28 July 2007

Are you now, or have you ever been a Viking?

Cute stuff from Joss, but damn this is a shitty delivery format. Seriously? MySpace??? And a scrolling frame? Dark Horse should consider something a little more exciting, like Scott McCloud's amazing flash comic, The Right Number.

Still, while you're there, check out The Umbrella Academy. Surprisingly entertaining stuff from My Chemical Romance front man Gerard Way. (The Gabriel Bá artwork doesn't hurt the eyes, either.)

No one knows what it's like to be the bad man

I was starting to get a little concerned that Joss was about to head to Idaho and hole up with bottle water, a shotgun, and a bootleg copy of Captivity. He's off Runaways at the end of the current story arc, he's going to be off AssTarnishing IckMen shortly, and Goners still seems as likely as Duke Nukem Forever.

But in big news from nerd prom...looks like Ripper might make it to fruition before ASH needs a walker after all!

27 July 2007

The Stories they Tell in San Diego!

I am really working hard at not appropriating (sorry, that should be quoting, for fair use) John Rogers' latest post. It's so short and sweet...but that would be wrong.

So if you want to read about FX-fetishism, cheesy-80s-movie porn (not cheesy porn from 80s movies), and how Wil Wheaton kills kittens with Light Cycles! click this.

25 July 2007

30 Rock Act Variability

I watched a few episodes of 30 Rock tonight, preparing myself to start on a new spec (putting my spec pilot on a back burner for the nonce). I was shocked to see that they're not tightly structured. I hadn't realized when watching them for fun, but it looks like Tina Fey just writes them however she feels them on a given week.

Episode Title/#TeaserAct 1Act 2Act 3Tag
Black Tie/1.121:505:509:503:50
The Source Awards/1.161:209:2510:50

The Fighting Irish/1.172:056:3011:50

I'm excited to get started on this spec; I've got a pretty solid A-story planned out, and Tracy Morgan/Jack Donaghy B and C stories should probably write themselves.

24 July 2007

iPhone DOS Attack

I'd not heard of this little kerfuffle with Duke's wireless network until this evening...about 10 minutes after the new boss (nothing like the old boss) had left the building with her shiny new iPhone. Those poor saps running on our wireless router were down for the count. That's the third or fourth time this week it's happened...right around the time bosslady comes or goes.

Wow. As if my daily Mac experiences weren't enough to make me wish ill on Steve Jobs. This guy doesn't just make Gates look good, he makes Ballmer look good. Oh yeah, but his toys are so pretty. They work like crap, but they're pretty.

Apple: The runway model of computers.

By the way: please remind me to get a job as a "principal analyst" at InStat like David Chamberlain. He seems to understand how networks well about as the ad wizards at Apple.

"How [could] those [150 iPhones] overwhelm a network when there are probably hundreds of students downloading pirated movies from BitTorrent every night?" he said. "Just because iPhones were added recently does not mean they were responsible for the network problems. It's just something that coincidentally happened a short time before the network troubles."
My god, I just realized...if this is really a problem and not misanalysis from the Dukies...wireless networks networks nationwide are in danger! Tattoo parlors, Starbucks, BERET SHOPS! The humanity!

Update: Thanks to SteveC for forwarding me this link from Duke. Apparently it's not the iPhones. I still think they're clunky status symbols. And this from a guy who bought a RAZR when it was first available.

Harlan Ellison writes for TV again

Huh. So it wasn't my imagination. It's been eight years since HE wrote for television.

Coming August 25 to ABC, the fourth and final episode of Masters of Science Fiction. A nice break from the normal summertime network fare of all-reality, all the time.

Sitcom Room Recap

I'm conscious again! I'm conscious again!

Here's a rough pass at my Sitcom Room timeline:

