31 October 2008

a sudden slack in the suck

Sometimes, just as Hope seems a thing which you no longer even have the option of abandoning as it seems increasingly plain that Hope already long ago abandoned you, the shore break of a sea of troubles subsides for a moment and in bobs a corked bottle tossed your way by the Great Uncaring Universe, and inside you find some silly damned note scribbled carelessly in jumbo crayon, and you can only shake your head at the hateful way Dame Inspiration continues to tease and taunt you like that evil hot cheerleader bitch who wears those chartreuse wispy-thin nylon running shorts and always somehow manages to drop her pencil and smile back at you as she bends sloooowly to pick it up right in front of your desk as you are struggling with the final essay on the exam which might yet pull your flatline GPA back to something just barely acceptable.

Oh, and don't even pretend you don't know what I mean, you scabby lying bastards -- you know it only too well.

I am working on some crap and suddenly a metaphoric metamorphic rock flies through the open side window of my mind and a TITLE -- and I mean a really good damned one, the kind so good it makes you laugh and giggle and clap and run around the back yard with your arms out as you make zooming airplane noises perhaps complete with machine gun sounds -- appears before my bleary eyes.

"Oh... My... God...," I moan, shattered by the wonderfulness of the title. "That totally freakin' works."

And I have that flickering demi-moment of totally Naive Joy, and then that sliver of a moment is triple-bitchslapped to the pavement by the sudden impact of Cruel Understanding as I realize how the sheer GREATNESS of this title instantly and inevitably creates an unshakable obligation for me to actually DO something with the title, almost like someone has left a sick kitten on my doorstep.

And instantly the slack has passed and the suck then resumes, full force and extra crunchy.


28 October 2008

make of this what you will

...but I find myself playing "Woodstock" by CSN over and over and over lately.

Actually, I understand it just fine, and it relates to a long slow simmering mega-post which yet might not see the light of public day.

You, however, remain free floating in cognitive limbo.

And we've got to get ourselves back to the Garden....

AFF 2009

Screenwriter's Conference: Thursday 22 October – Sunday 25 October

Get there.

got passion?

Was reminded last night -- while coaching a bunch of 8 year olds in fall baseball, of all places -- of what value I place upon "passion."

Not the clich├ęd overwrought flimsy disposable kind that gets squirted around like squeez cheez on the afternoon soap operas, but the more classical old school poet-warrior sort more akin to the original Latin root of the word, where "passio" meant "righteous suffering."

I'd missed the last two games for my squad -- one as I was out of town for a week for the Austin Film Festival, and then this past week as I was away leading a Cub Scout campout -- and in both games the team was reported to have played "flat." We won the first of those games, but not with the usuall verve and flash. The second of those games we lost 2-1 in a game where we managed 18 strikeouts in 18 at bats. In other words, the opposing team did not once field the ball or make a play -- we simply struck out every time (versus a pitching machine that throws strikes 80-90% of the time!). We rolled over and took a pointless loss against a team we'd easily manhandled earlier this season.

Last night our guys seemed flat again, and the first three innings showed us scoring zero runs, managing only two hits against 8 strikeouts (in 11 at bats).

And thus the team got The Return Of The Loud Guy.

I'm not some gung-ho "winning is the only thing" sorts of coaches, especially not in fall ball which is designed and intended as an instructional league. I rotate my players -- good and bad ones -- every inning, and everybody sits an innings, and everybody plays infield at least an inning or two every game. yes, this often costs us hits allowed and sometimes runs allowed, but my job is not to win imaginary trophies and championships in instructional league. My job is to teach these monkeys how to play baseball better.

And for me, you cannot engage in a sport (or any activity where there is competition and failure and heartbreak and joy and the requirement of focus and work and sweat) without that magical ingredient, passion.

So in the third inning I did something I've not had to do for a season or two: I told all the parents to walk away from the dugout, and then I barked once as my team to get their attention. After a second, they all became very quiet and saw that i was not wearing A Happy Face.

"Don't talk -- just raise your hands to answer me. Who's wearing a Red Sox jersey right now?"

All the hands went up.

"Who's wearing a Red Sox cap?"

All the hands went up.

"Who wants to turn in their jersey and cap and leave this dugout and not come back? 'Cuz that's the way you guys are playing."


"We've got maybe one more trip through the order. Those guys over there are laughing and having a great time 'cuz you guys don't seem to care enough to even try. That's not what you've been taught, and that's not how you know to play. If you want to wear that jersey, and wear that cap, and sit in my dugout, you'd better start playing like you care about this team. Do you get it?"

"Yes, coach!"

"When they hit the ball, we catch the ball. When they run, we tag them. When we see a strike, we bang it. When we move, we move fast. Head in the game -- heart in the game. Every pitch, every play, every inning, every game. You got it?"

"We got it!"

"Then show me. Hats and gloves -- hit the field. NOW."

I'd like to say our team rallied for a thrilling comeback win. We didn't. We lost 9-1, but we did win the final inning.

Our post-game talk was calm and positive, and I thanked the guys for remembering how to play the game the way they are supposed to, but I also reminded them that it's waaaay too easy to fall back into the pattern of being lazy and uncaring.

