Video: Did “Save the Cat” REALLY Ruin Hollywood?

June 26, 2014 Video Blog, Writing Comments (1) 226

More than one person took issue with my previous video on Save the Cat and story structure. I wanted to revisit the subject in a little more detail and respond to some of the criticism, while making some other points about Hollywood, creativity, and art vs. commerce.

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A Piece of Art for Tomorrow’s Sportsball Match

June 25, 2014 Artwork, In The News, Pop Culture Comments (0) 171

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Occasionally, a piece of artwork comes out much better than I anticipate. Today was one of those days. It’s fun having a chalkboard at the office. Free pizza is good, too.

Oh, and we fixed that soccer ball after the photo was taken. For some reason I thought they were made of octagons; turns out it’s pentagons. Oops.

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The Company Town in the Twenty-First Century

June 25, 2014 In The News, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 261

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, miners in the Pocono Mountains and other coal-rich regions often lived in company towns, built around the site of a mine. They paid their rent to their employer, who built and owned all houses in the town, just as they bought their groceries, clothing, and other provisions from company stores.

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In many cases these purchases were on credit rather than cash, taken as advance on future pay. Miners would receive a pay stub that showed a negative balance after deducting rent, food, and clothing. Rather than earn a living, they dug their way deeper into debt to their employer.

In the Poconos, miners were permitted to stay in the house you rented only as long as some resident worked in the mine. When a miner died, his body was laid in front of his rented home as a signal to his family: They had three days to send someone else into the mine (often a son, as little as eight years old) or they would be evicted. Company men would literally move all of the family’s possessions to the curb, carry out any living persons who would not leave, and lock the doors. Continue Reading

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HBO’s Game of Thrones: Family, Honor, and Legacy in Westeros

June 23, 2014 Pop Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (0) 1046

“Your father grew up in these same halls. We hunted together many times. He was a good man.”
– Lord Yohn Royce, to Sansa Stark

“Your father was an honorable man…what would he have done?”
– Stannis Baratheon, to Jon Snow

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**SPOILER WARNING: If you haven’t caught up on the HBO series through the end of Season Four, be forewarned. There are no book spoilers past “A Storm of Swords.”

One of the most interesting things about HBO’s Game of Thrones adaptation has been seeing the cultural rules of Westeros at play. Life in a feudal medieval society is core to the book series, which George R. R. Martin meant to present something more grounded in reality than his beloved Tolkein, but seeing actual humans act out the same scenes shines a brighter spotlight on the way the people of Westeros must live, and how they choose to act within the confines of their society.

Family and reputation play heavily in all the lives of highborn Westerosi, and we’ve seen that throughout the series. Tyrion’s live is saved by his family’s wealth and reputation in Season One, just as Brienne is saved by her family’s (fabricated) wealth in Season Three. Family names and heraldry often stand in for individual identity–a Lannister becomes “a lion” in conversation, or a Stark “a wolf.” Questions of parentage and family allegiance loom large in the series–including one question many viewers don’t yet know they should be asking [I’ll say no more about that here, however].

In Season Four, the role of family and lineage became particularly interesting as it begins to turn some assumptions on its head. Specifically, what is the end result of Eddard Stark’s commitment to honor above all? Continue Reading

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HBO’s Game of Thrones: “The Children”

June 17, 2014 Pop Culture, Reviews, Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (0) 330

Bran-Crow
SPOILER ALERT: Spoilers ahead for both TV series and book series. If you aren’t caught up on both the HBO series and the books (through A Dance with Dragons) you may want to sit this one out.
Sunday’s episode was 66 minutes of incredible television, and in my view probably the best all-around episode the show has ever done. While it may not have surpassed the Red or Purple Weddings for shock value, “The Children” set a new high-point for pacing, drama, and technical achievement. It also made numerous significant departures from the books, in my view largely for the better.
And yet, when the episode ended with Arya sailing off to Bravos, I wanted to throw something at the television. Like most fans of the original book series, I entered Season 4 assuming I knew the image that would close the season finale: The dramatic entrance of Lady Stoneheart, the spirit of vengeance that resides in Caitlyn Stark’s reanimated corpse. I was more excited about this episode than any since the Red Wedding, knowing it promised several startling revelations for fans who haven’t read the books, expecting social media to light up with “WTF???” reactions from viewers worldwide.
To be fair, that’s exactly the reaction I saw on social media–except this time it was from the book readers.

