Monday, February 26, 2007

Everywhere around town, I am guessing that people are approaching their jobs with renewed vigor. The day after the academy awards and people are inspired. I know as I opened the document called brainstorming.doc, I was. But here I am doing a blog.

To me, it seemed that Last night's Oscars moved along at a nice swing. It helps to be – A. on the west coast where it's not insanely late when they finally end, and B. having a party where the wine flows freely and an abundance of good food is mere steps away. The awards were given to a wide range of people, the horrible dance numbers were replaced with a truly cool shadow dance show – and surprise for me who has never been a fan – Ellen DeGeneres was a really good host. Most importantly, Scorsese finally got one, and Inconvenient Truth got one. Of course, there was cheese – the worst in my opinion being Michael Mann's montage for I don't know what. Additionally, the writers montage would have been better if the entire three minutes had just been shots of empty pages through the years – empty page in a manual typewriter, empty page in an electric typewriter, green dos prompt blinking, and finally a beautifully rendered I beam cursor blinking patiently in Final Draft Version 7. But this is Hollywood, where we make everything seem sexy - so – inspired writers tapping away followed just a bit of the loneliness of the long distance writer. After all, no one wants to know the truth, do they?

And, at the insistence of the blinking cursor in a window beneath this document, I'm off to work.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Chat macros suck

My thrice a week blogs have been tardy, haven't they?

Okay, not much, here's something.

The website for has been down for the past four days. I checked the first day and was told that my isp was having server issues. They apologized and said it would be up again quickly. Now, three days later, I'm at the chat window again. I had planned to write a blog entry while the following chat transpired. I think instead I will just let you read the chat transcript. This took place over the course of 45 minutes – which is a great way to practice meditative techniques to prevent hurling things against walls.


  • Please wait for a site operator to respond.

    All operators are currently assisting others. Thanks for your patience. An operator will be with you shortly.

    You are now chatting with 'Darren G.'

    Darren G.: Thank you for contacting IPOWER Live Chat. How can I help you?

    stefan: doesn't work.

    Darren G.: I'll be happy to assist you.

    Darren G.: It seems that the status of your domain is clientHold

    stefan: what does that mean?

    Darren G.: Ok

    Darren G.: Please allow me a moment

    stefan: ?

    Darren G.: Ok

    Darren G.: The Domain is got renewed now

    Darren G.: You will be able to access your domain after 12-24 hours

    stefan: why did this happen? This is very uncool.

    Darren G.: After 12-24 hours you should able to access your domain

    Darren G.: Meanwhile you can access your domain by using temporary link

    Darren G.: Is there anything else I can help you with?

    stefan: what happened to email people have sent in the last four days that it has been down?

    Darren G.: Ok

    stefan: and what the heck is this website you just sent me to?

    Darren G.: Ok

    Darren G.: Please keep changing the password, so that nobody can hack your site and upload and delete the files.

    stefan: are you telling me that the site was hacked?

    stefan: Please clarify what you are saying.

    stefan: ?

    Darren G.: I'm sorry for the delay. I'll be right with you.

    Darren G.: No

    Darren G.: Stefan we have renewed your website

    Darren G.: Your website is not hacked

    Darren G.: The status of your website was clientHold

    Darren G.: Now it is resolved now

    Darren G.: But it will take 12-24 hours to update

    stefan: two questions - what is client hold?

    stefan: why did you send me to this PITA website?

    stefan: Please understand, I was told three days ago that it was a server problem. This has been happening since the supposed auto-renewal of the domain (Feb 19th)

    Darren G.: Client/Registrar Hold is a domain name status. When doing a WHOIS search on a domain, you may find that it says Client Hold or Registrar Hold. This means that the domain name has expired (is in a suspended state). No matter what the expiration date shows, a client/registrar hold means that your domain has expired.

    Darren G.:

    Darren G.: Now it is resolved now

    stefan: this means that ipowerweb, which was supposed to take care of renewing the site, failed to do so in the appropriate time - which would explain why I just NOW received an autorenew confirmation.

    stefan: Do I need to take this up with anyone else?

    Darren G.: You can check it after 12-24 hours

    Darren G.: Stefan

    Darren G.: The issue is resolved now

    Darren G.: You need to wait for next 12-24 hours

    Darren G.: Meanwhile you can acecss your website by using temporary URL

    stefan: What is this temporary url you keep telling me to go to?

    Darren G.:

    Darren G.: You need to allow us next 12-24 hours

    Darren G.: Then you will be able to access your website by using your domain name

    Darren G.: Is there anything else I can help you with?

    stefan: I'm gonna have to say that I don't think there is anything else YOU can help me with.

    stefan: Generally, I have been happy with ipowerweb... This has been a very unsatisfying experience.

