It's been a bit, hasn't it? I just remembered you and the realization that I hadn't written in so long sent me into a tailspin of guilt. Granted, we've had a lot going on (more on that here). And don't think I haven't been writing. I have.
Oh, how I've been writing.
When last I corresponded, I was in the middle of the second draft of Phileas Reid. I'm still in the second draft of Phileas Reid. I've taken a small break from Phileas to write a web series. It's a story I had three years ago (or longer, depending on when you're reading this) back in the spring of 2010, but I've sat on it till now.
It's called Illumination, Inc. and the reason I've sat on this sci-fi rom-com for so long is that I've had a hard time figuring it out. The story hasn't changed, but I've had a hard time figuring out how to tell it. The original thought and outline for the story was as a feature-length film. But not having the money to bring that film into fruition kept me from committing too much time to writing it. So I flirted with turning into a novel or a graphic novel but neither really seemed to suit it.
Illumination, Inc. is and was always a cinematic story idea. So when I heard that Point of View Pictures, the production company run by my long-time partner-in-crime Tom Goddard, was gearing up to produce a web series this summer, inspiration struck. I called up Tommy and pitched him Illumination, Inc. He loved it, which meant I had to write it.
Knowing that you're writing for a production that doesn't have a budget, you really need an idea that's bigger than the story you're telling. That's the key element in all my favorite independent films. The writer/director finds a big idea and then uses a small story to explore that idea. The big idea overshadows the small story and makes the entire production seem grander. For great examples of this, check out Pi, Primer, Reservoir Dogs and District 9. Another way to distract from your small budget and small production is to fill your production with talent. See also: Garden State and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.
At the heart of Illumination, Inc. is the idea of being able to control your dreams and live out whatever fantasies you have. You couple that with the romantic idea of finding the person of your dreams and you have the basic foundation of the web series.
Illumination, Inc. will be a seven episode web series that will be filmed locally (in and around Chattanooga, Tennessee) this summer (2013). Post production is scheduled to begin in August with a tentative release scheduled for this fall.
You can check out the website for it here, like it on Facebook here, and follow my (hopefully) more regular writing updates here.
I'm reading the first draft and boy, is it rough. There's the occasional passage or paragraph that makes me smile with pride, but most of these sentences are making my shudder. I still like the story and I try to remind myself of that: This story is good. It just needs to be told better. The reader deserves that. And I need to be able to sleep at night, knowing I've crafted the best book I could and that it's not out there, embarrassing me.
I was in my house. It was one of those situations where you've never been in the building before, but you intrinsically know that it's your home. I was all alone, wandering the empty halls and rooms looking for something. In the nursery, I found a chest. In the chest were old yearbooks, photographs, and the thing I had been looking for: A beat-up notebook.
I began flipping through the notebook. It was filled with old and abandoned ideas. There were story outlines, character descriptions, and questions that had once meant something to me but now I couldn't remember what they were connected to. Exploring the notebook filled me with an intense melancholy. There was so much unfulfilled potential.
Then, as if alive, the pages began pulling away from me. They ripped themselves out of the book. They began flying around the room. As they flew, they filled the room. It was an avalanche of ink-filled paper. I tried to crawl to the door, but the ideas couldn't sustain my weight. I began to sink. I tried to swim, but to no avail.
I woke up, sweaty and clammy. My fever was broken and a deep, disturbing chill was clinging to my chest.
As I begin the second draft of Phileas Reid Knows We're Not Alone, I want to get the ball rolling on the next step, which is publication. The dream, of course, is to be able to walk into any given book store and find copies of this adventure in the young adult section -- which means I'm preparing myself for a lot of rejection letters from a lot of major publishing companies. But I want them to understand what they'll be saying "no" to, should they -- when they -- opt to say "no." I want to put together a mock book for them. I'll send the manuscript in several formats for their own ease of reading, but I also want to send them the most complete idea of what the book could and can be. I also want to edit together a teaser trailer/pitch for them to watch, using all this same art. I want it to be hard for them to say "no, thanks." Which brings me to the subject line of this post: I need an artist. You don't need to have any kind of professional experience. This is going to be my first book, it could be your first book too. I'm looking for strong character and graphic design. Because, ultimately, everyone might say "no" to this book. But I believe in it. I believe in the characters and I believe in the story. While still a bit rough, I think it's great. So if the publishers don't want it, we're going to Kickstart or Indiegogo or fundraise it ourselves and publish and sell it ourselves. And if that's what happens, we'll already have the cover art. So if you're interested, or know someone you think might be interested, please pass this blog post on. You, or they, can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll discuss terms, rates, and swap ideas to find out if this is the right project for us. Thanks!
Stop looking at me like that. I haven't been ignoring -- well, okay, actually, that's a lie. I have been avoiding you, but it's been for a good cause. I've just completed the first draft of what will hopefully be the first of many adventures of Phileas Reid. It started like this:
And ended like this:
I've had a great many distractions, but I've finally completed the first draft. It only took me seven months. I feel like I should have been able to write it faster, I may have even gone an entire month without writing anything at all, so distracted and exhausted was I from the link above. But it's done. Not completely not at all, but it's done.
I'm going to give myself a week or so before I sit down and read the entire thing start to finish. I need to find all of its weaknesses and bludgeon them into perfection. To accomplish this, I need to be more subjective. I already know there's far too many "he said" and "she said." But I want to be able to see what plot points don't work or what story elements need to be strengthened or what characters I completely forgot to give a satisfactory ending to. Not only am I giving myself a week before reviewing it, I've sent it to a few near, dear, and trusted friends who will not think twice in crushing my spirit with their merciless reviews.
Then . . . then it's off to the publishers and my dreams will be in the hands of English majors.
I'm not sure if I like pretending these are from someone who can't remember how the script really went, or if these are from some abandoned first draft of these now-famous scripts. The first one (from Apocalypse Now) came from Stop Podcasting Yourself. The rest (and future ones) are mine.