"Here's the thing, guys: I don't care about the score, or who wins or who loses. What I care about -- what makes me come stand out here on a cool October night and scream and yell and stomp around -- is helping you guys understand how much a little effort and a little heart can do."

Afterwards, a few parents snuck over to thank me for tearing into the kids. That always surprises me, as I half-expect some of these parents to say "we don't really like Little Jimmy ever having anyone suggest that he's not perfect as-is." Instead, they seem oddly appreciative that some weird big stranger is (gently) tearing their kid a new one... even while that kid clearly never gets any remotely similar message or treatment at home.

And yes this relates to writing.

Actually, it relates to pretty much everything. Something I've noticed increasingly in recent years is the way that passion -- intense focused effort and desire -- seems more and more rare, especially among younger males. It's as if the very notion of intensity and passion is somehow an ugly thought, and that we were meant to spend our lives in some sort of stuporiffic waking coma, where we smile politely and just let whatever happens happen, with nary a thought, word, or care.

Fuck that.

There are things in this life worth working for. Worth fighting for, and suffering for. In fact, I dare say most all of the truly good and worthwhile things we might ever have opportunity to pursue fall into this class of thing: something worthy of passion.

And I'm to the point where I very much distrust any adult incapable of summoning some real passion for something in their life. Life is too amazingly cool and potentially brief to sleepwalk through your one turn on stage. Find something you care about, and then care 'til it hurts, Throw yourselves into things with gleeful reckless abandon, and stay connected to that delicious child-like joy that comes from a really awesome wipeout. Make a mess. Make a crater. Make some noise. Make a bit of a fool of yourself. Pain don't hurt near as bad as do shame or regret. Go hard or go home.

So, the moral of today's pomposity is "passion: it's a good thing." It will serve you well, and at the very least will scare the hell out of a good chunk of those you find yourselves competing against.

Get some.

23 October 2008

AFF 2008 in stream of subconsciousness replay

Drizzle on the road into town ... late arrival, early traffic ... Jamie made his flight ... Driskill smells like home ... Shawna Shawna Shawna ... Ryan and Crymes in the lounge ... calling Robyn "Tori" ... Howdy, Mr. Beal ... Lisa and Jude ... calling Tori "Robyn" ... Deborah totes a big bag ... chicken enchiladas at Iron Horse Cantina ... bock me, amadeus ... heinous accusations of snoring ... a line around Starbucks ... a new room again for registration sign-in ... Julie O at the airport ... Tina Richey Swanson Jingleheimer Schmitt.. Jimmie Miller and shepherd's pie ... John Turman ... Mikey exists ... new phone charger ... pear cider and quesadillas at Buffalo's ... loved Hollywood Shuffle, Mr. Townsend ... Driskill Hotel Bar ... opening night party at Mohawk ... what's Vivi smiling about? ... stay thirsty, my friends ... Emerson Max and the Boston Ponytail ... Shane Black and the fine art of reluctantly sincere hetero man-hugging ... another pint of Guinness ... Big Jon from St Louis ... Linnea hates to like me ... Aren't you Mr. Moosecock? ... Maggie Biggar has a cute laugh ... Dawn the cool Philly Producer Babe ... everybody wants a romcom ... Julianna Ferrell ... Mikey is a nappin' machine ... Starbuck me ... Dan Petrie and Terry Rossio flanking Polly "Yukon" Platt ... KASDAN! ... John August knows a lot of stuff ... fish tacos at Marisco Grill ... Mizzou in the hizzy ... telling Terry I'm stealing his woman again ... Brian Anderson appears ... a pint of Fireman's #4 ... what's Vivi smiling about? ... "MUY TAI, MUTHERFUCKER!" ... Turman and Shane and Rossio ... Lauren and Dave! ... the other party sucks ... beer me, Sean ... why, thank you ... be quiet, Tori ... evenin', Mr. Skerritt ... a beer? For me? Well, if you insist ... that'll do, Mr. Cromwell-- that'll do ... another beer? well, OK ... the new circumcision is looking good, man! ... woman are cool ... Moosecockier: this time, it's personal ... gooooodnight, ireeeene ... more throw pillows than square feet ... early sure comes early here ... "is that a banana and a granola bar and a cellphone in your pocket, or are you just really hung?" ... Farrell and Soderstrom do a really good job ... what the hell kind of name for a grown-up is "Kiwi" anyway? ... leading the lunch parade to nowhere ... chicken schwarma and a "Focus" VitaminWater ... the magical mystery room on the second and a half floor ... LAWRENCE FUCKING KASDAN! ... Big Chill and Battletech ... weeping to meet your hero ... Kring and Rossio and Turman and Black oh my ... the French Legation and BBQ ... Jana Kramer is freakin' gorgeous ... gimme a green bottle this time ... what's Vivi smiling about? ... Bever, BBQ, and beer ... howdy, Mr. Weingrod ... Englebert the Bull seems lost in thought ... damned t-sips ... free Dos Equis with half of the Fabulous Benson Sisters ... sure, I'll drink another beer with you ... buried 'neath an avalanche of babes ... waving off attempts to be rescued from being buried 'neath aforementioned avalanche ... closing night at Buffalo Billiards ... "how did you lose FIVE women at the same time?" ... Moosecockiest: The Final Chapter ... Dawn on the sofa, Terry on the windowsill ... bodypainting and windmills and things better left unseen ... "sounds interesting -- you have my contact info, right?" ... last man to leave ... aloha, Max ... damned t-sips ... "sure she's still awake -- it's only 2 am, right?" ... "OK, so maybe that was not the best idea of the night..." ... did anyone ever figure out who that dude with us was? ... "it's 5:30 am? for real? oh shit..." ... falling into bed exactly as Mikey is getting up ... the goodbyes begin ... a three and a half wheeled cab ride to the Hair Of The Dog ... bailing on the Hair Of The Dog and walking back ... best secret brunch buffet in town ... Turman and Thorne give really good panel ... Seth and a lukewarm veggieburger ... hugging foreheads over a babygrand ... winding down at the pita place ... Shane Black preaches and we all sing HALLELUJAH ... "you, sir, are a fuckin' rock star" ... "when are you coming to LA?..." ... "And now it's time to say goodbye... to the summer..." vs "this is the end... my only friend, the end..." ... "you're MARRIED?!!!..." ... some good friends hugged, some makeup smeared, some sleeves schmutzed ... "time to turn back into a pumpkin for another 361 days..." ... "we gotta find a place to meet this year..." ... some friends into cabs, some friends to the airport, some more weepy goodbyes ... a long drive home in silence, wanting to burn every second into hard long term memory ... total and complete exhaustion ... what were those dates for 2009?....


