Monthly Archives: August 2008

Helping the Plot to Thicken

Fellow writer/blogger/Joss Whedon fan, Jen, turned me on to these Post-it Digital Notes, which she’s been using to help her plot her current project.  First off, I think I should explain that I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a gadget person.  For the most part, I’m a strictly low-tech sorta guy (I’ve been called a “cranky Luddite” like it was some kind of an insult).  There’s a pretty good chance that I will never, ever use the Kindle.  I like paper.  I like the way it feels.  I like the way it smells.  I know, I’m weird.

Where was I?  Oh, yeah…the Post-it Digital Note Extravaganza.  Jen’s using them to plot her current novel and she positively loves them.  So, I figured I’d give them a little test-drive.  I downloaded a 30-day free trial from the website and puttered around with them for a day or two.  Today was the first time I actually sat down and tried to use them to plot a novel.

After a few hours, I can say that I’m digging them.  Whether you’re writing a novel, a screenplay, or a term paper, I think these digital Post-its are a good way to organize your thoughts.  You can monkey around with them, making templates for different kinds of notes.  You can change the size and color of the notes; you can even change the size, color, and type of the fonts on each note.  As you can see, you can organize the Post-its on Memoboards, which themselves can be further organized as tabs:

If the entire act of plotting goes as swimmingly as today’s initial trial did, I’m pretty sure that I’ll be willing to shell out the twenty bucks to get the program after my 30 free days are up.  Although, part of me will miss the piles of spiral notebooks filled with Zodiac-esque scribblings and the random index cards and sheets of paper taped and pinned to the walls:

Oh well, viva la revolucion!


Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

My good friends Paul and Jessica posed this question via e-mail the other night: If you were throwing a “dinner party for the ages”, and could invite anyone from any historical era, who would you invite?  It seemed like a simple enough question.  However, when I started putting the list together, my brain went ker-floofy and I kept coming up with fictional characters, then I panicked and could only come up with the names of writers.

So, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll be posted three lists.  The first list is my original, panic-induced list.  The second one is an edited version composed once cooler heads prevailed.  The third list is a list of fictional characters.  In a perfect world, I think I’d combine the fictional and the historical lists.  But this ain’t a perfect world, Nancy, and those weren’t the rules.

1. Original Dinner Party For The Ages Invite List

Joss Whedon

Charles Dickens

Robert E. Howard

Jane Austen

H.P. Lovecraft

Lester Dent

Walter Gibson

Arthur Conan Doyle

Queen Boudica

Audrey Hepburn

Marilyn Monroe

Jayne Mansfield

Neil Gaiman

Stephen King

Groucho Marx

Lee Marvin

Mel Blanc

2. Edited Dinner Party For The Ages Invite List

Joss Whedon

Charles Dickens

Howard Carter

Jane Austen

Niall of the Nine Hostages

Lester Dent

Walter Gibson

Arthur Conan Doyle

Queen Boudica

Alfred the Great

Heinrich Schliemann

Audrey Hepburn

Jack Kirby

Marilyn Monroe

Jayne Mansfield

Groucho Marx

Stephen King

Mel Blanc

3. Fictional Dinner Party For The Ages Invite List

Harry Dresden, Bob, and Karrin Murphy

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson

Archie Goodwin

Annja Creed

Philip Marlowe

Elizabeth Swann

Mal Reynolds and Inara Serra

Harry Flashman

Alice Abernathy

Edmund Blackadder and Baldrick

Basil Fawlty

Ash Williams

Modesty Blaise

Doc Savage

How the Hell Did I Make It Out of Grade School?

While talking to a friend this week, I revealed three different, yet related tales from my childhood that illustrate what a literal-minded little phonics whore I was as a lad.  And, since I think they’re pretty funny, I thought I’d share them:

1. There was period when I was a kid, when my mom used the word liaison quite a bit.  She was involved in the PTA and the local community board, so it makes sense in retrospect.  However, at the time, I’d never heard the word before and, based on the ways my mom would use it, I always assumed it was a person’s name: Lee Ayson.

2. While waiting to pick up my sister after school, I pointed to the writing on the door to the Principal’s Office and asked my mom what the words Off Ice meant?

