Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Battlestar Galactica: Returning to Form? Or Saying Goodbye?

I'm a science fiction geek; most of you know that. And, as such, I happen to really like the SciFi network television series Battlestar Galactica. Generally, it is not only the best science fiction series on the small screen, it is also one of the best drama series on the small screen. Yes, it belongs in the same sentence as House, CSI, Law & Order, Grey's Anatomy, you name it. The human element of the show stands out as one of the most innovative, most relevant, and most well-written. Seriously.

But, therein lies the problem. The show not only follows Humans, but a race of human-created robots known as Cylons. In Battlestar Galactica, the Cylons represent (almost) everything that we as humans hold as evil. The Cylons are genocidal, vengeful, and narrow-minded of purpose. They hold a different religious belief system than that of the humans in the series, which is one of the subtle causes of the war between Humans and Cylons (ironically, it is the Cylons that are monotheistic in the show). Cylons also behave immorally and irresponsibly when conducting scientific research, lacking any discipline or reservation. Anything goes, screw the debate. Of course, this is also the result of irony, as the Cylons were created in much the same manner.

I'm digressing a bit, so let me get right to the point: the show has been sub-par since the absolutely wonderful Season One. In Season Two, the show abandoned its magnificent pacing, forcing its audience to adjust to an extremely variable "passing of time." Also, the show began to explore a distracting, yet compelling, Cylon point-of-view, and revealed the reason for the Cylon "genocide" (the quotes are added because, given the nature of the Cylon scientific experiments, it is no longer clear why the Cylons wanted to annihilate humanity).

The show, in a forced attempt to remain "relevant," tried to get us to care about and perhaps see things from the so-called villain's side of the fence. While this is nice in geo-political theory, this is usually bad for television. Think Lost, whose ratings are suffering as we are introduced to "The Others," once the pinnacle of faceless television villains. For better examples, let's take a look at some high-profile war films. Does anybody remember the Vietnamese segments of We Were Soldiers? Of course not. They were the bad guys, and despite the film's (half-hearted) attempts to humanize them, we just didn't care. Sure, humanizing the enemy in Letters from Iwo Jima worked, but what about in Flags of Our Fathers? No, because Clint Eastwood was smart enough to know that "the enemy" needed its own film, or would have otherwise been too distracting.

At the end of Season Two, the series broke a cardinal rule of screenwriting and jumped "One Year Later." Hoping to draw us in with audience-originated "what happened" questions, the show instead alienated its audience with those same questions. Almost a full-season later, many (if not most) audience questions are still unanswered and we, more than ever, are left with the feeling that we were cheated out of a virtual year's worth of plot and character development. Also, during the early portions of Season 3, the show seemed to become much less about Battlestar Galactica and more about Baseship Cylonica, once again taking us away from the plot and characters that we actually do care about.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, it took NBC Universal more than half of Season 3 to confirm the show would be returning for a Season 4. The catch? Instead of the usual 20 episodes, Season 4 is now currently slated for only 13. Which means that the show could have been given the feared "wrap the story up" ultimatum. Also somewhat unsurprisingly, the renewal announcement came after Season 3 shifted from the Cylon-oriented plot to the much more traditional, much more successful "Humans on the run" plot that made the show such a hit in the first place. If anyone out there thinks this is purely coincidental, you're dead wrong. Even crap shows like the two Stargates lasted so long because they never alienated their audiences. Yes, they're far less profound and relevant than Battlestar Galactica, but they know who they play to, and they keep playing to them.

We started watching the show because we wanted to know about the misguided, but ultimately good, Humans running from the miscreant, and ultimately evil, Cylons. What we have now are the misguided, misaligned Humans running from the misguided, misaligned Cylons. What's worse is that the "stapled-together" Cylon sub-plot only makes them look really, really stupid. And that's not exactly something audiences look for in their uber-villains.

The good news is that the recent episodes of Battlestar Galactica have been a return to form, somewhat, and the show appears to be once again headed in the right direction. Is the rest of Season 3 and what's been allocated for Season 4 enough to save the show? Or are we looking at the beginning of the end of the journey, and will Episode 4.13 indeed have the rag-tag fleet find Earth?

