Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Bored of the Rings

Happy Holidays, everyone!

I hope everyone is having a good time, enjoying the company friends and family as another year comes to a close.

My thoughts are all a-frazzled, and I'm afraid this update's going to reflect that. I really don't have any cool tales to tell. I think I'm suffering from writer's block or something, so you guys benefit by not having to drudge through five pages of drivel I suppose.

By now I hope you've received the e-vite to my annual party coming up in a little over a month. If not, let me know and I'll send another one. Also I'll put a link on my website (which is long overdue for updating). Please feel free to pass it on to anyone I may have forgotten. The physical invitations will be arriving sometime in January.

I'll be arriving in Houston this Friday night, so if anyone is interested in getting together for lunch or dinner or a beer or anything, please let me know.

Oh wait, here's a story. I went out the other night to see a movie, and just by chance it happened to be right next to the famous Mann's Chinese Theater where they were having the world premiere of Star Trek: Nemesis. Of course, I couldn't resist hanging out and watching for all the stars, at least until my show started. It was a strange experience, though not as you might expect. I didn't see anybody dressed up in Star Trek uniforms, which was really a drag. There was a pretty large crowd, but we were all kept far from the red carpet and bright lights by barricades and security personnel. As I watched the arrival of the stars (I saw Michael Dorn (Worf), Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher), and Brent Spiner (Data) See-- I can be a Star Trek geek too sometimes), I became very aware of all the layers of this particular Hollywood onion. I mean, there were the stars on the red carpet, then the tv interviewers, then outside that all the film and lighting crews, then outside that the escorts, ushers, and valets, outside that the security guards, and outside all of that was me, standing in a crowd with other geeky onlookers. It was really rather depressing, actually. sigh. Oh well, I guess my New Year's resolution should be to get into that red carpet inner circle.

I also had another celebrity sighting (stars at a premier don't really count in my book). At my little hole-in-the-wall chili place, where I was getting my fix of chili-cocaine, there was some actress sitting across the chili bar. I swear that place is like an opium den. Everyone just comes in, speaks in code to the server, and are soon burying their face in a bowl. Some don't even have to speak, they just give a nod and a wink and their fix is ready for them. Anyway, for the life of me I don't know who the celebrity was, but she was one I swear. She's a red-headed, B-level actress that I've seen in half a dozen or so bit parts on tv sitcoms, usually playing some sort of obsessed psycho. I don't even know how to look someone like that up on the Internet, so just let your imagination run wild and pretend it was Brad Pitt or somebody. Rather than accosting her and saying something like, "Hey, aren't you somebody?" I decided to let her be and wallow in her own chili addiction in peace.

Okay, well, that's all I can think of right now. Not a great update for the end of the year, but it's been a rough couple of months. I wish all of you the best for this holiday season, and I look forward to seeing each of you when I can.


Movie Quote Challenge:

Number One: "No securities, no stocks, no bonds, nothing but a miserable little $500 equity in a life insurance policy. You're worth more dead than alive."

Number Two: "Over the years I got to be quite a connoisseur of soap. Though my personal preference was for Lux, I found that Palmolive had a nice, piquant, after-dinner flavor... heavy, but with a touch of mellow smoothness."

Good luck!

Movie Quote Answers:

Dale Prasek was the first to correctly identify both quotes, which puts him in the lead again.

Number One: It's a Wonderful Life, by Phlip Van Doren Stern

Number Two: A Christmas Story, by Leigh Brown, Bob Clark, and Jean Shepherd

Happy holidays, everyone! Better luck next time.


Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hey folks-

Sorry the update's a little late, both in the day and the week, but I don't really have any new adventures to tell you. I just wanted to send a note out wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving, and express my appreciation for all the support, and that you all haven't changed your e-mail addresses. Thanks for listening (reading) my ramblings, and have a good holiday.



Distant early warning-- My party is definitely on again for next year, Saturday, February 1st. I know that seems awfully far away, but it has a very easy tendency to be here before you know it. The theme this year is television, so start planning your costumes accordingly!

Movie Quote Challenge:

Number One: "What a fitting end to your life's pursuits. You're about to become a permanent addition to this archaeological find. Who knows? In a thousand years, even you may be worth something."

Number Two: "Those aren't pillows!"

Movie Quote Answers:

Congratulations!! Joel Swift was the first to correctly identify this round's quotes.

Number One: Raiders of the Lost Ark (a reminder of my party, I hope) by Lawrence Kasdan

Number Two: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (a reminder of the holiday) by John Hughes

Thanks for playing, everybody, have a great weekend.


Monday, November 4, 2002

Jackass: The E-Mail

Greetings, sports fans!

That is, if there are any sports fans left there after your Texans' disappointing 38-3 loss, but hey, look on the bright side-- The Rams won!

Well, I must be losing my memory or not taking good notes, 'cause I was sure I had all sorts of exciting things to write about this time, but I can't remember them all. So does that mean a short update? Heck no! I'm sure I'll find all sorts of random, irrelevant crap to ramble on about, so let's get started!

10/25 - 10/27 - I went to a three-day screenwriting seminar given by a guy named Robert McKee. This name probably doesn't mean anything to most of you (nor should it, really), but he is *the* big-time screenwriting guru. Every other book or lecturer on screenwriting always references or recommends Mr. McKee, and with good reason. The course was pretty overwhelming, to be sure. It was three 10-hour days sitting and listening to him speak/perform. Of course, these could have been 8-hour days easily if he didn't go off on so many irrelevant tangents. I'm not exaggerating, either. The first day, the first two hours had absolutely nothing to do with the course. But, he is an entertaining old coot to be sure. For example, during one of the first day's opening rants, he complained about cell phones. Nothing new or unusual there, but he went on to say that if any rang during the course of the lecture, the owner would have to pay him ten bucks. Sure enough, the next day someone's phone went off. And true to his word, he stopped the lecture, walked up to the culprit, and stood there with his hand out until they coughed up $10. It was awesome! You can imagine what a frantic scouring through pagers and cell phones happened next as everyone made sure they wouldn't be next. Even better, someone forgot again the next day, and another ten went in his pocket.

As a lecturer, McKee was very engaging. This lecture was all about story, which is his forte and also the basis of his main book. His book is jam-packed with great info, as was the lecture, but there was one large difference. The book is rather dry and textbook-like, no personality. His lecture is very much filled with personality, which for him includes more cursing than a dockside bar full of sailors. It was great! Here's this smart, old, opinionated curmudgeon giving a lecture like a George Carlin routine. McKee's a Carlin fan, too, I found out when talking with him during the break.

Speaking of comedians (you like that segue? I'm a writer you know), also attending this class with me was Drew Carey. I wasn't sure if it was really him at first, so I had to play a little stalker/detective. You know, quietly standing behind him to hear his voice, taking the urinal next to him in the men's room, stealing his wallet and checking his ID, that kind of stuff. But it really was him, so celebrity sighting number two I guess. Anyway, in answer to your question, no, we're not best buds now. I didn't go up and talk to him or anything because I just don't know what the etiquette is on that. I mean, is that rude? Does it bother celebrities when complete strangers walk up and introduce themselves? I don't know. I try to imagine what that would be like for when I'm extremely rich, powerful, and famous. I mean, if someone came up to me and said, "Hi Greg, don't you remember me? I'm your mother" it wouldn't bother me too much as long as my security team was able to haul her away before she got too close. (That's just a joke, Mom.)

The lecture ended with a six-hour, scene-by-scene analysis of Casablanca, which was really, really cool. I've always liked the movie anyway, but having it picked apart like that showed me so many levels that I'd never considered before. McKee used the movie as a neat example and summary of all the things that we had talked about all weekend, and it was a very effective closing note. His analysis and conclusion filled all of the class with hope and excitement. The class was very much an overload, but I came home very excited to get back to work. The entire time during the lecture I was taking notes not about the lecture (I have the book, so it wasn't really necessary), but about ways to fix the screenplays I'm working on. I knew there were problems, but now I knew why, and had a better idea of how to fix them. This was definitely worth the time and money, I found it extremely inspirational. Now, a question that may be on your mind is "Why didn't you take this course a long time ago?" Well, that's a good point. I should have. I didn't know much about it before, but I won't use that as an excuse. I have no excuse. The only answer I can give is a quote from George Eliot: "It is never too late to be what you might become." The key is to not let this current enthusiasm wane.

10/31 - Happy Halloween! I had a fun mis-translation at the Transcription Company today. "Candy and costumes" became "Kantian costumes." I can just imagine dozens of elementary school white-wigged philosopher children running about the neighborhood. "Although there is no moral imperative for you to give me a treat, reason clearly shows that choosing to receive a trick would be bad."

Halloween has always been my all-time favorite holiday, but I find myself now in the same boat that many others have been in for years concerning Christmas. The crass commercialization of the holiday is really starting to get to me. I'm certainly not an observer of the religious aspects of Halloween, but all this other crap they're selling now really changes it for me. Cute little witches and skeletons? Halloween lights? Halloween trees? What happened to the days when Halloween was actually supposed to be spooky? Is it impolitic to scare children these days? sigh. Oh well, for now I guess I'll just have to let it go. But you can bet that when I have a house in a neighborhood with trick-or-treating children, my garage will become a haunted house so frightening that I'll have to hand out clean pairs of underwear at the exit.

