Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lost in Space - a documentary (1994) Viacom Public Access Cable by LGN Productions

"Studio 100" presents...

Lost in Space - a documentary (1994) - now in IMDB.

I noticed I do have a YouTube link. There's been copyright issues and there is about a minute lead in of station requirements, silence, test pattern, etc.

For more on this, see below.

This was the first and only project produced by LAST good NERVE Productions (founded 1993, also known as, LGN Productions; AKA, Lateral Geniculate Nucleus Productions).

The show was only shown twice on public access cable in early 1994.

I was the uncredited executive producer on the project. Why that is, is a long, long story....I'll tell it to you some time, possibly over drinks. I had shot one previous video in college up at Western Washington University for my professors in phenomenology.

Now that project was a nightmare. No editor. If I wanted to put music into the reel to reel black and white video tape recorder I had to solder connections. At one point I put myself on camera as I had no actors. That led to my becoming an instant celebrity on campus when I later found that my professor had shown the film to all his classes!

For the next several weeks I had women stopping me between classes to talk about the video making me late for my next class. One time I was asked in class if I was "that guy", the "guitar man" in the video. I was tired of it by then, so I said, "No." She said, "but you look just like him." I said, "I hear that a lot." Then my professor walked up, gave me a stern look and said, "Yes, that's him."

I learned then and there I liked fortune over fame.

Back to the LIS documentary, a project that we made over twenty years ago. This, is its story.

Lost in Space - a documentary

This show was cablecast for the first time on Saturday, February 19th, 1994 at 8PM Pacific Time and for the last time about a month or so later.

The link goes to Dropbox. Too bad I can't just put it up on YouTube like we used to be able to. From Dropbox: "When you share a link to a video, the recipients will be able to stream up to 15 minutes of it on the preview page of the Dropbox website. To view a longer video in its entirety, they'll need to download the file or watch it using one of our mobile apps."

Pre-production began at the end of Summer 1993.

First a little background about how all this blog on it came to be.

I was recently contacted by Jeffro Brunk on Facebook. That's him on the right below. They are making a documentary about early 90s public access cable productions.
"Channeling Yourself" documentarians: JoanE O'Brian, Judith Card, Jim Yaeger and Jeffro Brunk (right)
Jason Hughes and Kelly Hughes (not related)
Jeffro had been told by filmmaker, Kelly Hughes, about our project. That's Kelly above on the right..

About Kelly and crew

Kelly contacted me on Stage32, a web site for people into film productions. He invited me to his showing about his films at Crypticon 2015 hosted at the SeaTac Hilton on the weekend of May 22nd. So, I went and I had a really great time. I also met some talented actors like Jason Hughes (no relation to Kelly), Noel Austin and Stephanie Lee and the rather amazing 76 year old Betty Marshall, representing actors from Kelly's newer and older works.

Here's another blog with more on Kelly and crew.

Kelly produced “Heart Attack Theater,” in 1991-1993, that showed a new 30 minute narrative film each week of locally produced horror. I got a chance to meet and hang with Kelly and associates at Crypticon 2015 here in Washington and we had quite a day and evening getting to know one another.
From Heart Attack Theatre
From a write up about Kelly:

"Kelly Hughes: "HEART ATTACK! The Early Pulse Pounding Cinema of Kelly Hughes. From 1991-1993, while Nirvana and Twin Peaks made the Pacific Northwest hip, Hughes quietly created an unprecedented body of work on Seattle's public access TV. His weekly series Heart Attack Theatre was the video equivalent of grunge rock. Aiming for a classy Twilight Zone style suspense anthology, he ended up with a John Waters-esque shock-a-thon, shooting most of his footage in and around his apartment near the University of Washington. In this documentary, Hughes interviews his actors to reveal a pre-YouTube era of do-it-yourself film-making. And showcases his native Seattle in all its trashy glory."

Now, about Jeffro and crew. 

They are working on a documentary about early 90s Seattle area public access cable producers and filmmakers. Jeffro and associate's documentary on Seattle's 90s cable public access is titled, Channeling Yourself

Both Jeffro and Kelly had displayed interest in seeing our LIS documentary, so I decided to dig it up. I found the original tapes, burned them to DVD, ripped the video from it so I could use it to make the show available to the public and finally, tried to upload them to YouTube as I mentioned above. But I got an array of refusals due to copyright infringements. Well, no surprise there, really. However it was something we didn't have to worry about in our not for profit public access cable TV productions.

I challenged the claim with YouTube about rejecting this video under fair use laws. Here is my challenge to YouTube submitted 5/27/2015:

"This is an historical document that was legally aired as it is here, on public access TV in 1994 and published here merely for historical purposes as related to cable television history. No money has ever or will ever be made from it. Those who own copyright are only receiving free advertising in a positive light by the existence of this document being made available online. Only bits and pieces of media are being used and not in their entirety. Credit is given at the end of the film as best as was known during the period of it's original airing.
"The published or unpublished nature of the original work is only a determining factor in a narrow class of cases. In 1992, Congress amended the Copyright Act to add that fair use may apply to unpublished works. See 17 U.S.C. § 107. This distinction remains mostly to protect the secrecy of works that are on their way to publication. Therefore, the nature of the copyrighted work is often a small part of the fair use analysis, which is more often determined by looking at the remaining three factors.""

Here is a screen shot of the alleged copyright infringements on YouTube:

Rights issues with posting on YouTube
And here's their response to my challenge (I got a few of these emails covering all the disputes):

Hi JZ Murdock, 
Good news! Your dispute wasn’t reviewed within 30 days, so the copyright claim on your YouTube video has now been released by FOX. 
Video title: "Lost in Space - a documentary (1993) Viacom Public Access Cable TV Seattle" 
- The YouTube Team 

Awesome! And here's some other responses to my challenge:

"Hi JZ Murdock,
After reviewing your dispute, UMG has decided that their copyright claim is still valid.
Video title: Lost in Space - a documentary (1993) Viacom Public Access Cable TV Seattle
Copyrighted song: Force Majeure
Claimed by: UMG
View claim details
Why this can happen
The copyright owner might disagree with your dispute.
The reason you gave for disputing the claim may have been insufficient or invalid.
- The YouTube Team"

Okay that one wasn't so awesome. Since Fox dropped their claims on the video clips of LIS here's what it looks like now on YouTube:
latest rights issues Fox relented it seems
I could remove the music altogether (and with the editing issues I had regarding music, why should this surprise me?), and then I could post the video. Decisions, decisions....but what this tells me is the [Merlin] Beggars company are kind of jerks.

If I could make money on this video on YouTube, they're welcome to it. I got this also from YouTube:

"Appeal reinstated claim
Are you sure you want to appeal?
You will be required to provide your contact information to the claimant.
An appeal will result in either:
the release of a claim on your video
OR a legal copyright notification from the claimant. In this event your video will be taken down and you will receive a copyright strike on your account. If you have received additional copyright strikes, this may suspend your YouTube account Learn more"

Nice. Well, I'll let it sit there and see what happens over the next few weeks. My brother said this happened to him once using Pink Floyd music. Then a few weeks later his video simply went live. So, who knows?

Then the next day I received this email:

"Hi JZ Murdock,
After reviewing your dispute, SME and WMG has decided to release their copyright claim on your YouTube video. However, there may be additional copyright claims on this video.
Video title: Lost in Space - a documentary (1993) Viacom Public Access Cable TV Seattle
View claim details
- The YouTube Team "

So hey, I don't know....

As far as I can tell now I only have to wait to see what happens with the [Merlin] Beggars group.

Regardless, the LIS video is available on Dropbox (see above) and I can still after all, show it privately.

Anyway, because of the editing issues (see below...somewhere) only a few of the many songs I used as background music are actually present anyway. I am assuming they are still actually on the master tape, I just can't hear them on a regular VHS player, so the possibility exists that at some point, I could see (and hear) the original version of this that I had edited.

Songs included (thanks to our music director, Joaquin Olson): Coil, Tones on Tail, Clannad, Brian Eno & David Byrne, Wang Chung, Tangerine Dream, Berlin, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, Julie Cruise, Soft Cell, Chris Isaac, James Horner, and Peter Gabriel. Also with "Love All The Hurt Away" (duet with George Benson) by Aretha Franklin, which was the music on the music video of LIS scenes which we got from someone else and is a funny and entertaining piece.

After having spent hours going through my boxes of media before and completely expecting this to happen this time too, I opened the first box in storage and there were both tapes, sitting right on top and together!

