Friday, July 30, 2010

Stupid Thing of the Month

I was just reading an article that said "SCHOOL OF THE HOLY BEAST is perhaps the most famous of the early Seventies Nunsploitation films . . ."

Wait a minute, there's a genre known as Nunsploitation?

Must go to my NetFlix queue.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Additional Comic-Con Photo

(Reuters Wire Service) Director Jon Favreau is in fine spirits after an industrial accident lopped off his left arm.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Comic-Con Day 4

So, this whole shebang is over. Sunday is always the "Get out of here you diseased pizzles!" day, when people are anxious to go home and the vendors are eager to get rid of their stuff (and customers) as easily as possible. Last year one of those guys was trying to unload these cheap kiddie lightsabers, and I bought a couple to do battle with my one year old nephew with. Believe me, those were worth every penny.

At one point, I saw my old one-time-roommate Erik for a moment wandering the main hall. I was blown away by how old he looked. I guess we were only roommates for a short while a decade ago, but to look at him, I suspect it may be closer to twenty years.

Life is weird.
I'm readying to go home right now, but I might swing by L.A. before I do (even though it's technically out of my way). My nephew loves turtles, as you know, and we're down to only two, so maybe I'll scoop up a couple more and say that one is his.

I haven't been able to take as many pictures this year as last, mostly because they all came out like this:

Plus, the batteries drain very quickly, and when Joss Whedon had his Avengers stand next to each other for the very first photo op, the "Battery Low" warning came on and the camera went dead.

But ah well.

The only major panel I went to today was the one for ABC's "Castle." It was really great and lots of laughs. Nathan Fillion is a rock star. That show certainly seems like a fun one to work on,* with everybody getting along and making fun of each other.

For some reason, Nathan was really into saying "double rainbow" about everything. He'd say "That's so double rainbow," or "Wow, full on double rainbow," or he'd shout "Double rainbow!" and the crowd would call back "All the way!" I have to admit I was completely lost, and I hate that, so I finally asked one of the "All the way" shouters to explain. When I got home, I looked up the YouTube video in question, and it all makes more sense now.
At one point, some guy in the audience asked if Nathan and Stana would read from "Heat Wave," the fake(ish) book spunoff from the show. I don't know if being at Comic-Con is a drag for some of these guests (Harrison Ford excepted), but it's difficult for me to understand how these guys can't love sitting there and hear the adulation of a crowd. It's like what rock stars must experience, but you don't have to perform or break a sweat.
Someday, Jennifer, someday.

As I mentioned earlier, I also went to a "Quantum Leap" retrospective, with Scott Bakula. He talked about how they thought they would get a fourth season, and one episode they were planning where he leapt into a baby, and I realized--about two decades late--that I want to write for that show.

Somehow I get the feeling that's about as realistic as the rest of my writing dreams.

Even so, one must forge on. Not everybody gets to do what they love with their lives, and it's a whole lot easier to do nothing.

I meant to stay a while and look for good toy deals, but for some reason, after seeing Erik, I just had to go. I sat for a minute, trying to type in this blog, but I kept losing the connection again, and that frustrated me into just shutting it down and heading back to the car. I'd parked in the same place three out of four of the days, and that'll be my go-to spot from now on (if I can remember how to get there, which, considering this is me we're talking about, is doubtful).

There was quite a drive ahead of me, partly because I was fool enough to go to Los Angeles first, and got stuck amongst all the traffic returning to that fair city. Yeah, I just referred to L.A. as "fair." That tacked a couple hours onto my drive, but I had made my bed.

In Baker (home of the world's tallest thermometer), it was 106. That's Raquel Welch circa 1966 hot to you Celsius users. I'm glad I didn't have to suffer through that in San Diego.

Driving at night can be difficult, especially on less that a full night's sleep. I don't know how many times I stopped, stopped in little oven-temperature towns in the California and Nevada deserts. I would pull the car over and attempt to take a short nap, but a few minutes later I'd be awakened by my own sweat and difficulty getting comfortable. So I'd hit the road again, air conditioner full blast, radio blaring, trying to find a song I could sing along with to keep me awake.

But my eyes would slowly close, and I'd find a new song playing that I wasn't aware had even started, and no matter what I did, I couldn't concentrate on the road. And that's probably the worst part of driving at night, wouldn't you say?

Finally, at about five in the morning, I found a shady, cool rest stop off the freeway, and parked the car there and did go to sleep. I woke after a few hours with no idea where I was or how I'd gotten there. I knew the freeway was nearby, but not how to get to it. So I drove north alongside the road, until, four miles later, I realized there was no onramp here, and it must've been in the other direction. I drove south a while further, eventually passing the exit from the freeway, but there was absolutely no entrance anywhere in sight. I drove another three or four miles beyond that, still without a freeway entrance, and at one point I passed a man in a black suit beside the road. I realized as I drove by that it was Rod Serling, telling the audience that I had just taken a short detour, into the Outer Limits.

Yes, Rod Serling making an "Outer Limits" reference. THAT'S how lost I was.

Either I had gone completely blind and driven past the freeway onramp TWICE, or that rest area was very poorly designed. Or all part of some twisted plan I wasn't privy to.

I came to a little town along this country road, an old fashioned one straight out of Mayberry R.F.D., and considered stopping and asking for directions. But I stubbornly kept driving, and ended up discovering a freeway entrance at the other side of town. I did see a couple hungry villagers shaking their heads in dismay when I got to the road, disappointed they wouldn't be able to make BLTs out of me.

Once I was back on my way, I made it home without any trouble. I didn't even go to bed right away, but unloaded the car and took a shower first.

I'm struggling to find a point to end this on. It was originally going to be the BACK TO THE FUTURE reference, and then the bit about no one getting to do what they want. Now I sort of wish I'd finished on the BLT line (which was going to be steak tar-tar until I realized I didn't know what that is).

Let me instead end with this: I am lucky to be able to go on little road trips, to have the means to drive somewhere remote and stay in a motel and attend presentations on things that aren't really all that important. It's possible that one day soon, this kind of freedom will stop, and I'll look back and think, "Boy, wouldn't it be great to be able to drive down to San Diego on spend all day surrounded by fat nerds like me, debating whether Batman could beat Punisher in a mud-wrestling contest? Those were the days."

Weren't they?

Rish "The Wanderer" Outfield

*But it also seems to me that working on any show with comedy in it would be fun. I know it's work, but being in a creative environment, trying to make entertainment . . . if that's not a little bit fun, somebody's doing something wrong somewhere.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Comic-Con Day 3

I gotta mention this first off: this is going to be something of a sprawling, meandering, aimless, meaningless little coaster ride of a blog post. It may well not be worth your wait in line. Consider yourself warned.

So, it is Day Three. Saturday, the big day every year. I got up early today, and it’s still early, but here we are, already waiting in a long, winding queue. If someone in a helicopter took a picture of the packed-in pre-dawn line of us, it could easily be referred to as a nerd herd, hundreds jammed in where there should be dozens (or none, frankly), waiting semi-patiently for a line that won’t move for hours.
I brought my mini tape recorder (or whatever it is they’re called nowadays), and I spoke into in as I walked from my car. Here's that little recording:


As I came over the ridge and Hall H (where we will enter in just under three hours) came into view, I was awed at the amount of people already here. I still am. If I had to guess, I’d say I am about thousandth in line, but when my alarm went off, I gamely imagined I’d be in the front twenty or fifty.As I typed this, my faux laptop crashed for the first time ever. It just froze, and nothing I pressed could thaw it. I had to take out the battery. Granted, I was running one program at the same time, so that may have been too much for it, but I fear it could happen again.

Morgan Spurlock (and some guy named Whedon) are doing a documentary this year about Comic-Con, and one of their subjects is in the line in front of me. He’s a scrawny, super-geeky kid with an underbite like a deepwater fish. It should not surprise me in the slightest that he has a girlfriend. Someday, I’m going to become a supervillain, the kind that says “Bah!” at the beginning of his sentences.

Dear great Cthulhu, it happened again. I am really upset and the day hasn’t even started.

I may have to take this back to Best Buy and get another one. Or more likely, I may strike it down upon the cement with great vengeance and furious anger, which will seem like the wrong choice in retrospect.


So, a camera and sound crew are following this guy around, watching him stand in line, move as the line moves, get coffee, sit down and wait for the line to move. Honestly, if they use ANY of what they’ve shot for the last hour, no one will go see this documentary. They’d be better off releasing it straight to video anyway, but what do I know?

It froze a third time. Now I’m becoming seriously concerned. This is three times in an hour.

There was something I was going to type before, but now that I’ve got this freezing machine out, it hardly seems worth my time. But I’ll write it anyway. After all, I already did it once and lost it the last time this fucker crashed.


Behind me a ways in the line was a big, lumbering behemoth of a kid. A henchman type. A Gammorean Guard. You know what those are? I noticed him because, as the line was moving (and it moved for no reason I can understand, since the people at the head of the queue are already sitting down, understanding that they’re going nowhere), I saw him edging closer to me. He passed a few people behind me, and they said nothing. Sometimes people will be trying to catch up with someone who’s holding the line for them, and we just let them by. But this wasn’t the case. What the guy was doing was just walking past people, just to be further ahead in the line.

