Friday, December 29, 2006

Don't take my Kodachrome Away

I’m hitting the refresh button on my yahoo browser with a ghoulish interest. The ongoing saga of Saddam Hussein looks like it’s within mere hours of entering the next phase. I hesitate to call it anything like the ‘final act’ or ‘end of show’. He ceased to be a person long ago, and is now merely an event. I don’t even know that calling him a ‘piece’ in some global game is a good analogy. Well, looks like there’s gonna be a hangin’ soon and the world is watching. Of course, photos and video of it will abound on the internet, and of course we will be shocked by it as we repeatedly view it. Right?

To much lighter and happier New Year’s notes; I am about to wade into the crowds of shoppers to buy supplies for a New Years Eve fest at my place. It’ll be a smaller affair than last years, but it still requires the careful forethought of mounting a small war. A good party requires the proper amounts of people, food, drink and music. One wrong move and disaster is merely steps away. Of course not, but it is easy to obsess about getting it right. I think that I still have feelings of inadequacy about social events dating back to when I was a teenager.

And on that note…

A friend of mine from many years ago sent me a picture of myself during New Years Eve of 1986/7. Looking at it brought up countless thoughts and questions starting with -- Who is that kid?

I remember that moment, but I don’t remember being so young. I remember being absolutely heart broken from a recent break-up, but I also remember being full of hope for the future. 1987 was ahead and full of promise. I was in my first year of college and I was officially a “film major”. I was on my way to becoming the thing I’d dreamed of being. I also remember this was the last time that ‘band’, as it were, would play together -- a remnant from high school, gathering for the last time. So, at least for myself, there was something a little bittersweet. Even in that moment, I knew this was an ending, a last hurrah. However, off camera, a guy was jamming with us whom I’d just met that would go on to become a close friend in the film and music world. So how’s life going for that kid in that crazy red-tiger shirt? Is it going how he planned? Has he been surprised by the alternate routes, detours, springboards and people? Does he feel much older than he did then?

Yeah, all those thoughts and so many more. I’m sure Eric, the friend who sent me this, had no idea I’d be able to assign these thoughts to that photo. Pretty dramatic, huh Eric?

Mostly though, my reaction to that photo is: Holy Mackerel, look at the hair!

I’m so glad that someone pressed a button on a camera at that moment, twenty years ago.

New Year's Eve 1986
Probably playing "That's What I Like About You" by the Romantics.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Things to do before the end of the year

Hopefully your holidays have been enjoyable thus far. Mine have been quiet, spent in relative solitude in Los Angeles; which actually suits me just fine. Having spent years going back to the east coast to spend time with family, the lack of reciprocation finally reached its limit. Now, they know where I am. If they expect to see me, they can come here.

So we’re in those days between Christmas and the New Years. To me they always feel like a car that’s idling, ready to go into overdrive. There is a certain ‘it’s okay, be a bum’ feeling during this week. It’s too late to do something revolutionary, and besides, a new start is just around the corner. Then there is the flip side to that mindset; the desperate sense of needing to accomplish something more before the year is through, some last great realization for the year. Currently, I’m looking back on the year and thinking that oh-so-common thought – “Wow, where did the time go?” To avoid the inevitable depression that arises from pondering this question too long, I’m making a list. Not the ‘woo woo’ new-age’y, “This is what I did, Hey I’m okay and I’m a good person” list – no I’m making a list of thing that I can still accomplish in the roughly 120 hours of this year. How about five things?

I have to come up with five things to complete before the year is out.

Number one will be to dump the loser stocks I currently own and replace them with a nice mutual fund. I realize, with humility, that I stink at picking stocks, so I’m leaving it to someone who does it professionally.

Four more things to do. Rather than cheat and make one of things ‘to do’ a creation of a list of things ‘to do’ next year, I’ll make that a separate project.

