Thursday, December 29, 2005

Eye Teeth

Dux makes baby blue dental mirrors. I know because I had one centimeters from my face today. Root canal this morning with another in January. All I could see was the Dux dental mirror and eyes.

Two of the eyes belonged to my dentist, thin, late 30s, looks like Southern Cal football coach, Pete Carroll. He actually isn't my dentist. He's the guy my dentist sends me to for root canals. Teeth pulling are done by another guy. At times, I feel my dentist is more broker than medical practitioner.

As a kid back in Chicago, our family dentist was Dr. Brink. Dr. Brink was bald and didn't wear a surgical mask. Though he never said as much, I always felt he upheld an unwritten code of dentistry. For example, Dr. Brink didn't give novocaine lightly. You had to earn it. Certainly there were no shots for cavities. ('You ate those candy bars and didn't brush. Here's why you should.') And he did his own extractions and root canals. He knew our schools and what grade we were in. He asked about our families. Dr. Brink was a dentist's dentist.

Nowadays procedures are much less painful. But my teeth are talked about as if separate from me. And the dentist drilling, filling, sealing around my mouth, though efficient and clean, may as well be installing a fuel pump in a Honda Civic.

So I watch the eyes watching my teeth. The other eyes belong to female assistants. One wears a blue, tropical-themed smock. Very festive. It made me feel as if I were aboard a dental cruise ship. Another young assistant hovers behind Festive Smock, watching wide-eyed. She's learning on the job.

My point?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Yearly Odds and Ends

Between the holidays can be considered my slowest week of the year. But not this year. In addition to completing a script, I'm playing medical catch-up, whereby I squeeze in eye exams and a physical before my health insurance expires Dec. 31.

There's also technology dusting as I archive files and e-mail and clean out my hard-drive for 2006.

My wife and I watched Spielberg's War of the Worlds the other night. Aside from cool special effects, it was much like Kramer vs. Kramer only with dangerous Martian neighbors.

I prefer the 1953 George Pal version of War. That film and Ray Harryhausen's The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad are my all-time childhood favorites.

Hope your holidays are going well.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

AWACS Coaching

Ran a bit at practice this morning, but mostly walked. The last event of TNT Winter is the P.F. Chang marathon in Phoenix next month. The Changers set out on a modest 14 miles today. I envy them. Their race is still ahead. But I'll be back in the swing in January. I'm running the Orange County Half-Marathon instead of the 5K. I need to work on consistent pace over distance.

Saw my other coach, Amber, for the first time since our send-off dinner. Amber couldn't make the trip to Honolulu, but monitored the marathon back in California. She was a veritable command center. Amber would check our split times on the race website and cell phone the info to Jimmy and the other coaches on site. If someone's time faltered dramatically — mine, for instance — Amber would let the coaches know. (Coach Greg found me around Mile 22 dumping water over my head.) Another of our teammates suffered bad leg cramps. He called Amber and she gave him all the advice she had or could obtain. Overall, a stellar example of virtual coaching.

Also, one of our Mentors, Mark, did a remarkable job of running and shooting digital pictures. Thanks to Mark there's a photo record of TNT 2005 San Gabriel Valley Winter from our first runs back in August to several at the marathon itself. As the years pass, I can fondly look back at these photos and say, "Is that water dribbling down my chin? Why did I keep this picture?"

Friday, December 23, 2005

Yuletide Notes

A busy time as I work on an animated script and interview for a story-editing job starting early next year. For now, I'm grateful to be home and in good health. Tomorrow I meet with Team in Training and continue my post-marathon recovery. At this point we're mostly walking. I miss the Team and look forward to another season running with some of the same folk. In any event, Happy Holidays. May Santa bring you something other than fruit cakes and underwear. That is, unless you've asked for fruit cakes and underwear.

