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12/3/2013 - Lady Gaga & the Muppets’ Holiday Spectacular

I will fully admit I am not a fan of Lady Gaga. Except for one or two songs, like Applause, I don’t like her style of music nor her outlandish costumes (I’m sure my parents said the same thing about my over-zealous liking of KISS when I was a teenager). But I do love the Muppets.

So when I saw the special on ABC through their ABC app, I decided I would give it a go.

I ended up not watching the whole thing. It was awful.

This was not a holiday special – this was a holiday bomb. It reminded me of the Star Wars Holiday Special, and if you’ve ever seen it, you know how bad it was.

Okay, maybe this wasn't as bad as the SWHP was, but it’s a close second.

First and utmost, this was Lady Gaga promoting her new album, Artpop, and the Muppets were thrown in for entertainment value, which was lacking in creativity. It felt like one big commercial, with lousy acting by Gaga. I didn’t care for her songs either, but with that said, she should stick to her singing.

It was fun seeing the Muppets on TV again, but the lack of professionalism on the show distracted me enough that I found them not funny – the jokes from Statler and Waldorf could hardly be heard over the applause tracks after each song. I suspect Gaga took exception to their making fun of her, so she made sure we couldn’t hear them very well.

Don't take me the wrong way here - there were some good parts; like when Kermit sat beside Gaga at the piano to sing Gypsy with her it reminded me of The Muppet Show, and when Joseph Gordon-Levitt spoke with Kermit it felt honest and was heart-warming, and Kristen Bell even had a few good scenes of interaction.

But when Elton John sang Benny and the Jets and changed the lyrics from “Benny” to “Lady Gaga” without her "knowing" it made it seem unrehearsed. Even the chat between them seemed unprepared and hollow. “Hi. I’m a big fan. You’re my inspiration,” Gaga told him. “You’re mine as well,” he responded. And when Joseph Gordon-Levitt sang a duet with her on Baby, It’s Cold Outside (the only seasonal song to be sung), he did the best he could with the material, but they changed the meaning of it to make him the one that’s leaving her. I didn’t watch RuPaul’s performance, but I’m sure it was just as bizarre as the rest of the show.

From NY Daily News’ website, an ABC executive said that the 2011 Lady Gaga Thanksgiving special drew ratings that were 78% better than this year’s disaster. “But we understand that special aired when she was far more popular and people were far more curious about her,” the executive admitted.

Nope, think again.

It wasn’t that the pairing of Gaga and the Muppets was a bad idea, it was the production and the script (if there even was one), which were awful. It seemed like both were thrown together at the last minute. So shame on ABC, Disney, Lady Gaga, and anyone else who directed and produced this show, you all missed the mark and I hope the same group of you aren’t involved with the next Muppet movie.

11/8/2013 - King of Fright?

Doctor Sleep – 2013

The Shining (movie) – 1980

The Shining (novel) – 1977

I finished reading Doctor Sleep by Stephen King soon after it came out, but it has taken me this long to write about it because I immediately went and re-read The Shining after I was done and then that led me to re-watch the movie version by Stanley Kubrick.

I was excited about the release of Doctor Sleep, which came out in October of this year, and I was not disappointed. King came through for me again with this follow up of Danny Torrance as an adult, struggling through life just as his father had. Wendy had also passed before the start of the book, but I learned a lot of what happened to her and her boy after their winter stay at the infamous Overlook Hotel.

Danny, or Dan, is now middle-aged when he meets Abra, a twelve year-old girl who possesses a greater shine than he ever had. Dan must save her from a group of nomadic “steam” vampires called the True Knot, who travel the country in campers and RVs searching for kids who shine and taking from them their essence as they die. The True Knot was a bit confusing to me in the beginning with names like Rose the Hat, but it got better after getting to know and understanding the drives of the characters. Without any spoilers, I’ll just say that a grand battle ensues between good and evil, and the climax takes place on the grounds of the burned down Overlook Hotel.

Did I say burned down? Yes, in The Shining, the novel, the Overlook burns to the ground and now the area is a campground owned by the True Knot.

To be honest, I couldn’t really remember a lot of The Shining, the novel, other than there were a few differences in it from the movie. The movie had such a visual impact that it has stayed with me more than the novel did over these past 3 decades. Even today, with Jack Nicholson sticking his head through the smashed in bathroom door and saying, “Wendy, I’m home,” or while he’s going after her on the stairs, “I’m not gonna hurt-cha. I’m just gonna bash your fucking brains in.” That’s classic stuff right there which I will never forget. But since Doctor Sleep, I have gone back and revisited both of them, and there are a LOT of differences.

