Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tuesday Excerpts

First things first, my new job.

ROCKS!

I'm liking it, mostly because the first day consisted of getting acquainted with the office and staff, then right out to St. Louis City Hall for some title searching. Using the Laredo database is pretty cool, but it's not nearly as fun as going into the records office and pulling out the books and looking things up on microfilm. That's awesome fun.

And, a plus, Andy (the guy for whom I work directly) was very approving of my car, the fact that it's a stick, and also noted that I have good taste in music just because I was listening to Sunny Day Real Estate. Sweet!

Right then, on to the excerpt.

For this week's excerpt, I am once again going to do something you should not get used to (even though this will be the second time I've done it). I am going to go ahead and post an entire piece, and it's something I wrote for school.

The reasoning behind this is that it will hopefully inspire you all to go watch some films while I am gone.

And no, if you know me, you can't borrow this film while I'm gone, because chances are that after I read my paper I will want to take it with me. For reals, yo.

===

The Stuff that Noir is Made Of, October 2006

To be considered Film Noir, a film must contain several elements. But the foundation for Film Noir is the story. Dashiell Hammet’s novel The Maltese Falcon provides the perfect story for Noir, but the story itself doesn’t ensure Film Noir. The story must be interpreted correctly; the worldview must be maintained and augmented for the screen. The film The Maltese Falcon (1941) is considered by many to be the first Film Noir. Why not the film of the same title, produced by the same studio ten years earlier? Quite simply, the version released in 1931 was a much more conventional Hollywood film, while the 1941 version was much darker, preserving the worldview of the Hammet novel.

Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade is cool, calm, and always ready. He barely seems to care when his partner, Miles Archer is murdered. He is able to outsmart Wilmer by stealing his guns, and never seems to sleep. Ricardo Cortez, on the other hand, is easily jarred and on edge. In the corresponding situations from above, Ricardo Cortez’s Sam Spade is awaken by the phone call announcing his partners death, after which he sits in bed (in his polka-dot pajamas) and repeats, “Dead?” as if he can’t believe it. He struggles to disarm Wilmer, requiring the help of Joel Cairo and Casper Gutman.

Joel, Casper and Wilmer are more or less the same between the two films, though Peter Lorre’s portrayal of Joel Cairo offers much more depth to that of Otto Matieson’s. Of the relationship between Cairo and Gutman, we receive no more than a hint in the 1941 version, as Sam leaves Casper’s hotel room and we see Cairo approach (though Sam does not). It is not until later, when Sam returns to Gutman’s room and is drugged, that we know that Cairo and Gutman are in league. These two separate scenes in the 1941 film are compressed into one scene in the 1931 film; while Sam and Casper discuss Sam’s compensation for helping secure the Falcon, Wilmer announces to them that “The Doctor has arrived.” Casper leaves Sam alone, and goes to confer with the doctor, who is found out to be Joel Cairo. Joel tells Casper of the imminent arrival of la Paloma, an ocean vessel arriving from Hong Kong that evening. Joel then explains that Miss Wunderly had been friendly with the captain of the ship, and he believes the captain to be in possession of the Falcon. When Casper returns to Sam, we know more than he does and he is drugged, and left. It is not until the captain arrives mortally wounded at Sam’s office that he has any inkling of what may be going on. When he searches the captain’s wallet and finds out whom he is Sam deduces what has transpired. Bogart’s Sam Spade is much more resourceful; when he is drugged, we know no more than he does, but we see Wilmer and Joel emerge as Sam descends into a stupor. When he comes to, he searches Casper’s room and finds the shipping news, and the arrival of la Paloma circled. He knows nothing of what it means, and neither do we, but together we go to the boat, just to follow the lead. This difference in approach is key to why the 1941 version is Noir and the 1931 version is not; Bogart’s Spade flies by the seat of his pants, and chases down the leads, while Cortez’s Spade lets things come to him while he tries to wrap his head around what has already happened.

Another important difference between the two different Sam Spades is in the depiction of the relationship between Sam Spade and the women of the story. In the 1941 version, we see only Sam’s side of the relationship with Mrs. Archer, she coming in only to be rejected by Sam. He says he should never have gotten involved with her. He confides everything in his secretary, Effie, in whom he has placed his sole trust, though he clearly has no sexual lust for her. Conversely, Cortez’s 1931 Sam Spade is first introduced to us escorting a beautiful woman out of his office. She pulls up her stockings as she exits, and he returns to his office to put the cushions back on the couch. Seconds later, Effie appears and he begins to nibble on her neck. She announces the arrival of Miss Wunderly, and he proceeds to pour the charm on. He is then interrupted by a phone call from Mrs. Archer, whom he slyly sweet-talks off the phone (as Miles Archer listens in on the other line in the office). While the 1941 Sam Spade is seemingly disgusted with the women he meets, the 1931 Sam Spade is depicted as vigorously juggling many separate relationships at once, including one with the duplicitous Miss Wunderly, Mary Astor in the 1941 film and Bebe Daniels in the 1931 film.

Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Brigid Shaughnessy in the 1931 version, though always referred to as Miss Wunderly) shares a relationship with Sam based on lies in both versions of the film. While other relationships vary between the two films, this one is fairly similar, though the similarities are characterized in different ways. In the 1941 version, Sam voices his mistrust of Brigid from the outset, making it perfectly clear to her that he does not trust her. The 1931 Sam, however, conceals his mistrust. There is a scene in the 1931 version, after a romantic tryst in Sam’s apartment, in which Sam steals her room key while she sleeps. He enters her room and searches for the Falcon, aware that Dr. Cairo suspects her of having possession of it. And at the end of the story, while Brigid is taken to jail, the two Sam Spades react in very different ways. Bogart’s Sam Spade walks away from her, telling her that when she is released she should find him, and see if he does love her. “Maybe I love you,” he tells her, “and maybe you love me.” Cortez’s Sam Spade delivers this same speech to Daniels’ Brigid, but while the 1941 film ends as she is taken away, the 1931 version takes us further. In this version of the story, Sam Spade visits Brigid in prison, and tells her to stay strong. He then tells the warden to do everything for Brigid to make her happy. The final twist comes when he is discovered to be no longer a private detective, but working on the side of good for the District Attorney’s office, something Bogart’s Sam Spade—and any true Noir hardboiled private-eye antihero—would ever do. The ending to the 1931 film is obviously an attempt at a happy ending; the evil woman is offered a shot at redemption, the womanizer is in love and willing to do anything it takes to make her happy, and he is no longer a rogue agent but a Knight in Shining Armor.

Ultimately, this formulaic approach to making Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon could only make it one of the hundred or so movies that came out of a studio in 1931. It was not a true adaptation of the novel but a Hollywood revamp. It took the smug grin of Humphrey Bogart and the sharp wit of screenwriter-director John Huston to really capture the hardboiled Sam Spade, the dark world of Film Noir, and to generate a classic film revered by many today. The 1931 film could never be nearly as successful as its newer version, and is most likely only remembered today as a curiosity, an addendum to the 1941 classic and a footnote in the history of Film Noir.


===

Ah, yes, so for some reason my computer's battery is no longer charging...so not only will I be without internet while in Colorado, I will also be without my computer as well. Oh well. Best Buy will have it, and they will replace my battery and my power cord and repair it if need be...but I hate being without it. I never wanted to be so dependent on a machine, yet here I am, a slave to my computer and also to my car. But at least they're both precision-tuned machines and good at what they do.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Nap Time

Check out this story from NPR's Talk of the Nation. In addition to it being informative and entertaining, I am the first call-in when you click on the listen button.

So, not only am I published, I'm also on the radio.

I start my new job tomorrow, which means you will hear a little blurb about it when I do my Tuesday Excerpt tomorrow.

Alright, I said I would have a political rant on Wednesday, but I have another one that brewed today, while I was listing to The Diane Rehm Show. Dick Cheney acts with total immunity and it pisses me off.

He is claiming he does not have to file classified documents with the national archives in accordance with Executive order because, as Vice President and head of the Senate, he is not part of the Executive branch. But he is not exactly subject to the regulations and orders of the Legislative branch either because he isn't part of that branch either. So you have every official in Washington subject to Constitutional laws with the exception of Dick Cheney, who is essentially above the law. And of course, we can't exactly go to the Attorney General and ask his opinion, because he's busy with his own scandal.

I just have one question for political conservatives; how is this set of scandals ANY DIFFERENT from the scandals that rocked the Clinton Administration? I mean, hell, all the Bush administration has done is broken a few constitutional laws, gone to war based on unsound judgement, wasted billions on war spending with no end in sight while slashing money from domestic programs that need it, baselessly fire District Attorneys to replace them with agenda-friendly ones, but hey, at least the president never got a damn blow job from an intern. Sure, he and his administration are running the economy into the ground. Sure, the country's foreign policy has earned us an arrogant and easily hated reputation abroad. Sure, the ship's going down with the captain at the helm saying, "Freedom! 9/11! Freedom! Democracy! Mission Accomplished! Victory!" But at least the captain never fooled around behind his wife's back. I mean, nevermind that Clinton's blow job didn't cost over three thousand American Soldiers' lives.

I want to know how come more money was spent on the Monica Lewinsky investigation than has been spent on the Scooter Libby, Roberto Gonzales and Valerie Plame investigations combined?

I'm not saying that a married man getting a sexual favor from a woman who is not his wife is not a bad thing, because it is, and it doesn't set the best moral example for our nation, but I don't remember whole nations looking at that situation and saying, "What a horrible country."

Sorry for the political rant, but Dick Cheney really does not make me happy.

And no, I have not cited sources. So, for anybody who stumbles up to my blog and you want to take precious time to argue my figures, let me just say that I may be exaggerating with the amount of money spent on the investigations.I don't feel like looking it all up at the moment, I have to cook dinner. If you still want to point it out, and try and make me look like a Liberal Nutjob idiot, go ahead. I will not deny you the obvious pleasure you will derive from it. All I ask is that you come back and read one of my non-political blogs in exchange for the favor of me letting you anonynously call me a left-wing fool.

