Saturday, June 29, 2013

Happy Wanderers Need Not Apply...


Did I have you at 'hello'?

Funny word, hello. It has "hell" in it, right there at the front! What's that all about? I guess it beats saying "heaveno", eh?

You know what else is weird? Saying "you're welcome" after someone saying thank you.
A: "Thank you for doing that for me."
B: "You are welcome."
A: "I'm welcome to what, exactly? What are you talking about?!?"
B: "Uh, well... I suppose you are welcome to appreciate the nice thing that I did for you..."
A: "Wait... I need your permission or approval to appreciate your act of kindness? What if I'm thankful without your permission?"
B: "Well, then you'd be welcome to a punch in the breadbasket..."

I find myself staring at that photo instead of typing this. I would apologize for the length of time this is taking me to type, but hey, won't matter to you, I'm sure!

A: "I apologize for being distracted by that beautiful picture up there."
B: "You are welcome."
A: "Don't punch me again!"

I have a long wishlist of books on Amazon that I keep an eye on, waiting for sales and price drops, at which time I snap them up like some sort of crazed fiend. Recently, the Kindle version of John Kennedy Toole's wonderful book "A Confederacy of Dunces" dropped from it's normal $8 price down to $1.99 for the day, and I was fortunate enough to catch it. Bought it, filed it away, but knew I would be getting to it sooner rather than later. I was right. Currently 30% through it, and enjoying Ignatius Reilly and his bothersome valve every bit as much as I have on the previous visits with him. Such a funny book, if you haven't read it, you really owe it to yourself to read it.

Of course, the story behind the writing and publishing of it is a fascinating discovery in and of itself. Published posthumously after his suicide at age 31, it was the only book Toole would write. Tormented soul, that sort of thing. His mother found the only faded dog-eared copy of the manuscript after his death, and in 1976 walked it into one Walter Percy, Loyola Professor, who tried his best to get out of having to read it. And when he finally read it, was dumbfounded by he'd seen. The book ended up winning the Pulitzer Prize for Literature...

I'll try to do a book review of it when I finish it -- I'll give you the punchline now: One of my favorite non-fantasy books of all time, and a wildly enjoyable and amusing read. Trust me - Ignatius ranks right up there with the greatest characters in literature. And the supporting cast is terrific as well.

So, yeah, look for that soon! Aren't you fortunate?!/

And now, these two chaps do the best Michael Caine impressions you've ever heard. (Warning: F-bomb at 0:36, for those with delicate constitutions).

I was so intrigued by this exchange, I watched the full source material today, called The Trip (2010), in which these two travel over northern England, eating in fine restaurants, and chatting, and doing a remarkable array of impressions, many are equally terrific, though some were admittedly less than par. A good watch though. Some great dialog, much of which I'm sure was improvised.

OK, shifting gears...

On Sunday the 30th (tomorrow, as I write these words), I will be doing some hands-on research for my first screenplay! Woohoo! I'll be going to a local games shop to sit in (observer-style) on a group game of Dungeons and Dragons, by a dedicated crew of local players. I'm interested in the game dynamics, and I want to see if I can co-opt the rules and modify them for the movie I'm writing. I contacted the group leader, and he has agreed to let me join them, and (hopefully, at an appropriate time) ask some questions. I'm pretty excited, actually. After I finish this post, I'll get back to assembling my questions.  It will be helpful to see the game in action, and also be able to talk to people that know the game well. I've read the latest edition of the rules book, but it's still pretty confusing...

"Class, open your Player's Handbook to page 57..."

So I saw a movie last night with my stepdad, called Now You See Me, which is sort of a heist movie-mystery flick you may have heard of. I really wanted to like this movie - and for about 15 minutes or so, I was into it. But it quickly spiraled into implausible mediocrity, and left me wondering (yet again) at how difficult it must be to get all the pieces of a movie put together correctly, and have it result in a great film. I am learning more and more about the film-making process, from concept to finish, and I realize what a monumental undertaking it all is, taken as a whole, so I'm more apt to cut films (and those that make them) a lot more slack than I used to. Still, it's hard for me to believe that some of the scenes that I saw last night made it all the way through to the final shooting script intact. I'd give the film a 5, for questionable casting choices, illogical story elements, ham-fisted story-telling, and a truly retarded "twist" at the end.

