Saturday, March 24, 2007

Spoonfuls of Sugar

Mary Poppins once said “In every chore there is an element of fun. If you find the fun then snap (snap), the job becomes a game.” I have always felt that taking my dog on his afternoon walk was a bit of a chore. We have to chris-cross the apartment complex with him pulling and sniffing everywhere. The crowning moment though is his poo. He usually waits until…well forever to do his business. That is until I discovered something.

I have found that if I put a little resistance on his lease, you know just sort of pull back, his poo will start to push out. Sorry, I don’t know a better, more euphemistic or poetic way of phrasing it. I pull, he pushes. Now, bearing this in mind, picture his lease. It is one of those retracting deals with the thumb button that allows it to lock; similar to a fishing reel. There you have all the elements; and what makes this nastiness so fun you ask?

Well, it requires some skill, those poo’s don’t just line up and jump out like army parachuter’s out of a plane…no, no. It’s like fishing. You know, he’ll pull and I’ll give some resistance, he’ll turn in another direction and I’ll give him some line. Pull-give, stop-reel in, and so forth until I have caught a brown trout. I consider myself a rather accomplished Turd Angler. It is like watching one of those fishing shows on ESPN 8 (the ocho), except way more fucked up. The weirdest thing; you can tell if its gonna be a big one on the line. LJ was quite amazed when I showed her. She will stand there with the net (dog-bag) and I will yell directions. “Get ready! Whoa! This one’s a fighter” and she will reply with “Keep it down.” She’s like my assistant. Now, if I could just find a taxidermist with a sense of humor.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Retirement might just KILL me!

Admit it. Most of you are staying in some crap job, that you hate, or are striving to attain some job with a good pension or 401K for that one shining prize…retirement. This last week I have had nothing to do. What can I say, archaeology is slow right now. I have been sitting at home, watching unhealthy amounts of Net TV and sleeping. It is MADDENING! I am going slowly insane, and honestly that’s a pretty short trip for some of us. The real kicker; its only been a week. I don’t know what I’m going to do come, like what, eighty I guess; that’s when retirement will be for my generation right? If this week has been any indicator I will be full-on nuts within a month. You want a somewhat accurate glimpse at what that will be like; just watch The Shining with Jack Nicholson. I mean I may even still be writing this freakin’ novel, only it won’t be as coherent and as well versed as ol’ Jack’s.

You know, I used to have this neighbor at the end of my street. This dude was an old man that scared all the little kids to death. I swear to you that he sat by his front door windows, in the shadows, and waited for someone to set a misplaced toe on one blade of his grass. He would run out of his house screaming like you had taken liberties with his wife while shitting in his cereal. This guy threatened to take my bike away and crush it in the garbage truck one day; I was terrified. Now though, I realize that this guy merely had nothing else to do. The poor bastard probably had to choose between daytime TV and waiting to scare the souls out of little defenseless children. Not much of a choice really. After this week I have to almost admire the guy’s dedication to his unwilling past time.

I just don’t know how some people do it. Honestly, I look at the situation with my distant Uncle. The guy got up every morning and went down to the Y and did laps in the pool. Then he went to work at his gear manufacturing company (think Spacely Sprockets, only he was Mr. Spacely). He would work ‘till like noon when he would go do executive lunches and meetings. Yet, he would still have time to get ripped like an Irish sailor with my then young adult dad at night, before driving home and passing out in his mansion. The next day the cycle would repeat. Now, he turned his company over to his board of directors at the age of eighty-five and died two days later. Some would look at that like my uncle worked himself to death. Personally, I think work may have been making life worthwhile enough to keep on going.

I might enjoy retirement if I could find something cool to do with myself. My wife had an uncle who raced stock cars on the weekends. Well, one weekend he wins this really big race. On his victory lap, after he has crossed the finish line, he has a massive heart attack and dies in his moment of sweet glory. Hands down the best death I have ever heard of. My wife thinks it was horrible because he was still relatively young. My opinion, what if the rest of that guys life was nothing but a gentle downhill slide into senility and regret? I like the whole idea of going out on top.

I guess the role model I should really be looking at is my grandfather. The guy retires from the air force and what does he do? (Throat clearing) He builds a house, gets a masters in education, studies to take the BAR exam, gets a real-estate license, goes on virtually pro-level seniors golf tours, learns about computers and the internet, takes piano lessons and is still finding more and more things to occupy himself. The guy is squeezing more life into what most would consider the finale days than some people ever do…ever. Inspiring stuff.

Still, I don’t know if I’m that much of a self-starter. Maybe…naw. No, I think, if this week has been any kind of indicator. I am going to have to find myself a good comfortable chair to sit in while keeping watch out my window, and waiting for some little bastard to set foot on my property. Only there will be less bluster and more actual bike smashing I think. People hate empty threats.