Well, as he came up alongside me, I wondered if I should say something. After all, this flabby bucket of dung made me look absolutely svelte, and if Marvel Comics have taught me anything, it’s that fat people are incredibly strong. So, I let him go. But as he pushed his way through the documentary crew (which was five or six people), I found myself filling up with hate, like a water balloon attached to a tap. Every time he pushed past another bystander, I hoped they would call him on it, or tell him to go to the back of the line, or hit him in the stomach with a bookbag. Didn’t happen.

People are drinking coffee around me. I wonder if that makes life easier.
After the line stopped moving, we began to sit down. That’s nice.

I meant to go to sleep early last night. But STATE OF PLAY was on and I’d never seen it. I think I may remain the last Ben Affleck fan on the face of the earth. Seriously, Jennifer Garner won’t even go to that guy’s movies.

There’s no internet access here in the line. Well, technically there is, but I’m not able to get on. I wonder if there are different strengths of wireless modems, and if you buy a super-duper one, you can snag onto a signal from blocks away.

I stood up to stretch my legs, and gazed upon the guy I was complaining about an hour ago. It was strange, but as I looked at him, talking to a stranger beside him about “Supernatural,” nearly all of my hatred faded away. He’s just a guy, a fan of certain shows and movies (and probably comics), just like I am. He got up early and probably worked even harder than I did to get here as soon as he could. And he’s never punched a child in the face at last year’s SDCC, I’d bet.

The first time I ever went to something like this was in 1999. It was the Star Wars Celebration, a convention anticipating the first new movie, and it was held in Denver, Colorado.

Yep, just crashed again. That’s it, this is no longer going to be referred to as a faux laptop, but as a craptop. Guess I have to start over with what I was saying.

And if you’re tempted to snark, “Haven’t you ever heard of saving your work?” I have this to say, “Yes, Jeff, I have saved it. That’s why I have two pages here instead of none. I’ve saved it hundreds of times. Why don’t you do something useful and fix my damn craptop?”


Well, there were thousands of people at the Denver Celebration (though only a fraction of Comic-Con’s attendance), and there were long lines, and something I haven’t ever had to endure here: bad weather. We got rain, and since the whole thing was held outdoors (under tents, but still outdoors), it got really miserable, with people getting wet and muddy and cold, and unable to do anything about it.

But I found that the folks around me were good, friendly people, willing to save your spot for you, take your picture, or talk to you about how many times Luke Skywalker fired his blaster in EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.* Despite being dirty and uncomfortable, I found myself really enjoying meeting all these strangers, and realized that I had something in common with them, something deep and something powerful: no woman would ever sleep with us.

Okay, that was a joke (sort of). But what it was was a passion, a love for this film franchise, the characters, the music, the toys, the story and mythology and ships and weapons and ideals, and memories of how and when and where we first saw it and became changed for life. These people were just like me, and--

Oh, this is rich. A couple of people down the line started to yelp, and a girl shrieked. I paid it no mind, but a moment later, a rat came scampering past me, jumped onto the backpack of the guy behind me, turned, and climbed over the woman who was on her back, sleeping next to me. It moved on to the next part of the line, where people jumped up, screaming, and did that little ants-in-the-pants dance. Oh, the poor woman beside me was so revolted. That's no way to wake up. I tried to comfort her by saying, “At least it was a CUTE rat,” but that didn’t help.

I guess she feels like that one girl in 1992 when I tried to hold her hand. Poor bastard.

Oh yeah, where was the documentary crew then? At home, washing their tights.

So, what was I saying? Not that it matters, but I was really struck by a feeling of community with these people, who had come from far and wide to share their love for STAR WARS, and the anticipation, which was immense, for more stories and characters from the mind of George Lucas.

It goes without saying that my impression of the Prequels, and all that has come since 1997 really, has changed the way I feel about the whole Star Wars universe. There are now factions of Star Wars fans, ranging from those who only have nostalgia for the first two films, to those kids who idolize the new cartoon characters. The fans of the video games, and those who still hate the Ewoks. And that’s fine, I guess.

In spring of 1999, though, I felt like everybody around me was the same, a devotee to something special to them, willing to shiver and yawn because of the passion they felt for what I was passionate about. These men, boys, and women were just like me, and it made me feel that I belonged, and was somehow less alone out there. And it was a great feeling. You could compare it to religion, but I’m not going to. It was less divisive than that.

And it is in that spirit that I forgive the Gammorean Guard, and go on to type something else.

By the way, I’ve now been typing for twenty minutes (only an hour to go!) without it freezing on me. God bless you, Safe Mode.

Ninety minutes have come and gone. I’m still sitting here, thinking I ought to write some kind of fiction. I went to a Star Trek convention once, and I came out of it feeling two things: 1) handsome, for once, and 2) that I’d like to write a story that takes place at a Star Trek convention. Both feelings faded quickly.

But if I were to write a convention story, what would it be?

My first inclination, and most people’s, I’d wager, would be to write a Sci-Fi story, or a comedic Sci-Fi story, where aliens or people from the future come down and end up at a Star Trek convention, and the attendees don’t realize these are not costumes. Or the aliens think this is what humans are actually like. Or something.

I saw a family of Klingons yesterday. I tried to take their picture. Would actual aliens think they were real?
I got nothing. I’ll stop typing for a minute and do something else.

Alright, I’m back. Turns out you can’t watch “Fawlty Towers” in Safe Mode.

Thinking ahead, I had picked up peanut butter, bread, and jelly in preparation for this day, and made a bunch of sandwiches I kept in my backpack. Also there are a couple cans of soda, enough to tide me over if I am indeed here all day. It makes my backpack kind of heavy, but I'm not going anywhere.

From my vantage point here on the ground, I see a legitimately hot chick about six hundred people away from me. Now, I’ll be the first to argue that that’s impossible, that it’s just a mirage, like seeing water while dying in the desert. But I have seen some really attractive girls at this thing, and that just vexes me. My friend Jeff used to go on and on about how loving and supportive his wife was, and I would always respond, “Well, you got the last good one,” but there’s no way in Bossk’s orange earth Emily would go to a comic book convention.

The hot geek is a myth, kids. Now, I’m not arguing that an attractive girl couldn’t enjoy SPIDER-MAN 2, or watch anime, or dig a Harry Potter book, but it seems highly unlikely that she could like it THAT much, you know? Because attractive people have other interests, and other opportunities that present themselves to them. Society gives them other things to occupy their time, and their circles of friends (which I presume would consist of other attractive people, maybe some wealthy ones too) aren’t going to be into comics and cartoons. That’s not a criticism or anything, it’s just the way things are.

I looked back across the way, and the really pretty girl can’t be seen anymore. Maybe she was a mirage.

I suppose I’ve relegated the attractive to a sort of “Other,” something reserved for people of a different race or religion or culture. I wonder if it’s wrong to see one group as being better than another, the same way it’s wrong to see one group as lesser. After all, Brits have traditionally felt that nobles are better than commoners, though I imagine that’s lessened these past generations.

Well, I know a person or three who believe that homosexuals aren’t people. That they’re things, damned things, that don’t deserve to be allowed to walk the streets and get jobs and eat food and live their lives. That it’s obvious they shouldn’t get to marry one another or have insurance or get treated the same as straight people, because they are evil beings that have chosen Satan’s ways and deserve the prejudice and hatred that is thrown their way.

If there is a Hell, it will be an interesting place to be, and the upside will be seeing the faces of assholes who lived lives of bigotry and racism end up there. Time will tell, I guess.

So, I say this, but I’m able to justify my belief that the attractive are different from everyone else.

Take a friend I made when I was doing extra work. His name was John, and I called him Ladykiller John in my blog. He was extraordinarily handsome, and doors just opened for him. But he was a nice, supportive guy (even if he did look like that guy who was in ARMAGEDDON), so I got to hang out with him from time to time. Toward the end of my days in L.A., I got his number, and called him to go to a movie one time. “Sorry, dude,” Ladykiller John said, “I can’t. You know that cute brunette we met yesterday on the set of ‘The Office?’ Well, I’m going to be naked in a bed with her today.”

You think I’d be typing this right now if I were Ladykiller John? Hell no. And if I were his female counterpart, I wouldn’t have time to get excited about what Sinestro might look like in GREEN LANTERN or how they’re going to digitally age the Potter kids in HP8. My priorities would be very different. My brain would work differently. I’d find joy in other things.

I was never cool enough to get a job in a record store, and if I was I wouldn’t want to anymore.

Or was the lyric, “I wouldn’t want YOU anymore?” God, that’s even worse.

Because Ladykiller John was not a douchebag, I didn’t resent him for his looks or ease with women. I wished I could be him, just for a weekend, but I didn’t dislike the guy. A lot of the beautiful people ARE douchebags, however. Or whatever the female equivalent is.** And I guess I shouldn’t blame them. But I still do.

