Tuesday, February 16, 2010

SnoutCast #7: Dungeons, Dragons, and Dealin' With It

Longest. Podcast. EVER So far.

[ Download mp3 - 59 MB ]

0:00:00 - Disclaimer, à la Better off Ted
0:02:14 - Belated trivia answer: Corby sculpted the final DRUID case design
0:02:59 - How is Dungeons & Dragons like The Game?
0:05:05 - Dragon Age: Origins (speaking of dragons...)
0:08:45 - Role-playing in different types of games (and Games)
0:11:00 - Debating stargate physics for no good reason
0:14:05 - Adjusting a game experience on the fly
0:17:46 - The meta-rule for D&D, when no rules are specified
0:18:32 - "Never have a door that's not actually a door"
0:20:48 - When is a clue not a clue?
0:25:15 - Curtis is an uncle!
0:26:03 - Why we always confirm our solutions
0:29:13 - One way to deliver semi-automated hints (Wonka, 1999)
0:30:45 - Why Team Snout prefers phone hints
0:32:19 - Just like clinical trials in the medical industry!
0:33:59 - Newspaper headlines lie!
0:36:57 - On not giving too much of a hint
0:40:09 - Funny stories about telephone problems
0:41:31 - Recording of the infamous "Tri-PEZ" call (Note: first dispatcher is Andrew, not Jeff)
0:45:09 - The Game is more than just puzzles; editorial considerations
0:48:33 - Plug: GC Summit 2010
0:49:20 - Info: Brooklynite seeks puzzle hunt interviewees
0:50:21 - Plug: DeeAnn at Ignite Portland 8 (March 3rd)
0:52:36 - Plug: Curtis published in 100 Stories for Haiti (March 4th)
0:54:23 - Plug: DASH 2 (April 24th)
0:54:53 - DeeAnn is quite contrary
0:56:13 - Steal this idea: The Accountant Game!
1:01:30 - Steal this idea: The Sports Draft Game!
1:03:32 - THE END

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey," "Chiron Beta Prime," "You Ruined Everything," and "The Future Soon" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

CKL DeeAnn

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Book Report: Tales of the Dominion War

If you're not a Star Trek fan, you can stop reading right now.

Tales of the Dominion War is, as you might imagine, an anthology of short stories set in the Deep Space Nine universe. Or, more accurately, in various parts of the Star Trek universe during the last two seasons of DSN. By that time, crossover between Trek series had become pretty common, and as a viewer, it was pretty exciting to see more of the fictional universe being fleshed out.

Media tie-ins are always tricky to do well. On the one hand, you want to include enough "real" or "canon" elements to show fans that you understand the setting; on the other hand, you don't want to just name-drop a bunch of characters without saying anything new or interesting about them.

That, in a nutshell, is why many of these stories didn't work for me. Writing aside, a lot of them seemed to aspire to be nothing more than the caulk of continuity--i.e., filling in storytelling gaps left by the TV series. If you think of the Dominion War like an actual, real-world conflict--say, Vietnam or WWII--there should be plenty of stories to tell about all sorts of different people who were involved. And since this is all fictional, it should be easy to make up some really compelling stories, right?

Maybe so, but this anthology didn't quite hit the mark for me. It's generally a bad sign when the introduction to a story has to explain that the pivotal character you're going to read about was featured in a different tie-in novel, and describe that character's connection to Trek canon--as if the editor knew that otherwise, the story itself wouldn't carry much weight. I skimmed through two or three of these stories because I knew I wasn't going to care much about their contents.

I do have to give props to my favorite piece, "Mirror Eyes," which manages to balance the elements I mentioned above. It's written in first person, as a series of journal entries, and brings the protagonist to life without veering into Mary Sue territory. It's also set between two seasons of DSN, so it doesn't suffer from episode-adjacent syndrome (in which a short story set immediately before, after, or during an existing TV episode inevitably begs comparison with same--and usually comes in second).

Finally, I have to mention that three of the featured authors--Heather Jarman, Michael A. Martin, and Andy Mangels--live in Portland, Oregon. 'oS! (That's Klingon for "represent.")


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Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Flash Fiction: "Telling Tales Out of School"

I blame Robot Chicken for a lot of things, not the least of which is a tendency to say "What a twist!"--in a high-pitched voice, pronouncing the last word as tweest...

You know what? It'll be faster if you just watch the video:

I know, it still doesn't make any sense. That is the insidious nature of this program.

Read "Telling Tales Out of School" at 512 Words or Fewer


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Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Flash Fiction: "Within Sight"

Apparently one of the newer characters on Heroes can "see" certain sounds as colors. (I gave up on the show last year, so I'm a little behind.) Of course, she can also convert those sounds into concussive energy blasts. Of course. I will refrain from calling her "Deaf Dazzler:"

The medical term for this is sound-color synesthesia, and the condition has also been featured on House.

It's pretty freaky to think about what it would be like to live in a world where everything you heard was instead redirected to your sight. I'm sure that, in reality, it wouldn't be as clean as visible-spectrum colors mapping linearly from audio frequencies, but I'm a lazy writer.

Read "Within Sight" at 512 Words or Fewer


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Monday, December 21, 2009

"HP computers are racist"

Just... just watch it. Now. I'll wait.

News coverage here.

The best part is, this was very nearly the exact premise of the "Racial Sensitivity" episode of Better Off Ted, quite possibly the funniest show on TV right now:

Single-camera comedies rock.


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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

SnoutCast #2: Old People

Not only do we talk about old people, DeeAnn and I also talk like old people in this podcast. It's a performance. Like improv! As far as you know.

[ Download mp3 - 53MB ]

00:00 - "Old People" GC prototype (Sean & Crissy)
04:23 - discussion of same
10:55 - the origin of "we're not having fun anymore"
12:13 - getting back to the prototype...
17:39 - inside baseball and randompodcast.com
19:10 - following up on the 10,000 hour rule from Outliers
20:55 - asshats and gaywads (as seen on Daily Show & Colbert Report)
23:30 - we are not experts; doing the math
31:09 - DASH 2 and trying new things
44:23 - "Old People" Clue recorded live (Sean & Lisa and coed astronomy)
56:23 - The End

You can also hear Jasper-cat yelling in the background every now and then.

