Strange Currencies

The Internet has changed so much in our lives; who knew it could change language also?  One of my daily rituals with this website is to log into the user panel and see if anybody’s left feedback on my ramblings.  Generally there’s a good 8-10 responses logged, and if I’m lucky one of those responses will actually be from a person who actually read it.  The rest of them are always spam and likely spambots, but I like to think that they are some Nigerian Royalty or Phillipino child laborer passionately trying to help me score a cheap knock-off Rolex or Ugg Boots or Viagra.

Newsflash: If I really want cheap knockoff illegal merchandise, Canal Street is a subway ride away.  And furthermore; who actually reads an email about cheap Viagra and actually say “hey, that sounds like a good deal!”  There has to be at least a couple out there to make the mass spamming cost effective.  There’s more than six billion people on earth; if only one tenth of one per cent of the people on the planet actually respond to the spam and buy the cheap Viagra, that’s still 16,743,135.1 totally gullible morons out there who I should really track down and pitch an “exciting investment opportunity” to.  And if you accept the fact that the percentile of absolute fucking morons on earth are in the forty to fifty per cent range, well, clearly those spammers aren’t going out of business anytime soon.

So yes, I clean out the spam and curse you all for reading these posts and not responding to them (seriously, help a brother out, ‘kay?), but damn it all, I can’t get angry at them … just check out the absolute BRILLIANCE of this work of genius.  I wish I could write something this profound:

Ultimately, I founded the expertise I was looking out for. We have been holding out due diligence on this topic, and for four days I preserve obtaining web-sites which are supposed to possess what I am hunting for, only to be disappointed working with the don’t have of what I wished. I wish I could have discovered your site sooner! I had about 25% of what I applied to get in need of and your web page has that, plus the rest of what I important to end my studying. We now have activated to this site right here I like that you will observe authentic report written content that you’ll be capable to hardly find out elsewhere. One beneficial point, you perhaps can receive nevertheless these types of weblogs, ensure you go on! I can no extended see the well-known media. It may be there a lot rubbish printed, I bear it no significantly much more quickly. A certainly pleasant weblog and good write-up. I shell out days inside the planet huge world-wide-web learning blogs, about tons of quite a few subjects. I should original of all give kudos to whoever founded your web sites and second of all to you for composing what i can only describe as an post. I honestly feel there’s a capacity to writing articles or web site blogposts that only several posses and frankly you may have it. The mixture of interesting and exceptional content material is unquestionably exceptionally tight utilizing the massive volume of web round the on the net world.Usually retain a extremely excellent give good final results!”

“Extremely excellent give good final results?”  Damn that could be the most positive review of anything I’ve ever done ever.  It’s also comforting that what I write here “ should give kudos to whoever founded your web sites and second of all to you for composing what I can only describe as an post.”  Well my friend it certainly is “an post” and I’m glad it touched you in that special place and in that special way.

Isn’t that amazing?  It’s like some weird beat poetry.  If I was motivated enough to make an asshole out of myself (at least in public – I do a good enough job of that here), I’d don a black turtleneck and traipse down to the Village to one of those open mic night/poetry slams and read that fucking thing in front of a crowd. It’s the written equivalent of trying to deal with Hewlett Packard’s customer service; they try so damn hard to convince you that they’re not in some call center in Mumbai but in the good ol U S of A like you, and as anxious to give you advice that won’t help you one bit as they are about talking about “that sporting match on the telly the other day, y’all.”

It’s actually quite charming and the fact the spam doesn’t annoy me as much as it should is because of that Dali-esque prose that’s somewhere between Dylan Thomas three seconds before face-planting outside the White Horse Tavern, and Ziggy Stardust.

But spam doesn’t have to be the annoyance we so often let it be.  Back in the early 00’s – the Oughties — my spam folder would fill up with messages from around the world.  The messages were always deleted but not before I looked over the names of the senders, because a lot of the fictitious names posted were, to a writer’s ear, great character names that I would appropriate and use in my own work.  Two of the characters in RoboCop Prime Directives – Ed Hobley and Sandra Smyles – were spam names.  The unproduced Black Christmas screenplay I wrote had Heather Roach and Charlie Stokes pulled from the world wide web and into what is widely regarded as one of the best unproduced remake screenplays ever.  Prior to RoboCop, my former writing partner and I drafted a treatment for what was to be a black comedy set in the funeral industry, which boasted spam worthy names like Dorianne Butters, Stan Talon, Lloyd Bangs and Joy Meadows … only in a couple cases they were real names of actual people who, for legal reasons, shall not be revealed.

So the fact that one “Douglass Medus” took the time to write —

I’m thankful for this beneficial brilliant page; this could be the variety of subject that sustains me though out the day.We’ve often heard been not long ago looking close to inside your web-site ideal immediately after I noticed about these from a near good friend and was delighted when I was in a very placement to acquire it adhering to looking out for some time. Being a enthusiastic blogger, I’m happy to view other people today taking effort and including to the neighborhood. I just wanted to remark to demonstrate my comprehending for a upload because it is particularly inviting, and many writers do not get the credit score they have earned. I’m optimistic I’ll be back again once again and can send a couple of of my friends.

— means that Douglass is totally being written into the screenplay I’m polishing up for presentation.  Hell with a name like Douglass Medus, he should be the goddamn hero of the tale.  He won’t get me to release any information on my credit score, but he can be content in the knowledge that he’s about to be immortalized in screenplay format.  You’re welcome, Douglass.  You’re so welcome.

And to “Rodrigo Poage” and “Cordia Blakeney” – keep smiling, sunshine, ‘cause you’re next.

These Days

So it’s Monday morning and I’m at one of those rare points in my usual run of things where I literally don’t know what to do with myself.  Check that; I do know what to do – there’s no shortage of things I could be doing – only I’m finding it difficult to muster up the motivation to do them.  What I need to do and what I want to do are totally different.  I need to do follow-ups, I need to prompt responses out of people, I need to do dishes and I need to take out the trash.

Now, that’s what I need to do.  I want to avoid it all.  I want to flake out and read comic books.  I want to flake out and watch a couple movies.  I want to crawl back into bed and catch up on the sleep I haven’t been getting lately.

“Yeah, yeah,” you’re saying.  “Who wouldn’t want to do those things?  Our lives are filled with things we don’t want to do.  But, we do them anyway because we have to if we’re to have the lives we want.”

You then follow up with; “Wait, aren’t you in your pajamas right now, tapping away on your computer, while I’m at my crummy office job, dealing with all of the BS you don’t have to, and haven’t had to deal with since sometime in late 1998?  And when I punch today’s clock I still have to go home and do all the stuff you’re complaining about right now?  Allow me to break out my violin.”

To which I counter, “yeah, it’s so tough earning a regular paycheck and all the perks and benefits that come with steady employment.  It’s so rough having three weeks paid vacation and sick days.  Oh, I have a sniffle, better call in and tell them so I can stay in bed and still draw salary.  You know what happens when I feel like crap?  I drag myself over to my desk and work through it anyway.  Deadlines don’t give a shit about how I feel.  If I don’t work, if I don’t write, there’s nobody there to cover for me. “

“You chose that life,” you say.

“And you chose yours,” I retort.  Then we stop talking to each other for a bit.

So yeah, I feel like a lazy bastard today.  I was a lazy bastard all weekend if you must know.  I poked my head out for an hour or so on Saturday to grab groceries and take a walk in the park but Sunday I stayed in.  We both did — actually Friday was our weekend,as it involved errands and dinner, and seeing a friend off as they moved to LA.