I watched it for the first time in many years as I was burning it to DVD and realized that Jeffro and Kelly were both right. That regardless of the issues and errors involved, I really should make it available to the public and most especially fans of LIS, as well as those interested in early public access cable TV shows.

the burned show to DVD
History of the project and LGN Productions

In the summer of 1993 I was looking for a project to do. I had separated from my son's mother and I needed something to capture my attention other than dwelling on my rather miserable life at the time.

I had previously tried to start a magazine, "The Journal of Extraordinary Diversions", which later became a web site under that title starting in 1994. And it's still up and running, though mostly unused for historical purposes just because it's been online for so very long. It was started as a web site for film productions and writers and extraordinary pursuits in general.

It is one of the oldest, continuously running web sites still on the internet. It has a Martial Arts section that won a couple of awards in the 90s.

I built another site, no longer running that I sold on eBay years ago. I set it up for my wife (my daughter's mother) who was a horse trainer. I called it, "The Equitation Station". It became internationally known and respected until she got out of the horse show industry (Arabian horses) and I sold it off sadly, to someone who only used it to direct people to their sales web for something un-horse related. Had I known that, I wouldn't have sold it to them. People were disappointed for a while over that.

Later yet, I tried to start an online company for displaying all restaurant menus in the Seattle area (of which there were more than 5,000). Start up money was an issue as were technology issues. This was an idea before its time. Something I keep running into in my life. Like with my screenplay, Ahriman, of which I didn't see some concepts used in that screenplay, in films for nearly ten years after initially writing it in 1984 in college.

The magazine software I had been using kept having issues, crashing repeatedly and requiring rebuilding until I just gave up. Such was the hardware and software back then with a dual 5.25" floppy disk drive system. Once the OS floppy filled up, that was it. I would lose whatever I had done. Once on that system, I lost what I felt was the most perfect short story I'd ever written. Though I tried to rewrite it immediately, it was just never the same.

Having just had a new born son, I finally and begrudgingly gave up on the magazine. On the restaurant company, I was going to call it, Cafe Menu. But as I said, it was just too soon technology-wise as I would have had to use BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) software which required people to dial up on slow modems and use a phone line for each connection.

Later on several years later the company (1995) picked up my idea on their own and went with it. It has since morphed into other sites and now basically is But had not done as good of a job for what I had planned out in researching and developing it out, in how to give people a restaurant experience specific to each restaurant. Nor has Yelp although their customer review concept has worked out quite well for them as a business model.

I had been told about the Viacom public access cable channel 29 and so I started watching it. It was crazy. I loved it. My friends loved it. Essentially, it was the Wild West on cable. The Seattle PI newspaper has done an article on it that talks about the new Channeling Yourself documentary.

Some public access cable producers like myself (no I didn't do this) would stare at the camera and scream their frustrations. And people would call back in and yell back. There was a couple on a garden show that eventually went on to more legitimate (pay) cable channel. One woman would read interesting and weird stuff and dance naked around candles (“Goddess Kring,” Shannon Kringen, 1996 – 2011, Access’ most recognizable poet and artist. Best remembered for dancing and self body painting while reciting verse, often partially naked.).

Then, there was hot tub girl. What a riot she was.
Donna Marie on Hot Tub TV 1996
One fan favorite was Donna Marie who held a talk show at a different person's hot tub every week around the Pacific Northwest. Basically, hot tub, bikini and drinks. It was all pretty fun, intriguing and sometimes questionable, but always fun and fascinating. Donna went on to become a minor celebrity whom I would see in years later from time to time on various other shows including the Howard Stern Show.

So, I found out how to become a public access cable producer. I started talking to my friends John and Gordon about doing a documentary, my brother Marvin and my friend Joaquin. John, wasn't very into the idea however.

Still, I signed up. I attended the required class and was given access to the studio and equipment. Pretty cool. People were signing up to be on crews. I was, a bit shy about it. Dumb. Just dumb.

Anyway, the end result?

Lost In Space - a documentary (1993)

We decided to give the show overall a title of "Studio 100" in case our hopes that it might develop into other topics as it was with LIS, might eventually come to fruition. I had hoped for the first show to be on Star Trek, but John wasn't a big fan of that idea so that wasn't going to happen. Besides I didn't have the wealth of knowledge about Star Trek like John did about Lost In Space. We talked about several possibilities for topics but I always avoided Lost in Space. John didn't bring it up either because he didn't think about it, or thought I would reject it outright.

LIS Fan Tech Manual
Which was when it dawned on me that with John's being such a big (huge) fan of LIS, and with his having been an active fan and contributing to LIS fan Technical Manuals about the show, it would be an obvious draw for him.

As I remember it John got screwed over by one of the guys making one of the tech manuals. I seem to remember something about John submitting drawings and the guy redoing them (and not as well) just so he could claim credit or something like that, thereby cutting John out of it. Pretty low if you ask me. I don't remember if the one displayed above was the one John was working on or not, but it does look familiar.

Anyway, you get the idea.

Over the years we'd had many hours of enjoyable if pitched, but friendly debates over the importance of Star Trek vs Lost In Space, and TV sci fi in general. It was our favorite pastime.

So one day I pitched the idea to him. Even though he still was difficult about joining the project, I knew from the beginning that he would do it. Not that he made it easy. Then again, no one else wanted to get in front of the camera, either. And I know I didn't want to. I'd been there, done that. So I have to give him credit for at least doing it.

Half way through post production, I happened to meet the woman who would become my (next) wife. She is mentioned in the end credits in thanking Carin Anderson. We married in 1994, divorced in 2002). So I ended up moving out of Seattle and in with her better situation than my Sandpoint studio apartment ("You can see Mt Rainier...if you stretch and look hard), which made finishing the project more difficult than it already had been.

I would to stay late in town after my day job at the UW Personnel office in order to edit, sometimes until late into the night. I was seldom alone in the editing room. The next morning I still had to get up and commute that miserable I-5 commute from Auburn, Washington to be at work on time, bright eyed and well... you get the idea. And my boss was a stickler for being on time. This was after five years of working at the UW in MCIS on a VAX mainframe at night, autonomously, with "God" control of the Radiology and Pathology mainframe for two major Seattle medical centers.

It got to be a problem to finish the project so that at times, I wasn't as sharp in the editing bay as I needed to be. And due to various other issues I was the primary editor.

Had I not met my wife to be at that time, I originally had all intent of doing other shows. That just never happened with my new living arrangements. And so, "Lost In Space - a documentary" became our only production.

Once I had finished post on it I took it down to the cable production office and submitted it for an "air" date. On the Saturday night on which it was to show, and it seems to me that was a couple of weeks or so from my submission date, I sat down to watch it at my girlfriend's apartment. We were living on an expensive horse farm owned by the wife of a local construction company magnate where she was the junior trainer at that time on the White River in Auburn, Washington.Anyone who knows horses around there, knows who I'm talking about.

Now, if you used the Viacom station's equipment you had to air your finished product at least once, though you could submit as available for other cablecasting dates. Although I used my own miserable tripod without a fluid head which is readily apparent in the video, and I used my own VHS camera, I did use their editing equipment.. The tape I used was high quality half inch TDK brand HDX-pro (high def) 120 VHS video tape in my standard full sized VHS camera, similar to this one below. The same tape I'd used in college only now it was color and not reel to reel. And it worked.

I was also using an SLR still camera tripod, a typical rookie mistake. There is nothing like a good fluid head tripod for shooting video for that smooth panning action. You can see why in the first shots of John talking outside at NOAA as the jerking of the shot distracts you during the panning action of the camera in following him walking back and forth. Which I had told him not to do because of the tripod. But he was so nervous, he said he couldn't stop doing it. He WAS doing it, so there wasn't much I could say.
Sharp VHS Camcorder/Player; Model VL-L280C Photo
Also, as Viacom used public bandwidth, they had by law no editorial license to tell you what to or not to put on their cable channel. Which was AWESOME. I wish it still existed like that. Thus, you got to see some very interesting shows on public access.

For more, see Jeffro's upcoming documentary about it or visit some of the links I've supplied here about it.

A few things became readily apparent on my viewing our project on live cablecast for the first time. These were issues with the production tape that went on to be cablecast, which had slipped right by me.

Allow me to explain. Mid-post production I had shown up to edit one night only to be told that they had sent MY (okay, THEIR) Panasonic VHS to VHS editor to California for repairs. They said to just use another editing bay. So I signed in on another editor and immediately realized it simply wasn't working right.