I once wrote (or started writing) a story of a kid (based on me) who made a wish and got to switch bodies with a handsome, popular guy (based on George Clooney, for some reason). The kid was bullied, lonely, unhappy, and the kind of dreamer that I’ve been for as long as I remember. The Clooney guy was a cool dude, not at all a bad guy or a bully, but just from the other side of the social tracks. So naturally, the kid gets to be gloriously, unrestrainedly happy, while the Clooney guy finds the transition tough and confusing. The one scene that sticks with me, for I never finished the story, was when the two of them meet. The Clooney guy (now in a geeky kid’s body) is so relieved and hopeful when he finally encounters his true physical self, sure that all his questions will be answered and he’ll get to switch back. And the kid’s reaction to seeing his old self again was to viciously, thoughtlessly kick the crap out of him.

I think that was a statement of how I feel about the way life works, and the way I feel about myself. It was a nasty moment that really surprised me in the writing of it, because there’s nobody that doesn’t fear becoming that which they most despise, right? And as proud as I was (though proud isn’t the right word, exactly) of that moment in the story, I sort of lost momentum after that, and it fell by the wayside, as so many of my stories do.

If I were one of the beautiful people, I would be someone else. I’m not saying that would be a bad thing--oh heavens, no--but it seems to be the case. I am who I am due to circumstances, history, patterns, peers, family, influences, schooling, habits, and personal drives. Due to challenges I’ve faced and how I’ve responded to them. Due to the lessons I’ve learned and the ones I misunderstood, or just plain refused to learn from. I am me because of many things, and you are you because of those same sorts of things.

I’m not one of those people who re-reads my old blog entries. Every once in a while someone will leave a comment on an old entry (though they’re usually those idiotic spam messages that generically praise what you’ve written and want you to check out their link), and I’ll read through it again to see what they’re talking about. And sometimes I chuckle over something I’ve written, sometimes I wince, and sometimes I find a typo.

I imagine I’ll wince when I read this, in winter of 2014.

Unless I’m not around anymore.

Then I might wince harder.

(later)

Wow, this really was the least-painful line experience I can remember. Once the line started moving, it pretty much moved until I was in Hall H. Even though I was upset at this computer when it crashed, it made the hours fly by. Thanks, Mean Joe.

I was sitting about mid-way through the auditorium, and I moved up a bit in between most of the panels, getting a wee bit closer each time (although there was one time when I went up, looking for an open seat, and had to come crawling back to where I was before and sit next to the guys I had just said "Screw you, guys, I'm taking my family to a better neighborhood" to).

The most frustrating part of today has been try--Wait, the second-most frustrating thing about today has been trying to get online with the free Wi-Fi here. I keep getting notified that there’s a signal (signal strength: excellent!) only to have my browser time out or flat-out claim there’s no signal available. Grrrrr.

There was a GREEN LANTERN panel first up. Ryan Reynolds is a little too cool to be real. Because I was sitting right under the big screen, every picture I took came out like this:
Actually, that's not true. Most of my pictures came out like this:
It may be time to start saving up for a new camera.

So that was also a bit frustrating, but I'll heal.

I wrote my cousin an email describing everything I'd seen so far, and hit “Send,” and it just disappeared, with no way to re-send it or retrieve it. Gay. I know it’s out of vogue to use that word, but it feels appropriate.

Speaking of which, I sat through a bunch of trailers in between presentations, and my god, I’m old. Only about three of them looked remotely good, and even those had a couple of issues that I hoped were in the trailer only.

One of the trailers was for a flick called DEVIL, and you shoulda heard the audience turn when M. Night Shyamalan’s name came up at the end. That guy has no bridges left to burn, it would seem.

Also, there was a trailer for NEVER LET ME GO, which included a quote saying the book was “The Best Novel of Last decade.” The movie looks pretty good, but wow, I had a similar reaction to the book as the audience did with M. Night’s name. It’s strange how differently I can feel for something than everybody else. And I thought the idea of the book was absolutely riveting.

It’s weird to no longer be in that target demographic for movies. But I did think about movies differently a decade ago. I went to see BATMAN & ROBIN on opening weekend, even though it looked like it was going to be bad. I’d neeeeeever do that now. My time is just too valuable, not when I could watch test patterns or go hunting for worms.

There was a trailer for a Robert DeNiro/Edward Norton flick with a godawful title, but it looked a bit more my style. Maybe.

The GULLIVER’S TRAVELS trailer ends in such a retarded note (“Don‘t shave off my sideburns, I need those muttonchops“), I cannot believe somebody thought that was the punchline to finish up on. Arrgh. I used to like Jack Black, even.

There were six or seven trailers for CGI talking animal pictures, ranging from cheap-looking to monstrously-expensive. Of course they’re all in 3-D, and of course they’re going to make money. But I will be happy--no, overjoyed--to not see a single one of them. It must be extraordinarily difficult to make a CG animal toon. Either that, or it’s unbelievably easy: just create a couple of cute animal characters, then beat the hell out of them, throw in butt jokes, and you’ve got a hit on your hands.

The one about the chameleon seems like it could be alright, but it also has a bad title. RANGO. Plus, it has Western elements, and that's traditionally been a death sentence for general releases.

Oh, and speaking of shitty titles, the trailer for CHARLIE ST. CLOUD would actually work if it was called something else. I don’t know if it’ll make a cent, but if it does, it’s in spite of the title.

Remember how my dad said they should show all movies to him before they release them? I keep finding myself thinking of him saying that, and I keep feeling like that would be an interesting experiment. For example, let’s say they showed him the SUCKERPUNCH trailer. Would his opinion be the same as mine? How about that Zach Galifianakis flick about the mental institution? Would he say, “What? You can’t call a movie IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY, what’s the matter with you?” I think he might.

My Dad and I don’t get along or have the same sensibility or sense of humor (holy shit, Jane Austin reference), but I would be curious if he liked the LITTLE FOCKERS trailer, or if he thinks TRON LEGACY is a better title than TRON 2.0?

What would he say about the MACHETE trailer? Too much sex? Too stylish? How about the SCOTT PILGRIM one? Even I’m dubious about that one. I mean, I’ll see it because it’s Edgar Wright, but it may just bee too cool for the room. I'm wondering if that might be one of those SHAWSHANK or FIGHT CLUB-type movies that doesn't make any money in theatrical release, but is considered a classic just a year or two later.

The last trailer they showed was for some awful low-budget X-men ripoff, and literally nothing worked from beginning to the revelation of the title. The audience booed and hissed through that one too. You know you got a flop on your hands when your most die-hard target demographic rejects your attempts to appeal to them.

(later)

I still sit here, occasionally jotting down thoughts or thought-fragments.

There’s a pitiable creature a row or two up who’s a teenage girl with a hairlip. I will try not to feel sorry for myself today.

My cousin likes any movie with kung fu fighting in it. There are times, Mister Data, when I envy you.

Quijibo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I absolutely hate it when people use the word “sick” to mean “cool.” I’ve heard that five or six times today.

Spoogebob Queerpants.

The organization on this sucker is, if I haven’t said it before, pretty amazing. The doors opened at ten o’clock, giving us plenty of time to get seated for the first program that happened at . . . 11:15. It was no wonder that by the end of the night we were more than an hour behind schedule.

The first panel was about GREEN LANTERN. It looks to be a neat movie, and though I already knew this, Ryan Reynolds is a handsome dude.

Tom Felton came over to introduce a trailer and clips from the last HARRY POTTER(s).

There was the LET ME IN panel, and that little Chloe Moretz got tons of applause, probably as much as Ryan Reynolds did. She’s a talented little actress, and it’ll be interesting to see if she defecates on her career the way Lindsay Lohan did.
They showed a lot of that movie, and while my friend Jeff feels there’s no need for it (and possibly won’t go see it, I certainly hope not), the first clip they showed had me crying, for reasons I can’t even explain to myself. I guess it’s a bit to do with the loneliness I mentioned the other day, and just how beautiful the scene at the arcade was to me. Nostalgia for that period, I guess. Empathy for the Codi Smit-McPhee character. Hit Girl’s expressive eyes. Good filmmaking too, I guess.

Enough of this Robert Rodriguez/Bryan Singer bullplop; movie directors should look like Matt Reeves.
When I was a kid, I had a sort of crush on a girl named Sally. Or maybe it wasn’t even a crush, maybe it was just a glance and a thought. We knew each other through children's theater, and I only saw her in the summers. The next year, we were in a play together, holding hands and proclaiming our love for one another. And I never even considered pursuing anything with this girl, despite her being my leading lady and all.

If something had happened between us, and I was about ten times as lonely as I actually was, maybe we would have shared a moment like that LET ME IN clip.

Why do I write all this stuff if I’m not going to put it in my blog? Arrgh.

Wow. The battery on this bastage lasts eight hours, and amazingly, I’m almost at the end of it. I keep turning this off (or at least putting it to Sleep) whenever a new panel starts, but I guess even a heavy-duty battery like this one is limited.

There was a big segment on RESIDENT EVIL: EJACULATION, or whatever they’re calling number five. Ali Larter was there (and pregnant), and Milla Jovavich was way into it. They showed 3-D clips. I hate 3-D now.
So, next up was a presentation on PAUL, the newest flick with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in it. They brought a huge cast with them, including Sigourney Weaver, Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, Bill Hader, and Seth Rogen. They created a little trailer that was pretty interesting, even if it did end with “Hey fucknuts, it’s probing time!” I already loved Simon Pegg for years, but I was surprised by how funny Nick Frost was. At one point, he said, “Just nine years ago I was a waiter, and now I’m in a movie with Sigourney Weaver and Joe LeTrulio in it.“ That was neat.
Even neater, though, sirs, was the presentation for COWBOYS & ALIENS. Jon Favreau came out (fat once again, thank Buddha), and said they’ve just started shooting on the film so there wasn’t much to show, since it comes out AFTER next year’s Comic-Con. But then he went on to introduce Daniel Craig, Sam Rockwell, Number Thirteen from "House M.D.", and, for his first-ever Comic-Con appearance, Harrison Ford.

