Monday, May 26, 2014

Bonus art from "Legendary"

When I asked my old friend, Villamor Cruz, to create the first pieces of art for Legendary, my thinking was that by having three images by the same artist, the opening of the book would have some uniformity to kick things off. Vill came back  with a wonderful drawing that was, in his words, "like a movie poster."

It looks frickin' awesome. But, I wanted to have individual drawings for the chapters. Vill was kind enough to revise his drawing to make it into three solo stills of Allison, Brian and Kate. I didn't want his original art to go unseen, so here it is. I'm sure by looking at it, you can imagine a title above the image and credits down below, like typical teen movie from the 80s.

Thanks, Vill!

Jody Watley in "Legendary"

Here's a song that was on and off of the soundtrack numerous times up until the last two weeks before publication began. It was originally going to appear later in the book, but I pulled it off in favor of Janet Jackson. The Bangles held this spot in chapter 4 until I decided to move their song to late in the book. This opened up a slot for Jody Watley to come back into the mix.

I always liked this song and the kind of pop R&B it represents. Even though that may be a drum machine playing behind Watley, it sounds like it was programmed by someone who knows a thing or two about percussion. Watley's song was a smash hit back in the 80s, and I think that it holds up pretty well nearly 30 years later.

This type of R&B, as well as a lot of pop music from back in the day, are the material I listened to when writing Kate. Even though she likes things that are polished and slick, Kate still has a backbone and doesn 't take any crap from anyone, including her boyfriend.

Click Here to read Chapter 3 of Legendary.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Van Halen in Chapter 2 of "Legendary"

Chapter 2 of Legendary is up on Popdose. This chapter features Van Halen's "Dreams," from their 1986 album, 5150. This was one of the first songs I considered for the Legendary soundtrack. 5150 was a huge triumph for the band. Not only was it a huge hit, with four popular singles, but it shut up the naysayers who thought that Van Halen would collapse without David Lee Roth as lead vocalist. When Roth quit Van Halen (or was shoved out - depends on whose story you believe), many believed that Van Halen was done. Enter Sammy Hagar.

Sammy is an everyman rocker who doesn't treat his audience as if they're beneath him. Roth, to me, always comes across as "I'm cooler than you," while Sammy is "You're as cool as me." This includiveness won over the Van Halen diehards, as well as new fans.

5150 may have had some half-baked electronic drums, but all of the songs rock, thanks to the combined efforts of Eddie and Alex Van Halen, as well as the impecible harmonies of Michael Anthony. No one sings better together than Sammy and Michael Anthony.

In Legendary, Brian and his suburban friends are guys who dabble in the burgeoning college radio music, but primarily stick with the blue collar, AOR/classic rock bands that maintain popularity despite the rise of hair metal and teenie bopper pop like Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. "Dreams" was a logical selection for the book, as it's a great summer song, and it wouldn't be surprising to hear it  being played on the radio a year after it was released.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Pretenders in Chapter 1 on "Legendary"

Chapter 1 went live on Monday. I'm sure you've already read it, otherwise why are you reading this post?

One of my favorite bands from the 80s, the Pretenders appear in this chapter. Seems that if you grew up in Cleveland during that decade you were bound to hear the Pretenders on any radio format, be it AOR, top 40 or Classic Rock. Chrissie Hynde, the leader and focal point of the band, hails from Akron. Because of that city's close proximity to Cleveland (it's about a 42 minute drive), Cleveland stations liked to claim Hynde as one of their own. I'm not so sure she wanted any part of that, but it worked in her favor as the Pretenders developed a loyal fan base in the Rock and Roll Capital of the World.

The Pretenders had their major breakthrough with 1983's Learning to Crawl, which features the haunting "Back on the Chain Gang," one of my favorite songs of all time. I considered using that song to open the book, but changed it to "Don't Get Me Wrong," the band's hit single from their 1986 LP, Get Close. I felt that this song fit the opening chapter much better because a) the song was current for that year, and b) the upbeat sound of it has a peppiness I'd associate with the mall. There is an optimism to "Don't Get Me Wrong" that places you in the mind Allison. She's ready for new and great things to happen, and this song conveys that feeling.

