Friday, September 30, 2016

My Goat Can Totally Beat Up Your Goat

A few decades ago I attended Los Angeles City College to study the art of screenwriting. The teacher wasn’t very good, in fact he was rather lazy and instead of instructing us how to write for film he merely had us write our scripts and then have us read it to the rest of the class. Groan. This wasn’t screen writing, this was a bad creative writing class.

What kind of scripts did my classmates write? One graying pipe-smoker of a fella wrote a coming of age tale which took places in the Fabulous Fifties and included slow motion scenes of wrist cutting and other suicidal rituals. There was also tedious dialogue between man and woman about “going all the way”.

Another classmate wrote about a plucky woman trying to make it in the food catering business. It wasn’t very funny and it almost read like a diary of her working day. While she read I stared at her metal braces and concluded she looked a bit like a shark.*

What’s the point? Well, sometimes when I read social networking sites it reminds me of that screenwriting class. Everybody’s got something to say but they’re not saying it very well. The irony is that everyone has a great story to tell, but they usually need someone else to tell it for them. Illiteracy breeds inarticulation.

I enjoy watching videos of writers discussing how they plot their story. I like the ones from Harlan Ellison, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, etc. I skipped the one from Joyce Carol Oates because her stories take forever to get going and her advice meandered just as badly. Stephen King’s advice is better than his actual writing. Paul Auster was drawn out and boring I had to turn him off after five minutes. He just took so long to get to his point. I wonder if he ever took a screenwriting course.

Charles Bukowski inadvertently gave advice in his German TV interview when he criticized other writers, saying that very sentence should move the action further and that overly describing things was deadly. A similar remark was made by Alfred Hitchcock when he was interviewed on The Dick Cavett Show. Films should be about action, not second unit footage of the scenery and the sets. Keep things moving!

I’ve always been accused of writing too briefly and not being too overly descriptive. This is good. This means I lie in the Buk/Hitch camp of storytelling. Keep things moving! Do you really want to read three hundred pages of this:

“You know, I was contemplating the early years of my life, those summer years of red sky dawns and cold frost forming on the windows of my Northeastern home. The newsboy pedaled by our house in his new Schwinn, throwing the paper with his expert right hand. Father read the news at the breakfast table as Mother prepared a hearty American breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, erc………………” The scary part is reading books where this prattle goes on for pages and pages. You want to cut your throat reading it.

Yes, my writing is very tight and spare. People want you to get on with it. Time is tight. If I ask you to describe an automobile accident nobody wants to know what everyone wore or how big their noses were. I want to know who did what to who and how did one car hit the other one. The name of the game is action. As in movies, so in writing.

*By the way, my screenplay was pretty bad, too. Six months after I wrote it I burned the stupid thing, but I do recommend you try writing one to get a fine appreciation of dialogue and scene staging. It will help your writing.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Antonyms and The Homonyms

I was at the pet store yesterday and I was chewing gum like Sterling Hayden, when I looked down and this fucking Pomeranian stared at me with his little button eyes and started imitating me, making chewing faces, snapping his jaws open and closed. What a clever little fucker.

Thought I was having a bad day at work until I saw Larry King walking alone down Rodeo Drive. Larry looked short and frail as if someone washed him in hot water instead of the cold. He was talking into his cell phone to Caller #000 with his shirt buttoned up to the collar in 82dgr weather. He walked as if it was a harder job than spitting into a prop microphone.

This old guy was complaining about the heat to me today.
I told him there was nothing wrong with the heat, there's too many people and too many fucking cars and if you took them all away you'd love the heat.
Well, when Pop heard this his wrinkled eyes got real big and he screamed, "YOUNG MAN YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!"

Thanks to a site called Creepypasta ( I discovered the work of a great performance artist from Belgium named Olivier de Sagazan. He utilizes clay and other media to distort and modify his appearance. Here's a pretty wild sample of his work:

I like the way he mumbles to himself a lot while he works, like he's really possessed. He can also be seen in a movie called "Samsara".

Just saw Paula Abdul standing in front of Pepperdine U for the 9/11 memorial. She wore a cowboy hat, a mini-dress, with cowboy boots (matched the hat). She was alone and looked very happy. I never liked her until I saw her then. What made it so great was that the expectation is for her to be surrounded by a large, annoying entourage, but there she was, hanging out by herself and smiling, taking pictures of the breathtaking 100-flag display on the front lawn of Pepperdine University. Her cowboy outfit and the 100 flags gave me a true Myra Breckenridge poster moment.

Wow, what a find. Shortly before she passed away from cancer Sandy Dennis wrote her memoirs, and it's every bit as weird as she was. The star of such bizarre films as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Fox, and That Cold Day In The Park, Dennis was also the inseparable girlfriend to cool jazz juggernaut Gerry Mulligan. The book was written while she slowly succumbed to her disease, surrounded by her 30 cats. Yes, Ms. Dennis was a Cat Lady and goes into great detail about her cats. Highly recommended.

Getting back to Creepypasta, it's funny how the younger kids these days are creeped out by videos of clowns and weird people romping around in mannequin masks with weird, droney electronic music. None of these videos really scared me, and I wondered why. Then I remembered I grew up on a diet of Devo and Residents videos, all of which put a lot of these dumb videos to shame.

I once went shopping with this woman one afternoon in the Wilshire District. She took great pride in everyone in the store calling her on a first name basis; it was a frighteningly big deal to her. Bored with her making a big show of how popular she was in the store, I walked out to the sidewalk to check on my car.
A car loaded with black teenage boys drove slowly by me.
'YO, OZZY OSWALD!" "SUP, OZZY OSWALD?" They yelled at me from the car, laughing. I laughed right back.
Now there's a great hip-hop name, Ozzy Oswald. Make me a cross between Ozzy Osbourne, revered metal singer of Black Sabbath with Lee Harvey Oswald, notorious killer of the great President John F. Kennedy. Those kids had spunk. Those kids had genius.

I stood around five minutes more and then a car of white teenage girls pulled up asking me all kinds of questions. Talking to teenage girls is a lot like being abducted by aliens: once it's over you have no recollection of what just happened. I think they were asking me about my 7-star tattoo sleeve (by Ace Farren Ford of Purple Panther Tattoo fame), but then again I might have imagined that as the topic.

My friend came out of the store and asked me where I went.
"Oh, a couple of cars full of kids pulled up to talk to me".
"I used to be famous".
I smiled and said, "But this isn't Facebook, this is real life".

Did you ever see the black version of Roxy Music's Country Life album? I thought i was pretty amusing. Here it is: