Wednesday, January 20, 2010

God In the Numbers

I've still got some comments to get to but with a few rants on hand, I thought it would be better to do a short-ish post today and then come back with comments later-ish.

It's thundering like fucking Mjollnir here, BTW. I blame NBC.

So this is rich. Tom Eubanks is an author, screenwriter and playwright. His novel, "Worlds Apart," was published by iUniverse. And his play, "American Right," is going to be produced by a theater in Oxnard. He also wrote and directed an independent movie called "Open Spaces." He is a private investigator and he will also proofread your novel or screenplay. Not for free, of course; this is a business.

So as you can see, he's terribly accomplished and he really, really hates Harlan Ellison. He's not alone. Lots of people really, really hate Harlan Ellison. But it's the way Tom Eubanks really, really hates Harlan Ellison that caught my eye.

In the second paragraph, Tom Eubanks, author/screenwriter/playwright/private investigator, has this to say:

I detest science fiction. Always have. You sci-fi buffs out there: it's nothing personal, and I'm not saying there's anything wrong with you because you like all that crap. I'm just not interested. I never watched The Outer Limits or Star Trek; I liked the first Star Wars movie for the characters and the pioneering special effects, but the sequels just don't interest me

Now he's REALLY got my attention. I LOVE people who detest entire genres! What an open-minded fellow he is. So we know this is gonna go well.

I agreed with what he was saying up until the last minute. Then this loud-mouth turned his venom on amateurs. Did you notice? He blames amateur writers--writers who haven't made any money yet writing--for creating the climate for big wigs in Hollywood and publishing to expect writers to write for free. I believe writers should be paid for their writing, too, but to say that professionals are "undercut by the amateurs" is just pathetic. Yeah. 20th Century Fox would rather have Tom Eubanks write their next Star Wars sequel for free, rather than have Lucas and his team write it for millions. Huh?

I don't think they're gonna get someone who detests science fiction to write it, Tom, no matter HOW accomplished you are. I understand why this got under Tom's skin. Because, see, he isn't really a professional. He can pretend that the credits he has are legitimate but they really aren't. We all know that. So Tom is taking this personally, and it's understandable. Tom has no business talking about film and TV. None at all. He hasn't worked in it professionally. Nor has he worked professionally in the publishing industry. Self-publishing, as great as it may be for some people, lies outside the business as we know it.

In an interesting twist Tom Eubanks, author/screenwriter/playwright/private investigator, claims to be an amateur. He does this for the love of it. If this is true, why is the guy's website all about how he's a fucking WRITER?

I get why amateurs bristle at Harlan's words: They haven't done it yet. They don't work in the business, and they don't know how the business works. The last thing they need or want is to be faced with some professional telling them the truth. But Harlan's right. And we are all culpable. We ALL do WAY too much work for free. I wish I were as brave as Harlan to demand to be paid for my work, but I'm not. And I know he wishes writers would stop doing work for free. But that door was opened a long time ago, and it isn't likely to be closed. And that sucks. You know what else sucks? That some asshat like Tom Eubanks thinks he knows how things work. Harlan doesn't need me to defend him, Lord knows, but when somebody as unaccomplished as this moron says something stupid, I'm going to mention it.

But really, I think, it's about this:
In other YouTube videos, he espouses his atheism, demeans those of us who believe in a higher power, and rants against any kind of religion. But in a stupid exchange between himself and Robin Williams, he raves about L. Ron Hubbard's inventing a religion, Scientology, which, if you know anything about it, routinely devastates peoples lives.

I'm gathering from this comment that Tom's a Christian fellow. Maybe even a hardcore one; I don't know. But how DARE anyone have a contrary opinion, particularly when it's about religion. Yes, religious people are SO firm in their belief that any mention of religion being totally made up makes them furious. Hey, if your belief's so fabulously strong, shouldn't you just shrug this shit off? Tom also totally misunderstands what Harlan's saying about Scientology. Shocker.

Oh -- and read the comments. Such fun!

My second rant has to do with horse racing, so you may look away if this is confusing. So. The Eclipse Awards. I knew Zenyatta would get hosed for Horse of the Year but I didn't expect that the Mosses and John Shirreffs would be treated so poorly. Yes, sports is about numbers. But sports is also about genius and adoration and events that defy description. That's what Zenyatta provided last year. Now, that Goddam Jess Jackson has stolen TWO HOTY titles from her. Curlin didn't deserve to be HOTY over Zenyatta, but the unbelievable bias against California racing gave it to him. Rachel Alexandra is a deserving HOTY, but I just can't get past the clear, obvious disdain the turf writers have for California.