TV and Ice-Cream

It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been saving creative energies for the book I’m writing. Yeah, I decided that turning an idea directly into a screenplay might be harder than developing the plot, characters, and clever dialog in an honest to God novel. I don’t have any grand desires though; I think this will be a short story…maybe a full-on novel by the time I’m done. Not to mention that being my first effort it may stink on wheels. It takes for freakin’ ever to get the dialog right and convey what is going on through action and descriptive narrative without repeating yourself. Anyway, I hope to be done with the first chapter by May. Also, I have decided not to publish it online without any copyright protection. I will let any interested friends read it when I’m a little further along, if they so desire.

On to the post…

I was watching the HBO series “Carnival” the other night with LJ when I started getting a little pissed-off. I started feeling like I was being strung along (if you haven’t seen this show then think of the show “Lost”, same basic idea). The thing about both of these shows is that they want to keep their mystery, and that’s fine. Yet, in doing so they never answer any fundamental questions or situations they pose.

For example (and I’ll use Lost since it’s a network show and more people are likely to be familiar with it) at the beginning of Lost’s season one the audience was shown the activities and aftermath of some unseen monster. At the end of season one you still had no idea what the monster was, why it was doing what it was doing, or what its origins were; hell, you never even saw a good long glimpse of it. The writers revealed nothing. There was never a resolution to any of the fundamental mysteries only some resolutions to the mini-dramas that the characters brought about themselves. This actually caused a bit of a backlash in the form of outraged emails and letters from fans. So, in season two they tried to have more resolved while preserving some of the mystery.

My friends this is crap. The writers or producers will throw their characters in to wild situations that may or may not lead to someone getting killed while only lightly touching on the paramount concerns that originally lit your interest. I hear that season three is basically just a hostage situation. What about the “Dharma Initiative”? What about the monster? What happened with that static discharge at the end of season two? The series Carnival is much the same. The lead character goes on some winding path that could go on for as long as they need it to while never making any tangible headway towards the original goal.

Then it came to me, just as it did the night that I waited in shaking anticipation to catch the first episode of Beverly Hills 90210, this is a God damned soap opera! Oh, the window dressing is better, but still there it is. These shows could go on forever and never have any resolutions. This is why I am a big believer in limited run series. Think about it. If the writers, producers, studios, etc. knew that they only had three or four seasons to develop the characters and get the plot wrapped up the stories would be way more cohesive; the shows that much better. As it is you see more and more zany situations and characters sliding in and out of cheesy soap-opray romances and affairs. C’mon we’re too smart for that…right?

I know I am sounding like a broken record, but honestly some of the best shows I have ever seen were the ones whose production team didn’t think they were coming back next season (almost any show on [Adult Swim]). The stories are so much better and progressive. Anyway, I guess America isn’t ready for that. We are a nation that has allowed SNL to stay on the air WAY longer than it should have. Should I throw The Simpsons in there? Yeah, I think I have to. I guess the only point I can make here is don’t get too involved with any one show for too long. After all isn’t getting that one great ice-cream flavor for a short time, way better than always getting the same flavor all the time?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I’m a Quitter

Well, it’s been a year and I did it. I have not touched a cigarette, cigar, pipe (of any description), joint, bong, hookah, etc. for one whole year. Thus proving, once and for all, that I could quit any time I felt like. Now I will be able to enjoy as many cigarettes as I wish without any feelings of dependency because I never really had an addiction. I can blow smoke in the face of any mother giving me the evil eye while shepparding her precious baby away. I can flick ashes on any up-tight Californian with a sanctimonious attitude. I can finally hold my cigarette high and pronounce to the world that though I enjoy the smooth refreshing feeling of my first morning drag I am not an addict. Take that Rob Reiner.

Seriously though, I feel good about it. I had been a smoker for a while and while I may not been as heavy a user as some or for as long as others, it was still very hard to give up. I think the most difficult thing wasn’t any kind of real addiction, but the association I made with everything over the course of smoking. I got into routines like; between shifts at work, or after dinner, or during sex. It was more habit forming due to my own mental associations with smoking than any nicotine fix I needed. I kinda think that the patch or the nicotine pills are placebos. I just don’t see how someone could really develop a dependency on something so gentle. Maybe hardcore drugs, but I think smoking can be as habit forming as McDonald’s food, alcohol and network television.

So now I’m trying to decide what to do with all the fat cash I am saving every month. I am in the process of saving for a PS3 and I’m almost there. Maybe I can mail it to the poor tobacco execs who seem to always be shilling out money to an overbearing government or some whinny ex-smoker with “cancer”. Or maybe I can put it into my newest fixation…chewing gum. Yup, I’m already a pack-a-day man with that habbit.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Fine, Die.

A little while back I got into a discussion with LJ about how we might do things differently if we were running our own Airline. Her position was that she would design airplanes with more amenities and comfortable seating. I said that if people knew that these planes were way safer that tickets would sell better. Things got tense; we can really get into it over these hypothetical situations. Anyway, the conversation got pretty heated and its times like that that I need vindication. Most of you already know this, but for those who don’t, when I can’t convince someone all on my own I call my buddy Courtney and if that doesn’t work then I start to call everyone.

