Thursday, January 31, 2008

Questions I've Been Asked

I'm bored and can't sleep, so I've decided to write about several questions that have been asked of me lately. Why? Well, I figure if I write the answers down, nobody will ask me those questions again. Hey, I hate repeating myself. I mean, I really hate repeating myself. I just really, really don't like repeating myself.

Q1. Why aren't you writing about the Presidential candidates?
A1. Because I don't really care at this point in time. Ron Paul and Mike Gravel are ultra-wingers who, while they belong in national politics and are needed, don't need to be in the White House. Romney appears to be a fraud, and is hiding something, as is Obama. Speaking of, Obama and Clinton are merely riding their "making history" trains, to the point of being irritating. Huckabee is, well, Huckabee. McCain is playing both sides of the train tracks. And Edwards and Giulani are now officially out (thank the maker). And that's how I feel about that.

Q2. Why aren't you in Los Angeles?
A2. Several reasons: 1) financial trouble stemming from a few years back finally caught up to me, 2) legal trouble stemming from a couple of years back made staying on the West Coast a precipitous proposition, 3) military trouble from a few years back is haunting me. That's it in a nutshell.

Q3. Why aren't you actively pursuing your writing career?
A3. My computer sucks... seriously... to the point of really pissing me off, causing me to purposefully limit my computer time (and, hence, my writing time). And outside stressors, while nowhere near debilitating, keep my mind on those stressors.

Q4. Why don't you like Philip Rivers?
A4. I don't dislike him, I'm just not entirely convinced yet. He's no Drew Brees, and he let Eli Manning beat him to a Super Bowl.

Q5. Why don't you take one of those government jobs you qualify for?
A5. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Been there, done that, won't do it again until I have more influence.

Q6. Why aren't you finishing up grad school?
A6. Because I'm picky (sorry, ECU), my computer sucks, and I have other things on my mind.

Q7. What do you think of the title of the new James Bond movie?
A7. I like it, if only because it's an Ian Fleming title. Although I can see how aesthetically "non-movie-Bond" it is. At least it's not something really stupid like Attack of the Clones.

Q8. Why don't you like the newer Star Wars movies?
A8. Bad acting, bad directing, bad story, over-the-top effects, and a general disregard for established story continuity a bad movie does make.

Q9. Why are you so hard on Battlestar Galactica?
A9. Because it started out so great, then turned to shit. I usually don't make across-the-board statements, but anyone who actually liked Season 3 is an idiot.

Q10. Why do you think we should restructure the military?
A10. Because we're wasting money. Money that could be used in making our military bigger.

Q11. Since you want to join the WGA, why aren't you supporting them in the current strike?
A11. I am now, at least more than I was. But prior to their dropping of some of their demands, they were being a bunch of whiny morons.

Q12. Why aren't you more specific in some of your writings?
A12. Because I'm lazy, and specificity by nature requires a lot of repetition... and I hate repeating myself. Repeating myself pisses me off, and only makes me hate repeating myself even more.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Battlestar Galactica: From Great to Lazy

In 2003, the beloved cult classic television series, Battlestar Galactica, returned to the small screen in a miniseries event that was, to say the least, a spectacular example of good, dramatic, science fiction. In almost every way imaginable (save for maybe "family values") the new Battlestar Galactica surpassed the original, and fans eagerly awaiting its inception as a weekly series. Season One continued the trend started by the miniseries, and is arguably the best stand-alone season of any science fiction show in the history of television. It was well-written, taut, and full of real-life problems in a fictional world. Season Two started to waver a bit, but for the most part maintained at least the tone of the first season.

It was, without doubt, one of the hardest-working shows with one of the hardest-working writing staffs at the time.

And then, at the end of Season Two, the unthinkable happened: the incongruous "One Year Later."

An obvious gimmick for a writing staff who seemed to be getting tired of the concept. Tired? How the Hell was this possible? The writers had barely even scratched the surface of the depth the show's premise offered. And yet, there it was... in our face, slapping as hard as it could. For those familiar with the much-maligned term "jumped the shark," this is when our beloved show jumped the battlestar.