3. My all-time favorite story…still told around the Christmas goose ’til this very day.  When I was six or so, I was sitting at the kitchen table drawing a picture of ants, bees, and various other bugs (remember this part, it’s important).  My mom was in the kitchen making dinner.  All of a sudden, innocent as you please, I ask “Mom, how do you spell sex?”  Now, as you can expect, my mom was a tad taken aback that her six year old son would ask her how to spell sex (especially since this was in the days before cable TV and the internets, when you had to learn about such things in the schoolyard).  “Six?” she asks.  “No, sex,” I reply.  Understandably concerned, she comes over to look at what I’m drawing and sees the page filled with bugs, spiders and other creepy crawlies.  At the top of the page, the letters I and N patiently await the remaining letters needed to spell (wait for it) IN-SECTS.

Four on the Floor #17: Not Your Typical Dashing Heroes

The Situation: Say the word hero and certain images immediately pop into your head. The square jaw. The broad shoulders. Deltoids of compassion. Abs of being kind. But hey, let’s be honest, the dashing good looking heroes are pretty much a dime a dozen. Superman, Captain America, James Bond, Luke Skywalker–I’m not casting doubt on whether or not they’re heroic, all I’m saying is that if you line them all up next to each other, they kind of start to blend together. I think that’s why I’ve always been more of a fan of the ugly or freakish hero.

The Criteria: With the exception of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I think the notion that a monstrous character could be a hero didn’t really take off until the early ’60s when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby cranked out characters like The Hulk and The Thing. Since then, pop culture has welcomed heroes who, on a good day, would make a baby cry just by looking at them. Some are more grotesque than others. I thought about including Hank “Beast” McCoy or Gar “Beast Boy” Logan, but I realized that they’re really just more or less regular dudes who happen to be a bit fuzzy (and blue and green, respectively). The four guys on this list will need more than an EPILADY to make People‘s Sexiest Man Alive issue.

1. Ben Grimm, a.k.a. The Thing

Probably the first of the modern “monster heroes”, The Thing has spawned numerous imitators, impostors, homages, and satires. Sure, he’s a pretty big deal in the Marvel Universe, but he still feels the pangs of not being able to “fit in.” What’s more, he’s the only one on the team who can’t turn his powers off, a fact that Johnny rarely lets him forget.

2. Vlad

The hulking and disfigured Vlad serves as sidekick, bodyguard, and big brother to Slasher-hunter Cassie Hack. Despite his appearance, which he tries to hide behind a gas mask, Vlad has a big heart and an overall childlike and naive demeanor.

3. Kurt Wagner, a.k.a. Nightcrawler

When you’re born looking like a furry blue devil, there’s not much hope in fitting in. But, his childhood in the circus taught Kurt to be himself. He stopped using the hologram inducer that Professor Xavier gave him to “look normal” because he didn’t want to hide who he really is. Whether he’s a happy-go-lucky, sword-wielding swashbuckler or an ordained Roman Catholic priest, Kurt’s the moral and compassionate center of whatever team he’s on.

4. Hellboy

Come on. Look at the cards stacked against poor HB. He’s over six feet tall, weighs several hundred pounds, has bright red skin, cloven feet, horns, and a tail. And, as if all that didn’t make him stand out, do you see that right hand of his?

"Jerk!" "Emo!"

I found a bunch of these videos on YouTube that parody the Mac/PC commercials using Marvel and DC characters (actually, that reminds me, are they even still making those Mac/PC commercials?).  Most of them are a pretty general ribbing of the differences between Marvel movies and DC movies.  However, this one focuses on Iron Man and The Dark Knight (or, as I like to call them: “I Hope This Never Ends!” and “Ugh, Is This Over Yet?”).


"Goodbye, Children"

Well, wherever Bernie Mac is right now, at least he’s got some good music to listen to.  Singer Isaac Hayes has also passed away.  Hayes is probably as well known for playing South Park‘s Chef:

as he was for this:

See ya on the other side, Isaac.


So, there’s this little independent movie called The Dark Knight (maybe you’ve heard of it?) that’s doing really well at the box office. So well, in fact, that almost as soon as it opened, the internets were abuzz with geek-chatter and rumors about who was going to be in the next Batman flick. Some of these ideas have been pretty spot-on, some have been okay, and some have been just wrong (see below).

As a service to DC, Warner Brothers, and you, Mr. and Mrs. Internet, I’ve compiled a list of some of Batman’s better known (more or less) rogues and who I think should play them in any upcoming sequels. Unfortunately, two of Bruce’s foes–Killer Croc and Man-Bat–were just too weird for me to convincingly think of a way to fit them into the uber-realistic Batman world that Christopher Nolan’s crafted for his films.

