Sunday, May 29, 2016

Remembering on Memorial Day

Two Guys From Ohio

Memorial Day makes me think of Kurt and T.J.

Imagine you knew a man from Cleveland, Ohio.

This man had one sibling, an older sister.

During Vietnam, he volunteered for dangerous assignments, operating far behind enemy lines.

After the war, he battled drugs and alcohol.

Eventually, he sobered up and went to work for a vending machine company.

For many years, he traveled in a van around Los Angeles fixing coffee and soda machines.

Now imagine knowing TWO men with the exact same history.  (But different vending machine companies.)

I was honored to be friends with such a pair. They came into my life at different times out in California and it was eerie how their backgrounds meshed in such odd intimate ways. Once I introduced them to each other at a party, figuring they'd have lots in common, but after a few polite minutes they separated.

They'd experienced stranger things.

The Rockpile and Dak To: 1966 - 1968

A Marine, Kurt initially served in Bravo Company, 3rd Recon Battalion in 1966. Wounded twice, he was stationed in I Corp in northern South Vietnam monitoring enemy forces infiltrating across the DMZ. By early 1968, Kurt was operating out of Khe Sanh, running patrols in Laos along the Ho Chi Minh Trail on operations so secret that Americans who died there were never officially acknowledged. Kurt had extended his service to go to Vietnam. He rotated home before the siege, returning to America only to be confronted in a bus depot by a man angry over the war. (The angry man didn't fare well against Kurt.)

T.J. originally fought with the 12th Infantry on Operation MacArthur near Dak To. He loathed the brutal randomness of combat—here one second gone the next and decided his odds would be better in the  LRRPs (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol). Instead of waiting to be hit, TJ  crept around North Vietnamese base camps in the Central Highlands, calling in air and artillery strikes, picking off sentries, and making the enemy nervous. He returned to serve out his last few months at Fort Knox, conducting tours of the U.S. Gold Reserve. One night while watching television he started shaking and broke into tears.

Years would pass before he learned about PTSD.

In 2002 I made a business trip to Vietnam. I brought Kurt back a little Buddha and some red clay from Khe Sanh. TJ collected Buddhas the way some people collect Pokemon cards.  So I picked him out a honey in Saigon: a big, fat happy Buddha, smiling like he'd just won the Power Ball, holding up the Pearl of Knowledge. 

It Is Finished

Kurt died in 2003 from liver cancer.

T.J. died in 2009 from emphysema and other complications.
In the end, health and psychological damage from the war shortened their lives.

But they were decent men, regular guys who performed extraordinary deeds, and friends I will always cherish.

This weekend I remember two guys from Cleveland and all who gave their lives in service to the country.

New Rochelle Talk
(Based on a post from 2009.)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Reefer Madness II: The True Story

My very first film back in the day. Here's a picture of me imitating the beleaguered producer L. Randall Nogg

How Randy looked after examining the budget.
Reefer Madness II: The True Story featured members of the L.A. Connection comedy group replacing the dialogue on the original cautionary tale with our own snarky remarks. Yet more nostalgic photos over at the film's IMdB page. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Angry Artist Apes Attack on Titan

Manga Madness from the Hollywood Slush Pile

In any given year roughly 250,000 speculative screenplays circulate around Hollywood, written for free by someone with a dream and a keyboard. Perhaps 50 will be purchased. That means 249,950 untold stories will silently wither, never to stimulate our imagination. But that Darwinian process ends here. Write Enough! is committed to resurrecting moribund scripts from the Hollywood Slush Piledrawing on a veritable Marianas Trench of passed over stories for a peek at what might have been made, written by those who might've been paid.

Attack on Titian

Resentment bubbled inside Joto Mate Kudasai like Icelandic magma. The Japanese artist erupted in rage at any mention of Hajime Isayama's runaway hit property, Attack on Titan. Isayama's one-shot comic had blossomed into an animated TV series, video game and an upcoming feature film.  Kudasai's own attempts at manga had met with indifference. His series, Misty Big Eyes, about a little girl with huge saucer eyes, strange destructive powers, and a lack of maturity, impressed no one. Kudosai's compositional skills were derided by other artists, and once referred to as, "Stick figures drawn by a crazy man on fire."

Kudasai Counterattacks

Falling back on his knowledge of the Italian Renaissance, Kudasai resolved to "jump the queue" and write a successful screenplay by ripping off Isayama. Joto Mate would then enjoy the sweet nectar of success based on a rival's material. (A note: while close in age, Isayama knew nothing of Kudasai, which only inflamed Joto Mate even more.) 

Locking himself in his room, chain-smoking, foregoing all pleasures including robotic sex and Silent Library, Kudasai worked on his screenplay. 

Cruelty of the Giants

A blatant rip-off of Attack on Titan, Kudasai's work featured young soldiers in a unit called the Commissary Corps who were trained to battle cannibalistic giants threatening the existence of humanity. In Kudasai's dense version, the giants would force human victims to pose as models for charcoal sketches. Afterward, the victims were devoured, neatly avoiding any studio fees. Later, the giants rendered the sketches into sensual paintings with bright, lively tints reminiscent of the early works of Venetian painter Titian. Their loud wine and cheese parties kept humanity up to all hours and resulted in poor work force production. Only the Commissary Corps, consisting of hyper-emotional, androgynous teenagers, could save the day. 