So, what did I do on Halloween? Nothing too exciting, unfortunately. I went to see The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari at the silent movie theater. It's a classic from the German Expressionist period (wow, doesn't that sound exciting!) and it's full of really weird angles and scenery. Sadly, it's not really full of entertainment. I was rather disappointed, but glad I saw it nonetheless. However, I have to vent for just a second about something else. During the intermission at the theater, they had a costume contest (I didn't win, sadly) of all the people there. Not everyone was in costume, and some were better than others, but that's to be expected. Here's my beef, though. Third place went to Mr. Clean (bald guy in white pants and shirt, with cotton balls for eyebrows). Not bad, but certainly not too difficult or original. He didn't even remember the gold earring. First place went to a pair of clowns. They looked very nice, but come on, clowns? How hard is that? But here's the real kicker. Second place when to... are you ready? The Unabomber. Huh? Yes, a guy with a hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses won second place in a costume contest with a six-year-old news reference. Way to go. I guess it would've been too frightening to dress up as a sniper. You don't want to scare people on Halloween.

11/2 - I was playing games with some friends when I made an interesting discovery. Apparently, one of the guys I kind of hang out with (we're not really close, we just meet up sometimes) wrote Last Action Hero and The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. Now, I realize that's not the same as having written A Beautiful Mind, but it is two scripts that actually got produced, whether you liked them or not. I'm not sure whether or not (or how much) to pester him about it yet, though. I mean, clearly I want to learn whatever I can from him, and in Hollywood speak, "use this contact to my advantage," but at the same time I don't want to scare him off by becoming this desperate wannabe screenwriter groupie. You want to hear a really scary story of how Hollywood I've become? Earlier in the evening (before I found out his writing credits) he invited me over to his house to play this old computer game we had a lot of nostalgia for. I kind of shied away, not sure if I really wanted to spend that much time with him. When I later found out his credits, I started mentally kicking myself for turning away a chance to get to know him better. How shallow is that!? It's happening! Oh no!! Help me!!!

Okay, that's about all I got this time. I hope everyone has a great week, and I'll talk to you soon!


Movie Quote Challenge:

Number One: "Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking."

Number Two: "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine."

Movie Quote Answers:

Congratulations to Joe Henderson! He correctly named the following movies:

Number One: The Wizard of Oz, by Noel Langley

Number Two: Casablanca, by Julius & Philip Epstein

Thanks for playing, better luck next time!


Monday, October 21, 2002

Count Dracu-L.A.

Good Afternoon!

Yes, it's that time again. Time to sit back, kick your shoes off, put your dogs up, put aside work, and listen to me ramble on for a while.

10/12 - Some of you may have noticed that I haven't been talking about the Silent Movie Theater as much as before. Well, I'm still a big fan, but I haven't been able to go as often as I had been earlier. However, this weekend I made an exception. You may recall me mentioning Bob Mitchell, the organist who plays accompaniment to the silent pictures. Well, he had his 90th birthday party, which was celebrated at a classic old theater downtown. It was quite the event. The theater itself was beautiful. It was one of the original Orpheum theaters, built to showcase vaudeville acts. Harry Houdini, W.C. Fields, and the Marx Brothers had actually played there. The place was a little worn for wear, but it had just been purchased with the intention of being fully restored, and this was the first event hosted there since the purchase. There were people there dressed for the occasion, either by wearing a tux, or dressing in period costume. The whole show was hosted by Bill Pullman, which was kind of a neat surprise, not that he's a huge star or anything. Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys played, as well as an exhibition by some jitterbug dancers (side note: I'm pretty sure one pair of dancers actually appeared in the jitterbug contest on Ed last week). After that, Bill Pullman came back on stage and proceeded to do a sort of "This is Your Life" narrative for Mr. Mitchell. I say sort of because much of this presentation consisted of audio clips from an *actual* "This is Your Life" done for Mr. Mitchell in 1949! This guy's really been around! At one point during the presentation, they continued playing an old radio ad, as Mr. Pullman acted it out. "Ah, Philip Morris, the cigarette that doesn't give you a cigarette hangover." After all the accolades, they showed Buster Keaton's "Seven Chances" (another classic from Keaton, with scenes that were directly heisted by Lucas for some of the shots in The Phantom Menace), and Mr. Mitchell actually played for the movie. What's even more amazing, it was his *fourth* gig for the day! If you'd like to read a very short little piece on Mr. Mitchell, here's a bio I found.

Also from this particular evening, I had my first celebrity sighting, although it hardly even counts as such and I was hesitant as to whether I should mention it at all, especially since I don't even know the guy's name. Do you by any weird chance remember a show on Comedy Central called "Viva Variety?" It was a variety/comedy show that didn't last very long. It was hosted by a guy pretending to be Monsieur Laupin. Well, that was the guy. More recognizable, maybe, if you've seen any of the recent Snickers commercials where someone daydreams or makes a bad decision because of hunger. The game show host-like guy who comes on and says, "This wouldn't have happened if he had had a Snickers bar." That's the guy. (Editor's note: I've since discovered the man's name is Thomas Lennon, of recent fame from Reno 911.) The funny part about the sighting is that I saw him as I was just wandering around the theater looking and admiring it. I was up on the balcony, and he was there making an ungainly, somewhat rude climb over a railing to get to his seat with some friends. He looked really awkward, and I couldn't help but look at him. Of course, in my mind I'm just thinking, hey, is that the guy that...? And I keep looking at him trying to be sure. What's funny is, he saw me looking at him, and I'm *sure* he thought I was giving him a disparaging look because of the awkward move he had just made (side note: In another strange connection to the show Ed, another character from this guy's show "Viva Variety" was Johnny Bluejeans. The actor who plays him now plays Phil Stubbs, the goofy bowling alley employee on Ed).

10/16 - Went to see a film compilation of short animated features called "Spike and Mike's Festival of Sick and Twisted Animation." It was terrible. Terrible! But, you say, "sick and twisted?" Surely that would make it interesting? No. Out of the hour and a half I was there, I was amused for maybe six minutes. I could go into needless detail of the completely worthless things I saw, but that's not my point. I mention this only to impart two bits of knowledge I gained to you, my hapless reader. First, if you make something offensive enough, someone will show it, and second, offensive *can* be funny, but offensive doesn't *equal* funny. Save your money, steer far away from this gem.

10/17 - Depending on which way I drive home from work, I often pass by this tiny, hole-in-the-wall chili restaurant. Finally, I could stand it no more and stopped in. It was the coolest. It's this tiny little room with big horseshoe-shaped bar in the middle. Everyone sits around it like at a diner, and as soon as you sit down they plop bowls of oyster crackers, onions, and peppers in front of you. It's almost like you don't even have a choice. I didn't even see a menu anywhere until after I had ordered. No problem though, 'cause obviously I was there for the chili. One weird thing, though, is about a third of the people there had their chili over spaghetti, which I'd never seen before. Anyway, this was the best chili I'd ever had, so next time any of you come to visit, we're going there for sure. Chili John's. Oh, and speaking of work, I actually have another entertaining mis-translation. They've gone down considerably the longer I've worked there, as the computer is getting used to my voice. However, I'm still fighting a cold I picked up in Germany (gee, really? After standing around in the cold rain without a jacket and sleeping in an airport? That's odd.), so my voice isn't exactly the same. Anyway, of the many I've had, the good one I remember was ABC's news correspondent Barry Mitchell becoming "very mental."

10/20 - Well, like the fool I am, I got a table at the L.A. Comic Convention again, to try and sell my wares to the public. This time was better and worse, though. It was better because I shared the table with my friend who made a movie, and he tried to sell it there as well. This cut down on the expense. It was worse because we didn't sell anything. Well, I sold a few, and he sold one, but still, that's like nothing. I don't really have any good stories about the feaks and nut jobs that attend these things. Why do I mention it? Well, for astute readers that may remember my last excursion to the show, way back in Issue #8, I received a videotape that threatened I would die in seven days if I watched it. Sound familiar? That is the premise of a new movie called "The Ring." Apparently, my tape was a very early promotional gimmick to get people curious, and then have a resounding impact when the movie came out. Pretty clever, I guess. It definitely explains how someone could afford to give away all those videotapes.

Well, that's about all for now. I'm still really depressed about not being a pirate, but oh well. I had thought there was a strong chance of me getting back into the project due to some changes that had been made (hence my little tease at the end of the last update), but alas it appears I have missed the pirate boat for good. Arrgh. I knew I should have amputated one of my legs.

So that about wraps it up for me this time. Hope everyone is having a great time, and I want you all to have a fantastic Halloween, my all-time favorite holiday!


Movie Quote Challenge:

Number One: "Oh God, Mother, blood! Blood!"

Number Two: "Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make."

