Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Want to Have Done ...

There's a line about wanna-be writers that sometimes gets bandied about: He doesn't want to write, he wants to have written. It means that the notion of being a writer is appealing to somebody, but they somehow want to get past the actual doing of it to the already-did-it-phase. 

This is not unique to writers, this desire. There are times when I need to go to the gym, but don't really feel like it. I know that if I go, and once I get cranking, I'll be fine, and I'll feel better about having gone, but what I want is to have worked out. To get the benefits without having to put out the effort …

Inertia can be a powerful thing to overcome.

That shortcut isn't real, and part of the deal is that if you don't enjoy the doing of a thing in and of itself, you are apt to not do it. If all you can see is the goal but not the trip getting there, you tend to see it as something to be endured. This tends to keep you from giving it your best, or sometimes, any efforts at all.

If you lift weights, you have to enjoy the process of picking one up and moving it and putting it down not just as a means to getting stronger or gaining more endurance, but as an end in itself; else you will find reasons to avoid it down the road.

At least that's how I view it. 

Someday, Maybe ...

If ever I do an autobiography, this quote, from the mouth of the director at a meeting on the Universal lot regarding a script I co-wrote with Chris Warner, will be the title ...

Fooling around with a magazine cover generator. Kinda cool toy ...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Technically-Correct Failure

I was channel-surfing last night and I came across a spy-thriller, that looked promising.

Couple-years old, I vaguely recalled hearing something about it when it came out. A lot of movies go by without me seeing 'em.

The picture featured a female lead,  kind of a La Femme Nikita operative, who worked for a private company that contracted to governments for assorted skullduggery. Had a stellar cast, mostly doing small parts, and it started out with a Jason-Bourne-like fight sequence between the girl and an ex-boyfriend the firm had sent to fetch her.

The firm wanted to get rid of her for some reason, probably she Knew Too Much About Something She Wasn't Supposed to Know About, but ... I didn't get that far ...

There wasn't anything particularly bad I could point at. The writing was okay, the acting not bad, though I kind of got the feeling the Big Name Actors doing small parts were phoning it in.

I could hear the dialog between the director and actors: Hey, c'mon, you have a few lines, couple days, you collect a nice check, you're gone. Besides, you owe me one ... 

The locations were exotic, the directing competent, the camerawork looked fine. Pacing was mostly okay. It had all the elements of a good spy thriller, but it wasn't working for me. Ho-hum, I didn't care about the protagonist and her backstory, and after a few minutes of waiting for it to get better, I turned it off.

Back when I first started writing, I got some advice somewhere about creating stories that were technically fine, they had all the elements they were supposed to have, but that failed nonetheless. Yeah, yeah, all the beats are there, but there's something ... off.

What I came to realize was that the missing element was usually passion. If the writer wasn't having a good time, if it wasn't fun, that showed, and such would not so much turn off an audience as never turn them on in the first place.

I wrote a few of those, and the rejections were always along the lines of, "Yeah, there's nothing particularly wrong with it, it just doesn't float my boat."

Kind of like the old joke about surgery: The operation was a success, but the patient died ...

Before I went to bed, I logged onto Rotten Tomatoes to check the reviews. Maybe it was me, and when I first saw the critics comments, I blinked: 80% approval.

Great acting, directing, good action, yadda-yadda.

Really? Wow. I must be missing something.

Then I read the Audience reviews, and the numbers there?

40% ...


When there is that much of a gap between the critics and audience, somebody is missing something. (Usually, it's the critics who savage a movie and that audiences love I find more likely to be the case, as happened when the first Star Wars movie came out.)

So, in this case, critics liked it but audiences didn't.

Not that I absolutely needed that confirmation for my own opinion, but it doesn't hurt ...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Customer Service

Spring of 2013, we had our kitchen redone. New floors, countertops, sink and faucets. As part of the deal, we had a new filtered drinking water spigot installed.

Recently, during an attempt to open a stubborn kitchen window, a slipped grip and flying elbow resulted in the spout of the drinking faucet being snapped off at the base. Like it was sliced off with a knife it was so clean …

So we called the guy at Chown, who had arranged for the work, and asked about ordering a replacement. Gave him the specs. Next day, he got back to us: The company, Mountain Plumbing Products, said, no problem, and they shipped us a replacement.