The question we posed? If you had to buy an airline ticket and you could only choose between airline A and airline B which would you purchase. A is offering roomier seats and more leg room; while B has the same seat configurations as now, yet it also has a safety feature that would make your chances of surviving any mid-air catastrophe greater than 50%. What was the consensus? Most of you would rather be comfortable than have less the chance of dieing. So, with LJ’s agreement I decided to up the percentage in my favor to a 90% chance of living. This didn’t affect the outcome in the slightest.

A lot of you wanted to add caveats or addendums to the question like “How long is the flight?”, or “Well, flying is already the safest way to travel” and “How would I know that this safety feature would work?” To that I say, how many of you people wear seatbelts or expect that cars should have airbags? The planes that you fly in are pretty damn safe, yes, however why do a flight-check every single time before it takes off? I mean that only increases the safety by a small fraction right? These planes are still REALLY safe without a flight check every time. To me it seamed that people don’t really care about safety until it is imposed on them or available without the cost of comfort. Maybe I’m just sour grapes. Still, I think Darwin would have something to say about this. In fact, the only people who sided with me were those with little children or a fear of flying.

My Opinion:

What this tells me is that people have a complete disregard for personal safety as long as they feel safe. I have done a lot of hobbies that some would consider thrill seeking or inherently dangerous, yet in doing these hobbies one has to take a lot of measures to prevent disastrous outcomes because if anything goes wrong there is little to no redundancy to ensure survival. You know, an ounce of prevention…To me it seems like a car has all sorts of safety measures that go from crumple zones, seatbelts, airbags, safety glass, and antilock brakes. Not to mention that a car never really exceeds 100 mph. Most collisions occur below 50 mph. Oh yeah, and if a problem occurs you can always pull over and stop, in lieu of falling out of the sky. An airplane, on the other hand, is an incredibly complex device that can be in a lot of trouble if there is any kind of mechanical or human error. Where does an airplane go when it has trouble? Strait down, man. Eh, you can’t win ‘em all though so I’ll concede this victory to LJ. Until, that is, she dies in horrible fiery and completely pointless plane crash. Then I win by default.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Greatest Movie Ever

I just got back from another out of town job so that’s why I haven’t posted in a while. So, in the last exciting episode I issued a personal challenge to write a screenplay that was better than the crap in theaters now and for like the last year or so (with some exceptions of course). At first I was thinking I needed to keep any ideas I might have on this as hush-hush as possible, yet I reconsidered for a couple of reasons. First being that I want this to be as original a concept as possible and I don’t want any of my vast archival memory of movies slipping into this through my subconscious. That said, I also want everyone who reads this to understand that some basic principals of story telling still apply. There must be a protagonist and an antagonist. There will be familiar story concepts and motivations. However, I don’t want it to be a blatant copy of another movie, vis-à-vis Little Miss Sunshine. I want to throw every part of my working story ideas up on the net so that as I go people can critique or make suggestions etc.

Second, I really don’t want to spend like the next year working on something in my free time to find out that it sucked worse than what I was ripping on. So, please feel free to blast any shitty ideas. For the sake of not ruining the ending I may withhold some of the climax stuff, but we are a long ways off from that.

There is a great literary quote I took to heart before starting this that goes “Write what you know.” With that in mind I thought about what my favorite movies were and how I might write given the opportunity and my overriding personality. I think for these reasons my movie would be an action/adventure (duh). So, let me just give you a really bare bones plot concept I came up with and you tell me if you think its any good.

The story would start in the American past and follow a guy or small group who finds or is led to a valuable item that he or they decides he must protect or steal for some reason of ethics or greed. I’m thinking a train robbery where the loot is a little too valuable to leave in the hands of whoever it is in possession of or something like that. So it is stolen and the guy or group makes a spectacular getaway.

Flash forward to modern times where a mixed group of (you guessed it) archaeologists, out in some remote area, stumble across an item or journal that convinces all or some of them that this item is hidden somewhere they could find it.

The truly interesting concept that I liked was that there would be a flip-flop between the two times so that you could see the adventures and struggles of both groups as they go on their own yet connected adventures. A problem for one may present similar or completely different struggles for another. For example hiding or traversing something in the past may present certain logistical, geographical or time related problems for those in the future. Also, the story would be shown in such a way that though you may be stumped as to how either group may proceed or escape the previous story clip from the opposite time would guide the audience as to what may happen next. Yet the story won’t be completely obvious as to everything that will happen.

Of course as with any story there will be a love interest and some characters you will hate and some you will like. I was thinking that there needed to be a somewhat obvious similarity between two of the main characters, one in the past and one in the present. As far as the conclusion goes; I have some pretty good ideas so far, but I need to flesh out the rest of the story first.

So, there you have it, a very basic plot outline. Now, tell me what you think. I promise I will be open to any constructive criticisms and recommendations. I will start working on actual story and post that at some point in the next few months as a downloadable word file or something.