Housekeeping

I just spent the last twenty minutes, give or take, cleaning out the several hundred spam messages that have cluttered the messageboards.  Well, they would have, had I not set it so all comments have to be approved before posting.  But, the point is that those twenty minutes are twenty minutes I’m not getting back.  I could have spent those minutes doing actual work, but instead they were not.

So, until I find a better way to filter the spambots, comments have been disabled until further notice.  Most of you regular visitors comment on FB, and now have the option to do so on my Twitter page (#NotBradAbraham).  I encourage you to visit both as it’s nice to be loved, even in a non-intensive, minimal-internet-effort kind of way.

I’m neck deep in rewriting my novel, and on a revamped TV pilot I’m Exec Producing, so there’ll be more news on those fronts in the coming weeks (as well as a few surprises).  So, stay tuned …

Mysterious Ways

Wow, I should write more pieces about U2, given how popular it was.  Anyway, here’s the rest of it. To my friends in New Zealand seeing U2 this week, drop me a line, let me know how it was.

When I walked into the record store, the owner was playing what I would later learn was “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” but I was all eyes at that point, and not ears.  I looked for the new release rack and finally found what I was looking for.  It took me a minute, because the first thing you notice about Achtung Baby is its cover.

It was off-putting, coming from a band who had up to that point selected a single image for their cover art:

So right away it didn’t look like U2, but that didn’t discourage me, obviously, because I threw down for the cassette copy, as I didn’t own a CD player at this point, yet had a Walkman, a boom box and a car stereo with tape deck.  I paid for it, declined the bag, and ripped the cellophane off the case on the way back to my car.  I slid behind the wheel, fired it up and popped in Achtung Baby.  The test signal rolled first and I set levels, and then, music …

ZOO STATION

When it started, it sounded like my stereo speakers were broken, and it wasn’t until Bono started singing that I realized that was the entire point.  Given the last U2 song released was the melodic All I Want Is You (well, technically a cover of Cole Porter’s Night and Day” from the Red Hot + Blue compilation followed that), it was music from a different planet, but still very much U2.  I really wasn’t crazy about it to be honest, but now I can’t imagine the album without it.

EVEN BETTER THAN THE REAL THING

Now this was more like the U2 I knew – a sweeping rock anthem, blending the old and the new.  The “rhythm and blues” influence of The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum was gone, and it harkened back to The Unforgettable Fire in its “European feel” but by this point it was clear that AB was a totally different beast.

ONE

Some songs take several listens to “get” but “One” was one I got the moment I heard it, and is probably their best known, best loved song.  It’s apparently a popular song at weddings too, which blows my mind because if you listen to the lyrics, you realize pretty damn quickly it’s not a love song.  With lyrics like “You ask me to enter/ but then you make me crawl/ and I can’t keep holding on / when all you got is hurt,” it is ironic their most popular song is also their most misunderstood.  It’s hard to think of this era in music and with U2 to be “Classic Rock” but One is a classic.

UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD

It’s about Judas, and his betrayal of Jesus, told from Iscariot’s perspective, but for me, it seemed to speak to what I was going through at that time in my life; an on-again-off-again relationship with a girl who was much more into me than I was into her, being stupidly into someone else who I had no chance with.  And by the time I realized I had made a big mistake it was too late.  She’d moved on, and told me it would be the end of the world before she reconsidered.

WHO’S GONNA RIDE YOUR WILD HORSES

A nice salve after the bitterness of the previous tunes, it’s one of the lesser tunes on the album, at least for me.  I think it is for U2 also, given how the fact it was a single, it really isn’t remembered.  It’s the closest to a Joshua Tree-era tune on the album and stands out for it.

SO CRUEL

For some strange reason, the song that becomes before the side break on pretty much every U2 album becomes my favorite on that album, and So Cruel fits that bill.  It’s simple and melodic, and sets up the two songs that follow.  One of the things we lost with the rise of the CD is that “act break,” the song that holds its spell on you as you flip the cassette or album over; something to linger while you wait for the next track.  So Cruel still does that.

THE FLY

I already went in-depth on The Fly and its video last installment, but I didn’t realize at the time how this song and that video would be the blueprint for what was to follow shortly.  U2 had long wanted to “redefine” the concert experience and what the subsequently pulled off did just that – and that influence can be seen and felt to this very day.

