Posts in: April, 2004

The Effects of Gun Control and a Wartime Situation and its Relation to Livestock and Rural Communities, or: How Bessie Got Her Groove Back

Title: The Effects of Gun Control and a Wartime Situation and its Relation to Livestock and Rural Communities, or: How Bessie Got Her Groove Back

Genre: Comedy/Experimental

Length: 11 pages

Draft: First

Logline: A government assassin falls in love with a cow haunted by her experiments in Vietnam.

Click the image to download.

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The Theory

Another week, another Owen story. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m already almost to the point of suicide, I’d try to get into some classes with him next semester just so I never run out of blog tales.

So last week, as we all know, the following things occurred:

  • Owen intentionally butchered a reading of another student’s treatment, in particular highlighting a few spelling errors by mispronouncing the words to match the inaccurate spelling
  • My friend Maria was assigned as his first reader
  • Owen made an enemy for life (i.e., me)

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Essay for Semester in L.A. Program

I’m not sure if this is too sarcastic or just sarcastic enough.

I don’t have amazing, lofty career goals. I wish I did, so I could add some extra padding to this essay, but I really don’t. The only thing I want is to make a living writing, even if that means squatting in a recently condemned tenement, counting change so I can afford a box of ramen noodles. Hopefully, the Semester in L.A. program will ensure that my dreams of rat-infested squalor and scurvy will become a reality.

From what I understand of the program, it provides—among other things—a menacing, boot-clad foot in the door of Hollywood. It’s not, generally, easy to get a foot in the door. I’m often told to exploit every possible contact I have with Hollywood, no matter how remote. This either means taking part in Semester in L.A. or having my aunt in Boise write a desperate letter to Gary Cole, with whom she went to high school.

Semester in L.A. will, hopefully, make things a little easier than that. I have no delusions that it’s easy, or that I’ll suddenly and miraculously become the most in-demand writer in the history of the universe. But if I’m able to wedge my sweaty, corn-covered foot into the door of the Hollywood system, and if somebody decides to pay me to do something—anything!—related to writing (even if it’s reading, which I enjoy almost as much as writing), and I can quit my job at Starbucks and throw that green apron at my boss’s scowling face and say, “Never again,” and I can buy a small house on a pleasant suburban street, and I can convince my girlfriend to stop experimenting with mushrooms and marry me, I’ll be extremely happy.

Without this opportunity, I’ll probably be more depressed (and distressed) than I already am at my lack of skill and success in what I want to do. I’ll end up being a warped, frustrated old man who shoots bottle-rockets at squirrels and tosses hunks of ground beef laced with strychnine at his neighbor’s dog. Nobody wants that, especially not me.

I hope, for the sake of all the squirrels and yappy dogs in the world, that the Semester in L.A. program will help me realize my limited aspiration of being paid to do something I love.

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Owen Is the Biggest Fucking Asshole I’ve Ever Met in My Entire Life, and He Must Die

Probably the nicest person I’ve ever met in my entire life is a guy we call Grey (short for Greydon), who is nice, open, and accepting of everyone he meets. He’s even genuinely nice to Owen—he’s the guy who got frustrated last Thursday when we all laughed and made him seem like an asshole. I have a class with him on Wednesday nights and another on Thursday afternoons, the same two classes I share with Owen and a number of others. We screenwriters travel in packs.

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About Those Hot Chicks…

For reasons I don’t even understand, the majority of my friends are women. What’s more, the majority of these women are attractive. I’m not talking about my standards (I thought of making a Stan-related pun, but nah); honest-to-God, normal, non-desperate men find these women incredibly attractive. And this is not nearly as much fun as you might think it is.

For example, when one of my friends approaches me with boyfriend troubles (and yes, they’re hot, of course they all have boyfriends), it’s very difficult for me to give them objective advice; instead, I want to urge them to dump their boyfriends and pick me up on the rebound. Sure, it won’t last, but I’ll understand that she was going through a period of confusion and we’ll end up friends. But noooooo; they have to work it out.