Guess we're going to find out.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Musings on the 79th Academy Awards

Another year, another round of awards, and next year to prepare for. The 79th Academy Awards are over and, I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a good telecast, one of the best in recent memory, and well-hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. I'm not a huge Ellen fan, but she is definitely one of the higher-caliber Oscar hosts. A huge improvement over Steve Martin, David Letterman, Chris Rock, and Whoopi Goldberg. If Billy Crystal decides never to come back, I think she and Jon Stewart should take turns hosting.

Anyway, some musings...

Congratulations to Martin Scorsese. It's about time, dude. I remember watching Spielberg finally getting his due with Schindler's List, and while that moment was long in coming, Scorsese's was longer, and arguably more significant.

I had no clue that Clint Eastwood spoke Italian, although I should've guessed by all of those "Spaghetti Westerns" that he was in. Once again, I think I'm going to write him in for President.

Kudos to Al Gore for resisting the urge to be overtly political in his various speeches. I wouldn't vote for the guy, but I respect his movie and his inspiration for it. It also doesn't hurt that he's right.

Is it just me, or is Helen Mirren one of the sexiest women in the universe?

Was anybody else not surprised that Dreamgirls didn't win the Oscar for Best Song? Um, when you split your own vote three ways, you're going to lose. Duh.

Although it was really neat (I love that word, "neat"), those human silhouettes really should've been done all at once, and not spread throughout the show. Quite awkward, in my opinion.

When are the Oscar producers going to come to their senses and fire Chris Connelly? He sucked on MTV; he's even worse on the Academy Awards.

My favorite part of every Oscars telecast has always been the "In Memoriam" segment. Always has been, always will be. It's seemingly the only time Hollywood actually truly pays its respects.

For those keeping score:
Babel - 1
The Departed
- 4
Dreamgirls - 2
Happy Feet - 1
An Inconvenient Truth - 2
The Last King of Scotland
- 1
Letters from Iwo Jima - 1
Little Miss Sunshine
- 2
Marie Antoinette - 1
El Laberinto Del Fauno
(Pan's Labrynth) - 3
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - 1
The Queen - 1

Until next year...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

What the Fuck Am I Talking About?

And there it was, that large, porous fuck-all that is the sun. Staring down at me with those blue, burnt eyes and tireless microwaves. Amazing, it was, that it didn't strike me down with a flick of finger, like the child launching a freshly-picked booger at the bully across the room. I mean, why wouldn't it? After all, there I was, absorbing its heat and breathing in the nitrogen-heavy atmosphere that had been oxygenated by the greenery conducting its day-to-day photosynthesis. And that's all I was doing. I wasn't helping in any way, shape, or form. I wouldn't even plug in the imported vacuum cleaner and suck up the fuzz from the sock that got caught in my toe nail and later fluttered to the ground while I was lying down, staring at a star-filled window, wondering how my lost cats were doing. Basically, I was being worthless. Not quite as worthless as your pinky toe, mind you, but certainly more worthless than your appendix, should you be lucky enough to still have one that hasn't ruptured yet.

Seriously, why does the sun tolerate us? Maybe it's time it turned its heating power to 10, baked us like a potato wrapped in too much aluminum foil, and let the melting polar icecaps do their thing.

It's Saturday, and I'm bored.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Movie Theater Etiquette

It's a pity that there are so many pre-trailer advertisements that beg and plead for an audience to turn off their cell phones, pages, and to shut up during a movie. It's even more of a pity that people don't. Is the American public really that inconsiderate now, to think that any one person's phone call or, god forbid, text message is so fucking important that it deserves to ruin a movie for the people seated near that person?

Please. If I had my way, movie seats would hang over a pit of molten lava, and programmed to collapse even its occupant makes too much noise or answers a phone call.

Anyway, on to some basic rules for movie theater etiquette. Like most etiquette guidelines, you already know all of these; you probably just choose to ignore them.

1. Don't talk. Ever. If you don't understand what's going on, save your questions for the credits. There's no way your obviously more intelligent companion is going to be able to explain things to you quickly and quietly, anyway. You're stupid, that's why you asked the question. If you see something that makes you think of a joke, save it for the credits. If it's a truly funny thought, it will remain funny well after the movie is over. Otherwise, keep it to yourself and remain shut the fucked up. And when you leave for snacks or a bathroom break, don't ask, "Did I miss anything?" when you return. It's a movie, it doesn't pause for you. So, yes, of course you missed something, you moron.

