Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Moment of Silence With Lightspeed Champion



Okay this is what silence sounds like in my world.

A lil "Midnight Surprise" by Lightspeed Champion.

I've gotta thank Greg Tate for turning me on! Thanks Greg!

Come to think of it, you're the one to blame. I've overdosed on this video.

This song has wrapped itself around me and my kinship with this GIRL as tall as mountains. Amazing actually.

When you have time, check out the nine minute epic album version.

And don't forget Mitchell A. Martian's favorite Lightspeed Champion vid posted below: Galaxy of the Lost.

American Gangstas



not sure why i wanted to post this.

i was thinkin about jay z's new album.

and suddenly i thought about this photo.

hmmmm....

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What Cops Know


What Cops Know by Connie Fletcher

IATM Rating 85%

Ceilings dripping brain matter. Outright wars in the streets. Cat burgulars that shit on your bed while you're asleep. Bodies that have been sitting so long they pop open, spilling their stench for miles.

Dead men walking and talking with knives protruding from their heads. Women kidnapped and raped by entire ghetto apartment complexes, torture crews that force children to suck their father's dicks. Mafia families that hire madmen for enforcers.

DEA agents pinned down by automatic gunfire in a world where the backup never arrives. Serial killers that cut off the heads and hands of their victims so they can never be recognized. Children prostitutes who are more worried about home than the strangers in the cars...

Welcome to the world cops know....it takes a special type to work Homicide...Sex Crimes....and the Street...

Read this book as part of my research for Slasher....

Met with an Atlanta police officer who gave me several key details for the script. He assured me that the horror is real....he told me a story about eating a hamburger while watching a man on the sidewalk die...and began stuttering emotionally, when remembering something that happened to a two-year old...

i didn't probe...

you just have to get numb, he said.

More than frightening....insane.....like working at war, inc.

Wonderful book, frightening world.

But in the midst of it all, you have to remember to laugh.

You have to give the bodies funny nicknames. You have to tell war stories. You have to believe that there is a reason for every drop of blood spilled in the street, and that someday everything--all this madness--will end.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Knocked Up!


Knocked Up

IATM RATING: 98%

There's been so much happening in Wondaland, I don't even know where to begin.

Let's start here.

Last weekend we all went off to see a little romance film called Knocked Up.

I went first with my girlfriend at the time, ex-girl, it's a complicated taking-two-weeks-off- because-we-fight-so-much-not-sure-if-we're-right-for-each-other-and-
she's-off-for-New-York-in a-month kind of thang...and then I went again with the Wondaland crew...because I loved it.

I saw this film two times in two days. For those that don't know, the premise is that a fat slacker named Ben Stone (played by Seth Rogen) has a drunken one-night stand with a gorgeous career girl named Alison Scott (played by Grey's Anatomy's Katherine Heigel). Alison gets pregnant and of course, hilarity and romance ensues, and finally since Hollywood is Hollywood, love wins the day.

What did I love about it? Let me count the ways:

  1. Writing, writing, writing: Judd Apatow's script was lean, spare, perfect--comedic with the perfect amounts of ennui, despair and postmodern romance glimmering through. My favorite scene was when Pete (Paul Rudd) and Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) sit in a playground and talk about bubbles. There's all these kids chasing floating bubbles. Ben asks Pete (who's already the father of two little girls) if he's gonna be alright, and Pete says no. Then Pete tells him not to ask him for any money, and then expounds on the childhood magic of bubbles. Genius. A comedy film version of the paper bag scene in American Beauty.
  2. The comedy troupe: Everyone in this film is a comedian. Let me repeat: everyone in this film is a comedian. If you blink, you'll miss five gags. Everything is effortless, and the supporting characters are so over-the-top and stellar you have to go back again just to see the whole ensemble in action. It's like watching a comedic symphony. Honorable mentions go out to Craig Robinson, the club doorman, who improvs his way into greatness with lines like: "They only let me let in 24 1/3 black people, so I have to find 24 black folks and a midget..." Brianna Brown who plays a crackpot work associate of Alison Scott. Her "I don't like secrets" and "Yeah, I can't believe it either"s were priceless. Ken Jeong's insane doctor routine was hilarious. Ben's friends (played by Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr and Charlyne Yi) were classic. Like a Miles Davis quintet. Charlene was continually high and out of control: "Can we trade boyfriends? Huh, huh. I'm just kidding. Sort of."
  3. The Fantasy: And there's this part. Knocked Up plays to everyone's fantasies in a good way. Women truly want the selfless guy, the guy who looks out into the world and only sees their twinkling eyes. And men...what do we want? We want to get drunk, go to a hot club, meet a girl waaaaaay hotter than us or anyone we know, get her pregnant, and then...get condemned to spend the rest of our lives with her. Like how can I do this, marry Halle Berry?!?I'm ruined, ruined!
Go see it. Take someone you love or want to get pregnant.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Prince Comes Back to Planet Earth


