Archive for the ‘Personal’ category

Get the Picture?

October 12, 2010

Now this article just makes me sad.  You wanna kill the love of reading in your child?  Take away the books that make them happy and force them to read the books that you think they should like.  I don’t get it.  As both an avid reader and a parent, and I just don’t get it.  If you let the kid progress at his or her own speed, if you let them choose what they want to read, they’ll eventually get to chapter books on their own.  Curling up with a book is one of the joys of life, not some thankless chore like making your bed or taking out the garbage. The point is to instill a love of reading in a child, not prep them for the SAT.

No wonder ten-year-olds would rather sit around playing their PS3s than crack a book — their parents probably took away GOODNIGHT MOON and replaced it with CRIME AND PUNISHMENT when they started walking.



I Should Be a Politician

July 15, 2009

Does anybody believe me anymore when I say I’m going to post regularly again?  Hell, at this point *I* don’t even believe me.  Hopefully one of these days.

Reader (and new papa) Shawn  has unwittingly shamed me into posting again.  What can I say, I was raised Catholic; I respond to guilt like Pavlov’s dogs responded to ringing bells.

Check the bottom of the comments here for Shawn’s message and my long-winded but well-meaning response; consider this my latest post.  Oh, and here’s a bonus Cliff’s Notes update: the Peanut has turned one, she’s walking, talking (sort of), eating solids (mostly) and usually failing miserably to sleep through the night.  The Wedding Comedy has gone through a number of trials and tribulations but is still on course for a September production — I’m neck deep in the rewrite right now and praying that I’m not ruining the damn thing.  And the Missus miraculously still hasn’t divorced me yet despite my various neuroses, hang-ups and occasional bouts of flat-out craziness; today is our third anniversary, which we’re celebrating by dealing with the Peanut’s latest eye infection.

Thanks for checking in.

Motley Croup

January 20, 2009

This weekend was an interesting experience. We put the Peanut to bed around nine or so on Saturday night and then spent the next couple of hours basking in the glorious silence…. at least until we heard this harsh barking sound emanating from the baby monitor. Since we couldn’t remember acquiring a sea lion, we figured it was the kid, but we thought nothing of it… until she did it again. And again. And again. At which point we consulted the library of baby books we’ve acquired over the past six months and realized, Hey, maybe she’s got the croup. Oh, and according to everything we’re reading right now, it can be fatal.

I was on the phone with our  health care provider faster than you can say “overreacting first-time parents” and got a nurse on the line.  She asked a series of questions (“Is your baby turning blue?” “No.”  “Is she having trouble breathing?”  “I don’t think so, but I sure as shit am.”  And so on) and suggested that we bring the Peanut to the E.R. of a nearby hospital.  Meanwhile, the Missus was holding the Peanut in the guest bathroom, which was filled with steam from the shower — an anti-croup technique that the books recommended.  It was one in the morning by the time we piled into the car and zipped down to Woodland Hills with our car windows open to let in the cold air (another recommendation of the books).

We checked in to the E.R. and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I started falling asleep in my chair, at which point the Missus would smack my leg to wake me up.  Later she told me how she wondered how I could possibly sleep at a time like that, to which I replied that (as she knows all too well) I can sleep anywhere, anytime, and besides — we were at the friggin’ hospital.  If something bad was going to happen, at least we were in the right place.

Eventually we were escorted to an examination room, where we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I didn’t start falling asleep this time, if only because there were no chairs in the room for me to sit in.  Finally, around 3:30 or so — by which point the Peanut was sleepy and slightly crabby but no longer barking — the doctor finally showed up, told us we did the right thing with the shower steam and car windows, and recommended that they administer steroids to open up her bronchial passages.  The nurse entered with a needle and shot up our baby, we paid the hundred bucks for the emergency room visit and headed home.  It was five in the morning by the time our heads finally hit the pillows.

Sunday was naturally a bit of a washout — what with the fact that we spent much of it snoozing and/or walking around in a Romeroesque, sleep-deprived stupor — but at least the Peanut no longer sounded like she had flippers and could balance a beach ball on her nose.  Of course, now she has a terrible cold, which is a bummer but probably won’t involve medical intervention.  Knock wood.

So yeah — we finally had our first emergency trip to the hospital.  God knows it could’ve been much worse and thankfully it wasn’t, but as the Missus put it, “We finally earned our stripes as parents.”  When I told this story to my boss — a father of two — and mentioned what my wife said, he replied, “Well, you earned your first stripe, anyway.  You’ve still got plenty ahead of you.”

Scarily enough, I’m sure he’s right.

One New Year’s Resolution Down the Tubes

January 16, 2009

Well, so much for blogging more often.  I’ll blame it on the disaster trifecta of the death of my favorite radio station ever, the death of a great record store and the death of Khan.  Never mind the fact that all three of these events happened in the past 48 hours or so and I’ve been blowing off the blog for over a week.

