General

The Dragon & The Spider

I swear not everything I write about has to do with insects. Just this one. And, um, this other one. And possibly this.

The Setup: While exploring the many square feet of my backyard, I nearly run into a spiderweb at eye level. This is a common occurrence. I can be seen, on the regular, walking with my arms flailing about in front of me as I make my way around the property. Dog paddling in the air. It’s dignified.
Just as I spot this particular web and stopped, a dragonfly fails to see it and became entangled. Its wings flap furiously but it is unable to break free. It looked a little bit like this:

Ok, it looked exactly like that.

Dramatic, but I chose to take no sides in this battle of arachnid vs flying insect. After a short consultation with my significant other, I learned that was the wrong choice. So back outside I went to save the less creepy insect from his new role as supper. Hooray!

Upon my return to the scene of the crime the dragonfly was still as frustrated as ever. Don’t worry buddy, the highly advanced human is here to help. Snip. One of the 3 anchors of the web cut. Snip, there goes another. Now it’s just the dragonfly dangling from the top of the garage, just out of reach. I’ll need a longer stick to knock it down. Of course, just as I’m searching the ground, looking for the perfect stick to finish my journey and become Sean, insect savior, something else happens: WE HAVE A NEW CHALLENGER.
The owner of the once effective spider web before me is descending down the remaining thread. Rapidly.
Shit.
I move faster, looking for a stick to cut off that last strand. The dragonfly notices the spider too and tries again to break free. I finally find a small branch on the ground, lift it up and throw it at the tiny target. And miss.

The spider, about the size of a silver dollar, compact hairy and dark, reaches the dragonfly. It does what everyone does when a spider lands on you: it flips its shit. Wings beating at an incredible speed, the dragonfly makes a last ditch effort to avoid being eaten.  The web rocks back and forth. SLAM. The vibrations jostle the spider loose, knocking it to the ground. It lays motionless where it fell. The dragonfly does a small “take that” flap of its wings and relaxes.

Ok, wow. This bug has earned it now. I grab the scrubber from the bbq brush and cut the dragon free. It celebrates its freedom by dropping to the ground like a rock. A foot away from the unmoving body of the spider.
So it seems that having wings covered in spiderwebs doesn’t make for an easy getaway. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to clean a bug’s wings without accidentally snapping them off (and I doubt the dragonfly would voluntarily let me give it a bath). So I go inside for a consult.

Long story even longer, guests arrived, hugs, conversation, yadda yadda. 15 minutes later I go back, fully intent to spritz the dragonfly with a gentle setting from the hose. Because every problem can be solved with high-pressure water. When I go back outside, I don’t hear any wings flapping. In fact, I don’t see the dragonfly anywhere. Curious. I keep looking. I also don’t see the spider (who I had presumed deceased) either. Oh.

So I guess what I’m saying is: Don’t get involved in the affairs of insects. It’s trouble. Hell, maybe the spider learned the errors of its predatory ways, made up with the dragonfly, and they eloped to an island to live in sin (the dragonfly barely above the waves, the spider on his back, his hair blowing in the wind). Or they both went to their corners, called it a day and moved on.
Or a bird came along and ate them both.

Writing

First Script – Debrief Part I – Getting Started

The Process

I wrote this script as part of an online course at the local city college. I got to be taught by a professional, on a flexible schedule, with deadlines that forced me to write consistently. Perfect. I realized I needed a kick in the pants to actually take my story somewhere beyond the one paragraph introduction that sat on my computer for years. That’s an important detail: know what you need in order to get something done. Structure, guidance, encouragement, etc. Work within that framework until the momentum takes you from idea to idea, script to script, job to job. Just getting into (and finding) that groove at the start was the hardest part for me. Of course, your mileage may vary.

Here’s the typical flow for an idea to become a beautiful butterfly of a script:
Brainstorm –> Logline –> Summary –> Outline –> Screenplay
This is a combination of my own process over the years (writing nonsense) and tools learned in the screenwriting classes I’ve taken (all 2 of them). I should also point out that I have a degree in Film Studies, so some of the language/structure/flow came more naturally to me than my classmates for these courses.
The only deviation this particular script took was that it started out as a book for the NanoWriMo competition. I didn’t get far (only a few paragraphs really) and that’s where it stayed for years.

Read More about my process

Writing

First Draft Done

One down.
I’ve completed my first original full length screenplay. In this case “completed” means that I’ve finished one terrible first draft and that it has many more drafts to go before it could be considered “good”. Still, I’m pretty proud of it.
As this was my first original script (I have previously completed a page-one* rewrite for a competition), it seems only fitting to look back and figure out what I’ve learned, what I’ve botched, and what the hell I thought I was doing. Not necessarily in that order.
I’ll be posting my “Lessons Learned” over the next week. Hopefully they’ll prove useful/insightful/distracting to even non-writers.

