Jers Novel Writer released

It’s just a bug fix release, and only a couple of bugs at that, but one of them was bad enough to warrant an interim release. will be coming out in a couple of weeks, with fixes to bugs that are merely annoying as well as one other nasty one.

On a side note, someone posted this over at the Hut:

I would like to thank Jer for all the work that has been put into this program. I used during NaNoWriMo 04, and intend to use the newest version for this year’s as well. The improvements in the last 10 months have been astounding, and I love JNW. Although it doesn’t make pearls of wisdom flow from my fingertips, it makes the flow of nonsense that is my usual writing easier, and makes the beating of said drivel into shape much less of a chore.

I do believe that no finer program exists for mac, and although I am a little shady in programs for windows, I have not encountered a description of a program I would even think of choosing over this one. In short, I love this program, and just wanted to voice my thoughts on the matter.

You can be sure that I will purchase the eventual commercial version as soon as is is available- it only seems right as I have been using this for almost a year now, and it has helped me so much.

Man, that made my day.

I wrote a story once

It was an odd tale; it started as sleep-deprived ravings but grew on me. It was an odd world, an agrarian culture, but without horses. Giraffes were the beast of burden.

There was a man in the village who no one liked. He had a bad temper, and sprayed saliva when he talked. No one mentioned that to him. He was out working his fields one day when his giraffe had a heart attack. That must be common among the swift ones; the heart has to maintain enormous pressure to keep the head nourished, perched way up there.

The man’s giraffe died and he sat there, out in his field, next to his dead animal, for three days. Then he packed what he could carry and left the village forever. The story was not about him.

In this world of odd mammals and random blinding rainstorms, metaphors had a disquieting concreteness. Promises were trees, and lies were death. I was big on the truth back then. Wombats would pursue their victims relentlessly across the grassland, but neither hunter nor hunted would voluntarily enter the forest. I think they were wombats. They sound more dangerous than platypuses. The plainsmen raised them to be particularly nasty.

I’m thinking of that story now, wistfully hoping to recapture its unfettered randomness and heavy symbolism. Fifteen years later, I seem to recall some good prose as well. Tonight I have been sitting, groping for some of that silliness, my prose prosaic. There are only so many hours you can spend editing your own work before you turn into a pile of dependent clauses and dangling participles, with nary an idea in sight.

It’s time for action! It’s time to recapture that old-school mild schizophrenia. All nighter! Yeah! Rock on!

Body Czech, Part II

I’m at the bowling alley, in my observer’s seat high above the blacklit lanes. It’s busy right now, but one foursome has caught my eye. They are two couples—a short blonde who has without a doubt earned the title hottie is with one of those tall, dark types, while her best friend the willowy brunette is with a reasonably tall, slightly pear-shaped guy.

Blondie knows how to bowl. She works with the ball the whole way down the lane. It is pleasant to watch and I suspect she knows that. When she gets back to the table, either celebrating success or mourning failure, she is welcomed by her boyfriend and much smooching and ass-grabbing ensues. That’s not unusual in these parts, and I thought little of it until I observed, high in my crow’s nest, the behavior of the other pair.

When willowy brunette comes back from the line, she will gently touch her man’s shoulders as she slips by. When he comes back from his adventure with ball and pin, he’ll put his hand on hers where it rests on the table. They are simple acts, unconscious, not meant to prove anything, secure in the simple joy of togetherness. So if you ask me which of the two are in love, the groping, smooching, rubbing-against-each-other couple, or the couple that is simply together because there’s no other way to be, you know what I’ll answer.

Cheap Beer Place

After writing that last bit I stayed in Cheap Beer Place perhaps a bit longer than I should have. I was nursing the beers and nursing the batteries, giving me plenty of staying power, but the ol’ laptop had been in my backpack quite a while when the three guys asked if they could share my table. Things were getting crowded in my section of the bar, after I had spent the afternoon as king and sole patron. Time had passed, shifts had changed, and my favorite waitress had given way to some new guy, who was obviously a rookie.

The three guys were all right. They were younger, Slovak, and there for the dancers. I’ve never been able to figure it out. Cheap Beer Place has, on seemingly random nights, girls who dance without very much on. They do this as the rest of the bar continues its normal vibe, ignoring them completely. They’re just part of the background. I think, if I was hired to be sexy (no worries there), it would suck to be completely ignored. But that’s how it goes, there.

The lads I was with actually approached the evening with much more gusto than the average customer. When the first dancer started they all moved their chairs around for a better view. They made little effort to include me in their conversation, but that was all right with me. Striped-shirt-guy even went over and talked to the dancer for a while, joking and chatting and getting nowhere with her. The dancer did her job, however; I decided to stay for one more beer. As my refreshment arrived so did three more guys, older men, also Slovak.