One year later? One year of character development, unfinished storylines, plot progressions, and a clear change in direction of the show. Some fans (mostly fanboys and fangirls) loved it. Of course they would... these are the same people who loved the new Star Wars trilogy. Their standards are so low, they're the reason the Stargate shows lasted as long as they did.

Oh, Season Three started with a bang, I'll admit, but one full of inconsistencies, larger plot-holes, and a definite change in tone from the "realistic, naturalistic" science fiction promised by the show creators to an unrealistic, clearly contrived show that most casual fans find hard to care about. Don't believe me? Check the steady decline in ratings since the first season.

Sure, David Eick, one of the two show-runners, wanted to try out his horrible and horrifying remake of Bionic Woman, and Ronald Moore, the other show-runner and one of the only reasons the Star Trek franchise maintained quality for as long as it did, had his eye on silver screen projects. But this is my point: it was like they wanted to quit Battlestar Galactica in order to pursue their ultimate goal of being television and film powerhouses. I can't fault them for that, but I can fault them for not handing over the reigns of the once uber-great Battlestar Galactica to other writer-producers to keep the show going for more than four seasons. After all, that was how Ronald Moore got his start, by being handed the reigns of someone else's pet project. Perhaps his vanity got in the way of him doing the same for someone else.

No, not perhaps. That's exactly what happened.

Where's my proof? Well, just take a look at the silly "Final Five" Cylon concept. Initially, we were led to believe that there were 12 "human" Cylons, infiltrated in the RTF and causing all sorts of problems. Eventually, only 7 of those Cylons were revealed, leaving us wondering who the last 5 were. But, instead of drawing it out, keeping us guessing until the moment the RTF finds Earth, the writers decided to ret-con their own "history" and make the "Final Five" a group of prophetic not-quite-Cylon beings who seem to be involved in the overall machinations of the universe. Four of those Cylons were revealed to be human characters we've been following for quite some time now... human characters whose histories preclude them from being Cylons, hence, the ret-con. It was, to say the least, one of the cheapest shots taken at an audience since Rosebud was revealed to be a sled. Only Rosebud had a reason behind it... Battlestar Galactica's was simply a case of writers wanting to hurry to a finale.

So, here we are, watching a show that was once about a band of humans doing everything they could to survive in a situation that did not want them to survive, and is now about a band of humans being used as pawns in a prophetic chess-match between players whose identities are still unknown. If I wanted to watch a by-the-number piece like that, I'd pop Clash of the Titans in my DVD player.

Deus ex Machina kills many a film in its abrupt and lazy propensity to end a story. And this is what it's doing to Battlestar Galactica.

Of course, there's still a chance that the fourth and final season of the show could turn out to be the best conclusion to a science fiction show ever, but given the decline in quality evident since Season 2, and the rise in laziness evident since Season 3, what are the odds of that?

I'm guessing slim-to-none.

Here's hoping that some up-and-coming television writers are already preparing the next incarnation of Battlestar Galactica, because this one is leaving too many bad tastes in my mouth.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Random Hollywood Musings in January, 2008

By now everyone is aware that Heath Ledger is dead. Seriously, when are young stars going to realize that sleeping pills are bad mojo?

We're at Ledger and Renfro so far... In keeping with the "Hollywood in Threes" legend, anyone want to take a guess on who's next? My money's on Britney Spears. Well, okay, not really, but she should be next.

Yes, even I think that was irresponsibly and ridiculously mean of me.

The WGA has finally backed off of their demand to represent animation and reality writers. About fucking time. Assholes. Now we can get somewhere.

Speaking of the WGA. I've said all along that this strike wasn't about money, but about power. The proof? The WGA has threatened to boycott the Academy Awards if an agreement isn't reached by then. Why? Exactly what do the Academy Awards, an industry-wide event honoring all aspects of cinema, have to do with contract negotiations?

