06 December 2011

First Ten Verbs 2011

Back in the halcyon days of 2006 -- when the Internet still seemed interesting and amusing rather than just overrun with howler monkeys and hardcore Miracle Whip addicts -- I posted a meme wherein writer-type folks were asked/encouraged/ordered to post the first ten verbs from whatever project they were then currently working on:

A Bucket Of Love: Your First Ten Verbs (April 2006)

"Why?" you ask in that typically sniveling and mewling nasal tone of yours which sets all right-thinking people's nerves well on edge.

"SHUT UP," I explain.

And then I continue with another ref to that long ago post:

The exercise is intended to help you more clearly notice when your writing is passive and lackluster. In most cases (there are always exceptions) it's usually best to start strong and maintain momentum. If you look up and realize that you have a lot of "is" and "waits" and "sits" and "lays" as opening verbs, you might wanna give your opening a kick in the pants. Maybe.

So here's mine:

1. munch
2. stomp
3. roars
4. slaps
5. begins
6. speaks
7. screams
8. drops
9. scope
10. starts

Your turn, gravy-suckers.
bored and hostile B

Greatest Song Lyrics Ever, vol 102

"Stomp & Holler," by Hayes Carll

Oh, Little Johhny Walker caught a bullet last night
Running from the guitar store
He took a left down the alley, guess he should've gone right
Now he ain't taken nothing no more more more
Everybody knows it's a hard time
Livin' with hate and the greed
Most folks earn what they get for a livin'
Others just steal what they need
Down on the corner, already talkin'
How they're gonna cut that take
I'm out here just workin' for a dollar
And all I wanna do is stomp and holler...

Oh, eighteen years, eighteen years
That's a long-old time to be
Sittin' face down, stoned in the alley
Wonderin' how to get to that shinin' sea
Everybody knows it's a hard time
Livin' on the minimum wage
Ah, some people just gonna sneak on through
Others gotta rattle that cage
One of these days, I'm gonna find my way
Or else just disappear
I'm out here in the filth and squalor
And all I wanna do is stomp and holler...

Oh, rock and roll, ache and moan
Listen to the young girls scream
Every time I get a little bit lucky
I gotta wake up from a poor man's dream
Heaven only knows how we get there
After all this trouble and strife
From all I've seen, you only get one shot
At what you're gonna do in this life
Ah, what the hell, I guess I might as well
Take a chance and try my way
I'm like James Brown only white and taller
And all I wanna do is stomp and holler....


[beer salute]

puttering through the gutter B

28 November 2011


So back on October 7, right after the time this whole "OCCUPY" thing was starting to grab traction online and become an oft-reffed meme in the social media universe, I spent maybe 6.27 minutes cobbling together a really childish pun based upon a favorite shot from the old 1955 Ray Harryhausen classic "IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA", wherein a giant cephalopod was mutated by Atomic Testing and decided to attack San Francisco as a reaction. I posted the silly pic to Facebook on the evening of October 7, 2011.

I guess people liked it, as it kinda sorta took off and ran away from home, playing in the cyber-yards of a whooooole lot more people than I know or have met. On Facebook I can track that it has been "shared" just under 3000 times, but I have no way of knowing how many times it was re-copied and re-posted and re-shared, or linked via Twitter of posted onto blogs or MySpace or Google+ or Arpanet or whatever else is out there this week.

This afternoon I get a request for some info from some magazine guy wanting a copy.

Serious stabs at screenwriting creativity -- those I can't give away. But childish paste-ups of rampaging seafood? That's gold, Jerry! GOLD!
screwed blue B

26 October 2011

AFF 2011: Day 0 -- I Have A Dream

Before I embark on what might well end up an aborted attempt to blog my way through a replay of my 2011 Austin Film Festival (AFF) experiences, I think I'll share a dream I had the night before the conference opened. It was Wednesday night, I'd already checked in and had my credentials and IDs and invites and such, had already had some beers in the Driskill, had already had multiple way-cool screenwriterly experiences as part of this year's conference, and already had good times catching up with far-flung friends whom I only get to see maybe once a year at this specific event. So by all rights, I was surely "in a good place," mentally speaking, right?