2. Turn off your fucking cell phone. Off. Not down, not on vibrate, not on "flash annoying little lights." Turn it off. If you're a doctor on call, go rent a movie and watch it at home. Or leave word with the ushers and have your calls sent to the theater's office. In case you hadn't noticed, because you're too busy picking your own nose, vibrate actually makes an shitload of noise, especially in a theater that's otherwise (hopefully) quiet. And sending text messages? Do you realize how fucking bright that screen is? Put it this way, someone in the back row of a theater with stadium seating will be able to see you tapping text into your phone, even if you're in the front row.

3. Don't get loud, obnoxious food. Popcorn is the exception, since so much of movie culture is built around it. But if you must buy that candy that comes in a crinkly plastic bag, open it before the movie starts, pour it into a cardboard container, and eat it out of that. And don't think you're sneaky. No amount of ninja training can prevent those bags from making noise. Trust me. It's like a leather jacket or a diaper. Everyone can hear it. And don't chew your ice.

4. Refrain from your own sound effects. Laughing is permissible. So is screaming. However, saying "ooh" or "ah" in amazement, stating "ouch" or "god damn" when a character is hurt onscreen, or providing other extraneous commentary reminiscent of the 1960s Adam West Batman is, for the most part, entirely unacceptable. In fact, it's basically a violation of rule 1.

So, please note the emergency exits, shut the fuck up, and enjoy the show.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Subtitles, Dubs, and the Subtle Stupidity of Dubtitles

I watch a lot of movies. A lot. I try to go to a theater at least once every two weeks and will probably watch at least two at home every week. Admittedly, I haven't exactly been meeting that quota since I left North Carolina, but you get the idea: I watch a lot of movies.

Almost by default, but certainly by choice, I see quite a few foreign films. European, Asian, occasionally South American, and, less frequently, African (those aren't as well-distributed in this country; a problem that should be fixed). I watch them all. Story goes a long way for me, and I couldn't care less what language the film is in.

Unfortunately, most of the American public doesn't seem to agree with me. While the problem appears to be getting better, perhaps due to the overall pervasiveness of the communication age (read: Internet), most Americans act as though the very act of reading subtitles is an inconvenience. We've all heard the excuses, ranging from "if I have to read, I can't see the picture" or "this is America, they should dub everything in English." The former excuse implies a level of illiteracy (they can't read "See Spot run" fast enough to keep up) while the latter implies a level of stupidity and racism (why would I want to watch a foreign film in English?).

Either way, of course, subtitles are the preferred method of watching a foreign film, short of learning the language. And here's why:

Subtitles are less likely to change dialogue, script, and even plot. They usually are a simple translation of original language, printed on screen in white or yellow text. If done correctly, nothing about the film is changed, and what we see is the director's, writer's, and actors' vision.

Dubbing, on the other hand, most assuredly changes dialogue. After all, given the propensity to make fun of bad 70s Kung Fu film dubbing, studios started proliferating the idea of trying to match dialogue to the mouths of the foreign actors. And while the best of the business can do a decent job of maintaining the plot and story, most change what the dialogue actually says, and some even change the plot and story. For good measure, watch the fantastic Princess Mononoke subtitled, then watch it dubbed. Or, better yet, watch it dubbed AND subtitled. While the overall story remains the same, you're going to find some rather alarming subplot changes and significant differences in dialogue.

And then, finally, there is the travesty known informally as "dubtitling." As we've already established that subtitles rock, and dubbing is hit or miss, we're going to establish that dubtitling is stupidity incarnate, and should be outlawed.

Dubtitling, my dear friends, is the act of simply writing what the dubbed version of a film is saying, and passing them off as subtitles. This is essentially nothing more than Closed Captioning for a film. What's worse, few, if any, dubtitled DVDs or videos let the viewer know that they're dubtitled.

Watch The Bear on DVD in its original French. You'll see in the "subtitles" that extra dialogue is added when the actors aren't even speaking. Bad dialogue, at that. Why? Well, the American company figured to change the script, but instead of giving us the subtle dialogue of the original French version (which barely had any dialogue in the first place), we got a dubbed and comparatively loquacious American version instead. And thanks to the relative laziness of the DVD transfer company, they gave us dubtitles instead of proper subtitles. Fucking awesome.

