Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Back To Business

Man, sometimes I hate to be right, especially about the depressing stuff.

The past week in politics has done nothing but prove President Obama's campaign rhetoric - so eloquent and inspiring - played well with the voters, but not within the Washington circles who actually run the government. Republicans sharpen the knives for Sotomayor's confirmation hearings, while Democrats braid the noose for Dick Cheyney. Have things really changed that much under the new administration?

Perhaps the President intends to remain above the fray, like he tried to do while Iran melted down. The danger is that, like Iran, he'll be forced to weigh in later, making it look like he's behind the curve and not on top of the issues. If he continues with this trend, his public image could be irreparably harmed, by making him appear hopelessly out of touch and belatedly reactionary, or even worse, irrelevant to the discussion.

This, to me, all sounds like politics as usual. Wasn't that what we were getting away from?

Meanwhile, the economy continues to gasp its last breath, with over 300,000 workers displaced from the auto industry alone. There are simply no signs of recovery on the horizon. Shouldn't this take precedence over a public baiting of a nominee even the republicans admit will be confirmed, or revenge against a former Vice President? (The greatest revenge against that turd is consigning him to political irrelevance and having him live long enough to see all his hateful and hurtful damage undone.)

Maybe I'm missing the point, but shouldn't government be working on the economy, the two wars, and the healthcare issue 24/7, rather than the tired political jockeying? When will the country actually move forward? There was a lot of momentum after the campaign, but where has it all gone?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Screenwriting Lessons From Baseball

If you're expecting a discourse on Bull Durham or Pride of the Yankees, you're going to be disappointed, here. We're going to start today's lesson from the trenches with a dissection of what's wrong with pro baseball. I'm pretty sure this applies to most pro sports, but I don't give a flying fuck about them, so you're stuck with baseball as the metaphor of the day.

Some of my fondest memories from being a kid were of the evenings when we'd pile into the car and drive down to Baltimore to catch a mid-week Oriels game; we'd leave when my mom got home from work, drive the hour to the stadium, buy a couple of tickets, watch batting practice, try to cage autographs, eat hot dogs, then watch the game, drive the hour home drowsy in mid-summer torpor, and be in bed by 11. My family didn't have a whole lot of money, but we didn't have to skip any meals to afford a couple of games a month. If you look at it in today's terms, I could never do this with my kids. Seats comparable to those we used to get are now $60 in Philadelphia. You can easily spend $100 on food and not be sated. What the fuck happened to baseball?

I can understand that ticket prices go up. I don't think prices rise in proportion to any real market influence, but let's just leave money out of it for now. The real baseball crime is that it now takes four hours to play a game, and mostly what you watch is a pitching duel. You're lucky if you see five hits in a game. I gotta tell you, this is boring as shit. Watching managers shuffle pitchers to match individual batters is frustrating and annoying for the fans. It's sucking every last bit of fun out of the game. Therein lies my point.

When it comes to writing scripts, you need to keep the fun. By that, I don't mean you have to be writing comedy, but that you have to keep the enjoyment of what you're doing in the front of your mind. Most of you aren't get paid to write, so you better be having fun on some level, and it better show in your scripts.

When people gripe about Hollywood movies - and this summer's crop has been especially bad - they're griping about the pitchers' duel: films so neutered of any kind of creative enjoyment in favor of some committee-created entertainment processed to be marketed to some particular demographic that they've sucked the fun out of going to the movies. Your first draft script is about the only thing in the process you can actually call your own, so enjoy it, let a reader sense that, and swing for the fences.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Man In The Mirror

Ha, fooled you! It's not a post about Michael. That's been covered enough, don't you think? No, I'm writing about us, the people we see reflected every day, because I really want to know what the hell is wrong with society. The endless celebrity worship is getting a bit scary.

I know it's always been here - movie rags have been printed almost as long as movies themselves - but it seems to be rising into a fugue of idiocy. Jackson - okay, I admit, this post is partly about him - has been nothing but a tabloid punchline for years, but now we're declaring a day of world mourning, dominating all media in way he could only have dreamed of while he was still sucking wind.

There's a disconnect somewhere. It used to be, celeb worship was based on the public persona (it used to be more tightly managed by stars and studios, to avoid career meltdowns like Tom Cruise on Oprah) of stars, who appeared rich, glamorous, usually happy, and always, always, passionate. In other words, we worshiped the idea that these stars had licked all the problems mere mortals struggled with: bills, depression, romantic longing. But now, look at who we're fixating on: Jackson has been the center ring of a circus of freaks for the bulk of his life. Is this really the guy we idolize and aspire to? Add to this the endless parade of pro athletes with mug shots, political figures with well-greased zippers, and movie stars who have no off-camera life, and I wonder who were supposed to strive to be. Actually, I wonder who kids are aspiring to be these days.

Am I cynical and old? I suppose, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong, either. Get a grip on yourselves, people. You decide who you want to be, not based on celebrities, because you know what, they're as fucked up as we are... except with more money... and cameramen.