The mood at the table instantly soured. Striped-shirt-guy in particular was not happy to see the newcomers. One of the new three sidled up next to him and put his arm around the young guy. They left for a while. One of the other youngsters explained to me that we were the only two heterosexuals at the table. The elder batch gave off a predatory air. It gave me the creeps.

I don’t get hit on in bars. It’s just a simple fact. Well, while I was trying to flag down rookie waiter to pay and get the hell out of there (Prosim! Prosim! Zaplatim! dammit!) and the mood at the table was swirling down the crapper, I was hit on. Hard. With no subtlety whatsoever. He wasn’t vulgar (that I could tell), but he was persistent. I tried to absorb myself watching the dancers to, you know, give a hint. I’m not sure why I thought a hint would work, since “I like girls” and “NO, NEVER, EVER” (with gestures) hadn’t seemed to get the point across.

Finally rookie came by with my bill (prices have gone up at Cheap Beer Place). I stopped on the way out and told the dancer I thought she was very pretty – not a lie at all. She smiled and thanked me, also sincerely, as she slipped out of her top. What a crazy place.

Prague – the Homecoming

Soup Boy blew his knee (again), and is mobilistically impaired. He dropped me a line, saying he would be at Cheap Beer Place for the afternoon. What better place for me to reintegrate myself in my two-months-forgotten lifestyle? I walked in and as I was crossing to the table my favorite waitress asked (in czech, of course) “Beer, yes?” It was as if I had never left. I was kind of hoping for “Hey! Great to see you! Where’ve you been?” I was also dreading the greeting, since what smattering of czech I had has completely fled. “I’ve been in America, making a movie,” I was hoping to say in a suave, offhand, no-big-deal kind of way. Making a movie. Nothing to get excited about, but you’re welcome to gush and think I’m a big shot if you want. Unfortunately, even at the best of times I didn’t know past tense in Czech.

I would have settled for “nice haircut.”

But I’m here, and the words are coming. Soup Boy is an animator, a creative individual at that, and he’s stuck in a spot with a bunch of characters, a great setting, and a lot of potential, but no story.

Favorite waitress just passed, and I had my finger way in my ear. It was itchy. I looked stupid.

ANYway, Soup Boy is an animator, he wants to do little short bits with his characters. I looked at what he has and it’s Writer’s LEGO. Lots of good stuff to work with, the pieces fit in an infinite number of ways, and there’s no right answer. Heck, when God’s one of the characters, you have a lot of room for fun.

Now I am alone; Marcela has carted Soup Boy off to his job, leaving me here to Get Back to Work.

Post-Amy Stress Disorder

I slipped out of San Diego without saying goodbye – just a short phone conversation during her lunch break. I don’t like goodbyes all that much – better just to slip out the side door and move on. I didn’t even wait for Rory to drive me to the airport. I was done with Ocean Beach, my home for the past week, and ready to move on. I was tired.

Physically tired, certainly, and mentally weary as well. It’s been a grinding couple of months, and my stamina has been sapped. Crashing on the sofa of a whirlwind who is trying to figure out if she has a boyfriend or not, who loves wine a little too much, and finds sleep optional is not how you regain your energy. Luckily this time around Amy was starting a new job – a square job with square hours. That meant we only stayed up way too late three-qarters of the time, and I had mornings to recover while she had to go to work. “Have fun,” I’d croak as she passed the sofa on the way out the door. Then I’d roll over and try to sleep some more. That only worked once.

Ocean Beach is a small neighborhood, and is geographically isolated from the rest of the city. That means it has managed to hang on to some of its small-town charm, and it means that if you don’t have a car lying around your options are limited. It wasn’t long until I well knew all the places of interest. There was the brand-new amazingly cheap café with free Internet, run by a really weird guy. There were other, swankier places with Internet, but not for free. Once I had locked Amy’s door behind me I spent my days in those places, trying to string words together, but, in my frazzled state, editing was the activity of the day.

Then it was off to the O. B. Grille, which became my office in the late afternoons when I had no place left to go. This is where Amy knew to find me when she got off work, finished her evening activities and negotiations with Cute Boy, and was ready to play. There was no question of sneaking in any writing later, The only thing that ended the evening was sleep.

Now, in the calm after the storm, I miss that wildness, the unpredictability that is Amy. She is a tiny little Las Vegas, a loud and constant invitation to excess, all bundled up and ready to travel. You know when she is there. As the night begins, there is anticipation. Amy is grinning ear to ear, only a little bit crazy yet, and the night extends before us, a journey into the unknown. Somewhere along the way someone says “one more,” and you know it’s not just one more, and someone has to be the designated walker or you’re not getting home.

