Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I made a movie!

Sorry this isn't funny, but I sold a script!

Of course, since we're technically in preproduction, I can't tell you who bought it.  I can't tell you who is going to star or direct or any of that helpful stuff; my contract forbids it.  However, my lawyer (Peter) looked the contract over and it said nothing about links.  Nor is there anything about the posting of any movie trailer I just happened to write.


A large number of RACE CARS are lined up for a race on a
crumbling piece of abandoned highway.  Several DRIVERS,
helmeted and wearing protective suits, are getting in their
cars.  On either side of the track are BLEACHERS, improvised
from old cars and wooden boxes, filled with a small but
enthusiastic crowd.

          The Alta Muerta is the most
          dangerous race in the world.  Half
          of the racers crash in the first
          leg.  A third of them die.

Our HERO, a handsome racer wearing an all black suit with no
decoration save for a yellow exclamation point design on his
back, walks to his car and looks down at it for a moment.

          I don't care.  I have to win.

The CAR is an amazingly sleek, futuristic vehicle.  It looks
like it could fly.  The letters BPJ-1000 are stenciled into
the side.  Our Hero puts his helmet on.


Our HERO sits in a gleaming office made of glass walls and
chrome.  Outside the office is a giant factory/lab where
robots are assembling cars.  The CONTROLLER, a slender woman
in a lab coat who looks like she could kill a tiger with her
disapproval, sits across from him.

          Then we can give you the car to do


A young MODEL carrying a flag stands in front of the lines of
cars and holds the flag up.  The cars gun their engine.  The
HERO'S CAR sits in the middle of the pack, near the front,
but two sets of cars back.

The model lowers the flag and all the cars lurch forward. 
The TWO CARS in the middle bear down on the model, their
drivers not caring if she's killed.  She screams and crouches
down, covering her head, futilely trying to protect herself.


The CONTROLLER is walking the HERO through the factory floor. 
Sparks fall around them as the robots weld parts together all
above and below them.

          The BPJ-1000 is designed to
          anticipate and protect against any


The BPJ comes up behind the TWO CARS bearing down on the
young model. 

Metal plates pop out of the frame of the BPJ and rearrange
themselves to protect its wheels as it slams into the back
corner of the FIRST CAR.  The First Car's tire blows and it
spins out of control, slamming into the Second Car.  Both
cars crash to a halt, inches from the cowering model.  

She looks up just in time to see the Hero drive on.


The HERO and CONTROLLER stand before the incomplete BPJ,
watching the engine, crackling with strange, purple energy,
being lowered into place.

          But is she fast?

The Controller raises an eyebrow at him in bewilderment.


The BPJ accelerates with a loud roar.  It slaloms past
several cars with ease. 


The BPJ and several other CARS are jockeying for position. 
They come up behind a loaded DUMPTRUCK.  Suddenly, the driver
of the truck reaches out the window and pulls a black lever
just in front of the door.  The bed of the truck lifts up and 


Pour out of the back.  The BPJ-1000 and one other CAR get out
of the way in time.  Two Cars don't and explode as they are
buried in rocks.



The BPJ-1000 and several OTHER CARS drive through a
complicated tangle of ramps.  Cars veer off, following
different offramps and others merge back in at right angles,
crashing into other cars.


The cars pass through a curve and face a giant CONSTRUCTION
sign.  All the cars but the BPJ veer off, following DETOUR
signs.  Inside, the HERO 


The car shatters through the construction sign as it
accelerates.  Ahead, there is a giant gap in the road over a
vertiginous drop.  The digital



The CONTROLLER turns to look at the HERO, a rare smile of
confidence on her lips.

          Oh, there's one more thing.


The speedometer reaches 100.  A small exclamation point icon
flashes next to the speedometer and the words "JUMP OK!"
appear beneath it.  The HERO reaches out to the dashboard and
flips the red, protective cover off a dangerous looking


Our Hero


Several small explosions erupt underneath the BPJ-1000 and
the car launches itself into the air mere inches from the end
of the road.  As it sails, it tumbles end over end, as if
doing a summersault and then lands with a crash on all four
wheels on the other side of the gap.

Our Hero


And the car lurches away, now easily ahead of the other cars
that fall in behind him from onramps.


Friday, March 26, 2010

The Best Tool an Author Can Have

Writing is one of the most difficult art forms. Sure, sculpture is more physically demanding, singing more painful, and torture requires a costly membership to the Republican Party, but writing is harder to master. A good author must fight against writer’s block, which can end an author's career before it has started. Writer’s block is even more of a danger to the authors of speculative fiction.

Speculative fiction is a genre where the author attempts to imagine a world different than our own. It encompasses a great number of subsets of fiction (science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, slipstream, furoitica, Kirk/Spock romances, etc.) and requires the author to constantly invent new and interesting worlds. However, building a world with a new and unique culture is difficult and many an author has stopped writing because he or she couldn’t figure out something small, like the steps of a magical dance or the name of a tree with healing bark.