That is all.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Free Write Friday

Well, I waited and waited and waited and still only got suggestions from two people this week...what's the dealy-o? Come on people!

I will be answering anonymous' question the first full weekend of the month, and subsequent questions will all be answered thusly the first weekend of each month. So, keep asking me questions, I'll log them all up and answer them first weekend of the month.

You'll get a Tuesday excerpt, and probably a Wednesday blurb, most likely another political rant because I've got one brewing, but that's all for next week because I'm going out of town for the weekend, and I'm taking off the week from the blog. So It'll be probably the following Wednesday before I return, but we don't have to worry about that just yet.

Alrighty, just a short one today probably. It's been a very long and ridiculous day, and I am tired and stressed. But here goes.

This week's suggestion comes from molly again;

Short story: Melba Wallace, a 13 y/o girl, hates her name but doesn't want to hurt her family's feelings as she's been named after her beloved (and sinfully rich) great aunt.

molly wins all kinds of electric appliances to plug in even though she has no electricity.

===

June 22, 2007

I like to make lists. Right now, I'm making lists about what names I'd rather have than Melba. I did an internet search on the name Melba and I made a list of what came up: wikipedia articles for Melba Toast, Ellie Melba, the Melba Idaho chamber of commerce website, the Ellie Melba website, the Melba Pattillo story. She was one of the Little Rock Nine, which I didn't know about until I made the list. I didn't stop and look right away, because I wanted to get thirteen things on my list. But afterwards, I went back to find out thirteen things about Melba Pattillo, along with thirteen things about Ellie Melba (the opera singer), Melba Idaho (the city hall looks like a trailer), and thirteen things about Melba Toast, which was really hard actually, because Melba Toast is just toasted crispy bread.

I did another search on Melba Wallace, so I could find thirteen other Melba Wallaces that weren't me or my great aunt. All I found were lists of charities aunt Melba had served on boards for or whatever, so instead I made a list of thirteen things Melba has done I didn't know about, which took almost no time.

But now, my list has twelve names. I can't come up with the thirteenth. I am just sometimes a little superstitious.

If I put the thirteenth name on the list, I might get my wish and have a different name, and then, who would I be? If I could guarantee that by changing my name from Melba Wallace I could still be Melba Wallace, then I'd write that thirteenth name. But if I write it, and become somebody else, but really became somebody else...

1) Kelly Watson
2) Rebecca Patterson
3) Emily Lane
4) Anne Tillmann
5) Melissa McGwire
6) Caitlyn Martin
7) Andrea James
8) Maria Madsen
9) Katherine Babbit
10) Monica Donovan
11) Karen Flaherty
12) Bridgette Monaghan

But I can't put that thirteenth one on there.

It's my own problem. A year ago, twelve would have been my limit. And there's nothing to worry about the number twelve. And in a year, I could write a fourteenth name and not have to feel unlucky.

And I am lucky, because I'm named after my Great Aunt Melba Wallace. My father's father's brother's widow. My grandfather's brother had made a fortune by working for 3M during a period when employees were paid only in stock, during the Great Depression. When the second world war broke out, he continued working, and became a division president afterward. He was one of a handful of employees that held onto his stock, became one of the richest men in St. Paul Minnesota. He bought a huge house on Summit that Aunt Melba still lives in.

But Melbas belong in grand houses on Summit. Melbas are supposed to be wise, and old, and wrinkled, with a pleasant laugh and a desperate need for the company of youth. I'm only as old as I can list to. Well, a year older than the names I can list. I live in a modest two bedroom with my mother for most of the month, but the first and third weekend I spend with my dad in his townhouse, with his wife, who's name I wish I could put on the list because I love it, but I can't say the same for her. I love their child, because even though my dad's wife is not my mother, their child is still my brother. Officially, my half brother, but he feels all brother when we hang out.

I'm definitely not wise. I was reading a book my mother had given me, by Jonathan Safran Foer, and he talked about the sixty-nine. I had no idea what he was talking about, so I did a search on it on Google. I was so embarassed, I erased all the history on the browser and emptied the cache, so that my mom had to reenter all of her passwords, which was a problem because she couldn't remember so many of them. When she asked what happened, I lied and told her the computer got a virus and I had to reload certain programs; my mother bought the lie because she's not so good with computers, not like my father's wife, who works for an internet company.

My mom had to call her bank, and her e-mail provider, and some other places to reset her passwords, and I told her to make a list this time. She did, and I saw only one password listed;

Melba72395

And that's why I can't change my name. Because my name and my birthday are her passwords.

If I did put that thirteenth name on my list, my mother would have to change her passwords all over again. Or worse, the would change along with me, and she'd have to call everybody again, and wonder what happened to her passwords, and to me.

The number one thing on my list of people I don't want to hurt is my mother. Then my father. Every year, I try to add one more. This year, I put my father's wife, because if it happens to be unlucky, I won't feel so bad about hurting her.

Number three is my Aunt Melba, who always treats me so nice. That's another reason I shouldn't change my name. Aunt Melba only treats me that way because we share a name. A huge check every birthday. If my name were Kelly Watson, Aunt Melba would regard me with a passing eye only.

It's not that I'm greedy, I'm just scared of being somebody else. And one thing my Aunt Melba told me, when I turned ten and added my new half-brother to my list. She said, "When you grow up, you'll look back on everything you used to do, and everything you used to be, and you'll wonder what became of that person. You'll be an entirely different person."

The only person I know who became somebody else was my father; he loved my mother, and then one day he came in with a list of his own, and read it to her...and their marriage ended.

But even though he became somebody else, I suppose he's happier now than he had been.

13) Melanie Gibson

...but I suppose superstitions are just that, and baseless. And any changing that happens will come when I've added some more people to my list of people never to hurt. Perhaps it will change when my list becomes a list of people I want to hurt. Or when I want to add more people to the list than my age will allow to fit. Maybe then.



===

Well, if there's one thing I know, it's 13 year old girls...?

Yeah, I know...well, whatever.

Alright. Until next time.

Write on.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ah...I Can Always Count on Comments For This One

It's that time of the week again! That's right, it's time for me to ask you, my readers, to shower me with suggestions for Free Write Friday, which I promise will get done tomorrow.

On a different note, today marks my 70th post ever. Only thirty more and I turn 100! I'm approaching Strong Bad's e-mail count.

Alright, so, let the suggesting begin.

Also, if anybody has any questions they'd like to ask me, go right ahead. I'll try and answer them here on the blog. Let's get interactive, people!

First question I am going to go ahead and ask myself:

Hey, Elliot, do you listen to music when you blog, and if so, what do you listen to?

Well, Elliot, most of the time I do listen to music, because it helps as a sort of outside distraction to ground my thought process a little. Music itself is so creative and can be inspiring, so I listen to it both to humble myself and inspire myself. The only times I don't listen to music when I blog is usually Tuesday Excerpts because I do those in a hurry, and Free Write Fridays because I don't want to be distracted by anything outside; it's all internal. So, to answer your first question, yes, and to answer your second, well, I listen to a lot. I am, for some reason, on a huge Emo kick right now, but I'm not talking just Sunny Day Real Estate, The Anniversary, The Get Up Kids and Alkaline Trio. I got into some other bands within the genre (and borderline Emo as well) such as Bright Eyes, Thursday, Further Seems Forever, The Juliana Theory, Texas is the Reason, Cursive, and some others. But I've been known to listen to just about anything from classical to new wave to punk to rock to super-duper obscure, which brings me to what I am listening to today.

Music to Blog by:

Heroic Doses - Pushy Girl and Crystals

So, post your suggestions and your questions. If I get enough questions, I'll add a monthly "Your Questions Answered" post.

That is all, so until tomorrow;

Write On!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Times, They Are a-Changin!

Why did I change my mind about going into journalism?

As my wife pointed out when I told her I was minoring in Journalism, I at one point swore off it forever because of a bad experience at the U of M.

But then again, almost the whole academic experience at the U of M was a bad experience, mostly for the people keeping track of my grades as they slipped and hit rock bottom.

Okay, so, that's the first time I've truly admitted on the blog, I think, that I once flunked out of college. And now, I have been on the Dean's List three times at Meramec. This last semester, I took five classes. I got three A's, a Pass (because it was a P/F class, but it was playwriting and I know it would have been an A) and a B. Okay, so I got the B in Contemporary Moral Issues, which makes me wonder just what kind of morals I have...good enough, but not as good as they could be. Which probably makes me a pretty good candidate for being a journalist.

The thing is, I had no experience with media when I went to the U of M. Not the kind I needed, anyway. Media was something I consumed, not something I participated in. It wasn't something I had any inkling of learning about. But that's changed quite a bit, really, because media are important to almost every job out there now. It's something I want to understand better.

But, the reporting? Well, again, I had very little understanding back then. I thought you could pretty much write whatever the hell you wanted as long as it reported the facts. Bo-ring! Having been listening to NPR religiously for almost two and a half years now, I know enough to know that I don't know enough. You know? Basically, what listening to NPR has taught me is that news is news, and entertainment is entertainment, but sometimes entertainment can be news and news can be entertainment. Imagine that I learned that from a public institution that has such a dry reputation in the outside world. Aside from those of us who listen (and the numbers are growing, I believe), people see NPR as a droning 24 hour news radio program somewhere between their favorite rap station and the oldies. This could not be further from the truth.

Okay, but that doesn't mean I want to get into radio. But they have news researchers, writers, you know, people who are behind the scenes. There's also print journalism, which I think is more my style. I could write for a paper. Ideally, I would love to graduate, get a job at a paper like The RFT in St. Louis or City Pages in the Twin Cities for a few years, write on the side, get my MFA in writing from either UMSL or (gasp!) U of M, get a teaching job at a Community College teaching creative writing and/or mass communication and just sit back and enjoy life. But I'm sure that there are some crucial steps I am leaving out in my grandiose plans.