Fans of Jackie Chan should watch My Lucky Stars on DVD in its original Chinese (I believe it's Cantonese, but I don't know for sure). The subtitles are, once again, dubtitles, and we have no idea whatsoever if they follow the original story at all. Thanks to some friends who speak the relevant version of Chinese, I know that the dubtitles are completely different from the original story, but how many others are going to have the luxury of Chinese-speaking friends?

Japanese anime is also guilty of this. Unfortunately, given the nature of its fans, nobody really seems to care.

Anyway, everyone should boycott dubtitled DVDs and videos. Ultimately, it's a lazy and irresponsible way of representing foreign cinema in the United States. It's also insulting to the original filmmakers, as well as to us, the audience. If we're taking the time to view a foreign film, chances are good that we're there to watch that foreign film, and not some misguided attempt at Americanizing that foreign film.

Call your congressman. This has to be stopped.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Jasper, Part I

He just turned three last November. He's a baby, and he acts like it. Brave in the face of irrelevance, cowardice in the face of everything else. The other two beat him up, even though he's the biggest. But he's the sweetest, the tamest, and the most loyal.

And yesterday he started having seizures.

There was evidence that he had a couple of seizures earlier, but as I didn't know that he had them, I figured the tells were of something else. A fight, maybe. The smeared crap in the yard. The overturned water bowl. Could've been anything. But probably seizures.

As I watched one at around 11:30 PM, I really didn't know how to react. I worried, I wanted to panic, but I stayed calm. I watched as he tried to fold and swallow his tongue. I watched as he realized that something was wrong. I watched as he went into a panic, running around wherever there was room. I watched as his adopted brother, as scared as everyone else, tried to subdue him. And I watched as he collapsed, foaming at the mouth, defecating uncontrollably, convulsing violently, painfully. So I did the only I could do. I placed one hand on his head, the other on his body, and held him firm so he wouldn't hurt himself by bouncing his head off the ground too hard.

70 pounds of German Shepherd never looked so helpless.

I didn't see the onset of the second seizure, this one at about 6:15 AM, but I did hear it. And I got to him fast enough to see him flopping around in his makeshift doghouse. Again, he defecated. This time, when it subsided, he cried and howled in pain and confusion. Three, maybe four times. It was the most solemn, heartbreaking sound I had heard in a long time. Maybe ever. After he cried, he tried to stand up. Dizzy, disoriented, he looked like a newborn puppy trying to figure out what his legs were for. It took him almost five minutes to stabilize himself. Then he walked up to me, put his head in my lap, and looked as though he was trying to ask me a question.

He was suffering, and he didn't know why.

I don't know why, either.

I'm still waiting on the vet to call with the test results.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Oh, Those Stupid Chargers

Flabbergasted. That's what I am. Flabbergasted. The San Diego Chargers, in all of their historical wisdom, have fired Marty Schottenheimer, the most successful Chargers coach since Bobby Ross. And why, you might ask? Well, the man who led the team to 12-4, 9-9-7, and 14-2 records the last three years simply could not win a playoff game.

That's the official line, of course. The reality is that the General Manager, A.J. Smith, did not like Marty. Remember my Drew Brees blog before the season started? The one where I mentioned that, since A.J. didn't draft Drew, A.J. didn't want Drew? Yeah, well, A.J. didn't hire Marty, either... keep that in mind as I continue my rant.

Anyway, the Chargers stupid decision of 2007 was to fire Marty AFTER deciding to keep him on, which oh-by-the-way, is also AFTER San Diego's two guru coordinators, Cam Cameron and Wade Phillips, left to go coach other teams (Miami and Dallas, respectively). So who's left? NO-FUCKING-BODY! Good job, Spanos family. You just fucked up the Chargers' coaching situation like you fucked up the Chargers' stadium situation.

While we're on the subject, let's go over a few of the other stupid Chargers moves in history.

First, and here's the obvious (this even predates the Spanos family)... remember those San Francisco 49er Super Bowls of the 80s? How many of those guys were former Chargers? Sent to the 49ers in what were essentially STUPID trades? I don't even want to count how many, because I'll start crying.

