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Premium Justice

Legacy: He Insures JUSTICE!

For the past week and for the next five weeks, I am in my company’s training program. I’m in a hotel about 70 miles from home, but it looks and feels like the midwest suburbs. When people complain about suburban sprawl, they complain, knowingly or not, about this place. It’s not that it all doesn’t look nice, I just can’t tell where one strip mall ends and another begins. 200 yard across the parking lot from the AMC 30 cinema, there is another multiplex with 22 additional screens. That’s 52 screens sharing one parking lot. But no one’s showing “Bellflower,” (just for example)?

All of this to say, I recently finished the first draft of a screenplay, so I’m writing a short film as a kindof creative wasabe before jumping into re-writes next week. Taking a page from a combination of current circumstances/goings-on, the short film concerns an insurance adjuster handling claims for damage done by a superhero from the brand new, wildly popular, destined-for-greatness card game “Sentinels of the Multiverse” (I obtained permission for the use of their characters).

Well so last night as I was outlining the story – God-willing, it will be under 15 pages – it occurred that a hero or villain’s insurance policy would have to be different from a regular policy, and I needed to understand before I wrote it what coverages, exclusions, and conditions were present in the policy, so that I don’t have to figure it out during the writing. So, as an exercise, I created some specific, applicable portions of the insurance policy in question, from the Greater Good Insurance Group, a premiere insurance carrier for high-risk, costumed clientele (including [for additional premium] the sidekicks, wards, protégés and the like who may reside with them), and their moral counterparts. Here’s what I’ve got:

Please refer to your Greater Good Insurance Group, Inc.’s  S-27 Heroic-Form Homeowners Insurance Policy  – 09/2008, which states in part:

Section-I – Exclusions

We do not cover the Dwelling, Other Structures – including hideouts, caves, fortresses, lairs, anti-aging chambers, and the like – nor Personal Property, if the damaged items were intended for use in whole or in part for any of the following:

 

#1. Serious Criminal Activities – As stated in the Definitions for this policy, “Serious Criminal Activities” are any criminal activities above a normal Misdemeanor offense or which could be punishable by death.

#2. Overthrow of Government – Any use of covered property, in whole or in part, for the proven purposes of the overthrow of any governmental agency, whether local, state, national, or international – and also including governmental and international peace-keeping or organizational agencies – shall be excluded from all losses under this policy.

#3. World Domination – Any damage to property during the planning, building, scheming, conniving, or any other similar preparation with the provable purpose of – or any direct attempt at – total world domination, takeover, destruction, anarchization, or other similar effort will be excluded under this policy.

For all Exclusions, any loss to covered property NOT being used for the overthrow of government or world domination, damaged as a result of any excluded damage caused to property, will be covered under this policy, unless that property NOT being used for the overthrow of government or world domination in any way necessarily impeded the stoppage of the overthrow of government or world domination (e.g – Damage to personal property in a room – as well as any part of the walls, floor, ceiling, and framing members of the room itself – NOT being used for overthrow of government or world domination, but which shares a wall with a room being used, in whole or in part, for excluded activities or measures, which was necessarily destroyed as the best or only means of access to any property being used, whether in whole or in part, for the overthrow of government or world domination, is also excluded by these policy provisions).

As well, any personal property in any room being used, either in whole or in part, for the overthrow of government or world domination, will be considered to be aiding and abetting the excluded activities or measures, so long as said personal property resides in said room.

Section-II – Personal Liability

We will cover accidental direct physical loss, damage, or harm caused or inflicted by you toward any individual(s) not named on the Declarations Page of this insurance policy and to public or private property – whether residential or commercial.

We will also cover intentional direct physical loss, damage, or reasonable harm caused or inflicted by you toward any individual(s) not named on the Declarations Page of this insurance policy and to public or private property – whether residential or commercial – provided that such person(s) or property posed a legitimate, provable threat – whether latent or operative – to the Greater Good of all Mankind, as outlined in Section-I – Exclusions of this policy.

Birthday Weekend Extravaganza

Initially, I’d thought to go Thursday through Sunday, day by day, since a lot happened each day in my 4-day b-day blowout. Instead, moving topically through the terrain seems like a more cohesive method of conveyance.

