Friday, June 30, 2006

Wanna see a cartoon about my upcoming weekend plans? I decided to try the artpad thingie, to show my sketching skills in progress. With a pen and paper, I'm not so bad, but as you can see, with a computer mouse, I don't draw so good. Click here and turn the speed control up to the fastest... which is probably how this holiday will fly by. Hope you enjoy yours.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Message on my voicemail last night from Wilson, the lead editor, making final clarifications on the text graphics which contain information about the people who appear on our show, and demonstrating why I’m soon gonna miss this job:

“Mike! Hey, Wilson here. Hey, quick question for you. I can’t believe I’m even calling you about this: But, um, ‘man boobs’… One word? Is there a hyphen there? Man hyphen boobs? Two words? Anyway, gimme a call if you have a chance. Thanks.”

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

My friend went to an advanced screening of Superman Returns and called me last night to tell me about it. I was a little cranky ‘cause it was late and I was tired or maybe ‘cause he couldn’t invite me to the movie and now I’d have to shell out 12 bucks if I wanna witness the Übermensch wasting my time and money in single bound.

In fact, I think most comic book heroes are meant to be read and not seen. Once they’re off the page and onto celluloid, their cheesiness grows into Hulk-like proportions. There’s a level of reality that’s totally acceptable when it’s printed by Marvel or DC that I can’t buy when it’s filmed by Fox or Sony. Last night I was rattling off the problems with these characters -- it was clobberin’ time.

Batman: Sure, he doesn’t have any special powers… except the guy’s friggin’ loaded. Yeah, I know, he lost his parents. Poor billionaire Brucie is an orphan. So is Donald Trump and I don’t hear him whining. Shit, if I had that kinda money, maybe I could quit the day job and either create my own TV series, or fight crime with specialized weapons, too. Tell you what, though -- I wouldn’t do some dumb reality show or use vigilantism as an excuse to go out every night wearing a nifty little leather body suit and utility belt.

X-Men: Leftover ideas for superheroes, none of which are interesting enough to stand on its own as a single comic book protagonist, so they all got lumped together as boring mutants. It’s like a movie about people from Staten Island.

Daredevil: The guy compensated physically for being blind, and morally for being a lawyer. But there’s no compensating for the Bennifer II effect.

Fantastic Four: Great comic, shitty movie. In the words of Stan Lee: ‘Nuff said.

Spider-Man: These films were actually pretty good. The villains were too over the top, but that’s not really what bothered me. I just wonder how Spidey would do outside of a big metropolis like NY. I mean, if Peter Parker moved to LA, he’d find the buildings are all too spread out. He’d climb up the wall of Bonaventure Building and try to sling his web all the way over onto the Staples Center and wind up falling and getting squashed like a bug somewhere on the Pasadena Freeway.

And Superman? Well, as I commented on Beth’s blog, Superman's super 'cause he's an alien (and an illegal one, at that). Anyone who came to Earth from where he’s from would have the same powers. So it's not that he's so great, it's that Earthlings are so wimpy by comparison. Best thing to happen to ol' Kal-El was having his planet blowed up real good. 'Cause back on Krypton, he was about as special as Clark Kent minus the alter ego.

Y’know, if I had super powers, I’d just want unlimited amounts of energy, so I wouldn’t ever get tired and cranky. That way I wouldn’t go off on inane tirades about comic book heroes. Then again, maybe I wasn’t coming across as so curmudgeonly. Was I?

Wait -- I’ve decided what I really want my power would be: the ability to read people’s minds. Man, that would come in real handy with women. I bet even Superman gets confused trying to figure out all those mixed signals from Lois Lane.

Fortunately, I didn’t need ESP with my friend -- he laughed good-naturedly at my observations and agreed with them. When he told me that the new movie seemed to pay homage to the 1978 Superman flick, and I said that I didn’t care for that one so much, he concurred.

When I said that Superman II was better, partially because it was written by Mario The Godfather Puzo, and partially because of Terrence Stamp as the main villain, and that it emphasized my idea that anyone from Krypton would be super on our planet, but I don’t know why they didn’t do something clever and cool with Kryptonite being used against the bad guys with Superman having to jeopardize his own life -- not just powers -- to save Earth… my friend still agreed with me.

And when I insisted that the best installment in the series was Superman III, ‘cause Richard Pryor was friggin’ hysterical…

“What?!” My friend said, “You’re crazy. That movie sucked. Good night, Mike.” And he hung up.

Guess I had taken my comic book cinema criticism powers too far.