I mentioned the hotel burning to the ground, but here a few more; in the book there was no maze but topiary attack animals, Holloran survives, and Jack is blown to pieces instead of freezing to death. In the book, King explains the connection between Halloran and Danny much better than the movie ever did or could. And this connection carries on into Doctor Sleep as well; though like Wendy, the chef from the Overlook has since passed.

I was thoroughly entertained while reading Doctor Sleep, but I kept visualizing Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall, and Danny Lloyd from the movie version (not that that’s a bad thing). Doctor Sleep was much better written than The Shining was (Dan Torrance wasn’t the only one who bettered themselves after quitting the sauce). And that’s saying a lot, because for most who have read it, The Shining is an all-time favorite. At least it was for me. Was? It still is, but Doctor Sleep is the better of the two novels. Will it become a classic like The Shining? Only if a better movie can be made from it. Is Kubrick still alive?

The only complaint I have of Doctor Sleep is Stephen King said it was going to be a return to “balls-to-the-walls” scary, and though the character of Abra reminds me a little of Carrie, it wasn’t that scary at all. Either was The Shining now that I’ve read it again after all these years. I doubt Carrie would be scary any more either if I went back to it.

Kudos to Stephen King for becoming an even better writer but next time I want to have to sleep with the lights on. Okay? Please?

8/16/2013 - Niagara Falls

August 10-13 - Two full days and three nights was certainly enough time to do and see all of what Niagara Falls had to offer. We drove 7-1/2 hrs with a lunch break and pee breaks, but once we got there it was non-stop sight seeing. We stayed on the Canadian side at the Marriot Gateway, which was very pleasant and comfortable, with a view of the Horseshoe Falls from our room. My wife and I considered everything to be expensive ($18 for a plate of spaghetti is just one example), but we all enjoyed ourselves so it was worth it.
This was a first for me - I have crossed this off my bucket list (see below), and I hope our kids remember it for years to come. That said, we've already decided that our next vacation will be without them. Don't tell!

8/15/2013 - Bucket List

As I've just gotten back from visiting Niagara Falls (pictures to follow) I realize that I've never really formalized the bucket list floating around in my head. It turns out I still have a lot to do! Do you have any suggestions for me?

·       Visit the Grand Canyon

·       Visit Yellowstone Park

·       Go up in the Arch of St. Louis

·       Visit the Great Wall of China

·       Visit Japan

o   Attend a Japanese tea ceremony

o   Visit the Imperial Palace, Tokyo

o   Watch a sumo wrestling match

·       Watch a volcano erupt

·       Visit a rainforest

·       Visit Hawaii

·       Visit Niagara Falls

·       Write a Novel

·       Have my screenplays made into movies

·       Have a one-liner in a movie

·       Learn to ride a unicycle

·       Pet a tiger (or any large cat)

·       Swim with dolphins

·       Go on a helicopter ride

·       Visit outer space

·       Experience weightlessness

·       See the Aurora Borealis

·       Visit Greece/Parthenon

·       Ride a horse bareback

·       See Alcatraz

·       See the Redwoods

·       Shoot a revolver

·       Visit Egypt

·       Meet Sheryl Crow

·       Ride a gondola in Venice

·       Make a hole-in-one (golf)

·       Learn to play a harmonica

·       Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef (Australia)

·       Take a ballroom dance class

·       Write a song

·       Visit Machu Picchu, Peru

·       Visit the Coliseum in Rome

·       Ride a steamboat down the Mississippi River

·       Go on an African Safari

8/6/2013 - On The Road

I've recently been having email conversations with my screenplay agent, and although A Legend in Time - The Movie is still being pitched, I wanted to give you the latest update. Here is the conversation I had...

JW: I hope this email finds you well. How is the screenwriter agent business going? Any word at all on finding a home for A Legend in Time?

Personal Assistant: [My Agent] is currently in Burbank, CA meeting with studio lawyers as well as pitching your script. He will be available this afternoon.

JW: How did it go yesterday? Any good news?

Agent: Our meetings went ok. We either need a) have a significant financial skin in the film b) have a significant lead character(s) or c) go the Indy route. All three are viable options at this point. From a character standpoint did you have anyone in mind?

JW: As in who I would like to see playing my characters?

James - Colin Farrell or equivalent.

Namoenee - Kristin Kreuk, Berenice Marlohe, or Mila Kunis

Traven - Saul Rubinek or equivalent.

What does financial skin mean?

Agent: Those are great names and financial skin means fund the project ourselves.

JW: Ourselves? Ugh.

Hopefully one of these actors would be interested in signing on. What happens now? Do you send a copy to their agents?