All-Things Jonathan Franzen:

He’s got my vote

I’m about half way through re-reading his 3rd novel, 2001’s The Corrections, and what I’ve immediately noticed this time is the increased strength of his prose from the end of his 2nd novel to the beginning of this one. Don’t get me wrong, I love his first novel, The 27th City and most of Strong Motion, but he is on a whole new level here. All of this, of course, is in preparation for his new novel, Freedom, which my mother got me for my birthday and which has been earning him immense praise. TIME magazine had him on the cover as the new Great American Novelist, and he was just recently on “Fresh Air with Terry Gross” discussing the novel as well as his relationship to blog-favorite David Foster Wallace. They’re very different writers. VERY. I first read The Corrections the spring of my freshman year of college; and things have changed since I was 19. It’s still very high on my list of favorite novels, but I can safely say its #1 slot has been reconsidered. That doesn’t mean it isn’t brilliant. It is. The characters’ obsession with viewing their lives in terms of the corrections they’re making to either their parents or siblings or neighbors or society-at-large is so universal yet always incredibly specific within the story’s context. And the way Franzen allows the main character of each section to subtly influence the 3rd person omniscient narrator is one of my favorite aspects of the book. He gets inside so many disparate perspectives so completely that the reader identifies with each one. It also moves very nicely, setting up plot, providing character exposition, establishing themes, exploring ideas and relationships – he weaves these seamlessly into and out of each other so that the book never feels like it’s moving too slowly (his previous novel did unfortunately feel like bout 65% exposition), but also never ignores an important aspect. That is quite a balancing act.

Reservations:

Poster designed by Adam Rebottaro

The more I thought about it, the happier I got. As soon as I hit on the idea for my Birthday Party, I knew it was going to be interesting and fun. I haven’t had a “party” per se in a long time (I think since I was 21 – wow), but this year was a good twist on it. Instead of a regular party, we had a screening night. We got pizza, we drank some good beer (thanks to my friend Will, I was in full supply of Delirium Nocturnum all night), ate some lemon cake courtesy of a good cook I know, and watched seven short films made by or starring people in my circle of friends – all of which led up to the public unveiling of my new short film, “Reservations,” which many in attendance were also a part of.

I’ve watched it probably ten times in the last few weeks with various small groups of people (including my mother who miraculously liked it and didn’t chide me on the abundant use of the term “asshole”) – each time taking notes and making adjustments and re-watching to see how it all worked – and the incontrovertible result is a better film now than the one I had a month ago. It pays to listen to intelligent people. The night of the party was its biggest audience, maybe 15-20 people, and it proved to confirm that I had made the film I thought I was making and one that I am proud of. But the evening was better than just that. It was more about the immense talent pool within this group of people; people with unexpectedly greater reserves and abilities than their surfaces suggest (one girl said as much about my movie, too: “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but I liked your movie a lot more than I expected to.”). Fair enough.

(NOTE: I recorded the commentary track with Tyler Smith and David Bax of “Battleship Pretension,” and you can Buy the DVD through their site, in fact. Which you should. Now.)

Battleship Pretension Live:

Never Forget

Everyone loves a good show, and this one was great. The first two live events were both solid in their own right, but – and I hope I’m being impartial – this one felt very complete. It’s half comedy show, half panel discussion, which creates a very interesting (and compelling) flow to the evening. I was fortunate to be asked to provide the show’s introduction, and it was with great relish that I constructed an opening to both celebrate and mock both the occasion and hosts. The writing was a sortof throwback to the introductions to my own short-lived (though astutely completed) podcast, “Experts and Intermediates,” in which the goal was to created concentric linguistic circles around the topic and then end with a clever punch-line. Because words can be fun toys. Also great is our traditional migration to the Mexican restaurant down the street. A tall Long Island Iced Tea, decent chips & salsa, good food, crappy service – it’s the complete package.