Monday, June 26, 2006

“So, Gene, I was talking to my sister this weekend and telling her how our season’s coming to a close and how I gotta get going on looking for more work, but since my sister’s not in the entertainment field she doesn’t quite get this whole project-to-project thing so she said, ‘everyone’s gonna be outta work?’ And I said, ‘yeah, pretty much’. And she said, ‘what about that guy in your office you’ve told me about?’ And I said, ‘Gene? He got a job on another show at the network.’ So she said, ‘Well, is there work for you there too? Have you asked Gene?’ And I said, ‘I know Gene knows I’m looking for work so if there was a position available I’m sure he’d let me know.’ And she said, ‘You’re sure? Did you ask him?’ And I said I didn’t think I needed to ask him, he would tell me if there was something, but she gave me a look, so here I am asking you: Are there any positions available for me on that show you’re working on?”

“Wow. Well, Mike. You’re right--I knew you were looking and I would love to work with you again, and I don’t know of any openings there, but I’ll look into it further.”

“Thanks. I really appreciate it.”

“What position, specifically, were you looking for?”

“Uh… story editor?”

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Does anyone outside of LA enjoy the TV series Entourage? How 'bout outside of LA or NY? Do people cut to Vinnie Chase? Does John Q. Public like E.? In middle America, is Turtle fertile?

My cousin and her husband from back East love that show (they enjoy everything on HBO -- Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm I understand, Big Love and Six Feet Under, not so much). They're in town today, so amidst a busy day planned, my sister wants to take them on an Entourage tour, showing them all the sights on Sunset and Melrose that the guys drive past in the opening credits. Maybe when I go back East my family can take me to New Jersey for a Sopranos tour of Satriale's Pork Store and the Bada Bing! I'm just glad they don't want to try to get into those fancy over-priced places in Hollywood. 'Cause none of us is a pretty-boy celebrity who gets the royal treatment for all his buddies. Which makes me wonder why I like the show.

I don’t have much in common with any those characters. That is, aside from being a New Yorker transplanted to Tinseltown, who’s almost forgotten what makes for a good bagel or Chinese food.

But sometimes Johnny Drama -- Kevin Dillon's role -- reminds me of myself. Not that I’m living in my relative's shadow -- I couldn’t stand to be anyone’s shadow, which is why I can’t relate to those friends-slash-hanger-ons (and I’m certainly not Johnny’s famous movie star brother). But Drama freely expresses all the frustrations about Los Angeles – the long drive from the west side to Hollywood feels like a friggin’ all-day road trip. And venturing to the Valley should be avoided when the temperatures hit triple digits; in other words, stay away between May and October. (I'd put a permanent ban on the 818 if I could -- don't get my started on my lazy friends living in Burbank and Studio City.)

Lately I really relate to him, as I’m embarking on another job search. Our TV season is winding down -- just finished my last set of voice-overs, though I’ll be working there another few weeks. Now I have to start lining up my next gig. Like Johnny Drama looking for an acting job, I gotta schmooze, network… everything short of groveling.

I say that ‘cause I simply can’t take shit from anyone. I tells ya, I love entertainment, just not a lot of the jerkoffs in this field.

Many yrs ago, desperate for $, I interviewed for the lowest-level position, a job that makes septic tank ditch-digging look dignified: a talent agent's assistant. The slick schmo in a suit asked me what I wanted to get out of this job. I said that being his slave would be the end-all be-all of my existence, that long tedious hours doing his trivial biddings for a mere tuppence-a-day would be the greatest employment opportunity of my life, etc. My tongue was bleeding as I kept from saying: Just get me a steady paycheck while I look for something better, fuckface.

I guess my verbal response wasn’t good enough, ‘cause he sneered and said, "I don’t know. I’m looking for someone to be a shadow of myself."

You want a shadow of yourself? Step in front of a speeding truck with its high-beams on, you arrogant prick.

Like I said, I didn't want to be in anyone's shadow, and I wasn't gonna start with that guy. The loud obnoxious agent character on Entourage, Ari Gold, played by Jeremy Piven -- trust me, that's not much of an exaggeration.

So maybe I was and will always be Johnny Drama, scrambling for work in this town. But at least I'm not gonna be Lloyd, Ari's poor abused assistant. I hope in tonight's episode he gives Ari a good bitch-slapping. That'd get the rest of the country to tune in.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

This is my fifth Father's Day without my dad. It's not that sad -- this was never a big deal in my family. Just like Pops' birthday in the summer, it was often celebrated with just a card and gift; we didn't necessarily go out to visit him if I wasn't home. The more meaningful times came in the spring, when we spent Passover together and similarly during Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. But I think about him all year long, and miss poking fun at all his "Harveyisms". I found this cartoon I did as a gift probably about 15 yrs. ago. MAD Magazine had a bit about famous comedians each doing a different take on the "fly in the soup" joke, and my mom suggested I do the same about the ol' man.