Sometimes authors throw out temporary names to use that have the feel of what they want, and plan to go back later and replace it. Unfortunately, that can cause writer’s block as well. For example:
The ship Mighty Iceberg plowed through the vastness of space, deep in the Foggytown nebula. Captain Testosterone entered the bridge. He had spent all night with his wife, the lovely alien Empress Booty Call performing the sexual ritual of Getting Nasty. Oh, I give up.
What a speculative fiction writer needs is a quick source of original names for things and people, and I have discovered that source. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the IKEA catalog.

IKEA names all of their products with strange words that they claim are Swedish, but I’m pretty sure were invented by someone with alien vocal chords. (Vattern Lovskar? Unni Trad? You seriously expect me to believe humans made up those words?)

Here’s my advice: get one of those full-size IKEA catalogues and keep it handy while you write. Then, when you need a name, flip through the book and pick a random name. You may even find the catalog inspires you to take your writing in new directions! For example:
The KAKTUS ($20.85 while supplies last) plowed through the vastness of space, deep in the ALVINE SPIRA nebula, renowned for its comfort and stain-resistance. Captain KVART, a sturdy man with adjustable arms, entered the bridge. He had spent all night with his wife, the lovely alien SPOKA (whose green/white skin perfectly accentuated his cabin) performing the sexual ritual of the MALM headboard with matching bedside table.
Give it a try. You’ll love the results.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

This I Disbelieve #1

NPR has a series called “This I Believe.” In it, people describe articles of their faith, things that inspire them, and experiences they’ve had that have lifted their spirits. It’s an entertaining show but, as a person without faith, it makes me feel somewhat left out. Why should the credulous have all the fun? Hence the new segment.

In this installment: Automation

When I lived in Chicago, I would go to the Museum of Science and Industry every week with my son. One of the exhibits we liked visiting was called the Toy Maker. It was a giant, automated machine that used robotics to make gyroscope toys; all you had to do was enter your specifications and you could watch the giant robot arms assemble your toy.

Or, that’s what I heard.

The problem with the Toy Maker was that it almost never worked. Week after week, month after month we would visit the exhibit and stare at the large “Out of Order” sign and wonder what it would be like if it was, you know, on. The machine sat there, mute, mocking us as we walked through it. “Oh, you’d like a toy gyroscope, would you?” it seemed to say, “Well, maybe I don’t feel like it! Why don’t you go back to the McDonald’s Happy Meal toy exhibit! Ahahahahaha!”

(Note: There really is a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy exhibit.)

Eventually, they did get it started and by “started,” I don’t mean “working.” It would only be on for a few hours before crashing to a halt. Then two technicians would spend a few more hours poking through the device, clearing jams, resetting software, and recalibrating instruments. Usually, the problem was an unassembled toy part getting stuck. Once I saw them pushing the toys down the assembly line with their fingers because the machine was refusing to move on.

I finally succumbed and let my son make a gyroscope toy of his own. We put in five dollars, picked a color, and entered my son’s name. Suddenly the Toy Maker sprung to life, dropping colored pieces into a tray, putting them together, using sound waves to weld the pieces into place, testing it for balance, and laser-etching my son’s name into the top before finally putting it into a box and dropping it down a slide to my son’s waiting hands. My son was aflutter with excitement when we took it home and tried it out. Moments later, he dropped it onto the floor from a whopping height of three feet and it immediately flew apart. When we bought another (yeah, I’m a pushover), my son found it would also break apart if dropped from only two feet. I refused to let him try from one foot.

After some thought, I realized the entire project was flawed from its conception. I mean, why build a multimillion dollar robotic construction device, train technicians, and pay them to work around the clock keeping it working? You’ve only proven that automation is slower, more expensive, and makes lower quality products.

Let me propose a new exhibit for the Museum of Science and Industry. I call it Roberta. If you visit the Roberta exhibit, you will find her sitting on a stool next to a pile of parts. When you give her $3, she’ll put all the parts together with a screwdriver on a table with you and write your name on top in permanent marker. The beauty of the Roberta exhibit is it’s cheaper, the toys are going to last longer, you can help make it yourself, and Roberta can answer any questions you want.

Yeah, I don’t expect them to get back to me any time soon.

Monday, March 15, 2010

It's Monday and I Can't Think of Anything Funny

I've been trying to post something every Friday, but I'm having trouble keeping to that schedule.  I guess I just haven't been feeling the urge to write.  Since I feel bad disappointing both of my regular readers (Hi Mom!) I'm posting something old so I can say I posted something.

As part of my trophy husband career, I took my children to playdates.  One of the easiest ways to get quick access to playdates in the San Francisco Bay Area is to join Las Madres, a group of, well, mothers who get together for playdates and social events.  Our group was filled with women who, oddly enough, didn't want to be in charge.

So, as the alpha male, I stepped up.  I became a director and my first email to the group was designed to lay down the law, show I was in charge, and keep the babes in line. 

As my first act as Director-for-Life of our Las Madres chapter, I would like to thank you all. We’ve worked hard together to make this chapter what it is today: the jewel in the Las Madres crown. However, there is still much work to do. Below is my agenda for the coming year.
1. A name change.
The director is the heart of any Las Madres organization and, therefore, with a new director, the organization should change its name to reflect that change. Some have suggested we change our name to Los Padres, but that name has already been taken. I also took French instead of Spanish, so our new name will be “Les Peres,” which translates to “The Pears.”

