Thursday, December 6, 2007

Life, Death and Survival

The previous post is not going to make some people very happy. That's tough, as it's pretty much how things really are in the world.

No matter what you eat, it's usually dead before you get to it. All the vegetarians in the world like to think that they are not killing anything to eat it, but they are just fooling themselves.

All living things eat or consume other living things, the only difference is if it's animal or plant. It's always amazed me how people get upset over those of us who eat venison (deer meat) while they're chewing on a hamburger. You would be surprised how tasty a veni-burger is!

As for the processing of the kill. It doesn't matter how far down the list you are, whether you kill it or someone else does, you're part of the system. You have as much blood on your hands as the butcher. If you didn't place that order for a burger and fries or even a salad, that cow, that potato and all those greens would have lived out their lives...and died anyway.

Just be thankful for them being around to give up their 'lives' for you.

Then, chow down!

Gutting Bambi's Brother

I get up and write early in the morning. So, I’m usually up around 0500hrs (5AM). It’s usually an hour before the brain clears up enough and I’ve taken care of the dogs, started breakfast, etc. to get started on my work.

On the weekends, I sometimes get started later. A couple of Saturdays ago, I was involved in my morning toilet ritual when there was a heavy pounding on my front door. The dogs started to bark out back. Not too many people would be coming to see me at 0700hrs (7AM). I pull my pants up, muttering impolite things and get to the front door.

It’s my neighbor from up the road. The quiet, polite grandmother who works at the local China-Mart. She’s dressed like a Tennessee Volunteers football fan, right down to the orange watch cap and booster jacket. She’s out of breath and there’s no car in the driveway.
"I got a deer and he locked me out of the house!"
"What do you mean, locked you out of the house?"
"I went down in the bottom, shot a deer and now can’t get into the house! He’s gone to see his mother at the nursing home. I had to walk up here."
"All the way from the bottom?"
"Yes! No! I went to the house first and it’s locked up!"
"Let me get the truck and we’ll go get your deer."

She’s breathless, leaning up against the brick pillar of my front porch. I just shake my head. She knows my edict against coming into my shack. Nobody gets in the door, everybody waits on the porch.
"Just hold on a minute, let me get dressed and we’ll go down and get your deer."
She’s like a kid on Christmas, "It’s a five-point buck, I’m so excited!"
No kidding. I’m not really thrilled myself. Having committed to help her get any deer she shot out of the woods or fields a couple of months earlier, I now realize my mistake.

Before we went down to the bottoms with her rifle a couple of weeks ago and I found out that she’s the Tennessee Annie Oakley, Little Sure Shot of Cherry Bottom. Put a slug dead center through a 2x2 piece of wood, using iron sights, from about 40 yards away. First shot.

So, I told her I would gut her deer, if she got one. Just for the experience. It sounded like a good idea at the time. Get some venison for the table, a few good bones for the puppy to teeth on…The last thing I figured was that she would actually shoot one.

I put on my dark green military pants, field jacket, grabbed my knife and the camera, then head out the door. After making it plain to Thor that he’s not riding in the front seat of the truck, I lock the hubs, put it in four-wheel drive. We go around the barn and down over the hill towards the slough in the bottoms. The brush has grown up in the track and I have to drive through some tall grass and saplings to get to the bottom. Thor bounds along beside the truck, excited at the break in routine. We drive up over the small hill, then down into the mown hay field, hay rolls scattered around the bottom.

Sure Shot points towards the middle of the bottom, "He’s right over there, about where we were when we tried to set up my scope. Which is when I found out she could shoot, even after getting too close to the scope and having the gun recoil and butt her in the head. Her forehead looked like a Klingon from STAR TREK, but the two black eyes she developed over the next few days really got some comments down at the store. She still had the black eyes, two weeks later and now her deer. Who’s laughing now?

Bambi’s brother was lying there stretched out like he was taking a nap, good size, about 80-90 pounds. I pulled the truck up next to him and got out. Thor was unsure, sniffing from about 10 feet away, got down and moved slowly towards the buck. I ordered him to sit. I kneeled down next to Bambi’s brother and checked him out. Sure Shot had nailed him high in the right shoulder and it probably killed him instantly, the so-called ‘painless death’, didn’t know what hit him. I don’t think he took more than a step before he dropped dead. He looks good, his tongue doesn’t have any spots on it. Thor has remained motionless, watching me.

Sure Shot positions herself next to her kill as I work the camera. Couple of shots of her next to the buck, holding it’s head up, one standing next to it, with more background, hay rolls and field. Thor bumping me, trying to get my attention while I’m shooting the pictures. He wants to gnaw on the deer. I tell him to lie down.

I go to the truck, put the camera away, get my stuff, hand the new packet of dish washing gloves to Sure Shot. I was going to use them for laying up some fiberglass on my boat, but they’ll clean up. There is no way anyone is going to gut an animal and not get blood on them. I walk back over to Bambi’s brother.

Sure Shot is circling, telling how she sat and watch four of them playing in the field. She waited until they settled down to graze, picked out this buck and then busted him. It was about 80 yards from where she was sitting, a damn good shot with open sights on a target that could jump in the blink of an eye.

I pull out my combat knife, trying to remember the instructions I had read on the internet about gutting a deer. It’s been almost 20 years since I skinned one up in Kentucky and a lot longer since I had to dissect a frog in high school biology class. Bambi’s brother gets rolled over on his back and I have Sure Shot hold onto one of his rear leg’s while I cut around his anus (a**hole, to you non-medical types). Got to get the guts with fecal matter out of the body cavity first. Then I slice up from there, up around his manhood parts and then on up into his guts. It’s not going well, more like rookie meatball surgery. "This is like watching those old M*A*S*H* TV shows" I say to Sure Shot. She just shakes her head. I cut deep into the hip area, trying to separate the muscles that hold it together and get the large intestine out of the body.

