Friday, September 29, 2006

What Do You Want?

Very disappointed that Scott the Reader didn't make the Nicholl finals. But, having made the quarterfinals and semifinals, he is sure to get plenty of reads and, of course, he has bragging rights. So, congrats, Scott, on what you've accomplished. I don't know exactly what your goals are, but I'm sure this got you closer to achieving them.

This leads me to a basic question every writer ought to be able to answer --

What do you want?

I'm astonished at the number of people (in this world of ordering fast food and complex coffee combinations) who can't plainly and simply tell you what they want.

Is it inarticulateness or indecision?

Is the art of communication suffering under the ease of internet use as a substitute for human interaction? Or, are we simply afforded so many choices, opportunities, alternatives, and methods that we can't whittle them down enough to find our core desire?

Not all aspiring screenwriters want the same thing. Some want to be full time working screenwriters while periodic spec sales are fine for others. Some want to write features. Others want to write television movies or sitcoms. For some, it's a hobby and for others, a career path.

Do you know what you want?

Since writers' goals differ, the steps toward accomplishing those goals will also differ. But if a writer doesn't know what his goal is, how can he map out a strategy for achieving it? And, if he doesn't map out a strategy for achieving it, how will he measure his progress? And, if he doesn't measure his progress, how will he keep from getting discouraged?

I know exactly what I want. Nobody else has to know it or like it or even understand it. It's mine. I may choose to share it. I may not. The important thing is that I know what I'm after and I have a plan for getting it.

EXAMPLE: I'm a little weary of being told that I'm not a serious writer if I don't throw caution to the wind and move to Hollywood. How can anyone say that if they don't know what it is I really want and how I plan to get it? Moving to Hollywood is exactly what some writers need to do so they can network and get a job related to the film industry. But who says it's right for everyone? This is not a foot race where we all wind up at the same finish line.

There's a difference between giving screenwriting advice and giving career advice. If somebody says, "How do I break into Hollywood?", that is an opening to suggest moving there, getting a job as a PA, or becoming a reader. But if somebody asks "how do I make this a better screenplay?", don't tell them to move to Hollywood. That will NOT make it a better screenplay (unless the purpose is to attend film school).

Writers often try to do everything at once -- find an agent, make a sale, produce his own film, enter contests, network at festivals, find a job in L.A., etc. There are probably people who can actually do all those things at once and do them all well. But many of us need to concentrate all our efforts and energy on one or two things. Maybe one writer should be working to get an agent while another is ready to to try to produce his own film. Yet another writer may need to stay away from contests and pitch fests altogether and concentrate on improving his writing.

How do you know which one you should be doing? You have a goal and plan for achieving that goal that you can measure your progress against. Otherwise, your goal feels out of reach and your efforts may feel wasted or out of control. Worst of all, it may appear to others that you don't know what you really want. People don't put their time, trust or money into people or projects that appear to lack focus and direction.

EXAMPLE: Many writers ask somebody to read their screenplay under the guise of getting screenwriting advice when, in fact, they are hoping that reader will help them along in their career. (For the record, I want screenwriting advice, not career advice.) When the reader's notes come back and offer constructive suggestions, the writer feels let down and the reader feels unappreciated. Then they warn others not to work with that person who disappointed them.

So, if you graciously agree to take a look at somebody's screenplay, make sure you know what it is they want from you. Are they asking if you think they're good enough to make a living at screenwriting? Or, are they asking you to tell them how they can improve their screenplay? Are they hoping you'll pass the screenplay along to somebody you know who can get it made?

If they can't tell you, don't read it.

Conversely, before you ask somebody else to read your work, make sure you know exactly what it is you want from that reader and you are clear about it.

If you don't know, don't ask them to read it.

And, if you're writing away on screenplay after screenplay, entering contests willy nilly, sending out hundreds of query letters a month, annoying the heck out of every professional you meet, and stalking the men's room at screenwriting conferences, make sure that your efforts are part of a strategy to get whatever it is that you really want.

Of course, that means you must KNOW what it is that you really want.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The B Movie Life, Part 2

So the next part of my story starts back on the enclosed patio where I was on my knees, laying vinyl tiles on pee stained concrete. Yes, pee will STAIN concrete if you let hundreds of gallons roast on it for months. Even after bleaching and sanding, the color of the concrete will still be yellow. But, if you haven't read part one of this little adventure, you'd better go back and catch up or else you may not grasp the magnitude of peril involved in this whole pee situation.