That one editor sent off to be repaired had to have been haunted or something. Because my master tape wasn't working as it had on that other editor.I couldn't hear some of the music on the other editor.

I came to realize that I either had to start all over or simply wait for the old editor to be repaired and returned. Which is what I decided to do. See I'd had to use various VHS tapes from John that he had acquired over the years, for bits of scenes that I used and then returned the tapes to John. As well as various audio tapes. It was all pieced together on the master VHS tape. In case you don't know, many audiophiles back then thought video tape was superior to audio tape and recorded their audio on video.

So to start over would be a complicated mess. Not to mention resynching all the music... again.

I dropped by the studio several times, but no editor. It was delayed for some reason. So I started to call instead and about a month or so later (seemingly forever), the editor was finally repaired, returned and I was able to get back to editing. Which I did. I then applied the end titles on the rolling title machine in the back corner of the editing bays..

It wasn't however until it aired that I realized that most of the show didn't have any of the underlying background music that I had so carefully edited in. You can see the list in the end titles of all the music that I'd included. Why I chose Tones On Tail's, "Christian Says", which you can hear in the first part of the documentary (the part done before the editor broke) is quite beyond me. Other than I simply liked the tune and the tone of it. That band's name by the way (Tones on Tail) came from the tones they always heard on the end of their studio master audio tape's tail end.

The music issue was beyond my control.

UPDATE: When Kelly Hughes read this blog he had this to say about my background music issues, which I found interesting:

"I think anyone who made programming for channel 29 can relate to the technical nightmares. I would always add my music to a separate track. And the playback operator needed to know to have a certain switch turned on. Otherwise, there would be no music. So every time I turned my tape in, I included a note. Since I had a weekly time slot, I think they got the hint after awhile. But it was pretty nerve wracking not knowing if your show would be presented the way I intended. I did have episodes where they didn't turn on that switch. And my music was missing. The playback deck was a Panasonic S-VHS. The identical deck to what I edited on at home. So luckily, I was pretty familiar with it."

Well nuts, who knew? I wasn't familiar with it. The studio employees possibly knew but I was shy and didn't ask for much help beyond my own crew. Who knew less than I did.


In reflection I can see now that I should have played the production tape once on another machine. Like mine, at home. But it hadn't occurred to me and I figured the station's players were far beyond the quality of my home player (which may prove the point, but hey, too late now). But why would it dawn on me to check the tape elsewhere? After all it worked fine as far as I could tell.

However there were other issues that were fully on myself in my editing. For instance?

My number one mistake is in the after-title description where it says clearly on screen in a superimposition.

 "Lost I Space"

Not "Lost in Space". "Lost "I" Space". Good grief. Face palm. Head banging on desk.

Sigh....that was my first sign something was going terribly wrong while I watched its first cablecasting from home that February of 1994.John watched it from his home. There was an after airing phone call. It was, interesting. Not fun, but interesting. I mean, we're both kind of perfectionists.

The Production

John had begrudgingly agreed to be the host and narrator. Gordon, the interviewer.

The interviewer was so talkative and aggressive because John needed to be prompted. As I indicated, he didn't really want to be the one interviewed but he had all the info and he knew it only made sense. I didn't think his screen presence was all that bad either, it just needed practice. Though he had to be prompted initially at the beginning, just to get him going, he then picked it up and did quite well.

I had wanted to do rehearsals but John wouldn't hear of it. He just wanted to get it over and done with. Well, I'll give him credit for actually doing it, and getting it done. Even if it did mean we couldn't reshoot some scenes.

For instance, I wanted to reshoot the part in front of NOAA (the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, at Lake Washington in Seattle. That is at Magnuson Park in the Sandpoint area of Seattle. It looked futuristic and not a building everyone knew. Meaning, it wasn't like the Space Needle or the famous Seattle Science Center arches, or something.

There is a scene where John is kneeling down with a model of the Jupiter 2 in hand. At first you don't even notice the model. He was holding it too low. I wanted to reshoot it, but he didn't want to. It works, but just barely.

That happened a couple of times but there were a few times we did reshoot right after, making the initial shoot a rehearsal. Such as his NOAA opening which I think we redid about three times. Each time he was getting a little more annoyed but he also did better each time as he was getting more relaxed and more into character in front of the camera.

There is a SUPERIMPOSITION on screen where we used the single word "SMEG" to offset a new section: The Interview. It was an obvious nod to Red Dwarf on printed plates and followed with other plates of printed commentary introducing that section. We had discussed that it was obviously off track from LIS and somewhat disruptive to the LIS focus. But hey, we were such fans of Red Dwarf we felt we simply had to add it in... somewhere.

The SUPER saying that the interviewer was "rabid" and that there was only one mic was an after thought. We just thought we needed to explain why he didn't have a mic at times and why he talked so much. Which again, was all to try and keep John on a roll and upbeat. You can see a few times where John is getting irritated but then he pushes on..We may have reshot parts of the interview as he was home and felt more comfortable.

John's "studio" for the interview segment was actually his apartment on Capitol Hill in Seattle at the north end of Broadway, about half a block north from the Harvard Exit theatre. We thought it would look on screen like a production company office or his personal art studio.

During the interview there is a short section that is repeated. First of all we realized we needed an interview. There was just too much info to get out and an interview was settled on for the most natural way to get it out. I also wanted the audience to get to know John better considering all he knew and had done in fandom. He just wasn't getting the recognition I thought he deserved.

Artistically we didn't think that would be such a bad thing having a few seconds of a previously shown section repeated, as it was a short middle of a bigger and previously unseen\unheard part framing it. But it was later realized to have been a mistake and should have instead had a jump cut skipping that repeated part as it simply went on just a bit too long for it to be reasonably ignored and seen as stylistic.

The shots of the interviewer (Gordon) were also an afterthought when it was realized that the audience really needed to\should see who was talking because of how much he ended up talking overall. Some shots of the interviewer could also have been held for maybe a second or so longer. These pick up shots were done after the interview had been shot.

In the interview John got more relaxed requiring less and less prompting as he started to get into it. But by then the interviewer was getting too used to talking so much and a few times goes on a bit long. The one mic situation at times only making things worse.

The reason we did the LIS doc was that I just wanted to produce something and I wanted John's help. I wanted to do something with someone and a close friend was most desired. Besides, he had a wealth of info on LIS and though he wasn't at all interested in doing a production, I realized LIS would or could suck him into the project.

Indeed, when I came up with the proposition to him I think he knew at that moment that I had him. Though he continued to grumble and needed to be led into it (dragged, coerced, threatened....). But honestly? I think he enjoyed it. Now? He doesn't seem to want anything to do with much of anything from those days, sadly.

Now for myself, I didn't exactly want to do a LIS documentary. But it was a meeting of the minds on that, which got it to happen. So that became the project. As it was, John was hesitant and took a lot of convincing (coercing? promises?) throughout the project and he threatened to walk a few times. Though I'm not sure he really would have, he certainly threatened it. It was a struggle for control between producer and talent. Bet that never happened before or since, right?.

John didn't seem to get that the interviewer needed to play ignorant as a process of an interview, to prompt him to talk about what he knew, to set him up with softball questions so that in his being asked for instance, who produced LIS, you can see the annoyance on his face in actually having to say the name, his hero, Irwin Allen. It was so obvious, but was it to the viewers? So he realized it was info that  needed to get out, to be included and to be exposed in an orderly fashion as the interview went on.

Though I was actually a fan of both (that is to say, I WATCHED LIS as a kid as much as it annoyed me at times and as much as I wanted Dr. Smith to die, Die, DIE, so very, many times....), I was a essentially for all intents and purposes a die hard Star Trek fan.

John was obviously a big LIS fan. For years prior to this we had many arguments over which was a better show, etc., in friendly confrontations that after years became a more cliche thing between us and lasted less and less time as we had grown a short hand in debating the issue. We already knew what each would say ahead of time.

Almost as if we were practicing through much of our lives to do a documentary on LIS.

Dr. Smith annoyed me so much during the show that I came to have a love \ hate relationship with the show overall. But in Star Trek, it was pure love. The first time I ever missed a Star Trek episode my mother and grandmother had taken me with them to return a vacuum. I watched the clock in the car with my grandmother while my mother was in the store, seemingly forever. I was maybe in 7th grade at the time and was in tears by time my mother returned to the car as I knew that the show had already started and for the first time, I knew I had missed the opening scene of a Star Trek episode. I never had that reaction to Lost in Space.