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey," "A Talk with George," "Mandelbrot Set," and "First of May" by Jonathan Coulton

CKL DeeAnn Jasper

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction: "On Orbit"

Let's get this out of the way right now:
Read "On Orbit" at 512 Words or Fewer


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Monday, November 09, 2009

It's Funny 'Cause It's True

"Diagram proves FlashForward and Lost nothing alike," from SCI Fi Wire:



Friday, November 06, 2009

Missing Music

The best thing about the short-lived 2000 Bruce Campbell TV series Jack of All Trades is the main title theme song. Really! It was nominated for an Emmy and only lost because it was up against The West Wing. (But composer Joe LoDuca landed on his feet. He's working on Leverage these days.)

Hear the genius for yourself:

D and I have been re-watching Pinky and the Brain recently, which also has a great theme song. This is one thing I miss about modern TV shows. I blame Frasier for starting the trend and shows like Lost for exacerbating it (though the latter did make for a nice comedy bit at this year's Emmys).

I mean, if ever there was a show crying out for a theme song, it's Glee. Come on, guys. SRSLY.

Writer Lee Goldberg does a TV Main Title of the Week feature on his blog, and it's worth subscribing to his feed just to see these. They're not all good--quite a few are real clunkers--but as my friend Brian says, the main titles should tell you what to expect from the show itself. A good theme song should tell you, in about a minute, whether or not you are the audience for that show, and if you are, should make you want to go watch it immedately.

Here's a perfect example:

I rest my case.


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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Here V Go Again

Just watched the pilot for the new V television series (based on the 1983 miniseries). No spoilers here, but I will say this: an awful lot of pipe, not a lot of details, and still quite a few science errors.

Because they recycled this particular plot point from the 1983 original, I'll mention it: is anyone with any knowledge of astronomy really going to believe that aliens looking for water would sail through an Oort cloud full of icy comets and several outer planets with icy moons just so they can get liquid water from Earth? Does their advanced otherworldly technology include gravity control but not, y'know, heating elements? (Bonus round: if you have seemingly ubiquitous anti-gravity devices, why do your ships still need rocket thrusters?)

Also, I would have called the big reveal after act two, except I thought it was so preposterous that they wouldn't go there. I guess the moral here is, never underestimate the ridiculousness of most TV writing.

(Sidebar: in his collection Playgrounds of the Mind, sf author Larry Niven talks about how he and Jerry Pournelle pitched a story idea for the original, 1980s "V" series to NBC. You'll find that anecdote in the essay "The Lost Ideas," and their proposed backstory for the Visitors could have been a lot of fun, if implemented by the right showrunner.)

But it wasn't all bad. I did enjoy the little genre in-jokes, including the crowds gathering in "Oceanic Plaza" in the teaser and the Independence Day dig. I would have enjoyed them a little more if ABC weren't so obviously desperate to catch the Lost lightning in a bottle again, both with this show and FlashForward.

I'll give V a few more episodes, but I'll say what I've said before: I like a little more science in my science fiction.


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Hot and Cold FlashForwards

I've watched the first six episodes of FlashForward, the TV series "inspired" by the Robert J. Sawyer novel, and so far: meh. Not sure if I'm going to keep watching. The premise is interesting, and I like some of the characters, but the story being told isn't really to my taste.

Speaking of characters, is anyone else amused by the fact that several of the people central to the plot are being played by non-Americans? To wit:
  • Joseph "Ralph's brother" Fiennes as alcoholic FBI agent Mark Benford;
  • Sonya "I was Penny on LOST" Walger as Benford's long-suffering wife, Olivia;
  • Brian "bit player" O'Byrne as Benford's Jedi Master AA sponsor;
  • Jack "that dude from Coupling" Davenport as a mysterious stranger; and
  • Dominic "I was Charlie on LOST" Monaghan as another mysterious stranger.
Also note that the mysterious and possibly eeevil strangers are the only ones speaking with their natural accents. Them foreigners is trubble, I tell ya!

My two favorite characters are FBI agents Demetri Noh and Janis Hawk, played by John "Harold from Harold and Kumar" Cho and Christine "you probably don't remember me from that one episode of House" Woods, respectively. I think Demetri actually has the most interesting storyline, insofar as it deals directly with The Big Question underlying the premise of the show: to wit, fate vs. free will. And I loved Janis' big boxy eyeglasses from the start; last week's hot-lesbian reveal was just icing on the cake. So to speak. Um, let's stop this metaphor before it goes off the tracks.

As for story, I think I know where it's going, and I'm thinking I'll get more enjoyment out of reading the TWOP recaps. When you're dealing with a global phenomenon, the choice of which story you tell says a lot about what you want to say. Choosing to focus on the law enforcement team investigating the cause of the flashforward instead of the team of scientists who were reponsible for it (as the original novel did) fundamentally changes the nature of the story, even more than the rejiggering of the premise itself: in the novel, the flashforward gave people visions of their lives 21 years in the future; in the TV series, the jump is only six months.

In typical Robert J. Sawyer fashion, the novel deals with a lot of science, and there's some interesting discussion of quantum mechanics and philosophy. The most amusing parts of the novel deal with Sawyer's predictions for 2009, as written in 1999; in the novel, eyeglasses are rare because laser keratotomy has been perfected, but everyone still uses VCRs and videotape. Also, it's no longer fashionable to wear blue jeans; denim dyed other colors is in. (Like Cory Doctorow says: "Science fiction writers don’t predict the future (except accidentally).")

The TV series, so far, seems to enjoy being different things at different times; it's veered from family drama to police procedural to techno-thriller to medical mystery to West Wing knock-off. Maybe that was part of the plan from the start, but the FBI investigation is the only continuous thread, and that hasn't really been ringing my bell.

Maybe V will be better, but I'm not holding my breath.


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Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction: "Why You Watch"

A few weeks ago, I said to myself: "On second thought, maybe Dollhouse doesn't suck so much after all."

And then I watched "Instinct" and "Belle Chose," and I said, "I was right. It doesn't suck so much. It sucks even worse."


Read "Why You Watch" at 512 Words or Fewer


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Friday, October 02, 2009

Friday Night Live

Mark your calendars: On Friday, October 23rd, at 10PM Pacific, I will be a guest on Strange Love Live, a weekly online show featuring "the movers and shakers of the social web." I'm not sure I qualify for that lofty mantle, but who am I to refuse the invitation?