On the plus side, I’ve been churning out script pages like a madman, relatively speaking.  “Relative” in this case being two or three pages a day — a piss-poor quota in my pre-fatherhood life but good enough now that the Peanut is becoming both more independent and consequently even more of a handful.  She’s amazingly fun to play with, but sometimes I miss the days when she’d just lie there in my lap like a stuffed animal while I wrote or played Xbox or whatever.  That period has long, long since passed.  I’m still shooting for five pages a day, but if I don’t make it, I don’t make it.  Life’s too short to beat myself up over it, and even one page written is one more page than I had yesterday.  Unless it’s a really shitty page, in which case I give myself a brief but sound verbal thrashing and THEN let it go.

So what have I been working on?  Well, nothing from the previous six months.  I’ve temporarily put aside the three major projects that I began in 2008, having grown completely, thoroughly sick of every single one of them.  Instead, I decided to finally write something that I came up with years ago, an idea that I fleshed out into a four-page treatment which my then-manager rejected as being too gimmicky. 

At the time I wasn’t too broken up about it — you could fill a recycling truck with all of the dead end treatments and outlines that I’ve abandoned without remorse over the years — but this one has lingered in the back of my mind ever since.  Hell, maybe the manager was right — it could very well be gimmicky, but so what?  BEING JOHN MALKOVICH is about as gimmicky as they come, at least on the surface, and look how that turned out.  This may not be the most overtly commercial idea I’ve ever had, but it’s not like my middle-of-the-road mainstream comedies have exactly opened the Hollywood floodgates for me.  Part of me has always wondered, why NOT write the stupid thing?  What do I have to lose?

Upon realizing at the dawn of 2009 that I have no agent, no manager, no new scripts even close to sending out and, frankly, no real prospects aside from the stupid Wedding Comedy option, I decided that I had answered my own longstanding question: I’ve got exactly bupkis to lose at this point.  So I resolved to finally write this gimmicky idea that wouldn’t go away.

Call it the Bigfoot Comedy.

Is it any good?  Probably not.  But it sure is fun to write, and that’s more than you can say for most of the work I churned out last year.  There’s something liberating about just saying “fuck it” and writing for your own amusement rather than trying to pin down to the constantly shifting tastes of the film industry.  If this were a fictional story, this would be the script that blows open the doors to Tinseltown and saves me from a life of quiet desperation in the real world.

In truth, it’ll probably just blow open the doors of the cabinet where my old scripts go to die.  But until that inevitable day comes, I can enjoy the possibility that despite the odds stacked against it, this script could be The One.

As a writer, I’m no stranger to fantasy anyway.

Welcome to 2009

January 3, 2009

The holidays were pretty good at WriterDad Manor.  It was the Peanut’s first Christmas which gave the usual festivities even more of a glow than usual; the Missus went on a baking frenzy that resulted in my waist size expanding by what feels like about ten inches; and my sister-in-law gave us a Wii as a family gift which, when you take into consideration the Xbox 360 already sitting in the TV cabinet, virtually guarantees that I will get no writing done if I don’t discipline myself.  It also guarantees that my wife will kick my ass at Wii bowling on a nightly basis.

As I face the prospect of not only a new year ahead of us but yet another year behind us (in case you’re wondering what’s going on with this whole time thing), I’ve found myself making the inevitable new year’s resolutions, the new wrinkle this time around being that I intend on actually following through on them for longer than a day or two.  They are, in no particular order:

Finish at least two screenplays this year.  And by “finish”, I want each of them so polished, a woman could apply make-up in its reflection.  I wrote a lot in 2008, but — aside from the Wedding Comedy rewrite and the latest pass through a spec I started in 2007 — they were almost all first drafts.  That’s all well and good, but it’s time to get something to the point that it’s ready to actually show somebody other than the Missus and my trusted circle of readers.  Ideally I’d actually like three polished scripts, but with a day job and a family, that’s pushing it.

Land a new agent. I’ll settle for a new manager, despite my reservations.

Go for more walks.  I love walking; a good hour-and-a-half walk in a park in nearby Encino almost always does wonders for my mood and fires me up creatively.  I can’t tell you how many story problems I’ve solved over the years during those strolls.  Since the birth of the Peanut in July, however, I’ve gone on exactly one such jaunt.  This needs to change.

See more movies.  The last feature-length film I saw in 2008 — either in a theater OR at home — was The Dark Knight.  In July.  Granted, the baby takes precedence over, say, The Wrestler (which is as it should be), but for a guy who wants to make his living writing Hollywood features, this is unacceptable.  I hope to find more of a balance this year.

Better manage my writing time.  Discipline, discipline, discipline.

Be a better husband and father.  I’d like to think I’m pretty solid in both departments, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

Cut my credit card debt at least in half.  No, it’s not nearly as bad as many folks’.  Yes, it still bothers me.  A lot.

Lose ten pounds.  You think I was exaggerating about my expanding waistline?  I suppose I was… but not by much.  If nothing else, this should get my ass walking again.  Hopefully.

Oh, and one more —

Blog more often.

So that’s it.  We’ll see how many of these I can make a reality this year.