We got home that evening half way through the Star Trek episode and my younger brother was lying on the floor watching it. I was pretty upset. My mother said, "Well, you can watch the last half of it anyway." Not helpful mom!

Not understanding that would ruin the show for me, I left her in the living room confused and headed upstairs to my bedroom instead, hoping someday I'd get to see the full episode from the beginning. Not having any idea the show would last only three years... or, that it would go into syndication purgatory nearly forever. Or spawn other Star Trek TV shows, or films, or reboot films.

I had no idea I was watching the birth of franchise history in action. Lost in Space, but obviously, lesser so.

With John, LIS was pure love, perhaps as it was his first sci fi TV show. He was at the right age for it to imprint. I was older than him by a few years and grew up with more of the 50s early 60s sci fi films and TV shows. So I was a little more advanced when LIS hit the scene and then more so with Star Trek which he may have been too young for at the time, though he grew to love it in later years.

After LIS's first half season (we figured after the initial five or six original episodes, which were pretty good, Star Trek pretty much blew LIS out of the water... in my mind anyway.

But not John's. But then he is wrong. And, after all this is my blog and not his. He can write his own recount of history. No worry John, if you read this. I love you brother. He's since moved out of state years ago and we don't talk too often anymore.

I'm still hoping there is maybe a possibility to get a fully functional copy with all the music included, but then perhaps not. One of the great things about technology as it advances, that things that weren't possible only a few years ago, can suddenly become very possible.

As for Jeffro's documentary, I'm looking forward to seeing Channeling Yourself. I've given Jeffro and his crew (JoanE O'Brian, Judith Card, Jim Yaeger), a chance to hear about this project of ours and to view the documentary itself and we shall see what we shall see.

As for Kelly Hughes, I hear he's coming over to visit next week to do some location scouting for a new project.

20 Years, 5 Lessons

What I learned through our LIS documentary project:

- Preparation. The more you prepare, the less trouble you end up having.
- Know your equipment. First and foremost, know (learn) your equipment and use the best and most appropriate equipment available to you
- Volunteers. Use volunteers, but if they are trouble lose them (and as soon as is reasonable but finish the project if you can). Then if they were trouble in your last project, don't use them on your next project.
- Help. Don't shy away from asking for help, or finding it. You will always need more than you think you do.
- Resources. Use your resources in your studio, crew or talent. The quality of the end product is what is important, the viewer's experience. Make it as easy on the viewer as possible so they will want to view your work the next time.

In closing... whenever you get a chance to do something out of the ordinary such as we did as public access cable TV producers, I'd suggest you go for it.

Many thanks to John, Gordon, Marvin, and Joaquin, all who are mentioned in the end titles. As well, thanks to the Viacom station crew at the time, Erik, Patty and John: Jeffro was a part of that station crew at some point but I don't remember ever meeting him. Thanks to him and his crew and Kelly and his.

End titles thank you
To all of those cable employees, crews and producers from back then... hey, look how long we've lasted and all these years later our stuff is still being seen and enjoyed!


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Phenomenology of That Good Old Religion Feeling

Religion. People say things like, "I couldn't have made it this far without Jesus in my life." Or, Allah, or God, or whatever flavor you subscribe to.

So what is it that's going on there? Must be something right?

Well, yes. And, no.

Before I go on let me say one thing...

Religion was humankind's first form of government. It evolved in order to buffer life for us. To slow down reality. When you lose someone you love, it's intense, it's powerful, it's damaging to the point of killing you, nearly if not completely. Religion in its rituals, its explanations, slows down the impact of reality to the point that it can be accepted and moved through. It then evolved to the point of giving answers, wrong as they tend to me, pleasant sometimes as they tend to be, but also, horrific as they can tend to me.

From religion evolved government. Out of immediate needs that religion failed to succeed in accomplishing. A secular form of religion, also slow but faster than religion out of necessity. Even in a theocracy, there are the secular parts of government where religion simply cannot function, or at least, does not function in human society and it needs something more, or less, depending on how you view it.

Religion offers us a way to have love in our lives, without anyone to have to have our continued support and effort in being sure they will love us back, always, and unconditionally.

Like having a dog. Only your dog can run away, get hit by a car, shot by someone, be stolen by your ex, or simply die of old age. Or worse, get rabies and bite you, or turn on you, or accidentally kill your other pet, or child even. Things, can go wrong.

But with religion, or God, he never disappoints you, he's always the same, always there, wherever you are, even if you are totally and permanently isolated from people, god can always be there with you.

Except, he's not there. No one is. Just you, your mind, and the complexities there in. The multiplicity of our mind that are similar in ways to multiple people, many and varied aspects of yourself, the ability to have discrete modules of mind within your mind, as in subroutines running autonomously.

Because we have that system always running. Our autonomic processes. Breathing for instance. We can ignore it and it works, or we can consciously control it and it works.

We have the capability for the appearance of there being others within our mind. When it gets unbalanced or out of control, you find people "splitting" or seemingly having multiple personalities. Or god.

There is really nothing amazing about this, No more amazing than the computer that runs your car as a process goes. The capability is there, so it works.

And so you can feel the "love" of "god" in your life, and it energizes you. Much like masturbation, only this is mental masturbation for the purposes of feeling "agape love" and not sexual love. Love that can always be there if you have "faith" that it will be, and can never be destroyed, if you do not sully it and keep it pure in your mind.

Add in a lot of romantic talk about heart and spirit and apply some rules, get a bunch of people to agree about it, and you have a religion.

Amazing? Right?

No, not right at all. It's all in our nature as human beings. It has to do with how we developed since before we were a species. Herd mentality if you like or social and communal dynamics as we are a social animal. Take an animal like that and over 100,000s of years you have something quite like... us.

The trouble is, we've yet to evolve that far mentally and still hold onto beliefs from ancient times. Continuity is good, but adherence to what is ancient history is bad. Tradition is good, but building new traditions as they make sense, allowing them to evolve, is better. And the one thing religion has always tried to do was maintain the ancient, even archaic, status quo, evolving only covertly whenever possible.

But today we have social media and that has changed, everything .

So some religions are openly changing. Some have had standards practices for that. Still some try not to change at all. And we as a species need change. We also need to be slow in some ways to change and so religion offered us that  through history. It did a lot of good, but in ways that would have been better had we not needed or used religion.

All the things that religion offers us, we can get in other ways, if properly educated and raised to be strong enough to sustain our personality and life and that of our loved ones,

Some of the things are communal in nature. The things a love of god gives one, can be achieved in other ways, but the communal part of a group getting together who are so focused (under fear or owe of a god) on one thing and each other under that umbrella of belief, is special, however disingenuous it may be in reality.

I'd argue that it would be best to deal with reality rather than religion with its rules that fail us far too often. The rigidness and lack of insight to change that science requires and is typically anathema to religion. But we need that as a species as life becomes more and ever increasingly complex.

Religion, just makes some people feel good. It's nice to think that a parent is always watching over you and protecting you. Total nonsense but it's got a warm and fuzzy feel to it.

The thing is, when it comes down to it, we need to be reality based. Humans have an inherent need to buffer reality and I question if we can survive without buffers and filters or the world can be overwhelming. When it does get overwhelming what do we do, what happens to us?

When we feel too unloved, or rejected (remember, follow god's rules and he will never turn his back on you, even when he throws a tornado, a deadly disease, or a pick up truck at you), god is there. Right?

When we don't have that, and we have that emptiness gnawing at our minds, we turn to drink, drugs, extreme behaviors or death. Trouble is, you can fill that emptiness in the understanding that reality exists, and that we are all essentially alone. But that is okay.

There are ways of thinking as in Buddhism, certain aspects of it anyway, that gives you ways of facing reality head on, while having no illusions about magical beings. The magic you see is within each of us, in what we can do, in what we end up doing, in what we can achieve above and beyond what people consider possible. But it is. If we do it, it's possible.

And we have us to thank for it. Trouble with that is some people get too full of themselves and become bad people. If you have a god to thank for it, and not you, then you can humble yourself. But why not just have the mindset to begin with, to be humble. How many popes for instance, heading the Catholic church over it's history had no humbleness in them at all, while they professed a total subservience to god. What they also had was power, power over the believers below them.

So you can see the interplay between the human psyche, and religion and the god concept.