I first met SLL host Cami Kaos and producer Dr Normal at BarCampPortland III, the last such event to take place at the now-defunct CubeSpace. In the manner of such unconferences, they asked for any interested parties to sign up for brief interviews on that week's show, which they broadcast live from CubeSpace. I was one of the first interviewees, and I guess I didn't completely bomb. I've also seen both of them at other events since then, including CloudCampPDX and the local roller derby.

Anyhow, I will be talking about 512 Words or Fewer, writing in general, the Portland DASH and other puzzle hunts, PDX Browncoats, and whatever other random topics come up during the hour. Tune in, won't you?

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Monday, September 28, 2009

UR Doin It Write

From House writer-producer Doris Egan's LiveJournal:

Most people in the world can draw a firm divide between working and not working. You could take a picture of them, and see whether they’re working or not working. But a writer hitting keys could be far less productive that day than they were while walking the dog last night. I suppose a filmed documentary of a writers’ room would translate to most people as “work” -- but anyone who isn’t a writer is not at those meetings. They generally aren’t standing in the doorway watching the typing, either.

They do see a script, eventually, but I swear, somewhere in the back of people’s minds they believe what I believed of books as a child – that they’re found objects that washed up on shore that way. If you only ever see a cut of beef wrapped in plastic in the supermarket, the idea that someone had to separate it from a cow is alien.

-- "writers, Emmys, and Hollywood logic"

Much of the rest of the post is about TV production nuts and bolts, but even if you don't care about that, skip to the end for a nice little Shakespeare riff.


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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hey, I know that guy

I freely admit that I am not part of the mainstream cultural conversation. (I had never heard any part of that Beyoncé song until last week's episode of Glee.) And I'm generally pretty bad about keeping in touch with friends. But it's always nice to hear about people I know finding success and happiness, even if it does remind me how out of touch I am with, well, most things.

From the current issue of Stanford magazine:

I got to know Alder pretty well in my senior year, when we took a writing workshop class together, and I'm thrilled that he's actually getting somewhere with his writing--even if it's not fiction. (We all know that non-fiction pays better anyway.)

I'm not a wine connoisseur, but if I were, I'd definitely subscribe to Vinography.


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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Casting Calls

I signed up with a local casting agency earlier this year, mostly so I could be an extra on Leverage (fun times, plus they paid me!), and I'm still on their mailing list, so I get the occasional "Talent Needed" e-mail alerts.

It's interesting to see how different each production's requirements can be. For example, last week I got this very brief message:
[###] Sporting Goods shoot THURSAY SEPTEMBER 17!
Ages 18+
Rate: $150
To submit email extras@[####].com ASAP with name, phone number and a JPEG!

I'm guessing that was some kind of big crowd scene, and they got more respondents than they could possibly need.

Today I received this notice:
We're casting a job for [#####] Dental that requires the following talent:

1 woman - 25-45 to play a veterinarian
1 woman - 18-35 to play a front desk assistant
1 man - 18-35 to play veterinarian's assistant
SHOOTS: 9/24/09 (next Thursday)
RATE: $140 for a half day; $280 for a full day

Talent should not be allergic to or frightened of animals. You MUST have good teeth to be considered.

Email extras@[####].com with a current picture of yourself smiling (with teeth!), your phone number and full name. [#####] must be your subject line.

That's not the most specific casting call I've ever seen, but I love the "MUST have good teeth" part. Sorry, British expats, you'll have to wait until someone wants scheming villains or foppish snobs in their show.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

"My" episode of Leverage airs tonight

I use the possessive article very loosely here, since I was just an extra ("background performer"), and out of three days of shooting you might actually see my face for five seconds, at most.

Still, it was fun to be on set with the cast and crew (ObNameDrop: director Jonathan Frakes, writer Amy Berg, casting director Lana Veenker). Unless you've worked on a show, it's difficult to imagine how many people and how much equipment go into shooting any scene--even something that seems straightforward, like random people walking past the window of a cafe.

It takes a lot of effort to make things look natural when they aren't. Which you could say is one of the themes of the series itself.

Leverage episode 204, "The Fairy Godparents Job," airs at 9:00 PM and 11:00 PM Eastern Time tonight on TNT.

(Wait a day or two, and you can also watch it online at Amazon or download it from iTunes.)



Thursday, July 30, 2009

Quote of the Moment

"Breaking a story is a bit like role-playing, but I can't get the writers to use the damn dice."
- John Rogers

Also, a heads-up: "my" episode of Leverage airs next Wednesday night on TNT. You should be able to see my face in the background in at least one scene.


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Monday, July 06, 2009

Money for Nothing

D recently received a mysterious $250 direct deposit from the VA into her bank account. Upon further investigation, she determined that it was an "economic recovery payment" to eligible Veterans, implemented as part of ARRA. It's apparently also tax-free, and separate from the disability settlement she received a few years ago (long story). So, hooray for free money!

We're living off our savings right now, and it feels weird to fill out surveys and list our annual income as "less than $15,000," but it's technically true. Our only actual income is from bank interest and investments; the bulk of that comes from the index fund, which is still paying about $1,000 in dividends every quarter.

Including the bank interest, our total income this year will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000. (Which, incidentally, is how much Ed Helms' character in The Hangover had in savings--and he was supposed to be the most stable of the four protagonists. D was quite appalled. But that's another story.)

I also made about $300 back in May for three days' work as an extra on Leverage. It was literally a minimum wage gig, and I didn't do it for the money; I had fun being on set and rubbing elbows (sometimes literally) with the cast, crew, and director.

So far, no actual money made from writing, but I'm hoping that'll change soon.


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Friday, June 26, 2009

Even Klingon Warriors Mourn His Passing


May he moonwalk forever in Stovokor.

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)


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Monday, May 18, 2009


In the same vein as today's "Writer's Block" prompt on LiveJournal ("Same Name"), here are a few other people and things with similiar names...

Ken Levine: There's the TV comedy writer and the video game designer. I met the former at last year's Sitcom Room, and heard the latter give the keynote speech at last year's PAX. They're both quite accomplished in their respective fields.

