Friday, October 27, 2006


I can't stop watching Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Not because it's good, but because it's failing in such a miserably interesting way. It's the classiest train wreck I've ever seen on TV. Let's take last Monday's episode, "The Wrap Party":

Eli Wallach plays an Alzheimer-afflicted writer from the Addison Theater's heyday. He can't tell people why he's here, where he lives, or who he is for 40 minutes of the episode. But, when it suits the show, he's suddenly an archive of comedy history who remembers everything as well as his place in it. Because, really, debilitating diseases on TV are only as debilitating as the episode needs them to be.

Rob Corrdry is giving his folks a tour of the studio, his poor, stupid, uni-dimensional folks. Who, apparently, have never heard of Abbott and Costello or "Who's on First." Who are, apparently, angry at their eldest son because he isn't in...wait for it...Afganistan! Or because their younger son is. Unclear, since these characters don't seem to exist for any other reason than for them to go on a tour and we can learn why pop culture in general, and Studio 60 itself, are Important.

If you'll recall one of my earliest posts, I love me some casual racism. So, when Corrdry's mom mentions to D.L. Hughley that they loved the last James Bond movie and that they even found Halle Berry attractive, Hughley's character smiles and walks off, impervious to the token gesture of "A negro made It move...see, I like some of you people, the ones who sing and dance." He didn't even roll with it, give the slightest perception of the glancing blow. But I guess he was saving his indignation for...

The hiring of a black writer. Which, in and of itself, is a fine idea. But from the outset, Matt and Danny have established something of a meritocracy. If you can do the job, then that's why you're here. You get the vibe that's why Hughley's Simon Stiles is in the cast: because he's (allegedly) funny. Period. So then we go to the comedy club for the first of two performances. Which, yes, wasn't funny. And was stereotypical. But should've been funny. While not Oscar Wilde, sometimes, that kind of base humor can kill. Robin Harris used to do hysterical routines about women with huge asses and why he loves them. Sure, it might not've been Studio 60 style, but to blithely dismiss that venerable branch of humor is akin to saying country music is all about pick-ups and unfaithful spouses. (I hate country music, excepting Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, but for other reasons.)

But wait. Before we get to second comedy guy, we need Simon Stiles' backstory, in which he has to justify himself to Matt by explaining just how black he is. And, judging by the fact that he grew up in South Central and saw a guy get shot once, he's Super-Black. I'm sure he's even got a badge on his car, like a PBA sticker. Does that make me any less black, because I grew up in the burbs? Or because I've been lucky enough not to have witnessed a homicide?

Okay, second comic. Not funny, but smart. You can tell he thinks big thoughts, but isn't cut out to be a performer. Fine. And he gets hired as a staff writer by Matt on the spot. (After, of course, he passes Stiles' Super-Black Test.) Now, would they have made the same offer if he was a white kid? Doubt it. They were out to hire a black writer, dammit, and they weren't going home without one. Funny or not. (Then again, the "Studio 60" sketches aren't funny either, so maybe he'll fit right in.) Because it's the Right Thing to Do. And That's One to Grow On. And More Than a Little Patronizingly Offensive.

And I won't even get into the inanity of Programming Honcho Jordan McDeer so desperate for company she's hanging out with interns.

The only bit that rang true was the three bubble-heads who kept asking Matt "Okay, but what does a writer do?"

A whole lot better than this.

Monday, October 23, 2006

For you 'Galactica' fans...

Every week, I write an episode review for (They call 'em TV Watches.) They usually get posted right after the episodes air on Friday nights. So, if you'd like to know what I think (and, of course you do, otherwise, why would you be here?), go here and check 'em out.

Also, worth hitting just to see how far sci-fi fandom has devolved, if the comments left by my many readers count for anything. (Yes, some are right on point but a lot of them are just...detached.)

Playing Fast and Loose

I love fast food. Anyone who sees my gut leading the way when I walk can probably surmise that for themselves. But one of the things that fascinates me is the behind-the-scenes innovation that goes on when one of these corporate behemoths puts something new on the menu. I think the fact that they are these giant megalocompanies feeds directly into the innovations, because you know that a bottom-line focussed CEO isn't really gonna allot money and/or resources to fix what ain't broken.

In my mind's eye, I picture a scene right out of Apollo 13: A dozen guys in lab coats with the entire array of McDonald's offerings there on the table. A stern white man with a buzz cut walks in and says, "We need something new on the menu. This is what's in every franchise 'restuarant' [he even puts air quotes around restaurant because he knows the truth]. We've never lost an appetite and we're not gonna start on my watch!"

And this is how we get things like McDonald's SnackWrap (chicken selects + lettuce + tortilla + cheese + ranch dressing), or Taco Bell's CrunchWrap (tortilla + ground beef + lettuce + tomato + sour cream + mexican pizza corn crunchy thing + cheese), or—my personal favorite—Pizza Hut's CinnaStix (they took the same dough as their bread sticks and just invented some buttery, cinnamony spread to slather on it instead of garlic). All made from stuff that was already being used to make other stuff.