Everything I write has a soundtrack. I find music that matches the tone of what I'm writing and create a playlist that I'll listen to as I write. It's not something I stick to fanatically, if I'm in the mood to listen to Henry Jackman's score for X-Men: First Class, then I listen to Henry Jackman's score for X-Men: First Class.
But sometimes I need something to remind me why I'm writing what I'm writing. Or I need something to remind me of what tone I'm trying to strike with this story. When I'm writing about the kids on Oasis, I listen to the music of Michael Giacchino and Ramin Djawadi. When I'm writing the adventures of Doctor Phileas Reid, the playlist is almost exclusively Alan Silvestri and Murray Gold.
Sony has just announced that they are releasing Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy on Blu-Ray. Never mind they've already released it on Blu-Ray. This set comes with new special features never before seen on Blu-Ray! And "hey, I just bought PhotoShop, I wonder what I can do with it" cover art.
First, the original DVD art for the trilogy:
Say what you will about these movies (I enjoy them all but love the first two), this is some great cover art. Simple, stylized, iconic, and compelling. They make you want to pick them up, turn them over, and find out more about this red and blue tight-wearing superhero. What does Sony choose over these for their "new and improved" Blu-Ray release?
What the what?
Who signed off on these? It's as if Sony is trying to retroactively make everyone hate Sam Raimi's trilogy.
I've become increasingly perplexed by America's curious relationship with the concept of freedom. We believe we are absolutely entitled to it and that no-one can take it away and to even suggest we forfeit certain privileges is a violation of our constitutional rights. We've become so far removed from the events that created and sculpted the Constitution (not to mention the Bill of Rights) that we've forgotten the colossal sacrifices previous generations have had to make.
"Sacrifice" is another word that seems to have been co-opted by a specific group of people. "Sacrifice," especially when it relates to "freedom" now only applies to the men and women in our military. I in no way want to downplay the significant role the military has played in securing not only our freedom but the freedom of others around in the world. What men and women in the military (along with their families) have sacrificed these 300 years is incalculable. I recognize that and am humbled by it. But what of the civilian sacrifices? What about the men and women who have lived in this country who have had to sacrifice certain freedoms for the greater good of society? What about the minority groups who have had to live in the shadow of the majority, hoping to one day have the equal rights the majority of Americans enjoy? What about the sacrifices activists have had to make to ascertain equal liberty for all American citizens?
A sense of entitlement is infecting America. The sense of entitlement isn't specific to one party or one group of people. Everyone feels entitled to something. What's disturbing about the "entitlement" phase of our relationship to freedom is that it negates any sacrifice I might have to make but demands the sacrifice of others. Why do we feel so entitled? What have we done to earn or deserve this freedom? And if the majority are entitled to these freedoms, why isn't the minority entitled to such freedom?
You religion. Your guns. Your right to an abortion. Your right to marry whoever you choose. Your health. Your privacy. Your education. Your right to speak your mind. Your job. The money you earn. Your home. Your comfort. A trial with a jury made up of your peers in which you are innocent until proven guilty. The safety net of welfare.
What would you be willing to sacrifice for the freedom of others?
I've been struggling to find my narrative voice. I never had a creative writing teacher that challenged me (except the exceptional Dr Byrd) and so I've had to find my own voice and my own style when it comes to my writing. It seems like such a natural, why-should-anyone-have-to-worry-about-that sort of thing.
For the last ten years, I've cultivated my "screenwriter" voice, a voice that speaks to directors, producers, and actors. It tells everyone involved in the filmmaking process exactly what they need to know, painting a vivid picture of the scene, explaining why and how it's happening, but ultimately leaves the specifics up for interpretation. For a screenplay, that's fine. For a screenplay, that's great. But I like prose that's vivid. I like words that come alive and transport you somewhere as they paint intricate scenes, characters, and locations. While books are a medium for the imagination, I crave specificity.
Which is why I've been struggling with the opening chapters of Oasis (its working title). The words aren't connecting. Everything feels clunky and everything sounds like I'm trying so hard -- which is, quite frankly, something new for me. Writing is easy. It's exciting. It's relaxing. It's freeing. It's not hard work.
Kelly kept telling me to relax and stop thinking about it. "That's when you write your best stuff," she said, "when you just have fun with it." But I couldn't. I couldn't have fun with it. I wrestled with every sentence, despite the fact that the story I'm telling is a fairly light one, filled with drama and childhood trauma, sure, but I want to veer more into adventure than horror.
Then I figured it out. I needed to let my characters tell the story. Specifically, I needed to let Benjamin Blakeney, the eyes and ears of the story, tell the story. He needed to use his own words. Switching from third person to first person was a game-changing decision that has made all the difference in the world. Now the scenes and the dialogue just flow from my finger tips, as usually do.
I'm not ignoring you, I just haven't had much to report. I've been spinning my wheels with very little traction to be found. I've had a couple of projects fail to get off the ground and I've found myself in the kind of gloom only John Cusack in High Fidelity can rescue me from.
But I've started writing again. I've often flirted with this idea that I call "Oasis" and I've just decided to sit down and make a young adult novel out of it. If you follow me on Twitter (@ScottishFogg), I've been posting word count updates at the conclusion of every night. It's my way of boring my followers and keeping myself honest. If I have to report progress (or the lack of) on a nightly basis, I find myself compelled to write. I hate not updating the word count but I hate updating the word count with a nearly insignificant increase even more. And while I have ideas every day, sometimes I don't. But I still need to be writing and there days when writing is just putting one word in front of another until you stumble on another great idea. Drafting will, hopefully, fix those boring bits.