Then I hope you get a lot.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Pitch Idea: Four-Alarm Fred

Strange doings in Young Adult fiction. Fantasy finds a niche in works such as D.J. MacHale's Pendragon series and Holly Black novels like "Tithe." Teen protagonists confront alternate worlds or fairies while dealing with incredibly high car insurance rates. I'm thinking of giving the genre a whirl. My book idea features a teenage boy named Fred. One day Fred discovers he's turning into a fire engine. At first, he's unable to stop at red lights. Then a ladder grows out his back. Soon he can spit water a hundred yards. Fred's invited to several pool parties. He wonders if kids like him for himself. He's got a girl but she dumps Fred right before junior prom. Maybe there's a chapter where Fred teaches kids "Stop, Drop and Roll," but they laugh because he's a talking truck. Maybe I can get a foam retardant company to underwrite the project. More on this.
(Fantasy art courtesy of Feebleminds Free Animated Gifs)

Harvey and the Holidays

Christmas comes on jingly feet and I look forward to spending the day with my wife, her mom, and a friend of mine. We'll munch turkey, put an angel atop the tree, and then watch "Harvey." The film has nothing to do with Christmas and everything to do with a six-foot rabbit, dear friend to protagonist Elwood P. Dowd. Back in the 80s, my sister had an old tape of "Harvey." We popped it in the VCR one holiday season. The next year we watched it again. Eventually we bought a new tape, then a DVD. Over time the film became a tradition and an interactive piece, much like "The Rocky Horror Show."
(McCann Family Yelling at the TV Screen: "Who's your friend?"
Elwood P. Dowd On Screen: "And now, I'd like to introduce you to a dear friend of mine . . . " )
We got to know all the supporting characters, like the bartender Mr. Cracker, and would share "sightings" when any of us spotted them in another old film. "Harvey" has assumed family cult status and we look forward to seeing it once more. (Though last year for some reason we watched "Blackhawk Down." But it just goes to show we're not set in stone.)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Post-Marathon Blues

Worked all weekend on two TV series pitches for this morning. The exec. liked one. Now he must kick it upstairs.

Resting my joints and tendons from the marathon means I pretty much can't run for a month. And running endorphins were getting me through a lot of down spots. I guess I'll just eat instead.

I'm signing up for a 5K (3.1 mile) run in January, held as part of the Orange County Marathon down in Newport Beach. Jimmy, my coach, is running the marathon for time, hoping to race 26.2 miles in under 3 hours.

I'll be happy when I break six.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Honolulu Photo Mile 22

My sister and a friend waited for me, cheering on Team in Training and watching men in wooden clogs run past. I showed up doing the sun stroke shuffle. As you can see, it helped to spot a familiar face. Many thanks to my darling wife, sister and her chum who ventured out into the heat and humidity to root me on.

They also serve who stand and bake.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Brief Marathon Notes

In my last post, Beyond Mile 20, I mentioned over 28,000 starters. That's how many signed up for the race. Officially, 24,000 and something crossed the start mat. A few thousand less aren't noticeable especially when you're stuck behind a runner wearing a colossal Afro wig. But facts are facts.

To open the race, organizers shot off a howitzer. There were rumors of a foul up. Instead of a blank cartridge, a live 75 millimeter shell was fired into Waikiki, destroying a beach umbrella.
No one was hurt, but authorities continue asking sharp questions.

Runners used cell phones to photograph the opening fireworks. Considering my terse, sun-baked attitude around mile 23, I'm glad I had no cell phone. No phone, no apologies to friends, family and race officials.
Post-marathon depression exists.

But like the race, it passes.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

First Marathon

Over 28,000 runners hit the bricks in Honolulu last Sunday. An amazing spectacle to see so many people in shorts, a large number who shouldn't have been. It seemed Japan emptied out for the run. Some Japanese find it refreshing to race in large shark heads or wooden clogs. Two hardy sons of the East ran in Sumo wrestler-type wrappings and nothing else but shoes. A pretty sight? Not really, no.

Despite a 5:00 AM start, the humidity felt cloying. Water wasn't available every mile. (Nor was every mile clearly marked. Some had kilometer signs.) I gulped water cups every chance I could and carried another in one hand.