The highlight of the evening (aside from their giving away a copy of “Reservations” as a prize and my giving each of the show’s four guests a copy as well) was hands-down the story told by character actor Stephen Tobolowsky. I’ve previously explained the brilliance of his own podcast, “The Tobolowsky Files,” and he brought that same dynamic in person: the specificity of just the right details, the perfect blend of comedy and heart, the way he constructs meaning from life experience. I expected him to read from a typed version of his story, but he didn’t need it. He electrified the entire place with a story about a “chain” of The American Opinion Bookstore, during his preparation for “Mississippi Burning,” playing the clan leader Clayton Townley. His story concerned his journey to research his character, and the books he brought in earned an outright gasp from everybody. So did the story’s climax. You’ll hear it when the show is posted, but it was a mesmerizing moment. The fact that I got to talk to him briefly afterwards about working with “Deadwood” creator David Milch – and the fact that he had even more stories to tell about him!!! – was an extra special birthday treat.

Conclusion:

Someone asked me if this was a good birthday. I’m 27 now, an age I actually quite like (I’m not kidding, I like the number itself), and while I can’t say if this was “the best” birthday, because I didn’t have enough time to think about it on the spot, I do know it wasn’t the worst. It was better than just a day: it was a weekend spent with friends in celebration of another year alive, my first year in California, and the wonderful combination of friendship and artistry. So, yeah, maybe this was the best, because what could be better?

Notation

How Much Can I Cut?

Here are my notes from the footage for scenes 6-8 and 9 of my short film “Reservations.” Scenes 9 and 10, as I divided them up, in my wisdom (?) encompass about 12 pages. Adam is out sick for the moment, which stopped our editing last night and has me going solo for the time being. It’s a LOT of dialogue (sidenote: I saw the words “a lot” written as “allott” the other day, can’t recall where, but I was mortified).

Anyway, all told, editing is going very well. Two more weeks and we should have a rough cut, three and hopefully we’re done completely. I’m excited to see the thing and then I need to take a few weeks, relax, find festivals to submit to, and do a little bit of Nothing. But not too much Nothing. Plan is to film something else in either August or September, although I’m having second thoughts about my interest in it, to be perfectly honest. Then, in the midst of my second thoughts, I wonder, “Why am I having first thoughts? I need to finish what I’m doing right now!” Speaking of which, I better get back to it.

Have a good weekend, blogosphere!

*****

3:08am Update

Aside from watching an episode of “Pushing Daisies,” getting food with Adam after he woke up, and watching 2 episodes from Season 5 of “The Office,” have been editing all night. We are now 75% done with this movie. I didn’t expect to work this long tonight (that’s what she said – meh), but am glad we did. I haven’t been able to get into an editing zone like this in a while. Usually, it’s been three hours here, two hours there, but tonight, I don’t know, I just felt like getting it done. Five pages of dialogue and movement in 4-minutes, 45-seconds, including three seriously sized monologues, I’m totally satisfied with that. We just watched it back and it flows very well, has dramatic/comedic peaks and valleys at all the right spots. There’s still plenty of work to be done, but we are on the right track. That may not sound like a lot for all the work put in, but it’s exactly enough.

Mac Attack

No, I’m not craving two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. I’m craving a gun. Let me spell it out: a “Mac Attack” is when you realize that while your iMac is, indeed, a great computer, it is also a monumental pain in the ass (and is attacking your ability to do cool things for free). That’s right, I said it. The Mac folks are smart, because they know the things a Mac can’t do tend to be on the less-than-legal but often easily accomplished side of things. No reason for them to put that in their commercials, and the PC companies can’t exactly say, “Buy our computer: you won’t believe all the free shit you can download with ease.” If they did, I bet their computers would sell more.  I know people, for instance, who make movies and were able to download all $1700 worth of Adobe Creative Suite 4 for no money down, no payment plan, and no elaborate system of bartering agreed upon either. Free. FREE. Fucking free. Stupid damn Mac.

Here is what’s frustrating. Instead of buying the $1700 programs for my iMac, I could save a ton of money, go buy a suped-up PC and then download all the programs. I’d get a new computer AND all the software for less than the cost of just buying it for my iMac. I take no comfort in knowing that I’ve not taken the programs. I take no solace in the idea that I am told my computer is better. It’s better at not letting me get cool shit, that’s for sure. I suppose if it’s harder to get things from my end, it should at least be harder for thieves to hack into my computer. But how the hell do I know? I betcha it could still happen with the right two passwords. And then I’d have bought a big shiny box.

