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!

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