No charge.

The new part matched, fit, and are back up to speed. And a big thank you to Chown and to Mountain Plumbing Products. They didn’t have to replace the part for free, and I appreciate the customer service. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Richard Cory

With the recent passing of Robin Williams, I was reminded of the poem "Richard Cory," and of a young man I knew forty or so years ago.

First the poem:

“Richard Cory” by Edward Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town, 
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown, 
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king, 
And admirably schooled in every grace: 
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread:

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night, 
Went home and put a bullet through his head. 

The young man I knew–call him Lawrence–was from the days when I taught martial arts at a school back down home. He was a college student, twenty-one, as I recall, showed up for class one day in a new Porsche.

He was tall, fit, blond, blue-eyed, a good-looking kid; and, I found out later, rich. His parents had died in an accident a few years earlier, and left him several million dollars.

He was enthusiastic as a student for the first month or so. Very likable guy. Funny. Smart.

One day, he showed up in a new, Tweety-bird-colored Corvette. 

So, what happened to the Porsche?

Got rid of it.  'Cause, you know, the 'vette gets more women, dude.

You serious?


I just stared at him. Handsome, funny, bright millionaire college kid, and he felt as if he needed a Corvette to get women? I shook my head. Jeez.

A few months later, he stopped coming to class, White-Belt Syndrome, and that was that.

Except a couple months past that, I picked up the newspaper and saw that Lawrence had died in a tragic accident, involving a shotgun. At home.

The story was, he was cleaning it and it went off. That didn't sound right to me–it's kind of hard to accidentally kill yourself with a shotgun.

So I contacted a guy I knew on the local police force and asked him what the deal was.

Suicide. Lawrence put the muzzle under his chin, thumbed the trigger. Messy. One of his relatives had words with the local law, and the story got spun. Better an accident, hey?

When somebody who seems as if he or she has it all takes that route, there's always that wonder: Why would they do that? But depression knows no class, nor does it care about wealth, nor popularity. I was stunned when Richard Jeni killed himself, and again when Robin Williams did. But, you never know. What you see isn't all there is.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Review

So this one is easy: It's a hoot. Go see it.

My son and grandson and I opted for the 2D version, because, save for Avatar, I haven't seen a movie since that 3D benefitted particularly, but we had a fine ole time. 

Funny, silly, whole lot of action, snappy dialog, lovable charters, nasty villains, a giant-tub-of-popcorn experience, about as good a time as you can have at a summer movie. Gonna set a high bar for the rest of the season, this year's Men in Black.

Although I imagine Vin Diesel is going to get a lot of razzing about his voicing of the character Groot. I won't spoil it for you, but you'll know what I'm talking about once you see it. I bet he laughs all the way to the bank ...

I do so hope the the folks doing Star Wars for Disney are paying attention. This is what you need to be doing. Seriously. And not seriously, too ...

Monday, August 04, 2014

Lighter Pockets

Back in the day, we all carried combs. You were a guy, you had one tucked into your hip pocket, at least a basic model, and for a while when grease was really thick, a rattail model, that would let you do some of that sissy-styling, and which could also double as a weapon ...

Pre-hippies, men's hair tended to be full of gunk. There was the greasy kids' stuff, like Wildroot Cream Oil or Brylcreem; the dry-look, like Vitalis, and all manner of other waxy pomades. Go look at a movie made in the thirties, forties, or fifties.

We are talking slicked-down.

Men didn't use hairspray, not Real Men™, but you needed that comb for when you messed it up in a fight, or when the wind blew at Category-5 hurricane force, or when some girl who didn't mind coating her hand in grease ran her fingers through it. 

Then, long hair, which still could stand a combing now and then, came along, and what the hairdressers call "product" mostly went away. Wash it, comb it, you were good for the day, and the pocket comb faded ...

I still have a comb in the bathroom, and I'll use it now and again, but mostly it is just towel-dry and go these days, or, if I'm in a hurry, my wife's hairbrush and her dryer. 

Real Men™ didn't use hair dryers, either, but they do now. If they have any hair left ...