  • 2pm - arrive PHX for 3:45 Southwest flight
  • 5:10 - board the 4:45 Southwest flight they put us on after ours was mysteriously canceled
  • 6:15-ish - land LAX, get shuttle to Hilton, check-in
  • 7:30-ish - take taxi to Santa Monica. The wife came along, figuring she'd lay by the pool and read, or go shopping, or just relax. She didn't count on cold and foggy weather or her damaged eardrum taking a beating on the plane. Regardless, anyone who truly knows my wife knows there was only one thing she really wanted out of this trip - dinner at Bubba Gump's. I know. She doesn't have what one might call a refined palate.
  • 'Round midnight - turn off laptop and go to sleep
  • 6am-ish - head down to the hotel gym for a workout. No weights, just an hour on an elliptical. Sounds crazy, sure. Wait until tomorrow.
  • 8-ish - breakfast in the Cafe. One egg white omelet, an order of toast, a diet coke, coffee, and oj, for the low-low price of, well more than my first car.
  • 8:45 - into Century A&B to sign in, grab my nametag, and pick a seat. I went for the back row until I was shamed into the front. Ken doesn't spit when he talks, so it worked out very well.
  • 9am - Here it is in Ken's words from his blog: "Saturday did begin at 9 with me telling them everything I knew about comedy and writing and life. Then we broke for coffee at 10."
  • Noon - lunch in the Cafe. All of us. I believe Heaven's Gate cost less than our combined bill.
  • 1-ish - the original scene. I don't know what IT is, but Kerrilee Kaski sure has IT. (Actually, I know what IT is, but I can't spell it.)
  • 1:15-1:45 - Actor, network, and studio notes. Taking these and incorporating them into the scene-as-written would be only a little tougher than hammering out a workable solution to the Two-State plan.
  • 2pm-4:20am Sunday - Off to our writers' rooms. I can't be very specific about the timeline in the room because it pretty much stood still. I haven't laughed that hard since that one time on America's Funniest Home Videos when the guy got hit in the balls.
  • 4:45am - Lights out for sleepy time. Jesse's crashed on the living room couch and the wife tells me if I get arrested for kidnapping, she knows nothing about it.
  • 6:40am - phone rings. Dan O'Day calling to tell me that he and Ken never got the email with our scene. I boot up the laptop as I incoherently babble to Dan. Finally, I mail the scene off to the two of them. Dan tells me he's got it and I collapse to the floor to blog. I know. It's a sickness. Ken emails a short while later to confirm that he also got the files, and I get dressed to workout again. See, now that might be a sickness.
  • 7:30-8:10 - I believe I listen to the Rocky theme song twice during my short workout, and Eye of the Tiger once. That's all that's keeping me awake.
  • 8:30 - to the cafe to scarf some eggs and juice. I was there for just ten minutes, but the first five were for the credit check.
  • 8:45 - Hallway outside the meeting rooms where we're milling about. I hear my team's leader, Lizbeth, say "Star Ledger" as she's walking toward someone I don't recognize at first...then I realize it's Alan Sepinwall, who's dropped in to watch the morning's activities. I go meet my favorite TV critic.
  • 9am - The actors start kicking the ass out of the scenes. Ours will be last, as they're being performed in the order of completion. Speed, I suppose, is something our team needs a bit more of.
  • Noon-ish - lunch with my team. I had a bowl of ramen that cost more than my flight to LA, but it was good. No banana sauce though. I had to settle for Tabasco.
  • 1-ish - back to our writers' room (the smell of bad chinese food will forever permeate that conference room at the Hilton) to polish our scene. Our biggest problem was a lack of smooth transitions from one mood to another, so we tried to work that out. Ken came in and gave us a great bit to use, though it did mean the death of the Iguana 2000.
  • 3pm - the panel discussion. Holy crap. Giants. We're not worthy. I'm very embarrassed that I have to take a quick break from the proceedings to run to the restroom. My father was right: make sure you go before we leave.
  • 5pm - Quick video interviews, we say our goodbyes, and head to the bar. Finally, like real writers we drink! (Really nothing like real writers. We're too tired. One drinkypoo and some food is all.)
This was a fantastic weekend, and worth every penny I spent. Two meeting rooms, two conference rooms, and two suites set Ken and Dan back quite a bit. Add on the actors and the Chinese food (it's expensive to find food that bad) and this was a steal for the price. And immense fun.

My team completely rocked. Funny, smart, clever writers all of them. We were locked in a room for just under 15 hours and had a ton of fun. I'd be locked in a room with Lizbeth, Dan, John, and Jesse anytime.

Thank you Ken, for a great, and memorable weekend.

22 July 2007

Day 2 - It's all over

Actually, I'm way too tired to blog about the awesomeness of today, but figured I'd at least put up a quick message to say it was an amazing experience. I worked with some great, smart people, learned a lot, and got to meet some of my favorite writers.

Tomorrow, a fuller recap, including tales of the special guest stars!

Morning 2, or is it Night 1 Neverending?

Ouch. I was off the grid most of the day yesterday in a conference room without wireless. That's probably all for the best, as my team was hard at work putting together the bestest episode of Jolly Happy Father with too Skinny Wife ever! I can't say much about the process because every time I start to type anything about it my captors friendly assistants hired by Ken and Dan poke me with a rifle pencil and suggest I move on.