Like Las Vegas, that sort of lifestyle can only be sustained for a few days before the brain goes into rebellion, shuts down, and leaves you for another head. When you part with Amy, the rest of the world seems muffled; your ears are still ringing after a sternum-thumpingly loud concert. Cowering behind their defenses, your synapses are still tender, still skittish. When a stimulus punches through the scar tissue it rasps across your raw psyche like a cheese grater. You jump, the look of a trapped animal in your eyes, and blurt out “One more!” You are suffering from PASD, Post-Amy Stress Disorder. It’s in the medical books. Look it up.

As I was driving through the desert my thoughts began to slide into their old grooves; a story was born, teased, and buried (one little bit stashed away for future use). There were too many cars for a Saturday. I sighed, relieved, disappointed, adrift, vaguely missing something, already looking forward to the next time I enter Amy’s world.

Bud Light is Horrible

I got some decent work done tonight, hanging at my new Ocean Beach headquarters, getting my baseball fix. I moved one short story to the next level, thanks in large part to Jojo’s criticism. (There is nothing more valuable to a writer than a good critic. I am blessed with several. Friends who back you no matter what are one thing, friends who tell you when you’re full of it are another, and are infinitely better friends.) It was not a word count day at all, I was weighing each word carefully, climbing inside its implications, weighing the symbolism, and generally having a good ol’ time.

Amy called. “I left the door open for you,” she said.

“So, then, you’re going out tonight.” She is still trying to make things work with her ex. Last night it was “Screw him! I don’t need that shit!” Things have changed in the last 24, it seems.

“Uh, yeah. But help yourself to anything in the fridge.”

I am home now. The beer in the fridge is not beer. It’s Bud Light. I popped a bottle open, thinking to myself, “I’ve had worse,” but swallowing was difficult, and I can think of no reason to put more of that into my mouth. It is bad. Really, really bad. It redefines awful. In the short term, it is worse than getting your teeth knocked out by an angry Russian hockey player who hasn’t bathed since 1984. Long term, it’s a tossup. [Exercising the journalistic restraint for which I am justifiably well-renowned, I have deleted the reference to the vomit of a rabid pit bull who ate a skunk road kill that had been baking under the Texas sun while buzzards pooped on it.] Bud Lite is bad, bad, bad.

If Bud Lite had no taste at all, that would be an improvement. But for all that it doesn’t have very much taste, what little it does have is retchingly nasty. I am staring at the new stylish bottle, and I know I am looking at one of the world’s most popular beers, and I am flabbergasted. People drink this crap on purpose! I’ve heard them, in bars, requesting the stuff when other beers are available.

That’s not to say that any other pisswater lite beer is any better; I just haven’t had the pleasure lately. But people, please! When you drink this stuff, the terrorists have won.

Steelers, Eagles, and Rose

Public transportation here is expensive and inefficient; it took two hours and three busses to get from Ocean Beach to Mira Mesa. I had plenty to read, however, so the trip was pleasant enough. I spent part of the time trying to remember czech words. Ty vole! That didn’t go well.

No matter. After an hour at the library checking up on the media empire I headed over to my former home away from home. Larry, the manager, had the nerve to have his laptop opened up at my table (the one near a plug), so I bellied up to the bar for a while. Rose was working, so it was an easy choice anyway.

It wasn’t long before we were back in the same old easy rhythm. We all chatted about sports, Pittsburgh sports in particular, and by great fortune the Steelers were playing last night. Fortunate because it meant Rose stayed after her shift to watch the game. Jocelyn told me it was time for a haircut. Travis came on duty and the bar continued to ebb and flow the way it always had.

One thing that was odd, though – Rose didn’t break a single glass.


Funny how that works

I’m in a bar, trying to close out the last paragraph of a story that might even be good. There is a woman to my right, blonde and shrill. She is a graduate student studying law. She is pretty. She is an obnoxious self-promoting blowhard. I would never be tempted to date her, no matter what she looked like.

Funny thing is, as I sit at my laptop, scruffy and absorbed, the prospect of us dating likely never even occurred to her. She may not even know I’m here. So while I’m actively repelled by her, I haven’t achieved that stature with her.

Which is worse?

Into the Valley of the Pizza Rat

I was one of the fortunate few to be selected for an extra-thorough security check at the airport yesterday, just another part of the government trying to make you feel safer by inconveniencing you. I have nothing against the people who have to carry out the illusion, however, and I had plenty of time to burn, so it was no big deal. Certified as USDA Grade-A safe, I climbed into a metal cylinder, took my seat, and a couple of hours later I was in San Diego. My bag, it seems, took a shortcut and was waiting for me when I arrived.