And now, a cool Best of Web montage clip to watch in HD...

Bah, figures, they'd put a chick in the thumbnail... what's that all about? Lemme see if I can disable the thumbnail... the clip has nothing to do with a chick in a bathing suit... It's one of those "people doing cool sporty things in slow motion to dance music" clips that are fun to watch...

I hope you watched the clip anyway... good stuff, visually...

OK, I'm going to stop now. Because I need to get other stuff done! And you're only deserving of a certain portion of my awesomeness! No offense... O_o

Adios for now, eh!

Dave the Gump

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Hope You've Got Your Wading Boots On Tonight... Thick Text Ahead...

Man, what a week...

Things are settling back to normal around the house as of today. That's why I can get on here to update the ol' bloggy blog tonight... had a houseful of visiting relatives, and it was great to see them. Still, it meant a total disruption to the ol' daily routine - which is not necessarily a bad thing. It kind of felt good to get a good shake-up in that department. Anyway, back into the office, and back onto the computer...

Of course, this bigger news is the unfortunate falling out I had with my screenwriting mentor. As disappointing as that was, it will, I'm sure, have further disappointing ramifications in the future. Man, I was really upset - I haven't been that upset in a loooong time (I'm talking, years). And now that I've had a few days to chew on it, I've decided to just press on and see what happens. I think I should have had a better foundation in screenwriting in the first place -- maybe a finished script or two under my belt first -- before attempting to secure the services of a professional. I think I got in over my head, like signing up for a college course while still in Elementary School. I think my Mentor would have been able to take my screenwriting to the next level (or more) if I'd had any sort of foundation already... starting fresh sunk me, I think.

All that to say, I'm going to hack and slash my way through writing a couple scripts, using the books and resources I already have, just so I can get something finished... and then afterwards perhaps hire a pro to analyze and critique it/them, in an effort to develop further. Getting to this point sucked. My mentor and I did exchange some rather pointed words (to say the least) in this falling out, which is really unlike me, for any of you that know me, but I can't say I'm ashamed of myself at all (yet). I was livid, and didn't feel like rolling over anymore. So be it.

On the Acting front, challenges abound as well.

I guess in this case too, my fascination with "the idea of something" versus "the reality of it" continues to rear its' head. I've always thought I was a solid actor... until I decided to really start learning it. I'm finding I've only really ever scratched the surface, and to really be proficient (or even just to achieve the level I always felt I was at!) will require a lot of focused work and sweat and agony. Same thing with my writing... I always felt I was a solid writer - fiction and otherwise... but this latest journey into screenwriting shows that there is FAR MORE that goes into it than I thought I could waltz into with relative ease. I won't even mention my two unfinished novels. My "idea" of it was that I thought I was already a solid writer and storyteller... but the "reality" is that a lot of focused determination and hard work and long-term dedication will be needed to even begin to reach a level where I can claim proficiency. "Duh," right?

With my two novels, once I hit the wall in each case, I was diverted. I didn't want to do what I had to do to push through it. Because it's hard, I suppose. It was a challenge I couldn't immediately navigate, so, being a man of numerous interests, I was diverted into another creative direction.

So I'm facing this same moment of decision with both the screenwriting and the acting. Will I let my falling out with my mentor divert me from learning the craft? Or will I buckle down and see it through until I have something to show for it? Until I can gain a level of proficiency which I always aspired to attain (and thought I could waltz right up into)?

With the acting, same thing. Man, there's a lot more to acting than I'd ever realized. And as with writing/screenwriting, there seems to be many voices out there touting many different ways to "get there"... I'm reading a book by a man named Eric Morris called "No Acting, Please", which details an acting method that my acting coach seems to espouse greatly. This method requires an actor to learn how to just BE, instead of ACT.

