29 February 2008


One of the cool pieces of writing advice I've picked up over the years is to treat this like a job: to remember to do the work, to punch the clock, to grind it out and drag the hulking beast over the finish line by grit and guts, by raw brute determination if need be. To not get so wrapped up in the "art" that you forget the simple cold fact that in order to be a professional you have to honor and respect the profession.

But there is flip side to that, too. Just as it's important to remember the business side of things, I think it's good sometimes to remember what it was—what it is—about writing that first made you fall in love with the notion of lion-taming words as a life's pursuit. To remember that feeling when some sentence or paragraph made your scalp tingle and your skin ripple with goosebumbs, made your eyes get misty and the corners of your mouth twist into an envious grin as somebody out there strung together a few words in such a manner as to make your heart race, your skin flush, your soul ache.

If you've ever read a line or heard a phrase and understood with throbbing clarity "I want to do that..." then maybe you have the soul of a writer in you.

I was noodling around online (we call it "research" in the trade—makes it seem worthwhile and valid) and stumbled across a video from one of my all-time favorite songwriters, and as I sat and listened to a shy Texan mumble 24 simple lines backed by a pair of acoustic guitars, I got that misty feeling all over again.

That's what it's about... I want to make words do that....

So as I try to remain aware of first weekend gross and market demographics and four quadrant appeal, it's nice to remember that sometimes it's just as simple as one guy, on a stool, saying what he really feels.

(Adam Carroll)

I was thinkin' of you when the rice birds flew
when the false dawn came with the mornin' dew
you're a thunderstorm ragin' outside my garage
you're the white shirt peekin' through my camouflage

I was thinkin' of you and I won't forget
tail of the turtle and Bayou Teche
I cannot dance but I can hang on
to some sweet memory down in Oberlin

I was thinkin' of you at the Mardi Gras
Fords and Chevies like I never saw
I wish you were here to dance with me
to hear this cajun symphony

I was thinkin' of you at the LA bar
where I got so drunk I couldn't drive my car
I was dreamin' about you with my ten-ounce beer
dreamin' sweet day dreams wishin' you were here

I was thinking of you with the braids in your hair
old Houston Texas or anywhere
I was dreamin' about you and my changin' ways
I still think about you in my travelin' days

I was thinkin' of you where the sunset glows
down the Mississippi River where the Gulf wind blows
I was dreamin' about you and the fleur-de-lis
I was wishin' you were next to me....

jealous as all hell B

27 February 2008


No, not "Too Much Information."

Today it means "Transient Moment of Idiocy," and I coin that phrase to describe an increasingly common and increasingly tiresome sort of behavior I am seeing all over the place -- the situation of a normally intelligent and well-reasoned person suddenly leaving the reservation to claim and defend some truly oddball and often offensive opinion which you find intellectually and ethically repugnant.

I'll not even bother describing specific examples of such, as surely some friend or other will read that example and say "HEY... that bastard is talking about ME...!" and to be perfectly honest, right now I'm just not in a mood to argue with such folks. They have a right to their opinions, and I have a right to sit in judgment and label them a booger-eating moron for having and then publicly expressing such dipshittery.

No problemo.

What does seem more troubling is the underlying thought process which drives and excuses such behavior: the idea that all opinions are somehow equivalent or acceptable, or that by labeling something as "My Opinion" you are then somehow absolved of being judged FOR that opinion, or that others are then somehow morally compelled to give a rat's caboose. If I sat here and howled that "THE MOON IS MADE OF OLD SOCKS!" or "COLUMBUS NEVER DISCOVERED AMERICA -- IT WAS ALL FAKED BY THE LISBON PRESS!," all but a comfortingly small number of folks would rightly consider me a brainless idiot. yet there are plenty of folks four-footing around expressing bits of "thought" no less moronic and laughable, and when anyone suggests that maybe -- perhaps -- these people would be better off sucking on their own tongues rather than trying out for lead alto brayer in the jackass choir, the idiots usually trot out "hey -- I'm entitled to my opinion!"