No, fair reader -- with my brain, no such assumption is ever safe or well-founded.

I doze off to cerveza-stoked slumber in the Stephen F Austin hotel, and somewhere between 4:30am and wakeup time around 7am, I had a dream.

I see the main Ballroom of the Driskill Hotel, the room where many of the biggest and most popular panels in the conference always get booked. It usually seats several hundred guests, but in the dream, it's empty, save for one chair set alone, by itself, in the middle of the huge quiet room.

I'm in the chair, in my cargo shorts and t-shirt, backpack hung from one knee, notepad on my other leg, as I wait to take notes.

On the stage... maybe a dozen panelists -- all the usual suspects of name writers who I've met at Austin and in most cases developed some slight relationship with. I recall seeing Dan Petrie, Terry Rossio, John August, Lawrence Kasdan, Craig Mazin, Shane Black, as well as maybe a half dozen other faces which now are just gray shadows in memory. They are all just sitting there in their tall director's chairs, look down at me well back in the huge room. Some have their arms crossed and have that stern not entirely pleased expression I recall from way too many "talks with the professor" in college.

I recall glancing at my watch in the dream, as if I am anxious about starting whatever it is which is supposed to be going on, and then Petrie leans forward to his microphone:

So, Brett... WHY are you still out there? Why
aren't you up here on this side of the mike?

I... I dunno.

It's not really a question of not knowing
something. We've told you -- all of us --
more than enough for you to figure this out.
What's the problem?

I... I dunno.

Jesus Christ, man. Just fucking do it,
already. Look around you!

I recall looking around the room, as instructed, and recall seeing a lot of open space and nobody else.

And then I wake up.

And I rub my eyes, and I mumble something like "thanks a lot, God. Hell of a dream to drop on me the night before the conference kicks off."

I'd offer that perhaps this last lament was perhaps heard, as I feel I was offered a "make up call" later in the conference, but offering details about that here would be *spoilers*.

Still. This dream struck me as a rather harsh and sadistic fantasy to hose into someone's subconscious at such an ostensibly propitious moment.

At the minimum, somebody owes me a damned fruit cup.