Let's jump to the 90s, shall we?

Bobby Ross? Only Chargers coach to NEVER post a losing record. Sure, he had a couple of 8-8 seasons, but the point remains. Let's not forget that he's the only coach to take the 'Bolts to the Super Bowl. So... what happened? What do you think? The Chargers fired him.

Drafting Ryan Leaf? You know, the consensus "biggest draft bust in history?" Awesome work, guys.

Letting Drew Brees go? Sure, this one may wind up working out, should Philip Rivers maintain his quality of play... but, I'm still biting my fingernails over this.

Junior Seau? JUNIOR SEAU? MR. CHARGER (no offense to Dan Fouts)? They LET HIM GO? Of course they did, they're the Chargers.

Then there was Leslie O'Neal, John Carney, Rodney Harrison, Donnie Edwards, etc.

Oh, and NOT signing John Lynch, who WANTED to come to San Diego, because he was "too old." Well, he's in Denver, your division rival, and he's still kicking ass.

I'm rambling.

To my Chargers: I love you, but DAMN, you can be stupid.

Flabbergasted.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Things You Should Remember When...

... Waking Up in the Morning After a Night of Drinking

The name of the person you're sleeping next to.

To put on slippers, in case you overslept and the dog couldn't hold it.

The toilet is usually oval shaped, the trashcan rectangular.

... Having Sex During a Night of Drinking

The name of the person you're sleeping with.

To put on slippers, in case you realize how ugly the person you're sleeping with is and need to leave in a hurry.

The toilet is in the bathroom, that soft thing you're on is the bed (or the person you're sleeping with).

... Preparing for a Night of Drinking

The name of the person you're planning on sleeping with.

To put on slippers, in case... well, no, now that just doesn't make sense.

The toilet. It could wind up being your best friend.

Friday, February 9, 2007

The Gift of NFL Cheerleaders

Tomorrow is the NFL Pro Bowl. The last game of the season for America's favorite sport. And our last chance to catch the gorgeous sight that are the legs and stomachs of the most beautiful women in professional sports... the NFL cheerleaders.

Now, some of you are nodding your heads and panting your tongues in agreement. To me, if I'm not watching a Chargers game, I'm usually only watching for the cheerleader camera. Yes, I admit it, I'm fairly immature when it comes to seeing twenty to thirty drop-dead gorgeous women wearing team logos, miniskirts, and pom-poms.

Of course, some of you are rolling your eyes, scoffing, stuck in your age-old mentality that cheerleaders are mindless bimbos who just want to be gawked at and groped.

Well now, that's just plain stupid.

In recent discussions with my nephew (who shall remain nameless), I was shocked to discover that he despised cheerleaders for being "mindless bimbos" who, according to him, were also "way too peppy. Keep in mind that this boy is in the EMO crowd (one strike) and thinks that buying his two best friends $20 Best Buy gift cards for Christmas while only getting his girlfriend a three-foot long piece of chocolate (despite being given $40 to get her a necklace) is okay (two strikes). So, for sake of this argument, let's not hold his dislike of cheerleaders against him (three strikes... oops).

Anyway, this nephew of mine not once takes into account that these women on the sidelines hold varied careers, have or are earning college degrees, are extremely flexible (though over 16, he hasn't a clue what sort of adventures this characteristic can lead to), and just, well, drop-dead gorgeous. Yes, I'm straddling the line of being a tad stereotypical myself, but what can I say? I'm a male pig.

Before I stray too far, let's present the evidence:

Houston Texans cheerleader, "Summer." This is her bio from the Texans website:
"Summer was born and raised in Kansas and is a 2003 graduate of Wichita State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering. She currently works as an engineer at NASA's Johnson Space Center. In 2002 Summer became a VFR rated private pilot and plans to continue flying to earn more ratings. She also enjoys riding motorcycles."

Mindless bimbo? Hardly. This woman is at least twice as smart as me, and then some. I think I have nicer legs, but that's beside the point.

Other examples include Jennifer of the Philadelphia Eagles (Financial Data Systems Analyst), Tara of the Cincinnati Bengals (a PhD student of Cellular and Molecular Cancer Biology), Lauren of the Washington Redskins (Neurotherapist), and the list goes on.

