Thursday, December 29, 2005

[RPG] Sunset, Season 2

I've started a thread over at rpg wellie about the new game I'm running set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

It's a 'by-popular-demand' sequel to a game from 2 years ago. Back then, all the plot-craziness created a game about personal responsibility, about choosing between what's good for you and good for other people. Seems like that'll be the starting point for
this one, but I suspect it could skew more AO than our earlier game.

Everyone helped set up the situation & what's emerged is - to me - an exciting metaphor about the War on Terror, with the Slayers in the role of the terrorists.

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[The Limit] Draft D Done

Reduced from 115 pages of puffiness to a lean 93 pages of action, the script's ready for Andrew to read through it. Then we'll decide whether it needs any more radical rewrites. I'm hoping not.

Couple of things I learned during this redraft:

1. There's always more stuff you can take out.

I adhere to Stephen King's rule, that the 2nd Draft = the 1st Draft - 10% (except in my blog posts). This time round, I discovered moments within a single scene that duplicated each other, moments that didn't make any sense because they referred to previous versions, simple spelling mistakes ('streaks' became 'steaks').

In fixing all this, I took out beats I was fond of but thought distracted from getting to the story. Mostly those were slightly jokey moments or actions I wasn't 100% convinced by.

2. I always have a warm-up period where the writing doesn't come easily.

It'd be great to figure out a way around this - where it comes from and how to deal with it. That would increase my productivity.

3. I'll feel whatever I'm writing about.

That's the only way it seems to work for me. And, with this script, a lot of good's come out of it. I used to be afraid of feeling angry. Now I understand it more: the way it's powerful and it feels good - but how I nearly make bad decisions under its influence.

4. I have a new benchmark to aim for.

Earlier this year, I locked on to something new to explore in my writing - being aware of a script's central conflict and making sure every scene hooked into that. I'm still learning how to do that but now I have an even more demanding goal to reach for.

You see, I read a script and rate how engaged I am with it (out of 10) on every page. Next script, I want to aim for 10 out of 10 for all of it. I don't even know if that's achievable but there is definitely no harm in trying.


That's the great thing about writing: the process is still fun (even when it's frustrating and heart-breaking), but the benchmark for my satisfaction keeps moving.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Restarting the Limit, Professionalism & the End of the World

I've restarted work on (hopefully) the final draft of The Limit. So far, there are 3 main problems: that the setup's too long - it feels puffy, repetitive, boring; there's also a subplot that I've recently introduced that's destroying the script's momentum; and last, the ending has too much exposition in it & not quite enough emotion. Overall, the script's a little too long - 115 pages where I think it should be 90-100 at most.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed reading it. The story has a dread & tension to it that I found riviting, and finally the third act is starting to play the way I've always wanted it to. So, there's a bit of work ahead of me if I'm going to finish this before New Years, but I do think it's possible. This thing could have stopped dominating my life within the next 10 days.


I invoiced my first script editing client last night. Ah, professionalism. So satisfying.

With that in mind, here's a link to a synopsis of Robert McKee's book on script-writing, Story. Saves me the work of doing it myself.


And the world is ending. Read about the death of virtual world Asheron's Call 2 in Wired, and the melancholy that's settled over the players/customer there. Sample quotes from Clive Thompson's article:

What struck me immediately was how creepy the world had become. "Being in-game is like walking around a ghost town," I was warned by Amy Gilson, a 31-year-old from Philomath, Oregon. "You can almost see the tumbleweeds pass you by."

But I couldn't get past the sense of existential emptiness. At one point, a non-player character assigned me a quest of killing all the burrowing beasts in a nearby canyon, to save her town. I'm like, save the town? Lady, the whole damn world is about to end!

Now as the final days click down, the last denizens of Asheron's Call 2 are wrestling with a question that historically faces all displaced peoples: Where next? Thorn says many in his guild have emigrated to World of Warcraft, a game that is now so hugely popular -- and so overcrowded, with migrants fleeing to other games -- that it has become a virtual version of 19th-century America: A hallowed land of opportunity, where everyone can have fresh start.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

[TV] The Chappelle Theory

OK, here's a link to a conspiracy theory: The Chappelle Theory - that postulates that a group of prominent African-American leaders (including Oprah, Cosby, Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton) drove comedian Dave Chappelle to financial and psychological ruin because they didn't like the way Chappelle was portraying African-Americans in his sketch show.

Now I've believed in quite a few conspiracy theories in my time, but this one had me veering between 'that sounds reasonable' and triggering my bullshit detector about every 2 sentences. Here's one example:

On Tuesday, while watching an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show, Chappelle recalled being completely stunned when Winfrey turned to the camera in the middle of interviewing Tom Cruise and said "Dave Chappelle, you should be ashamed of yourself for airing that Niggars sketch on your show this week, I'm going to make sure you never work in Hollywood again."

The image, allegedly taped by Winfrey, and transmitted to Chappelle's house under the direction of Robert L. Johnson who called in some favors with Chappelle's local affiliate station manager, terrified Chappelle.

If stuff like this (and Bill Cosby as an intimidating kingpin) were true, I reckon Chappelle should have just turned every attack on him and his family into more sketches.
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Sunday, December 18, 2005

[Script] What do characters fear?

I really like this quote from Sid Field's Going to the Movies. It's Robert Towne (Chinatown) about creating characters. He first asks himself, What is this character afraid of? In other words, what is his or her deepest fear?

In Chinatown, Jake Gittes, a private detective specialising in "discreet investigation," has a certain reputation to uphold, so he does everything to make a good impression. He dresses immaculately, has his shoes shined everyday and has his own code of ethics. Gittes' deepest fear is not being taken seriously.

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

[TV] Unsubstantiated Futurama rumour

I saw absolutely nothing in this Read Sydney Morning Herald article to support Groening & Cohen's belief that Futurama is coming back, but after watching all 4 seasons this year I believe a show that's this smart deserves it.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

[TV] Breaking the Story

Rasah, over at Procrastinatey, had the good fortune to attend a seminar about writing for TV led by Tim Minear (Angel, Firefly, The X Files, The Inside, Wonderfalls). Her full report is here.