25 October 2011

AFF 2011: a streaming retrospective overview

Running late... Thomas!... Driskill! Our home for the next 5 days... "Where are you?" Driskill! ... LORI!... "Those shoes are getting to me..." chicken tacos at El Arroyo... "I think Neil Young's dad is on bass..." ... beer tastes better with second-hand smoke... "I wish I'd worn *my* Porter Waggoner shirt..." ...the Drakes are cool... Driskill!... Kasdan in the hizzy... a beer? Well, if you insist... Lauren, Lisa, Jennie, Deborah, Jolly, Julie, Maya, Jacqueline, Max... Alvaro... Mazin... Turman... TR on the sofa, explaining Disney v. Lone Ranger et al... "Maybe it's a hematoma..."...aaa goodnight, Missus Wiznowitz... Stephen F Austin lobby at 3:30am is kinda quiet... up at 7:12am, 3 minutes ahead of alarm... where's cute triathlete barista girl???... mmmmm...Clif bar.... "where did you find that banana?"... mistaken for a person of relevance... the Isaac Newton Sandwich... Shane and Larry open the conference... talking about COOKIE'S FORTUNE with Anne Rapp before Kasdan comes in... Kasdan smiles, comes over to hug Anne, notices me, says "you're with HIM? Oh shit..." ... Driskill!... Richard! Derek!... beer me... Ramesh!... "Wow, that's a cute girl... that's a VERY cute girl... she's smiling... she's waving... at ME? Is that...? Huh? BLAIR!?! I smell t-r-o-u-b-l-e..." Stage Bar on 6th... very cool blues trio with two kids on bass and guitar and dad on drums... "'Crab puffs'? If you say so, man..." PAMIE!... "Zulauf sounds like a good Texan name..." CHRISTINA!... "are you interested in a u-rangotang movie?" cake shots are better than expected... "Drink beer? Well, on occasion..." ... Brian Anderson and Chuck Fitzpatrick... street pizza... Driskill!... "Well, OK, I'll have a beer..." ... finding a wayward Kasdan somewhere on Lavaca: "Shit -- just follow Brett. He's headed to a party somewhere...." ... Dulce is way too beautiful to be that alone... "Do you ever smile?" ... Max doesn't recognize me... Theresa and Holly and Jojo and Nancy... Howard Rodman might be Ed Wynn in non-disguise... Vivi wants pictures... NATALIE!... walking Congress at 2am... Stephen F Austin lobby at 3am is still kinda quiet.... up at 7:10am, 5 minutes before the alarm... free coffee sometimes is not worth the price... 31 never-noticed incoming messages on Facebook, dating back 18 months? Huh?... Alec Berg and Craig Mazin should tour together... "wrapped in the delicious bacon of failure..." ... Talbott, Brucks, and McCreery... the Big Vito at Jimmy Johns... Kasdan, Mazin, Petrie and Reese, oh my.... Driskill!... boots and jeans for the BBQ... "where did Julie Howe go...?" into the French Legation, and there's a THUNDER SOUL poster front and center.... two ambers, please... Salt Lick! ... nom nom nom nom... James Hart likes his 'Q... Tony!... Eilis! ... Big Red in bottles!... PAMIE!... "It's like riding a bike -- it's even more embarrassing to wipe out in front of friends when they all know you know how to do it...." ... RUM DIARY scene is already a zoo... Johnny Depp in the eye of the meat-storm... I am the dill pickle spear in a club sandwich of way-hawtness... Driskill!... stereo twin Jasons... "Wait-- you're the dead cat tree guy!?!" ... to Ruth's Chris, aka, the worst party venue they always seem to use... clinking drinks with Kasdan... Rick Dugdale sans Petrie... Lauren and Stephen... Dulce!... Max still doesn't recognize me.... "Did I wind up with another of your women?" "S'alright -- I have plenty more..." ... Driskill! Max does a spit take when she recognizes me... John Lasseter eating a cheeseburger underneath Humperdink.... "A beer? Well, alright..." ... elbowing past James Franco in the men's room doorway... Shane reads this stuff? WHO NEEDS MORE PRESSURE? ... last call... banana and decaff in the SFA lobby at 3am, as movie deals get done at the adjacent sofa... up at 7am, 15 minutes before the alarm, and once more into the breach... packed like canned hams into the FIGHT CLUB read-along w/ Palahniuk and Uhls... Buffalo wants a cavity search? We're out... fish tacos at the Irish pub... Ronson? No way... Confirmed -- Ronson... scaring Carl and Bethany... hanging with Blair in the 1886... cash bar? screw that! ... Driskill! ... Ags win! ... hanging with Chuck... talking with Theresa... Rossio slams via praise... are we going? it's time. come on -- let's go!... whoa-- that's the line? No way. Back to base... Driskill!... Arndt and Rossio talk writing for hours -- crazy awesome to watch... Jill!... Last call? Seriously? ... SFA lobby at 3:15am is pretty wild on a Saturday night.... up at 7:15am -- go to hell, alarm... load it up, pack it out... The Secret Garage... breakfast tacos at The Hideout... Dulce is again too beautiful.... lemonade with maple syrup? Wow.... rewrite panel with Rossio, and a pat on the head worth more than all the gold in California... to SFA ballroom with TR, Jolly Lauren, Deb, Lisa, Brian, and T-Crymes for the epic Michael Arndt "Endings" panel... sweet jesus this is good stuff Arndt is giving... Crymes to the shuttle, Lisa to the cab -- the exodus has begun... "And... I think we're all done" ... Driskill! ... Hanging out, shaking hands, swapping hugs ... talking the past, as we finally enter THE SUCK ... "OK, I think it's now officially Last Day..." ... a flurry of texts, a final hug, and we're out the door... long road home, with no music, no sound. Just thoughts... in the driveway, scrawled in huge glow in the dark chalk letters: "WELCOME HOME, DAD!" One last sigh, turn the knob, and then step back into the real world for another 361 days, 8 hours, 4 minutes, and 31... 30... 29... 28....

11 August 2011

the tales we tell our children

So we're at the dinner table, eating dinner. The whole famn damily.