Also, one stupid fucking moronic turf writer voted for a horse other than Zenyatta in her category. Seriously, WTF is wrong with you? If someone is this fucking stupid, maybe their professional credentials should be revoked.

Bob Baffert said that our sport would suffer if Zenyatta wasn't rewarded. I couldn't agree more. The turf writers are like the sci-fi geeks who profess to love the genre but trash it at every opportunity. With the decision to give trophies for owner and trainer to Jackson and Steve Asmussen, the turf writers just ass-raped the sport. Apparently, quantity is the only thing that matters. Fuck quality. John Shirreffs won the two classics this year, but Steve Asmussen gets the trainer award? For what? Four months of putting a saddle on a filly who was already a superstar when he got her?

And the Mosses, who could have retired Zenyatta after her win in 2008, bring her back and do the unbelievable with her. Yet Jess Jackson, whose only claim to fame is having enough money to buy whatever horses he wants, gets the owner award. I mean, he bought Curlin when it was obvious that horse was going onto better things. Then he takes the horse away from the trainer who nurtured and developed him. He buys Rachel after she wins the Kentucky Oaks by 20 lengths. Jesus Christ, people, I would have bought her, too, but I didn't have ten million dollars lying around! He takes THAT horse away from her trainer. And these guys are REWARDED for this. Jess Jackson gets rewarded for skipping the Breeders Cup, and NOBODY has the balls to say to him, "Still smarting from Curlin's loss, huh?"

The Mosses, by comparison, bought Zenyatta as a gangly yearling who was covered in hives. They listen to their trainer, who nurtures her for two years before finally starting her. She sets record after record and they always do what's right by her. Well, fuck you, Mosses and John Shirreffs. You're based in CALIFORNIA. We don't give a shit about California and with the synthetic tracks, now we can be even MORE obviously biased.

Zenyatta carried 129 pounds in the Vanity last year. Let's see how Rachel reacts when she finally has to carry more than 121. Turf writers, YOU ARE HEARTLESS ASSHOLES. Sports may be about numbers and statistics and how wonderful the East Coast is but it's also about moments, and there wasn't a bigger racing moment in the DECADE than Zenyatta's win in the Classic. You guys blew it.

I mean, this on top of "The Hangover" winning a Golden Globe and a WGA nomination? WTF is going ON?????

Thursday, January 14, 2010

City of Delusion

I just did two days of jury duty, which means I had to catch up on all the goings-on with Conan and Jay and NBC. DUDE! Drama wins, and this fallout is spectacular to watch. There hasn't been one person, one pundit, one professional who isn't happy about this. And really, you have to hand it to NBC for admitting they're great experiment didn't work. It takes guts. But that is being rightfully overshadowed by how fucked the situation is. Because now it's about saving as much money as possible. They have to pay Jay a penalty for canceling the show, and there's a possible penalty for Conan if they fuck with "The Tonight Show." So in trying to save both of those penalties, NBC has made the situation blow right up. NBC couldn't give less of a shit about the legacy of "The Tonight Show," which is a worrisome point.

The Leno show worked for NBC because it saved them money, but that was until the affiliates began beating their chests. It's no longer cost-effective for them. Luckily, the hard-working development execs at NBC have been picking up dramas, and some of them sound extremely interesting. This could be the best development slate NBC's had in awhile. Okay, still too many law shows, but that's par for the course in network TeeVee and at least one of them, "Rex Is Not Your Lawyer," doesn't sound like the typical, run-of-the-mill legal drama.

Honestly, though, when NBC outbid other networks for the JJ Abrams spy pilot, the writing was already on the wall. Either you commit to scripted programming or you don't and NBC's half-assed way of partially committing to everything has gotten them to this point. I would like nothing better than for NBC to rebound with scripted programming, to regain its place as a network for classy dramas. I don't even mind them remaking "The Rockford Files," although that's gonna be a tough haul. "Rockford" was James Garner. Take him out, and you have a pretty typical detective show. So hopefully the casting will be stunning. We'll see.

No matter what NBC dramas come out of this particular drama, I do think that scripted programming is the winner here. The Leno experiment scared the shit out of the industry and a lot of people thought it would work. Because you can feed anything to America, right? But America looked upon Leno as the pig's foot dinner in "Precious" and put it down the disposal. America may still scarf up "American Idol" and dancing shows but every once in awhile, they make you proud.

