Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tram Follow-Up in New York

Could it be? Am I actually missing the tram debate here in Portland? I guess I've been a little nostalgic for the glory days of Spring when the tram drama played out. What a letdown especially with Dan Saltzman folding up, after Randy Leonard assured the frenzied masses that there was no way Dan would do that.
It was also a little unfortunate that the deal squeaked through just before the drama in New York, when the Roosevelt Island Tram came to an abrupt halt, stranding the riders for 12 hours, 240 feet above the East River. That would have put matters into their appropriate context. So how is it going now? Well, the Roosevelt Island Tram will be shut down until the Fall and then experience temporary outages for years as it replaces old equipment. One cute twist: They mention the number 15 million in the story. Gosh, where have we heard that before?

Delays Expected When Tram Resumes in Fall - May 19, 2006 - The New York Sun

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mt. Tabor and Cable Access

Ahh, the healing power of cable access. I was fairly miffed today at my producer friend for having to rewrite this particular script. I felt we started at 100% and immediately dropped down to 80% because of a decision completely unrelated to the script itself. This was frustrating, but I played the good soldier and rewrote it again. Today we got into what I thought was a potential drift down to 60%, a level where you still get rich if it's made, but you are forced to leave the country because it now sucks. We have always been able to communicate our displeasure without freaking out, but I am not going to lie, I was mad. I am now over it. I returned from a long walk up Mt. Tabor to find that we are closer to done than I thought. Then at 10 my cable access show came on in which I interviewed the guy, and talked about the writing process and what it entails. In short, I was lecturing myself through the TV, and also reminding myself that there is a lot of friendship here, despite the temporary anger. The key was the stress release of a walk up Mt. Tabor followed by the healing power of cable access. The script will be fine. It is back to 90% of its original greatness and I can live with that. I made the classic mistake of caring and I should know better than that by now.

The Hollywood Blues

Wow, do I feel stupid. I flamed about the summer arriving and the script business being over. I made a bunch of silly metaphors comparing my role now to a sleepy fisherman with his lines in the water, enjoying the warm summer sun from the cozy safety of the bank. The way it is now, that's the only bank I'll be going to. The emails started pouring in and today became one of the most frustrating days since I wrote for the Portland Tribune. Let me just talk hypothetically here: If you ever hire someone to write something for you, examine the reasons why you aren't doing it yourself. If you arrive at the conclusion that the person who is writing what you want, has the talent, then trust that person. Do not tamper too much with what that person turns out. While you think you are making what that person has created much better, there is often a chance that these cuts and changes are also making it worse. Kenny Rogers thought he would look better after plastic surgery, too.I hadn't talked to anyone from the Tribune alumni association until I ran into one at a party this past weekend. I am over the Tribune, but I did revisit the feelings of anger I used to have when they would play it so safe. Lines I would have put in my column were removed, sold to Jay Leno, and then reprinted in the Oregonian, our would-be competitor. Then they would ask why my column didn't have any zing? Didn't Jimmy Durante have a saying, "Everybody wants to get in on the act"? What I hate is after they make their changes and things become diluted, weird, incoherent, and diminished. Then they ask you what went wrong? Trust the people who work for you, and don't hedge your bets. You think you're helping but you're actually taking a beautiful thing, and dropping it into the garbage can. You think you're cutting your way to Angelina Jolie, and then you're mad when you end up with Kenny Rogers.

Bob Dylan: The Weirdest TV Show of All Time

I assume you've seen the clip of Elvis Presley singing "You Ain't Nothing But A Hound Dog" to a basset hound on a pedestal? It was obviously staged by a TV producer who wanted to make a visual statement, and who also took the song quite literally. It's also clear that this was not Elvis's idea, but it's there as part of his history - a classic example of unusual television viewing. This weekend I had a similar experience watching a DVD that included a "Quest Canadian Television" episode from February 1, 1964. The set was a rustic log house with guys playing cards in a big living room. There were worn-down outdoor types with issues, whittling, and drinking whiskey, and one old guy throwing some wood into the stove. Another guy had a hook on his arm, perhaps from a lumberjack accident. Every now and then a guy would go "outside" which appeared to be a soundstage somewhere north of the border. He would admire the night sky or at least the studio ceiling before returning. The mood of the men was one of killing time. You know how someone picks up a guitar and strums? Everyone listens, occasionally nodding their heads but they don't clap at the end of the song. This was like that. It wasn't a performance - it was an art piece. And sitting amongst them, although he strolls during one song, was a young Bob Dylan performing, "The Times They Are A-Changing", "Talkin' World War lll Blues", "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll", "Girl of the North Country", "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall", and "Restless Farewell" - the last during the ending credits. As you would probably guess, Bob completely ignores the surroundings. There is no audience interaction. It is obvious that many of the "lumberjacks" do not get his music, as they try and nod their heads and smile like they were hearing a campfire drinking song. Bob doesn't so much as glance at them, performing like the whole setting is just a hallucination, which it could have been. The performance is powerful, and the TV producer ended up getting something of lasting historic value, considering it was Bob Dylan in 1964. But what a weird, surreal TV show. The only thing missing was the basset hound.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day 2006

Memorial Day is going to be about 4 people for me this year: First, my Mom. She lived into her 80s, but it was probably her time serving in the Red Cross in France that had the most impact. I like to think about all the families out there right now in America who benefited from having my mother consoling one of their wounded relatives during World War 2. She paid a big price for the emotional strain of seeing so much in her 20s. As you can imagine, these GIs meant the world to her - long before my brother and I came along these were her boys.
I'd also like to acknowledge 3 young men who died in the service recently. I'll always feel a special connection to these 3 because I went to their funerals. I just hope that Memorial Day isn't too tough on their families.
Brandon Scott Tobler, Born 5-17-83, Died 3-22-03

Travis John Bradach-Nall, Born 2-9-82, Died 7-1-03

Bob William Roberts, Born 4-19-74, Died 5-17-04

Bob was killed on May 17th, 2004 which would have been Brandon's 21st birthday.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Swan Awarded Highest Honors in Wacky News Field

I write comedy for around 140 radio stations 5 days a week, except this week when I have Monday off, thank God. It is mainly wacky news stuff, and after nearly 10 years I consider myself a wacky news expert. By that I mean I can chart you the relative frequency of a wacky news event as well as give you an expert opinion on its relative entertainment value. As a result I now sort of hate the wacky news, and it is increasingly rare that I bequeath unto a story the ranking of Wacky News Gold. The following story is Wacky News Gold:
Lovesick swan falls in love with swan paddle boat - Yahoo! News

Dick Cheney Cracks A Joke

Every good speech starts with a joke, and Dick Cheney knows all about giving speeches. That's why the Vice President always comes prepared. Besides, he's not the kind of guy who just shoots from the hip....Wait, let me rephrase that....

Mike Farrell: Feeling the Rage

There is no bigger anti-war liberal than Mike Farrell. Remember him from the MASH TV show? Mike recently watched "Baghdad ER" - the powerful documentary on HBO where you can see what the Iraq War looks like for real. It's brutal and you'll be extremely pissed off afterwards, especially if you were against this thing from the beginning. Mike puts it rather vividly when he writes: "Watching this horrifying, endless process, the tears on my face kept drying from the heat of my anger." Then he writes: "I loathe the people who have created this monstrosity. I want the criminals who lied and cheated and pretended and twisted and perverted reality - and those who rationalized their crimes - so they could send over 2400 servicemen and woman to their death, nearly 18,000 to come home torn - some never to be whole again - thousands more to suffer mental damage, and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians to be swept into the garbage can of "collateral damage," to pay. These bastards and their apologists should be stripped naked and forced to walk the main streets of America, allowing every city and town that has lost a loved one to injury or death in this shameful catastrophe to heap on them the scorn they deserve."
Stripped naked and sent out to the crowds in the street? Anger is interesting, isn't it? It brings out the creative side of humans. There are people right now who are coming up with detailed fantasies for how the objects of their hatred should be dealt with, and it's never a simple elimination. As the thoughts have a chance to fester, they become more elaborate. The real problems for the rest of us come when people are so full of rage that they're willing to kill themselves just to hurt you. Terrorists are not born - they're not happy people who are turned into killers by a religion. Terrorists are people who have become extremely pissed off at something. It's interesting to hear the anger in Mike's remarks: Strip the leaders naked and turn them over to the madding crowd? That sounds fairly primitive, doesn't it? How enraged would Mike be if something really made him mad? I'm not talking about a TV show, either. I'm talking about the kind of brutal act that turns a peacenik into a terrorist. The so-called War on Terrorism is full of these acts, which is why there are probably 10 times as many terrorists now as when President Bush started.