As I stood in the airport I was blindsided my Amy and the fun began.

If, that is, you count Chuck E. Cheese as fun. Amy has family visiting, and the family has kids of just the right age to enjoy a place like that. I had never been in one of those places before, but my mind was filled with horrific images of kids juiced up on caffeine and sugar, running around and screaming and puking on someone dressed up as a rat. I walked in and the first sound to hit my ears, the vanguard of the audio assault, was the wail of a crying child. Oh, grand.

In the end, it was not as bad as I feared. The children were running loose, bouncing from video game to video game, but the noise was low enough to make conversation possible. The place is, simply, Las Vegas for kids. Slot machines have been replaced by other games, and the payout is in tickets redeemable only at the casino for junk that you wouldn’t want to buy anywhere else, but the kids have the look of slot machine junkies, automatons plugging in a coin, running the game, and watching the string of tickets slowly growing at their feet. They are hoping for the big score, the lucky break that converts a single quarter into 200 tickets.

I met Amy’s mother and sister. I have been corresponding with Nicole off and on for some time; Amy has long harbored ideas of hooking us up. This put a great deal more significance on the meeting, but I tried not to think about that. Naturally we had each formed images of what the other looked like, and I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t think I made as strong an impression. My best is none too good, but I was looking scruffier than usual. Shoulda planned a little better. I sat down and nibbled leftover pizza and didn’t try to force the conversation. Eventually the two kids ran out of tokens, and after the ritual Selection of the Prizes we were on our way. I had walked through the valley of the Pizza Rat and lived to tell the tale.

Amy drove as only Amy can, to the horror of her mother. Green Bay was playing, and she wanted to get somewhere with the game on TV before she missed the whole thing. We raced back to the hotel where the family is staying and made a break for the bar there. We arrived in time to watch the last thirty seconds of the game. The place had wireless Internet access, however, so while I was there I popped open the laptop and discovered that someone had crashed Jer’s Novel Writer and his file had become corrupted – very bad – and I had managed to piss off one of the main guys behind the Duke City Shootout – also not good.

Not sure just how I gave offense, but without Christopher Coppola there likely wouldn’t have been a Shootout this year at all, and that means he is directly responsible for our opportunity to make Pirates. It is very cool what he and the other organizers have done (an episode dedicated to them is on the way someday), and perhaps in my exuberance I appeared ungrateful somewhere along the way. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There is no other festival like the Shootout, and no better opportunity for aspiring film writers that I know of.

So maybe I deserved a little wake-up call to remember to say thanks to these guys, but it didn’t do much for my mood last night or this morning. Knowing one of my faithful beta testers lost some work (not too much, fortunately – he had backups) didn’t help. What did help my mood was Amy. We made it back to her place and just sat and shot the breeze like in the old days. I got the rundown on her life and the juicy gossip about her friends, managed to get a word in edgewise every now and then, and slowly faded.

Then Amy wanted to go to a bar. I wasn’t enthusiastic, but I wasn’t ready to give up on the camaraderie, so off we went for one shot and one beer. The shot was horrible, some kind of mixture that was sweet and clingy. I don’t know why things like that exist at all – if you’re just going to throw it down your throat, why not use some cheap-ass booze and be done with it? The beer was good, though. Stone Pale Ale.

Amy had to get up early this morning; I didn’t. They are all at Legoland right now, and I’m thinking about breakfast and wondering where I can find Internet. It’s almost like I never left.

Gettin’ Googly with it

People search the Web for all kinds of stuff. It’s good for that. However, sometimes things go terribly wrong and the searcher ends up here, where there is almost no chance they will find what they are looking for. Sometimes the search itself is interesting, however. Here is a smattering of phrases that search engines decided related to MR&HBI. As usual, key words I want to keep pointing to the original episode where they appeared are obfuscated with spaces.