The real reason I changed my mind on going into journalism is that minds change. Journalism isn't just about reporting the news, it's about finding the news, finding the people that make it, or that it happens to, or discovering what hasn't been news and then making it news. It's about people, and ultimately, that's what any kind of writing is about (with the exception of technical manuals and miscellaneous other types of writing, so don't try and do the "Dude, you WRONG!" crap on me). And I am interested in people, in finding their stories, in writing new stories...basically, I discovered that the only difference between a story in a newspaper and a story in a collection of short fiction is that one probably happened in the real world close to the way it was told, and the other happened in the mind of the writer exactly as it's written down.

As I said yesterday, I will not be calling for suggestions today. But fear not! The moment I get home tomorrow, I will post again and solicit your help. Well, certainly, the moment I ascertain the availability of internet access...today SBC is doing rolling maintenance and I finally gave up at home and headed over to the 'rents so I could say hello and use their internet. Hello, 'rents! Hello, 'rents' cats!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tuesday Excerpts

This week's excerpt comes from a screenplay I have been working on since the summer of 2003. It has gone through several versions, and this excerpt is from the most recent, in which I have removed the specific music titles and done some dialogue clean-up. I now have to go through and relinquish my shot descriptions, as industry standards dictate shots are up to the director, the assistant directors, the photographic directors, and NOT the screenwriter unless you happen to be a well-established and respected screenwriter. Even then, it's tricky. But that's a project for another day.

===

from Theft is Property (working title) 2003-2007

COLIN (V.O.)
I'm not entirely sure how it all managed to spiral completely out of control in the particular way that it did. But, the fact remains, that it did in fact spiral completely out of control in a particularly terrifying way.

FADE IN:

INT BROOKE'S APARTMENT - MORNING

We hear soft piano music.

BROOKE is wearing jeans and a bra. COLIN is laying in bed looking at her. She is fixing her hair in her mirror. She reaches into a bag at her feet and picks up a black t-shirt.

COLIN (V.O.)
Brooke and I had been dating for two years, ever since we met at graduation. We both graduated from the journalism program at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and because the school was so big, the first time we met was standing next to each other at graduation.

BROOKE
Can I borrow this shirt?

CUT TO:

EXT NORTHRUP AUDITORIUM ON U OF M CAMPUS - DAY

Pomp and Circumstance is playing.

Brooke stands in front of Colin. They are in a large group of people. They are dressed in robes. Colin's is open at the front, showing a black t-shirt with the IRON CHEF logo in red. Brooke turns to look at him and winces.

COLIN (V.O.)
It's what I was wearing when she met me.

BROOKE
Shouldn't you be taking some pride in graduating from college?

COLIN
Excuse me?

BROOKE
Every other guy here is wearing a nice shirt and a tie.

COLIN
And you are who, the graduation fashion police?

BROOKE
No, I just think you should be respectable, especially if you want to be taken seriously in this field.

COLIN
Well then, in all seriousness, it's a wonder I even got out of bed for this glorified cow-trot. I'll make sure to wave and smile at my parents. Or, maybe, since they're not here, you can point yours out and then I can borrow the video tape and mail it to Mom and Dad and the little brother who looks up to me. Who are you again?

BROOKE
Forget it.

Brooke turns back around and Colin has a good chuckle.

CUT TO:

INT COLIN'S OLD APARTMENT - NIGHT

Back to soft piano music.

Colin is getting dressed to go out when his phone rings. He picks it up.

COLIN
Hello?

INTERCUT BROOKE'S APARTMENT

Brooke speaks to Colin on the phone.

BROOKE
Hi, this is Brooke Fairman. I stood in front of you in line at graduation today.

COLIN
Who?

BROOKE
Brooke Fairman. Is this Colin Fairmount?

COLIN
Right, the girl who turned away when I was being exceedingly charming.

BROOKE
Listen...do you want to meet me somewhere for drinks?

BACK TO:

INT BROOKE'S APARTMENT - MORNING

Brooke is still holding the shirt. We see that it is the same IRON CHEF shirt.

COLIN (V.O.)
Two years go by, and there we were, practically living with each other in her apartment one month and mine the next, and things were going great. But that's not the issue. Pay attention here, this is important.

BROOKE
Please?

COLIN
Sure thing.

Brooke puts it on, then turns around to look into the mirror again.

BROOKE
Thanks Colin. Now, get up, or we'll be late.

Brooke opens a drawer and pulls out a sweater, which she puts on over the shirt.

COLIN (V.O.)
Did you see it? Here it is again.

REWIND EFFECT BACK TO:

INT BROOKE'S APARTMENT - MOMENTS EARLIER

Brooke is holding the shirt.

BROOKE
Please?

COLIN
Sure thing.

COLIN (V.O.) (CONT'D)
Okay, here it is, watch as she puts it on, then turns around.

BROOKE
Thanks, Colin. Now, get up, or we'll be late.

Colin describes the action.

COLIN (V.O.)
Okay, see this? She opens the drawer, pulls out the sweater I gave her for our first Valentine's Day, and puts it on. And freeze!

The frame freezes on Brooke pulling the bottom of the sweater down to the top of her jeans. The music stops.

COLIN (V.O.) (CONT'D)
There it is, the last time I ever saw that t-shirt. Coincidentally, it's the first time since I gave her the sweater that I ever saw it. The irony of this wouldn't hit me until much later. Like I said, I never saw that shirt again. But I saw her practically every day for the next six months after this. In fact, most of that time I spent at her apartment because I was living with my best friend James and she wouldn't stay there. So I was sleeping, eating, and living in extremely close proximity of this, my most valued shirt ever, and she tucked it away where I could never find it. It's not like I went snooping for it. I figured every day that she was more likely to wear it than the day before. When I sensed the doom of the relationship and I gave her back her favorite bracelet, I thought I'd get my favorite shirt back. I never did.

CUT TO:

INT COLIN'S APARTMENT - NIGHT

Start music again.

JAMES, ANGELA and Colin are going through some pictures. James picks one out of the stack and hides it so Colin won't look at it.

COLIN
What, James?

JAMES
Nothing.

COLIN
No, what. Angela, what?

James hands the picture to Angela behind his back. Angela looks at it.

ANGELA
Nothing, Colin.

Colin grabs for it and gets it.

CLOSE UP OF PICTURE

It is a picture of Brooke and TOM. She is wearing the infamous shirt.

COLIN (V.O.)
Okay, so this is the closest I ever came to seeing my shirt again. I vowed to get it back at that moment. I never thought it would end up with me here.

Fade music softer.

CUT TO:

INT DARK ROOM - DOESN'T MATTER

Colin is sitting behind a table, looking distressed and dressed in a wrinkled shirt, unshaven. He has probably just been woken up. There is a gun pressed to his temple. The gun is being held there by RAGS, a tough looking guy with scars on his face. Sitting across the table from Colin is FRAN, a fat balding man who is sweating profusely.

COLIN (V.O.)
This fat guy is Fran, a mob kingpin. And the guy with the gun is Rags. Fran tells me that Rags has a very itchy trigger finger. He told me not to make any sudden movements, as it might upset Rags.

Rags jams the gun into Colin's temple even more. Colin winces but doesn't move his head.

COLIN (V.O.) (CONT'D)
Really, this is Mike's fault. But, it wouldn't have been his fault if I had just done what everyone suggested in the first place.

BACK TO:

INT COLIN'S APARTMENT - NIGHT

James takes the picture back from Colin.

JAMES
We didn't want you to see that.

COLIN
Oh, please. I'm over her, you know that.

JAMES
Well, we just weren't sure.

COLIN
All I want is my damn shirt back.

JAMES
Why don't you just buy a new one? They still sell them through the website...

Angela nods in agreement.

COLIN
That's not the issue. I've got to get that shirt back.

BACK TO:

INT DARK ROOM -DOESN'T MATTER

COLIN (V.O.)
Rags was making me wish I had listened. Maybe if I just told him the whole story, he'd give me the same advice and I could go home.

COLIN (CONT'D)
Could I just--

(Rags jams the gun harder into Colin's temple)

COLIN (V.O.) (CONT'D)
Or, I could sit here and listen to Fran. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. I just want to set the record straight.

FADE TO BLACK


===

Just pretty much the introduction there, prior to the opening credits. Later, you actually meet Brooke, and the infamous Mike Colin mentions, and Tom, the boyfriend from the picture. And more of Fran, and some other people. I skipped over the very beginning, which introduces you to two more characters, one of whom gets shot and killed within the first minute. But I assure you, it's a comedy.

In addition to my Tuesday Excerpt, I would also like to announce that I got a call back from MasterFile and I got the job! I start next Tuesday with my training, then continue with it the following Tuesday, after which my Target schedule should be rearranged so I can work the full schedule at MasterFile. Yay! More money! Less boredom! More Freedom!

I've been a bad blogger, but I don't intend on apologizing because I have been a consistent blogger, which is a vast improvement over the past. Just check it; I've probably blogged more in the past month than I had in the year leading up to the past month. Just check. If this is not the case, then at least it's close.

More tomorrow, but just a head's up; I will not be soliciting suggestions for Free Write Fridays tomorrow, but I will be doing so on Thursday. Friends, you've been warned.

A writer is someone who can make a riddle out of an answer. -Karl Kraus

Monday, June 18, 2007

Like Christmas in July...Free Write Friday on a Monday

[Insert Long List of Excuses Here]

[Insert Witty Comments to Lighten Situation Here]

This week, in honor of Father's Day (which would have been upcoming if I had done this on the right day), I am choosing notawritersfather's suggestion:

Here is the idea I gave Elliot, with which he in turn teased you:
A late middle-aged guy suddenly discovers he has amazing super powers, but he is just too darned tired and jaded to employ them.

notawritersfather wins brunch with me yesterday, and a Schlafly 12 pack sampler which includes three bottles of their signature Pale Ale, three bottles of their smooth Hefeweizen, and three bottles of their current seasonal brew, which I can only assume right now is their Summer K├Âlsch, and not their Oktoberfest or Coffee Stout.