It bends and weaves in and out of one another so after a few thousand years, it all seems pretty real and reasonable. And yet, it's not.

Religion is a mind worm. Just as a virus in a computer system can be very hard to eliminate, so it is with humanity and religion. It has been there to fill a need, to serve a purpose. Frequently a purpose greater than any individual or group. But it has served its purpose and now it is time to move along and be adults.

Instead of claiming there is not better way, when there really is, we should be finding those better ways. And why doesn't that just happen? Plainly put? Because people don't' want it to, because we are also mentally lazy in some ways. We hug the status quo because that works and has proven to, even if it is defective in how it works.

Just as Jesus showed up to say hey, this is defective, there is a better way, how do we now stand up and say hey, this is all defective, and there is a better way? Especially when no one wants to believe it, and the religions teach from childhood, to have faith and ignore what makes you no longer believe.

Pretty clever right? Kind of like what a con man might say. "Believe in me, cuz, we'll just do it, it's to my benefit and kind of yours, though there are better ways."

Religion works, like a bicycle works to get you across town. But when  you need to get to the bottom of an ocean, or another planet, it's only kind of functional in that maybe, it can get you to work, but then it can in no way, get you to the bottom of the ocean or another planet.

Time will prove this is true. Because like it or not, humankind is evolving and growing more intelligent and sooner or later, this will all be proved to be correct and religion and the god model will fade into existence, with only fits and jerks of tiny sporadic groups popping up from time to time in thinking that maybe it is a better way, or maybe our predecessors didn't get it right and we can now do it better.

But, we can't. It won't be made better. It's simply not the most functional, productive path possible.

Yes, it's gotten us to amazing places, when those stories are told in hindsight. But so many of those stories leave out things like the business reasons things happened, or the familial things, the bonds between humans that pulled people through tough times in really, no god anywhere had a thing to do with it.

People did. We did. And we will continue to. Just as we have since the first version of us crawled from out of the primordial slime itself.

Religion is really all about two things: character, and community. The third imaginary part is the god concept. Which is completely unnecessary other than as a guiding enforcer to assure proper character and community in people and groups.

Consider a book by David Brooks, The Road to Character. From Amazon: "Blending psychology, politics, spirituality, and confessional, The Road to Character provides an opportunity for us to rethink our priorities, and strive to build rich inner lives marked by humility and moral depth. “Joy,” David Brooks writes, “is a byproduct experienced by people who are aiming for something else. But it comes.”

We can do this, build character, in other ways that religion. Spiritual is a consideration of self, in ways other than physical. We have consistently misperceived what that is all about by placing arbitrary rules on ourselves and others, invented magical beings to explain what we do not understand at the time and then pressure others and our descendants to follow those beliefs, and steep ethereal considerations upon our lives because of the echo chamber of our inner selves, where it is merely our experiencing the process of how our brain works, how our mind (mis)perceives (at times) through our senses and how we conceive of what that data means or should mean.

Just as god supposedly created everything, like humans, whose make up is amazing, but also haphazard and dysfunctional in many ways, which is inexplicable if these bodies were created by god, and yet, fully explainable and understandable if created through evolution; so existing without a god concept, is even more functional.

The only issue is assuring people do and be how they need to be, something handled in religion through divine enforcement, assuring that people evolve into being good (something religion has failed on many times by the way).

Dumping that theory and going with reality allows us to be functional without a need for all the gods in the world, all the rules and religions that fail sooner or later in various circumstances and have led people to divine hatred of others which we've seen in christianity involving gays, women's rights issues, despising the different or other races as with the white purity movement, or Islam where some in that desert religion demands total adherence to god's laws and murder is the rule of the day if you fail, as humans do.

We need to remove the power in religion so people do not have these fallacious beliefs to use in support of their bad behaviors. They believe they are living god's form of character and group behavior in themselves with is fully ridiculous and counter productive.

A reporter recently went into the ISIS controlled areas and said he'd never seen people so brainwashed before, it was amazing. That, is what religion can do when mishandled. People need to understand what they are playing with in delving deeply into religion and god concept faith based models. It may go fine when handled well, but it can also go very, very wrong as has happened with Islamic terrorism in recent times and  certainly other examples like the crusades, The Inquisition, and so on.

A mind worm is a mind worm and with certain constraints it can be deadly and a real threat to a race of beings.

Isn't it better to remove the threat, inject reality, and move forward to evolve in ways that would be more productive, lead to faster changes and greater advances based in humane concepts and not those that a race of beings has decided would be an all powerful being's desires for that race?

I think so, I really, really think so.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

Some thoughts for Memorial Day.

The first widely-publicized observance of a Memorial Day-type observance after the Civil War was in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865. During the war, Union soldiers who were prisoners of war had been held at the Hampton Park Race Course in Charleston; at least 257 Union prisoners died there and were hastily buried in unmarked graves. Together with teachers and missionaries, black residents of Charleston organized a May Day ceremony in 1865, which was covered by the New York Tribune and other national papers. 

The freedmen cleaned up and landscaped the burial ground, building an enclosure and an arch labeled "Martyrs of the Race Course." Nearly 10,000 people, mostly freedmen, gathered on May 1 to commemorate the war dead. Involved were about 3,000 school children, newly enrolled in freedmen's schools, as well as mutual aid societies, Union troops, black ministers and white northern missionaries. Most brought flowers to lay on the burial field. Today the site is remembrance celebration would come to be called the "First Decoration Day" in the North.

David W. Blight described the day:

This was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina. What you have there is black Americans recently freed from slavery announcing to the world with their flowers, their feet, and their songs what the war had been about. What they basically were creating was the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.

However, Blight stated he "has no evidence" that this event in Charleston inspired the establishment of Memorial Day across the country.

On May 26, 1966, President Johnson signed a presidential proclamation naming Waterloo, New York, as the birthplace of Memorial Day. Earlier, the 89th Congress had adopted House Concurrent Resolution 587, which officially recognized that the patriotic tradition of observing Memorial Day began one hundred years prior in Waterloo, New York. Other communities claiming to be the birthplace of Memorial Day include Boalsburg, Pennsylvania,Carbondale, Illinois, Columbus, Georgia, and Columbus, Mississippi. A recent study investigating the Waterloo claim as well as dozens of other origination theories concludes that nearly all of them are apocryphal legends. 
All the above from Wikipedia.

True, or accurate or not, it makes a point, and is something to consider.

"Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it."
"The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example."
Here's the thing...
Memorial Day is what it says. It is a day to reflect, and in reflecting, to look forward using the past as our guide to the future. It is first and foremost what it was created for and then, it is about all the rest.
Who gave so that we may live and have a better life? And again...who gave so that YOU may live and have a better life?
Reflect, and look forward using the past, as your guide to the future.

With grateful thoughts of those who have gone before us to whom we owe a great debt, our humble thanks. 
To the families of those, also go our humble thanks.
To those who dishonor the memory of those we have lost in service to the public good as well as those currently actively serving and also deserving of our appreciation may those dishonorable individuals and groups one day grow enough emotionally and intellectually to understand just what they do and then turn around and start to do what is right.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What does TCMS mean for Republicans and Conservatives

Yet another one of those disingenuous memes from our CBDCFs, Our Confused and Brain Damaged Conservative Friends.

Yes, yes, of course big government is bad.
IF and WHEN it actually IS too big. 

Considering that we cannot now afford or even figure out how to fix our crumbling infrastructure (bridges, roads, rail, broadband connections (cell, internet, etc.)), government and funding (see military budgets, purchasing planes that don't work, funding that the military doesn't want in areas like yet another aircraft carrier, etc.), you certainly can break the government in under funding and shrinking it to the point of sheer idiocy (see TCMS below).

What they can't seem to understand of late in their having raging TCMS (Tiny Conservative Mind Syndrome), is that too small government is as bad or even more dysfunctional than too big government. It is a belief system support and disseminated through right wingnut radio, web sites and cable channels like the notorious Fox News network and their inflammatory twists on the news which does the nation such a great a disservice and really only services the rich and disingenuous.

Fox News leads the mentally infirm and old (no really, check their demographics) down the path to waste and falsehoods with their consistent avoidance of actual fact checked and properly Op Ed information with their "Fox Newisness". That phrase by the way was recently submitted to Urban Dictionary as we really need that phrase to more succinctly go along with Stephen Colbert's wonderful term, "Turthinesss". 

