Monday, November 24, 2008

Attention Bob Chapin Fans!



My pal Bob Chapin has a great turn as "Elliot" in Episodes 5 and 6 of the webseries Faux Baby, availbale on strike.tv, youtube and hulu. One of the writer/producers on the series is my friend Laura Brennan, who worked on the 6th season of Highlander: The Series and wrote the excellent "Star of Athena" story in the Evening at Joe's anthology.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Listen Up!

The day after Thanksgiving has been designated the National Day of Listening -- a time to sit down with someone and hear their story.

If you're with family, take the time to ask an older relative about their life and their memories, while they're still here to share.

I'll be at LosCon that day, LA's excellent longrunning SF Convention. I'll take the opportunity to really listen to some people who know more than I do about the earlier days of SF, fandom, and TV. Some of the program participants I'm always interested to hear from include Michael Engelberg, D.C. Fontana, David Gerrold, Larry Niven, Steve Barnes, Harry Turtledove, Bill Warren, Len Wein, and Marv Wolfman. I'm also planning to make the effort to try some new things, hear some new voices -- I'm particularly looking forward to the rich track of panels by actual scientists and futurists.

On Saturday, I'll be talking as well as listening -- I'll be participating in 3 panels, on Writing for TV, the interaction between TV Fans and Writers/Producers, and something fun entitled "What I Do When I Should Be Writing." (You're soaking in it.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Amen

There's an absolutely heartbreaking sentiment about our newly-elected President at Postsecret this week.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_a7jkcMVp5Vg/SSA5F-71nAI/AAAAAAAAHVQ/pww8BW89qdA/s1600-h/hope.jpg

I wish I didn't have to carry the same prayer in my heart, but I do.

On the other hand, I adore the graphic on the postcard itself.

(PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Still Immortal After All These Years

What makes one TV show last forever while others, perhaps more successful initially, fade out of memory?

We're always trying to catch lightning in a bottle. Highlander caught it. Even while were were making the show, we knew. Because of the avid fandom and their heartfelt feedback, we knew.

But I couldn't have predicted that more than 10 years after we went off the air, we would all still have it so much in our hearts.

As I mentioned a while back, a new short episode of "Highlander: The Series," featuring the original cast in their roles as Methos, Amanda and Joe, and written by our guiding light David Abramowitz, is now available. And you can see the whole thing for free on hulu.

I feel lucky to have the chance to visit with these old friends again.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Finger Whippin Good

Anthony DeLongis sent me this link to his recent appearance on G4, showing off whip tricks in connection with his recent Indy 4 gig. Had me laughing out loud!

Let The Wookiee Win

Isn't this guy a little young to have such a perfect ear for Star Wars?

Friday, October 10, 2008

DonorsChoose

It's time for the DonorsChoose blog challenge over at tomatonation.com, a yearly drive to direct charitable giving toward classroom projects. You get to choose exactly what activity your money funds. I chose an elementary school claymation project, because of my own fond memories of making stop-action animation in 3rd grade. One of the best parts is getting the thank you letters and photos of the kids using the equipment. I wonder if I'll get a link to the movies they make?

Monday, October 6, 2008

And When You Don't Vote....

Have this running in your head, won't you?



Saturday, October 4, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Blast of Art



The link was sent to me by a friend still living in New York, and this little video really captures the feel of the city for me -- it's the people on the street, reacting to the art, that feel like home. And the fact that I can viscerally imagine the experience of coming around a corner to find one of these in operation. Viewing this, I can feel the wind of those subway grates.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Founding Mother

Travel well, Committee Member Joan Winston.

Who'd have dreamed that a person's editorship of a Star Trek fanzine would be mentioned among their accomplishemts in a New York Times obituary.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Idea vs. Execution

And while you're on the Blink page at the BBC site, I recommend reading the original Steven Moffat Short Story the episode is based on. This is an excellent example of the extent to which an idea is changed and embellished as it goes through the TV episodic writing process. The original idea is still clearly recognizable, but it has been very much adjusted and in this case is sharing the episode with another, even larger idea. (Which illustrates another of my personal writing rules, which is that When You Think You Have Too Much Story, That's When You Have Enough Story. The original Sally Sparrow story by itself, though lovely, would have dragged dully if stretched out to an hour.)

Steven Moffat's Cat?

Blink and you're dead.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Why We Fight

Jill Golick over at Running With Scissors posted a reminder of the underlying nature of the TV Business. The truth is somewhat grim, but enlightenment is always of value. She quotes Wade Rowland's very salient point that, while on a day to day basis we may think our job is to sell scripts to producers, or series to to networks, in fact it is not the shows that are the commodity of television -- it is the viewers. The entertainment value of our shows is not their purpose -- it is a means by which we obtain the attention of the audience, and that attention is what is then sold to advertisers.

Wow.

Humbling.

One interesting this about this model is that it highlights the similarities between traditional broadcast TV and the Web -- both places where the goal is to lure viewer eyeballs in a certain direction by any means necessary, and then put ads in front of those eyeballs.

Considering how superficially similar film and television are, it's sobering to realize that they are built on vastly different models. Films have more in common with books -- in both cases, the goal is to get the viewer to pay their own money to experience the fictional world you have built. But in the TV/Web model, as Rowland points out, the viewer is neither the buyer nor the seller -- they are what is being bought and sold.

This doesn't necessarily change the process of writing, per se -- the immediate goal, Be Interesting, still applies -- but it could change the way we think about our customers, when we realize just what we're really selling them. It's not our stories, or our personal brilliance as storytellers. It's our ability to draw attention.

It explains a lot.

Buying Time

I just bought 120 hours.

Which is to say, the fine folks at WeaKnees.com just added an additional hard drive to my DirecTV Tivo, quadrupling its recording space. With the new season starting, I realized that I was going to have be vigilant about checking that particular machine, which with its dual tuners and small capacity would fill up fast. I would have to watch something, or at least burn it to DVD for later watching, almost constantly, to make room for incoming material. This is not a healthy relationship to have with a Now Playing list. Then I realized there was another way to alleviate my looming TiVo Debt -- I could just get a bigger drive, aka a bigger credit limit, and carry a larger balance.

If you have TiVo, I recommend being in business with the Weaknees guys. Their prices are reasonable, their speed impressive, and their customer service truly extraordinary. For instance, just this week, when I tried to order the add-on drive from them for self-installation, they took the initiative to query me about my specific setup, and when they discovered that the drive I'd ordered wouldn't work with my software without special installation, they offered to do the custom installation, free of charge. All this *before* I was even aware of a potential problem. And they did the work in less than 24 hours. If you live in LA, you can drop your machine off at the Culver City office in person, thereby avoiding both the cost of shipping and the horror of that empty space in the entertainment center where your friend TiVo belongs.

The other way that buying TiVo memory buys me time is less concrete, but of no less value to me. Before I had a TiVo, I had 4 VCRs on separate cable boxes, running almost constantly. I liked my shows to be sorted onto separate tapes, so even if two shows I was taping were on back to back on the same channel, I still needed to set 2 VCRs and 2 cable boxes to record them both. My roommate and friends were well-accustomed to a 15-minute wait before I could leave the house, heralded by the phrase, "I just need to set the VCRs."