Yes you are.

And the rest of us are then entitled to point and laugh and mutter "what a friggin dumbass."

I bet you think this song is about you... you're so vain...
proud owner of a timeshare on the moral high ground B

21 February 2008

yeah yeah yeah...

We're making some changes to the old blog code.

I finally figured out how to make a three column layout work the way I wanted (no thanks to BLOGGER... yeesh...), and while I was in there I started tweaking and fiddling, so things are starting to drift around a bit from a design standpoint.

Most everything is still here, just maybe skooched around a bit.

And yes, "skooch" is a technical term used by us inter-web code-maker people-guys.

Move along.

20 February 2008

the great and glorious game

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops."
-- from "The Green Fields of the Mind", by A. Bartlett Giammati

So begins one of my all-time favorite bits of writing, Giamatti's brilliant "The Green Fields of the Mind", a bizarrely affecting little essay which grows in impact and relevance for me with each passing year, and which has now become a sort of mantra or ritual to mark both the opening and closing of baseball season each year.

I love sports—most all sports, with the notable and seething exceptions of golf and soccer, facilities for which I find contemptible wastes of real estate which might be better used as landfills—but there is something about baseball which goes beyond mere love and approaches a sort of religious fervor. And I do not mean that I fixate upon ERAs and batting averages of major leaguers, for those overpriced over-privileged and over-skilled primadonnas are but one bit of baseball. What I love about baseball—what speaks to me in reverent whispers—are the strange clues and revelations of capital-T Truth which it provides us. I'm one of those who believes that Life is a good analogy for Baseball rather than vice versa, as there is basically nothing in life which does not mimic some aspect of the great and glorious game.

Success? Victory? Glory? Sure, they're there, but always in equal or lesser amounts than are failure, defeat, ignominy. It's that rarest of sports where it's as much about individual confrontation—pitcher vs batter, catcher vs runner, outfield vs time and space itself—as it is about team play. It's the one game where the offense is always—always—at a designed numerical disadvantage, and where you score without the ball. Where you can fail as a player yet see that failure contribute to the team's success, and vice versa. Where no game is ever over until both sides have had fair and equal opportunity to wrest victory from the jaws of galactic indifference. Where luck and blind chance play such a monumental part of the game that few even notice its presence, as when a ground ball somehow barely trickles through for a critical hit when one batter later a laser-straight cannon-shot might magically find an undeserving glove to be reduced to merely "out number 2" in the scoring.

Last night was the first night of Little League baseball for this year, and as I walked onto the first field for practice—my 5-year old daughter's first workout—I looked at the sky, at the grass, as the balls and bats and gloves and bases scattered on the ground, and was immediately swallowed up by that odd deja vu sort of feeling—haven't I been here a thousand times before?. A half hour later I drove around the corner to a neighborhood pocket park to meet my 10-year old team for the first time as part of a quick meet-n-greet.

As I stood there and talked to the boys and explained what I hope to teach them this spring, I started to feel like a priest delivering the Easter sermon for the thirty-fourth consecutive year to his local parish. The message remains largely the same, and there are some new faces and some familiar faces looking at me when I speak, but still there is that rush in the chest, that ball of heat that tries to claw its way out: I know this stuff sounds silly in our modern world, but dammit you have to hear me! You have to believe me when I tell you that THIS IS THE STUFF THAT MATTERS!

All the mundane bullshit of "normal" life is stuff we can hide from, stuff we can delegate, we can postpone, we can ignore.

But in baseball... there is only the moment. When the pitch is on the way... when the ball is coming toward our position... when you see the runner shouting to you with his charging feet "I don't think you've got the arm to make this play, bud...".. When the game is on the line and victory or defeat will be decided in the next third of a second by What You Do Next.