Anyway, when not making recursive lists, I’ve been continuing my chair research. There’s only so long one can research it online before having to get off your butt and, well, sit your butt down on future contenders. That list is narrowing and down to a few option now. Psychosomatically, my back has been aching more than usual. Interesting, but not surprising.

So – do you have a list of hopes, dreams, and things to do, before the year is out? If so, good luck with it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The pain of the modern man ("man" meant to include women)

There are many filmmaking websites. Within these sights are countless articles on all the aspects of making a movie - writing, shooting, editing, etc.

Through all of these, there is one thing that is very rarely, if ever, discussed; yet we all deal with it. This thing also abounds in your life if you are reading this. It’s certainly not just something that exists only in the life of the writer.

If you are a person that sits in front of the computer for any amount of the day - and the fact that you’re reading this means you are one of those people - then you too very likely share the pain and difficulty which I am about to reveal.

What is this thing of which I write? What is this thing that can cause so much anguish and suffering to the writer, the editor, to you, fair reader?

The chair upon which we sit.

The office chair that I presently use is junk. It masqueraded as something else, but it was junk from the very beginning and has only gotten worse with time. Through the years, my back and neck have made progressively more cracks and pops and I realized not too long ago, that it is because of the amount of time I spend in front of the computer, sitting on this thing that could better be used for Geneva Convention (un)-approved ‘interrogation’. Cushions helped slightly, but only in the basest of ways. Thus, for this holiday, the gift to myself from Marianne (and myself) will be a new office chair.

The obsession has begun.

We began the hunt, going to the local office stores and sitting in the $150.00 and under chairs. Any one of them is better than the cushioned plywood, shaped into a mockery, upon which I currently sit. However, the chair for 2007 and beyond must save my back and rear. The throne upon which I spend the majority of my day and evening must be perfect.

From the $150.00 chairs, we moved our posteriors to the $300.00 and above chairs. Expensive yes, but the improvement is substantial. Above $500.00, one moves into significantly important territory. Once seated in these chairs, there’s no turning back. I realize with some dismay that I will have to spend the money. However, I dare say, this is a more important investment than a computer. It will last a lot longer too.

My research has taken me deep into the jungles of office chairs. Awed whispers of the legendary Hermann Miller waft in from the darkness. I’m traversing territories unknown to me. Adjustable Lumbar support, waterfall edges and cloth mesh are the stuff of the natives. I must learn their ways.

So, don’t think of this as a wasted blog entry. This is important reading. I bet you too are now squirming and readjusting yourself in your chair, stretching your back this way and that, wondering, or perhaps knowing that your body too is slowly being destroyed.

Stay tuned. I’ll report my findings.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

How it works in Hollywood

I presented the last ten pages of D.R.06.2, also known as The Untitled Stefan Avalos Project, also known as A Kinda Version of That old Script, Diamond Road to my writing group…

… Where, after the obligatory “well dones”, it was sent back to the kitchen, so to speak. “Make the end bigger”, was the overall consensus.

“Yeah, you’re right”, I grumbled.
“Don’t get too smart”. More valuable words were never spoken in this town.

It’s strange how this job of imagining things has gotten more difficult since I was a kid. It seemed so easy back then.

An anecdotal story of a famous director explaining what he wanted in the action screenplay being developed was brought up by one of the writers in my esteemed group: “I want something big in the beginning, something bigger in the middle and something really big at the end.”
Pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

User customization for increased productivity

If there is on and off wackiness of this journal in the upcoming days or weeks, it is because I’m attempting to migrate it to a different place. Why? So I can customize the look and feel of it better. Also, some of the limitations are beginning to annoy me.

So far, I’ve wasted two days.

Playing with the look and feel of desktops, fonts, screensavers and websites costs the U.S. an estimated four billion dollars in lost company time per year! Actually, I don’t know. I just picked that number out of the air. However, a lot of precious time is spent during the workday doing just that. “Increased productivity”, I see those words on more things that require hours of installation and fiddling than anything else.

