Life Is A Beach
Here is where I will give my humble opinion on a number of topics. Content subject to change at random.
Like some of it? Hate all of it? Email me, let me know.
Random Thoughts by Christian Blake
Writing is about opening up. Letting go. Anybody who tells you that you have to take a zillion college courses before you can expect to write successfully is wrong. So, my advice is simply write for yourself, and be wary of those trying to establish boundaries on your creative expression.
Favorite movie - Now this is really tough . . . as it's changed a few times. So, I'll give a short list of favorites: The Princess Bride, Cool Hand Luke, Unforgiven, Dracula, Payback, Snatch, Fight Club, Beauty and the Beast, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Glengarry Glen Ross
Writing tip - Write as if you are talking to someone. Emulate speech patterns. Try it. It works.
Favorite computer game - Unreal Tournament. Ever play at Six Feet Under? You'll find me there masquerading as a little, blue cartoon character. See if you can figure that one out.
Writing Tip - Focus on your favorite. Whoever your favorite author is, it's probably not by coincidence. Usually they convey their story in a manner similar to the way you think or similar to the way you express your own stories or ideas. If you do find someone whom you particularly like, read everything you can get your hands on that was written by this author. You'll learn at the subconscious level, and it will show in your own writing.
Want to write better? Learn about plosives. They work especially well for dialogue. After recieving several emails asking me "what the hell is a plosive?", I decided to post a quick lesson in plosives for anyone who might be interested in strengthening their writing.
The most perfect woman to ever grace the big screen - Belle from Beauty And The Beast.
Want to write screenplays? Study movies. I watch an average of 12 movies a week. No joke. I've watched Meet Joe Black over a hundred times. Excessive? Maybe. But I know I learn from every movie I see and from every time I see it, even if it is at the subconscious level. The more movies I watch, the easier it gets to structure a screenplay.
Favorite burger joint - T.K. Burger on Pacific Coast Highway, downtown Huntington. "Big Bargain Special, make it a double, no tomatoes, fries well done, special sauce and seasoning salt on the side. Please."
Favorite beach spot - Cress St. in Laguna on a stormy night. Second choice, Lookout Point in Corona Del Mar on a bluebird day.
You couldn't pay me enough to wear a tie.
Cool quote - "Yes, by all means sir. Drop that fucker. Twice." - Crimson Tide.
Favorite author - "Spenser, with an S like the poet." Without a doubt, Robert B. Parker is my favorite author. If you haven't read any of his stuff, I suggest you start with a novel called, Small Vices. From there, you'll have about 40 others to choose from. All of them are great. He writes with absolute clarity, and he will make you laugh time and again.
Favorite mountain top - At the top of Outback, on Mt. Bachelor, overlooking the sisters.
Tomatoes are vile, and bread is downright evil.
Favorite song - A tough one to answer, but I'd have to go with "Fairytale" by Enya. Another great song that is actually a poem written by Alfred Noyes is "The Highwayman" by Loreena McKennit. Check it out. It's a fantastic piece of writing. So you've heard both of those? Well, how about "Sviraj" by Aria? Or better yet: "The Song Of Wandering Aengus" by Karan Casey. Music doesn't get much prettier than that.
Writing Tip - The one thing that I believe is more important than anything else is to simply keep writing. Set aside time every day. One hour of writing a day, or even a half hour, can do wonders for you.
When you think you have it rough . . . on any given day (Sundays are always good), just before dawn, head to downtown L.A. Hang out on Los Angeles or San Pedro. Bring donuts (a lot) and coffee. Share. Mingle and listen to their stories. You'll come home a new person with a whole new level of appreciation for the things you do have.
Favorite sport to watch - Baseball, of course.