Anyway, I measured to the center of the room, marked the floor with my t-square and was about to put the first tile down on this former cesspool when huh?

A pecan clacked across the concrete and rolled to a stop in front of me.

So what, you say? It's just a pecan? The wind blew it in?

You’d think so but the windows were all screened and the pecan tree does not grow near the open front door. It didn’t help that I already had the willies because my Dad and I had just been discussing the nearby train yard, the back gate someone opened while we were at Home Depot and the tools missing from my Dad's storage closet.

Now I don't really believe a transient would steal a skill saw because where is he going to plug it in? On an empty cattle car? But somebody stole that skill saw and that somebody could be hiding in the front yard throwing pecans at me.

I suppose I should have gone outside to check but what if it really was a transient skill saw thief trying to lure me off the patio so he could… what? Steal my linoleum? Kill me with a skill saw?

Why, oh why had I ever watched the Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

I nervously went back to work keeping a periodic eye on the door and also on a lizard that was hanging out on a nearby screen. He never moved while I was watching but I would look up and somehow he’d be six inches closer to me. I kept remembering a film about intelligent brain eating crabs and hoping all that meth the drug dealing former tenants cooked hadn’t affected the neighborhood lizards that same way.

Curse you, Robert Corman! Why will you not leave me in peace?

I worked for another twenty minutes and began to forget the phantom pecan until tile number eleven. Wouldn't ya know it? Another pecan rolled across the floor.

I looked at the open door. Nothing.

I looked at the lizard. Oh crap, he was GONE!

And somewhere from the bushes came -- I SWEAR – chipmunk-like laughter.

“Daddy! Help! Come quick! Now, Daddy! Now!”

He came running from the carport, waving a nail gun and looking like Carol Channing wrapped in a boa of orange extension cord. I don’t know what he thought he’d see when he got there but apparently, it was not his grown daughter cowering in front of a pecan.

Know what else?

He would NOT go into the bushes and look for brain eating geckos.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My Life as a B-Movie

Ever tried to defeat Godzilla by throwing tomatoes? That's what my past week has felt like. In reality, I was only sweeping, scrubbing, shampooing, sanitizing and setting in order my father's recently rented and utterly charming historic relic of a house.

Hard work but a nice respite from computer monitors.

It's a lovely little house. Well, it is now that I've vanquished the mutating bacteria and leviathon lizards.

The former tenants were animals - literally and figuratively. They were dobermans and drug dealers who left the house in such a state of disrepair that it sat empty for months. But my Dad, who is on a very limited income, was offered a meager rent in exchange for making the house liveable.

I said I'd help.

First, I had to get a tetanus shot.

As I was cleaning black muck beneath the drip pans on the stove and exhuming several perfectly preserved rodent skeletons, I wondered if there might still be DNA left in any of those tiny bones that, if left undisturbed, would have indirectly affected my Dad's food. Remember Roger Corman's Wasp Woman? Cosmetic queen turned wasp killer because she ingested too much of a mad doctor's wasp serum?

I'd just saved my father from sprouting claws and a long bald tail!


But how had those rats died under there anyway? Why didn't they scurry away when the burners came on? Maybe they were too stoned from inhaling all that meth the former tenants went to jail for cooking up. Inhalants can do weird things to creatures, you know.

Most likely though, it was death by dog urine.


The dog urine saturated a carpet on the enclosed patio and the odor consumed the house like an omnipotent blob, wrapping its stink around everyone who entered. You may walk in that house clean but you walk out with a yellow tint on your flesh, wringing dog pee out of your shirt and knowing this must be what a fire hydrant feels like.

Oh, and here's an important safety tip. If you should ever find yourself in rubber gloves pulling up oily dog pee carpet to replace it with vinyl tile, be prepared to sand blast the yellow-orange stained concrete underneath (bleach alone is not enough) and don't forget your mask lest you inhale powdered dog urine and find yourself scratching, digging up trees, and gnawing your own tail. Spare me the crude jokes about licking yourself, gentlemen, because after five minutes in this house, you'd be better off drinking out of a stopped up toilet.