MYSTERIOUS WAYS

The first time I listened to Mysterious Ways, I didn’t like it.  It was too “dance” too “House”, and as a self-import and, self-involved 18 year old, those things were just wrong.  Now, it’s my favorite song on the album after So Cruel, and best played loud.  Go figure.

TRYING TO THROW YOUR ARMS AROUND THE WORLD

To this day, every time I hear it, I think of a very particular scene; me, driving the streets of my town after dark.  It’s winter, the ground is covered with snow and every street feels abandoned.  There are no people out and fewer cars, but the music coming from the stereo is warm and soothing.

ULTRAVIOLET (LIGHT MY WAY)

There’s a scene in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly where Jean-Dominique Bauby, paralyzed by a stroke, is remembering a trip he took with a mistress, and as we segue into the flashback, the first strings of Ultraviolet can be heard, before BLASTING into the big intro.  The image, of the mistress from behind as she sits in the passenger seat of a convertible, her hair whipping in the wind, is now forever associated with this song, but it remains one of my favorite tracks on the album.  U2 resurrected it from limbo for their current U2 360 tour as an encore, as a throw to their fans, who by all accounts are thriled to see lss known songs make the playlist.

ACROBAT

Its refrain of “don’t let the bastards grind you down” has become my personal mantra.  They try their best, and sometimes it looks like they’ll win, but I always bounce back and am still here when so many of them have gone.

LOVE IS BLINDNESS

The somber closing to a joyous and yet bitter collection of songs.  A downbeat song they closed shows on their tour with and didn’t diminish the high everyone felt coming out of it.

So yeah, despite Nirvana and Pearl Jam, RHCP, Ministry, Soundgarden and countless others occupying the sonic landscape, AB remained lodged in my tape deck for months, it seems, and remains my favorite “winter album” — yes, being Canadian, Achtung Baby makes me think of snow and chilly air.  A lot of stuff happened in those remaining weeks of 1991 and AB was the soundtrack to it.  Hell, when I started college the following fall it was still out there, still playing in record stores, still blasting from dorm rooms – albums had a longevity then that they don’t have now.  In fact, in the 19 years since then I don’t think I ever stopped listening to it.

In March 1992 I got to realize a dream of the previous 5 years and saw them on their Zoo TV tour.  I cut afternoon classes and drove the three hours to Toronto with three friends, spent a good part of the day wandering the city near the venue, and got to see The Pixies open for U2.  It was, of course, an amazing show and an amazing experience – hell, The Pixies actually opened for them on that leg of the tour – but I realized much later that seeing U2 live represented the climactic moment of my love for that band.  I’m still a fan, and will be until I die, even though they’re not the pinnacle of my musical taste like they were.  Seeing Zoo TV was the conclusion of that period of my life, which was changing quickly.  I graduated High School three months later, I moved away to College five months after that (and ended up living down the street from Maple Leaf Gardens where I saw U2 barely half a year before).  I saw them again in August of that year, and then thirteen years passed before I saw them once more, on their Vertigo Tour, general admission, right up front.  That’s probably the last time I’ll see them perform, live, because nothing could top that experience outside of being their personal guest or something.

People change and music changes, and 19 years can seem like 19 years, and can also seem like just last week or last year.  The agonizing wait for an album is gone – music gets leaked, officially or unofficially – in the case of their No Line on the Horizon album they streamed it on their MySpace site for a week prior to the album’s release.

I’m a U2 fan, but will probably never be as into U2 as I was in 1988-1992 and probably will never be into any band that much again.  Music obsession is a young man’s game and it has to be, because that music will be with you for the rest of your  life.  When Generation X hits retirement age, rest homes across the world will have Grunge nights, and arguments will break out in the lunch room over the merits of Nirvana over Pearl Jam, just like High School with more wrinkles, more grey hair and less of it.  The rec room will be filled with the music of Ministry and Nine Inch nails, and especially U2.  II still listen to Achtung Baby regularly, like Doolittle, like Nevermind, like so many other albums that stood the test of time.  And, like every memory I have of that year and time of my life, I’ll never stop listening to it.

 

Even Better than the Real Thing

19 years ago this very day, I ducked out of school on my lunch break, drove to the local record store, and bought this:

November 19, 1991 was the day it was released, and here’s the story behind it.