I, unfortunately, do not recieve any funding for Schlafly Beer. The only thing I do recieve is a feeling of satisfaction, light-headedness, and the rare hangover.

===

June 18th (but it should have been the 15th...) 2007

"He's opening his eyes."

"Are you sure?"

"Look!"

"He shouldn't be here, I mean, he should be..."

"Yeah, I know."

The two voices sounded eerily fraught, which didn't bode well in the mind of Eric Weldon. That is, he reflected, if he even had a mind anymore. He wasn't sure what happened when you died, because this was the first time he had ever done it. And he had done it on purpose, had timed his fall just right so that even if the fall didn't kill him, the convoy of trucks running down the highway to the overpass would surely not have missed. He had blacked out on impact and was only coming around now because he heard voices. He opened his eyes and saw a bright light, in front of which he swore he saw two angels. "Well," he thought, "at least I made it to the doorstep. Even if they do send me down, which they surely will, maybe I can at least get a glimpse of happiness before an eternity of damnation and toil."

He figured, after nearly forty years of unhappy toil, an eternity of more of the same didn't sound too bad. That's why he had jumped, why he had left his keys in plain view in his locked, double-parked car two blocks away. As a final insult to the world, though, he had taken the faceplate from his radio and put it in his front pocket. Somebody could steal his worthless car, but they'd have to break the window to get in and find that there was nothing worth stealing in it. Fuck you, world, take my car. You took everything else.

"Oh, thank God, the authorities are here," Eric heard one of the angels say; he was still having a bit of trouble making them out, and he wasn't sure if that was the brightness of the heavenly light or if it was just that he had jostled his head so badly when he fell. But upon reflection, he realized that it must be the light because his head didn't hurt and that made plenty of sense; in Heaven, you feel no pain. Only joy. He took joy in the thought that he might get a few moments of joy for his soul before being looked over by St. Peter or whoever the authority turned out to be, and sent straight to Hell.

"Right over here," the second voice called. "He just came out of nowhere, landed right in front of me...I ran the bastard over, but it looks like he's coming around!"

A third angel arrived, but now that Eric's vision was clearing up a little, he wasn't sure that they were angels per se. Maybe they were just citizens of heaven...or at least, the first two were. This third one was altogether darker and looked to be wearing some sort of official uniform; this struck Eric harder than he had struck the ground just minutes before. He blinked a few times to try and get a clearer picture.

The light was really preventing him from getting a clear picture, and what's more, the light was starting to hurt his eyes, so he sat up.

"Easy, easy," the darker shadow commanded, a strong hand landing on Eric's shoulder.

"Where am I?" Eric asked, startled that his voice sounded exactly the way he remembered it when he was alive.

"You're on 1-55, right by the Arsenal overpass, and the question I have to ask you is why are you here?" the darker figure asked. Eric's eyes were becoming accustomed to the light and he saw that the dark figure was wearing what looked unquestioningly like a police uniform.

Eric listened and heard the noise of slow moving traffic, smelled exhaust and also the brewery. He looked for the other two angels and saw that one was a rather large shirtless man covered in tattoos, the other wearing a Fed-Ex uniform and hat. The image of a Fed-Ex truck speeding towards the bridge just before he jumped came back to him. "Shit," he said.

"Shit?" the shirtless man asked, spitting on the ground. "You jumped off a bridge into oncoming traffic and all you can say is 'Shit'? You got run over by a big rig and my F-350 and a horse trailer and that's all you gotta say? Well...Shit!"

"It didn't work," Eric said, struggling to get up.

"Easy," the police officer said again, but Eric very easily stood and began to walk under the overpass.

He turned back to look at the spot where he had landed, saw no blood, just a few cracks and some tire marks. He looked down at his body and saw the only signs of damage; his shirt and pants were ripped and had matching tire marks. He screamed the only word he could think of to sum up his feelings before running back in the direction he came, intent on running all the way to the nearest bridge over the river, so he could plunge in and end his life for good.

"Whoa, whoa there," the police man said, restraining Eric with the help of the shirtless spitter and the Fed-Ex driver. "I think you should come with me." By this time the ambulance had arrived and the paramedics were approaching with a gurny. The lead man asked Eric where the victim was.

Eric pointed at himself, and the paramedic became furious. "This is no time for joking around, asshole! Where's the guy that jumped?"

"You're talking to him!" Eric screamed at the man. "I jumped. And I'm fine! And I want to die!" He turned to the cop. "What's the penalty for attempted murder?"

The police officer bristled. "You tried to kill somebody?" Eric nodded. "And it didn't work?" Eric nodded. "That could get you life, buddy."

"Not death?"

"No. Maybe in Texas. But if you tried to kill somebody and it didn't work...have they recieved medical attention?" Eric shook his head no. "You better take me right to him, and then straight downtown." The police officer got on his walkie and called in the attempted homicide. Eric slapped him.

"It's me, asshole! I tried to kill myself and it didn't work! What's the penalty for attempted suicide?"

Stunned, the police officer cancelled the call, took a step towards Eric and grabbed him by his hands. He pushed him across a lane and a half and smack up against the idling ambulance.

"Now I gotcha for attempted suicide, disrupting the peace, and assaulting an officer. You want to try for resisting arrest, too?"

"Can I get the death penalty for any of those things?"

It was several hours later, and Eric had point blank refused to talk to any lawyers. He kept making demands to see Jack Kevourkian, his mother or "the perfect woman." When Dr. Freidman finally arrived, Eric had settled into a silence the police officers deemed impenetrable. It was the arresting officer's opinion that the man should be wrapped in a straight jacket inside a padded room, inside a padded building, inside a heavily guarded and also padded country.

"Mr. Weldon," Dr. Freidman said, "My name is Sydney." He was tall, angular, with a bushy mustache and tight, curly hair, and carried himself with an almost lazy confidence; he looked, in many ways, like Eric himself, except Eric's hair was straight, he wore no facial hair aside from thinning sideburns and he carried himself with a slump; the weight of his troubles was enough to make him appear four inches shorter than he really was.

"Doctor," Eric said.

"Good," Sydney said, "I got you to talk. The chief owes me a twenty if I can just get one more word out of you. What do you say to that?"

Eric pondered this for a moment. He stood up, walked over to where Sydney was standing and pointed at Sydney's breast pocket. "You want my pen?" Eric shook his head yes, and Sydney gave him the pen and also one of his business cards. Eric wrote, "Cut me in for half and we've got a deal" on the back of the business card. Sydney reached into his pocket and handed over a ten dollar bill.

"Thanks," Eric said, handing back the pen and returning to his seat. "I'm going to need all the cash I can get, seeing as how I'm alive and jobless. And also, I got a parking ticket."

"Did you? Is that why you tried to kill yourself?"

"No. I got it while I was trying to kill myself. That was not my intention."

"What was your intention?" Sydney took a seat across the table, leaning comfortably back without looking bored or disinterested, in the kind of trick they must teach you when you become an analyst.

"To have somebody steal my car. And also to actually die. So far, I'm 0 for 2 today."

"I see."

"Also," Eric continued, "I had my faceplate in my pocket, and even though I came out of it in one piece, I can't say the same for the faceplate. So, if I do get out of here, and get my car, I can't even listen to music."

"That is a shame," Sydney said. "Eric, let me tell you why I'm here."

"I know why you're here. You're here to ask me why I tried to kill myself."

Sydney rifled through some papers in his briefcase. "Oh, no, I think I have that figured out." He looked down at a sheet of paper. "Let's see...you just turned 40 and you also just got fired from the same job and same position you were in when you turned 30, making almost the same amount, I might add. Your wife just left with the kids for Davenport, to stay with her mother until she, in her words, 'figures things out,' she drained your bank account, alienated you from all of your friends, your mortgage is past due because she hasn't been paying bills for five months so you're about to have your house repossessed, your parents' nursing home just burnt to the ground with all of their posessions and the insurance money won't cover any of it, and to top it all off, last night you came home and there was a man in your house you didn't know who was looking for your wife whom he called, what was it..." Sydney looked up into Eric's eyes. "Fucky Kitten, was it?"

Eric took several deep breaths. "You forgot something," he finally said.

"What's that?"

"My goldfish died last week."

"Ah, but that was actually your daughter's gold fish."

"Same difference. So, why are you here?"

Sydney shut his briefcase and leaned forward, earnestly. "I'm Dr. Sydney Freidman, and I work for the Rand Corporation and the United States Government. I'm a psychiatrist and also a researcher interested in paranatural phenomena."

There was a long pause before Eric finally spoke. "Para what?"

"Paranatural."

"Why not paranormal or supernatural?"

"Because people think they know what those mean nowadays. No, what I have to say is this: We have several eyewitnesses who saw you fall from the bridge."

"I didn't fall. Falling implies it was an accident. I jumped."

"Jumped, fell, whatever. People saw you. And then, you got run over by several tons of machinery moving at speeds in excess of seventy miles per hour."

"What's your point? That I can't do anything right, not even killing myself?"

Sydney got a weird smile on his face. "Simply put, Eric; you can't kill yourself." This remark was followed by a ridiculous giggle on Sydney's part.

Sydney's giggle, however, was merely met with Eric's face as it fell slowly further into depression. "What?"

"You can't die, at least not by physical trauma."

"Are you telling me that I'm like that guy in Unbreakable?"

"It's exciting. You know, there are actually quite a few people with these paranatural abilities. And we've found many of them. They work special detail in some of the worse places in the world."

"What?"