Movie Quote Answers:

Congratulations! Dale Prasek was the first to correctly identify today's quotes:

Number One: Psycho, by Joseph Stefano

Number Two: Dracula, by John Balderston & Hamilton Deane

Better luck next time, and have a great Halloween!


Monday, October 7, 2002

The Longest Longest Day

Guten tag!

What am I doing? What the hell am I doing here? Why do I spend so much time writing these incredibly long Updates? Shouldn't they be about all the things I'm doing to become a screenwriter? What are all these stupid adventures about, anyway? Who would want to read all this crap? What am I doing with my life? These are some of the questions that occur to a person when spending hours, nay, days on an airplane. No lie, this is gonna be a long one, folks.

Hey, everybody. As you may remember, when we last left our intrepid hero, he had given up a pirate role in favor of a trip to Germany for Oktoberfest, then changed his mind only to find that the casting changed and he was no longer able to play a pirate. Destiny? Weird fate? Maybe. Only time will tell.

Now, I'm not going to bother to tell you all the things that happened on my trip to Germany, that is much more suited for personal, face to face conversations anyway. I also don't have any pictures developed yet, so I don't even have proper illustrations for my story. Once I've done that, and sifted through them to remove any incriminating evidence, I'll be sure to post them on my website if you're curious. However, though I have no intention of dragging you through all the tales of the trip, I think it's only fair that I tell you all about the low- and highlights of my little vacation. (Vacation from what, you say? Um, no comment.)

First, the bad part:
9/25 - 9/26 - The flight out. Woo hoo! I'm going to Germany! Bright and early Wednesday morning, ready for my 8:30 flight, my roommate and I head out for the airport at 6:30 am. Now, from our apartment, it's usually a 45 minute drive to LAX. I know, I know, technically for an international flight I'm supposed to get there even earlier, but what can I say. It's never been a problem so far. So far. Well, traffic was exceptionally bad as I'm sure you predicted. I arrive at the gate at 8:25. Sadly, they were not exactly pleased and I missed my flight. Tragedy. However, the ticket agent was very helpful and was able to get me a new flight plan that left four hours later. That's cool, I thought, I can hang in the airport for a while, I have my books and writing stuff to work on. My flight plan isn't exactly inviting-- L.A. to N.Y., N.Y. to Paris, Paris to Munich. Lots of air time, but hey, at least I'm getting there. The hours pass uneventfully, and I get on the plane without a hitch, ready to hit the skies.

Well, I got on without a hitch, but that didn't necessarily mean we hit the skies. Apparently, we had a passenger problem. I wasn't witness to this, but it seems as though someone decided to sit in business class without paying for it. This information comes via the pilot. I had no idea what a terrible violation of airline security this was. But it was. After sitting on the runway for about 30 minutes, we turned around, went back to the terminal, police came and took him off the plane, and back we went out to the runway. But of course, since we missed our spot in line to take off, we had to wait another hour and a half before we were able to leave. For those of you keeping score at home-- Time since I left my house: 8 hours. Distance from L.A.: 0 miles.

Fortunately, the trip to N.Y. was again uneventful. However, because of the delay I was concerned about making my connecting flight. I told the flight attendant, and she told the pilot, and he told the airport, so by the time we landed I had a whole contingency of people waiting to shoot me over to the next flight. It was actually pretty cool. I felt so important! I get off the airplane and immediately some guy gets me and we start running through the airport. We of course had to stop at the x-ray machine, but then we kept running. He hands me off to a guy in a van to drive me over to the other terminal. He asks me, "Are you some rock star or something?" Apparently, he noticed the VIP treatment as well. Of course I said yes. We scream into the next terminal where the package (me) is passed on to the next carrier. We run up to the counter with plenty of time to spare. He even politely makes sure my checked bag made the transfer as well. All is good.

Now, this flight to Paris is not exactly what I would call pleasant. For some reason, there is some sort of regulation in international travel that if you're not flying first class, you're cattle. This was perhaps the smallest, most uncomfortable seat I've ever flown in, and as a bonus, it's a nine hour flight! Plus, I'm flying on Air France this time, and I probably need not remind you of the famed European hygiene skills. I felt like an immigrant on the bottom level of the Titanic. Plus I had the added bonus of elderly French people behind me who thought the back of my seat was good leverage for their frequent trips to the restroom, snapping my head back and forth, for a nine hour flight. For those of you keeping score at home—- Time since I left my house: 21 hours. Time since I've had any sleep: 21 hours.

I arrive in Paris, greeting the sun on a lovely Thursday afternoon. I only have an hour till my next flight, and it goes smoothly. I arrive in Munich, about six hours later than my original plan, but still incredibly thankful that I made it and was done with any flying for while. Unfortunately, my luggage decided that N.Y. was so nice it should stay there for a few days on its own.

Due to circumstances I'd rather not explain here, I ended up staying the night at the airport. Now, for those of you who've never experienced the joy of spending the night at an airport, I applaud you. Those who have had the experience, well, I guess I don't really have to tell you anything either. Let me just say that Munich has a very nice airport. It's very clean, quiet, and they have a cafeteria that's open 24 hours that sells beer all that time. There's plenty of bench space for everyone, so you just have to be careful not to pick one next to a snorer. They even have shower facilities where you can buy a towel and soap for 5 euros, quite a bargain I thought. Sadly, though operational when I found them, they were not when it came time to need one after a fitful night of "sleep." For those of you keeping score at home-- Time since I left my house: 34 hours. Time since I've had a shower: 34 hours. Hey, at least I was smelling more European!

One other note, my jacket was packed in my luggage. In Munich this time of year, the highs were in the high 40s, and as a bonus for me, it was very overcast and raining these first few days. At last, I met up with my friend and organizer of this trip, Pat Reilly, at the hotel. Finding a sympathetic ear alone was a godsend, but having a shower came pretty close as well. We met up with his brother and proceeded to find the best cure for my ailments we knew of: Beer. For those of you keeping score at home-- Time since I left my house: 42 hours. Time it took me to drink that first beer: 42 seconds.

Okay, so the trip didn't start off that great. Sure, I was really wishing I was a pirate right about now. But then again, I feel it's always better to start a vacation badly than to end it badly. Besides, now I had the opportunity to buy chic new foreign clothes on Air France's dime! Actually, my luggage arrived in a day or two, and all was fine.

Wow, that's a lot of space to kill on just my arrival. Good thing I'm not going to spend too much time on this.

Now for the good parts. Well, they were all good parts, really. The best way to describe it would just be a general description. However, before I go into this next part, I have to make an aside for a moment. My Dad made me promise that I wouldn't drink too much at Oktoberfest. But when it comes down to it, what exactly is too much, anyway? Well, let's just say I have a much better idea now than I did before. So, Dad, I suggest you skip the next paragraph or two, just to be safe.

Okay, now, it's Oktoberfest. We drank. A lot. And then drank. A lot more. We spent a lot of time in beer tents, which I could write volumes on alone (What, me? No way!). Some quick observations: German beers are bigger than American beers; Who would have thought that to fit in with a German beer tent's singing crowd I would have to know the words to John Denver's "West Virginia?"; German beers are stronger than American beers; Bavarian women look really good in their traditional dress (derndrl, I think it's called); Why would anyone have so many carnival rides among so many beer tents? (and, why would I go on so many of them?); Germans like to drink and have fun. I don't know how to describe it other than to say it's like a really good party that goes on all day long, every day, for about three weeks. What surprised me the most was the conduct of the people. Sure, there were plenty of very drunk people, but they were 99 percent well-behaved, fun, jovial, and non-vomiting. It seemed to me a very (welcome) far-cry from what I've seen of similar American festivals like Mardi Gras.

The highlight I guess would have to be all the people I met. Aside from the wonderful Germans at every table we went to, Pat put together a great bunch of interesting guys to spend time drinking with. At one point, we had people in our group from Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, London, Brussels, Wisconsin, Vienna, Istanbul, and of course, Idaho. It really was a great trip, and totally recharged my batteries.

And now back to L.A.

10/6 - Safely back at home, I was invited to a screening of Signs with a Q&A session with writer/director/producer M. Night Shyamalan afterwards. It was very cool. He was an extremely nice, frank, and honest person. Although I wasn't a big fan of his latest effort, it definitely had some great elements, and it made it even more interesting to hear him talk about what he was trying to achieve with it, where he think he succeeded, and where he thought he failed. It was definitely very entertaining and informative, and most important of all, invigorating. To hear him talk about his "craft" and the things he goes through, and the number of drafts he writes, it reminded me that what I'm trying to do out here is difficult, and I shouldn't be as hard on myself as I have been lately. Like I said, I've had a lot of time to think lately, and not all of it has been exactly productive.

The trip gave me a needed break, and a lot of time on my own cramped in airplanes and airports to think. So to answer the questions from above: What am I doing? I'm changing my life. What the hell am I doing here? Trying to become a screenwriter. Why the long Updates? There's an old adage that says "writers write." Writing in any form is good. It exercises brain-muscles, helps to organize my thoughts, and it's fun. They shouldn't be about anything other than what I want them to be. What are the adventures about? All adventures are stories, and stories are what it's all about. Who wants to read it? My friends, since sadly this is the only way I can stay in touch with most of them, much as I wish it were otherwise. What am I doing with my life? The best I can.

