Thursday, August 26, 2010

Screenwriting Expo competition news

The deadline for the Expo's screenwriting competition has been extended to Tuesday, September 7.  There's hope for my White Collar spec yet.

Also upcoming: Scriptapalooza's TV competition, which includes categories for original pilots and reality shows.  Deadline is October 1.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Baking goes to the dogs

I don't know if this place is new, or if I just hadn't noticed it before.  At the Farmer's Market (adjacent to The Grove):


Monday, August 23, 2010


Hilarious: The original, complete "Lord Douchebag" sketch from back in the good old days of SNL:

The way Garrett Morris announces the Douchebags is priceless.  I find myself wondering if younger viewers get the Wilkinson reference.

I also couldn't help but notice that unlike the few bits of SNL I've seen recently (like in the past decade) the actors appeared to have actually learned their lines, rather than reading directly off cue cards.  If they were using cards, you couldn't tell.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Screening: Chuck Jones shorts at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater

Chuck-jonesFriday night the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences wrapped up its exhibition "Chuck Jones: An Animator's Life from A to Z-Z-Z-Z" with a screening of nine Oscar-nominated and winning Jones-directed animated shorts.
As usual, one of the highlights of an event like this is being part of a large, enthusiastic audience.  In this case, an enthusiastic, mainly adult audience laughing like kids.

The following were screened:

Mouse Wreckers (1948)
Academy Award nominee (Cartoon Short Subject)
Only one thing stands between two mice (Hubie and Bertie) and the new home of their dreams: champion mouser Claude the Cat.  The mice unleash a series of sophisticated, cruel and hilarious pranks on the cat that eventually drive him crazy and send him running. 

Claude's world is turned upside down.

For Scent-Imental Reasons (1949)
Academy Award winner (Cartoon Short Subject)
Pepe lepewA French perfume shop owner is horrified to find Pepe LePew stinking up his establishment.  The desperate owner tosses a stray black cat into the shop with orders to rid it of the interloper.   Unfortunately for kitty, a bottle of white dye spills down her back, turning her into a lovely skunk.  For Pepe, it's love at first sight and he pursues his extremely reluctant object of affection around the shop.  The tables are turned on the amorous Pepe when the cat is dunked in a barrel of water, not only washing away her white stripe, but also rendering her ratty and unattractive.  Pepe has fallen into a bucket of blue paint, washing away his identity as a skunk but not as a hunk and the chase is back on - only now with Pepe as horrified pursued instead of pursuer.

One of the things you really notice after watching these two shorts is how spectacularly funny Looney Tunes is when it comes to horrified expressions on put-upon cats.

So Much For So Little (1949)
Academy Award winner (Documentary Short Subject)
This was was truly a surreal trip back to a different way of life.  It sings the praises of our local public health officials by following Johnny Jones, a rather generic person from infancy through old age.

Throughout Johnny's life he's reliant on the hard work and dedication of public health officials to keep him healthy.  Given the current state of health care and the recent moves to make it a government-sponsored right with promises of low costs, the topicality was a bit awkward.  It didn't help that the approach was an extremely non-cartoonish seriousness.  It felt more like a lecture than entertainment.

The part that was a big hit with the audience was at the end, when the narrator wondered aloud how much all this fabulous care is costing hard-working taxpayers and  hard-working taxpayer Johnny got all grumpy...only to brighten up when informed that the cost of all these riches is a mere...wait for it...three cents per person, per day!  Yeah, those days are over.

From A to Z-Z-Z-Z (1953)
Academy Award nominee (Cartoon Short Subject)
Little Ralphie is a junior Walter Mitty, day dreaming of triumphant deeds as a deep sea diver rescuing a sunken sub, a Pony Express rider, a boxer and General Douglas MacArthur.  Unfortunately, Ralphie's escapism takes place at school when he's supposed to be studying, making him a target of ridicule for his classmates and a constant challenge for his teacher.  The expression that comes over his face as he drifts off to yet another imaginary adventure is adorable.