I made a concerted effort to include as many female artists as I could in the soundtrack to Legendary, With two female protagonists, I thought it was important that all of the music wasn't testosterone driven. That doesn't mean the songs aren't bad ass and don't rock. In the coming weeks, the Go-Go's and Joan Jett have some ass kicking songs featured in the book. Using the Pretenders was a no-brainer, and turned out to be a perfect way to begin the book.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The "Legendary" Introduction is live today...

In case your only resource for Malchus news is this website...first of all, God bless you. Second, as I reported on Facebook and Twitter this morning, the Introduction to Legendary went live this morning on Popdose. Below is the link.

Throughout the summer, as the chapters go up, I'll try to post info about the book and some of the music I chose. At the very least, it will give you a reason to return to the site on a regular basis.

Tomorrow, chapter 1 and the Pretenders. See you then!

Here's the link:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Backstory of "Legendary," Conclusion

I began adapting my 1980s high school screenplay, "Finding the Way," in the spring of 2010. I discovered that my train rides to and from work were my favorite times to write. The 45 minutes there in the morning, and the 45 minutes returning home gave me enough time to write 8 - 10 pages at a time. The year I spent writing the first draft of the book was the most enjoyable and freeing 12 months I'd ever spent as a writer. For the first time in my life, I didn't give a damn about what anyone was going to think about my work. I kept telling myself, "This is an experiment. I'm a screenwriter, not a novelist." I believe it was that lack of concern that allowed me to be so loose and to write so fast. I've been chasing that feeling ever since.

I completed the first draft around Thanksgiving of that year. Now entitled Legendary, I sent it to my friend who worked at Simon & Schuster. At Christmastime, we met for coffee to discuss the book's potential. She had general notes on how to make the book better, and felt that it was worth pursuing. Her two biggest suggestions were 1) changing the time period from the 1980s to the present day. This way, the book might have a better chance of getting read, and I might get a literary agent. And 2) reducing the number of main characters/narrators. In adapting the screenplay, I'd come up with seven different narrators for Legendary. The book may have captured the ensemble feel of a Paul Thomas Anderson film, but it was hard to follow.

I had no problem with any of what she said. On the spot I decided I would rewrite the book to follow the love triangle that made up one third of Legendary (the other two stories might make it into another book someday. Who knows?) The feedback I received got me excited to dive back into the text.

Throughout 2011, I revised, revised, revised. Some writers hate the editing process, but I find it thrilling. It's like a puzzle and you're trying to find the exact word or phrase to fit the sentence or paragraph. Maybe you cut entire passages, things you love, but it's all for the betterment of the book.

By the end of 2011, I had completed the new version of Legendary. My friend reread it and was enthusiastic. She even offered to submit it to her bosses, and to allow me to use her name in some of the query letters I sent to literary agents. This was how I knew that she wasn't just paying me lip service that Legendary was pretty good. If she was afraid that Legendary would have embarrassed her, she wouldn't have offered what she did.

I did the query routine, sending the book to a long list of agents. Unfortunately I was turned down by all. Maybe I shouldn't say that, but I'm not ashamed. That's part of the game, right? Rejection is how an artist grows. I actually received some very kind feedback from several agents. Most of them really liked the character of Allison (one even suggested rewriting the book entirely from her point of view), but almost all of them said that trying to get a book with a male protagonist as the central character would be too difficult.

It was disappointing, to say the least, but I didn't let it get me down. The experience of writing Legendary gave me the confidence to continue writing prose. For the second time in its life, "Finding the Way," now known as Legendary, was put to sleep in a file cabinet, or rather a hard drive.

In 2012, while sending out all of those queries, I self-published Basement Songs, the book that collected some of my favorite posts from Popdose (but you know that because you're here and you own a copy, right?). In editing that book, I pretty much put to rest the "Basement Songs" column. It had run its course. I attempted two other columns for Popdose, "Scotty's Jukebox," which was supposed to be a look at all things pop culture, and "Goin' Country," an attempt at exploring country music. Neither gained traction. Or rather, neither got me thrilled the way "Basement Songs" used to do.