Holy cow, did I actually write that? Does that sound too sappy or what? Don't worry, I'd never put a line like that in a screenplay, it'd sound too phony. I wasn't even aware that I needed a spiritual rejuvenation, but I got one. Anyway, thanks for listening to all my ramblings these past six months, it's been very necessary for me on this end, and I can only hope that I've made it worth your time on your end. Thanks for all the support.

Greg< style="font-weight: bold;">Movie Quote Challenge:
Number One: "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son."

Number Two: "I honestly think you ought to calm down, take a stress pill, and think things over."

Movie Quote Answers:
David Lemley proudly steps into the winner's circle by correctly identifying the quotes. Congratulations!

Number 1: Animal House, by Harold Ramis & Douglas Kenney

Number 2: 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke & Stanley Kubrick

Better luck next time!

Monday, September 23, 2002

Silence of the Hams

Hey-diddly ho, neighborinos!

Guess what? I got nothing. Nothing happened. No celebrity sightings, no weird adventures, no pirate auditions, nada. Zip, zilch, zero. So how am I going to distract you from your busy, hectic work day? How am I going to take up an hour of your time reading my crap? I don't know. Could this actually be the long-awaited *short* update? Probably. On a side note, I promise I won't put the answers to the movie quote trivia somewhere in the update. I just thought it would be funny to do it once.

9/9 - The day I sent out the last update there was actually something fairly exciting. As you may know, L.A. is plagued by wildfires the way that Houston is plagued by flooding, and I finally got to experience one first-hand. The mountain behind my apartment caught on fire. Well, maybe it's not a mountain, could be a hill. I don't know. Growing up in Houston, a hill was a 20 foot rise in the ground. But around here, mountains are the ones with snow on top, and hills are all the rest. Anyway, it was on fire. I couldn't quite see the flames from where I live, but there was plenty of smoke (though the smoke was kinda hard to see through the smog). A five-minute trip in my car, though, and I got around to the other side of it. It's pretty amazing to see the whole side of a mountain/hill on fire. They put it out fairly quickly, and it was an empty part of the mountain. No one was hurt and no houses were damaged, so I feel comfortable saying it was pretty cool.

Two uneventful weeks pass--

9/22 - I finally made it out to the beach. I've been out there before, actually, but this time I was able to do beach-like stuff like lay out and get burned and stare at bikini-clad women. Usually it's about 15 to 20 degrees colder at the beach than at my apartment, so I had been waiting until it got really hot before I went. It was very nice, far different from the beaches at Galveston for sure. Did you know that ocean water is actually clear? It's also *extremely* cold. Talk about shrinkage. I didn't rent a surfboard this time, so I don't even have any good wipe out stories. I walked along Venice beach and saw all the street vendors with the same crap you see everywhere. I saw a bunch of guys doing something called Batuque, which is a Brazilian dance/fighting thing. A bunch of people gather in a circle around two guys in the center. While everyone is singing and chanting, the two in the middle go at each other with judo-like moves, making sure not to hit each other. The moves are random, but each guy knows the move and its response so it's like sparring. I'm not doing it justice through my lame description, but it was very cool.

See? That's all I got. Extremely lame. So how else can I eat up space?

Let's talk about where I live. L.A. is huge. With 15 million people, it's the second (or third, I forget) largest city in the US. What's even more amazing is there's always talk about the Burbank area seceding from the city because they don't like paying for the rest of the city's problems. If they did successfully become they're own city, the way they're mapping it out now the new city would be the eighth largest, and knock L.A. proper down to only fifth. L.A. is huge. There's a section of L.A. called "Little Armenia" where a lot of Armenians have come to settle. Why do I mention this? Because Little Armenia actually has more Armenians in it than the real Armenia. L.A. is huge.

The specific place where I live is in Glendale, just 5 minutes from Burbank. It's a nice place I guess, if you like retirement communities. We're definitely not in the "hip" section of L.A. Fortunately, our friends are forgiving and will hang out with us anyway.

Okay, that's it. Very short this time. Why even bother? I don't know, it's my duty I guess. However, next time I promise it'll be back to an amazingly large and hopefully entertaining update because in two days I'm going to Germany for Oktoberfest! Woo hoo! Wish me luck, and root for the Rams tonight.


Movie Quote Challenge:

Number 1: "You mean I'm gonna stay this color?"

Number 2: "Come out to the coast, we'll get together, have a few laughs..."

Good luck!

Movie Quote Answers:

Congratulations to Mary Felder for correctly identifying this update's quotes:

Number 1: The Jerk, by Steve Martin and Carl Gottlieb

Number 2: Die Hard, by Jeb Stuart

Thanks for playing, see you next time!


Sorry to bug you guys with a frivolous additional update, but I just have to vent my frustration.

I just got a call from the casting director for Pirates of the Caribbean, and they wanted to hire me! Yay, right? No. I have to start tomorrow, continuing through December. But because I'm going to Germany, I can't start until October 6th. This means I don't get the job.


I could've been a pirate!!!!!!!!! They can't hold the job for me until I get back because they're sending everybody to "pirate boot camp" (that's what she called it, I swear). I could've gone to pirate school!!!!!!!!!!!

This is going to put huge demands on my vacation to Germany to really really be a good time.


Okay folks, last time to bother you for a while, I promise.

Thanks to encouragement from many of you, I decided to cancel the trip to Germany in favor of being a pirate. However, the specific part they wanted me for, Marine, was changed. The director changed his mind just this afternoon and decided he now wanted short-haired marines. Therefore, I am no longer needed (as yet). So, it looks as though the trip to Germany is back on. I also learned an old Hollywood adage today that I have certainly experienced enough to vouch for: If you want to get the part, make flight plans.

Thanks sincerely to all of you for sending me your "two cents worth." Because of you, I now have enough money to buy another beer at Oktoberfest!


Monday, September 9, 2002

My Big Fat Geek Convention

Nanu Nanu, folks!

Welcome back to another issue of tales of the weird. This one is probably going to be quite a long one, so those of you wanting to take a shot at the movie quotes should probably scroll on down to the end. Don't worry, I'll wait. ... Hmm hmm ... la de da ... Hey, while we're waiting, for those of you who don't feel like you ever have a chance at the movie quote trivia, here are the answers: Number 1 is from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Number 2 is from Joe vs. the Volcano. Good luck!

Okay, everybody back now? Cool. Before I get into the goofy stories, I want to apologize to everyone I wasn't able to get in touch with in the short time I was in Houston. Due to weird circumstances, I had to change my schedule at the last minute and it was difficult for me to make plans. For those I was able to hook up with, thanks for all your hospitality, I really enjoyed seeing you. Okay, enough mush.

8/23 - Marie decided it was high time we had a party and up our social status. As a rule, I only have one party a year and tend to concentrate my efforts on that one, but I certainly had no objections. It was a fairly small gathering, and everybody had a good time. The only reason I even mention it is because I got to meet a guy from one of Marie's classes: The Voice Of Optimus Prime! Yes, the leader of the Transformers cartoon show was in my living room. Sadly, he wasn't the Voice Of that I had grown up with. This was the "new" Transformers or something. Sigh. Still pretty cool I guess, but not the same. Apparently it was his father who originated it. Knowing that, I didn't bother asking him to say stuff like "Look out, here come the Decepticons!" He looked just like Eric Bogosian, too, which was kind of weird. It was also from him that I discovered I have to be conscious of saying I'm a Rams fan. In L.A., there seem to be two groups: those who hate the Rams because they left, and those that pretend like they're still in L.A., ignoring the fact that it was they who got rid of them. I run the risk of being seen as a poser despite the fact that I never wavered in my loyalty through the city move. Don't ask me about yesterday's game, though. Going for it on 4th and 2 when in field goal range? Yeesh. Congrats to the Texans, though.

8/24 - Went to a Dodgers game. It was definitely pretty cool, although I had to climb more steps than Chichen Itza. Unlike Houston venues, you can't get into the stadium anywhere and go to your seats, you have to walk around outside and go in only at the gates on your level. But, it was Hideo Nomo bobble head night, so that made up for everything. Dodgers beat the Braves, 4-2 I think. Yay Dodgers! Don't worry, I went to the game yesterday and rooted heartily for the Astros, so my loyalty is still appropriately placed when possible. What fun to be the only person in a section standing up and cheering for a homerun!

That evening I went to a screenwriter's mixer/birthday party. It was definitely very interesting. I've discovered I don't really like screenwriters that much. All the ones who were still struggling seemed really arrogant. If they have a deal, or have sold something, I can understand it. But if you're basically in the same boat as I am, and have been out here longer, I think you may want to reassess your ego. However, the main attractions of the get together were Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio. These are the true Professional Screenwriters. They host the website through which all of these screenwriters meet, but more importantly they wrote Shrek, which was nominated for an Academy Award for best screenwriting. Plus, they're writing the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie (more on that later). They were very nice, very down to earth and easy to talk to. Sadly, it seemed (to me at least) that everyone else there fawned over them, listening to ever word as if it were a golden pearl to be memorized. I figured that's what the website's for and just tried to talk to them like normal people. Oh well. I guess good contacts were made (as they say in the biz) and I was able to steal a handful of those little paper drink umbrellas.

