with 'writing' tag


the other day, my fiancée celia said she was surprised that i hadn’t been writing anything about what she’s been working on. the biggest reason is just that i’m not sure how much i can say — she always obfuscates things and i wouldn’t want to screw things up by saying the wrong thing about the wrong person.

early in the whole writing process of her current project, about the time we were getting our engagement party together, i was fixing some rice krispie treats in the kitchen area of my old loft. i heard this thud which sounded exactly like a body falling on concrete. when i turned around, i saw she was sprawled out on the floor. my first thought is that it was a very odd pratfall, but once i got over to make sure she was okay and it was clear she had fainted, it became a lot less funny.

she has been fine since then, even through six more months of rewrites. and now she is once again close to the finish line (and it looks like it might not move once she reaches it this time) — until it moves on to the next stage and there are more rewrites.

i read most of the iterations of the script, except for the last few. it is interesting to see the process, and to see how it compares and contrasts with the types of projects i’ve done. unsurprisingly, i guess, you see the same sorts of dysfunctions (problems with decision making, shifting deadlines, communication breakdowns, etc).

she has been off at dov s-s simens two-day film school this weekend, and then it’s time for one more round of script polishing before it goes out to be read by important people.

maybe he’s from the arctic circle

reuters has an excellent article about the “overnight” success of michael arndt, the screenwriter of little miss sunshine.

i thought that arndt’s talk at the screenwriting expo was one of the highlights. it was about “endings: the good, the bad, & the insanely great,” and he broke down the endings of star wars, the graduate, and little miss sunshine and showed how they resolved the three levels of conflict (external, internal, philosophical) in under a minute.

i only really attended the pixar storytelling day at the expo, and the lunch sessions and a couple of free panels on the other days. besides arndt’s talk, the session by andrew stanton, the director of finding nemo was also really amazing. the other panels weren’t as good, but part of that impression may stem from being relegated to one of the satellite rooms where the sound sucked. i think they forgot to pipe in the right channel, and during one session i think they had the in-room microphone turned on so it was feeding back just enough to be nauseating. (and don’t get me started on the lunches.)

my reason for being at the conference, besides getting to spend time with my fiancée celia and create hilarious memories, was to learn a little bit more about screenwriting so i could be a more useful sounding board. it was also interesting to go and feel the vibe at a non-tech conference.

twisting my words

sorry for the spate of postings — i took the day off work today, and so i find myself with an excess of writing energy and no other outlet. just know that my internal editor has been nearly as busy, and there’s a half-dozen posts i started and threw away.

a birthday is a good time for reflection, like i really need an excuse for that. so i’ve been spending time thinking about what i would like to change about my life this year. the answer is easy, but also really, really difficult.

i also came up with two resolutions, or goals, or whatever you want to call them. goals is probably a better word, since although i may phrase them as absolutes, they are something i only expect to achieve in shades of gray. accepting reasonable expectations is something i’ve managed to embrace.

but i am tired of writing about personal stuff here, since i can never decide whether i am being entirely too oblique or too obvious. you are a very strange audience, made up of people i am writing to, about, and for, where sometimes i want you to be in one category when you’re really in another, and other times i wish you weren’t in one of them but you almost certainly are, and other times when you’re not any of them, you’re just some anonymous person walking past this street corner that i am talking to myself on.

so no more. or at least less. after this.

the thing to change about my life: be less afraid.

the first resolution: don’t turn down any invitations.

the second resolution: don’t avoid any questions.

the case of the missing professor

i wrote this in the fifth grade (1983-84). i cleaned up a few of the more egregious grammar mistakes as i retyped it. (it was hand-written, in cursive!) the teacher’s comment was: “your paragraphing is excellent. you obviously take pride in a job well done. don’t ever lose that.”

eleven year old joey bringham and his twin sister, lisa, received a letter in the mail. the letter read:

dear joey and lisa,

please join me in mazatlán, mexico and come with me on an archeological dig. i have received information about ancient artifacts in that region. please contact by friday at 989-2589.

professor adner

before lisa could finish reading the letter, joey took it out of her hands and rushed to the kitchen to tell his mom. he handed the letter to his mom and said, “can we go?”

“i’ll have to talk it over with dad,” she replied.

“okay,” joey said.

when joey went bank outside, lisa asked, “what did she say?”

“she said she would talk to dad.”

“is that all?”


later that eventing, when their dad came home, their mother and father discussed the issue over dinner.

after dinner, their dad said that they could go if they paid for part of it.

but joey said, “why do we have to pay for part of it?”

“it isn’t very cheap to fly to mexico, so you should at least pay for your meals.”

“okay,” joey and lisa chorused.

on friday, joey and lisa left for mexico. on their way there they talked with the professor about what they were going to do.

when they arrived, they met their guide picos and quickly left for the hotel to rest after their long journey.

the next day, joey, the professor, and lisa left for the digging site at nine o’clock.

when they arrived at the site, they found that some of the professor’s associates had already set up camp for them, so they only had to unpack their gear.

within an hour joey, the professor, and lisa had finished setting up the equipment. the professor started to teach joey and lisa how to dig for artifacts properly.

after they had been digging for a couple of hours, joey had found a couple of coins, a comb or two, and a hot wheels car. lisa found a tupperware container and a couple of plastic cups, and the professor had only found his car keys that he had lost about an hour after they had gotten there.

all of a sudden joey hit hard rock. he thought it was just a slab of concrete, so he just started to clear around it. after he got it cleared off, he started trying to dig it out. after a long time of digging, he asked some of the professor’s associates to help him dig it out. but they hit more rock after about another five feet, so they started clearing it off. meanwhile, the professor also hit rock so he started it clearing it off after checking on joey and lisa. while the professor was checking on lisa, she hit hard rock, too, so she started brushing it off.

after a couple of hours, all of them seemed to be clearing out steps. so the professor got suspicious. he tested the age of the stone by using his geiger counter. after analyzing the information, he concluded that it was hundreds of years old!

during the week they found some pottery and other artifacts on the structure’s steps.

after a couple of hours, they kept digging and digging, so they decided that they had finished digging out the building.

after they dug themselves out of the enormous pit they had created, the professor measured the building while joey and lisa at lunch with picos.

after joey and lisa finished lunch, the professor asked “do you want to go with me to the mexican government buildings?”