As 2014 began, I started thinking about what I wanted to write for Podose in the coming year. I was working on two spec TV pilots and a feature length screenplay, but these things wouldn't work on Popdose. Then it struck me: What if I published Legendary as a serial novel on the site? The book was complete, so I wouldn't have to worry about writing deadlines, and I could include music, like I did with "Basement Songs." But what music? And would a contemporary teen driven story connect with Popdose's audience.

Then I thought, "What if I returned the story back to its 80s roots?"

Within days, I worked out the details with Jeff and began revising the novel. I made 10 separate playlists of songs to include in the posts. And I came up with the idea to include original art with each chapter.  There may not have been writing deadlines, but I have a spreadsheet charting everything that needs to be done for this summerlong project.

You know what? I'm stoked. In placing the story back in its original time period, I believe Legendary got better. For anyone who read the original final draft, this story will be familiar, but different in enough ways that I think you'll get a kick out of it. Plus, it has music and art, people, music and art!

So that's the general backstory about Legendary. I could write more, but the history isn't important, not in this case. What's important is that Legendary is out there, and that you enjoy reading it throughout the summer.

Check out Popdose tomorrow for the official introduction to Legendary.


The third and final banner

Here is the banner for the character of Kate. All three banners will be posted together only once. That will be tomorrow, with the Introduction to Legendary. The book begins publishing tomorrow!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Banner number 2

The second banner by Nick Jennings for Legendary. This one is for the character of Brian. The book starts publishing in 2 days!

The Backstory of "Legendary," Pt. 2

The early 2000's were hectic and full of potential. Within a five year span, I wrote and directed King's Highway, we bought a house, Jacob was born, I sold another script, I took a new job at Cartoon Network, and I ran two marathons. 

The life changing moment in our lives was the day Jacob was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF). When you’re told that your newborn child has a life threatening illness, your outlook on the world becomes radically different. His well being becomes priority number one. This is one reason I began working at Cartoon Network. The company offered stability and health benefits, in addition to the opportunity for growth.

I felt limited in what I could do to help spread the word about CF, a relatively unknown disease, and how to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Running a marathon became a way to get people's attention and raise money. Around this time, I discovered a new way the Internet was allowing people to communicate and express themselves, something called "web logging." It sounded like a cool way to keep family and friends up to date on my marathon training, as well as providing information on Jacob's health. And so, I began blogging.

My first blogwas strictly about my training. I kept it for three years. When my body finally told me to "cut this shit out" and quit running, I began a second blog, ''thunderbolt." It was on that website that I created "Basement Songs," the periodic column about the songs that were essential to my life. It was through “Basement Songs” that I met Jeff Giles, Jason Hare, and several other wonderful bloggers who were supportive of my writing and my family’s pursuit of finding a cure for CF. When Jeff approached me about becoming a charter member of the Popdose group staff, I didn't hesitate. I brought along "Basement Songs," and published my personal stories for over 100 weeks.

A couple years after "Basement songs" began running, I was in a conversation with a family friend. At the time she was a junior editor at Simon & Schuster in their Young Adult division. She, too, was a fan of "Basement Songs," so when I remarked that I'd always thought about writing a novel (which is true), she said, ''If you ever have anything, I'd be glad to read it.''

I took her words to heart. For two months I worked on adapting one of my more recent screenplays, the story of a teenage girl with a sibling who has CF, into a novel. I wrote about fifty pages before I hit a wall. If I'm being honest, I wasn't prepared to write about cystic fibrosis just yet, not the way this character me needed me to. However, I didn't want to give up. I really wanted to try my hand at prose. I had nothing to lose. In need of a story about teenagers, I went into my files and pulled out that old script of mine. I decided to adapt "Finding the Way" into a novel.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The first Banner for "Legendary"

Here is a look at the banner for the character of "Allison" in Legendary.  As you read the book, you'll start to see how the images here represent who she is. I think it looks pretty awesome!