8/27 - Pirate audition! This is the reason I had to delay my trip to Houston. I mentioned last time that I sent in a photo and resume to be an extra on the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. My resume was a complete fabrication. I stole some of Marie's credits as an extra in Houston, since nobody cares about Houston productions (sorry, but it's true). I also added in the Special Skills category: "Sailing experience, looting, pillaging, rum-swilling, hearty belly-laughing, and general swashbuckling." Apparently the comic approach worked, as I got a call back to come in for an audition! Now it was still just an extras role, but they wanted everyone to prove they could be a pirate. Cool! I got to go onto the Disney Studio lot, which was fairly neat. I went really early just so I could wander around and scope out stuff, but unfortunately I didn't see anything particularly interesting. When I got to the audition, we were all instructed about what was expected of us in the audition. We'd be going in front of the director (Gore Verbinski, who did The Mexican and Mouse Hunt) and some guy with a video camera. Once in the room, we were supposed to go in and knock over chairs and boxes looking for our loot. Then on his cue, we were supposed to turn to the camera and approach it as if it were a woman (and we hadn't seen a woman in three years), and tell her in graphic detail what we were going to do to her. Supposedly, some people were *very* graphic. Oh no, I actually had to act!? They also told us to be as evil and mean as possible, "like serial killers." That last part confused me, because serial killers are successful because they act just like normal people, but oh well I won't split hairs. Needless to say, I was very excited. Sadly, when it came my turn, I found out that I was not actually auditioning for a pirate, but rather a "Marine." With my physique I don't know where they got that idea, but oh well. Anyway, the Marine audition was very different. I walked into a room with three other guys, said my name, where I was from, and what sailing experience I had. They said thank you, then walked in the next four guys. I don't think I got that job. Arrgh.

8/30 - 9/2 - DragonCon. Oh boy, where does one begin? This is a massive convention that hosts sci fi fans, comic book fans, goth and vampire fans, gaming fans, just about any type of fan you can think of. I call it GeekFest, but seriously I don't mean that derrogatorily. I'm proud to admit I'm a big geek as well. As a brief example of the weirdness to expect, Flynn is good friends with a band called Ghoultown (they're very good, check out their website: They're a mix of western, punk, and gothic music. Something like Johnny Cash meets Marilyn Manson. They call it "Gothabilly." Anyway, the night they were scheduled to perform, they got pushed back about an hour because the midget wrestling went long. The show also hosts "celebrities" like stars from sci fi tv shows, writers, artists, etc. I've put up some photos at, and they'll get onto my website soon as well. I didn't take as many as I did last year, I guess maybe I was a little less awestruck this year. Flynn and I were there to promote the comic book as usual, and this year we were listed as guests of the show. Woo hoo! This gave us the benefit of free space, but more importantly access to the Hospitality Suite! The last night was when most of the "celebrities" showed up in there. I got to drink free beer and fight over meatballs at the buffet with the likes of Lou Ferigno, Shazam, Ted Raimi, David Prowse (the guy who played Darth Vader), and the guy who played Lurch in the Addams Family movies. Wow, quite a roll call, huh? You're jealous.

I have many stories from this little adventure, but I'll spare you all and limit it to two quick ones. The second night that we were there, Flynn and I were sitting at the hotel bar casually socializing. A woman next to us asked if we wanted some company. Flynn ignored her and ordered some beers, so I entered polite conversation. Me: "So, what are you doing here at the show?" Her: "Oh, I'm an escort." Ah yes. She really did mean "company." So after a slight pause to take this in I say, "So, uh, how's business?" I imagined that this would be the perfect spot for this particular profession, considering the general status of most of the attendees. We talked for a while, but for those of you who have to ask, no, I did not partake. Needless to say, the second another man walked up to the bar on the other side of her, she whipped around quickly to begin her spiel again, and I was just as quickly forgotten.

My other tale is sadly less interesting, but I found it amusing none the less. On the way home, I saw Judson Scott riding on the airplane just a couple of rows ahead of me. For those of you not up on your "celebrity" geek trivia, he was the guy that played Khan's right-hand man in Star Trek II (remember today's quote?). Anyway, I recognized him, but by no means really cared who he was. I found it slightly amusing that he was riding in coach like the rest of us schlubs. When we landed, he turned out to be one of those guys that stuffs a bag that's too big into the overhead bin. After a few seconds of watching him struggle to get it out, the rest of the passengers just started filing past him. By the time I passed him, he was to the point of climbing on the seat and desperately trying to unwedge his bag. I suppressed my giggle at least until I was off the plane. I mean, 24 hours ago, he was selling his autographed photos to fans and getting his picture taken with them. Now he's the idiot who carries too big a bag and slows down everyone on the plane. I'm sorry, I just thought that was funny.

9/3 - 9/5 - After that I was in Houston, if only for just a little while. Again, thanks to all of you I got to spend time with, and my apologies to those I didn't. I'm most grateful for being able to sip a St. Arnold's again, and to see actual rain. I know it's been a little too much rain for you guys, but for me I was happy to see it again.

Okay, well I think that's it. I guess this one wasn't as long as I expected.

Thank all of you for all of your support, I really appreciate it. Until next time!


Movie Quote Challenge:

Number 1: "As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than create."

Number 2: "Brain cloud. I knew it! Well, I didn't know it, but I knew it!"

Good Luck!

Movie Quote Answers:

Tonya Barnett was the first to correctly identify the quotes:

Number 1: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, by Harve Bennett and Jack Sewards

Number 2: Joe vs. the Volcano, by John Patrick Shanley (one of my most favorite, underrated, guilty-pleasure movies)

Congratulations, and better luck next time.


Monday, August 19, 2002

The Kid Stays Out of the Picture

Greetings, folks-

I believe this will be a shorter update (for once), as nothing of interest has really been going on lately. Sad, I know. But I'll do my best to try to entertain you on this dreary Monday. I say dreary because in my neck of the woods it is actually raining for the first time since I've been here. Although, being a Texas boy like I am, this is definitely not what I'd call rain. It's more like a slow condensing of mist. It's clearing up, though, because in L.A. it's only allowed to rain at night. Messes up shooting schedules, you know.

8/9 - Good news on the transcription job front. They picked up a new project where we transcribe and verify the closed captioning for ABC News programs. This is *far* easier than trying to decipher what drug-addled musicians and brain-dead celebrities are trying to say in interviews-- these are professional announcers. Plus, it's guaranteed work every day, and I get to keep abreast of what's going on in the world. Or at least, ABC's view of what's going on in the world. On the down side, Derek McGinty is getting pretty annoying. I mean, announcing a home run as "get that funky stink outta here?" What is that? At least he didn't say it when reporting on the 25th anniversary of Elvis' death last week.

8/10 - A small local theater is having a series of horror movies this month, and a friend suggested a new independent film that was playing. It was supposed to be scarier than The Blair Witch Project (which wouldn't have been too hard in my opinion). It was called Dog Soldiers, and it really wasn't that bad. I'm not sure if I'd recommend it, but it had some neat ideas and was well produced for a low budget film. My biggest complaint, and perhaps this shows my increased movie-snobbishness since moving out here, was that it really would have benefited greatly from some editing. Had the first fifteen minutes been removed from the film, it would have worked so much better. I mean, suspense and fear are far more effective when the audience gets to discover things at the same time as the characters in the movie. For that reason, I guess I shouldn't really go into details about the plot. Oh well, what do I know about scary movies anyway. Blair Witch made millions.

8/11 - The Perseid Meteor Shower. You would think in L.A., the second (or is it third?) largest city in the US, the light pollution would totally prevent viewing the night sky. Well, you'd be right, really, but fortunately you can drive about 45 minutes north of town and have a very clear view of the heavens from the hills. This is what I did with some friends of mine, and it was a very enjoyable show. I hope some of you got out to see it. It's kind of ironic that I drove away from L.A. to see the stars.

8/14 - I got to go to a real movie preview! I say real because in Houston I was often going to sneak previews of movies before they came out. These were free passes I was given that helped promote the movie through word of mouth before it opened. Out here, a movie preview is more often a work-in-progress, and they measure audience reaction throughout the film, take surveys, and make what modifications they think are necessary to improve the movie. It was a lot of fun. The current title of the movie was Old School. It starred Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, and Will Farrell. It was about these late 20's, early 30's guys who through some fabricated movie reason decided to create their own fraternity and live like they did in college. It was actually surprisingly good. It reminded me of older movies like Animal House and Stripes where they relied more on funny situations and characters than toilet humor to get their laughs. I'm not sure I'd put it up in that rank, but you know what I mean. If you're a Will Farrell fan, then definitely check it out because he is hilarious in nearly every scene. The most interesting thing though, was knowing that this version I was seeing was probably very different from what will be released. And possibly, my opinion mattered! I could tell that there were sub-plot lines that could easily be removed by editing out just a few scenes. If I get my way, the two scenes with Andy Dick will be gone completely. Anyway, look for it sometime in a theater near you!