Later in the evening I led my 7-year old team through its first full workout of the year. The pitching machine was set up, we hit a lot of batting practice, we worked on some very basic defensive concepts, we ran the bases a lot. Practice ended and I was breaking down the pitching machine to store in the storage shed at the park, picking up the bases and collecting my gear. Most families had already left, but one dad was lingering back to help me straighten up. He laughed that I seemed so involved with baseball, and wondered how in the world I found the time to be so involved.

"You make time for the things that matter."

He at first thought I was talking just about my kids—that they are what matters and for which I make time. I explained that surely that was a big part of it, but that I also mean that baseball itself is important, as much for what the game teaches us about frustration and heartache and disappointment as for what it reinforces about pride and joy and contentment. Because at the end of the day, what matters most is what you do when things don't magically fall your way, when the gods themselves seem to conspire to throw obstacles in your path, when you can't buy a strike and every ball you hit seems pre-ordained to find a glove.

Anyone can seem heroic when the going is good. It's in those cold lonely moments when nothing seems easy or good that character and worth are truly revealed, and baseball provides us with such chill moments by the bushel barrel.

I want my kids—and when I say "my kids" in the context of baseball I refer not to just my own biological progeny, but to that extended circle of kids whom I love for having been their coach at some point—to learn to not shy away from those moments. To not fear those moments, but to relish them, to enjoy them, to desire and cherish them as divine gifts. For it is at those moments that we cease to be merely bystanders in the story of our own lives, and instead become the central player, the locus of all potential outcomes in a given situation— "all possible realities spring from this singular unique moment."

One of the great tragedies of modern life seems the way that so many men now stand paralyzed and impotent in the face of any challenge or difficulty. I see heartbreaking numbers of men genetically incapable of standing their ground and fighting for what they believe and claim to value.

Surely some folks will roll their eyes and think this is a rather large leap to make, but I contend that more often than not you will find such men are the ones who did not play baseball as youths, or who, if they did play, played but briefly and without any passion at all—who never learned how to muster the courage to put on a helmet, grab a bat, and then dig in in the batter's box to face nine opponents defiantly convinced that you pose no threat, that nothing you might do could change their combined trajectory.

To stand there, alone, ready and willing to put yourself at risk of public failure yet remain absolutely convinced that today you shall succeed... that seems a feeling worth having, worth seeking, worth nurturing and fostering and promoting.

And that's why I love baseball. Not for the easy glamour of winning, but for the moments when you are forced to cling tenacious to only the faintest glimmer of hope when everyone around you has long since given up the fight.

Not because in those moments you have any great likelihood of succeeding, but because in those moments you have the opportunity afforded by hope... if you have the guts and courage to claim it.

Yes, "it breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart." But for a heart to break, it first must care. And that for me remains the crowning glory of Baseball—the notion that one man with a tiny bit of hope and grit and bloody raw determination might yet turn this story down a totally different path.

Come on, meat—bring me the heat. Bring it...

God I do love this game.

17 February 2008


Well, it's baseball season again, and I spent the better part of this weekend wrestling with scheduling practices for two teams I'll manage this spring (Rookie 7 Red Sox and Minor 10s Red Sox), as well as setting up new web pages for each, updating the FAQ I send out every year, building the contact rosters to hand out to all parents, and working on some logos for some practice t-shirts I usually print up as surprise First Practice gifts.

Muddled in there is the scheduled practices for my 5 year old daughter, this year playing her first turn in T-Ball, as well as my duties MC-ing the annual Cub Scout banquet we had Friday night (250 people, 60 cub scouts advancing in rank, an Arrow of Light Ceremony, a Crossing Over ceremony where a dozen of our boys graduated to Boy Scouts, 50 pizzas, plus more Chinese decorations than will be used at the opening of the Summer Games in Beijing...), two taekwondo lessons, a Cub Scout trip to the hockey game at the same time our other Cub had a trip to the county courthouse, plus we had a sleepover last night, and tomorrow I get up at 5 AM to help oldest son install 63 large American flags for President's Day.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I actually have something like a career trying to start somewhere, as I am currently ass-deep in alligators eight days a week.