Dude, you know that Daniel Craig has been center of attention in every room he’s entered for the last four years. But he was Claude Raines when Harrison Ford came out. I assumed it was a private joke, but they had two security guards bring Harrison Ford out in handcuffs, sitting him down at the table with the others. Probably something about having to drag him to Comic-Con, I don’t know.
But wow, how people screamed. It was infectious too, and he smiled and took it in, not thrilled about it, but used to the attention (if not on that scale). I caught some of it on my camera (awfully loud, folks), and though it's not really worth watching, I'll stick it here too.

I've pretty much loved Harrison Ford my whole life, and despite falling out of favor lately, it was neat that so many people apparently still the love the guy.

They then showed, I don’t know, ten minutes or so from the movie. Favreau called in some favors to get it edited and special effects-ed in time for Comic-Con, and it was awesome. Really. It combines two of my favorite genres, plus it has Bond and Indy in it. I can’t wait.

At one point during the afternoon, there was a hubbub in the back right of the hall. People made a commotion and started standing up. Soon, everybody stood up. I assumed it was a celebrity of some kind, because earlier, there was an actor from “Dexter” that came in and sat down, and he was mobbed like he was Paul McFrigginCartney. But it turned out to be an altercation between two attendees that ended with, believe it or not, one of them stabbing the other in the eye with a pen (though I also heard that it was a compass tool).

I didn’t find this out until Robert Downey Junior of all people made a joke about it. And then, at the end of the night, Kevin Smith came out for his usual Q&A and explained it all. He referred to it as a protractor, which sounded a hell of a lot better, until somebody corrected him on it. Then, one of the guys in the Q&A asked a question with a pen jammed into his 3-D glasses. It was in really poor taste, but it was funny.

Because they had to clean things up and make an arrest (I’m assuming, it wasn’t spelled out until later), they showed a bunch of the trailers again. I guess that’s why I have so many notes about them. Sorry.

At the end of the day, Marvel Films did their big presentation, starting with CAPTAIN AMERICA. There was a neat scene with Red Skull searching for an artifact from Asgard (this is pre-skull, when he still looks a bit like Hugo Weaving), and they showed a bit of Chris Evans in a costume test. I still don't know that he's right for the part, but he sure was muscular.The majority of the show was for THOR, since it’s more completed. Kenneth Branaugh came out, and seemed really passionate about the project. Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, and the dude who plays Loki were all there also.***
There was nothing not to like about the footage they showed (it was in 3-D too, but I won’t complain about that, since it was kind of novel), and the scene where Destroyer shows up, and Agent Coulson thinks it’s just another one of Tony Stark’s armors was pretty great. They did a lot of Q&A about that. One guy from the audience did angrily complain about the recasting of Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, and I’ll be jiggered if there weren’t a hundred or so people who were still banking on that whole thing being a hoax, one that was about to be rectified.

But no, they did show a teaser trailer for AVENGERS, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson (“And there came a day . . .”).
Then SLJ came out, and introduced the whole cast for that movie, including Scarlett Johansen and Robert Downey Junior. They brought out their director, Mister Joss Whedon, and he had Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo come out (Hawkeye and Bruce Banner, respectively). They took a bow, then that bit was over, the whole thing having lasted about six minutes (yep, and Downey Junior was on stage for about half that).
I hope AVENGERS works. I hope Joss finally gets the hit he deserves, and is able to make anything he wants afterward, such as his old Buffy spin-offs, or at least something as cool as Favreau is doing with COWBOYS & ALIENS.

I nearly didn’t stay for Kevin Smith’s curse-a-thon. Not that I don’t love the man, but I get enough of Kevin with the weekly SModcast show he does. But I stuck around, figuring I’d already been there twelve hours, why not make it fourteen?

And I'm glad I did. Kevin’s programs are always a lot of fun. He talked extensively about the police being called to his house for playing FROM DUSK TILL DAWN too loud, his gay pal Malcolm and all that he’s taught Kev, and for being booted off the Southwest flight in February for being too fat. But he had a fresh way of retelling the story, and kept us shocked and amused as only he can until it was time to go home.

Oh, and who should be the first question of the night, but the geeky kid from the Morgan Spurlock documentary? He asked a question for his girlfriend, asked one for himself, and then let Kevin answer them. Kevin is a talker, so that killed ten minutes or so. Then, this kid had the gaul to say he had one more question. The audience immediately turned on him, booing and telling him to shut up and get off the stage and take a pen and poke out one of his eyes.

But the kid was undaunted, and said the question wasn’t for Kevin, but for his girlfriend. The audience did a complete 180 as, in front of everyone, the geek got down on his knees and asked the girlfriend to marry him. Well, of course the documentary crew was there for that, and I’ll be darned if even I didn’t find myself clapping and cheering him on, thinking that one of the highpoints of an already-high day.
Of course, I’m now tempted to go back and edit my earlier statement about this kid, especially since you know that proposal is going to be the highpoint of the documentary. But instead, I’ll let it stand, and ask, if I was jealous that he had a girlfriend, despite his insane geek status, how much more jealous am I that he’s now got a fiancee, and that Kevin said he’d come to their wedding?

I don't know, about the same, I guess. Life is an interesting little roller coaster ride, and though I sometimes feel I got on the wrong car (I can never decide if being at the very front or the very back is the best seat)--or sometimes even the wrong amusement park--it's always nice when that first plunge happens, and you forget about whatever else might have been on your mind. You find yourself shrieking against your will, laughing at your own fear, and mixing metaphors in the world's longest blog post.

Take care,

Rish Outfield

*Correct answer: zero.

**I was on the set of one of the "CSI"s one time and we were doing a fashion show scene with a bunch of uberhot model-types walking up and down the runway. I found myself beside one of those women at the craft services table later on and I asked her if she actually was a model or an actress playing one. She looked at me--and oh, this girl was so beautiful she made wilted flowers bloom again--like I was a leper trying to lick her popsicle. I didn’t even merit an answer to my question, I was so below her station. The woman next to me who had the rat crawl on her wasn’t as mortified as this poor princess was to have been addressed by me. And as I walked away, still uncertain whether she was a model or an actress, I felt like a real loser, like I had done something wrong. Though at the time I probably also thought she was a bitch, I was more upset with myself for talking to her when I obviously shouldn’t have.

***There were several questions for the panel, but not a single question was asked of the guy who plays Loki. I stood up to go up and ask him about the nature of Loki (whether he's truly evil or just mischievous, whether he actually hates his brother or has a sort of love/hate relationship with him), but the Q&A line was so long I knew there was no point to it. Still, I felt bad for the dude.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Comic-Con Day 2

The other panel I managed to make it to yesterday (after the incredible waste of time that was the Mattel line) was a "Quantum Leap" retrospective panel with Scott Bakula. They basically showed clips from the show and talked to Bakula about it, then took questions from the audience. At end the panel, they showed the last few minutes of the final QL episode, the one that tells you that Sam Beckett never made it home. That always gives me chills, partly because it's such a downer of an ending, but partly because they misspelled his name on the final card. That I don't get.

So, something I tried this year that I'd not tried before, is doing a little recording during my walk to the Con. I spent five minutes or so panting during the mile or so I trudged to get to the Convention Center, and thought, if I could get it to work, that I'd include it here.


If you've ever gone to one of these conventions before, you can guess where I am right now. Yep, standing in a line. A long, long line. The sort of line where you get to know your neighbors intimately and end up finding out where they're from and what STDs they've had (in fact, one of them said a few minutes ago that those are now referred to as STIs). If you're a people person, maybe this whole line thing is not that bad. And masochists seem to like it too. Shoot, I've got an error. There's no way to save this file, so I'll just have to publish it. The line was so long it went through the building, outside of the building, looped around, and up against another building. But we were entertained there, at least. For some reason, someone on the ground was creating little human figures out of foam, and then letting them float up and around the sky. They sometimes looked like suicides, sometimes looked like ghosts, often looked like cloud-people, but were always fun to watch (especially as they sometimes hit into the building and broke apart). A couple of them actually made it up to where we were standing in line, getting people wet and causing at least one shriek that I witnessed.

So, there were three panels I wanted to check out today. The first was AMC's "The Walking Dead" panel. It was the one I was standing in when the foam-creatures attacked. I tried not to waste time, and got in line as soon as I was able. I also wanted to see Joss Whedon at least once this trip (I think he's doing three panels on three days), but the hours went by, it became clear I wasn't going to get in.

But I stayed in the line, figuring I'd be able to see the "True Blood" panel like I did last year. When I finally got in the room, the first two panels had already ended (the Whedon Dead), but I was able to see the tale end of a Women Who Kick Ass panel (which, strangely enough, did not include anyone from the movie KICK-ASS).