Women. Go figure.

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Closet Cosplayer

On the train, on my way home yesterday, I was sitting behind these three girls who would not shut up. And I have the irritating quality, bred by every single writing teacher I’ve ever had, to eavesdrop as much as humanly possible. It’s reached a point where I have no control: whenever a conversation is in earshot, I listen. It distracts me.

So these girls were right in front of me and were physically incapable of shutting the fuck up. One of them had a digital camera, so she was scrolling through her little library of photos, showing her friends all sorts of embarrassing or amusing pictures. She had a little anecdote attached to each of them. I wanted to punch her in the back of the neck.

The girl sitting right next to Camera Girl looked familiar from behind, which was the only view I got from her. For some reason, her hair reminded me really strongly of someone, but I couldn’t place who. I didn’t think she was actually someone I knew (I hoped not, anyway); she just had a similar hairstyle with similar odd highlights.

Camera Girl switched to a new picture, and all three of them started giggling. Familiar Hair Girl said, “Oh my God, I didn’t know you had these pictures here.”

Camera Girl responded, “Oh, yeah, this is my cosplay camera.”

The instant I heard that, I started laughing. And I could. Not. Stop.

Seriously. All three girls looked at me, which made me laugh harder, and I, unable to speak or breathe, pointed vaguely at my book, implying that I read a particularly funny passage. Something in their faces led me to believe they didn’t buy it.

I continued to laugh for the majority of the train ride home (about twenty minutes). Sure, I didn’t laugh for the entire time, but as they continued to talk about anime conventions and people dressed as various characters and that whole bizarre community, I started thinking about the whole idea of it and would start laughing again.

Camera Girl had one anecdote that I remember almost verbatim. “do u rmbr tha <3 spike spiegel <3 guy too? he had a buqouet of rozez & when he saw me, he came right up 2 me & gave me a roze & smiled :-)" "OMG THATS SO SWEET!!!!!!!!!!!!" her friends responded fawningly. I learned three things at that moment: (1) If I want to get dumpy girls dressed up like anime characters to talk to me, I need to invest in a buqouet of rozez and get to work on my crotchless Spike Spiegel costume. (2) The reason why I recognized Familiar Hair Girl was because her hair was styled exactly like Faye Valentine. (3) The fact that I knew what they were talking about, the fact that I own 26 episodes and one feature film of Cowboy Bebop, the fact that as recently as Wednesday I was seriously considering investing in a manga collection that would even rival Owen’s (and decided against it only because I didn’t have the money for it just now)—all of it added up to the worst thing of all: I’m as bad as they are. And possibly worse, since I try to hide it instead of embracing the enjoyment and, um, dressing up like the characters.

And as I realized that, I started laughing even harder.

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J.G. Ballard: Prophet

“What do you think about a character who lives in the past?” Owen asked our professor yesterday.

“You mean, like, somebody in an historical setting?” she asked.

“No, I mean, there are people who live in the present, but then there are people stuck in the past,” Owen explained, very slowly and methodically, pretending as always to choose every single word carefully despite his tendency toward rambling. “Wouldn’t a character who is stuck in the past be more interesting in a conspiracy type of film, because he’s reluctant to change?”

Our professor stumbled for a little while, trying to answer his question, saying that yeah, a character like that is interesting, but in this particular genre, there’s no real right answer as to whether or not somebody who is mentally stuck in the past would be stronger than somebody whose mindset is in the present. It depends a lot on the story or on the situations. It sounded like she was politely trying to say that Owen is an idiot, and not for the first time.

“So, moving on,” she said, “in Rosemary’s Baby, Pola—”

“I’m sorry,” Owen interrupted. (This is not an unusual occurrence. We’ve all grown used to it, but there’s still a collective, silent groan whenever he interrupts the professor in mid-sentence. She has a hard time regaining her train of thought when she’s interrupted. Even she is visibly irritated by it; sometimes she says something to him like, “Hold on a minute,” but mostly she lets it go.) “How would you handle a character who lives in the future?”