You can click on the image to enlarge it, but I've also transcribed the scrawled schticks below. Happy Father's Day.

EDDIE MURPHY: Ya mudda's a bigfoot, Harvey! Da first time she came here she said "Goony Goo Goo!" I thought I learned some new Hungarian. I said to my friend, Zoltan: I said, "Zoltan, Goony-googoo." He said, "Get da &$@*$ away from me, man." She's a bigfoot! Da kids are afraid, she can't climb da stairs,... I bet she could climb a TREE good!

GEORGE CARLIN: Harvey smokes a lot of cigarettes. Cigar-ettes. "Ette" is French for small or feminine. Are cigarettes miniature, wimpy cigars? What the Marlboro Man think if he (in macho voice) out there rustlin' in the West, realized he was smoking (in falsetto) cigarettes? Harvey fills a lotta ashtrays. Why is it called an "ashtray"? It's not a tray it's a dish, isn't it? It should be called an "ash-dish". Hmmmm...

SAM KINISON: I tell ya folks, whenever Harvey has a job where he's gotta dig a trench, it rains. Not just rain, I MEAN @&$*!# FLASH FLOODS!! THREE DAYS STRAIGHT! IT'S LIKE LIVING HELL!! Remember a few years ago, when we had that summer with the drought, and we had to conserve water? Do you know why that happened? I'll tell you why: BECAUSE HARVEY DIDN'T DIG A TRENCH THAT SUMMER!! AAUGGGH!!!!

BILL COSBY: This man would come home, would not say hello to his wife, ask his kids how their day was, but would say, "Did you check the pH of the pool?" (Long pause, goofy face) This is the family that adored him, cared for him... so much that they didn't mind that they could never enter or leave a room without getting him something -- a glass of water, an ashtray. (Long pause, goofier face) They didn't mind that they'd be seated for twenty minutes, and Harvey would say, "As long as you're up"...

DANA CARVEY as the CHURCH LADY: So, Harvey... we sleep for about three hours a night, do we? Up at the wee hours of the morning every day? A little incessant insomniacal insanity, hmmm? I wonder who could be causing this... could it be, oh... SATAN?! And we're annoyed at our children for being able to sleep late on Saturdays... isn't that CONVENIENT?! We like ourselves, now, don't we? Isn't that special? (Purses lips, raises eyebrow)

RODNEY DANGERFIELD: Hey, yeah, I tellya... No respect, no respect. My wife makes fun of me, says I never remember any movie, even after I saw it last night. I told my son, "I'm gonna divorce your mother." He said, "Who gets me?" No respect. (Tugs at collar, bulges eyes) Yeah, nothin' goes my way. Yesterday, I bet the triple; I had the 'C' horse to win and I knew that the 'G' or the 'D' horse would be-- Hey, wait! I'm not finished! Wait! Where ya goin'?...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Lately a few of my friends have had trouble with their relationships. So they came to me for advice. This makes sense because I’m always lucky in love, not to mention the most even-keeled well-adjusted person on the planet.

But even Mega-Mellow Michael can use some outside perspective once in a while. Last fall I had gone out on several dates with this very sexy woman -- we were having lots of fun, but when things got a bit rocky, I consulted a friend on how to handle it. Of course, everyone’s got their own baggage they bring to a situation, and my friend’s suggestion was probably the result of exceeding the carry-on-and-on limit. So I don’t know why, but I took my pal’s advice. As a result, the woman flipped out on me.

I’m being vague for the sake of brevity -- not to cover for my lack of suavityosity. ‘Cause normally I’m a smooth smoothie. Just not that time.

It wasn’t my friend’s fault. I’d say I was fully to blame, but also, I had been misconstrued. The woman had taken what I had said completely the wrong way.

I kept trying to get her to hear me out. She kept trying to end things, saying “let’s just be friends” on the phone or in an e-mail. I kept thinking how I had plenty of long-distance friends, especially through blogging. What was our excuse? She lived less than 10 miles away.

I wasn't necessarily trying to patch up the relationship -- that would be a bonus -- I just wanted to straighten out the mess I had made from adhering to another's advice. No more conforming to conflicted counsel for me.