I've been a Prince devotee for so long it's hard to talk rationally about his work anymore.

And to be honest, it's hard to say what you could possibly expect from a genius that is almost 50 and has given you so much.

Unfortunately, I'm not anticipating that his new album Planet Earth will be any better than Musicology or 3121, which made for great tours...when he played the hits and great lost nuggets from his golden era...

It's not that I don't like songs like "Musicology." "3121." Or "Guitar."

I do. They're perfectly fine. They're just not teachin me anything new.

I just expect alien funk sh*t from Prince and lately he's been sounding rather human.

And a little too much like his heroes.

I love Larry Graham and Cynthia and Jerry just like everybody else. But the minute the Family Stone hit Prince's band all his funk songs began to sound less like "Tamborine" and "Houseqake" and more like retreads of "Life," "Fun" and other Sly classics.

And it's been this way since, perhaps Rave Unto the Joy Fantastic, Rainbow Children and One Night Alone Tour, which all had some beautiful moments in them, but not very much in the way, shape and form of new inspiration information. (Actually, I loved the reckless abandon of Rainbow Children, although the redemptive gospel-funk concept wore a little thin.)

It just seems he's gotten rather comfortable coasting on his legacy, taking old ideas and rereleasing them under new titles.

(Check how Guitar's strut seems cribbed wholecloth from Cream. The only thang that Guitar adds is the U2 like- shimmer of guitar on the hook.)

The things I love about Prince today include:

1. He's the greatest performer in the world right now. Period. See the 2007 Super Bowl for clarity on this.

2. He's still a rebel who changes the game: Musicology was brilliant in every aspect. CDs with every concert ticket. Hilarious and innovative.

3. He's the only black guy and the only pop god standing with a guitar. 'Nuff said. (And Lenny plays rhythm, not lead.)

The last great album Prince made was the Gold Album. But who's complaining?

He's still here, still releasing an album every year, and doing amazing shows.

P.S. And why's Prince f*cking with Verizon? I'm waiting for a Purple iPod called The Vault with all of the remastered Prince albums and 300 unrealeased songs from Paisley Park! Oh well....

THE YEAH YEAHS ANSWER THE NO, NO, NO's




So Karen O moved from NY to LA.

And the Yeah Yeah Yeah's recorded their second album.

Was it just me?

Or was there something missing?

Anyway, I'm happy to hear from this live track that they seem to be getting their
muscles back again.

Friday, June 22, 2007

How to Get Off the Plantation in 5 Easy Steps (Pt. V)



How to Get Off the Plantation in 5 Easy Steps (Pt. V):

5. The Giant Leap

Remember the Matrix? How one of the biggest tests of being outside of the Matrix was the leap of faith? A leap from the roof of the tallest building in the city. Into nothing but thin air. And a hope and a prayer that you would make it to another roof before you came crashing to the concrete hundreds of stories below.

Leaving your paying job—no matter what the circumstances—is a little like this. Even if you hate your job. Even if you’re merely shining shoes, screwing in lightbulbs in locker rooms, or cleaning up elephant feces in a zoo, the decision to focus on nothing but YOU and everything else be damned is the kind of decision that can lead you to living in your parent’s basement for the rest of your life—without a girlfriend, money, car, or any of life’s other niceties to speak of.