The Lighter Notes Rock the Night Away

The band got together again last night and all is well. It's actually going to be a trio these next two gigs. The Rose Festival one sounds like a winner - despite the 6-6-06 date. It's really so ridiculous to know exactly how to live a good life, and then to pull it off only now and then. For me, a good life is the next 24-hours after a musical outburst. That's when I feel the magic that existence can offer. When I got home last night, everything was different from the routine. The taped second half of the Detroit- Miami game was excellent, whereas before I went to play, the first half was barely watchable. Prior to the practice, seeing Rasheed pouting made me irritable. After playing music I saw him as a clown - an entertaining character to root against. Cashews tasted better. The wife was great. The blogs were more fun - everything gets in the good zone after a little 3-part harmony and rock with the humble Lighter Notes. I've known this since my early rock bands. I believe the first gig was when I was 11. That's a while ago now.
Of course we were rusty, but we still have a week and a half to get that worked out. The Rose Festival - that's a good paid booking. Oh well, time to get back to the real world. I'm going to go outside and see if I have enough heating oil for summer.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

President Bush: Sophisticated Guy

Did you see President Bush discussing his regrets over some of his tough "Bring It On" rhetoric? He wants to talk more sophisticated now, which makes his plan to go to Mars seem easy. You remember that one, don't you? His handlers wanted him to have a JFK moment so he called for a mission to Mars. The closest we'll come to that with these clowns, is if Cheney eats a Mars bar.
Has there ever been a phonier president? That's why they touted him so strongly as a genuine guy with moral clarity. Always analyze the spin and work backwards. President Bush acted decisively because Karl Rove believed the American people wanted someone who acted decisively. This isn’t genuine. It’s all bullshit. If Rove thought the American people wanted someone who juggled, President Bush would have tried juggling. This entire administration is based on illusion. From the beginning this has been a telemarketing campaign aimed at conservatives and the religious right, both of whom are in the process of figuring out they’ve been duped. For decades conservatives have been deriding the spending habits of the federal government. Well, here was their chance. They had a so-called conservative president, and both houses of Congress. They proceeded to put on the one of the most reckless examples of deficit spending in the history of the world.
How about the religious right, who have been calling for morality in government? Is this what you had in mind? Torture and preemptive war based on lies? Is that what being moral means to you?
So now we have the latest spin. There has to be some mistakes because the president’s numbers are so low. An administration that lives to dupe the American public can’t even generate some phony reasons for support. The solution is as disingenuous as everything else Bush does: He’s trying to define his mistakes for us. Now he says it was the tough talk. Sure, this is what went wrong. He said some Texas macho stuff and it was misinterpreted in some parts of the world. Listen, if our survival depended on him not saying dumb things, we’d already be extinct. This is an attempt to deflect from the real mistakes, with a bogus White House version, complete with a phony, impossible solution. President Bush, more sophisticated? Like that’s going to happen. Before President Bush becomes a sophisticated guy, we’ll have entire cities on Mars.

Friday, May 26, 2006

On To The Summer of 2006

Okay, things are starting to take shape here. My joke bombed last night, but I've had a bunch on lately so I can handle it. Besides my late night friend is off next week, so he'll have a chance to forget. The joke was, "They’ve found an ancient Roman city underwater off Egypt. They believe it happened during the reign of Emperor Ray Nagin."
Too far to go, folks. Frankly, another one of mine bombed on Monday: “Madonna started her concert tour here in LA and during the show she was hung from a crucifix. Usually she only gets crucified in movie reviews.” I’m not afraid to say that didn’t exactly wow America either.
Oh well, I’ve got one more TV batch today, then I’m going to send the script rewrite in. I’ve got a final batch of jokes around 11a.m. for the radio network, and then it’s off to the summer of 2006. I sense from my contacts in the TV comedic community that everyone is a little burnt. It’s a Sweeps thing.
Saturday the band gets back together. We’ve got a gig on 6-6-06 at the Rose Festival, then out to the Hillsboro market a week later. No more movie shenanigans for me. The scripts are like fishing lines on a warm summer day. You relax on the bank, and forget about them, only coming to attention if you get a bite.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

President Bush, Blair, Get Humble About Iraq

How bad is it when the Dimmer Twins: Blair and Bush start talking about their mistakes in Iraq? To hear Bush sounding humble is the greatest indication yet of what has happened here. This spoiled brat who hates to be criticized by others, much less himself, is facing a time of desperation. This is the only strategy he has left? To try and run the “Aww shucks” routine past us? To hear President Bush tell it, this plan was okayed by Jesus, personally. So when President Bush was talking with the Big Guy in the Sky, why didn’t he ask for some of the operational details, too? If God told him to go into Iraq, wouldn’t God include the details to make the mission a success? President Bush isn’t suggesting that God sabotaged the mission, is he? Where were the warnings from heaven? We go to all the trouble of having a President who talks with God, and all we get out of it are foreign policy debacles? Maybe we should be grateful. If things are this screwed up with God advising the President, what would happen if the little pinhead was winging it on his own?

Bush, Blair Concede Missteps on Iraq

Sulking Over - Rewrite Nearly Done

I enjoyed the producer's visit, I'm glad we worked through two contracts and that he is enthusiastic about the script, but I’ve been sulking about having to change the central character's age from 18 to 34 so that a more established star can hopefully be attached. I've been perplexed at how to do it without destroying something nice, saying to myself, “This is like doing plastic surgery on Angelina Jolie.” Finally, yesterday I went for a walk and figured it all out. It’s actually going to be better in some ways so now I feel slightly sheepish for being such a stickler for the original. I heard the weariness in the producer’s voice as he thought, “Why doesn’t this guy understand?” Oh well, once the new scene went on the front, most of it fell in place and I’m going to send it off soon.
I need a little calmer routine for a few weeks. Fortunately, I did one of the cable access shows with the producer so that will make these next few days less demanding. That was funny too: He wasn’t happy with the lighting and asked that the shot be cropped in a more flattering way. Sorry, but the scripts are your world. Cable access is mine.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mayor Tom Potter Believes FBI Tried to Recruit Mole in City Hall

It looks like we might not have to work so hard to keep Portland weird this week. That is if you find it weird that the FBI would be trying to recruit someone inside City Hall. Check out the letter from Mayor Tom Potter:

An Open Letter to the Portland Community:

On Thursday, May 11, 2006, a Special Agent of the Portland Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation stopped a City employee and showed her a badge and ID. He asked if she knew any City Council members. He asked if she would be willing to pass information to him relating to people who work for the City of Portland . He said that while he had duties in other areas, the agency was always interested in information relating to white collar crime and other things.

One important and legitimate role of the FBI is to investigate public corruption within government entities. For example, recently the FBI arrested a member of Congress for public corruption. But federal officials have told me they know of no public corruption in our city. Federal officials say they are conducting no investigation of the City of Portland.

The only conclusion I can draw is that the agent in question was trying to place an informant inside the offices of Portland ’s elected officials and employees, in order to inform on City Council and others.

The actions of the FBI – even if they are the actions of one agent acting on his own - come at an uneasy time for many Americans. In the past few weeks, we have learned that our phone records are not private, and conversations are monitored without warrants. Journalists exposing these actions have been threatened with prosecution.

Even if this incident is nothing more than the work of one overzealous agent, it represents an unacceptable mindset within the agency. When there is no information to indicate ANY public corruption on the part of City Council members or employees, the FBI has no legitimate role in surreptitiously monitoring elected officials and city employees.
As a city, we will continue to cooperate with the FBI on investigating criminal activities and terrorism, to ensure our community is as safe as possible.

But in the absence of any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, I believe the FBI’s recent actions smack of "Big Brother." Spying on local government without justification or cause is not acceptable to me. I hope it is not acceptable to you, either.

Thank you,

Tom Potter

Mayor Tom Potter

The Morning After: Baghdad ER on HBO

I made it till around 8:30 this morning before being revisited by some of the soldiers and medical people in "Baghdad ER", the documentary on HBO. Today it's not so much about our leaders, as a time of reflection and respect for the individuals involved. Watching doctors and a chaplain try and talk a young soldier through a bleeding wound deep within his chest was as powerful as anything I've ever seen on television. As the vigil progresses and the surgeon slowly realizes that survival just isn’t in the cards, the chaplain tells the young man that it is okay to go. The kid put up a hell of a fight but it was something he couldn’t win. The issues and politics of Iraq fall to the wayside and it just becomes the sadness of watching this one young life end – not from traumatic amputation or fire – but from a little piece of metal that found its way next to his heart.
It would have been so easy to overdo this special. If they had wanted to show the constant carnage, that would have been no problem. There’s certainly plenty of it. But by focusing in on a few individuals, the documentary makes its point even more powerfully. Sure, it’s tough watching an arm being placed in a red plastic bag for disposal, but what’s really tough is watching what’s happening to these people on an emotional level. This documentary contains the best commentary on this war that I’ve seen. It’s from the doctors and nurses – the ones who have the best view of what this really means. And unlike our politicians and our news media, these individuals aren’t afraid to tell you what they really think.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The HBO Special: Baghdad ER