    Darren G.: I understand you are frustrated and I apologize for your inconvenience. I understand how you feel and will do my best to provide you with the best possible resolution.

    Darren G.: I have renewed your domain

    Darren G.: The problem resolved now

    Darren G.: But please allow us next 12-24 hours to update the status of your domain

    Darren G.: Is there anything else I can help you with?

    stefan: no

    Darren G.: Thank you for contacting IPOWER Live Chat.

    Darren G.: Enjoy your day.

    Darren G.: Good-bye.

    Chat session has been terminated by the site operator

Argh! – I never did find out why the heck he kept sending me to that url. Maybe he's an undercover vegetarian.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Things to do when you should be working

For no real good reason, I was on Craigslist today seeing what the prices of flat screen televisions were.

It's interesting to see these big ticket items being sold because you can imagine the story behind the post. The dreamers that moved to L.A. only to give it up, the people who over extended themselves, the studio engineer who decides to become an accountant after all… etc.

Then I found this one…

Plasma TV 42 Inches JVC PD-42WX84 HDTV-Ready - $500
Date: 2007-02-19, 1:14PM PST

The display is multi-functional and long-lived. A plasma display is a television monitor, capable of displaying HDTV, regular TV, and home video. It's also a computer monitor. In fact, it can accept any video format. Plasma displays typically include inputs for (a) composite video, (b) S-video and component video, and (c) one or more RGB inputs from a computer. You can expect to use you plasma display in many capacities and for many years: The average lifespan of one of these displays is 30,000 hours. That's about 3.5 years of 24/7 usage! If watching TV was your full-time job, and you did it for 8 hours a day, it would take you more than a decade to wear out your plasma display.

A quick froogle check determined that this is a 3000 dollar set. I was very curious and sent an email to this person asking if they still had the set. However, I didn't use my usual email address. Call me crazy.

Here is the response I just received.


I still have the TV. It's just like new, no scratches, no signs of intensive use and has 6 months old and 6 months of transferable warranty left. I am the only owner. I bought it new. I have attached some pics with the TV to this e-mail so you can see it's condition.

My name is Elizabeth Cranham and I am now in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom.

I hope you are still interested and we can make the deal happen right away.

Obviously we need a safe way to complete this deal that will allow us to make sure we receive what we are after.

I have found a way for us to complete the deal fast (2 days) and easy. The solution is a worldwide delivery company called TNT. TNT is similar to Fedex, DHL or UPS and they will provide assistance in handling the payment and delivery of the TV.

With this procedure you will be able to check the TV before I receive the payment.

Click bellow to go to their website:

Like I said, I will pay for a 2 days delivery so you will receive the TV right away.

Let me know what you think.

Best Regards,

Sounds amazing, doesn't it?
So, I sent this email.

I can't imagine the luck!
I am going to be in Uttoxeter next week. This is perfect as it would only take me twenty minutes or so to get to Wolverhampton.
I seriously would never have imagined this type of coincidence possible.
Let me know where we can meet as I'm keen to make this deal happen.


Let's see if I get a response.

I will keep you all informed on how it goes.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A week without a blog entry

There are a couple things disturbing about that. First, I’ve been trying to maintain a routine of writing these blog entries at least two or three times a week because it’s good exercise, and I guess, entertaining for some. More bothersome is the fact that it actually seems like only a couple days ago that I wrote the last entry. Where did this week go? Seriously, where did it go?

I have been getting feedback from several people about the screenplay. There have been a few reoccurring criticisms and the inevitable adamant feelings about certain aspects. All opinion must be weighed carefully, pondered as objectively as possible. There is always a point when everybody, including the original writer, thinks they are absolutely correct about what needs to be done to make the script perfect. The thing is that two entirely opposite opinions about the same thing can be right – or wrong. I actually had two different critiques of the exact same line in this last set of readers, one commented on it being great, the other on it being crap. It’s also important to separate what people’s personal desires in a story are from what the actual story is about. And you must do all of this through the searing pain that is inevitable when asking people to honestly tell you if they think your baby is cute or not.

Feedback. It takes a scar-tissued ego to not get knocked down. Even for the experienced, it’s difficult -- and that’s when the people giving you the feedback don’t have an ulterior motive that has nothing to do with the script. However, good feedback – Gold, I tells ya. Pure Gold.

Bottom line: as expected, I will be making changes to the screenplay. I think some will be quite significant too. After looking at it and the various notes for the last week, thinking about various levels of reworking, from junking it, to saying “it’s done” – I think I may be on my way to having a new map. For several days I felt as though I had just climbed a mountain, only to see an entirely new and equally brutal mountain range ahead. In the end, while there is quite a bit of work ahead, much seems as though it will remain the same.