  • pronunciation becherovka – I’m no expert, but the more you drink the easier the pronounciation gets
  • slivovice – like the above, linked to the bars tour category page
  • this might pinch needle – top link, for some reason. It came to an episode like this one.
  • “i love the r o a d” – top hit! Links to an episode I rather like.
  • z e p t e r vacuum cleaner – went to the Roma Time Warp episode. I wonder how Z e p t e r feels that I score higher than they do on the search. Maybe they’d pay me to plug the Diavolo.
  • genetive czech preposition – yes, someone came to this site hoping to learn something about czech. Scary.
  • “you have to do stupid things” – Top match on Google, and why not? When it comes to stupid, I’m an expert.
  • alpha romeo faults – out of many choices on the AOL search, came to a page like this one.
  • alice b e n d o v á bikini – Alice has been bringing in several visitors. I wonder if the czech who did this search appreciated what (presumably) he found.
  • in the forest, does it make a sound? – top match on Google led to an episode like this one.
  • pitchers of the fresh prince of bel-air – it’s that damn misspelling again.
  • s w e a t cheese – mmm, s w e a t cheese.
  • you’re as indigent as i am – I’ve slipped in the rankings since that visit, but this episode I rather like.
  • “Pirates of the White Sand” – not long after the Duke City Shootout winners were announced, someone was a-googlin for it.
  • bitchin poem – second place out of 11,000, baby!
  • alcohol and “yellow sick” – linked to an episode like this one.
  • “brian votaw” – Holy crap! There’s more than one of them! Linked to a czech lesson
  • cheskie pullerthis tale of travel in the Czech Republic was not only the top match, it was the only one
  • “ruthie + miguel” – just part of the growing buzz around Pirates.
  • but I will go through the valley if you want me to – but will they reach the bosom of b o b b i ?
  • San Angelo radio sucks
  • Lincoln+ragtop – top hit, baby!
  • being unemployed sucks – linked to an episode where I make exactly the opposite case
  • Expose bosom – Ahhh, B o b b i again.
  • whale blowhole dynamite – links, in an unlikely convergence, with the story of J o j o becoming my beer s l a v e . (By the way, I am ranked at the top of Google for the phrase “beer s l a v e”)
  • hollywood bang half up half down hairstyles – I am not the guy to consult about things like that.
  • a u t o m o b i l i z a t i o n of America – alluded to often, but mentioned here
  • wear a red carnation and stand under the big clock – linked to the stories category page
  • new york sucksyes, it does. Good rebuttals in the comments, though.
  • no miniskirts after 35 – there, I have to disagree. There are plenty of women who are downright dangerous in a miniskirt long past their 35th birthday.
  • sex gogs with girls – mmmm… gogs.
  • bicycle blimp – linked to a popular get-poor-quick scheme
  • eunuch sex life – I’m not proud of being found by that phrase, but not surprised.
  • confirmation of r e g u l a r i z a t i o n – the searcher was probably looking for mathematical theory, but instead was lured in by this.
  • RUBBER ALIEN PROPS TO PURCHASE – linked to the main page here, but was mostly attracted to talk of props for Pirates
  • Los Lunas scary places – also attracted to various bits of pirate chatter
  • B l a c k H o l e Thrift Store Los Alamos – a well-named establishment.
  • beauty big ass – more interesting than the connection to my page about big-ass beers, Roger Ebert had the top match for this phrase.
  • poems on chickens – you’ve got your poetry slam and your poetry barnyard scramble. I think the latter would be more fun to watch.
  • stroming my pay with his fingers – it was a german who did this search. Inexplicably the Eels category page was the top hit.
  • r e u s a b l e space capsule – it seemed like a good idea until I did the math.
  • how to sell a refrigerator to eskimos – linked to the Bars of the World Tour category page. Why? Only Google knows
  • “bare legs” cold winter girls japan 2005 – and make sure there’s none of those crappy 2004 pics in there! The Japan-bare legs-winter search is actually fairly common. Linked to an episode like this one.
  • The Joy Of M i n i s k i r t s – amen, brother!
  • women in real jail pants – I do mention pants and jail in an episode, but I don’t think that’s what this searcher was looking for.

  • pics of giant rattlesnakes found in West Virginia
    – linked to the homeless tour category page, where there are no rattlesnakes
  • i wold want to now where i can go to (play games of Tinker Bell) – Wow. A convergence of various Get-Poor-Quick schemes brought the searcher here.
  • “fern bar”+definition – linked to an episode like this one
  • lost squirrel secret stash – an odd thing to search for on the Internet – unless, perhaps, you’re a squirrel. Linked, of course, to the SSDC page.

Of course there are the usual suspects – eggs, x-ray gogs, and now A l i c i a B e n d o v a . Lou Reed and P o w e r of P o s i t i v e D r i n k i n g have been popular as well. What does it all mean? Not one damn thing.


Back to the bay

The festival over, the parties past, fuego and I took refuge up in Los Alamos for a few days. fuego took care of some personal stuff and we didn’t start fretting about getting back to the editing bay for several hours.

We were caught in the space-warping effects of the Black Hole – days slipped by, but there was no word when we would be able to start editing Pirates. I got some writing done (mostly editing existing works in progress) and fuego started a draft of the pilot/feature version of our movie. I found it difficult to collaborate, though, for two reasons: I had other stories on my mind and we needed a place we could drop into an insulated cocoon and just throw ideas around. Towards the end I was getting back into the mood, and started being more helpful.