High Note (1960)
Academy Award nominee (Cartoon Short Subject)
A performance of The Blue Danube (by its sheet music) goes awry when one of the notes shows up for work tanked and out of control.  Yes, you read that right.  Highly imaginative use of music symbols as living creatures, with the relatively simple line figures showing an impressive amount of personality, something that's even more impressive because there is no dialogue.  Everything is conveyed through music and animation.

Beep Prepared (1961)
Academy Award nominee (Cartoon Short Subject)
Wile E. Coyote (hungrii flea-baggius) pursues the wily Road Runner (tid-bitius velocitus) with typically tragic and unsuccessful results.  Beep Prepared is the only Road Runner/Coyote cartoon to receive an Oscar nomination.

Nelly's Folly (1961)
Academy Award nominee (Cartoon Short Subject)
Nelly, a golden-throated giraffe, is discovered singing in Africa and is whisked to America where she achieves super-stardom.  Eventually her success goes to her head and she crashes and burns.  With nothing left she returns to her humble life in Africa and finds true love.  The audience got a good-natured laugh out of the old-fashioned values in this short: Nelly's celebrity downfall is caused by her romancing a married man (giraffe), causing him to abandon his wife.  Amateur Hour by today's celebrity scandal standards.

Now Hear This (1962)
Academy Award nominee (Cartoon Short Subject)
The Dot and The Line (1965)
Academy Award winner (Cartoon Short Subject)
Nowhearthis The abstract and experimental Now Hear This begins with an appearance by the Devil, who is missing a horn.  It's found by an elderly gentleman who uses it as a hearing aid, but everything he hears with it is bizarrely mismatched with what is producing the sound.  Eventually, he tosses the useless horn, which is recovered by a relieved Devil.  The Dot and The Line is more plot-driven, but it's also clearly a child of the sixties, mainly thanks to the music.  If The Dot was a real girl, she'd would be wearing a mini-skirt and go-go boots.  The Dot is beloved by the seemingly boring Line, but she spurns him for the more exciting, party-boy Squiggle.  Over time, The Line manages to become less unyielding and more interesting (think Spirograph designs) and eventually wins The Dot's affections.


These last two shorts really went to the other side of the spectrum from the traditional Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons.  Very reflective of the time in which they were created, they are jarringly different from the Warner Bros. classics.  Now Hear This is devoid of dialogue, using sound and the old man's reaction to it to tell the story, while The Dot and The Line is narrated by Robert Morley, who speaks for the characters.  Strangely, it is the two most recent shorts that hold up the least.

The screening was followed by a panel consisting of moderator/animator Bill Kroyer, Jones' daughter, Linda Jones Clough, his widow Marian Jones (they met when she interviewed him in the mid-sixties) along with animators Kelly Asbury, Chris Bailey, Jeff DeGrandis and Rob Minkoff, who were mentored by Jones.


Chuck Jones.comChuck Jones Center for CreativityChuck Redux (Chuck Jones Blog) - Chuck Jones on imdbChuck Jones on Wikipedia - Chuck Jones Shorts Presented by AMPAS - Bill Kroyer on imdbKelly Asbury on imdbChris Bailey on imdbJeff DeGrandis on imdb - Rob Minkoff on imdb - Mouse Wreckers on imdbMouse Wreckers on Wikipedia - For Scent-Imental Reasons on imdbFor Scent-Imental Reasons on Wikipedia - So Much For So Little on imdbSo Much For So Little on WikipediaFrom A To Z-Z-Z-Z on imdbFrom A To Z-Z-Z-Z on WikipediaHigh Note on imdbHigh Note on WikipediaBeep Prepared on imdbBeep Prepared on WikipediaNelly's Folly on imdbNelly's Folly on WikipediaNow Hear This on imdbNow Hear This on WikipediaThe Dot and The Line on imdbThe Dot and The Line on Wikipedia