You know, I’m a racist bastard who thinks the Australian accent is damned unattractive. But when I heard Anna Torv speaking with it, I immediately became aroused. That must mean I’m growing as a person.

Then I did see the "True Blood" panel. It looks like a fun show to be on, if you're extraordinarily attractive and don't mind gratuitous sex and nudity. That's kind of a big If, actually. The dude who plays Eric got a huge reaction from the womenfolk when he came out last year (tons of screaming and involuntary urination). He wasn't able to attend this year, but they did bring a cardboard cutout of him to honor and make fun of.Jeff and I are a little behind on actually watching the show, so I was a tad more confused this panel than the last, at least as far as what they joked about and referred to from Season 3. From what little I've seen, they've really invented a lot for the characters to do that's not in the book, since the book pretty much only followed Sookie as she left town on another adventure. The guy that got all the attention this year was the dude who plays Alcide (sp?). One audience member even suggested he should play Superman when he grows up.

I wonder what I could play when I grow up. Doctor Phibes, maybe?

Anyhow, I had intended to stick around after the panel and just sit for a while, enjoying not being in line and watching the Batman animated movie they were going to show, but I had decided that this year I would get up early on Saturday, so as not to miss the Hall H panels I really wanted to go to (like I pretty much did last year). So ultimately, I took off a couple of minutes after "True Blood," and trudged back to my parking spot (the worst one I had all four days), went out and got some food, and hit the motel room again with the intention of going to sleep.

But STATE OF PLAY with Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck was on, and I decided to watch it. I am a weak, weak person.

Doubly-weak if you consider my love for Ben Affleck.

Rish Outfield

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Comic-Con Day 1

So, here I am at Comic-Con once again. I’ll try to save my document as I go this time, instead of letting it all go away when my computer shuts down. So, this is the first time I’ve had one of these things with me to keep me occupied while I’m in the line. Unfortunately, I forgot to plug this sucker in the last couple of days, so now there’s only 6% of the battery left. I’ve said it time and time again: Comic-Con is a lot like childbirth. It’s horrible painful and sweaty and unpleasant, and when it’s done you swear you’ll never go through that again, but in time, you forget. And soon, you’re knocked up again, sweating and pushing and screaming and calling your husband a dipshit.

Last year, I drove through the night, but arrived in San Diego too early (motel check-in wouldn’t happen for hours), so I ended up falling asleep in the car and oversleeping. This time, I forced myself to leave later at night, trying to time it so I’d arrive in San Diego just in time to go to the show. That didn’t work either, though, because I got here around seven in the morning, and then found a parking spot (a pretty good one this time), and went to sleep for a couple of hours, setting my alarm to wake me up at nine. It worked pretty well, actually, except that I feel tired and muggy now. Add to that the myriad crowds and shitty organization, and the interminable lines that shouldn’t be interminable, and I’m already starting to rue my forgetfulness.

The highpoint of today was getting to see Danny Elfman, making his first appearance at SDCC, talking about his film score work, and a bit about Oingo Boingo. He was unbelievably humble and seemed almost embarrassed to have so much attention paid to him. Every time someone complimented him, he’d shyly thank them and stammer about it. My favorite question during the Q&A was when a girl said, “You know that song ‘Little Girls?’ Why would you write a song like that, and even if you did, why would you release it?” Another dude asked Danny about his wife, and people asked him about favorite pieces and aspirations and Boingo reunions and Tim Burton (in fact, the moderator actually referred to Danny as Tim Burton at one point), and people were cool.

As fat as he is, this guy looks more like Captain America than Chris Evans does.Surprisingly, it is rainy and overcast here today. There’s no sun in the sky, and it’s about 63 degrees (or it was last time I checked). It’s muggy, though, and humid in a way I’m not used to. I’m not going to complain about the weather, though. I could be skinnier if I wanted to.

I’ve been sitting in line for a long time, not going anywhere, not accomplishing anything, and the guy ahead of me told me to go ahead and find a place to plug in my computer, that he’d watch my stuff (famous last words, I know). I have been unable to get internet access, otherwise, I guess I would be blogging this, but that’s no huge thing. I recognize that I’m addicted to the internet, but just like my Pepsi addiction, I don’t give much of a crap.

They say there’s free internet for Comic-Con attendees, but I can’t get it to connect. I may be in a bad location, so I keep typing this with no way to publish it.

Which reminds me, my sister got me a new cellphone for my birthday last week. It’s only my second cellphone ever, and it has a camera in it. But the very first call I made on it, to my cousin, he couldn’t hear what I was saying, which never happened with my old phone. That doesn’t inspire me with a ton of confidence, but we’ll see.

Right now, I’m in line to pick up something from Mattel, which they’ve set up at a local Marriott hotel. The line should be like diarrhea through an underwear model, but instead, I’ve been here for, I don’t know, a month, and the line hasn’t moved. In fact, I’ve been able to sit here and type all this with my stuff in a pile, and never had to go move it.

I read somewhere that Brits are really good at standing in line. I have a problem with it. I remember going to a Kevin Smith signing one time where I read an entire book waiting in the figging line, and when I finally got up to Kevin (and Jason Mewes), it took approximately twenty seconds for them to sign and tell me thanks for coming. These are things I just do not get.

So, I had quite a drive last night. I consider myself a really good traveler, but after the ninth or tenth hour, I was the living dead. I stopped a couple of times to walk around or splash water on my face or light a candle to San Salieri, the Patron Saint of Mediocrity, and somehow, I managed to stay awake during that long pre-dawn stretch between Baker (home of the world’s largest thermometer, now in a state of disrepair) and San Diego. There was a lot of mist in the air, so much so that the sky was completely grey and I had to run the wipers for all the condensation. It might have been magical, had I been awake to see it.

(later)
I was going to go to bed, but I thought I'd run over to McDonalds and grab a McChicken sandwich before turning in. You see, in California, they have dollar chicken sandwiches that don't taste like the underside of a crematorium. So I ordered a couple and then saw a dude on his laptop (a real one) and realized they have free Wi-Fi here.

Would it surprise you to know this is the first time I've ever gone to a restaurant or cafe and used their signal to surf the internet? It's strangely freeing, like the first time I went to school with no underwear on.

So, the big thing today was walking around and carrying many bags with me. Unless you're staying at the Marriott (and one day, mayhaps I shall, just as soon as someone produces my NUDIST CAMP MASSACRE script), nothing is convenient around here. I parked, as I said, in a good parking spot, but it was still several blocks from the Convention Center, and once I was loaded down with all the purchases I was going to make today, I stumbled back toward my car, so I could stick it all in the trunk and go out and do it all again. Unfortunately, like that Springsteen song says, I took a wrong turn and I just kept going. By the time I realized my mistake, I had walked more than a mile, and there was a fenced-off railway keeping me from where I needed to go.

Around Comic-Con are always these dudes with rickshaws attached to bicycles, who will drive you to your car or to the convention if you are extremely fat and/or lazy. At least that's how Merrill and Matthew and I always looked at it. They're there preying on the weak-willed, over-burdened (with boxes or money), and the terribly out of shape. I'd never stoop to taking a rickshaw, not when I can grow calluses the size of Dalmatian puppies on the soles of my feet.

But today, after being so out of the way and so weighed down by bags and boxes and my ever-widening stomach, the first time one of those rickshaw operators asked me if he could give me a ride, I accepted. I told him where I was parked and he said he knew where that was and I asked him how much it would cost and he said seven dollars, so I loaded onto his vehicle, placed my bags beside me, and enjoyed five minutes of mid-summer breeze on my face.

Well, the driver didn't actually know where the address where my car was parked was, so we had to ask people before we got there. I thanked the man and he said, "Twenty dollars." I said, "You told me seven." "Yes, but this is very much more far than I think it will be." I was a bit upset about this, so I told him I'd give him ten (which I knew I'd still hate myself for afterward). He refused it, saying I made him go very far and owed him more.

So of course I paid him, and hate myself more than I expected to. After I got rid of my stuff, I walked around looking for a place to eat. I don't know how many miles I walked, but when I got to the traditional Wendy's on Broadway, I could've drank a Mountain Dew. Maybe even a DIET Mountain Dew.

At least at the end of the day, I was able to go the right way and make it to my car in less than an hour.

I've been sitting here for a few minutes and suddenly I'm extremely tired. I'm calling this a night.

Rish

Comic-conning

Hello! I finally got internet access!

I think I smell like an obese, unwashed butt right now. I can't wait to get to the hotel room and take a long, showtune-filled showe--

Oh wait, the guy next to me took a few steps down the aisle, and the smell went away. Never mind.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Concert Thoughts

I was stuck in line at Comic-Con today, wondering what to do, and I remembered how Big and I went to a concert together last Saturday. He said he was going to blog about the one interesting thing that happened, so I didn’t bother. But now I wonder if I should have.

Concert thoughts

So, I went to a concert with Big the other day. He told me he was anxious to write about it in his blog, and I figured I’d let him do so, since I’m pretending to be busy right now.

And it turns out that he did blog about it, extensively, including pictures and everything. He certainly said more than I would have, if it had been up to me.

But strangely, it made me want to blog about it anyway, and say a couple of the things that he didn’t say in his own version.