Yet in my defense there is what I like to call a “calm before the crazy” aspect involved here.  To wit, take into consideration last week, when, after finishing up a project on a Friday (detailed here) I get an email about starting another.  It happens infrequently – too infrequently if you ask me – but when it does, you can’t help but be thrilled, especially of it’s with people you’ve worked with before and found to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

I’m not at liberty to divulge the details yet (partly out of superstition, but more out of professional obligation) – I wait until papers are signed and work actually commences to do that, but it looks like I’m on the clock through the remainder of 2010 and probably into 2011 on a Top Secret Project.  I’m sworn to secrecy, but can divulge that it’s a genre busting piece, it’s Horror (my favorite genre), and involves my least favorite horror types (take a wild guess and you’ll probably be right).  The fact that this particular subgenre has been done to death is something I take as a challenge, but given the producers have come up with a take I really haven’t seen before, I look forward to injecting some new blood into a dusty corpse.

How this impacts my other work is anybody’s guess, as I’m due to commence rewriting another script for another company in the coming months. Plus, there’s the matter of the Mixtape project, the novel, and other more mundane business matters.  Still, I’m never one to complain when people ask what I’m working on and I can actually tell them, by telling them nothing about it at all.

But dammit, I still don’t want to do dishes today.

Not finished – just abandoned

I’m in a celebratory mood this week, as I just completed drafting a new screenplay.  It’s not “finished” to the degree of finality you you’d expect for, in the words of Leonardo da Vinci, “Art is never finished; merely abandoned.”  So with that in mind, I am ready to abandon this one for the time being and see where it takes me, but it does lead me to want to answer a question I’m asked with alarming frequency; “how long does it take you to write a screenplay?”

In the case of the one just completed, the answer is easy – one year; twelve months, 365 days and so forth.  That’s one year, from sitting at this very desk and outlining the story, to typing Fade To Black and The End.  That’s been the average in my experience.

Now, that’s not to say the entire year was spend writing; in this case, I spent a month writing the detailed treatment and character bios, let six months pass before tackling the first rough draft, then another six passed before tackling the second pass, the result being the First Draft.   Bearing that in mind, it was actually twelve weeks of work; three months of actual physical put-your-ass-in-your-chair-and-write work.  And those twelve weeks of actual work came only after seven years of the idea sitting in the back of my brain, gathering dust and waiting for me to nut up and get to it.

[Lest I blow any chance of working for anyone ever again, I wrote all eight hours of RoboCop Prime Directives between January and August of 1999.  That’s four movies in eight months – you do the math.  If I’m doing nothing but solid writing I can bang out a solid 6 pages a day and be done a draft in four weeks.  The fastest I’ve ever drafted a movie was three weeks, and that was because a frankly ridiculous deadline had been imposed on me that I met if only to prove I could meet it (I did meet it too, so there).  But generally, when hired to write a screenplay the entire process, from contracting to meetings and treatments to drafts and rewrites and more meetings all the way to the final draft in my contract winds up being one year anyway.  I’ve never missed a deadline.

Anyway, a year seems to be the norm to get something into good enough shape to be seen.  That’s because it’s the “down period” between drafts that the real work is done.  I fill this time by working on other projects; magazine work, comic books, my long in gestation novel, and other work-for-hire assignments.  I’m never *not* working – even when I’m away from my desk. The time away from my own work serves as a palate cleanser so, when I finally decide to open the old file and read what I wrote I can look at it with a fresh perspective.

Writing is an art form, and there are two classical schools of art that apply to writing; painting, and sculpture.  I fit into the latter category – I’ll spill everything I have onto the page to get it out of my head and onto paper, before I can begin work in earnest.  I’ll start to cut, to chisel away at words and sentences and paragraphs, polish and chisel and chip away at the raw material until the shape of the story emerges from the page, like a statue emerges from marble.   For example, if you click on this:

Assuming you can decipher my scrawl, you’ll see a lot of notes scribbled in the margin, a lot of stuff crossed out and replace, or omitted entirely.  That’s how I work; by taking that great big slab of raw material and whacking it with a hammer until I find what I’m looking for in it.  That process of refinement is the end and the beginning of the process; it all starts with the idea.

In the case of the recently completed project, it began life as a pitch for a job penning a remake of an old suspense thriller.  I never got the job – actually I never got the chance to pitch it, as the company in question ended up axing pretty much their entire development staff right before Christmas and let the remake rights lapse in the process. So while I never got the chance to pitch the remake, the approach I had to it was unique enough that it could stand on its own as an original piece of work.  All I needed to do was sit down and write the thing.