Welcoming the Benson sisters and commenter Harlan to the progressive nerd caucus. Huzzah! Here are some comments. I'm reserving the comments about "Doctor Who" for another post. Looking for an ounce of brevity in 2010...

Devon sez:
Perhaps it's time for women to write a show about horse racing, although, in terms of production budget, with the number of horses necessary, I don't know how viable it is.

Ha! So you assume that because women would be writing it, it would be nothing but horses? HA!!! When we did our UPN pilot, it wasn't us who kept insisting on horses and races. It was the network. So we wound up with a pilot so expensive the network couldn't make it. Honestly, I would think that the Milch show would be even MORE expensive than something I would create because that's going to involve RACES. Gotta see what the guys are betting on, after all. Yes, the horses are the reason for racing. I worry that a show about gambling isn't going to focus on that. But there are myriad ways to focus on the reality of racing without spending tons of money, and that's through the people. I would say "Entourage" with horses, for one. "The West Wing" at the racetrack, before they cast Martin Sheen as the President. There are ways to do it and keep the richness and the history of the sport. I REALLY want to see that show. The reality show "Jockeys," which I've pimped here before, is an excellent template for that.

Speaking of Derby horses, I'm singling Lookin At Lucky for now, and waiting to see how that Azeri colt develops.

L. Ron complains:
In re to your DOUCHE TREK remarks, this IS one nerd who DID pay attention to the story - and found it fucking ridiculous. And finds it somewhat embarrassing that the audience is no more sophisticated than a cat batting an object around... ooo! Shiny Pretty!

Seeing as how I detailed WHY I liked it in another post, I'm gonna reject that.

And CHUCK definitely AIN'T gonna be that breakout show, no matter how many people want it to be so.

Hmm. I don't require a show to be a hit for me to watch it. So I really don't care if it's a break-out show or not. I think "Chuck" and shows like it are exactly what network TeeVee needs right now. We are so inundated with serious TeeVee and law shows and cop shows and medical shows that a show that's got a hybrid quality to it, like "Chuck," opens the door for others. Keeping "Chuck" is one of the things NBC's doing right.

Firstly, the destruction of Vulcan has just happened so it's gonna be hard for anyone to discuss the impact. Give it an hour or so.

Also, since time travel was established in the o.g. series, and elaborated to the point of having a Temporal Control force in Starfleet, a tip of a hat to the fact that someone, somewhere, *acknowledged the change* would be nice, in future. Not in the dreadful Guinan's "Tasha's alive, so something's *wrong*" way, but in a, yes, Time Lord way of choosing to let a very bad thing go on. That would add a level of tragedy and gravitas that the reboot studiously avoided, even in the shocking "Sarek cries!" scene.

If I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying that it's weird nobody mentioned that things are different. This is explained several times in the movie. Time itself hasn't been altered. The future isn't going to be different. An alternate reality has been created. Right at the beginning of the movie, when the ship comes through, this is an entirely new reality. As such, there isn't anyone who would notice any time being altered, because it hasn't been. They are living in their alternate reality but it's not alternate to THEM. The only character who would notice ANYTHING is Spock Prime, who came through with the Romulan ship. And he spends a lot of time going, "This isn't right." This reality isn't going to eventually become the present of Original Trek. That exists in a different reality. And that elegance is one thing I loved about the new film.

Lastly, a comment about awards season. WGA members had the privilege -- nay, the HONOR -- of voting for best original screenplay and best adapted screenplay nominees. Awesome, right? Because this gives us a chance to pick the screenplays we thought were the best of the year. So I get to vote for "Moon," "An Education" and "Up."

BUT NO. I DON'T. Because all three were deemed in-fucking-eligible. For stupid reasons. Which really works for "Precious" (based on the novel Push, by Sapphire) and "Up In The Air," and "It's Complicated," and a whole shiny list-thing of glorious, state-approved AWARDS MOVIES. Everybody knows that awards movies have specific pedigrees. They are either wiggly indie fare, depressing indie fare, or -- well, that's about it. Studios make tentpole movies so they can make money. They make gritty, depressing little films so they can win awards.

And then America turns the Oscars on, looks blankly at the movie titles they've never heard of, and goes to watch "Jersey Shore" instead. By this point, it's a foregone conclusion which admired screenplays and movies and performances are deemed acceptable enough for awards season.

Honestly, what the fuck am I going to vote for? You know things are horrid when "The Hangover" is one of the choices. Yes, THE FUCKING HANGOVER, one of the most overrated movies of the year.