I'm sure there's a lesson to be found somewhere in here for those of us who fancy ourselves as writers. Something about learning how to look at the same old hoary storytelling conventions with fresh eyes. Or how to tackle a rewrite by inventing something new and yummy out of what's already on the table. And there's probably a challenge in there (give me 5 cliches and I'll figure out a way to make 'em sizzle).

But I just got myself too damned hungry to concentrate.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dumbest Thing Ever of the Day

Go with me on this one.

As I understand it, the chief lure of paintball is to be able to have a socially acceptable gun battle with real live humans. To live out your storming-the-beach-at-Normandy/holding-down-the-Alamo/defending-precinct 13 fantasies without actually shooting anyone. (And for the truly sadistic, it's a corporate team building exercise.) But that's why it has survived as a recreational activity for so long.

Again, as I understand it, the chief lure of first-person-shooter videogames is to be able to storm the beach at Normandy/repel alien mutant invaders/lead an expert tactical assault team in a virtually immersive environment. While you aren't actually interacting in any way with reality, all the trappings are there, enough to get you over the theoretical hump.

I was flipping through a DC comic, I think it was Desolation Jones #7, and came across an ad for this:

It's a videogame of an activity that people do when they want to do the thing that videogames allow them to do.

Some days, man...I just lose faith.

Funniest Thing Ever of the Day

Iggy Pop and the Stooges' tour rider (the form given to the venues explaining what they require to perform there...if you didn't know).

Explaining the need for two heavy duty fans, roadie Jos Grain (who apparently wrote the 18 page document) notes, "So that I can wear a scarf and pretend to be in a Bon Jovi video."

I'd love to see this guy's Christmas list.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I've Been Gone for Too Long

I know. A combination of being really busy and not having a whole lot to say.

Hey, look, over there: Me being interviewed by Neil Kleid over on Newsarama!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mad Varley Respect

As many have noted, the official 300 trailer is up, in all its glorious high-defness. The most interesting thing about it, to me, was buried in the credits. It says that the film is based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley.

That may be the first time a comics colorist has gotten a full blown story credit on a movie.

Well done.

Video Game Widows

I was in my home office playing The Godfather on my Xbox 360 last night, and as my wife came in to kiss me goodnight, it dawned on me that she’s of a rare breed. A unique breed, actually, a brand of woman never seen before and likely never to be found again.

See, she is part of the only generation of women who grew up in a world of videogames…but never played them. While us guys were the target audience for things like Pong and Galaga and Doom and Madden, those girls of a similar age bracket—born in the late '60s-early '70s—were doing the things that girls always did. And whatever those were, they weren’t playing games.*

Sure, there was a novelty to early Atari and Colecovision games that anyone who liked bright and flashy images on TV could dig, but beyond that, there was nothing besides Ms. Pac-Man for the ladies to play. And so, by and large, they didn’t. But we did. Now, decades later, we’re still playing. And they’re still not.

I’ve tried explaining to my wife why I like playing games, that it provides a vicarious escape into a world that was previously unavailable to me, and the capacity to do things I never would be able to otherwise. It’s wish fulfillment. (And, I’m good at them. Been training for 30 some-odd years. And people want to keep doing that which they’re good at.) She just didn’t get it.

My wife has it good, relatively speaking. While I’m a player, I’m not an obsessive player. I’ve learned to temper my addiction. She indulges me every once in a while, especially when I’ve laid off the controller for a bit. So she didn’t mind so much that I tallied up 5 hours of Godfather over the weekend. But I know women who just write off their husbands when they get into the World of Warcraft zone, disappearing into those massively multiplayer online role playing games for days, weeks, sometimes months. (There was even an episode of that A&E show Intervention about a guy who was so obsessive that his remaining friends and family ganged up on him to send him somewhere to de-rez.)

And the thing of it is that their mothers’ have no experience with anything like it. There have, I suppose, always been men who lived with their nose buried in books, but women understood the allure of literature. (And even if they didn’t share the love, they knew that other people did. Normal people.)

And sports have long been evening/weekend distraction for the y-chromosome set. But,I suppose there are two ways to deal with sports: either try and get into them (and I’m lucky that my wife is the daughter of a football coach, and enjoys the Giants game every Sunday) or outlast them. If you wait long enough, whatever sport your man is into will end. Unless its NASCAR, which apparently goes almost year-round. But, if you’ve married someone who loves NASCAR, then you’ve dug your own grave there, sister.