I doubt if the White House will have a special screening of this. You know, where they invite a few powerful supporters of the Bush administration in for dinner and a film. This is Baghdad ER, the HBO documentary that gives Americans their first glimpse at what the war in Iraq looks like on a daily basis. First, the good news: You get an overwhelming wave of pride watching these military personnel wrestling with the horrific nature of their jobs. There is a side of war that doesn’t change and this looks a lot like the film MASH with better helicopters. The doctors and nurses and orderlies – everyone involved – is so heroic you just want to reach through the screen and give them a hug. These are modern day Hawkeye Pierces, using humor and diversions to hold their psyches together to deal with an endless stream of young American soldiers and Iraqi civilians facing brutally horrific wounds.
The soldiers are occasionally cool and funny but most times they are seen in a traumatized state of shock – with what one Vietnam vet calls “the 1,000 mile stare.”
They are mainly dealing with their wounds and coping with watching their buddies die alongside them. One soldier says it was the most horrible thing he ever saw – his buddy with no face. You do not often witness people anywhere dealing with this level of emotional pain. One soldier sobs openly, and it's hard not to join in.
This leads directly to the final response to this documentary – you find yourself becoming extremely enraged at the leaders who cooked this up, and the right wing chicken hawks who supported it. Sure, you’ve felt this way all along but seeing the actual results of this unnecessary war, brings long repressed feelings out to the light.
As Washington, D.C. slowly moves to talk of containment in Iraq, and the macho bragging of a glorious victory fades, President Bush is back in the news describing meeting the families of these dead soldiers and how it is important that their deaths are not in vain. Watching the film, I wondered about a President who can live with himself knowing his lies caused this war to happen, while even the stated reasons turned out to be wrong. I don't see him reacting with the normal range of human feelings, especially any guilt or shame. My conclusion? President Bush is a sociopath – a folksy moron responsible for sending our young people to be ground up in Iraq, without a care in the world save how the war has affected his poll numbers. He loves the thought of war because it is a power rush for him personally. I believe he views the whole world as an extension of himself - a backdrop for his hopeless quest to prove he is a big shot, to compensate for the missing pieces of his wretched soul. I doubt if he’d waste his time watching Baghdad ER. Worse yet: If he did watch Baghdad ER, I doubt it would bother him. There are bicycles to ride and miles of lies before he sleeps.

The Oregonian's Not to Blame This Time

I'll be the first to admit that I've been very critical of the Oregonian lately. What set me off was the David Reinhard column called, "On the Ground in Bagdhad: How Goes the Battle?" Call me a stickler for accuracy, but if you're going to call a column, "On the Ground in Bagdhad", the columnist should be on the ground in Bagdhad - not manning a desk in Portland, protecting our country's paperclip supply from attack. That does not mean I bear ill will towards the Oregonian – a paper I’ve read nearly everyday of my adult life. I try to look at these things on a case by case basis, judging each with an understanding heart.
This brings me to one of the corrections in today’s paper: “Stephen F. Austin State University is in Nacogdoches, Texas. The city's name was misspelled Saturday in a Metro story about finalists for the Southern Oregon University presidency.”
I want to state for the record that I was in no way offended by the misspelling of Nacogdoches, and that in no way did it detract from my enjoyment of the Metro section on that fateful day. Furthermore, I do not anticipate any lasting effects of this error going forward. I’ll even go one better: If the paper wishes to drop this matter without further investigation, I will not cry cover-up. I will simply let it go. If, however, the editors feel more must be done to correct this, I will gladly buy the paper that day and read all about it. In fact, I am looking forward to a column by David Reinhard called “On the Ground in Nacogdoches.”

Monday, May 22, 2006

Hollywood and the "But" Word

Yesterday was everything the screewnwriting process has to offer: Exhiliration combined with stomach-turning compromise.
Only this time I think I have found redemption after a restless night. The key to writing for Hollywood is not to invest too much of your soul into the work. Why? It comes down to the “but” word. If you love your characters and story – the "but" word's going to rip your heart out of your chest and crush it. Here's how the "but" word works: “We really love everything about this, but could you rewrite it and turn the 25-year-old Amish girl, into a 45-year-old Taliban terrorist?” This is followed by a second wave of “buts”: “Now that our star is a 45-year-old Taliban terrorist, we love the script but we need you to change the setting, the plot, and the title. Oh, and by the way, you know the page 10 rule where something huge has to happen by page 10? Well, we like what you have on page 10, but could you give us something huge a few pages earlier?” This is finally followed by the last “But”: “Thanks for making the changes. We love them, but the script just doesn’t hold together like it used to and the studio passed.”
That is what you’ll have to go through on a routine basis. Now if you’re smart you will learn the reasons why they didn’t like something and address them next time. You’ll keep cranking scripts out until there is nothing possibly left to complain about. You’ll learn the craft. Why? Because if the person you’re dealing with knows what they’re talking about, the studio person will say the same thing anyway. This is what I did with the latest script – or thought I did. This thing is a beast. It is a monster. The producer loved it and gave me a nice deal which includes a $700,000 ceiling for writing it based on the budget, which has to be big. So if this movie is made, for what it needs to be made for, I could get somewhere from the minimum WGA screenwriting amount which is probably a third of that, on up.
Something happened in the last contract that changed my view of things. In that one, there was language for a small independent version of the movie, which included me getting a much smaller writing fee, but getting 10% of the producer action.
I took that and this time around - even though this one is a high budget contract - I asked for the same associate producer designation for 1% on top of the writing money. This was a good move, although it’s based on net, not gross, so it is problematic except that whatever anyone else has in a net agreement must be used to determine mine.
I spent 13 hours with the producer yesterday. We looked at all kinds of land, we talked about life and we had a lot of fun. At the end of a long day, we came back and he sat at my computer and we finished two contracts. The option fees are significant, although they would become even better if this is assigned to a studio. If the movie is made, this will become life-changing in many good ways, although I like my life now.
The producer loves the new script. It is hilarious. I think you know what is coming, folks. He loves the script, BUT if a studio were to invest this kind of money, they would have to attach an established star to the picture. Could I please rewrite the 17-year-old about to turn 18, into a guy in his 30s so we can get an established star? This, of course, would change everything, and greatly diminish the story line, destroy the charm, and ruin at least one potential sequel. This is how the business goes.
So last night, I was up looking at a website about teen stars. And yes, that did feel a little creepy. This morning I found the guy. It’s that kid who was in 6th Sense. A monster actor – the finest of his age group. He just turned 18. So I will get ready to think of the major changes, in case I have to write them. As a matter of fact, I have already agreed in good faith to write them. The producer said we have this version so write the other and if the studio has a young star, we can use the great original version, instead of the later, screwed-up compromised version. This time I’m going to resist changing the original story, even if I have to cast the damn thing too. Hollywood is all about gut-wrenching compromise but this time I’m going to fight.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Trojan Implosion

Well, it’s Sunday morning, 6:32 a.m. as I write this. Why am I up? To watch the Trojan implosion? No, although it is on in the background. This morning I will be driving up to St. Helens on highway 30 at around 10 a.m. so that the Hollywood producer can look at property there. We will also discuss the contract and the new script. He loves the new script although there are always a few reservations. Creative people are like that. You can tell them the sky is blue and they’ll suggest changing it to purple.
Of course, I should have spent these last few days pouring over the contract, analyzing every phrase and weighing every word. Frankly, I have not. That is why I am up at 6:30 the day of the talks – to try and figure out what the contract says. Now that I am up, I am still putting it off. There is a little anxiety. What if my printer runs out of ink during the final print-out? 2 copies, 7 pages each? Then I’ll have to scramble to the store, and this really will turn into one of those last second disasters. For now though, there is plenty of time. Check some websites for the latest news, post a blog entry on the Portland Freelancer, watch a little TV. Go get some coffee and read the paper. Do you get the impression I’m not too thrilled about jumping into the contract? You’re right, but this has to be done. It is important, or at least it could be. Then again, it could just be another ridiculous move in a long series of events that go nowhere. If this does lead to something, however, I’ll always be able to look back and remember that morning. You know the time….remember when they blew up the Trojan cooling tower? It was that morning. Who knows? Maybe it'll be the time the Trojan cooling tower and my career imploded on the same day.
KATU’s Carl Click just went to a correspondent named Brian at the Port of Kalama, who didn’t know he was on the air. Brian wiped his nose with his shirt sleeve, and then hugged himself like he was freezing. The screen went black while Brian started his report. Carl Click said, “Brian is with us now” and they went back to him in mid-report. Ahh, the comedy of life. It’s going to be a fun day.
Trojan just blew. Goodbye and good riddance.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Lionel Richie: Huge In Iraq?

ABC News is reporting that Lionel Richie is the Fabian of Fallujah, the Ramones of Ramadi, and the Beatles of Bagdhad all rolled into one. When it comes to popularity Lionel is the Elvis of Aljazeera – a huge star in the Middle East. And who cares what the reason is? It’s the most hopeful story I’ve heard from that area in years. Why? Because somewhere down the road I’d like to think of humanity united by music instead of mayhem. I want to live in a world where the biggest bomb is the new CD by Yanni.
What is humanity best known for? Until the answer to that is grooving out or creating artwork, we are in trouble. This is what we should be doing: Becoming painters and poets. We don’t need more military troops – we need more dance troupes. The Neo-Cons should have been a punk rock group.
I actually saw Lionel Richie before he was Lionel Richie. Oh sure, he had some of the ballads going, but he was mainly a member of the Commodores and while “Three Times a Lady” was out, the song the crowd at Memorial Coliseum wanted to hear was “Brick House.” You ask me, Lionel should have stayed with that band. We were also there to hear the other band: The Brothers Johnson whom I went to see twice. If you think you’re a bass player you should research a guy named Louis Thunder Thumbs Johnson.
He had a horrible falling out with his brother George Lightnin' Licks Johnson, or they could have stuck around. That’s what’s wrong with this world. Members of the human family fighting – brothers not getting along with each other. And Iraq? Now I know what we did wrong. We sent the Marines when we should have sent the Commodores.
ABC News: Baghdad's Lionel Richie Obsession