The DGA deal seemed to have been reached quickly, and the SAG deal looks like it's going to be a no-brainer. So exactly what is the WGA's problem? And why does the WGA feel the need to call on SAG to support them? If writers and actors need to support each other, why not just form a new union?

I think AFTRA should stick it up SAG's ass and start acting completely independent of their sister guild. Competition would do the unions some good.

Have yet to see a movie in theaters this year. I'm having withdrawals... again.

If anyone tells me anything about Cloverfield before I see it, I will hunt you down and bury you where I find you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Super Bowl XLII: Whom to Root For?

Well, my Chargers lost in the early game last Sunday. It sucks, but they put up a good game, and Mr. Cool (Tom Brady) was clearly upset at how much the Chargers defense was fucking with him. But, the Chargers still lost, so my attention had to shift to the Green Bay Packers, my new favorite for the Super Bowl.

Only... the Packers lost, too.

So here I am, wondering which team to root for in the upcoming Super Bowl. I don't have any special dislike for the Patriots, I just really don't want to see them go 19-0 on the season. But I really don't want to see Eli Manning win a Super Bowl. Ever.

For the record, the only teams I truly dislike are the Oakland Raiders, and the San Francisco 49ers. I used to hate the Dallas Cowboys, but as a fan of Wade Phillips and an admirer of Bill Parcells, my hatred for them has waned as of late. I don't even dislike the New York Giants, I just really, really hate Eli Manning.

So, who do I root for? Only the Giants stand in the way of the Patriots' perfect season. Which means Eli Manning stands in the Patriots' way. That sucks. Maybe I'll get lucky and the Patriots defense will end Eli's career à la Joe Theismann; then I'll feel content with rooting for the Giants.

Then again, I'm an AFC/AFL fan, and I would rather see the AFC win the Super Bowl every year. Ugh... Not to mention that I would love to see Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison finally receive those Super Bowl Rings that they've long deserved. Double ugh...

Ah, fuck it. Go Patriots.

Friday, January 18, 2008

In Defense of Military Perspectives

Those of you who read me regularly (a shocking thought, I know) know full and well my view concerning the administrative wastefulness in maintaining a Navy-based Marine Corps and a separate Air Force. These views are well-researched, are based upon a study actually conducted by an Air Force Major, and are, undebatably, fact.

Sure, that the concept would ultimately benefit our military's effectiveness is highly opinionated, but that the concept would cheapen the cost of our military and lessen the burden on taxpayers (and allow for a larger military) is, once again, undebatably fact.

I receive a lot of feedback from a lot of people, many of them current and former servicemembers, concerning my highly controversial views. I can honestly say that none of their counterarguments hold any physical, fiscal, or operational weight. While that may sound a bit arrogant on my part, and probably a bit ignorant, it is true. Every counterargument I hear or read boils down to one thing: tradition.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, tradition is a wonderful thing to have (especially in the military) and we should do everything in our power to preserve it, but it should never, ever, get in the way of our adaptability. Ironically, the military seems to agree with most of my points and principles, except they hide my proposals by creating even more-bureaucratic "joint commands" instead of eliminated the fluff that requires the creation of such commands.

Going back to feedback, as I was in the Army for a total of nine years, I am often (if not always) accused of approaching my proposed military restructuring from an Army-centric perspective. I am writing this to show that this is not the case.

When I began my research, it was to support a spinning-off of the Airborne into its own branch of the military. An "Airborne Corps" of the Army, much in the same way the Marine Corps is of the Navy. A self-sufficient fighting force that is only related to its parent unit by way of funding and a shared medium.

My original proposal called for an Airborne Corps with its own close air support assets (like the Marine Corps has) and its own airlift (Army paratroopers currently rely on the Air Force for well over 90% of their jumps). In addition, it would have its own armor assets and logistics structure.

