Sunday, April 30, 2006

ribble's Next Meal

Like a man who thinks about his dinner while choking on his lunch, I've started to think about what my next script is going to be.

My first thought was that it should be a comedy. This is because I am slowly starting to hate my script, which is a normal part of the screenwriting process — once you're truly sick of your script, you know you're done.

Specifically, I've decided to hate not knowing whether my script is good or bad. With comedy, it's easy to know where I stand, because if people laugh, that's good comedy.

My new thought is that it should be about food.

Food has always been important to me. I practically grew up at El Mirador in San Antonio — I went there with my family every Saturday for lunch since the first week we moved there. I even met my baby brother there, not three months ago.

I still remember the first nachos I had there, just like I remember some dumplings I ate in the back of my mom's car when we drove from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. I never felt settled in my neighborhood until I found pizza and bagels.

I already mentioned the great food movies, and the food scenes in my movie have been the most fun to write.

Way back before I started the second draft, Nate read the first draft and told me he didn't understand why the guy, Will, and the girl, Apple, were in to each other. I thought about it, and I decided that Will would love Apple because Apple loved to eat.

So now, whenever Apple shows up, she's eating something and really enjoying it. I guess it worked, because when Jay read the script, he said he didn't know what she saw in him.

So my next movie is going to be a comedy about food. I'll let you know when I know something else.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

ribble's Third Draft

The inestimable Jay Stern of the First Sundays Film Festival took the time to read my script while he was on jury duty and we talked about it over lunch this week.

Jay, a filmmaker himself, was very helpful. I was happy to discover that all the problems of the first draft were resolved, and I now had a completely new batch of problems. This means I'm making progress.

Every one of the problems Jay and I talked about can be solved any number of ways through thinking and writing (whereas the problems of the first draft had to be solved through cutting and soul-searching, which are much more brutal).

Also, Jay pointed out that at 88 pages (standard script length is 120 pages), I was in the enviable position of being able to solve problems by adding scenes rather than needing to take scenes away.

So I'm in good shape. I was relieved — I have problems I feel I can solve, and there's enough work that I don't feel obligated to look for a job any time soon.

Where I've Been: Sun., April 23-Sat., April 29

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The first, median and last site I visited each day of the past week.

Sunday, April 16 (175)

Monday, April 17 (29)

Tuesday, April 18 (128)

Wednesday, April 19 (227)

Thursday, April 20 (153)

Friday, April 21 (11)

Saturday, April 22 (107)

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Jury Duty

I went in for jury duty on Monday and was picked for a civil case starting Friday. I was selected quickly because I am kinda the perfect juror: willing to be there, not dumb or smart enough to make up my mind before the trial (those people were recused), consistently awake. I even wore a goddamn jacket.

Besides the existence of an orientation video starring Ed Bradley and Diane Sawyer, the interesting thing about jury duty is the voir dire.

From the moment I got to the big juror holding room, it was clear there was a very diverse group of Brooklynites in attendence. All races and classes were represented - there was even a contingent of Hassidic Jews.

You can't escape the diversity of Brooklyn on a normal day, but the great thing about voir dire was getting to hear people speak with their own voices about themselves. It was like taking X-ray glasses on the train.

There was a retired guy who had been on a trial that dragged on for a month, a future law student, a guy in his mid-30s who thought the insurance company should just pay the victims off and be done with it, a pretty young woman who asked me if I worked for Americorps, a middle-aged woman who couldn't wrap her head around an accident without an eye-witness, and two women who didn't speak English. And that was only out of the first ten!

The only consistent thing about these people was that they had jury duty and were mildly annoyed by it. Makes me proud to be an American.

Update! (4/29/06) After two hours of waiting around, a cute woman bailiff lead me and the eleven other jurors to a small waiting room. I was planning to take the Rob Cesternino approach: hang back at first, then gradually form a working relationship with each of the other jurors over the next few days. Maybe even angle for jury foreman.

To make a short story short, we were called in to the court, told by the judge the case had been settled, dismissed and given letters that get us out of jury duty until 2012, when the universe is pretty much done for anyway. This is what's known as "lucking out."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Three Short Posts About Film

(Yet another bonus link above!)

This Short Post: The Brooklyn Underground Film Festival
Last week, I took a look at the Brooklyn Underground Film Festival at the Brooklyn Lyceum. I went to two nights of shorts and one night of Japanese ridiculousness.

The main appeal to Brooklyn Underground is that it turns out it's a block and a half from my house. I once had a punk band in my living room, and it was a lot like that.

The other appeal was shorts. I like watching shorts at film festivals because not a lot of people watch shorts; I get to see films very few others have seen. It's one of the same reasons I screen films for the First Sundays film festival. Plus, if a short is terrible, at least it's over soon.

After watching hours of bad shorts for First Sundays, I was impressed by Brooklyn Underground putting up a shorts program that was about 1/3 amazing, 1/3 meh and only 1/3 bullshit.

My favorites were Brad Neely's animated short "Washington" (scroll down for the SXSW film festival trailer), a British short documentary called Fountain of Youth, and Just 2 Guyz from the Lonely Island guys (Lonely Island is a great way to kill time at work if you already know you'll be working somewhere else in the summer.) If the Bush Administration Was Your Roommate would also play well at First Sundays.

Brooklyn Underground also had a raging party Friday night. Now some jerks (like my cousin the revolutionary) skipped the films and just showed up to the party.

That plus the fact that you could hear the party quite clearly from the back sections all through the second half of the shorts program convinced my mate that Brooklyn Underground was more about the scene than the cinema.

It was also telling that they scheduled a music showcase in Williamsburg in the middle of their Saturday features.