Agent: There are always options :-)

JW: I like your optimism. Go get 'em.

So, there you have it thus far. I certainly don't have the money needed to start a movie. I don't think my agent does either. Can he attach a big name to my screenplay? If not, would an Indy production house be interested? Would they have the kind of money needed to make my book into the type of movie I envision? There is so much to consider that I had never even thought about before when I would sit down in front of the big screen munching my popcorn.

All I can say for sure is, my fingers are still crossed.

5/30/2013 - Star Trek Into Darkness

First, let me start off by saying that I have been a fan of Star Trek my whole life. I grew up with TOS, which will always be my favorite out of the 40 some-odd years and the four television series that followed it. Out of the 12 movies made to date, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country are my favorites.

I get it. I get the fact that after 46 years of Star Trek, its owner, Paramount wanted to revive (reboot) the franchise and to do so with the TOS characters makes sense since they are the most popular (my humble opinion).

As an author of time travel and alternate timelines, I get how they wanted to spice things up a bit by giving the TOS characters a twist. An alternate timeline and its changes give the fans of TOS something new to think and talk about (not the entire TOS fan reactions are complaints) and it brought in a younger fan base as well, keeping the ST universe possibly alive for the next 40 years. I understand it and I didn’t have a problem with the first new movie directed by JJ Abrams. It was an original story full of action and, except for the excessive lens flares, was highly entertaining.

(Spoiler Alert – if you have not seen ST: Into Darkness yet, and don’t wish to have it spoiled, read no further.)

But I have come away with mixed feelings about Star Trek Into Darkness. In my opinion, there was no reason at all to touch something as iconic as Ricardo Montalban’s portrayal of Khan in TWoK.

When the movie starts we are introduced to a rogue ST agent, John Harrison, from Starfleet’s “secret” Section 31, portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch, and it was a fresh idea, but they should have stopped there however because about half way through we are told that Harrison is actually Khan.. This is where Into Darkness began to fall apart for me.

Okay, I get that history repeats itself, even in an alternate timeline, but stomping on TWoK was just not necessary. Not only was a lot of dialog lifted from TWoK, but it was given to different characters. Kirk is now the one who dies in the warp core chamber and Spock cries out the infamous “KHAAAAN!” scene originally done by Captain Kirk, played by William Shatner in TWoK. “Really?” you may ask. Yes, really.

I’ve heard and read a lot of complaints about JJ Abrams and how he has ruined ST for a lot of fans, but I would like to put the blame on the writers of Into Darkness. Sure JJ may have had a hand in some of its debacles, and he and the producers are responsible for the final release, but the writers should not have done what they did.

Now, aside from using Khan again and the (even more horrible) casting of Cumberbatch as Khan, let’s get to the awful science within the science fiction. I am all for the “suspension of disbelief” in movies, but when scenes are introduced which are supposed to be made possible but are physically not I want to scream at the screen, like Kirk in TWoK, “NOOOO!” For instance, when the Enterprise is overtaken and the battle scene happens, they are closer to the moon than to Earth, right? And then, ten minutes later, both ships which were disabled are falling through Earth’s atmosphere? Impossible! And shooting people from one airlock to another only four meters wide across a debris field in space using jet packs? Please! I’m no expert, but at the speed they were travelling and the force of the jet packs needed to maneuver around large objects in space, Khan and Kirk would have shot themselves miles off course. Nope. Sorry. These things did not suspend my disbelief. And yes, Kirk and Khan work together. Ugh!

Don’t get me wrong. For the most part I did enjoy this movie. It was a thrill ride to watch (aside from the fantastical science they apparently didn’t have a consult for). In fact, I will buy it and watch it again and again, but this was by far not the best Star Trek movie of them all.

Is it filled with action and adventure? Yes.

Is the acting fantastic? Yes, even Cumberbatch—I just feel he was the wrong person to play Khan.

With all that said, I would encourage the younger viewers who have not seen The Wrath of Khan to go and rent it. Oh, but start by watching the TOS episode Space Seed first, where Khan and crew are originally found floating in space aboard the USS Botany Bay. You won’t be disappointed.

4/26/2013 - The Modern Medusa

Last February (see the bottom of this page), I wrote about my dealings with Amazon Studios. Although I wouldn't give away the rights to my books, their process is still attractive to me. So, I have written another screenplay not having anything to do with any of my novels, and it is called the Modern Medusa.