Fiction writing tip - The story is what matters. I've been involved in many writing groups and I've found the stories I enjoy reading the most are, simply put, the ones that are interesting. Sounds silly, I know. But it's true. Even if the writing was poor quality, I wanted to read more of them. So, don't get bogged down in structure or grammar or character arc or anything else. Write the story you want to write and then go back and find structure and grammar and character arc (if you even need it). If your character wants to pull his Uzi out and threaten and scream at a park bench beside the fountain in the downtown district of your Fantasy Land during lunch hour pedestrian traffic, by all means let them do it and see what happens next. If you stop him or her because you are worried it might not fit squarely into your original storyline, you're attempting to mix logic with creativity, which, in my opinion, not only gives poor results but also puts the writing process in a stranglehold. I know this is totally contradictory to what most so-called experts preach, but it's how I write and it works quite well for me
Favorite sport - Snowboarding. Although surfing is fun, I'll take fluffy (white) snow any day over the beach. Not to mention there's no such thing as a Snow Shark either.
Cool quote - "A wealthy scoundrel seduced and betrayed me." - Ronin.
Favorite opening scene of a movie - Payback comes to mind immediately: the pudgy fingers smashing a cigarette into the ashtray, the smoke, the coughing, the rubber gloves, the dirty kitchen sink, the splashing whiskey, the fat-faced doc slurping down the alcohol, the fetus poster on the wall, the surgical tools getting sterilized in whiskey, the filthy kitchen and finally, surgery on a kitchen table. Few movies can compare to that, but I think I actually like the opening scene, which is almost eighteen minutes long, of Once Upon A Time In The West better. It's fantastic to watch. If you haven't seen it, check it out. This also brings up another interesting point. Once Upon A Time In The West and A Perfect World for some reason have not been released on DVD. This is annoying. I ask the guys at Ken Crane's every time I go in there if they have been released yet. I ask so much that a few of them know me and shake their heads before I even get the question out of my mouth. Can anyone tell me why these movies are not on DVD? I actually broke down and purchased Once Upon A Time In The West on videotape. Gag.
There is one song I am in search of and it's from the series Northern Exposure. Although I am not a television fan in the slightest (I don't even have 2 through 13), I did become addicted to this show years ago when I took off for a winter of snowboarding and writing (my first script, Jen). There's an episode where Maggie finds Native American artifacts buried on her property. At the end of this episode there is a song playing . . . and I cannot for the life of me figure out who the artist is. A real tear-jerker from the series, which took me a long time to find out who the correct artist is, is "Our Town" by Iris Dement (while searching to find Dement's version, I stumbled across another nice version, titled the same, by Kate Rusby). Whoever picked that song for the final episode is a genius. It fits perfectly. I enjoyed Northern Exposure so much that I taped the entire series and would go through it daily when I got home from work, one episode at a time. Eventually, the tapes wore thin and now all I get when I play them is a black screen and garbled sound. And guess what? The tapes are out of print and the series is not available on DVD either. Shame on somebody.
There's a slew of billboards around L.A. right now with a woman in a red dress hiding something behind her back and every time I see this billboard I stare and I think, wow! Who is that woman? I've only seen half of her and she's incredible. I'm not even sure what the ad is about. I think it's a chocolote ad or something. They picked a good model though, whoever she is.
Establish a strong circle if you wish to live comfortably. To be happy, grab a ticket and hop on that one-way train every now and then. To accomplish great things, abandon the circle and throttle that train into oblivion. This, at the very least, might drive you insane, at least temporarily. In extreme cases, it just might kill you.
Know someone who snores? Of course you do. Know what OSA stands for?
It's short for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Everyone who has OSA snores but
not all snorers have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. OSA is a pretty dangerous
condition where the air passage actually gets sealed off while you sleep,
causing the individual to stop breathing for periods of time up to 30
seconds, sometimes longer. This occurs hundreds of times throughout the
night. By not breathing during these short intervals, you don't get the
deep stages of sleep. Furthermore, this lack of oxygen puts
an extreme workload on your heart as it tries to feed your body with a
greatly restricted supply. I used to snore, and I had severe OSA. I finally
did something about it and flew up to Vancouver B.C where I paid a nice
doctor $500 and he took what's called a cold laser and sliced out the
uvula (the punching bag) and part of my soft palate in the back of my
throat. Results? Snoring gone, 100%. Apnea gone, 100%. A friend of mine
decided to do the same surgery only he didn't feel like flying to Vancouver
to get it done. So, he found a local L.A. doctor to do the job. Results?