(Oy. All this because early in my career, I had a meeting with an exec for a show I hadn't seen. I tried to fake it through , and failed -- and swore thereafter to tape everything in my field, so that if I had an unexpected meeting I had the material for a cram session. Today, of course, streaming video and online episode guides make such precautions unnecessary, but habits die hard. )

My first TiVo put that lost time back into my day. Plus the time I used to spend scanning the TV Guide each week with a highlighter in one hand. I will be forever grateful.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Beyond the Frame


Here's my favorite fiction/reality blurring site of the moment:


Click on "Eagle Eye: Free Fall" to see what I mean.

Suddenly, I'm interested in seeing this movie.

The Future of Marketing Is The Future of Storytelling?

Last night at the "Breaking In Again" panel at the Writers Guild, a number of podcasters and webisode writers/producers/directors spoke about the future of what is now called "New Media" but will soon be known, we imagine, merely as "Media."

Mary Feuer, former head writer at lonelygirl15 and currently the writer/director of the "With The Angels" web series, premiering soon on Strike TV, talked about creating content that stretches beyond the video frame. Characters on lonelygirl15 had mySpace pages for their fictional selves. They created a website, rich with layered content, for a pharmaceutical company mentioned in the storyline.

Very recently, it was a groundbreaking idea to create an illusory reality online, reflecting the fictional world inhabited by TV Characters. Now, it's almost de rigeur to at the very least have a Barney's Blog, if not a whole Dunder Mifflin website. (Which I assume exists. Wait a sec.... Yep. It sure does.)

Which does create interesting creative challenges. Who blogs for the characters? Who vets those blogs to make sure they don't violate canon? The Official Network Website for a show I worked on recently had bonus content on it that was written by the PR department, using an old show bible and outdated pilot script -- the material was wildly off base.

Does the potentially infinite nature of this material create a barrier to entry at the same time as it creates an enhanced experience? Ideally, this additional material makes the story richer, and creates an interactive thrill for the participant who follows the trail and finds all the Easter eggs. But are there viewers who feel daunted by the mass of links they'd need to follow to become fully versed in a work of fiction, and back off?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Speaking of Which....

Further to the Tricks of the Trade post from earlier today, I'm very happy to pass on that the USA network is posting commentaries from the writers of each episode of Monk at monk.usanetwork.com.

Another great website is tvtropes.com. It's thoroughly entertaining and you can pick up useful terminology there, although I do caution the young professional to discriminate between fan tropes and tv tropes. Don't assume that web shorthand for a particular issue has reached Industry Jargon status, and definitely don't assume that your bosses in your new job will appreciate having story ideas -- their own or anyone else's -- dismissively classified.

Tricks of the Trade

I was up in the attic the other day, looking for things to donate to an upcoming charity auction. (Yes, Highlander fans, this is the same infamous magic attic from which I used to bring forth all those outtakes and behind-the-scenes clips that I showed at conventions, the ones that are now on the DVD sets as "Lost Footage.") I was momentarily confused to find in one of the boxes of Souvenirs/Auction gak a paperback copy of David Gerrold's book, "The Making of The Trouble with Tribbles."

But then I remembered that in my 5-cons-a-year period, I often told the story in my Breaking into Screenwriting or Script to Screen panels of how I, as a youngster, learned about the TV biz. And it was from David Gerrold. His columns in Starlog magazine, "Rumblings" and "Soarings," discussed contemporary movies from a writing standpoint, and it was from him that I learned about MacGuffins. I still remember a column he wrote about the disrespect to the viewer inherent in killing a beloved character, and then resurrecting them, thereby rendering the whole thing an emotional psych-out. And a column in which he took a film to task for its lack of a climax, causing me to examine my own nascent writing and realize I suffered from a similar problem. I had a chance to lavish this praise upon him one time when, at the age of 17, I stood in line for his autograph. Hearing my story, he nudged the fellow sitting next to him at the signing table (if memory serves, it was first-time-novelist David Brin) and teased, "Hey, she says I helped her reach climax!" I turned bright red and fled.

David Gerrold's Inside Star Trek and Making of the Trouble With Tribbles books were invaluable resources for me. The anecdotes he told gave a realistic glimpse into the process of being a TV writer and producing a TV show. He tells a story about having to cut 12 pages out of his Tribbles script after it went through the typing pool and got properly formatted. It was an eye-opening reminder about the realities of production -- the primary goal is to have a certain number of filmed minutes, ones that can be produced in the number of days you have, with the resources you have. Being clever or touching or downright effing brilliant is great, but first you have to have something you can make and show. You might think this is self-evident, but in fact many beginning writers -- and even many employed writers -- don't have that internal radar for how many sets, how many characters, how many pages you can really have. David Gerrold helped me develop mine, before he ever met me.

Today, there are hundreds of resources for getting a glimpse inside the industry. Instead of just a handful of Behind the Scenes memoirs, there are scores of detailed DVD commentaries and insider interviews. There are writers and showrunners that have their own avid fandoms. I've mentioned before my impression that many of today's emerging writers learned their impression of the Way Things Work from reading Buffy insider articles. Because of their ubiquity, the buzzwords that that writing staff used for certain things have become generally accepted terms. It gives newcomers a leg up, I think, when they come in already knowing the concepts of Hanging a Lantern on a problem (my early mentors used a different phrase for the same concept -- our watchword was, if you have a plot hole, Drive A Truck Through It) or using a Placeholder or House Number while searching for a cleverer solution that achieves the desired result.

If you love TV, you're probably reading this kind of article or listening to DVD commentaries for enjoyment. But if you want to make TV, don't underestimate the educational value. Listen to the stories about how an idea took form in the writers room, or about how something was changed at the last minute when a location was unavailable or an actor broke their arm. That's your future. That's the fun part of the job.

And don't forget to share your stories, like David Gerrold did, with a new bunch of kids looking for their own way to reach climax.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Mitzvah Blog

http://ifoundyourcamera.blogspot.com/

I look forward to the day when everyone knows about this resource, so that memory cards from lost and stolen cameras can be reunited with the owners of the cherished photos.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Keeping the Joy

In 1986, I had my first Hollywood Internship. Administered by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (The Emmy People), it was an 8-week internship in Series Development at Universal Studios. I met some great people that summer, some of whom are still friends and valued colleagues. I still remember a thought I had as I parked my rented car (as a New York City native, I had only recently learned to drive, for the express purpose of moving to LA) in the old A Lot, next to the Technicolor Building. "If I ever stop being thrilled to drive onto the lot," I thought, "It's time to leave."

I was reminded of this over the weekend as I slogged through a mountain of financial and logistical paperwork that has accumulated on my dining room table during recent busy times. There were WGA dues forms in the pile. An offer to join the WGA Film Society for the season. And the first of what will be many announcements for free Award Consideration screenings for WGA members between now and the end of January.

