Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy Holi-Delays!

I hope everyone had a great—and SAFE—Christmas this year. Mine was...interesting.

Living in the south usually has its benefits, particularly around the holiday season. While we have the occasional “White Christmas”, that usually just means a slight dusting of snow or maybe some dirty sludge left over from a very rare December snowfall. The worst I can remember was having to leave Mike’s house early on Christmas because of a treacherous ice storm. This year took the cake, though.

The last couple of years, Suzanne and I have been apart because we both want to spend Christmas with our own parents. We used to do Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with hers. But Mike’s passing changed things and I couldn’t bear the thought of my parents spending Christmas alone. This year, with Toonces needing daily medication, my parents decided to bring Christmas to my house and came up Friday morning. Mom brought all the fixin’s for a great Christmas dinner and we exchanged gifts next to our beautifully decorated tree. One problem. The storm hit bigger—and sooner—than predicted and Mom and Dad left after lunch on Christmas day to beat the snow home. So I ended up spending Christmas weekend snowed in, alone with the cats.

Granted, it was kind of neat at first. I spent Christmas evening doing things I would never get away with if Suze was home: watching a MOBSTERS marathon on the Biography channel, eating huge slabs of Mom’s chocolate cake for dinner, playing LEFT FOR DEAD 2 on the Xbox. But by Sunday morning, it had gotten old and even watching the Packers destroy the Giants while sitting in front of a roaring fireplace with a dinner of cake and eggnog left me feeling a little down. Suze had gotten stuck at the beach with her family and couldn’t come back until Monday. I was really missing her.

Suze got home about the same time I got off work yesterday and we hugged in the driveway for about 15 minutes. I was so glad to see her back home and safe. After three days apart, it really reinforced what’s important in life. PRESENTS!

After unloading her car, we finally exchanged gifts. Suzanne had read my mind (or, at least, my Amazon wish list) and had gotten me some truly wonderful gifts. Since, these days, it seems to be an online tradition to tell “what you got”, I guess it’s okay to post this:

A few months ago, Screen Archives released this re-recording of the CONAN THE BARBARIAN soundtrack. I usually don’t go for re-recordings but when I found out the story behind it, I had to have it. It turns out that composer Basil Poledouris was never happy with the recording used in the film because he had written the score with a much larger orchestra than the one that was hired. It had always been his dream to re-record the score with an appropriate orchestra. This was not to be as he passed away several years ago. (Remember the tribute drawing of Conan Mike posted on his blog?) His daughters Alexis and Zoe (A to Z...cute!) never forgot and Alexis engineered this new album to honor her father. It’s a terrific package and I’m sure I’m going to wear it out. Listening to it makes me feel like for the last twenty years or so I’ve been hearing his brilliant music through earmuffs. It’s a real revelation. I wish Poledouris was alive to experience it.

I’m a nut for Hammer Horror films. This book just came out this month and features hundreds of digitally cleaned-up posters from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. There’s some really great artwork in here and some brilliant designs. A must for any Hammer fan.

SLEEPING BEAUTY has always been my favorite Disney film (followed closely by THE LION KING.) It’s not held in very high regard by Disney buffs because the story is a little simple and Prince Charming is considered a bit of a cipher. But the character design on Maleficent and the art direction of the film in general is just mind-blowing. It’s a real feast for the eyes. Somehow, my niece and nephew found out I wanted it (Suze swears she didn’t tell them and I certainly didn’t) and it ended up under the tree last night. Thanks, guys!

Having recently devoured all six volumes of the SCOTT PILGRIM graphic novel series, I had high hopes for the film adaptation. I’d had it on rental from NetFlix for a month but hadn’t had time to watch it. That changed when the snow hit and I watched it Sunday morning in front of the fire. From the very first few seconds when the Universal Pictures tag came up tricked out to look (and sound!) like an ‘80s-era Atari video game, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. The casting is perfect all-around (I’m coming around on Michael Cera as Scott) including heart-breaker Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers. The problem with NetFlix (other than the annoying 28 day wait for new releases) is that now they’re sending out “rental copies” that don’t include any of the bonus features you get when you buy the films. WTF!!??? After that, they had the gall to raise their prices. But when I discovered the SCOTT PILGRIM blu-ray under the tree last night, all that flitted out of my head. Now I can watch the film in hi-def...and the bonus features too!