Chocolat/Chocolate: One is the Academy Award-nominated 2000 film directed by Lasse Halström and starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. The other is a 2008 Thai action movie featuring "[a]n autistic woman with powerful martial art skills" (IMDb). Don't get them confused when you're at the video store.

John Sheppard/Jack Shephard: John is the officer in charge of military operations on Stargate Atlantis. Jack is the Doctor who makes bad decisions on Lost. And there are, apparently, way too many Jesus freaks naming TV characters these days.


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Saturday, May 16, 2009

My New Computer Redux

Just in case you were unclear on how much of a huge geek I am, here's what the back of my new iPhone now looks like:

(Decorations from Star Trek Sticker Book; ClearShield from Agent18.com)


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On Thursday and Friday, I was an extra (background performer) for episode 204 of Leverage, which is shooting their second season in Portland.* Since there's a lot of waiting around during each day, I thought it would be fun to Twitter a few interesting, spoiler-free remarks about my experience.

That worked out pretty well, and tonight I decided to reformat and post those tweets in a more permanent location and a more readable format. I discovered that no single application exists to do what I want, which is to export a specific subset of my status messages and conversations. (C'mon, Interwebs, this is the one time you don't anticipate my needs? We need to talk.)

Twitter's search interface only exports to a noisy XML feed, and what I really wanted was a simple, denormalized CSV data file which I could slice and dice manually. I found three web apps that claim to do this:
  1. TweetDumpr only exports status messages (without timestamps) to a flat text file.
  2. Twickie offers several formatting options, but the "Get CSV" link doesn't work.
  3. Tweetake is the one that actually worked, but it didn't provide many filtering options.
Of course, Twitter's own filtering abilities are pretty limited. What I really wanted was a custom timeline including all tweets which:
  • were posted by me and
  • were posted within a specific time window and
  • include the hashtag #Leverage and
  • include one of the hashtags #extra or #extras; or
  • are part of a conversation (replies, retweets, etc.) linked to any tweets matching the above criteria.
I guess I'll be digging into the Twitter API later.

For now, you can see the crappy Excel HTML dump of my tweets from two days of being a #Leverage 204 #extra. Note that all times are GMT; subtract seven hours to get local time in PDX.

And yes, I still refuse to use the unreadable abomination that is LoudTwitter.


* You can be an extra too! Here's how.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Reasons to Buy a Blu-ray Player

The way I see it, there are only three right now:
  1. Pushing Daisies, Season 1
  2. Pushing Daisies, Season 2
  3. LittleBigPlanet (NSFW)
Because, let's face it, if you're going to spend $400 on a DVD player, you might as well get one that can play some games, too.


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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Science Fiction Writers Take Note

From io9's Top Ten Rules of Space Opera:

9. There should be a captain. If there is not a captain, there should be a special agent. If there is not a special agent, there should be a cadet with a future. If there is no cadet with a future, there should be a mercenary with a dark past.
If there is no mercenary with a dark past, there should be a wisecracking stowaway. If there is no wisecracking stowaway, there should be a witch. If there is no witch, there should be a scientist. If there is no scientist, just remake Spaceballs.

-- Annalee Newitz

Has there been a really great science fiction satire recently? And no, crap like Superhero Movie does not count.


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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Warren Does Joe

If you want to give your tired old media property a badass reboot, Warren Ellis is clearly the man to call. He helped elevate Ultimate Fantastic Four, and now he's done it again with G.I. Joe: Resolute, the new animated movie that's been airing in installments on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. It's a solid junior techno-thriller.

The final installment airs tonight at midnight. You can also watch the entire show online (or on YouTube, for those outside the USA). It's not perfect--you'll see stormtrooper marksmanship and heroic sacrifice tropes, among others--but I love the science fiction procedural in Parts 3 and 4 (I now have a tiny crush on the new Dial Tone), and the ninja fight in Part 8 is brutal.

I really don't expect this summer's live-action movie to be anywhere near as cool as this.


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The Trouble With Reaper

I like Reaper a lot. It's one of the few TV shows D and I both like enough to pay for (we download all our TV a la carte from iTunes or Amazon). And I appreciate that it's not to be taken too seriously, but there's gravity and then there's consistency.

When you make a show with the Devil as one of your regular cast, you'd better have a good handle on your theology. For the most part, Reaper avoids any heavy theological entanglements--the characters discuss God rarely, and never by name--but when you make up your own rules, you need to stick to them.

Toward the end of the first season, the writers established that the Devil couldn't eavesdrop on any conversations that occurred inside of circles. This was a major plot point during the demon rebellion arc; characters would meet inside circular rooms or draw chalk circles on the ground before discussing their plans to overthrow Lucifer. This season, however, the characters seem to have forgotten that trick, and it's gotten them in trouble more than once.

I don't have a problem with the characters being ignorant of certain supernatural things, but they've seen the circle-cone-of-silence demonstrated, and they know the consequences for pissing off the Devil. It doesn't make any sense that they wouldn't continue using the circle trick, and the writers haven't even attempted to explain why they don't. I guess they were hoping viewers wouldn't notice, or that we'd also have forgotten by now.

Well, I haven't, and I'll say it again: Insufficiently rigorous! I know Reaper's a comedy, but fans are fans, and we don't like unexplained retcons.

The thing is, Sam and company didn't have to forget about the circle thing. They screw up almost everything else; why couldn't they think they were protected, but then later find out that they hadn't drawn their circle properly, or that someone or something had broken the circle when they weren't paying attention?

You could even make it a running gag. Have Sam carry a hula hoop in the trunk of his Prius so he and Sock and Ben can have private conversations wherever they are. Show the three of them squeezing into a hula hoop that's too small for their bodies to fit comfortably.

Need the circle to stop working? Maybe the plastic hoop gets warped after a particularly warm day; maybe Sock sits on the hoop and accidentally breaks it, but is too embarrassed to tell Sam. Everyone stays in character, you still have any number of failure options, and you get additional opportunities for comedy. Am I wrong?

But I guess they had more important things to worry about.


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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

State of Play

Capsule: a smart, well-paced thriller which also reminds us that, yeah, Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck are good actors, too.

D decided we should take Monday off and go see a movie in the afternoon. She gave me a choice of three local theatres and two movies at each venue; I chose State of Play at Cinetopia, because it is the best movie house in the Portland area, and I'm researching thrillers at the moment (the novel I'm currently rewriting is a near-future techno-thriller). I'd also heard good things about the BBC miniseries on which this American remake is based.