Executive Summary of how they do it over at Team Whedon:

Take multiple pitches for story ideas.
Choose one. In the seminar, the idea chosen was for an episode of Angel:

Lonely Cordy finally meets the man of her dreams, only to realize that he's Dennis the poltergeist, who's chosen to become corporeal for one day just to be with her, but his trade-off is that he must go away forever after his day is over.

Map out the general emotional arc.

Tim used the term emotional arc in contrast to plot moves, as in, he was interested in the characters' emotional beats more than fancy plots and mysteries. He was not so much interested in the details of the plot, and when someone brought up an intricate plot idea, Tim would say, "That could be interesting, but it doesn't matter. What's the emotion underlying the moves?" Following the characters' emotions was more important than "Well, what happens next? How does Angel manage to beat the baddie?"
See where certain beats would hit at certain points.

First act break, Cordy meets the man of her dreams. Second act break, finds out he's, um, not-alive. Third act break, finds out the guy is Dennis. Fourth act, Dennis must go away.

Generate ideas for the main A story.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

[Biz] Accounts set up

I'm now officially ready to trade as a script-editor and online seller of RPGs.

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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein.

So far, this is the best 300+ page novel by Heinlein I've ever read. Political revolution on the Moon. A great narrator's voice, an exciting & epic scale to the events and violence, a well-worked out and unique social system. AIs, VRs, mass-drivers, libertarian philosophy and marriage clans - and many other gimmicks.

I'm a huge fan of The Puppet Masters but this is far more advanced.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

[The Limit] Dialogue Draft finished

I now breathe a sigh of relief.

Yesterday was fun. I wrote an intense action sequence about a man trying to find a roll of toilet paper, watched Frenzy for inspiration, and was just generally on a slow-moving yet relentless roll towards finishing the script.

Now, some formatting, printing out and feedback from Andrew. Then the final tighten and polish (and rigorous proof-reading - my favourite part!). I suspect after that, I'll be asking 5 people if they want to read it, just to get a final idiot-check on the whole thing. 'Idiot' in the sense of 'did I write anything totally stupid (continuity errors & such).

Anyway, now I'm going to get back to that sigh.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

[The Limit] Writer's Beard shaved

Quite often when I'm starting a dialogue draft, I won't shave until the story has quickened and the dialogue is coming naturally and rapidly out of me. Yesterday (which was also my 33 1/3 birthday) I was able to shave the beard - which had grown very uncomfortable and was stopping me from sleeping well - and see Serenity (my estimation of that movie has gone way up on a second viewing).

So, I'm going to duck away now and keep writing ... hopefully reaching the 3/4 mark by this evening.

Edited to add: Two fun links that have a lot of applicability to the writing I'm doing. Here's John Rogers on action sequences, and Josh Friedman on sex scenes.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

[lovebites] Information & Strategies

Spend another night going through the boxes of tapes and contracts from the TV series. Lots of information about marketing, lots of correspondence with executives from various companies. A new appreciation of how tough Ainsley’s, Larry’s, Caterina’s and Lindsey Shelton’s jobs were.

Also, I found a possible online release strategy for lovebites, here. Essentially it talks about putting the content online for free and creating the fan base, after which you repackage all of the extra content is created and sell it as a DVD.

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[The Limit] Same ole same ole

Day 1 of this dialogue draft: ½ an hour writing, 1 page done.
Day 2: 2 hours writing, 1 page done.

Day 3 (today): 3 hours writing, not even one page done - but I've made the decision to finish & have fun while writing it.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

[RPG] Designing 'Desperate Virgins'

I've got two design threads over at the Forge for my new game Desperate Virgins. The first, which has pretty much run its course, is about the voting procedure in the endgame - and some massive changes have come out of that.

This newest thread is about how the characters start the game - but it's really about game balance.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Long time, no blog

Hey there,

So, I'm in the midst of trying to find flatmates - and if you know anyone who's trying to find a flat then feel free to send them in our direction.

Yesterday, I finished the big restructure of The Limit & starting either tomorrow or Monday it'll be time to put in the dialogue. Lots of fun, looking forward to it.

Jenni's Mean Girls game was fun. You can read about her & my thoughts on it here, and a synopsis of what happened 4 comments down, here.

Other than that, not much substantive to report or blog about - too busy. But congrats to Svend, Norman and Mark (and everyone else at Weta) for - hopefully - finishing their work on King Kong and now being able to sleep in!

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Huge day yesterday.

10am – Business course on the basics of earning money in business.
1pm – Signed up at Les Mills
2pm – Arranged a script editing assignment.
7pm – Worked my way through about a quarter of this The Limit rewrite.
8pm – Rehearsal for The Wasps.
1am – Watched 24.

Shooting 2 scenes for The Wasps tomorrow.

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[Biz] Promotion, Money Making factors

These are some highlights from the seminar yesterday:

Promotions should be simple. They should directly say what you’re offering the customer. Word of mouth is the most important thing to focus on. And a brand needs to have a story.

Businesses need yardsticks, help & fans.

I need to ruthlessly implement a Learn-Plan-Act cycle. So, yesterday I bought a whiteboard. It will help me.

There are 5 factors you can adjust when it comes to making money:
Prospects (all the people you could sell to)
Conversion (what percentage of people buy from you)
The Number of transactions each buyer makes in a year.
The Average Value of a transaction.
Your Profit Margin on each item.

Those five factors are taken from Brad Sugar’s book Billionaire in Training. I’ll have to post my notes from that sometime soon.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

[RPG] My 'Dirty Virgins' game

OK, I wasn't going to enter this month’s Ronnies, but then – 3 hours before the deadline – I read this game called apocalypse girl (you can read my review of it here, or download it here). And then I read this post from Ron & I don't know. I had to do it. The rough draft of Dirty Virgins (you can download it from here) was written in 43 minutes.

Here's the premise:

A large town in the middle ages. The Dragon will destroy it unless he is given a virgin sacrifice.

You're one of the town's Virgins.

The Dragon is coming tomorrow morning.

The object of the game: get enough mud on your reputation to avoid being killed.

The creative process was a little odd. At the start of the competition I brainstormed about 120 ideas. None of my top 4 (Invasion USSR, The Wing, Dirty Virgins or Swamp Men vs. the Mud Monsters) really grabbed my breeding balls and said "Write me now." So I let it slide.