The weather was great, and the music was too. I found myself in a good mood, and really grateful to have a friend who would go to the concert with me (even if it cost way more than he could readily pay). In younger years, I remember artists coming in concert that I very much wanted to go see, but I didn’t have anybody who would go with me, so of course, I didn’t go. That was always a bummer. My buddy Rhett said there was nothing shameful in going to a concert by yourself, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Now, I guess I’d have no problem with it, but I certainly wouldn’t have gone to this one if Big hadn’t come along. I don’t imagine there are any artists I’d care about enough to go see them on my own anymore (not unless Oingo Boingo reformed for some one-night-only benefit show or something).

Oh, so yeah, he hoped Ben Folds would play a certain song, and played it, and then hoped there’d be some boobage, and then a girl beside us fell out of her dress. He said that in his blog, so there’s no reason for me to.

I went to a Sting concert a month or two back, and it was awesome. Totally unusual and memorable. But I’m not sure how many more concerts I’m going to go to.

The truth is, I’ve grown pretty weary of concerts in my old age. When I was a teen, I’d go to these awful local shows that were really more about an excuse to fight (or get beat up, in my case) than appreciate any kind of music. In my teens and twenties, I went to a couple of concerts by bands that I don’t even like anymore. And today, I just don’t care enough to camp out or stand in line for a chance to buy Food For Feet tickets. I’d rather go to a movie, or just get a pizza (though it’s nigh unto impossible where I live to go into a pizza place, order one, and sit down and eat it. I’m not sure why that was phased out in favor of the to-go pizza place, but I hate it. To me, pizza is not fast food, it’s something you eat with your friends and family; it’s a social food, like champagne is a social drink*), or just save my money for a move that may never happen.

I’ve never been popular with the ladies (I was listening to “The Last Picture Show” by Larry McMurtry on the drive down, and it really got me depressed (is that how easy it all is, really?), and I guess I never will. But I have been graced with a couple of good, loyal friends, and I do appreciate that.

So, as I said, I was happy that Big, despite whatever hell he caught from the missus for it, jumped in a car on a Saturday night and went to the show with me. I'd never been to that particular venue (although they change their names so often I'd never know if I had), and it was remote but pretty.

Ben Folds is one of those artists whose work (particularly the lyrics) really speak to me. I got the chance to meet him a few years ago, and I found myself unable to express how much his songs. . . how much I identify with . . . how much I’m able to see in those songs a bit of . . . See?

My friend Merrill told me the other day that he doesn’t hate nearly the amount of music that I do. I initially took umbrage with that, since he always goes on and on about how much he hates Tina Turner, and she’s pretty darn great, so there’s that. But maybe I do hate more music than he does, since he likes a bunch of Portuguese-singing artists, and I think it’s fair to say I’d hate each and every one of them. But I also love a good deal of artists, and a virtual ton of songs.

For my birthday last week, my (extended) family got together and went to a karaoke bar just across the street from K-mart (you know the one). As I’ve said time and again, I love karaoke, and while I’m not a fan of bars, I’ve found one kind I could go to over and over again. I meant to blog about that night, and how my uncle got up and dedicated Let's Get It On to me, and how I dedicated Sweet Transvestite to my father (who had long since gone back home). But I didn't.

Well, aside from my cousin with Down Syndrome, there was nobody more excited about getting up and singing that night as I was. I got up with total stranger to do Bohemian Rhapsody, and sang Pat Benetar with my niece. Singing karaoke (or doing karaoke, or performing karaoke, whatever you call it) is a joyous thing for me, and I hope the fun is infectious.

As I was looking through their book, I found dozens of songs I would’ve loved to sing, and wrote down far more than I’d ever get to. I probably could’ve sung a song from every page in that huge book. So while it’s maybe true I hate more music that Merrill does (there’s not a single Katy Perry or Lady Gaga song out there I can stomach), I’d wager I LOVE a lot more music than he does.

But I don’t know. Heck, he claims to like Opera.

Rish "MusicMaster" Outfield

*Yep, I just compared pizza to champagne. But at least I spelled it right.

Friday, July 09, 2010

writing update

So, I was working on my rebellious teenage girl learns small town secret yesterday, and I got to the point where either a) she meets an unspeakable end (as originally planned), or b) something else happens. It was my intention for the girl to think that her cousins (and farm folk in general) are naive idiots, and would pay the price for it when she ignored their warnings. But when it came time for pushing and shoving, I didn't want her to suffer and die.

Now, either that means that I'm such a good writer that I started to sympathize with a character I had intended to be unlikable, or more likely, I lacked the gonads to do what Bigglesby Anklevich does at the end of his stories all the time. The man is merciless, and has killed himself, the world, and his children off in stories in the past.

The first time I hit this particular wall was in 1991, when I wrote a story called "The Secret Society," and decided the main character (loosely based on my friend Rhett) should get away at the end, rather than join the soulless, skinless minions of the titular society. I guess I liked the character too much, or had invested so much in it that I didn't want the ending to be unhappy, and wussed out by having him turn his back on the organization, and the society simply lets him go. My friends liked the story (especially Rhett), and it never bothered me much that I betrayed my initial intentions for it.

But that stuff happens all the time now. It's really rare that I'll have a truly unhappy ending for my stories, and that may be because I've grown so weak and miserable in my old age, that I can't bear to let the fictional people I've created suffer and/or die (or become the underage bride of a leprous boogeyman).

That could be a good thing (after all, how many professional writers have you heard say that one of their characters "surprised them" by doing or saying something unplanned, seemingly of the characters' own volition?

Conversely, I could have become like those Stephen Sommers movies, where there's never even the slightest chance that the good guys are in any serious danger, and despite the outlandish setpieces, the danger is totally gone from every situation. I'd hate to be one of those.

I don't want to get in one of those "Writing is hard"/"No, it isn't!" arguments, but it is really difficult sometimes to know what to do on a story, when a fork appears in the road (or, a spork, in my case). In my experience, I often don't know which is the right choice until I just write it through to "The End" (or to a dead end). Only then can I look back and say, "Yup, this was the way to go," or "Whoops, this didn't work at all."

With screenwriting it's a different animal, because things can change with different drafts, and you can always go back to an earlier draft if a change was a mistake, and most important, you're SUPPOSED to have several drafts in screenwriting. In short story writing, I've found that either the story works or it doesn't, and there's not much point in trying to write it over again and fix it. Often, I'd just be better off taking the road untraveled and going down it in a future story.

Anklevich talks about this all the time (in fact, we talked about it quite a bit on the episode of the show we just recorded), and sometimes I've disagreed with him (in fact, I probably argue quite a bit on the episode, even though I think he's right in this case). Maybe in art there is no simple right or wrong. Maybe a good enough writer could make either one of my endings work, and have the reader think, "Wow, that's how it had to end from the start."

At this point, I've decided to let Allyson (my main character) live. Perhaps that's weak on my part, but it's the path I'm taking. I can always kill the next rebellious teenager that comes along.

Rish "Serial Killer In The Making" Outfield

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

ROYALE (without cheese)

My cousin and I rewatched CASINO ROYALE today.

I'm a huge fan of that movie. And after actually playing Texas Hold 'em poker at the cabin, I thought we'd check it out and see if I'd appreciate it on a different level. I found it amusing that they called it "Hold Em Poker" in the film.

My cousin told me he wasn't a fan when he saw this in 2007, going as far as to say that it wasn't a "real James Bond movie." But now he claims he never said that. But not everybody can love CASINO ROYALE the way I do. Perhaps no one can.

Even so, watching it with an eye for how the game is played wasn't really a fruitful pursuit. The movie is told in such a way that they focus on the emotion of the game rather than the techniques, so that you know who is winning and when, but the "why" isn't all that important. If anything, I was just reminded of what an excellent, personal film it all is.

I'm lucky to have been alive when this movie came out.

Uh oh, this is starting to sound like a positive blog post. I should put it away and start on something else.

Monday, July 05, 2010

July 5th

July 5th, 2010

So, the end of our little vacation has come. I found it pretty enjoyable, especially the card playing, tormenting the two year old, and talking to my Uncle Jerry about Mennonites and Amish. I had been kicking around a story idea about an Amish father and son for a little while, and after our conversation, I might go ahead and write it.

As far as actual writing on the trip, I am currently working a story about a rebellious girl who is sent to live with her religious fanatic relatives in the country, and discovers a dark secret in the little farming community. I fully expected to finish it (I was at the part where she calls her mother from a Mom and Pop cafĂ© only to find out the whole town believes in the creature that comes out after curfew), but I didn’t end up writing a single word.

Instead, I did a bit of journal-writing and almost finished reading one of Jeff's books. Right now, the morning sun is getting high in the sky, and there’s a feeling of spring outside. It’s something I remember from my childhood, that said that school would soon be out and who knew what possibilities lied ahead. Nice.I didn't mention how many people were jammed into that cabin, but it was probably around fifteen, my parents among them. They don't live together anymore, but are (usually) civil when in each other's company.

I'm not at all close to my dad, but I have been making an effort to see old movies so we could talk about them, and we chatted about HANG 'EM HIGH and THE AFRICAN QUEEN. He has an encyclopedic knowledge about movies from a certain era. The same way I am about movies of my own era, I suppose. It's weird whenever I discover that an aspect of my personality was inherited from (or is eerily similar to) my father. One thing he said this trip was that you can't go wrong watching a movie with Randolph Scott in it. I'm trying to think of who I could apply that to in 2010, but nobody's coming to mind. Strange.