Thanks to Nick Jennings for the great work.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Backstory of "Legendary," Pt. 1

For those of you interested, I thought I’d explain some of the backstory and reasoning that went into the writing and publishing of Legendary. While it would be easy to just let the work suddenly appear without any explanation, our era in is an information age and some readers like to get the poop on why some dude from California is posting a serial novel online.

A great deal of time and thought went into Legendary, as do all novels. It's roots date back nearly 20 years, back to the first feature-length screenplay I wrote (discounting my college senior film, which began as a feature, but I eventually whittled down to 45 minutes).

When Julie and I first moved to Los Angeles, it was the rise of the 90s indie film movement. Directors like Tarantino, Rodriguez and Anders were releasing personal films that didn't adhere to the rules of Hollywood filmmaking. These movies inspired me, much in the same way the great films from the 70s by Scorsese, Lumet and Ashby did. When I sat down to write my first script (that's why we moved to California, after all), I chose to tell a personal story, drawing from my past.

At the time, Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused was gaining a cult audience thanks to home video and pay per view. Dazed and Confused is funny, irreverent and a pure joy to watch. I wasn't the only person who recognized the similarities between Linklater's film and George Lucas' classic, American Graffiti, which was fine by me, as I'd loved American Graffiti since the early 80s. Unlike so many of my contemporaries, American Graffiti was the George Lucas film that influenced me. 

Both Dazed and Confused and American Graffiti dealt with the
lives of a group of teenagers over the course of one night and the changes, or lack thereof, the go through in that time. These films are beautifully shot, feature breakthrough performances by future stars (and directors), and used music to help evoke a sense of time and youth. I thought I'd write the 80s equivalent.

If I'd been smart, I would have written a plot-driven, mainstream, high-concept Hollywood-type film that could have acted as a showpiece to my writing, or I would've written a TV spec script and gotten into the television industry. But I was young, stubborn, and decided I would do things on my own terms. I wanted to tell "real" stories, man. I was going to be an auteur!

Two years and ten drafts later, I had an ensemble screenplay called Finding the Way. The events take place over the course of one summer day in the mid-80s, and include a house party, a trip to Denny’s, and a rooftop, sunrise that made a perfect bookend to the film.

I was lucky enough to get Finding the Way into the hands of a major literary agent. She represented major players (I think Bill Murray was once one of her clients) and was a rising star in the industry. Within ten years she would produce big, splashy Hollywood releases and indie darlings. How did I get my script in her hands?  She was the sister of a guy I met at my best friend's wedding.

That’s the way it works, though. That excellent fellow you play a round of golf with could have connections to the upper echelons of the film industry.So be nice to everyone, kids, because you don't know who might be able to help your career.

The agent didn’t read it immediately. In fact, she had her assistant review it, and when the assistant labeled me a “Consider,” we spoke on the phone. This agent was exceptionally nice. I still recall sitting in the computer room at Alterian Studios after work hours, speaking about the positives of the script, and what needed to be tweaked. She offered great advice. I was over the moon. A major Hollywood agent had read my screenplay and gave positive feedback.

At the time, I was already working on my next script, a romantic comedy, road trip movie about a guy who learns that his true love is getting married in two days. He decides to drop everything and go see her before she says “I do.” That script was entitled Southern Cross.

As the 90s drew to a close, I became involved with multiple screenwriting projects that never gained traction, but took up years of my life. Sophie was born, I started a new job at an animation company, I wrote and co-produced a short film, The Mind’s Eye, and Southern Cross became a movie, one that I wound up directing and retitling King’s Highway.

What became of Finding the Way? As much as I loved the story and the characters, I placed it aside to pursue those other projects. I felt like its time had passed, and I stored it away in a file cabinet.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Details about "Legendary"

Legendary, the serial novel I'm publishing on Popdose, will begin posting on Monday, May 19th. The entire book is be 34 chapters, or installments, running into the early weeks of August. A new chapter will run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, EXCEPT for the week of Memorial Day, in which chapters will run on Tuesday and Thursday, and the week of July 4th, in which chapters will only run on Monday and Wednesday.

