My Uncolorful* Character(s)

I don’t know about you, but as for me – unless it is absolutely critical to the movement of a story – I don’t need to always know every item in each room, or the style and brand of every shoe in the protagonist’s closet… and I especially do not need to know about the mole on the back of the least minor character’s left ear.

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Now, the genius of authors such as Balzac, Dickens, and Twain cannot be denied by me; however, I often find their attention to detail excessive and rather tedious for my overly sensitive reading sensibilities.

Especially Balzac.

I know, I know… It’s me not them.

But I’m the kind of reader dude** who enjoys employing as much as possible of my own personal image making machine, aka, my imagination, along with my thought processing gyrator, against a story’s plot, or lack thereof; and when it comes to a character and his or her physical appearance and personality traits, I prefer for them, through the details found in the story’s showing, to slowly emerge within that enveloping zen-like midst of verisimilitude (that I hopefully find myself in) until he or she can be seen standing clearly before my mind’s unblinking eye, fully developed and fleshed out.

So it should come as no surprise then when I tell all you other reader dudes*** that I try to write my stories in the way that I prefer to read them: with limited and only absolutely necessary descriptive telling.

The Sea Trials of an Unfortunate Sailore

For example, you will find that the book description for The Sea Trials of an Unfortunate Sailor reads in part:

Written with a narrative starkness, it leaves us with only our own prejudices and stereotypes to draw from and forces us to make assumptions about character and identity, and, in the end, determine not just who did it but if it was even done at all.

Admittedly, this book was written intentionally with a “narrative starkness,” not so much because starkly written books are the kind I like to read most, but because its starkness is used as a device to make a sad but painful point about the military’s failed and former Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

I was navy Equal Opportunity Advisor during DADT’s salad days and the crux of my job at the time was to travel around the Western Pacific to facilitate training seminars and focus groups in an effort to educate sailors on how to legally administer and execute the confusing and harmful policy.

As you probably already know, prior to the implementation of DADT, homosexuals were prohibited from serving in the military. With DADT – which was a compromise between Bill Clinton, who wanted to allow homosexuals to serve with no restrictions, and the military’s top brass, who wanted to continue barring homosexuals from service – homosexuals were allowed to serve in the military… provided they did not discuss their sexual orientation with anyone nor have any homosexual relations whatsoever. Additionally, no service member was allowed to ask any other service member what his or her sexual orientation was… hence the infamous moniker don’t ask, don’t tell.

A pretty cruel policy, to say the least. However, it was rather cut and dry. Not so much confusion with it on the surface.

The problems that came about with the policy was a result of when service members started taking action based on their homophobic perceptions and stereotypes.

For instance, some sailors were harassed, abused, and, sadly, even killed because they were perceived to be a homosexual based on the way he or she talked, or walked, or, while in civilian attire, dressed.

And while that’s tragic in and of itself, additional problems were often caused when these illegally and harmfully harassed sailors attempted to tell their chains-of-command about the harassment and the COC, instead of seeing these attempts as pleas for help, saw them instead as admissions of homosexuality. As a result, many sailors were wrongfully kicked out of the navy because of the ignorance and bigotry of those who were supposed to protect them.

It was very distressing to me whenever I heard of any instance of it happening. However, it was highly rewarding for me whenever I had the opportunity to get in front of a group of senior leaders and help/make them see the light as to how to effectively execute and administer DADT and to warn them about the problems they could get into for wrongly processing a sailor out of the service.

While I am very happy that DADT was finally axed and homosexuals are now allowed serve without any restrictions to their being, it was all of that nasty DADT stuff that became the impetus for me writing my novel.

And my goal in writing it was to force the reader to have to apply his or her own values, via perceptions and stereotypes, upon the characters in and events of the story. Consequently, it was important for me as a writer to not tell the reader what I wanted them to think by way of character description, but to allow them to draw their own conclusions.

I hope the story does this effectively. I guess the results can be found in the book’s reviews.

Anyway…

I was reminded about all this the other day when I read an article by The Atlantic entitled “The Case Against Colorblind Casting.” It is a very well-written and informative piece about the challenges Hollywood has casting non-white actors and how “colorblind casting,” while admirable in its goals, is not a sustainable means to diversify the films we watch. The article highlights as an example, the recent success of Oscar Isaac, Hollywood’s current It and Everywhere Man, who, just so he would have a better chance at not being type-cast and at being able to land “ethnically flexible” roles, chose to drop his last name of Hernández.