It’s a leap of faith. And there’s no way around it. Don’t kid yourself. Now sure there are certain contracts, business deals, and situations that can make you smile so hard you forget that all of life’s necessities—food, shelter, clothing—in this capitalistic world cost money. Sure, there are certain recording deals, business breakthroughs, and new salaries that will put all the questions to rest and the mind at ease. But remember the more zeros you see, the less control you have—and that doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. Often times “making it" means running from the frying pan into the high priced fire.

And yes, you’ve read that right, I’ve intimated that EVERYTHING CAN BE A PLANTATION. Sorry to break it to you. In the recording industry, if you don’t own your masters, your masters own you. And that’s just the beginning in an industry where your every expense is recoupable, and you only make 8% to 20% of the profit of the net worth of your creations (and that’s not even touching on the well chronicled robber baron accounting practices of the overall entertainment industry). So if you have any sense at all, you will always have that burning nervous feeling in your stomach. And you will realize it’s one small step for you, and a giant leap of faith.

By the way, you entrepreneurs can stop laughing at the music business wannabees. If you need someone else’s money to handle your burn rate, you will quickly realize that your chief job each month will be just to borrow and steal and wine and dine enough greedy investors just to make payroll, pay your programmers and keep your product on the critical path needed for your project to launch on time. And after it launches, guess what? You’ll need more money, more meetings, more calls to your money managers and frantic late night calls to your friends because you’ve heard rumors that the venture capitalist firm you’re working with is putting together a new board and you’re not on it. In the end, there’s no magic profit margin that can ease the situation, more money means more meetings, more hard work, and a need for better planning and execution just to keep up with Joneses who also have big billion dollar budgets and want to watch your house and everything in it come crashing burning down. How did you know that when you left your lax life of steady pay and benefits that you would never sleep again? Did you actually ask for this?

Yes, you actually did. But you’re a dreamer. And dreamers like to jump from tall buildings into the unknown. Just like this. This is the life you asked and begged for. This is what makes your life worth living. Know this and act accordingly. Your life, just like the unknown will always be interesting, and full of revelations, but seldom easy. Just ask Alice. Who realized there was a lot of light—and spinning slivers of darkness—in the rabbithole.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t leap. You certainly should. And the sooner the better. This is merely to say that you should plan carefully, gather your friends, watch your enemies, read all the small print, research your industry endlessly before you jump into it, and be aware that you are millions of miles above the ground without a net. But it’s cool. If you’re a dreamer like me, you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

How to Get Off the Plantation in 5 Easy Steps (Pt. IV):

Some folks think slavery is over.....

How to Get Off the Plantation in 5 Easy Steps (Pt. IV):

4. Kill a thousand birds with every stone.

To truly make it, you have to learn how to kill a thousand birds with every stone. This is simply to say that you need to learn how to find value in every thing you do, as well as learn how to squeeze 96 hours out of a 24 hour day. You will have to work hard in your day gig, and even harder at night to make it. Nothing will be handed to you on a silver platter. In your day gig, glean and steal everything you can to help you in your other businesses. (I mean “steal" figuratively, unless you’re planning a career as a gangsta rapper.) Find your way into a paying gig that brings you not only a unique, complementary skill set, but also contacts and extraordinary experiences, etc. Even if you bake cakes for a living, your job is to plot out how this bakery career can help you get into event planning, investment banking, singing, or whatever your heart desires. Every minute of the day, be professional, and kill a thousand birds with every stone.

The “be professional" adage is more important than any of us can possibly realize in the moment. You never know when you will need someone to help you get a loan, phone number, or into an event. So treat everyone like a king or queen. If you have a boss, work hard to get along with him or her and leave on good terms. If that production deal falls through, you may need some part time work, so be prepared to scrap together all these good relationships and contacts in order to make ends meet. Everywhere you go, you want your name associated with excellence. It takes work to be an accomplished copy editor by day, and a mindbending experimental novelist at night, but guess what? No one said this would be easy.

In addition, be prepared to work on more than one project. At most large companies like Google, they use the 70/20/10 rule. They spend 70% of their time on their bread and butter business (search), 20% of their time on establishing new projects (Gmail), and 10% of their time researching and inventing new opportunities (Google docs). Smart folks work hard, keep taking chances, and keep investing time and money in the unknown because you never know when these new 10% growth markets will become your bread and butter. Ask Apple who now relies on the iPod to drive the rest of its businesses from retail and online stores to the sales of its hardware. So it’s cool to have at least three big balls in the air: I would suggest have at least three brilliant ones, and be prepared to head in any direction at any given time.