Slitting open yellow quarterly income report envelopes from the WGA with a practiced flick, I was forcibly reminded of the day I qualified to join the Guild, when I sold my first script to Quantum Leap. How thrilled I was to write the check for my initiation fee and become Part Of It All. What a kick I got out of getting the WGA Journal in the mail, and the screening invitations. (Even though most years, my busiest months were right around the holidays, and I hardly ever got to take advantage of all those free screening. As Gary Trudeau says, Bravo for life's little ironies.)

Do we go into this business for the Guild card or the screenings? No. But don't forget to enjoy those things. When you have the things in your hand that you used to dream of, when you're on your tenth year of paying WGA dues or slogging through dailies, don't forget to look back and realize, you have what you always wanted.

Who could ask for anything more?


With Dad and the Datsun ZX I wanted then, May 1985.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Going, Going... Boldly Gone


I was sad to hear that Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton is closing on September 1st. Fortunately for me, I heard about the closing in time to plan a road trip to see the attraction one last time. I'm astonished to learn how many people -- SF Fans, even Trek fans -- had never been, or didn't even know it existed. On the other hand, I didn't know that there was a Trek CON at the Hilton each August, or I might have planned said Road Trip to include it.

In the end, though, heading for Vegas on a Tuesday two weeks before closing proved to be the ideal plan. We had the I-15, and the Experience, largely to ourselves. My companions on this adventure were my college pal Shadow (a game designer/recovering lawyer with one of those mimetic memories that comes in handy when playing Star Trek Trivia games) and my fellow TV writer Lisa Klink (whose years on Voyager make her the ideal companion for debating the sociological implications of replicator technology).

Colloquially known as "The Star Trek Experience" -- a subtle difference, I admit -- the attraction consists of two rides, the original motion-controlled Klingon Encounter that was installed in 1998 and the more recent Borg Invasion in 4-D. (The 4th Dimension apparently being "touch.") There is also a "museum" of props and a timeline of the Trek Universe, which were originally installed to entertain customers during an hour or so of standing in line for the rides. Now that a single ticket is 'ride all day' and the admissions don't cover the electricity costs, according to one employee, there's no line to speak of, but the museum portion is still fun to look at. It's not clear which of the props on display are real and which are replicas, but that doesn't take away from the fun of peering through a case at the "Stone Knives and Bearskins" vacuum-tube-and-tricorder array from City On The Edge of Forever, or at Jean Luc Picard's family scrapbook, fortunately spared from the fiery wreckage of the Enterprise D.

Shadow and I had each visited the attraction years earlier, but neither of us had seen the new Borg ride. Lisa, on the other hand, had written it, so she had her own reasons for indulging in a mid-week weekend to wish it farewell. I'll bet she got a kick out of watching our faces as SPOILER REDACTED and SPOILER REDACTED.


The food at Quark's Bar didn't live up to my memories from my first visit, but these days I don't eat Onion Rings (excuse me, Rings of Betazed) and HamBorgers (hee) as freely as I once did. Reading the silly punny menu was still fun, though. ("James Tea Kirk." Sounds refreshing!) Sadly, the shopping Promenade from DS9 was largely closed -- apparently, most of the merch had been bought out by the Convention two weeks earlier. No sign of the "I'm with Illogical" t-shirt I'd seen on the website. I was able to get the Phaser Water Pistol I wanted, though, so no complaints. It's actually pretty nicely made; it looks great on the shelf at home next to the Han Solo Water Blaster I've had for years. Finally, the Star Wars vs. Star Trek debate can be settled -- with water!

By now, I'd guess they're selling out down to the bare walls -- when Shadow and I came back through Vegas on Friday after continuing our road trip to take in a Shakespeare Festival in the next state over, there was a price tag of $4300 (SOLD) on the Borg Queen statue, and the sort-of-life-sized maquette of the Gorn that had stood outside Quark's on Tuesday had disappeared -- presumably sold as well. I say sort-of-life-sized in that I hope the real Gorn was taller than me. I'm sorry that I failed to get a picture of our little troupe with old greenhead before he got sold. After all, I seem to be responsible for the fact that my friend Darla's 19-month-old daughter knows that the cow says moo, the dog says woof, and the Gorn says RAAR. (Thanks to Kerry for the Beanie Baby Gorn, which I'm now told also came from the ST: Experience shops!)

When we were there, the curving wall behind the shops was completely covered with hand-written letters from people, expressing their sadness that The Experience is closing. Some were from people young enough to have grown up there. Many had traced their hands on the paper in the iconic Vulcan salute. A number of the letter-writers mourned a tradition of visiting yearly with friends. Those touched me particularly, because it's not The Experience, but the experience of visiting The Experience, that those people grieve. It's my favorite aspect of Conventions, the constant reunion with other con-goers, birds of a feather forming lasting attachments for which the event is the excuse, not the reason. It's the same dynamic whether it's Trekkies at The Experience, Dead Heads on the road, Xena Fans coming to Los Angeles en masse this past January to join the WGA picket lines, or James Joyce Scholars spending Bloomsday in Dublin.

Vegas isn't that far from LA. Hotels there are cheap. I find myself wishing we'd taken advantage of The Experience while it stood, had planned yearly rendezvouses there with friends from near and far. I'm glad we at least got there for this farewell visit. Too often, "Hey, we should..." turns into "I wish we had..." It's always nice to actually find the time and motivation and come back saying "I'm glad we did." When it comes to road trip adventures with friends, I don't think I've ever come back saying I wished I hadn't.



Sunday, August 24, 2008

YAARG!

Or is that YA ARG?

I recently heard about this new project from Scholastic books (hence the YA) called The 39 Clues, a sort of DaVinci Code for the under-16 set, that includes books, trading cards, and a real-time scavenger hunt that seems to spill out of the Internet into the real world (hence the ARG).

Although the attempt to create a Potter-esque phenomenon by design, as opposed to by catching lightning in a bottle, is fraught with pitfalls, they do seem to have a catchy premise, so I'll be watching with interest to see if it catches fire.

Does anyone else remember Masquerade?

TiVo for Blogs

By the way, if anyone out there hasn't yet seen Google Reader, I advise you to check it out. It's available on the iGoogle homepage or you can access it separately if you're not an iGoogle user. Basically, it allows you to enter the urls of all the blogs you like to read, organizing them into folders if you like. Then, the Google Reader lets you know when your fave bloggers have put up new posts, and you can click through to read and comment.

Like TiVo, this is a great time saver -- no longer do I spend my time clicking through my long list of Clever Blogs, looking to see who has something new. And since some of my favorite Clever Bloggers are sporadic (to put it kindly), this means I don't miss their new stuff when it does appear. When I'm looking to kill some time on the net get informed, the Google Reader serves as a "Now Playing" list from which to choose.

Somebody Wrote That!