Friday we finally got word. There would be facilities available off and on, and we could get started on Saturday. There is one editing station, shared by all the teams, so access may be sporadic. Honestly, though, most of the other films don’t need it as much as we do. Simpler ideas, simpler shots, no disasters in editing, the other movies were closer to being presentable. fuego and I hopped in the car and swept back in the Duke City Saturday morning.

Somewhere along the Santa Fe bypass, about halfway to the big city, fuego said, “I forgot the keys to the Hotelsmobile.” That meant until we got back to Los Alamos we would only have one car, and the giant Olds would remain stationed outside the the Byrne’s house, props we need to return securely locked within. Oh, well.

The editing facilities we found were really nice. Charles the First and fuego set to work, making sure all the bits were there and getting a general feel for what needed to be done. I was simply there to provide an occasional opinion: “We need the sound of the engine roaring there.” “The timing feels a little off.” That kind of thing.

In only a few minutes they had gone over the first part and were busily making changes. I watched as the things gradually improved, from more consistent background sound, better balance of exposure and color between shots, to improved timing of lines. (Note to self – there’s still one pause that bothers me.) Still not perfect, but much better. As the intro improved, so did my spirits. We were going to have something to show people. Eventually.

Next came the opening credits. They needed work for a variety of reasons, from confusing cuts in the map sequence to misspelled names. Misspelled names. My hair stood up when I found out about those. I had created a list of names, and every cast member had checked off on the spelling of their name. I had delivered that list to the guys doing the credits. “Do NOT use the spreadsheet. Use this list.” I said. “The spreadsheet has errors and is not complete.” I said this more than once, to more than one person. They had used the spreadsheet initially because the list was not available yet, but then they never went back and checked their work.

While C-1 and fuego tackled the animated sequence (with lots of more-or-less welcome input from me), I set to work trying to repair the credit graphics. The only catch: I don’t have the list anymore. I had given it to those guys. I hope I can track it down, or people may be left out. Also, I don’t have the original layered file they used to create the credit graphics, so I spent much of the afternoon trying to reconstruct the original background graphic using bits and pieces of various credit screens. So, I was a bit grumpy as I worked away trying to fix mistakes I felt were unnecessary. Also, I was getting hungry.

The good news for the credits is, now that we are not so strictly bound to the 1-minutes for credits rule, names will stay on the screen long enough for people to read them.

Progress on the credits was slow. We were trying to put all the transitions to the beats of the drum, and use the music as a guide. For one drum roll we created a stop-action animation feel, zooming in and sweeping north along the treasure path. (Note to self – I think we tried to travel too far on those beats). We were not done with the credits when the guys who own the place said they had to go. They had given up a large chunk of their Saturday to be there. They made sure all our stuff was squared away so they could transfer the project to another machine, then gently kicked us out. That was fine with me, I was starving by then.

The first step now is to make the slightly longer, more polished version of the flick that showed at the shootout. The next step, which may take weeks, is to beg, borrow, and steal time to recut the movie the way it should be. Big Byte, a data storage company here in town that hosted the original editing for the shootout, will have one station available for crews to use. They are very generous to make that available, but we had wanted to edit on our own gear on our own schedule. Unfortunately this is impossible as we are not allowed to copy any media from the original shoot. (Not to self: I bet Coppola has copies of his original footage.)

I will probably not wait here for the full version to be completed. I have places to go, people to see, and a language to unforget. It’s summer in Prague. I need an agent. I need a bar with cheap beer within walking distance of the place I’m sleeping. I need to write something.


Back to the Central Ave. Grill

There aren’t many places to go in Los Alamos when one wants to sit and write, but the Central Avenue Grill is one of those places. Jojo wanted to join us for a writing session, and we agreed to meet there.

The place has big garage doors that open onto Central Avenue (the name of the place, while not terribly creative, is certainly descriptive), and they were wide open to let in the fresh mountain air and a handful of flies. I chose a table right by the windows, we ordered pricey beers, and quickly we set to work, fuego and I on laptops while Jojo had some sort of tool that applied ink to flat sheets of some material based on wood pulp. Very interesting technology – it doesn’t even require electricity.

I was working on revisions to a longer short story based on some excellent feedback Jojo had provided on a previous draft. I needed some pretty big changes to take advantage of the opportunities I had missed in the first draft. fuego was working on the new, bigger Pirates screenplay.

Outside, it began to rain. At first it was just a few big, fat stray drops, but eventually it grew into a real storm complete with thunder and lightning. We sat and enjoyed felt the mood of the entire town lift (or maybe it was just me). You know you’re in the desert when rain is cause of great celebration. Perhaps the overdue cycle of afternoon thunderstorms was finally revving up.