Check out this quote:

"The search and process of finding yourself and achieving a BEING state -- that is to say, a state of being ourselves, totally -- is what this book offers to the actor. BEING is the primary and basic foundation to any creative process... 'Living' and 'acting' are all too often separated and they mustn't be. The exercises in this book are specifically constructed to become your tools to bridge the gap between you and your work. The awesome impact of completely BEING on the stage is thrilling to an audience."

I don't know if that pulled quote conveys well enough my thoughts -- and the accompanying conundrum -- well enough, but honestly, that's a bit scary to me. It presents an interesting theological conundrum.

I'm no stranger to trying to search myself and see how it is my mind works, and my personality operates. It's usually in prayer, with a lot of discussion between the Lord and I, learning things about myself, and asking Him to change me into His image, etc. I mean, I naturally suppress myself, hiding most of "me" behind a series of walls (like I'm sure we all do) and present to the world at large (hopefully) a simpler, more polished, subdued, palatable version of myself, while inside I set about the work of dealing with my hidden innards, trying to work with God to get the insides in His image. There's a lot of junk inside me that I don't want people to see -- I want it removed or changed, behind the veil of secrecy. Just me and the King.

This acting method says that it doesn't matter what's under the hood, stop hiding it. Get in touch with it, sure, but instead of doing it with the intention of controlling it and removing it, let it out. Be honest with "who you are", so much so that you are comfortable BEING who you are on stage, and in real life, in front of everyone. As you saw in the quote, the author feels there should be no line drawn between "acting" and "living" on an everyday basis. Learn how to BE who you are, honestly, the good and bad, not hiding it... and then take that honesty on stage (or in front of the camera) and let audiences see it. Let them see you BEING who you are, and applying it to the role you are playing, and they will be riveted.

So you see the conundrum? To keep myself hidden while everything under the hood is being sifted, inventoried and changed... or simply quit hiding it all, the good and the bad, and learn to let it out for all to see, inhabiting a role like a hand in a glove.

What to do with ME. Keep it bound up while I slowly kill it? Or turn it loose and use it as a tool for real acting?

So this is the brick wall I'm currently facing, in the acting realm. Do I let it divert me from pursing the craft? Or do I face it head on, and push through to the answer on the other side, whatever it may be?

Wow, a lot of rambling text tonight. Ah, well, even if no one reads it, it feels good to write it.

I like to sing. I like to play the guitar. I like to dance. I like to paint, to draw cartoons, to write poems. I like to think I have a certain solid level of proficiency in each of those realms. I now know that if I were to pursue any or all of those more seriously, I would quickly find the same challenge with the WALL I'm facing with the acting and screenwriting (and before that, the fiction writing). I'm surprised and a bit disappointed in myself, that it's taken me this long to realize this about me. I think I'm "good" at a lot of stuff. But I'm just in the kiddie pool in every single area. Each field of endeavor would take real effort and focus and hard work and struggle to achieve a level I always thought I simply was already at... kind of a rude awakening. I'd like to think that I could evolve past the point of being a self-deluded dabbler, and an easily-diverted one at that.

Time to grow up more, I hope.

Changes, changes, everywhere. Work, church, personal life, everywhere.

But, such is life, eh?

Onward and upward.

If you read through all of this, thank you mom.

Adios for now.

Davey the Kidd

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It's A Slam Dunk

Once upon a time, there was a man named Nate who loved watching the sport of basketball and wanted to learn how to play it. So Nate finally hired a coach to teach him how to play properly. Nate met the coach at a gym, eager and full of enthusiasm, ready to begin the learning process.

Coach tossed Nate a ball and began his instruction. "First thing you need to learn is how to slam dunk the ball. Once you can slam dunk the ball, the rest of the game is easy - it practically plays itself. Go ahead."

Nate stood there, puzzled for a moment. He then shrugged and tried to jump up and slam the ball. His vertical leap was weak, to say the least, and he didn't get within 2 feet of the rim. He tried a couple times, then turned and faced the coach.

"Shouldn't we start with learning to dribble or pass or something?"

"Not with my method. A slam dunk is a guaranteed shot. All other shots have a big chance of not going into the hoop. If you want to be successful in this game, you make points. The only sure shot is the slam. Here." Coach motioned for the ball. Nate tossed it to him. "Watch me."