Alex Epstein at the Crafty TV And Screenwriting Blog has had a brilliant series of posts recently, examining the writing skills at work in the current Presidential Campaign. Personal politics aside, I think he accurately frames this as a battle to control the story. Whichever candidate more successfully creates a plotline of which they are the hero, gets to triumph in Act Three.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Panda, Stiller, Iron Man

I've been hearing about the Parody Promo Video for Tropic Thunder, and so glad to have come across a link to the actual vid.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Wisdom Of The Day

Alex Epstein at the Crafty Screenwriting Blog reminds us that conflict and resolution are hard. That's why drama requires them, and why we try to avoid them in our real lives. But sometimes you have to have those hard conversations to get what you want. Have them. Whatever the result, you'll have added import, and adrenalin, to your day.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Immortality

If you're lucky, you work on a project in your lifetime that outlasts you. As a young reader, I was moved to laughter and tears by Dorothy L. Sayers' descriptions of Lord Peter Wimsey's adventures. Feeling the catch in my gut as Harriet Vane gazed longingly at the curve of Wimsey's ear in "Gaudy Night," I was amazed at the realization that although the author was dead, and the character as well, had he been real, would have been long gone, the books could continue finding new readers to fall in love with him. He continued to exist on those pages.

When I became a writer, this was my highest goal: to create a character who would still be gaining admirers after I was gone. It is either my good fortune or my greatest obstacle that in my first staff job, before the age of 30, I was part of one of those rare shows that continues on in the imagination even when it's out of production. "Highlander: The Series" stands the test of time. It continues to find new viewers. As deeply proud and honored as I am to have been a part of the team that built those characters, it's also a hard act to follow. I could spend the rest of my life searching for another show as creatively fulfilling.

None of us left Highlander fully behind when it ended. Those of us who were part of it will always be a part if it, like alumni of a shared school. Or like Brothers in Arms. I left the staff in 1997, at the end of the 5th season, but remained a consultant on the ancillary merchandise for another few years. "Evening at Joe's," the compilation of short stories written by cast and crew that I spearheaded, was published in 2001 -- its very existence further proof of the staying power of the show. If you came to most crews and actors three years after a show had gone off the air, asking for stories set in that world, most of them would be hard-pressed to even remember it.

As recently as 2003 I was spending weeks reviewing videotapes and being interviewed for Highlander DVD extras. And at a Highlander Convention in October 2007, almost 10 years after we'd finished filming, the stories and characters were as fresh in our minds as ever.

Recently, Highlander's head writer David Abramowitz has been able to revisit our beloved characters, writing new scenes for the original cast. One of them was performed live at that Convention last October -- It was absolutely magical to have those characters we'd lived with for years come back to life once more. The actors transformed before our eyes from their casual panel-giving selves, into these characters that they owned, brilliantly recapturing their cadences and nuances. And of course, since they were written by the man who was the heart of the original, the lines were perfect, blending humor and heart.

Other brand new scenes have been filmed for a new DVD called "Reunion." You can see a clip at legendaryheroes.com. The bittersweet thing about new Highlander material is that it just makes me want more new Highlander material. "Reunion" isn't enough, but it's something.




My Time Machine moment: The beach house where this was filmed is also the corporate retreat where I had my first big story meeting after being promoted from Script Coordinator to Associate Creative Consultant on the show, at the beginning of Season Three. The episode "Samurai" was conceived that day.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wouldn't You Like To Be a Marvel Too?

I can't believe this is the first time I'ver come across the "I'm A Marvel.... and I'm a DC" vids on YouTube, parodies by It'sJustSomeRandomGuy of the "I'm a Mac... and I'm a PC" commercials. Here's the first one (there are more than 40 currently):



And here's my favorite of the ones I've seen, in which Hulk and The Batman compare cinematic misfires:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It's All Written

Robert J. Elisberg at the Huffington Post has crafted a masterful synopsis of the indefensible Labor Violations going on in the the "reality" TV business. Whether or not you believe that these 'editors' and 'segment producers' are performing the function of writers (I personally believe many of them are, though defining which ones will be a complex process), the fact that they are working longer hours for lower wages than State Law requires is finally receiving the attention it deserves. As Elisberg points out:

If Fremantle wasn't making popular TV programs, but in some other business ignoring minimum wage laws, avoiding 40-hour workweek laws, coercing employees and underpaying taxes, we'd likely see arrests.
Read more here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Speaking of Gillian Anderson

Yesterday at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, I saw the Barbie & Ken X-Files Collector Set for sale. Okay, I'm proudbarassed to say I recognized Barbie as Scully at 30 yards. The friend I was with wondered what qualified the doll as "Barbie." He had a good point -- she has short red hair and really is more like a 12-inch-doll of Gillian Anderson as Scully, with Barbie branding.

The Barbie & Ken Classic Star Trek set, by contrast, consists of actual Ken and Barbie, in gold command shirt and red minidress respectively, along with a cardboard bridge and cardboard Kirk and Spock to scale. (And yes, the reason I know this is because I own one. What can I say, I have a fascination with clever licensing.)

Being the Marketing Geek that I am, this really has me wondering about the decision process behind these Collector's Editions. Are there different lines at the manufacturer, depending whether the release is a licensed doll or just props and outfits for the existing dolls? I think I personally prefer the latter -- Barbie in that case is a fan like us, with a Star Trek costume and an understanding boyfriend.

Because the "Baywatch" Barbie (and Ken) were in stores while I was working on Baywatch, I have quite a few of them, in their red bathing suits and lifeguard jackets. (As an aside, the Crew Jackets on Baywatch were identical to the wardrobe worn by the characters, with the addition of an embroidered logo on the back. As such, they are so similar to REAL LA County Lifeguard jackets that we were specifically asked NOT to wear them to the beach, to avoid being mistaken for Lifeguards in an emergency.)


My Baywatch Barbie lifeguards are out of their boxes and on display in my guest room, where they get played with frequently by my under-10 visitors. I have both the original and the African-American versions of Baywatch Barbie and Ken, and two beach jeeps for them to ride in. (I recently realized that the plastic jeeps include little plastic seatbelts. Safety first!) Since each doll came with different props, among them they have quite the assemblage of gak -- whistles, binoculars, cameras, sun visors, jetskis, a pith helmet, little tevas, a dolphin (?), and of course the iconic red 'rescue can.' On my trip to the Flea Market, I saw a NIB Baywatch Ken for sale, with a different collection of stuff! So my little lifeguard family is about to get a Frisbee, a boom box, and a wind up Waverunner with "Realistic Motor Sounds." Yeah Baby. Five Bucks well spent.


Ken's Tevas

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Slinkachu's Little Installations

Thanks to Neil Gaiman's journal for pointing me to this whimsical art:


Go to Slinkachu's blog for more context and to order the book.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Why Gillian?

People pronounce my name wrong a LOT. When I was a kid it really bugged me; now I don't even bother to correct it unless I'm going to spending a lot of time with that person. Of course when I was a kid it seemed like I was the only "Gillian" (or "Jillian") in the world. I could never get the cool keychains or stickers preprinted with my name unless my stepmother brought them back from the UK. Then Gillian Anderson -- she pronounces it with the soft 'G' -- got famous. The upside is that people can usually spell it now. The downside is that even when I introduce myself aloud, which you would think would be unambiguous, people seem to instantly convert the name in their head into its written form, and then return it with the other pronunciation. I'd love to see a functional MRI of that process.