I've also been approached about acting in the upcoming web series The Scent of Lavender. It's a bit of a murder mystery -- which is outside the realm of entertainment I usually find myself in so I'm excited. I'm also excited to be acting again, without worrying about the script or directing or editing or . . . anything else really. I've been working on some promotional art for the series and I'm an administrator for the series' Facebook page, but that is such a light load when compared to all the other hats I usually wear when I'm involved in a project.
Anyway. I'm off. I'll try to not let so much time go by between now and my next post.
A day doesn’t go by where I don’t write something. Usually it’s part of some bigger plan (a web series, a graphic novel, a feature film) and usually it ends up being discarded or forgotten about. Most of the things I’ve written are now collected cyber dust on my hard drive.
But every once in a while, I get to be part of something special. Enter Tanya Musgrave. She came to me a little over a year ago with a short story that she wanted to adapt into a short film. We went back and forth and I wrote three or four drafts of the script before she put the final touches on it and put it into production. I feel a little strange saying that it’s a gorgeous, wonderful film in every way possible — but it is. I'm not saying that because I helped write it, I'm not saying that because I know the original story it came from and I'm not saying that because I dearly love every one on the crew. I'm saying that somehow that crew and those actors were able to take my rough words and inappropriate jokes and turn it into this:
Check it out and make note of all those cast and crew members at the end. They’re names everyone’s going to be talking about in a few years.
I remember the first time I told my mom I had bought a graphic novel. She didn't hear the term "graphic novel" as a singular noun. She instead heard the adjective graphic being applied to the noun novel. She got real pale and asked what the content of the book was and, "do you . . . you know . . . have any questions?"
After assuring her that the novel was not actually graphic, it was just filled with graphics, she calmed down a bit and then muttered, "they need to call it something else."
I love the graphic novel. I love comic books in general, but the graphic novel specifically speaks to me. As I get older, I find myself slowly growing away from the tights and the fights of superheroes and find myself gravitating towards the quiet introspection of graphic novels. I didn't understand the appeal of cozying up to a book until I discovered books like Craig Thompson's Blankets (or his Habibi, for that matter).
I can read a graphic novel as quickly or as slowly as I want. I can speed through the sparsely-worded pages and claim (too proudly) that "I read an entire book in an afternoon," or I can take my time and let the words and art work in tandem to take me places I've never been before and give me ideas I've never pondered before.
I have received so much from the time I've spent with my comic books and graphic novels that I have decided that it's time I give something back. It's time for me to write my comic book -- or my graphic novel.
There is, however, a problem. Two problems, actually.
I cannot draw.
I do not know how to write a comic book script.
Problem 1 is more insurmountable than 2. Problem 2 can be fixed by applying what I know about writing a film script with what I will learn from reading a few books. Problem 1, though, requires finding someone that (A) I like (B) I get along with (C) I trust (D) trusts me (E) is willing to take this leap of faith with me.
So I'm going to get to reading and writing and . . . seeing to Problem 1.
I'm trying not to write tonight. It's Sabbath. But when my mind's a whirl (as it is now), it's hard for me to do anything but. There can be no rest. There can be no relaxation. There can be no idle hands. Because try as I might to push the fear far from mind, I can't help but fret that an idea that's not written down is an idea that's bound to be forgotten -- and I don't subscribe to my wife's notion that "if I forget it, then it wasn't worth remembering." I am convinced I have lost entire Dickensian novels for lack of a piece of paper.
It's the holidays. Tomorrow is the last holiday of 2011 (and the last day of the entire year, for that matter). It's been a bittersweet holiday season (much like most of 2011, for that matter). My grandmother moved into assisted living last month and we went and visited her in San Antonio the week before Christmas. As surreal as it was to see her so small and frail, I really hope to have what she has. She has lived a long and rich life and has created for herself a large, warm, and caring family. I don't know how she views her life, but I do know that she thanks God for it every night. The Fogg family has had its share of bumps and rattles in its travel down the road of life, but I believe we are richer for the journey and I hope she does too.
2012 can't get here fast enough. I believe in 2012. I believe it's going to be a big year. As I said on Facebook recently, I expect big things from 2012, so expect big things from me.
Loren's and my podcast is going strong. Spinning out of that podcast is a new podcast which Dean Trippe and I are currently planning and trying to iron the logistics out on. Season 1 of The Ruffians went well and I'm trying to figure out what a season 2 might hold . . . You Being You also hasn't gone away, despite there not being a new video in some time. I'm still looking for subjects and if you know someone (or are someone) who you think has something to share, drop me a line! I'm also in production on a children's book, which we will be shopping around (I'm guessing) in early 2012. I'd love to see that in book stores.
I've grown weary of the world's negativity and cynicism. I'm currently outlining a story that I would like to use to combat some of that negativity. Only problem with this story is I need a comic book artist to help me see it into fruition. Expect to see me on the lookout for one of those in the near future.
Sigh. I should probably go to bed. But Michael Giacchino's exquisite score for Up is only half-finished and I haven't the heart to turn it off. I'll see it through to the end and see how I feel then.
Three days before we shoot episode 3, I thought I'd sit down and explain why I'm telling The Ruffians' story. But I'm not interested in releasing this information right away, so I'm post-dating this blog entry to be released on my 31st birthday.
Most people know me as a giant dork. That's the aura that surrounds me. It doesn't take long, though, to cut through the layers of Doctor Who and Superman to discover what makes me tick. The people who know me best know me as a left-leaning Christian who belongs to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church who has found his calling as a writer. Any time I sit down and write something, it comes from a place of deep moral responsibility to our fellow man and our Creator. Which is why, on the surface, The Ruffians has some people scratching their heads.
Very simply put, The Ruffians comes from the same place Remnants, Nighthawks, Berashet, and Martyrs came from. But while each of those had elements of hope and beauty intertwined with them, The Ruffians is my view of the world, my view of society, as it tries to distance itself from God.