Now, this looked all fine and dandy on paper, and in a fictional short-story or two, but once I got into the budgetary portion of my research, it became clear that such a concept would be entirely cost-prohibitive. It became clear so quickly, that I didn't even bother to continue my research.

So, being a paratrooper and all, I decided to look into the feasibility of an Air Force-run Airborne Corps. After all, why not? Two options quickly set themselves apart from all of the other Air Force-Airborne options: 1) The Air Force would have to build its own infantry administration and operation systems, or 2) the Air Force would simply rely on the Army to train its paratroopers, and then feed them into the Air Force chain-of-command.

The first point would have been, quite obviously, too expensive (seems to be a pattern, doesn't it?) The second would have been, just as obviously, quite redundant.

And then it all came together. A Navy-Marine Corps is redundant, and a separate Air Force hobbles the Army's need for its own air superiority, airlift, and close air support. And, sorry, there's no way you can argue that, save for "tradition" (a point, by the way, which only weakly applies to the Air Force).

Which led to my current line of research, which only convinces me more and more every day that the Marine Corps should realign under the Department of the Army, and Air Force assets should be absorbed by the Army and the Navy.

My point? I started on this route in the exact opposite direction that I am almost always accused of taking. Army-centric? No, not by a long shot.

Airborne-centric? Oh, Hell yeah.

Want to read more? Check here:

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Chargers Ain’t Disappointin’ No Mo'

Earlier this season I wrote that I would be disappointed in the Chargers if they didn't finish with at least 12 wins. They started horribly at 1-3, stumbled to 5-5, and then pulled away to 11-5. An awesome feat, obviously, but still disappointing. 11 wins are not 12.

And then they won their twelfth last week, in their first playoff victory since their AFC Championship season when I was still in high school. Another awesome feat, granted, but it didn't count. They were, after all, 0-4 in the playoffs since they won that AFC title.

But, today, they beat the Indianapolis Colts (again) 28-24, taking their overall record this season to 13-5, and their playoff record since the aforementioned title to 2-4.

They are, quite simply, no longer a disappointment. Hell, they even emphasized their versatility today by playing Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson's backups for extended periods.

Of course I'm rooting for the Chargers all the way to the Lombardi Trophy, but even if they lose next week to the Patriots, they've earned their berth in the pantheon of the NFL's elite.

Now, if only Eli Manning will lose today... that'll cap a perfect evening.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

SAG: Union Bullies

It seems as though enough members of the Screen Actors Guild have promised to boycott this year's Golden Globe Awards to prompt the cancellation of the telecast.

To this I ask, "Why?"

Of course, most SAG members will answer that it's in support of the WGA strike, and that's all fine and dandy, but what about supporting your fucking industry? You know, the hands that feed you? The people who sign your paychecks? Those responsible for the projects that allow you to earn more in a month than most people make in a year?

Where the flying fuck does it state that the Hollywood unions have to "support each other?" What is that going to do but prolong negotiations and put people out of work?

Seriously... I understand the "artists helping artists" mentality, but if the AMPTP has to keep dealing with separate unions that keep "supporting each other," why doesn't SAG and the WGA just cut the bullshit and make a new union? Greasing one cog is bad enough, but to having to keep reapplying grease every other month over the same argument is counterproductive and dangerous to Hollywood.

I'm against the studio system, I really am, and I don't think the talent should ever agree to go back to the old school system, but I think the guilds and unions should take a step back, forget about "power," and start aspiring to help an industry open itself up and create awesome films with competitive talent.

In other words: don't make the unions mandatory anymore. If a young actor or writer wants to be in or write a film/television script without worrying about residuals, then fucking let them. If those same people don't give a shit about union health care and other benefits, then don't force them in. Let them work. Sure, the Hollywood full-timers will eventually join their respective unions, that makes business sense, but to force it on people? Look what that did the US auto industry over the past two or three decades. It's no accident that GM and Ford have lost ground against Toyota.

Do we really want Hollywood overrun by Bollywood and suspect "independent" cinema? Fuck no, we don't.