The Hangover.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Church of the Poison Mind

Happy New Year, gentle readers! Yes, TimeNerds, I know it isn't technically a new decade but any separation we can gain from 2009 -- no matter how artificial -- is welcomed here. You can tell the second half of the TeeVee season has begun because geek blogs are already ranting about how Heroes can be fixed. Again. Still. It's seasonal, like strawberries and snow.

The pilot pick-ups have begun. A LOT of comedies (well, probably four) and non-stop cop shows, because this is America, and that is television. Hopefully there will be some branching out. It'd be nice to see genre shows make that list. Also ordered is a David Milch project for HBO. It's described as a horse racing pilot, although it's also described as a show surrounding people who go the track. Given Milch's predilection for the Pick Six, I can only imagine that it's heavier on the railbirds than on the horses. Michael Mann is set to direct. I wonder if there will be any women in it...

Anyway. We're not even a week into the new year and we've already had what will definitely be one of the top ten TeeVee events of the year -- the death of the Tenth Doctor and his regeneration into the Eleventh. Not only did David Tennant leave Doctor Who but so did Russell Davies, the mastermind behind Doctor Who's resurgence. Thanks to Davies, we have not only gotten four terrific seasons, we've also gotten two spin-offs -- Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood. With Children Of Earth, Torchwood very nearly stole Who's thunder, BTW, and it's also supposed to be back for a new season.

Taking over for Davies is Steven Moffat, who's a fucking GENIUS, people. Moffat's Who episodes are easy to spot. They are definitely Who episodes, but there's a slightly different vibe to them. In addition to writing episodes like Blink, The Girl In the Fireplace and Silence In the Library, he also created and wrote the miniseries Jekyll, with the ASTONISHING James Nesbitt as Jekyll. What I love about Moffat as a writer is how he takes risks. This guy swings for the fences, whether he's handling time travel as efficiently as a time lord, or turning things on the Doctor by introducing River Song. Moffat isn't that wonderboy who writes a great script here and there but doesn't have showrunning experience. He created Coupling (writing EVERY episode) amongst many other comedies. What's interesting about this is how well he's able to use his comedic skills in the Doctor Who genre. Not flat-out comedy, but the rhythms and repetitions translate beautifully. It's interesting that there doesn't seem to be that separation between comedy and drama writers in England. Maybe because of the difference between how they work and how we work? I dunno. Anyway, it's a delicate balance and he's a genius with it.

(Incidentally, Moffat is also working on an updated Sherlock Holmes, which will wipe away the stench of Guy Ritchie's glum, boring film).

But here's the thing. The NerdHowl has been in overdrive for Doctor Who. While genre fans are always THE most enthusiastic, it's weird to me that so many of them seem to just fucking HATE the genre they spend so much time immersed in. They'll tolerate Transformers but they'll get all UP in their shit over JJ Abrams' Star Trek movie. And they are all up in Davies' shit for Doctor Who. It's always been said that genre fans will go to the ends of the Earth to support their shows but over the past several years, there seems to be more dissension than praise. Is it the Internet and the temptation to have a dissenting voice just because they get attention? It can't ALL be about people who refuse to let go of their childhood memories.

Can it?

Honestly, this shit is hurting the genre. Focusing only on nitpicky nerd things like the science of Doctor Who, or the red matter in Star Trek, means totally ignoring what these shows and movies do right. In the case of both Doctor Who and Star Trek, that means story and -- ESPECIALLY -- character. Do nerds not CARE about character? Do they REALLY only care about world-building and astrophysics and whether or not they have enough points to turn into a dwarf? It's one thing to be snobby about stuff, but it's another entirely to do that without giving the thing a chance.

For me, genre works when it has that balance. If there are strong characters and logic within the story, I'm good. I don't require slavish homage or real-world science. Abrams' Trek had internal logic and in reading nerd nitpicks, it seems that a lot of nerds absolutely refused to pay attention to the story. They just sat there, arms folded, going, "That's not Kirk that's not Kirk that's not Kirk."

Doctor Who seems to get a lot of this as well, but it seems better balanced between that and people whose deep affection for the show they watched when they were kids has translated to the new show. Part of this, I think, is about how many British celebrities adored the show. I think "Your favorite Doctor?" is stamped on British passports. While Star Trek is the closest America has to a national geek show, it isn't quite that.

What I'd like to do this year is to separate from the nerd herd, to create a progressive nerd cooperative of people who really, honestly and truly WANT everything to be good and magical and transportive.

If you're into that, let's all us progressives meet up on Sunday. First two episodes of Chuck, season three!!!