Oh look, mail lady.

More on the house later.

Oh, no! She's getting away!


I'm not even expecting anything and yet I have this sudden urge to run her down --- and bite her on the ankle.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Still a Bridesmaid

So, okay, I don't even remember entering Screenwriting Expo 5 and I'm not at all disappointed that I dinked AGAIN in 2006 but I do think it noteworthy that I am still, as always, the best of the mediocre and building up quite a resume of percent signs. That should be the title of my next screenplay -- Best of the Mediocre. I'll work on it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Last year, after dinking in both the Nicholl Fellowship and the Austin Film Festival, I found some small measure of solace in writing gibberish. Oh yeah. I wrote silly Jabberwocky-ish poems and short stories and even emails that smacked of a hallucinogenic nucleus.

Nonsense can be mildly therapeutic.

We writers are control freaks who type worlds into existence and ordain our characters to behave precisely as we choose. It's no wonder that we don't handle rejection well. Rejection doesn't fit into our grand scheme and it makes us feel out of sorts and out of control.

When an environment is disorderly, confused, or illogical, people often seek to take control in other ways. Bulimia and anorexia are fertilized by such a need to restore order. I have a different approach. When nothing is as it should be, I find that escalating the lunacy of the situation will often make the helter-skelter seem less helter-skelterish.

Not following me? Well, it's like an overweight girl who hangs out with even heavier girls so she doesn't feel so big. She escalates the situation in her environment as opposed to taking control by refusing to eat at all or by binging and barfing. All three are dysfunctional responses but all three give the illusion of a solved problem -- order -- and leave little room for a voice of reason to interfere.

So yes, I know that writing nonsense is not the solution to my problem. I need to buckle down, study harder, find the weaknesses in my screenwriting and take positive steps to improve my existing screenplays and write new ones that are sharper, stronger, and less resistible. I need to restore order the right way.

And, I will.


For now, rather than scrutinize my harsh reflection in the looking glass, I'll go the Lewis Carroll route and explore what's on the other side. Many wrtiers have found success on the other side so who knows? This time, I might just stay there.

But I doubt it.

Remember Sal? That little voice of reason that lurks in my head and calls me to task when I'm irrational? He's allergic to white rabbits.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Google Me This

I don't remember blogging about the Kumbia Kings but I must have if Google says so. One of my Site Meter hits today was from somebody's Google search for "Billy Mernit seven beats". Google it yourself. MY BLOG shows up before Billy Mernit's own blog. How fair is that? But I don't know how reliable Site Meter really is. Today's hit #77 says somebody got to my blog by Googling "hot babes". So I clicked on the site link which took me to the Google search that supposedly brought somebody to Fencing with the Fog -- twelve pages later, you still couldn't get here from there. Rats.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Previewing The Unit

Somehow, my two part post on battle speeches got me an invitation to preview The Unit, Season One on DVD which releases on Tuesday to coincide with the airing of the Season Two premier on CBS. This is the second time marketers have targeted my blog to promote television and I gotta tell ya that I don't think it's a terrible idea. But, naturally, I look at such things from the perspective of a writer.

The Unit is a television drama about an ultra secretive special forces contingency regularly deployed to parts unknown on missions that protect the safety and security of Americans. Created by Shawn Ryan and David Mamet, and based on the book "Inside the Delta Force" by Eric Haney, The Unit stars Dennis Haysbert, Scott Foley, and Robert Patrick who deliver strong performances.

The activities of the Unit, itself, are well written, compelling, and addictive without talking over the heads of us non-military viewers. Whether the writing lacks plausibility to viewers in our armed forces remains to be seen. I've turned my discs over to a guy who can help me out with that question. But from the perspective of a female with limited military knowledge, it's good stuff if you can overlook the women's stories.

The wives, played by Regina Taylor, Audrey Marie Anderson, and Abby Brammell -- well, ouch. But I'm not entirely sure what hurts. Is it their stories? Their perfomances? Or, is it that just about the time the men reel me into their adventure, I get yanked out to watch eye candy bicker, struggle through relationship issues or suffer an unjustice for the sake of the secrecy of their men.

If the writers and producers need hot babes for the male viewers, that's okay with me. But The Unit appears to be trying to portray strong women with iron backbones and real issues in order to attract an educated female demographic -- noble, but it misses the mark and often feels like an episode of Desperate Army Wives.