Jimmy, my coach, said that little marathon mistakes become big ones. I made a fair share of freshmen miscues. My pace was uneven and too fast for conditions. I ran alone for long periods instead of hanging with teammates. And somehow I found myself dehydrating around mile 13. I spent the next seven miles attempting to correct a growing "oops" list, but it was too late. In the middle of mile 20 I staggered to the side of the road, skin clammy, face white — according to a teammate — in search of a flat spot to lie down and sleep. For the next three miles I shuffled from water station to water station, fried like an onion ring. I ran a bit at mile 24, walking again at mile 25, slogging up a steep blazing road alongside Diamond Head. From there, it was downhill to the end at Kapiolani Park. I sucked it up for the finish line cameras and ran the final 1.2 miles, completing my first marathon in 6 hours and 1 minute.

Afterwards, the pain was unique and inventive. Either my arch cramped or my calf, or my hips throbbed as if smacked with aluminum poles. Usually all three pains kicked in at once. Though exhausted, I couldn't nap because every position hurt. Still, I headed for the Victory Party in our hotel. It was gratifying to see other runners wearing bright orange "Finisher" tee-shirts shuffling to the elevator like deeply medicated old people. Misery indeed loves company.

But the discomfort is passing and I had a wonderful experience. 642 members of Team in Training were present from across the U.S. and Canada. We raised two million dollars to fight leukemia and lymphoma. A good cause, great teammates, a Hawaiian vacation and a marathon run alongside Japanese dressed as pancakes and other strange things. Sweet!

I'm staying with Team in Training for another go. My next marathon will be San Diego Rock 'n Roll in June 2006. (Maybe sooner if I'm up for the L.A. Marathon .) I'll start training again in January. Until then, I'll hobble through Christmas and the New Year, watching a lot of football.

But I can't wait to go again.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

TNT Pre-Marathon Ho-Down

My festive day continued at the Team in Training send-off dinner. Held at P.F. Chang's in Pasadena, the Honolulu Marathon Team was feted as we prepare to depart Friday. Honolulu is one of the largest marathons in the world. Twenty-five - 30,000 runners clog the start line. The race commences at 5:00 AM in order to lessen the effects of heat and humidity. There are enormous numbers of Japanese. Also, my last donation arrived this morning from a friend in Florida. Her small home suffered damage from the recent hurricanes. Yet the modest amount she gave meant a great deal since I know how tight money is for her. I run for donors like my friend, and the family and friends of blood cancer victims — not to mention the victims themselves. They deserve my very best.

And that they shall have.

Yakko, Wakko, and Garlic Bread

Lunch today with most of the original writers and producers of "Animaniacs." We met at the Smokehouse in Burbank across the street from the Warner Bros. main lot. Those deep into "Animaniacs" know the Smokehouse was the favorite hangout of director Weed Memlo. (Voiced by Jeff Glen Bennett.) We laughed and remembered all the fun and not-so-fun times. (Such as when the wrong show was submitted for the 1994 Emmys.) Paul Rugg complained that he didn't get enough garlic bread, we all said "Merry Christmas," and that was that. Hopefully, we'll meet again sooner. Those were indeed special times.

True Horror

Posting on Lovecraft last week got me thinking about horror. Things I find frightening leave a resonance. Something pings around the back of my head long after the event. One contemporary film and one recent occurrence will illustrate.

The Others seemed headed down a familiar ghost-story lane. Yet the movie ended with a chilling glimpse of existence beyond death. This wouldn't have frightened, say, Lovecraft, who didn't hold with the afterlife. But weeks after viewing, I remained "haunted" by the fate of certain characters.

On 9/11 hundreds of people jumped from the World Trade Center. Some were blasted from the buildings while others stumbled in the smoke. But the images of those who chose to leap a thousand feet remain. One photo showed a man falling with a table cloth fluttering near him like a hopeless parachute. Couples jumped holding hands. Groups jumped together.