Absolute, dead silence. Everybody knew what he was implying by that based on his earlier question, but what could she say about that that she hadn’t already said about one who lives in the past or in the present? The answer is: nothing, as indicated by the fact that she just stood there, practically scratching her head, for nearly thirty seconds, looking desperately at her students for somebody to say something to either shut him up or springboard some sort of discussion. She got nothing.

Then, finally, a classmate said this:

“Time machine.”

Followed by three straight minutes of laughter.

Owen never got an answer to his question.

After class, a group of us surrounded the elevators, waiting for one going down. Despite the fact that no bell had dinged, no machinery had lurched dangerously within the walls, we all heard Owen squeal, “HOLD THE ELEVATOR!” as he came lumbering down the hall, rounded the corner, and his face fell. “Oh,” he slumped.

When the elevator finally arrived, it was about half-full, but there were about seven of us waiting, so we all piled into the elevator. There was enough to fit every single one of us.

Except for Owen, who stood beyond the doors like this was the worst rejection he had ever faced (I’m guessing the time his parents locked him in the basement for 18 years was probably more traumatic, but maybe not). His face just fell, and all that because he didn’t fit on a damn elevator at 5 o’clock, when a huge amount of classes end.

“Sorry, buddy,” Grey said. “You’ll have to get the next one.” He’s honestly the nicest guy I’ve ever met, and he was being sincere in saying this. I knew he was being sincere, as I’m sure everyone else did, but that didn’t stop any of us from bursting out laughing. I think the sincerity of it, combined with the emotional impact it seemed to have on Owen, was what made it so damn funny, but our classmate got pissed. “Thanks a lot, guys—now you made me sound insincere.” Which only made us laugh harder.

We are mean, rotten people.

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Fellow Meets His Match

My friend Pot-Head got booted from our experimental screenwriting class, which is unfortunate. For that class, she was my first reader, so I was pretty excited at the outset. The first reader is a concept that I admire in theory but not in practice, since I usually end up partnered with people whose writing I don’t care about and vice-versa. But since Pot-Head and I are friends, we mutually admire and care about one another’s work, so we actually put a lot of thought into the critiques, and for the first portion of the semester she helped me quite a bit.

Then she got booted, and I got fucked.

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Midday Cabs

I was sitting with Gina in the first-floor café, waiting for Mark to get out of his class so I could give him the Rosemary’s Baby script we have to read for Thursday. Gina and I were catching up about spring break and looking at some unusual photos stored on her digital camera, when my phone started ringing. This was surprising for three reasons: (1) I generally keep my cell phone on vibrate, (2) the only person who ever calls me when I’m at school is Lucy (who hardly calls me on weekdays anymore to keep her minutes down), and (3) I have never, ever been able to get a decent signal inside any of the buildings at school.

It turned out it was my mom. She got laid off, so she spends her time vacuuming, doing laundry, and watching the news. I figured she had either found my porn, vacuumed up my porn, or saw something about my porn on the news. Actually, she said, “I just saw on the news the Blue Line was shut down from Addison to Jefferson Park.”

“What the fuck?” I screamed for no particular reason (possibly caffeine-related).

“There was a fire or something, so they shut down the northbound trains to O’Hare. That’s you, right?”

Yup, that was me. We arranged alternate transportation involving the Metra, and since their trains are more rigidly scheduled than a Tuesday night whore, I had to rush like hell to get a cab if I was gonna make the 1:40 train. It was 1:25, and I desperately wanted to make the 1:40, because I had a shitload of homework that I didn’t exactly do over spring break, so I needed to get it all done this afternoon. It would be difficult to accomplish that sitting in Union Station for an extra hour.

“I have to go!” I yelled unnecessarily to Gina, leaping up from my seat. “Mark can fuck himself.”

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Somebody set the Blue Line on fire, so I have to get a cab to catch the 1:40 Metra.”

