Friday, December 11, 2009

Progress report: 11'2 thru 11'24

A lot of notes that I now have to sum up. This is the second post based on my mid-October thru early Dec bout of note making. It's a bit depressing because I've spent my life this way, making notes for unwritten fiction. By now the process feels dumb even when it's working. Yes, I'm getting results, but couldn't there be a smarter way of doing so, a way that doesn't drag out so long it takes up phases of my life? [ update,  Also, I notice that I have eight days listed with "nothing." Eight days off out of 23 is going pretty easy on yourself. ]

Anyway, I filled a notebook and a half, 320 pages of longhand. 

I recapped maybe the first third of the material here. Now to resume:

Nov. 2    11:47 am thru 4 pm 
  spec about cables underfoot in sound stage, scene between Harry and Constance at Tony's garden party, pretty well fleshed out, lasts 3 pages, back to lot layout, list all tech personnel present for a shoot, where are unused lights kept?, diagram of set and soundstage, diagram of zones of traffic from sound stage door to set, what's difference between head grip and gaffer?

Nov. 3     nothing

Nov. 4     nothing 

Nov. 5     4:50 pm thru 8:50 pm
   lot layout: where Louie's office, where design guys? if shows share building, do Eppinger and Michaelman run into each other on the stairs? layout of show's 2 floors, whose office goes where (makes more sense when I remember to include projection room), list when different producers started, finished
   extras: remarks of thuggish med students at next table, plus notes about possible pop history books 

Nov. 6     12:30 pm thru 5:25 pm
  3 pages of describing Caesar's assassination based on what I remember reading God knows where
  more floorplans for where the offices go

Nov. 7     nothing

Nov. 8     nothing

Nov. 9     nothing

Nov. 10    11:50 am thru 4 pm
   emblem design sketches, plus how the emblem sparked art director to do Outpost: Eppinger insists on summit meetings of design team; costume designer described, his love life; Taj's horn and its last-minute design change; evolution of Taj's part, its alienness

Nov. 11     nothing

Nov. 12    3:05 pm thru 6:10 pm
   more emblem design sketches, Epp's summit meetings again, how he and art director (Palfroy) hit on final design for Outpost, cast changes from pilot to series, CG's views on acting, the actors who were dropped after pilot, Donegal's role in show, back to the layout for Top Deck (Command, Deck 1, whatever it's called).

Nov. 13    1:35 pm thru 5:35 pm
   sketches of Deck 1 layout, now with the double wishbone turned into curve broken in middle by Harry's command post. Still don't know if curves toward or away from Harry's post.
   Harry's buttons panel; Palfroy (the art director) and E, their fizzled friendship; Len's view of his daily life; how Len rallies the affiliates to keep the show on the air -- pages and pages about that.

Nov. 14     2:55 pm thru 6 pm
   table of when different design elements of series were decided; the Hyacinth design guy and how he figured in the process; how his ideas bounced thru Palfroy's thinking to provide key elements of the final sets, but switched around and repositioned; Palfroy's experience of the design process; Epp and Perry Bren, the costume designer; uniforms

Nov. 15     1:10 pm thru 2:10 pm
    first and final cast lineups compared for ethnicity; the Korean cast member

Nov. 16     1:35 pm thru 3:45 pm, 4:05 pm thru 5:55 pm
    rundown of characters' viewpoints;
    CG and Doug; CG and acting, his rise, his character's style; CG meets with producer about giving Taj a "signature"; evolution of character's rationale and schtick, that of his character's alien race (the Suvok). 

Nov. 17     1:46 -- 5:47 pm
    CG's view of acting; Seven Samurai and Taj; more about CG's rise, its ups and downs; more about Taj's style; Harry in 1970s, a king among the fans; CG's and Olsen's acting tics; CG's acting technique, what he looks for in a "good" scene

Nov. 18     2:35 -- 5:38 pm
    Olsen's physical habits when scene is being shot; more on CG's view of acting, how it ties into his view of life; CG's "sucking-in" for Taj; how producers/writers handle CG/Taj; Olsen as actor; Olsen and CG's late-series disgruntlement; CG recalling Len's "Life Is Fair" triumph, making it sound like Len was being obsequious. 

Nov. 19    nothing

Nov. 20   nothing

Nov. 21    3:20 -- 6:20 pm
  [ had to write this on back of pp. 175-79 "Sky Facts" printout because I forgot notebook ]
  Olsen and acting, his "high attack"style, his attempts to impose a rhythm for the whole scene, other people's parts as well, and the resulting conflicts w/ directors; descriptions of some directors; Olsen marking scripts, remarking them after dir shoots down his scene ideas
  Bolton's viewpoint
  matchup between fan memories and real-life origins of same
[ extra: fantasy novel sketch about kids stranded in empire of Sujok Taj ]

Nov. 22  3:35 -- 5:55 pm
   Tony and acting, Harry and acting -- his embarrassment over sci-fi, the pervasiveness of the kiddie-stuff feel and how it bows his spirit; damn boots that don't fit; how his embarrassment shows up in line readings, fan memories of same

Nov. 23  12:45 -- ?, 5:12 -- ?
    Harry's declining role in show; how Harry, Cg and Washington Ferris react to Olsen's on-set power plays

Nov. 24    1:10 -- :55, 2:22 -- 5:21 pm
    Tony and Olsen, course of Tony's career in series; W. Ferris and his worldview, career in series
    [ couple pages about Cafe staff, false starts to short stories about superheroes.
       Nice parody blank verse about being a critic:
  The juice that wiggles, the nose that selects,
   the acumen that admits no lacuna. 

And now someone being a jerk in Joe Mankiewicz-ese:
   I am never wrong. But sometimes my truths are inappropriate to their context.  ]

    ** Still need to go down episode list and mark CG's ups and downs **

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Political styles

Just saw a clip of Alan Grayson, a Fla rep who’s the Dems’ designated loudmouth. He comes off like one of those top-of-the-minors “hip” comedians who do commentary about celebrities for cable shows.  He’s not bad at it, has some authority and style, but the Republicans would never use him. Their loudmouths are more like car salesmen, brash and definite as opposed to drawling and definite. Whether or not they’re gay, you’re not supposed to think they are, whereas with Grayson gayness is a clear possibility and wouldn’t make much difference to his act.

Clip via TMP.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A typical Canadian-American encounter

After nine years of knocking around Montreal, I've finally managed to get thru the paper work and become a recognized legal resident. I'm not a citizen yet, that's a couple years down the road, but I'm going to get health coverage and pay taxes up here. 

Yesterday and today I visited the government bureaus where you receive your Social Insurance number (like our Social Security number) and apply for your Medicare card (like nothing we have in the U.S. unless you're 65 and up and/or live in Massachusetts.

All went smoothly. At each office you file in the door, get a slip of paper, sit in bucket seats and look at a screen where your number comes up. Then you go off to have papers stamped and/or handed to you by a bureaucrat sitting without very much desk space and not at all far from other bureaucrats. Everyone is polite and they know what they're doing. I guess I waited 20 minutes at the Social Insurance office before a lady talked to me. That was by far the longest wait at either office. My dealings with the lade herself took maybe five minutes.