Here at Wondaland, we have a holding company named 1954. We have so many balls moving in this company it’s insane. So if you’re going to do something like this it takes a lot of the right eyeballs, minds and hands to keep everything moving in the right direction. But even as a writer, you can practice this same concept. Why not work on a screenplay and a novel, as well as that children’s book you always dreamed about? Spend 70% of your free time on the novel you’re turning in for your master’s MFA thesis, 20% on the fantasy adventure film and 10% on the children’s story. When you get stuck on one, flip around and work on the other. Find a rhythm. Keep it fun. And never feel bad about the 10%, about experimenting, researching new things, doodling with new colors, starting something new.

This is all to say, if possible, integrate everything—all of your dream projects and your present day job—into your long-term plans. In the most simple sense, this means if you must work, search for a career that feeds your passion. For the last fifty years, established poets and writers have taken posts in the academic world, teaching literature and the craft of writing to the next generation of literary stars. But teaching is certainly a reciprocal activity, and certainly on some days these writers learn as much if not more from their passionate students. In a similar sense, turn every conversation, task and endeavor in your life into a reciprocal activity. Find value in everything. See every challenge at work as preparation for your future. Drain every minute of every day for new revelations. And when you leave the plantation, run away with all the weapons you need to win the war.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How to Get Off the Plantation in 5 Easy Steps (Pt. III):

Gustave Boulanger's painting The Slave Market

How to Get Off the Plantation in 5 Easy Steps (Pt. III):

3. Fund your passion.

This is a self-explanatory one. You cannot succeed without actually spending time and energy on your craft and producing work. You must fund, that is, nourish your art. If you are a poet or writer, this means reading, writing, workshopping, and submitting pieces. If you are a singer, this means writing hot songs and performing on stages wherever you can find them. If want to be a real estate tycoon, this means getting your certificate, scouting properties, asking successful people the important questions.

It can also mean money. Taking the money you throw away on strippers and weed each week and using it on a keyboard or a law book instead. But much of it comes down to time and energy. If you’re building the next MySpace, how much time everyday do you spend on furthering your ideas? If you want to be the next Anna Wintour, how much time do you spend scouring fashion magazines, watching fashion trends, and by the way, what are your core values, big hairy audacious goals—where is your career plan?

Creating the best you takes time and energy, so I would advise not only working hard but also working smart. Working smart means working with others. Like Bob Marley said, “Collective security for surety." Find two others who are passionate and like-minded and make it happen. (I think three people is a perfect number for beginning organizations.) These two people should all be more driven, and if possible, more talented then you. Be like Miles Davis: There’s a reason he had so many great ensembles and it’s because he knew precisely who he was and what he wasn’t capable of, and he sought those missing qualities in other people. You’d be surprised how many people are scared to hire or work with people that are more talented than them, as if they’re afraid their partners will try to take over and run the show.

But that’s the wrong approach. Assess yourself and figure out what you’re lacking and partner accordingly. If you’re a meticulous businessman and you’re trying to get into music, grab someone slightly out of their mind and wildly creative. If you’re intrinsically lazy (and most of us are), grab the most hungry person you can get. If you’re shy, grab someone gregarious and charismatic to help you work the room. It doesn’t matter if folks only remember your partner’s name, as long as they notice one of you, your project moves forward.

If your project does not require a team, then nurture a group of individuals who will push you everyday in what you want to do. In the 8th grade, I wrote a play that was a complete rip-off of Alien called The Being for my 8th grade Communications class. I wish I could find it now. The script was full of characters walking around a big space ship, screaming and waiting to get eaten. We were going to use cardboard to build a control room, with twinkling Christmas lights for the little buttons and switches. Hilarious. Anyway, of course, we never did the play. But my teacher encouraged everything. We must have spent seven weeks planning something that never happened. And I was the star of the show, the director, playwright, HNIC (which is really funny, considering it was an all-white class). It was like Shakespeare in Love. I would arrive at class everyday and give everyone their new lines. And they would jump up and down when they saw their character got eaten or got to kiss someone! It was great, and it made me run home to write.

