Cinequest 2019 – how actors do it!

I try to get into character and deliver emotion when I read my stories at open mics. I recently read (out loud!) some of a Kittygirl story at my critique group. I did LOTS of villains, which the group liked. But the leader pointed out that I did not put Kittygirl into the narrator (point-of-view) voice.

I bought my usual Film Lovers pass for Cinequest (San Jose and Redwood City film festival). Shamier Anderson was in Negroland, a short sci-fi film inspired by the poisoned water in Flint, MI. Since his performance was mostly silent, I asked him how he put emotion into his performance. He said he gets the emotions inside, which gets them into his face, body, and eyes. It worked!

Later, I watched the movie Auggie, about a retired guy who gets glasses containing an augmented-reality companion. I met the lead actor Richard Kind there, and I asked him if he had an internal process he used to deliver emotion. He looked amused and said, “Nope, I just get up there and pretend.” That works for him pretty well.

I’ll pretend. And feel. And do the right voice at the right time even when a bunch of my supervillains argue all over each other’s dialog.

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Saturday, Feb 9, I sell books at Newpark Mall

At Newpark Mall (2086 Newpark Mall, Newark, CA) from 10-6, near the food court, I will be with members of the Fremont Area Writers selling books. I have a fresh batch of Super Bad Hair Day books to sell, hopefully typo-free (although I might change a reference to Humphrey Bogart to James Cagney.) I will sign books. I will write. I’ll meet a budding artist, friend of a fellow FAW member. I will absorb creativity from my fellow writers. And I will see how strong my bladder is (the movie Malcolm X taught me two things: a movie can do justice to a great book, and never order a XXL soft drink at a three hour movie).

On Jan 24, I am an open mic headliner!

Thursday, January 24, sometime after 7pm, at the Cafe Frascati literary open mic (for writers of stories and poetry) in downtown San Jose (315 S 1st St.), I will be the headliner. That means I am on stage for about 15 minutes instead of the usual 4-5 minutes for the many and various storytellers and poets. I will perform The Intellecta Rhapsody, where Super Holly Hansson gets into a big argument with her boyfriend’s Batman-esque car (she punches a hole in its dashboard, it shoots her in the face like Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd), and then she has to team up with the car to defeat a gangster and his gang (think Edward G. Robinson, “Yeah, yeah, Rocky got you good! Yeah! Yeah!”). I will do some fun voices: robot car, Patton-esque general, Rocky gangster, dopey henchmen. The background music is the classical Hungarian Rhapsody. I will bring Super Bad Hair Day books to sell. My latest shipment (fixing a typo and a little mark on the cover art) came in yesterday. The Intellecta Rhapsody script is in the book.

Thank you, Mighty Mike McGee (open mic host with the most!) for having me as a headliner. I’ll try not to let it go to my head. Mike will pay for my dinner that evening. Now, where’s my star on Hollywood Blvd?

R.I.P. Batton Lash, Super Holly’s first artist

I just read that Batton Lash, the artist who drew the cover of Super Bad Hair Day, has passed away. Super Holly Hansson is crying herself to sleep tonight.

On my page of Batton’s Super Holly artwork, see the evolution of Batton’s Holly artwork. Batton was a great artist: smart, classy, professional, experienced, and a nice guy. Oh, and he was a great writer too. Read Supernatural Law. I am richer for knowing him, if only at comic cons, and through emails. Holly and I will miss him.

I found a typo in my book. Sigh.

It is in my Kindle and Createspace book, Super Bad Hair Day. Just one sentence screwed up in the story The Dimensional Dollar. I will fix it, of course, but frankly, if you want to buy (anybody?), I would not let that stop you. Still annoying for me, I am glad I found this before I was going to print some more books. I will fix it soon. Does the writing ever end? Now I know why we have professional copyeditors.

P.S. My Createspace is now transferred to Kindle Direct Publishing. Another platform to learn, but it does not look hard.

P.P.S. Okay, here is the typo. “He gagged, opening his mouth opened with a cash register CHA-CHING!” I changed it to “He gagged, opening his mouth with a cash register CHA-CHING!

Harlan Ellison and Steve Ditko

The late Harlan Ellison (fantasy writer) and Steve Ditko (comic book artist) each deserve a little credit.

Harlan won Hugo and Nebula awards for his stories. Harland had opening lines like, “When they unscrewed the time capsule, preparatory to helping temponaut Enoch Mirren to disembark, they found him doing a disgusting thing with a disgusting thing.” Don’t tell me you can stop reading there.

But Harlan deserves more credit for his essays. If you can read only one Ellison essay, read “Somehow, I Don’t Think We’re In Kansas, Toto,” in the book “Stalking the Nightmare.” Harlan tells the story of his script, “Phoenix Without Ashes,” degraded into a TV series called The Starlost. Those of you close to my age might remember that awful TV series; it looked like it spent $1.56 on special effects. Harlan tells how his pilot script was renamed to “Voyage of Discovery.” (I guess the producers were afraid the audience would get confused reading the word “phoenix”), and how they made an episode about giant bees. Harlan’s pilot script is about humanity on a gigantic space ark fleeing Earth’s destruction, and the crew were killed in an accident, and one man discovers that the ark will fly into a star within five years unless he finds the ark’s control room and gets it back on course. Harlan is on the phone to the idiots making the show, and…

“You’re building the control room?” I said, aghast with confusion and disbelief. “But you won’t need that till the last segment of the series. Why are you building it now?”