Jojo had other things to do and left, but fuego and I persevered. We had to vacate our first table because it was reserved, then we were chased from the next by the sound man. Yes, a band was beginning to set up. We found another table, this one near an outlet, so we could continue to work. I think things were going better for me than for fuego that day, but that’s how it goes, sometimes.

In the end we listend to a band with an enormous amount of new equipment do passable covers of Dave Matthews and people like that, and an occasional song by bands I liked. The singer had a sweet voice and played piano well, but she was not angry enough on some of the songs. She was also very, very, attractive. I wrote through much of the gig, finally finishing another draft of Old Town. I probably should have read it over the next morning before sending it to Jojo, but it’s too late now. I’m thinking now I may have succumbed to three-beer sappiness in a couple of spots.

All in all, a good day in the Atomic City, with beer, friends, music, writing, and even a little bit of dancing.

The Cast and Crew

the whole crew

I will not list them all here – my apologies to those not mentioned. Not being listed here is in no way in indication that someone was unimportant. This blog is all about me, and the people here are the ones who had the largest effect on me. Note that, except where I am given permission to use a person’s real name, I am using pseudonyms. People are listed in the order I think of them.

My brother, co-writer of Pirates, and director. If you’ve been paying attention, you know all about him. Before writing Pirates, I never knew collaboration could be so fun.

I also refer to him as Rudy fairly often. Although he had experience on a few films he had never been a producer before. Soon after we were notified of our winning the Fellini award, fuego and I began to get emails from Rudy. He had gone through the script and was already putting together the team to make the movie work. He notified us of potential problem areas and what he was doing about them. “I like this guy!” I wrote to fuego. I still do. He worked hard, long hours, juggled dozens of priorities, and when the tide changed he went with the flow, bending without breaking. He embodies one of the key lessons of this whole adventure: You don’t get what you want if you don’t ask. From the Crusader to the Director of Photography to the helicopter, Rudy got what he wanted.

She can build furniture and charm a car dealer out of a couple of SUV’s. I’ve already written about her, so I won’t go into detail here. I do wonder, though, if she’s read that other bit. Kinda makes me nervous.

Seldom Seen Smith
As the name implies, Seldom is most notable for his absence. Every crew was assigned a mentor, an industry veteran to guide them through the moviemaking process. Seldom has directed a couple of major motion pictures, and although we felt we had things under control it would have been nice to at least hear from him. Finally I heard through the grapevine that he was working on a different project and the schedule had been stretched. You can’t blame a guy for that, but it would have been nice to get at least an email from the guy explaining the situation. In the end, he was a bad example of how the business works.

The actor who eventually came to play Moab was critical for the casting of not just pirates, but for all the movies. It was he that guided (or misguided in a couple of cases) the actors during auditions. I was the only writer to participate directly in casting, so Moab was left to interpret the other scripts on his own. Moab is Pirate through and through. During casting he said he was not available on the first days of shooting because he had a big pirate ho-down to attend. He is a member of The Society for Creative Anachronism, in a section specializing in pre-flintlock pirates. He had all the gear, and even before we cast him had loaned us a bunch of swords and other props. Aye, maties, Moab be a pirate, and his leadership skills showed as the pirates came together as a unit.

Louie is a big guy, friendly and enthusiastic, and had been taking courses in film production. He had some camera experience, but on our film was assigned to the sound crew, where he had no experience at all. He was there to help, no doubt about it, and didn’t want to miss any part of the production. I was a little worried during casting, when he would make noise while people were reading for parts in other movies. It wasn’t that he was impolite, far from it. He was one of the nicest guys around. He just wasn’t quite aware of all the things expected of him. He would require careful guidance on set, with lots of feedback, in order to perform well during production. He didn’t get it.

Smithers was not directly part of our crew. He had the unenviable job of getting seven movie productions going simultaneously. He is an intense, just-so hardass who will repeat himself many many times after the matter has been decided. He can be frustrating to work with, and made it difficult to get the resources we needed. A festival like Duke City Shootout would not work without someone like him.

Seldom Seen Smith Jr.
Perhaps an unfair monniker. SSS Jr. was assigned to us as Assistant Director after our first one had to quit before we even got started. Seldom Jr. was working on Wildfire, some sort of TV series filmed in New Mexico, but he had never been an AD before. He arranged to take the days we would be shooting off of work so he could help us. The thing is, much of the AD’s work comes before the shooting starts. AD is a vital planning and communications role. No one had explained the role of an AD to him, and the people who assigned him that role this time made no effort to fill him in, or even to see if he was available to do it. fuego ended up doing much of the AD work himself, with some support from Rudolph.