The Hard Streets of Tinsel Town

With his screenplay completed, Kudasai mailed his work to all the major American studios. Unfortunately, he wrote both cover letter and screenplay in Japanese. This resulted in a cool reception. Convinced that Isayama had hired underlings to steal Attack on Titian before it could reach the executives, Kudasai traveled to Hollywood and attempted to deliver his opus in person. A man screaming in Japanese, waving a screenplay outside a studio, is not as  uncommon in Los Angeles as one might think. Nevertheless, Kudasai was rebuffed. Lost, alone, unable to speak English, too broke to return home, with no marketable skills, Kudasai wandered the length and breadth of California. Eventually, he found work as head of the State Water Resources Control Board. 

But now a lost tale has finally been told.

Other Untold Tales From the Hollywood Slush Pile

In eBook and Paperback

Today re. Hallow Mass, Amazon reader Francis W. Porretto remarks that:

 "This little novel is such wonderful fun, and so effective a horror story in the Lovecraftian vein, that it's almost impossible to do it justice." 

Many thanks to Francis for his kind words. Do stop by Amazon today and grab a copy, should your time and circumstances favor such a deed.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dawn of Animaniacs

They're freeeee!

Toast Article Riffs on the Origin of the Series

What happened in the room when Animaniacs was pitched? Abbey Fenbert over at The Toast speculates on the keen interplay between creator (represented in the article by "The Animator") and executives as the suits struggle to grasp the purpose and reason of characters with baloney in their slacks. Here's a sample:

"THE ANIMATOR: Did I not explain that Animaniacs is a vaudevillian pastiche? There is no fixed plot, structure, or mythos. Settings and characters leap the time-space continuum with the Warner siblings as the only line of continuity. 

For example, let's say Death comes for Wakko at a Swedish meatball-eating contest. Yak and Dot riff on Bergman as they annoy their way out of the bureaucracy of mortality, at which point we shift to Dot's Poetry Corner for a little rhyme time, then onward to the heart of the jungle where we visit Flavio and Marita, a pair of married Italian aristocrats. Who are hippos. Other episodes might see the Warners fighting Captain Ahab, or Chicken Boo becoming a sheriff. Anything's possible.

EXEC #2: Yeah. . . I'm wondering if maybe it's all a little too possible? Establishing limits is an important part of world building.

THE ANIMATOR: Tooncraft defies limits. The art of animation is the constant rearranging and resifting of the lines between illustration and creation. Yak, Wakko, and Dot embrace their cartoon heritage and its antic, violent traditions. Kids will dig it. "

Read the rest here

H/T: Tom Ruegger


As regards Hallow Mass, reader Francis W. Porretto said the following:

"This little novel is such wonderful fun, **and** so effective a horror story in the Lovecraftian vein, that it's almost impossible to do it justice."

If I wore a hat at this moment, I would be tipping it to Francis. To read more of his 5-star review, or pick up a copy, go to this spot on the fine Internet. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Coming Friday: Attack on Titian

In Kudasai's world, giants know their art.

Learn How An Obscure Manga Chased Big Screen Fame

This Friday, the Hollywood Slush Pile examines Attack on Titian, an attempt by artist Joto Mate Kudasai to capitalize on the success of Attack on Titan by promoting his own version of the successful franchise. His screenplay involved young soldiers battling cannibalistic giants with a flair for Venetian arts styles of the 16th century. Did Kudasai's obtuse vision survive the leap from manga pages to the silver screen? Check back on May 27 for the jaw-dropping details.

My second book trailer for Hallow Mass should be up by next week.This version will be more colorful and include a complimentary quote from the Kirkus Review. At such time, it will join my other book trailers in the YouTube Cornerstone Media section.

And while you're out and about on the Web, checking this and that, stop by my Amazon page for a peek at fine eBook and paperback selections.

Friday, May 20, 2016

NCIS: Yosemite

World For Travel

Another Untold Story From the Hollywood Slush Pile

In any given year roughly 250,000 speculative screenplays circulate around Hollywood, written for free by someone with a dream and a keyboard. Perhaps 50 will be purchased. That means 249,950 untold stories will silently wither, never to stimulate our imagination. But that Darwinian process ends here. Write Enough! is committed to resurrecting moribund scripts from the Hollywood Slush Piledrawing on a veritable Marianas Trench of passed over stories for a peek at what might have been made, written by those who might've been paid.

Today we consider a 2015 submission entitled, NCIS: Yosemite.

Sailors are turning up slain in Yosemite National Park and it's up to the crack investigative team of the Naval Criminal Investigative Services to find out who, or what, is leaving our bluejackets deader than a sequel to Battlefield Earth

Quiz Peters was alone. 