You have to use a sharp knife and be careful not to cut too deep, you don’t want to slice into any intestines or the stomach, ruining the meat. I then cut up to the bottom of the breastbone. The line that I scored with the knife is not deep enough and I have to go back over it, trying to cut just deep enough to separate the skin, but not cut his intestines.

Sure Shot it fascinated, although having seen this done plenty of times, but not actually done it herself, "This isn’t making you sick?"
"I worked in a hospital for about a year. Had friends in the E.R. Sometimes I had to help out there. I’ve seen blood before and torn open bodies."
"Yeah, but still…

"Had a guy bleed all over me one time, up in Ohio. He had hit a large metal pole head-on in an old 1960’s Cadillac. Must have been doing 50 miles per hour. Power seat went forward and drove his knees into the dashboard, face into the steering wheel, no seatbelt.

A buddy of mine and I had just dropped off his girlfriend, three of us riding tight in his 1964 Corvette. I was early 20’s, just out cruising, you know. We were headed to another bar, came around a corner and here’s this Caddy, embedded into a large metal pole. Dude had to be flying, car hit about three feet off the ground. Must have just happened, no one out of the house it’s in front of and the car’s steaming from a busted radiator.

Ed stopped the ‘vette and I jump out, ran over and jerked the door open. The guy’s still alive, talking to me, wants to get out of the car, babbling about he can’t get caught. I try to move the seat back, but it’s jammed, his knees buried in the all metal dashboard, blood pumping out of him from his legs and face. Ed stood behind me, dazed by the whole thing. Our evening buzz was gone.

I run up to the front door of the house, pound on it and an old man jerked the door open almost immediately. He started yelling at me to leave him alone, he’s already called the police, doesn’t want to get involved. Which sounded like a good idea. I turn around and Ed is in the ‘vette, engine running. I don’t need to think, there are sirens screaming down the boulevard, about a ½ mile away. I ran and dove into the Corvette. We go up a block, take a right and stay off the main drag, backtracking through some high-dollar neighborhood.

When we got to my house, we realized that my jacket is covered with blood. I take it off and put it in the wood burning stove in the shop and burn it. We down a six-pack, talking about it. We looked in the paper for a week, but never saw anything about the accident, don’t know if the guy lived or died. Must have been some high-roller’s kid."

"So blood doesn’t bother you?" Sure Shot persists.
"I’ve seen enough of it, mine and other people’s. I don’t think that you get used to it. When I worked at the hospital, a couple of the doctors thought that I should go back to school, become a doctor. Not the job for me."

I’m cutting around Bambi’s brother’s intestinal wall, trying to get deep enough into the cavity to ease the intestines, liver, kidneys, lungs and heart out, without making a really bloody mess of it. Sure Shot has now got blood up over her gloves, staining her Volunteer jacket sleeves. Thor is being a very good dog, lying on the grass, watching me, knows the pecking order. It’s my kill as far as he’s concerned and he knows better than to mess with my food.

The guts just won’t cooperate, they refuse to come out of the carcass. I get frustrated, grab the deer’s head and pick him up, flip him over, drag him about six feet, trying to get the innards to fall out. All I get is blood all over the ground and on the legs of my pants and front of my jacket. I drop him on his back, pick the knife up and put my hands into his chest cavity, trying to cut his esophagus loose from his stomach. Finally, I cut enough that his stomach, intestines, the whole mess falls out onto the ground when we tilt him up. Thor sniffs the air, sits up and starts to come towards me. I tell him to sit and he does.

"He a really good dog, most of them would be all over the place" Sure Shot nods toward Thor, impressed by his restraint.
"He knows better. He doesn’t get to eat until he sits and obeys me."

I continue cutting and now am reaching into the body cavity, pulling out fat, pieces of gut that I missed, random body parts that don’t look too edible. There’s a pile on the ground that probably weighs about 20 pounds. I look around and gauge how to handle the next problem. The tailgate on the truck is broken, the bed is full of junk and I need to get this deer up and over the tailgate.
Thor is watching intently as I go over to the truck and call him. He runs and jumps in the front seat. Close the door and go back to move Bambi’s brother over to the truck and hold his head up. Have Sure Shot grab his head while I climb into the bed of the truck. Then I reach over and take his head, pull him over the tailgate and into the truck bed. Don’t want to break the small rack he’s got, as that will probably be going on the wall. The three of us crowd into the truck cab and start off to Sure Shot’s house.

We get there and I find a wooden skid to put Bambi’s brother on, while Sure Shot goes to see if her roommate has returned from visiting his mother. Nope, so we unload Bambi’s brother and I tied him up so we can hose him out. There’s no way we can take him to the check-in station with the 4X4, it doesn’t have real good brakes.

Thor takes a place on the driveway and watches while I hose the blood off the deer, the truck and myself. Sure Shot’s roomie finally shows up and we load Bambi’s brother into the back of her mini-van. He’s riding on a tarp, to keep anything from getting too nasty. I decide to ride along, in case there’s any questions about where he was shot and the registration.

