mine, anyway.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Almost 4:00 PM and Still No Jackson Coverage

For me. I just don't get it. Elvis didn't swing this kind of media saturation and neither did John Lennon. Both were higher up the music food chain than Michael Jackson. This was a very troubled man. Pills spilled out of his tummy at the autopsy. (Not that Elvis couldn't swallow a pharmacy in his day.) He built a pretend village and used real people as set dressing. He had sleep overs with little boys and employed a porn director as personal videographer. Yeah, he could sing and dance and was a huge hit back in the early Reagan years. R.I.P.

Let's leave air time for a good police chase, or hill fire or invasion by Nazi dinosaurs.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Rewrite

A long one today on my paying gig. Certainly this rewrite was more akin to assembling IKEA furniture—a meticulous following of directions. But now it's finished and in and I can relax, perhaps with Tropic Thunder.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Running News

Congratulations to Emil for another successful marathon. My running life consists of reading Emil's race reports and thinking of better times ahead.

Kiley battles a twisted ankle preparing for another 50-miler — in addition to coaching the San Gabriel Valley TNT fall marathon team. A determined man, Kiley will defeat injury, race like a champ, get all his team across the finish line, while composing light opera and inventing a device that knows when you want pizza and calls ahead. He's that versatile.

Yesterday, I aqua ran for thirty-five minutes, taking it easy. I actually felt stiffness in my legs this morning. From aqua running, of all things! But that's the closest I'll get to real running for at least three months.

Back to work, complaining about my neighbor's party last night where they cooked steaks, meaty scent drifting all over the building, and didn't invite us. Tonight we're barbecuing a bicycle tire and inviting them. If they can't make it, we'll leave "dinner" by their front door. Chow.

Go Strykers!

A happy 4th of July to the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Stryker Brigade, 4th Battalion, (23 Infantry Regiment), known as the Tomahawks.

What does all this Army jabbery talk mean?

Let's start with Strykers. Strykers are a relatively new Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV) with eight-wheels and more firepower than a South Central LA gang. The Tomahawks ride them into battle. After the troops dismount and deploy, the ICVs provide fire support as the unit manuvers. One of those manuvering will be machine gunner Colin Wells, son of Deanna Oliver, an old Anamaniacs chum.

At 27, Colin is the "old man" of his unit. Deanna used to plunk him down in her office at Warner Brothers where he'd do his homework. He sat with us at our first Emmy Award dinner. (The one in 1994 where the wrong episodes were delivered for consideration.) Colin and his comrades will be in Afghanistan this month, fighting alongside the Marines near the Pakistan border.

So to Colin and the Strykers, thank you for your sacrifice so that I may sleep late, and barbecue and complain about the animation industry and my loud neighbors. Because you choose to give up your freedom and face danger, I have mine. Thank you very much.

I still think we were robbed in '94.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Farewell, Karl Malden

Tom Ruegger sent around more vulture pics and another celebrity passed on.

I really liked Karl Malden in Nevada Smith. He played a ruthless crook who supervised the skinning of Steve McQueen's mom. (Not for real, that was Lee J. Cobb. The legal case drags on.) McQueen hunts Malden all over the west, becoming as callous and hardened as his prey. Malden knows he's being stalked and grows paranoid and jittery, unable to stand the strain of impending retribution. Malden's pleading taunt of "yer yellow, ya haven't got the guts," became a high school catch-phrase we'd fling at each other as a way of pushing someone to do something that would get him in trouble. It usually worked. (SPOILER ALERT!! plus SCANDINAVIAN SUBTITLE ALERT!!)

ht/: frank5400

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Exit Jacko

Jacko, we hardly knew ye. Actually, we knew ye all too well. Especially after four-wall coverage by the MSM, bumped cap-and-trade, Iranian demonstrators and other boring non-celebrity stuff from the public eye. As CBS William S. Paley once remarked, "Revolutions come and go, but file footage costs nothing."

PODM wraps it up nicely.

Tom Ruegger and the Vulture Project

Awoke this morning and shuffled to the kitchen minus crutches, moving at the pace of a very healthy 106-year-old. I look forward to greater adventures in the days to come.

Worked all last week on my animated script, then jumped into editing the short story. I finished Monday night, sending it out at almost 8k words. That comes out to 43 pages in New Courier font. A very exhausting process as I had to expand, add clarifying information and erase material simultaneously to stay under the word limit. Once again, a big thanks to the readers. An altered ending proved, I think, more satisfying and truer to what had been set-up. Electronic high-fives to all.

Which led me to yesterday morning. Paul Rugg, Sherri Stoner, Deanna Oliver, Tom Ruegger and myself gathered at a local studio for vulture recordings. Forging a long improvised story proved challenging, but Tom hauled us forward to a resolution. He seemed quite happy with the day's catch, and I have no reason to doubt we hooked more than we released. I felt weary and torpid the whole session. More sleep should improve my perspective. Meanwhile, Tom will add a lick of animatic and a dash of music to today's work and produce something to shop around.

And the studio was free of bees. I really liked that.