Our Director of Photography was one of the most respected camera guys in the state, the guy who taught many of the other camera people participating in the festival. He came with a whole truckload of equipment as a bonus. An easygoing, funny guy, he had the knowhow to get things done, and had plenty of good suggestions for improving shots. He brought along with him several other key people.

We were burning through mentors faster than Joan Collins through husbands. When would it end? Would we have a mentor when the shooting started? Other teams had established actors (Adrian from Rocky, for instance) or Hollywood producers. We were doing all right on our own, but feeling kind of left out. One night, with shooting immanent, we get word that our latest mentor had flaked, but the home office had lined up another. Enter Pablo. He’s not some hollywood big shot, but he is a grizzled veteran of Shootouts past, and he knows what it takes to get things done. He strength is editing, which fit beautifully with our needs. He and Charles the First had worked together before, and knew how to move as a team.

Charles the First
Our lead editor lost his day job just in time to give us his all. Chuck 1 is skilled, abrasive and outspoken. “I know Chuck is not for everyone,” he told me one night. After one meeting where he told Smithers he thought a particular policy was stupid, we forbade Charles I from speaking to Smithers ever again. Alas, this policy was impractical and he went on to piss off Smithers on more than one occasion. In the editing bay he was often the first one to find a problem with the equipment, and he had no problem being the squeaky wheel. C-One gets it done, and he’s not afraid to tell you that. He is also a master of barbecue ribs.

Charles the Second
C-2 is another old friend of fuego’s, and a long-time veteran of the film biz. When he learned of our impending production, he managed to hollow out a tiny space in his schedule, rented a car, and drove out from Los Angeles to operate our second camera. Smithers really didn’t want us to have a second camera. I never heard the end of it. Giovanni was OK with it, so long as it was clear the he was the Director of Photography. So we had a second camera. It was a tough job; one day he was forced to drive around the southern half of the state in a car with two of our prettiest crew members. He had to leave as soon as shooting was done, much to the disappointment of Cynthia.

Corky, our innovative makeup guy, was also responsible for making the alien fetus in a jar. Not only was he makeup, he was our set Emergency Medical Technician, and overall mother hen. No one was going to get sunburn when he was around, by damn! He made our pirates into ugly SOB’s, concentrating most of his uglification on Kentucky Jack, giving him as misshapen nose and covering him with scars. One of his best moves was to bring Cynthia on as his assistant.

Well, what’s to say? Nothing, if you’re Cynthia. No worries about her making noise on the set. By the end of the week we heard complete sentences from her, and I even had a conversation or two. She was part of the makeup team. It’s easy to overlook the contribution of people like her on set – when you don’t have to delay shots because the actor has gotten too shiny, all you know is that things are going well. She’s probably going to be pissed that I spilled the beans about Charles the Second, although Corky spilled them to me.

I started breathing easier when Archie volunteered and was assigned to our team. Need a boat wheel that fits on the steering wheel of a car? “When can I see the car?” On and on like that. Archie knows tools, and knows how to weld up an anchor out of spare staircase parts. Archie knows tools, and he has tools, but he can’t use them at home; he lives in a teepee and has no electricity.

Giovanni has taken this young lady under his wing, convinced she has talent as a camera operator. I’m not one to judge that stuff, but she is a vivacious, outgoing, and totally hot film student. She was dreafted onto the set by Giovanni and did a good job making herself useful. Hot she may be, but she’s also nice to have around.

Dog Bone
Biker, actor, and general hell-raiser. The organizers knew him, and asked us to make him a pirate. At the same time, they were asking him if he wanted to be a pirate. We each thought we were doing a favor for the other. It was cool, though. He was a great pirate, but the stories he had to tell were even better. How many Asian prostitutes was that again, Bone?

Kentucky Jack
A lawyer in a former life, the actor who played Kentucky Jack was actually part of the legal battles surrounding the treasure story we based Pirates on. Our X on the treasure map in the credits is reasonably accurate, thanks to him. We have footage of him becoming Kentucky Jack: First one of his eyes pops open, then the other, this his mouth one bit at a time, until he is transformed into the craziest of the pirate crew. It’s awesome. Kentucky Jack was also the source of some excellent ideas which found their way into the production. On the last day he came up to me and said, “I know what we need! A midget!”

Compared to the rowdy boisterousness of the pirate, our Ruthie was a down-to-earth actress. Her performances were not always consistent, but she steadily improved during the shoot. Chemistry between Ruthie and Moab was, well, not smooth, but they put that aside when the camera was rolling.

We almost lost Izzy to another film in the Shootout, but luckily for us he decided to go with this role, despite having almost no lines. He is a terrific physical actor, and the chemistry between him and Moab was tremendous. His quirky, odd character was a show-stealer.