8/17 - You may recall way back in Issue #1 I think it was, that I lamented that no one casted long-haired white guys as extras these days. Well, all that is about to change! A friend of mine let me in on a casting call for long-haired white guys to play extras in a pirate movie! How cool would that be? Anyway, my photo and resume (read: page of lies) are in the mail and I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I think I could be a pretty good pirate. I've been practicing my "Arr, ye mateys" and was planning on doing some looting and pillaging this weekend just to make sure I hadn't lost my touch. We shall see. Keep your fingers crossed.

Speaking of big breaks, it appears as though I shall not be a contestant on Weakest Link after all. I haven't been refused, but in this town not being called as accepted pretty much means refused. Sigh. Marie still holds out hope, but I believe maybe it just was not to be.

Lastly, but not leastly, I will be swinging through town the beginning of next week. I'd very much like to get together for lunch or drinks with anyone who's willing, so drop me a line. I'm just passing through on my way to a major convention in Atlanta called DragonCon. Yet another chance for me to prostitute myself out for the comic book, but this one is so totally bizarre and goofy that it's a lot of fun. Trust me, there will probably be a very long update after that.

I think that's about it this time around. Told you it'd be short. As always, have a great week.


Movie Quote Challenge:

Number 1: "Now, don't you worry. The saucers are up there. The graveyard is out there. But I'll be locked up safely in there."

Number 2: "I don't know how to run a newspaper, Mr. Thatcher. I just try everything I can think of."

Movie Quote Answers:

Louis Johnson correctly identified the movie quotes today:

Number 1: Plan 9 From Outer Space, by Ed Wood, Jr. (overwhelmingly considered the worst movie of all time)

Number 2: Citizen Kane, by Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles (overwhelmingly considered the best movie of all time)


One extra note: I feel I should acknowledge that Dale Prasek's e-mail arrived within seconds of Louis's, but as always I defer to the time stamp, and Louis was one minute ahead.

Better luck to all next time!

Monday, August 5, 2002


Hey hey hey! Hope you had a groovy weekend and are ready for more of my tales from the front!

7/23 - The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity I need! My name in print! That really makes somebody! Things are going to start happening to me now. Yes, much like that other jerk, I was very excited to see proof that I actually existed out here. Unfortunately, Marie is not listed. I explained to her why that was so (basically because it would have cost money, and I didn't think it was that important), but sadly it was not enough. However, she has had more professional publicity in the form of fliers and programs for her sketch comedy show (more on that later), so I think we're about even. Sure, more people will see my name (especially talent agents looking for fresh young writers), but what do they really know about Greg R. Pettit of 326 E. Fairview Ave., #8? Do they know that in this paragraph he used excessive parentheses (four, including this one) as narrative aside devices? Can they tell that I'm destined to become one of the highest paid screenwriters in the business? These and other questions are yet to be answered.

7/24 - Marie's Birthday. Although we originally planned to have a party, other conflicts made us opt for a smaller affair at a restaurant/pub down in Hollywood. I think that worked out pretty well. A good time was had by all, and Marie got a special surprise bonus gift. It was a celebrity sighting, and actually my first. He's not an A-list star unfortunately, but he's on Marie's favorite show The Gilmore Girls. We couldn't remember either his name or his character's, but he's the town busy-body that's always causing problems for Luke. I know this because Marie has been trying to educate me on all the shows I haven't been watching over the years. I think I'm up to speed on Gilmore Girls, but I'm still learning about Friends. Anyway, Marie was excited, but we opted not to interrupt his get together to tell him how cool the show is.

7/31 - Auditioned to be on The Weakest Link. This was very fun, weird, and somewhat exciting. Now, of all the game shows out there, this would be the absolute last one I would want to be on, but Marie was going and I was bored so I thought I would go. As we waited outside the studio, around six o'clock we saw Jay Leno leave for the day. I don't know if I really count this as a celebrity sighting, though, because I could wait there every day and see him leave, but I thought I'd mention it. He's a huge car collector, and this day he was driving some 1930s cream colored convertible. I found out later from one of the pages that he actually drives a different car to work *every single day.* That's pretty impressive, I guess. If you've got the money, might as well flaunt it.

The audition itself was pretty strange. It was like reverse jury duty. There was every possible type of person in there, but rather than trying to duck out, they were trying to get on. Everyone around the room had to get up and introduce themselves and say what they did (as long as it wasn't "aspiring actress" or "writer." The best was this odd little man who looked like Stephen Hawking if he could walk. He was a self-proclaimed scientist of the supernatural and occult, and dedicated UFOlogist. He wrote a column for some conspiracy magazine every month, and needless to say was one of the first to be picked *not* to be on the show. We had to fill out forms promising we didn't work for NBC or any subsidiaries, then take a trivia test. It was pretty easy, but I'm embarrassed by some of the ones I didn't know. While the tests were being graded, we had a little question and answer period. It was pretty amazing, because the majority of the questions people asked had to do with how and when do we get our winnings, and what are the taxes. I mean, come on! I don't know how many of you have seen the show, but only the last person standing gets anything at all. Plus, we had to get through this screening process, then another, then meet with the producers for a final voir dire, then get on and win the show. Talk about optimists. My question, of course, was a lot more sophisticated: I asked if they picked the new guy on the show because he looked so much like the old lady. This got some laughs, and must have worked because Hey, I got past the first round!

In the second round, we got to go in front of a camera (just a regular one, not the big TV kind) and pretend like we were actually on the show, including a couple of mock rounds. I think I did pretty well here since I came across as not too big of a loser in my interview, I got both my questions right, and I didn't get voted out. The questions on the mock show were a lot harder than the ones on the written test though, plus the added pressure of being under pressure. My first question was about the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, but I've been racking my brain ever since and still can't remember what the second one was. It's weird, I can remember a lot of the other ones for other contestants, just not mine. Oh well. Marie also made it past the first round, but I won't embarrass her by saying the question she missed. She also got a few votes to be kicked out, but luckily another guy did worse. We shall see. Hopefully, in the next update I can tell you about being on the show, and when to watch for my big television debut.

8/1 - Went to see the Justice League of Idiots. This is the sketch comedy show Marie's playing in. It was in a tiny little theater, and had the wonderfully strong feel of a bunch of people trying to make it in Hollywood. The sketches were pretty good for the most part, or at least they had the potential with a few good ideas and jokes. The real problem was length. You know how you're watching Saturday Night Live and some of the skits seem to drag on forever? Like they have one or two good jokes and think that that's enough to carry a whole skit? Well, imagine that times ten. Well, maybe just times three. Anyway, Marie was good, as were all the other actors, so you can't fault them. Overall, it was just okay. At least they're trying.

8/3 - Drove to San Diego for the International Comic Con. This is the big one in the comic book world. Unfortunately we didn't have a booth at this one, so I was just going to visit friends from Houston and see the sights. It was packed. You've never seen so many geeks in one place (and I include myself in that definition). Many attendees like to dress up in costume for the occasion, which is probably the most entertaining part. I'll just tell you about some of my favorites. First, I saw The Worst Batman Costume Ever. Standing in line to get in was a guy, probably in his 20s, with a Batman t-shirt, a very shoddily made cloth cowl, and to top it all off, a cape made out of a black garbage bag. I wish I had my camera. Next I saw Lando Calrissian. He looked really good, for whatever that counts for. I've just never seen anyone pick him to dress up as. But, my favorite had to be the guy as Han Solo. There were several, most looking very good, but this one took the cake, because he was in carbonite. He was inside this tall thin box with all the trimmings, and in the front he had little holes in the appropriate spots for his face and hands to stick out of. It was hilarious. Couldn't have been comfortable, but there are some sacrifices that have to be made for one's art.

Also exhibiting at one table was Peter Mayhew, signing autographs. Mr. Mayhew, for the geekily challenged, is best known for (well, only known for) playing Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies. To me, this was kind of sad, both in that people actually paid for his autograph ($20 bucks with photo, or $15 if you had something of your own for him to sign) and also in that this is what he does. However, looking at him you can understand why his big role had him wearing a mask.

Remember last update when I gave a luke warm if not bad review to The Politics of Fur? Well, apparently I was right in that I'm no judge of lesbian cinema. The film won Best Narrative at the festival, and Katy won Best Actress. Also, Variety gave it a fantastic review, comparing it to the works of Fassbinder. I'm not really sure who that is, but he must be important. Anyway, mucho congratulations to everyone on the film.

Several of you have asked to read my working script, and I'm sorry I have to refuse at this time. Currently, it's still in what's called the "vomit script" stage. Not because it leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but because it is just the first outpouring of everything to make sure it gets on the page. I'm constantly revising, though, and a more presentable first draft should be ready in the next week. I'll put it on my website when it's ready, so please feel free to check it out. The only thing I ask of you if you do read it, is to be sure to be extremely critical and send me all of your comments. I need it to be the best it can be, and I can only do that if I know what needs to be fixed.