Then on Tuesday, thinking about Jenni's Super-Cool-Jedi problem, I came up with a system for a game called Double Agents (kind of Alias meets 24 meets Aeon Flux). When I decided I had to write DV, that was the mechanic that swum to mind & I was off.

I wanted this game to have the spirit of a German boardgame, where the abilities you needed to use in the first phase actually starts to hinder you (or become meaningless) in the endgame. I guess play testing will show me if I succeeded.

Already though, I can see flaws - drawing two cards, no player vs. player, probably the method of figuring out votes is broken. But it was damn fun to write & when it's sorted, I think it'll be damn fun to play.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

[The Limit] Going well

I’m approaching quarter of the way through the big restructure & today was That Day where I started to get enthused about the work again. I love That Day.

So, I got through about 5 scenes in quick succession. One was the tricky, pivotal conversation between the 2 dads that keeps tripping me up. I want it to be like a verbal fistfight, but in order to stay true to the characters it’s turned out a lot quieter. What’s neat about this scene is that one of the characters completely gives up on what he wants halfway through. I discovered that this morning; it’s a neat & nasty surprise.

Then wrote a quick new husband-and-wife argument scene. I love the wife now. That was never true in previous drafts. And this argument gives an insight into Peter’s fragile sense of masculinity.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

We're looking for a flatmate

So, Chris is moving out in about 4 weeks. That means I'm looking for a flatmate. There's a flatfinder ad here (with contact details). In the meantime, the specifics are:

It's the best room in our flat - very large, bay windows, it gets lots of light and there’s loads of built-in storage.

Our flat’s friendly and pretty quiet. It's in Aro Valley - 2 minutes from university, 5 minutes from Cuba Street and & the bus stop right round the corner. We have a nice backyard and the whole place gets lots of sun over summer.

The room’s $140 a week and it's available from December 16. You'd be flatting with me (the scriptwriter) & Maya (the musician).

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[Film] How to make an extraordinary movie

"We're going to have to go out on a limb, and then saw the limb off."

When I read this speech by Jack Lechner (4 years ago) it changed my life. The first section describes my idealistic ambitions when I started making films, the second section relentlessly dismantles my dreams and then the finale offered a way forward that immediately seemed right to me:

When I was at Channel Four in London at the beginning of the '90s, the British film industry was in far worse shape than the American independent film industry is now. When I considered a project to fund, I would ask myself, "If this film works, could it possibly help to save the British film industry?" If the answer was no, I rejected it. If the answer was yes, I advocated it. I wasn't always right, of course, but I know I was at least asking the right question.

We have to ask ourselves a version of that question now. If this film works, could it possibly help to save the American independent film industry? Could it break through the wall of apathy, and reawaken audiences to what movies can do? Could it influence other filmmakers? Could it create such a stir that your parents hear about it -- and not just from you, but from their friends?

Whatever you think of "The Blair Witch Project," it fit those criteria. So did "Reservoir Dogs." So did "She's Gotta Have It." So did "Paris Is Burning." What made these movies stand out? I can tell you in two words -- artistic ambition. I can tell you in one word -- daring. These movies were gambles. The filmmakers were doing something that you hadn't seen a million times before.

Folks, every movie that breaks through from here on out is going to need to do that. Instead of making nice little movies, we're going to have to take outrageous chances. We're going to have to go out on a limb, and then saw the limb off. And if your film can't do that -- if it isn't unique enough, if it isn't extraordinary enough, if it isn't dynamic enough to compete with all the other movies that are out there -- then be prepared for oblivion, because you won't even get the chance to find out.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

This is the news

It looks like things are going to get real hectic here over the next couple of weeks.

Turns out I've got rehearsals for The Wasps this week & a test shoot in the weekend. I've also just reached the end of Act 1 on The Limit, which hopefully means I can enfastenify the speed of my writing now the majority of the tough rewrites are out of the way.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Pop culture references

I found this extract from a new book by Leslie Savan pretty interesting. It seems to go a long way towards explaining why I feel satisfied when I use a pop cultural reference & why I often try to not use them, in order to think for myself. There's an interview with the author, here at Alternet.

A couple of movie related quotes:

A friend of mine who rewrites movie scripts is often told to add certain phrases to "punch them up," he says. "It's like McDonald's discovered that people have three basic tastes -- sweet, salty, and fat -- and therefore it never has to create foods for more subtle tastes." Yesss! (the spoonful of sugar in so many movies) takes care of positive, overcoming-the-odds feelings, while Hel-lo?! covers dealing with idiots, I don't think so can stop a fool in his tracks, and so on.

Dozens of ads and movie trailers, particularly, have turned on "Yessss!" Some of the movie trailer producers would tell me that they were so thankful when there was a "Yessss!" in the movie, because they knew they could produce their whole ad on that "Yessss!" They explained that it very consciously says, "Yes, I'll go see this movie." It makes you one of audience, it builds up the excitement and sort of generalizes without saying what the movie is, what the context is, what the characters are.

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24 (5-6m)

Once again, 24 is wrapping up has wrapped up its main plot. The nuclear reactors have been saved, there' s only one more terrorist left to get & only a few interpersonal subplots to play with. On the face of it, there is no reason except for habit that I should watch next week.

But this is the way that 24 works. It radically changes the stakes of this story halfway through each season. Given how much better this first half has been than Season 3's diabolical narco-terrorist plot, I'm actually looking forward to seeing what the writers had planned.

So that's the reason I'm watching. To be surprised.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

[How to: TV] Joining a Team

This post over at The Forge seems filled with common-sense about how to join a new team. Some of the points include: do things their way to start with (2 or 3 months); build friendships & hang out socially; be patient and - eventually - walk away if you're not happy with what you're seeing. All stuff I wish I'd known when I was working on Facelift.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

[Film] Doom

** (Average)

It’s the Doom movie that’s better than we deserve & yet seems created by people who have barely played the game.

Way better than I expected it to be – with some interesting characterisations and performances & swiftly getting into the action. But, in increasing order of severity, it:

- Is yet another lesser imitiation of Predator and Aliens

- is boring for large stretches.

