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.