Before we even get to the characters themselves, it's a show about hitmen -- people who are paid to kill other people. The hitman has been glamorized in a multitude of television shows and movies, but I couldn't think of a more perfect metaphor for the toxicity and selfishness of man.
My characterization starts with SOFIA TOWNSEND, as played by Rachel Komorowski. Sofia doesn't want any responsibility. She wants to show up, do her work, and go home. The less she knows, the less she can be held accountable for. In trying to compartmentalize her life, she seeks ways to excuse herself from the bigger picture.
ALEXANDER GREENE, as played by Corey Newmyer, is the post-modern man. He, like Sofia, doesn't want to be held accountable for his actions. He is beholden unto no-one but himself. But he has this nagging voice in the back of his head telling him that he's wrong, or that something in his life is wrong (personified by Tenika Dye). And he doesn't like that. He wants to silence that voice, so he labels it and mocks it, which allows him to distance himself. Doing this, however, creates a void in his life that he has to fill. He refuses to feel guilty for his actions, and so he places a higher premium on his friendships and his relationships. If he's going to feel guilt, it needs to be over something tangible and important to him, not something moral, metaphysical, and intangible. This will continue to haunt him for some time.
It's easy to call CHARLIE HAMMOND an idiot. That's very nearly how I play him. But he represents society's desire to live in (and only for) this moment. He quickly forgets yesterday (and the lessons learned) and he doesn't think or worry about tomorrow. He doesn't stop to wonder if what he's doing is going to harm him or his friends later. He's exceptionally short-sighted, which often makes him look uncaring. He's deeply emotional and has a fairly sanguine temperament. Every single minute of every single day is either the very best thing or the very worst thing that could possibly be happening. He lives as if there is no tomorrow, as if there are no consequences and when tomorrow rolls around and those consequences show up, he doesn't understand why these things are happening to him.
Rick Hardaway plays JACOB WALLACE. At one point I toyed with making him the personification of Atheism, a cruel and unforgiving creation that boasts freedom and free will, but as the story unfolded, I found him a far more compelling devil than anything else. He lets our "heroes" believe what they want, for it suits his purpose.
The other characters and the victims live in this same world. But less time was put into their being. They are intended to reflect, magnify, or contrast the mindsets and philosophies of Charlie, Alexander, and Sofia.
MARLENA, specifically, was created to illustrate the continuity of time and the consequence of actions. While Charlie lives his existential life, Marlena exists slightly above that. She's first introduced as an idea. We simply hear she exists. She exists before the show began. Then we see Charlie calling her. Then finally, he's reunited with her. Marlena unifies Charlie's existence and makes yesterday as important as today and tomorrow. His belief in her is the closest thing to a spiritual life Charlie has. Her existence makes "the sherpa" moot and vapid. It is (and will be) Marlena that is most directly effected by Charlie's short-sightedness. She's making the most of her life, but deep down, she knows that it's all for naught. Their victory over Jacob Wallace will be short-lived and temporary at best.
And that's all I have to say about that.
Except not really. I love conversations on these topics, so drop me a line or pull me aside. I'd love to hear what you think.
Coming soon to a theater/DVD player/Blu-Ray player/digital file format player near you: SPARKS! They seem to have become the poster creator's favorite new element. Sometimes it makes sense, but most of the time it looks like they're trying to make us think we're about to step into the sequel for Backdraft that never was.
Drive Angry? Okay. Nicolas Cage is try to escape Hell, so one should expect a certain firey element there. Transformers? Um . . . sure. There's a lot of metal grinding on metal in that movie, so I'm sure there's going to be some sparking. But The Dark Knight? "Maybe it's symbolic of the impending doom and chaos that's about to engulf Gotham?" "Yes! Use it for Harry Potter, too! Just switch 'Gotham' for 'Hogwarts!'"
But one can only assume that there's a scene in the new Conan movie where Conan the Barbarian literally tries to put out a fire with his sword.
Sparks: The art department's cowbell.
Never mind. I take it all back. That's friggin' bad ass.
Considering my extensive relationship with the iTunes Store and after reading the Steve Jobs biography, it's very surreal to be able to find me in the iTunes Store. Yet, there I am. For all the world to hear.
It's Movies You Should Love, a podcast that frequent partner-in-crime Loren Small and I cooked up and have been recording for the past couple of months. Loren built a gorgeous site for it, with me contributing the title aesthetic and the faces by John J Salomone (who you can commission to pixelate your face).
Basically Loren and I sit down and examine classic films (specifically AFI's Top 100 list) and try to figure out what makes them so special. It's something we do anyway, often staying up into the wee hours -- we thought we might as well record it and share it with the world. We're definitely enjoying ourselves and we really hope others do, too.
If you enjoy my ramblings here, you might enjoy my ramblings there.
Hillary supporters: Bernie just isn't experienced enough!
Bernie supporters: He's been an elected official for 32 years and before that he was an activist.
Hillary supporters: He's not electable!
Bernie supporters: Polls say he's beating every republican candidate in head to head match ups
Hillary supporters: He wants to raise taxes!
Bernie supporters: In order to eliminate health insurance premiums and college tuition. Unless you're a part of the top 1%, chances are his plans will save you money.
Hillary supporters: But.... he's a socialist!
Bernie supporters: He's a democratic socialist. All that means is he thinks the government should at least try to work for the benefit of working class and middle class people.
Hillary supporters: He's a straight white old man! Don't we have enough of those in politics already?
Bernie supporters: That's a really good point and representation is absolutely important. But I would rather have a man who is looking out for the best interests of marginalized people than a woman who isn't. Also, Bernie would be our first Jewish president.
1. “I imagine you already know that I am much more
socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic… [Capitalism] started out
with a noble and high motive… but like most human systems it fell victim to the
very thing it was revolting against. So today capitalism has out-lived its
usefulness.” – Letter to Coretta Scott, July 18, 1952.