- Doesn’t shoot most of its action from BEHIND the soldiers

- It’s a zombie movie.

- Constantly opts for conventional, seen-it-before choices; and

- Doesn’t have enough DOOM action. There’s such a slow build in intensity and variety of monsters that it’s nearly 80 minutes before the first setpiece that fits with the game happens.

To be fair, that’s followed by about 10 minutes of very cool stuff, but still …

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Saturday, November 05, 2005

[TV] 24 (3 - 5pm)


I like how, in this season, removing the President’s storyline has resulted in a more focused show.

This was a nice slow building episode that extends the Tony-Jack reluctant buddy movie vibe. Lots of plot progress – by the time Jack’s demonstrating his special skills with interrogation, I’m hooked once again. It helps that the interrogation plays off personal stories for Jack, Tony & Dina – all have had loved ones threatened before.

(Speaking of loved ones, Edgar saved 50 million people today. Surely they can spare the manpower to rescue his mom?)

Anyway, the episode climaxes by finally bringing CTU & the Araz family together, leaving us in a nice hostage situation that will obviously be the A-story for next ep.


Hostage situation? Boring. Resolve it in 15 minutes and move on to the next thing.

A fairly slow episode filled with exposition and people repeating the same bits of information to each other. It seemed like an ep where pieces were getting manoeuvred into position.

I’ve realised that I don’t really know anything about the writing process for 24. How much of this slowness is due to plotting out the season and how much is due to the individual writer? I mean, the show seems to have a very ‘written by committee’ voice to it. It does conflict and tension exceptionally well but outstanding character moments (of dialogue) are notably rarer.

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Monday, October 31, 2005

I'm all right

More later.

Oh, and this draft of the script's finished. So that's cool.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

[TV] Some more Lost sites

This is an article about the online marketing of Lost - and this is a site that people who've seen Ep.3 of Season 2 may be interested in checking out. Make sure to click on the Terms of Use after you've finished with everything else. I found that the funniest of all.

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Saturday, October 29, 2005

[The Limit] Writing the end

This is it. I’m back at the farmhouse for the finale. Feels like a long trip; feels – almost – like I’ve actually been shooting a movie & now I’m returning to a previous location.

10 pages of this brainstorming draft to go. This is the Endgame.

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[RPG] My Matrix RPG

My latest contribution to RPG culture can be found here - an adaptation of Dogs in the Vineyard to The Matrix. I've never found the idea of a Matrix role-playing game even remotely interesting, until I asked, "What if you played the Agents?" ...

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Friday, October 28, 2005

[Film] The Isle (2000)

***** → *** (out of 5)

Must be my week for disturbing romance movies with sexually dysfunctional content.

The Isle is a Korean character study that slowly morphs into a thriller and then into a devastating ugly-beautiful tragic love story. It’s characterised by the almost total silence of the 2 leads – it’s refreshing to see great character development mostly unaided by words. By the time a truly shocking incident involving 5 fish-hooks occurs, we have clearly established that the romance that’s abrewing is between a very damaged pair of individuals.

This was a 5-star movie until the last 20 minutes. The reasons I turned on it (without going into spoilers) were: a character does something so ugly I couldn’t forgive it; I didn’t ‘get’ the very end and it just bled into silliness for me; and

In the same way that Trainspotting is all about the characters until the plot shows up in the form of a drug deal, here I was grooving on the film until “Things Took A Turn for the Worse”™. That stuff just throws me.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

[Film] Marnie (1964)

**** ½ (out of 5)

This is probably the edgiest Hitchcock I’ve seen (The Wrong Man, Vertigo & Frenzy appear to be its closest companions). It starts as a light salacious comedy and ends up as an intense psychodrama.

For the most part, this doesn’t play like the type of film we associate with Hitch – there are very few visual flourishes in the cinematography. Save for an unsettling flashback towards the end, most of the film is shot in a fairly straightforward way.

That means it relies on the performances and the writing. Tippi Hedren as Marnie goes through an incredible range: doting daughter, school-marm, cool thief, trapped, raging, suicidal, socialite, cold-blooded killer and a shattered Southern belle. Connery (when he’s not committing sexual assault) is super-cool. And the script is fascinating – full of the strong writing that comes from rooting for 2 well-motivated characters who are each completely in the wrong.

According to Donald Spoto’s “The Art of Alfred Hitchcock”, Marnie sits inside 2 sets of Hitch’s films. The first is the sex-theft quartet: To Catch A Thief, Psycho and Family Plot. The second – and I think more fascinating – is that it’s the culmination of a series of three films about psychological damage: Psycho (discovering the problem), The Birds (trying to treat the problem) and Marnie (healing).

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Post 500 has no content!

Of all the things I thought I'd be posting about, this ain't it. I've just followed the instructions here at blogfresh to add tags to my posts. Soon you'll be able to see new posts being indexed (sort of) automatically over at my page.
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Multi Post!

Let’s try a Mr Anderson style multi-post.

Taking a small break from The Limit today to catch up on paperwork, filing & various projects that take a back seat when I’m in full-on scriptwritey mode. Biggest thing at the mo’ is that not only was it a relief to be at the end of TP2, it was also really satisfying to be writing the big Tracy/Peter scene.

I’m also getting to better understand the nuances of each character’s motivations. Watching Buffy Season 4 taught me that you really only need to know what characters have just been through and how that makes them feel RIGHT NOW in order to be consistent. Let’s call it the ‘stay one step ahead’ mode of writing.


Lost, Season 2. Not only do I approve of the general direction, the stuff they’re revealing totally appeals to my inner-geek. However, what I wonder is whether the more Lost reveals & the more it locks down, then the more it shuts audience members out.

Remember how its initial appeal was its universality? "People struggling to survive". We could project ourselves onto their plight. Well the show's definitely abandoning that for increased specificity about what it's about. Has it given too much away – or created fresh grounds for speculation?

I thought they’d locked down too much with Episode 3 ‘Orientation’ but on reflection, there’s still a HUGE mystery to be solved (for instance, all the information we’ve just been given could turn out to be completely misdirecting the audience while simultaneously laying out future story-points to be explored). There’s the fact that Locke was healed on the beach. There’s the character stories on the island and their entwined backstories before the plane crashed (and the unanswered question of exactly how much of a coincidence it is that these particular people have landed here).