Snoring gone, 100%. Apnea gone, 100%. The difference? Mine was an out-patient
surgery lasting no more than 15 minutes, comparable to going to the dentist.
Three hours after the surgery, I ate blackened salmon and au gratin potatoes
and washed it down with a few light beers. Two hours after that dinner
(oink-oink), I bought a rather fat Italian sausage from a street vendor
and piled on onions, relish, and jalapeno peppers. The only pain I experienced
from the surgery was a "sore-throat" kind of feeling for a few
weeks. My friend couldn't eat solid food for almost two weeks after his
surgery. He missed four days of work. He couldn't get out of bed for the
first two. In short, he was miserable, feeling like he was on the verge
of death. Why did this happen? Something to do with U.S. restrictions
on use of the cold laser (which is why I flew to Vancouver to get it done).
What was the cost difference? Mine was $1,200, give or take a couple bucks.
This included the surgery of $500 (the cost of the surgery has since increased
to $600), my round trip plane ticket, two nights at a nice hotel on Broadway,
and four meals per day. His cost . . . (make sure you're sitting down)
. . . has totaled just over $25,000. Something is very wrong with our
health care system. To learn more about the surgery I received, you can
visit the website at: http://www.islandnet.com/~sreid/lauphtml/LaserArticle.html
In complete contrast to 95% of movie critics, I believe Get Carter (2000) was pretty damn tight from beginning to end.
Ever heard of Hot Dog Tea? I used to heat up hot dogs in the microwave. Yes, hot dogs. Those vile things made of compressed, unspeakable parts of swine anatomy. One summer night several years ago, just past midnight, a friend knocked on my front door and woke me. She came in and we both lay at the foot of a futon on my living room floor and talked until sunrise. During that time, I got up and nuked some water and made two cups of green tea. When I handed her a cup, she sipped some and froze for the briefest of moments. Then she made a face and shuddered, and said it tasted like hot dogs. Although quite a funny moment in time, and something we still laugh about today, I can honestly say I've never heated hot dogs in the microwave again. (Yes, I still eat them on occasion.)
If you've lived in Huntington Beach for any amount of time, or even if you've driven through it on a regular basis, you've no doubt seen the guy whom I've often wondered is completely nuts. Whether its 95 degrees outside or there's a bitter, winter-wind ripping across PCH, this man dresses in complete black, head to toe, and listens to headphones and dances down the sidewalks of Main St., waltzes across PCH, and then takes the beach trail, almost always heading North towards the cliffs. He shadow boxes to the music on his headphones, and every now and then he hurdles a parking meter for the sheer hell of it. He wears a black top hat, a black long-sleeved shirt, black gloves, black pants, black shoes and socks, and sometimes black sunglasses. He's got to be pushing late sixties. I used to think he was nuts, but then a thought occurred to me that maybe he's just at a level where I am not. He probably doesn't care what I think, or what anyone else thinks for that matter. He's found something he enjoys and that gives him pleasure, regardless of how much attention he draws. So, he runs. He skips. He dances. He kicks and karate chops unseen enemies. Maybe he's deeper than I can comprehend? Or maybe he is nuts.
A rather interesting street is Melrose. Only in America does there exist a strip of asphalt where billboard warfare is waged to such epic proportions that if you lumped all the advertising dollars spent there inside a year's time, I bet you'd have enough money to buy a small country. I wonder how many accidents occur on that street a year. No doubt a great many, as I'm sure first-time visitors are more interested in watching the giant video monitors or staring at the enormous celebrity mug shots plastered everywhere rather than steering their vehicle.