I finally convinced her to meet for dinner, I explained myself, and she completely understood. In fact, she said she felt stupid for flying off the handle. I felt stupid for letting my friend Cyrano de Bergerac the situation.

We planned to go out again. I called and left a message one night. Here’s what ensued when she called me back:

“Hi Mike... I’m so tired. I just worked a double shift at my job then ran errands up in the Valley, went to a spinning class, and I just walked in the door. I’m going to go to bed in a minute.”

“Oh, hey, that’s okay. I’m writing my TV stuff which is due in the morning, so I probably shouldn’t talk long anyway. But, I was hoping you were free tomorrow night so we could--”

“Y’know, Mike, you’re weird.”

“Uh, yeah, but what do you mean?”

“Why, when you have me on the phone, would you not wanna talk to me?”

“But -- didn’t you just say you were going to bed in a minute? And didn’t you hear me about to ask you out for tomorrow?" Did we need to meet in person so she understood that I wanted to get together with her in person?

I wound up having to talk her down from the ledge on this relationship -- again. Then I thought things were okay -- again.

The next day, I got another bail-out e-mail from her. That she felt embarrassed and uncomfortable that she’s always so touchy about everything with me and that she's sorry but we’re better off blah blah blah. She used to send me dirty little notes -- but they had gone from erotic to neurotic.

The same day I got a message from the producer at my TV gig, saying I was doing a great job, and it looked promising that we’d get picked up for another season and I could come on to work full-time.

That night I had a dream that I started at the network, but the producer was mad at me for something I had said. The tension in the office was unbearable, but I never learned what I had done wrong. I remember in the dream, I was trying to assure the producer that I would never ever say anything bad -- hell, I couldn’t even think of anything bad to say -- and even if I could, I wouldn’t say it.

When I woke up, I realized what had happened. The lack of rationality of the woman I had been dating was seeping into the parts of my life that were going well. My unconscious had told me: If I kept trying to work things out there, nothing would make sense nowhere. I had jettison the jabberwocky before it jeopardized the whole joint.

So what have I learned from all this? What wisdom can I impart to my troubled friends?

The best advice I can offer is don’t ask me. Don’t listen to anyone. As corny as it sounds… just follow your dreams.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Mike: First of all, happy belated birthday.

Satan: Thanks, dude. 6/6/06 was cool.

M: You do anything special?

S: Not this millennium. Just got a hornicure, scarfed down some Devil Dogs, took a Beezelebubble bath in the sulfur swamps, got a nice nitric acid harpoon ready for those Enron guys. Just another day after falling from Paradise.

M: So you didn't see The Omen?

S: No interest. Not after catching the previews. That Damien kid is way too friggin' cute in this version. I prefer the original, with that tyke with the awful ‘70s hair and clothes. Y’know, I was the one who invented the leisure suit line for toddlers.

M: Well, what about all these remakes lately? Hollywood's recycling everything. Is that your handiwork, too?

S: I’m not saying. All I can tell you is it’s no coincidence I go by so many aliases -- Lucifer, The Prince of Darkness, An Alan Smithee Film…

M: So, forgetting sequels and remakes, which do you like better -- The Omen or The Exorcist?

S: The Omen was more psychological and had less shock value, except for the decapitation scene and every shot of Gregory Peck’s eyebrows. But Linda Blair was fun to work with. And the craft services were awesome. I loves me some free pea soup.

M: I gotta ask though: Why would Satan possess a little girl? I mean, don’t you have better things to do than spin some chick’s head around?

S: Let me ask you this: Why would Jesus appear in a oil stain in some parking lot on the corner of Bum and Fuck? Those of us duking it out for your souls sometimes have to publicity work. It’s part of the whole press junket.

M: So when you two are promoting… uh, I dunno.. good and evil I guess--

S: Well, maybe just televangelism and mid-season primetime TV replacements.

M: Whatever. Do Christ and the anti-Christ ever cross paths?

S: We know a lot of the same people. A rapper wins a music award, he thanks Jesus. Then he busts a cap in someone’s ass, and I thank the rapper. See how it works?

M: No. Maybe we should keep this about movies.

S: It’s your world, I just stalk here. How 'bout this: You remember that time you saw The Exorcist on the Spanish station?

M: Oh yeah! El Exorcisto.

S: What did the priest say when he was throwing the holy water on the chick?

M: “El poder de Christo te obliga! El poder de Christo te obliga!

S: Notice they use the familiar “te obliga”, not the formal “se obliga”. The messiah is Mephistopheles’ main man, motherfucker.

M: Are you serious? Or are you just playing games with my head?

S: Duh. I'm the Devil.