3. “We must recognize that we can’t solve our
problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political
power… this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that
the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied
together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others…
the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical
nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.”- Report to SCLC Staff, May
5. “I am now convinced that the simplest approach
will prove to be the most effective – the solution to poverty is to abolish it
directly by a now widely discussed matter: the guaranteed income… The curse of
poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as
the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each
other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume
the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize
ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.” –Where do
We Go from Here? 1967.
6. “[W]e are saying that something is wrong … with
capitalism…. There must be better distribution of wealth and maybe America must
move toward a democratic socialism.” – Speech to his staff, 1966.
7. “If America does not use her vast resources of
wealth to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have
the basic necessities of life, she too will go to hell.” Speech at Bishop
Charles Mason Temple of the Church of God in Christ in support of the Memphis
sanitation workers’ strike on March 18th, 1968, two weeks before he was
8. “I have always been deeply interested in and
sympathetic with the total work of the Planned Parenthood Federation” -1960
9. “Our nation was born in genocide when it
embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior
race.” Why We Can’t Wait
10. “But it is not enough for me to stand
before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me
to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable
conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that
cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in
violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the
language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear?…It has
failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And
it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned
about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.” -The
Other America, 1968
11. “Again we have deluded ourselves into believing
the myth that Capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard
word and sacrifice. The fact is that Capitalism was built on the exploitation
and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of
the poor – both black and white, both here and abroad.” -The Three Evils of
12. “A nation that continues year after year to
spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is
approaching spiritual death.” Beyond Vietnam, 1967
13. “Whites, it must frankly be said, are not
putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial
ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people
of America believe they have so little to learn. The reality of substantial
investment to assist Negroes into the twentieth century, adjusting to Negro
neighbors and genuine school integration, is still a nightmare for all too many
white Americans…These are the deepest causes for contemporary abrasions between
the races. Loose and easy language about equality, resonant resolutions about
brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the Negro there is a
credibility gap he cannot overlook. He remembers that with each modest advance
the white population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far
enough. Each step forward accents an ever-present tendency to backlash.” Where
Do We Go From Here? 1967
14. “First, I must confess that over the past
few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate.I have
almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling
block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the
Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to
“order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the
absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who
constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot
agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes
he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical
concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more
convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more
frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm
acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.“ Letter From
Birmingham Jail, 1967
When analysing comics, assume the creators had a good reason for making the choice they did. Try and work out why they did. There’s a time you can afford arrogance, and it’s far in the future . For now, assume they know more than you do. Even the creators you hate. Especially the creators you hate.
Which I like, both as a nodal point in one’s critical continuum, and as a good piece of realpolitik advice. Which drives me crazy, as it’s Gillen, but oh well.
Nothing with craft is an accident.
It might not be good, or successful, or pleasant, or engaging; it may not have been deliberated or considered. Or deliberated or considered well, even. It may have been surprising or contrary to the creators’ intention, to the interpreter’s expectation, to the world’s conception of what a thing is or can be, but it is not accidental, haphazard, dashed off, or crapped out. Suggesting otherwise is a critical feint. A work may not deserve comment. Life is short and there are beautiful things.
Nothing with craft is an accident.
I noticed something in one of my favorite films after maybe the eighth or ninth time i’d seen it; after I realized it was there and found a reason for its belonging, and now that choice was all i can see when I watch.
It’s about FARGO, and I realized it trying to make heads or tails of the Mike Yanagita scene.
If you’ve not seen the film [hey spoilers about to follow for that movie that’s twenty years old], the set-up for the Mike Yanagita scene is this: Police Chief Marge Gunderson, very pregnant and very up-to-her-ankles in blood and bodies (or about to be) as a kidnapping scheme goes kerblooie in her town of Brainerd, has lunch with an old high school pal named Mike Yanagita. He sloppily makes an advance and tries sitting beside her, Marge declines his advances and he then has a kind of emotional collapse (that she later finds out is entirely untrue).
The scene has no connection with the infamous plot of the film. You could excise it completely and not only would FARGO not suffer, but you’d have a great little short film to boot.
So why is it there? Why did the Coen Brothers choose to include the scene?
You want to know the most important thing i learned my first year at film school? Aside from “don’t overdose while watching todd phillips’ HATED in a self-rewinding and replaying TV/VCR combo”? It was this:
Even shitty movies take a fuck-ton of work to make.
I worked my ass off on my final project that year and it fucking blew goats. It was so bad I cut and cut and cut it down to the bare minimum length the projects were allowed to be and it still felt interminable. I couldn’t understand it. I worked around-the-clock on the goddamn thing. I dotted every I, I crossed every T, I was prepped and boarded and rehearsed and blocked and ready.
And it sucked. Like SUCCCCCCKED. Super-sucked. Screening it before the school was the longest three minutes of my life. Just thinking about it now makes my toes curl up in little embarrassment-fists still.
Yet every choice was deliberate, was agonized over. Every shot, every edit, every line. Every prop and bit of set dressing. And still it looked and sounded and played like boiled garbage.
(Want to know who made a first year film that I, to this day, remember? David Gordon Green. It starred a dude we all called “Big,” and in it, Big learns a pal of his fucked a piano in church.)
I don’t dig the easy line of criticism the Coens get about being cynical and detached. I think, like Kubrick, there’s genuine love and warmth for some of these characters in the work but it’s not treacly, it’s not saccharine, it’s not scored like a flower commercial. It’s not underlined. So they get sandbagged by dumbies who need characters to stand around and say “IT’S ABOUT FAMILY“
to understand that someone’s emotional catharsis was about their family (also it is always about family if you’re talking about American movies, I don’t know why. We are a nation debilitated by an emotionally absent father, I guess).