At the deer check-in station, it’s like Mardi Gras for camo freaks. Whole families dressed in the latest camouflage fashions. There’s camouflage trucks, ATVs, children, mothers, all on display. We roll in driving a 15 year old mini-van, looking like we just came from either the football game or the barn. The rear hatch goes up and people wander over to look at Sure Shot’s buck. They think it’s mine. Which I enjoy correcting them about it. Then they’re really shook up. Sure Shot doesn’t look the part. She moves slow, has a bad leg, doesn’t look like she would get off the couch, much less sit in the woods and take down a deer.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resource crew check over Bambi’s brother, note his rack size, estimate his age at a year and a half, give us some tips on gutting deer for next time. Sure Shot gets all the paperwork done and we go back to the mini-van. Just then a dude pulls in with a huge buck, probably a 10-12 point rack. Sure Shot pulls forward 100 feet, stops the mini-van, she’s got to see this buck. I get out, not all that enthused, dead deer are dead deer.

Sure Shot is all over the buck, the dude who shot him doesn’t act too happy about being questioned by her. Then I ask where he shot it. It’s over on the other side of the farm, near where people have been poaching on the old man’s property. The game warden busted a guy a couple of years back. It cost him quite a bit of money, lost his gun and his truck. They still do it, just like the ones who spotlight deer from the road and then are surprised when they’re caught.

We get back in the mini-van and leave, heading for the butcher shop. Sure Shot was supposed to have all this figured out. Knows somebody down at the store, who’s son knows the guy who processes the deer. It’s not call ‘butchering’ any more. The crew at the deer check station didn’t know how to get to this guy’s place. The game warden told me he bought a meat grinder and does it himself.

We drive towards the deer processor, but I get bad directions when we stop at a local corner store. The lady behind the counter talking on the phone, while giving the lost Yankee, which I’m not, I just sound like one, directions. Which were wrong. Or maybe I misunderstood.

We drive about 10 miles, miss a turn in the village we weren’t told about, go back towards the burg after we get to the county line, now knowing we're too far out. During our drive towards the general vicinity, me making cell phone calls using her cell phone and getting people who are surprised when I start talking to them. The ambiguous male accent throws them off, then I explain that Sure Shot got her deer and everybody’s congratulatory and friendly. Where’s the deer processor?

When we get back into the burg, Sure Shot stops at the local trading post. The guy inside tells her the correct directions. We head down the road, drive about a mile and we’re there. Some kid, about nine years old is out front of the building. He’s got thick glasses and is wearing the full camo rig. Hat, jacket and pants, hunting boots. Sure Shot asks what to do with the deer. He tells her to unload it, put it on the concrete and he’ll skin it for her. She can’t believe that he would skin it.

I get the rear hatch open and the kid comes over. He wants to help unload it and goes to grab the head. I ask him to switch, I’ll grab the heavier end. He grabs the rear legs, pulls the deer out of the van, with me holding the front and drops Bambi’s brother on the gravel. Embarrassed, he picks the deer up and staggers over to the concrete pad, me following his lead. I thank him as we put the deer down.

Sure Shot is standing talking to the deer processor’s wife, who’s got a clipboard, noting down what she wants in the way of cuts and sausage. Then comes the big question. The deer processor comes out and asks if she is going to mount the head. It’s only ten bucks to cut it off properly, but the taxidermist is going to want around $200 to mount it.

Sure Shot shakes her head, so the deer processor asks if she wants the rack.
"Well, yeah, how much does that cost?"
"Nothing," he replies.

Then he reaches over for an electric saw and immediately cuts the top of the deer’s skull open. One slice down from the rear, above the ears and the other across the front, just above the eyes. Pops the top off and hands it to me. Nice clean gray matter, exposed to the world.

"Is that the brain?"
"Yep, sure is," answers the deer processor.
Sure Shot leaned up against the mini-van, I thought she was going to faint right there.

After all that blood, a little bit of brain got to her.

We got in the mini-van and left.

It’s all over but the eating now.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Agents of Change, Literary and Other

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted, haven't stopped writing, just didn't find time to post stuff here. My apologies to whoever might be reading this blog.

Last half of November was descent into hell. Neighbor shot a deer, which I didn't think would happen. I had committed to helping get it out of the woods and gutting it.

Since I never expected her to shoot one, I didn't think that I would be making like a M*A*S*H* field hospital surgeon and wind up dissecting Bambi's brother in the middle of a hay field. Yes, it's bloody and yes, it's a very long post. The squeamish should not read it. I'll post a warning before and after the post is put up, later this week.

Then my other neighbor died. This wasn't unexpected, just happened sooner than most thought, as his cancer spread rapidly, in weeks rather than months as the doctors had predicted. Watching the actions of his grown children, grand-kids and other relatives was enlightening to say the least. I'll try to keep from being too acidic in my comments.

The most important thing has been my sending out emails to literary agents, trying to get one to promote my books, screenplays, songs and poems. I usually don't mention all of these types of the written word when sending a query email. Everyone is a specialist these days and there are certain agents that don't represent screenplays, others that don't touch poetry, etc.

My take on that is that they are all forms of expression. Even if you aren't good at one and excellent at another, there is nothing wrong with working on your weak point to build it up and strengthen it.

Too many people write, in the hopes of being famous and making money. I write because I love it.

Friday, November 16, 2007


We have all done it. Unable to suppress the urge, commented on some action or situation in the world.

I stepped into it, just like that shoe-seeking steaming pile of doggie download, lurking on every street. You bury your foot in it due to not paying attention. In this case, the street being the internet and the pile being my 2 cents worth of commentary on the Clooney-Fabio debacle.

Then I had to add some commentary about small versus big when it comes to a fight. People just don't get it. Just because someone works out and has an athletic body doesn't make them a fighter. Never has, never will. Size has nothing to do with it.

