Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Sequel

The time is now. At last I can reveal the New Project. I know, you’re thinking, What about that sweeping Norse epic? and Where did I place my grocery list? A mere ruse, the Blue Harvest of spec scripts. No, the project whose very name I tremble with pleasure to utter, the script with a concept most high, is not the Viking-laden cleave-fest I mutter about from time to time but in fact the follow-up to American Jedi, a script I wrote with my friend Tom. The working title is I’m Killing Mr. Lucas Because He Hasn’t Released a Film on My Birthday: Being the Second Part in a Planned Trilogy of Assassination Comedies. I’d give you a synopsis, but I’m still working on the logline.

Thing is, George has a thing for Memorial Day weekend. It’s been good to him. And I understand that. You gotta make a living. So episode by episode, trilogy by trilogy, he sends his newborn films into the world, goes to Hawaii, and counts his money. That’s cool. But what’s not cool is that now, with the release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, George has skunked me again. He’s had no less than 10 chances to get it right.

Ten opportunities to release a new film on my birthday, May 23. But no. Out trots Indy on May 22 and down goes another birthday in flames of bipolarity. He’s toying with me, George is. After all, these are the films that really mattered, the Lucasfilms of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series. These were Movies, and they were the ones that fired the imagination, the ones that produced that scary pounding in your chest.

At least, this is the announcement I had planned to make. It turns out that someone had the audacity to invent these Internets and, checking my facts, I discover that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was released on Wednesday, May 23, 1984. My twelfth birthday.

Huh. That was the night—a school night—that my dad took me to see the new adventures of Indiana Jones. Opening night. How could I have forgotten? Worse, it seems that Raiders was released in June. June! I sure hope George is happy. Now he’s stolen my thesis.

Tom called me the other day, and he didn’t say so, but I think he was disappointed I’d already seen the new Indy. I explained that I had taken the Kid to see his first Indy movie. (The Kid is a really cool 13-year-old I’ve been training in the ways of iron.) My own kid is on the way, of course, and I can only imagine that 12 or 13 years from now the Jones boys will still be trotting the globe in search of mystical artifacts. We'll be there.

And, yeah, it was great. Thanks, Dad.

***Note to Lucasfilm lawyers: No need to follow up on this one. Everything’s perfectly all right here. We’re fine. We’re all fine here now, thank you. How are you?

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Clearing Out: A Meditation on Method

I am magnetic. Those who know me well will understand the truth of this statement and how it works on so very many levels. For instance, just as my Marketing Padawan has a newfound penchant for attracting rogue staplers into his cubicle, so do I draw various and sundry articles into my house. By which I mean, principally, paper. Stacks and stacks of paper.

The epicenter of this storm is the home office, which wouldn’t matter except that it doubles as the dining room table. At some point during the course of my current project, for reasons that remain unknown to me, I became unable to work in the second-floor room designated for the purpose of writing, and so I relocated to the downstairs. My work, and my piles, moved with me. New ones sprang up.

There are writers who take to these newfangled “software programs” that outline and measure and monitor and chart. No. I am a writer who needs to see what’s in my head from time to time, see something tangible in space, and that means notes; and notes mean print-outs, scraps, notebooks, envelopes, receipts, ticket stubs, and any other reasonably flat surfaces across which I can drag a rollerball pen. For a time I would work on the backs of large desk-calendar sheets I’d bring home from the office once the month had passed. These have their piles, too.

In addition, living with a house rabbit for 10 years teaches you certain lessons about clutter, nonattachment, and the ultimate futility of maintaining the hygienic standards of polite society. (To this day I cannot allow myself to place scripts, books, magazines, or other potentially valuable chewables on the lowest shelves of a bookcase; Mr. J worked his way through, among other things, Latin, organic chemistry, the Riverside Shakespeare, and pathological diseases, as well as the Star Wars Soundtrack Anthology box set. You learn.)

Jenifer claims that I have a fondness for piles and, moreover (my mother’s protests notwithstanding), that I was raised this way. I deny this, of course (that I like piles, not that I produce them industriously), but I do admit to an offhand comment I made about a ramshackle building we passed on a recent country walk. This may have strengthened her position.

You see, I am drawn to the weird places in between residences; the run-down sheds, barns, springhouses, and other auxiliary buildings whose purpose or ownership has long been forgotten; the mysterious and quite possibly toxic industrial sites; the overgrown service stations; in short, the forlorn brickyards of the soul.

And yet, lest you get entirely the wrong idea about me, I also have a penchant for a very particular and exacting kind of order, the kind that insists upon storing a complete set of original (1978–1985) Star Wars action figures in paper-towel-lined cigar boxes. (I am sure you can imagine the horror, the horror when Jenifer took it upon herself to shake the box until the lid burst open and the action figures tumbled forth and the blasters and lightsabers and gimer sticks scattered to the Four Winds and . . . it was horrible.)

Which brings us to my Terrible Purpose of late: cleaning up the house. This news won’t come as a surprise to most, as it is a reasonable thing to do with a Baby on the way. And while the effort won’t quite match the scale of the Great Purge of ’06, it can nonetheless be quite a task for someone with a Bento box for a brain.

Cleaning up folks can understand, get behind. You need to make room for The Baby. And this means nursery and crib and all the other Baby Accoutrement one could ever hope for.


There will be no crib, no nursery, no stroller, no plastic toys, precious few (cloth) diapers (the better to practice elimination communication), and instead only the finest in organic, Fair Trade, shade-grown, carbon-negative, biodynamic objets d’art animated only by wind, sun, and imagination. You can imagine how even the most innocent of conversations quickly becomes a tricky rhetorical situation. It’s easy enough to answer the How’s the New Job Going line of questioning, but the Are You Getting Ready for Baby version is an altogether different challenge question. I daren’t make mention of the aforementioned desirable qualities, or answer inquiries directly and honestly, unless I wish to subject myself to social outlawry. Occasionally, of course, I am caught in a moment of weakness, at which point the conversant exhibits a dramatic facial spasm, tries to stifle it, fails, smiles, sputters, and then peruses with Terminator-like precision the palette of available reactions, which are usually limited to eyerolling, backpedaling, and general flabbergastering. At least that’s been the process so far.

Thus, when it comes to clearing out my stuff, my papers, I am taking an old Icelandic perspective, that character does not determine fate, that traversing the poles of Order and Chaos has less to do with individual ability than with simply What Is. You could say that getting rid of my papers is not for the acquisition of stuff but to better invite the further disorder with which the Baby will bless us. Some sacrifices are required, after all.

But you didn’t it hear it from me. I’m just going through my papers, my endless reams of papers, and that’s not likely to change, I fear, until the day Gullinkambi calls.

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