FARGO endured a backlash as awards season drew near (The brothers would win a best screenplay Oscar and Frances McDormand would win best actress — and she’s only 75 shots, give or take, and doesn’t show up until just past the half-hour mark in a 98-minute movie). The Coens are making fun of Minnesota Nice (never mind the fact that "Minnesota Nice” isn’t actually nice, that’s the whole point of the thing). The line goes, the Coens don’t really like these people, they’re mocking them, like trustafarian dropouts taking on a blue collar southern affect. It’s ironic. “The Coens are ironic. They’re arch.”
So the Mike Yanagita scene. At first it stuck me as being there to make fun of Mike Yanagita. Believing the Dumbies would lead you to think, superficially, it’s there to mock a Japanese guy with the Minnesota Nice accent impossibly hung-up on impossibly pregnant, impossibly hungry, and impossibly married (to old Norm son-of-a-Gunderson) Marge.
That seemed, well, stupid.
Mainly, practically, because it seemed an expensive flight of fancy for anyone to take — this is a not-short sequence.
FARGO shot on a $7 million dollar budget, filmed through January, February, and March, 1995; long-enough schedule to assume, yeah, they took maybe three or four days to shoot the four-page scene (he’s Glen Yanagita in the screenplay [pp 66-69]). Filming the scene employed a lot of these people. They spent not inconsiderable resources on this piece of FARGO. The scene, by its inclusion, must be considered part of the craft and concern that went into the film’s production.
The scene occupies about four minutes of screen time. Five if you count the stinger three scenes later where we find out Mike’s full of shit and nothing he said to Marge was true — which in spite of its apparent disconnect from the rest of the plot, stands, I believe, as the most important moment in the film, and the most declarative of what the filmmakers feel about their characters.
Especially Marge Gunderson.
If you view FARGO, if you view the Coens, as ironic and arch, I think you have to view the scene, then, as slight, tonally amiss, incongruous, inconsequential and, most of all, racist (or at least of all racial; with the exception of Steve Reevis as Shep Proudfoot, and the black guy Shep Proudfoot beats the shit out of in Carl Showalter’s apartment building, in the role of Mike Yanagita, Steve Parks plays the only character of color in the film). Viewed slightly, the scene mocks Mike and the pain he feels at losing his wife to Leukemia, and even mocks the notion that anyone could find Marge Gunderson, in her state, desirable or desirous. Viewed slightly, the scene’s fucking mean.
In film as in comics, only on a larger order of magnitude — the raw work-hours required to put a minute of screen time or a page of comics into the world removes “accidental” from the vocabulary. If nothing with craft (or at least craft services) is an accident, then this scene from its conception to execution, inclusion, and viewing, stands as a deliberate choice.
Woman walks into a bar. Meets a man. They hug. They sit. They talk. He moves to sit next to her. She forces him, kindly but firmly, out of her space and back to his seat. They keep talking.
Why does it exist?
Later, after the film’s violent and chaotic climax, this thought occurred to me. Once Marge has Gaear Grimsrud in custody, we only ever see his face in her rear-view mirror, and as a blurred shape behind her. They never share a frame.
Then I got it.
In FARGO, los bros Coen do not allow Evil to occupy the frame with Marge.
These are all of Marge’s shots up to the Mike Yanagita scene (I didn’t include coverage – there’s cutting back and forth to some of these but this is every unique set-up with Marge). We see her with Norm, with Sheriff Lou, with her fellow police. We even see her, albeit at a remove, with the two prostitutes that spent time with Carl and Gaear.
I chose to enlarge that frame to prove the point. These aren’t evil girls, they’re not mocked or demonized. They get to share space with Marge.
Notice, too, in the penultimate row, that when Marge and Norm go out to eat, they sit side-by-side. How often do you do that, when dining with one other person?
Next up, Marge starts investigating. Check it out:
She talks to Shep Proudfoot – again, at a remove, but look. She’s safe in her box, he’s contained in his.
And Jerry, the villain of the piece, is never allowed to share space with Marge. She fames him, she closes him off, she isolates him.
And then he gets a look at her from behind bars.
Also of note, the color red (and the almost Kubrickian geometry of it:
Anyway. Now comes the good part. Now comes Mike Yanagita.
Am I crazy to see red caps on the bottles, dotting out a little blood trail constellation at Mike’s head?
They hug in the large frame and she pushes him back visibly.
We go into back and forth coverage of their scene, once again Marge frames Mike, but never impedes her space.
Until he gets up to impede her space and Marge, politely, compassionately, but resolutely, shuns him.
He retreats back into shots 3/5/7 above and that’s that.
And look at the rest of the movie:
It’s that first shot where Marge learns the story mike told her wasn’t true. He was never married, his “wife” did not die of Leukemia, and he had been harassing her for years.
It doesn’t come immediately after the Mike Yanigata scene (there’s José Feliciano, sex, violence, a box of money, and a red ice scraper before we get there) and, like that scene, it feels weird at first blush: “Hey remember that funny scene a few minutes ago? Yeah that guy was even sadder and creepier than he appeared. Ha ha! Can’t believe you fell for that.”
It lets us know, though, that Marge pushing the guy out of her booth and back to his own wasn’t remotely selfish or unkind. Her evil detector pinged. She forced the bad guy out of the frame.
Even when drawing a bead on Gaear as he flees – the only moment we can see both Marge’s face and an evil character in the film aside from Mike’s intrusion – it’s at an extraordinary remove. The second to last shot is as close to a two-shot as we get with Marge and Gaear. That fuzzy lump might not even be Peter Stormare, for all I know.
The pure endless white of her surroundings deservers a protector pure like her, safe and good in this movie full of horrible people, horrible thoughts, and horrible violence.
I added that first one large because it is peak Marge and must be celebrated.
Nothing with craft is an accident.
Would that more comics had craft and consideration like this.