"We find them, we employ them, and we give their lives meaning. For instance, in your case, you are ready to die. But think of it; with a word, I could stop the foreclosure process on your house. Hell, you could buy five times the house. You wouldn't have to worry about scrounging up for that parking ticket, because it's done, taken care of, and as for the radio, you'd get yourself a free car. Whatever you wanted. Of course, you'd have to go where we tell you, do what we tell you, but you'd never be in any danger at all. Because there's nothing out there that's dangerous enough to hurt you."

"What about bullets?"

Sydney stood up, removed a gun from a holster Eric hadn't seen before, and shot Eric in the chest. Eric stood too late, reeled, flew backwards over his chair and landed hard, breaking the backrest off the chair, and panting on the ground. He had a momentary pain in his chest which dissipated almost as quick as the gunshot had been.

Eric stood up, looking at the mark left on his shirt. "Fuck. I can't even shoot myself to death! Damn it! What about poisons? Drowning myself? Exposure to the Ebola virus?"

Sydney shook his head, returning the gun to the holster. The door opened and three officers came charging in, but Sydney put up his hand. "It's fine. I told you who I am. Get lost." The police officers backed slowly out of the room, the last lingering long enough to glance at Eric, brushing himself down and picking up the mangled chair before throwing it back to the ground. The door closed.

"Mr. Weldon," Sydney said, opening his briefcase again, "medical records are the first indication we have of who has these abilities. Unfortunately, even under the current administration's lax regulatory stance, we are still unable to create situations that can draw these characteristics out. If somebody notices on their own, they usually tell their doctors, we see the records, we can approach them, but we need hard evidnce. Something like surviving a suicide attempt. Although, we wondered; do you remember in fourth grade?"

Eric thought. "What about it?"

"Your two best friends; one got menangitis and nearly died. The other got it, as well, but it was caught early and treated. They never found a trace in your body, but they gave you the medication anyway."

"The doctors said sometimes it can take a while to show up, they were being-"

"College, sophomore year. The girl you were dating, yes?"

"Eliza?"

"You're aware that she had mono, correct?"

"Yeah."

"And you never got it, even though by your accounts to your friends you 'fucked like crazy,' correct?"

"Why do you have that on record?"

"Are you also aware that she had herpes?"

Eric was silent for a long second. "What?"

"Yes. She didn't know it at the time, but she had already contracted it prior to your relationship. And she continued a sexual relationship with the person she had contracted it from while she was with you."

Eric's face fell again. "Eliza was cheating on me? I should have tried to kill myself years ago..."

Sydney snapped his briefcase shut again. "But it wouldn't have been any different then, Mr. Weldon. Here." He handed him a manilla envelope.

"What's this?"

"Information. About our program. Training materials. It's classified, so you are under the strictest penalty not to divulge this information to anyone."

"So...you'd kill me if I told my neighbors?"

"Mr. Weldon, you can't-"

"Then why even bother, I suppose." Eric perused the outside of the envelope. "What happens to the people who don't want to sign up?"

Sydney shifted uncomfortably. "It happens. Some sort of...go into what you'd call private contracting."

"What? They become local superheroes?" Eric laughed at the thought. But the sheepish look on Sydney's face cut off the laugh. "Really?"

"Well, in a manner of speaking, yes, but Mr. Weldon, I urge you-"

"Urge nothing. I have the urge to do nothing." He sighed, handed the envelope back to Sydney. "I can't do anything right, Doctor. Nothing. I can't even kill myself correctly. So thanks, but no thanks. I don't want these powers. For you, it's something exciting. For me, it's just another thing wrong with my life."

"What's wrong with it?"

"It's preventing me from achieving my life's goal?"

"And what's that?"

Eric stood, looked out of the lone window. "Death. Ending it all. I just...don't care. I'd screw it up. The people I'm supposed to save? They'd die. I'd get captured and sentenced to death in the jungles of Burma, and they'd try to kill me every day, and they'd never succeed. It would be...well, honestly, it would be what I was expecting this morning when I jumped. It would be Hell. But I was going to Hell on my terms; I don't want to stay in this Hell on your terms. No thank you," he turned around, "Doctor Freidman, but I'll just keep trying to end my life after my own fashion."

Eric sat back down, and lapsed into a silence to match his earlier one. Sydney stood, silent for five minutes, looking into the half-lidded eyes of Eric. Finally, he left the business card Eric had given him back, with "Cut me in for half and we have a deal" scrawled across the back, packed up the briefcase again, turned and walked out the door.

Across the country, deep in a labyrynthine maze of code-entry corridors, under a thousand tons of rock and soil, a man sat staring at the image of Sydney as he left Eric alone in the small room. The man moved a joystick and the image of Eric grew larger, his hopeless face filling more and more of the screen. A phone rang to the man's right and he answered it.

"Yes, I saw the whole thing. Well played, Doctor. You are right; he is the perfect candidate for our program. Proceed as planned. Keep me posted."

The man hung up and watched as on the screen Eric picked up Sydney's business card and put it in his pocket.


===

And that man's name was neither Lex Luthor, Doctor Ochs, Magneto or even Stan Lee. That's all you get out of me for this one. It was long to make up for it's lateness.

I am off to the Cardinals game.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Free Write Friday...um, later this weekend...

I do apologize. I have less than an hour left on a Friday and have just now got around to the blog. I had trouble sleeping last night, went to work an hour early and stayed an hour late, came home and just kinda...crashed. Then I went to Shakespeare in the Park down in Forest Park. Their rendition of Much Ado was unique with an 1890's western theme, and I don't mean that in a bad way. Anyway, so I just got back to it, and as it is 11:11 pm, I am going to forgoe the regular Free Write Friday for now and just postpone it until tomorrow or Sunday, whenever I get the time.

I will also not announce this week's winner, but I would like to thank those people who gave their suggestions. A good crop this week, as always, but I got some new people suggesting which is great. Remember; if I don't pick you this week, keep suggesting. I'll even let you suggest the same thing over and over until I pick it if you would like. Just keep 'em coming!

To sum up; apology, lame reason, tangent, tease, sycophantic praise for audience, summary.

That is all.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Definition of Conservative, and I Am Surrounded By Writers

This first bit hearkens back to a conversation I had earlier today. I will spare you the details and specifics, but it ended with me getting a dictionary to prove a point.

Generally, I was once again derisively called a "Liberal," this time because I was angry that even though I put a recycling bin in the break room at work specifically for soda cans (complete with signs directing people to deposit their cans in the bin rather than in the trash), I was angrily complaining about the fact that people had thrown their soda cans in the trash along with their half-eaten lunches...but I'll let the half eaten lunches rest for now...and so, yes, somebody in the break room decided that they would share their view that recycling is worthless, and that only tree hugging liberals cared about it. This person said he did not care about the environment enough to walk the two feet out of his way to put his diet coke can in the recycling.

An argument ensued, because I asked him if his parents (not him, but his parents, because this person is still young and probably still has his political ideologies running parallel to his parents') were Republicans. He said, "Yes. Aren't yours?" Then he added, "No, probably not, since you're like 22 and trying to recycle." First off, I'm 24. But I let that slide. He added again, derisively, that I am a "Liberal." Yes. I am politically Liberal, with a capital L. Environmentally conservative, though, with a lowercase c. He argued I couldn't be conservative at all, since Conservatives know that recycling is for, in his words, "cry-babies." I went out to the floor to get a dictionary.

I was disappointed to find that the majority of the definitions for conservative now deal with a capital C. I guess that's just what the word has come to mean, however, I checked the root word, conserve, which gave me a much better footing for my argument with this person. Conserving is, of course, saving. Now, political Conservatives want to save things like the status quo, and money for them that's got. They want to preserve family values and so forth. It is clear to me from the actions of certain people that political Conservatism has little to do with saving money for the good of the majority, or lives, or the planet on which we live (and by that I mean to natural portion of it, not just the lump of rock, which it appears is how some people see the Earth). Now, I am a conservative with a lowercase c, in that I would like to save money, and lives, and resources. So, yes, I recycle. And I liked that the definition of conservative did say that the root word was conserve, the definition of which has not been infiltrated by a capital C.

Now, let me get down off of my soap box and get to some good ol' fashioned elliotisnotawriter bloggin.

I am not a master of the off-the-cuff comment. Most of the time, I've got a heavy supply of "oh yeah?"s and "Your Mom!"s. But every once in a great while, I come up with something. My father has a problem with his jaw at the moment, and it's been a recurring problem for a few years. He has trouble opening his mouth all the way and eating hard foods, so a few years ago his doctor suggested that when it flares up (like it is doing now), he should put himself on a diet of soft foods. Foods, as the doctor said, "Like pie." So, it's dad's pie diet, as we like to call it. "Back on the pie diet?" "Yeah. It's pretty sweet." No pun intended, really, because remember that there is more than just fruit pies; there's things like chicken-pot pie and quiche is considered a pie. But, so, yes, he is back on his pie diet. And this evening, as we sat in the living room at my parents' house, keeping them company, he made a comment suggesting he had made a mistake several years in his past. "I'm not saying it was fair, but I obviously did something wrong." It was quiet for a second, and I said, "So, back on the pie diet. Tell me, how's that humble pie tasting?"

Score one for me. Of course, as creative as everybody seems to be in my family, I was soon outdone by my mother's lament. I was in the middle of telling the recycling story, when my mother croaked in a voice of desperation, "I just don't think I can take it." When questioned what it was she couldn't take, she responded, "There isn't any cake in the house."

My dad and I, in order to stop laughing so uncontrollably, went to the grocery store to buy cheese cake. Behold the power of words!

But it's not just me and my mother who can spontaneously compose something worthy of going into print; my father has been writing his life story for years, and just yesterday gave me a suggestion for free write Fridays (that I hope he posts on here so you can all see it, otherwise I'll look like an enormous tease). My wife, as you have seen, can come up with an idea that's unique and full of potential, but there is one thing she once wrote to me in an e-mail that I have never forgotten, even if I lost the e-mail. I'm about to get a little personal here, so, be forewarned.

