Monday, July 16, 2007

Carbon footprint, nitrogen finger smear, boron chalk body outline

Here are ten things I'm doing to save the environment this summer.

And by "save," I mean "destroy less quickly."
  1. Bringing own bags to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Okay, I've only done this once so far. But it felt good! If I'm not doing this on a regular basis by the end of the summer you all have license to tease me relentlessly. Also: not using individual plastic bags for produce at Whole Foods. Who cares if the tomatoes touch the fennel bulbs or peppers or whatever?
  2. Buying wind power credits from Native Energy. The wind power doesn't come to you, of course; it goes to someone in a wind power-capable area who otherwise would have used conventional energy sources. So it's kind of like in the Civil War when you could avoid being in the Union army by finding someone else willing to take your place. Anyway, it only costs about $6 a month to theoretically negate all your fossil fuel consumption. Why not? Windmills are cool. Without them they couldn't have had that awesome helicopter chase through the wind farm in the beginning of Mission: Impossible 3.
  3. Balcony herb garden, courtesy of Rossanna. One step toward agricultural self-sufficiency! Mainly we're hoping to grow enough mint to power a summer's worth of mojitos.
  4. Trying really hard not to use the A/C in the car on normal trips (i.e., to/from work). I've managed to get 30-50 extra miles out of a tank this way, and I get more fresh air.
  5. Shutting everything off in the apartment that I'm not using. Kitchen light, DVD player, monitor, computer speakers, and so on and so on and so on. Using fewer lights also helps the apartment stay cooler.
  6. Turning off work computer at the end of the day. No, seriously. I used to just log off so I wouldn't have to wait as long to boot up in the morning. I suspect I'm not the only one.
  7. (Alexis came up with this one) Not using the apartment elevator to go up/down one floor.
  8. Driving less, walking more. I'm hoping to expand this to taking the bus to work at least 2 days a week, starting in August. Again, if I don't, please make fun of me.
  9. Buying less stuff. Clothes, consumer goods, random non-recyclable crap. Since Alexis moved in we've gotten rid of enough stuff to fill another apartment. None of it was stuff we remotely needed or wanted, yet most of it was stuff we (mostly I) bought within the last 5 years. Some things are worth having; some things aren't. I'm making a real effort to restrict my purchases to the first category.
  10. (Also learned from Alexis) Reusing paper instead of recycling it. You don't need a fresh sheet of paper to print a crossword when the back of an old one will do. I've expanded this practice to taking home non-sensitive papers from work and popping them in the printer, thus also saving me money and trips to OfficeMax.
So I'm hardly a model citizen when it comes to ecological awareness, but I'm trying to pull my weight here. Happy summer!

Monday, July 02, 2007


(I'm going to just go ahead and write something without any meta-commentary about how long it's been since I last blogged, so bear with me, okay?)

While Alexis and I were staying in my parents' house last week in what used to be my bedroom, I scanned the bookcase and noticed the impressive-bordering-on-embarrassing collection of screenwriting books that occupied most of a shelf. Well, actually, more like embarrassing-bordering-on-incredibly-embarrassing. It wouldn't be so bad if the books had been acquired over a decade or so, during which time I had diligently churned out a succession of scripts and, on occasion, felt the need to turn to an outside source for guidance. But that's neither the timetable nor the circumstance in which they were purchased. In reality -- hilariously enough -- they were all purchased before I turned twenty-one, and (with one exception) before I'd actually written a single screenplay.

Let's go through some of them, shall we? The Screenwriter's Problem Solver? What screenwriting problems did I need to solve, exactly? I suppose "not having written anything yet" could be considered a problem, but offhand it strikes me as a relatively solvable one.

How to Write a Selling Screenplay. I think that's the first one I bought. The author has no screenplay credits on IMDb. He probably just hasn't read his own book yet.

Like many books of its ilk, about 200 pages on why Chinatown is the best screenplay ever written and all you need to do to write a good script is duplicate it word for word. (Also written by the Screenwriter's Problem Solver guy.)

The Screenwriter's Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script. This one's a fucking page-turner, let me tell you. As I recall, there's at least one chapter on margins and probably two or three on font choices. Might have been slightly useful if I wasn't already, at the time, enrolled in a two-semester screenwriting class that devoted about 70% of class time to margin and font sizes.

The Screenwriter's Workbook. Subtitle: "Exercises and Step-by-Step Instructions for Creating a Successful Screenplay." The Chinatown worshiper, again. I hear his next book is a concise guide to being elected president. Sadly, Bill Richardson has already ordered an advance copy.

Making a Good Script Great.
The author knows whereof she speaks: she was a script consultant on Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter. I'm dubious, though... I have a feeling that script was already pretty great before she got her hands on it. I purchased this book immediately upon completion of the first draft of my first screenplay. Taking the first mature step in my writing career, I thought about it for a year or so and then chose never to work on it or think about it ever again. Yes, it was that bad. No, you may not read it.

And now we come to the granddaddy of them all. Story, by Robert McKee. General consensus posits this as the definitive book on screenwriting, if by "definitive" you mean "most pretentious" and by "pretentious" you mean "you can't read it without involuntarily putting on a fake British accent." This book and its accompanying seminars achieved true immortality when they were brilliantly spoofed in Adaptation, the one good Nicolas Cage movie in the past five years ten years all time; and since I was already a little embarrassed to own the book before that film came out, I certainly wasn't going to go anywhere near it afterwards. I was a young adolescent in terms of my screenwriting development, and young adolescents do not want to get caught hanging out with the nerdy kid. Going back and seriously reading the book after its public lampooning would have been like hanging out with the nerdy kid after he'd pooped his pants in gym. And so that book (along with all its brethren) sat unloved on the shelf in my parents' house for another several years. Until last week, when (on a vacation-imposed break from working on /struggling with my current screenplay) I decided, what the hell, let's pick it up and skim a few pages.

Quite a different experience, I must say, to be reading them from the perspective of "let's see if this guy can tell me anything I don't already know" as opposed to, like, "Hey, this book will show me how to write screenplays!" I have to admit, it's at least somewhat useful. Instead of spouting out crazy quasi-mystical stuff about the inciting event that needs to plot-pointize the culminating protagonist on the bottom third of page 29, he just talks about things you need to keep in mind while you're writing... like if you set up X, then people are going to expect Y, and so forth. And it all pretty much makes sense, pretentious or not.

I have no real conclusion to this series of thoughts, so there you go.