I have a confession to make – I am a U2 fan.  I realize that’s an un-cool statement to make, given that U2 are not cool by the normal standard.  The only thing cool about U2 is to viscerally hate their pompous, earnest stadium rock (the same grief Coldplay gets – and another band I quite like, so there).  Somehow, Radiohead gets a pass because they’re all arty and serious, but their fans are the biggest shitheads around and worse than people who constantly berate you for buying a Mac instead of a PC, because these things supposedly matter.  But I am a U2 fan – I have all their albums, saw them in concert several times, and even liked No Line on the Horizon.

This all has to do, I realize, with the age I discovered them.

I discovered them, along with most of you, in 1987 when The Joshua Tree was released and you couldn’t walk the street without tripping over “With or Without You.”  For an impressionable fourteen year old, the great thing about U2 was that they weren’t what was clogging the airwaves at the time – Bon Jovi and Warrant and “Unskinny Bop” – they were serious, they had a conscience, they were all about Amnesty International and Greenpeace and to someone on the cusp of adulthood, concern for the state of the world was becoming a growing concern.

[I also attribute that to my parents, who did an excellent job of reminding me how lucky I was to be living in Canada.  When Martial Law was declared in Poland in 1982, and I was complaining about taking out the garbage, I got a stern lecture about how lucky I was not to face being shot for wandering the streets after curfew.  I was 9 years old.]

Another reason I responded to them was, by this point, I was still the “new kid” at my school and at my new hometown.  We’d moved in August 1986 and while I made friends fast, still felt like something of an outsider.  And as so much of The Joshua Tree is about alienation, and fear, and desire, it was like handing a glass of ice water to a man dying of thirst.  So I dug U2, but not in a huge way.  I didn’t get The Joshua Tree until Christmas 1987 (on Vinyl), and had to make a cassette copy to listen to on my walkman.  Of course, the U2 steamroller had just got going when they dropped Rattle and Hum – the album and the movie, and went from “cool, serious band” to “overexposed” in a heartbeat.  I saw Rattle and Hum in the theater on a visit to Toronto, and as it was my first exposure to the band in something of a live setting, my appreciation for them deepened.  The only concerts I’d been to by that point were Jan and Dean, Donny and Marie, and a pre-Private Dancer Tina Turner, so seeing Bono’s ego projected larger than life was a sight to behold.  But more important, the theater sound system was the best stereo one could imagine – the walls were shaking.  Needless to say after the experience I was a full-on fan, no longer just a casual one.  I bought up their back catalog and nearly wore the cassettes out.  The fact that R&H is not a good album by U2 (or anyone else’s) standards is beside the point – it was the right album, and the right movie, at the right time.  I was a fan now, and I anxiously awaited their next album.

And waited.  And waited.  And waited …

1988 became 1989, which became 1990 and then 1991 and there was no sign of a new album.  Unlike this internet age where you have that information at your fingertips (true or rumored), in the early 1990s you either read about it in Rolling Stone or Spin, or you heard nothing.  One advantage of the wait was I filled the gap by discovering other bands who would become as important to me as U2 – Midnight Oil, INXS, REM, The Pixies, Jane’s Addiction, and many more.  Summer 1991 saw the first Lollapalooza festival, Pearl Jam’s Ten, and by September the Pixies released Trompe Le Monde, and Nirvana released Nevermind.

Think of that: 1987 was The Joshua Tree, Bon Jovi, Warrant and Unskinny Bop; 4 years later was Pearl Jam, Lollapalooza and Nirvana.  The Berlin Wall had come down, the Soviet Union was on the way out, and still nothing new from U2.  A lot can change in four years, but an even bigger change was coming.

In late September of 1991 I was in Ottawa, crashing at some friends’ place, and had picked up the newest issue of Rolling Stone (with Guns n’ Roses on the cover – remember Use Your Illusion?).  And in the news section there was a small blurb about U2’s new studio album being readied for release.  The title was Achtung Baby, with the first single “The Fly” set for release in October.

I thought it was a joke.  Really?  They’re calling it Achtung Baby?  They’re releasing a song called The Fly?  This, from the band behind the painfully earnest Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum?  It had to be a misprint.  They couldn’t be serious.

Could they?

