Posts in Category: Become What You Are


Critics and pretentious types frequently compare Ernest Hemingway’s writing to the paintings of Paul Cézanne. I don’t know exactly where the comparisons originated, but then again, I don’t particularly care. When Cézanne painted a landscape, he would not gussy it up with impressionistic flourishes like Monet or Renoir. He would paint exactly what he saw, only better. If a tree on a hill blocked the view of a beautiful cathedral, he would move the tree to another hill so he could add the cathedral to the landscape. Same tree, same realistic approach, but moved for obvious aesthetic reasons. In much the same way, Hemingway would alter the generally realistic details of the world around him into prosaic banality (BURN!).

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Guess what? This site and The Parallax Review have been crippled by malware.

You might be wondering how something so insane and retarded could possibly happen on my watch. Well, here’s the thing: my hosting company has a habit of upgrading Plesk (the server-side software that runs the sites) somewhat ineptly. One upgrade left TPR without stats during a crucial month. Another one, it would appear, gave global read-write access to every single file on every single site?

What does that mean? Simply put: malware spiders crawl sites looking for just such examples of stupidity. When they have write access to a file (in this case, all HTML files), they will add code that creates surreptitious links to their malware overlords, which will then load onto your computer and (assuming it’s unprotected) cripple it or spy on you or try to get you to buy a knockoff handbag or something. That’s bad.

Luckily, I’ve flushed out the problem, restored read-only access to the files, and everything seems to be running without a hitch. However, because I did this with my patented combination of speed and laziness, I’m sure I’ll find a half-dozen kinks that need to be worked out.

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Cover Girl: Uncovered

One reader had a very good suggestion that I am trying to follow through on. I’ve mentioned a handful of times that reading scripts has helped me improve as a writer. He asked me if I had a list of scripts that writers should read, and honestly, I don’t. But I should, right? It just makes sense.

So, over the weekend, I spent some time going through all the scripts I’ve covered to compile this list (which, in its current state, is out of hand—I need to pare my choices down), and I discovered I passed on a script called Cover Girl by Gren Wells. This shocked me, because although it’s not without its problems, I have nothing but fond memories of the script. I really enjoyed it—so why did I pass on it? Well: “Without extremely good casting, it’s more likely to end up as a bland, forgettable romantic comedy.”

That’s the problem, right? I read for a company involved in distribution. It’s too late to solve story problems, so I had it repeatedly drilled into my head that if the script won’t make money, I should pass, no matter what. A more optimistic version of myself—not the soulless husk you see before you—would make the argument that a good script trumps everything else. But I’ve seen enough good scripts go bad to know that isn’t true. I’ve also seen enough terrible scripts receive inexplicable praise (Black Swan!) to know that script quality isn’t the only factor at play. It’s probably not even in the top 10.

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I Got No Idols

Because I am, for the most part, emotionally numb, my main objective in seeking out worthwhile art is find something that provokes a real emotional experience. It’s not that I glide through life like a sociopath so much as I, like Homer Simpson, squeeze my emotions into a bitter ball that I then unleash on unsuspecting innocents, like that time I hit the referee with a whiskey bottle. Remember that? When Daddy hit the referee?

The wonderful thing about the vast artistic world is that I can pick my poison. What do I want to feel? There’s a movie, or a book, or a song, or a painting, or another work in another medium that can unlock the feelings I’ve taught myself to repress. That, for me, is the value of art. As someone who purports to be an artist, I can attempt to express myself in hopes that someone will relate to whatever I put out there. I really do try to do that, even if it generally takes the form of pornographic songs. As an appreciator of art, I can allow stranger(s) to evoke in me what I keep hidden. It’s a good system.

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On Fringe

Olivia Dunham might be the worst fictional FBI agent in history. That, in and of itself, doesn’t annoy me. It doesn’t bother me that she—especially in this season—rarely investigates anything, rarely figures anything out using her alleged investigative prowess, and frequently has reams of expository dialogue spoonfed to her by Walter Bishop, Peter Bishop, Nina Sharp, and now even the mysterious bowling alley owner played by Kevin Corrigan (Sam Weiss Gamgee). It doesn’t bother me that she repeatedly learns things she should already know, and her eyes boggle as if her world has just come crumbling down. It doesn’t bother me that she can’t remember, as recently as three weeks ago, discovering that pathological terror is her link to her MAGICAL POWERS when she desperately needs to use said powers and is, one could argue, pathologically terrified vis-à-vis the impending end of the world.

What bothers me is the show’s repeated insistence that she’s great at what she does. She’s special, according to Walter. She’s one of the finest agents Broyles has had the pleasure of ineffectually monitoring from a safe distance. Nina Sharp believes she’s brilliant. Peter Bishop has inexplicably fallen in love with her. All of this despite repeated demonstrations of raging, comical incompetence, without counterbalancing her blunders with equal moments of actual brilliance.

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Letter to Representative Peter J. Roskam (R-IL)

I try not to get on my political soapbox on the blog, because who cares about my political views? You come here for vaguely profane stories about my inability to get along with college classmates, and whiny rants about 3-D. However, my representative is constitutionally obligated to care what I think about politics, in that he cares enough to enslave interns to read letters for him, code them by subject, and start sending form letters related to that topic.

Not along ago, Congressman Roskam sent me a letter explaining his tough stance on the current budget problems. You can read it here. I found the letter so profoundly offensive in its hypocrisy that I felt compelled to respond. You can read the letter I sent to him today after the jump.

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The Beaver

Finally, The Beaver comes to Chicago…

Honestly, the script exists in a recess of my brain where scripts that are unmemorably bad reside. It should be the sort of script that makes me say, “What the fuck—when did I read that?” when I glance through old coverage samples. Thanks to its memorable gimmick, I can’t forget it quite so easily. I didn’t like the script, and I was fairly shocked to find it was regarded as the “most favorite” (not to be confused with “best,” whatever that means) Black List script in 2008, but it didn’t contain the rage-inducing qualities of a Butter or a Fuckbuddies (later renamed No Strings Attached).

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Podcast: Subject to Change, Episode 4: Just to Reach You, Juliana

[Disclaimer: The title sounds totally creepy in retrospect, but it’s a play on lyrics from the Beatles’ song, “Julia.”]

After chiding Tarini from not reading the blog, I tell the story of my Skype session with my rock idol, Juliana Hatfield. To put it into some context and encourage new fans, I perform four of Ms. Hatfield’s songs: “My Darling,” “Table for One,” “My Baby,” and “Bad Day.” [MP3, 64kbps, mono, 56:58]

In an outtake from my comically long Skype session with Tarini, I perform The Beach Boys’ most depressing song, “‘Til I Die.” [MP3, 64kbps, mono, 3:16]

Press the “Play” button to listen.

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Over the weekend, I read an article in The New Yorker about quantum computing. I don’t claim to know anything about anything, but I know this: the idea that computing can be founded on a principle wherein a quantum bit—qubit—can represent both zero and one, instead of one or the other, using atomic superpositioning is fucked up. The article postulated that the entire foundation of quantum computing is predicated on the notion that the Many Worlds Theory is true, which is fucked up. I don’t know if anything in the article is true, but it simultaneously blew my mind and terrified me.

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