“Because you had it in your bible,” he explained.

“That was intended to show how the series ended, for God’s sake!” I admit I was screaming at this point. “If they find it first time out, we can all pack our bags and play an hour of recorded organ music!”

“No, no,” Davidson argued, “they still have to find the backup computer, don’t they?”

“Aaaaarghh,” I aaaaarghhed. “Do you have even the faintest scintilla of an idea what a backup control is?”

“Uh, I’m not certain. Isn’t it the computer at the back of the ship?”

“It’s a fail-safe system, you drooling imbecile, it’s what they use if the primary fails. The primary is the control… oh to hell with it!” I hung up.

If you want to write for TV or movies, you must read this essay. Must as in not doing so would be one of the few capital crimes in the Star Trek universe.

Steve Ditko was one of the greatest comic book artists of all time. His art made Spider-Man a star (along with Stan Lee’s writing to make a flawed, problem-plagued teenager a hero). But Ditko deserves more credit as a writer. For me, his jewel was Shade the Changing Man, a brief but bright star. In 9 issues (its run was cancelled due to DC axing a huge number of comics all at once), Ditko made an oppressive world vs. the one hero framed for murder, a world with strong women at a time when that was NOT usual. The scene where Shade’s former fiancée (and a cop tracking Shade down) sees that Shade saved her from the Area of Madness (not a place where you want to take photos) shows how a strong tough woman can still have a heart. And the names! Rac Shade! Mellu Loron! Sude: the Supreme Decider! The  Meta-Zone! The Zero-Zone! The M-Vest (M for Miraco)! I wish this story could have lived longer. It deserves a movie and a resolution. If you want to read it, buy the Steve Ditko Omnibus Volume One.

P.S. I read that Ditko plotted it and drew it, but another guy wrote the dialog. The Marvel method? Well,  that is Steve Ditko being a Stan Lee, and so I still give Ditko big writing credit.

P.P.S I admit that Ditko’s artwork influenced how Super Holly’s telekinesis manifests.

P.P.P.S. Yeah, I am late with this post, Ditko and Harlan passed months ago. But WordPress just told me that my blog is getting a spike in traffic. So now’s a good time.

She-Ra on Netflix: Thumbs up!

I binge-watched the rebooted She-Ra some weeks ago. I was not too hopeful, judging from the previews I’d seen. But this show is what the Battlestar Galactica reboot was: a hell of an improvement on the original. I am old enough to have watched the original Battlestar Ponderosa, I mean Battlestar Galactica, in the 1970s. I have historical geek cred.

(Warning: spoilers ahead, but you should have watched this by now anyway!) When I watched the original She-Ra cartoons in the mid 1980s (if you tell anyone I did that, I will hunt you down and kill you), it was painfully obvious that the stories were about selling action figures to little girls. The new She-Ra stories are about the relationships between the characters. The center of season 1 is the arc of Adora (okay, She-Ra) and Catra: friends to frenemies.

She-Ra is what all interesting heroes should be: flawed. As with the original, She-Ra starts on the evil side, and jumps ship when she sees how evil her side is. But the new She-Ra has trouble controlling her powers. She was sheltered and easily fooled by the Horde until the Horde nastiness was shoved right into her face. (Maybe she grew up on Fox News.) She is chock-full of self doubt. (Super Holly Hansson does not have that problem, she’s been punching out bullies since pre-school.)

The original She-Ra cast reminded of what my nephew said many years ago when he picked up an action figure and said, “Dis is dah good guy,” and he handed me another figure, “and dis is dah bad guy.” You got to know their entire character in 10 seconds. They didn’t evolve. The new Entrapta evolves nicely! I admit that my character Crestley Smusher is heading in her direction: amoral ultra-geek, siding with wherever the greatest technological challenge is. But even the characters who are estblished fast are fun. The new Scorpia’s personality delightfully BOOMED into my face: bubbliest burly henchwoman EVER! The new Shadow Weaver / Hordak dynamic takes prepping for back-stabbing to new heights. I remember what Siskel and Ebert said, the strength of the hero is measured against the strength of the villain. Shadow Weaver is wounded and hurt and you should never turn your back on her.

I read that there is LGBT representation. I believe it, but for me to be sure, I have to see them lip-lock, and I doubt that will happen anytime soon. The new Bow has relationship issues with Glimmer, he was complimented on his belly-button-exposing shirts by one of the Horde guys (hint hint?), and he often moves like a ballerina. The original Bow, other than his flowery taste in clothes, reminded me of the Animal Man comic book where the Red Mask said about Captain Triumph: “Nice guy, but he had the personality of a deck chair, ya know?”

Check out the new She-Ra. I look forward to season two. More character relationship arcs! More strong villainy! More Scorpia bear-hugs! More Sea Hawk burning his own boats (that guy must be secretly rich).

P.S. For you whiny fanboys who want the original Barbie doll She-Ra with the bit of 80s cleavage, you can ogle Super Holly. But not too long or she’ll warn you once, then punch you twice.