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Friday, February 29, 2008

Screenplay Comments XII

Despite having to deal with misJoethropism more often than he likes, good Joe writes further:

"I’m not sure it’s worth repeating, but I was thinking that everyone will love/hate Clive because there is a piece of Clive living in all of us whether, dormant, latent, or an aspiration, or just underneath the surface. In fact I was thinking that there’s a sliver of Clive in me, seriously. I was thinking that exact thought pulling into the parking lot this morning."

Screenplay Comments XI

Re COCKED & LOADED, Joe writes:

Thank you for the journey through Hell and to the happy ending at the Jersey Shore. I like Clive and love that (for me anyway) that w/ all the bloodshed and mire, and filth, and despicable acts, the good guy wins.

At the very end, the Cocked, Cocky, Cool, Clive is still alive! You see, I know what you were doing. The word “live” is in “Clive”. You’re good, you.

You had me guessing and set me up for some nice surprises.

Nice world you created there.

More so than that, it could be a movie.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cynicism & Evil

Cynicism is the inability to believe in altruism and benevolence, which is to say a cynical person believes that people in general, if not all people, are self-centered and selfish and self-serving to the point that they are in fact evil, incapable of compassion or cooperation or self-denial in the interest of the common good. Cynical people believe that essentially all people are evil, including themselves, if they are rigorous in their thinking. Is cynicism a good or an evil trait? A rigorous cynic will call for social institutions that are repressive because repression would be essential to control a population that is intrinsically evil. So it's no laughing matter when a person says s/he is "cynical about politics." Cynicism leads to totalitarian repression. It is an evil character trait. A cynical mind is a defective mind. A cynical person is a defective person.

How to Rock the World?

Tonight's work on the screenplay was satisfying, I rewrote a lot of pages and re-arranged the order of a number of scenes with scissors and glue, literal cut and paste at this stage; in the first draft I was just slapping a lot of ideas down and had some screwed up chronology that had to be straightened out. I think I am capable of creating an adequate screenplay, like half the people on the planet; how to move on to the category of the world-rocking screenplay, the kind of screenplay people talk about for the rest of their lives, remains elusive.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Joe my friend, enjoyed your comments on "Smooth Operator" and other posts. Sorry to hear about the misJoethropism you have to deal with. Anybody pulls any of that crap on you, you tell them I'm gonna come down on them, you tell them I'll throw them out the fuckin' window. And Rose, just noticed your comments of Feb. 21 on "Screenwriting & Irritability"--glad you found the post helpful. One advantage of writing a screenplay about gangsters is that, for all their faults, which are let's face it despicable and unforgivable and disgusting, they are intrinsically dramatic characters because they are extremists, and they are strong people (in the sense that they are (as calloused, bestial and demented beings) emotionally durable, rugged, hard-boiled), and their strength (only) rubs off on me personally, as opposed to writing a novel where one can get tied up in all sorts of stylistic issues that drain the very life out of a person. A screenplay is literary writing with almost everything literary stripped away. You're just plunged into people. And if it's true that "We can only write well about those things we have not experienced," gangsters are a good subject for me. Tell me about your screenplay. Too many locations in one city, or too many cities?

The Oblivious Majority

I was astonished to see that tonight's presidential primary debate was only broadcast on cable! Ah, the great oblivious majority . . . the New York Times reporting yesterday that only 30 percent of registered Democrats bother to vote in the primary . . . they say every country gets the leader it deserves . . . I was, as I had expected to be, confused by the discussion of health care reform by Hillary and Barack . . . Nader is right to protest that a single-payer health insurance program run by the federal government and modeled on the systems Britain, France and Canada enjoy, has been taken off the table by the two Democratic contenders; it is inhumane and predatory and despicable to treat health care as a for-profit enterprise, as the US insurance industry does . . . I'm not saying we should switch to a single-payer system overnight, but can't we at least take a step or two in that direction? . . . which means we need to at least talk about it . . . and the presidential candidates are not, except for Ralph, who has no chance of being elected, or even participating in the debates (due to the ideologues who run them) . . . cf. M. LeClerc: "To be an American is to live with perpetual scandal." . . . the fact that Obama is not accepting campaign donations from Political Action Committees or lobbyists clearly makes him the candidate of choice . . . they say politics is the art of the possible . . . literature, then, is the art of despair and ecstasy . . . and speaking of ecstasy, multiple tracks from my brother Chris' CD titled Orbit are available for listening on a complimentary basis @

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

When Frost Thaws

I've finished with Frost and can't recommend it, too much unfocused blowsy downbeat philosophizing, and none of the characters are described as to their appearance--I mean to take a look at some of his later works and see if he does that, or refrains from that, there as well; it's funny in a few places, but as someone said of Life itself: "It's funny, but not funny enough." Coleridge said we read Richard III because we are charmed by "the splendor of its deformity"; the same could be said of Frost, but even this would be giving it more praise than it deserves. The rewriting of Screenplay 2 seemed worth the effort tonight, though for some reason I kept thinking about Shakespeare as I worked and how incredibly far my dialogue is from his, and how he was said (accurately?) to have written with next to no rewriting.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Danger of Sausage