Art Alexakis: Rock and Roll Greatness

Just before I crash at night I like to listen to the AM radio. Sounds like an Everclear song, doesn’t it? I check out a little talk, but not much, and then I go to the oldies on KISN. Something about hearing a classic early rock or soul song puts me in the perfect place for a blissful sleep – it’s like saying goodnight to your favorite stuff. And when a song comes on the radio that you love it’s like winning a contest. You might be within feet of the same tune in your own collection, but to hear it seemingly by chance, is still a rush.
Now the downside of KISN: Some nights they get into a lame era of pop music where record companies took their leftover schmaltzy orchestras from before and tried to get them to rock. While an eclectic play list is admirable, KISN can sometimes drift into the teenage angel/loser zone. It was during one such recent foray that I switched to FM and perused the dial.
Who should pop up but the familiar voice of Art Alexakis and Everclear doing, “Wonderful”:
“Go to my room and I close my eyes, 
I make believe that I have a new life, 
I don't believe you when you say, 
Everything will be wonderful someday”
The song jumped out of my tiny radio and filled the room. I tried to place the voice in the grand pantheon of rock greatness, and it charted extremely well. The emotional pain in the soul was undeniable. I continue to believe that Art Alexakis is as legitimate a rock and roll force as we’ve heard in the last 20 years. There’s no way he could ever pry himself into the rarified company of the Who or the Stones or the Kinks, but for those few minutes the other night, he had me convinced that this song was every bit as great.
I know Art is going through some nasty economic times right now, and I just hope Portland realizes what we’ve got here. This is rock and roll greatness. So Art, I hope everything is better someday.

Willamette Week Online | News | NEWS STORY | Starving Art (5/17/2006)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Pun Alert – Tribune Gets Witty With a New Year's Eve Reference in May

Auld Linn syne

What can you say about a form of humor that elicits groans even when it’s done well?
Welcome to the world of puns, a favorite of jaded newspaper editors everywhere. Actual comedy writers try not to dwell anywhere near this format. I recently had a dentist lay a couple on me, and I told him if he continued I was going to start deducting them from my bill. So let’s look at the Portland Tribune headline celebrating Diane Linn’s departure: Auld Linn syne.
Wow, the Trib editors have actually managed to be lame in two different languages at once, here. Let's break this down:
First, it’s not easy when you’re in a twice-a-week cycle and the news world is moving at warp speed. If this headline were to work at all, it would have to be the next morning after the election. Three days after the event it comes off as ancient history. I showed it to the woman at Starbucks this morning and she said, “Let it go.” Newspapers like the Tribune are best if they’re bringing some post-election reflections such as in Phil Stanford’s column. Yes, he’s a friend, but I’d say this even if I hated his guts: He’s carrying the Trib like a suitcase up the stairs.
To give a minute by minute report of how election night went down, this far out, seems unnecessarily cruel and pointless. It makes the Trib seem to be wallowing in Diane Linn’s misery, and the dumb pun only makes it worse. Plus, if you're already struggling with the speed of the news cycle, writing headlines in a Scottish dialect from the 1700s doesn't help. Take a cup of kindness and get back to us.

The Roswell Case: Meeting Jesse Marcel, Jr.

No matter how you feel about UFOs, the Roswell case is a part of American history. The man in the picture is Jesse Marcel, Sr. He was the Intelligence Officer at Roswell Army Air Field, who went out to the ranch owned by Mac Brazel to check out the debris.
Last night I talked with Jesse Marcel, Jr. at my producer-friend Paul David’s Roswell screening at the Kennedy School. Incidentally, Paul made a brief appearance in the movie as the autopsy photographer, and a picture of him in the role made it to the pages of Time Magazine in July of 1997. The movie was nominated for a Golden Globe and it was excellent with a great cast including Martin Sheen. The film was one thing but to have a real-life participant in the incident there was tremendous. Jesse Marcel, Jr. spoke briefly to the crowd. He maintains that his father brought some of the material home and showed it to him and his mother. He says his father believed it was a crash of a space ship, and that the military ordered him to cover it up. The weather balloon story has never really made sense, as that would have been readily determined by someone like the intelligence officer. To me this has the feel of a local event that was reported before the powers that be could shut it down. Jesse’s father became the fall guy forced to take the ridicule for the original UFO story that went out on the radio and newspaper wires, only to be retracted a little later. Imagine this on a family level. You’re going along and all of a sudden you are in the middle of this great mystery. I shook hands with Jesse Marcel, Jr. and felt a thrill thinking about him handling this debris, whatever it was. Jesse Marcel, Jr. went on to be a doctor in Montana where he still lives. I found him to be completely credible – just another case of a seemingly rational, stable, normal American telling a story that is very hard to get your mind around. I also got a real rush when I asked him, “When was the last time you went back to Roswell?” He said he was a few years ago, but when I first said the word “Roswell”, a serious looked passed over him. There was a flicker of pain. This was a gigantic, life-changing event for his immediate family back in 1947 and he has continued to deal with it ever since.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Script Update

The producer is 25 pages into my new script and I can tell he likes it. He just called and Sunday has been updated from a meeting to hang out all day, and talk about it while he looks at real estate. I knew he would like it. Trust me – this one is way out there. It’s like he can’t even discuss it without beginning to crack up. The best opinion he had was “We have got to get you to a psychiatrist.” In my world, that’s high praise.
Got to go. Tonight he's screening his Roswell movie with Martin Sheen.

Spectacular Fire Leads To Unlikely Victim: Me

So who really paid the price for that spectacular fire last night? Who were the fire’s main victims? The fireman who suffered an injury that was described as minor? Yes, of course, and I don’t use the phrase “minor injury.” It’s usually not a minor injury to the person involved. How about the fish in the Willamette River that had to endure the fire-related oil spill? Yes, they are also victims. But it is with a heavy, self-absorbed heart, that I report that I, too, was also a victim last night.
I am in what I call my obit years. These are the years when you do whatever it is that they’ll put in your obituary. If there is an obituary when I die, it will no doubt mention writing over 500 jokes for the Tonight Show. I’ve sent them down to L.A. since 1993, 5 days a week, every week the show has been on, whether I felt like it or not, and frankly, whether they were funny or not. All I ask in return is to use my VCR to record the monologue, keeping the nights when one of mine was on. Years from now I can review the tapes and try and figure out which joke it was. Simple enough, right?
Last night’s spectacular fire was covered by Channel 8 till around 11:50. I remained calm. There have been delays in the beginning of the broadcast before. You wait it out like a man. When the fire coverage was over, I hit record. Did they start the Tonight Show from the beginning? No, they joined it in progress. That would still have been fine if I hadn’t had a joke on, but today, Leno’s assistant told me I had. It was a simple little observational joke about the immigration issue: “You know what I was thinking? You don’t see those Taco Bell ads that much anymore. Remember the ones: Make a run for the border? Kind of fallen out of favor a little.”
All is not lost: I can still get a tape of it by waiting for the repeated broadcast a week later at 2 a.m.
So long after you have all moved on from the fire, and hopefully after the fireman who was injured last night is completely recovered, I will be up next Wednesday night trying to program my VCR. Do you see now who the real victim was?

Danger Zone: The Oregonian Tries Funny Headline

Recently the Oregonian’s David Reinhard had a column called “On the Ground in Bagdhdad: How Goes the Battle?” which I thought was a bit of a reach. I mean the only forward position David Reinhard is in is if he leans forward at his desk. Now I see the Oregonian is trying humor with their front page story called “Humans, chimps may have swung together twice”, which sounds like its from the Daily Show or the Onion website. The local paper probably got the title from the wire service, although the Oregonian staff is responsible for their own headlines and often rewrites column headlines from other papers. So what about this one? It’s clever: You have the play on words between swinging through the trees on vines and sexual swinging which covers the topic of human-monkey intercourse with about as much grace as possible. So my verdict: This is funny given the difficulty of the subject – a rare although perhaps misplaced professional-quality comedic line.
Now let’s see how quickly you can get in trouble once you introduce this level of humor to your normally stodgy newspaper. Comedy creates an atmosphere which is why most dinner speakers start with a joke, but then announce that they are now going to be serious. They establish that wall and return the right level to the room. A newspaper doesn't have the same opportunity to rein the tone in and return to serious. Let me skip to the point: If the Oregonian is going to go with a headline like this, they should - under no circumstances - also have a headline on the front page of today's Living Section called “Sponsoring a girl with a goat”. Unfortunately, they do. Comedy is a dangerous thing. Leave it to the professionals. Stick to writing brave-sounding headlines about David Reinhard - it’s what you do best.

