Sunday, August 28, 2005

"Blow winds and crack your cheeks..."

The following is another retroactive post, so, really, it's new but I'm playing catch-up.


I called my mom on this day for two reasons:


One was to find out what her plans were in regards to her imminent evacuation from her home in Gulfport, Mississippi. The other was to wish her a happy birthday.


Yeah, in one of those terrible ironies that the Universe likes to chuck at you every now and then like a particularly sharp rock, the day that Hurricane Katrina bore down on my mother's house was also her 60-somethingth birthday (yes, I know her age, but I am gentleman enough not to share).


Mom's a hurricane veteran, having lived through Betsy and Camille (and weaker sisters like Alicia), but she was smart enough to recognize Katrina for the bitch she was. Mom packed up the dogs and headed north for a motel several miles from the shore. When she got there, the motel was being boarded up and emptied so Mom drove on. She kept going 'til she got to relatives in Memphis, TN - twelve hours later.


So the important thing is that Mom made it through just fine which is a blessing that too many people were denied.


The house, though, the house is gone.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Brother, can you spare a month's rent?

The following is another retroactive post, so, really, it's new but I'm playing catch-up.


And thus began my long spell of unemployment....


Oh, it was fun at first. Giddy as a schoolboy on an extended snow day, I frolicked and played and laughed and spent money.


Ah yes, I remember money.


I really thought it would be two weeks tops to find a suitable gig. This wasn't the case. I watched the days go by and the bank account drop. I applied like mad through the usuals: craigslist.com, monster.com and industry-specific sources like showbizjobs.com and entertainmentcareers.net. I had a few interviews and I sent out a few follow-up emails to particularly sweet job listings but I wasn't getting callbacks.


I even re-applied at the same Brentanos I worked at six years ago after vowing to myself that I would never work retail again.


And, yes, I applied for unemployment - a nightmarish maze of paperwork and interviews that resulted in one check received for one week out of the seven I was out of work.


It was tough and I got down to the wire with threats of eviction from the building owner over unpaid rent and an empty refrigerator. I sold off chunks of my vast dvd collection and felt like a Kong-sized loser.


And I had the realization that, as much as I hate having to work for a living, it sure is preferrable to the sheer boredom that starving to death in an apartment you can't afford brings.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The not-so big time

The following is another retroactive post, so, really, it's new but I'm playing catch-up.


You ever get one of those surprises that's simultaneously nasty and yet kind of amusing at the same time? Like your girlfriend telling you she's pregnant just seconds before you were going to break up with her?*


I was bored at work, counting down the minutes 'til my job would end (as it did on August 1st), and I was surfing the Net. I was thinking about my future as a writer which, naturally, got me thinking about my past as a writer. I started wondering about my former - tiny - triumphs and I decided to narcissistically Google the titles of my scripts that had placed in various competitions over the years. (I would've Googled my name but I've done that before and found many links to a pro golfer and some Australian guy who's a flag expert.)


I typed in the name of my very first winning work (and one of the first serious stabs at scriptwriting I made waaaaay back in 1989), Dead End Diner. Originally written as a one-act play, (under the full title of One Particularly Dark Night at the Dead End Diner) D.E.D. was a finalist in the Texas Playwright's Festival in 1991 and received a staged reading. It was informative, nerve-wracking and fun. And that was it.


Then, in '95, my girlfriend at the time (a talented actress with a love of behind-the-scenes work too) suggested I re-work the one-act play into a feature length screenplay. Seems she had a director friend who was interested in doing a low-budget indie flick. Guy's name was Gary Parker, a commercial director. He was a nice guy (I met him a couple of times) and wanted to work with us. My girlfriend was going to produce and take one of the roles. Investor packets were composed, financial plans drawn, promotional work done, contracts ... may have been signed. I don't know, it's been a long time.


But, shortly before I left Texas for California, the word was that the project wouldn't happen. No funding had appeared and I hadn't heard from Parker in a while. I was more concerned about my upcoming move and whether or not it spelled doom for my relationship with the lady in question.


Well, the relationship did end - awkwardly and painfully - and with it went any mention or concept of a movie based on my very first play.


Imagine my surprise to find out that, somewhere out there, a film version of Dead End Diner was made without my knowledge.


The Google search produced a couple of articles from local (Houston area) periodicals about filmmaker Gary Parker's Dead End Diner which, from what I could gather, was produced and released sometime in '99 to 2000. It had an extremely limited run at one local theater and showed at a film festival somewhere. That's it. I think he actually sold copies of it on Amazon for a brief time.


Whatever.


I guess the main thing that stuns me is: did it ever occur to Mr. Parker to contact the writer to let him know the project was back on?


I suppose it's possible that Parker wasn't able to find me. My ex-girlfriend was my only connection with him and we fell out of contact early in '96. She herself ended up having nothing to do with the movie (she's not listed as producer or cast member), so I'm sure she was as in the dark as me. As for screen credit, I noticed that they listed the film was written by "Brandon Jones" - an amazing misspelling considering I had my name prominently displayed on every draft of the script the man had.