Shock amidst the mundane. Arrive at work and, before your second cup of coffee, select between grim deaths. Esquire and USA Today published articles on the jumpers. The fall lasted ten seconds.

More later.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A Tip of the Old Helm

Thanks to the folks at Feebleminds Free Animated Gifs, a UK-based website that offers free clipart including very cool fantasy images. (More examples in "The Infested Outside" III post below.)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

They Call Me Mr. 8970

My final practice run today with Team in Training. We logged an easy eight miles on trails above the Rose Bowl.

This time next week I'll be in Honolulu. This time next Sunday, I'll have completed the marathon.

My race bib is # 8970.

I'm fired up, ready to go now!

But first a nap.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

"The Infested Outside" and Other Fond Memories III

I was a Marine in the early 1970s. One night in the barracks I came across an unusual paperback . For one thing, it didn't have “coed lust” in the title. For another, it contained the H.P. Lovecraft story “The Horror at Red Hook.”

That tale launched me on a Lovecraft phase as I delved into his odd, disturbing mythos: gruesome elder beings — the Great Old Ones — lurk behind dimensional doors. They corrupt through dreams, awaiting release by the unwary or depraved. If freed they’ll raze the Earth they once ruled. Erik Davis refers to this theme as “the infested outside.” Our world in constant tension with unseen realms of evil.

That always lent a doomed nobility to Lovecraft good guys such as Wingate Peaslee or the Miskatonic professors who banish the “Dunwich Horror.” They fight evil in the face of cosmic hopelessness. The best anyone can expect is a stay of execution. Ragnarok without rebirth.

Artist Pete Von Sholly pokes wry fun at Classics Illustrated comics, drawing faux covers to Lovecraft titles.

Anyway, it’s been spookily nostalgic assembling all this.

Bye for now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Deadline Deluge

No "fond memories" tonight. Deadlines all over the place for this animated script and that short story. Plus I've got a small flu or "flulet." And, of course, training continues for the marathon next weekend.

However, I did take time to read the blog of a depressed college girl from Canada.

Now I'm depressed, too.

Monday, November 28, 2005

"The Infested Outside" and Other Fond Memories II

Frank Frazetta drew evocative "Creepy"/"Eerie" covers. There were dark ancient temples, sea serpents rising from storm-tossed waves, mighty warriors battling winged demons, ill-clad, voluptuous women — with and without leopards. He sure knew what appealed to 11- year-old me. Frazetta also illustrated covers for the paperback reissue of Robert E. Howard's Conan series. My friends and I were big Conan fans and traded around the books like baseball cards.

I'll be back.

James Bama and Other Fond Memories

Web surfing recently, I came across some James Bama artwork. Bama drew paperback covers for the reissue of the Doc Savage series. Doc was a pulp character from the 1930s: scientist, genius, strong man, all-around fighter of evil. As a kid in the mid-1960s when Doc reappeared, I was drawn to the books through Bama's art. My favorite illustration was the cover of "The Mystic Mullah." The light source is spooky green as Doc winds up to chuck a hand grenade at a huge, looming, Fu Manchu face. As for the story itself, I don’t recall much. No grenades or oversized mullahs, though I vaguely remember a mystic one.

This got me thinking on other books and artists from that time. While Bantam was putting out Doc Savage, Warren publications issued two separate black and white horror comics titled, "Creepy" and "Eerie."

I clearly recall C/E stories. Many featured “Twilight Zone” twists: a sinister character messing around with magic, sorcery, the Federal tax code and getting caught in his own schemes. And of course there were plenty of vampire/werewolf/mummy variations plus dinosaurs, not to mention a few sword and sorcery chop-‘em-ups.

More soon.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Clive Barker Remakes Laurel and Hardy Films

Nothing is coming easy today. A lot of work to get ready for Monday and it's all taking way too long.

They ran Laurel and Hardy movies on TV when I was young. I liked their fussy bumbling and always wanted them to succeed. In fact, I liked them so much I stopped watching altogether. This was after several films ended with L&H engulfed by horrible, undeserved fates.