She was 40ish, a blond English Canadian of a type that I think may not be so common here in Montreal, radiating benign nicey-niceness. She spoke good French from what I heard, which you don't expect from someone so wheat-blond.
I offended her because, when she was explaining to me what a Social Insurance number was, I caught on a bit early. "Oh, okay, it's like Social Security," I said. "We've got something like that. Okay, I'm all used to all that." The last bit was to let her know I knew all about what she was explaining at the moment, namely the precautions one must take not to let one's number slip out.

She kept on, explaining how the program provided for old-age pensions, and I said, "Right, yeah, it really sounds like a close equivalent."

A few moments later she handed me my number on a printout, and I said goodbye. It surprised me that she was glaring. For the moment before I left, when I looked at her to say bye, she no longer seemed benign.

Thinking about it later, I figured she wasn't used to being interrupted. To tell the truth, what put the thought in my head was the memory of my brother quoting a sitcom, How I Met Your Mother, that sent the characters up to Ontario. One of the characters was Canadian but living in the U.S., and the fellow behind the Tim Horton's counter reproached her as no longer being a true Canadian. "You come in here talking fast and not saying hello," etc. Maybe he also said she interrupted.

Anyway, that's me, the American cutting short the Canadian, signing up for the government's generosity and taking about the program in question as an "equivalent" of one back home in the U.S. The arrogance of it, eh? No thought of fitting in.

On the other hand, my French has become halfway decent over my decade here, and at the Medicard office (run by Quebec, not Canada proper) I had the pleasure of speaking with a pretty young woman who dropped English and switched to French once we established that she would speak slowly. In general I like the French Canadians more than the English, but I think everyone says that except for English Canadians.    

Ah well

Joe Klein faults Obama's Afghanistan speech:

Ronald Reagan would have done it differently. He would have told a story. It might not have been a true story, but it would have had resonance.

I'd prefer a true story, thank you. Had enough of the other kind last time around.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Am I my crazy politician-author's keeper?

Sullivan links to "an interesting and intellectually honest" post about Palin's book by some kind of Christian winger. The winger thinks the book gives no indication Palin has a "political or governing philosophy." After reading it, in fact, he's pretty sure the ex-gov is minus "the intellectual skills needed to be an effective President." The fellow adds, "Most important, she does not seem to recognize this and shows no sign of getting them." Poor Palin is "sensitive to the charge she is 'dumb,'" he tells us, "but has not been given the tools or the teachers who can help her." He tacks on this troubled parenthetical: "(Has she sought them out?)"

Yet the man still digs the lady: "She seems a splendid person who has lived a remarkable life ..." So the winger must be classified as a critical Palinite, which is quite different from a non-Palinite. The identifying mark of his kind shows up in the "has not been given" comment. Lovers of Lady Dynamite think that not much actually depends on this vigorous, stand-up, take-charge leader of guys and gals ("an effective mayor and governor," says the winger, "an excellent chief executive in Alaska"). For anyone else, the standing assumption would be that intellectual development is impossible without some voluntary seeking after knowledge and understanding; we call it curiosity and having a mind of your own. To a Palinite, this consideration can be at best an afterthought, a dull twinge that shows up in parentheses. Nothing is up to her, no matter how close to home it may lie.

Dig this:

Her publisher did not fact check this book well (if at all). She was badly served by her publisher and editor. People who criticize me for nit-picking her use of quotations miss the point. I am a fan . . . though now a weary one . . . and I found the errors. The publisher had to know that her critics would check every fact.

In short, he found out that this "splendid person," in giving "her side of things," could not be trusted to tell the truth. And he decides that this is the fault of her publisher, who should have hired someone to take the lies out of her mouth like an orderly taking sharp objects away from a mental patient. And why should the publisher have done this? Because otherwise Palin's enemies would have more ammunition to use against her.

Why is that HarperCollins's problem? They're not in charge of her political viability or personal reputation. She is. But a Palinite knows only love, not reason. Sarah is the sun, and her shortcomings are clouds imposed on her radiance from without.

update, I must disclose that Andrew Sullivan also feels that HarperCollins is at fault for not requiring the use of a fact checker. But I think he just has it in for Adam Bellow.

Friday, November 27, 2009


I just spoke out boldly in a thread at the Comics Journal message board. Why? Because something was being said that struck me as obviously wrong. Yet stating the obvious took me 45 minutes and a sizable block of text. If anyone takes notice of my post, I'll find that my key points have been ignored and that I have misconstrued key parts of the posts that I'm responding to. How ghastly it all is. How I wish I could go to bars instead.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Progress report: Nov. 1

This is really depressing. I've been working on my novel for years and years and years, and that's understating it. Now I've added this extra lump of a project, the blogging of my day-to-day progress. How could it be anything but a waste of time? And yet I don't want to back down and lose face with my nonexistent audience. Which is the same reason I'm still trying to write the book.


Nov. 1: I find written down: "11:30 am to 2:10 pm, read turq[uoise] folder material, edited book excerpts, Len's waiting for Janey at drugstore, etc." This means that I dug out a turqoise folder full of drafts and notes, and that I wrote in line edits for excerpts from pretend books and for a disturbing little scene where the hero waits for his girlfriend in downtown L.A. and wonders what if she's left him, would his life actually feel like a better fit if he didn't have to love someone?

Then: "2:25 pm to :50, these notes." That means I spent 25 minutes writing two pages of notes: What sets would my fictional tv show have, how many guys would be needed to move a segment of a set, what segments would make up the show's various sets, on what decks would the various locales represented by the sets be found. (My fictional tv show is about a space station that is divided into "decks," as in Deck 1, Deck 2, etc.)

The notes show that this was the day that I hit on an idea I especially like: each major set assigned to a deck would have the same centerpiece: a round, black-metal stand on which is placed a duo of off-kilter almost-rectangles that are made of glass and lit up with a different color, depending on the function of the deck in question (blue for science, red for engineering, I suppose). The idea is that these sites are all redresses of the same basic set. The difference in the centerpieces' color would underline the differences between the sets; the similarity in the centerpieces' shape and position would underline that all parts of the space station belong to a single greater entity.

Then: "10:30 pm thru 12:30 pm." Notes about which sets would be in which sound stage, speculation about how much movement between sound stages there would be -- get all the scenes done in one sound stage before moving to the next, or switch back and forth? More of that sort.

A name for one of the tv show's characters: Valerie Korova.

Parody of a parody of T. S. Eliot:

The unsought corridor, the unwelcome grave,
the smile that yields no deliverance.
Rough calculations to an uncertain end, with failure
the foredestined shrub of our diminutive landscape.

Admittedly, the bit about the shrub and the landscape is a bit rich even for a parody.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Just finished it and liked it a lot. The first fantasy novel I've read since Susanna Clarke, and hers was the first I had read since 2000 (the opening Harry Potter book), and before that I don't remember.

