Monday, June 30, 2008

Third Time's the Charm, Right?

Early this morning, I email-submitted my application for the Viable Paradise writer's workshop. Then I went to sleep, and after breakfast, went to the post office to send a hard copy of my manuscript. Yes, today is the deadline for applying, and yes, I do wait until the last minute (Adverb? Really? Whatever.)

You may recall that I applied to Clarion and Clarion West earlier this year, but was not accepted to either. No big--it actually made planning our road trip a little easier. VP happens at the end of September, by which time we'll be settled in Portland (or at least planted in a hotel nearby, looking for an apartment).

But even if I don't get into VP, I have an idea for a year-long writing project which I plan to start this fall. More details to come. And, of course, I'll be doing NaNoWriMo in November.

Meanwhile, here's my new list of things to do, with deadlines:
  1. Vote for Hugo Awards - July 7
  2. Apply for Stanford in Entertainment (SIE) Alumni Mentor Program - July 15
  3. Help Team Snout finish application for Ghost Patrol Game - July 18 (solve remaining pre-clues)
  4. Audition for Stanford Singer's Showcase - July 20 (find audio recordings)


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hugo Reading

D and I have another week and a half to vote for this year's Hugo Awards. She's currently ahead of me on reading all the nominated stories, many of which are available online.

I've only read two of the nominated novels (so far), and I'm also partial to those two authors because I hosted both of them at Google last year:

John Scalzi on The Last Colony

Charles Stross on Halting State


Friday, June 20, 2008

Sex and the Incredible Hulk

(NOT what you think)

Despite my earlier protestations, D and I were both won over by the Scene Unseen review and actually paid good money to see Sex and the City last night.* A week ago, we took D's family out to see The Incredible Hulk. It may surprise you to learn that these two movies share many similarities! Well, maybe two. Would you believe three vowels and a consonant?**

But seriously, folks... both movies actually do begin the same way, with a fast-cutting "our story thus far" montage. With Sex, it's a collection of clips from the HBO series which (re)introduces the four main characters and explains their current life situations--married, with children, etc. For Hulk, it's a high-energy retcon that erases the first, Ang Lee movie and establishes that Bruce Banner has been on the run for several years, hulking out periodically while eluding capture by the U.S. Army.

Fashion is also an issue in both films. Carrie Bradshaw is very particular about her wedding dress, and Bruce Banner is very particular about his stretchy pants.

That's about where the similarities end. I have to admit that Sex was the better movie, even for a straight man with little interest in handbags. It was just a better show, featuring well-drawn characters in a solid story that weaves all their lives together. Maybe because of its TV roots, and perhaps because they didn't want to screw up the franchise, it's clear that a lot of energy went into writing this movie and protecting its heart. There are themes, there are callbacks and parallels, there is solid structure.

Hulk, on the other hand, shows obvious signs of its story having been gutted by a contentious post-production period. Edward Norton didn't get official screen credit for his work on the screenplay (though he is credited in the novelization), and scuttlebutt says most of his contributions--including an opening sequence in the Arctic, which you may have glimpsed in the trailer--were scrapped. I don't believe the final battle would have seemed any less like a video game (an effect heightened when you see it in digital projection), but it might have had a better setup. It's like Joss Whedon says: "The problem with the third act is the first two acts."


* I quote my wife: "We listened to that damn podcast, and now I totally have a hard-on for Sex and the City." Direct quote.

** That's my little Get Smart homage, which I understand from reviews is on par with how much the new movie has to do with the original TV series. Oh well.

Friday, June 13, 2008

"Apartment of Champions" Teaser

I've just submitted my entry for the FOX-NYTVF Comedy Script Contest. My synopsis:
In a city full of super-heroes, five young people with not-so-great powers and one normal college kid do their best to avoid great responsibility.
I don't actually expect to win anything, since this is my first time around the block, and I don't even watch sitcoms (except for How I Met Your Mother. I heart NPH). I basically wrote the Kevin Smith version of a superhero show--i.e., where all the fighting takes place off-screen, or not at all, and it's pretty much all banter about how ridiculous a world full of metahumans actually would be. (Seriously, who pays for all that property damage?) If I had to pitch it, I'd have to call it "Friends meets The Tick." And nobody's going to buy that.

I can't share the actual script here yet, since by entering the contest I have agreed "not to exhibit, disseminate, produce or broadcast, or authorize any third party to exhibit, disseminate, produce or broadcast, in any manner, media, or format, the script submitted as part of his or her entry (or portions thereof), for a period of one (1) month following the conclusion of the Contest." But I'll talk more about it after October 17th.

It was, however, a good writing exercise, and I have a much better feel for how much time and effort it takes me to produce thirty pages. Three revisions in one week is probably nothing by actual TV standards, but now I know I can pound out a new draft in six hours if I need to.