While the women's stories are saccharin, the men in the Unit have stories that are good drama even when they're uncomfortable. Not always politcally correct and often morally ambiguous, the men make decisions in situations I wouldn't want to confront. Could you temporarily change your sexual orientation and act on that to get home alive? Leave a child behind in a hostile land after promising to take him home? Turn on a brother in arms for the greater good or cheat on your wife because of a time honored tradition?

This program is neither M.A.S.H. nor Saving Private Ryan and military interest is not required to get caught up in The Unit and I can recommend that my fellow bloggers take a look at it.

However, with regard to backing off the women, I hope Season Two takes to heart something the wives, themselves, repeat over and over in these episodes about the potential for a distracted soldier to cause the demise of The Unit. That goes for distracted viewers, too.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Movie in My Mind

We writers are a peculiar lot. I am no exception.

Know what I did while blocking out the light with a damp rag over my eyes? I listened to soundtracks. Nope. Not with a CD player. Migraines are not conducive to sound. Still, I heard my favorite soundtracks in my head as I crouched in a silent closet and hid from the light.

My favorite CD's are burned onto my brain like a cranio-jukebox or a CD player with an unlimited number of changers.

Which soundtracks? Well, I listened to quite a bit of Untouchables (Ennio Morricone), Gladiator (Hans Zimmer), and Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (Michael Kamen). But the one that played in my head the most was Troy (James Horner). I'm a huge Horner fan and track eight of Troy brings me to tears.

While I also love musicals, the migraine pain was too intense to endure vocals -- even in my head.

See what I mean? Very peculiar.

I'd have loved to listen to Little Shop of Horrors, Damn Yankees or Miss Saigon but musicals were out of the question since, apparently, James Horner snuck some vocals into Troy and spent what little human voice tolerance I had.

My favorite of Claude-Michel Schönberg's and Alain Boublil's hauntingly emotional songs from the musical, Miss Saigon is "The Movie in My Mind" where Vietnamese prostitutes explain how they briefly escape their cruel lives and repugnant acts by retreating into their heads until it's over -- "A world that's far away, where life is not unkind, the movie in my mind".

That's pretty much what we screenwriters do (no, this is not a screenwriters as prostitutes analogy). Screenwriters suspend the reality we can see and touch to escape into one of our own creation, one where life is exactly as we design it and suits our purposes perfectly. We transpose the movie in our minds to words that become lines that become scenes that become the screenplay that becomes the movie that portrays a reality that suspends reality and affords viewers an avenue of escaping into the movies in their own minds.

Suspend reality to create a reality that suspends reality. It's like a deliberate cycle of schizophrenia. Or, maybe that's just my meds working OR A Beautiful Mind (Horner) is playing in my head.

While the migraine allowed me to hear music in my mind, I couldn't watch movies in my mind. Migraines produce these little strobe light thingies that look like dancing globs of Vasoline and are directly linked to the "tell your stomach to hurl your spleen across the bathroom floor" mechanism of the human brain.

I couldn't even watch a silent movie in my mind because who wants to pretend to watch a film through dancing globs of Vasoline?

But all is well. I'm dozing off to the heart strumming combination of trumpets and Spanish guitar in Mask of Zorro (James Horner). I tried to listen to it in the closet but the castanets were too painful. Tonight, my brain gets a rest. I'm using a CD player -- the kind with AA batteries.

Friday, September 15, 2006

For Only A Few Hours

Okay, first of all, it ain't that hot. Secondly, if I leave it up too long, it becomes vanity instead of anwering a dare. But since a couple of you are griping because you haven't heard it, here it is, in all my animated Milli Vanilli glory, but not for long. It's coming down before the weekend. No, I'm not embarrassed but this is a screenwiting blog! Well, most of the time.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Plunged Into Darkness

Friends, screenwriters, bloggers, lend me your eyes -- and tolerance for light and sound. It's happened again.

While doctors claim it's a recurring migraine or cluster headache, Sal, that voice of reason that lives inside my head, (not to be confused with Sol or Sal who now and then reply on this blog) says he knows for a fact that ferocious gremlins are setting off explosives inside my cranium and propelling rocket grenades against the backs of my eyes.