Lost may well have pulled off what it needed to: seeming to provide answers while still maintaining its inscrutable charm. For me, this’ll be its crucial season though – the season I pass judgment.

Also: I’ve never sided with Sawyer in the Jack- Sawyer debate before Episode 3. But give Michael & Sawyer their own spin-off show. Call it “Angry Men on a Raft”.


tech.memeorandum is my new favourite site. It not only aggregates blog entries, it also lists other blogs that are writing on the same topic. For instance, now I've learned that 2.6GB from Google can turn out to be very expensive and that Zombie PCs. are out to get advertisers.

And here’s an expensive piece of VR estate. Someone paid $100,000 USD for a space resort amidst the treacherous but Mineral Rich Paradise V Asteroid Belt, in the virtual universe, Project Entropia.


Queen Bees & Wannabes has started dealing with girls’ first steps into dating. Some observations:

1. Groups of girls entering puberty may not want boyfriends themselves, but they want to find out about relationships – so they’ll nominate a girl and set them up in a relationship (to observe the effects).
2. Queen Bees set up girls with boyfriends in order to buy their loyalty.
3. A fundamental criteria for group acceptance is to date someone that has the group’s approval.

It’s like the freakin’ Mafia out there.

In the ‘Girl World’ that Wiseman describes, boyfriends are crucial because they a) increase self-worth, b) make a girl’s friends think more highly of her, and c) prove that she fits into teen culture.


There’s a feedback thread on Left Coast at the Forge.

Last Breath is another 24 Hour RPG – set in a post-plague world; one of my favourites. It’s a raw, very realistic setting – there is no ‘adversary’ – no Rage infected victims, no Dark Man to defeat. It’s The Stand without any fantastical elements.

I like the set-up phase – quick, engaging. The world ends. You have to deal with it & in the process meet your fellow players. Plus there’s a really simple dice mechanic for acquiring the resources you’ll need to survive.


Do you think anyone wrote Vader/Leia slash-fic before Empire came out?

Post 499.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

[The Limit] So. Close.

I’ve mapped out this rewrite on four A3 pages – and today I crossed over into the fourth and final page. Once again, I slowed down - kind of freaked out & scared – and began a massive blast of procrastination.

Then I remembered how angry I am at this script. How much I want to finish it so I can get it out of my life and do something new. That anger’s built through the day until now I am fully focused on bring this thing home.

So, I’ll be even more focused on the script over the next week or so. I’ve scheduled 20 days to finish this section; hopefully I can finish much quicker. After that, organise all my brainstorming and then finalise it. And then the final ‘tighten up & proofread’ draft.

So close.

No idea how frequently I’ll be updating over the next week. This is Post 498, so I guess there’ll be a couple more.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

[TV] "Small Town"

At our last brainstorming meet, we worked up a quirky small town drama-horror, based on a poem by Vivianne Plumb. It was cool to see that from a "Northern Exposure meets The Big Lebowski and they fight American Gothic" idea, we got some fascinating characters and a nasty cross-generational story …

I've written about some roleplaying implications of the meeting, here.

Queen Bees & Wannabes

By Rosalind Wiseman

It’s an analysis of the social group formed by teenage girls in American high schools. The movie, Mean Girls, was based on it. (Here's my review of it.)

THE POINT (seems to be) At high school, you don’t realise you’re fighting a long game. Short term, the choices you make may increase your popularity – but long-term they cost you control over your self-esteem.

Part 1: The middle of the book.

(Much of this is verbatim ...)

What don’t girls like so much about their friendships with other girls? The answers tend to be about competition: over looks, style, friends, popularity and boys. (This is great – because most of the comedy I write comes from competitiveness … so knowing this just made my job easier.)

Teasing in a clique is done to put the recipient in her place (below her in the totem pole). It’s usually effective because the people closest to you know how to push your buttons best.

And a note for busybody parents: Adults seem to forget: if you get the bully into trouble, at some puoint she’ll find you and no one will be around to help. You must teach your daughter to fight her own battles. Your involvement should be limited to strategising with her about what she wants to do and then affirming that she has the strength to carry it out.

24.4 (2pm to 3pm)

“Don’t you think you’ve made me miss enough TV today, Jack?”

Tony’s domestic life is hilarious!

Edgar vs. Marianne is hilarious. The car bomb is awesome. The whole show is basically like hanging America’s Id & super-ego out for all to see.

***1/2 (out of 5)

Friday, October 21, 2005

[TV] 24.4.whatever

**** (out of 5)

This ep resolved all the main plots 12 minutes into it. Jack rescued his girlfriend and the Secretary of Defence and then defeated the terrorists.

After the commercial break, the writers started introducing new tensions: Paul the jealous fiancé, Audrey’s dad learning about Jack and then ordering his son to be tortured, Beruz – about to be executed on the orders of his father, and then the double whammy of a the meltdown device and a traitor within CTU. Old hat by now. Like, who hasn’t been a traitor inside CTU?

Anyway, with a double cliffhanger the show is very much back on form.

24.4.whatever the next
** ½

Not so much with the return to greatness but I’m looking forward to seeing more of Tony.

This is a weird show. In order to maintain suspense, there are radical changes in the basic situation and the cast between seasons. This creates a different viewing experience from most shows. We would never expect to care about a person who suddenly appeared between seasons and started a romantic relationship with Buffy. For most shows, we expect that sort of thing – and our attachment to the characters – to be earned. 24 assumes the viewers will play along.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

[Script] Energy

Another way of looking at storytelling in the movies* is that each phase of the film has a different 'energy' about it.

Taking War of the Worlds (2005) as an example (because that's where I first noticed this), you have four different types of energy in the story. The move from the normal domestic set up to the full on terror of the invasion is almost unnoticeable. The transition between the two happens in a bravura 15 minutes set piece involving lightning strikes and a stolen car. That full on terror of being pursued is sustained for what seems like a full hour. But then there is a noticeable gear change when Tim Robbins arrives in the film. All of the action becomes confined to a single location and the emotions darken towards paranoia and despair.

After finally emerging from this location, I was almost begging the film to do something different - and it obliged by shifting first into taking the attack to the aliens and then into daylight.