Framing the Issue – Why Republican Foreign Policy Sucks

If you ask average American citizens about the image of Republicans, they will respond that Republicans are strong on foreign policy. That is the message that’s been Wonder-Breaded into us. You remember the Wonder Bread slogan, don’t you? Builds healthy bodies 12 ways? How about the one where they claimed it made children think better? Of course, it turned out that you’d be better off eating the wrapper. Republicans and their foreign policy image is like that. Heavy on the hype - light on the thinking. First they come up with a bad plan, and then after it blows up, the right wing machine shifts into deflecting the blame and defining the debate. Rather than question the basic cleverness of the plan, we get bogged down in the legalities or the excuses. So every now and then we should remind ourselves of what is true: Some of these ideas are just plain stupid. For example, the Iran-Contra mess was a bad idea. Why? It involved giving missiles to Iran that could have been used on our own troops. Besides, the Reagan administration was counting on sworn enemies in the Middle East to keep it a secret. They didn't - the story broke in a newspaper in Beirut. Okay, that was way back during the Reagan years, but guess what? These are some of the same exact people running the show now. Iran Contra was dumb then and the Iraq War is a gigantic dumb move now. Let's be perfectly clear, as that Republican moralist Richard Nixon used to say: This wasn’t a good idea that was executed badly. That’s just more spin. This was a bad idea that was doomed precisely because it was a bad idea. Modern Republican leadership sucks because it is based on marketing, rather than results. I bet most Americans believe the Soviet Union ended because of Ronald Reagan. That is hype. They imploded economically while engaged in costly, reckless adventures abroad. See how dangerous it is to buy the hype without learning what really happened? There are things we should try and avoid. We need leadership - not an ad campaign. Somewhere along the line, we have to realize that Republicans are only the party of moral clarity and a strong foreign policy because they say they are over and over again. Have another slice of Wonder Bread. Did you know it builds healthy bodies 12 ways?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Producer Has Landed

I’ve been a little nervous today about the Hollywood producer. I always wonder how the plan’s going to fall into place on a social level. The central question is, “What do you have to do?” Do you have to get up at 5a.m. and march ten miles? Do you have to attend a long wedding reception? How is this going to break? It dawned on me just now that this might be the single coolest way to handle a social encounter ever. The honored guest arrives. He’s got his own transportation, hotel, people, the whole bit. All you have to do is go to a movie theater and watch a movie – his movie. That’s as hip a way to hook up with someone as there is.
The thing I’m proudest of most with this, is that somewhere along the way, we became friends. Just as with my contact at the Tonight Show, the years rolled on and we crossed into the humanity zone. I just talked to Paul. He arrived safely from LA and he sounded very friendly. This is how it should be. Tonight will be fun – that’s one thing about the show biz scene. On top of everything it is supposed to be fun. I’ll introduce my wife to him and at some point I hope he tells some anecdotes about John Houston, etc…
He brought up my new script that I just banged out and he sounds incredibly receptive to reading it. He said to bring it tonight and we’ll have the business meeting on Sunday. He said he’ll try and read it by then. I can’t wait for that. This script is a monster.
So things are cool. Contact has been established and the plan is in place. It doesn’t sound complicated at all. I got in a few comments about the lack of promotion in case the house isn’t what it should be. There’s still time to join us at the Bagdad Theater around 7. Watch a film with Peter Jackson narrating about early Hollywood special effects. It should be cool. There are others in it as well. Do you remember my post about a legendary director who looked at my scripts and talked them over with Paul? That was John Landis, and he’s also in this. Imagine John Landis of "Animal House" and "Blues Brothers" fame, meeting with Paul about my work. Life is good.

Tonight Only: The Sci-Fi Boys

Tonight my producer friend from L.A. will host a screening of his latest project: The Sci-Fi Boys. Peter Jackson of "Lord of the Rings" narrates. If you know anyone interested in making films, they should see this.
Wednesday, May 17
McMenamins Bagdad Theater as part of the
7th Annual UFO Festival Presents…
"THE SCI-FI BOYS" (2006)
Featuring a live Q&A with Writer/Director/Producer
Paul Davids after the show!
7 p.m. | $5 | 21 & over

Direct from the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival, this feature narrated by Peter Jackson and featuring such sci-fi greats as Ray Bradbury, Forrest J. Ackerman, John Landis, Ray Harryhausen and others makes its only stop in Portland. The film explores the sci-fi genre and those who live it and love it.

Said Peter Jackson: "The real reason ‘The Sci-Fi Boys' is so important is that it charts the evolution of fantastic cinema, to put on record, for all time, the influence that the pioneers of special effects had on my generation of filmmakers."

Afterwards, the film's writer, director and producer, Paul Davids ("Roswell" [1994], "Timothy Leary's Dead" [1997] and more) will answer your questions about the film, his work and more.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Wow, That Was Ugly

Friday I finished the script and did the obligatory first two rewrites Saturday and Sunday. All I had to do was go through once more searching for errors, and print it, get it copied, and I’d be done. The producer hits town tomorrow and everything looked smooth. So what happens? I hit the wall and didn’t do anything Monday. Of course that was the day it was 2,000 degrees out. Actually, my basement office stays cool, but I'm tired of playing Rewrite Clown. Today, I finally got through with it, including printing it out by 4:15. I jammed over to the bank and then to the copiers fighting the rush hour traffic and made it back by 5. There was no reason this should have approached ordeal level, but it sort of did. Now I have to get ready for the actual visit. It could go really low-key. I could meet the guy somewhere and go over the contract. I did learn something new about the language. “The Owner hereby waives any right to equitable relief with respect to any such breach or alleged breach” sounds so ominous but it just means you can’t sue to stop something or keep it from being distributed, etc…You just sue for damages. So some of this stuff is less dark than it first appears.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Screenwriting Contract Time Again

It’s always fun when one of your points gets included in the contract. There’s some language in standard studio contracts that I found truly frightening. It basically gave them the right to schedule you for things. Assurances that they would never do so, did nothing for me. Freedom is a feeling and I don’t want to rely on some third party to decide how they’ll treat me. What if they used this clause to break the contract? “We asked him to go to the Falkland Islands and he refused, therefore we’re not paying him.” Here’s how it ended up sounding: “In the event Producer exercises the Option, Owner grants to Producer the perpetual, non-exclusive right to use and license others to use Owner’s name, likeness and/or biography (approved or submitted by Owner) in connection with the advertising and publicity. Producer acknowledges that Owner will have no obligation to honor publicity requests (interviews, talk show appearances, etc.) which may be made by Producer or Producer’s assigns to help promote the picture, but Owner agrees to consider such requests, if any, on a case-by-case basis.” I’m in way over my head on the financial stuff, but I’m a real stickler for personal obligations: To sum up, I don't want any.

Rasheed Wallace's Guarantee Streak Is Over

It’s been tough watching the basketball gods reward Rasheed Wallace. Sure, the talent is ridiculous, but hearing Charlies Barkley and Kenny Smith pouring the praise on Rasheed last night was a little much. We know what a jerk this guy can be so having Kenny Smith yelling Roscoe – Sheed’s nickname – was a drag. Then the final blow was when John Thompson went into how much he loved Sheed. I guess you get respect for being on a championship quality team. The reason they were fawning all over the Human Technical? Because he had made another one of his guarantees, telling Cleveland that tonight would be their last game at home for the season. Well, the basketball gods apparently have had enough because Cleveland just won game 4 and put the Rasheed guarantee in the garbage can. Rasheed's charming comment: "They won tonight. You can't take that away from them. The sun even shines on a dog's ass." Gee, I hope this doesn’t turn him into a surly obnoxious jerk. That would be awful.

The White House B.S. Interval Is Shrinking

Remember President Bush’s good old days when he could blatantly lie to the American public and no one in the media would even consider challenging him? To question the wisdom of the war in Iraq prior to the invasion could lead to a dismissal if the piece even made it to print. I had two columns for the Portland Tribune several weeks before the war started, questioning what was about to take place, and I was told they led to my getting canned. It would be years before any real challenge to the lies about Iraq was attempted.
The key thing is that every new explanation the White House gave was also bullshit and their propaganda machine would shovel the new pile for as long as they could. “We know where the weapons of mass destruction are”, became “We had bad intelligence” which has finally settled into the truth: “We deliberately lied about the intelligence.”
Lately the interval between the lie and the need for a new lie, has collapsed to near zero. For example, the revelations about keeping phone records to spot terrorist patterns has lasted around a day. It is now reported that the White House was using the phone records to spy on reporters as part of leak investigations. The purpose is chilling: To quell dissent and allow the White House lies to go unchallenged. There will no doubt be a fancy new lie about what they’re doing but at this point they’re running in place and we’re through the Looking Glass. Unfortunately, where we’ve landed is a dictatorship with little or no interest in the rule of law.

The Blotter

Only 2 Days Left Till "The Sci-Fi Boys"

This Wednesday my producer friend from L.A. will host a screening of his latest project: The Sci-Fi Boys. Peter Jackson of "Lord of the Rings" narrates. If you know anyone interested in making films, they should see this.
Wednesday, May 17
McMenamins Bagdad Theater as part of the
7th Annual UFO Festival Presents…
"THE SCI-FI BOYS" (2006)
Featuring a live Q&A with Writer/Director/Producer
Paul Davids after the show!
7 p.m. | $5 | 21 & over

Direct from the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival, this feature narrated by Peter Jackson and featuring such sci-fi greats as Ray Bradbury, Forrest J. Ackerman, John Landis, Ray Harryhausen and others makes its only stop in Portland. The film explores the sci-fi genre and those who live it and love it.

Said Peter Jackson: "The real reason ‘The Sci-Fi Boys' is so important is that it charts the evolution of fantastic cinema, to put on record, for all time, the influence that the pioneers of special effects had on my generation of filmmakers."