But I don't want to be a whiny bitch. It's tempting to take the film festival down my block for granted. I had great fun, and it was a clear that a lot of work went in to the fourth (!) year of Brooklyn Underground. I am all for more culture in my neighborhood, puzzling as it may be.

Thanks, Program Director Josh Koury. Thanks, Brooklyn Underground Film Festival. I was well rewarded for my three-block round-trip walk.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Three Short Posts About Film

(Bonus link above!)

This short post: My film!

Here is the status of my film:

I still haven't been able to bring myself to read it. Maybe tomorrow. But I did read over my friend's shoulder while she read it, and I can already spot some of the stuff I'm doing wrong. Mostly I'm not signposting the really weird stuff (people slipping in to other dimensions for tea, that sort of thing) so the casual reader can follow what's going on.

The most tangible sign of progress, then, is that I have decided the genre of my film is "urban fantasy." I can't pitch without a genre and I could never figure out what it was before, so this is a big deal for me.

Here's how I came to this: my aunt, my cousin the revolutionary's mother, has been working in film for forever. I gave her my pitch and what with all the vengeful spirits, possessed beetles and demons in hoodies, she decided it was a fantasy movie.

Now, to me, fantasy is some half-assed British thing with unicorns and magic fireballs and all that bullshit you don't see on a street in Brooklyn Heights.

My philosophy of filmmaking - and expressing this to the world is one of the reasons I wrote this movie - is that interesting magic isn't dragons and fireballs but their real-world analogies, like high-powered lawyers and accidents with your stove. It's what happens in the blink of an eye, it's a hand-labeled bottle in a medicine cabinet, it's not your curse but the curse next door. My type of movie is closer to magic realism, but magic realism has always meant something rural to me. Hence urban fantasy.

Three Short Posts About Film

(Bonus link above!)

This Short Post: Super Happy Fun Monkey Bash
Super Happy Fun Monkey Bash is a compilation of bizarre Japanese T.V., comedy mostly, that I saw at the Brooklyn Underground Film Festival this past weekend.

I'm a guy who will not laugh if I feel it's expected of me - I laugh at my own jokes only if I didn't borrow them from someone else. Plus, I was well aware that Americans love to take things out of context. This goes doubly for all things Japanese, as Johnny explains in "Everything's Designed By Someone: Engrish Debunked" (anything I write Johnny has done earlier and funnier). So going in I wanted to have a good time, but I didn't want to be a dirty American.

That said, here's my thoughts on Japanese comedy as presented in Super Happy Monkey Fun:

1) It's funny.
2) The Japanese T.V. clips that were memes when I was in college were intended to be funny to the Japanese public as well.
3) Japanese T.V. has a lower budget than U.S. T.V. (as does everywhere else in the world).
4) Japanese T.V. has more nudity than U.S. T.V. (as does everywhere else in the world).
5) Japan is a truely post-modern society.
6) I don't understand why we don't steal from the Japanese like we steal from the British. A lot of the stuff in Super Happy Fun would be a quick port to the U.S. Many stealing opportunities are available:

If you want to steal joke by joke, you could steal this bit with Beat Takeshi and some other guy running around a giant dinner plate hiding in bowls of rice and hitting each other with giant chopsticks.

If you want to steal content, you could dub this great 15-minute show that closed out Monkey Fun, where a kid named Sally and her friends Taku, Bako and Kiki go to the department store to buy Sally a new mommy.

And if you wanted to steal a whole concept, you could steal this show that Super Happy set up as Pop Idol meets Make Me Laugh. Aspiring teen singers have to perform a song while ridiculous set-dressing is revealed and absurdly costumed extras do suggestive dances.

Get on it, Imperialist America! Isolationism is for pussies!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Another Pass at a Definition of Post-Modernism

There's a mouse in my apartment.
There's a mouse in my apartment.
There's a mouse in my apartment.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A New Age for Eavesdropping

The rise of the cell phone has changed my favorite New York activity in two ways.

First, when I see someone walking towards me on the street who appears to be talking to themselves, I have to decide if this person is talking on a cell phone or if it may be a good idea to cross the street.

This is surprisingly easy with practice.

Second, I get to eavesdrop on half of what would normally be a private conversation, just a little out of context, with little effort on my part.

Overheard today: "You'd look like, you'd look like, you'd basically be a freak in a sheet."


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Where I've Been: Sun., April 16-Sat., April 22

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The first, median and last sites in my browser history for each day this week. This turned out to be an exceptionally boring week, browser history wise. Nearly every site falls in to my usual three categories: comics, this blog and the vaguely pornographic (just to spare Speedrail the trouble, that's Thursday median this week.)

Sunday, April 16 (22)

Monday, April 17 (46)

Tuesday, April 18 (93)

Wednesday, April 19 (205)

Thursday, April 20 (165)

Friday, April 21 (31)

Saturday, April 22 (203)

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I Finished My Script!

Well, I finished the second draft of my script. This was a good occasion to watch funny films and drink a lot of beer. Tomorrow: rereading/self doubt.

UPDATE! I decided to send my screenplay to a few people before I read it again so I wouldn't pussy out. I just realized I sent my parents a script with the line "Sorry to hear that, sorry to hear that. I mean, she was a bitch anyway. Short skirts. Anal."

Oh well.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Perfect Movies

I watched two movies yesterday: Slevin, which was really terrible, and Goodfellas, which I believe is one of the perfect movies.

I like Robert Zemeckis' very simple definition of a perfect movie, from his commentary for Back to the Future: a perfect movie is a movie where every frame advances either plot or character.

Back to the Future is one of the perfect movies. Goodfellas is as well - there's not a single shot, line of dialogue or camera placement that doesn't help tell this strange and brutal story.