Magicians. Vampires lead, of course, and then zombies, but I think magicians rank as the third-place staple for today's fantasy genre. Granted, their status rests on one mega-buster YA series and two fine popular novels. But werewolves are the only competition and I haven't heard of any big-deal novels/movies all about werewolves.

update, From his AV Club interview:

My overriding concern while writing this book was that fantasy fandom not perceive this book as coming from an outsider. I recognize that on paper, you can’t really tell that I’m a fan or a nerd. I work at Time, and then there are the schools I went to, which I need to get taken out of my fucking bio. I was really concerned about that. That’s why I spent a lot of time over the past year at conventions, just talking to people and introducing myself.

That's how I wound up talking with him! It seemed kind of odd that a big wheel at Time would be pressing his chapbook into the hands of some dork at a con. But it certainly worked out for me, since otherwise I wouldn't have read Grossman's novel. The joke is that, as noted, I don't read much fantasy/s.f. these days, so we were two floaters taking each other for insiders. Except that one of the floaters had written a damn good fantasy novel.

Here's my account, originally posted on HU:

In other news, I spent two hours in large, crowded rooms with Neil Gaiman today and can report that he is charming beyond smooth. This was at Worldcon, where the Hugo is awarded and which is being held here in Montreal this year. I also met Lev Grossman, though I had no idea who he was. He gave me a chapbook with the first chapter of his novel, which I liked, and at the end there was an author's bio. It revealed he is by far the most literarily connected person I've ever spoken to. Seemed like a nice guy! He had wandered into the back of the room during a misbegotten shambles of a panel whose scheduled participants had bailed and been replaced at the last minute. The subject was fantasy novels and how much politics and economics they should contain. Grossman offered that he was a fantasy novelist -- heads turned -- and that he had just finished a novel about a world much like the Narnia world but with some revisionism as to adult realities, including socioeconomic realities. For instance, how come Mrs. Hedgehog or whoever has a sewing machine when there are no factories in Narnia? That sounded good to me, so after the panel I asked for his name, he gave me the chapbook, etc. Hence the revelation that followed.

Back to the panel discussion. A very odd, even semi-deranged, lout also wandered into the room, but he sat up front and soon planted himself in the middle of the conversation, such as it was. Otherwise the place was full of whispery fans who deferred to each other; we didn't even raise our hands properly, just bent our elbows and parked a hand by our ear, fingers curled over. So the strange lout began talking loudly and soon offered an idea that I liked: how do we know that the whatever kids, Peter and Lucy and Susan and that other one, how do we know they were the first bunch to be sent along from our world to wake the sleeping king (or whatever their mission was). The fellow reasoned that getting the job done first crack out of the box was kind of a long shot. So maybe others had come along, failed, and died, and all over Narnia there were discreet little plots of land dedicated to the graves of the Wilkins children, the Anderson children, the Smith children, etc., but the talking animals didn't want Peter and Lucy and the rest to know, so they covered it up. I liked that he remembered they would all be Anglo-Saxon family names.

All right, so maybe it isn't the greatest single pop-culture revisionist geek goof you ever heard, but it sure livelied up the occasion. That panel sucked so bad. And the idea would come in handy if you were doing a parody about it being the late '80s and DC somehow acquiring the rights to Narnia and hiring some schmuck writer who had just read Watchmen.

My mother's dream

I'm visiting my mother for Thanksgiving. She just told me the dream she had last night, an exam dream. Her test had come back with this note:

Your exam paper is determinedly amusing. Still, you do know the subject matter. I agree with you about Susan.

What can it mean?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser at Time Magazine

Or Techland, a web site run by Time. Still ... here it is. The pic accompanies Lev Grossman's list of the 6 best fantasy novels ever. And here's the list:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
– Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Monkey, dig your grave

Having grown accustomed to his freedom in The Jungle, the "humanized" chimp needed too much supervision and went berserk when he was put in his cage. ... When Jerry became more and more impossible, Dutton took Jerry into a nearby orange grove and gave him a shovel. "I had him dig a deep hole," Dutton said. "When he was finished, I told him to jump inside. Then a policeman friend shot him in the head."

"Dutton" is Jack Dutton, described as an "eccentric millionaire and showman." He built up a private menagerie, then put it on display as an Anaheim tourist attraction called The Jungle. Jerry the chimp was the attraction's top-billed star, "The World's Most Human Chimpanzee."

Dutton and his wife had brought Jerry home from Africa and "raised him as their child," says my source, the fine coffee-table book Southern California in the '50s (compiled and written by Charles Phoenix, designed by Kathy Kikkert). The book continues: "Within a few months he was toilet trained, sat at the dinner table, dressed himself ... Locals, tourists, schoolchildren and church groups enjoyed Jerry's antics as he played with Sunny the bear or swam with the ducks in the pond."

But in just a few years everything fell apart. Disneyland opened down the road, neighbors sued because they thought the animals were dangerous, Dutton's wife eloped with his lawyer. And Jerry fritzed out. Dutton had to hire people to look after Jerry around the clock. Then he tried giving Jerry away to zoos -- no good.

Then the shovel, the grave. The single bullet. The role for Bill Murray if some indy wiseacre makes this business into a film. (I see Murray in shorts and safari jacket, bush cap riding the back of his head, his oatmeal face puckering as the tears squeeze out.)

Thanks to The Inkwell Collector for recommending Southern California in the '50s.

[ Note: I wrote this for The Hooded Utilitarian, a comics-and-stuff blog run by Noah Berlatsky. As you may have noticed, the post and my blog have the same title. That's the main reason I'm running the post here; the backup reason is that I like it. ]

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It was funnier after 9/11

My favorite
Onion headline turns out to be from 1998, not from the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack in the country's history. That renders the joke less funny, but it's still damn good. Here it is:

Oprah Viewers Patiently Awaiting Instructions

Friday, November 20, 2009

Buddy Rich

He had a temper. Via James Wolcott and a blog called The Basement Rug, I find that a citizen named Emmett J. Ientilucci has compiled some transcripts and recordings of Buddy Rich coming unglued. Wikipedia reveals that Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld planted a number of Buddy quotes in episodes of Seinfeld.

Some favorite bits:

... This is not the goddamn House of David fuckin’ baseball team. This is the Buddy Rich Band: young people … with faces! No more fuckin’ beards ...

... I don’t need this shit. I have a home in Palm Springs and I can go sit on my ass the rest of my life and not worry about a fuckin’ thing … and don’t have to meet your fuckin’ payroll, and pay you for playin’ like a fuckin’ high school dropout! How dare you do that! ASSHOLES!! ...

... Everybody’s on two weeks notice tonight. I’m telling you, everybody gets two weeks notice tonight. I can’t handle this anymore. You’re all … [pauses thoughtfully] you’re not my kind of people at all.

Compare and contrast

A tv reporter caught out a kid who likes Sarah Palin but apparently doesn't know too much about her. The kid has a blog and tells us her side of the story. Her big reason for liking Sarah Palin:

"I like how Sarah Palin will speak her mind, regardless of what the media will say about it.”

A little further down, the kid thinks over various remarks she could have made on air. For example:

Call me crazy but it would have looked pretty bad had Sarah Palin been against something John McCain was against [she means "for"] while they were running together.

At issue is TARP. The kid is against it, and she had no idea that Palin was for it. McCain supported TARP in '08, so Palin, as his veep choice, had to go along no matter what her own views might have been. And, sure, no one could disagree with that analysis. But what happened to speaking her mind?