When she and I were dating, we found that when we laid together, her head fit perfectly in the crook of my left shoulder, pretty much like they were made to connect. This was all cute and grossed out our friends, but she once wrote me an e-mail when we were living in different cities, telling me that she loved how she "fits into the shoulder" of my life. Sweetheart, that's poetry. And she says she's not a good writer. P'shaw!

Around the same time, my sister wrote me an e-mail as well. It was about four years ago now, when I went to my first Weier Family Wedding (the second would be my own), up in Davenport, IA, where Kathy's brother Dave lives. The same weekend, my sister was heading to Memphis for a short vacation. When I got home after the weekend, she had sent me an e-mail about her trip, but all she talked about was how she felt on the drive down. "I realized I was heading due south at 80 miles an hour. I was traveling at 80 miles an hour away from the people I loved the most. And then I realized that you were on your way to Davenport, in the exact opposite direction, and I did the math and realized that if you were driving at 80 miles an hour, you and I were travelling away from each other at 160 miles an hour! And that's just too fast!" It just kindled something in me, this little spark of...I don't know what, but it made me call her on the spot. That is too fast to be travelling away from the ones you love. And I wondered then, and I still wonder now, if anybody else has ever thought of that situation like that.

What I am trying to say through layers of cheese and sniffles and "John! Martha!" sort of back-and-forth drivel, is that if I am surrounded by writers, you should probably take a look at the people in your life, and listen to what they say. Read what they write. Even people who aren't writers the way that I am a writer probably have something profound to say at some point, and they will most likely find some very unique way to say it. Cherish that. And, if you are a writer like me, poach it and use it in a story. And make sure you get it copyrighted.

I know there are a few of you out there in the Blogniverse (DOWN WITH THE BLOGOSPHERE!) that are patiently (and kindly) reading through this longer-than-War-and-Peace-styled post in the hopes that at the end I will ask for suggestions for this week's Free Write Friday. And I hate to disappoint you all.

But I think I will anyway, and instead of asking for them now, I'll ask for them tomorrow.

But, now that I think about it, that's no good, especially considering how late I've been blogging this week; I mean, it's almost 11, the day is almost up, I am almost out of time to get my Wednesday blog in. Plus, I don't usually blog on Thursdays.

Thursday was an Emo band.

It's also the day I can't ever seem to get a hang of. Thursdays. Hmm.

Alright, then. Suggest away for this week's Free Write Friday.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tuesday Excerpts

Welcome back to my fifth consecutive Tuesday Excerpt Post!

YAY! Five in a row! I wasn't lying when I said I was going to actually start blogging for real! I rock.

Alrighty, let's get this train wreck a rollin.

For this week, I'm excerpting a bit from the very third bit I wrote for my playwriting class. We were given the exercise to write a dialogue about two people trapped together. I chose the trap to be less mental and also less physical; it's just two people at a nearly empty bus station four hours before their bus is supposed to leave. Enjoy!

===

from Trapped Exercise, January 07

SETTING: A bench at a bus terminal.

AT RISE: Mike and Ellen sit on the bench surrounded by their luggage.

MIKE
Obviously, not that many people traveling to Chicago on Greyhound this morning.

ELLEN
Still the astute observer, huh Mike?
(She digs in her backpack and brings out her ticket)

MIKE
(overly emphatic)
This will be a fun trip, won’t it?

ELLEN
(looking at her ticket)
Hey, Mike, what time does the bus leave?

MIKE
Six sharp, I think.
(checks watch)

ELLEN
You think? Six sharp, you think? Master of details, you are not.
(hands him her ticket, keeping her finger on a part of it. she taps.)

MIKE
What?
(she taps)
What am I supposed to be looking at?
(she taps)
Use your words, Ellen.

ELLEN
(snatching back the ticket)
Ten o’clock. You got me out of bed at this ungodly hour to sit around a bus terminal for four hours? As if facing a fourteen hour bus trip wasn’t enough time to spend with each other?

MIKE
(reaching into his coat pocket for his ticket)
I honestly must have read it wrong.
(scrutinizes his ticket)
Okay, yes, I read it wrong. I apologize.

ELLEN
You read everything wrong, Michael.

MIKE
Ellen-

ELLEN
Perfect.
(she gets up and paces in front of the bench, removing her coat and placing it over her bags)
Perfect.

MIKE
Honest mistake.

ELLEN
Just like forgetting to keep a reading journal in your lit class was an honest mistake? Just like forgetting my fucking birthday was an honest mistake? Just like-

MIKE
(irritated)
I get your point.

ELLEN
Oh, you’re a very honest man, Mike. If it weren’t for so many of your little honest mistakes, you wouldn’t be on academic probation, I could have slept in--I was up until one packing, I almost got three hours of sleep--and maybe you wouldn’t be sitting in a freezing bus station at 6 in the morning with your ex-girlfriend.
(she turns away from him and picks her coat back up, puts it on)

MIKE
Yeah. About that; I was hoping that, while we’re back home, we could maybe--

ELLEN
Fat chance.

MIKE
--give ourselves a chance to--

ELLEN
Fat. Chance.

MIKE
--work things out.

ELLEN
(turns to face him)
Fat. Chance.

MIKE
You want to go back to the dorms? Go.

ELLEN
Yeah, what, if we call your roommate, will he come pick us up? Should I call a cab? Walk the seven miles back in the snow?

MIKE
Well, then, think of something else to do.

ELLEN
You just take whatever comes, roll with the punches, fly by the seat of your pants, and whatever other cliches come your way, huh?

MIKE
You knew that.
(reaches into his other coat pocket and removes a piece of paper)
You used to like it.

ELLEN
Bullshit.

MIKE
(reading)
“Mike, I can’t tell you how much fun I had over fall break. I can’t believe we’ve lived within four miles of each other our entire lives, but we had to move to Boston to find each other.”

ELLEN
What?

MIKE
(continuing)
“Utah was breath-taking. And to think I was going to spend the week watching movies in my dorm. I’ve never been very spontaneous, and I’m glad you forced it on me.”

ELLEN
There’s a big difference between spontaneity and irresponsibility.

MIKE
(looking up from the paper)
Really?
(reading)
“I always thought it was just irresponsibility that made people neglect the status quo for something that seemed on the surface more glamorous, but now I know that it’s better to put life on hold long enough to actually live.”

ELLEN
Let me see that!
(she snatches the paper from him and scans it)
Ah! Nice selective editing.
(reading)
“I always thought it was just irresponsibility that made people neglect the status quo for something that seemed on the surface more glamorous, but now I know that sometimes it’s better to put life on hold long enough to actually live for a moment before returning to our obligations.”
(she tosses the note back at him)

MIKE
It was worth a shot.


===

There you go, another Tuesday, another excerpt. And another missed Monday, for which I apologize. I barely got any sleep Sunday night, just could not fall asleep for whatever reason, and after staying super late at work Monday, I just couldn't keep my eyes open. For real. So, I missed a day. But I had my interview at MasterFile today, and my potential boss is the son of one of the counselors at my old high school. I'm not sure if that helps completely, but hey, it's something, right?

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out. -Author Unknown

Friday, June 08, 2007

Free Write Fridays

Sorry to leave everybody hanging...it was a long day at work and I just had to catch a little nap, which turned into going through the bill drawer to file a backlog of stuff that needed to be filed (we're talking maybe 6 months' worth of stuff...) and that turned into eating.

And also, I tried to stick to my guns and pick a suggestion from Wednesday's blog, but the suggestion I got on Tuesday seemed like the best one for a Free Write Friday. I will certainly take notes and jot some ideas down for other suggestions, particularly Grammar Enhancing drugs and why a guy would not tell his deep love of Star Trek...er...deepest darkest secrets until Kathy and I...uh...he and his new wife were on the way from the wedding to the reception. Also, a vanilla flavored jelly bean with a fear of being eaten sounds too complex to be anything less than a feature length screen play. So, with that in mind, here I go.

The Winning Suggestion this week comes from molly:
Short story (b/c I find reading plays annoying)
Joe "Doobie" Dubinsky - 34 y/o male
Wedding band gigs are diminishing and he's contemplating next move.

molly wins a free dinner with me this Sunday.

===

June 8th, 2007

Aaron called Joe Dubinsky from across the stage, as he had so many other nights, to kick off Proud Mary. "Doobie," he said, same inflection, the snare drum catching his voice and making it buzz. "Where've you been? I heard you moved to the citay!" As the vocalist in the band, Aaron pronounced the word 'city' that way whenever he said it or sang it, except when the band played Journey. It registered with Joe, but he didn't care, not like Vanessa, the keyboard player and lead female vocalist. It drove her nuts, and Joe suspected Aaron knew this, and did it intentionally. She ran the band, even though it had been Aaron and Joe who started it, with the help of Greg on guitar and their original drummer, also named Joe. Joe Casmus. He went by the nickname 'Skins' and had left the band all those years ago-Joe tried to remember the intervening sixteen years-just after high school, had gone on to music school, was now playing drums for Chris Isaak's tour. He had actually made it, achieved the dream to a point, even if it was playing in the shadows. Joe Dubinsky would give anything to be playing in those same shadows, even trade playing in the harsh light of the American Legion hall in...somewhere just outside of Minneapolis.

"Me? Yeah, I was in the city," Aaron responded. Greg played the progression, slowly, Vanessa accompanying on keyboard after the first phrase. This was one of the songs that she had fought desperately hard to sing, but in the end had conceded that it belonged to Joe. Not even Aaron would sing it the last time Joe had lost his voice. "I was in the city, but I just couldn't take it." This is not, Joe believed, where Tainted Batteries belonged. That had been the band's name, back in high school, and they played some battles and local hangouts, and when Skins left, they lost their conduit through which they got their gigs. Tainted Batteries had been Aaron, Doobie, Greg and Skins to the outside world, but Skins was all there was to the band on the inside of club politics. How much did the band want to get paid? Ask Skins. Where were they playing next weekend? Ask Skins. You wanted to know what the chord progression was, ask Greg. Lyrical question? Ask Aaron. Doobie stood and rocked back and forth, playing his bass. Don't ask him any questions. Anything else, ask Skins. Skins left, and the band nearly fell apart.