I have submitted it to Amazon Studios, here is what I received from them thus far:

"Your new project, "The Modern Medusa", has been successfully uploaded. Since you submitted your project to us privately, only you and Amazon Studios can see your project. During the 45-day option and evaluation period, the title, premise, concept or logline of your script may also appear in our "Premise War" game, where project titles and premises compete head-to-head, or in a similar game designed to solicit audience feedback."

You may view the premise wars at Amazon Studios. If you happen to see mine among the many others, either by clicking "Skip this battle," or by taking the time to read through and voting in each battle, I hope that you'll give The Modern Medusa your support.

I will keep you updated with posts here and on my facebook, Twitter accounts.

Updated 4/29/2013 My percentage of premise war "wins" has fluctuated between 55% and 70% at any given point. It's unfortunate that I can't determine who I am losing to so that I could edit my premise accordingly. Any suggestions are welcome.

Updated 6/12/2013 I received a response from AS, and they have decided not to option The Modern Medusa. They did not say why. They did encourage me however to change my project from Private to Public. One, so that the public (any Joe Smo) can make comments on it, and two, so that may excercise their option at a future date. The problems I see are: anyone may use or take ideas from it, and who is to say if Amazon will ever take the revised screenplay. Also, I didn't see anywhere where I may try to peddle this elsewhere while it remains on the AS site. So sorry, but I'm taking it down. Better luck with someone else.

4/9/2013 - Google Glass

Google is ready to release a virtual reality headset, or “wearable computing device,” by the end of 2013 which can browse the internet via Bluetooth or a wi-fi connection, take pictures, video, and send messages much like your smart phone does today.

Google Glass, as seen in this picture, is a small display worn in front of one’s eye much like a pair of glasses. Very high tech, if you ask me, which gives a new meaning to the term “hands-free.”

But not everyone is excited about it. Casinos, gentlemen clubs, and movie theaters are already placing a ban on them within their establishments. Understandable since there is no way to tell if something is being recorded. Heck, from a distance, you may not even recognize that a person isn’t wearing regular glasses (sunglasses and prescription lenses are coming).

"Picture-taking is frowned upon, and security officers on duty ask individuals not to take pictures for the privacy of others in the casino," a spokesperson for MGM Resorts said. "This new product is nothing new in terms of a challenge for us, because for so many years, the very tiniest of portable lipstick and pinpoint cameras have been around."

There have been surveillance and spy-wear equipment for decades, so why the big backlash against Google Glass? Could it just be because a powerhouse like Google has come up with it? Hmm, I wonder.

For the naysayers out there, I have but one question; while you’re out searching for people wearing Glass, perhaps you should check everyone else for wires and button cameras too?

At least with Glass, it is visible within your line of sight. Just be glad that the technology hasn’t been placed into contact lenses yet (oh right, Google is working on that too).

3/27/2013 - Sequestration affects more than the military budget

The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) announced the other day its decision to close 149 control towers as a result of sequestration. In my state, this means a total of six airports will be affected, and I want to share with you what I consider to be trickle down issues for us common folk.

Trickle down # 1.
I have never flown out of Brainard (Hartford) or Tweed (New Haven) airports – just two of the six mentioned – but it makes me wonder if this will mean that the state’s only international airport (Bradley) will now become busier as a result. Some communities may opt to continue the operations of Brainard or Tweed, and the others, but guess who is going to absorb that cost should they not close down? We, the taxpayers, that's who.

Trickle down # 2.
"We will work with the airports and the operators to ensure the procedures are in place to maintain the highest level of safety at non-towered airports," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement.

Our safety is also a concern. I think Mr. Huerta should clarify his statement a little before freaking out the public with a broad statement like that. Did he mean that some of the airports would remain in operation without the use of their towers, and planes will take-off, fly around, and land without any coordination from the ground? Really? That would be like allowing bats to fly around at night without their sonar.

Trickle down # 3.
Just how much busier will the “critical” airports become is an unknown right now, but sequestration is only going to make the tendency of flight delays worse.

In an effort to save money against the across-the-board budget cuts, the FAA has advised its controllers to expect furlough days – up to one day every two weeks from April thru Sept.

"Controllers will be working fewer hours, and there will be limited flexibility in shifting or reassigning controllers to other duties," Huerta said. "Delays in those major airports will ripple across the country. We are aware that these service reductions will adversely affect commercial, corporate and general aviation operations."

This is just the first of noticeable affects of sequestration. Two million jobs are at stake, and these tower closures are only the beginning. We must fight it. It’s not too late. Contact your Congress representative today!

For more information, please visit Second To None now.

Updated 4/5/13 - The FAA says it will delay the closure of the 149 air traffic control towers at small airports until June.