The trick, I think, is to be aware of the emotions and mood you're generating & how the audience feel about that. However, what to do about it may well depend on a case-by-case basis.

*I think this applies much more to films than television because the film is designed to be watched in one uninterrupted burst, so you are more attuned to variations in tone and intensity. With TV, you are coming back from a commercial every seven minutes so there will be more emphasis on trying to re-establish mood and story.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

[The Limit] Halfway

Halfway through this brainstorming phase of the draft. Taking a day off to let my mind refill with creative goodness & get some distance from it.

I'm enjoying the writing. It's starting to go faster - and I'm expecting to keep up that pace until I hit the big re-writes in Act 3.

[RPG] Left Coast wins!

Holy cr@p! I just won a Ronnie for Left Coast. That's a $25 prize (US) + feedback and mentoring from Ron, if I understand the terms of the contest correctly.

This is cool. The game came together really easily - I had a lot of fun writing it. I'm glad Ron thought it had merit. Looking forward to the feedback thread.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

[TV] Boxing with lovebites

Spent a lot of Sunday with Ainsley and Sean, moving and sorting through boxes of contracts and tapes that Ains has been storing since the liquidation. Lots of fun, lots of memories & some teary-eyed moments as we came across photos of all of us hanging out back then.

What a conspiracy feels like

Thought I'd link to this extract from Scott Ritter's new book (he's the guy who was co-ordinating weapons inspections in Iraq in the mid-90s). Towards the end of the extract, he goes to tell his boss that he suspects his organisation has been infiltrated by the CIA:

I carefully typed up a point paper outlining my concerns and specifying the information I had gathered, and requested a meeting with Duelfer in the U.N. cafeteria.

I slid the paper across the table to Duelfer, and began my brief. He listened without expressing any emotion, casually reading the paper as I made my case. He sat in silence for some time after I finished, contemplating what I had said. Finally, he looked at me. "Scott, I can't comment on any of this. All I would say is that you probably would do very well not to ever mention it again."

"Charles, we work for UNSCOM," I replied. "If what I have written here is true, we have the potential for a compromise that could not only end UNSCOM, but perhaps endanger the lives of some of our inspectors. We have to inform the executive chairman of this, and at least launch some sort of inquiry with the United States to find out if there is any validity to this, and if there is, to stop it before it's too late."

Duelfer looked at me, frustrated. "Scott, I can't make it any clearer than this. I cannot discuss this. This never happened. And if I were you, I'd drop the matter right now. If you go forward, even to tell [Rolf Ekéus, the UNSCOM chairman] you will be opening a huge bag of trouble for you. I would imagine you'd have the FBI come down on you very, very hard, and you don't want that. Take my advice and back off."

I sat there, letting Duelfer's words sink in. Was he aware of the operation?

What a conspiracy feels like

Thought I'd link to this extract from Scott Ritter's new book (he's the guy who was co-ordinating weapons inspections in Iraq in the mid-90s). Towards the end of the extract, he goes to tell his boss that he suspects his organisation has been infiltrated by the CIA:

I carefully typed up a point paper outlining my concerns and specifying the information I had gathered, and requested a meeting with Duelfer in the U.N. cafeteria.

I slid the paper across the table to Duelfer, and began my brief. He listened without expressing any emotion, casually reading the paper as I made my case. He sat in silence for some time after I finished, contemplating what I had said. Finally, he looked at me. "Scott, I can't comment on any of this. All I would say is that you probably would do very well not to ever mention it again."

"Charles, we work for UNSCOM," I replied. "If what I have written here is true, we have the potential for a compromise that could not only end UNSCOM, but perhaps endanger the lives of some of our inspectors. We have to inform the executive chairman of this, and at least launch some sort of inquiry with the United States to find out if there is any validity to this, and if there is, to stop it before it's too late."

Duelfer looked at me, frustrated. "Scott, I can't make it any clearer than this. I cannot discuss this. This never happened. And if I were you, I'd drop the matter right now. If you go forward, even to tell [Rolf Ekéus, the UNSCOM chairman] you will be opening a huge bag of trouble for you. I would imagine you'd have the FBI come down on you very, very hard, and you don't want that. Take my advice and back off."

I sat there, letting Duelfer's words sink in. Was he aware of the operation?

Monday, October 17, 2005

[VW] Dylan Horrock's lecture

Totally absorbed by Dylan’s lecture yesterday (unlike the 4 year old kid someone brought along). According to the blurb, the subject was:

Imaginary worlds are everywhere these days. From Hogwarts to The Sims, people are spending more and more time in places that don't exist. Dylan Horrocks takes a look at the importance of ‘world building’ in novels, comics, art and games - including Henry Darger, Dungeons & Dragons, the Bronte sisters and Star Wars - and asks what happens when stories become worlds.

It was very entertaining, using lots of slides, images from comics, quotes and film clips - including a stunning remix of the starwarskid download.

Condensing the talk down into 2 points, here's what I took from it ...

1) Self revelation. You should reveal yourself, or truths about you, in a world you create. Other people will recognise and key into this. As one of the quotes that Dylan referenced said, there's the real world and how we perceive the world. In the process of creating something, "Art turns us inside out."

2) Worlds implicitly convey that self revelation. What that means is that even when you remove the characters and what they do from a story, the world that you're left with (its geography, population and history, for example) still convey themes and conflict.Worlds have meaning.

It was also fascinating to hear the sad story of Ed Greenwood and how he sold the Forgotten Realms setting to TSR, plus cool to see Paul Czege’s Nicotine Girls get cited as an example of a game created to encourage Narrativist play.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

[Script] Stakes & Conflict

I’ve talked before about how I’m trying to train myself to write dramatic scenes by keeping track of the Stakes (the question we want the scene to answer) and Conflict (the people who represent the opposing answers) in a scene.

What I’ve realised is that I need to have a living stakes & conflict document right from Draft 1. It travels along and develops with the script as it goes through each new draft, constantly getting adjusted and updated – and eventually handed off to the director (hopefully me).

The reason is so that I can tell exactly what each scene is about and whether it’s contributing to what the movie is about.