The kid makes a subsidiary point:

I could have said ... “Hey Norah, have you read the book? She talks about how during her debate prep she was handed a list of note cards that had questions and ‘non-answers’”

You know, that was pretty much my view of the debate also. It seemed to me that Palin really was not saying much of anything. So on what occasions does she speak her mind? When being interviewed by Hannity, I guess. The kid figures that Palin is outspoken because, when talking to conservatives, Palin says the things that conservatives say.

Okay, the kid's just 17. But her blog post has been applauded by the Weekly Standard and other pro-Palin outposts manned by adults. Do they notice this incoherence and gloss over it, or do they share the incoherence and therefore don't notice it?

update, Unhappy Palinites in Noblesville, Ind. Apparently the Great Goose bailed on a bunch of people who had been standing on line (for hours in the rain with their infant children!) because they had been promised her signature on copies of Going Rogue. This link has a sampling of unhappy comments left on her Facebook page. My favorite:

... the real disappointment was the realization that someone you supported and believed in didn’t follow through on the commitment they made.

Pal, if only you followed the news.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Christmas for Nazis

You don't see this every day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Our elusive ideals

Men don't see it as an ideal to be aspired to that we get our way on everything and show no interest whatsoever in compromise and balancing respective interests. Why does the feminist ideal often seem to suggest that is the goal?

Says the fan of George W. Bush ... Because that's from Ace of Spades, the renowned war blogger whose web site has a skull and crossbones (a skull and crossed swords, actually).

A lot of men do see throwing their weight around as an ideal way to live. They wish they could get away with it at the office or on line at the coffee place. But instead they settle for watching action movies and advocating a hardline foreign policy.

One guy who didn't settle was George Bush. He didn't have to advocate. He was able to live the dream and conduct a tough-guy foreign policy that was all my-way-or-the-highway and shut-up-stupid. Ace and the other wingnut bloggers liked that just fine.

Now everything has turned to crap, but the wingnuts can still bitch about that devious wimp, Barack Obama. And about women. Apparently women play too rough.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Progress report: Oct 24 thru 31

Typical. I stay away from the Internet, so my progress reports become a backlog. Now I have to set aside blocks of time and churn thru the backlog. It's all become a chore.

Okay, to begin:

Oct. 24 I find listed "12:22 noon to 2:25 pm," and then "5 pm to" nothing. I find a list of standing sets for the program (Sky Frontier), and a list of season 4 shows, each marked "ship" or "planet" or "ship, planet" plus a few more less-used terms. The list marks an episode ("Speak Your Name") as having "space storm not called Bronson-Gann."

A page of changes I want to make to "The World Is Fair," a chapter about the shooting of an episode in Sept 1966, just when the show is new and CG's character (Lieut. Taj, the alien) is taking off with viewers.

Oct 25 nothing

Oct 26 This was when I took the morning bus to Ottawa. In my noteboook I started working out a step-by-step progress from the gates of the studio lot inward. That is, I sat there on the floor of the Gare Central at 9:30 am (early for me) and wrote out what you'd find on driving up to the studio gates, then driving to the administration building, seeing the ornamental shruberry between the admin building and the tv shows' building, and so on.

Rectangles drawn to represent the sound stages, bungalows, parking lot, admin building. Wrote questions to myself: "Where's the shade, if any?" and so on.

But we're only talking a couple of pages. I know that I dropped the work after getting on the bus.

Oct 2- ? Nine pages of notes show up, no date. Fairly useful sort. Working out where SkyFron and Tracer offices would be. A list of design people and tech staff for SkyFron. (But also a stray couple of stories about someone recalling childhood with a seer-mother, a bit of Dunsany-ism about "the Virulean Gate.") Then material about studio offices, tech/design people listed again, question of who was unit production manager, a crowded diagram attempting to represent the shooting of a scene in a sound stage. Questions about color sound stages painted, distance between sound stages (Burt Ward sounds like he's saying it was 15 feet). A lot on sound stages and shooting, and every step of the way I've got questions. Yet I sort of like the experience. I've had sound stages in the back of my mind for years now, while working on this book, and it's nice to take a look at them full on. So I take what I've got and lay it out, and then figure ways all the bits together may make sense.

Oct 30 Marked "5:18 pm to 9:19 pm." Thirteen pages of notes, mainly nailing down (probable) layout of sound stage floor, position of generators, how soon cables begin to get underfoot once you walk in the door, where the actors would be sitting, bit of their between-sets behavior, what principles would be applied in the scheduling of scenes to be shot.

(There's also some stray material: the layout for a novelty book about notable personalities; a page of comebacks to people who are being impossible; more of the same; a paragraph about the evolution of social interaction among the members of the world's elites if they had transferred themselves to zeppelins located high above the earth; the title in English of a 1950s French popularization of philosophy, The Deluded Beast. Also, the title and subtitles for a book about how the Roman Republic fell. That's because right about then I was finishing Imperium by Robert Harris. The zeppelins paragraph is some sort of afterbelch to an idea I had 20 years ago and never acted on.)

Oct 31 Nothing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


From WaPo's retrospective on the Scozzafava mess:

"There is a great song called 'Coca Cola Cowboy' and I believe that's what we have here. She was a Republican as long as it enhanced her electability," said Armey, reached while petting a goat at his Texas ranch. "My guess is she made a deal with Chuck Schumer or the White House that will eventually show itself to us."

The "goat" bit is what surprises me, of course.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I say Hoffman

final update,  I said wrong.


The Republican candidate folds. I predict that the tea party candidate will win. This is based on nothing but a few headlines, so call it the recording of a hunch.

Premise: Politically, this is a terrible time to be Republican but not such a bad time to be a really pissed-off right-winger. Republicans per se have got it tough all over; pissed-off extreme conservatives have their spots where they can break thru.

update, Lib blogs point me to this, a Siena Institute poll. Chris Cilizza highlights:

more than 60 percent of Scozzafava backers were self-identified Republicans, meaning that the majority of them are likely to back Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman.
The NRCC is promising the tea party candidate a seat on Armed Services; the district contains a U.S. army military reservation, per Wiki.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Visionary: Prouty was right


Olive Higgins Prouty wrote the novels on which Now, Voyager and Stella Dallas were based, and she helped out the young Sylvia Plath with money and thereby wound up as "Philomena Guinea" in The Bell Jar. I know all this from Wikipedia, which I consulted because I just watched Now, Voyager.

Wiki says:
Initial production of the Prouty novel had to take into account that European locales would not be possible in the midst of a war, despite the novelist's insistence on using Italy as the main setting. Her quirky demands for vibrant colors and flashbacks shot in black and white with subtitles were similarly disregarded.
Okay, it was quirky to expect Warner Brothers, or anyone in Hollywood, to get so lively in 1942. But it still sounds like Prouty had a good idea. Color for the present, black and white for the past -- yeah. I mean, it makes so much sense that by now it may be a cliche. Subtitles, well, I'd have to see what she had in mind, but still ... could work, could be useful.

Overall, it sounds like she was going for something a bit Oliver Stone-ish but decades before he and psychodelics were ever introduced. I like Oliver Stone, so I'm impressed. "Quirky." The three-name lady was right. 