I began to wonder … by now I was well into the left of the dial music that was slowly sweeping across the land.  By the time AB dropped on November 19, 1991, would I even be interested?  Would I even care? This was not a new phenomenon; in years since I’ve fallen in love and then out of love with lots of bands.  Some were just brief affairs of an album or two, some lasted years before fizzling entirely.  Some I still listen to and buy their new releases, but it still feels like a sense of duty more than something I genuinely want to hear.

Late October, “The Fly” was released.  I didn’t so much hear it as see the tail end of the video on Much Music when I got home from school.  It was a good 30 seconds before I realized it was even U2.  Bono was wearing these goofy wrap-around shades; The Edge was wearing his soon to be ubiquitous knit cap and (gasp) bell bottoms.  This wasn’t the U2 of The Joshua Tree, and the music wasn’t like anything U2 had done before.  I was intrigued, but after the low-fi sonic assault of Nevermind, this slick, studio stuff seemed more self-indulgent than anything else.

There was still a month before release, and on a trip to the record store to grab Badmotorfinger by Soundgarden, I happened upon a cassette single (a.k.a. “cassingle”) for The Fly.

I picked it up too and on the way home gave The Fly a listen.   I listened to it several times, along with an included remix, and an instrumental track they did for a Royal Shakespeare Co. production of A Clockwork Orange.   It was all very … different, but as is the case with anything, the more you listen, the more it tends to grow on you.  So everything was in flux come November 1991.  The weekend prior to AB’s release I saw The Pixies at Porter Hall in Ottawa – which is a totally different story I’ll tell some day – and on Tuesday November 21 I left school at lunch to hit the record store.  You see, this was THE DAY that Achtung Baby, U2’s first album in more than three years, was on shelves.  To risk restating the experience of buying it, click HERE if you haven’t already.  Done?  Good.

Because in Part 2 we go in-depth…

Bar Italia

Greetings from Italy, where I’m neck deep in the second draft of my novel; after two weeks I’m finally making decent progress, and still managing to find time to walk the streets, hit the café’s and be all writer-ly.  I bought a nice tailor made suit, and the locals have already given me the nickname “il produttore irritato” which means something I don’t have time to look up. 

Okay I’m not “literally in Italy,” which sounds like the title of a bad RomCom (now my title for a bad RomCom – steal it at your peril.  Seriously, my lawyer could use the work).  I’m there in spirit, but believe me if I had the means I’d be there in a heartbeat, walking the streets of Florence, visiting the Uffizi and Santa Croce and Santa Fiore, the Ponte Vecchio – but more likely holed up in some apartment or hotel room, scribbling furiously.  It’s a challenge, writing about a place you’ve never been, but given this place I’ve never been is really the place five hundred years ago, that place no longer exists.  So the result is me, at my desk here in New York, wading through a 600 page manuscript, and chipping my way through that work in the hopes of coming out the other end with something remarkable.  What it’s involved has been a lot of fresh starts and total rewrites, but some cutting and pasting, and for some nice passages, only basic grammatical corrections.  I punch in at 8 and punch out at 5, unless I hit “the wall” before that, when I realize I’ve been sitting and starring at the same page for the past ten minutes, unable to proceed any further.

I’ve been keeping up a decent pace; I’m getting through about 10-15 pages a day, which works out to roughly 3500 words a day – and of that 3500, maybe 1000 represents “new” writing.  I’m still in the first quarter of the novel – i.e. the part that was written over three years before, and I’m cautiously optimistic (meaning I really hope) the most radical rewrites will be with the oldest material.  I managed to push through the final 40,000 words over the first two months of 2010, so hopefully I’ll move faster the further I get into it.  Still, at roughly a thousand words a day, that’s still 5000 a week, which is pretty good if I must say.  Of course, it also reminds me of how difficult getting to those words a day can be, and also makes me curse the fact I don’t get paid by the word.  I’ve given myself to my birthday to get the thing into shape, so we’ll see how I do.

[The process has also proven a weird thing about my business and my work; whenever I’m hitting my stride on a personal project, a work-related one comes barging in.  Case in point: a TV series I’m Exec Producer and writer of just got a shot of adrenaline at AFM, so I’ll be pulling double duty on it and the novel over the next month or so.  This is not a complaint.]