In one, Laurel and Hardy were tortured so that skinny Stan was compressed into a stumpy midget and fat Ollie was stretched out on a rack until he was basketball player tall. It was unsettling. In another film they were flat out skinned alive. (Snort, chortle.) In yet a third, Laurel is magically shrunk inside an egg. When released, he is tiny and very upset. Hardy roars with mocking laughter. FADE TO BLACK.

These weren't Clive Barker films: "Hellraiser VI: Stan and Ollie." or "Hellbound with a Derby Hat." These were comedies with a beloved team. I used to blame it on World War II. In fact, I did that right here in this post. But I was wrong.

Somebody at the studio signed off on those scripts. ("So we take two lovable losers and skin them alive? I like it! No one will see it coming!")

Ah, well.

Maybe Clive Barker can direct the remake of "Gigli."

Friday, November 25, 2005

Me and My Big Ideas

Eating left-over turkey all day and working on an animated feature pitch and two animated series concepts. I promised my agent I'd have them by Monday. This is the writing equivalent of "trash talking" as I must now back up what I said.

The thing I like about blogging is the immediacy.

No pitch meetings, cross-town traffic, rejections.

Just write and post.

It's not all gold, but it is all mine.

Plus I'm already parked.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Turkey Trot

This morning I met some chums from Team in Training. We ran a 5K (3.1 mile) race in La CaƱada, a northern LA suburb. I'd driven through there several times. The little hills sloped gradually, so it appeared. I predicted EZ running.

Oh, they were sly, unpleasant hills. Steeper than they looked. Finish-time eaters. If it were possible, I'd cuff them sharply.

This was very much a neighborhood race: families, parents with strollers, teenage girls running five across, and people running with leashed dogs — which I don't get. Walk the dog or run the race.

Later, Ronald MacDonald — clown, spokesman, bon vivant — led youngsters in a warm up prior to a children's race. After that, a child warmed up Ronald MacDonald prior to a fast food spokesman's race.

In any event, Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Small Wonder

Went to track practice last night. We ran half-mile repeats with an eye on maintaining a brisk, but consistent, pace. Afterwards, we descended on an Italian restaurant where almost everyone ate a big pasta meal. (I didn't because I sit at my computer and eat all day like a tree shrew. Another guy just had a couple of beers.)

Talk was far-ranging, covering topics such as the need to monitor what kids watch on TV, to the Death Penalty, to getting in a fight and throwing a midget to gain the edge needed for victory. I'm not sure who made the last comment. All I know is it didn't come from me or the guy drinking beer.

There are deep-rooted desires that even running endorphins can't paper over.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Katie Kierkegaard

Had lunch today with Harold, an old chum who still works at Warner Bros. TV Animation. Harold spoke of lay offs, and upcoming "Animaniacs" and "Pinky and The Brain" DVDs. (Along with the politics surrounding who would be interviewed in the "making of" sections.)

Harold went on to say that for a show to be greenlit nowadays it must have big toy potential. Hence, marketing decides what airs. This is a shame and could explain why my "Katie Kierkegaard" project is gathering dust.

Katie is a teen descendent of the Danish philosopher. But she lives in a mall near La Jolla with her crazy Aunt Helga and a pet chimp named Dusty. Each episode would feature Katie wrestling with different facets of the infinite transcendence of faith while shopping for fun tops. I felt the toy tie-in could be a box with nothing in it or fun tops.

So far no response.

Monday, November 21, 2005

No Place Like Nursing Home For The Holidays

Finished my animated script this morning and sent it off. I'd prefer not to get notes over the Thanksgiving weekend. But often things happen that I would not prefer. For instance, a rat has gone 10-7 Earth inside one of my heating vents.
The smell is most noticeable downstairs near the big screen TV. Powerful scented candles barely dent the odor. I would prefer this happened in, say, the offices of the California Franchise Tax Board. But instead it has happened here.