The  book/movie is a document of the early therapeutic culture. Wiki says Prouty had psychoanalytic leanings, but I didn't see much of them here. Now, Voyager celebrates the idea of emotional therapy, just emotional therapy in general -- not even the talking cure, let alone something as specific as Freudianism.

The movie is about Bette Davis's nervous breakdown and her subsequent vigorous rebirth thanks to enlightened therapeutic practices. That is, Claude Rains runs a country sanitarium, she stays there, and while she's there people treat her nicely and she's away from her horrible, browbeating mother. Then she loses weight, dresses up sharp, and goes on an ocean cruise where nobody knows her and she can be her new self. Before she sails, she reads a note that Claude Rains left her. His voice says: "The untold want by life and land ne'er granted / Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find." Apparently the words are the whole of a Walt Whitman poem called "The Untold Want," to which Prouty added a comma for her title.

The movie centers on three basic beliefs undergirding the therapeutic mentality: that persistent emotional misery can be explained by what a person experienced as a child (most especially by the behavior of mom and dad); that the unhappiness can be cured by someone who has a medical degree or something near and who uses the equivalent of modern medicine's hygenic operating environment (the sanitarium in Voyager, the impersonality required of practitioners of Freudian analysis, the "safe place" idea in modern-day talk therapy); and that no cure will happen unless the patient takes a risk, makes a stake in his/her life, decides that he/she is going to get more out of it than he/she has been getting -- you've got to start living out loud, as the saying goes. 

Friday, October 23, 2009

Progress report: 10'16 thru 23

I've kind of lost track of the day-by-day. But I've lined up 95 episodes in a shooting order that I find plausible. Forget how many I had to invent on the spot -- plenty, since I decided that some of my favorite previously invented episodes were too character-driven to keep the network happy. The network wants alien spectacle and "planet shows," the same demand Star Trek got from NBC.

Bronson-Gann.  Here's a side of things that I like but that any eventual readers may not care about. Star Trek is about a space ship, Sky Frontier about a space station, so I have to think of ways to bring situations to the station. One is the space storm, otherwise known as a "time-warp disruption." It's gobbledygook but useful, and it pops up more often as the series goes on. Eventually a script gives one space storm the made-up name of "a Bronson-Gann disruption," and the name surfaces a few more times, though scripts also revert to "time-warp disruption" and simple "space storm," depending on the attention being paid by the people in charge. Years later "Bronson-Gann" becomes a continuity staple of the franchise and penetrates fan talk ("He's having a Gann" means someone is acting like a flake or pitching a fit).

Mission Tube.  Last night, among other things, I worked out which episodes would feature space storms, disruptions, or Bronson-Ganns. I also worked out which ones would feature the Mission Tube, another contrivance for making plots possible. Sky Frontier should have started out with a teleport device, like Star Trek did. But it didn't, both because I want the two series to be different and because Sky Frontier's creator is a stubborn sort who wants people to come to him. But before the first season is up, he and his team hit on teleporting as a storytelling crutch. Instead of the streamlined teleporting used by Star Trek, theirs is quite a production. A machine with a man-sized portal sets up a high hum and the characters jump thru the portal and into whatever situation they're supposed to get into. The effect is much like The Time Tunnel, I think (because I haven't seen that show). The Mission Tube is not the surefire device the Star Trek crew enjoys; it can send you to the wrong place and is subject to interference from difficult local conditions. "We can scramble them there," the engineering man says tensely. "I just don't know if we can scramble them back."

Titles.  Here are some I came up with. You'll see I got pretty ripe:

"That My Hands Shall Know Their Maker"
"Half a Blindfold"
"The Stars that See, the Sky that Forgets"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A writer after my own heart

I never thought I would identify with a member of Obama's crack communications team. But:

... less than seventy-two hours before the speech would be delivered to a live audience, Favreau was sitting alone in an unfurnished group house in Chicago when the boss called. “I’m going to give you some stream of consciousness,” Obama told him. Then he spoke for about forty-five minutes, laying out his speech’s argumentative construction. Favreau thanked him, hung up, considered the enormity of the task and the looming deadline, and then decided he was “too freaked out by the whole thing” to write and went out with friends instead. 

Favreau is Jon Favreau (not the Hollywood guy, a speechwriter) and the speech in question was the big one, Obama's response to the flap over Jeremiah Wright and "God damn America!" It got written in the end, which I hope is a portent. The article is by Robert Draper in GQ, via Sullivan, of course.

Progress report: 10'13, '14 and '15

Today's Thursday, so the dates work out like this ...

Tuesday:  4 hours writing notes, mainly about the show but also with a section about two of the characters, CG and Olsen, and how they deal with personal appearances. Back in the '60s tv actors could make more money doing weekend appearances at shopping malls and small-town harvest festivals they made from their tv work. For instance, Leonard Nimoy was a bear about scheduling appearances around the country every weekend, then driving straight from the airport to the studio for shooting. Of course he had a certain amount of stardom; Koenig, Takei and Nichols, for example, didn't have much to say about appearances in their memoirs, most likely because they didn't do as much of that work. For whatever reason, I read their memoirs a few years ago and Nimoy's not until last December or so. Once I had read him, I realized I had to make p.a.'s a bigger factor in CG's and Olsen's lives, and now I think I've figured out how to do that.

The other notes had to do with my show's credits sequence and core gimmicks: the look of the space station, its set-up (Deck 8, Deck 7, Deck 6, etc., all the way up to Deck 1, Command, the High Deck -- the special h.q. with the screens and blinking lights and the regulars sitting at their posts), the neat tricks it can pull (protector rings, offense beams, etc. -- I don't have the notebook with me, but I worked out some pretty good terms).

I was very happy with what I decided for the credits sequence and the station's look. I've been noodling with both questions for God nows how many years, and now I've got answers that I like. They seem plausible for mid-'60s tv and plausible as winners with the people watching the show, and I managed to work them out in enough detail for them to feel solid. 

Wednesday:  Not much at all. I spent half an hour with my notebook while traveling by subway. Unfortunately all I did was write nonsense phrases for fantasy stories: "The red cut glass of the goblin's triangular stare in the dark." Reason: the night before I had read LeGuin's "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie," which contains a few quotes from fantasy authors whom she likes. Not much of a reason, but it turned out to be enough.

Today:  Four hours selecting and rewriting the first 15 episodes to be shot. I don't mean rewriting scripts, because I'm not fool enough to write those, just blurb descriptions. Eighty to go and I'll have enough. I've got a bunch written up, though a count revealed the bunch was about 15 short of what I had expected. The job now is to decide which episodes were shot when, to write more as needed, and to fix the ones I already have if they need fixing. Not fix them too much, because I might get lost in the project and never come out, but enough for me to feel that each episode could have been broadcast and to give me an idea of what the production staff and actors would have had to do to get the thing made.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Progress report: 10'12

Think it was 3.5 hours. I'm trying to decide which episodes will go where in the first-season shooting schedule I made up.

(Clarification if needed: so far the schedule is just a set of dates. The fourth episode starts shooting on a given date, the fifth starts on a given date, etc. But which episode goes fourth? That's the side of things I'm working on now.) 