Monday, June 09, 2008

John Grisham on "Foreshadowing"

From The Onion, America's Finest News Source:
Guess what? There is this really neat literary device I just learned about, and it's called "foreshadowing." It's this thing where, in the beginning of the story, you put in all these little "hints" about stuff that's going to happen later on. I can't wait to try it out!

Here's the thing. There is a difference between what makes a good book, in terms of art or even craft, and what makes a bestselling one. (I could give other examples.) An author has some measure of control over the former, but absolutely none over the latter.

I have no illusions about this. No matter how many book tours you do or how much money your publisher pours into marketing, you can't make people like something. This is why I don't understand all the "#1 movie in America" commercials for new releases--are people supposed to be so unsure of their own tastes that they need to rely on total strangers to tell them what they should enjoy?

When D and I went on the Warner Studio Tour, our guide asked everyone what their favorite WB/CW shows were so he could point out locations that had been used in filming them. We mentioned that we were big Buffy fans, and then the guy couldn't stop gushing about Moonlight, saying how "slick" it was and how the network had "designed" it to appeal to Buffy fans.

How can I put it delicately? Moonlight was crap, and I'm glad it's been cancelled, because now CBS can spend that money on something better. (Although they'll probably just order another CSI spinoff.) My original pessimism was confirmed by the pilot, and I decided not to waste any more time on it after that.

See, I don't understand people who indiscriminately love something because of its premise, sometimes sight unseen, with no regard to execution or actual content. Was I supposed to like Moonlight because I loved Buffy, and they both involved vampires? Here's a hint: I didn't love Buffy just because it had vampires in it. I loved it because of what they did with those vampires, and nobody does it like Joss Whedon and company. (But I'm still going to wait until I see Dollhouse before deciding whether I like it enough to petition for it. Seriously, folks. If you drool too much, you start to look like you're foaming at the mouth.)

If you are one of those poor souls still mourning Moonlight's cancellation, you have my sympathies, and I hope something better comes along for both of us. In the meantime, maybe you can go watch Van Helsing again. I hear that's got vampires in it.


Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Great Experiment

I am nothing if not malleable. Barely three weeks after complaining that I couldn't buy and download the TV shows I want to watch on my computer, I'm trying out the available options to see if I can live with them. So far, I've bought five episodes of Reaper from iTunes, and D and I have watched two of them. After this, it'll be House from Amazon Unbox.

So far, it's been pretty convenient, and I'm more than willing to pay $2 for an episode of a show I love--especially because it's a purchase, not a rental, and I get to keep the file for as long as I want. True, there's still crappy DRM attached, but it is the least of the associated evils.

Why don't I just use BitTorrent? Well, it's not terribly convenient, for one. I'm not a big fan of hunting down the right torrent and hoping that the download actually finishes. (Before you post your pollyanna comment: I'm glad it works for you. It rarely works for me.) Reliability is also a problem--especially at the moment, when we're dependent on hotel broadband that is usually sketchy and often throttles even streaming video traffic.

Another big issue is quality. True, iTunes video is nothing to write home about, and you can find HD content via torrents, but there's also a lot of low-quality, truncated, or simply mislabeled stuff out there. Given the choice between a data set that oscillates wildly between very good and very bad, and one that stays flatlined at pretty good, I'll take the linear fit, thank you.

Finally, I'm voting with my wallet. I have never been part of a Nielsen family (or even known any--have you?), and even when I'm using TiVo, I have very little confidence that the networks will pay any attention to my viewing habits, because they consider me a thief.* But if I'm actually giving them my money, and that money-giving is clearly attached to a particular program--well, I sincerely hope that even corporate executives are not that stupid. Besides, I can feel good that I'm directly contributing to the writers' residual payments, even if it's only a couple of pennies for each episode I buy.

* Yeah, treat your customers like criminals. That's a great business plan.


"Pork and Beans" music video

Thanks to steadof for the link. And yes, Weezer did actually get all those people into a studio to do the lip-syncing. The grand finale starting at 2:37 is pretty impressive. But I really could have done without the creepy half-human hamster face.


What to Watch

You've got one more week to catch live coverage of the STS-124 mission on NASA TV, being transmitted from the Space Shuttle and International Space Station in Earth orbit. Seriously, there is nothing better on television right now. My favorite part is Karen Nyberg's zero-gee ponytail, which is a more awesome hairstyle than anything Hollywood can produce.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

My Work, Cut Out For Me

I have eight days to submit an entry for the FOX - NYTVF Comedy Script Contest.

I have twenty-five days to submit an application for Viable Paradise.

I'd totally forgotten about the latter for the past couple months. The former, I've just been procrastinating on.