Attitude, baby, attitude.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Take Your Child to the Picket Line!

I can see it now...


A man takes his young son by the hand and joins a picket line. Taking a sign from a strike captain, he bends down to his son. He points at the nearby news crew.


Son, hold this sign and smile for the man with the TV News camera.


A studio exec stares at the TV coverage of WGA strikers picketing the front gate. The camera pans, then zooms in on a small child. The exec slowly lowers his head to the polished teak table and starts to gently pound it with his forehead.


If what I am reading is correct, today is ‘Take Your Child to the Picket Line Day’ for the WGA strike;

I hope that this happens and is not some internet rumor. This could be the key to bringing everyone back to the table to resolve this strike.

FINALLY, this could be some positive news. These children are the faces of the future. If this doesn’t get some front page/headline/lead story action, then nothing will. The kids get to see mom and dad out on the front lines, trying to keep bread on the table.

As for the studios, well, how are they going to counter this? Put Bambi at the gate? Have the lion eat a couple of kids? Will they just go fishing? How about Mickey giving out some hugs?

This is gonna be a tough one to counter for the production companies and the studio suits.

The PR flacks have to be weeping into their cappuccinos right about now.

God, I love writers!

There is nothing more powerful than imagination.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


When news like this makes the internet, you have to ask, “Who’s withholding the meds?” When will the pain stop, doctor?

Heavyweight babe magnets like this don’t usually duke it out for nothing. They could damage their faces, not to mention potential ego erosion.

To hear that these two could possibly butt heads was almost too much. I guess that Fabio hasn’t heard that he doesn’t have much of a career now and Clooney's doesn't need any explanation.

Clooney always acted like a normal dude who gets to lead a movie star life when I saw him. He seems to be in every other movie coming out now or producing it. Can you say “Hollywood powerhouse”? Fabio would like to do one movie that’s 1/10th as good as the worst of what Clooney has done. What exactly has Fabio done lately?

Sure, you think that size has it’s advantages, but it really doesn’t in a fight. I don’t know if Fabio rides or not, but Clooney does. After laying down his Harley recently, he got back on the bike and rode to the hospital. That right there gives him points. As for the actual fisticuffs in the restaurant, I would have to have seen it to be able to comment on. Reports vary on what actually happened, maybe no punches were thrown at all.

I know one thing. When it comes to a fight, I prefer fighting a dude bigger than me. It’s the small, quick, little fornicators that can hurt you. When I’m up against a big guy, it’s more target area. It also helps if they figure that I can’t see when I take my glasses off.

Don’t let Clooney’s size fool you Fabio…it’s always embarrassing to get your ass handed to you by a small dude with a bigger attitude. George is from Kentucky. I’ve lived among and fought with those people, I know what they’re like. They’re almost as mean as a Tennessee Volunteer.

WGA Strike, For Whom The Blogs Boil

I don’t spend my time online reading every blog that’s out there. No one could do that, even if they had never-tiring eyeballs and didn’t need sleep. So, there will be those who are going to find fault with what I write here. Good for you. You’re entitled to your opinion, even if it’s tainted by ego, greed, lust, money or fame. You could also be one of the TV/screenwriters who is now on the picket lines. I would like to hear what you think.

It’s almost fun, reading the blogs of the Hollywood writers. They go on and on about their travails and how they are perceived by those of us in the hinterlands. Writers who live in the fly over states can’t be too smart, can they? If the state of TV and movie entertainment is any comment on intelligence, then it doesn’t take much to be a writer in LA, except, of course, the right connections.

We, of course, are too ignorant to ‘get it’. IF we did, we would all move to LA, NYC or ….Wait a minute. Let’s not get into another round of ‘beat up our fellow writers’. Let’s look at what is NOT being done to make this situation better.

DVDs: You’re kidding me, right? IF I understand this correctly, you get about 3% on a DVD? Who the hell sold you down the river on this deal? Hell, you’re agent gets 10-15%, why should you get less for your writing?

Rewrites: Work done over, if done at the request of some clown in a suit, should be paid for, per page, period. Who the hell let this get out of control?

Residuals: Get paid for every play, no matter the venue, media or method. Other companies call this 'profit sharing'. The only place where a person can see things for free is in a library. They are there for the common good.

Pension: I burnt up my body to make you money, so I deserve to retire and enjoy my old age.

Health Care: See 'Pension' above, but it’s now about day to day maintenance. You take care of your car, don’t you? Tell me that the studios and producers don’t have health care. Hey, these guys remind me of Congress! You should see their benefits.

Yes, that’s the short list. I didn’t touch contract specifics or any of the other nuance stuff that’s out there. Here’s another list, it might get you thinking…

Negotiations: Once they tell you they won’t pay your price, raise it, every day. They’ll laugh at first. Just explain to them that it costs you money every day and them also. If they threaten to replace you, which they can legally do, then you up the ante. Tell them you know where they live. You outnumber them. Smile wickedly when you say it.

Promotion: Get the public on your side. Very little is being done about this, from what I can see of it. What I do see is not very flattering for writers.

Band together: It amazes me to read some of these blogs and see how people are more interested in urinating on each other than trying to make this a cohesive effort. You’re coming across like squabbling school kids.

Show some Class: This means acting like you’re responsible adults. College prank antics and comments are great, if you’re still a freshman, Michael Eisner or G. Bush.

Be Cool: Nothing shows power like being cool. Don’t get mad, just smile, better yet, work on that evil grin. It drives them nuts. Think Steve McQueen.