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sophie watches too much TV

Sophie watches Joel McHale making fun of some bimbo on The Soup:

Sophie Soup

Sophie watching hockey:

Sophiekings1 010410

Sophie enjoying Red Eye:


Sophie is a big White Collar fan:


Sophie doing her impression of Neal Caffrey:


And Peter Burke:


Maybe I should get her some books.  Or make her kick in for part of the cable bill.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Apple Pan

The Brother and I went out to dinner last night.  We were looking for a good Mexican restaurant, but after wandering around for a few blocks couldn't find one and ended up at the famous Apple Pan.

Neither of us had ever been here, although as a local legend, most people have at least heard of The Apple Pan, and I've been wanting to go for a while.  It turned out to be a fun choice.  Very little has changed over the years at The Apple Pan, probably the only change has been the prices.  I'm a big fan of if it ain't broke, don't fix it, not to mention simplicity, so I really liked the menu:

Click image for larger copy.

Seriously, that's it.  That's the whole menu.

We both had the steakburger with fries and a soft drink, served as shown:


Everything was fresh, delicious and more than filling, and of course the retro ambiance was fun.  We didn't even get to try out the famous pies, we were so stuffed from dinner.

One of the fun things about this place is that your food is prepared right in front of you.  You can practically reach out and touch them as they fly through food prep.  It was a well-oiled machine and fascinating to watch.


My brother is a bigtime burger guy and this place is just a few minutes from his office.  He's always looking for a good place to eat after work, especially on Fridays, so he'll definitely be back.  I'm not on the Westside much these days, but if I was in that part of town I'd go back, if for no other reason than to support a local institution, but with the caveat that I wouldn't have to wait too long for seating.  The only drawback of The Apple Pan is that the dining area is extremely small, just a U-shaped counter around the cooking station.  We were fortunate to get seats pretty quickly, but by the time we left, there were as many people as seats standing around waiting for a vacancy.  I'm not good at waiting, especially if I don't have any idea how long my wait will be.

As a local favorite, of course The Apple Pan has been featured by another beloved local treasure: Huell Howser.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fount of fun

Going through my pictures, apparently one of the local sights I seem to enjoy photographing the most is, oddly, the ground-level fountain at Hollywood & Highland.  While not much of a local icon, it is a lot of fun and was a great addition to the complex.

Firing it up:

H&H Fountain 072807a
H&H Fountain 072807c 

Kids, of course, are big fans of the fountain:

Kids Fountain 110607a 

Kids Fountain 110607e 

Even big kids:

HHFountain 1 040807 

Part of H&H's "The Road to Hollywood" wraps around the fountain:

HHFountain 4 040807 

Oooh, artsy B&W!

Road to Hwd B&W 072807 

And artsy sepia tone!

H&H Fountain Sepia 072807

Sunday, August 1, 2010

In gory praise of Dr. Lyle

Recently I decided to take another run through a TV crime drama spec I’d written a year or so ago. At the time I wrote it, I had done my research, but as I’m rewriting it dawns on me that although I’m pretty sure my method of killing the vic in my A plot will work, I’m suddenly not completely confident about it.  For some unknown reason I’m struck by a feeling of doubt about its feasibility. So I do some more research, but I can’t find much of anything in my books and the information I find online is so medically technical that I can’t make heads or tails of it. 

I love crime dramas. I enjoy watching smart people using their brains to solve puzzles, with the added bonus of making bad people pay for their crimes.  But one of the tough things about writing in this genre, at least for me, is that I don’t really know anyone in the law enforcement or medical fields that I could call on for assistance. Unlike writers on staff, I don’t have access to a technical advisor. And I needed one to make sure my spec wasn’t going to be sunk by a supposedly fatal injury that in real life couldn’t actually be inflicted.