Afterwards, the film's writer, director and producer, Paul Davids ("Roswell" [1994], "Timothy Leary's Dead" [1997] and more) will answer your questions about the film, his work and more.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

An Invitation to Lars Larson and David Reinhard

Dear Lars Larson and David Reinhard,
As Portland’s leading chicken hawks, you deserve a special invitation to HBO’s documentary “Bagdhad ER.” After all you are the two most visible and blustery supporters of our war in Iraq – even though I’m told you never donned the uniform yourselves to participate in combat. Why not see what you helped market to the American people? You might want to watch it together in case you become frightened – the images are extremely graphic. The opening scene is a doctor disposing of an amputated arm and it just builds from there. Maybe you should meet at one of those fancy restaurants downtown, and imbibe first. Try to build your courage up. Or you can just drink water so the full impact of what you see can hit you. After all, you’ve been carrying water for the chicken hawks in the Bush administration for years now – talking or writing tough from the comfort of your radio booth or Oregonian desk. Well, it’s finally your opportunity to get a good look at what you’ve helped to accomplish. The program is on May 21st on HBO – a real glimpse at our soldiers being wounded and dying in the Iraq war. Not the carefully sanitized version your buddies in the White House presented to the nation. They sure don’t want America getting a look at this. Especially after it has been proven that the White House lied us into this conflict. This could be tough on you, David and Lars – you could have some guilt. You might even need some time off. I have an idea. How about resigning from your jobs and spending the rest of your lives helping these wounded soldiers? You’re all about supporting the troops, right?

Was Al Gore Brilliant on SNL? See It To Believe It

I just watched a clip of Al Gore on SNL last night and I'm in a state of mild shock. He gives a pretend speech as President of the United States and it was actually hip, was brilliant. There was one comment at the very end that I would have yanked and that I'm sure the pious right wing desperados will jump on. But overall this was a stunning display of comedic writing and Al pulled it off. These mind-blowing moments are happening with increasing frequency now. Steve Colbert might have caused a comedic rush back towards courage - comedy that makes the leaders sweat. I doubt this Al Gore piece would have even been considered if Steve Colbert hadn't spoken truth to Bush a couple of weeks ago. The blow-back to a long repressive regime is in full force. Now you have Frank Rich calling the White House the real traitors. If you're a young person out there, remember these times. Keep a journal. Write your reactions and observations down. We are in a very dynamic phase in history right now. These are times of consequence. Watching Al Gore in a comedy skit that skewered the weasels in charge, was a loud and brilliant proclamation that America is not over. In fact, it's coming back and it's live from New York.

Crooks and Liars

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Another NBA Team in Financial Trouble

Move over, Blazers. The Utah Jazz are also reporting major financial losses for the last two years, and their team didn’t even suck. Could the league’s love affair with taking mid-level, unproven players and giving them monster long-term contracts be backfiring? Though the state of the NBA is fine at the upper end, fans aren’t taking to this procession of spoiled whiners like they rooted for their favorite teams in the glory days of Bird, Magic, and Dr. J.
Utah Jazz Suffering Financial Shortfall - Yahoo! News

Jack's Return: Going Back to Cali

The hiatus is over: Jack Bogdanski is back after a triumphant return to Los Angeles. You can read all about it at his site or buy the magazine below.
Jack Bog's Blog: Any time of year, you can find it here

Truthout Blog Reporting Rove to be Indicted

Rove Informs White House He Will Be Indicted

How reliable is this? I have seen this blog be right in the past, ahead of the general media. You don’t want to jump the gun on this but Bush’s Brain could be about to be indicted. As long as we are in speculation mode, here’s the rest of a scenario that sent chills through my paranoid psyche: Rove wins the 2006 midterms for the White House using some kind of military adventure with Iran. Cheney leaves after the elections. Jeb Bush becomes the new VP, and then it’s Jeb versus whomever in 2008. These are dangerous times. We are not in character development anymore. We’re heading into the action portion of this hideous and twisted plot. If we could write Rove out of this tragic farce, it would be helpful.

Friday, May 12, 2006

ATTENTION FILM FANS: The Sci-Fi Boys at the Bagdad Theater Wednesday

This Wednesday my producer friend from L.A. will host a screening of his latest project: The Sci-Fi Boys. Peter Jackson of "Lord of the Rings" narrates. If you know anyone interested in making films, they should see this.
Wednesday, May 17
McMenamins Bagdad Theater as part of the
7th Annual UFO Festival Presents…
"THE SCI-FI BOYS" (2006)
Featuring a live Q&A with Writer/Director/Producer
Paul Davids after the show!
7 p.m. | $5 | 21 & over

Direct from the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival, this feature narrated by Peter Jackson and featuring such sci-fi greats as Ray Bradbury, Forrest J. Ackerman, John Landis, Ray Harryhausen and others makes its only stop in Portland. The film explores the sci-fi genre and those who live it and love it.

Said Peter Jackson: "The real reason ‘The Sci-Fi Boys' is so important is that it charts the evolution of fantastic cinema, to put on record, for all time, the influence that the pioneers of special effects had on my generation of filmmakers."

Afterwards, the film's writer, director and producer, Paul Davids ("Roswell" [1994], "Timothy Leary's Dead" [1997] and more) will answer your questions about the film, his work and more.

The Script Is Done - Let the Flaming Begin!

Wow, it’s over. We used to have a phrase for banging out a paper back in school. We called it a “One Draft Wonder.” I just hit the Big Finish. Page 100 – the script is done. Let’s see…I think it was 10 days this time, for an average of 10 pages a day. Of course what really happened was I banged out the first third in record time and then hit the wall at the halfway point. Nothing happened for three days, but then it all came together down the stretch. This is going to be a little hard to believe, but the grind part gives way to a sadness that it’s over. I actually mourn the end of these intense writing experiences and I know how precious and phony that sounds. So how did it turn out? I believe with every cell in my being that this could be one of the true monster comedies of all time. If they made it as written, and it turned out as good as I think it should, this thing could be #1. The #1 comedy ever. Or not. The few times I went back over prior pages I noticed it came out in finished form, live in real time. This might be the best thing I ever do in my whole “career”. Hundreds of thousands of jokes, and 8 scripts later, I went into the zone and threw a pie in the face of the Comedy Gods.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Latest Pic of Oregonian Columnist David Reinhard in Iraq

The latest picture of David Reinhard on the ground in Iraq is pretty spectacular. Keep safe, David, and all of us back home are so proud of you and the job you’re doing. Read about Dave’s first day in combat in his Oregonian column below:
On the ground in Baghdad: How goes the battle?

More Dwight Slade on His Afghanistan Trip w/ Pics

Clarification: My David Reinhard post above and below is a spoof. The Oregonian should not call a column “On the Ground in Bagdhad", unless the columnist is….I don’t know….on the ground in Bagdhad. The Dwight Slade stuff from Afghanistan is real. I sincerely regret that the Oregonian's corporate grandstanding has to be mentioned in the same post with this authentic American hero. Here are some of Dwight Slade's thoughts during the trip:

“It has been a long journey from Bishkek to here, Sharano FOB in Central Afghanistan. Each base we visit gets a little more separated from civilization and a little more primitive. We went from Manas Air Force Base in Bishkek to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. We were there for a night and then took a Chinook 17 chopper to our next Base. The chopper is one of those cargo choppers with two propellers on top. They kept the back door open to accommodate a gunner, so myself and the rest of the comedians were treated to a birds-eye tour of Afghanistan for about an hour. It was overwhelming. With a helmet and body armor on I look the part of Mr. Bean Does Afghanistan. Counting my show in Prineville, OR this is the second time I've worn body armor to a gig...”

Quick: Can You Spot the One Who Isn't a Soldier?

Why the Terrorists Will Never Win

Comedian Dwight Slade Back From Afghanistan

I just got off the phone with Dwight Slade and he sounded like he was still processing his trip. It involved rides on two cargo planes, and two helicopters and 10 days in Afghanistan entertaining the troops in the noble tradition of Bob Hope. Dwight’s comment: “If I went any farther around the world for a gig, I'd be in Beaverton." He played 4 bases and talked to a lot of our servicemen. He left there the day before 10 servicemen were killed also riding around Afghanistan in a helicopter, so Dwight has done a brave thing here, and all Portlanders should be proud – especially the standup comedians. The one big disappointment for him from the entire trip: The Hooters in Khandahar.

Breaking News: The Oregonian's David Reinhard Has Landed In Iraq

Not content to copy and paste other people’s work, David Reinhard has gone to Iraq to see for himself what the situation is there. I’m reading it now in his column called “On the Ground in Bagdhad: How Goes the Battle?” in today’s Oregonian. You have to admire the guy. An associate editor doesn’t have to take chances like this. Wait, the first quarter of the piece is the words of someone else about the situation. And it’s not even one of our guys. David’s quoting from Al-Qaida. Wow, not content to stay in the Green Zone, Dave has actually gone undercover here. Does anyone else smell another Pulitzer? Wait, there’s more: In the second half of the column, Dave quotes extensively from one of those generals who appears on TV all the time: General Barry McCaffrey. And the general says, “This is simply a brilliant success story.” Gee, not even Rumsfeld goes that far.
The important thing is that Dave had the courage to take his computer and his TV set to Iraq. But if he's really on the ground in Bagdhad, you would think he'd include some of his own observations. Oh well. Good luck while you’re there, sir, and hurry home. I bet that desk will look pretty good after what you’ve been through. Oh, and if they gave medals for copying and pasting, you’d get the Congressional Medal of Honor.