The coach jumped up and slammed the ball. "Easy. See?" He did it again. He then backed up, ran at the hoop, jumped, spun and slammed it down backwards. "You can't stop that. See how easy it is? Go on," he said, tossing the ball back to Nate, "try it again."

Nate tried and tried, and failed and failed. The coach had him try approaching the rim on a run, from both sides and straight on. Not even close. Nate held the ball, panting, and said, "Can we skip this part and move on to something else? I might be able to slam someday, but not today."

"You still don't understand, Nate? Frankly, I'm getting tired of trying to explain it to you. Once you know how to slam, you won't need to waste your time -- and mine -- learning all those other skills. They'll be moot. You get the ball, you slam it home. Victory. Now try it again."

Nate tried another hour, until the Coach finally gave a sigh of frustration, threw up his hands, and walked away, saying, "There must be some sort of emotional or spiritual blockage in you that's preventing you from learning even the first step. Maybe this game isn't for you. Besides, you've used up all the time you paid for. I'm done."

So the Coach left. Nate stood there for a few moments, stinging inside a bit, not really understanding why things played out the way they did. Then he shrugged, walked over to his gear, grabbed his iPad, and pulled up an eBook on basketball basics. He studied the first chapter's diagrams and then set the iPad down, grabbed the ball, and began dribbling up and down the court.

The End.


Hope you enjoyed the story.

On a COMPLETELY unrelated note, my screenwriting Mentor decided he was done trying to teach me screenwriting. Guess I'll try teaching myself. Good thing I have a few good books on the subject...

Adios for now,


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I Brought You Some Toast...

OK, there are basically two ways for me to handle talking about the long gap between blog updates (9 days? Holy crapola!)... I could a) address it directly, right out of the shoot, and come across as a self-absorbed dolt who thinks people really care when or how often I post... or b) ignore it completely and move on like there was nothing out of the ordinary.

Or I could c) burp.

I choose C...

:O - BUUURP!!!!1!

There, problem handled.

Actually, caught in the middle of a flurry of end-of-the-school-year activity. Middle Daughter has officially graduated high school, and has flown off to Hawaii for a trip with family friends. And we are/will be hosting a series of out-of-town family members, meaning my office reverts temporarily back into a Guest Room. Meaning, unless I want to set up my computer on the dining room table, I'll be very limited in computer access until things revert back to normal, post-visitors.

So, less of me. Probably a good thing. Since it gives me a chance to collect things to talk about here!

Like this...

I don't know how you feel about Shakespearean movie adaptations, but I saw Coriolanus (2011) a couple nights ago, and it has taken up residence very solidly in the number 2 spot of My Favorite Shakespeare Movies, right behind the Gibson/Zeffirelli  version of Hamlet. Coriolanus stars Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler, but also has Jessica Chastain, Bryan Cox and the amazing Vanessa Redgrave. I was unfamiliar with the play before seeing this, and was very impressed by the story (even though the title has the word "anus" in it). Two avowed enemies determined to destroy each other end up joining forces to fight the same battle (I won't spoil it for you, in case you're intrigued).

It's a modernized adaptation, with guns-and-ammo replacing swords, Modern Rome replacing Ancient Rome, but still has all the Shakespeare language that you have to pay close attention to. Truckloads of great acting (I thought) and lots of action... very well done. If you have the patience for it, I highly recommend it. And I'm not alone... I checked Rotten Tomatoes, and they have it pegged at 94% positive rating from critics... but in an ironic twist, the viewer review rating is at a tepid 58%. No doubt due to the language issue.

Here, check out the trailer...

Ralph Fiennes directed it, as well as played the titular role. He's no stranger to Shakespeare, having acted in numerous plays before... I believe he was with the Royal National Theater for a time early in his career. My only criticism of his in this film is admittedly a mild one... he spit a lot when he shouted, lol... my other favorite roles of his were in Schindler's List and In Bruges.

Fairy Tale anyone?