Anyways…here we go:

Angelina Jolie as Catwoman

Although I won’t deny that she’s a good-looking gal, I’ve always found Ms. Jolie to be more than a little terrifying. But, as a lot of folks have been saying, Catwoman has been the role that Jolie’s been auditioning for in every movie she’s ever made.

Timothy Olyphant as The Riddler

The rumors are linking Johnny Depp to the role of The Riddler. Now, I like Depp as much as the next straight guy, but I think it would be too easy to let him take Riddler down the twitchy, shuffling road that Heath Ledger’s Joker walked. No, I think Olyphant (Deadwood, Live Free or Die Hard) can pull off Riddler’s cold, calculating narcissism perfectly. When an Olyphant character thinks that he’s better than everyone else in the room, you believe it.

Johnny Depp as Mad Hatter

I think Hatter is a much better fit for Depp. I see Nolan’s Jervis Tetch being a combination of Sweeney Todd and Willy Wonka…and that would be truly frightening.

Bob Hoskins as The Penguin

Hey, everyone who thinks that Philip Seymour Hoffman should play Penguin, have you even read a Batman comic? Two, maybe two-and-a-half Cobblepots could fit into one of Hoffman’s suits. As much as I liked Tim Burton’s mutant freak Penguin, I also really dig what DC has done with the character in the last few years–turning him into a more-or-less legitimate businessman, who also happens to be a black-market arms dealer, among other things, making it hard for Brucie to run around and pound the stuffing out of him. Not only is Hoskins…um…physically perfect for the role, but he played such an awesome British gangster in The Long Good Friday, that I’d love to see him do it again in Gotham.

Christina Hendricks as Poison Ivy

Let’s downplay the “she can talk to and control plants” thing and focus on the “she’s a slightly off eco-terrorist” thing. She can still use toxins derived from exotic flora, and there’s no reason why Ivy can’t even possess her comic counterpart’s natural immunity to poisons. And who better to play the slinky redhead than a redhead who slinks her way through the halls of Sterling Cooper every week on Mad Men? And, if you don’t think that Christina Hendricks can be a homicidal loon, than you haven’t met Yo-Saff-Brig.

David Hyde Pierce as The Ventriloquist

What’s scarier than a puppet? How about a gangster puppet who may or may not be alive? Yeah, thought so. I know that Hyde Pierce has been tearing up Broadway lately, but I miss seeing him on the screen. I think he could bring the same kind of milquetoast fussiness that he brought to Niles Crane to the man behind Scarface.

Jeff Kober as Clayface

We’re going to have to alter Clayface a little bit to fit him into a Nolan-Batman flick. Sadly, gone will be the gooey mound of muck that I’ve come to love. But, we can keep the concept of him being a “Man of a Thousand Faces”-type actor. Only, this time, he uses his make-up skills to replace the people he kills–think Darkman, only evil and not so time-sensitive. Kober’s been around for a while and, besides being a little freaky to look at, he’s been under the make-up more than once, which I think would bring a bit of verisimilitude.

Ben Kingsley as Mr. Freeze

Arnold who? Forget the puns. Forget the ice-skating minions. When you get down to it, Mr. Freeze is a pretty intense villain. He’s a man who is physically and emotionally frozen. Since the loss of his wife, he’s devoid of any human feeling and seeks to make everyone else suffer the loss of their greatest love, as well. Can’t you picture Sir Ben as the shattered doc, systematically hunting down the people who he holds responsible for his wife’s death and watching, dispassionately, as they slowly freeze to death.

Steve Buscemi as Firefly

Not all of Batman’s foes are freakishly scarred lunatics. Some are just regular criminals who really enjoy their work–like the pyromaniac arsonist Garfield Lynns, a.k.a. Firefly. Sure, you couldn’t build an entire movie around Firefly, but if you had two factions (say, one led by Penguin and the other led by Riddler) who were trying to take over Gotham’s underworld, then an arsonist would certainly come in handy. And, let’s be honest, isn’t every movie better when Buscemi oozes across the screen? Yeah, I think so, too.

David Tennant as Calendar Man

Okay, guy dressed as Uncle Sam trying to steal the U.S. Constitution on the Fourth of July? Not scary. Pasty, basement-dwelling sociopath who crucifies three people on Easter? Scary. Don’t even get me started on the kind of body count he could have during the Twelve Days of Christmas. Calendar Man is a goofy name, but a dude who kills people according to the days of the week or the nearest holiday, can be kind of creepy. And, I’ve said it before, Doctor Who not withstanding, Tennant was pretty creepy in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.