One of the books in my writing collection is Dr. D. P. Lyle’s Murder and Mayhem:  A Doctor Answers Medical and Forensic Questions From Mystery Writers. Dr. Lyle has served as a technical advisor for a number of television shows, including House, Law & Order, CSI: Miami and Cold Case. He is also the author of a number of other books, both fiction and award-winning non-fiction titles, including Forensics for Dummies (yes, I own that one too).

Here’s where Dr. Lyle gets really cool. Via his website he takes questions from writers - any writers, even those of us just trying to get our writing careers started - and provides not only medical facts and advice, but astonishingly detailed explanations of whether your brilliant idea to commit fictional murder and mayhem is plausible, and if not, how you might get around the problem. 

The aforementioned Murder and Mayhem is a collection of questions he’s answered for writers stuck on how to torment and kill their fictional victims. It was followed a few years later by Forensics and Fiction: Clever, Intriguing, and Downright Odd Questions from Crime Writers. Dr. Lyle helpfully answers in loving, gory detail questions about potentially fatal wounds, diseases, drugs, poisons, weapons (the stun gun - apparently not generally lethal), medical procedures and forensics. The questions themselves are often entertaining - one writer asked how one would go about tampering with a fire-eater’s fuel in order to cause a “sudden and dramatic death” (the magic word is “cyanide”). Seriously, ask him anything. The man will not only have an answer for you, but will include all sorts of helpful advice on how to make your nightmare scenario work.

His rules are simple: Present him with a specific, story-related question and he’ll give you an answer.

I can follow directions. This is what I sent him:
Hi Dr. Lyle:

I want my murder victim to be killed with the smallest blade possible, damaging or severing the femoral artery so that she bleeds out. How deeply set is the femoral artery and can it even be reached and damaged with a small weapon (say, a keychain-sized Swiss Army knife)? If not, what is the smallest/shortest blade that would inflict this kind of fatal injury?
A simple yes or no question was all I required to either make or break my spec. And as it turns out, in a word, yes, you can reach and sever or damage the femoral artery with a blade that small. 

Dr. Lyle provided me with more than just a few words about that: 

The femoral artery lies very close to the surface of the groin. You can easily feel it on yourself. Just place your fingers in the crease between abdomen and the leg and feel along that crease. You will be able to feel the artery pulsing beneath your fingers.

It is only an inch or less below the surface of the skin. It is actually the artery we use to perform cardiac catheterization procedures through.

So a blade of almost any length could easily reach the artery and cut it. Your small Swiss Army knife would work just fine.
And here’s where it gets totally, completely awesome:
Since this artery is so large bleeding from it would be dramatic. It will spurt in large pulses that could travel several feet. As the victim bled out and his blood volume began to contract from blood loss, these pulsations would weaken over time, becoming progressively shorter in length and smaller in volume. Finally the blood will cease spurting and merely flow from the wound. It will cease altogether once the heart stops.

Hope this helps.
Well, that certainly answered my question. And then some. Yes, it helped!

The most amazing part of this is that Dr. Lyle doesn’t charge anything for his assistance. Not a cent. I would have been willing to pay a fee if it had been within my budget. Plus there was the fact that I had my answer within twenty minutes. I would have been more than happy to wait until it was convenient for him to get around to my question. It made me feel like I was on staff. Ask a technical question, get a technical answer, right then and there.

I finished up the spec with Dr. Lyle's assistance and it went into a couple more competitions before being retired from circulation.

I'm now working on another TV spec. Given the premise, I probably won't need to utilize Dr. Lyle's expertise with this one, unless it turns out I need to complicate a white collar crime with an elaborate murder.

Also, I’d be lying like a common criminal if I didn’t admit that I think it would be really cool if my question turned up in one of his books someday.

Now, off to commit more fictional mayhem!

Dr. Lyle's Writer's Forensics BlogBooks by Dr. Lyle - Dr. Lyle on Facebook