At one point he said, "What these moviemakers need to do is show me all their movies beforehand, and I could tell them what's wrong with them." That does seem like something I would say, but if I were in that position, Parmount woudn't have made half a billion dollars from those shitty Transformers movies. But I do wonder what the world of cinema would be like if the decisions were up to my father. This is, after all, the man who accused me of bringing filth into his house when I borrowed a copy of LETHAL WEAPON from Matt Lloyd.

The whole weekend, my mom's little dog followed everyone around, begging to be fed people food. Several of us, myself included, tossed her scraps, or bits of meat, or in one child's case, their entire sandwich. I guess I've a soft spot for small, pitiful creatures.

Which reminds me, even though I live to scamper after frogs, I decided that it would be kindest to free the tinest of my captives, since those would be the hardest to feed. It had warmed up really nicely today, so as many as wanted to come loaded up into my mom's car and drove to the lake, where I let my nephew toss the frogs back into the water. I ran out of frogs long before he grew tired of the game.

My brother-in-law skipped stones and the rest of us tossed rocks in the water before returning to the cabin to finish packing and getting ready to leave. Right before we were leaving, somebody shrieked (this is after my cousin threw a fit about having to go home and back to school). Apparently, my mom's dog had a little too much people food, as she had . . . well, I guess I'll just come out and say it: her entire back end was covered with diarrhea. It had coated her tail, seat, and rear legs, and it produced an odor so foul, I can't even imagine it. Or maybe I just don't want to imagine it.

Me being the resident animal lover, I volunteered to wash the dog, but it was an ordeal, as the heat had been turned off, and there was only cold water available, and a washrag that had to be burned when the procedure was finally over. It was such a dirty job that my right hand also had to be burned afterward.

With that out of the way (and three cars did drive away while I was in the midst of that), we headed back to civilization, paperwork, comfortable beds, and internet access.

Now the question is, how much of this do I publish as a blog post, and how much do I censor? I may have to go back over it and see if there's anything I shouldn't say out loud, but more likely, I'll just forget about it and end up posting the whole darn thing a week or two from now. Ah well.

Rish

Sunday, July 04, 2010

July 4th, 2010

My uncle Ali and I loaded into my mom's car and went hunting for cell signals. His brother-in-law claims you have to head fifteen miles back toward civilization in order to make a phone call, but Ali claimed there was a much closer sweet spot, just up the hill a ways.

So he drove up the bumpy dirt road, holding one cellphone up to check the bars, and another to actually make the call with. We drove quite a bit searching, all the while my uncle telling me about his problems of late and a couple of opportunities for wealth that slipped through his fingers. He talked a lot, perhaps just needing a non-judgmental ear to vent to. His teenage son refused to go on this little camping trip, and Ali was worried about what kind of dickens he'd be up to with the house (and the city of Las Vegas) all to himself.

I've always liked my uncle Ali, mostly because he is such a relatable, screwed up dude. My mom and aunt complain about his language and lack of manners, and that makes me like him more, for some reason. His life is tough right now, without a job, and myriad family problems. He'd like to move away from Vegas and try things again, but it looks like that's not going to happen any time soon. He eyed one of those big motorhome rigs on the side of the road, and I asked him if it wasn't romantic to him to buy something like that and just go where he wants when he wants for as long as he wants.

It's romantic to me. I've been single for so long, it's hard to imagine a world where I couldn't just get in a car and drive if the spirit moved me. I'm not really one of those people to just not go to work, though. I remember calling in sick when I wasn't sick all of, maybe twice, in the three years I worked at my job in L.A.. Part of that was that I honestly looked forward to going to work on Monday, of having responsibilities, seeing pretty faces, and palling around with my coworkers. I'd like to have a job like that again.

One of these days, I think I will just get in a car and drive. I sometimes do that on Sunday afternoons, but it's not the same here as it was in L.A.. There, I sometimes drove (or rode my bike in my fitter days) down to the beach to look at the waves or put my feet in the water or be accosted by the homeless.

Someday, Jennifer, someday.

Oh, so Ali and I did find our cellphone service. It was only 2.3 miles from the cabin (we kept track), and so we'd find the spot again, he and I built a big pile of rocks on the side of the road, and put a picture of Gary Coleman there hoping people would assume it's a shrine* and leave it alone. Hopefully, a year from now, it'll still be easy to find the spot.

So, there was little sleep to be had last night. There’s just so many people here and so little insulation between walls and floor that every creak, grunt, movement, and snore reverberated throughout the whole cabin. My nephew absolutely wouldn’t go to sleep, and while the twenty-something adults played cards downstairs, we could hear the boy talking and singing to himself above us. Finally, I went up to ask if he needed a drink or something, and he craftily volunteered to hug me goodnight . . . refusing to let go afterward. So I brought him downstairs and his parents laid him down, but he just laid there, entertaining himself for the next hour, even though it was one in the morning by now.

My uncle had built a fire in the fireplace, and it started getting really hot in the cabin, to the point where we opened the windows to cool things down. After a while, we finished playing cards and I fell asleep. But as soon as the loudest of the children awoke the next morning, there was no sleep for anyone. And to my horror, it was SNOWING outside. It had started as rain, became sleet, and then, as in a nightmare, we had icy wet globules falling down. Dude, snow on Independence Day is like a white Christmas in Sydney.

A large meal was planned. I enjoy barbecuing, so I cooked chicken and hamburgers outside, where I could see my breath. Because it’s summer, I hadn’t brought any long pants, so I ended up changing back into my pajama bottoms, like an unattractive co-ed on a Saturday afternoon. Even then, it was a little cold, but I had the grill to warm me.

Later in the day, the sun came out again, and it was strange to see steam rising from the ground where the sunlight hit. Because of the weather, we spent pretty much the whole day indoors. My Uncle Ali says that vacations are for three things: eating, sleeping, and taking a dump, and that you rotate through those three activities until your vacation is through.

I did some reading and playing of card games with my sister and her husband, and my cousins. After a while, my brother-in-law suggested we play a friendly little game of poker, using Skittles and brown candies as chips. It changed the feel of the game, knowing there were tangible stakes, and it made it easy to see who was winning and losing by the amount of candy in front of them.

My evil cousin Ryan lost first, but bought back in (using real money). Eventually, even though I had little clue how to play poker when we began (it was Texas Hold ‘em, and I haven’t seen CASINO ROYALE in way too long), the final two players ended up being my sister and me. We had tons of brown candies, Skittles, and candy bars between us, and rather than play out till there was an actual winner, we just bet it all on one last hand. I had a King and a Three, and my sister had a King and a Nine. So, she won the whole pot. Because we had been handling the Skittles for hours, we decided no one could eat them, though I know some of the little kids found that to be ludicrous.

We also played Phase Ten, and a game I’d never heard of called California Speed (I was trounced on that one even by the sixteen year old), until my poor pregnant sister was too uncomfortable to play anymore. Then I went to bed and suffered through the medieval torture that was a dilapidated bunkbed. It was hard on my back, on my neck, and alternately too hot and too cold. Also, every time I moved to try and get a better position, it squeaked and gibbered like the unsheeted dead.

I didn’t expect a sort of Spanish Inquisition.

Rish

*Okay, the Coleman part was a joke. Where would I get a picture of him?

Saturday, July 03, 2010

July 3rd, 2010

July 3rd, 2010

So, it’s July 4th weekend, and I decided to go with my family up to their mountain cabin for a couple of days. It’s the first time since I got this little fake laptop that I’ve been to the cabin, so I was excited by the possibilities. Normally my dad starts coming up here at the end of May or beginning of June when the snow's all melted, but I haven't come till now. It's weird, I'm sort of a homebody, but I enjoy the outdoors, and I like the trees and the breeze and the logs and the . . . well, you know.

Not long after I arrived, my brother was putting up a second solar power collector, and I volunteered to help him dig the trench he'll run the cable from the generator to the cabin with. The ground wasn't hard and it didn’t take long, but now I feel like I’ve been juggling elephants. My back is bothering me and it gives me another reason to be grouchy.

Afterward, I took a little walk around the lake by myself, listening to podcasts and looking for frogs. I actually caught a couple of larger-than-normal ones, but this species is naturally so tiny that they’re hardly worth the effort. I think they’re spring peepers, but I don’t know. The thing is, I am consciously aware of the fact that these frogs are going to be nothing but trouble and I ought to just let them go instead of taking them home and trying (unsuccessfully) to feed them, but I’ve got some kind of pathological fixation on frogs, and just there’s no reasoning with me. Maybe someday they’ll make a pill for that.The walk I took was a nice one, probably two or three miles, but I’m pretty darn fat now, and my back is complaining. I suppose I ought to start exercising regularly and trying to lose some of this excess weight, but I just don’t see it happening. There seems to be very little point anymore. Besides, they say that getting in shape gets harder with each passing year. If that doesn't break your spirit, not a lot will.

It's mid-afternoon now. My brother left for home as soon as the work was done. He told me that it’s not the cabin he dislikes, but all the people. I guess my aunt was complaining and being unpleasant and he just had to make a break for it. I totally understand that.