In fact, this "brains meets beauty" characteristic seems to be the rule with NFL cheerleaders, rather than the exception.

Regardless, at the end of it all, it's pretty clear that these women represent our society as a whole. They come from all walks of life, have varied education and experience levels, and, despite the fact that they're all gorgeous, come from different ethnic, religious, and social backgrounds. Knowing all of this just makes them even more attractive to me. And in recognition of this, while I offer no guarantees, I will try to keep my tongue from hanging out in the future.

These women are a gift to sports fanatics everywhere. To be cherished for eight home games a season (plus playoffs). I can only hope my nephew comes around.

To the seven teams that don't have cheerleaders (Bears, Lions, Packers, Browns, Steelers, Giants, Jets), you suck.

Oh, and GO CHARGER GIRLS!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Best World War II Films You Didn't Like

In preparation for going to see Letters From Iwo Jima, I watched Flags of Our Fathers again. Back when it was released theatrically, I called it another Eastwood masterpiece, a subtle one, at that. However, even as I wrote those words, I hated the ending, didn't much care for the editing, and felt it was a bit sloppy. Judging by the box office, it's apparent that much of America was in agreement.

Well, after the second viewing, I still hate the ending, I absolutely adore the editing, but still feel it a bit sloppy. Weird, eh? Some movies just deserve a second chance, and though I liked it initially, I appreciate it even more after a repeat viewing.

Anyway (or is it anyhoo?), I decided to write about three excellent World War II movies that you probably didn't like. Flags of Our Fathers is the first, so there's no need to rehash that here. The second was a victim of bad release timing, and the third is a foreign cartoon.

The Thin Red Line. Terrence Malick's 1998 remake of an obscure 1964 war film. And an absolutely wonderful, masterful, downright phenomenal piece of cinema. But, I know you hated it. Why did you hate it? Well, it had the unfortunate stigma of being released near Steven Spielberg's equally wonderful, masterful, downright phenomenal piece of cinema known as Saving Private Ryan.

Spielberg's film was not only a critical success, it had all the right pieces to be a commercial success, and was. So, the idiots at 20th Century Fox, realizing they could ride a Spielberg-induced World War II wave, decided to market it as a traditional, study-in-violence war film. So, everyone who went to see it theatrically expected a Pacific Theater version of Saving Private Ryan. What they got was a slow, boring, almost banal film in which nothing much happened.

Which is exactly what it was supposed to be. Only a whole ton of things happened in this beautiful, beautiful film. The Thin Red Line was not a war film. It was a film about humanity, set during a war. It was a film focusing on the psychological makeup of men. And what a lesson it taught. For those of you that saw it, hated it, and stated that you would never see it again, do watch it again. This time, rid yourself of everything you expect of a typical war film, and watch this movie with the same eyes you watch The Godfather or Rob Roy with. You'll wind up loving it. Guaranteed. Unless you're a moron.

Grave of the Fireflies. A Japanese cartoon that, at first glance, appears to be one of the famed Studio Ghibli films. It is, however, anything but. Like The Thin Red Line, it is based upon a true story, and is a study of humanity rather than a film focused on the war itself.

Be warned, this is a depressing, depressing movie, but also as beautiful and wonderful as any other movie you've ever seen. Case in point, I made a friend of mine watch it. This friend claimed that no movie had ever made her cry. Well, upon completion of Grave of the Fireflies, she stormed into the other room, slammed the door, and cried for the better part of an hour. This film is that powerful. And it's a cartoon. It also makes several critics' "Best War Movies of All Time" lists, including uber-critic Roger Ebert's. It's also on mine, but that's beside the point.

I won't ruin it for those of you that will actually take the time to see it, but it's well worth the emotional roller-coaster it'll take you on.

Anyhoo (or is it anyway?), I'll let you know what I think of Letters From Iwo Jima by this weekend, I'm sure. Until then, revisit (or visit) the three films above. You'll be doing yourselves a favor.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

My Girlfriend Likes My Poetry

Watching Simon Cowell dissuade some of the American Idol contestants is extremely funny. Sometimes, though, it's also very painful. Cowell gets criticized all of the time for being too mean, too coarse, too much of a dickhead. In reality, however, he's doing those people a favor. If you can't sing, have no hope of being able to sing, and aren't willing to take lessons and "come back next year," then you need to be told that you suck so you can give up and do something else with your life.