I'll be cowering in the darkness with a damp rag on my eyes until the cease fire.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

But Mom, He DARED Me!

FINE! You dared me to put my foot where my mouth is so there ya go. You know who you are, both of you, and no this does NOT mean I'll jump off a cliff, moon passing cars, or burp out loud in church if you dare me to. I only make an ass of myself for patriotic, altruistic, and sympathetic reasons.

Yes, yes, I know I'd never make the first round on American Idol, don't rub it in and so what? I didn't audition, now did I? Besides, I sing at funerals and senior citizen centers and conferences and rodeos and baseball games and -- well, basically places where people aren't really listening.

Know what else? There are NO acoustics in my bedroom! No sound man! No monitors and no hot guy with a pony tail winking at me. Maybe I should have recorded this in the bathroom instead of sitting on my bed watching Emmitt Smith dance on television.

Too late.

And, yeah, I don't know why I can sing in front of a couple of thousand people but this cruddy little microphone with no windshield made me a nervous wreck but you can't throw tomatoes over the internet.

The point is, yeah, I really WILL sing "God Bless America" any time, any place, so THERE!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Play of the Day

This is a momentary departure from screenwriting but it is NOT a political commentary. It's a people commentary. So please do not email me or post remarks about the various failures and corruption of people, offices, organizations and branches of government that justify cynicism, bitterness or unforgiveness in this country.

I don't care. Seriously. I don't.

What I have to say is not about the neglect, incompetence, lack of preparation, selfishness or blind eyed ineptness of people who have been called to respond in crisis situations. What I have to say is about how the rest of us respond to crisis situations.

In a nutshell -- we are a far better people during horrific events than we are when the crisis has subsided. Sad and true. We are better human beings when things go wrong.

We are not defined by the bad things that happen around us but by how we respond. We were an amazing people, a great people, following September 11 and Katrina and Reta and that nightmare tsunami. I don't wish woe on my fellow man just so people will grow charitable and selfless, but I miss the people of crisis mode America. We were unselfish, patriotic and non-partisan and seemed to possess a clarity of thinking that arises out of a necessity to protect or defend something or somebody we love.

In 1976, Rick Monday was playing centerfield for the Chicago Cubs in Dodger Stadium when two protestors tried to set an American flag on fire in left center. And then, YOINK! Monday snatched the lighter fluid soaked flag from beneath the two protestors as they were lighting the matches. No hesitation.

Free speech, you say? They had a right to burn the flag? Rick Monday exercised his own free speech as he snatched it away with no thought of the burns he might suffer. With the flag in Monday's hands, ever so gradually, the stadium broke out into a chorus of "God Bless America".

That's how we act when confronted with crisis. After September 11th, we gave unselfishly and sacrifically and sang "God Bless America" when and where we wanted regardless of what burns we might suffer for doing it on the courthouse steps or at the public school flag pole.

After Katrina, we opened our homes, churches, and wallets to strangers even if it meant making a late house payment and even if it meant that we might actually get had by a scam artist. Better to be had than turn our backs on a person in need. No hesitation.

There are a lot of things wrong with America. We know this. Has America earned our loyalty and respect in recent years? Maybe. Maybe not. But whether she earned it or not, I'd take a bullet for my mother just because she IS my mother. No hesitation.

How will you spend the five year anniversary of a day that ushered in unspeakable horror? Will you think about everything we've done wrong, point fingers, lay blame, relive the pain and disbelief? Or, will you remember the flag erected on the rubble of the World Trade Center, the people who died for no other reason than that they lived under that flag, and the lion hearted spirit and fortitude of the people that flag represents?

As for me, I know a guy at Walmart who will let me have the intercom long enough to sing "God Bless America".

How will you play this day?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Making Passes Again -- Again

Proving that my brain is, indeed, made of Swiss cheese (or is it green cheese?), I accidentally deleted this post to whine about the outrageous oversight on the part of the Austin Film Festival (yeah, I'm sticking to that story - it was an oversight). I've tried to recreate this glowing referral, but only had pieces of it left on my hard drive.

So, here goes --

--Billy Mernit has a “Back to School” post that simultaneously praises and laments the excrutiatingly difficult work ushered in by the end of summer. How do you diss and and extol in pretty much the same breath? I dunno, but Billy does it expertly as he points us to a post at I Am Trying to Make You Laugh which is kind of a checklist for “making passes” once you think your script is finally done.