I'm a little miffed, though not to the point of litigation. I'm sure Parker probably made lunch money at best off the thing so there's no money to be had. More than anything I'm just curious as to how bad it must've turned out and, at the same time, kind of jazzed to have something I wrote be produced - even if it was by Cletus McShifty and his All-Star Band of Ackters.


Next step is to track Parker down and remind him of who I am. I'm hoping to get an explanation, an apology and a copy of the damned thing. If I ever do, I'll have a viewing party at my place and you're all invited to share my pain!


* This is a purely hypothetical example and has never been experienced by the author.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The killer you know

The following is the first of a series of retroactive posts, so, really, it's new but I'm playing catch-up.


Show of hands, how many of you have known a murderer?
Really? You? That's a shocker. Anybody else?


Had a really weird experience the other night as I was flipping channels. Turns out that CBS's "48 Hours: Mysteries" was running an installment all about a girl of my acquaintance who, one night in 2003, stabbed her husband to death and way, way after.


Susan Wright (her married name) was, back in 1995, just this cute blonde who was the roommate of a good friend of mine. She was kind of odd, kind of dramatic and kind of annoying. She worked as a topless dancer (no, I never saw her in action, she and my friend both were dancers trying to pay their way through school). And, really, other than the fact that she never really laughed at my jokes, she didn't make much of an impression on me.


Okay, well, there was the night she had very "enthusiastic" whoopie with a shady loser while I was trying to sleep on a friend's couch in the next room.


Cut to (no pun intended) the present and here I am seeing her grisly and sad tale laid out on national TV. She'd married a supposedly nice guy. She became a mom, there were drugs, there was possibly physical abuse. And finally she tied him to the bed and stabbed him 193 times.


The question of her innocence or guilt was decided by a court and I have nothing to add, no insights into what drives someone to the darkest place we as humans can go. All I could think was, "Hey! I know that girl!"


If you'd like to know more about Susan, her crime and subsequent trial, go here:

48 Hours: Mysteries - mmm-MM, that's good TV

Monday, June 27, 2005

Batman Begins, employment ends

Ah, kids, remember when my life was primarily centered around whether or not I had ever made certain kinds of breakfast foods? Was it only yesterday that I was preoccupied with grillin' up some flapjacks?


Sadly, those days are gone. In the last couple of weeks I've been dealt blows both pleasant (Batman Begins kicks grotesque amounts of ass!) and not-so pleasant (You - you mean I'm just not wanted anymore?).


Yes, as the Universe sometimes does, I had a life-altering change forced on me in the form of a firing (which was the power of the never mentioned "Wonder Triplet" - Wally - who was tragically killed by Gorilla Grodd in their first adventure with the Super Friends). Now, before you get all weepy, keep in mind that this is/was a job I've held for faaaaaar too long, one of those jobs you hate but you stick with because it's comfy and pays well. Well, I'm glad to be leaving.


Though not looking forward to the job hunt (who does?), I figured I'd be okay, because I had my second part-time gig with connectedguide.com where I've been reviewing DVDs and doing some minimal coding. And then, at the end of last week, that website went belly up. So I'm out of two jobs, pretty much simultaneously.


Okay, now you can get all weepy.


I don't expect an outpouring of aid (especially through the medium of my very sporadic blog), but if you happen to hear of a great - paying - gig in, on or near the entertainment industry please let me know! The ideal would be something along the lines of a reader or writer's assistant job. Being a personal assistant to an agent or producer .... not so ideal. I am not opposed to nudity as long as it serves the story (a la Harvey Keitel in ... anything from the '90s), carries a powerful emotional impact (a la Irene Cara in Fame) and is in no way cheap and exploitive (a la those chicks in Schindler's List - shame on you, Mr. Spielberg!).


Speaking of nudity, there was none in Batman Begins, a movie that does a great deal to scour the efforts of Joel Schumacher from our collective unconscious. Despite all my comic geeky nitpicks, this was a solid origin film taking the character seriously and taking advantage of 66 years worth of background and continuity to build a "real" hero from the ground up. I'm greatly looking forward to the next film in the series. Now, cross your fingers for Superman Returns.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

A Short Stack Grows in Koreatown

She was gentle because she knew it was my first time.


She guided me, showed me the steps I needed to follow and I followed as best I could. Was it perfect? No, but surely that's too much to ask. But was it good? And will I do it again?


Oh my, yes.


Thank you. Again, thank you, Aunt Jemima.


Yeah, so, I took the plunge and bought me some mix and some eggs (quite an achievement for me as my close friends can attest) and some butter and some syrup. And a whisk. Yes, that's right, sweet soul brothers and sweet soul sisters, your boy gots himself a whisk. Don't think for a second I didn't hold my head up just a little higher as I left Ralphs.


And following the easy instructions on the box (which were quite thorough - though they failed to do justice to the mess that would be the end result), Brendan Douglas Jones entered the fabled ranks of those who have made pancakes.


They were only slightly burned.


Thank you for accompanying me on this bachelor's rite of passage. Next up ... dusting!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A revelation that struck like one of Zeus's own thunderbolts

I am 36 years old and have never made pancakes. You know, from scratch.

Mmmmm, pancakes.....

Stay tuned!