I think it's important to try and have the traditional "dinner 'round the table" thing for a couple of reasons:

1) I'm hungry, dammit


2) The Wife tells me that this "family meal time" is important, and I'm just too damned tired to argue another point and fight a war on a seventeenth concurrent front.

So we're all there, picking around the spaghetti or chicken or leftover whatever.

And as I am savoring my whatever and mentally listing the various ways God has hurled angelic balls of poo at me so far today, I hear Son#3 mumble something about "stupid girls."

"What? What's the problem?"

"Girls. They're stupid and icky."

Son #3 is 10 years old at the time, so he's on the early edge of that long vague ill-defined window when males become fascinated by females.

"You don't think they're maybe a little bit interesting?"

"No. Girls are stupid and icky."

"Well, I remember feeling that way, too, when I was young. But here's the thing -- you're growing and getting older, and soon you're gonna start to re-think this."

The Wife is watching me warily, and chewing more slowly. I smile at her.

"One day you're gonna meet a girl who makes you feel different. Some girl who makes you want to be smart and funny and strong, and who makes your heart beat fast, and whose voice makes you feel good just to hear. Some girl you try to spend time with even when there's nothing to do -- who just makes you feel all warm and safe and good inside whenever she's with you. And you'll one day find that girl who does this so much and so often that you decide you can't go on unless you know she's going to be there to make you feel this way every day for the rest of your life, so you'll tell this girl how much she means to you, and how badly you want her as your wife, and how you want to make a family with her."

And at this point I realize The Wife and the brood are all looking at me kinda weird and unfamiliar like.

"And then it's going to suddenly hit you: you really should have trusted that first instinct back when you were ten years old."

Dinner time is quality family time.

31 July 2011

On Writing: "Beaumont"

Real writing -- the kind that gets down into your chest and makes you breathe heavy -- takes place between the lines on the page. Great songwriting does it so effortlessly that it can be terrifying, like realizing someone has been watching you in supposedly private moments for years.

In the little song below, every single line calls to mind a deeper fuller scene not explicitly shared in the words being sung, and you're left at once both aching for more details yet also feeling somewhat ashamed of overhearing someone's deepest thoughts.

Learn to do this for a hundred pages or more, and they'll drive truckloads of cash to your door and hail you as a genius, kids.

Me -- I'm still learning.

(by Hayes Carll)

I saw you leanin' on a memory
With your back turned to the crowd
In that little bar on Murphy
Where they play guitar too loud
There were people drinkin' whiskey
There were hearts about to leave
It was cold as hell for Houston
It was almost New Years Eve

All the way from Beaumont
With a white rose in my hand
I could not wait forever babe
I hope you understand

The night was feelin' lucky
So I asked you to dance
And the way you looked up at me
Made me think I had a chance
But when I put my arms around you
I knew you weren't givin' in
I hope it will be different
If I pass this way again

All the way from Beaumont
With a white rose in my hand
I could not wait forever babe
I hope you understand

I walked the road to get here
With a guitar and a case
I'd have stopped in Pasadena
If I'd known about this place
But you looked like forever
Where the water meets the shore
I've been thinkin about you, baby
I can't do that anymore

I saw you leanin' on a memory
With your back turned to the crowd
In that little bar on Murphy
Where they play guitar too loud
There were people drinkin' whiskey
There were hearts about to leave
It was cold as hell for Houston
It was almost New Years Eve

All the way from Beaumont
With a white rose in my hand
I could not wait forever babe
I hope you understand


16 May 2011

She's Still A Beauty

Once upon a time the event of humans being hurled into space by a few million pounds of barely contained explosives was the stuff of worldwide breath-holding. Back in the glory days, whenever Mercury or Gemini or Apollo sent our people up for a quick peek at the heavens, we'd all stop what we are doing, gather round a flickering TV screen and smile a deliciously stupid grin at the miracle unfolding before our eyes: "We're sending people into space! Human beings are leaving this planet!"