Living in southern California has taught me to loathe driving. Ask anyone who knows me. I wouldn't leave downtown Huntington Beach during a week day without direct threat of bodily injury, death, or possible starvation. But I will say that driving is good for the imagination. A lot of my stories develop while I'm stuck in traffic or cruising PCH at 2 am. The monotony and lack of focus required to drive a car always puts me into this trance where my imagination is unleashed, uninhibited. Ideas and images flow freely and without end. If you haven't experienced this already and you are thinking it might be interesting to take a long drive to nowhere to stir up the creative juices, make sure you bring a pad and pen along, or you just might tuck all those great ideas back in your brain somewhere by the time you pull back into your driveway.
A terrible thing happened to me recently. I went to the movie theater and got robbed. There I am, sitting through a rather lengthy film, watching with unexpected delight as three actors gave rather surprisingly strong performances in a complex, twisting, attention-grabbing storyline, when all of a sudden this was splayed across the screen: "Just Kidding! This has all been a dream! Ha Ha! We sure fooled you!" Never rob your reader/viewer of the time and emotion they have invested by pulling the rug out with the age old "this has all been a dream" bit. I almost walked out of the movie theater right then and there, I was that insulted. I'm not one to bash anybody's work, and I don't think I'm doing it here, because up until that one moment the entire film was great. It was just that one detail. It could have been done differently. Give him a tumor for God's sake. Or have him abducted by a strange white light in the sky during broad daylight that is actually an alien thingy that plants something in his brain, granting him paranormal powers BUT also kills him in a rather short period of time. Though far-fetched, at least that would allow me the decision to believe or not to believe, based entirely on the world revealed to me thus far. Despite my obvious disappointment with this storyline, I must admit there are several snippets of exceptional performances that I will probably never forget.
A movie you can watch to death: The Shawshank Redemption. The strong elements of humanity in every scene transcend this movie into something much more than a great film. The foreshadowing and plotting are so expertly weaved into the scenes they are almost unperceivable. Watch this film. Chart it. Watch it ten times. Watch it twenty times. Watch it until the DVD player gets so hot it starts to freeze frame. Watch this film enough and the humanity (which is in every single scene) will become so glaringly obvious that you will probably smack yourself in the forehead when you finally see it.
Every day we make hundreds if not thousands of decisions. These decisions depict and define our character, propelling us towards a new and exciting future or sending us walking down that familiar old road in a world that is an exact or a real-close replica of where we have already been. If you want to make changes in your life, you must make them right now, in the very next decision and every one thereafter. Ultimate Power is in the now. For years I've allowed myself meaningless distractions that cost me hours of my time on a daily basis. Sure, I got work done too, usually at least two hours of writing every day. But I know I could have accomplished so much more. I recently got so annoyed with these distractions that I took a big red marker and wrote SFA on my left hand. This stands for Stop Fucking Around. Now every time I turn the steering wheel, every time I look at my watch or pick up the phone or point at something or perform any number of physical actions, I see in big red letters SFA and I immediately visualize the words STOP FUCKING AROUND, which reminds me to make every decision count toward my goals. If this doesn't have the desired effect, I might just get it tattooed in big red letters on the back of my hand. Now that would be extreme, wouldn't it?
I hung up the spikes for the pen while a friend of mine hung them up for long hair, a pack of cigarettes, and punk rock. Basement Records
A must-have package to keep in the trunk of your car at all times: a Sunday newspaper, a pile of kindling, some firewood, matches, lighter, and two giant blankets. And for $30 you can buy a transferrable State Park Pass, giving you 12 months of access to miles and miles of Southern Ca beaches with firepits. Once you have these items in the trunk of your car, you will always have something to do on any given night of the week. (This is cheap date city, but you'll score major points.)