Though D had little interest going in (she was sure I would pick Monsters vs. Aliens instead), afterwards she had no complaints except for the obscure title (a chiefly British phrase meaning "state of affairs" or "the current situation"). The trailer is pretty info-rich, but it actually doesn't give too much away:


And now I've added the BBC series to my Netflix queue. Nothing against the American filmmakers, who produced a great picture, but I fully expect the British original to be superior:



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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nathan Fillion: King of Castle

Castle gets a lot of things wrong. It wildly misrepresents--or, at best, cherry-picks--the experience of being a bestselling novelist or a New York City detective. But damn that smarmy motherfucker Nathan Fillion. He's just so entertaining to watch.

Also, as Leverage showrunner John Rogers notes, the techie clues have been real smart so far. I still don't buy Stana Katic as murder police, but I'm giving her Kate Beckett character the benefit of the doubt for now. Maybe the writers will come up with an interesting and plausible backstory for her.

The fourth episode was the one that really sold me. Lots of nice little moments, including the uniform searching the dumpster, Castle and his daughter cutting onions, and the closing scene in the bookstore. You can get the full show from iTunes. Here's the Lame TV PreviewTM:


Episode three wasn't bad, either. Like everyone else, I really enjoy the father-daughter scenes with Nathan and Molly. And I'm thinking about making my own "You Should Be Writing" screensaver.


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Friday, April 17, 2009

Physics in Action

Well, what do you know? Light does travel faster than sound!


Thanks to the Leverage crew for putting on this Tax Day demonstration in downtown Portland. I much prefer exploding cars to teabaggers.


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Saturday, April 04, 2009

I am an old Jewish man

I know, I know. You thought I was a twelve-year-old girl, right? Well, that was Tuesday. This is Saturday. You gotta keep up here, JAFO.

Last night, D and I watched the mostly atrocious Get Smart movie remake, which suffers from the same problem as so many remakes these days--it trades on the brand name and packaging of the original without really understanding the appeal or capturing the spirit. The Avengers movie (remember that?) failed even worse, and though the new Battlestar Galactica managed to make its own mark, I'm still dubious about the upcoming Star Trek reboot.

This version of Get Smart just didn't get the old-school Jewish humor that permeated the original series; it pasted punchlines from the original series into scenes that had no setup or follow-through. The retooled Maxwell Smart character simply didn't match the old jokes ("Would you believe...," "Missed it by that much," etc.), in either personality or backstory. It took its action setpieces too seriously, and its comedy not seriously enough. Which is totally missing the point of Get Smart.


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Saturday, March 28, 2009

You're Not Feeling Lucky

On Thursday, my former employer announced another round of layoffs--its third this year. But there were two big differences this time around.
  1. A larger number of people was affected: 200 now, versus 100 in January and 40 in February (all numbers approximate).
  2. The affected organization was sales and marketing (as opposed to recruiting in January and the radio advertising group in February), which means it's likely that I know some of the departed.
Here's the official word, plus a couple of employee reactions. (You know how much I less than three primary sources.)

My heart goes out to everyone who's been caught up in this. That includes the managers who had to decide whom to let go, and all those left behind. I've been through layoffs at other companies (everyone at AT&T knew what the acronym RIF stood for), and I know it's not easy for anyone.

At times like this, I remember these words:

Bottom line is, even if you see 'em coming, you're not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So what are we, helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come. You can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that counts. That's when you find out who you are.

Thank you, Joss Whedon.


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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"The Website Is Down"

My new favorite web video series. (Thanks @feliciaday!) For best results, expand to full screen so you can actually read the various windows:


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Thursday, February 26, 2009

TV Unplugged

Having watched the Academy Awards on Sunday over the air--for free, with a $15 UHF antenna--and having read Saturday's Consumerist post about How To Cancel Cable Without Losing Your Favorite Shows, I felt it was a good time to review our family's own TV watching arrangements.

But before I get into that, I'd like to remind everyone that even though you can follow John Scalzi's example and Amuse Yourself Completely (and Legally) for $100 a Month, it doesn't have to cost nearly that much. Your nearest public library is likely to have enough reading material to suit your tastes and keep you busy for months, if not years. If you're not sure how to find something, go talk to a librarian. They're nice people.

Back to TV. First of all, even though we do have a theoretical 12MB/s connection to TEH INTARWUBS, streaming video still sucks. I'm not sure who to blame; all I know is that even short YouTube videos work better when I pause first and wait for the play buffer to fill. Anything that won't let me do that (I'm giving you the stink-eye, Hulu and Netflix) is useless.

So let's talk about downloading. I'm only going to talk about legal methods for purchasing content. If you're looking for BitTorrent info, look elsewhere. I won't encourage you to do anything illegal, and I certainly can't tell you to download utorrent, or visit The Pirate Bay/tvrss.net/feedmytorrents.com, or even watch the howto video presented as evidence in the spectrial. No sir, you won't find any of that here.

Why not watch the "free" (ad-supported) full episodes available on various TV networks' web sites? Well, first of all, it's streaming video, which sucks (see above). Second, and perhaps more importantly, the writers don't get paid for those viewings. I know, most people couldn't care less about this, but even if the WGA negotiated a bad deal at the end of last year's strike, you can still do the right thing. None of that advertising money is contractually owed to the writers, but they do get a cut of your EST (electronic sell-through) dollars.

The good news is, there are only two major players in the online TV market, which means only two crappy applications you need to download and install: Apple iTunes and Amazon Unbox (recently rebranded as "Video On Demand"). Amazon also allows you to watch on their web site, using a Flash plugin, but again: Streaming. Sucks.

Both services charge about $2 an episode. Apple also offers HD versions for $3 a pop, if you really crave those extra pixels.

Both services offer "season passes" (Amazon calls them "TV passes") for most shows. Amazon is better, because they give a 10-cent-per episode discount on TV passes, and they'll offer a pass before the whole season is out. iTunes doesn't always offer a season pass if they don't know how many episodes will be in the season (e.g., for new shows), because they do package pricing, not per-episode billing like Amazon.