So, how did I wind up with a name that is technically pronounced 'wrong'?

Kim Novak's character in Bell Book & Candle is named Gillian Holroyd. Gillian, not Jillian. My father heard the name and thought if it worked with "Holroyd" it would work with "Horvath," even though one is Irish and the other is Hungarian. He couldn't have known at the time that the name would turn out to be a Velcro one, a handy surprise in a business where anything about you that's memorable can only be a plus.

It's a fun film. Kim Novak's Gillian is modern-day witch. Jack Lemmon is adorable as her brother. The cat is a cat-shaped Familiar named Pyewacket, and I believe he's been a namesake orders of magnitude more often than his mistress. All in all, it's a fine origin from which to hail. Thanks to my Dad, I seem to have been destined from birth to wind up "In Pictures." If not an actual witch.

The Kudos Cascade


Athena TV is honored to have received a Brillante Weblog award from M.Christine Valada of Out Of The Darkroom. If you haven't read Chris's blog, look there for her commentary on pop culture and actual culture, office politics and actual poltics, horses and hand grenades. It is also ironically often a better place to find news about her husband, Comics Legend Len Wein, than his own Weinwords. I also enjoy her food blog, Into The Kitchen.

The award itself works like the old Breck Ad, "...and she told two friends." Each recipient is asked in turn to present the award to their seven favorite blogs. So here they are, my daily rounds of reading:

Lisa Klink's What It's Like tells it like it is from the perspective of a working TV writer. Nine times out of ten Lisa's blog tells it like I would tell it, but pithier. Not too surprising, since she and I have similar resumes in many ways. Once in a while, I have a differing take on an aspect on the business than hers, which I plan to use as launching points for future posts.

Jane Espenson's Jane in Progress focuses on advice for burgeoning writers working on their specs. And lunch. Jane's wit and wonder make the blog worth reading even if you're not in the target demo.

The Anonymous Production Assistant's Blog is not only fun to read, it's a great aggregator -- the A.P.A. is a treasure trove of links to other cool sites and articles. Just today, I followed the trail from there to David Bordwell's site for cineastes.

I can't choose between Eugene Sons's excellent blogs, so I'm going to give Brillante Awards to both his Eponymous Blog , which is an entertaining and enlightening look into the TV Biz from the Animation standpoint, and to his Crazy Dad's Guide to Family Travel, in which he drags his family around the world and shares tips for not killing or being killed in the process.

The Grub Report is the blogging home of Stephanie Vander Weide Lucianovic, a.k.a. Keckler from Television Without Pity, who wrote the TWOP recaps of food-based reality shows. Her Grub Report is an enticing melange of food blogging and pop culture musings. It is also the source of the incomparable roasted cauliflower recipe.

My seventh must-read blog is one that's written anonymously by a friend; since I can't compromise that person's anonymity by linking to it here, I'll close out my list at 6 and hopefully leave you wanting more. Not eligible for the Brillante, but currently at the top of my reading list, is the Hero Complex blog at the LA Times, a great round-up of the latest Geek News. Check out today's post about Zuda web comics, and Shock Effect in particular.

All you Brillante Winners, pick up the award by copying it from here, paste it to your blog, put a link back to this one, and pass on the award and instructions to seven of your favorite blogs by letting them know about it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Film School

My friend Marv Wolfman suggested that I tell some stories here about working in TV. I'll start by answering an email I got from Michelle in Indiana, a fan of my work on Highlander who found my previous web page and asked: "Did you go to film school especially to learn how to write scripts, or did you go to film school to learn to make films, and knowing how to put a script together was a bonus?"

I actually didn't go to film school at all. I went to a college that was all about the academics and not at all about the vocational training. I learned the semiotics of film as an undergraduate, but almost nothing about filmmaking. But I was interested in episodic storytelling from childhood, when I dreamed of growing up to write Hardy Boys books. By High School, I'd figured out that TV writing was my goal -- I credit the series Remington Steele for that realization. I wanted to write new adventures for the characters, and although I dabbled briefly in fanfic, I was blessed with the kind of parents who, when I said I'd decided to be a TV Writer, never doubted it as a possibility. My mother, who'd despaired of ever seeing me move out of her apartment when my ambition was to be a poet, took great comfort in my new plan, declaring that I would now be able to support her. There's really no substitute for that kind of unwavering confidence.

Most of what I knew about TV writing and production, I learned by reading David Gerrold's various "Making of" Star Trek books, and his column in Starlog magazine. During and after college, I worked as an intern and assistant at studios and on shows, read scripts voraciously, and watched TV with an analytical eye. That was my training -- that, and having the good fortune to write some of my first scripts under the excellent tutelage of Tommy Thompson (Quantum Leap), Jim Parriot (Forever Knight), and the unparallelled David Abramowitz (Highlander: The Series), in whose image I am formed.

(I think people underestimate the importance of your first staff job in forming your professional personality forevermore. If you work for someone who likes to stay focused, deliver documents ahead of deadline, distribute praise liberally to his staff, and go home for dinner, you will most likely grow into a similar person. If your first jobs are with bosses who prefer to demonstrate their power, play basketball in the afternoon and then keep everyone in the writing office until midnight, and alternate between rage and despair, you will come to accept this as normal or even necessary to the process.)

Speaking of Highlander: The Series, one of the most fun encounters I had in the wake of working there was when I flew up to Vancouver to be the on-set writer for an episode of Young Blades. This was in 2005, 7 years after HL went off the air. As I was escorted to the catering truck to grab lunch (an A.D. had spotted me at the end of the line and ushered me in front of the background extras, a perk that I appreciated even as I was embarrassed by it), the Catering Assistant (sous-chef? server?), a guy of about 20 at most, asked me, "Didn't you work on Highlander?" I was shocked to be recognized -- I'd visited Vancouver only three times during HL's run, for a few days each time, and was never well-known to the crew other than our beloved Producer Ken Gord, Post-Production Supervisor Tracy Hillman, who became a friend, and Swordmaster F. Braun McAsh, more due to spending time at conventions together than time on the set. Even if I'd been more of a presence then, this guy was far too young to have been on the crew. So WTF? Then he explained that he recognized me from the DVD Commentary I'd done for the show!!!

When I pulled my collection of Highlander Dailies and Outtakes out of the storage room for DVD Bonus Features, all I had in mind was relief that these treasures would finally be available for fans and for posterity. It never occurred to me that I was ensuring my own posterity, as well. But it's worth noting, as writers continue to struggle for recognition, that you never know when and where things will pay off, and doing publicity for your show may turn out to have unexpected benefits for yourself down the line.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Please Stop Singing

I wanted to like Mamma Mia. I really did. I'm a sucker for romcom and based on the previews, this is a movie I would have gone to even if it weren't an ABBA musical. "Bride invites her three potential fathers to a Greek Island for her wedding, and two of them are Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth? Count me in!"