Some of the Abrahams/Zucker comedies like Airplane! and Naked Gun are perfect movies, and the last perfect movie I saw was The 40 Year-Old Virgin. I think that makes a good point about comedies. The people who make comedies know, if it's not funny, you have to cut it.

Zucker cut a whole sequence out of the end of Naked Gun where the whole stadium sings "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Instead, he ended the movie after the last joke: Leslie Nielsen slaps O.J. Simpson on the back and O.J.'s wheelchair rolls down a flight of stairs as Priscilla Presley says "Frank, everyone should have a friend like you." O.J. hits the railing. Bam, end of movie.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Death of the One-Hour Anything

I'm ready to declare the one-hour T.V. show dead, or at least dead to me. It's a brand new era, maybe even a golden age, for media.

Those old standbys, the one-hour drama and the half-hour comedy, no longer interest me. Technology has let me be more selective about how I watch T.V. and other media, and I've developed a taste for plotlines that last not for an hour, but for entire seasons or more, what I call long-form television.

More than anything, the death of the one-hour anything is because of technology. Cable isn't the only place to find long-form T.V., but cable T.V., especially subscription services, let shows with adult themes and smaller audiences thrive. Cable has created shows that are among the best I've ever seen on, shows like The Wire and the new Battlestar Galactica.

It's not just that long-form shows like these have very long story lines and high production values. They also have more character development, bigger supporting casts, and a slower pace than older shows because they can take the time to do so.

Less restrictive decency standards on cable let these shows experiment with a darker tone. Cable networks also show more repeats, which gives viewers more chances to catch up on storylines, as do do digital video recorders like TiVo. Oh good Lord do I love my TiVo.

DVDs are the other big factor in longer storylines. Access to them is expanding because DVD players have steadily gotten cheaper, and because DVDs are more widely available.

Not only do DVDs let viewers catch up on things they've missed, they also encourages better production values and longer storylines: more dedicated viewers means more DVD purchases and rentals, which in turn means more money for the producers of the show.

The death of the one-hour anything started with two shows, The Sopranos and Survivor.

Beyond setting the bar for reality television, Survivor is great long-form T.V. I watch because I get to see characters grow and change, and because events that happen in the first episode, like somebody stealing a can of beans, can change how things play out seven shows later on.

Over time, I can also watch the tone of a particular season change or evolve. One particularly manipulative person can force everyone on the island to become deceitful and manipulative, or a particularly loyal group can make the game all about loyalty. Plus, you get to see people slowly starve to death. That's just great T.V.

The Sopranos demonstrated the power of subscription services to produce high-quality shows for adults with cussin' and killin'. Where Survivor was a mass movement, Sopranos was a media darling with a smaller but staunchly loyal audience. I myself do not watch Sopranos because I never saw the first episode and so never caught up.

Honorable mention goes to network long-form T.V. shows 24 and Lost.

Lost puts a strong emphasis on character development (which can get a little frustrating when I'm anxious for the story to go forward) and takes its time explaining its mysteries. This has led to what is arguably the most obsessive fan base since Twin Peaks

24 gets concept points for being a 24-hour story, but this usually works out to four six-hour stories (four and a half hours in real time). Still, there's nothing like an 18-hour 24 DVD bender.

Long Form in Other Mediums
Long form has also spread in my two favorite mediums, video games and comics. Video game technology are permitting games to be more sophisticated: better graphics, more voice acting, open worlds and, of course, longer and better storylines. Johnny wrote his thesis on Final Fantasy, but I'm a real American, so I'm talking about the Grand Theft Auto series. GTA III popularized the open world game, and each new release in the series has a bigger world and a better storyline. I believe GTA is the true American epic in a way that, say, Gone With the Wind really, really isn't.

Then there's the great forgotten medium, comics. When I talk about comics, I usually have to tell people that I am not talking about the comics you read (or used to read) in the newspaper every day and I'm not talking about traditional superhero comics. I'm talking about webcomics first and foremost, and independently published comics that are not superhero comics second.

Comics are a microcosm of the long-form evolution of T.V. Better technology, namely the internet, lets readers access comics more easily and it lets artists publish their comics for free. This means more artists, more readers, and a broader range of subject matters. Nothing I read regularly has superheroes in it except Powers, which is about cops in a world with superheroes.

The internet also let readers access the entire archive of a comic, often everything the artist has ever drawn. This allows very, very long storylines with big, interesting worlds, all created by a single person.

These artists are usually working a day job and making comics because they feel compelled to do so. Only a very few comic artists, like Pete Abrams at Sluggy Freelance, one of the longest-running webcomics of all time, actually make a living writing their comics.

Because they're not doing it for the money, and because the major cost to artists is time, webcomics can be more personal than their off-line contemporaries. This has spread diary comics like Drew Weing's classic Journal Comic beyond the self-published indie comics that emerged along with the photocopier.

Webcomics also give comic artists the option of interacting more with their audience or making an independent effort to popularize their work. Some artists do this, some don't. Some develop a real love/hate relationship with their readers. Immediate audience response, daily updating and personal ownership makes for some great work that often improves over time.

One of my all-time favorite things in any medium is Unicorn Jelly by Jennifer Diane Reitz. Reitz, who was used to making huge, complex worlds for role-playing games, starts with a very simple, Dungeon + Dragons-type fantasy comic. As her art style gets more complex, so do the characters and the world. We're talking entire systems of physics here. Eventually it turns out that these characters are much more important than they originally seemed, but I don't want to give the rest of this comic away because it is such a fascinating read. I think about Unicorn Jelly whenever I write a story.