Sadly, things have changed, and not for the better, in my view -- at least, not when it comes to a launch. In our modern world we're too busy swapping pics of LOLcats to be bothered to notice that on this day -- May 16, 2011 -- a remarkable and terrifying and astoundingly brave phase in the history of exploration drew to a largely overlooked yet still glorious beginning of the end: the final-ever launch of the US Space Shuttle, as USS Endeavour lifted from Cape Canaveral. Endeavour's flight -- STS 134 -- will be the final flight of the Shuttle. The end of the line.

Rather than just watch a video clip and say "OK -- cool. Big rocket. (yawn) What did Jon Stewart do funny on the DAILY SHOW today...", take a few minutes (8 or 9, tops) to read this somewhat lengthy but entirely amazing essay first posted back in 2003 by Bill Whittle on his blog Eject Eject Eject:


Go on. It's more than worth it, if only to help you get a full appreciation of exactly what you are looking at when you then click and watch the video below.


Now, watch this and see if it doesn't hit you just a little harder:

Godspeed, Endeavour. May your return be blessedly and deceptively unremarkable.
Aero-Geek B

21 April 2011

April 21 -- San Jacinto Day

"On this field on April 21, 1836 the Army of Texas commanded by General Sam Houston, and accompanied by the Secretary of War, Thomas J. Rusk, attacked the larger invading army of Mexicans under General Santa Anna. The battle line from left to right was formed by Sidney Sherman's regiment, Edward Burleson's regiment, the artillery commanded by George W. Hockley, Henry Millard's infantry and the cavalry under Mirabeau B. Lamar. Sam Houston led the infantry charge.

With the battle cry, "Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!" the Texans charged. The enemy taken by surprise, rallied for a few minutes then fled in disorder. The Texans had asked no quarter and gave none. The slaughter was appalling, victory complete, and Texas free! On the following day General Antonio Lopez De Santa Anna, self-styled "Napoleon of the West," received from a generous foe the mercy he had denied Travis at the Alamo and Fannin at Goliad.

Citizens of Texas and immigrant soldiers in the Army of Texas at San Jacinto were natives of Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Austria, Canada, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Portugal and Scotland.

Measured by its results, San Jacinto was one of the decisive battles of the world. The freedom of Texas from Mexico won here led to annexation and to the Mexican-American War, resulting in the acquisition by the United States of the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma. Almost one-third of the present area of the American Nation, nearly a million square miles of territory, changed sovereignty."


Happy San Jacinto Day, y'all.
under the "A" in "TEXAS" B

14 April 2011

a jug of advil, a bag of crap, and thou

Just another typical Thursday morning.

The kids had already left for school, The Wife had just pulled in from another night shift, and I was standing in the yard in gym shorts and a ratty T, coffeecup in one hand, hose in the other, as I soak the flowerbeds and the poison just applied to the newest fire ant beds that have sprung up, while mentally sorting through the Top 31 Things I Most Hate at the moment.

The Wife is telling me... something (I find my day goes better when I pay as little mind as possible to the thoughts, comments, requests and concerns of other people...), and she's walking to the curb to put something into the trashcans there waiting for the truck. But as she replaces the lid and steps back, she yelps, throws her purse and cellphone in one direction and her body another, executing what starts as something like a graceful pirouette maneuver but which quickly degrades into full-on pratfall.

I hear a loud "OOOF!", and there's a small poof of leaves puffed away from the impact.

I sip my coffee and shake my head, then sigh.

"Well, that looked painful. Are you OK?"

"errrg... no..." answers a small face-down voice.

"You need to move," I offer as assistance.

"i can't..." the face-down whimper explains.

I sip some more coffee.

"Well, you're laying on a fire ant mound."

At which point we discover that she was mistaken: she can, in fact, move, and does so, though none too gracefully. She log-rolls along the curb and now lies facedown with most of her body in the street. Our housecat strolls over and sits near her prone form, using her body as cover from a mockingbird shrieking and dive-bombing from the oak tree above.

A neighbor drives by, sees the scene, slows and gawks.

I smile and wave the hose in greeting. They drive on.

"I think I broke my ankle."

"Oh, I doubt that. It takes some effort to do that. You probably just rolled it."

I help her up, and she limps into the house and collapses onto the sofa.

"You need to get me some ibuprofen."

"Where is it -- in your bathroom cabinet, or in the kitchen?"