I’d like nothing more than to berate this dude for plagiarizing me, except for the annoying fact that he didn’t. His pass list is much more thorough than
my post on making passes which required a followup post --
-- and that's all I've got because of, well, you know, this...or..was it this?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Burned, But Not Orange

As if getting a dink letter from the AFF yesterday wasn't enough, I got another letter from them today to let me know that not only did I not advance, but I am not being considered for the University of Texas' 2006 Burnt Orange Productions Award either.

You know, I was actually okay with this yesterday. After all, there were over 4000 entries in the AFF so it's not that odd that my Nicholl top 10%'r got no love in my own beloved state. (like how I keep throwing that 10% thing out there?) But the Burnt Orange? Only 900 entries! I can't advance with only 900 entries? What the???

So this letter basically says to me, "Hey, remember when we told you yesterday that we didn't like your screenplay? WE REALLY MEAN IT!"

Ouch -- deep in the heart of Texas.

Hey! Wait a corn-shuckin' minute! The Burnt Orange is sponsored by the University of Texas? And my protagonist went to Baylor?

That explains E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G!

What? Shut up! How else am I supposed to live with rejection in the homeland? How else am I supposed to sleep at night? It's college rivalry or a ten gallon hat of tequila and all I have to drink in the house right now is diet vanilla Pepsi and half a bottle of Dayquil.

I can tell ya right now, I am NOT drinking the Dayquil and you know why? It's burnt orange, that's why! Take THAT, AFF!

Then again, how hard can it be to edit the screenplay and swap Bears for Longhorns?

Okay, AFF, see ya next year.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Best of the Mediocre

Another day, another dink.

I'm officially out of the running in the Austin Film Festival. Probably won't go to the AFF anyway due to job related chaos until November. Weird though. I really thought I'd be a second rounder this year. I didn't expect to win. But, I did think I would advance.

Stupid intuition. Wrong cookies.

This time last year, so great was my discouragement that I quit screenwriting for a month. I was defeated and convinced that I rated at the very bottom of the crap-o-meter. I probably won't sink that low this year because (1) I'm never at the very bottom of anything -- I'm always in the middle and (2) I've got a Greg Beal note that says I was in the Nicholl top ten percent so to my eyes, it reads, "you do NOT suck!"

Of course I don't suck. I never suck at anything. In everything I do, I'm always the very, very best of the mediocre.

That's right.

Cut a slice out of the middle and I'll be floating at the top. Cut a slice off the top and I'm clinging to the bottom. That's how it works with me and most of the time, I'm okay with it because being the best of the mediocre means a great many people think I'm an amazing singer, brilliant writer, creative graphic artist, excellent seamstress, superior administrator, cool mom or great housekeeper. A much smaller number of people think I'm not.

I'm never the star and never in the peanut gallery.

However, there's something to be said for stepping away from any task for awhile. It empties the cache in my brain, deletes temporary files and makes the brain run faster after I reboot. Maybe I could do a cerebral defrag, cranio upgrade or look into the latest encephalic memory stick for writers with Swiss cheese in their heads.

Then again, maybe I just need to keep writing and come up with a better screenplay. First, I want to pout a few days. Why? Because like everything else I do, I'm very good at it -- the very best of the mediocre. But, not the best. So, I'll be back at my keyboard shortly.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Another Thing I Hate About Me

My random memory is like Swiss cheese -- what I know is there forever but what I've forgotten is gone. I have a 23 year old sister who is somewhat mentally challenged and operates this same way only to a greater extreme. She can tell you where the Parthenon is and solve a long division problem, but can't remember where the bathroom is, how to dial 9-1-1, or who the president is.

It must run in the family.

I can recite for you all the books of the Old & New Testaments and the Girl Scout pledge, quote film dialogue, song lyrics, or Texas statutes, and tell you the name of my kindergarten teacher. But, I can't tell you who called me five minutes ago and whether or not I've paid my cable bill. Doctors scratch their heads at me because I have NO IDEA what I ate for breakfast, when I last went to the bathroom, or what years I had a hysterectomy, appendectomy, partial mastectomy, or gall bladder removed. Trivial stuff like that just falls through the holes in my Swiss cheese brain.