Right now, the children are running around, screaming like they’re in the middle of shooting a kiddie snuff film. It gets hard for me not to hate them when they’re so loud and obnoxious. The only one who is behaving even remotely like a human being is my cousin’s daughter, but she just follows her older cousins around as they try to ditch her or prevent her from playing whatever game they’re involved in that requires them to sound like drug-fiending howler monkeys.

I suppose that my sister will bring over her nephew before long, and I’ll want to rejoin the dog and pony show, but for now, I thought I would grab my little fake laptop and go off on my own and write or play a game or watch an episode of “Doctor Who” on it. I found a little spot at the bottom of the hill where I’ve laid down (my back thanked me by dialing the pain down to simple discomfort), and have the laptop on my lap (who’da thunk it?). Every once in a while, I'll lay back to alternate typing and looking up at the sky. It produces a lot of heat, right on the crotch, and if I said that was unpleasant, I’d be lying. And why lie to you?

In fact, I’ll be completely honest and tell you that I’ve written this twice now, that I was typing before when the computer suddenly restarted (apparently updating some program), losing the blog entry I was typing on. I considered saying the F-word and forgetting about it, but I reconsidered.

I said the C-word instead.

As I said the other day, I'm never sure how candid to be on this darn blog, and my first inclination is to just type away as though it's a journal that only I will see. And that's a recipe for disaster, isn't it? Regardless, I'm carrying on since I hope I've scared all but the most stalwart among you with all the profanity. All those scary, dangerous letters.

In listening to those podcasts while I was frog-hunting, I couldn't help but think about my own show, and my own writing efforts of late. Both could certainly be increased, persisted, and improved upon, and who knows what the end result would be? One of the episodes of Escapepod I was listening to ended with story feedback, and they actually read on the air some of the fan criticism of their work. I could never do that.

Seriously, some author worked long and hard on writing a story, and other people worked long and hard on bringing it to an audio audience--a non-paying audio audience--doing the best they could to present a piece of quality entertainment. Fuck the people who disliked the story, or found it predictable (the biggest, most-oft-repeated criticism by Escapepod listeners). Or if not fuck them, at least have them keep it to themselves. What possible good would it do to criticize a show that’s already done, already out there, and not about to be revised or “fixed” to please them? Oh, and did I mention that it was free?

And maybe I’m wrong, that everybody deserves their say, and if you don’t like something you should be able to say that you didn’t like it and why. But why spend valuable minutes of your podcast repeating that “Walt Flanagan thought the story was preachy and long-winded, with a narrative that used three words to express several one word ideas. And oh yes, the ending was predictable”? I just couldn’t do that on my own show.

First of all, the authors who heard us give credence to the complainers would probably feel betrayed and never send us another story, and second, I know myself and human nature: the one voice in ten who didn’t like our work would be louder than the nine people who did, and I’d repeat the arrogant little barbs to myself over and over until nearly all the fun we had in doing the show would have boiled off.

Recently, Big Anklevich and I have been kicking around the idea of doing a final episode of the podcast, that we’d have on the shelf ready to go the second we decide to pull the plug. In it, we’d tell each other thanks for the other’s work, thank those who liked our show, and say our goodbyes. We’d give our predictions as to why the end had come (whether it was due to my timely death or his usual malaise), look back on the good times, and reveal to everyone that Announcer Man is a lesbian. I even suggested that we let people who donate to the show listen to that episode if they choose to, as a pseudo-reward. Because the day will come, dudes and dudettes, when it’s just no fun anymore. Big began talking about quitting the podcast about two months after we started it, and he reminds me every couple of months that it’s a likely possibility. And I used to talk him out of it, or try to cheer him up, or just ignore the guy, knowing he’d come around eventually.

But he’s right. And recently, I’ve understood at least some of his reasoning. Plus, the guy puts way more work into the show than me, with far fewer free hours of leisure time anyway. If it’s not enjoyable and it’s not productive (ie helping us financially or getting our foot in the door for something that does pay money), then there isn’t much reason to continue. Lately, I’ve come to appreciate that, and we didn’t work on the show for a while because of it.

Escapepod went off the air for weeks this year, when Steve Eley had to step down and a search was made for replacement hosts and editors. He gave a quite impressive and intimate closing speech, talking about the joy that fiction--and sharing that fiction with others--gives him. His words touched a lot of people, and his fans waited with baited breath for the podcast to return. I’m a different kind of host, with a different kind of show and listenership, so my own goodbye would be very different. And I doubt that so much of a hubbub would be made when I close my doors. Not for an old con like me.

The other thing I kept thinking about was my own writing. Dang, Big’s been up in arms lately about writing and sending out his work and making a living doing it, and I’m not one to burst his bubble. I don’t believe that I’ve written about this before, but with no internet access, I’ll just have to assume that I haven’t. He read a bunch of essays about writing, and it’s inspired him to jump up and be a real writer. Yeah, I think I did blog about this recently (sorry).

Me, I’m beyond help. I’m set in my ways, I’m not going to change, and I don’t even want to (it’s like the fatness thing). And I am a real writer.

I mentioned the one thing I started doing to motivate me to write more in a recent post, and I’m still doing that. And yeah, it has produced at least one solid writing session a week for a couple of months now. I’ve finished old stories and worked on new ones, and enjoyed the structured sit-down moments where that’s all I do. I really like to write. That’s one of those things that, unlike the podcast, is fun enough in and of itself that I’ll do it forever. I get a joy and sense of value out of writing that doesn’t require any outside approval or acknowledgement. Nobody else has to read my work for me to be proud of it and feel that it was worth doing. It’s like a journal, I suppose.

Writing is one of three things that I really do well. The other two are in evidence in my podcast. So there’s that.

You know, I was listening to a DVD audio commentary the other day where there were two credited writers for the script, but one of the writers claims that he wrote it all himself, but had to take a co-writer credit in order to get his foot in the door and have it produced. I hear that sort of thing in the screenwriting biz all of the time, and have even experienced it (though probably not to that extent). It made me think a little bit about writing collaborations.

I keep telling Big that we ought to partner up on a story or script together, about the time I came to visit him from L.A. and there was a big snowstorm and I nearly had to stay on his couch, for fear of being lost in the frozen white flurries. Since the two main characters would be based on us, it just felt like a natural, for us both to handle. Part of me wants to just write the story myself, since he has been having difficulty finding the time or motivation to work on it, but the other part of me has no idea how to do it, and wants Monsieur Anklevich around to do some of the lifting.

Collaborations rarely work, in my experience, partly because there’s no way to share the same mindset and attitude about the story. Also, there’s a sense of ownership--a proprietary feeling over a project--that makes it hard for there to be two captains. I once proposed that Jeff and I work on a screenplay together. It was my second-ever feature film script, and I thought I had a pretty fun idea that could be shot for almost no money (in those days, I was under the impression that a group of friends and I were going to form a little production company and make films together, so we’d need to start cheap and easy). So, I told Jeff that I’d write up a step outline and we’d just split the writing of it 50/50, each of us taking the scenes that chance gave us.

But Jeff didn’t go for this. I had already written the plot myself, the beginning, middle, and end, and I guess he felt restrained by this, creatively stifled. It wasn’t our project, it was my project, that he would be working on, and that’s something he didn’t want to sacrifice x number of hours to. So, when I went away to L.A. for an internship, I wrote that script myself (though Jeff did supply one scene).

We did end up collaborating on two more scripts after that, though, in two different ways. The first was Jeff’s baby, and he wrote it, then passed it on to me to, I don’t know, spruce up. Actually, that may have been something I did against his wishes, as he really just needed the support and encouragement to reach the FADE TO BLACK. I don’t know if it bothered him that I added my quirky dialogue and silly movie references, but I loved working that way (since Jeff did almost all the heavy lifting on that one, and my contribution was just fun, like a script doctor in the real industry).

And the second successful collaboration was just the two of us writing together. I typed, he typed, we’d send it back and forth, reading it aloud and making changes until we reached the end. Enjoyable, and practically drama-free. In a perfect world, all of those scripts would have been produced, and I’d own my own house right now.

So it’s for that reason that I wanted this collaboration with B.A. to go well, that he feel invested in the story and characters, and desire to work on it as much as I did. If it’s just my story and me calling the shots, then I might as well write it myself. Who knows what our combined personalities might achieve?

Over the last decade, I’ve done a lot to encourage him to write his bleak and shocking stories, but now that he’s so enthusiastic about writing professionally, maybe I need him to encourage me.

I don’t know how your brain works, but with me, I’m always thinking about stories, or scenes, or reveals, or dialogue, or scenarios, every single day. Wouldn’t it be funny if . . . Wouldn’t it be scary if . . . Wouldn’t it be awesome if . . . And I sometimes remember my ideas, sometimes write them down, sometimes turn them into actual stories. And rarely do I share them with somebody.

Of course, this year I did that share-my-writing-every-single-day-on-my-blog thing, so I guess I’ve done alright with that. Maybe I should do that again.

Hmmm, my uncle wants someone to drive up the mountain with him, looking for cellphone reception. I've been at this for an awfully long time. Maybe I'll volunteer to go on the ride and continue this later.