Would I prefer too big or too small? Don't be foolish. I'd prefer a professionally run correct size to run properly, government. Like with our security and intelligence departments. They are way too big and need to be shrunk before America only supplies the world with information as a GDP.

Of course an inflated bureaucracy slows things to a crawl if not just blocking things completely and outright (please refer to our current and recently previous US Congresses).

However, too small of a government also doesn't do a damned thing. Right?

What then is the attraction, what is the difference for conservatives?

In a too big of a government, you can point fingers at those bad apples to cut them, to fire them, to jail them. And conservatives hate that, because they know, they may be next. And they usually are. But they've instead (rather than clean up their act and be good citizens) raised slipping out of the bounds of justice into a new level, a new art form. 

In a too small government we have the same symptomatic and systemic dysfunction. However, you can't blame them as easily and their jobs are somehow perceived as more secure. You can't fire someone because they are overworked (or blame them) or as we see so much, those incompetents (see, Ted Cruz, et al), or criminals, (see Chris Christy, et al).

Of course in how things are twisted up anymore you can't even fire those who are drilling holes in our government either (see protected by big money).

This is also why region (Christian, typically here) and conservatives and republicans go together like chocolate and peanut butter. 

A leading Catholic Vatican Cardinal recently said gay couples shouldn't be invited to family gatherings if children are present US Cardinal Raymond Burke’s comments came in an interview during the Pope’s Synod of the Family in Rome, in which he also commented on the ‘aggressiveness of the homosexual agenda’. You know, the only reason it looks like gays have an agenda is they are struggling to not be treated like second class citizens, mostly BECAUSE of religion. 

Once again, religion as cancerous mind worms in trying to avoid reality for their beliefs, thus trying to alter reality into a preformed way of filtering reality. Surely why should we raise our children to deal with what is, rather than grow up dealing with what should be so we can have more dysfunction and prejudice and bigoted attitudes in the world for religion to disingenuously continue to claim to have the answers for, as they yet again try to side step reality and so it goes....

One thing conservatives and republicans (and granted, politicians in general, but certainly with our New Age Soviet styled Republican party ), know how to do is to fully actualize the Peter Principle. The ability to rise to your personal best level of functionality in a position, then rise above that to where you're completely dysfunctional but allowed to remain there until you want to move on. Rather than being moved back down to where you are fully functional, or simply fired (again, see protected by big money) as would\should be expected where obviously it is, TRTTD, The Right Thing To Do.

It's time the rational people took back their government and pushed back against the ignorant, the disingenuous, the defectively based religious beliefs. Look, I don't have a problem with you "believing" in religion, as silly as I see it is, just allow others to live their lives and we'll leave you alone. But when stupid thought affects others negatively, it's time to stand up and say no.

Let's get back to live and let live.

Remember how smoothly things worked back then compared to now? Really, that's all it would take to cure TCMS and bring republicans and, well I don't know if there's a cure for conservatism, really. You see, conservatism is a way to view things, not a lifestyle and that's where people got off track. They took a concept and made it a lifestyle and as we've seen, that never goes well. Purity in thought tends to be defective (try inbreeding dogs too much and see what happens after all).

Be opened minded, see what is and not what should be and work with that. Surely you can see how things could be better and take what you have in mind to make things better, but then make things better. Because what we have now is people taking what they think and making things worse while they think they are only trying to make things better, for themselves. And therein lay the crux of the matter.

Look, religion (2013, 2014, 2015)and the republican party are both dying off anyway and like Islam through things like ISIS, death throws can be ugly. However I don't see the republican party dying off per se, rather and hopefully, morphing into something better, though I'm willing to bet it will surprise us and morph into something worse to pleasure it's base who are dying off as Fox News polls show (even Fox is changing and becoming more rational though).

We all live on this tiny planet together.

How about we try to remember that and make room for everyone to live. That seems to be something that liberals have figured out and conservatives can't. But you can make TCMS go away. It's really not that hard to do.

Just have compassion for more than your own self interest. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Those Wasted(?) Writing Efforts in My Life

I was just thinking back....

How many projects have I worked on that I knew would never go anywhere, or that never got to production, and yet I did them anyway and actually learned from them?

Here's just a few that most immediately come to mind.

In 1984 i graduated with a university degree in psychology from Western Washington University, with a minor in creative writing that included a year of a special team class in script and screenwriting.

After I graduated I realized I had just enough of my Vietnam era veteran's benefits from being in the Air Force, to do one last university quarter. I had wanted to leave college with at least one full feature film screenplay, so I signed up for a few classes I didn't need (sociology, human sexuality and logic).

But I bought no books, keeping the money, attended lectures, took the tests without studying for them, maybe had some rum in my coffee during classes and basically, well, I had a blast. I wanted to know what it was like for some genius students who partied all the time, hardly studied and got straight A's. I had some friends like that, while I had to study day and night for my A's and B's.

Full disclosure, that quarter I failed Logic but I learned a lot, I got a B in sociology (figuring it's just a bigger form of psychology which I had just gotten a degree in at the top of my class), and didn't do so well in human sexuality (because I thought the masters student teaching it, which offended me as we're supposed to only have doctorates teach at a university, but the prof. got sick that quarter;

I disagreed with just about everything she was teaching and clearly pointed that out to her on the final, so....). Did I say I had a blast, AND I got a screenplay written and double A's on it? Oh, too soon, hold on a minute....

I wrote up to sixteen hours a day that summer and attended my classes: Sociology, Human Sexuality (which I had already taken in my freshman year in an awesome double instructor class of a sociologist and a psychologist that made the local papers their class was so great and popular on campus) and Logic.

I came out of that summer quarter with my completed screenplay, "Ahriman" which was my only screenplay for some years. It is about an alien prophet prince form another planet who inadvertently gets sucked over to earth by our scientists during an experiment. My "A" from the two profs who had signed off on my taking an independent study class in order to write the screenplay. Through the years I've done maybe twelve or more drafts of that screenplay.

I used it on Mat Damon and Ben Afleck's Project Greenlight web site where you got peer reviewed by other aspiring screenwriters (some who weren't so useful in their advice, others who were) by peer reviewing other screenwriter's screenplays.

I also used it on Keven Spacey's Triggerstreet web site, which was similar. Trigger Street being a street next to where he had grown up (or on), by the way.

Eventually in listening to some of those people on those sites, I did learn a lot but I got off track until finally the screenplay originally 121 pages became 180 pages and lost track of it's original intent. Which was actually to never show the protagonist (yeah, I know, good luck with that, and I dropped that idea about half way through writing it).

I am planning on taking it back out one day and rewriting it yet again with my now better developed writing skills as I've learned so much since 1984. Getting to semi finalist in one production company screenplay competition, getting two screenplays to one production company (Sealed in Lies, a spy romance adaptation of the novel of the same name by another author, and Teenage Bodyguard (AKA, Slipping The Enterprise, a biopic of my own from when I was 18) and one of those (Sealed in Lies) to another production company with their suggestion that another production company should also look at it.

For years Ahriman was my only screenplay.

As my first completed screenplay, it does hold a dear place in my heart. That is, in that special year long class I was chosen for from an intro to playwriting class (sent there by my Fiction 101 professor to learn dialog better), we wrote TV scripts and did team projects and such, so we didn't get a full feature film screenplay out of it during the class. That team learning experience however was amazingly rewarding, and it holds a dear place in my heart.

By the way, after I wrote Ahriman, it was a good ten years before I saw some of the ideas I had written into that screenplay shown up on screen in other features. Which was very frustrating as I had to watch its potential go down the drain, year after year of not finding where to sell it. Something that has gotten far easier with the advent of the internet.

I based Ahriman's tempo by the way, on Brainstorm, Natalie Wood's last film which she died during the production of. On my first day starting to write Ahriman, I first watched Brainstorm seven times on a rented RCA video player (a video disk like a record and not a laser disk) and took notes on the film.

Toward the end of the 90s, that script had gotten pitched to a Middle Eastern group of investors, exactly the people I'd asked the producer, Sean Davis, not to pitch it to, as I had screwed with their mythology in switching the God and the Satan characters. But he assured me the investors loved it, much to my surprise.

However about that time, Sean left the east coast production company for Hollywood. I had been working with that studio over that two year period (unpaid and never got anything on screen, probably more from my inexperience there than anything else) and continued with them for several more years after he left.

So another project I learned a lot from that never went anywhere. Yet.