On the ground in Baghdad: How goes the battle?

The World According to Cheney

As a comedy writer you want to weigh in on the big issues so I was glad to have a joke on last night about Dick Cheney’s recent criticisms of Russia. I wrote that I’m sure Cheney thought his remarks through because he’s not the type of guy who shoots from the hip. Cheney’s remarks were clearly aimed to rev up his delusional, dumb-ass power base back here in the states. World leaders often trash-talk other countries for the effect at home. The President of Iran has been doing it for months, although he finally may have begun to realize how far down the road his words have gone. After he wrote the letter President Bush told him not to bother mailing it; he’d just pick it up after the invasion. Sorry, that was an example of a comedy writer expressing something serious and having it come out as a joke. I will not be sending that one in.
Do you really think Dick Cheney cares that much about Putin cracking down on his people? Remember, some of the actual buildings used by the Bush administration to torture detainees after the rendition process are reported to be former Soviet Gulag prisons. Kind of makes you proud to be an American, doesn’t it? Putin is a longtime official who has turned the clock back on democracy, while seizing more power for himself. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I wonder how Putin feels on domestic spying? Probably some common ground there as well. The trouble with the Bush administration is that they’ve marginalized our reputation in the world to the point where criticism of other countries is met with derision. Cheney and Putin are two power creatures with no moral agenda. They exist to continue in power. The beautiful thing about America is that we have a system that will scrape Dick Cheney off the shoe of American politics in less than 3 years. Let’s hope he doesn’t start World War 3 first. And if you think that’s going too far, remember, President Bush announced the other day that World War 3 has already started. Good times, no?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Missing Your Jack Fix? Steve Schopp In The House

If you’re like me, Jack Bog’s hiatus is hitting pretty hard. I think the worst part is checking to see if he’s back and seeing that horrible picture of Steve Nash again. So starting tonight I’m going to try and take away some of the pain. Four of Jack’s regular commenters graced the recent Aerial Tram Awards. Tonight I present Steve Schopp. I had one main question for Steve: How does he find the time - considering he runs his own business - to keep up on the latest city moves? Is there a person with a deeper understanding of the financial details buried in the city’s convoluted schemes? He admitted that the time involved sometimes gets to his wife. Steve is considerably right of me politically. He said he voted for Bush and I replied, “How’s that working out for you?” I immediately regretted this comment – it was not in the true spirit of the Tram Awards. He’s obviously concerned about the federal level of fiscal irresponsibility going on. The reason I like Steve is that he’s helped us all learn more about the city. Plus he illustrates that people can disagree on national politics while siding together on local issues. Personally, my city involvement was mainly based on the opinion that the tram was a stupid idea. Somewhere along the process, I read one of Steve’s posts and realized how vast the South Waterfront district is, and how deeply we’re into it.
So without further adieu, I give you the Man: Steve Schopp

Hollywood Update: Too Contrived?

The weirdest thing about this week is that it seems so scripted. Let’s say you were an aspiring screenplay writer – not one of those desperado types - but just a humble freelance comedy writer trying to catch a big fish down in Hollywood. You enjoy the process and you don’t get bitter when nothing really happens – at least as far as making them into a movie goes. But along the way, you have one optioned by a producer - pictured above - so you are now a professional scriptwriter. The producer's wife is a Vice President at Universal, so you go to a Hollywood party and meet Tom Hanks, Angelica Houston, Diane Lane, Samuel L. Jackson, George Lucas, Adrian Brodie, and Robert Wagner. You listen as Dustin Hoffman does an impression of a Hollywood producer for around ten minutes. You come back to Portland, turn in your rented tux and things kind of die down. Oh sure, there are drafts, and discussions – you even turn out a couple of scripts last year - but they are not well-received and you’re essentially finished. Then at another event down in L.A., Jay Roach, the director of 3 Austin Powers movies and the producer of other films, tells your friend’s son that the title of one of your scripts is the best he’s ever heard.
That revives things, but how do you continue the story? How do you get the characters to meet again in a way that doesn’t seem contrived? Okay, I’ve got it. Your producer friend has released something called “The Sci-Fi Boys” which is a tribute to his first love: The great early science-fiction special effects artists of Hollywood. The documentary is hosted by Peter Jackson of “Lord of the Rings” fame. Why not have the man – Paul Davids – come up to Portland and do a couple of events next week? How about one event at the Bagdhad Theater next Wednesday? Too contrived for you? Then you can meet and sign the latest contract, etc…
When things start acting this cinematic in real life, you have to play along. That is why I thought I’d bang out a script prior to his arrival and have this be the one. I’m on page 72, and it is gold. I always say that about all of them but this one really is gold. As I’m writing it last night, I get the email with the latest contract for the one Jay Roach complimented. I am not a Hollywood person. I am not a show biz type. I’m actually a pretty low-key freelance comedy writer. But you have to know when you’re living in a movie. You don’t want to be the one who doesn’t live up to the script, even if it seems a little contrived.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Keith Richards: Please Get Better

Get better, Keith. I don’t even want to think of a world without you. Whether it was my first concert or late last year, there’s always been the Rolling Stones.

Another Long Day Waiting for the Mail

It’s never easy when you pour your heart out to someone and they just don’t seem to care.

The Ballad of Katherine, Jeb, and W. - How to Handle a Stolen Election

Here’s a rather awkward photograph that should be in the history books, but probably won’t be. We have Katherine Harris who worked with Florida Governor Jeb Bush to throw Election 2000 to George W., talking to President Bush while brother Jeb looks on. She knows what many Americans didn’t bother to find out: Florida wasn’t about chads and dimpled ballots. That was smoke and mirrors. The real story was the well-documented removal by Jeb and Katherine of around 90,000 residents from the rolls of registered voters, the vast majority of them Democrats and a big percentage African Americans. The method was to hire a private company to replace the one that was to check these names, pay them a ton more money, and make sure of the results. Citizens with the same names as felons from other states were removed. When local election officials complained that the date of the felony was often a year that hadn’t happened yet, such as 2007, they were instructed to keep the name on the ineligible list and just remove the year. Of course, the whole scam was unlawful. Florida was stolen in 2000, so unless you’re in the 31% who still approve of this President, you can feel better: It took a crime to give us the Bush administration.
Now Katherine Harris is running for the Senate and the Republicans want her to withdraw. Just yesterday Jeb said she had no chance. So here’s Katherine talking the President’s ear off today, and the Bush brothers are trying to lose her like the psycho prom date that won't go home. But they have to tread lightly because she knows the real story. They know if she turns on them, it could get ugly. Why, oh why, won’t she just go away? So this photo today was 2 things: Awkward and Dangerous.

Cal Ripken, Jr. In Town

If slackers could get up the energy for a protest, today would be a good day. Why? Because the man who never took a day off - Cal Ripken, Jr. - is here in Portland for a lunch at the Convention Center. I wonder who will cover it? Our #1 local sports guy Dwight Jaynes, usually writes about the negative side of sports. If you took joy in the recent NFL Football draft, for example, Dwight tried to diminish that experience for you. If you enjoy soccer, you might as well be institutionalized. Sports columnists are around professional sports way too much, and they lose the happiness we still sometimes feel when something great happens. It's almost as if the average sports fan is doing something wrong to enjoy sports. That's the level of cynicism present in much of Dwight's writing, and the industry in general. Here's another example: When Ichiro showed up, Dwight wrote how he didn't even deserve to be Rookie of the Year. What was the big deal? As I recall, Ichiro went on to be both Rookie of the Year, and the League MVP. Well, Dwight, try and write something bad about Cal Ripken, Jr. Try and explain why we were wrong to admire this guy. I dare you.

Script Update

I was cruising along till I hit page 50 and then it was three days of frozen nothing. The worse thing that can happen is when you give up on the material. I can distinctly remember writing term papers at the last minute, ill-prepared and slinging the B.S. Somewhere around 2 a.m. of your desperate, little all-nighter you not only see through the flimsy argument you’re trying to make, but you realize it would be easier to argue the exact opposite. I hated that whole phony thing of stridently presenting your little points when you knew the premise was total crap. Then later, just before you handed it in, you would read it and feel physically sick. Oh sure, you were relieved that it was over, but you’d be queasy at the wretched level of mediocrity. Actually, mediocrity is too kind. It was total bullshit - plain and simple. Not even quality BS – hideously transparent, obvious unskilled, literary garbage. Then some adult who was paid to educate you had to read it and pretend to take it seriously, and of course you had to pretend that you meant it even after the grade came out. The fraud of education – that’s what bothered me.
This wasn’t that bad, but I’m under a time constraint so I can’t just let the ideas sort themselves out at the right pace. I forced the process but 3 days later the sun broke through and I banged out 11 pages with a basketball game on in the background. I’m on page 61 now and the path ahead looks clear. There could be some stretching to make it reach 100 pages, but I've been there before. Better that than trying to take stuff out.
This one includes around 5 to 7 scenes that are huge comedy. Possibly in the running for legendary comedy status - if they would just make the damn thing. The producer hits town next week and this will be ready. One script coming right up and I can guarantee you that it’s better than my term papers in school. I had opportunities many kids can only dream of, and I spent years in school screwing off, slinging the BS, and feeling like a fraud. Oh, how my teachers would laugh if they could see me walking around trying to figure out what I’m supposed to write. Their revenge is complete.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Newspaper Circulation Down - An Offer of Help