I’m hoping it’s like a well designed car that has a bad clutch. Yeah, you gotta rip a lot of stuff apart to get to it, but once you fix that part, all the rest of it runs well.

At least the readers have generally been agreeing that it’s not a Yugo.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

How many Degrees of Separation?

It’s Sunday and I’m not thinking much, having enjoyed a beautiful day relaxing; raking the backyard clean of leaves and avacados, and aimless walks, first in Elysian Park and then Griffith Park. In staying with that relaxed Sunday frame of mind, this entry is useless, but hopefully entertaining. Some of you will already know this story as it is one I enjoy telling. It intertwines several parts of my life in a strange way.

Flashback to November 15, 1924 -- A collection of movie stars, producer, gossip journalist and assorted servants go yachting for the weekend. The luxury yacht, named the Oneida (clever, eh?) belongs to a party host extraordinaire and newspaper magnate. (ah – some of you know this story) Anyway, names of some of these yachting guests, (for those who don’t know the story) are William Randolph Hearst, Charlie Chaplin, Marion Davies, Thomas Ince, Louella Parsons, Margaret Livingston, Dr. Daniel Carson Goodman, Elinor Glyn… friend, servants, etc.

Thomas Ince, one of the most powerful movie producers at the time (and for whose birthday, the weekend celebration was), is taken off the boat by a private doctor a day later, and whisked away to his home, where he dies 48 hours later. So ends an amazingly important person in Hollywood who is just forty two years old. The official cause of death is heart failure due to acute indigestion. (wow!)

And then he is immediately cremated.

Quickly, another story starts to circulate, which gathers so much steam that an official inquiry is opened. Evidently, Hearst got jealous with Charlie Chaplin, who was putting the moves on Marion Davies (Hearst’s mistress). He pulled a gun and tried to kill Charlie Chaplin. However, he mistakenly shot Thomas Ince in the head instead.

There’s a brief inquiry, but suddenly everyone on the boat gets amnesia (and other things). Contradicting stories, newspaper articles that vanish from one edition to the next, lack of people to question are such, that the D.A. kind of loses interest. Popular belief has it that with the money and power that Hearst wielded, he was able to cover the murder up and hush everyone on the boat. For instance, Hearst gave gossip columnist, Louella Parsons a lifetime contract – making her one of the most important entertainment reporters ever – then or since. The various ‘amnesias’ of everyone involved, the non-corroborative stories - are well established fact, making this one of the most enduring legends of Hollywood. Even now, if you go to the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, and ask about Thomas Ince, there is still an official party line that the guides take very seriously. I know – I asked.

Flash forward seventy seven years to 2001 – a good little movie directed by Peter Bogdanavich, called The Cat’s Meow is made about the whole thing. Great cast including Kirsten Dunst, Edward Hermann, Eddie Izzard, Jennifer Tilly…

Flash forward two years to 2003 – Having finished The Ghosts of Edendale (a ghost story involving the silent movie era), I am finally willing to see Cat’s Meow. I watch the movie intrigued by seeing the story I know so well, brought to the screen. The end credits roll and go on to explain what happened to everyone on the boat in subsequent years. I see something.

Flash back twenty five years to 1979 - My brother and I are two young boys, playing the Violin and Piano at various places around the Philadelphia area. At a nursing home in Bucks County, we are introduced to a frail whisper of a woman. She is introduced to us as “The wife of Big-Band Leader, Paul Whiteman”. This is special because Paul Whiteman was responsible for introducing a lot of great music to the public, perhaps most importantly, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. I am impressed enough to remember this meeting forever.

Flash forward twenty five years and ten seconds to 2003 – where I am reading the end credits of the movie, explaining what happened to everyone on Hearst’s boat: Silent movie actress, Margaret Livingston who was THE ALLEGED MISTRESS of THOMAS INCE – later went on to marry famed big band leader, Paul Whiteman.

I say “Holy Crap” and quickly check to make sure that it is one and the same. It is.

I actually met the mistress of the guy who died on that yacht all those years ago -- a person who knew the truth. And I met her not here in Hollywood, but rather a small nursing home in Warrington, Pa.

How I wish I had known… I could have asked her, “Margaret, between you, me and the wall – what really happened?”

Anyway, like I prefaced, it makes for nothing more than a hopefully entertaining story.
For me though, having that connection, momentary as it was, to Hearst, Chaplin, Ince, to the whole roaring twenties silent movie era – that really is the 'absolute Cat’s Meow'.