Exercises in meme sharpening

If the Republicans can't win, they want America to lose.

My own phrasing, and I hope the DNC sees it somehow. I think that's the ultimate in pithification for the line being pushed here. Also, it probably would have been best if the DNC had made the Taliban parallel a backup talking point rather than the lead.

More advice, this time to the Young Democrats. They have a letter harping on the vote by Sen. David Vitter, a client of prostitutes, against Al Franken's bill to let employees of military contractors use the U.S. court system if they are victims of sexual assault. "What exactly is David Vitter's problem with women?" the letter wants to know. That's subtler than saying "David Vitter hires prostitutes, therefore he hates women." But it's not as good as hammering at the fact that Vitter gave no reason for his vote. List all the common sense points that make the bill a matter of simple justice; leave Vitter's vote as a mystery he refuses to explain. "Dave, at least tell us why" would have primed the reader to say, "I know why" and out would have popped the memory of the sex scandal.

Sometimes not only do you have to avoid drawing connections, you have to let the audience supply one of the dots. Otherwise, as in this case, you wind up looking a bit cheesy.

Progress report: 10'8 thru 11

Okay, Oct. 8 thru Oct. 11 work out this way:

Thursday:  Nothing.

Friday:  4.5 hours figuring out shooting schedule for third season.

Saturday:  2.5 hours drawing up final schedule for third season.

Sunday:  5.5 hours drawing up final schedules for first and second seasons.

Yikes, but at least now those schedules are done. They look pretty neat; if I scan the things, I'll put them in Photobucket and link to them. But it was hair-raising work and I had to feel my way, with the result that a good deal of time was probably wasted. Muddling is a bad approach to precision work.

Argument with my father

"Possibly the truth lies somewhere in between." Do people still say that? When I was a kid you heard that a lot on the tv, always voiced by quietly smiling gray-haired men who were purported to be experts on the political life. From my father too -- if not the phrase, then the sentiment. He was a Democrat but very much a moderate Democrat, and he loved the idea of centrism. He believed you should jab your finger at the midpoint between American liberals and conservatives and figure that would do the trick.  The "somewhere" signified that you didn't even have to hit your target, the line that ran exactly down the middle. Landing in the neighborhood was enough for everyone to muddle through.

But, taken strictly, "somewhere" means nothing but "somewhere." The magic point of rightness doesn't have to be at the midpoint. Maybe it lies two notches away from one of the poles. Or maybe the rightness point doesn't have much of a penumbra and must be pinned down precisely by means of detailed thought and the processing of technical information. Or possibly there's no special reason to take the American liberal and conservative positions as the two poles that keep rightness between them. I'm for universal health care and gays in the military, so in the U.S. I'm quite progressive. But those positions wouldn't do the trick in Europe.

My father had a classic centrist temperament, whereas I see myself as a moderate conservative whose views on political issues line up with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. How do you tell a classic centrist from a moderate conservative? I was horrified by the Lewinsky mess and what the Republicans got up to -- the government was being destabilized because that way one side thought it could score points. My father never even thought about stability. He saw the whole business as a drama concerning an individual, Bill Clinton, who had broken the rules (meaning perjury laws) and now was going to pay.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Progress report: 10'6 and '7

Nothing yesterday, meaning 10'6, and today just a couple of hours. After numerous calculations and recalculations, lean toward the third season having 163 production days for a per-ep shooting time of 6.7 days. In other words, looks like Trek's third season reverted to the 7-day shoots of season one and the first part of season two. This would be the case even though Trek remained on very thin ice for season 3, ice that got thinner every week -- after all, the show was  canceled. The books all say that Trek's budget was cut quite deeply in season three. But unless Trek had 26 days off that I haven't accounted for (days on top of the usual: Thanksgiving, etc.), then we've got the old 7-day schedule again.

Shatner says in one of his books that the series cut back to 5 days per ep, which sounds plausible to me, but see above. I should also note that Shatner tends to be unreliable. His Star Trek Memories gives the wrong month for when his father died.

I may have Sky Frontier, my series, cut back to 5 or stay at 6; either way, forget 7. The point of studying all this Star Trek lore isn't to replicate the history of the series; it's to judge what is plausible when it comes to making up stuff about an hour-long network s.f. drama back in the 1960s. The books all say that shooting time costs a lot of money; if the program has to save money, losing a day's shooting makes sense. 

But could a 144-day shooting season (6 x 24, which is the number of eps) really start on May 21, 1968, and finish on Jan. 9, 1969. Think I've shown that it couldn't. Aw damn.

Left out "Whom Gods Destroy" from my third-season lists of episodes (one has when they were aired, other when they were shot). So a lot of redoing needed tomorrow plus the above mentioned mystery about the 7 days vs. 6. Fuck, and the first two seasons worked out so nicely.

Two brilliant but nasty right-wing comments

Andrew Sullivan pulls up comments about him from an Ann Althouse thread. I'm reprinting a couple of them here. First:

Here is a human whose sexual desires fight against the flow of life itself. Cursed by a disease that may wither him to a shrub of what he once was, he screams for more attention. It's all about taking down the societal purity the Palin represents.


Please. One ought always to refer to Sully by his true and complete regnal name: Her Divine Majesty Queen Mary Jane Milky Loads, Sultana of Sodom, Governess of Gomorrah, and Empress of All Urania.

You can read the whole thread if you're curious; I haven't. I'm just struck by the viciousness of the selected comments, which Sullivan certainly notices, and by what Sullivan doesn't bother to mention: namely that, at least in these two cases, a remarkable level of writing is on display. I think liberals, as a whole, are usually right but not too good word with words, and that conservatives, as a whole, are deluded and often nasty but gifted with an above average run of verbal ability. The comments above are further evidence. 

That "Milky Loads" passage is a wonderfully crafted verbal sequence; it puts to shame all the prefab orotund rant one runs across nowadays (for example, the vogue a few years ago for gerund strings: "latte-sipping, omelet-driving," etc., etc.). And the "shrub" remark, centerpiece to the first comment, is a killer. It is a beautifully compact and poetic phrase that condenses the whole course of a disease and combines it with a suggestion that the victim is no longer human, that the man or woman is now just a remnant. What a cold, nasty sentiment and how powerfully it's put across. Probably someone with a poetic enough turn of mind might have sat at a bedside and watched AIDS do its work, and then would have thought of the phrase and thereby summed up his or her hatred for the disease and what it caused. But instead a commenter with a poetic turn of mind came up with the phrase simply to express contempt for people who have AIDS.

There's a whole "life/antilife" philosophy at work, as you can see from the rest of the first commenter's remark. Ideas that big cause people to lose what bearings they have, especially when the idea is as much an emotional state as it is anything (and especially when that emotional state is panic). So not only do you get the inhuman nastiness, you also get the heavy-think delirium:

Sarah is a fertility goddess, and that magic power intimidates the death-loving, poo-pounding Sully. He rejects life, life-giving, and life-bearers.