“sure,” joey replied.

“okay,” lisa said.

“then let’s go,” said the professor.

so the professor and friends started off to the central market where the government buildings were.

on the way there, joey and lisa stopped to do some bargaining and got separated from the professor and picos, so they headed back to their hotel called the el cid, which is one of the beachside resorts in mazatlán.

when they got there they decided to go and watch the spectacular sunset.

after watching the sunset, joey and lisa went back to the professor’s room (1066) to see if he was back yet.

when they found the professor’s room unoccupied, they went next door to their room and called room service for dinner, which was delicious except for the chocolate mousse.

the next day, joey and lisa received a phone call from mac’s building co.

they gut on the phone said “we’ve got the professor. leave 1.5 billion pesos at the diver’s point or bye-bye professor.”

after the agent hung up, joey and lisa called the mexican government and told them about what had happened and said that they might be able to sabotage the company’s computer system if they were able to use a computer at the govnerment building. the person in charge said okay, so they called a golf cart taxi to go to the government building.

when they got there the officer they had talked to on the phone was expecting them, so he led them to a large computer room and gave them the company’s number and they had the computer call the other computer located at the company’s headquarters.

when they got through all the codes and passwords, they called up the directory of programs in the computer’s memory banks and it had the following files on it: building locations, income, payroll, and other info.

joey loaded the building locations file and erased the location where the temple was. he also erased the president of the company from the payroll file and changed the codes and passwords.

when joey and lisa finished working on the computer, they asked the officer if he knew where the building company’s headquarters were, so they could screw up the company’s building machines so they would fall apart when they started to drive them. the officer told them where it was and called a taxi for them.

when they got there the whole outside area was empty because they were having a full staff meeting about what had happened to the computer.

so joey and lisa started working on the bulldozers.

they made it so the bulldozers’ wheels fell off and the dumptrucks’ batteries fell out.

when joey finished on a bulldozer he heard yelling from one of the shacks nearby so joey and lisa checked it out.

in the shack was the professor, who quickly called a cab and they returned to the government building where he quickly told the officer what happened and they planned to destroy the temple and construct a housing development and the people from the building are quickly apprehended by the mexican police.

after lisa and joey had been in the states a couple of weeks, they found out the temple contained the secret of where the aztec treasure was hidden, and the secret of the crystal skull.

mostly the truth

jakob nielsen’s list of the top ten design mistakes in weblog usability are generally reasonable advice, but i think it is funny that cory at boing boing decided to call out the one i probably pay the least heed to: #3, nondescript posting titles.

it’s not that my titles are nondescript so much as non-sequitors, or inside jokes so inside that i’m the only one who could possibly understand them. some recent highlights:

and then there are all the entries i don’t even title.

at the end of the day, i’m (mostly) writing for me, so i like to think that gives me license to flaunt jakob’s list.

smudgy window

what i write here is an imperfect view into my life.

but more frustrating from my perspective is the imperfect view from this side.

it is hard to get acute reactions from obtuse provocations.

in brief

before i went on vacation, i wrote myself a little note about a topic i wanted to write about. after thinking about it, i think the note covered it all: “credit. non-commercial use. bite me.”

so instead of trying to expand on that, i’m going to mop my apartment and do some laundry. and continue to listen to yoshimi battles the pink robots over and over again.

i have a bunch of saved emails going back several years now. i wish i had more. here’s something from an old email (january 1999) to some friends about the non-response of a company (where i had some contacts) to a resume i had sent:

(A small part of me wonders, “Maybe it just got intercepted by the lackey who filters person’s mail.” (And another small part of me says, “But you don't really want to work at company, so who cares?” (And yet another small part says, “Shut up, I’m trying to work a crossword puzzle here!” (And another part says, “Is it really healthy to have so many speaking parts around here?” (And another part says, “You maniacs! You blew it all up! Damn you all to hell!” (And the penguin says, “Moo.”))))))

here’s another tidbit, referring to this page:

I have to say that #3 isn't all its cracked up to be. But maybe I just have to give it more time.

time does not appear to have been the missing ingredient.

“speechwriting in perspective: a brief guide to effective and persuasive communication” is an interesting piece from the congressional research division at the library of congress. i love all the little rhetorical flourishes of good speechwriting, and this explains most of them.

all metaphor is poetry

i like to use analogies, allegories, and metaphors, and i find that sometimes i have used them without having intended to do so. for example, after considering what i wrote earlier, i think telephone calls are a metaphor.

the uniball vision is a very fine pen.

maciej ceglowski very efficiently takes the piss out of paul graham and his hackers and painters metaphor. yowch.

oh yeah, and i almost forgot john gruber’s takedown of paul graham’s late arrival to the mac.)