FARGO (1996) Written, Directed, Edited by Joel and Ethan Coen Shot by Roger Deakins
angelica: in a text i received from you a few seconds again i noticed an emoji in the middle of the phrase. it changed the meaning. did you intend this? one stroke and you’ve consumed my waking days. it says ‘my dearest angelica’. with a smiley after dearest, you’ve written ‘my dearest 😏 angelica’”
Rey’s jacket at the end of the movie makes me happy because it’s probably the first time someone has ever given her something as a gift…. and in my mind it’ll always be how Space Mum Leia unknowingly gets Rey’s undying loyalty.
so if the ghost of alexander hamilton was harassing lin to finish the musical, does that mean that after the musical came out, the ghost of thomas jefferson just appeared on the end of lin’s bed one night like
hey did you guys know Lin-Manuel Miranda and Christopher Jackson performed “One Last Time” at the 2015 George Washington Prize dinner in New York City and that the Gilder Lehrman Institute put the performance up because that happened and I thought some of you might like to know that, especially tonight
First of all, go watch the whole George Washington Book Prize ceremony, it’s up on C-SPAN. Actually, don’t watch the whole thing. Watch the director of the Starr Center (15:40ish, he just cracked me up), watch Uncle Ron (26:35, HE RAPS THE BEGINNING OF THE OPENING NUMBER BLESS), and watch Lin (55:30ish, tissue warning: he talks about his dad, Vanessa, and Eliza).
Secondly, I BELIEVE IN CHRIS JACKSON.
Thirdly, Chris and Lin singing this with staging in suits is perfect modern AU fodder, so people should get on that.
Fourthly, no, seriously tho, Chris Jackson. The thumbs up! His exasperated little faces at Hamilton! His beautiful perfect angel voice 😍😭😍
“George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, gave me the part of Wicket, the Ewok who has a five-minute scene with Carrie Fisher. Wicket finds Carrie, as Princess Leia, unconscious after she crashes her speeder bike.
When she appeared on set, Carrie showed her concern for my wellbeing in the sweltering Ewok costume. ‘Are you OK in there, Warwick?’ she said. ‘It must be so hot.’
She reached down behind a log and pulled out a carton of chocolate milk with a long straw and fed me cookies in between takes. She was everything an 11-year-old Ewok could possibly wish for…” [Daily Mail interview covering Davis’ career]
Now, that was an article I had missed… The Telegraph? Woah…
…and oc but some of you might appreciate it:
You know, though, I actually do not want this. I actually want a Star Wars where there is no romance.
I get it. I’ve been a Star Wars fan since I was 11. There’s been a romantic couple in the originals and prequels. But would it be too much for the three leads in the new trilogy to have nothing but really strong friendship and loyalty between them?
Now I’m not saying that they shouldn’t make Poe gay because yes the LGBT community is woefully underrepresented in media. What better franchise than Star Wars to put that issue front and center? If it happens I will fully support it.
But I would just like to say that I personally would like to see nothing more than a lifelong “I would die for you” friendship between Rey, Finn, Poe, and BB-8.
Scientists Discover The Oldest, Largest Body Of Water In Existence—In Space
Scientists have found the biggest and oldest reservoir of water ever—so large and so old, it’s almost impossible to describe.
The water is out in space, a place we used to think of as desolate and desert dry, but it’s turning out to be pretty lush.
Researchers found a lake of water so large that it could provide each person on Earth an entire planet’s worth of water—20,000 times over. Yes, so much water out there in space that it could supply each one of us all the water on Earth—Niagara Falls, the Pacific Ocean, the polar ice caps, the puddle in the bottom of the canoe you forgot to flip over—20,000 times over.
The water is in a cloud around a huge black hole that is in the process of sucking in matter and spraying out energy (such an active black hole is called a quasar), and the waves of energy the black hole releases make water by literally knocking hydrogen and oxygen atoms together.
The official NASA news release describes the amount of water as “140 trillion times all the water in the world’s oceans,” which isn’t particularly helpful, except if you think about it like this.
That one cloud of newly discovered space water vapor could supply 140 trillion planets that are just as wet as Earth is.
Mind you, our own galaxy, the Milky Way, has about 400 billion stars, so if every one of those stars has 10 planets, each as wet as Earth, that’s only 4 trillion planets worth of water.
The new cloud of water is enough to supply 28 galaxies with water.
Truly, that is one swampy patch of intergalactic space.
Equally stunning is the age of the water factory. The two teams of astrophysicists that found the quasar were looking out in space a distance of 12 billion light years. That means they were also looking back in time 12 billion years, to when the universe itself was just 1.6 billion years old. They were watching water being formed at the very start of the known universe, which is to say, water was one of the first substances formed, created in galactic volumes from the earliest time. Given water’s creative power to shape geology, climate and biology, that’s dramatic.
“It’s another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times,” says Matt Bradford, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and leader of one of the teams that made the discovery. (The journal article reporting the discovery is titled, without drama, “The Water Vapor Spectrum of APM 08279+5255: X-Ray Heating and Infrared Pumping over Hundreds of Parsecs.”)
It is not as if you’d have to wear foul-weather gear if you could visit this place in space, however. The distances are as mind-bogglingly large as the amount of water being created, so the water vapor is the finest mist—300 trillion times less dense than the air in a typical room.
And it’s not as if this intergalactic water can be of any use to us here on Earth, of course, at least not in the immediate sense. Indeed, the discovery comes as a devastating drought across eastern Africa is endangering the lives of 10 million people in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. NASA’s water discovery should be a reminder that if we have the sophistication to discover galaxies full of water 12 billion light years away, we should be able to save people just an ocean away from drought-induced starvation.
The NASA announcement is also a reminder how quickly our understanding of the universe is evolving and how much capacity for surprise nature still has for us. There’s water on Mars, there’s water jetting hundreds of miles into space from Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, there are icebergs of water hidden in the polar craters of our own Moon. And now it turns out that a single quasar has the ability to manufacture galaxies full of water.