I read about twenty comics every day (listed in my sidebar), about five every week, and a score of others whenever they come out. I've read the archives of all of these comics - I read webcomics more than books and about as much as I read newspapers and magazines. It's my medium of choice, and it's ruined newspaper comics for me.

I Can't Watch CSI
Just like losing patience with newspaper comics, watching a lot of long-form T.V. has made me lose interest in any other format. The one-hour drama, especially, has suffered. Shows where every episode has a beginning, a middle, and an end just don't cut it anymore. Take the one-hour crime investigation drama: I've tried Law & Order, I've tried CSI, I even took a spin at Bones, and I got nothin'. I'm started to feel a little alienated from America.

The Long-Form Anti-Massacree Movement
The best stuff on T.V., and maybe in any medium, is long form. This isn't the first time there's been a media revolution and it won't be the last. It's also not the only thing changing the face of media. But if you're not watching long-form shows, you're missing out.

Comics I Read Every Update

I have my comics sorted in to four groups based on when I expect them to update. The groups are AM Comics, PM Comics, and MWF Comics (which update only Monday, Wednesday and Friday), and Weekly Comics.

AM Comics
Sluggy Freelance
Schlock Mercenary
The Creatures in my Head
College Roommates from Hell!!!!

PM Comics
Kevin and Kell
Real Life
Narbonic: Director's Cut
Hutch Owen
Pearls Before Swine
Pearls Before Swine
Questionable Content

MWF Comics
Sore Thumbs
Pastel Defender Heliotrope and To Save Her
Sam and Fuzzy
The Order of the Stick
Girl Genius (Advanced Class)

Weekly Comics
Bob the Angry Flower
Twelve Dragons
Cat and Girl
Teaching Baby Paranoia
The Perry Bible Fellowship
Very Small Array
Donation Derby
It's Kittybot!

UPDATED 6/4/07
See also ribbles'

Monday, April 17, 2006

Almost Noticed

Speedrail already noticed that one of my favorite things to do is to try to figure out who's visiting this site. Most of the people who come here are old friends I haven't talked to in a while or don't see very often, which is the only audience I've ever really expected. A number are blog browsers who visit once and don't come back.

But a few come on searches for topics I've talked about here, usually celebrities (most popular so far: Elijah Wood). People even came through here looking for mentions of indy rock listings darling Oh My Rockness and Scary-Go-Round, the comic I've been reading since Keenspot's heyday.

I'm convinced the only person interested in what the bloggoscope is saying about Hugh Laurie is Hugh Laurie's agent. That's why this gets me all hot and bothered: every time I mention a celebrity by name, that celebrity's agent's secretary's intern spends two or three seconds looking at my site. It's not that I think my vague marriage proposal to Katrina Kerns is being passed up the public relations ladder, but, hey, a man can dream, right?

So, hey, low-ranked worker in the public relations industry hierarchy, stick around, leave a comment. Hell, link to your own blog. This is as close to celebrity as either of us is likely to get.

New Yorker?

When I asked a friend of mine how long it took before someone originally from outside the city became a New Yorker, he told me six years, but you can subtract a year for every mugging.

Fair enough, but I got my first jury duty summons yesterday. That's got to count for something.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Where I've Been: Sunday, April 9-Saturday, April 15

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Where I've browsed this week.

Sunday, April 9 (290)

Monday, April 10 (121)

Tuesday, April 11 (142)

Wednesday, April 12 (198)

Thursday, April 13 (40)

Friday, April 14

Saturday, April 15 (139)

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Modern Migration

Today at the family get together in Atlanta I was talking to favored relation Barbara about family migration. Barbara's family is from Michigan, and they all managed to migrate to North Carolina and (except for her) migrate back.

The same thing happened to every branch of my family - the pre-hyphen family spread from Dallas to New Mexico, Atlanta and San Antonio; the post-hyphen family spread from Ohio to Caifornia and Texas; my non-hyphen family spread from Long Island to Atlanta, N.C., Texas, and Manhattan; and my direct family went from San Antonio to Santa Fe, Florida and New York.

What's going on? Family migration must be a modern invention. Are we running from something or to something?

Barbara thinks it has to do with people selecting places to live based on their interests. A lot of people she met in Oregon, for example, had moved there from out of state because they loved being outdoors. I think it's because travel and communication (and so moving) are getting easier - you don't have to lose touch with your family if you just want to, eh, get a little distance from them.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Headed to Atlanta...

I'm headed to Atlanta for the weekend to see no less than two of the three trunks of my family tree - the Long Island and the Texas branches. I have no idea what the internet connectivity situation will be down there.

When I return: pictures of legos!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

ribble's Quest: Day 5

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Yesterday was the final day of my quest to find the next great writer's cafe, and I'm spent. The day before I'd downed a few too many double cappucinos and I'd been up all night (that's when I learned about Gorillaz).

Yesterday I went to Lucky Cat in Williamsburg. Lucky Cat was the last place mentioned on this thread on Gothamist that I'd decided to look in to. It turned out to be a very nice bar, newly remodeled, where I was told by the very nice owner that I was a little early for open mike night, but it was two for one on beers.

I drank my beers, had an excellent dinner down the street, and retreated to Atlas Cafe, where I found myself too drunk to write a simple chase scene.