And hey Sean Davis, if you're out there and you see this and remember me, say Hi sometime and let's kick around some old times. I really liked and got along well with him and regret that we couldn't for whatever the reason, continue to work together. Maybe some day, maybe. In this industry, much as in the IT world as one UNIX scientist I worked with told me when I left US West Technologies, people tend to run into one another over and over again (so burn no bridges).

There was another screenplay while at that production company, one the producers asked for me to write a new screenplay for. One of them told me there was a new actress on the scene whom he had recently met at a party and thought he could get for our screenplay. He said she had recently been in a film with Kiefer Sutherland. A quirky little film called, Freeway. He said we'd have to move fast as she was very talented and wouldn't be available very long as she was on the way up.

As time went on (not that much time either I might add) he found that she was already tied up for another film project and couldn't make it. Timing would have been perfect to have gotten a very good actress before she exploded on the scene and became nearly impossible to acquire.

That actress was, Reese Witherspoon. Sadly, we didn't get her for the project and the project ended up not moving forward.

Another time, another project.

A good friend asked if I could write a TV script for him as the host, his commentary on a holiday showing of the Frank Capra film, "It's A Wonderful Life". This was back in the 1980s on some TV station he was going to host the film at during the commercial breaks. He wanted interesting elements of the film to share with the audience, or whatever I thought would be most engaging. So I wrote a script for him. Then, it fell through and never got used.

Still, I had gone to Tower Books in Seattle to research it and found books on the film, didn't have money to buy the books back then but I took down notes. Then later I wrote the multiple sections where he would talk to the camera and audience. So if you bought a book on that film back in the 80s  in Seattle at Tower Books, it may have been used to write this script.

I learned some interesting facts about that production. Like what the snow in the film was really made out of. RKO created "chemical snow" (and won an Oscar for it), a new compound utilizing water, soap flakes, foamite and sugar for the film in order to avoid the need for dubbed dialogue when actors walked across the earlier type of movie snow, made up of crushed cornflakes painted white. The Bedford Falls set in the film made use of 20 transplanted oak trees, and for the winter scenes 3000 tons of shaved ice, 300 tons of gypsum, 300 tons of plaster and 6000 gallons of chemicals.

According to one source, film makers suspended huge screens over staging and sifted asbestos fibers over the Wizard of Oz and It’s a Wonderful Life to imitate snow. Asbestos even found a convenient way to hitch a ride into human lungs with other carcinogens; Kent Micronite filter cigarettes were laced with crocidolite asbestos. Though all that being said I was just told there is bad asbestos and not so much bad types.

Also, a light that exploded on a sign outside in the town, which so many over the years had conjectured about what it could have meant, what the director's comment was in doing that, when in reality it was just an odd accident and they simply couldn't afford to go back and reshoot it. But the timing was such that it lent itself to speculation about it's meaning. You learn a lot of weird and interesting things in research.

Another project that went nowhere.

I was once asked to write a music video for a song by a local band. This was also back in the 80s.

I had never done that before. So I accepted the challenge. I wrote it for a relative who was working with the Ron Gardner. A one time member of The Fabulous Wailers, Ron sadly passed away after an accidental fire in December 1992.

I still have the script around here somewhere as well as the audio tape of that song which I just dug out and listened to. Sounds as good as the day I received it. But I don't remember the song now. Still I had sat there listening and relistening to that song seemingly forever back then, writing down the time, minutes and seconds so I could sync up the script shots to it.

I wrote the music video script following the lyrics and the rhythm of the song. I tried to think of a twist to inject into the song and so when he was singing about his love for a woman and how she was not following his desired path, I threw in another woman whom she seemed to be more interested in than him. I thought long and hard on that one. Was this something I just thought was sexy, or was this serving the music video?

Would the MTV crowd find it interesting or not. I hadn't given so much thought to how the artist would think about it though, just my brother in law, who I thought would consider the money and notoriety over questionable content. You know, it's not very questionable now, but back then, it pretty much was.

I tried to talk myself out of it but I decided it was in the end, a good idea and that put on MTV, it would play well if not have a "viral" element to it. A term hat didn't exist at that time. In the end after submitting the script, I was told two things. One, it wasn't conservative enough of a concept for the band (that is, Ron) and two, Ron had decided to go another direction altogether. Which also eliminated my relative. Oh, well...that's show business.

So many missed opportunities that I had worked hard on.

But wasted time? Not really. I learned from all these experiences. Most importantly, I produced finished products. And I moved on from them with more experience under my belt.

Another example.

For several years I worked unpaid as an "in house" writer for Scorpio Pictures back in the late 1990s. The executive producer got an idea, pitched it to their stable of writers (whom I was one of), who would then write a scene or whatever and then the producers would consider their writings. I had more than a few emails and phone calls back then with this east coast production company. It was fun, hopeful, and educational in, if nothing else, learning what it is like to work with a production company and its producers. There is something definitely to be said positive about interning.

There was another screenplay I worked on for that production company I mentioned earlier, but the executive producer didn't care for the direction I was going with it and frankly I was over my head with it at the time. It was a great idea for a film, I just didn't have enough direction or the skills I do now, for it at the time. Ironically, a couple of years ago I came up with a pretty good concept for it. I'm still trying to get around to writing it.

You have to be ready when opportunity knocks.

One of my biggest efforts with them was in two weeks they needed a first draft of a script for the Playboy Cable Channel who put out a call for a vampire screenplay. Problem for me was, I was about to leave on summer vacation for a week or so to Reno, Nevada where my wife at the time was working at an Arabian horse show as a trainer and rider. But I decided to do it. I titled it, "Until Dawn".

But, I was writing it with Lifeforce in mind. That was a Dan O'Bannon film (as was Alien and many others, by the way and he played the lovebale character in Dark Star of Sgt. Pinback) as I was a big O'Bannaon fan since I first saw Dark Star when I was in Tech School in the Air Force at the base theater. Brief aside: we'd been drinking before hand, stuffed our bottles in a bag in the bushes outside the theater, then got them back when we left and almost got arrested for climbing up inside a B-52 bomber, full sized display plane in a field around 11PM at night, mid base.

By the way, I figured this was the case and in looking it up just now it is. The band Pinback's moniker is a reference to a character in the 1974 film Dark Star (played by Dan O'Bannon, who also co-wrote the film), directed by John Carpenter. Audio samples from this film are used frequently in the band's early works.

Speaking of which, John Carpenter has always been one of my favorite directors for things like this film and others like Escape From New York and the now oddly enough "original" remake of this and so many films now, The Thing, Starman (which I wrote about here last week), Big Trouble in Little China, They LiveAssault on Precinct 13, and so many others. Not to mention the original, Halloween film. How can I not like a guy who does it all his own way, does his own music, works repeatedly with a stable of friends and artists and is just all around awesome?

Anyway, I wrote my original screenplay of Until Dawn as a sequel of sorts to Dan O'Bannon's, Lifeforce, so, vampires as aliens (or aliens as vampires,whichever kicks off your interest cycles).

So many ideas, so little time.

It was a working vacation in Reno, Nevada, for my wife and we had our two kids with us who were in grade school at the time. In my spare time on that trip, I would write. When I wasn't just watching or feeding the kids, or we were hanging with my wife when she had free time. Times during which we drove to Silver City and toured Samuel Clemens' place (Mark Twain, when he was a young reporter in that town),

When I would write I would take the kids down to The Sands hotel pool area which had a bar (yippie!). While they splashed around next to me in the pool, I had a loose leaf binder I was writing in with pen in hand, while ordering serial pina coladas and simply enjoying the sun and not being at my day job as a technical writer in IT.

I have to say, one of my best screenwriting experience ever. I swear I put on five pounds from those damn drinks that week (and those casino buffets I'm sure).

My only trouble in writing that week was, and I learned a lot from this, I was writing in public. It's odd what you can unexpectedly learn sometimes. Anyway, stop me if I'd told you this one before....

While I was writing, there was a guy around thirty or so hanging out at the pool who was really drunk. Nice guy, seemed harmless enough. He was a good looking guy who was eventually joined by his girlfriend. But before she arrived he had seen me writing and asked me what I was doing. Lost in thought, I said I was writing a vampire screenplay for the Playboy channel.

He was interested so I told him they had put out a call to various production companies and mine had asked me to write something to submit. They had probably asked their other writers like me, to do the same, but that wasn't mention, although it was probably considered as understood.