I’m angry and annoyed, because on top of all that, I spent the entire night trying to LEGALLY transfer some footage from my editing program to a friend’s computer – a PC. No dice. No matter how I tried to “Share” the footage on my computer, it was having NONE of it. If there is a way, I’ve not found it, and because of this, I’ll have wasted a good 10 hours of editing and tweaking and frustration for nothing. Because if, no WHEN I have to re-import the footage onto my friend’s computer, there is no way in hell I’m going to sit down and re-edit the thing again. I had it edited. I just needed sound effects, which my POS editing system doesn’t have. 

Mac, I’m sure we’ll be friends again soon. But you stay away from me for a while, you hear? ‘Cause I will fuck you up bad, you jerk.

Topeka. Ramada. The End of Reason.

This hotel sucks, for the record. List of wrong-doings: 1) Room Service: BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger should’ve been described as “containing a faint hint of BBQ” as evidinced by the tiny speckle of it on the bun. 2) Ice Machine broken, here on the 11th floor. Seek ice elsewhere. 3) Vending machine eats 2 bucks, hotel won’t put it back on bill, asks me to walk all the way down to guest services to collect 2 $1 bills (too much pride keeps me in my room). 4) Worst offense – This hotel is in TOPEKA. As the Russians say: If given choice between large whack in face-brain with baseball bat or make livings in Topeka, make sure baseball bat is wooden, not metal, or else deaths inevitable. What it does do, though, is make me really appreciate Kansas City. KC has its problems, but man this Topeka is for the birds – I can’t even explain how depressing it is. Everything is worse in Topeka.

I am here working claims, Topeka got hit particularly hard with, wouldn’t you know, baseball- sized hail. 6 roofs a day. 6 estimates. 6 groups of pictures. 6 business cards. 6 customers. 6 redbulls this morning because I got barely over half of 6 hours of sleep last night. FYI – Working claims=getting on roof, inspecting for hail damage, sketching the roof, writing it all down in nifty computer programs and filing it so someone back in the office can pay it. After 3 days and 18 claims (3×6=18…fun with simple math) I have paid all 18 claims, and my 18th claim, which included giving the family all new aluminum siding, cost a total of $18,000.00

Am I on some numbers kick, what is this?

Maybe so. From Monday, September 22nd through Monday, October 27th, I have the possibility of at most 2 days I will not be working. Yes, I will be well compensated. Yes, I will get paid overtime. Yes, I will be working in Texas with people who have REALLY lost something. Yes, I am sortof looking forward to it. Finally: No, I do not plan on going insane. I leave on the 5th of October. Driving to Texas. I’ve got new CDs from Amazon to keep me company, and I am saving up podcasts from now till I leave, so I’ll have listening material. On the way back I plan to go through Austin, I hear it’s pretty cool. Also, I may take my beautiful big computer down with me for podcasting/blogging/writing/ film editing purposes. More on this decision once it’s made…

By Way of Incomplete Introduction…

My reasons for writing this are not yet clear. I write a lot, do a podcast, make films, have a full-time job, far too much reading to do… if only I had a blog to go with it all. And yet that it does not make sense only makes me forge on into the dark, keyboard in hand, hand on keyboard. Yes.

To give an expectation:

I will be writing movie reviews, some political opinions maybe, for about a month or so, random meanderings about countless subjects, as yet to be determined, perhaps a production diary of sorts the next time I shoot a film, and untold millions of sentences of me writing about writing (this is not to be encouraged, and I apologize in advance). And to start off, my work is about to send me down to Texas (I live in Kansas City) due to the recent hurricanes. And so, along with my film camera to document it all, I will be writing about it, too. I’m actually genuinely excited to able (hopefully) to help in some small way. Various projects or sub-blogs will undoubtedly creep into this one. Please, PLEASE, feel free to comment and absolutely disagree with me on any and all points I ineptly make. The other readers will thank you for being the lone voice of reason. 

So it begins.


It Has Come to This

June 2017
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