So it ends, and not with a bang. Still, I got to know a couple of neighborhoods in the greatest city in the world a little better, and I've found a number of good places to write in New York. Here's my list, in chronological order by date of discovery:

Hungarian Pastry Shop
Amsterdam between 110th and 111th Uptown
Advantages: Best place to write in New York City, free refills
Disadvantages: Waaaay uptown

Mid-Manhattan Library
Bryant Park in Midtown
Advantages: In Midtown, demonstrates blase attitude to national monuments
Disadvantages: Closes at six Thursday through Saturday, no coffee permitted

Tea Lounge
Union St. between 6th Ave. and 7th Ave. in Park Slope
Advantages: Big, lots of kids running around, good grilled cheese, tea
Disadvantages: Too close to my apartment

The Atlas Cafe
Havemeyer and Grand in Williamsburg
Advantages: Not pretentious in any way, free interweb
Disadvantages: Occasionally demonstrate poor taste in music

Jane St. at 8th in Greenwich Village
Advantages: Ceiling fans, tea
Disadvantages: Turnover at tables is on the quick edge of acceptable

I should point out that all of these places are quiet with plenty of space to sit, good, cheap beverages and no pressure to leave.

That's it. As quests go, it hasn't been bad.

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ribble discovers Gorillaz

This weekend I watched my first Gorillaz videos , and they kinda blew my mind.

This all started when everyone made a big huge deal about Gorillaz coming to the Apollo a week or so ago.

My cousin the revolutionary has played a lot of Demon Days around the apartment, and it's worked my way on to the very short list of albums that I listen to regularly. I would have seen the show, but
1) It sold out a billion different times
2) It was $70
3) I don't really care about music
4) Speedrail pointed out that it was just going to be some guys singing behind a screen with a bunch of cartoons

Actually I guess I was never going to see the show.

But that last point got me interested in the Gorillaz videos. If the show consisted of a bunch of cartoons, why not just watch the cartoons and save my money for the metaphorical two hookers and an eight ball?

I had never taken the time or effort to understand what it meant that Gorillaz was a virtual band (see point 3). So my first stop was, of course, the Wikipedia entry.

The first thing that got my attention was that the creative force behind Gorillaz was Jamie Hewlett of Tank Girl and Damon Albarn of Blur. Both of these guys had work I loved but America never really got behind, and I'd pretty much given up hope it ever would.

There are plenty of second chances in public life. Just as everyone from Zombie College ended up in Futurama, just as the Howie Mandel Show became Deal or No Deal, just like Steve Guttenberg eventually found his place in ... Wait. What the hell do you mean they're making a new Police Academy movie?!? Jesus Christ! I thought the worst was over!

The characters and backstories are well done technically and consistent in tone between the music and the visuals. Hewlett and Albarn created a deep, rich world for Gorillaz, both online and offline. Check out Kong Studios here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

ribble's Quest: Day 4

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I had a scary film weekend.

Sunday I started screening submissions for First Sundays, a film festival that shows short comedy films every first Sunday at the Pioneer Theater on the Lower East Side.

After being forewarned by First Sundays co-producer and extremely nice guy Jay Stern that a lot of what I was going to see would be very, very bad, I was just happy nothing I watched was truly unwatchable. What scared me was how easy it was to make a bad film.

The main problems these submitted films had were 1) length and 2) the lack of a strong central comedic idea (know in the film business as a "joke.") It's unfortunate because a lot of bad work looks like it took time and effort to put together, and when the idea isn't there, there's really nowhere for the film to go.

This made the good stuff really stand out, but it also made me start to second guess my own writing. Did I have a strong enough motivation for the protagonist? Where could I tighten the dialogue? That sort of thing. Yesterday I spent rereading both my script and my blog.

This self ego-busting occured at Cafe Doma and Esperanto Cafe in Greenwich Village.

As far as writing, neither was worth a second visit. Cafe Doma was pretty (ceiling fans!) but way too crowded. In a writers cafe, people do not talk very much because they are writing. It was loud enough at Doma that Gorillaz wasn't cutting it and I had to switch to Robert Walter's 20th Congress turned up all the way. It might be okay on a Tuesday around 2:00, but part of the point of a writer's cafe is that you, the writer, are always welcome. Cafe Doma was more than I could be bothered to deal with.

Esperanto Cafe was recommended by my cousin the revolutionary. Earlier this week I had to explain to him that a writer's cafe was not just a place with WiFi. A place with WiFi is where people come through, they get a coffee, they browse the web, they talk to their friends. A writing cafe is a bunch of people hardcore focused on their writing. That said, Esperanto was about what I expected. It was mostly college kids chattin' and doing their college thing.

As far as my writing, it seems to hold together better than I expected. I especially enjoyed rereading this blog. I update because I can't stand not having new content for me to read, like a fashion designer who makes whatever's missing from her closet.

We're getting to the end of this little quest of mine, with just a few scragglers to pick up. It's been a fun little ride.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Notice to Blockbuster

My favorite place to rent videos has this important advantage over your neighborhood megacorp: they use the categories that people who like movies use.

If you want to watch a James Bond movie, there's a shelf of James Bond movies. You don't have to go wandering through the Action section trying to remember if On Her Majesty's Secret Service was the one with George Lazenby or the one with Diana Rigg. They're all right there. Woody Allen is a category. Local-made is a category. They think like I think.

Screw "Action". Screw "Drama". We need categories that make sense to us. Here's my top five movie genres:

Catholic Horror
Catholic Horror is any movie that borrows the laws for its in-movie world from the Catholics. We're talking Exorcist, Devil's Advocate, Rosemary's Baby, that sort of thing. (Note that although Carrie had a couple of Catholics in it, it was a high-school horror movie. Totally different.)

In a place where anything is worthy of a sequel if you don't have to think about it too much, it makes a sort of Hollywood sense to just lift your world from a popular, established religion instead.

Heist Movies
Every man wants to be part of a heist. If a heist movie comes out, I'm probably going to watch it.

Rififi and Le Cercle Rouge are my favorite French heist films, but, because they're French, it all has to end in tears. There's a real sense of joy in American heist films. We love being along with the bad guys.