Music, baby!
One of the features that Popdose provides me is the ability to post songs with my chapters. This is one reason I'm not going directly the Kindle route with this book. Much like I did with every Basement Song post that ran on Popdose, a song will be incorporated into every chapter.

When I was a teenager, music was always playing, either on the radio, through someone's stereo, or over the PA systems in the stores or restaurants I frequented. You hear phrases like "soundtrack to my life" and that's what I tried to do with each character in the book. There are 36 songs total. Not all of them are obvious 80s songs (Mason Ruffner shows up) and the final soundtrack proves to be a pretty solid playlist.

When I began putting together this project, I was leafing through a The New Yorker and a light bulb went off. Another way to make the serial novel unique and (hopefully) a reason for people to come by for 12 weeks would be to post an original work of art with each chapter. Much like you see in magazines like The New Yorker or The Atlantic, each chapter of Legendary will contain an original work of art that was inspired by the text.

I approached close to 30 artists and gave them free reign to draw, paint, photograph or digitally create something to post with a chapter I sent them. In addition, three separate banners have been created - one each for the three main characters - that will run with every post.

The artwork has begun coming in and I've been blown away at how great it's turning out. I think you will, too. 

In the coming days I'll provide some background information on the book. Be sure to come back!


Great Strides 2014 was a HUGE success!

Before I get into any more news about Legendary and when it will begin posting, I MUST give an update about this year's Great Strides.

Team Jacob raised over $9,000, and the Valencia Great Strides walk has raise $112,000 to date!

That's frickin' amazing. Our small community raised a butt load of money!!

The walk day was hot and wonderful. This year we were in a new location at the mall, one that was a little removed from the "in your face" presence we've had in years past, but the flip side was that the traffic was a little safer.

The turnout for the walk was exceptional, and our team had close to 50 walkers. I owe all of you personal "thank yous," and they will be forthcoming. For now, I'm sending out a HUGE, universal "thanks" to all of our family and friends. It's your love and support that has kept our family afloat and filled with optimism. I wish I could hug each and every one of you. Alas, that would be costly and some of you might not like getting a big embrace from a sobbing father.

Tell you what, next year you're all invited to the Walk and we'll have a blow out in our backyard.

Not sure where we'll fit everyone...

Who cares!!

Seriously, though, thank you one and all. Your generosity instills hope in the lives of so many people you do not know. God bless you.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Great Strides 2014 is Tomorrow!!

The radio silence on my end is typical around this time of the year. Besides the other stuff going on in my life - work, podcasts, family - fundraising and stressing out about cystic fibrosis tends to consume everything.

This year we started out slow in raising money for Great Strides, the annual Cystic Fibrosis Foundation fundraiser to find a cure, but things really kicked into gear these last two weeks. Our team set a goal for $5K, and we surpassed that by over $2,000. Among the ways that we had people contribute (beside the usual soliciting of money through emails and posts) were a fund rasier at Jacob's school, a bake sale at the school where Julie works, Sophie's own efforts, and a bucket I placed on a table at my office. All of these proved to be successful ways to raise money. It was very, very thrilling.

One of the coolest things that happened was the contributions by Brave New World, the comic store in Santa Clarita where Jacob buys his comic books. Portlyn, the owner, donated a basket for the walk raffle, and she posted a wonderful note on her weekly email blast to all of her customers. It was amazing for me to read, but for Jake it was one of the coolest things ever. In the comics world, I feel like he has found kindred spirits and a way to escape being the boy with CF. The folks at Brave New World have embraced Jacob and his cause and made him feel like one of their family.

I can't believe that it's been 12 years that we've been doing Great Strides. I can barely recall the first one. I know I was emotional, as I will be tomorrow. No doubt I will have to escape to a bedroom at some point tomorrow night during our annual dinner with all of the walkers and weep over the outpouring of love our family has been show. I've been in a funk all week; the tears have been on the edge for a couple of days.

To all of you reading this, thank you for giving your love, support and money to find a cure. We are optimistic about what is in store for CF people in the next 10 years. Your money has helped in the development of new therapies that will someday put an end to this damn illness.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kid Duplicate asks you to Be a Hero!