With Possessions (hopefully my next script, based on Sean’s story), when I start work on a rough outline I should be keeping track of the characters’ wants, making sure they are consistent from scene to scene (which’ll be vital). As the story solidifies, I can make sure I’m driving towards conflict all the time, and build up the stakes.

[DRM] Pay per episode 2

Here's a follow-up post to earlier today. It presents the business case for what's going on with vPods.

Who is blogmaverick?
Who is Bob Iger?
Why am I not using Google to find the answers? Answer: I'm too tired.

THE POINT: This seems to be the first readily-apparent paradigm shifting response by the Nets to the reality of internet piracy/free downloads.

Who would pay $2US to watch an episode of a show when you could BitTorrent it for free?
Answer: me, if I could be assured that a SIGNIFICANT amount of that money was going straight back towards the creators.

[RPG] Setting sucks

I'll be having a bit of a rant about settings in RPGs, soon (I can feel it building), but in the meantime read what John Harper has to say about how the wealth of setting detail in Godlike didn't help him run a good game, and his followup thoughts about Vincent's attitude: games should tell you how to play them.

[DRM] Pay per episode

John Rodgers over at Kung Fu Monkey has an interesting analysis of the new video iPod:

The more I think about this, the more obvious it becomes Apple has played Disney like a chump, and had Disney whispering "thank you, sir, and may I have another?" Apple just "allowed" Disney to bootstrap them into the number one spot in new media, even a step ahead of Bill Gates obsession with developing a "set-top box" run by Windows.

Friday, October 14, 2005

[Film] Sound Design

I liked some parts of this article on sound design by Robert Colvile.

Key quotes for me:

Virtually every sound you hear during a film has been constructed, overdubbed and manipulated to within an inch of its life.

Action films such as Bay's opt for a "wall of sound" approach - for Armageddon, he employed a scarcely credible 80-strong sound crew - to create a cacophony of special effects that bypass the ear for the innards. Decibel meters taken into the meteor movie showed that for long stretches it would have been quieter - and healthier - to stand under a helicopter's rotor blades.

Peter Weir recalls how Alan Splet, the sound designer who worked on David Lynch's Blue Velvet, "became ill from the sounds he was creating. He couldn't finish the film, they were so eerie and so awful."

Thursday, October 13, 2005

[RPG] Left Coast

I finished writing my latest 24 RPG this morning. You can find it here at 1000 monkeys, 1000 typewriters.

It is much much larger than expected. 27 pages. Here's the premise:

You play a semi-famous science fiction author living in 1960s California. You and your peers are all scrabbling for the Big Break, held back by your everyday lives and problems - marriage, children, rent. So they feud with each other, struggle not to go nuts under the strain of their immense creativity and try to determine which of them is really a disguised extra-terrestrial.

Left Coast is inspired by reading about Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard. It was written for the October Ronnies and uses the keywords 'fight' and 'cosmos'.

[Film] No-budget CGI sci-fi movies

I want you to read this post. Anyone want to make a CGI short film?

Monday, October 10, 2005

[The Limit] How to write a scene

So I’m heading back from Gino’s tomorrow. There’ll be a period of just resettling into my life and then a day where I’m working on my 24 game for this month’s competition, and then maybe a day off.

At the moment The Limit’s going really well – I’ve worked through the big rewrites at the start of the movie & now I’m at the point where I can get through vast swathes in a day. However, last time I took a break I kinda … forgot how to write.

So, for my mind-prodding, here’s some thoughts (I may have written something like this already) …

To write a scene, I – repeat, ‘I’ – need to set some stakes (What’s the question this scene’s going to answer? What do we care about?).

Then know what’s the conflict (If the question has 2 possible answers, then I need 2 characters/forces fighting or advocating for each side). As soon as one side’s one, it’s time to wrap up the scene. If at all possible, the sides of the conflict have something to do with the thematic conflict at the heart of the story. In The Limit, that’s Law vs Vigilantism (vs. Criminality). It’s all very Story by Bob McKee (c.f. Adapatation by Charlie Kaufmann).

What does each character want? These motivations need to naturally come out of each character’s previous scene.

Next I either brainstorm 20 things that could happen in the scene – issues, cool moments, motivations, lines of dialogue, things I want to see, random oddball ideas – in no particular order. It’s just stuff to inspire me.

Then I reorder that stuff into rough chronological order.

Otherwise, if I’ve got a clear idea of where the scene’s going I brainstorm a starting point, and then brainstorm again – what’s the worst they could do, to trigger a response from the other person in the scene? I keep swapping through each character’s perspective, trying to continually increase the tension in the scene.

I brainstorm 20 things because I read a book that recommended doing that.

I am a drone.

Seriously, I’ve always brainstormed multiple options for moments in my script. Off my own back though, I used to only devise about 7 different options for things – like punchlines when I was writing eps of lovebites. With 7, I found I came up with something that worked.

But with 20, I start getting oddball and insightful ideas towards the end of the process. If I don’t, I take a break and then keep going. I want to get the 'right' idea by the end of this process. Not some idealised 'perfect idea' - just have a decent range of good options to choose from, so I can move on.

Finally, I need to know the resolution to the scene. That means at some point, there needs to be a turning point in the scene where things head towards that resolution. And I need to bear in mind that that has an affect on the person who didn’t get their way.

More Blogger hacks

Stuff to try out later ...

Here's John's list of all his hacks.
Here's a way to categorise posts - which I will be yoinking ASAP - because manually going through and indexing is a PITA.
The return of expandable posts, here.
This seems weird and complicated and maybe awesome - how to publicly notify about comments from anywhere on multi-dimensional, not just comments on front-page posts.

[RPG] Jenni’s Mean Girls game

On the way back from a delicious sushi-lunch today, Jenni told me some of her ideas for her Kapcon game. The system sounds great – social combat and group politics at high school really hit the spot for me.

I can’t want to play it. I think, if it's even close to her pitch, it'll make a great sellable game too. More spoilerish observations in the comments …

Sunday, October 09, 2005

[RPG] Feedback on All Growed Up

Blogger ate my post, last time I tried to write about this - but All Growed Up was judged 'unbaked but tasty' in the September Ronnies. The feedback thread is here.