My friend and former landlord, Adele, fell and broke her rotator cuff. At 76, her vision is decreasing and this last tumble has landed her in a Glendale nursing home. There are no phones in the rooms. If you want to call someone, you dial a pay phone number and wait until a passerby with substandard English picks up. They may take a message that will be left at the nursing station. If you are old with broken bones, you can haul your lazy butt out of bed and go check for calls. Adele's sister is working on getting her a plain, ordinary cell phone. Adele says with a smile that then she can then call everyone at all hours and complain about the nursing home.

In any case, she will be in there over Thanksgiving. I am grateful that I will be home with my darling wife.

I am also grateful that I have a big screen TV. However, I am not grateful for the dead rat in the vent. Just to watch football on Thursday, I'll have to light more candles than a New Age wedding.

Hopefully, we'll avoid a fire.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

First 20 Mile Run

Ran 20 miles yesterday. That's the last long endurance training. From here on we do short runs and rest for the marathon on Dec. 11.

My wife bought ice yesterday. Our coaches had recommended that after a long run we sit in a tub of cold water, add ice, than hang out like seals for fifteen minutes. The cold facilitates recovery. When I first heard this I thought they were crazy, or, at least, malicious. But today I feel pretty good. No soreness. Good old ice.

I wanted to watch college football all afternoon, but I had to finish that animated script. As I mentioned, its heavy with characters and plot. The process ended up resembling packing — you open the suitcase, toss in everything, and see if you can close it without the top bulging too much. I should finish today and meet my Monday deadline.

My Peter Pan-like pitch from an earlier post was passed on by Cartoon Network. (And Disney. And Nickelodeon.) However, the Cartoon Network folks were pleasant and invited me back with more ideas. As nice a 'no' as could be had.

Friday, November 18, 2005


Plugging away on this animated script. The show's producer gave me an outline that was tubby with plot points and action. Translating that into a script is taking a bit of time. I've written twelve pages today and my mind feels like old stew.

Tomorrow, I run 20 miles. This is the dress rehearsal for my upcoming marathon. I'm very excited. An interesting point: the Honolulu Marathon doesn't offer runners Gatorade or any other conventional sports fluid. Instead, the course features a unique Japanese beverage called Amino-Value. I've been told it combines dreadful taste with a very small amount of sodium and zero potassium. Our coaches recommend we bring our own Gatorade in plastic baggies. This is based on the assumption that Honolulu will have water available for the runners and not some Japanese water substitute filled with deceased koi.

Always something interesting out there.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

My First Spam Attack

Mostly I write scripts for TV animation. ("Animaniacs," "Pinky and the Brain," "Jimmy Neutron," "Dave the Barbarian," etc.) This year has been exceptionally slow. I had six weeks of work at Disney back in February and March. Myself and others were asked to retool a show that was still in production, taking it in new and fun directions. We tried. Later the show was cancelled without ever airing, cast into cartoon Tartarus. But our checks had cleared, so it was Okay.

Right now I have one paying and a number of non-paying "jobs." The paying job is writing a half-hour script for an animated show. It's being made by a nice English company. The non-paying work consists of a pitch and a presentation.

The pitch is for a feature idea. Its a story about those giant heads they have on Easter Island and how much fun they have when ecotourists and Discovery Channel film crews leave. Of course a rogue archeologistst steals one and the others have to get him back. It's very much like "Kidnapped" only with giant stone heads.

The presentation is for an animated TV series based on "Peter Pan." This time there's a female adventuress and a fairy named "Tinker Bob," a fat slob who can barely fly and eats a lot of "Hungry Fairy" frozen dinners.

More as events unfold.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Big Run

I'm preparing to run a marathon with a group called Team in Training. In return for fundraising to fight leukemia and lymphoma, they will build you up to complete endurance events such as a 26.2 mile marathon, or a hundred mile bike ride, or listening to an Amway presentation. My event is the Honolulu Marathon, scheduled for Dec. 11. If you have nothing pressing, visit my Team in Training site.

And Away We Go!

This is my first post. I'm trembling. Not from excitement, but from malaria. I knew I should have drained that standing water in the back yard.