This was 2003.

Cut to 2009 and found myself at that point between one job and the next, where I ask myself (or more apropos, my wife asks me) what I plan to work on next.  I had a couple ideas, none of which were really exciting me at the time, when she asked about that project – the suspense thriller remake.  I hadn’t forgotten it by any means, but it had been relegated to the dust heap.  I wanted to go onto something new and fresh, but found myself coming back to the old concept. I had been itching to draft a high-concept thriller for a while, something stripped down and minimalist compared to the previous few projects I worked on.  I rummaged through the files and found some early draft outlines – a page here, a scene there, and decided to expand on them, string together the various bits, and see if there was a story in all that mess.  A month later, I had a 30 page treatment that was pretty good, I thought, and decided to put it away for a bit.

That bit became March 2010, when I pulled the treatment out, gave it a read, and felt ready to tackle a draft of it, which I did over the next four weeks.  Upon completion, I shoved it in the drawer and forgot about it until late September, when I pulled it out and read it over, pen in hand, marking the pages up as you have already seen.  Once I got through the edit pass, I got back to work on it and spent the following two weeks inputting the revisions and then rewriting the entire thing all over again, right up until 12:30 pm on Friday October 15th when I finished it; “Finished” in the “ready for some constructive and brutal feedback by my usual stable of readers” sense, not the “stick a fork in it” sense.

Anytime I actually reach The End of a project, I’m only reminded of how much further its journey has to go.  There will be rewrites, there will be changes, and at some point I’ll send it out into the world and hope it becomes one of the lucky few to land a home someplace.  But for now, I’m just pleased that the characters, scenarios and story that’s been rattling around my skull for seven years finally has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Now all it needs is a title.

This may take a while …

Death and All His Friends

As we grow older, we inevitably reach that point where life stops handing you things and starts taking them from you, and when that happens, you realize you really are an adult.  But the finality of death really seals that deal; and when it’s someone your age, you really begin to feel your own mortality.  Despite being in my late (shudder) 30s, I still feel like I did in my late 20s (which makes me either a youthful thirty-something, or that I was a mature 20-something).  But 2010 will go down as a year of infamy as it marked the passing of three different people I knew at very different stages of my life.

The first was my longtime manager Cathryn Jaymes, who left us in January of this year.  She had represented me since May 2001, which makes it the longest professional relationship of my career.  She managed actors and writers and directors for thirty years, was a model for a time in the late 60s, and her greatest notoriety came with one of the young clients she championed when nobody else would – Quentin Tarantino.  She was one of those people who was almost “too nice” for a rotten business that attracts more than its share of rotten people.  She never stopped believing in me and my work, and told me I’d “get there someday.”  I’m not surprised by that, because she was the one person who refused to give up on me and my work, especially at times when I was ready to do just that.  She once told me that I was the smartest writer she’d ever known and that intelligence translated to my writing (she also said that’s why it and I were a tough sell in Hollywood – a place where intelligence is viewed as a threat, not a boon).  I naturally took that as a compliment and resisted the urge to “dumb down” and compromise my principals and that carried through to the end when, even as she took ill, I refused to jump ship even though she and others urged me to.  How could I not stick by a person who stuck by me?

Then in September, Alwyn Rottschafer succumbed to a disease that took him very suddenly.  Alwyn was a talented musician, who played guitar in a garage band called Spaceman Spiff (who I wrote about here – check out the photo; Al is to the right).  My memories of him are faded, like that old photograph, but I do recall that he appeared as the Grim Reaper in a short film I shot for someone in my senior year of High School – I was cameraman, with the other guy writing and calling the shots.  He and his sister lived near me so there were also (probably) several instances of me giving them a lift home after school, or after the occasional party.  I am also reasonably sure Al was one of many who attended a 91 Pixies concert together. Now he’s a guy I lost touch with pretty quickly – one of those friendships that can be counted in months.  But the amazing thing about Alwyn was despite all the years that have passed, I never forgot him, whereas so many others are not even memories I can hang onto.