I would guess that statement was half a joke, which means it is half lunacy. The most generous interpretation: some nut thinks modern life is a pageant of symbols being enacted to determine if our society goes pro-life or pro-death, with Sarah as symbol-in-chief for the good side. Either that or the person thinks Sarah Palin is a fertility goddess.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Progress Report: 10'2 thru 10'5

Friday:    5 hours on episode schedule. Two key sets of figures don't match

Sat: I do nothing.

Sun: 4 hours on episode schedule and leafing thru source books. I'm trying to figure out my number problem.

Today: 3.5 hours of same, plus hour of googling to turn up phone numbers for old Star Trek hands; I figure maybe they'll know the answer; no phone numbers turn up. Around about 11:30 pm I hit on a possible answer to my mystery.

The big question was how many days it took to shoot a Star Trek episode. (My novel is about people making a science fiction series back in the 1960s, and books about Star Trek provide my chief guide for guessing how a network prime time drama was put together back then.) The books about Star Trek all say episodes took 6 days' shooting apiece; Shatner's Star Trek Memories says that in the third season the figure dropped to 5. But sit down with calendars for the years in question and the 6-day figure doesn't add up.

Because of the books, and because of the fine Trek site Memory Alpha, we have hard-and-fast dates for when each season's shooting started and decent enough information for when the shooting ended (sometimes dates, sometimes phrases like "mid-February"). Count up the number of weekdays in a given season, subtract holidays, and you come up with far more days than you'll get by multiplying six by the season's number of episodes.

My guess.  Star Trek took seven days to shoot an episode for the first season and most of the second season. Then it switched to six days per ep for the second season's last batch of episodes. The switch happened right when the show was waiting to find out if NBC was going to yank it at mid-season. NBC kept the show, but (I speculate) from that point Trek was on thin ice and trying to keep its costs down so that Desilu wouldn't lose too much if the series didn't make it to syndication. 

Run the numbers that way and it's possible to go thru the calendars and map out a series of shooting dates that doesn't conflict with the fairly scattered information we have on when specific episodes were done. That's for the first and second seasons, anyway. I have to go thru the third season tomorrow.

A journey.  I discovered my numbers problem on Friday and should have just shlepped home and started looking thru my books. But instead I tried to fix the problem by allowing for more days off. No good and a long, tedious process that involved a lot of counting forwards and backwards along rows of dates.

Over the weekend I started on my source books. Grace Lee Whitney's The Longest Trek helped a lot. She was on the show such a short while that her memoir notes exactly when her episodes were shot, from date to date. She says that during the first few months of season one the show had to overlap the shooting of 4 eps: that is, one ep would be finished in the morning, the next started would start shooting that afternoon. Go by her dates and the overlapped eps were all shot in 6.5 days apiece, with the episodes just before them taking 8 days apiece. So it looks like the aim was 7 days. Take a 7-day shoot as standard, and the calendar for season one adds up.

Nothing else turned up until I stumbled across p. 357 of Inside Star Trek, where associate producer Robert Justman recalls the show's brush with death during the second season. In doing so, he quotes himself telling an exec that the series would have 16 episodes filmed as of Oct. 5. Count each of those 16 eps at 7 days apiece, and the remaining 10 eps at 6 days apiece, and season two adds up.

Now season three. 

update,  I should note that Grace Lee Whitney cites Justman as her source for the shooting dates in The Longest Trek. So I owe my grand sorting out entirely to Justman-derived data. 

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Progress report: 10'1'09

Yesterday and today spent a total of 7 hours working out when different episodes were broadcast and in what order of production.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Telling incident

Showed up at the Cafe for a meeting to go over edits in a friend's articles. I didn't see him, and after 15 minutes I ran back to my apartment to get my computer, then ran again to the cafe so I could check my email on their wireless.

I was convinced that I had screwed up, that we had said 4 and I had only thought the meeting was supposed to be at 5. My fear picked up as I ran to my apartment and back. It occurred to me that I might drop my laptop and then I'd have an even bigger problem -- but emphasis on even, as if screwing up an afternoon appointment were the top-ranked junior edition of breaking a computer worth a couple thousand dollars.

Dashing across the street on my way back, with the cafe door in sight, I hated the bicyclists for making my life harder as I was going to die. (The bicyclists aren't sporty types, just harmless people traveling home from work. My neighborhood's chief corner is where a medium-size east-west street runs into a major north-south street. You really notice when rush hour kicks in.) Once in the cafe, I logged on and found an email from my friend. He was apologizing for having to reschedule -- could we meet tomorrow?

I dimly computed that I hadn't screwed up. It was a bit like getting a letter from the college you applied to and not being able to process that they had said yes. I really had been scared; it's no way to live your life.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The print will be bigger than my thumbnail

That's all I have to say about Sarah Palin's forthcoming, 400-page book, which will be published four months after she signed the contract. 

Banana republic

Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.

John L. Perry, a columnist at Newsmax. Perry does say that "a coup is not an ideal option," words so ringing they deserve to be written into the Constitution. And he figures that the officers who (hypothetically, possibly) take over won't be wearing sunglasses. Perry doesn't moon over an Argentina-style coup. "America isn't the Third World. If a coup does occur here it will be civilized," he says. He has in mind something classy, upscale, like in Turkey. The top officers just sit the president down and tell him how things are going to be.  

There's one point on which I agree with Perry: "That it has never happened doesn't mean it won't." Countries become banana republics the way people become fat: while telling themselves that something altogether different is going on. Since the Lewinsky mess I've had the sneaking fear that the US is on a decades-long slouch toward banana status because the right has been so noisy and vicious and so indifferent toward  stability and democratic procedure. Bringing loaded weapons near the president, hogtying the government with a frivolous impeachment proceeding, fantasizing about brave officers running the Commerce Department -- to tell the truth, I find it disgusting. Perry's bio note says he "served on White House staffs of two presidents." What kind of White House would employ someone like that? Well, a Republican White House, and the Republicans are one of our two major parties. That's a frightening thought if you care about keeping your democracy.

Probably we'll never sink as low as I fear. Isn't that reassuring? 

update,  Ed Morrissey and Confederate Yankee, two wingnut bloggers of note, have both repudiated Perry and report that his column has been taken down. On the other hand, I found it easily enough.

CY reveals an embarrassing fact for me: Perry's two White Houses were Democratic. Bad news for my post, good news for the country. Republican White Houses do not incubate coup lovers. And Perry's White House time was so long ago -- during the Johnson and Carter administrations -- that he's had plenty of time to go off on his own crazy tangent. At the end of which, of course, he found a home at Newsmax.

CY insists that Perry "is not a conservative," which seems like a stretch. Newsmax hires conservatives, and conservatives write things like this: 

Americans are increasingly alarmed that this nation, under President Barack Obama, may not even be recognizable as America by the 2012 election ...

They [military officers] can see this president waging undeclared war on the intelligence community ...
... They can see the nation’s safety and their own military establishments and honor placed in jeopardy as never before.

The quotes are from Perry's coup column. So, nice try by Confederate Yankee. But I look at it this way: there are wingers who are very, very much against military coups in the US. Good enough.

update 2,  More counter-evidence. An interview with Gore Vidal reminds us of the left-winger's special esteem for Timothy McVeigh, the right-wing antigovernment terrorist. So the right, despite its impressive work in this area, does not have a monopoly on people who want to throw away our stability.