 

*A page-one rewrite is one in which you take the basic premise (it can be the characters, the setting, dialogue, whatever) and then go back to page one and just write your own version of things. In that case I kept the setting, the premise, added some characters, added some action scenes, and changed almost every single line of description and dialogue. It was just easier than hacking away.
Web & Design

70s Potato Dinner

Not Actually Edible

While making dinner the other night, we discovered that the tray we were roasting our sweet potatoes on looked remarkable “70s-ish” with all the brown and yellow colors. So I snapped a shot, extracted the colors, and this palette is what you get. Feel free to use it however you see fit. I might throw together a poster using these with some of the new typefaces I downloaded today as well.

You know, just in case you were wondering.

General

Getting Buzzed at Night

Lint almost killed me the other night.
Not in a “Haha, I had no idea lint knew so many ‘Yo Momma’ jokes!” kind of way. Killed as in physically dead.
To the explanation booth!

Our laundering devices (you may know them as a washer and a dryer) are located outside, under an awning, backed against the detached garage. They are exposed to the elements. Spiders and raccoons are common visitors (tho not together, not since the war). An old and decrepit shelving unit sits next to the dryer. It mostly serves as a place to throw excess lint from the trap (because I’m too lazy to walk 30ft to the trashcan).

This has built up over the years. So much so that one entire shelf is lint. A multicolored fluffy wonderland.
I venture out there to put some newly washed clothes into the dryer, as is my custom. Given my carefree nature and disregard for social norms, I throw open the dryer door with reckless abandon. Ok, so I opened it a bit too enthusiastically (I love dry clothes). The door swings open, smacking into the old bookcase (take that!). And then, a soft buzz.

A buzz? Looking closer at the shelf, I notice a container of some chemical agent. Maybe it’s just letting off pressure from my abrupt jostling.
Instead of dissipating, the buzzing builds. Louder and angrier. The lint is mad at me.

Out from the castoffs of a million dried towels burrows a furry insect. And then another. And then 5 more. Then 20.

Fucking BUMBLE BEES.

They come out into the crisp night air to get a good look at the assclown that thought he could disrupt their slumber and get away with it. A few take flight. At this point, three thoughts are going through my head (in this order):

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1) Do bumble bees sting?*

2) Insects are cold-blooded. How quickly will they die in the night air?*

3) Can someone edit my obituary so it doesn’t say that I was killed doing laundry?*

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So I close the doors to the washing machines and dryer (distraction tactic!) and run for the house. They won’t take me this night! Of course, I was ducking and swearing and swinging my arms around like a fool while I was doing this. Dignity was not an option.

Oh, I should mention; I’m quite allergic to bee/wasp stings. I had angered the wrong insect.
But all is well. Sure, they’re still living in the lint, and now I do laundry wearing a hazmat suit, but maybe this is the opening salvo in peace talks between our two peoples.
“I’m sorry I hit your house with the dryer door.”
“It’s ok, we just think about what honey REALLY is and laugh our stingers off.”

*Turns out the answer are 1) Yes, as much as they like (the stingers don’t fall out). 2) They have insulation so that they can venture out into the cold, the tricky bastards. and 3) They’d keep it. It’s just too good of a joke to pass up. Once in a lifetime.

Writing

Nearing the End

I’m 2/3rds of the way through my first original screenplay. I’m at the end of Act II. I’ve beaten and bruised the spirit/body of my main characters and they anxiously await to see how it all shakes out (as am I).

I’ll have a summary of how it’s going in the next few days. Wish me luck.

Quotable, Writing

One Word After Another

The ideas aren’t the hard bit. They’re a small component of the whole. Creating believable people who do more or less what you tell them to is much harder. And hardest by far is the process of simply sitting down and putting one word after another to construct whatever it is you’re trying to build: making it interesting, making it new.

Neil Gaiman

Tech

Finding Mac Flashback

There’s a mac virus making the rounds this week. Yes, I just said “mac” and “virus” in the same sentence. These things happen.
First off, run Software Update to get all the spiffy Java updates waiting for you.
Second, go to Safari :: Preferences ::  Security, and disable Java. Not Javascript, just Java.

Anyhow, the method for checking if you’re infected can be a little cumbersome. It involves using the Terminal app, which not many are comfortable with. So instead, I’ve just wrapped that stuff up into a clickable application.