Sure, performers have and probably always will “alter” their names to one that they feel is best received by their fans; however, having to do it just to appear “less ethnic,” reminds me of the movie “La Bamba,” where it shows how the singer Richard Valenzuela was compelled to assume the less ethnic-sounding stage name of Ritchie Valens so that he could better appeal to his white audience.

That was sixty years ago and I’m sad to report, as is evidenced by our latest Hollywood star Oscar Isaac, that it’s still happening.

Man, oh man***…

This equality stuff sure is a difficult nut to crack – witness the all-white Oscar nominees for this year’s Best and Supporting Actors/Actresses – and I’m not about to attempt to try and crack it here.

Except to say that screenwriters can certainly have a hand in keeping an open playing field for actors of all races and ethnicity by – you guessed it – laying off the descriptive details in their screenplays and leaving it up to the director to cast the best actor for the role based on the story’s content and need and not on the screenwriter’s biases.

Of course, a more diverse field of screenwriters would be most beneficial to making a crack in that nut…

You may not have noticed, but I am a very white dude**… pasty even. Even still, for what it’s worth, when I adapted my short story “Leave” into a screenplay, I wrote it so the only true limitations in casting should be because of gender – and there’s just no getting around it – there are distinct male and female roles that are critical to the story’s telling, as it is a story about the bigotry faced by the first women allowed to serve on navy combatant ships.

But as far as casting for the roles for the screenplay’s mostly bigoted and sexist male characters and a few exemplary female characters… race nor any other physical trait, apart from one that would prevent someone from being accepted into the military, should not matter to the director who will be doing the casting.

Now, I doubt my starkly written, diminutive screenplay will go far in the effort to crack Hollywood’s White Nut problem… but that’s all I got for now.

Still, I’m really looking forward to beginning the process of creating this film. And, while things are a long way from definite right now, you may just be surprised by the talented actors who already have expressed an interest in being part of the production.

I can’t wait until we reach the point where I can share it all with you.

Until then, as we say in the business…

Stay tuned!


*Yeah, I know “uncolorful” is not a real word, whatever a real word may be, but I it sounds less negative to me than “colorless” so, for what it’s worth, I’m going with it.

**gender specific

***non-gender specific

So, I’m Going To Make A Movie…

One of my resolution solutions at the beginning of last year was to become involved in the art of script writing.

Of course, if you are a Newsletter Love subscriber – and why wouldn’t you be – you already know this.

But anyway…

I figured, heck, I love watching movies and I kind of love to write, and since I’ve already conquered the art of novel and poetry writing and have become wildly successful in these endeavors*, why not try something new.

So, I did.

But before I tried the writing, I did much, much reading about the “how tos” and “whatnots” of how one should go about writing a movie script.

Man**, little did I realize that Hollywood was so anal retentive when it comes to formatting.

Anyway, after surfing the web for some time, I found what has since become my go to resource:
 

 

There are many reference books out there for screenwriting but this one, I’ve found, is very easy to read and navigate through and David Trottier seems to have the Hollywood street cred so it satisfies my present incipient needs.

However, before I committed to his book, I spent a significant chunk of time at his awesome information-and-resource-filled website – you’ll find it easily enough by searching his name.

But more important to the establishment of my script writing foundation than Trottier’s bible has been – what you’ll find most successful writers recommending any newbie writer do, which is reading a ton of what it is you wish to write – reading and reading and reading Hollywood movie scripts.

They’re easy enough to find on the web. I even found a clunky but useful app for Windows. Just think of a movie you love and do a search. Chances are pretty high you’ll find an online copy of its script somewhere.

Hands down and without any doubt in my military mind the best script I read is Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.” Pure genius and light. (Can’t wait to see “The Hateful Eight.”)

Second would probably be Zach Helm’s “Stranger Than Fiction.” Wonderful writing.

Hmm… I just realized that my two favorite scripts both have the word “fiction” in their titles.

Coincidence?

Or prophetic?

Anyway…

I enjoy playing the movies in my mind as I read through the script.

It really is magic how dreams can transform into words and how words can create reality… everything.

Typing that just gave me chills.

Here’s my first formatting tip for you: Notice the space after the ellipse in the sentence that just gave me chills? Yes, that is how Hollywood requires them to be written… one space will follow all ellipses.

You’re welcome…

So I began writing scripts of my own. Short scripts.

It wasn’t easy for me, especially at first. Like I said, the formatting requirements are ridiculous – and I don’t mean that in a good way like the kids are using the word these days.

