This November was National Novel Writing Month — and I suppose it’s that way every November. What makes this particular November unique is that I participated in NaNoWriMo. Me — the guy who labors to write confusing opening paragraphs!

For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a kind of “honor code” participation where you agree to write a novel containing at least 50,000 words in the span of a single November.

It was a lot of fun, and I learned a few things, too. Continue reading ‘National Novel Writing Month Experienced, Enjoyed’

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Recently got this album. I’ve given it many listens.

But I made the mistake of listening to it after reading the 33 1/3 book on “Ramones.” Besides dealing with the making of that album, the book goes deep into the pre-punk and punk mentality. Lots of DIY type stuff and about how it compared to the preceding rock of the era.

Then I listened to “All Things Must Pass.” Continue reading ‘Fact: “All Things Must Pass” is the LEAST Punk Rock Album Ever’


“The Last Jedi” is out. It has been largely considered a critical success, and many of the fans I’ve spoken to tend to agree. However there is a very vocal collection— and it doesn’t seem to be a majority share — of people complaining about “The Last Jedi.” Some are calling it the worst “Star Wars” movie to date, which may represent the truest form of pop culture amnesia we’ve ever seen. The main complaints have to do with the characterization of Luke Skywalker, the odd pacing, unsatisfactory resolutions to teases from the prior movie, and one of the sub-plots seemingly going nowhere. While I cannot argue against someone’s opinion, I have a theory as to why these angry feelings are being expressed so strongly by fans (and it’s not just because it’s Star Wars; these seem to be especially strong even for that franchise). The theory is: “The Last Jedi” is not like any other Star Wars movie, and that freaks some people out.

I believe most of these upset fans are, like me, fans of the original trilogy. And like me, they may have watched those movies one hundred times each. They have thought about them, digested them and made them part of their lives. They have also allowed the original trilogy of movies to inform the way they believe stories should work. As a writer, I have recognized this in myself, and it’s been difficult to fight off its influence. “Star Wars” is so universally popular, that you can explain most things by using its general story structure. In that popularity, the story structure has now become The Story Structure. This is partly by design, with Lucas pulling many important elements of popular myth and Joseph Campbell and all else to create something foreign yet familiar. And while adults who watched the original movies may have seen the references to Westerns and Samurai movies, we younger fans saw only “Star Wars.” It was central and Starting Point A, as far as we were concerned.

Young minds absorb things and often commit them to a simple “That’s It” kind of finality. So for super fans of this series, their brains (our brains, I’m not off the hook) may have taken these story beats and techniques and said “That’s it.” We compare all other stories, movies and everything to these things.

This is where “The Last Jedi” makes a bold choice to NOT follow that mold, and therefore makes itself a target. People use “break the mold” a lot, but with “The Last Jedi” we can all clearly explain what the mold to break was, and how it was broken. The previous seven “Star Wars” movies have years between their in-movie events. They contain twists and turns based on established characters and their families. They do not contain flashbacks. And when you get down to it, we’re really talking about the way the original trilogy unfolds: introduce characters with a series of adventures, have a meditative and moody middle chapter in which there is a major twist, followed by a tidy resolution. “The Last Jedi” teases itself as if it will fit into this established mold, then loudly rejects it. And it teases so much (with trailers and expectations and the enjoyment had by “The Force Awakens”), that the fanboys went in expecting to see “Empire.” They may have gone in looking for something that contains not only the twists involving family revelations, but also the same film structure.

That’s my theory anyway. One crew of viewers (“Star Wars” fans) who come to expect certain techniques and elements in what they see in a “true story,” and another crew of viewers (the rest, including critics) who might be more willing to accept something different.

Or maybe they just hate it. Either way, it’s kind of fascinating to see this play out. Everyone is trying to convince their opponents that they’re right, which always works great and everyone changes their minds.

For a video version of how I see things, I defer to this guy:

THE LAST JEDI: Backlash is Missing the Point

 

 

 


My computer recently betrayed me. It has gone to a better place. Such is the nature of things.

And when said nature of things occurs, and the computer life transition occurs, certain things fall off. It’s the Darwin effect of computers: if you did a lot of your work on a 2009 model, and all your software has become outdated, and now you suddenly jump ahead to modern times and you had to drop a big chunk of change to get here at all. . . you start to wonder if you really SHOULD buy new screenwriting software.

That’s right. I’m considering the drop. Again.

I don’t know how much I’ve formally typed about this in the past. I suppose I could search, but I’m not going to.

I’m cheap but oddly driven. I just threw $1000+ on a new computer when one was working just fine a month ago (and working REALLY great when you consider it was a dinosaur). So I’m hesitant when it comes to just saying, “Sure, FinalDraft — here’s $200!”

My next stop was to explore cheaper options.

The Mac comes with Pages, which is their answer to MS Word. There are templates for screenwriting available online.