I never saw the stage show, but I suspect I would have liked it, because I'm betting they cast triple-threats in the main roles. I do think the movie would have worked a lot better if anyone but Christine Baranski could sing. A friend with a better ear than mine assures me that no one was actually off-key, but when he commented that he thought therefore that they pulled off the singing, I could only counter, that maybe they pulled it off, but they certainly didn't put it over. I expect musical numbers to make me want to dance in the aisle, not cringe in my seat. Anything that can make me look away from Pierce Brosnan, has to be bad.

The one exception to my disappointment was the Dancing Queen number, in which the entire female population of the island joins in. This unlikely chorus reminded me of Matt Harding's Dancing Videos, uplifting and moving.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Collaborative Medium


While at ComiCon, I saw the preview of the first two episodes of the animated "Iron Man: Armored Adventures." I thought it was great, at the end of the hour I was eager to see more. There was one complaint at the mike that the storytelling is unsophisticated, which I thought was handled well with the reminder that the show, and the channel, are primarily serving 8-14 year-olds, with adult viewers an added bonus. They're not going to alienate their intended audience by going over their heads. It's refreshing to see some programming aimed at the future Comic Geeks. (Steven Moffat had a similar insightful comment during the Doctor Who panel, about making the show for today's 8-year-olds, not the nostalgic adults. To each generation their own Doctor.)



That being said, as an adult I found the show suspenseful and witty. And I was hugely impressed with its look and feel. Which got me to wondering about the always-hot-topic of Residuals. WGA members are fortunate and justly proud of the gains we've achieved in this area, where a person who creates a storyline or character has an ongoing financial interest, however small, when that intellectual property is exploited. But watching this Iron Man show, I was struck by the extent to which the design of the technology -- most notably Tony's heads-up display -- seemed to have been influenced by the film. In the ideal world wouldn't that Production Designer be receiving some kind of credit or residual? (Not to mention the comic book artists, but that's a whole other column!) What about sequels that draw heavily on the production design of their predecessors? What about all the myriad Star Trek licensed gak that uses the LCARS look? Do Production Designers and Art Directors swell with pride when they see their work influencing ancillary properties, or do they curse the studios and the Work For Hire business model?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Welder Needed


Paramount (and apparently Intel) had an interesting game set up at their booth at ComiCon, which I unfortunately didn't discover until Sunday. Paramount's booth was not near the other big studios and not well-marked on the map, but they did have an ad in the program book, which I finally noticed on Saturday night, urging people to come to their booth to form a Construction Crew and win a prize. The gimmick was, they handed out scratch-off cards every hour, which had job titles on them like "Gravity Engineer," "Electrician," etc. If you formed a team of eight, one of each type, you would win Star Trek laptop bags. They had excellent intentions with this game, which ideally would have resulted in people clipping the cards to their badges and spending the weekend scanning other people's ID to put together a team. In this crowd, this could easily have turned into a self-designed LARP, and lifelong friendships could have resulted.

In the event, the real-life result was that people collected stacks of the cards, and if they managed to put together all 8, they grabbed a bunch of friends or passing strangers and collected their prize. All of this was explained to me by a fellow attendee holding a sign that said "Welder Needed," which I thought at first meant he was an exhibitor with a broken display. But no, he needed a virtual welder to help him build an imaginary Enterprise.


I hung around for the card distribution, hoping to get a Welder card for my new friend, but both cards I was given said "Inspector" on them, which seemed appropriate. Then one of the booth staffers explained to me that I could take my photo at a laptop station in the booth and get a construction team ID, and if I did, I'd receive in the mail a 4-part poster for the new Star Trek movie. Considering that around the corner in the other half of the booth people were elbowing one another in the face to collect that very same 4-part poster one piece at a time, I found this hilarious. (I got two yellows and no blue.)

I was gratified to see that the crew chief I'd been chatting with found a Welder in the crowd. He'd worked for it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Can Almost Smell The Popcorn

Something happened on my last day at ComiCon that seemed like it was aimed just at me. Considering it happened on the jumbotron over the Lucasfilm booth, though, that's pretty unlikely.

Does anyone else remember the preview trailer for The Empire Strikes Back that was released with the Theatrical Re-Release of Star Wars in 1979? I sure do, because 25 of the 27 times I saw Star Wars in the theater in the 70's were during that magical summer. In those days before VCR's, our Star Wars obsession through the intervening years had been fed only by the comics, the novels, the flip-books we'd made out of Topps cards, the dialogue and sound on the Story of Star Wars LP, and of course the Holiday Special that even at the age of 11 we recognized as atrocious.

So the chance to see the film again -- and again and again and again -- was golden. Those 2-and-a-half minutes of preview for TESB were absolutely joyous. We stayed in the theater through multiple showings, enjoying the movie but living for, and memorizing, that trailer. As an avid Han Solo devotee, who considered Luke a loveable but annoying tag-along, I adored the moment when the announcer intoned, "Your favorites are back," and then listed off the characters... and as he said "Luke Skywalker!", instead of the head-credits-beauty-shot that the other characters got, Luke FWUMPED sideways across the screen to thud into the snow. Priceless!

When The Making of Star Wars was released on VHS in 1980, it included the Empire trailer. My father, a news producer, had a VCR before they became common. I saved my allowance to buy that video. I was so excited to have a copy of my own of that trailer I had committed to memory.

Except it wasn't the same trailer. It was similar, but had small variations. And they'd changed Luke's entry. Crushed!

As far as I know, the trailer I remember has not been released on any of the DVD extras. I haven't seen it in almost 30 years. But today at ComiCon, there it was, on the screen above the life-sized Clone Wars maquettes. Thank you, Lucasfilm Archivist Steve Sansweet, for that absolutely visceral journey back to a darkened movie theater in 1979.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Con! Cooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnn!!!

Eugene Son has coined the best rallying cry for this weekend. (See his blog.) I can't believe I've never heard this shouted in this context before. I'll never be the same.

(con. text. hee.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

San Diego ComiCon Schedule

I'm not on any programming this year, leaving me free to roam. The panel schedule is so jam-packed with interesting stuff that I don't know when I'll find time to shop the floor! I don't recall there being all this evening programming in previous years. It's a good idea, logistically, but the advantage to the doors shutting at 6 PM was that a person could go collapse and recharge for the next day.

I shouldn't complain, though -- I lucked out with a hotel room you can see from the convention center. Ah, pit stop, sweet pit stop.

There are a few things I'm definitely planning to attend, so if anyone's looking for me, look there:

Thursday, 12:00 NOON, Room 20, the Doctor Who panel. I so admire the writing on this show.

Friday, 7:15 PM, Room 6B, MST3K 20th Anniversary Reunion. It breaks my heart that this is up against Kevin Smith in Hall H, but no way can I miss seeing all the MST guys back together -- including both Joel AND Mike.

Saturday, 11:15 AM, Room 6CDEF Quick Draw! Ever since Len talked me into checking this out two years ago, I am hooked. Laughter is truly the best medicine.