In terms of a blog or website, yes, it’s nice for things to look good, be ergonomic, represent the self, etc., but really, how much does that matter? Most of the time, I go to a website purely for information. Presentation is ancillary unless it’s so bad as to be a distraction.

When the web started out, and everyone was making their first websites, a lot of content-impaired people would basically take their bookmarks and turn them into a web page. Websites consisted of a lot of links going to other websites with lot of links going to…

A website or blog has to be pretty damn good for me to look at the links. Now that RSS feeds (essentially links that update themselves) have become the rage, people are building a lot of pages that use them instead old-fashioned links.

It’s sort of a different shade of the same color. Most people really can’t create content of any worth, so they just point to other content and try to change the color a little.

Profiting with the new Paradigm of Entertainment Media
or how I convinced myself that ringtones were somehow important

Let me preface this all by saying that I have not turned into Andy Rooney.

I went to a holiday film festival party last night. Everyone was very nice, the drinks were free, but the junk being espoused… Eesh. Good thing I was wearing my boots.

There is a desperate attempt to figure out what the popularity of new Internet sites and new methods of disseminating media mean. Everyone wants to be part of it, and I see a lot of business cards being waved around by “media consultants” – almost as many as panels and conventions for ‘media developers’. When “myspace” is talked about as revolutionary, I know I’m listening to people who are only parrots and trying to get in on the ‘new thing’.

Let me be the bearer of news to those who haven’t figured out that, the Emperor, while not naked, is wearing only a string thong.

Ipod = walkman
Podcasts = radio show
RSS = ticker tape.
Website = magazine, newspaper or catalog
Youtube = public cable
Mobile content = walkman with a crappy picture and sound = “My first web template” web templates for people too ignorant to do one themselves.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying these things aren’t cool. I’m just saying that they are not revolutionary in the way that most people are desperately trying to make them.

You know what was revolutionary? – Radio, TV, the Telephone, Answering machines, Internet for the masses, Email, The VCR.

Ringtones are not important. Neither is most ‘mobile content’ ‘alternative distribution channels’, ‘information dispersal’ or ‘new media ventures’ Sorry, it’s not.

Revolution doesn’t just mean ‘something new’. Revolution means change, and most of these new gimmicks will not inherently change a thing. Note that I didn’t say ‘all’.

It feels like 1996 again. Everybody is trying to figure out how to profit from the “upcoming paradigm shift”. Heck, when Google spends 1.65 billion dollars on Youtube, who can blame people? There’s an inherent lottery ticket mentality continually at work here.

So what do you get? A bunch of people with not a whole lot to say or do or show, covering that fact - by pointing to other people with either a link, an RSS feed or a podcast interview - the latest update on the old trick of seeming cutting edge by association.

It may all be moot though...

Just this morning, I read that the thong-wearing Emperor has died…

Time Magazine made “You” the Person of the year.

Without fail, when Time Magazine decrees something is hot, its time has past. When it comes to trends to report upon, they have the uncanny knack of being the last to know what’s important.

By the way, if you’re an advertiser or Television Network trying to figure out how to make all this eyeball-competing free-media work for you, let me know. I figured out how we can all make a ton of money by giving it all away.


Now go do your Holiday Shopping.
On the Internet, of course. That’s revolutionary!

And don't forget you can add the RSS FEED to this blog to your awesome website.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Peter Boyle

1935 - 2006
Yes, shame on me for linking to copyrighted material. Hopefully, Mel Brooks and company won't mind too much.
This is what I'll remember him for.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006



(Or the esthetically chosen derivation – CUT TO BLACK. )

Generally not followed in modern days by THE END, but meaning it.

Amateurs might add – END CREDITS, or CREDIT ROLL.

All of these words represent the most exciting moment for a writer. It’s a brief moment, but definitely the most exciting moment of the writing process -- End of the screenplay.