Some days I hit the ground running.  Other days I don’t.  Sometimes the words come easy.  Sometimes they have to be dragged out kicking and screaming.  Occasionally I want to slink back under the covers and get another few hours of sleep, cut out on work and watch movies or play video games, or read, or do anything other than my work.  But, for the most part, I manage to get down to it and be pretty prolific.  On a good day of screenwriting I can knock out a solid six pages.  With prose, I aim for 1000 to 2000 words a day. When writing a comic book, I aim for five pages of the actual book a day to give me a first draft (albeit a rough first) in a week.  All of the above don’t take rewrites into account, as it’s the rewrites that take the most work and time.  Add in the occasional magazine piece, and I’m pretty much at my desk, keeping as normal business hours as any of you (the difference being you’re probably being paid for your time, where I am working towards the possibility of being paid someday).  It’s a grind, to be sure, but something that happened not too long ago really threw into perspective how much things have changed and I have changed over the last two decades.

So there I was, sorting through some old boxes – the type that have travelled with me from place to place but rarely, if ever opened, when what do I unearth but several folders containing pretty much everything I wrote – creative writing, essays, plays, scripts, et al – in High School?  I guess the first thing I’d like to say about them is they’re brilliant; a true time capsule moment where a budding writer found his voice and pointed to the success and acclaim to come.  I could say that but for the fact it would be total and utter bullshit.  It’s not great.  It’s stuff written by a High School student because he had to, not because he wanted to.  It’s quite the experience to sit there as a 30-something and read the words and thoughts of my 15 year old self.  I find I agree with the grades my teachers assigned to many of these assignments, and I will go on record in saying that they were overall good grades – I think the lowest may have been a 75%, though it wouldn’t have been beyond me to throw out ones that got a worse grade, and those moments and words are now forever lost to time.

But what really gave me pause in re-reading these unearthed treasures made me realize that these are the only copies of these works in existence, and made me wonder how many hours, days and even weeks were occupied in the writing of them.  It also makes me realize that I’m a much more sentimental person than I’ll cop to.  I’m notorious for chucking out things that I wish I’d hung onto years down the road and have probably thrown out more things than I can remember.  The fact they’ve been wiped from my memory is something that weighs heavily on my mind. 

Some of these essays are typed – written on either a manual typewriter, or by utilizing the awesome processing power of the Apple 2C home computer, and printed out on a dot matrix printer.  The copies I have are the only copies out there, which tells me I should really scan the documents in the off chance the originals get destroyed because when my papers are donated to some university decades from now (ego is a necessary component of writing after all), future generations will want to dissect and digest every word I ever put to paper, real or virtual. 

It makes me think about all the things I threw away and can never have back.  I think of old class photos, Valentines and Birthday cards, Christmas pageant programs – all those disposable things we never think we’re going to want to look at again, only to be happily surprised when you discover some stuffed between the pages of an old photo album.  For an example, in 1989-1990 I was a member of the Brockville Operatic Society and “performed” in their productions of Lil’ Abner and Damn Yankees, and during my archaeological search through banker’s boxes, I unearthed a bunch of programs, a review, and photos of the show that made the local paper.  And the only reason those are still here is because the 17 year old I was shoved them into a pile of papers that managed to travel with me over the ensuing 20 years worth of cities and countries and apartments. 

The genesis of my Mixtape project was a direct result of that uncanny bit of foresight.  The combination of unearthing my old collection of music cassettes and boom box, piles of old Rolling Stone and Spin magazines, and old yearbooks, and mementos from 90s era life were a definite inspiration for it.

Re-read the third paragraph again; in the final weeks of drafting my novel, I was drafting 1500-2000 words a day.  The average length of a major High School essay, worth 30-40% of your final mark in some cases, was 1500-2000 words.  Now, that amount of words is a typical morning for me.  Hell, peruse several of the posts on this website and you’ll find they’re well into that essay length range.  And as we reach the end of this installment in the ongoing life of this author, I note with pride that I’ve already crossed the 1500 word mark.  My High School self would be proud of me.

NOTE: I’ll be appearing as a guest at the Science Fiction Association of Bergen County this Saturday (http://www.sfabc.org/), to talk about screenwriting, and to screen Stonehenge Apocalypse.  If you’re local and interested, don’t be a stranger.

Ruiner

Things have been going surprisingly well recently.  After a year that saw a good amount of shit thrown my way, it’s reassuring that it’s finishing up better than it began, and that I managed to survive it.  But, every silver lining needs a cloud, so with that in mind, it’s time to let loose on the things that piss me off.  Grab onto your seat and hold on tight.