It was Greg who brought in Vanessa, the new found love of his life. Her brother filled in on drums, Pete, until he volunteered for the Peace Corps. They went through drummers like Spinal Tap these days. These days that had been going for fourteen years, when Tainted Batteries billed themselves as Heart Beat, a cover band that you wouldn't feel insecure announcing at a wedding. Just as a side gig, so they practiced all the standards, anything any of them could ever remember hearing at a wedding, but they kept playing their original tunes; Killed by Kind Words, Fishnets and Booze, Chronicles of the Loyal Frontiersman, just to name a few. Ask any of them to remember how those songs went, and only Skins could tell you, probably. Aaron, Doobie and Greg had long since given up hope, had put Tainted Batteries to rest. Vanessa had always added little to their existing repertoire, but had contributed a flagship gem, The Pocket Glove, which they had only played once live before the band became a strict wedding band. Now, each had separate lives and worlds in which they lived. Aaron, Greg, Doobie and Skins had lived for the band. Had lived by the band. Now Greg balanced a career in retail management with a precarious family life, including a fifteen year old daughter in trouble with the law. Aaron was a software engineer and stayed in Heart Beat out of sentiment. Doobie waited tables six nights a week and stocked shelves at a grocery store five days a week.

Doobie kicked in his bass, their drummer (their previous drummer's seventeen year old son who had a knack for rhythm but no dynamic range other than extra loud) started in with the repetitive 'chk-chk-chk-chk' of the hi-hats and the slap of rim knocks. "What are you going to do now, Doob?" Aaron asked, cradling the tambourine behind his back. Doobie began singing. "Left a good job in the city, workin' for the man every night and day..."

Aaron added his low "Rollin'" when required to, the song came to a slow halt, and the drummer did the kick in a way that would have made Skins cringe; too loud, too fast, too sloppy, too predictable. Doobie could hear Skins saying this in his mind. The band jumped in perfectly, the sync-unit that had at one time been Tainted Batteries needing little practice to maintain locked in to each other, and the song got into it's groove. This song kills at a wedding reception.

They always took a break after this song, and while Greg kept an eye on the number of trips their drummer took to the open bar, Aaron, with two open beers in hand, approached Doobie as he sat eating his lukewarm chicken dinner.

"Good set tonight, Joe." He sat down.

"Yeah. I guess." Joe toyed with his chicken, not wanting to starve and not wanting to eat it either.

"Everything alright, man? You're playing well and everything, but your eyes, man...it's like they're looking at something on the other side of the wall." Aaron handed over a bottle, and Joe took it without taking a sip.

"I got a letter from Skins," Joe said.

"Who?" Aaron asked, idly perusing the youngest bridesmaid, easily no older than 19.

"Joe Casmus. Remember, the drummer for Tainted Batteries?"

"Oh, shit, Skins! Wow. I haven't called him that...well, I haven't seen him since he graduated from Berklee or wherever he went."

"Berklee, yeah."

"Yeah. How is he?"

"On tour with Chris Isaak. He says their bass player isn't working out, and that they're coming through Minneapolis in a couple weeks. The fourteenth, I think. He sent me three tickets, wanted me to invite you and Greg."

Aaron mused on this thought. "Don't we have a gig?"

"This is our first gig in two months, man. Look, I know you and Greg are doing alright, but this gig money is pretty much how I keep gas in my car and food in my stomach. I've eaten nothing but Ramen and leftover baked potatoes from the restaurant for the last three weeks. I don't have money to go to concerts, and we don't have gigs to interfere. They're backstage passes and the price is right. Let's go see our old friend."

Aaron gave Joe a hard look. "Why did he tell you the bass player isn't working out?"

"He wants me to try out!"

"Did he say that? In his letter?"

Joe faltered. "Well, no, he didn't...look, it's a longshot but..."

"But nothing, Joe." Onstage he was Doobie, but it had been years since Aaron had used the nickname in public. "Didn't you respond to an ad last year in the City Pages for a musician wanted thing?"

"Yeah," Joe put up his defenses, knew what was coming.

"And didn't you pretty much make a fool of yourself?"

It was true; fourteen years as a wedding band musician had pushed the creativity and flexibility from his fingers. He went to the audition, played a few tunes for the band, was asked to jam and fell into the bass riff for We Are Family. He pushed the thought from his mind with a heavy sip of beer. "I didn't know those guys. I know Joe. It's Skins, man...you remember how it used to be? He and I could just jam for hours, start with one thing, take it in a dozen directions over the course of two hours, and come right back where we started, full blast, no need to review what we had done, and just power through. Man it was...electric. It was...awesome. Dare I say, phenomenal. I should have gone with him, think of the team we'd be today. We'd be...unstoppable!"

Aaron frowned, downed the rest of his beer. Vanessa was already back on stage, beckoning Greg and the drummer from the bar, where Greg was arguing with the bartender to take it easy on the kid. Their break would be over as soon as their CD they had piped into the PA system got through Paradise by the Dashboard Lights. "Do you really think that Joe Casmus, the backing drummer, is going to have that much say about who gets to play bass for Damien Rice."

"Chris Isaak."

"Whoever." The back-and-forth was playing, the speakers announcing that it was long ago and far away and so much better than it is today, and that it never felt so good, it never felt so right. Aaron stood. "Come on, we'd better get back up there."

"Not unless you promise me you'll go to the concert. Come on...he's our friend."

"No. He's our old bandmate. The one that got out and does it for a living. The one we haven't heard from in twelve years, until now that he's able to flaunt it back in his hometown he's going to rub it in our faces." With that, Aaron marched to the stage.

Joe sat there for a few minutes more, while Greg tuned up and the drummer fiddled, playing louder now than he had behind the band. Vanessa was quiet, and Joe knew that if he looked she would be boring holes into his skull with her eyes. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the letter from Skins, the letter he had been carrying for three days, and read the sentence he had underlined.

"I think we're about to fire our bass player, but other than that, the tour is going really well, and I think you should definitely come to the concert when we're playing the Excel Energy Center on July 14th." Joe put the letter back in his pocket and turned to the stage, walking up the short steps and strapping his bass to his body.

"Well gee, Doobie, I thought you weren't coming back there!" Aaron said, and the reception guests laughed politely. The bride and groom were nowhere to be seen, long gone and probably already upstairs in their hotel room. "This one's an important tune," Aaron spoke to the audience now. "Grab somebody special, pull them in close and do what the music tells you." While the people scrambled in pairs to the dance floor, the band prepared to launch themselves once more. Doobie reached into his pocket one last time, and clenched the letter, removing his hand and placing it on his fretboard at the last possible moment before Aaron said what Doobie really wanted to.

"You know you make me wanna SHOUT!"


===

Oh man, that was fun! Let's do it again! Let's do it again!

Actually, I would like to dedicate this to the Best Man at my wedding, Zach Hartwig. We were that rhythm section once, the interlocked bass and drums. And this was kind of a cathartic sort of emotional release. Also, to Will Wilcox, who came closer to making it than any of the rest of us...well, you guys both rock, and I'm glad we got to make some music together. And I'm very glad we didn't turn into Heart Beat.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Call For Submissions!

Ahem...I would like to ask my readers to begin contributing for this week's Free Write Fridays.

There seems to be a bit of confusion about this, so let me just explain:

I will post on Wednesdays, usually doing something other than explaining the procedures like I'm doing now...you know, like a "This is how revising works" or a "boy, editors can go screw themselves" or a "Hey, sa-weet, I got an interview at Master File on Tuesday morning, it's sounding promising and like it may work well with my school schedule next semester, tan-fastic!" followed by an explanation, rounding off with a concluding statement, then a PS in which I will ask for suggestions for that week's Free Write Friday.

Understand that at some point I intend to recieve several more than three suggestions per week, and I would like to be able to go to one place to find them, rather than to the comments sections for a couple of different posts for the suggestions.

Basically, what I am saying is, hold your suggestions until I ask for them. It may even come to pass that there will come a week in which I will not be doing a Free Write Friday (I'm looking at the last weekend in June, which may be free of all regular blog features...I'll do a clip show or rerun a classic or something), so don't jump the gun...MOTHER...although I liked your suggestion.

So yes. That is how things work around here, and I apologize, I should have made that more clear.

Hey, Steve from Master File called me today and I've got an interview scheduled for Tuesday Morning. Woot!

Please leave your FWF suggestions on this post.

So Long, and Thanks!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Tuesday Excerpts

Hello loyal reader(s), and welcome to another edition of Tuesday Excerpts.

Today, I am going to do two things I probably won't do very often on Tuesdays. Instead of posting just an excerpt, I am going to post the whole thing...and instead of posting a work of pure creative writing, I am going to post something I wrote for my media production class.

You may remember my Shoe Thief video...that was made in this class. It also sparked a nice long blog dry spell, so we'll mention it no more. But no, for the class I had to go see one of the Webster University Film Series shows, and since the Schlafly Bottleworks Film series is part of that, that's where I went, and this is what I wrote...and how I got an A.

===

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rutles!

Having considered myself not the typical American moviegoer for all of my natural life, it is fair to assume that I am among those few (yet yearly growing) folks in this country that doesn’t mind good British humor, especially if that humor is coming from a Monty Python Alum, such as the inscrutable Eric Idle. That having been said, this was my first full, start-to-finish, not-on-Comedy-Central viewing of his Mockumentary The Rutles: All You Need is Cash. I’m not proud.

But the lure of the best beer (yes, the BEST BEER) brewed in St. Louis was more than enough to get me out to the Schlafly Bottleworks Wednesday, February 7th to attend the Strange Brew: Cult Films festival. Originally tempted by beer and the MacKenzie Brothers, I was not disappointed.