They’re cumbersome.

So between a dying computer, and a computer with no viable screenwriting software, I’ve been looking for ways to justify my artistic leanings.

I’m trying really hard.

Not hard at writing, exactly. But trying hard to look like I’m trying hard.


The other night, I had a dream that I got to watch what turned out to be the perfect Batman movie.

In the dream, I was walking down what appeared to be an AMC theater hallway, and I saw the title above a theater read “Batman Unleashed” (I think). And I rolled by eyes, because — as we all know — “Unleashed” (I think) was supposed to be lame. But since I was just strolling through this cineplex hallway with nothing else to do, I decided to give it a shot.

I cannot properly explain it, other than the feeling throughout the dream was excitement and happiness. But it was directed by Christopher Nolan and it featured Batman and Superman, both of which were portrayed in animation. All other parts were live action, including a remarkably creepy Billy Crystal as the Joker, based largely on Joel Grey’s “Cabaret” role.

There was a prison breakout scene and a battle in Saudi Arabia.

After the dream movie, I ran into the AMC hallway, met up with my wife and gushed about it. Then she wanted to watch it with me, and we did and it all happened again — animated Batman, Crystal Joker, prison break, Saudi Arabia.

This recreation of exact dream events feels like the most remarkable part of the dream. I might be remembering it wrong, but it feels like it was all there played twice.

Then I woke up.

Five dream stars.


As soon as I read Alex’s article, I knew I should respond. I went through the suspicious thoughts like, “This is Alex’s way of trying to prove that “Attack of the Clones” is actually really enjoyable,” or some such nonsense.

But the more I considered this theory that perfection isn’t as enjoyable as something imperfect, I realized it had a ring of truth for me. The funny thing was that the best example I can come up with to support this theory is not another movie. It’s the NBA, and particularly the career of LeBron James.

I’ve written about LeBron before, mostly about how a player with such incredible and obvious skills can actually be boring to watch. My earlier thesis had to do with LeBron’s lack of a suitable rival capable of giving him a fight. Even Superman has Lex Luthor. LeBron seems to simply be Superman, and always has been thought to be this way. Without a rival, it’s not interesting to watch a man who seems to have been designed by God to play basketball better than anyone else play basketball better than anyone else. As I said, I chalked this up to his lack of a rival, but then that would just be Superman vs. Superman.

Now I’m thinking the “problem” is that LeBron to me (like “Fury Road” to Alex) is too perfect, and the problem with perfection is that you can’t relate to it.

When someone writes about LeBron James, he is required to compare him to Michael Jordan, and this will be no exception. Because while Jordan did elevate to some kind of Superman-like level in the second half of his career, he struggled to reach his full potential in the first half. Try as he might, he could not get the Bulls beyond the Detroit Pistons. Then once he did, he stepped away from the NBA to play baseball for a year. Then he came back and struggled (which I remember thinking was impossible), worked his way back and then dropped 55 against the Knicks. He played through the flu, dealt with a very public murder of his father, and wore stupid shorts. Somehow, Jordan — with all his abilities and drive — felt human. So to see a human achieve incredible levels of success helps the fan invest in that success.

Let me put it this way: if I designed a 10-foot-tall robot to play basketball, and that robot dunked every time for 100 points a game for 9 seasons in a row, it would not be interesting. You would just be watching something inevitable occur. This is how it feels to watch LeBron James play (“Like watching a 10-foot-tall robot dunk for 4 quarters?” “Yes, inner voice!”)

And actually, Inner Voice, watching LeBron can feel like that sometimes. He actually does a lot that makes you stand up and scream because it’s technically amazing. Moment to moment, it’s exciting. It’s when you start thinking about his career or his Legend that things start to get less interesting. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but since I’ve come to expect amazing things from LeBron, that makes those achievements feel less amazing.

Now ON THE OTHER HAND, I think it’s a little crazy not to like “Fury Road,” just as it’s a little crazy that I should fight for someone to “have to” love a movie. And perhaps the feeling of “this is too perfect” may have more to do with the fact that there are a zillion movies to see in a year (which are undisputedly of higher quality per capita than movies were 30 years ago), and that this is all a complaint of riches. On the other other hand, I felt the same feelings of “It was just OK” about “The Dark Knight,” so who knows?

Maybe repeat viewings will allow us to find more evidence of humanity in “Fury Road” which will make it more relatable.


ROTD-V2

Coming in late January, a chance to go through the entire Ramones song catalog, alphabetically.

My good friend Molly Hale and I are about to release our podcast Ramones of the Day and we are very excited.

Get ready to get bombarded with promotion about it. We’re talking 3 or 4 posts about it, 10’s of tweets! (btw @RamonesPodcast).

It’s going to be fun. Big fun. Be one of us, we accept you, one of us, one of us!