But, I can still recite for you a poem I memorized in the fifth grade. It had to be at LEAST 50 lines so I memorized this perfectly morbid & EXACTLY 50 line poem by Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) --

MATILDA told such Dreadful Lies,
It made one Gasp and Stretch one's Eyes;
Her Aunt, who, from her Earliest Youth,
Had kept a Strict Regard for Truth,
Attempted to Believe Matilda:
The effort very nearly killed her,
And would have done so, had not She
Discovered this Infirmity.
For once, towards the Close of Day,
Matilda, growing tired of play,
And finding she was left alone,
Went tiptoe to the Telephone
And summoned the Immediate Aid
Of London's Noble Fire-Brigade.
Within an hour the Gallant Band
Were pouring in on every hand,
From Putney, Hackney Downs, and Bow.
With Courage high and Hearts a-glow,
They galloped, roaring through the Town,
'Matilda's House is Burning Down!'
Inspired by British Cheers and Loud
Proceeding from the Frenzied Crowd,
They ran their ladders through a score
Of windows on the Ball Room Floor;
And took Peculiar Pains to Souse
The Pictures up and down the House,
Until Matilda's Aunt succeeded
In showing them they were not needed;
And even then she had to pay
To get the Men to go away!

It happened that a few Weeks later
Her Aunt was off to the Theatre
To see that Interesting Play
The Second Mrs. Tanqueray.
She had refused to take her Niece
To hear this Entertaining Piece:
A Deprivation Just and Wise
To Punish her for Telling Lies.
That Night a Fire did break out--
You should have heard Matilda Shout!
You should have heard her Scream and Bawl,
And throw the window up and call
To People passing in the Street--
(The rapidly increasing Heat
Encouraging her to obtain
Their confidence) -- but all in vain!
For every time she shouted 'Fire!'
They only answered 'Little Liar!'
And therefore when her Aunt returned,
Matilda, and the House, were Burned.
I couldn't remember yesterday if I had included this in my post. I had not. So, I posted it separately. Actually, I didn't do that either. I saved it as a draft. But, hey! I paid my cable bill! Or, was it my cell phone?

By the way, how exactly does one stretch one's eyes?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Things I Hate About Me

My brain has bouts of denial -- Once in awhile, something happens that is so surreal that it won't register for me, despite the evidence of truth. I was neither an admirer nor critic of Steve Irwin. He was a fascinating non-issue in whose direction I rarely glanced. More bizarre to me than Steve Irwin's manner of death is my own brain's refusal to accept it as fact. And, this feeling of loss and regret? Well, it's just weird. Very weird.

I have periodic intuitions -- Years ago, I called my brothers and sisters to my grandmother's bedside against the protests of my father and aunt who said I was over-reacting to a gut-feeling that she was about to die. She died the next day. Last week, I begged my son's friend to quit his job at Domino's because I was so convinced that somebody would rob the joint and shoot everyone that I offered to pay the boy until he found another job. Saturday, two employees were found dead at a Pizza Hut down the highway. Thank God I was off a few miles.

I'm a mailbox stalker -- Where did this come from? Was I one of the teenagers who sat around waiting for the phone to ring after I gave some guy my number? No. But Austin Film Festival notification letters go out via snail mail this week and what am I doing? Camping out at my mailbox in triple digit heat and heading off my mail lady.

ME: Hi! I made you cookies.
HER: Two bills, pizza coupons, and a chain letter but you don't get them for six more blocks.
ME: Nothing from the Austin Film Festival?
HER: How often are you gonna do this?
ME: Just twice a year,the Nicholl and the AFF.
HER: And those are when?
ME: Around the first of August and early September. Why?
HER: We're doing vacation calendars for next year.
ME: Wait! You forgot your cookies!
HER: I don't like oatmeal.

I guess my intuition doesn't extend to favorite cookies and placing in screenwriting competitions. Or, maybe it does and my brain is in denial.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Expose Yourself

Yeah, I know what you thought and I can't wait to count the google hits I get off that one. The Thinking Writer has an excellent post called "Hang Your Ass Out There". It's about having the intestinal fortitude to say something in your screenplay. I can't add anything productive to his post but it ought to be the first commandment in the screenwriting bible. Go read it.