The 28-year old unemployed student held a Master's Degree in Spittoon Art and $64,000 in student loan debt. He lived in a small room in Burbank, California, upstairs from a urine bank. In the fall of 2013, his girlfriend left him for a man who sold bagged oranges on freeway off ramps. Unemployed, except for the money brought in by a supervisory position with Americorps, Peters' life revolved around his smart phone, Amazon Prime, and NCIS.

Wearing headphones to drown out the constant downstairs flushing, Peters devoured episode after episode of the popular police procedural, year after year, Los Angeles to New Orleans. He loved the characters, especially the forensic tech with mad skills and a quirky personality. But he hated the fact that the show was not included free in the Prime members catalogue. Each episode required a separate purchase. Peters resented paying $1.99 a pop.

Then one afternoon, an epiphany: what if NCIS were a film? A film with a crime so cunning, that it's resolution would ensnare viewers like himself to watch over and over again? A film included free in the Amazon Prime members catalogue?

Could Robert McKee Hold the Answers?

Peters called CBS but couldn't get past the automated answering system. He trolled Reddit NCIS bulletin boards, seeking allies. He Tweeted. He drove past Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros. studies, yelling his ideas out through a bullhorn. He stalked Jeff Bezos and spent several months in jail. 

Quiz Peters finally realized he would have to strike the spark, light the match, stuff a flaming possum into the gas tank of Hollywood. He would have to write the script himself. 

Inspired, Peters took screenwriting courses online. He read Syd Field and Robert McKee. He took lessons from a man in a park who had once worked on The Last Airbender. Completing a story outline, character descriptions and pages of sample dialogue, Peters, after several months, finally typed FADE IN.

The Unseen Hand of Chick-Fil-A

In his story, yes, U.S. Navy personal were being found dead in Yosemite. But Peters became side-traced by making all the characters quirky. The Supervisory Special Agent, the Special Agents, and the Medical Examiner dressed as Klingons, or nursed a desire to live as a baboon, or spent hours online flaming fellow geeks over plot points in Attack on Titan.

Almost as an afterthought, Peters scattered identical clues around each murder scene. Whether near Nevada Falls or atop Half Dome, crude signs in poor English would be uncovered saying, "Enemy bears no do this." From there, the plot decayed rapidly into an uprising by quirky bears with the Act III climax occurring at both a naval facility on Coronado Island and Comic Con.

Peters was unable to place his script with an agent or producer. On one occasion, a studio script reader came to his home and struck him. Wounded by the cruel, uncaring response to his work, Quiz Peters retreated back into Amazon Prime. He has since moved to Flan, New Mexico and is rumored to be living above a dung bank.

But now a lost tale has finally been told.

Other Untold Stories From the Hollywood Slush Pile

In eBook and Paperback

As we leave Dream Land, feel free to check out my horror novel, Hallow Mass over at Amazon. I'm on good terms with Jeff Bezos, as far as I know. Pick up a copy of the book that reviewer David I. Johnston called a "fun . . . fast-paced updating of the Lovecraft mythos."

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Female Superhero Tsunami

Bullet Girl makes an interesting point. 

Golden Age Girls Take Center Stage in Comic Book Roundup

Most know of Wonder Woman, but how many recognize Namora, or Miss Masque or Fantomah? Rafa Rivas is your go-to guy. Over at Ralph Dibny, the World-Famous Englongated Man, Rafa presents, for your enlightenment, a most complete, extensive listing of female comic heroines from the fabled Golden Age of Comics (1936 to 1953).  Says Rafa:

"A little context is necessary. The Golden Age of Comic Books coincided with the Hays Code, which moderated the amount of violence or sex (or even cleavage) movies could shows, and was enforced from 1934 to the late 1950s. Since pulps and comics were largely uncensored back then, they became the biggest outlet for that kind of content. And the fastest way for publishers to serve it was drawing women in Tarzan or Flash Gordon mini-costumes beating thugs."

Rafa takes us back to the beginning of the last century and the female heroines who appeared in the newspapers. Rivas cites early trailblazers such as Connie Kurridge and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, who Rafa refers to as:

"Mother of all Superheroines!

To [artist] Will Eisner's credit, Sheena is not only the first jungle girl, but the first super heroine, and since she was created in 1937, she [was] also older than Superman. A great start for female superheroes. She got her own book in spring 1942, a season before Wonder Woman got hers."

Sheena once again out on a limb.
It's a long article, but with plenty of artwork and a trove of information. Give it a gander.

And while you're out gandering, do stop by Amazon and take a peek at Hallow Mass. Now available in eBook and paperback, my latest horror novel—according to one review—"manages madcap and horrible elements with an almost straight-faced insouciance." 

Clearly, this book is being read by people who use 'insouciance' in their reviews. Join those skilled in employing a French word for breezy indifference today!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sick Television


Author Downed by Flu-Like Symptoms

The last week has been miserable as I battle congestion and drowsiness brought on by medication and the inability to sleep with my sinuses clogged. Yesterday, I dozed away in front of the television. Waking up periodically, twice to change stations, I can accurately list my viewing activity:
Better today and much better tomorrow, God willing. Stay healthy!

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