AFF 2008. Yeah, I was very there.

22 October 2008

and then... darkness

I am so tired I can hardly believe it.

It's not surprising or unusual or unprecedented: I routinely go to Austin (Film Fest) and switch on to some sort of nitro boost where I can rage for the entire event on 2 or 3 hours of sleep per day, but as soon as the final gun sounds I complete that drive home... Bretty needs a recuperative coma.

So the blog posts post-Austin are slow in coming this week. Apologies, except, I'm not really sorry. None of you pissants is putting even the thinnest sliver of coin into my Super Dennis jeans, so you can just sit there and wait.

slumber luvin' B

20 October 2008

Austin: notice of safe return


Well, the Austin Film Festival -- or, more properly, the Screenwriter's Conference portion of the AFF -- has again come and gone, and I am back at home on the real world.

The conference was, as it has always been, a bizarre and surprisingly affecting experience. I know some folks -- even some of my friends who were there and experiencing the very same moments -- will scrunch their eyebrows and wonder "what the hell is he on about THIS time...", but for me, the AFF conference truly is a miraculous ride. It's never so much about the technical learning as it is about the revelation and self-discovery and re-dedication that goes on during and as a result. To hear people whose work and career and dedication you respect and admire and envy and stand in slack-jawed awe for... and realize that they are nothing at all very different than you are, and that they have many of the very same demons and dreams as you do... is a wildly affirming and inspiring thing.

At least it is for me.

I'll not launch into an overlong review and babble-fest of all the arcane minutiae and miscellania of this year's conference -- that will come soon enough -- but I will say this: I love that event, and I will keep coming back so long as there is any possibility for me to make such happen.

09 October 2008

the choice is clear

After due consideration, the editorial board of a bucket of love now stands ready to endorse a candidate in the looming Presidential debacle:


[this message paid for by CREAP -- the Committee to RE-Animate the President]
sick of politics B

03 October 2008

juggling 17 balls... in a stiff wind

That's how it feels right now.

Fall baseball is underway, and after the confusion and rescheduling caused by Hurricane Ike, we're forced to have 3 games in four days to start the season, with no time for review or learning after the first game or two -- hardly the best or preferred way to run 'instructional" league baseball.

Scouts is also scrambling to make up for missed and jumbled time in the unexpected week-long "hurri-cation," so suddenly all sorts of events have been compressed and rescheduled, adding more confusion.

School is fumbling to make up the lost week, with homework and assignments seemingly running at 25% overdrive right now.

And then last weekend one of our two family vehicles died on the side of the road, and despite a great factory warranty and an expensive extended warranty, it took four days (not at the selling dealership) to basically find that we needed to RE-tow the car back to the selling dealership if we were going to get ANY sort of attention to the relatively minor issues, so here we are on DAY FIVE of trying to coordinate insane daily and nightly logistics for a family of six.

Meanwhile, the expected and repeatedly promised return phone call from The Agent has yet to materialize, the director/producer who claimed to want to hire me for a gig is not responding to phone or email, SAG-AFTRA seem eager to have a strike of their own (and thereby deny me yet a few more months in which I might maybe finally be allowed the privilege of being ignored by major studios and producers...).

The mower is acting up. Weeds are creeping into the backyard. Fire ants are mounting an autumn offensive. Garage and home are a disaster area. And I need to get back into shape.

Oh, and Austin Film Fest is coming up in less than two weeks, and now even THEY are starting to annoy me with their uncharacteristically shabby treatment of pro writer pals of mine.

I had a beer the other night, and I didn;t even enjoy it.

Yes -- things are that bad.