I’ve been concentrating on writing...and rewriting...my story and have let myself get rusty in the drawing department. So I’ve been trying to loosen up by working on model sheets of my characters. That led me to rediscovering a love of the old Disney animators and I remembered seeing these two books at SIGGRAPH last year. I put them on my wish list for later and Suze surprised me with them. They’re packed with the wisdom of a true master of gestural drawing, Walt Stanchfield. I can’t wait to dig into these.

Suzanne and I have had a decade-long tradition of buying each other calendars for Christmas but, for some reason, Suzanne forgot this year. Good thing Todd and Sharon stepped in and managed to get me exactly the calendar I’ve been hoping for. There are some great pieces in here and, best of all, the tops are perforated so you can take them out and frame them when the month is over! Thanks, Todd and Sharon!

Lots of other stuff from Suzanne, her family and mine including lots of warm shirts (thank you!) and gloves. Also some great DVDs (Foghorn Leghorn and Droopy Dog!) and books (BATMAN: STRANGE APPARITIONS from Todd, David Wellington’s werewolf sequel OVERWINTER and Michael Slade’s CRUCIFIED.)

Hopefully, you realize I'm joking about presents and that the best things I got this Christmas were time with my parents, however brief, and getting my wife back home safely. Other than that, everything else was just icing on the cake. (I hope you all got...and gave...some nice icing too.)


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Round II

I guess it goes without saying but I'll say it anyway. This has been the busiest month at my job in years. (I'm typing this at work at 11:00 at night.) I've done next to no Christmas shopping, there's a huge stack of unread books by my bed, I'm way behind on my email correspondence and haven't looked at my Facebook page in months. I had a setback on my weight loss thanks to the perfect storm of an all-nighter at work, a new Weight Watchers system to learn and not being able to get away from my desk for exercise. I gained 3 lbs last week. Fortunately, I've already shed most of it and have gotten back on track.

I don't really have anything to post but I'm afraid to get out of the habit. Especially now that the first draft of HAND ME DOWN HORROR is completed. Talking about it here keeps it "real" and I suppose guilts me into continuing.

I spent the weekend of the Virginia Comicon sitting at the Scholarship booth (thanks again, Brett!) making notes on a hard copy of my scripts. Seeing it all printed out like that gave me a little thrill. It's thicker than most screenplays, roughly about 200 pages. There were a few cringe-inducing parts but, for the most part, I was fairly satisfied with my story. I probably haven't been away from it long enough to be objective yet but I really need to get back to work on it.

Despite having next to no down time that isn't spent recuperating from all-nighters at work or just plain stress, I've managed to start the second draft. All I'm really doing is fixing some weak dialogue and correcting some contradictions that happened during the rush to get the story down. There are also some moments that feel forced and I want to go back and smooth that out. I have to confess to having lost some of the confidence I'd managed to built up. I punched up the action in the very first scene and was very happy with it. Then I hit a wall. I've rewritten one scene about four times now and it still doesn't feel right.

My problem is that I feel like my theme is a little muddy. I know what I'm trying to say with the story, I just don't know if it's coming across. There are very few expository scenes that don't have to do with the plot. So sneaking in philosophical stuff here and there gets awkward and sometimes feels shoehorned. I skipped ahead to the next scene and, again, was very pleased with the results. But this one scene just has me by the cajones. Oh well. It's not like I'm on a deadline. Though I'd hoped to be drawing by January, I have several other obligations to fulfill first, so I may have to amend that.

I actually have started doing some preliminary sketches of my version of Dracula. Now that the story is written, I have a better grasp of what he should look like. I think the look is much more refined than what I've posted before and his personality is really coming through. Hopefully, I'll get to the point where I'm comfortable sharing. I'm also fairly satisfied with the shot of the kids I posted a while back but there's still some room for improvement there. And there are about a hundred or so other peripheral characters that need to be designed. I never realized how much work goes into creating a comic book before you even start drawing the first page. Yeesh.

For anyone wondering how my little buddy Toonces is doing, he's great. The hypertension medicine has done wonders. His vision seems to be fully restored and he's got more energy than before. I also don't want to jinx it but the last couple of days, he's let me sleep until 6:00 a.m. Since he's usually howling at me to get up at 4:30, this has been a real treat. His appetite is much-improved and Charlie seems to feel he's well enough to chase around the house again. He's almost 20 now and I know nothing lasts forever but the way things have been at work lately, I'm so very grateful for this reprieve. Tooncie hates his medicine but I have no regrets about forcing it on him if it gives us more quality time with him.

Okay, that's it. I think I can actually go home now. So if I don't post again between now and Christmas I hope everyone has a great and safe holiday.