Our daughters will grow up in this world, will be playing games from toddler-hood. Maybe not Halo or Burnout Revenge, but those game companies have started making educational games…and their objective is not so much to teach ABCs, but rather PS3s. As with all things, early adoption is key, and our little girls aren’t going to think there’s a damed thing wrong with setting up shop in front of the tube, with the nextest next-gen system up and humming.

So that leaves these women, our women, as a sort of socio-evolutionary webbed foot. A blip on the flow-chart. Soon to be extinct. Be nice to them. Understand that they don’t understand.

* Yes, I know that there are plenty of women in this particular age bracket who do play, but I truly feel that they are exceptions to the rule. Or, if you like, pioneers.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Apparently, I'm a Racist

According to the anonymous comment-leaver on the last post, that script fragment for "Fireworks" was racist. And since I wrote it, I guess I must be a racist, too.

Scroll on down and see for yourself, and then check the comments to see the arguments, both for and against my alleged racism.

Somehow, I didn't expect that this would be my 100th post.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Here's something I started...god knows how many years ago. Just found it, buried on my hard drive. I think it was the start of what was supposed to be a short film script. Hell if I know. (I am getting old, aren't I?)

Anyway, for what it's worth...


It’s a road like any of the thousands that criss-cross America’s ample mid-section: a little dusty, not all that well-traveled, lined on one side with trees. It has a timeless feel to it. One can’t tell at first glance if this is the 21st or the 19th century, and the same thing could be said about the black man slowly ambling down it.

JONAH FREEMAN is ancient. Not feeble, mind you, not decrepit. He’s old like the lions in front of the New York Public Library are old: hewn from the kind of rock they just don’t quarry any more. Both he and his brown suit have been around the block, and then some, and right now he’s in no particular rush to get anywhere.

Jonah strides past a road sign announcing the presence of a town not too far ahead; a town that isn’t, shall we say, packed to the gills.

Just past the sign, on the side of the road, is an old junker of a car with the hood up. Sitting on the roof of the junker is a 10-year-old boy, ISAAC, who’s throwing small rocks at a bigger rock on the other side of the road. They regard each other carefully as Jonah gets close enough to see a pair of legs jutting out from beneath the car.


Afternoon, son.

You’re not my dad.

You’re somebody’s son, right?


Good enough.

Jonah takes off his stetson and wipes his brow.

What’s your name?


What day is it?

July third.

Got any fireworks in this town, Isaac?


Want some?

A voice comes from underneath the car. A female voice.

What did I say about talking to
strangers, Isaac?

That I shouldn’t.

And why not?

Because I’m liable to ramble.
(to JONAH)
I have a rambling problem.

ETHEL slides out from under the car. There ain’t nothing wrong with Ethel, if’n you don’t mind your women with grease under their fingernails, forearms like knotted wood, and a face that’s squinted through 38 years worth of sunrises. Life has been hard on Ethel, and she’s been hard on it right back.

That he does. Of course, he’s just
filling in the conversational space
left empty by most of the idiots
in this town. Name’s Ethel MacGillicudy.
Most folks call me Mac.

Names are a serious thing, Miss
MacGillicudy, usually better left
untrifled with. I’ve been called
many of them, but most days I
only answer to Jonah Freeman.

Good to meet you, Mr. Freeman.
You gonna be in town long?

Only through the fireworks. Then
I expect I’ll be movin’ on.

We don’t have any fireworks.

Now you do.

I suppose you’ll have to talk
to the mayor about that.

If someone would be kind enough
to point the way. And it’d be
nice if that way led past a hotel.

I can show him. I’m a bit
tired of banging rocks together.

And I’m a bit tired of hearing
them. Go on, then, and be home
in time for dinner. You’re
welcome to join us, Mister Freeman.

I will. Thank you, kindly.

Jonah and Isaac start walking down the road.

So how did you get here?

I walked.

From where?

San Francisco.

Why not fly?

Listen to me, and listen good.
The one and only thing that holds
this world together are bargains.

Like sales?

No, bargains. Deals. Pacts. Accords.
Agreements. One party agrees to do
one thing for another thing in
return. Most times, it’s money. Even
more times, it’s blood. Thousands
of years ago, the first sailors
sacrificed anything they could get
their hands on to the sea, to
guarantee safe passage. A bargain
was struck. That bargain is still
in effect. Even today, sailors
treat the ocean with the respect
it deserves. Not so with the sky.
No one thinks twice about puncturing,
polluting, desecrating the air
for the sake of cutting a few days
off of a trip. Someday, the sky will
take its price and I, for damned sure,
won’t be up there. What are you studying?

About how Lincoln fought the
Civil War to free the slaves.

Bullshit. Lincoln freed the slaves
because we told him to. Because we
told him that we wouldn’t help him
win the war of Southern Aggression
unless he freed our brothers. He
made a bargain. He did his
part, and we did ours.

Who’s we?

The wizards. America’s wizards. I
won’t say that all of us are black,
but I can say that none of us
are white.