That's about all for now. Have a great week, and think of me when you're having a beer. Or at the movies. Or anywhere, for that matter. Just think of me. Please. I'm lonely.


Movie Quote Challenge:

Number 1: "We're the middle-children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War is a spiritual war. Our Great Depression is our lives."

Number 2: "These go to eleven."

Good luck!

Movie Quote Answers:

Congratulations Kevin Marcus for correctly identifying the following movies:

Number 1: Fight Club, by Jim Uhls (from the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, as pointed out by Mary Felder)

Number 2: This is Spinal Tap, by Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Rob Reiner, and Harry Shearer

Thanks for playing, have a great week!


Monday, July 22, 2002

The Boring Identity

Welcome back!

Yes, I know, this one's late too. Believe it or not, I was going to send it out last Thursday, but I decided to wait until today for a number of reasons: I knew I'd have more tales to tell because of an event I was attending, I would have a chance to develop pictures and post them online, and I wanted to get back onto the Monday schedule. This last may not sound important, but it is to me because it is one tiny way in which I can enforce discipline for myself, something I have been sadly lacking lately. Anyway, enough with the whiny excuses, on with the show!

Wow, how far back do I have to go? It seems like ages.

7/6 - Yet another tale from the Silent Movie theater. As you can tell, I've become quite a regular fixture there. I've tried to get a job there on a couple of occasions, but sadly no luck. Anyway, the feature, or I should say the movie, was Harold Lloyd's For Heaven's Sake. It's very good, and rare to see Lloyd anywhere these days, even though he was the number one box office draw at the time. Anyway, the actual *feature* of the night was a special opening band that played on stage before the movie. It was Janet Klein and her Parlor Boys, and of course I don't expect you to have ever heard of her. They played all period music from the 10s, 20s, and 30s. The lead singer looked, dressed, and acted the part. She looked just like Louise Brooks, another famous silent film star. The theater was packed! It was great to see so many people there, but sad that so many had just come to hear the band only because of a favorable write up in the paper. The couple next to me didn't even stay for the movie! What's another hour to see something you've never seen before, and likely never will again? She sang these strange and wonderful tunes in an almost Betty Boop like voice. Some were strangely bawdy ("let me put my banana in your fruit basket, baby" Although why a woman would sing that I have no idea.), others were just simple and romantic. It was truly a great experience. They even did an old Burns & Allen routine, including little quips during the song. A sample groaner:

George: You are quite a girl, you know that.

Gracie: I know. But I used to me more.

George: Oh? How's that?

Gracie: My mother showed me a picture from when I was two.

The back up band was pretty amazing as well. One guy was playing a Stroh violin, a weird contraption that looked like half a fiddle with a horn stuck in it. It amplified and aimed the music so it could be recorded better. Wow, entertaining and educational! Anyway, it was great fun. I've put a couple of MP3's on my website if you're interested (the link's at the bottom). If you liked the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, then I think you'd like this. Even if not, it's interesting.

7/7 - As a result of my addiction to the silent movies, I've been bringing different people there to get hooked as well. Marie's parents were in town so they were exposed, as well as the previously mentioned Joe Grisaffi. Just a refresher, Joe's the director of Laughing Boy (available on DVD August 27). Anyway, he was really taken by the silent, and re-inspired about an old idea he had. We talked about it, he liked my ideas, so now we're working away on a short film! Woo hoo! It's still in the early stages, but Joe's really excited about it, and he's definitely a guy who can get things done. It's called "Buster Keaton Meets the Living Dead." It's an homage to both the old Keaton movies and Night of the Living Dead, mixing the genres of the two. Believe it or not, it is going to be very funny. As for the current working title, a close friend of Joe's was friends with Buster Keaton's wife and thought he could get permission to use his name. Sadly, she is now passed on, so that connection is gone. We'll still pursue it, but it could be that we have to make up some fictional silent comedian like Slappy McGillicutty or something. Anyway, I'll be sure to keep you posted. Anyone want to play a zombie as an extra?

7/9-10 - My wonderful sister was in San Diego and invited me down for a visit. How can I refuse? Plus, I got to meet more stewardesses! Oops, I mean flight attendants. Anyway, San Diego is a beautiful city, and it's right next to the Happiest Place on Earth: Tijuana. Of course a visit was required. For those of you who know of my fondness for good tequila, you can imagine how excited I was to be able to get some for cheap. Sadly, all they had was the cheap stuff. I'm sure if I could get deeper into town I could find a store with a better selection, but sadly in the high tourist areas they cater to the lowest common denominator, and the really good stuff was hard to find. Oh well. I won't go into all the sordid details, but here are some words of wisdom from what I learned:

1) When the promotion guys in front of a bar entice you in with two- or three-for-one drink specials, they don't mean you'll all get *a* drink for the price of one, they mean you'll all get *three* drinks for the price of one.

2) If they give you a small shot of "tequila," more than likely it is similar in taste to rubbing alcohol. Not that that's bad, necessarily...

3) Never trust a man with a bottle of Cuervo and a whistle around his neck.

4) It is impossible to look cool in a sombrero.

7/13 - Marie and I went to a local radio station-sponsored concert called Livestock. It was a combination of bands and comedians, alternating between the two. It was pretty good, but I mention it just because something I thought was weird happened. As you can imagine from any outdoor, multi-band, radio station concert, the crowd was rather diverse. Mullets were not rare. Anyway, the second act to hit the stage was Richard Lewis, the neurotic, black-suited comedian from shows like "Anything But Love" with Jamie Lee Curtis and his recent role as a rabbi on "7th Heaven." (Come on, you don't watch that show?) He mentioned at the beginning of his set that he has cleaned up through rehab. That may have been a mistake. He got booed off the stage! I realize that his frantic, whining, New York Jew comedy might not be to everyone's taste, but booed off stage? That just seemed weird to me. This is a relatively big name comedian. But, like I said, without the cocaine-induced paranoia and hyperactivity, he really wasn't in top form. Oh well. It was still embarrassing to watch.

7/17 - I have this group of friends that I get together and play board games with about once a week. It sounds incredibly geeky, I know, but if you've ever played these games you'd understand. But that's a different story. It's fun, plus a good way to meet people, or as it's called in this town, "make contacts." This time I found out that one of the guys I've been playing with worked on Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Lots of people did, but he was the one who actually designed the spacesuits! He doesn't do anything like that now, but that was his first gig when he got out of college, and I just thought that was cool. Thanks for letting me share.

7/19 - Remember the independent film I worked on a few months ago? The Politics of Fur. It had it's L.A. premiere, and since I worked on it I got a free ticket. I'm all about free these days. It was at a gay and lesbian film festival called OutFest. Lots of single chicks there, I tell you. And hot, too, if you're into combat boots and leg hair. At least I found out what the title of the movie meant. It opened with a "short film" that was one of the most ridiculous things I've seen. It was a really poor quality video looking out from the elevator as it climbed the Eiffel Tower. That's it. Oh, and Edith Piaf singing "La Vie en Rose" in English (travesty). Okay. So, on to the feature. It was okay I guess, but I'm really not a good judge of independent lesbian cinema. It was well received by the audience though, and that's all that matters. The really important part of the story is afterwards. As much of the cast and crew that was around met at a nearby watering hole to celebrate the screening. I met a couple more PAPs, bringing the total to four, which is much lower than I expected by now. I need to meet more people in the biz I suppose. I talked with the actor who played the gay man (sometimes somewhat explicitly), and heard his story about how he wasn't gay when he played it, but it put him so in touch with a gayness he had been hiding, that it helped him come out. That's great for him, and a great story, but it also makes me question the strength of his "acting" skills in that role. But all of this is really just leading to something I heard that I believe is the best L.A. statement I've heard so far. One of the other crew members was talking about how she just got back from a Meditation Retreat. No, that's not it. She said, "It really stressed me out." What the? Was she doing it wrong? Were they having strenuous meditation exercises presided over by an over-zealous Drill Sergeant? Did she get her money back? Plus, she said that's why she couldn't remember our names. Good excuse, I guess.

7/20 - I had my first visitor! Cecil Habermacher, a friend from work, was passing through town and we got to meet for breakfast/lunch. (I refuse to say brunch). And he paid! I'm all about free these days. Thanks, Cecil. It was great catching up and hearing tales from the old workplace, and reminding myself that I'm not just on vacation, due to return to work any day now.

7/21 - I finished the screenplay! It's still a rough first draft, but now I can start getting feedback, start on my next idea, and clear my mind a little before I go back to polish it some more. I'm only letting a few people read the first rough, but after the first revision when I'm happier with it, I'll let more take a look at it. But only if they're willing to be extremely critical. I need that, and I want that. Anyway, the first draft is the hardest, so I'm extremely pleased to have that out of the way.