But that's all just details, as it's baseball season again, and thus it is time to lace on the spikes and oil up the gloves and smell that horsehide and new-mown grass and feel the chalk and dust on the back of your neck... and know that there yet remain some great and sacred truths in this world, and they often come delivered on a field of green, 'neath a sky of blue.
"I've tried 'em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball. "
-- Annie Savoy, in BULL DURHAM

Amen. Now pass me that rosin bag.

13 February 2008


The Strike is over. Business (or attempts to stir such) is now back to normal.

Three months ago—a time which now somehow seems an eon behind us—I had some small amount of heat/buzz/mojo, but then "things happened" and we all got to sit on our hands for three months as no scripts could be read or submitted or talked about or sold or wrapped 'round a wrench and throws through a window. It sucked.

Now we wake and find that the embargo is lifted, and everyone is again clear to engage in acts of futility.

And it looks like that's what they are doing. I've already seen a huge number of folks saying they are starting crazed self-marketing efforts at dawn today, and I fully expect that the folks in Hollywood are returning to their offices to find a white tsunami approaching, a tall teetering tidal wave of awful writing from folks desperate to get their stuff out there, regardless of quality or readiness. These next two weeks will likely see a flood of scripts into prodcos, studios, and agencies, and the 95% Rules will surely remain in effect, meaning there is a massive cleanup effort about to commence as workers shovel these scripts into the nearest deepest hole.

Yeah, that sounds harsh, and it is harsh, but what it ain't is wrong: if you are honest with yourself, you understand that there are a whooole bunch of folks out there writing a whooole bunch of really bad scripts, and a whooole bunch of those are going to be in the huge first wave of pent-up energy now being unleashed.

My reps and I have been talking and think it's probably best to just stand back and let this flood push past, to let things normalize a bit before we jump into the stream. We have some projects we're eager to get out there, and people we're eager to reach, but right now we expect that everyone is up to their ears in content right now, and we're confident enough in the products we're pitching that we can afford to let things calm a bit.

But lordy it does make the heart flutter a bit to say those happy words again: "resume racing."
calmly excited B

09 February 2008

THE PROPOSAL (WGA strike deal)

Well, after all that, the proposed terms for the WGA-AMPTP settlement are now posted:


The link above sends you to the WGA site where you'll find a rather unassuming 4=page PDF of the critical terms of the proposed settlement.

Is it the shining golden Holy Grail of great deals for writers? No—not even close, really—but neither is it the total screw-job the Alliance seemed hell-bent on delivering early on, either. It seems pretty squarely in the middle ground between what the writers wanted and what the studios wanted, so now both sides will have militant elements screaming that "we got screwed!" and more moderates saying "meh, we can live with this—let's get back to work, already."

They say that in a good negotiation, neither side gets to claim victory. Using that standard, this seems (potentially) a good negotiation.

If you're going to the membership meeting tonight in LA or NY, Godspeed, bon chance, good luck, and may the Force be with you. I expect it will be a long loud and exhausting affair.

04 February 2008

things not found here

It's an election year, which means a lot of armchair pundits are out in force, sharing their "thoughts" (ahem) with the entire world, usually in the form of strident drool-soaked ad hominem attacks on whomever or whatever it is they claim to NOT support.

Look, I respect the right of every human being to have whatever opinion they like, but nowhere is it written that I have to respect the opinion itself, or the opiniator, or the stumbling bumbling manner in which they try to pontificate. If someone wants to support some candidate or cause, then that's great. Power to the people. Rah rah. Tippecanoe and Tyler too.


Just don't act like I have to give a flip that you care.

Oh, and by the way: every time I have ever tried to express my utter disinterest in the blathering bloviation of many political windbags, I come back to find someone somewhere has decided that I must surely have been speaking specifically about THEM. Trust me: if you are reading this, then you have no idea who annoyed me to the point of feeling a need to repeat this little mini-rant. I have a LOT of friends who post and comment on politics from pretty much every conceivable point on the political compass, and seldom ever do I get bothered by what they post (as I tend to ignore most of it anyway!).