Ocean's 11 was fun. Heist was an interesting heist movie because the thieves took the quite rational step of not talking about the crime. Heat instantly became the Pacino/De Niro heist movie. I remember it came out at the same time as a bunch of other three-hour movies and I was in three-hour movie heaven. I think I might have even watched it twice.

Objectively? The best American heist movie of all of all time? Die Hard. By far. Full stop.

The Die Hard novel didn't even have a heist. It was movie-making genius John McTiernan who realized that for the audience to have fun, it had to be able to enjoy watching the villains be villains. It's hard to enjoy a bunch of terrorists being terrorists for terror's sake. The moment they're after some money, we Americans feel like we can relate to them.

McTiernan understood the sheer joy of the Heist movie. He even went so far as to make the movie's theme song "Ode to Joy." Ladies and gentlemen, that is movie-making genius.

New York Movies
I was born in Albert Einstein hospital in the Bronx, lived in Scarsdale from zero to five, then moved to sunny South Texas. The big significance of zero to five was that I felt like a New Yorker in exile until 11 or 12. I remember being shocked at 10 that I'd spent as much time living in Texas as I had living in New York, and that's probably the clearest memory of being 10 that I have.

I didn't even really know anything about New York until I met some kids from there in summer camp and started visiting them every few years. Most of what I knew about New York came from New York movies.

The opening sequence of Manhattan made me cry, but then Woody Allen is really his own category. There's French Connection. There's Taxi Driver. But as far as I'm concerned, the quintessential New York movie is Ghost Busters.

Ghost Busters was a childhood obsession - I too was a ghost buster for Halloween - and it's probably the reason I'm writing a New York movie right now. There was all this New York stuff: these quirky people I felt like I could relate to, guys starting a business in a cool New York space, the tough-as-nails girl next door. At the beginning of the movie, they even walk through America's greatest library in the course of everyday business, just like I do now. But the most New York thing about Ghost Busters was Comedy Central's Official Biggest Smartass of All Time, Bill Murray.

Harold Ramis said his character was the brain of the Ghostbusters, Danny Ackroyd was the heart and Murray was the mouth. Bill Murray had the most New York attitude of anyone I'd seen on film before. This idea of someone who can't shut up even when it's clear it can only make a situation worse, that's what makes Ghost Busters my favorite New York movie.

There are really two categories here: Good Sequels and Bad Sequels. A good sequel expands the world of the original movie, like if your original characters leave the setting of the first movie and head to the outside world, or you introduce Tina Turner to the environment. There are 2.6 million opinions out there about this already, so enough said.

The 80s Movies You Like / The 80s Movies Your Girlfriend Likes
You like Weird Science. She likes Pretty in Pink. She likes Labyrinth. You say it's time for her to grow up and see The Man Who Fell to Earth. She says she likes Breakfast Club, and besides The Man Who Fell to Earth was from 1976. You say you like Rocky IV. She says she likes Sixteen Candles, and she doesn't believe you really like Rocky IV, she thinks you're just saying that. You insist you like Rocky IV, and also Earth Girls Are Easy. She suggests you may be thinking of Rocky III. You say you aren't thinking of Rocky III, you were thinking about Rocky IV like you said you were, and why is she always acting this way? She throws your copy of Short Circuit out the window, and then she starts to say she likes either Flashdance or Footloose, but you'll never know because before she can finish saying anything you punch her in the mouth. What's the solution to this problem?

You both need to watch Die Hard and shut the fuck up.

Where I've Been: Monday, April 3-Saturday, April 8

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The first, median and last site from each day's browser history.

Speedrail pointed out to me that last week's browser history made it clear how tame a lifestyle I lead. Although my life does not consist exclusively of reading comics and checking my blogger statistics (Monday median and Wednesday first this week), that's probably not far from the mark.

I did admit that I sometimes use private browsing, and once I explained to Speedrail what that was (Windows User), he knew exactly when I started using it: when he went through my browser history at work and discovered some not-safe-for-work stuff (see also: Monday last).

New feature: I am listing the number of pages visited after each date. Also note: Sunday April 2 is missing because I'm developmentally disabled.

Monday, April 3 (127)

Tuesday, April 4 (154)

Wednesday, April 5 (189)

Thursday, April 6 (26)

Friday, April 7 (287)

Saturday, April 8 (47)

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Friday, April 07, 2006

ribble's Quest: Day 3

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Today a nice lady pointed out to me that this is the first time in my life when I'm under no external pressure to do anything. Before I was always in school or working, but now I'm out of school and relatively unemployed.

My old friend Tom told me a few months ago that if he were in my position, he'd go to California and learn how to surf. I guess what I'm doing is the ribble equivalent: looking for a quiet place where I can do what I like and be left alone.

In the movie formula, the main character always starts his quest with one objective in mind and then figures out by the end that he's really wanted something else. Like he thinks he wanted as much gas as he can carry, but really he wants the good guys to win. Or he thinks he wants to inherit a fortune, but really he wants to get married. Or he thinks he wants a cup of coffee, but really he wants to sleep with a nun. Well, here's how I'm doing on the coffee:

Today I visited Grounded in Greenwich Village. This was a great writer's cafe.

There were lots of people with laptops, which is the first requirement. Smaller than Hungarian Pastry Shop and Tea Lounge, but I'm getting used to that. Ceramic cups like God intended, music that was good but I could tune out, free interweb and, most importantly, no pressure to leave.

They serve tea as well as coffee, and real brewed-in-a-teapot tea, not pussy-ass, tea-bag, paper-cup tea. It was a nice change after staying up half the night waiting out my three-coffeeshop caffeine buzz (I'm cutting to one coffee shop a day for now).