The jolly inebriated fellow seemed interested and I was enjoying the attention. Finally I said I had to get back to it. He said that was cool and his girlfriend would be by soon and she'd find it fascinating. I didn't think much of it being, as I said, I was lost in thought.

A little while later a very attractive woman in a bikini showed up around the pool. Well, I'm male, I'm straight and, I can appreciate attractiveness. But I was married, she was very attractive too, and I had my kids and my writing.

She turned out to be his girlfriend. Nonchalantly, she came by my table (judiciously located as the nearest table to the outside bar) and noticed my writing. I'm sure now he told her what I was doing and for her to make her introductions. She sat and talked to me until she ended up telling me she was the guy's girlfriend and, wait for it, an actress. She told me he paid the bills washing windows on tall corporation buildings there in Reno, but he was also a stage magician.

He came by about then and said he'd be happy to do some magic for my kids. He said it so they'd hear it. That ended any kind of my saying "no thanks", as I wasn't quite sure I wanted someone that drunk around my kids. Though, he was gregarious and friendly and I admit quite funny. So through my hesitations, he said he'd pop up to his room to get some stuff and come back to put on a mini show for my kids. And so indeed, he popped off.

His girlfriend in the mean time noticed my reticence, but assured me that although he was very drunk he was quite harmless and was after all, a good magician. She mentioned again that she was an actress and then, I saw it coming.

From that point on she tried to talk me into putting her in the film. Me. I was nobody, a writer. A guilty necessity Hollywood needed but historically seemed to despise.

I tried to explain to her that I was a nobody in my being a writer and we didn't even have the film wrapped up yet as production companies were acquiring writings on spec, just as I was writing one. But she was persistent. So I took her info in the off chance this went anywhere but I assured her I had no pull regarding the talent if and when production should ever begin.

Such is this industry  that you have to take every and all opportunities and I appreciated that. In my book, she was only doing what a professional should be doing. Utilizing every possible opportunity. I hate it, but I do it myself when I can bring myself to do it. Perhaps if I were less conscientious and more aggressive, I'd have gotten further in this profession myself.

Her boyfriend returned, gave the magic show, amazed my kids and myself and a few others kids around the pool, and that was the last I saw of them. But I had wasted some hours when I could have been writing that day.

What I learned about that was, if ever you write in public, NEVER tell anyone what you are doing or for whom you are doing it. Name dropping has its place and it is not during the writing process. Make something up if you have to, downplay it. IF you want to get any work done at all, that is. Fame is for when you have the time, or you when deserve it.

Still it was a fun day and makes for a good memory.

Finally, probably my biggest lesson in selling my writings (or in not selling them)....

In the late 80s I wrote a word processing manual for the WPS+ word processor on the Digital Equipment Coporation (DEC) VAX mainframe. 

TWO count them, TWO major hospitals in the Seattle area used it and loved it for years. These were the University of Washington Medical Center (originally University Hospital) and its sister hospital, Harborview Medical Center (what we used to call, "The Zoo" as it was the county seat of where stabbings and ER trips went when no one could afford medical care; weekend nights typically being crazy there and thus, "The Zoo"). 

So I sent it to Digital Press, a subsidiary of DEC. Years later (after the story I'll share below) I found out, those hospitals were still using that manual long after I'd moved on.

The editor initially loved it. But like a good editor (or even a film \ tv producer) he said, "just one thing, could you write it so it's all one, not each chapter tiered as you have written it?"

I had written it so that the X-Ray techs at the lower levels, the transcriptionists, at the mid tier levels and the radiologists at the upper levels, could all use it. When you opened a chapter there was a block of steps to perform the task in that chapter. Next section of that chapter was more in depth. Then finally the last part of the chapter was an in-depth explanation giving way too much info for most people but satisfying even the most dickering of users, that being any of our world class radiologists. We had at that time on staff at UWMC,the head of the national Radiologists association, the American College of Radiology. Or it may have been the Radiological Society of North America.

Anyway, you get the idea. We had some big shots at the hospital.

The editor asked if I couldn't rewrite it eliminating that format, whch was the brilliant format (I had based on the old Scientific American magazine articles which I grew up loving because you could start an article at a level where just about anyone could understand it, but by time you got to the end of the article they were at the scientist, if not molecular level. I was addicted to that format.

So, wanting to see my manual sold, I relented. Dumb, dumb, dumb, but hey what did I know right? He had told me I would probably make $25,000 PER QUARTER, $200k\yr, and that the book would go out with every PC and Mainframe sold in the entire world!

Digital Equipment proper read the manual and said they would support it IF, I had used more of a three pronged approach (which I HAD DONE and was what was so loved about it). Then they also threw a tiff, threatening me with crushing me should I decide to publish elsewhere. I believed them. 

But I thought that was very odd. 

So I reread my own manual and found that the reason was, their software was buggy and this was the second thing actual users loved about my manual. I pointed out the bugs and the workarounds which I had figured out over a couple of years. 

So rather than being in the middle of your work and now you're suddenly locked up for hours, you could simply go click and back to work! Brilliant. Right? I just shouldn't ever have called them "bugs" in the manual, but something. Anything, else. Like, enhancements, features, or something.

Anyway, it just goes to show, when you KNOW you have a good idea, and someone says I'll buy it IF, really think about compromising yourself or your works. Doing what you're asked to do to sell something, can bring you down. But really think about it, because it can also be a saving grace in accepting their advice. It's up to you. Make the right choice.

And, don't call bugs, apparently.

Summing up, all these things have one thing in common.

I started these projects with one intent in mind and I walked away from them with no monetary or writing credits from the work I had put in. Still, I had learned some very interesting lessons about life and being a professional writer.

Back in 2010 I had decided it was time in my life, with my kids nearly grown and soon to move out, that I should again put all my efforts into my fiction writing. Finally and hopefully once and for all to finally get somewhere.

I'd had fits and false starts and stops all my life.

Small successes but nothing life changing. I'd had it and finally I was going to go for it and I would finally have the chance to. Soon I knew my kids would be gone, my divorce was behind me some years, I'd had a few girlfriends and nothing was in the way stopping me. Well, I , had a girlfriend at the time actually.

We'd been going out for about eighteen months. She was Vietnamese and seemed to have trouble about my being western, because of her family, not her. I finally thought I'd helped her in her own life. She'd been married for 27 years since she was 18 and so I guess I was rebound guy for her. It just felt right to let her go.

I think in the end we had helped one another out for the next stage in our lives and I do hope she ended up well. So I've been single every since with my plan being to remain so, until (as a reward) I got somewhere with my writings. That somewhere being, supporting myself fully on my writings so I could drop my day job in IT. I've made a lot of  progress but sometimes it definitely seems like I'll remain single forever. Such is the life of a writer. Or this writer anyway.

I had wisely decided in 2010 not to turn down anything if I could learn from it, or if it had the possibility of making me money, or acquiring me some gravitas in the writing field, or in anyway to move me forward, increasing my tempo in life.

Now here I am five years later and I've made a good deal of progress but I'm still struggling to "make it".

However I've gone from my small collection of short stories (see Anthology of Evil for those early works or Death of Heaven for later ones, or even other's anthologies hat I'm in for yet later ones) and my one initial screenplay (Ahriman) along with a few smaller ones (Sarah, Colorado Lobsters, and the ever popular, Popsicle Death (from that year long screenwriting class) to now, with several feature film length screenplays, a couple of books in print, several new screenplays, production companies showing interest with a couple of screenplays at a couple of production companies and more to come I'm quite sure.

It will all come together in the end (hopefully to be honest, much sooner than the end).

I have realized through all these years that not all of what you learn in life, not all of your original intentions, will deliver in the ways you had planned.

But if you pay attention, you WILL learn plenty. And, you will learn plenty in areas where you needed to learn things and in which you had either never known about, or never planned to learn about, in thinking it wasn't necessary.

Essentially, learning about everything is necessary but you only have so much time and energy. It's not impossible, or insurmountable, it's all doable as you only truly need to learn enough to get there, wherever there is. Just as in through all the rejections, you still only need one acceptance, for each project.

Have hope. But work hard to deserve what you are shooting for.

About wasted efforts.

In going up against adversity and yet still succeeding, let me suggest a book:

The Wright Brothers by an amazing author, David McCullough. It's an amazing story about changing the world when having so very little with which to do so and still, achieving your goals while learning much along the way.

Remember what Thomas Edison said in only succeeding to perfect the light bulb after 10,000 attempts:

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Now. You too, go out and be brilliant!