Apart from the formatting requirements, the toughest adjustment for me was having to write everything – and here comes my second formatting tip – in the present tense.

And then, of course, when, after several months of writing in the present tense, I went back to working on my present novel WIP, I had a helluva time adjusting back to the past tense.

It was almost painful, actually.

Typing that just gave me chills…

But not the good kind like the last kind.

—-

Here’s an oldie but goodie:

The Past, the Present, and the Future all walk into a bar…

It was tense.

—-

Anyway, after a while, I then decided to adapt my short story “Leave” into a short film script.

Long story short (you can bet I’ll be drawing all this script writing stuff out for a long, long period of time here), I have an actor friend who has a director friend out in Hollywood who read the script and has agreed to film it (Name dropping to follow in subsequent posts).

How about that?

Sometimes New Year’s Resolutions do come true…

Well, we hope. We’re right at the beginning of the process so keep your fingers and toes and eyes and nose (nose crossing can be done if you commit yourself to it) crossed for me and the production. We’ll need all the support and hope and prayers we can muster.

We’re planning for a film shoot in March of this year out in Los Angeles; however, there is much that has to be aligned and completed before that can happen.

It mostly has to do with raising money, of course.

But more on all that later.

Much more…

In the interim, I invite you to check out “Leave” the short story that the script is based upon. You can get an e-edition at Amazon and elsewhere. But if you really can’t afford that 99 cents asking price (Amazon won’t allow me to give it away since it’s not enrolled in KDP), email me through my contact page and request a copy and I’ll send you one.

Cool?

Write on…
 

 

*at least I have in my own delusional/narcissistic mind…
**non-gender specific

 
 

Like we Americans do, I tend to assume everyone the world over understands my cultural references…

Yeah, I know, I know…

It drives some of you bonkers when we Americans do that…

Just as I know that, thanks to the long-established American cultural propaganda machines of Hollywood, McDonalds, Levis, and Coca Cola, as well as the newcomers Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and Starbucks, it drives some of you just as bonkers, if not more, that you do understand so many American cultural references.

(Not to mention the madness it causes Canada and Mexico and all the thirty some odd other American countries North and South to know that “America” has come to mean only one country out of all of them.)

Ergo, it is with humility that, in an effort to make amends for my all-too-often ignorant assumptions, I attempt to explain for those of you who aren’t an American “of a certain age” who just don’t get my cultural reference point for these “Ain’t That America…” posts that I’ve been posting lately…

So, it is for all of you who aren’t hip for whatever reason to American culture that I am pleased and proud present John [Cougar] Mellencamp’s wonderful song “Pink Houses”…


 

Obviously – #freddygray #ferguson #gunviolence #etcetera – there is a lot more to America than just apple pie Americana, all of which, I spend a great deal of time criticizing and complaining about – out of a deep true love, of course – some here but mostly on my @KurtBrindley twitter account.

But a lot of (United States of) America is apple pie Americana and when I find myself out and about and I come across something that makes me shake my head, smile, and say to myself, “Shucks, ain’t that America…,” I am happy to be able to take out my phone, take a photo of it, and share some of that down home American “Pink House” propaganda that I love so much with you all…

The world over…

Peace.

 
 

Is it just me or…

Do others get excited for a flash of a second when they think they are reading a splashy headline about the literary giant Milan Kundera and then feel all bummed out when they realize it’s actually about the actor Mila Kunis and then feel even more bummed out when they realize they couldn’t stop themselves from reading the entire vapid article?

Sons of Anarchy: Hollywood’s Shakespearean Expression of the American Way of Life

FILM | TELEVISION | DRAMA | ACTION
SONS OF ANARCHY
RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★

Sons Of Anarchy

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, and since I am American I must, like all Americans are doing across the nation and all over facebook, offer my thanks.

There are many things for which I am thankful: my family, my health, my freedom, football (football, the real kind, not soccer), you know, all the standard things a standard American is standardly thankful for.

But in addition to those standards, I am also thankful for the miracle of technology, for it allows me to experience right from my easy chair such wonderful, and cheap, mind melting joys like this and this and Netflix.

And I am especially thankful for Netflix, for it allows me to watch movies and television shows and documentaries and even some cartoons “on demand” (which is a very American way of putting it, no?).

And, of course I’m thankful for Hollywood, too, for without Hollywood, how else would I and the rest of the world know what it truly means to be an American?

And because of Hollywood, and Netflix, and technology, and my health (and all the free time it affords me), I just spent the past three or fours days (I’m not exactly sure how many it was because by the second day it all became a blur) watching a delightful, family show called Sons of Anarchy.