It’s the opposite of the two most daunting words: FADE IN

I’ve been footsy’ing around those words for the past two days. The final scene is formed enough that I can step back, make another cup of coffee and ponder the script as a whole.

Which of course means re-writing. At least, now it is easier. This is the version of the story, which will actually (hopefully) be the next movie. The rewrites thus far have been the equivalents of movies in a franchise – reoccurring characters, and worlds, but different stories. The poor ‘bad guys’ have met their fate in so many ways that I sometimes fantasize that at night they try to escape my computer, so as not to have to suffer yet again.

No, that’s not a good idea for a feature -- maybe a short story, but not a movie.

So, there you have it. D.R.06.2 is done. Next step – D.R.06.3
By the way, those are working titles.

It’s getting close to the Holidays!

Need to get someone a cool gift? Hey, how about a:


Thanks a lot!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans

December 8, 2006
It's that day. Nuff said. Moving on.

I’m sitting outside writing. Recently, the time of year, the place and the duration of my workday are all in alignment.

Here’s how it goes. I work in the office until it is nice and warm, do a few things like eat lunch, zip around on the internet a bit…
Then, head outside with the laptop and continue working, on battery power.
It still amazes me to no end, that with this 1 inch thick, 4 pound device, and a wireless phone on the marble table next to me, that I have an entire office – more powerful and capable than any office of even fifteen years ago.

The sun creeps over the hill around this time – 4:00‘ish and I’m at about 37% battery power. So, the sun, temperature and my laptop battery charge will all drop to uncomfortable levels around the same time.

Then, back inside. Whether I continue working or not is entirely dependent on my inspiration level – which lately has been pretty good.
However, the fact that I’m blogging when I should be screen-re-re-writing is not a good sign.

This entry will not instantly be, ahem, published (I already told you – it’s their work, not mine) because I want to scan the cover of the latest book I purchased – and which just arrived in the mail. I’m very proud of it, as it is co-written by none other than my sister, Inez Avalos Heath!

Pause for battery/sweater/light….
Well, a birthday party and helping Marianne with a video edit caused that pause to go into another day. I’m back… Need to get a new scanner, so I’m temporarily using my still camera as a scanner. Crude, but it works.


The Garden of Gold –El Jardin de Oro (Qori Pawkar)
is a book my sister, Inez Avalos Heath (and Amanda Veliz Garagatti and artist Ciro Madueno Velasco) wrote about the lives of the Incas.
It’s a bilingual book plus – another language – Quechua, the language of the Incas.

She was telling me a little about the difficulties of doing a book like this. How things like proof reading for instance – not something I think about too much when I read a book (please no comments about that and errors within this blog) became Herculean, as this is a book in three languages, one of which is nearly extinct. Besides simply not wanting to have any errors with grammar or translation with English and Spanish, they had a responsibility of not screwing up any of the Quechua words. Would you know? I wouldn’t… but therein is the danger. Wouldn’t want future books about the Incas to say virgins when they meant raisins… Thats one of the huge issues with material that will eventually become a reference.

To add to the job, they wrote this book so that it would be good for children. Not that it’s a “childrens” book in my opinion, it just not your typical dry, reading. It’s good. You know, for kids.
Over the last several years, she’s been telling me bits and pieces about the research – a lot of traveling to Peru, going to places wayyyy off the beaten track (even for Peruvians). Minus the archeological thievery, she’s our family’s resident Indiana Jones.
So, I’m very proud to shamelessly plug her work.
Check it out. Buy a copy for someone.
It would mean a lot to her and to me, and you’ll love it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Writing on Game day

Got the second to last action scene knocked out yesterday. It was a good day, twenty odd pages of writing. These are the days one struggles for months to get to. In a typical day, I will write five pages of words. However, these words are generally questions to myself, thoughts about the back story, forward story side story behind story, and so on. Meta writing is what we call it. writing about writing. It’s useful and necessary, but it can also be one of the more insidious tools of procrastination. So, when I say it was a good day, twenty odd pages of writing, I should say – twenty odd pages of screen writing.