Suffice it to say, I think the hours the five of us (and the other three teams of five) spent in our writers' room were a fantastic learning experience. We got in the room around, I don't know, maybe 2pm and out around 4:30am. I have to say, being a software engineer with long experience with 18- and 36-hour shifts helped a lot. Especially when I got the call twenty minutes ago saying the email from my teammate with the files never showed up in Ken's in-box. A good two-hour sleep was plenty for me to grab the copies I fortunately had on my laptop and resend them. And it gave me an excuse to wake up a little earlier to blog for you, fair readers, before heading off for a quick workout.*

Trust me. If you'd ever spent a night writing server code with my friend Scott, this would have been a cakewalk. True the dartboard was missing for a healthy distraction, but Ken and Dan don't yell like Cujo.

The actors did a yeoman's job yesterday with Ken's *ahem* masterfully written scene. I hope they have fun with the four scenes they'll be playing this morning. We'll find out in a few short hours!

* Lest anyone think I'm fit, or some kind of workout fanatic...I'm going to need the exercise to get energized for another full day (and hopefully not night) of work. I'm acting tough, but I'm not a kid anymore!

21 July 2007

Sitcom Room, Morning 1

"Go fuck yourselves."

And so ends the first segment this morning. Ken's been cracking us up and regaling us with stories (and, you know, giving us a picture of sitcom rooms) and ended with perfection. With that line, I feel right at home!

20 July 2007

Sitcom Room, Night 0

That's right. I'm here in L.A. for Ken Levine's Sitcom Room. Figured I've got the laptop, I've got the wireless, I've got the means and motive...what the hell, I'll try to blog about it.

This is Night -1. Or, I guess it could be Night 0. It really depends on how you want to count it out. Let's go with Zero. Must tell1 you about my day.

It sucked. Frickin' Southwest canceled our flight and didn't bother to use the contact information they had to notify us. Since it didn't occur to us to check on its status before heading out to the airport - sunny day in PHX, flying to sunnier LA - we ended up getting bumped to a later flight, pushed back to B-group, and generally pissed off. Shoulda taken the batmobile on its new wheels instead. Would have been more fun, and could have stopped off in the desert on the way home to shoe shop. Alas.

Anyway, I'm about to call it a night here in room 1614, or as I'm calling it Hymen's Triumph2 after Samuel Daniel's magnificent play of that fateful year. I find that the easiest way to remember your hotel room is to recall a great event or artistic achievement of that year. 1614 was too obvious. Who can't relate to Daniel's masterpiece?3

I'll try to blog at least once tomorrow and once on Sunday, but as I said over on Ken's blog, I'm not sure this isn't a clever ruse to rustle up some cheap (read: slave) labor to ship overseas for a sitcom sweat shop. If I survive, I'll blog.

1 Did anyone catch that, or was that joke just for me? Sometimes, I feel like a fiddler...on a roof.
2 Seriously, if the Hymen triumphs, you're not doing it right. And you'll never live it down.
3 Um, yeah. If you think I even know who the hell Samuel Daniel was, let alone knew about this play, you're crazier than I am. I was hoping there'd be a Bacon or Shakespeare play attributed in that year, though I guess I could have gone with the Cervantes poem. Thanks, Wikipedia!

Mad Men

Last night saw Mad Men's premiere on AMC. In tone, cinematic style, and even editing choices - long cuts, long scenes - it feels a bit like a drama of its time, the cusp of the '60s. The story of Madison Ave. ad men - the Mad Men of the title - is deliciously sexist, racist, and true to its time.

Matthew Weiner's writing is crisp and elegant and the cast - led by the excellent Jon Hamm* - shines, though I wish Bryan Batt's character of closeted Salvatore had been written a bit more subtly. Particular standouts for me were Vincent Kartheiser, whom I did not recognize as Connor from his run on Angel, channeling a young Dave Foley (albeit a misogynistic and somewhat sociopathic Dave Foley); Rosemarie DeWitt (whose work in Standoff I called "uninteresting, implausible, and unappealing" proving me a terrible critic) as a free-spirited artist; and the ever-beautiful, ever-effervescent Christina Hendricks playing a vixen composed of equal parts Traci Lords and Tina Louise. My god, that woman's appealing!

All-in-all, a fun hour to fill the summer doldrums. But I guess that's not quite true anymore, is it? There's an awful lot of good summertime tv off the major nets. Maybe as much as during the "regular" season. Anyway, Tivo has a new season pass for Mad Men.