DOGS

I know, you’re thinking “what kind of monster doesn’t like dogs?”  And honestly, I do like dogs.  I like animals, period; even cats, which I’m not particularly fond of, are fine.  What I don’t like are dogs in the city – this city to be exact.  That’s New York City – and anybody who owns a dog in this city is insane.  No, not you — you’re a perfectly responsible dog owner and an exception to the rule.  You’re Aces, really and should be proud.  But have you seen this place?  Concrete and steel from end to end.  The only greenery you find are in the city parks, all of which are overrun with dogs and their owners.  My favorite park in NYC is the one on Governor’s Island – an oasis of calm off the southern tip of Manhattan – where there are No Dogs Allowed.  It’s bliss.  Frankly, I realize I like dogs too much to want to own one here.  It’s cruel – how many dog owners work 8-10 hours a day, and then commute home to their St. Bernard, which has been cooped up in a shitty 500 square foot studio apartment on the Lower East Side? What does the poor animal do the time their owner’s away?  If it’s my building they bark and howl constantly.  Dogs need a backyard to roam around in, not an open window overlooking the street.  Yes, some people hire a professional “walker” to take their pooches to the park; more often they go with the lowest bidder – in the case of this building and up until recently, a guy in the building who would routinely let the dogs piss in the elevator, which would get into the wiring and put the damn thing out of order.  I live on the ground floor and rarely use the elevator – too bad about the people on the fifth floor who use a walker to get around, huh?  Aside from that, I’ve taken to sleeping with earplugs because I’ve been woken up too many times at five or six in the morning as some jackass takes Rover out to piss in the street and the damn thing barks and yaps all the way there and back again.  So yeah, my dislike of dogs translates more to “dislike of people who own dogs without taking  the animal’s welfare into account” but it doesn’t change the fact that if you own a Dog in Manhattan, you’re an asshole.  And speaking of assholes …

NEIGHBORS

People who know me find it a constant source of amusement that as a notorious misanthrope I choose to live in one of the most densely populated cities on Earth, and not some shack in the woods, miles from the nearest person.  Well what can I say?  I’m an Enigma.  Now living in New York means your nice home with the picket fence and backyard and driveway are unattainable, unless you decide to live in one of the outer Boroughs.  If you live in New York (and apologies to people in Queens and Brooklyn and the Bronx – Manhattan is New York), you live in an apartment, or a condominium.  That means you’re sharing your walls and floors and ceiling with other people.  And by “other people” I mean assholes.  Yes, we’re all guilty of forgetting that we’re not the only person on the fucking planet, and that we sometimes would be better served by showing some consideration for others.  I know this, so why don’t other people?  Up until I reamed him out at 4:30 in the morning, our next door neighbor would BLAST the Meringue music to the point the pictures on the wall and the fixtures in the ceiling would rattle.  4:30 in the morning.  Nice, huh?  He’s since mellowed somewhat (I think building management finally told him he was being evicted if he kept pulling his shit), but a mellow asshole is still an asshole.  There’s also the upstairs neighbors who, if you listen closely enough (i.e. midnight Wednesday and you’re trying to sleep) can hear screw loudly and grunting and groaning.  What’s the big deal? You say … I say this; I’ve seen these people; picture LURCH getting it on with that Snookie thing from that Jersey Show.  If that doesn’t ruin your sleep I don’t know what will.  We all have impossible dreams, as Don Quixote sang; mine is to make so much money I can afford to buy my own goddamn apartment building and evict everyone who lives in it and have the whole thing to myself, forever.  But even then, I know I’d still have to deal with the goddamn …

MOTORCYCLES

A friend is an avid motorcyclist, and yet I know she’s not revving her engine and popping wheelies and roaring up and down a street with a senior’s center and a school and a playground always crammed with kids along the path.  I doubt she and a hundred of her pals spend every summer evening roaring up and down a mixed residential street, setting off car alarms, riding on the sidewalk, and popping wheelies.  I know this because she’s in Toronto, not in New York where with all the predictability of the change in seasons, the motorcycles come.  Contrary to popular opinion, a guy furiously typing to meet his deadline does not find the constant revving of engines and the screech of rubber on asphalt conducive to the process.  I know, I know, “suck it up” right?  And I do indeed “suck it up” because it’s part of life in the big bad city.  But know this; any time I hear about some dirt bag on his dirt bike wiping out on FDR Drive and taking a one-way trip into the concrete abutment, I laugh.  Loud and long.