Kid Duplicate was designed by Jacob. He asked me to draw it for him. I just helped him achieve his vision as an artist. Before I started, Jacob chose the pose I should use and gave me diagrams of Kid Duplicate's accessories. Jacob colored it.
Please help Jacob and Kid Duplicate beat CF!

Donate today!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Great Strides is around the corner.

May 3 is the Valencia Great Strides and there's still plenty of time to donate. Please check out our team page, watch Sophie's wonderful video, and consider making a contribution to ending cystic fibrosis.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

The name of the book is "Legendary"

The name of the book is Legendary. It's a romantic comedy that takes place over the course of a single day in June, 1987.

After years of missed opportunities, high school seniors Brian and Allison have finally shared their first kiss. Unfortunately, this momentous event doesn’t meet with the approval of Kate, Brian’s long time girlfriend. As Allison struggles to emerge from the worst year of her life, Brian must determine when to fight for love- and when to walk away. Hearts will be broken and friendships tested as Brian, Allison and Kate find themselves at the same party on a night that is sure to be legendary.

Set is a northeast Ohio suburb, Legendary is told through the distinct voices of the three protagonists. This emotionally driven contemporary story was inspired by the sincere and humorous writing of John Green and David Levithan, as well as filmmakers John Hughes and Cameron Crowe.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Book Update: Coming Soon to Popdose

In my last post, I posed the idea of publishing my first (and to this point, only) novel on Popdose. After some careful consideration, I'm moving forward with this project. Not sure of the launch date, but I hope to begin weekly installments sometime in May. Each installment will include three chapters of the book, as well as songs that will fit organically into the contents. By the end of the summer, I hope that I'll have entertained people and given them a pretty cool playlist of great songs from the decade I came of age: the 1980s.

No, it won't be all new wave or hair metal. Anyone who knew me back in the day will recall my two crates full of LPs, as well as multiple cases of cassette tapes. I hope to cull from my collection to provide the soundtrack  to the book.

What does this have to do with Basement Songs the book? Plenty. If you were a reader of the column when it ran on Popdose, you'll know that I managed to find a way to work music into the narrative each week. I took great pride in managing to do that and I look forward to doing that again.

I hope you'll check back for updates and read the series over the summer. 

More to come. I'm excited. Are you?

I'll leave you with this spectacular Los Lobos song I rediscovered while combing through the Malchus archives. I have to warn you, you won't be able to sit down once you start the music.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Strange Sad Life of a Writer

So look, it's not that I don't love you. I do! But I've been working. Hard. That screenplay I completed? Yeah, it took something out of me. And as soon as I got notes about it, well, I dove right back in.

I just killed a spider, by the way.

Where was I? Oh right, the screenplay.

I dove back in. I obsessed. I took every single not I received to heart and just began... thinking. How do I apply these notes to the script? How can I make the script better?

Plus, I watched about 10 Philip Seymour Hoffman films, began a new podcast about The Americans (maybe you've heard of it, it's called Comrades), wrote some reviews, went to some swim meets (my daughter is an awesome swimmer, by the way; don't tell her I said that), wrote this year's Great Strides fundraising letter, worried like hell when Jacob got pneumonia, did my taxes, and of course, I worked. I think I read something? Long Day's Journey Into Night, that's it.

I could go on making excuses, but this laptop keeps shocking me. That can't be good.

Oh right! I had this idea and I want you to tell me what you think.

I wrote a novel a few years ago and I'm thinking of publishing it on Popdose as a sort of multimedia project. I'm going to do a little revising and reset it in the 80s. Then, like the Basement Songs column, I'll include music in each chapter (if it is applicable).

Thoughts? Let me know.


Thursday, February 13, 2014


Last year around April I began working in earnest on a screenplay that had been in my head for years. Years, I tell you. My writer friends will tell you about how maddening it is to walk around with an idea gnawing at you and you just can't figure out how to complete it. These stories play out in your head and you think, "That's it, I've figured it out after all of these years!" But then life interrupts and the work never gets done.

Or it gets interrupted.