Overall, I'm pretty happy. It's a game I whipped together pretty fast, I think it's got some tactical depth to it. What's lacking is a real 'why do we care' about the events that are happening in the game - but I think there's the framework of something really fun here.

Fun but dark.

Friday, October 07, 2005

[Film] Acting

Last weekend, I acted in a workshop for The Wasps. 5 actors and 2 directors. We rehearsed a few scenes and learned about the dominance games people play when they come into conflict.

Andrew & Danyl (the directors) were great at creating a safe environment - where you can improvise and make mistakes & still feel completely supported. That was probably the best part about the weekend.

We started off with lots of trust games (which somehow ended with me being spanked by 2 women while giving a guy a shoulder massage), then watched some inspirational material in the form of Project Greenlight and Curb Your Enthusiasm. After that, we spend the afternoon of Day 1 breaking off into pairs and working through a single scene.

That was another favourite thing about the weekend: a) exploring different takes and interpretations with another actor and b) that Danyl and Andrew were very laid back about letting us come up with our own understanding of the scenes.

And then I discovered that the level of performance was much more grounded and realistic than I thought. It meant that scenes that seeemed like simple comedy beats were able to get fleshed out & made human. I think there's going to be this weird humour in The Wasps, where pain and serious dramatic issues become hilarious.

Day 2 was even more fun. We took a scene, then just improvised it. By not relying on the script we all got a deeper sense of who these characters really were & how to present them in order to bring out the comedy. It was this awesome division of duties - me & Leah having fun jabbing at each other while the directors figured out what was working and kept pulling us in that direction.

[Film] Disintegration

Chris has been awarded a grant from the Film Commission's 1st Screenwriter's Initiative for his screenplay Disintegration (based on an idea by Ed). I've had the privilege of reading the script and I'm looking forward to seeing its creepy, serious horror-goodness on the big screen.

Well done!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

[Film] I'm sick, I'm watching

I am sick. Like all-coughing, all-complaining all the time sick. So I’ve been watching a lot of stuff.

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azakaban - ***

The first hour is the best HP movie yet, then it starts to fade away in terms of setting up and paying off the story. Exciting finale though.

Legend - **

Silly bad fun. Tim Curry is either supposed to represent dangerous mature male sexual energy or he’s been dressed to look like an inflamed penis.

Cube 2: Hypercube - *** ½

I actually liked that it was filled with ideas. They don’t hang together as a story – and in fact story basically gets deliberately abandoned & fractured and eaten – but it’s basically as flawed as the first one, just not as good.

Van Helsing - ** ½

Starts fantastically, ends in a mess. I could feel the slide in quality and entertainment as I was watching it.

The Forgotten - ** ½

It does everything right & Julianne Moore is pretty – but it’s just so obvious.

Lair of the White Worm - ****

Boy does this look like it’s going to be a dumb film in its first 20 minutes but it does a ballsy reveal of who its villain is, has a detailed backstory stretching back thousands of years that’s well worked out and effortlessly presented & it actually pulls of ‘that’ ending to a horror movie. If you see it, you’ll see what I mean. It is, however, a Ken Russell film.

Dark City[no idea what to rate it]

Holds up way better the second time, but it’s paced like a trailer – there’s almost no grace notes or humanity in it; just the veneer of humanity. The trailer on the DVD is a perfect example of the post-Se7en industrial fear aesthetic. In other words, it’s really funny to watch now.

The Village - ****½
I love this film - it's so emotional, it's so well-motivated. I find it holds up on a second viewing because it's about people and why they do things, not about the plot. In fact, the reason I'm not fully engaged in the film (and why it doesn't get 5 stars) is because it falls down so badly when trying to address the plot. But that's minor to me. What's major is how masterful it is at misdirecting you to what story you're watching ... & how people so idealistic can also be (in my opinion) so evil.

Monday, October 03, 2005

[Biz] Anti Paypal

Seeing as I'm thinking of using Paypal to receive payments from customers on my site, I was interested to run across this site: which is definitely worth a deeper read.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

[Film] Serenity Reviewed

Roger Ebert gives it 3 stars.
James Berardinelli (see the sidebar) will review it later today.

I'm out of here for the weekend. Acting in a workshop for The Wasps. Hopefully, I'll have stuff to report on Monday.

Friday, September 30, 2005

[Biz] Self-publishing an RPG

This looks like it could be a useful thread - one publisher's recent experiences with pdfs.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

My battle with floss continues

I'm really getting into flossing - with one of those tooth-brush holder things - and today I found out what happens if you floss over-vigourously.

All of a sudden I couldn't move the floss up and down. And when I looked in the mirror, the floss had lodged in the middle of my gum, you know: that pyramidy bit right in between 2 teeth? I tried everything - moving it left, moving it right. I couldn't figure out how to get the floss out. It was locked in there and causing me a lot of pain. So I decided to cut the floss with a pair of scissors.

Today I discovered it's easier than you'd think to find a pair of scissors when you're house-sitting in a place you don't know very well. Today I also discovered that cutting floss with scissors in the mirror is a lot harder than you'd think, because of a) leverage & b) the mirror inverting all of my movements, oh yeah & c) pain.

I'll keep you updated on any further floss-related developments.

[Comics] Scott Pilgrim

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life
by Bryan Lee O'Malley

***** (out of 5)

Is a graphic novel that I rate as highly as Watchmen.
It is completely different.
It is teh awesome.

You can get it out from the library – once Jenni’s returned it – and you should. Get it out. And read it. Only don’t read the back cover. Don’t let anyone tell you what it’s about. I’m not going too. Just that it’s cool. And it plays exactly the sort of game with genre that I love.

[The Limit] Research rocks!

Just talked to Jenni’s brother-in-law, Jason, who’s a school teacher. He gave me lots of insights into how fights between students work in primary schools, plus a neat idea about how to personalize this scene I’m working*.

What’s cool is that this scene – which I originally thought would just be a pause in the story - is starting to emerge as a thematic representation of the script as a whole.

* Plus the inspiration to work on a drama series about a small primary school – which Lee’s suggesting I call Desperate Schoolkids.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A new online war correspondent

Kevin Sites is an American journalist employed by Yahoo News to examine world conflicts first-hand. His site is here, and the first conflict he's looking at is Somalia.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005