So begs the question, what the fuck were those people doing trying out in the first place? Well, they were likely done a great disservice by people they thought were friends. I'm talking mothers, siblings, drinking buddies. These people likely told those American Idol rejects "No, you really can sing."

Assholes all, I say.

I'm a writer. I'm also somewhat of a musician. And while it's important to know what your potential audience is going to think of your work, I discovered a long time ago that in order to get a really accurate and honest appraisal of your work, you need to ask other writers, other musicians, producers, editors. Basically, other professionals.

Except for those unfortunate enough to have really mean parents, your mother is always going to love your work. "Oh, baby, that's so good. You should try to get this published." And therein lies the danger of familial encouragement... your mother probably doesn't know shit, and is the last person you should be asking an opinion of.

Same goes with your girlfriend. And your friends in general.

In fact, stooping so low as to ask your regular buddies for opinions of your work is probably an indication that your own subconscious thinks your "art" sucks. And if that's the case, it's time you thought about doing something else.

The only thing worse than getting an opinion from a drinking buddy or a significant other is asking a friend that is qualified, and being lied to. Seriously, if you're a writer, and your friend's writing sucks, you need to tell him or her that. Feelings can't be spared in today's art and entertainment industries. There is just too much competition. Is making someone feel better now, only for that person to realize they suck later, really worth sparing heartache? Lives are wasted that way.

My girlfriend likes my poetry, she really does... but only because she has to.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Writing, Rewriting, Rewriting, and Rewriting

Writing is a funny, angry, serious, and ridiculous process all wrapped up into one little package. Those of you that write know this; those of you that don't probably do, too. Then again, I'm sure a few of you out there think writers just sort of put pen to paper, so to speak, get paid a stupid sum of money, and then write something else and get paid another stupid sum of money.

Well, this is simply not the case. I haven't been paid for writing anything in quite some time now. Such a long time, in fact, that I'm not so sure I can claim "writer" on my tax return.

Anyhoo... (that's a writer's word that lets us avoid an overuse of "anyway" or "anyhow).

Anyhoo...

I'm currently fixing up my aforementioned Clandestine's Daughter so that a friend of mine can use it as an example for her literature class. Cool, huh? No? Well, it is for me, jerks.

Anyhoo...

As I'm proofing, editing, rewriting, and polishing this monster of a story, I'm noticing all of the other junk that I need to write, proof, edit, rewrite, and polish. It's a lot, I tell you. There are currently five (count 'em, five) scripts that need work, two more that need to be written, and a ton of treatments, poems, lyrics, music, articles, blogs, and short stories lying around, needing attention.

Believe me, I'm trying like Hell to formulate some kind of process to get through the flotsam and jetsam polluting my desk and the floor of my room. Unfortunately, there isn't one. This stuff is just there, in my head, partially on paper, or yet to be thought of and/or written down.

For instance, Clandestine's Daughter is now on its fourth iteration (I can't say draft, because a first draft is what's sent out); Theorem is on its fifth, and that's not counting the original concept that went through two or three; The Best Year is on its second; The Hits is on its first as a new story, though it went through NINE with the original story, which has since been entirely junked; Double Down is also on its first as a relatively new story, but went through five before (thankfully, I can reuse much of it); The Gate and Evolution are both finally being written after being thoroughly brainstormed to death (the concept of Evolution is at least a couple of years old). And I'm not even going to get into the rest of the crap I mentioned.

Anyhoo...

There's a saying in writing that most of writing is actually rewriting. As I'm sure you've inferred from the above paragraph, not counting that last "anyhoo," this saying is undeniably true.

So, here's how it works... first, the story pops into your head, then you hammer out some sort of treatment (either formal or informal), then comes your first "iteration." Unless you're a just a fucking genius writer, your first iteration is going to suck. It is, trust me. Sucks. But, the good thing is that the plot is on paper, the characters are on paper, and the dialogue is on paper. We'll call this phenomenon "Year One."