In other words, "this rant was not sparked by you." This morning, while surfing pointlessly around the web, I was taken aback by a total stranger, spewing opinions (more like "hate speech") which I was staggered to see anyone admit to, much less take pride in.

This was not stuff from anyone I know or have ever seen before (or hope to see again). In fact, I normally would never have seen when I foolishly followed a link from a link from a link from a link and apparently wound up in the online town of East Dipshit, Putzylvania. We're talking Grade-A mental snot blown onto a screen by some paste-eating gaboon who likely has to have grown-ups operate the toilet for him, opinions so idiotic and nonsensical that you wonder if perhaps this person is not engaged in some sort of Dada-esque text art project where they paste together random snippets of other sentences cribbed from other people, resulting in an alpha-numeric stew which has the appearance of language but none of that pesky context, relevance, or meaning.

When you try and have a political discussion online, this last class of ass-hat is as often as not the kind of moron who steers the debate (and then often into a ditch or cesspool).

So I don't "do" politics online. It's just not fun or interesting for me.

I love my kids, but that doesn't mean I need to post pics of them here so that any assholes who feel like it can use those pics to paunch hateful attacks on me.

That's not far-fetched. Twice before I was shocked when friends of mine had posts made online or emails sent to discussion groups wherein old innocuous family fun photos had been copied, morphed and then used as vulgar jokes/attacks against them in response to some heated discussion (see above). One time I saw friend get a heartbreakingly evil comment attached to a downloaded copy of a picture of his own mentally challenged young 4-year old in a wheelchair, and I was made suddenly mindful of the fact that there are a lot of truly worthless mean-spirited gutless hate-filled people in the world, and there's no good reason for me to potentially give them a means to cause heartache to me or my family.

So while I will sometimes talk about my kids, I try as much as possible to not flaunt their names or images hereabouts. Those who have actual *need* for such info usually get it without any difficulty, but the rest of you... well, you might be nice people, but just as I do not leave my house open during the day when I am away or leave my wallet and personal documents on the room of my car when I park at the airport, neither do I offer my kids for your amusement. No offense, but I just don't know or trust you that much.

Clearly, if I knew enough to be in any position to have advice worth giving, I'd then be far too busy to waste time in handing out free advice to slobbering morons like you.

Also, there are already far too many places where you could just as easily go to find whatever advice you think you need. Ultimately, advice is seldom the secret. In my opinion, screenwriting is one of those things you pretty much have to figure out for yourself. Yeah, you can find a few nuggets here and there, and sometimes in discussions with people you can come to discover and understand something new or useful, but if the game were so simple that you could show up, read a blogpost, and then march off to BE A SCREENWRITER, then obviously there'd be no need for screenwriting sites and books and courses and seminars and systems: you'd just learn the five steps and then DO it, like tying your shoes or falling off a log.

I sometimes think I have some idea of what works for me and how and why that might be the case, but I do not think I know enough to lecture loudly or with intent to edumicate, so don;t come snuffling around here hoping to catch scent of The One Great Secret. I don't think it exists, and I'm pretty damned sure that if it does then I ain't got it.

Not that I can't cook -- I just don't like you enough to share.


Now... among those things you WILL find here are:

• mounds of long-winded self-absorbed tales of trivial events played up as epic quests

• rambling stream of semi-consciousness where I use too many words to say too much about something too few care too little about

• pointless and random updates on my own screenwriting projects, offered not because I think anyone cares or that I feel any need to brag, but more so I can take stock of what I am doing (or am supposed to be doing...) and maybe then stay a little better "on-point."

• scads and scads of childish puns and potty humor gussied up so as to have the slightest stink of urbane wit and charm

• misspelled words out the ass (as this is a free site and I see no reason to waste much time in perfecting content which only ten or fifteen people will ever see and which none will ever recollect or remember.

And that's where we stand.