My favorite feature was ceiling fans. In the South-West, every room of every building has either central air or a ceiling fan. I'm convinced the lack of a ceiling fan infastructure is why summer is so brutal here in New York.

This makes four great places to write in New York (five counting the ones that don't serve coffee), and all in different neighborhoods. I am turning this city in to a personal buffet of artistic pleasure.

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Cinema Fantasy

Today I had my first bona fide cinema fantasy. I've sold the script I'm working on for a couple of hundred thousand, and I'm at the premiere wearing a black blazer over a T-shirt, being photographed with my dad. We are both smiling.

ribble's Quest: Day 2

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Today was the second day in my quest to find New York's next great writer's cafe, and I'm starting to realize just how surreal this little mission is.

It's not just that I'm becoming a caffeine-powered superhero. Because I'm moving from neighborhood to neighborhood, stopping at unfamiliar places and writing in each one, I'm skipping between locations in real New York while writing about events that I'm creating set in a parallel universe New York. Like today I wrote about a scene where a woman's tricked in to stepping out in to traffic in mid-town and has her neck snapped by a taxi. Then I left the library and tried to walk to the subway. Do you have any idea how disorienting that was?

Suggestions for where to find the next great writer's cafe seem to focus on the Village and Williamsburg. Yesterday and today I went to three coffee spots in Williamsburg - Gimme Coffee, Oslo Coffee, and The Atlas Cafe.

These aren't reviews in the normal sense, because I'm looking for something very specific. That said, Atlas Cafe was the clear winner. It looked like a pretty modest place when I first walked in, much smaller than Tea Lounge and Hungarian Pastry Shop, but as soon as I got my mug of coffee and started writing I knew it was going in my regular rotation.

First, the coffee was excellent. Good, strong, kick in the backside brew, served in a real mug because paper cups are for pussies.

Next, there were enough tables that two more people could have come in with their laptops and started writing, so I didn't need to feel guilty about staying as long as I liked.

Then all the other details were perfect. Music was provided but could be safely ignored, refills on coffee were 50 cents, there was free internet that I didn't have to talk to anyone to use, plus it's open late.

Finally, everyone there was working on a laptop. It was the perfect anonymous writing experience. The only problem was there wasn't any food to speak of, but who needs to eat when you're full of coffee and ideals? Oh, and the decaf tasted like swill, but that was my own fault for ordering it.

As writing cafes, the other two didn't cut it. Oslo Coffee was a perfectly nice local coffee joint where you could read a paper - virtuous in its own way, but not a writer's cafe.

Gimme Coffee had internet but only two or three booths. There was nowhere to hide from the constant foot traffic coming in and out of the damn place. The kitchen was loud and the girls there were chatting and listening to NPR. This wasn't a writer's cafe - it was an airport departure lounge grab-and-dash coffee joint.

Tomorrow I'm hitting three places in the Village, which should just leave one straggler on the Upper East Side and a place I missed in Williamsburg. Sleep well, America. I'll join you in bed as soon as the caffeine wears off.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Offline Praise for ribble's

Peer reviews from sources no less objective than my two best friends and my mom:

Mom's favorite post is "Hawai'i Memories" for its descriptive passages. Mom says I have a real talent for writing. Thanks, Mom!

My cousin the revolutionary likes "Last Night" because its description of codename Erin is "right on."

Finally, Speedrail says that the link for "young, stay-at-home mothers" "ribble's Quest" is the dorkiest thing he's ever read.

You want it! The public demands it! ribble's ... Must ... GO ... ON!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

ribble's Quest

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I don't like writing at home because there are too many distractions, but I've only found a few places in New York where I can write. There's the Mid-Manhattan Public Library, the Hungarian Pastry Shop on Amsterdam at Cathedral Parkway, and Tea Lounge in Park Slope.

Each has a unique set of advantages and disadvantages. Hungarian Pastry Shop is the classic writer's cafe. It is dark, everyone there is either writing or talking about books, there's free refills on coffee and they'll give you your cookies and leave you alone. It's a real institution, but it's a ways uptown if you're coming from Brooklyn and working in Chinatown. I go there once or twice a week.

The main branch of the library is right in Midtown and it lets me do my favorite New York thing, which is casually walk through major national landmarks for the most boring of reasons, just to prove I can. It's the same reason I get my perscriptions filled at the Empire State Building. There's free internet if you remember to bring an ethernet cord, which I never do. Major disadvantage: no coffee permitted. Coffee is good for me.

I love Tea Lounge. I wrote the first draft of my screenplay there. It's full of people on laptops and young, stay-at-home mothers with their children, and a little noise when I write helps me concentrate. There's internet, plenty of seating and space, and there's also the charming advantage of drinking tea instead of coffee.

The only problem with Tea Lounge is that it's very close to my apartment, so it's very easy to promise myself I'm going to go write at Tea Lounge and end up at home on the couch doing something much more interesting. I spend more time at Hungarian Pastry Shop because a couple of times during the week I'm already half way there.

I like to have a routine that changes every day. Two or three places to write isn't cutting it. This week I've began a quest to find somewhere between Park Slope and Harlem that's a true writer's cafe. This means there should already be writers working there at all times and I should be able to stay and write as long as I like without feeling guilty (guilt is a big thing for me.)

I'm starting with the posts in this thread on the Gothamist, and here's what I've learned so far:

1) There is a limit to the amount of coffee I should drink in a day.

2) There's a place at Houston and Ave. C called Hamilton Fish Park. This in itself would be worthy of a post, but it turns out the park is also very nice. It's well maintained, quiet (nearly empty at two o'clock on a Tuesday), and beautifully laid out. However, there are no actual fish in the park.