Saturday, 5:30 PM, Room 8 Spotlight on Len Wein. Soon to be Eisner-Hall-of-Famer Len Wein, I'm sure.

I'm also planning to attend the WGA/Animation Caucus reception, always ComiCon's hottest ticket.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Open House

No way! Open your house with a Marvel-licensed key! How cool is that?!

I came across this on an emergency trip to the hardware store -- there's an excellent plumber here today fixing my kitchen sink and the faucet in the guest room. This is the kind of craftsman that's hard to find these days -- a man who takes real pride in his work, goes above and beyond the call of duty, and even thinks ahead in terms of what order to dismantle and reassemble everything so that no time is wasted. It's a pleasure to watch him work, and after he dismantled the Reverse Osmosis system for cleaning, I discovered that I only had 3 of 4 replacement filters in the house, hence the rush to the nearest hardware place.

I was actually tempted by these keys. There were a bunch of Marvel characters and some Peanuts characters, as well. I love visual shorthand and the incomprehensible-to-outsiders jargon that can result -- imagine telling a housesitter a mnemonic like: Wolverine at the front, Snoopy in the back. (My current house keys are color-coded yellow and green, for front door and back, because my house is yellow and my yard is green.)

But is choosing a key graphic like choosing a personal avatar? This isn't a "Wolverine" house, and they didn't carry an "Athena" key or even a "Red Sonja." (I'll accept "Wonder Woman" in a pinch!)

So I walked away empty-handed, wondering whether stuff like this finds a market. Because while I can understand why Len Wein would want a Wolverine key for his house -- and you do, don't you, Len? -- I'm still sorting out who the rest of the customers are.

The Time Machine Project

Sam Beckett likened our lives to a ball of string, all balled up so all the points are touching, and a person could Leap from any point on the string to any other. Before that, Kurt Vonnegut introduced the Tralfamadorean concept of time, a life that can be lived in any order -- and moments, therefore, that are to be experienced in and of themselves, without the burden of impending loss.

In Time and Again, Jack Finney brought to life the idea of Time Travel through focusing on artifacts of a certain era, and excluding anything of the modern day that would interfere with the illusion. This same concept drives the film Somewhere in Time. Not that I have made a lifelong study of such things or anything.

I have started building a time machine in my home. It's a sensory time machine, filled with things that transport me through sight and sound to earlier times in my life. It works remarkably well. I can't affect my own past -- nor would I want to! -- but I can come surprisingly close to re-experiencing it.

Some of the things I've been revisiting recently, which form the building blocks of my personal Time Machine:



Hey Deanie, won't you come out tonight?


To Boldly Go...


What's in your Time Machine?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Element of Chance

I tend to like having things "just so." I've taken pride in mastering the little systems I've established for myself so they're as streamlined as possible, but I still don't exactly travel light, and my prep time for leaving the house would be a burden or a comedy routine, if not for the fact that I get a meditative pleasure out of the routine itself.

But I am constantly learning the lesson that the world does not come to an end if all my plans and routines are completely short-circuited. Far from it. (The Buddhists say you confront the same lessons over and over throughout your life until they sink in, and clearly this is one lesson I'm still learning.) Recently, to prep for an important meeting, I went out to my car the night before to load the CD changer with the right mental soundtrack for the ride over. I find certain music can really stimulate my creativity -- and I also have certain artists who are my phonic lucky charms, it seems when these guys are on the stereo, I wind up nailing the meeting.

Before the meeting, I had my "lucky breakfast" (there are a few versions of this, all of which involve carbs to absorb upcoming nervous butterfly-juice) and put on a favorite outfit, including one of my "magic jackets." The "magic" in this case having nothing to do with nailing the meeting, and everything to do with the miraculous ability of these jackets to adapt to at least 3 seasons of weather, all while looking great and packing smaller than two pairs of socks. And then I got in the car -- where I discovered that, as part of my careful soundtrack routine the night before, I had left the car's utility electricity on. You guessed it -- dead battery.

At this point I had about 40 minutes to get to a meeting that was 25 minutes away if I hit no traffic whatsoever. This was not good. Calling the triple A would never happen in time. Calling the client to say I had car trouble and would be late was an option, but not a good one.

So. I raced back through the house, grabbing the keys to my truck. If you haven't met Rozinante, let me explain that this 1979 Chevy Silverado is not what I would choose to take to a big meeting! She was bought for road trips and camping trips, and though she's in great shape for her age, she's sun damaged and dinged, and covered with bumper stickers for oddball sports. But, she had a live battery. Unfortunately, she also has a finicky carburetor that requires 5 minutes of precious warmup time in order to drive without stalling.

So now I'm on my way to this meeting in my old beatup truck. With very little time to spare, and without my bluetooth headset, if I do hit traffic and wind up needing to call to say I'm 5 minutes late. Without power steering. Without very good air conditioning. And of course, without my chosen music, carefully staged in the other car.

So. What's the lesson here? Should I be a better micromanager, pre-starting the car half an hour before important meetings, to give time to deal with any problems? Surely that's not it. After all, in this case, the very act of prepping the little details to be 'perfect' is what led to the much larger problem. If I'd missed the meeting due to that dead battery, this wouldn't be a funny story. It would be a morality tale about the person too busy emroidering curtains to notice the house is collpasing.

But it all worked out. I wasn't late. The meeeting was a good one. I'm pretty sure I walked out of it with a sale.

So I guess I'll be taking my "lucky truck" to my next meeting, too?

Why Athena TV?

From the beginning of my TV career, I've been a woman warrior in some traditionally male purviews. At times this has been to my advantage -- I'm told, at least, that being a girl whose pigeonhole is action-adventure has set me apart. I think this was more true when I started out than it is now -- on my last Sci-fi Channel gig, 3 out of 5 writers on staff were female.

Athena is an apt avatar for me -- so much so that when I bought my house over a decade ago, I christened it Casa Athena in honor of the bust of the Greek Goddess that had been installed in a backyard niche by the previous owner. This despite the fact that the bust -- as I later learned from the learned Dr. Amy, Renegade Archeologist -- is actually Aphrodite. Oooops. Aphrodite, I'm sorry to say, was not then and is not now a relevant household goddess in my life.

My other reason for naming my online home after this now-beloved figure stems from my ongoing rediscovery of what drew me to my profession in the first place. Writing science fiction is an opportunity for examining larger questions of humanity in an allegorical framework. The ancient tales of Athena and her olympian cohort are the direct ancestors of our modern "mythologies" of Star Trek and Star Wars, Superman and Batman, and yes, Duncan MacLeod and Nick Knight.

Catching Up On Webisodes

Since there are going to be Emmys this year for short-form-live-content, aka, web content, I thought it would be fun to check out some of the contenders. Sadly not on the Consideration list for the Emmys is my favorite web series, Rebecca Drysdale, Time Travelling Lesbian.

I wish I'd seen The Guild in time to vote for it for nomination. The characters know each other through online gaming together. Clever and sweet.

I'll update this post as I continue this project.