The approach used for The Rutles is a distinctive dry British take on the documentary genre. While the basic idea behind such similar films as This Is Spinal Tap! and A Mighty Wind has been to make fun on the screen but not fun of the screen, within the first five minutes Eric Idle is chasing his cameraman down the street while still delivering the back story of the film’s ultimately ill-fated heroes. From the deadpan interjections of Idle as the narrator to the eerily familiar mockery of The Beatles’ rise and fall, the film is ultimately more serious and sillier than anything else like it.

Interspersed amongst these fabricated antics are included several pieces of archival footage, most notably of Ed Sullivan announcing The Beatles as they appeared on his television program for the first time; however (and this is where we have to remember that this film was produced in 1978 and not 2007) an awful job is done overdubbing “The Rutles” over “The Beatles.” Another problem with this use of archival footage is the continuity; we are led to believe that the shots of fan reaction (taken from Beatles concerts) and the shots of the band performing (Idle again, playing the Paul McCartney figure known as Dirk McQuickly along with fellow fake-band mates) are to be continuous, but the quality of film is noticeably incongruent. Idle had this cleaned up by the supposed 1965 footage of the Rutles concert at “Che” Stadium (the name of which the narrator attributes to the famous South American revolutionary Che Stadium), which uses footage from the Beatles Shea Stadium performance of the same year.

There is not much technically fancy to look at in this film; it was produced for the small screen, and truly all that works on the big screen are the jokes. Still, as we all know who The Beatles are, I now know who The Rutles were. Fans of The Beatles were, it seems, dismayed at this film when it was first released. The songs performed by The Rutles are fraternal twins to songs we all know by The Beatles, and the story arc of their rise and fall is a hilarious send-up: The Rutles were signed because they wore tight trousers, got in trouble for claiming to be better than God (McQuickly insists he meant Rod Stewart, who would not become popular for nearly ten years after the supposed remark), excessive Tea use and personal and creative tensions within the band, thrown into conflict by the sudden and unexpected removal of their manager to a teaching position in Australia (bigger than Jesus? Drug use? Manager suicide?). I do not think the filmmakers had any ill intent, but rather with their treatment of the story they seem to pay homage to The Beatles.

Cameos included Mick Jagger speaking of how bad The Rutles were and how much he wished his band were as big as they were and Paul Simon discussing how he was influenced by The Rutles (meaning, how he used to get stoned and listen to “Sgt. Rutter’s Only Darts Club Band”).

It’s a good enough film for sitting around and drinking a few beers on a Wednesday night. It may not have the draw for an American audience that a film like This is Spinal Tap or even Stuck on You for that matter because the humor is just different, but I found it satisfying. Or maybe that was just the beer.


===

A metaphor is like a simile. -Author Unknown

Monday, June 04, 2007

Teach Him To Play Monopoly, Not to Sing In The Rain: or; I Run, I Run So Far Away, I Run, I Run Both Night And Day

So the second title for today's blog is the more pertinent to the topic, but I am currently listening to Thick As a Brick by Jethro Tull (not the Agricultural Revolutionary but the Flute Rock Band) and I knew my mother would be more apt to read this if she recognized the enigmatic lyric.

No, really, I ran. Yesterday, I mean. For those of you who have kept up with me (or have spent any amount of time with me at all), you know that I don't so much run as I Ride My Bicycle. But yesterday was a fluke (not to be confused with a flute, see Jethro Tull above).

I work overnight every other Saturday, superficially to set the ad signs but pragmatically to earn an extra dollar per hour for an 8+ hour shift. It's a trade-off...I can work for a dollar extra during a shift without people shopping in the store, but I have to stay up all night to do it. Anyway, so, worked overnight, came home and slept for a few hours, then finally Kathy got me up out of bed and out the door to do some shopping...you know, the boring, every day kind, the "Hey, I'm out of deoderant and razor blades and also I think we need a new furnace filter" variety of shopping. The standard kind of shopping that becomes routine when you settle down, get married, buy a house, and decide you can't go spend money on things like a new car or a dozen DVDs in one fell swoop.

When we were done shopping, we had almost two hours before dinner with my parents, a weekly Sunday tradition. So what did we do? Nap? Shave and make ourselves smell good? Nope. Kathy wanted to do something active, and I felt lethargic enough to agree, so we were going to go for a walk along Grant's Trail. Well, except, Kathy threw on her rollerblades. I do not have any of those, and putting the bike rack on my car would have been a lengthier process than normal because I haven't actually sized it to fit on the Jetta, especially since we bought those dozen movies last weekend and have spent all our free time watching those.

So, instead, I jumped into a pair of running shorts, white tee, and the closest thing to running shoes I have. And I ran a mile.

Today, I have a dull pain in my right shin, and my Osgood Schlatter's in my knees feels like it never went away...but other than that, hell, I ran a mile! You know when the last time I ran a mile was? 9th grade, when I did that four hour workout for the track team before going to New Orleans. And when I got to N'Awlins, I couldn't hardly walk around the French Quarter because my knees hurt so bad. That's when I found out I had Osgood Schlatters, and also just about the time I decided riding a bike was more my thing.

But the fact remains that I ran, and that is something those who have known me for a long time will find shocking. My bike, sitting in my garage collecting dust, while I am yet out doing something active. Wha?

Thanks to Melissa and Molly for their F.W.F. suggestions. I'll ask for new ones Wednesday or Thursday and I hope I just get more and more. This blog is actually starting to take off!

I should think of some unique way to sign off my blog every day. You know, like Edward Murrow's "Good Night, and Good Luck," or "From New York, I'm Tom Brokaw," or "Stay Tuned for Last Call With Carson Daly Bye Everybody BYE!"

Yeah. Something cool.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Free-Write Fridays

Alright. Keep in mind this is my first try...and while Melissa's suggestion was exactly what I was looking for, my mother's suggestions were either humiliatingly useless because I already used it for real, or intensely grotesque (can any one say "Psychic Stick?"), so, having been rattled by that one, I'm going to attempt my first Free Write Friday. Maybe some day I will come up with a prize for if I pick your suggestion. Like, I'll help you load an old softlines rack into your Saturn. That sounds like a good prize for this week.

This week's winning suggestion comes from Melissa:

Short story, an older man, is afraid (I'll let your creativity come up with a reason why!) of his Nintendo Funbox.

Melissa wins the aforementioned help loading a softlines rack into a Saturn Vue.

===

June 2007

It sat there, this little white rectangular wedge, and it perturbed him to no end. It wasn't that he was afraid of technology; not by a long shot. Even at 70, Pat McGinley was no stranger to the modern world. In an era when his grandkids were teaching his own kids how to work their PCs, he was upgrading hardware and software for the software at City Hall. He was an alderman, had been for years, and had noticed in the last two decades that as his peers moved to Florida, into homes or died out, they were replaced by younger people, not unlike he had replaced some old town elder, been on the cutting edge. He was the first on his block to own a color television, and he continued the trend long after his beloved Margaret died of cancer; he was the first to throw out his old analog television for a brand new Sony Hi-def.

No, it wasn't the technology that scared him. Nor was it the price; had he not shelled out over $2000 for the new Xbox 360 just a year before, buying one each for his children and one for himself so the grandkids had something to do when they visited? The week before, he had debated dropping a considerably larger sum on the PS3, but the man at the counter had advised him to wait.

"Come back when we launch the Nintendo," the loud youth with a buzz cut had said. "That's the one you want. I mean, the PS3 is impressive, and the graphics are a sight better than the old PS2, and even tweaked a bit over the 360, but the gameplay hasn't changed since the days of the N64, really."

"Or the Sega Saturn," Pat added, wanting to show that here was no meer old codger; here was a man who knew what it was like. His guilty pleasures had always included an engrossing foray into video gaming since the days of the Atari. Even now, his favorite thing to do after Church on a Sunday was to rip through a couple levels of Grand Theft Auto to blow off some steam.

"But the Wii," continued the clerk at the electronics counter, "is going to revolutionize the way games are played." He went on to explain the innovative new controllers, the ever present online connection, the ability to play your existing Gamecube library (Pat's granddaughter Abby loved Mario Party 6), the capability to download and play games from every Nintendo and Sega system since the NES. This pushed Pat over the brink; his Genesis had broken and he dearly missed Toejam and Earl. He thanked the man and found himself waiting overnight in front of a retailer just to buy this small, innovative device, purchased extra remotes and enough nunchuck attachments, a Wii points card and four classic controllers. He told himself he would not buy them for his grandchildren, yet. They hadn't yet gotten a full year out of the last system he gave them; no, this would be something for him, a novelty to entice his grandchildren, to make them plead, "Mommy, Daddy...let's go to Grandpa's, please?"

He had connected it, he had iserted the provided free game, and had started to play it when something started to nag at him. The people depicted on the screen, the way they were mere triangles stacked on top of each other, with bland, angular features; it wasn't the drop in quality that bothered him. He had seen the video game evolve from Pong to Gears of War and everything in between, but the people in the Wii Sports game started haunting his nightmares more than Mr. Blinky, Bowser or Covenant Death Squads ever could. He woke up in cold sweats, fearing the triangular wrath of his bowling avatar. He just couldn't get the hang of it. His golf skills, which he hadn't used on a real golf course since the release of the Sega Dreamcast, couldn't transfer to the Wii. In high school he had once bowled back-to-back 300 games, but with the remote in his hand he couldn't break 40. It consumed his days. It began to consume his nights.

When his family found him, passed out and dehydrated after four days without having seen hide nor hair of him, they took him to the home, or Florida, or buried him, and into his house moved another family, brash, young, lives stretching out ahead of them...a man and a woman and their six year old girl, all of whom could bowl perfect back-to-back 300 games with a remote in their hand.


===

Alright, that felt good. Not gonna lie. Take that, Nintendo!

...now, somebody buy me a Wii.

Also...I updated my cycling blog for the first time in forever. It's a puny update, really...but puny is exactly how I feel about cycling right now.