However, iTunes does offer "multi-passes" for some shows--The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, for example--which get you the next sixteen episodes (four full weeks; they don't air on Fridays) and an option to renew after that. Amazon only offers their standard TV pass, which continues until an entire season ends; if you cancel in the middle of the season and want to restart later, you'll have to buy individual episodes. If, like me, you never actually watched every single episode of The Daily Show, the iTunes multi-pass is a better deal.

[Aside: I have lately been weaned off the Stewart/Colbert teats by free downloads of The Rachel Maddow Show podcast from MSNBC. I've got the Internet; I don't really need to watch news on TV, but every now and then I like a little commentary. Also, Go Cardinal!]

Finally, both services allow you to export video to portable devices; Apple supports iPods, iPhones, and such, and Amazon works with Creative Zen, Archos, and some cell phones as well as TiVos, Xbox 360s, and Media Center PCs.

If you have a Mac or PS3 or some other considered-exotic hardware, I'm told you can install TVersity or Rivet or similar third-party software to transcode your video for those devices. And, of course, if you've already paid for the content, there's no ethical problem with downloading a non-DRM'd version from the wild when the craptastic DRM mechanism inevitably fails. But I would never tell you to do that.

ADDENDUM: We used to pay over $80 a month for satellite TV. Now that we're only paying for the shows we actually watch, we spend less than $20 a month.

(EDIT: Both services can be slow to release new episodes, sometimes lagging a day or two after broadcast. In general, iTunes seems to be better than Amazon at getting shows out faster.)


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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Golden Boys

"Boos and booze for Cohen and Gervais at Golden Globes," Metro (UK)

"So Kate Winslet's got two Golden Globes. And hey, she also won a couple of awards tonight. Oh, what? It's true!"

I can only imagine what else Ricky Gervais might have said, if his beer-in-hand stand-up routine had come just a little bit later in Sunday night's Golden Globe Awards telecast. He certainly couldn't have done worse than Sacha Baron Cohen, who even had Sandra Bullock shaking her head at Borat's limp, not-ready-for-the-Catskills act. The old saying is true: "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard."


As for the awards themselves, I'm pretty happy that Slumdog Millionaire (trailer above) took home the big prize. D and I saw it last week, and it's every bit as good as everyone's been telling you. And if no one else has told you, I am. Go see it. If you have to drive an hour each way and pay for a babysitter, go see it. It just won't be the same on a small screen.

Slumdog makes a lot of noise about destiny, but the theme I saw was more what murder police have known for years: "It's good to be good; it's better to be lucky." That, and you make your own luck by recognizing and seizing opportunities. Life is bigger than any of us, but we're not powerless.

Also, I was amused at how Anil Kapoor, playing the game show host, kept pronouncing "millionaire" like "milliner." Yes! I would like to make fine hats for ladies and gentlemen!

Now I'm off to add Danny Boyle's Millions to my Netflix queue, and see if the Slumdog soundtrack album is any good.


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Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction: "Bachelor of Science"

Not my best story:

"Bachelor of Science" at 512 Words or Fewer

D didn't like the ending, and Loren liked the original opening better. I wrote those three paragraphs last year sometime, and sat on them because I didn't know where to take the story next. Giving myself a deadline this week forced me to just pick something and go with it, but as usual, my idea was too big for 512 words. I might try expanding it later, or using it for a spec Heroes script. I mean, it can't be any worse than the shit they've been shoveling this year.*

If you have six minutes to spare, listen to the podcast too. My recording's a little fuzzy due to computer troubles, but I really like the intro/outro music I found. Hooray for Creative Commons!


* Baby, you got to be cruel to be kind.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

As Seen on Twitter

(The episode in question is "Not Cancer.")



Blasts From the Past

Back in the summer of 1991 (after I graduated high school), I hooked up a VHS VCR to a monaural VHS camcorder with flying erase head and manually edited together a music video using footage from my home-taped episodes of the first four seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The song was "Kiss the Girl" from Disney's The Little Mermaid, and the subject of the video was the sexual tension between Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher. My friends have enjoyed watching it, and I've now uploaded it to YouTube for strangers to enjoy, too:

Please note that I did all the video editing by hand, without the benefit of time codes. The VCR did have a jog dial (thank you, Sony), but it still took a hell of a long time to sync everything. Did I mention that I actually dubbed the song from a cassette tape of the Little Mermaid soundtrack album, because the sound mix from the movie itself was too noisy, and I just wanted the music? I'm not sure which was worse--matching Data's "la-la-la" mouth movements* (1:03) or the tadpoles jumping over Sebastian's head (1:48).

And no, I really didn't have a life. Thanks for asking.

The next summer, I went back and made more TNG music videos--for Worf, Troi, Riker, and Data. And now you can watch them all on YouTube! That playlist also includes a sixth "bonus track"--a music video I threw together, years later, of scenes from The Abyss: Special Edition set to "Under Pressure." Check 'em out if you're so inclined, and please rate and comment.

Happy Holidays!


* Lifted from his ridiculously long password in "Brothers."

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Friday, November 28, 2008

A Public Service Announcement

The Dr. Horrible DVD is now available for pre-order on Amazon:


Happy Black Friday!


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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Me and Ken Levine

I spent last weekend at Sitcom Room 3, where for two days I got to experience a simulation of the glamorous life of a TV comedy writer. (See? You're laughing already.) As shown above, I was delirious happy enough after the experience that I didn't attempt to do physical harm to our captor host, Emmy Award winner Ken Levine. (Insert Stockholm Syndrome joke here.)

Hats off also to Dan O'Day, who handled the lion's share of logistics for the event.

Here's a brief summary of the weekend.

Thursday: I arrive in LA, go to dinner with my parents (at an eerily uncrowded Chinese restaurant--we were the only diners there all night), tweak their wireless router (my dad upgraded to FiOS), do a little writing, then go to sleep.

Friday: We drive up to Santa Monica and meet my sister for lunch at Riva. Traffic reminds me why I don't live here anymore. Parents drop me off at the LAX Hilton. Walk down to corner gas station for some Coke (cheaper than the $3 hotel vending machine). Meet some fellow Sitcom Room attendees for dinner in the cafe.