Now word has come that Alston Adams has lost his battle with the same wretched disease that took Alwyn and Cathryn.  Alston – Ali as we called him – lived the next street over from my place when I moved in 1986, so naturally we walked to and from school together frequently.  In fact one of the things we would talk about was the ongoing novel he was writing at age 13; a fictionalized account of the town, the school and our classmates, done in a Peyton PlaceDark Shadows vein (one of our classmates was a robot assassin sent by the Russians – hey, the Cold War was still on). He’d been battling the disease I won’t dignify by uttering its name for some time – well before he and I reconnected this past summer (same time as Alwyn).  In both cases I really wish I had gotten back in touch with them much sooner –as a mini-reunion this past summer showed me, it’s astonishingly easy to reconnect with people you haven’t seen in years.

With Al and Ali, the span of years knowing them was brief — 1986 to 1991 — but they might as well be lifetimes apart.  You don’t realize how much your life changes in that brief span from 13 to 18, but it’s a huge gulf, and probably the most radicla change in your life.  I was certainly much different at 18 than I was at 16 even.  But, the passing of these people has really made me think a lot about the places I’ve lived and the people I’ve known.  When people ask me where I’m from I never have an easy answer given we moved around a lot when I was young – eight moves in the first twelve years of my life.  I’m certain if I was to do a full accounting of every place I lived and every person I know, I’d find several of them no longer with us, and I honestly don’t know how to feel about that.  Should I be depressed?  Sad?  What should I feel?

We all feel invincible when we’re younger, but as we age, and as people start dying, we realize that’s not the case.  But I don’t necessarily think that death is something to be feared; why fear the inevitable?  Death could very well be the end, or it could embrace you like an old friend and usher you to the next stage of your journey … and what is life but a journey?  We all move through life at the same speed; some of us reach our destination sooner than others.  Sometimes the paths we take through life intersect with others on their paths.  The moment those paths cross can be brief, and they can be longer.  In a few rare instances our lives can follow parallel lines for years, decades even, before separating as they inevitably will.  I wonder if that’s the point of friendships, whether they last a month, a year or a lifetime; because we all need companions on the voyage.

I’m a deep dreamer; always have been and always will be.  And one thing about my dreams that I wonder if other’s share is this (and bear with me); Ever since I was a child, I have had repeated dreams of a place that’s familiar to me, even though I’ve never been there.  It’s a city that’s a mix of every city I’ve lived in or been to, with neighborhoods that are a composite of every house I’ve lived in or visited or spent any time in.  The surrounding lands are a mix of various places I’ve visited in my life; mountains and valleys, the ocean, the prairies, the desert.  Commensurate with my experience this subconscious land has grown as I have grown, taking on the characteristics of my life experiences.   It continues to this day; since I moved to New York this city has taken on certain New York characteristics and it’s populated by my memories of people I have known, whether briefly or for years.  Now it’s easy to see that this dreamscape is just the part of my subconscious that has catalogued every place I’ve been in my life and blended them together, and when I dream, it’s one of the parts of my subconscious that my mind wanders through. Yet to me it feels like Heaven would be and should be – a place we retire to at the end of our lives and exist on a higher, more abstract plain.  In rare cases you’re aware a dream is a dream, but for the most part you don’t, and this is what Heaven would be like.  So, I don’t think of these people as being gone – they’re just waiting for others to arrive at the big party in the great beyond, where it will not feel like an end, but a homecoming.


I’ve received such nice comments about the MIXTAPE project I decided it was time to upload the entire series proposal, which can be accessed by clicking the “MIXTAPE” tab on the bar at the top of the page, or by simply clicking here.  I’ll be off to Comic Con this weekend to push MIXTAPE among other things, so make sure to tell me what you think of it.  Comments are always welcome and appreciated — otherwise I may actually have to start posting the spam that gets sent to this site.