‘Tis the Season

December 11, 2008

This past weekend was pretty busy. On Saturday, the Missus and I went to her company’s annual holiday party at a swank hotel in Santa Monica, where we gorged ourselves on all-you-can-eat sushi and a chocolate fountain and enjoyed the benefits of an open bar. We left the Peanut with my sister-in-law, the first time we’ve had a babysitter (daycare excepted). To be honest, part of me really didn’t want to go to the party. I know, what could possibly go wrong? In my mind the answer to that was, Everything. The kid could get sick. My sister-in-law could get sick. The house could burn down. Aliens could swoop down and abduct the Peanut, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS-style. Who knows. Why risk it?

Despite my hand-wringing we went anyway, and when we got home, the Peanut was fast asleep in her crib and my sister-in-law was alive, well and about as sane as when we left her. We all breathed a sigh of relief.

The next day, the WriterDad clan trekked out to the local agricultural college to buy our Christmas tree. I’ve lived out in Southern California for more than a decade, and I will never get used to the notion of picking out the perfect Douglas Fir while surrounded by palm trees. Afterward, the Peanut got her photo taken with the Santa, who was hanging out nearby. This was an unexpectedly awesome experience, one of those moments when I stepped back and thought to myself, “Holy shit, we’ve got a kid. And she’s visiting Santa for the first time. And, perhaps most importantly, she’s not crying, vomiting or pooping on Santa.” The fact that she would probably soon be crying, vomiting and pooping on me and/or the Missus didn’t detract from the moment in the slightest. Nor did the arm full of badass tattoos that Santa accidentally flashed when we passed him our daughter.

At some point during the weekend, I also finally finished my latest draft of the Apatow Rip-Off. Considering that it’s only 99 pages, there’s no reason why that sucker should have taken me over a month to rewrite… but it did, and at least it’s finished. That’s about all it has going for it, unfortunately; I threw the script in the drawer to get some distance before I eventually read through it, but I suspect that it’s a B- effort at very best. I know — that’s why we rewrite. But is it even worth rewriting? I’m honestly not sure; the whole thing feels very middle-of-the road to me, and I fear that no matter how much I polish, I’ll still end up with a highly polished mediocrity. But that’s a decision I’ll make when I actually read the stupid thing.

So what now? I’ve got drafts of two other projects to rewrite. I also have a couple of new ideas that I find myself mentally circling around. Given how un-fired up I feel about the scripts I’ve already got, maybe tackling a fresh project is precisely what I need to jumpstart my enthusiasm. My office is closed for the last two weeks of the month, giving me plenty of time for a first draft — theoretically, anyway. We’ll see what the Peanut has to say about that. Probably “Whaaaaaaa!”

Grindstone Cowboy

December 3, 2008

I seem to be in danger of becoming one of those bloggers who, you know, doesn’t actually update his blog on a regular basis. What the hell is wrong with me? I’ll bet you can guess. Let’s all say it together: “I have no time to write.”

Sadly, this does indeed seem to be the case, at least lately. The Peanut is approaching her five month mark, and just when the Missus and I think we’ve got this parenting shit down to a science, our offspring makes another developmental leap and screws us up all over again. Recent occurrences include such milestones as rolling from her tummy onto her back (a hilarious and weirdly touching sight), the beginning of the teething phase (decidedly less hilarious) and reaching out for random objects — for example, the catalog that Mommy’s holding while the baby sits in her lap — and stuffing them into her mouth. When the Peanut is sitting on my leg and we’re talking gibberish to one another, an experience that occasionally seems to resemble one of my more awkward prodco meetings, I experience a profound happiness that I previously never believed to be possible without illicit substances or religious brainwashing.

Unfortunately, a more active and interactive Peanut keeps me away from my computer for even longer stretches than before. I’m lucky if I have twenty minutes to work on the rewrite of the Apatow Rip-Off, which I’d hoped to finish in time for the tracking board contest and completely and utterly failed to do so. The get-up-at-4:50-with-the-wife-and-write plan is still in effect — unless the Peanut wakes up around that time, in which case it becomes the get-up-at-4:50-and-take-care-of-the-kid plan. A Thanksgiving trip to visit the in-laws in San Diego — traditionally one of my most creatively fertile periods of the year — yielded exactly zero pages this time around. Being stuck in the third quarter of Act II hasn’t helped, either: for the past two weeks, the little time I’ve spent at the keyboard mostly involved A) staring blankly at the screen, B) occasionally trying out and then promptly discarding ideas that I’ll charitably describe as half-baked, and/or C) writing vicious hate mail to myself, then deleting it before the Missus could read some of it and hide the knife block in the kitchen.

I now understand why pro writers often seem to take long stretches of time off for their families. Part of me feels like going on hiatus to let the well refill and enjoy the first year of my daughter’s life without the burden of shoehorning in writing time. I’m not going to do that, of course. The fact is, I’m not getting any younger — I’m rapidly approaching the age range in which most guys settle into whatever profession they’re going to toil in until they hit retirement, and here I am, on a career track to nowhere. Screenwriting is pretty much the only existential “Get Out of Jail Free” card I have to play at this point, which compounds my frustration when circumstances prevent me from putting in the time and effort I need to make my professional aspirations a reality.

I have to keep my nose to the grindstone, even if it ends up shearing off my face.

(Coda: The Missus made me promise to be more cheerful in my next post.)