While in the post-Coriolanus afterglow, I decided to watch another Shakespearish title called Looking For Richard, which featured Al Pacino and a group of his rather-pretentious actor buddies, trying to put together a performance of the Shakespeare play Richard III. It's sort of a study of the play itself, with scholars and other talking heads trying to explain the play, intermingled with Pacino and his pals enacting certain scenes from it. Was not impressed, lol. Although there are some nice bits of dialog in that play, it seems.

OK, Olan Rogers Break...

So last night, an odd thing happened. I had my iMac upstairs in the master bedroom, because I needed to rip a copy of Inception off of our DVD to put it onto the iPad that Middle Daughter was taking with her to Hawaii, for her to watch on the flight over. It was late (about 11pm), the rip was going to take about 2 hours, so I set it up, then adjourned to the restroom to prepare myself for beddy-bye. While I was flossing and brushing those white things in my face, etc., the iMac went into hibernate mode. But that's ok, since I knew the rip would continue. Wait, I'm getting to the odd part! I just need to start a new paragraph!

So cut forward a couple hours later. I'm in bed. I know the rip is done, since I heard the little chime sound that Handbrake makes when it finishes, heard it over an hour earlier. The iMac is asleep, I am in bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to go to sleep, as is my custom, unto the wee hours. All is quiet, it is about 2:45am. So suddenly, my wife talks in her sleep. She says, "Stay away from dad's computer, if you mess with it, you might break it." Then she was silent again. I kid you not, about 15 seconds after she said that, my iMac wakes up out of hibernate mode and comes on again. Like, randomly, on its own. Usually, you need to move the mouse or hit a key on the keyboard to wake it up again, but it did it on its own.

Now, if it had woken up first, and then wifey had said what she did in her sleep, I wouldn't have thought much about it. But no... first she spoke, to whom I have no idea, and then the computer woke up. Perhaps since the iMac has a built-in microphone, maybe somehow her voice activated something and woke it up, I don't know. But I cannot think of a precedent for that happening before. I've worked on it before and had it go to sleep, and sound has never "woke it up" before. Besides, she spoke softly, and the iMac was 8 feet away from her. So I don't know... it was odd.

You know how stuff that happens in the middle of the night always carries extra weight somehow? Yeah, that's probably happening in this case right now... at 3am, it was pretty creepy-weird...

Doing the Free Sample Dance at the moment, as far as what I'm reading of late. Well, that and some craft books on screenwriting. When I settle on a full book, I'll let you know the title! Won't that be amazing information for you to hear!?!! Think of it!

As far as acting class, tough but rewarding. I killed my scene last week, I rocked it. I even got immediate applause afterward from the class (that never happens), and my teacher told me if he were directing that, he would keep that shot in the can. But then he told me he wanted me to work on doing the scene "completely the opposite" of the way I'd just done it. He said he wasn't going to tell me what he meant by that... he wanted to see what I would do with that instruction. Which is nuts. I'm supposed to decide what "opposite" means in this case, work on the scene alone all week, then come to the next class ready to perform it that new way - not only that, but we'll be filming it this time...

Ah, well. First world problems, eh?

Not sure what else to say at this point. I mean, it is 1:17am as I type these words for you. So I think I'll hit the sack.

Adios for now.

Dave the Frog

Monday, June 3, 2013

"Men Are Only As Loyal As Their Options." -- Bill Maher


What type of camera equipment need one have to pull off an eclipse shot like that, eh? Fascinating. Sorry about the 9GAG tag ruining the shot there... I was too lazy to photoshop it out...

So, if there's ever a sure bet in life, it's that when I'm trying to create newsletters, I'll suddenly find I have an overwhelming urge to update my blog! Yeah, I know, I told you I was ceasing and desisting newsletter creation... I am... I'm just helping the transition to a new content creator happen easily, over the next couple months or so. If you want to try your hand at newsletter creation, let me know! Perhaps you could take over the project, eh! I'd show you how to do it, and then you decide... of course, you'd have to express interest fairly quickly...

Hmm... what's new....

Well, I went to the theater and saw Iron Man 3 recently (finally!) and enjoyed the heck out of it. I thought it was a fantastic, highly-enjoyable movie. Lots of great moments, great characters, fun dialog... everything I hoped it would be. More, actually. In fact, I think other than Batman Begins, it is my favorite superhero/comic book movie. I gave it a 9.5. I docked it half a point for a couple soon-to-be-anachronistic elements (the Downton Abbey references? Seriously, what was that?)