That's it. I'm done. I have more random tidbits, but due to the length of this one, I'll just hold them for some other time. Please check out the website and photos. Oh yeah, I almost forgot! I got an awesome picture of the In & Out Burger. It was also one of the days where they put a trainee out by the sign to take orders personally, so I got her in the shot as well. Now you can see the famed simple sign I talked about all those updates ago.

Take care, everyone.


Movie Quote Challenge:

Number 1: "Nobody's looking for a puppeteer in today's wintry economic climate."

Number 2: "He may look like an idiot, and talk like an idiot, but don't let that fool you. He really is an idiot."

Movie Quote Answers:

Kelly Tice has once again correctly identified the movie quotes. He even included a .wav file of the second one (Groucho Marx) in a pathetic attempt to brownnose me. Ha. Thanks for the file, though. I was really hoping the Duck Soup one would take a little longer, but oh well. Like I've said before, it's difficult to tell which quotes are too hard, and which are too easy. Have a great week!

Number 1: Being John Malkovich, by Charlie Kaufman

Number 2: Duck Soup, by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby.

Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Corn on the Fourth of July

Hello hello-

Yes, yes, for those of you keeping track, this note is a few days late. The sad truth of the matter is, I don't really have anything very interesting to talk about. So, this one will be pretty short. Of course, I've said that before and somehow always managed to take up a fairly large amount of space, so let's see.

6/17 - 6/21 - Work really slowed down at The Transcription Company. We have a daily ritual of calling in every morning to see if they have work for us. This week was very, very slow. There were days when no work was available until mid-afternoon. This is not good. Speaking of which, I sort of got in trouble at work, too! I say "sort of" because it was somewhat of a trouble-by-proxy kind of thing. I had been talking with my friend Adele (the documentary filmmaker?), explaining to her what I do, and how weird it was. She was intrigued and wanted to look into actually doing a short documentary about it. I have to admit, talking to a computer all day is interesting in a weird sort of way. She contacted the head of the company to look into it, and here's where the danger began. When she revealed me as her source, red flags went up. Apparently, I'm under a confidentiality agreement that keeps me from talking about what I do. I guess it's like I'm in the CIA or something. Probably some of my past updates would get me killed! Except for the occasional mention in the updates (please ignore everything I said about Kenny Loggins!), I really had refrained from talking about *what* I talked about, but it seems I wasn't allowed to talk about *how* I did it either. Strange, since the voice recognition software is available to everyone. Anyway, it looked as if it was going to be a big to-do, but so far nothing has really come of it. The president of the company invited her for a tour, she decided it wasn't as interesting as it sounded, at least not enough for a documentary, and there hadn't been enough work for me so by the time I got back to work it had pretty much blown over. However, there could be more to come. The president makes a policy of having lunch with each of his employees, and mine is coming up. I hope he doesn't take away my badge and gun.

6/23 - Every month there is the L.A. SciFi and Comic Book Convention, and this time I decided to get a booth to promote our Texasylum on the West Coast. Hey, it can't hurt to have more exposure, besides the table was cheap. The convention itself is fairly impressive, at least by Texas standards. It was pretty big, very crowded, and every month they manage to have big name guests. It's just like the morning radio talk shows-- everybody in L.A. is promoting something, so any opportunity to show their stuff they're going to take. As for me, being the big name celebrity that I am signing comic books, it was mostly just the same old thing. For those of you who have luckily escaped hearing me rant and complain about participating in comic book shows, I'll give you some insight. For those of you who have (a hundred times), I'll keep it brief. I hate it. Standing out there, hawking my wares, being friendly to weird strangers like a cheap prostitute, all for a measly $3 sale. But hey, you got to promote yourself, right? That's what this town's all about, so I suck it up and smile. One interesting thing about this particular show was the kind of questions I was asked. Being the writer, I don't often get a lot of questions since most comic book fans are more focused on the art. But here, there were a lot of people doing the writing thing. But what was really odd, I thought, was the number of people who asked how I actually published a book. As if it took some incredible act to contact a publisher, write a check, and come back with a box of comics. I mean, out here all you have to do is call yourself a producer, and Bam! You are one. There are no regulations or requirements, just the will. I was surprised that attitude didn't extend further. Anyway, sales were good, it was lonely at the booth, but the neighboring booths were interesting. Rather than put all of one type together (like struggling, disgruntled, independent comic publishers), the organizers wanted to mix it up. There was a bootleg video salesman to my left, a booth of "collectible" toys that had come out in the last two years to my right, and behind me, discount DVD porn. So, I guess it was at least interesting.

After the show, it got even more interesting. On the windshield of my car, as well as every car in the parking lot, was not just a flier, but a videotape wrapped in a flier. "AN OPEN LETTER" it says in large type, above a picture that looks like Charles Manson, but I've decided it's actually the maker of the video. Text all over the paper claims that the tape is "too intense," "If you have a television there is no escape," and "It casts a spell in effect, and the blow weakens your psyche." Plus, it said "One viewing of this tape, and you will die in seven days!!!!" So, of course I had to watch it. I mean, what better way to make the next seven days exciting? Well, I don't want to spoil it for all of you, so I won't go into plot details, but it wasn't very good. In fact, there was no plot, and I was very dismayed by the extent to which it reminded me of the documentary shorts I had watched a few weeks before. You remember, clouds, trees, light reflecting off water? Only this time, the images were far less interesting, and somewhat twisted. An eclipse, maggots, static, that sort of thing. Fortunately, it was only about five minutes long, so it had that going for it versus the documentaries. If you dare! to read the amusing whole text of the letter, plus I think a web-version of the video, check out the site: (link no longer valid -G.). I don't know if visiting the site will cause you to die in seven days, though. With the speed of the internet, it's probably more like four.

6/24 - 6/28 - Another workless week at The Transcription Company. This is getting very bad. So bad, in fact, that I've also been looking into doing contract work in, aah, say it isn't so! tech writing. My personal albatross. However, in a positive light, I've also been using the time to write the screenplay. About time, you say. Yes, well. The way I've always worked is to constantly churn the material in my head, then when it's ready I can just vomit it all out onto the page pretty much at once. In fact, that is an additional reason this update is late, is because I seriously expected to be finished this past Sunday. Alas, not to be. The ideas are flowing perfectly, but the actual barfing is taking longer than I expected. However, there is no doubt I'll finish it in the next day or two. It's called "The Ace of Clubs," and the log line (fancy term for one-line summary) is "An up-and-coming pro golfer discovers that his caddying brother has actually been helping him win by manipulating the ball with his mind." It's a light, feel-good kind of movie, very different from the comic book, obviously. My dad will be very pleased with that! But don't worry, the next one that's currently coagulating in my brain is much more dark and serious. Anyway, I'll probably be putting the treatise (fancy term for a long, complete synopsis) up on my website in a few days if you're interested. I haven't decided if I'll post an Acrobat version of the actual script, but even if I do, it won't be until after several revisions. If you're worried about me risking losing my idea to another writer, don't. I'll be registering it with the Writer's Guild, of course, but in Hollywood, it's actually cheaper to buy an idea than it is to steal it. Just a weird way things work.

7/1 - One benefit of the delayed update is I get to tell an additional story. Monday, Marie had members of her improv troupe over to practice. It's actually a combination skit/improv group somewhat like Saturday Night Live, so they had scripts to read from. It's called the Justice League of Idiots, and they all have superhero take-off names, and the skits all revolve around that sort of superhero humor (some of it kinda crude, so definitely not a show for the parents). I don't know what the Superman character is called, but Marie plays "Wonderbra Woman," and another guy who is over was a version of the Flash called "Fasty." I immediately said, "Wouldn't it be funnier if your name was Quicky?" Oops. That got me in a little bit of trouble. They liked it. I got to sit in and listen to them rehearse, and take notes, and make comments, and add jokes and material. I was supposed to be working on the script, but I ended up writing for these guys! Actually, it really was a lot of fun, and I discovered I had a lot of talent for it. One of the guys said he had a friend who's job was to do just that. He's called a Punch-Up Writer, and he takes jokes from Leno or whatever, then tweaks them to make them a little better. Wow, I could do that! So, a new avenue to pursue for me.

Okay, well that's going to be it for me this time. No doubt I'll think of many things I've forgotten once this goes out, but oh well. I hope everyone has a fantastic Independence Day and long holiday weekend!


Movie Quote Challenge:

Number 1:

"Words. Words. They're all used up. They're hard to say. They've all been wasted (give it to me) on the shampoo commercials, and the ads, and the flavorings. All those beautiful words. I mean, how can you love a floor wax? How can you love a diaper? I mean, how can I use the same word about you that someone else uses about stuffing? I'm exploding with love for you, and I can't use the word."

Number 2:

"Gentlemen! You can't fight in here, this is the War Room!"

Movie Quote Answers:

Wow, this one was close! Kelly Tice gets the prize, but Dale Prasek answered correctly as well. Unfortunately, his e-mail arrived one minute later (based on time stamp, not my reception). Nice work. Interestingly enough, this puts Tice in a tie with Prasek for correct answers!

Number 1: Roxanne, by Steve Martin

Number 2: Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, by Stanley Kubrick, Peter George & Terry Southern.

Thanks for playing!


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