Vidal also sees a coup coming. He doesn't say when but does say why: the general shittiness of the American people, with a mention of Bush thrown in for seasoning.

The writer indulges in some of his usual self-overestimation. On sizing up JFK: "It’s like asking, ‘What do I think of my brother?’ It’s complicated. I’d known him all my life ..." Yeah, right. On himself: "I've never been fat."

Hecate County

I've been rereading Memoirs of Hecate County. My two old favorites, "Glimpses of Wilbur Flick" and "The Milhollands and Their Damned Soul," remain my favorites on this reading. A disturbing moment when it occurred to me that Wilbur Flick and his miserable life might be stand-ins for something historical and specific, like American capitalism from the turn of the century to the New Deal. In the sanitorium, the narrator visits him and worries that Flick's high spirits might be followed by "a slump." Of course the Depression had already set in by this point of the story, so maybe not.

Still don't understand "The Man Who Shot Snapping Turtles."  Kind of embarrassing when the author goes to so much trouble to highlight big-think aspects of the story. One character actually calls another Manichean, and there I am, still following along on the surface. Ah well.

Progress report: 9'29'09

Four hours today marking up calendars with dates of script delivery and dates of shooting. Some gaps and anomalies, but on the whole things seem to track. Did the first and second seasons, which is the hump.

Had to go to the cafe just to cut and paste the calendars. Now have them for the years 1966 thru 1970. Should have thought of it the night before, of course.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Great satire

Robert Benchley wrote this when he was starting out. It's a magazine ad parody and one of the funniest things I've ever read:

I Am the Strength of the Ages

I have sprung from the depths of the hills.

Before the rivers were brought forth, or even before the green leaves in their softness made the landscape, I was your servant.

From the bowels of the earth, where men toil in darkness, I come, bringing a message of insuperable strength.

From sun to sun I meet and overcome the forces of nature, brothers of mine, yet opponents; kindred, yet foes.

I am silent, but my voice re-echoes beyond the ends of the earth.

I am master, yet I am slave.

I am Woonsocket Wrought Iron Pipe, "the Strongest in the Long Run" (trademark).

Send for illustrated booklet entitled
"The Romance of Iron Pipe" 

The quiet simplicity of the opening, the understated grandeur of the close, and then the kicker: the trademark and slogan. I've never read magazine ads from the 1920s, yet I am convinced this piece could have worked as an ad back then. Why? The writing's skill, I suppose: if you take as given that a company would want to run a prose poem about iron, then Benchley has come up with quite a good prose poem. I mean, an awful prose poem, but one whose awfulness required skill for its execution.

I love the sort of parody that could work as the real thing. The Woonsocket piece is a supreme example because it could pass and at the same time it's obviously a joke, even though there's no obvious detail to flag it's a joke. Even the trademark and slogan aren't absurd, not on their own terms.  

Today we have The Onion doing a note-perfect imitation of news prose, but each Onion piece pins its comedy to an absurd subject: hey, a news story about a guy ordering a cheeseburger -- crazy! Not so with Benchley's piece. It has nothing to show that it's a joke except for the sheer absurdity of writing a prose poem about iron pipes. And yet people at the time were doing that very thing. To take a common practice and show its absurdity just by doing it better -- that must be some kind of supreme pole vault for a satirist.

Unless, of course, magazine ads of the '20s didn't feature prose poems about utilitarian goods like iron pipes, only about frilly items like perfume and tobacco. In which case I must knock the Benchley piece down a grade, to the high Onion level. But that's not so bad either.

Progress report: 9'28'09

Two hours, twenty minutes today figuring out what the show's production week would be like (on Mondays we do this, on Tuesdays we do that, etc.) and how long from outline to finished script (up to 6 months, now and then just 6 weeks or a month, usually more like 2-3 months).

Yesterday, nothing. Day before, nothing.

This isn't good. 

Progress report: 9'27'09

A rainy Sunday. Did qi gong while watching Some Like It Hot and It Happened One Night. Walked on Mt Royal for a few hours in the mist and rain. Back home, did Pilates, showered, ate, then slept from 7:30 in the evening to 3 in the morning. I suppose this cannot be considered progress. 

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Help line

It's Saturday and I was on the phone today for about 4 hours. Two reasons: my Internet browser stopped loading and my computer won't burn dvds to an RW disk.

I have a Mac, and the help people were very nice and helpful. Though, actually, people on help lines are most often saints, whether they work for Mac or not. But you expect more from Apple, what with the price, so maybe one is readier to decide they're sterling quality.

I was nice too, as is my way. I did get a little dispirited and bedraggled because the help people had to lead me up one hill and down another. The next-to-last fellow threw me. We were waiting for the computer to start up, and he asked me where I was from, what I did for a living (freelance copy editor) and then started telling me about his business as an Internet marketing consultant, then about the book he had just finished writing, then about the medical theory on which his book is based, then the amazing cures it has effected. He made me feel a bit odd.

In the end I decided to hell with the no-burn-to-RW problem. My computer has never burnt to RW disks, just R disks, and now I have decided to live with that.

Then I went to the nearest wifi cafe for a last-hope retest of my browser. And I found that, as long as I stay away from one particular site, my browser keeps working just fine. (The site is Memory Alpha, an excellent compendium of trivia about Star Trek. I hope that I'm the only person whose browser suffers from Mem Alpha stickiness.)

So I'm going to cancel my appointment with the repair guy at the Apple Store. I can live with no-burn-to-RW and I can live with restarting my browser every time I visit a page from one one given site, and it may be that the site will eventually stop jamming me. Who knows?

But here's the kicker: Last night, when I discovered my browser problem, it did not occur to me to see what happened if I did not start out by visiting that one site. Every single time, I visited that site and then tried to visit another. 

Why should one site screw me up? Who knows. But as long as I'm subject to such random hazards, I should remember some common-sense procedural solutions. Like if you do the same thing three times with bad results, just change what you're doing and see what happens.

Four hours today. Fuck, I feel dumb.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Progress report

Today I finished looking thru the ms, which is 110,000 words. A big stack of unnumbered pages with "Sky" on the title page.

I listed chapters that still have to be written, points of fact that have to be filled in, and points of chronology that need straightening out. The list came to six handwritten pages and 78 items large and small.

Large items: 9 unwritten chapters. Four of these are long, heavy-duty, difficult scenes. The other five are what I refer to as roll-calls, meaning each is made up of vignettes devoted to the different cast members. Naturally, each vignette can turn into a full-fledged scene, calling for days of work.

Medium items: have to make sure I've spread out the material about Washington Ferris and his use of a popular psychology book I made up. Think I've written most of the necessary prose, but it's present as a great lump in one part of the book and then in another. 

Work out why Sandy not only can't go to her husband's get-together with his kids but also sends along her little girl. Why no babysitter?

Small items: about 70 of them, small questions about which neighborhood somebody would live in or where you'd find a pay phone on a Hollywood lot in 1967. I just spent a year reading or rereading 40 or so books about '60s tv, '60s LA, Hollywood of the '50s and '60s, and so on. Reading my list of questions, a few cases jump out where I know I've got the answer. Great! But in most cases, no.