[box type=”download”]FlashCheck[/box]

It’s a simple Automator app that runs the following:

set +e
defaults read ~/.MacOSX/environment DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES
sleep 2
defaults read /Applications/Safari.app/Contents/Info LSEnvironment
sleep 2
defaults read /Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/Info LSEnvironment
set -e

A file on your desktop will have your results. If it’s empty, you’re good to go. If it has something in it, then it’s time to download something to help you get rid of the virus. ClamAV & Sophos are both free and pretty straightforward. F-Secure has also released a tool specifically designed to get rid of this virus. It’s over here.

I’ll try to keep this up-to-date if I can. Good luck. Let me know if you have any questions.

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Apple’s latest Java update now removes the virus as well. So an update should cure what ails you. Tho an anti-virus app couldn’t hurt going forward.[/box]
Movies & TV, Reviews

When Harry Met Sally – Script Review

When Harry Met Sally by Nora Ephron (with Rob Reiner & Andrew Scheinman)

120 pages. Dated August, 1988

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These “reviews” are coming from the perspective of a beginning screenwriter. The stories and characters are still important, but I will mostly be focusing on the flow and the structure. Spoilers will be marked as such.

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The Queen of modern romantic comedies. New York, quick dialogue, faked orgasms. It has everything. When Harry Met Sally was written by Nora Ephron. Nora penned another great comedy close to my heart: My Blue Heaven two years later in 1990. She’s probably better known for rounding out the Meg Ryan trilogy with Sleepless In Seattle & You’ve Got Mail (which she also directed).

The version of the script I am reviewing was dated form August of 1988. Since the movie was released the next Summer, this is almost certainly a production draft. Especially since, if IMDB is to be believed, several of the lines that are in this script were suggested by stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. Also, director Rob Reiner and producer Andrew Scheinman are credited on this version. That’s another dead giveaway. Let’s dig in.

Read More about Harry & Sally

General

An Offer of Life & Death

My inbox is filled with delightful offers day and night. Various businesses seem quite concerned with my financial and sexual well-being. Today, however, was the first that dealt with issues of my safety.

Subject:  You have been betrayed by some close to you

Some close? Glenn Close? I don’t know her well enough to be betrayed, but thank you for the concern. Am I being betrayed by “some clothes” and they just left out some letters? I’m so confused (and scared).
Maybe they elaborate in the message itself.

[quote]You have been betrayed!!! [/quote] You said as much in the subject. Oh, now I see the three exclamation points. You’re serious here. Ok, I’m paying attention.
[quote]It’s a pity that this how your life is going to come to an end as your death had already been paid for by someone who is very close to you from all investigations.[/quote] Someone paid for my death?! Well, that’s generous of them. I’d hate to have to pay for it myself. Sounds expensive. This person (FROM indicates it is someone named ZECO) has even done investigations to prove that it was someone close to me. Aww, so sweet.

Read More of this Adventure!

Music, Writing

Music to Write To: Part 1

Not everyone can write (or work) with music playing. If you’re one of those people, feel free to skip this post. I’ve found that music with no lyrics (or very few. chanting is fine) works the best for me. So I stick with classical, soundtracks, and electronica. Your mileage may vary. These are a few of the albums/songs that help me focus. Helps me shut off the outside world and get into the one I’ve created.

Clint Mansell – Black Swan Soundtrack

An easy pick. An updated take on some classical work. It also builds and releases a lot of tension throughout the tracks. Great for when you’re building suspense in a scene.

Air (specifically Night Sight and Alone in Kyoto)

Those French, what with their electronic music and their..um, transparent pants? Contemplative electronic music that doesn’t jar you. Not quite on the level of ambient music (which can tend to drone), but calming still.

Ólafur Arnalds – Found Songs

No, I can’t pronounce it either. Light strings and piano work dominate this album. No dramatic horns or deep bass. Ideal for dialogue work.

Philip Glass – Naqoyqatsi Sountrack

Philip Glass can be polarizing to some people. They hate the simplicity and repetition. That’s perfect for my purposes. Many of his soundtracks would probably work, but I find the Naqoyqatsi album to be a bit more mellow than most.

Randy Edelman & Trevor Jones – Last of the Mohicans Soundtrack

Pump up the action. Drama , Drums & Horns, on my. Plus, it’s all too easy to start envisioning the movie as the soundtrack thumps along.
Writing

Murder Your Darlings

Great. Now I’ve gone and created a character I really like, all the while knowing he’s got to die for the story to continue.
Sorry buddy, it’s nothing personal.