Well, it may not necessarily be a show you would want to watch as a family, but it is undeniably a show about family and the many challenges a typical — and non-typical — family faces.

Yeah, I know, as usual I’m late to the party. Four seasons late, to be exact. Season Five is already close to a wrap. Unfortunately, I will not be able to see it until sometime next year, probably right before Season Six kicks off; that is, if Netflix graciously makes it available for me to watch.

So much for “on demand” I guess.

Anyway, now, after that marathon of anarchy and mayhem I willingly subjected myself to, I can’t stop thinking, “What the hell just happened?”

You know, I’m not really sure. After four straight days of watching four straight seasons of head bangin’, rock n’ rollin’, face tattin’ motorcycle clubbin’, gun runnin’, drug slingin’, porn flickin’, bombs explodin’, race baitin’, back stabbin’ drama, I’m not sure of anything right now.

Except that the show is good.

Really good.

Once again, Hollywood did what it does best: exploiting, romanticizing, and glamorizing the most extreme of man’s deviant nature.

Hollywood did its job so well and the show is so good I gave it a Netflix rating of 4 out of 5 stars.

I briefly considered giving it 5 of 5, but it does have a few superficial flaws; however, over the entire well thought out and executed arc of the show, those flaws mostly become forgotten.

But for the curious, here are a few of the annoyances I noticed:

— A bizarre Irish Republican Army connection that put a bit of a drag on the pace and feel of the show for one of the seasons, season two, I think.

— A couple of cheezy reveals, especially at the end of season four, that pissed me off.

— Chuck Hunnam’s British accent. Mostly it goes unnoticed, but it is noticeable. It especially gets thick when he is talking with/screaming at Irish dudes.

But other than those minor flaws, the show is a masterpiece, as in Masterpiece Theatre.

Well, perhaps not but speaking of theatre — dammit, I’m American! — speaking of theater, Kurt Sutter, the show’s genius creator, is in no way shy about the show’s obvious draw off of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. For example, we have our conflicted prince (or Motor Cycle Club Vice President), we have our surrogate father king (or MC President and step-father of the VP), we have our ghost of the dead former king and father of the prince (or a manifesto written by the dead former MC President, which is found and read by the son/VP of said dead former MC President, and which conflicts said son/VP even more).

There are more parallels but I think you get the point.

Hey, if you’re gonna rip off someone’s storyline, who’s better to rip off than the Great Bard himself (who, by the way, is also accused of being a first class storyline ripper-offer in his own right).

Yeah indeed, it’s a raunchy, guns/drugs/sex-laden American version of Hamlet (heck, to make sure we slow on the uptake Americans didn’t miss the Hamlet connexion, Mr Sutter even titled the last two episodes of Season Four as “To Be – Act I” and “To Be – Act II” for us).

I haven’t watched such a deviantly fine contemporary adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s plays since My Own Private Idaho (yeah, I know — Keanu Reeves. But hey, his “style” of acting works in this flick and, besides, it also has River Phoenix (MHRIP)).

Yes sir (that would be a non-gender specific “sir”), Sons of Anarchy just about has it all; all, that is, except…anarchy.

Sure there’s all the killing and all the other subversion of societal “norms” one could imagine, but all that is done within the context of maintaining a structured and orderly, albeit somewhat illicit, motorcycle club. And clubs, especially those that are guided via vote and majority rule like the SAMCRO is (if you aren’t an SOA fan, you’re probably just as confused about the meaning of SAMCRO as I initially was when I first started watching the show…if you want to know what it means, ask Mr Google like I had to), represent anything but anarchistic ideals.

Clubs, especially those of the motorcycle variety, do not represent anarchy, they represent democracy and freedom.

And democracy and freedom, damn it, represent America!

Yes, the Sons of Anarchy, with its British leading man, and its British-owned storyline, and its Irish Republican Army and Mexican Drug Cartela dependencies and connexions–er, connections, is about as American as any television series could ever strive to be…

Or not to be.

Uhm, yeah…

Oh well, I tried.

While my dubious and corny conclusion may be in question, there is no question that, with Sons of Anarchy, Hollywood has served up yet another feast of a show for us turkeys to feed upon in our unending quest to fill our insatiable viewing appetites.

And for that, I also am thankful.

~~~~

Rating System:
★ = Unwatchable
★ ★ = Poor Show
★ ★ ★ = Average Show
★ ★ ★ ★ = Outstanding Show
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ = Exceptional Show