So, you’re reading this, thinking; "What the hell makes you think you know anything about this stuff?" Simple, my fellow writers. Not only have I been a Teamster, I helped organize the union in a shop I worked in up in Ohio. I have walked the picket lines. I have been in negotiations with management. To relate my experiences would take at least a chapter or two.

Later, I had to deal with a company that I worked for on an employment contract in Europe. This stuff is all covered in my book; "Going Dutch, Trials of a Wage Slave".

Please DON’T buy this book! It’s a minor thing about how I’m getting ready to rewrite and update it. Believe it or not, you can have a contract and still get screwed by the company. Even after getting a court judgment.

You have to go at this situation with a willingness to lose. Someone has to in this deal. This time though, it better not be the writers. IF the WGA loses this, then all Americans lose.


Because you are the last hopes of those of us who have seen our jobs and work outsourced across the world. Read my previous posts on this topic. Don’t think that it can’t be done to you!

I read some of the other blogs and they accept the idea that Vancouver is now a TV and movie center. It wasn’t the last time the WGA went on strike and it’s indicative of how things have changed in the world.

I have no problem with people doing work, anywhere in the world. My problem is with the people who claim that they are making life better for everyone, while stuffing their pockets and then ripping the bread out of the mouths that provide them with services.

The claims that they are ‘risking it all’ to build the business or studio. So what? Life is about risk. No one is insulated from it, nor can you plan for every event or contingency.

Working for little or no money is the new slavery. It crosses all lines, economic, racial, cultural and all borders. Don’t empower those who advocate it.

A day’s wage for a day’s work, with residuals, pension and healthcare for all!

Get back to work, you’ve got something to write.

Meeting Lew Hunter and Sherri Sanders

Contrary to what you might think, there are people with real power in this neck of the woods. I’m not talking about the ones with .50 caliber weapons, I mean those who actually know someone and can influence them to ‘come on down and sit a spell’ here in the backwoods. In this neck of the woods, we have been blessed with a fine human being, a great person and she’s a writer!

Sherri Sanders decided to leave LA and move back home. Home now being about 15 miles south of me, even though she grew up just down the road. We met through a friend at a local library who is also an author. OK, local in that this library is 22 miles away and the one closest to me is 17 miles. People wonder why I only leave the farm every week to ten days or so. It’s pretty simple. Time and gas prices. It cuts into my writing.

So, Sherri and I begin to email each other about the Lew Hunter workshop that she is going to put on in Selmer, TN. That’s right, a small town that most people wouldn’t notice if they drove through it. 3,900 some people just don’t impress those who have lived in cities of millions. I’m intrigued, how the hell did she get a major Hollywood screenwriting icon to show up down here?

In August I broke my foot and it’s slowed me down. I have farm work to do before it gets really cold and I know that I can’t do the workshop. This really tears me up, as I have traveled to NYC and LA just to attend workshops, seminars and other writing events. So, I’m only going to attend the Friday night meet and greet.

One the appointed day, 2 November, I shut down early at the shop. After cleaning up, I make the trek to Selmer. Most of the writers were early, some of them had driven from across Tennessee, which is a journey of about 350 miles. Others have come in from Mississippi. This is great! I didn’t realize that we had such a diverse group, ranging from college students to farm-types to musicians and professionals, even a doctor.

Lew and his lovely wife, Pamela, show up and immediately charm the group. I thought he was an extremely brave man from the outset, wearing a red Nebraska sweatshirt, right here in the heart of Volunteer country. We didn’t go into the football stuff too much. I don’t follow the game now. It’s become too commercial for me.

After doing the ‘your name, your game’ scenario, Lew launched into giving us an idea about his life in Hollywood and screenwriting in general. This sort of thing always fascinates me, as each person will recount their experiences and give you something on which to base your future plans. It also fires me up to keep writing.

Lew and Pamela outlined the workshop projects for the weekend and then talked about various influences on them. How Billy Wilder impressed Lew and his classes at UCLA. Concerns about the WGA strike, which unfortunately, is now going on all over the country. What really impressed me though, was throughout it all, Lew kept emphasizing that we could do this. We could work as writers.

I’ve been to seminars where the speaker has stood up in front of 800+ people and told them that in five years, probably none of them would be writing movies in Hollywood. Which might be true. It sure doesn’t give a person hope though, does it? I had just spent major bucks, flown over 1,000 miles and then I hear this? Should have stayed on the farm? Not likely.

Not everyone will become a screenwriter, some of us will go on to do other things, some of it will be in the realm of writing. Those who only do it for a hobby still get the satisfaction of completing the work. Just as long as you write.

I might be down here, miles from nowhere, but you’re reading this, wherever you are.

Thanks, Lew, Pamela and Sherri. I had a great time. You really fired me up. Let’s all get back to our writing.

Friday, October 26, 2007

WGA Strike, A Benefit For The Flyovers

They can say what they want, but the truth will out. The landscape has change since the last writers strike. In those long ago days, there wasn’t an Internet, 2,000 plus film schools around the country, an international pool of talent that speaks multiple languages. We might be seeing the crumbling of the Hollywood empire.

Those who have looked down upon the ‘flyover states’ now have cause for concern. Let’s explore the changes in nature and work environments.

If the global warming scenario continues, then LA and other coastal areas will be under duress to continue filming and TV work. Look at the current situation with the wildfires in LA. Stars leaving their homes, TV and movie productions halted, the ever present threat of earthquakes. What are they going to do if the ocean starts to swamp their beach houses? It doesn’t take a genius to understand why many people from the coastal areas have relocated here, in middle America.