No further results yet. When I find the New York's next great writers' cafe, you'll be the first to know.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

My Week of Employment

Is it wrong to never want to work again?

I work in Manhattan's Chinatown as an after school homework supervisor of the cutest kids you've ever seen. My relatively low-responsibility job is make sure these kids do their homework and don't destroy each other. Normally I do this twice a week, but a few weeks ago a friend of mine at work was out sick and I found myself with a genuine five-day work week.

I started the week off tired and annoyed and never improved. The worst part was substitute teaching, which requires skill and training where supervising homework requires patience and an ability to yell effectively.

When I lost my media job in January, I had a lot of trouble getting started on looking for something new. In fact, I never really got started, and now I'm wondering if I should even bother feeling guilty about it. The homework job is fun when it's just for a few days a week, and lately I've been quite happy writing, taking care of the kids and not looking for a job.

I have a documented tendency to unnecessarily assess judgment on myself. Lately I've been asking myself if it's okay to pursue this quiet inclination to settle in to what I have and forget about the job I never wanted enough to go out and get anyway. I can always just wait for it to fall in my lap.

A Very Interesting Post About the Weather

I used to think seasons were just a polite fiction, like money. This was because in Texas, there were no seasons. For ten months out of the year it was either very hot or mostly hot, then around December or January it was a little chilly, and then it went back to being hot again. When I saw the traditional representations of the four seasons, I honestly did not believe in them. It was like seeing pictures of the Easter Bunny.

Then I lived in Wales, which had seasons but also the worst weather ever, which I've already written about. After that, I lived in New Hampshire. Again, beautiful place, but the weather could kick your ass. The problem with New Hampshire is that you would think winter was over and suddenly it would come back twice as wintry as it was before. It was a constant, almost daily battle between the sun and the snow, and it would last for months and months. It nearly cost me my ability to hope.

All of this has made me a bit paranoid about the weather. When it's nice and sunny out, my first instinct is to hide indoors in an air-conditioned room with the shutters drawn, because when it's sunny in Texas, it's generally too hot to do anything else. When spring is in the air, the birds start singing and teenagers start falling in love, I steel myself for the cold. Like a man who's just taken a 12-hour flight across an international dateline, all my instincts are backwards.

Here in Brooklyn, it's getting very nice out. In yesterday's mail was an offer to extend my lease. I realized that I've been in New York for nearly two years, and I don't have to worry any more about being betrayed by the weather.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

People from Atlanta like ATL

Last night I watched ATL with codename Erin, my cousin the revolutionary, and a few other friends from my cousin's high school in Atlanta.

I liked this movie, but people from Atlanta LOVED this movie. They were elated coming out of the theater, and conversation quickly turned to the film industry and their usual way of doing things.

All of which shows (again) people like seeing movies they can relate to. A good half of these kids were in New York because of the movie business, and seeing a film about people like them set where they're from and doing things they could have heard about growing up really made these people want to make a movie.

With a summer of bullshit on the horizon, that doesn't seem like such a bad thing.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Where I've Been: Sunday, Mar. 26-Saturday, April 1

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Just to prove I'll blog anything, the first, median and last site from each day's browser history.

Sunday, Mar. 26

Monday, Mar. 27

Tuesday, Mar. 28

Wednesday, Mar. 29

Thursday, Mar. 30

Friday, Mar. 31

Saturday, April 1

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Kill Time with Wikipedia

Wikipedia goes on forever. I discovered this in January when I lost my job and found myself with a lot of time to kill. I started hitting these weird clusters of articles, strange things I'd never explored before. In keeping with the theme of today's posts (laziness) here's a list of some clusters or categories of articles you can use to kill a week of your life, too.

Warhammer 40,000, a tabletop game I remembered my friend's older brother playing in his attic when I was young. I started looking at the Warhammer category because this poorly-drawn comic reminded me there was a deep, rich fictional world behind the game. The human emperor destroys 10,000 psychics every day to create a beacon that allows interstellar travel to happen. That sort of thing.

Future Events and Years in the Future. I started thinking about what future events were predictable way back in my reporting days when I made a list of stories that would be very important in my lifetime, like the death of Kim Jong Il. I was reminded when the start of the 2006 Winter Olympics caught me completely by surprise.

Final Fantasy and Slashdot are both categories Johnny has posted about. Final Fantasy is difficult to get a handle on unless you've been playing it since 1987 (I haven't, but I do play FFXI). There's no consistent world or cannon in Final Fantasy, just conventions, themes and structures. In the Slashdot category, the entries on in-jokes and trolls make the best reads.

Internet memes. Find the definition for the phenomenon that arguably defines the internet here. Another good list of memes is at memepool.

Doctor Who, the great British television show that I've never seen. I could Netflix it, which is why it didn't make my TiVo wishlist, but after exploring that entry for awhile, I honestly didn't know where to start.

Finally, Today's Special.

ribble's TiVo Wishlist

A couple of times Johnny's looked at my TiVo wishlist and said "Yeah. They're never bringing that back."

We all know blogs are best understood as a demographic. Here's my votes for shows to bring back to T.V. or something like it. I've linked to DVDs when they're available in the U.S., but all these shows are off the airwaves even here in U.S. media market #1, many never to return.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Danger Mouse
Dr. Katz
Dream On
Fraggle Rock
Max Headroom
The Maxx
The Muppet Show
Red Dwarf
Samurai Jack
The Sifyl and Olly Show
Square One TV
The State
Tiny Toon Adventures
Viva Variety

Shows I Was Curious About But Never Got to See
Hill Street Blues
Lost In Space
Petticoat Junction
The Six Million Dollar Man
St. Elsewhere
Twin Peaks (Pilot)
Your Show of Shows