Next, you let the story sit for a bit, if you're smart, and come back to it. About here is when you notice that the characters suck. So you fill them out, make them better. Which, obviously, changes a lot of their dialogue. So you fix that as well as you can, too. This, we'll call "Year One-Point-Five."

And then you let it sit again. Sometime later, in a moment of boredom or inspiration (they take turns), you pick up the script, read it from front to back, and realize that your characters don't fit the plot as well as they did. Here you have two options: 1) change the characters again to fit the plot, or 2) change the plot to fit the characters. I honestly can't say which one is easier, because both ways are, forgive my French, motherfuckers. Anyhoo... you get it done, take a deep breath, imbibe in some alcohol, and go to sleep. "Year One-Point-Seven-Five."

And it sits. Then you read it again. It's going to need another rewrite, but this one is closer to what's known as a "polish." Clean this, clean that, blah, blah, blah. "Year Two."

Your first draft is finished. It goes out, and comes back. Rejected. Lather, rinse, repeat.

That, in a nutshell, is the writing process. Keep in mind, those of you who make fun of writers, that no income has been earned AT ALL during this process. A writer is fucked until he or she sells. Which is why we have so many clothes in our car... it often times doubles as our home.

But we don't get discouraged, because we like to write. We like to tell stories. Sure, we don't like living in poverty, but our love for writing is far stronger than our disdain for opening the car door in the middle of the night to take a piss. No, really.

Anyhoo...

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Advice for a Horrifically Bad Poet

I have officially been thrown off the deep end. Remember that bad poetry I hinted at in an earlier blog? He just keeps coming, and for whatever reason, I can't fucking avoid him.

Dude, if I'm going to be stuck reading your crap for the rest of MySpace eternity, the least you could do is learn how to write. This includes learning how to spell, and how not to overuse commas, but you're driving me so fucking crazy, I'll settle for a simple development of your talent. A talent, by the way, which wouldn't be allowed in the door of an American Idol for Poets contest.

I must apologize to my friend who is going to take offense or otherwise get mad at me for this... but like I said, nails on a chalkboard.

On to the advice... let's start with something your simple, underly-overly educated dumbass can pick up without too much thinking, eh?

Piece of Advice 1: Words you shouldn't use when writing poems:

Lucid – And don't use "liquid," "solid," or any other descriptor that ends in "id." Unless, of course, you're describing your own bad poetry, which is "flaccid."

Demon or Angel – Can we say BORING? Yeah, the Bible beat you to this, and Milton perfected it. Someone of your low level of talent doesn't have a chance. In other words, you have not been "blessid."

Hawk or Dove – Can we say STUPID? Of course, a hawk will represent violence, a dove peace, a hawk comes from "below" because a dove, naturally, must come from "above." Lord have mercy, STOP! The only bird reference that you fit is that you're like a pigeon taking a shit on my car.

Babel – Yet another Biblical reference that only becomes more obscure with poetry. Blah, blah, blah. Why don't you just write the lyrics to "Stairway to Heaven" and try to claim them as your own, you talentless moron?

Fire – Yes, the old, trusty "flame" of flammable, inflamed passion is heavily overused. Of course, it's usually only heavily overused by people who write bad poetry. A ha! I'm on to something. Fire of love? Check. Fire of lust? Check. Fire of desire? Oh, shit, check. Fire of time? That's a new one, still crappy, check. Fire of YOU'RE AN ASSHOLE. Definitely check.

Piece of Advice 2: Structure

Vary it up a little. When a chapbook is full of 100 poems that all sound the same, look the same, read the same, rhyme the same, and have the same words (those listed above, plus a few other culprits that I really didn't feel like getting into), YOU SUCK!

Change it up! Move a fucking comma! Give me a fucking limerick once in a while!

Piece of Advice 3: Learn to spell

There's nothing worse than a poem about love and lust than a poem about love and lust with fifteen misspelled words in as many lines. Your spelling is so bad, I'm surprised I haven't mistaken your poetry for being written in Latin.

Piece of Advice 4: Quit writing

Please. And for Heaven's sake, never, never, never, write a song lyric again. It almost lobotomized me.

Irreview, Book Review: The Story of English in 100 Words

Along with geoscience, another academic interest that has taken hold in me as of late is anthropology and, more specifically, linguistics.  ...