When it comes to the work environment, the WGA and the writers have been living in a cocoon, a nice tranquil world of big names and fancy dinners. Let’s not forget those backpats at the awards shows. The ego-feeders will find out all about the bottom feeders who will eat their lunch and steal their jobs. Unlike the movies, real life can be real serious, without a happy ending.

In my experiences with Hollywood, I’ve found out that as much as they would like the world to think that they are ‘leading, bleeding edge’ adventurers, they really are pretty much stuck in a rut. Notice the same-old, same-old when it comes to movie themes and TV shows. Rip-offs of foreign TV and movies is now greater than ever. If Americans knew how much of their TV and movie fare came from outside sources, they might be shocked. I doubt that they really care. All they want is something that’s interesting and entertaining. Which they now find on the Internet.

Those with a clue can see where this is going. You might consider looking back to see what lies ahead. In the really old days in Hollywood, they cranked out two to four films a month, per studio. They weren’t epics, which came along to fill movie seats for long times and more popcorn/soda money for the movie house. Which was part of a chain owned by the studios. Now, many people don’t leave the house for the local movie palace to take in the latest flick.

Everyone has a two minute attention span. In writing, essays were supplemented by newspaper columns, are being augmented by blogs. Plays were supplemented by movies, which gave ground to TV, which is now seeing the impact of the Internet.

The key factor in all of this is that they diversified, yet increased the audience base. It also resulted in a general depreciation of content. Fast food people want short order entertainment. Something they can watch and digest in less time than it takes to read this blog.

Sooner or later, everything gets destroyed so that it can be recreated in a new form. Why should Hollywood be immune?

After all, the movie business started in New Jersey. Then moved to California because the cameras and other equipment were too fragile to use outside except in perfect weather. Now anyone can shoot anywhere, at any time and put it up online.

Goodnight Hollywood, it’s been a wonderful dream.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Rise of Bollywood, China and Hollywood North

As the sun goes down over Sunset Boulevard, you can hear dreams crashing like bumpercar BMWs, as if driven by writers off their meds. It’s a sad day in the city of Tinsel, as scribes wander the streets wailing for residuals. The WGA has voted, will it be much ado about nothing or the final strike-out?

While those of us who have written, but not been bought, stand back and contemplate. Can we now get a shot at the big time? Don’t hold your breath, I’m not. We live in the land of litigation. Look at me wrong and I’ll sue you down the river of debt.

No, there will be few scabs, even if the writers have to get out of their cars and walk the picket lines. If they’re smart they’ll get a rent-a-picket, someone who actually can be physically intimidating to a line-crosser. How far will they have to travel to stop writers who can work off-scene, away from LA, somewhere across the digital divide?

A while back, I presented a screenplay logline to a couple of hundred writers during a seminar held at a major studio. It was about outsourcing jobs around the world. The Important Hollywood Scribe/Director/Producer in charge of the seminar had a simple critique for my screenplay. He didn’t know what the word ‘outsourcing’ meant! Therefore, my screenplay wouldn't sell. The Hollywood crowd and the WGA will get to find out what the rest of American society has known for years. It’s outsourcing time in the city!

The easy way out for producers and studios alike will be to go East and head North. Bollywood might not have the same cultural excesses as it’s namesake, but the producers will just write in the extra sex, drugs and gratuitous violence. Then there are our neighbors to the north. Vancouver will be glad to shoot more movies, TV shows and documentaries for those in need. Montreal can give it a leetle French flair, mon ami. Did I mention all those studios in China? We love our globalization.

Don’t hold your breath WGA. This might be the start of something big. After all, one of Hollywood’s own started all of this, back when he broke up the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO). You might remember him, he was the president of the Screen Actors Guild, before he took up residence in the big, white house on Pennsylvania Avenue. Which led to fuzzy math economics. Kinda like those figures you hear concerning residuals, new media, digital revenue, etc. It could be a ‘trickle down’ type of contract. Moguls, keep your genitalia away from that zipper!

I better check my passport. Can the WGA sue me if I work as a writer in China and get paid through a bank in Switzerland, while claiming residence in Australia?

How To Succeed in the Biz Without Using Your Genitalia

It’s always interesting, hearing about how people become an ‘overnight’ success. After eight to ten years, if not a couple of decades, of slogging away in the trenches, they are suddenly ‘discovered’ by the rest of the world. Their star ascends into the celebrity sky and shines bright as it establishes itself. Sometimes, without sleeping with anyone important.

These entities are then imbued with special powers by the masses or maybe just the media hounds. Able to discern the future, pick political leaders, make fashion statements and expose their genitalia, they are supreme in their own estimation, ego-powered beyond the output of any nuclear power plant. Able to light up entire tabloids with their mega-watt smiles. Unless they’re raging at the paparazzi.

The burn-out rate is determined by the self-love factor. The more headlines they seek, the faster they turn to burnt toast. Slow roasted by the fast bored public. A side trip to the pokey or the rehabarama can either be image enhancing or the end of the story. An event usually induced by drugs, sex, driving or guns. Maybe a toxic combination of all of the above. Having drugged sex while driving with guns…there’s a headline!

Probably the only safe way to success in the Biz and maintain it, is to be professional, do your job, keep your mouth shut about your love affairs and never, ever, show off your crotch, whether male or female, to anyone who isn’t your love slave. Get a non-disclosure agreement in writing before you head to bed. A pre-dip pre-nup.