Updated 4/30/13 - The Federal Aviation Administration suspended its employee furlough program on Saturday, after the first furlough day caused more than 1,200 delays throughout the U.S. air travel system.

3/11/2013 - Doctor Sleep

I have read all of Stephen King’s novels, except for the Dark Tower series, and my favorites are Misery and The Shining. So when I heard King was writing a sequel to The Shining, titled, Doctor Sleep, I squealed like a little girl.

It was 1977. I was thirteen when I first read The Shining, and it was the beginning of a long relationship between me and Mr. King’s work. Even the movie version by Stanley Kubrick released three years later is still on my all time favorite movies list.

Doctor Sleep is the only sequel King has written to date (besides Roland in the Dark Tower series - okay, I read one), and he says he has done so because of how many times he has been asked, “Whatever happened to Danny Torrance?”

As you recall, if you’ve read the book or have seen the movie, Danny is the 5 year-old son of Jack and Wendy. In Doctor Sleep, he is now middle-aged, having drifted for decades to avoid becoming like his father. Danny, now Dan, has kept his special ability, called “the shining,” and he must save the life of a 12 year-old girl from a group who travel the country “feeding” off of children with this gift. From what I have gathered, there is also a cat named Oscar, a feline able to predict the deaths of the terminally ill patients in the nursing home where Dan works. This is where the war between good and evil ensues.

King is quoted, it is "a return to balls-to-the-wall, keep-the-lights-on horror.”

I’m very excited to read it. Are you?

Doctor Sleep is scheduled for release in September, 2013.

2/2/2013 - A Legend in Time – The Movie?

In September of last year I read a Twitter feed, “Turn your book into a screenplay,” and I didn’t think much of it. When I saw it again a couple weeks later, I clicked on the link which brought me to Amazon Studios – an Amazon and Warner Bros. Studios collaboration.

"Okay," I remember thinking, "you’ve got my interest." I toyed with the idea of converting my novel, which I still own all the rights to, into a screenplay. Heck, the money Amazon was talking about certainly made it seem like a worthy endeavor.

So I researched on how to write a screenplay. I purchased and read How NOT to Write a Screenplay by Denny Martin Flinn. I researched different software, each touted they were the best, of course, and narrowed it down to two, finally buying Final Draft ($129) as a birthday present to myself in October.

By Thanksgiving, I had converted my book, A Legend in Time, from 210 pages into a screenplay of 93 pages – each page is supposed to equate to one minute of screen time. So, I went back to Amazon Studios. Before I submitted the screenplay however, I reread the fine print of their standard contract. There was something in it which tugged at the back of my mind … there was a clause in it (in between the lines) which read something to the affect that if they exercised their option on my screenplay I could no longer sell my book(s). They would own the rights to everything. I’m not a lawyer, so I wrote to them for clarification. I explained that I had already written a sequel and am in the process of writing the third book in the series. Could they possibly think they could take the rights to all of my books and characters?

WRITERS BEWARE! The answer is yes! This is exactly what Amazon wants.

Their response was, “Thank you for waiting while we researched your question. I would like to thank you for your interest, but we are not interested in optioning rights to only one book in this series and not the other books. As such, this project wouldn’t be for us. However, I would encourage you to submit other projects or find another way to participate at Amazon Studios. Thank you again…” blah, blah, blah.

So now I had a completed screenplay with no one to share it with besides the two family cats to use as a scratch pad. The main reason Amazon looked so inviting is they allowed a crack in the otherwise closed door of Hollywood. I would need an agent to do this, but after all the query letters and subsequent rejection letters trying to find an agent for my first book, I was leery of going through all of that again. But as the CT Lottery slogan states: You can’t win if you don’t play.

I registered my screenplay (re: #I247404) with the Screen Writer’s Guild of America, East, and the search for an agent began.

An agent got back to me and after a few “getting to know each other” emails we ended up speaking on the phone for over a half an hour. He sent me a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), and in return, I sent him my screenplay. Two weeks later, the reaction was outstanding. He absolutely loves it! He told me his personal assistant had cried! And as of today, I have signed a one-year exclusive contract with said agent.

To do list:
  • Step One: convert my novel into a screenplay. Done.
  • Step Two: get an agent. Done.
  • Step Three: let my agent do his job and pitch it to reputable production houses. *fingers crossed*
  • Step Four: hope that the “winning” studio wants to produce it within a reasonable amount of time and not shelve it. *fingers double crossed*

  • We could still be a long distance away from seeing A Legend in Time – The Movie appear on the big screen, but I will keep my fingers crossed until the day comes when I see James and Namoenee come to life on the big screen.

    Stay tuned for updates, and here's to seeing you at the movies.