M: Okay, let's change the subject. Who did a better job of portraying you, DeNiro in Angel Heart or Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate?

S: Please. You mean "Louis Cypher" or "John Milton"? Neither. I prefered the cartoon version of me in that South Park movie.

M: Even though you took it up the ass from Saddam Hussein?

S: Nah, that shit was funny. Besides, we’ll see who gets the last laugh there.

M: You get laid a lot in the movies, don't you?

S: Who else can spawn the son of Satan? But I got an iron-clad nudity clause. Ever since some risque pictures from Dante's Inferno got circulated back in an early printing in the 1300s, I had to be careful.

M: Why?

S: Dude, it's for your own protection. If you ever saw the Devil do full frontal it would mess you up for life. And you thought Janet Jackson's star-nippled boob was nauseating. My three-pronged schlong would make that shit look like Sesame Street painted by Norman fucking Rockwell.

M: Well, I'm glad we didn't catch a glimpse during your sex scene in Rosemary's Baby.

S: Great movie. And Mia Farrow was a nice piece of ass. Me and Frank Sinatra talk about that a lot. I'm sure Woody Allen will join in that conversation eventually.

M: Woody? Really? He's made so many classics. Is he damned because of the Soon-Yi thing?

S: No. It's 'cause his latest movies have sucked. He might win back some points with Match Point. But he's got a lotta redemption to do after The Curse of the Jade Scorpion. I make Joseph Stalin sit through repeated screenings of it on Tuesdays. That Russkie screams like a bitch every time.

M: Man, you're harsh.

S: That's my job.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

This week’s schedule:

Saturday: Birthday barbecue for friend from work. Have several mixed drinks, meet several TV celebrities, and run into an old boss from several years ago. Have a big laugh about cartoon drawn about his boss.

Sunday: Chinese food, vodka drinks and season "finale" of The Sopranos at another friend’s place. Be disappointed by the episode and the food. Booze fails to disappoint.

Monday: Season premiere party for our TV show. Except at the last minute, for budgetary reasons, the network postponed airing show for another month. Still have everyone meet at bar to screen first episode on DVD. Nothing stops an excuse for partying.

Tuesday: Attend underground 6 6 6 party. Feel not-so-surprisingly out of place. Tell everyone your black goth attire and devil outfit is still at the cleaners. Explain to Satan worshippers that you used to listen to a lot of heavy metal -- does that count?

Wednesday: Go to wrap party. Remember what happened at last season’s wrap party. Swear not to do tequila shots with scotch chasers this time.

Thursday through Monday: Pray to emerge from coma.

Friday, June 02, 2006

There's a lot of things I still want to do in my lifetime, but last night I accomplished something of which I'm very proud... and relieved.

I wrote my first novel.

I've been working on this thing on and off for a few years, and last night I completed the final chapter. Hallelujah. I don't know how professional authors bang these things out so quickly. My favorite writer, Elmore Leonard, is 80 years old and still pens a new novel every year. Maybe if I didn't have a day job. Maybe.

What's my book about? Well, it's about 250 pages, printed out with the normal font, margin and single-spaced. Since publishers consider 250 words a page and I wrote around 88,000 words, it's technically more like 350 pages.

But what's it about? Vegas, baby. Gambling, girls, glitz, romance, casinos, criminals, and crazy characters.

I used to spend a lot of time in Sin City. At the time, I was about to start writing yet another screenplay. But I got very discouraged by the spec market. Scripts are blueprints for movies, so everyone feels they can alter the plans, despite how much the writer has carefully laid them out... I could hear the development notes in my head, people second-guessing every choice.

How many movie development executives does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Uh... does it have to be a lightbulb?

I reminded myself to write it for me, to look forward to the feeling of satisfaction from finishing a movie. At that time, the thrill was gone, baby. Been there, done that. But a novel -- that would be novel. And no matter how it turned out, it would be quite an achievement for me. And I think it turned out pretty good.

But I'm not sure if I'm ready to show anyone yet. (I might post a passage from it, we'll see.) The way I worked on it, I'd write and rewrite and rewrite a chapter. It could take me weeks or even months. Then when I was done, that was it. Onto the next one. No going back to fix a previous chapter. As a result, there are some small plot inconsistencies -- details that got changed later on, pay-offs that weren't planted properly, things like that. They're fairly minor, and probably easily fixable, but they kinda bother me... I just can't be satisfied.

So I plan to look it over and tool with it some more, get feedback from friends and then work on trying to get it published. Which I know won't be easy.

But for now, I just like knowing I did it.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by