Even if you’re some college girl wanting to be the Phelgm Queen or maybe get into a men’s magazine, one way or another, it can come back to haunt you in the end. Especially if you get the large version of the butterfly tattoo. Which, with old age, will look more like crumpled wall paper than a nymphalis californica. Has anyone told you how it will feel if you have to get a body scan at the hospital? Burn baby burn.

As for the men who think that their manhood can’t be beat, beware. The old race track adage applies, there’s always someone out there with more cubic inches. No matter the chemical or physical enhancements methods you might use to stroke your joke. Sometimes it more about quality, then quantity. Try harder, think like you’re number two.

Otherwise, you could always just fake it. Emote that talent thing all the way to the bank or into the ditch. If you hook up with the right people, even the talent challenged can rise to the top. You might even get to be president. Just don’t ask me to write about it.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The World's Next Great Comedian

I had the privilege of meeting the World's Next Great Comedian this past week. Since I am not at liberty to divulge their name, I'll refer to them in this post at the WNGC.

This person showed up down here last week, ostensibly to 'get advice' from one of their relatives. When a person is seeking 'advice' it can mean a different things; like they really want to know an experienced person's point of view, they need money or a place to crash. Maybe it's all three.

You don't just catch the next subway, train, bus or plane to get to where I live. Let's just say that I'm so far out in the sticks that I can get one TV station without satellite, which I don't have, there is no cable hookup and I can't even get a decent Internet setup through the phone company, it's all low-tech dial-up. The closest China-Mart is about 17 miles away, which is where the local Fast Grease Food emporiums are located. To even get a gallon of gas or a quart of milk is a journey of about four miles. I love it! If someone wants to visit they have to make a serious effort. It weeds out the drop-in visitors big time. Not to mention the know-it-all relatives.

When the WNGC showed up, my neighbors were just expecting a quiet, Sunday afternoon visit. You know, coffee and some sticky-sap cinnamon buns while catching up on the relatives.

I had been invited to stop by for supper earlier in the day, but told them I wasn't feeling well. She's a good cook and it would be a break from my basic chow. I'd call before I drove over.

Which is a good thing that I did. It was the old, "We got some unexpected company. Why don't y'all come on down and I'll fix you a plate. Just come on in the back." Translation for Yankees and Coastals; 'One of our leech-sponge relatives is here, I'll give you a doggie bag to go. Stop in at the back door, they're all on the front porch.'

I get in Little Redneck, the farm's small pickup truck and rattle over to their house. Things are a bit spread out around here. My closest neighbor lives across the street and it's 100 yards between the houses. These folks are my next nearest neighbors and they're almost a half mile away. It's a nice walk, but you don't do it with stray dogs, hungry coyotes and random snakes between here and there. At least not when you're carrying food.

Imagine my surprise when I walk up to the back porch and everyone is in the family room/kitchen. Time to face the relatives. Introductions are made and I get to meet the WNGC and their mate. The WNGC starts off by telling that they are the FUNNIEST PERSON I HAVE EVER MET. Really? I didn't know that I had led such a sheltered life. The pleasantries begin.

WNGC wants advice. Has heard that I've actually been to Hollywood and New York City. What should they do about their upcoming recording session? Huh? Seems that they have talked a producer into a recording session.

"You got a contract, right?"
WNGC, "Uh, no."
"How about an agent or lawyer?"
"I haven't talked to one."
"How long you been doing comedy clubs?"
"Never done any, don't need to. I just do stuff on tape."
"What are you going to do when it comes time to go on the road. All comedians, sooner or later, have to go on the road."
"I'm not going on the road, I'm not leaving Memphis!"

Then WNGC wants me to listen to their screamingly funny comedy tape. I get to hear about ten minutes of it. Out of five jokes, one is not too bad. I ask them how many they've got. They claim to have "two tapes worth". How about copyright? Never done it, doesn't need to.

"Everything is all in my head".
No kidding?
Welcome to fantasy island, backwoods style.

I have copies of different contracts from a screenwriters conference that I attended a few years back. Since it now turns out that the WNGC will be staying for a few days, "to continue getting advice" I volunteer to give them a copy of a contract to review.

Then were spoken those words everyone loves to hear.
"I'm gonna be here a few days, just to be able to do my work."

In this county there are about 10 bars, all serving beer, you can't buy liquor and there aren't any comedy clubs. I doubt that the material I heard on the tape would be played in one of the 117 churches we have for our 10,000 residents. Let's say that this is serious Bible belt country.

You can't imagine how overjoyed I was to hear the next comment.
"If you aren't busy in the next couple of days, I'd like to talk to you about my work."
Didn't we just do that?

After all, I was just sitting around, waiting for you to show up. I'm working on a book, rewriting a business plan, maintaining a 300 acre farm and restoring an old car. My days are a minimum of 16 hours long, every day of the week. Lots of spare time. Which is spent looking at the back of my eyelids.

I had just spent the last hour and a half with this person, explaining what little I know about the entertainment business. They had proceeded to tell me that none of it applied to them.

You don't need to do any work, just show up at the recording studio.
Why worry about a contract, the producer is going to pay me, right?
Hey, I wrote this stuff, so nobody can use it but me. If they do, they have to pay me.
Why write anything down, I can remember it all in my head!

This is all being said while the WNGC is drinking shots of Uncle's whiskey and sipping beer to chase it. Then complaining to Uncle about the " rotgut that you drink, can't you buy better booze?"

After that I excused myself, took the doggie bag and headed out the back door.

WNGC got the copy of the contract the next day. I got the "Yeah, it doesn't matter." speech. Probably right, it's just words on paper. When this happened, I realized that this was more than a waste of time. There was work in the barn to be done, so I went there next.