* In a just world, WB would be begging Kevin Smith to dust off his superior script and stalking Jon Hamm's agent to get him to replace that cardboard cutout, Brandon Routh, for the next Superman flick.

17 July 2007

Why Steve Jobs is a bigger D-Bag than Bill Gates

Funny, all those Java troubles between Microsoft and Sun, and yet I never once had to uninstall a version of Java after installing a Windows update. Not only that, but the process messed up my Java 5 installation which I just had to update. Add to that the fact that the tools at Apple haven't managed to get a production Java 6 out yet, a year after it was available on every other OS, while Sun's got Java 7 ready for early access.

I'm really trying hard not to just run Parallels and do all my development (and really, everything else) in Windows. There are a few things I like about the Mac, but it is starting to piss me off.

But I'm super happy my Quicktime installation got updated. I mean, I must run Quicktime at least once a...never. Fucking Macs.

14 July 2007

Pinkfinger or: Diamonds are for Dames

Goodness me. For this, I might even put up with Spurs-style basketball. Maybe Shirley Bassey can cover that drippy Pussycat Dolls mess next!

via Rogers

11 July 2007

Spec troubles and software talk

Yah, not much with the blogging of late. Sorry about that.

Work's been hectic but interesting, so I haven't been doing much surfing or time-wasting during the day. When I get home, I'm pretty burnt, so it's maybe an hour of poking at the spec and then a couple of hours of tv or reading before sacking out. Here's a quick update, though.

The spec is killing me. The first draft was a fine, moderately entertaining story - about characters for whom I'd not spare a rat's ass - that had no laughs. The plot's somewhat complicated, not too bad for a sitcom, but at the extreme end for a sitcom pilot. I used the M*A*S*H pilot as my guide - no character intros, they jumped right into a fairly complex plot, the audience got to pick it up as they watched - but I've realized I need to back off that a bit. I'm currently pulling out one of the three leads and introducing him in the episode. I'm not sure whether the semi-complex plot is going to have to be tossed aside, or if I can rework it. There are definite advantages to keeping that plot, not the least of which the character payoff it provides for another of the leads. I'll have to see.

On the work front, I've been playing with some libraries I'd not used before that are vaguely interesting - IBatis as an abstraction layer on top of JDBC and Lucene for text indexing and searching. I've barely scratched the surface of Lucene, but I'm pretty impressed with the ease-of-use of IBatis.

I also wrote a nifty little transaction manager to abstract IBatis out a little bit more for my needs. It allows me to span db calls across a single controller transaction without the headache of overriding all my methods and doing a bunch of null tests to determine whether to create/commit xacts or defer that to callers. It strikes me that the same strategy (a word I'm overusing this week, I think) I used with IBatis's SqlMapClient would work with straight JDBC and Connection objects. If anyone's interested let me know and I'll send the code your way.

Lunchtime Book Review: Kavalier and Clay

Not exactly a lunchtime review, as I haven't had a chance to read at lunch but once in the past three weeks. My lunchtime read is still A Mouthful of Air: Language, Languages...Especially English, which I hope to get back to at some point soon. But Kavalier and Clay...wow.

This isn't exactly a timely review. For that, I'd be telling you about The Yiddish Policemen's Union. Still, I figure not everyone's gotten around to 2001's Pulitizer Prize winner. Better late than never.

Anyway...where to start...maybe with the end of the book and Michael Chabon's thanks, specifically calling out Jack Kirby as inspiration for this, and everything he's ever written. As Chabon was born in '63, in the heart of the silver age, I can see how this would be the case. I was born right near the end of the silver, so I got the crappy mid-to-late '70s comics instead. Ah well.

On its surface, K&C is about boys becoming men, following and achieving (some of) their dreams, and realizing how boyhood wishes aren't always perfect. Interwoven with the fictions they create - primarily The Escapist1 - sometimes the magic leaks into reality. Only a few times, and very subtly, Chabon moves between coming-of-age story (of the boys, the comic book world, and America) and magical tales of heroism from a union suit-wearing golem and an actual golem. The power to spark lifeless form to life with a word is central, as is the value of escape - from pain, torment, and guilt.

Though it should have been Lolita, Alfred Appel's annotations ruined that for me. K&C is the best book I've read in 2007. If you haven't read it, do. If you hate literature and love comics, read this. If you hate comics and love literature, read this. If you hate broccoli and love Bugles, read this.

1 I'm stoked to learn that Chabon actually worked with Dark Horse to produce an Escapist comicbook. I'll have to hunt that down. Amazon's got some used ones for sale, but I'll probably have better luck on eBay.