We want Hollywood to remain a profitable, self-sustaining industry that is open and fair to all. Exactly who does SAG think they're helping? Not the little guy, oh, no... but themselves. And Heaven forbid a "war" between two of the powerhouse talent unions.

Negotiations will proceed, of course, and this matter will ultimately be solved. But joining a cause that is only peripherally your own? That's retarded... the French did that in World War II (Vichy, anyone), and look at how much extra heartache that caused.

Fuck you, WGA, for starting all of this. I agree to an extent with your residual demands, but I disagree completely with your demand to absorb animation and reality writers.

And shame on you, SAG, for sticking your head into something that didn't need your head stuck into.

After all, if Hollywood collapses, none of you idiots will be working.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Los Angeles Jets of the NFL

Seattle beat Washington and Jacksonville beat Pittsburgh today (or yesterday, depending on your time zone). Although I occasionally pull for the Seahawks (due to their AFC West connection) and Jacksonville (due to a personal connection), I don't really give a shit. The only thing I want to happen is for San Diego to smoke Tennessee Sunday evening.

Anyway, as yet another NFL season without a team in Los Angeles comes to a close, I find myself pondering the easiest way to get a team to America's second-largest city.

Expansion, of course, is the obvious answer, but since the NFL is almost perfectly balanced and scheduled with a 32-team league, this doesn't seem likely. No, I don't think that adding a team or two (or four) would hurt the NFL by depleting the talent pool like so many people claim, I just think that it would ruin the system in place... again, it's almost perfect.

Moving a less-than-popular team from its current city is also a common answer, but I'm against this, as every city should have its representation in the premiere sports league in the country.

Which brings me to the New York Jets. There are two teams in New York: the NFC's Giants and the AFC's Jets. The Giants have been around since 1925, are uber-popular, have two Super Bowl titles, and shouldn't be touched. The Jets began life as the New York Titans in 1960, are also very popular, and have a single Super Bowl title. Now, I don't really think they should be touched, either, but the proposition is a simple one.

Move the Jets to Los Angeles.

Yes, most of you are screaming at my blatant ignorance of tradition and my seeming inane stupidity, but why not?

Move the Jets to Los Angeles, realign them in the AFC West. Realign the Kansas City Chiefs into the AFC South (much as I hate to break up my beloved division). Realign the Indianapolis Colts into the AFC North (what are they doing in the AFC South, anyway?). And realign the Baltimore Ravens into the AFC East. Problem solved.

Of course, even I hate this idea myself, but the only other method I can think of to maintain balance and put a team in Los Angeles without hurting another city is to go back to the six-division format and add four expansion teams.

Ah, well... it'll never happen, so why worry?

Go Chargers!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Realistic Resolutions for the New Year

New Year's resolutions are bunk. We all know that. Hell, anyone checking at my resolutions for 2007 would know that I didn't keep any of them.

So, this year, I'm going to make some that I know I can keep.

1. I resolve to eat lots of food, ignoring any possible health risks caused by said food.

2. I resolve to pet my cats and dogs, even while neglecting their desire to go for long walks.

3. I resolve to imbibe in alcohol, smoke an occasional cigarette, and throw up once or twice.

4. I resolve to watch a lot of movies, keep up with certain television series, and play video games when I have the time.

5. I resolve to cuss out someone who insults me, making them feel really small and really stupid.

6. I resolve to waste a lot of time on the Internet, remaining oblivious to the fact that there are other, more productive, tasks that require my attention.

7. I resolve to drive on the highways like they are my highways, acting as though the rest of the drivers out there are merely borrowing my road space.

8. I resolve to forget birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions due to my own self-centered and narcissistic tendencies.

9. I resolve to spend more money than I should, buy more things than I need, and deplete my savings in the name of fun.

There... that's better.

Irreview, Book Review: The Nutshell Technique

I have, to date, read well over two dozen books on screenwriting and its related mediums (theatre, specifically).  While most - if not all -...