Rerun everything I wrote above, just change the setting to the tractor shed where I repair the farm equipment. This happened everyday for the next three days. How many times can you tell someone the same thing? I tried the allegory method, the personal example, etc.

It's like hammering on a large piece of steel with a wooden stick. You exert your energy, but nothing changes. OK, the stick will flatten out and eventually splinter. Like my reserve.

I finally had to say those magic words.

"I don't know what to tell you."

When a person knows more than you do about a situation, just give it over to them. You might have all the experience in the world, but they are going to make their mistakes, no matter what you tell them. Save yourself the time and effort.

Wish them the best.
Then go on with your work.

Friday, October 12, 2007

More Pay, Less Work, Heavy Thinking

I love to write. It's the one thing that I do every day (body functions not included). Even if it's as basic as the outline for a story or just random thoughts.

The entire aspect of writing appeals to me.

Reading about or travelling to a place to do the background research. Getting sick on the strange food. Meeting beautiful women with hair under their arms.

Checking out the latest developments on the technical aspects of the story. Acting like I know what the hell they are talking about. Assuring them that I won't divulge their secrets.

Meeting experts in their field to discuss the current and future trends. Like I care about something I'll never live to see. If it ever happens in the first place.

I even like doing the rewrite work, trying to smooth out the flow of the story to get just the right pitch, making it a harmonious composition, instead of a jangle. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ah bullshit...

During the past few years, I've had a variety of jobs. Some of which even paid some money. The one thing that I learned from these escapades in employment; the less one does, labor-wise, usually the more one makes, in respect to payment. When I mention labor, I'm talking physical labor, not heavy thinking or childbirth. We won't even go into the 'jobs' that are more play than work.

I have worked hard as an auto mechanic and hardly worked as a technical writer. Guess which job paid better? Some of this is due to involvement in the job. When you are truly involved in your work, it's not really work any more.

After the first few brakes jobs, they all begin to look the same to me. When I'm writing, that changes, as there is more than one way to describe the brake job. Although I have friends who make great money as mechanics, I never did. The work did prepare me to do technical manuals, which paid fairly well, not to mention it's cleaner work. I still do my own car repair work though. Nobody touches my ride but me!

Writing has allowed me to travel to both LA and New York City and many places in between. Which is where I am now. I've worked and lived in Europe, writing technical manuals, screenplays and my first book. Which is not my only book, but the only one that's published.

People that I have met in the writing business are some of the most interesting souls on this planet. Some are just less than average assholes with big egos, but we won't go there today.

It's one of those avocations that will be the same as it was 3,000 years ago, but different tomorrow, always moving to the next level. I didn't say whether this would be a higher or lower level. A topic for further discussion.

What I want to know, if I like doing this so much, how can they call it 'work'?

Striking Out, Instead of Joining Up

As I wander through the daily debris of the news, wonder turns to dismay.

What ever happened to unions and guilds supporting each other when one of them goes out on strike? The IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees) has warned the WGA about their actions. Like if you mess with our work, we will sue, or something to that effect. I won't go into details, the trade papers are full of the specifics.

In the old days, before lawsuits became the weapon of choice, unions and guilds would respect the strike of another and even go so far as to support it. When the Teamsters would shut down the trucking companies, the Longshoremen on the docks would honor their picket lines.

I can understand that there is a bit of an overlap with the IASTE having people doing animation writing and other stuff. Why hasn't there been an attempt to have these two groups meld and give them even more clout? Does it boil down to the old ego of the management scenario? After all, you see corporate mergers all the time to increase their strength in the marketplace. Why not these two groups?

Stay tuned for our next exciting episode...

Will the IASTE sue?

Will the WGA counter-sue?

Will the Great Strike of 2007 break Hollywood....

Does anyone really care?

Don't touch that remote!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hollywood Writers Strike

It's fall, there are leaves hitting the ground and lines being drawn in the sand. Hollywood is facing a writers strike. I had planned on flying out to LA to attend the Screenwriters Expo, but won't be doing that this year.

The thought of a writers strike is not good news. It means that the people who are supposed to work together in the movie business can't divide up the income from the product in a manner which is fair to all participants. The problem is that money has become the overriding concern.

The aspiring writers who I have met almost all mention two things that motivate them to write for the movies. The 'big money' and their ego, err, name on the 'big screen'. The serious ones write, whether they make money doing it or not.

Which comes down to the motivation. This strike, like many I have seen, is about leveraging power to redistribute the income from the product. Too many people are unwilling to accept the fact that the lines between writer/director/producer are blurring.

It's going to be an interesting situation. I would like to see it resolved to everyone's satisfaction. That's not going to happen. It will probably be like any deal. Someone is going to walk away from it feeling like they got the short end of the stick.

This could be the seismic shift that changes how movies and all video content are created and distributed in the future.

So, if they want, let them fight it out.

I've got work to do on my book.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

As The World Turns The Scribe Writes

Another day in the books and more words on the page.

What have you written and will time be good to it or will derision prevail? The never-ending lament of authors everywhere. It's difficult to write and much harder to accept the idea that it's worthless to some people.

Don't feel bad. Someone, somewhere will be glad to tell you how terrible your work is, even if they don't just ignore it to begin with. What do they know? You will always have your friends, Mom or some other admirer who will boost your ego.

Writing is the sublime torment that only an intelligent mind can appreciate.

The difficulty in finding a word or phrase to fit and convey the thought of the moment.

Once you have done this, it can ring down through the ages.

Few other things are so timeless.