Humor that almost breaks one's heart, and then makes one feel somewhat disgusted with oneself for having laughed, this is what Bernhard specializes in, as in Frost, where one finds out, halfway through the work, that the knacker has been supplying the landlady of the inn where the narrator, a young medical intern, and his day-time companion (the nearly crazed painter) are residing, with dead dogs for use in the kitchen, yes, it's too terribly true, the narrator vowing never again to order any meat dishes, particularly sausage, the one remark overheard by the narrator the night he discovers the practice (listening outside the door to the landlady's bedroom where she lets the knacker, with his rucksack, in through the window late at night), uttered by the landlady, being, "Oh what a beautiful dog it was."

A Writer for President?

I've caved to the publicity radiating from the election campaign and today bought Obama's autobiographical Dreams From My Father, this being the first time I've ever read a book written by a candidate for president and it's so weird to be learning all these personal details about this image on the TV screen, Obama either a gifted writer, or a writer with a gifted editor, or both, cf. p. 42: "She [his Mother] wasn't prepared for the loneliness. It was constant, like a shortness of breath," and there's an earlier reference to the "trembling plane of the Pacific" touching the time he lived in Hawaii. A gifted writer in the White House? there's a new wrinkle, though I know Teddy Roosevelt wrote a number of books, none of which I've read, the only work by a president I've ever looked at having been a paperback by JFK on US foreign policy that I found at the Central Square subway stop and read perhaps five pages of; of course no matter who wins the election, History's major problem--class warfare--will continue to unfold, but this doesn't necessarily mean it's pointless to vote for someone who appears to have a genuine interest in social justice--who knows, perhaps History will pivot on him, a vote for McCain clearly representing mindless continuation of the status quo. I've finished the first draft of Screenplay No. 2 and started rewriting it tonight.

Dreams From My Father, New York: Three Rivers, 1995.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

This Hurt I'll Drink To

The following is the lyric to a song written by my brother Chris, off his debut CD titled ORBIT, now available on iTunes. © 2008, music Chris McNally, lyric Kevin Curran. To fully appreciate the irony, you've got to hear the haunting, grab your heart melody. (Search "Christopher McNally" on iTunes to hear sample cuts from the CD.)


I ask myself a question
The question starts with why
The answer always ends up as a lie.
I look in her direction
I'm gonna give it one more try
The smile is there
But the truth is in her eyes.

Now everything hurts,
You know you knew it from the first,
It's how the universe works,
It's at its best
When you feel your worst.

Now I been out there for a while
. . . For all that's worth
Don't waste your time
I used up all of mine.

I took a chance to fix my past,
Cover all my debts,
I tried and tried
But the bottom line

Everything hurts,
You know you knew it from the first
It's how the universe works
It's at its best when you feel your worst.

Now you might walk a straight line
Try to make things right
When you see the price
You'll work away your life.

Now I believe dreams can come true
I've been told so many times
When I woke up the other night

And everything hurt
You know you knew it from the first
It's how the universe works,
It's at its best when you feel worst,
Now everything hurts
Drink is supposed to quench my thirst
Everything hurts
We'll keep you posted when things get worse.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dressed for a Lack of Success

More from Frost, the most disappointing aspect of which, so far, is that the only realm of stability and decency the work recognizes is that of personal wealth, a superficial view of human affairs, if not a deranged one, the wealthy classes all too often, in societies across the globe, criminal in their lack of compassion and imagination. Yes, Duchesses have their problems too, as Noel Coward blythely pointed out--but how many of them go without housing? In any event, the Bernhard humor, rising from hyperboyle that often reaches to a level of neurotic hysteria, is very fine indeed:

Says failed or at least inactive painter Strauch: "All my life, I've never hated anything as much as I hated teachers. Those teachers who always struck me as the embodiment of stupidity, the stupidity was drilled into their underpants."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

More Frost

I'm glad the definition of a "knacker" providentially floated into the Waiting Room because it turns out he is a major character in Frost, which is flaccid and verbose and plotless and blasphemous--though all this can be overlooked because it is after all a first novel, and the signs of the power of the mature Bernhard are unmistakable, beautiful moments of strange and dark LOL. I've added Jessa Crispin's website to the BWR Links as a prose alternative to the prodigious and unsatisfying blog maintained by "that language poet."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bernhard: 'Just So Much Frozen Air'

Frost is Berhard's first novel and is largely formless but the devastating power, and dark humor, of his later works is clearly foreshadowed in the following passage, which is, however, illogical in that its speaker, a jaded, chronically ill, despairing, misanthropic and possibly failed painter living in a rooming house in Weng, Austria, habitually carries a work by the deeply religious Blaise Pascal in his pocket:

"Before he retired to his room, 'not to sleep, but to howl to myself in the silence of horror'; he said: 'How everything has crumbled, how everything has dissolved, how all the reference points have shifted, how all fixity has moved, how nothing exists anymore, how nothing exists, you see, how all the religions and irreligions and the protracted absurdities of all forms of worship have turned into nothing, nothing at all, you see, how belief and unbelief no longer exist, how science, modern science, how the stumbling blocks, the millennial courts, have all been thrown out and ushered out and blown out into the air, how all of it is now just so much air . . . Listen, it's all air, all concepts are air, all points of reference are air, everything is just air . . .' And he said: 'Frozen air, everything just so much frozen air . . . .' "

I'm not enjoying it much but I keep reading because there's nothing else to do and it's too early to go to bed . . . it reminds me of the many hours I threw away reading Musil's The Man Without Qualities, one of the worst "classic" novels I have ever come across, which I kept reading and reading, hating every page of it, because I was on vacation and couldn't get my hands on anything else to read.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Screenwriting & Irritability

Feeling irritable about Screenplay No. 2: grim people, atrocities, brutality, crime, shocking developments, it's not a pretty world and reading snatches of Frost keeps reminding me how much deeper one can go in portraying the mind in a novel, so naturally I feel an urge to get a novel going but that would be a mistake, I've got to finish what I've started and that means slugging it out to the bitter end with this screenplay, another problem being that the screenplay is devoid of humor whereas when I'm writing fiction I'm looking for the humorous angle on things almost all the time, which makes for rewarding writing, as opposed to the unrelenting grimness of a noir screenplay.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Beauty of Knowledge

I am told by a thoughtful reader that a "knacker" is someone who collects the carcasses of dead animals on a farm or ranch.

Another intensely uncomfortable night on Screenplay Deux. You know why movies, over and over again, have characters who do desperate things? Take a wild guess why.

Patty darling, I voted for Obama in the primary because you told me he isn't accepting any money from corporations. Is this still the case?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In the Ocean of Plots

Tonight, once again, in connection with Screenplay No. 2, no freaken idea where I was going, yet a few things came to me; it's wearing me out, truly wearing me out, I could barely get started tonight, had to go out on an emergency run for some cream so I could make a cup of coffee and it's in the twenties but then there's the mild euphoria that comes with knowing, once again, that one has managed, against all odds, and particularly against the ocean of preexisting plots stretching to the horizon in all directions and ripped by currents that threaten to drag one God knows where, to swim out a few strokes deeper.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Potential Libel Action Contemplated

Now my friend Joe is famous, to me, because I've seen him on stage on more than one occasion and know his acting skills, and I have an inherent admiration for anyone who has appeared in a Mickey Spillane novel, and I've got to say it really galls me when someone criticizes him unfairly, as Thomas Bernhard does in his recently translated debut novel Frost:

" 'As knacker and gravedigger one is an important figure, a man they can't treat like an ordinary Joe,' he says. Often he [the knacker/gravedigger] has a dog that was run over by a train in his rucksack, but he might just as well pull out some completely out-of-the-way item he found in an attic somewhere, like the pair of carved wooden angels he set up in the middle of the table yesterday, to drink a toast to."

An "ordinary Joe"? Lesser in status than a knacker/gravedigger? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Joe isn't ordinary, he's a gifted actor! Plus he appeared in a Mickey Spillane novel where he was explicitly referred to as "important looking." I'm going to have to write to Bernhard's publisher.

And what the hell is a "knacker"?

Frost (New York: Random House, Vintage, 2008), p. 63.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Writing Without the Aid of Ideas

This screenplay is killing me, night after night I sit down with no ideas of any kind and somehow a scene gets written, then another, then another, and all the while I'm having this intense feeling that the material I'm producing is worthless, a long string of worthless scenes, like a crummy action movie that is just a sequence of action scenes strung together any old way, only my string comprises worthless scenes rather than action scenes.

Apocalypse Then

I read Eszterhas' Charlie Simpson's Apocalypse, an okay non-fiction work written in slangy high-voltage novelistic New Journalism style (it originated as a story he published in Rolling Stone) that focuses on the murder of three people in small town Harrisonville, Missouri, in the 1970s by a disaffected, alienated, unemployed, long-haired, politically radical twentysomething named Charlie Simpson who happened to own an M1 rifle. Eszterhaus says, in New Journalism style, that he "sucked on it like a popsicle" when he blew the top of his head off after having killed two police officers in their twenties and a random businessman in the dry cleaning business. Apparently the book was nominated for the National Book Award. Was it cinematic? Not particularly. In fact there are passages where one becomes buried in the minutiae of his research, the story coming to a complete standstill.

Screenplay is creeping forward.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Screenwriter by Invitation

Eszterhaus was solicited to become a screenwriter by a screenwriter agent who read his novel Charlie Simpson's Apocalypse and thought it cinematic, so I've put in a request for it from the depository out of curiosity. I read Basic Instinct today on IMSDb and found he gives a lot of attention to what the characters are looking at.