A small room, crammed with bits and pieces of electronics,
computers, video and audio editing equipment and musical
instruments. Sun streams in from the window in front of the
office desk, bathing everything in a golden light -- another
perfect California Day.

STEFAN AVALOS, a tall, dark and extremely handsome man sits
in front of his laptop computer, typing furiously. He taps
the keys with the furious speed of a man trying to beat a
clock. He mumbles to himself as he types.

AMEN! I'm writing! This Action
Scene kicks ass. This is such a
relief after the hell of circling
this stuff. Oh… that's gotta hurt…
that'll get the audience cheering.

The phone next to him RINGS. He lets the machine take it, not
stopping for an instant. The fourth ring activates the
machine's message - and BEEEEP.

Hi, Stefan, This is Norm. Say, I
have an extra ticket to The
Clippers game tonight. Let me know
if you're interested. Call me as
soon as you can.

Stefan stops typing for a moment and stares towards the
machine with the now, blinking orange light.

Clippers… That would be great, if I
can get these pages done and sent.

He looks at the cursor on the screen, caught in mid-sentence.

Then his fingers start pounding the keys of the notebook once

That kind of writing.

So, last night, as you perhaps read in a screenplay somewhere, I went to a Clippers/Heat (basketball for those of you not aware) game at the Staples center. Excellent seats and an excellent game – a nail biter to the final buzzer. Basketball at the Staples Center - one of the ultimate L.A. experiences, it sure was a great way to reward a fine day of writing. Additionally, basketball is fun to watch, especially live. Not like Baseball. I’ve been to three Baseball games in my life. The second time was because I’d forgotten how bored I was the first time. The third time because it was at Dodgers Stadium, and I thought mayyybe it was a Philly thing. Ha.

Basketball – Any time. Let me know.

Final Score for the December 05:

Writing 22, procrastination 0
Clippers 101 Heat 97
Tequila 2 corona 1

I hope the above post looks right... formatting this bugger was a major pain.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Double OH – The King is Dead, Long Live the King

We went to see the new James Bond movie last night. Gotta say – it’s money well spent. Damn, what an amazing foot chase in the beginning – matches the energy and excitement of a great William Friedkin car chase.

Afterwards, Marianne, who is not a Bond fan, and I, who am, had the inevitable, “Who’s the best Bond?” conversation.

A quick google search, or an IMDB search reveals countless amounts of bandwidth wasted upon the same question.

'Bond favorite' is initially a matter of imprinting. Like ducklings, we tend to like the one we saw first, best. I am amazed by how many (youngsters obviously) people on like Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan; almost as many as loath Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan. Once one comes to know their Bond pictures, Sean Connery always goes to the top spot. With reason too -- he was Bond. Plain and Simple. He was the best. He could not be beaten, walking into a room wearing a tuxedo, saying those words.

That was then.

I’m glad those movies were made. Bond, the fun adolescent-lecher-spy-killer-skier-etc. Nailing everything in sight with gun, spear, or whatever other object was nearby to, um, nail with.

In today’s world though, it was time for the update.

So, in the year 2006, I am going to boldly say, though he’s only one movie in…

I think we have a new “best Bond ever” even better than Sean Connery. Yikes.

While all those teenage Bonds were great, In Casino Royale (2006), Bond has grown up. Today, James Bond, you are a man. And your name is Daniel Craig.

Which Bond is your favorite?

Barry Nelson

Sean Connery

Roger Moore

David Niven

Woody Allen

George Lazenby

Roger Moore

Timothy Dalton

Pierce Brosnan

Daniel Craig

And a last bit of trivia – Ian Fleming got the name “James Bond” from the name of an ornithologist who wrote a book called Birds of the West Indies.