If you haven't seen Iron Man 3 yet, what the heck are you waiting for? In fact, if you don't go see it soon, this might happen to you...

I'm limping to the finish line in Under Heaven, by Guy Gavriel Kay. I'm going to be so stoked to finish it. I haven't taken more than a month to finish a novel in as long as I can remember. You know, ultimately, it's a good story... but too slow paced and pretentious for me. And the Ancient Chinese setting was interesting at first... but the names killed me. I usually have a tough time remembering character names to begin with... but this book? Wei Song, Shen Tai, Sima Zian, Wen Zhou, Zhong Ma, An Li.... made my head spin with the effort... if all of Kay's books are in this same style, I'm not sure I'll be reading anymore. A solid author, don't get me wrong... he's just not my cup of tea (lol). I doubt he'd be concerned... he gets tons of love from the Fantasy community, so I don't feel bad...

Speaking of focusing on my art (I know, I'm a llama), I've been struggling with my screenwriting training. My mentor is trying to rewire my brain, and it's difficult. I understand where he's coming from, it's just I'm ingrained to do things differently. Let me explain...

His philosophy is that you start with your theme - the moral of the story, the point you're trying to make. Then you come up with a story and characters to portray the theme. That way, as you write, keeping the theme firmly in mind, the script holds together much more tightly, and will require far fewer, if any, rewrites, because superfluous scenes won't need to be cut out (since they aren't written in the first place!). So, theme first.

My method, due (I suppose) to my lifelong rampant imagination, is to come up with storylines and fun characters and scenes and create a story out of that. Theme? Who knows? Is it fun and funny? Let's do it!!! I aim to entertain, rather than enlighten, I suppose...

So I have many "movie ideas", but no set themes. So I'm trying to find the theme in my pre-existing stories, with little luck. And I'm trying to come up with themes ("What is it you want to say to people, Dave?")... and I have two decent ones... but no stories and characters yet. So it is proving very difficult. I fear I may be frustrating my mentor...

One theme has to do with how we react when we feel insignificant and/or invisible. I've talked about this topic on this blog before, in some ways... usually, I feel invisible/insignificant when I reach out to people and get ignored in return. Write an email, send a text, write a Facebook message, leave a voice mail, etc... no response. Frankly, it angers me. A lot. So, yeah, a main character who feels insignificant and invisible, reaches a snapping point and then... what? Rages and destroys? Implodes/disappears? Thinks he/she really has turned invisible, and starts doing things, thinking he/she can't be seen? There's potential there for a story, in one of several different genres or genre-hybrids... but I got nothing yet...

The other theme stems from a quote by Bill Maher, which I have used as the title to this blog post. "Men are only as loyal as their options." I tell ya, there's a lot there, too, I think... (not the biggest Bill Maher fan, but that's a good quote)... Do you think that's true? Are you only loyal to your friends/spouse/job/church/hobby/etc because something/one better hasn't come along yet? I could sure write a story about that... maybe disproving it...

So, yeah, having trouble becoming a "theme-minded" screenwriter... haven't even started writing yet! And it's been going on two months, I think! It's frustrating. But I'll keep plugging along. Oddly enough, it reminds me of the struggles I'm having with my acting classes, in reference to "film acting" being so different from the stage acting I'm so used to. Trying to rewire my brain in two disciplines at once! No wonder I can't think straight!

Speaking of "not thinking straight"...

...This guy went through almost an entire bottle of shampoo before finally taking a good look at the label... lol

So Summer is upon us. I went to the pool with the Wagner Women this past weekend. It was nice. Played around with Youngest in the water, laid out in the sun a bit with Wifey. Not really the outdoorsy type, but I made it work. Splish splash, eh?

OK, well, that's enough nonsense for now. Had more boring things to share, but I think you've endured enough! I mean, I know most of you are imaginary, but that doesn't mean you don't have patience to reach the end of!

Adios for now,

Dave the Addled