Newspapers continue to lose readers - as you probably read on Drudge. The overall number is down 2.6 percent. The top 20 newspapers were announced Monday, with the San Francisco Chronicle dropping an eye-catching 15.6%. I haven’t heard the Oregonian’s new number but the September, 2005 one was 394,992. Nice of them to be so precise. It would have been 394,993 but one guy dropped a quarter just as he was buying it, affecting the largest reported circulation which is the stat they use.
Whatever the Oregonian’s new number, newspapers are going to have to change to keep in the game. If they ever have a plasma computer monitor that is newspaper-sized, I would have a tough time going out to buy the real thing. And let’s face it – once it’s on the computer it’s a website, even if they figure out a way for your computer to leave newsprint on your hands.
I hope that day never completely gets here. I sure love my morning ritual of going out and getting coffee and the paper. If that ended tomorrow I would feel terrible.
So here’s my first application on the blog. Peter Bhatia, if you’re reading this, you should respond. Not with that high definition jive, but with some new blood. I wrote over 150 columns for the Tribune, and I’ve written for one other paper in town. Why not go to the Blog World and get some fresh troops? Keep everyone you have, but augment, baby, augment. You people are the local front of the national battle to keep daily newspapers. It’s a noble struggle and I’d love to help. I don’t want to walk by H&B Loan one day and see the Pulitizer Prize in the pawn shop window. Call me. Let’s see…I believe this makes around 10 times I’ve applied. The only difference is our relative claims on the future are shifting. Let me be a hero for you. I’ll even write in high definition, whatever that means.

Guess Who's In The Washington Post This Morning?

My sister saw my joke in the Washington Post this morning. I know this follows the comedy glory bit below so I'm in danger of flaming too much, but the timing is out of my hands. It is cool when they examine a body of jokes and pick yours. It's times like these I wish the President read the newspaper. Still, think of the people in Washington who probably did see this today. Are you there, Karl?
Frankly, for all the praise Letterman gets and deserves, they didn't do him any favors with their choice of his work. O'Brien was okay, but you tell me who delivered the most? It also dawned on me that the Washington Post sounds more like a blog name now than a newspaper. They picked a name that makes great blogging sense, as bloggers post things. Nice going.

"Target in Chief
Are stumbling presidents just plain funny? Does sinking in the polls produce a rising tide of ridicule? Do millionaire comedians like kickin' 'em when they're down? You bet. The number of late-night jokes about George W. Bush has more than doubled this year -- with almost a third of them mocking his intelligence, followed by his declining popularity, his personality, the Dubai ports deal and the war in Iraq. Jay Leno, David Letterman and Conan O'Brien averaged 45 Bush jokes a month last year, says the Center for Media and Public Affairs. But for the first three months of this year, they have popped the president 102 times a month.
Leno: "The president does not like change in personnel. He likes to keep the same people. I think he got this from having the same third-grade teacher year after year."
Letterman: "According to a recent poll, three out of five Americans believe George W. Bush should be impeached. And when he heard that, the president said, 'Cool, I love peaches.' "
O'Brien: "In a speech yesterday -- this is true -- President Bush told the Iraqi people to, this is a quote, 'Get governing.' Then, the president introduced his new speechwriter, Larry the Cable Guy."
The ridicule factor is a pretty decent political barometer. In 1998, the number of late-night jokes about Bill Clinton more than doubled -- to more than 140 a month -- as the Lewinsky affair launched endless punch lines about the president as horndog. In Bush's case, his rocky performance has revived the old stereotype of W. as dim bulb, or perhaps made it safer to skewer the president than, say, in the sober aftermath of 9/11."

Sunday, May 07, 2006

West Wing: "There's a Real Dearth of Ballsy Oregonians"

Oregon got kicked around on West Wing tonight. Bailey is planning future Democratic races and he can’t come up with a candidate to run against an entrenched incumbent. The mythical race is in the 4th District which much have made interesting viewing for Peter DeFazio. Bailey becomes frustrated in his search. His comment? “There’s a real dearth of ballsy Oregonians.”

A Thin Slice of Comedy Glory

I was reading a Bush comedy website and they had a special section called “The 100 Best Bush Jokes, 2000-2004.” Would any be mine? This featured all the late-night comics: Leno, Letterman, Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Conan O’Brein, Jimmy Kimmel, Tina Fey, Dennis Miller, Craig Kilborn,etc…. so I started going through. Only nine or ten in, there was the following:
"Is it me or is Bush going everywhere Kerry goes? So far in the past week, President Bush has followed John Kerry to Davenport, Iowa; New Mexico; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; and he follows him to Portland, Oregon. The only place he never followed John Kerry was Vietnam." —Jay Leno
That joke was fun to write because, both candidates were here in town, and I got to work Portland in. I believe this was also one of the ones that made the Oregonian editorial page. I recognized 2 or 3 others on the list, that were probably mine, but I can’t be sure without checking. I mean 500 plus jokes later on the Tonight Show and things get kind of hazy. I will say my favorite joke of the whole bunch was courtesy of Letterman’s writers: "President Bush is asking Congress for $80 billion dollars to re-build Iraq. And when you make out that check, remember there are two L's in Halliburton." —David Letterman.
Of course, any kind of joy I have at getting a joke on during the last few years is mitigated by knowing it didn’t make one positive bit of difference in how things turned out. Okay, except for the laughs.
Bush Countdown Clock

Saturday, May 06, 2006

New Jersey Lift for New Orleans

My sisters were very impressed with a certain someone who performed in New Orleans recently. Can you tell from this picture?

Okay, here's a hint.....Bruce!!!!!!!!

APP.COM - Bruce Springsteen to New Orleans: We shall overcome | Asbury Park Press Online

New Orleans Pics

My two sisters just got back from New Orleans, where they attended the Jazzfest and sent me these pics. The first one is the Pin Stripe Brass Band. The next shot is a picture of street musicians that caught my eye. The setting is Jackson Square, and just when you think you’ve seen it all in the music biz, POW! You get a guitarist playing bass with his toes.

Talk about a walking bass.

Script Update

It’s Saturday around 5 p.m. and I’ve hit the 50 page point – halfway there. As so often happens, except the one time, I got to the middle and had to wrestle with the plot, something that filled me with aggravation and a sick feeling. The key to doing that is to go out and walk around, and don’t come back till you know what you’re doing. I had one scene that lasted 7 pages and it was ruining the groove. I don’t care if you have the first time Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie ever had sex - 7 pages is too long. The standard way that I see in nearly every movie is to have the conversation continue as if it were unbroken and yet the actors are in several different places. They’re talking in the Oval Office, then they’re outside on a sidewalk by the Rose Garden, then they’re back inside in a conference room. That’s how it is done, but if everything is going great, you shouldn’t have to do that. I was also pinned down to the location so I had to pull a whole little sidelight story out of the air and cut between the two scenes. It worked but it’s a bad sign when you have to wing it like that. I actually winged the one script that sold but I never had to go out of my way to split up a long scene. That’s when you know you’re in trouble. Today I was in trouble, but it’s basically clear sailing ahead. I could end up 7 pages short but I’ve already got the idea: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie - their first sex together.

Oregonian Notices Bush Might Have a Power Problem

Bush signs laws to ignore them From the Oregonian: "Last Sunday, Charlie Savage of The Boston Globe reported, from a compilation of presidential signing statements, that the administration has declared itself unbound by 750 laws passed by Congress, on the grounds that the laws violated its opinion of its own constitutional powers."

For a while now, liberal whiners like myself have been complaining that President Bush has seized control of the United States government, and that we now exist at his mercy. He believes he can arrest us for no cause, torture us, try us in secret, and execute us. He can even murder us out in the open without doing anything illegal. All he has to say is that it was a matter of national security – something he can decide for himself. He's the Decider, remember? In his own mind – and what a place that must be - he is not only above the law – he is the law. The cute part is that he’s so dumb and uninformed that he tries to make the case that this is how the Founding Fathers wanted it. This is the conclusion he has reached about the Constitution. The amazing part is that this sort of behavior in a leader, is exactly why we broke away from England in the first place. One other hint to our current President: The monarch we broke away from was also named George. Think about the beautiful symmetry in that. The other great confidence booster President Bush feels is that he believes God intended him to have these powers. Once again, even a quick glance at history reveals that many kings and dictators felt the same way.
You know a problem is getting pretty bad when the mainstream media starts to notice. You also know President Bush’s numbers are pretty low, if corporate newspapers like the Oregonian dare to speak out against power. The moment President Bush ignored his 750th law, the 4th Estate sprang into action. Years of journalistic instincts came alive to the idea that there was a problem here. Interestingly enough for you history fans, the paper that served up the story was from Boston. What’s that quote often attributed to Mark Twain? “History doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes.”
I wonder what the Founding Fathers would have thought about all this? Wait, they wrote about it in a little document called the Declaration of Independence. And W. will love the references to the Creator! No wait, on second thought, we better not show him this one. It might ruin his next bicycle ride:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.