But it was only 40 years ago, in 1969, that scientists first confirmed that water existed anywhere besides Earth.
(Phys.org) —The universe may have existed forever, according to a new model that applies quantum correction terms to complement Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The model may also account for dark matter and dark energy, resolving multiple problems at once.
I’ve heard from some of you that you’re not receiving the Kickstarter updates from me and Phileas Reid. That’s super distressing to me because there are going to be important updates coming in the future and I need to know you’re receiving them. So if you think it’s been a while since you heard anything about PHILEAS REID KNOWS WE ARE NOT ALONE, I need you to do one of two things:
1. Check your spam folder. Make sure your email isn’t marking the Kickstarter updates as spam and deleting them before you get a chance to read them.
2. Periodically log in at Kickstarter.com. Every time an update is posted, you’ll receive it in two places: Your email and your Kickstarter account.
Thank-you, everybody for your continual support and for all the kind, exciting, and overwhelmingly positive reviews of our first 22 pages!
NASA wants to visit Jupiter’s moon Europa. Why’s that exciting? In a word: Water. As this visualization shows, the icy moon may look tiny next to our own planet, but it’s got 2- to 3-times as much H2O as we have here on Earth. That “little” moon is packing quite the store of water â and with it, scientists think, a significant chance of harboring life.
“This video shows a rabbit heart that has been kept beating outside of the body in a nutrient and oxygen-rich solution. The new cardiac device — a thin, stretchable membrane imprinted with a spider-web-like network of sensors and electrodes — is custom-designed to fit over the heart and contract and expand with it as it beats.”
Particles come in pairs, which is why there should be an equal amount of matter and antimatter in the universe. Yet, scientists have not been able to detect any in the visible universe. Where is this missing antimatter? CERN scientist Rolf Landua returns to the seconds after the Big Bang to explain the disparity that allows humans to exist today.
Ancient Human DNA Suggests Twisted Roots at Base of Human Family Tree
Scientists have sequenced DNA from the 400,000-year-old remains of an early human found in the Sima de Los Huesos cave in Spain. It not only shatters the record for the oldest human DNA sequence ever obtained, but is also forcing scientists to question what we thought we knew about human origins.
Traditionally, scientists have compared the measurements and proportions of these skeletons in order to place our ancestors along the human family tree and evolutionary timeline. The skeleton up top, from the Spanish cave, is classified as Homoheidelbergensis, a group of human relatives from Europe who, according to the bones, are thought to be the ancestors of Neanderthals.
But new and powerful DNA sequencing technology has given us the ability to stitch together sequences from older and more degraded DNA samples than we ever thought possible (I wrote about a 700,000-year-old horse sequence earlier this year for WIRED). The sequences in the Los Huesos DNA don’t agree with the old bone story.
The sequence shows that this 400,000-year-old DNA is most related to Denisovans, a group of early humans previously only found in Siberia (AKA “not near Spain”). It was also related to Neanderthals, which fits with the old idea, but suggests that there was a lot of interbreeding and migration going on in these groups, even before modern Homo sapiens had left Africa.
The genomic revolution is changing a lot about science, and the study of human origins is one of the fastest evolving (pun intended). This new info has confused the hell out of scientists, frankly, and there’s a lot of work to be done.
Portuguese designer Susana Soares has developed a device for detecting cancer and other serious diseases using trained bees. The bees are placed in a glass chamber into which the patient exhales; the bees fly into a smaller secondary chamber if they detect cancer.
Scientists have found that honey bees - Apis mellifera - have an extraordinary sense of smell that is more acute than that of a sniffer dog and can detect airborne molecules in the parts-per-trillion range.
Bees can be trained to detect specific chemical odours, including the biomarkers associated with diseases such as tuberculosis, lung, skin and pancreatic cancer.
A team of astronomers has discovered the first example of black holes in a globular cluster in our own galaxy. For the last 40 years it was widely thought that black holes would not likely be found in globular clusters. The reasoning behind this is that Black holes in a globular cluster may facilitate a way for them to get close enough to one another to merge into bigger black holes that may produce the ‘ripples in spacetime’ astronomers call gravitational waves.
Tom Maccarone says, “Trying to detect gravitational waves is one of the biggest problems in physics right now, because it would be the strongest test of whether Einstein’s theory of relativity is correct.” The stars can collide with one another in that environment. Maccarone goes on to explain, “The old theory believed that the interaction of stars was thought to kick out any black holes that formed. They would interact with each other and slingshot black holes out of the cluster until they were all gone.”
Maccarone made the first discovery of a black hole in a globular cluster in the neighboring NGC4472 galaxy 6 years ago. Instead of finding it through typically radio waves he found it by seeing them in X-ray emission from the gas falling into the black hole and heating up a couple million degrees (no big deal). Now his team has found 2 more examples this year in our very own galaxy and from radio emissions coming out of the globular cluster.
Phileas Reid Knows We Are Not Alone: The Prologue (So Far)
These are the first five pages of our book. The finished product will be in color and Page 1 will be very, very different (it contains massive spoilers and so is not fit for human eyes at this time).
We’re just about halfway through our Kickstarter to fund this graphic novel. It’s a story I’ve been working on for almost two years now and to finally see these characters coming to life is such a big, big thrill.
If you haven’t checked out our Kickstarter yet, do it now. The GIF sets of Tom Hiddleston will still be here when you get back. Promise.
Kelly Fogg writes for Bleeding Cool: When you were a kid did you ever stand on your head and wonder what the world would be like if we all walked on the ceiling and the couches and the lamps hung down from the floor?
What if an alien invasion was … but wasn’t? At its core, that’s the concept of the upcoming graphic novel Phileas Reid Knows We Are Not Alone. Created by Scott Fogg and by Marc Thomas, the upcoming graphic novel follows […]