Saturday: Wake up bright and early. Realize I didn't bring any bowls or utensils for my in-room breakfast of instant oatmeal, but make do with a couple of lowball glasses and wooden coffee stirrers. Meet some other folks, then get an earful from Ken about writing TV comedy. Walk to Carl's Jr. for lunch. Watch actors perform a ghodawful scene from a fictitious sitcom, get notes from "network" and "studio," break into teams to rewrite. I'm on Team C, the first to finish at 12:44 AM, having survived a logistical curveball two hours into the process and a lot of mediocre Chinese and junk food.

Sunday: Reconvene to watch actors perform the four scenes that each team rewrote. I'm pleasantly surprised by how well our scene works, how many laughs it gets, how little Ken has to say about fixing it further. We break for lunch and another 90 minutes of rewrites, but my team mostly just shoots the breeze. Finally, the weekend ends with a panel of writers talking about the industry and answering our questions. Scatter drill. I enjoy a quiet dinner of pasta, wine, and Heinlein.

Monday: I fly back home. While waiting in the airport, I run into a former co-worker, then watch Strange Brew. Those events are unrelated. I also watch the "Do-Over" episode of 30 Rock, which had been name-checked during Sitcom Room. It's pretty good.

Now, as promised, a few comparisons.

I went into Sitcom Room expecting it to be a lot like a Richter Scales retreat: lots of vulgar humor, lots of brainstorming for concert skit ideas. It was all that, but more focused and productive. I'm not saying the Scales aren't good, but they're not professionals. It's different, being in a room with four other people who all care deeply about good storytelling.

We spent most of our nine-plus hours working through story problems, talking about characters and motivations and the reality and logic of the scene. Very little time was actually devoted to coming up with jokes. Analyzing comedy is hard, but the fundamental truth is that it comes from characters and situations, not jokes per se. And that is even harder to write well.

Some of the advice about "room writing" given during Sitcom Room echoed sentiments about critiquing I got from Viable Paradise: Don't take things personally. Anyone can pitch a bad joke or a bad story idea. In fact, if you do it long enough, pretty much everyone is guaranteed to suggest a few stinkers. The important thing is to keep going. Your first duty is to the story, not your own ego.

The environment of the writing room felt a lot like Game Control, in that we had a problem to solve, and the problem seemed to keep changing. It wasn't as bad as running a Game, since we only had one really big external issue to deal with--all the rest was just us working through revisions of the story.

In other ways, it felt more like a conference room puzzle hunt, because we were trapped in a single room having to work through problem after problem with no end in sight. It was easy to get punchy, but in this case, it could actually be helpful. Riffing about animal husbandry can help generate jokes, but it almost never helps solve puzzles.

Ken and Dan made the rounds all night, periodically checking in with every team to see if we had questions, and I'm particularly proud of our first couple:

"Do we have the budget for a couple of sheep?"

"How do you feel about Hitler?"

Yes, we are the team, as mentioned in Ken's write-up, which agonized over whether to put in a Hitler joke (final verdict: no). We found out on Sunday that two other groups had also discussed it, but none to the extent that we had. We are also the team that used a mirror for a marker board. (Team C: The "C" stands for "Creative!" Or maybe "Crazy." Would you believe "Crunchy?")

All in all, it was a great experience, and I'm glad I did it. I plan to keep in touch with my fellow Sitcommers--two of them live in the Seattle area, one is in London (where D and I may be stopping next June, on our way to Jeff and Marina's wedding), and others are just a Facebook click away.

Would I ever want to make a living as a TV writer? I don't know. But it's on the short list.


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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Why I wasn't writing this weekend

Actually, I was writing; it just wasn't noveling.

I just finished two days in Ken Levine's Sitcom Room, which he gleefully and accurately describes on his blog as "hell-arity!"

My excellent writing team consisted of this motley crew:
  • Gary, a college teacher who travels the world to go surfing;
  • Erica, an art educator who once worked at the Getty Museum;
  • James, a Londoner who understands the fine distinction between "stupid" and "ignorant;" and
  • Jeff, who "looks like a fat George Clooney" (his own words, I swear).
I'll post more details later, including a few photos and comparisons between this and my Viable Paradise and Game Control experiences.

For now, let me just say that I did not expect rewriting ten pages of comedy to be this exhausting. I managed about 1,600 words of NaNoWriMo output after dinner tonight, but my brain is fried.


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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Historic, Wot?

D and I watched the election results and speeches last night via BBC News's live Internet video feed. It was nice to get a more international perspective on the whole thing, and the uncooperative satellite connection to Kenya was amusing, but SRSLY, soliciting commentary from Gore "grumpy old man" Vidal and John "antagonistic blowhard" Bolton? Sometimes I feel like the British are still making fun of us.

The good news:

(image from Flickr, shout out to mschlock)

The bad news:

(Los Angeles Times)

I mean, come on. WTF, CA? Los Angeles county went yes on Prop 8? LA county? Where's the gay mafia when you need 'em?


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Friday, October 31, 2008

Sherman Alexie pwns Stephen Colbert

My favorite part is at the very end, when Colbert knows he's been pwnd and can't even summon a comeback:

Just before D and I watched this, we had a brief discussion about how it made more sense for even outlandish people (like Socialist presidential candidate Brian Moore) to appear on The Colbert Report than The Daily Show, because on Colbert you are almost guaranteed to appear less idiotic than the host, whereas Jon Stewart and company will just make fun of you on Daily.


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Friday, October 24, 2008

Truthful TV Title Cards

From glark.org:

See the original post for more. I want these on T-shirts.



Classic Trek FTW

"Let's put it this way: Kirk kissed a lot of ladies, and none of them were his sister."
-- Stephanie Reid-Simons, "Star Trek ain't Star Wars, J.J.!" from armchaircommentary.com
I, too, have my doubts about next year's Trek reboot. Abrams does some things well, but Lost didn't really find its genre way until he stepped back and let some other folks drive the island (I love you, Brian K. Vaughan).

I'm not a big fan of the new bridge, as pictured in Entertainment Weekly. But D laughs out loud every time she sees Chris Pine's smarmy mug on the cover. "He's perfect," she says. She may be right. Even if his eyes are the wrong color.


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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Closing the Tabs

Installed a new Firefox extension today (RetailMeNot, if you must know), so it's time for a restart. And I might as well clean up these tabs while I'm at it:

Stanford Magazine and the Interstitial Arts Foundation are both looking for short stories to publish--up to 2,500 words by November 5th and 4,000-10,000 words by December 2nd, respectively. I probably have a better shot at the latter, which is likely to more receptive to genre (rather than "literary") fiction.