Last year I was some 60 pages into this script and I came up with a new twist for the story. It was just a random "what if" I thought of that not only brought everything to a crashing halt, it froze me up for a good six months.

What did I do in the time while I tortured myself over not being able to complete this one script, a story I've been dying to tell for nearly a decade? I wrote a spec TV script, I wrote countless reviews, I tried to start a new column for Popdose, recorded a weekly podcast, I wrote 3/4s of ANOTHER screenplay, and of course, I tried to be a good father and husband.

When we came home from our holiday trip back east, I was in the shower one morning and the fog cleared. I realized that I had everything I needed to finish writing the original script, and I set off the finish what I'd started.

Today, I printed the first draft of the script. There was no better feeling than holding the 108 pages of my new screenplay.

Finally, a first draft is complete. Finally, I can say I've told my story (or at least started to, depending on how many revisions it goes through). Finally, I can take a deep breath.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

R.I.P. Philip Seymour Hoffman: Today the Beast Won

A few weeks ago, I was out to dinner with my friends Will Harris and Zack Dennis, two of my Popdose colleagues I see a couple times a year whenever Will is in town. As we sat around and got reacquainted, the topic of our favorite films came up. It wasn't difficult for me to pinpoint my favorite motion picture and I told the guys that Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous ranked at the top of my list. It may seem odd for a recent film to be regarded so highly (although, it's now 14 years old), but this wonderful coming of age story speaks the truth about the power of music.

At the heart of the film is Patrick Fugit's youthful face, playing William Miller, a character who is essentially Crowe. The writer/director drew from his own youth, when he was an underage journalist for Rolling Stone, to tell the story of a 15 year old music lover who finds himself on the road with an up and coming band called Stillwater.

Early in the film, William meets his idol Lester Bangs, one of the earliest and most influential rock critics. He's portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, although embodies is a better way to describe Hoffman's performance. There is nothing false about Hoffman is this small but vital role. He has some of the most powerful dialogue in Almost Famous, words for William that would be intended for just about every kid whose ever fallen under the spell of rock 'n roll and wanted to become a writer.

In this scene, Bangs bestows his first dose of wisdom on William. At the end, he gives William an assigment to cover a Black Sabbath concert, a gig that will lead to him to meeting the band Stillwater, falling in with them, and covering them for Rolling Stone.

Later on, after William finally gets home and has to write the article for Rolling Stone, the editors at the magazine have turned on him and William doesn't know who to turn to for advice. He takes Bangs up on his offer to call anytime, leading to this pivotal scene that explains everything we've all felt at some point in our lives.


Crowe couldn't have chosen a better actor to play Bangs. Back in 1999, when I read about the casting of Hoffman in the film, I was so thrilled because here was one of my favorite actors teaming up with one of my favorite directors.

I'd been a fan of Hoffman since he played a dickhead rich boy in Scent of a Woman and followed his career as he continued to take on supporting roles throughout the 1990s. I suppose there was a dream that maybe I could work with this man someday. After all, he was only a couple years older than me and I was so sure I'd be making movies on a regular basis by the time I was 30.

In the late 90s, Hoffman broke through with roles in Boogie Nights, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Happiness, Flawless and Magnolia. He wasn't a "star" per se, but his presence in those films brought a certain weight to them; he somehow made them better, even if they were already great films to begin with.

The same can be said about Almost Famous. It's already one of the finest films about music and growing up that has ever been made (as I told Zack and Will that night), and Hoffman's performance takes a magnificant film and turns it into a classic. At least, that's how I see it.

After Almost Famous, Hoffman  continued to appear in ensemble films, always bringing his own gravitas to good and bad movies. His supporting turn in Punch Love Drunk, directed by his longtime friend and collaborator, Paul Thomas Anderson (he appeared in five of Anderson's six features) nearly stole the movie from star Adam Sandler. In 2005 he starred in the independent drama, Capote, a role that won him the Academy Award for Best Acting. He would be nominated three other times, for Charlie Wilson's War (2007), Doubt (2008) and The Master (2012). In between films, he returned to the theater, where he continued to grow as an actor, becoming one of the best.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead this morning, news that shocked me when I read it soon after returning from church.  The sad details of what happened have filtered out and it seems as if his addiction to drugs came back tenfold after over 20 years of sobriety.