ACTORS

Because this is supposedly a blog about screenwriters who screenwrite, let me alienate a bunch of people in the community and say how much actors can piss me off.  Again, not all actors.  Most of the ones I’ve worked with and dealt with have been aces – one even made suggestions on RoboCop that actually made for a better movie.  Usually, like 99% of the time, they’re there to work, to bring it day after day, and give you everything.  But, there’s that vocal 1% that makes you wonder how they function in normal life; that the virtue of pretending to be someone else for a living gives them a license to be the most annoying dickbags on the planet. 

Case in point – and I bring this up because 15 years is a long enough time – filming my final year project at Ryerson, I mistakenly cast an actor who claimed to be “physical” and “intense” and “able to do his own stunts” on a film heavy on the physical intense stunts.  He was cast, we rolled film, and then he wussed out.  He wouldn’t do the stuff we cast him for.  He had a glass jaw, I bet.  He wouldn’t jump when we asked him to; he wouldn’t perform the way he promised he could.  He complained, a lot, he hit on the female members of the crew… in short he was a disaster.  He was also an idiot to pull the prima donna act because he failed to take into consideration that his character was a) masked for the largest portion of the filming, and b) anybody could wear that mask.  This meant that we put that masks on anyone and everyone who’d wear it, and film them over him, which only got him more mad about it (one of the crew who donned the mask was a girl and she looked tougher in it than he ever did).  My frustration boiled over when our physical, intense actor refused to jump from a platform to the ground below – maybe six feet distance.  He was worried about hurting his ankle, even though everyone on the crew and some of the actors demonstrated the ease of said jump.  Finally I said, okay; give your costume to the camera assistant, he’ll do the jump.  The actor handed over the jacket and the mask, but balked at the pants.  This prompted a command that became legendary at Ryerson in 1995 and is still remembered by people who weren’t even there that day as I bellowed “You either JUMP, or give Alex your PANTS!”  The actor relented and wrapped himself in a smelly sound blanket, the camera assistant Alex did the jump, and we wrapped. So to actors out there great and small; your job is to act, not give grief.  Do the former, skip the latter, and you will never, ever want for work.

PANHANDLERS

I don’t give to charity.  Not money.  Time?  Yes. You need someone to stuff envelopes or help at an event I’ll probably be there.  But I no longer give money to people or organizations because I know it doesn’t make a difference to them or to me.  My wife does, occasionally – rather she did give to one organization recently and guess what happened?  The mail started arriving.  Word got out that she’s a kind, giving, altruistic person and they saw an easy mark.  They call us now looking for donations, and reminded me of a time years ago when I made a mistake in giving to a charity.  In that case they called me again and again, almost monthly as part of their “annual Appeal” forgetting that “Annual” means “once a fucking year, not twelve times).  I do still give money to the Billy Bishop Museum in Owen Sound – the lone exception to this rule – because we have a special relationship; they agree not to bug me, and I agree to donate a fixed sum once a year.  I’ve been doing it for eight years now and that’s the best I’ll do.  What, you ask, does this have to do with panhandling?  They’re kind of the same thing in my book; someone asking you to give money to them, and giving me nothing in return. “But, what about the good feeling that you made a difference?” I’ll go on the record here; your charitable donation doesn’t make a difference.  You know what does make a difference?  Action, on your part.  Go volunteer at a soup kitchen, go volunteer to help a cause you believe in.  Just don’t give them your money because all you’re doing is encouraging them.  Ditto the subway panhandlers – 99% of whom are professional scammers who are going to use your money for booze and drugs. 

Once some guy asked me for money to “buy a coffee.” This was as I was going to buy a coffee for myself so in I went, and got myself a cup, and a cup for him.  On my way out I handed it to him. He then asked me for money. I told him I don’t have money to give him because I just bought him a coffee.  He threw the coffee onto the ground and called me a motherfucker.  That’s why I don’t give to panhandlers. 

And lastly …

EMAIL

People – answer your fucking email.  You just insult the sender and embarrass yourself when you don’t.