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Our Inability to Talk about Guns is Killing Children

June 12, 2014 In The News, Politics / Religion, Video Blog Comments (0) 174

The United States has a gun problem. No one is really contesting that–not even the gun enthusiasts, considering their frequent refrain that they need lots of guns to protect themselves from all the guns.

Our larger problem, however, might be our inability to have a mature, productive conversation about gun control and regulation–meaning both sides listening to one another, and trying to draw a compromise.

Yes, I said both sides, because both sides are the problem. That said, only one side is arguing in favor of more guns and more people getting shot. That side also happens to be the one winning.

The only way we’re going to come to a solution is to stop labeling each other, stop scrutinizing the proper use of every term, and stop branding every proposal as “tyranny.”

I’m not anti-gun. I do believe in the right to bear arms, and I believe people should have the right to own firearms. But unless we can agree to some reasonable form of restriction and limitation, we’re going to keep seeing innocent children shot.

That would seem to be motiv

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For D-Day: An Excerpt from my Great-Grandfather’s WW2 Journal

June 6, 2014 In The News Comments (0) 172

10298945_898841570130816_2466210695642341932_nMy mother posted this to Facebook this morning for the 70th anniversary of D-Day. My great-grandfather, George (Buddy) Kraus, kept a detailed journal of his experience in World War II. The following is an excerpt from that journal.

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June 11th

4:30 AM. We join convoy and get under way travelling zigzag course all the time. Lots of warships and destroyers escorting us. Plenty of planes overhead. The water is very calm, a very nice day for crossing the Channel. Nobody of our bunch got seasick. All of us wore life preserver belts at all times. They were never off our bodies.

It’s about 8 PM and the sun is starting to slowly fade out. We can now see the beach about 10 miles ahead of us. We are now coming through the paths cleared for us by minesweepers. We are flanked on both sides by the greatest concentration of Naval Power the world had ever seen. Battle cruisers, heavy and light cruisers, aircraft carriers, submarines, and destroyers, all keeping a careful eye on us as we proceed ahead to beach. We are going very slow now. A British Corvette is directly in front of us. There is the British warship H.M.S. Rodney, “The Grand Old Lady of Salerno” laying down a terrific barrage from her all-powerful turret guns. The waters are very calm. We are now approximately five miles from the beach and going very slow and feel it is the end of a very uneventful trip.

Guess I spoke a little too early for the Gods of Fate have decided to deal us a little hand.
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How to Start Running (featuring Coach Corky)

June 3, 2014 In The News, Video Blog Comments (0) 281

Tomorrow is National Running Day, and Coach Corky (one of New York City’s top running trainers, who also happens to be my girlfriend) stopped by my YouTube channel to offer advice for beginning runners, suggest a few reasons you should start running, and tell us about her crazy plan to run 100 miles in 24 hours next month.

LINKS:

Coach Corky’s YouTube Channel

Couch to 5K

Back On My Feet 20in24

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HBO’s Game of Thrones: The Mountain and the Viper

June 3, 2014 Pop Culture, Reviews, Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (0) 462

Oberyn Martell in the ring

I just have a couple of quick thoughts on this week’s episode. I know I haven’t been posting on GOT much recently; I’m back in novel-writing mode (elbow-deep in revisions) and putting most of my energies there.

First, a customary warning: As always I play fast and loose with the spoilers, book and show. Read at your own risk.

Like many viewers, I was taken aback by the ending of this episode. The teeth, the eyes, the screaming. The exploded brains. Even for a show that has been brutal throughout, this episode took it further. (How about that flayed man earlier in the show, too?)

It was so traumatic, my initial reaction was “that’s not how it happens in the book!” Then I went back and re-read what happened in the book, and realized this was almost exact. The teeth, the eyeballs, it happens slightly differently, but it’s all there.

And after I got over my initial reaction, horror at what I thought was exploitative, ratings-seeking violence, I decided I liked this ending–and I’ll tell you why. Continue Reading

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