When I was ten years old, my older brother pinned me down and forced me to watch Dawn Of The Dead. Despite the fact that over two decades have passed, I still have severe issues with crawling corpses. Given this fear, it was much to my dismay that some friends of mine took me to watch the recently released Resident Evil ( I used to get nightmare's from playing the video game on Playstation, so imagine my anxiety of actually traveling to see the film knowing that I would not have an OFF button within reach when things got a bit scary). Having studied nothing but top-notch films for the past two year and a half has conditioned me to expect disappointment when I go to the movies, but I found this movie to be very strong, at least from a structural standpoint. Somebody is going to make a lot of money from this film. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed watching the story unfold, I must admit I closed my eyes a number of times throughout the movie. I even took an unnecessary trip to the restroom. At the end of the film, I told one of my friends that I would find a scientific reason why a person should never watch a scary movie. I found it: Under stressful conditions, the human body pumps out a stress hormone called Cortisol. This hormone wreaks havoc on the body, doing a great many things including breaking down lean muscle mass. Since I'm a longevity freak, I now have a strong argument against watching a scary film.
My deep-seated fear for scary movies surprises a lot of people, including me. Maybe my imagination is too strong? Maybe I'm just a wimp? Who knows. What makes this stranger is that my natural tendency is to write fiction leaning towards horror. No matter how I begin a story, it usually get's very dark within a few pages. Go figure.
A friend of mine turned me on to a great beach spot for writing. No matter what time of year you go there, it's pretty vacant. Of course, I'd probably get in big trouble if she knew I was posting it here. The spot is at West and PCH, just south of Aliso Beach Park at the top of the rise. Parking is pretty limited, but that's what keeps it peaceful. Once you solve the parking issue, you can either take about five-hundred steps all the way down the hillside to the beach, or you can hop the rail after about fifty steps and sit yourself down on a little plateau overlooking a quarter-mile of lightly-rocked shoreline. Sometimes there are red ants. Watch out.
Imagination manipulation. Want to crank up your creativity? Maybe spark some new ideas or perhaps pickup where you left off on an old idea? Decrease your Serotonin levels. That means: No carbohydrates. No exercise. No drug use. No alcohol. Do this for a few days, or however many you can handle. This will send you spiraling down, down into a dark emotional state. If it gets too much for you, just eat some sugar. That's the quick fix. While you're down there lurking in the darker moods of humanity, spend some time writing. You'll come up with some cool stuff to work with when you finally decide to bring yourself back from the brink of despair. This probably sounds a little nuts to some people. Maybe it is. But it's fun, and relatively safe, considering that a can of soda can cure things in just a few minutes. Anything that tweaks my viewpoint or gives me an entirely new perspective is worth trying so long as there is no danger in damaging my mind. My imagination really doesn't need any help, but I've done this a few times anyway just to see the results. It works. Experiment at your own risk.
More on Serotonin: I drink maybe six beers a year, if that. And outside of some minor drug use in junior high, I've steered clear of all controlled substances for fear they might somehow damage my imagination, which I prize above all else. But I have often experimented with over-the-counter stuff once I've done extensive research on the cause-effect of using the particular item. One such item that is pretty fun to mess around with is 5-HTP. It's the precursor to Serotonin, which makes you feel good and is secreted into the blood stream when you engage in any number of activities (stuffing your face with sugar, doing a big fat rail, drinking, shooting up, exercising, etc). It's relatively inexpensive and gives you the same (albeit a lot less extreme) feeling you encounter from the aforementioned activities. If you want to learn more about it, I suggest you do a search on it and read all the articles the search engine kicks back. Just make sure you follow the suggested dosages, or you might be zinging away all day long.
"Characterization, Dialogue, and Content are but seasonings for the meat of Structure". For fiction writing, you have plenty of time to screw around. You could discuss pretty much anything for fifty or so pages and more than likely the reader will put up with your rambling because (I believe) the general nature of reading a book is relaxing and winding down, so expectations for quick gratification are relatively low. But this doesn't hold true for a script. Structure is everything when it comes to a strong film. "Slop", as I like to call it, only dilutes the story and bores the viewer and is totally unacceptable in a movie. In fact, I've become so adamant about structure that I won't write a single page of the script until I have the entire story mapped out with an outline. An excellent example of a strong scene which was very well mapped is from What Women Want. This scene occurs approximately 52 minutes into the film. Here are the details of that scene:
All in all, that's three subplots and three instances of character arc. That's a thick scene. And to make it even better, it was all done in a span of seventy seconds. Now that's rich. Imagine if every scene of a movie could be like that. Scary.