2. New website.
To appeal to our new, more masculine, demographic, we will no longer have hearts, and pink backgrounds on our group website. From now on, it will have a more sporty, camouflage pattern. Houses of those who host playdates will have to be similarly reconditioned.

3. Chest hair.
Many of you will have to grow chest hair, drink beer from the bottle, watch football, spit, and scratch yourselves in public. If we can’t attract the demographic (see above) we will become the demographic.

4. Annexation of Las Madres 03 and 05
Many babies in the 2003 chapter were born early and had originally been intended to be in our chapter. Similarly, others were born late and were pushed into the 2005 chapter. Therefore, both the 03 and 05 chapters were once part of our chapter and should be reincorporated. We also need them as a buffer zone to protect us from the hostilities provoked by the 2002 and 2006 chapters.

Once again, thank you all for your support. May our next year be productive! Long live Las Madres!
Shortly afterwards, the group shut down. I'm certain it had nothing to do with me.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Common Parlance: California Compact

(Common Parlance is a feature where I try to add some of my expressions to the vocabulary of you lesser mortals.)

Californians aren’t like other people; we bend reality to our own will. If there’s a kind of tree growing abundantly that produces a squishy, inedible fruit, we will invent a dish called guacamole and trick people into thinking it’s required for preparing Mexican food. If there’s a plot of land on a fault line, a soft, muddy hill, or in a forest made of bone dry Kindling Trees, we’ll put a house on it. If there’s a man who has no political experience and was a terrible actor, we’ll make him governor (we did that twice!).

There is one example of reality bending that is more impressive than all the others: the California Compact. You see, California is overpopulated, what with us convincing the whole world that anyone can be a movie star. There are several downsides to this overpopulation, but the worst is the parking shortage. Many parking lots have been designed to fit in more cars and combat the shortage; one of the methods used is to make some spaces very narrow and then label them for compact cars only.

Now, most non-Californians (also known as Sane People) would drive up to one of these spaces and, realizing they weren’t driving a compact, grumble and try to find a normal sized space. Not Californians. Reality is our bitch and we can bend it any way we want.

The larger the disparity between the size of our vehicle and the size of the parking space, the greater the chance we will try to park there. You are more likely to see an SUV in a compact space than any other kind of vehicle, including a compact.

So, if you’re ever in a parking lot, desperately looking for a space and you find a tiny parking space labeled “SMALL CAR ONLY” filled with a Hummer, or a school bus, or the Space Shuttle, don’t get mad. The driver isn’t being a jerk, he’s just driving a California Compact.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Are You a Trophy Wife/Husband?

I’m a trophy husband. It is my job to accompany my wife and make other women jealous of her. It’s a tough job, but when you are as pretty as I am, it comes easily. When I tell people my “career choice” I usually get one reaction (other than the laughter): “Can I do that, too?”

You can, but you must make sure being a trophy spouse fits your personality. Not everyone can cope with the stress of being beautiful. So, I’ve set up this simple quiz to help you find out if being a trophy is right for you.

1. Do you have a job?
A Yes.
B Part time.
C. Children are a full-time job.

2. Do you have childcare?
A. What’s the point of having children if you aren’t the person who cares for them?
B. I have babysitters I can call, but nothing regular.
C. I have an au pair/nanny, and then there’s preschool, of course. I really need a night nanny and weekend babysitter, but it’s so hard to find good people!

3. How often do you go for a Mani/Pedi?
A. What is Manny Peddy? Is that like Handy Manny?
B. I hardly have time to sit down, let alone spend an hour having my nails done!
C. Every week! They help me relax.

4. Do you have cleaners?
A. Oooh, good idea. Are they expensive?
B. Once or twice a month or the carpet tries to walk out of the house.

5. Do you go to a spa?
A. Ahahahahahahahaha!
B. I’d like to, but they’re really expensive.
C. Hey, you got to do SOMEthing between mani/pedi appointments!

6. Do you drive a minivan?
A. No!
B. No.
C. Ew. Those are for soccer moms. I have an SUV!

7. What do you read?
A. Really, who has time?
B. I try to get through a book every week or two.
C. Oh, I read everything. Whatever comes across my desk. Cosmo. Vogue. People. You name it!

8. What are your political views?
A. I am Republican/Democrat.
B. I consider myself an Independent.
C. I love Sarah Palin! What party is she with?

If you answered mostly A:
Why are you taking this quiz? Go back to your career. It’s upset you haven’t paid attention to it for three minutes.

If you answered mostly B:
Your life is far too busy to be a trophy spouse. Being a trophy spouse requires lots of effort. Well, not so much effort as perceived effort. In any case, you just work too hard to cut it.

If you answered mostly C:
Congratulations! You have the perfect making for a trophy spouse. Of course, you still have to find someone rich to marry you, take care of you, and who doesn’t see you as a person. Good luck!