Addiction is a beast. It sinks its claws into men and women and wipes them of their souls. Doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, the beast needs to feed and it slithers around, searching for someone at their weakest and pounces. For those people who manage to fight back the beast and defeat it, it's always in the shadows waiting to pounce again, just when that man or woman is feeling a slip in their confidence, just when they're feeling down enough, or invincible enough to taste the beast just this one time. The beast is waiting because the beast never likes to lose.

The beast won today, and we lost one of my generation's greatest thespians.

More important, the beast took the life of a father, a partner, a sibling, and a son.

Why does Hoffman's death seem to hit harder than any of the other deaths that have happened in recent months? I believe it's because he was a regular looking guy, what Hollywood likes to call a "character actor." He was "honest and unmerciful" in everything he did, whether it was epics like
 Cold Mountain, piercing dramas like Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, or mainstream blockbusters like The Hunger Games:Catching Fire. Although he didn't have marquee good looks and didn't "open" movies, Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of the "uncool," who'd made it big and continued to give hope that we could make it one day.

With his death today, a little bit of that hope went away.

Fuck the beast.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Disturbed Podcast Number 12

I know, I know, I've been away for so long. Don't hate me.  But I've been writing. Really. On January 12th I decided to complete the screenplay I began last year (and placed aside after some serious writer's block) and kicked ass to finish the rough draft before the end of January.

I did it.

Now I'm back. I'll be posting again, giving you insightful little tidbits about life and all that other shit. Happy now?

In the meantime, Here's a link to the second to last Disturbed Podcast for this season of American Horror Story. Please check it out!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

These Hard Tears

Let's get back into this, shall we. Let's lay it on the line, put our hearts out there, and tell it like it is. 2014 has rolled over on us and here it is, the middle of the month, and I've been married for 20 years, I have a teenage daughter one year away from driving and my mom's birthday has come and gone. The long month of December- and it is a long month- is in the rearview mirror and now it feels like maybe, just maybe, we can begin to move forward with the new year.

Well, perhaps tomorrow.

Today would have been Seann's 32nd birthday.

I've been standing in our kitchen, washing dishes and listening to a new Springsteen track, "The Wall." It hails from his latest album and it's the best song on the record. Dare I say it's one of his very finest? I will. It ranks up there with his most haunting songs like "Shut Out the Lights" and "Brothers Under the Bridge." Like those two, "The Wall "deals with the Vietnam War and the scars of that era. Unlike those two, there is an added layer of poignancy and regret in "The Wall," as Bruce sings about personal friends who died in Vietnam. "The Wall" is so beautiful, it's worth owing the new album just to have this song. Although, I guss you could just purchase the song from iTunes.
Because "The Wall" deals with the pain and grief of losing of a loved one, I can't help but think about Seann. His life was ripped away from us. Will this sorrow ever lift? I pray for a time when we once again celebrate life on Seann's birthday and not the loss of it.
I'm listening to''The Wall," and the tears are leaking from my eyes and I just want to scream, ''FUCK!"



If that offends you, I apologize, But sometimes there's nothing better than a good F-Bomb. Except that in this case it doesn't help very much. It only brings more tears, anger and saddness.
Tonight we're drinking champagne in honor of Seann. It's our little tribute to him, in memory of the night he first arrived in California and together, with Budd and Karyn, we went through three or four (possibly five) bottles of champagne. He was a champion that night. He'll always remain a champion in our hearts.

Tomorrow we move forward. As for tonight, we'll sit and recall his love, laughter and kindness, as we polish off another bottle of champagne. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Our return home.

3 AM alarm to wake us up. Check.
3:20 snow shoveling to make sure we can get out of the driveway. Check.
4 AM departure for airport. Check.
4:20 airport arrival. Check.
4:30 check-in and pass through security. Check.
4:55 bagel and waiting. Check.

The long day of travel has just begun.