I really shouldn't be spending more money right now, but these Gamestop coupons are awfully tempting.

A fellow Viable Paradise graduate's (not my class, but still my tribe) short story "Chrono-Girl Vs. Kid Vampire" has been published online.

The latest issue of ACM Queue is online. Probably my last, since I didn't renew my membership for next year.

GrooveLily has posted "The Flash Point," another demo track from their new show Long Story Short.

Courtesy of Lifehacker, links to two things that sound cool but I don't really need: Windows registry hacking and a utility that clears all the "Recently Used" lists in Windows.

Viable Paradise linkage: Jim McDonald's recommended Emergency Kits and Elizabeth Bear et al.'s seriously serious Criminal Minds fanfic, Shadow Unit.

We need some kind of toy hammock to keep things from falling behind the corner bookshelf in the living room.

More things I really don't need: USBCell rechargeable AA batteries, a $50 Stargate mirror, and a $40 print of Serenity Valley.

I don't remember why I was looking at the Superstruct Game.

Another VP alum got her poem published online at Expanded Horizons.

A great collection of photos from VPXII--thanks, Alberto!

Charity art project to fight malaria, co-sponsored by open-source screenwriting software Celtx.

Writing links from VPXII.

Researching uses for our ancient WiFi access point: Avaya/Lucent/Orinoco RG-1000 Residential Gateway notes and WDS page from Wikipedia.

More from VPXII: Preditors and Editors™ and First Lines from Famous Books.

Read Free Star Trek Comics Online!

Last but not least, Writer's Digest reveals 28 Agents Who Want Your Work. But that list was published in August, so they're probably swamped with queries at this point.


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Sunday, September 21, 2008

I Miss Aaron Sorkin

But at least we still have Sorkin parodies, like this West Wing homage from Maureen Dowd:
OBAMA I appreciate your sense of humor, sir, but I really could use your advice.

BARTLET Well, it seems to me your problem is a lot like the problem I had twice.

OBAMA Which was?

BARTLET A huge number of Americans thought I thought I was superior to them.



OBAMA I mean, how did you overcome that?

BARTLET I won’t lie to you, being fictional was a big advantage.

-- "Seeking a President Who Gives Goose Bumps? So’s Obama," New York Times, September 21, 2008

(Thanks to my friend Mike for the link.)


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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sitcom Room, etc.

Today, I registered for Ken Levine's Sitcom Room, wherein I will spend 33 hours in a hotel with 19 other TV writer wannabes, working in a team of 5 to rewrite and improve a comedy scene.

That happens one week after Ghost Patrol, during which I will spend 30 hours in a van, competing against 21 other teams, working with my team of 6 to complete a marathon puzzle hunt.

Of course, this all takes place in the month of November, also known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), when I'll be pounding out 50,000 words of a first draft.

Before then--just over a week from now, in fact--I'm flying back east for Viable Paradise. I'm stocking up on sleep now. Starting tonight. Really.

And, on October 3rd, something wonderful will happen. (It will continue happening for at least the next year, but that's another story.)

My point is this: Break's over.


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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

One Time Loser

As expected:
Dear Friend,

I regret to inform you that your script was not selected as one of the 25 finalists in the NYTVF-Fox Comedy Script Contest. The decision tasked to our readers was a very difficult one, and unfortunately there were a number of quality scripts that were unable to advance to the next round of the contest. Narrowing the initial field of over 880 pilots down to 25 was a tremendous challenge, yet the New York Television Festival was thrilled with the response and was astounded by the quality of effort put forth by its community of talented scriptwriters.

Thank you again for the hard work and commitment exhibited in your pilot script. I encourage you to check back with the NYTVF Web site from time to time, as we hope to offer additional opportunities for aspiring television writers soon. In the meantime, we appreciate your support of the New York Television Festival and the independent television movement, and we hope to see you this September at the 2008 NYTVF.

Best Regards,

On the plus side, this means I can start sending the script to some more readers for feedback. Maybe even a few who actually know something about writing half-hour comedies.


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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Denvention Has Begun

One of the many sights we saw today at the 66th WorldCon:

From Denvention 3

(I'm not convinced it was an actual stargate. The wormhole was definitely open for more than thirty-eight minutes, and I didn't see any singularities nearby.)

For more photos and details, click on over to Travels With Our Cats!


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Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Last of Dr. Horrible...FOR NOW

All three parts of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog are now online! Watch it for free and risk slashdotting their site again, or buy it from iTunes for a paltry four dollars. C'mon, skip the Starbucks for one day and do the right thing.

Just in case you've been living under a rock and have no idea what I'm talking about, I refer you to Penny Arcade's Tycho, who describes Dr. Horrible as "a supervillain musical written by Joss Whedon, starring a bunch of awesome motherfuckers. Why are you still here."


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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Not Horrible At All

After being predictably slashdotted this morning, Act I of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is once again available for your viewing (and listening) pleasure. It's quite delightful.

If you hate streaming video as much as I do--and, more importantly, if you want to support the artists--I encourage you to buy the complete saga (parts 2 and 3 coming later this week) for a measly $4 from iTunes.

In related news, I also ponied up for a Daily Show multi-pass today--16 new episodes for $10, no commercials, auto-downloaded, and the writers get paid. Me likey. We haven't been watching for the past few months, but has John Stewart gone a lot more gray recently, or is it just me?

So far, our TV-over-Internet experience has been pretty good. We finished watching the most recent seasons of Reaper and House, and we've got My Name is Earl cued up. We don't really have a lot of free time while we're traveling, but after we settle down in Portland I'll probably shell out for Burn Notice and The Middleman (recommended by my friend Raj).

I haven't done the math yet, but I suspect paying for individual shows will also be more economical than cable or satellite. We were paying almost $80 a month with DirecTV, including HBO and TiVo fees, and even if iTunes or Unbox season passes are $40 a pop, we wouldn't have time to watch 24 shows a year--even if we could find that many programs we liked.

It's a little annoying that we can't download Medium and probably won't be able to get True Blood in a timely manner*, but we can always wait for DVD. Or make some new friends in Portland.


* Get with the program already, HBO!

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