UPDATE July 17: The nominations in this category all went to bonus content for existing properties, which I honestly feel defeats the whole purpose of the award. It's taken the wind out of my sails, at least temporarily, for the Webisode Project.

UPDATE July 20: Holy crap, Felicia Day, writer and co-star of The Guild is the same girl from Dr. Horrible! Well done, Felicia Day, newly crowned Queen of the Geeks.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Headsets

Oh My Gosh! Headsets! The ultimate Jim Ladd head trip!

Jim Ladd Headsets

Jim Ladd used to do this new-age-spoken-word-tone-poem late-night radio show on KLOS back in what, the early 90's?

I have a bunch on audiotape, which I've been thinking of transferring to MP3 when I get the chance. But of course leave it to Ladd to be ready for the new Millennium and come out with new Headsets on CD. The only thing better would be an ongoing Podcast.

This guy's voice is a time machine for me, taking me back to late night driving along Mulholland with that sonorous timbre practically vibrating my little car. Even then I knew the show was really aimed at a different crowd, one surrounded by a certain tangy smoke. But even without chemical enhancement, it was consciousness-altering, slowing my pulse and widening my perspective in a life largely filled with rush and focus. In other words, "Oh wow, look at the moon."

I first discovered Jim Ladd through his syndicated rock interview show -- I listened over and over to his interviews with the guys from Styx. Moving to LA where he was a local DJ was like finding an old friend. One of my favorite obscure treasures is Roger Waters' album, Radio KAOS, an apocalyptic rock opera in which the DJ is played by.... Jim Ladd.

I found out about Headsets.com by pulling up next to a parked SUV in Burbank that had a "Jim Ladd Headsets" graphic painted on the rear wheelcover. Maybe I should have stalked that car to see if Jim Ladd was driving it. No reason it couldn't have been....

Click through to his myspace page to hear a sample. *happy sigh*

Call For Comics Trivia

Len Wein put out an amusing call for help from persons with near-encyclopedic comics knowledge. Reminding me that as geekly as I am, I'm not even close to geekly enough for this crowd. Help him out if you can!

http://lenwein.blogspot.com/2008/07/semi-urgent-call-for-your-help.html

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Peter Callesen

I find these works in paper absolutely charming.



I'm so pleased to learn he'll be having a show in New York at the end of the year.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Tale of Two Subways


Nostalgia for transplanted New Yorkers who miss their Subways.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Lost and Found

William Daniels rocks the Knight Rider GPS! It's about time!

TomTom's been doing celebrity GPS voices for a while. I was tempted by John Cleese and Eddie Izzard, especially since samples on Eddie Izzard's website include such gems as "Thank God you're there, I can shut up now."

But this is the Gold Ring of Geek GPS:



It even comes preloaded with 300 common names! How can anyone named "Michael" resist this purchase?

My friend Larne chimes in with the question, when are they doing one with Majel Barret Roddenberry, the voice of all Star Trek Computers? Another winning concept.

But the Kitt car still wins.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Communicator Ettiquette

In the wake of my thorough enjoyment of William Shatner's "Star Trek Memories," audiobook-style, I'm making a little summer project of watching the re-mastered ST:TOS on TV Land. So shiny, so colorful! Of course, I orginally watched most of these episodes on my mother's black & white TV in the 70's, so the saturated colors aren't part of my personal sense memory of the show. And to tell the truth, there are a number of episodes I haven't seen since then, making them practically new to me. I was certainly struck anew by the still-relevant political commentary of "A Taste of Armageddon" the other day. (That's the one where the war is conducted bloodlessly, thus diminishing the incentive to find peace.)

For a certain group of people, inside stories about Star Trek are how we learned how television was made. I credit David Gerrold's "Inside"/"Making Of" books for my earliest understanding of script formatting, the notes process, and production realities. For the current generation, I believe that Buffy fandom served the same purpose of illuminating the process.

So there I am, blissfully watching "Errand of Mercy." And there's Kirk, in the middle of an impassioned plea to the Organian Council, when his communicator beeps. And what does he do? He answers it! Of course, it's only through 21st century hindsight that it seems like poor etiquette, but holy crap, any fool knows you don't answer your cell phone in the middle of a meeting! What a boor!

I try to cast my mind back to the days before cell phones. In a world where a ubiquitous pocket communicator was the stuff of fantasy, it must have seemed perfectly natural that when that thing beeps, it takes priority. And I suppose even today, in a military context, if the line to HQ or from the troops buzzes, you don't let it go to voice mail. Still, it was pretty jarring to see Kirk demonstrate so little respect for the people he was there to "help," that he would leave them hanging while he took a call.

Indiana Jones and the Song of Theme

Thursday, June 26, 2008

We Need Girlfriends

I saw an episode of this web series at a WGA-sponsored panel entitled "What Are Teens Watching." After failing to win a DVD of the series in the door-prize drawing (Door prizes? At the Guild? Ooookay....) I checked out the rest of the episodes online. #3, "Facebook," which screened at the panel, remains my favorite, but the whole series has charm. I also hear it's being developed as a pilot for CBS. I'm thinking they need a good match for Big Bang Theory. These nerds are younger and less professionally successful, but in the same wheelhouse. It has the endearing premise of centering on guys who really want Girlfriends, i.e., human connection, as opposed to just sex.


We Need Girlfriends
The Panel itself, co-sponsored by the Teen Media Project, was an interesting evening, though it wound up focusing more on the projects of the panelists and moderator (two web series, WNG and Planet Unicorn, and the ABC Family teen-aimed series Lincoln Heights) than on the larger question of what's getting teen eyeballs these days. There were two Actual Teens on the panel but they seemed more atypical than typical, one having already graduated college and the other being an award-winning music producer, so I'm not sure how reliable their window into the teen psyche was...
The young musician, though, made a a telling comment, stating that he's not much of a TV watcher and that this is because growing up, "we only had two TVs in the house, one in the living room and one in my Mom's room, and if the one in the living was on something I didn't like, I'd just do something else." (Quote approximate.) He genuinely felt that interest in watching TV arises out of having your own TV and control of the programming. I couldn't imagine trying to explain to him that most of the hardcore TV junkies I know grew up in single-TV households. We negotiated and compromised over what to watch -- or we watched whatever our parents chose. Sometimes we watched stuff we didn't like -- and sometimes we grew to find it interesting. I fear that in the modern niche-based, personal-device market, people never have to watch something that someone else chose, never have to be exposed to something that isn't right down their alley. This will surely have unintended consequences.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rebecca Drysdale, Time Travelling Lesbian

The title says it all, really.


I'm amazed how much story and humor is packed into these 4-minute bursts.




Best use of "previously" evah.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Alt.Text

Thanks to Chris Valada for the link to this ongoing entertaining online column by Lore Sjoberg.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Boxful of Kittens

I curse the person who directed me to this LIVE FEED of a mama lion and her 4 cubs. Addictive!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Jan Vorman



I know nothing about this artist but I ran across this (following a convoluted trail from the excellent "Comics Curmudgeon" site) and was instantly charmed by his sensibility.