"The store. We're out."

"I think you mean you're out. I have all the ibuprofen I need right now."

"Will you go buy some ibuprofen? I can't move."

So I drive to the local quicky stop and buy some overpriced ibuprofen and an Antone's Super Po Boy (mmmmm... chow chow...) and return to find a small plastic bag of cat poo on the front stoop. I pick it up, glance at it, then drop it back to the stoop and head in to find The Wife on the back porch.

"Somebody left a bag of cat crap on the stoop."

"That was me," she answers from the back yard through the open door in the kitchen. "Pick up the ice -- my ice pack slipped and made a mess."

I notice three dozen ice cubes scattered all over the kitchen table and floor.

"If you were a car, Federal Law says I could return you as defective."

"What?" she asks, re-entering from the back porch.

"I invoke my Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination."

"Good. Did you get the ibuprofen?" she asks as she limps past.

"On the counter."

"The window casing looks good. You going to paint it today?"

"Window casing? Oh, you mean, 'the window casing in the upstairs bathroom'? I thought you couldn't move?"

"You need to pick up those tools up there."

"Ah, so apparently you can move only well enough to criticize. Good to see the injury is not slowing you."

"I'm going to bed now."

"Try not to burst into flames between here and there."

"Good night. Don't forget the cat poo on the porch."

I nod "OK" through a mouthful of Super Po-Boy.

"Mmmmm... chow chow....

And so it goes.

15 March 2011


"Do you smell something burning?"

"Huh? Whaa..."

"I smell something. Been smelling it for an hour."


If it had not been 4:45am when this little scene started, I might have seemed more engaged. More interested. More coherent.

As it stands, I sat up and rubbed my eyes, and then sniffed.

"Hey-- what's that--"

"Smell? Yeah. That's what I was saying."

So we hop out of bed and go padding around. There's a strange semi-familiar burning smell hanging in the air, but it's not a burning wood or paper smell. It's definitely apparent in the bedroom, but not there in the bathroom (behind the closed door).

It's there in the hallway, but not in the utility room (behind another closed door).

Wife goes upstairs, says she smells it plainly in the hallway, yet in none of the rooms where the kids are sleeping (gain, behind closed doors).

I smell it in the den, and in the kitchen as well. It's not the coffeepot, nor the microwave or oven or cooktop. Not the fridge motor.

"No smell in the attic," wife whisper-shouts from upstairs.

"Good," I mumble and yawn. "So what the hell is it?"

I lean down, yawning again, hands on the countertop.

It's hot. Strange abnormal weird hot.

The dishwasher.

I note the "DRY" cycle is still running. I started the washer as I went to bed around midnight-thirty, and here five hours later the DRY cycle is still cranking?

I open the door slightly, and am immediately hit by the smell. It's like crayons melting on the stove and on the verge of igniting.

There's no flame, so I pull the door open. It's like an oven-- likely 250 degrees, maybe more.

I peek in and laugh. Anything made from soft plastic is... well, gone. Perhaps not totally gone from this universe, but surviving now in only a colored shadow on the floor on the washer. Anything made from Type 1 plastic -- which includes the caps to the sport bottles, a snap on lid for the dog food can, a plastic baby spoon, and two cutting boards -- has been liquified. Blobs of colored goo on the floor of the cabinet show where the melted plastic dripped, and the cutting boards have fused onto the floor and lower rack in a molten mess. In the back corner, there's a charred black stain where a heavy blob of cutting board had been dripping down to contact the heater coil.

None of the control buttons respond on the washer, so I reach into the undersink cabinet and yank the power cord, killing the wounded beast. I take the racks of steaming hot dishes into the backyard to cool and air there, spritz some Lysol into the air to slapfight with the melted plastic stink (so now we have a funky "white linen / molten crayola" stink working in the house), and then The Wife and I crawl back into bed for the final 45 minutes of sleep before Yet Another Day In Paradise pounces on us like a perching puma.

The family gets up and heads out to visit sis-in-law and the sideshow at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Me? I'm now appliance shopping and installing today.

I don't think Billy Wilder done it this-a way...."
thermoplastic fantastic B