“I coulda told you that,” Gina said, “I saw it on my way here. It was this big—”

And then she stopped, noticing my steely gaze, which said, approximately, “Shut up, woman! You’re not helping.”

I burst onto 11th Street, and I didn’t have time to admire the decent day we were having—I had to get a cab. I rushed off toward 8th and Michigan, about four blocks away. There’s a cab stand in front of the Hilton there, so I figured that’d be my best bet, and if I saw an empty cab on my way, I’d flag it down.

Wow, what a break! As I crossed Wabash, I noticed a cab idling on 11th in front of the Best Western. It was unoccupied, so I made a bee-line for it.

The door was locked, which isn’t unusual. (For whatever reason—I assume it has to do with security—idling cabs have their doors locked more often than not.) But the dude didn’t unlock it, which is usual. Rather, he rolled down the passenger window and leaned out toward me. “Where you goin’?” he asked.

“Union Station,” I said.

He muttered something I couldn’t understand; he had a heavy accent.

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“I’m waiting for someone,” he said.

“…” I responded. “I have no idea what that means.”

The guy looked at me like I was the dumbest guy in the world. Possibly, I am.

“I’m waiting,” he said, and jerked his thumb down the street, like I should keep moving. Why the hell did he ask where I was going?

“Sorry,” I said, and moved on down 11th to Michigan. I crossed and hauled my ass up Michigan. Traffic was light, and the cabs I did see were occupied, so I had to go all the way up to the cab stand on 8th.

I walked up to the first cab in the line past the Hilton driveway.

Again with the not-unlocking-of-the-doors-followed-by-the-rolling-down-of-the-passenger-window. “Go to the next in line,” the cabbie said.

“Why?” I asked.

“I’m waiting for someone,” he responded.

What the hell was going on? Why didn’t they turn on their light so I know they’re on duty?

I went to the next car in line. The cabbie unlocked the doors, I got in. “I’m going to Union Station,” I said.

“Okay,” he said, making absolutely no effort to turn on the fare meter.

He sat there in silence for a few minutes. Well, sorta. He was talking on a cell phone in a foreign language. After awhile, he said, “Why don’t you go up to the cab ahead of me? I’m waiting for somebody.”

“Okay,” I said, for some reason assuming the guy he was chatting with was the other driver, and they were perhaps trying to decide who should make the epic 5-minute run to Union Station.

So I went back to the first cab, who told me the same damn thing. So I went to the third cab in line. This cabbie rolled down his window and looked at me angrily. Speaking it what sounded like a Liberian accent, he said, “Why you not go there?” I swear to God this is what he said, and I’ll tell you this: despite the broken English and the incoherency, I knew exactly what he was saying.

“They told me they’re waiting for people,” I said.

“They’re lying!” the third cabbie shrieked, putting my arbitrary outbursts earlier to shame in an instant. “You go, you make them drive you!”

“Oh…kay,” I said, not really sure how well me asserting what little authority I had would go over.

I looked back at the other two cabs, completely and utterly dumbfounded as to what I should do at this point. Suddenly, I heard somebody yell, “Hey, where you goin’, buddy?!”

Somebody was saving me. I looked over, and up on the driveway, holding the rear door of a cab open like some sort of wonderful dream, was a Hilton doorman, helping some old lady get out of the cab.

“Union Station!” I yelled back as I walked toward him.

“And they won’t take you?” he said, dumbfounded.

“No,” I said, dumbly.

“Why the hell not?!” the doorman yelled.

“That’s what I’ve been saying!” I responded. He was speaking my language, the language of confused people.

“Hop in,” he said.

“Yeah, thanks,” I said, getting in.

“No problem. See ya later, buddy,” the doorman said, and I think maybe he thought I was staying at the hotel. Then I wondered if I should tip him, but I didn’t have any singles. Plus, I didn’t really want to tip him.

So I got my cab, finally. Believe it or not, that entire exchange—from me dashing out of Columbia to me getting on the road with the cab—took about five minutes.

Five of the worst minutes of my life.

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