Hang in there Christina Lynn.
If you're trying to convert a book or short story into a screenplay, remember that it's only slices of the whole story that you want to put into the script. And once you have the slices, you have to spice them up with characterization, dialogue, and content. Better yet, try to cram two or three slices together before you spice them up. It'll save money in the long run and will keep the viewer's mind busy with "soaking up" all the information you're throwing at them.
A few days ago a friend of mine made the following statement: a 10% margin of deliberate human failure (aka "flake-out") to complete a given task is acceptable and totally normal in daily life and the work environment. I was floored at the absurdity of this comment, and a minor argument ensued. Can you imagine a world where the Police Department dispatcher simply disconnected one out of every ten emergency callers? Just for kicks? Or how about if the Fire Department answered every 10th caller with, "Sorry fucker, use your garden hose to put out that fire. We're watching The Simpsons." Or better yet, the Government declaring an official 2.4 hour daily nap-time for all agencies safeguarding our country. For me, once I commit to a project, or a person for that matter, it would take God Almighty to reach down from the heavens and rip my beating heart from my chest in order for me to fail a project let alone a person. Why is it that people find "average" to be so acceptable? Be the best you can be at whatever you have committed yourself to, or get out of the way and let someone who really wants it handle it. If you work for a company, don't give "just enough" of yourself to get by, do everything in your power to make that company profitable. And if you've committed yourself to someone, don't just give them your body. Give them your soul.
No matter how stressful life seems to get . . . as long as I have some cold Diet Sunkist and a giant jar of Skippy Super Chunk peanut butter nearby, all is well.
Be nice to everyone.
Although my girlfriend is fluent in English, it's her third language so she has a bit of trouble following the dialogue whenever we watch a movie. The solution? Sub titles. At first I found them extremly distracting while I watched a DVD...almost annoying. But after watching only a few movies, I discovered something pleasantly surprising: the subtitles revealed not only bits of dialogue that I had previously missed altogether, they also revealed parts of the movie storylines that I had been completely ignorant of. This might sound a wacky thing to recommend....but next time you pop in a DVD, turn the subtitles on.
Goodbyes are a good thing.
Flyswatting With A Sledgehammer. Excessive? Definitely. But it makes a strong point.
Too much profanity in any piece of writing (whether it be expressed in dialogue or the written word) usually makes the overall content weak, and quickly numbs the spectactor. It's usually best to accent dialogue (or writing) with occasional (or even rare) harsh words. This can give punch and power to a story when it really needs it. On a rare occasion, (and I mean rare), someone creates a piece of writing that is chock-full of profanity and it actually works. Here is a link to one such piece. This is a post from a disgruntled game enthusiast, which when I first read it, I could not stop laughing. If you play video games, you'll probably get a kick out of it. If you don't play video games, well, you'll probably think this is a waste of your time to read.
Dancing speed freaks. The barstool-drunks coughing and hacking on lazy, swirling cigarette-smoke. Jukebox tunes and Harvey's hammer of a break. The beer, the wine. Crumpled dollar bills. Fishnet stockings and crazy ass pumps your world. Ignorant. Naïve. Blissfully blind. There I was, and in I walked. After just one look you crushed the glass. Called it quits. "Starting Over", you said. And you did. And you won after three months of hell and five years of catching up: surely you must have been sent by the Devil himself, cast into my life to scrape blood from my soul, for what manner of creature could knock my life to its knees by spitting just a few simple words? We floated. We fought. Kicking, screaming, clawing, and wrestling in the worst street grime life had to offer. It's over now. You've come and you've gone: the third time was the Devil's charm. I miss you Christina Lynn. Now and forever.
September 18, 2006 - I wrote the above passages from April 2000 through April of 2003. Someday I may continue with this section of the site. Until then, thanks for reading my random thoughts. - CB