You should do the same, do what we do here at the Wondaland Arts Society, have an Inspiration Party! Have all your friends over, share your product, songs, stories, or ideas with them. Use their joy, love and support to help fuel your journey because—believe me—there will be times when you are crying, and you will want to quit. Start nurturing some shoulders to cry on.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

How To Get Off the Plantation in 5 Easy Steps (Pt. II)


How to Get Off the Plantation in 5 Easy Steps:

2. Eat your anger.

So as I discussed in Step 1, the first important step is all about vision. Having a concrete vision for what you want to do. And this vision should relate to a passion you have—something you would do even if you couldn’t make any money doing it. After finding this passion, the next step is to truly begin your march to freedom. You need a starting point. Most successful people I know who are young and in the music business full time were starlets waiting to happen. They began early, like Tiger Woods. We’re talking people who were singing in brushes at the age of three, in acapella groups in high school, banging on keyboards in college, and now producing, writing and singing full time a mere fifteen years later. But for every single rising star I know there are 100 trying to make it---100 folks that decided at the age of 20 that they wanted to do music and now are dropping out of school, stripping or pumping gas so they can pay a producer for a demo package, and hoping they can get a record out before they have to hang their head in shame and go back to mama or school. (I used to do this every Christmas until I decided to go back to school, graduate, and pay my own bills, or at least most of them.)

But what if you’re 25 and unable to write songs, dunk a basketball, too “dumb" to be a doctor, etc. What then? Then go back to step 1. Find something to believe in and stick with it. Because even if you have passion and vision “making it" takes hard work, planning, talent, discipline, and perhaps most importantly of all, luck. But even if you have no passion, no vision, no idea what you’d like to do or where you’d like to go, you gotta start somewhere.

So start with anger. Study the things that enrage you. And eat them. What makes you maddest? Homelessness. Sexism. Racism. Poverty. The fact your mom can’t dress. The bad music at parties. The fact you’ve traveled nowhere except to campus and back home. Your inability to find a date. The lack of art in schools. The fact that black people don’t read. The many historical injustices of American foreign policy. The fact Americans consume so much, waste exponentially, and give back so little. Find these things that drive you crazy and then pour your whole being into them. This anger is a career, an economic opportunity, a new invention, business model or technological breakthrough waiting to happen. Eat this pain, this frustration and anger and use it as fuel. Often this is where the most innovative ideas and passions come from.

As we know, most great art comes from guys like Woody Allen, Spike Lee, Andy Warhol, James Baldwin, the list goes on--- these guys were misfits, the guys that never got a dance at prom and it ate them up. It ate them up so much they had to find a way to be noticed, a way to make it happen. The tricky thing to remember here is that most people who have lasting success had a burning mission, something to say, core values that formed the foundation of everything they accomplished. You get the impression that Spike Lee genuinely cares more about black people and the community than he does about himself. And it makes you go see his films. So what do you have to say? What do you believe in? What drives you crazy? Make a list of those things that keep you up at night and then attack them systematically by volunteering, joining with others to form a company or organization, write a song, paint a picture, run down the street naked, just get angry and make it happen!

You can do it. You can turn your hopelessness, your despair and despondency into action. Stop staring at that computer screen. Turn down the zombie syndrome and become determined to be somebody. And by somebody I don’t mean an asshole with a Swiss bank account, a fixture in celebrity culture or a reality TV star. I mean become the best you.

Monday, June 18, 2007

HOW TO GET OFF THE PLANTATION IN 5 EASY STEPS (Pt. I)


How to Get Off the Plantation in 5 Easy Steps:

Over this week, I’ll offer 5 easy steps to leaving your day gig, and getting into stuff you really wanna do, the stuff that doesn’t feel like work.

I worked at Morehouse College as a grantwriter for three years after graduating in 2003. And it was great. I learned a lot about working with people (difficult or not), getting the job done (no matter what the circumstances), and how to do things like prepare executive officers for meetings, write correspondence for high-ranking officers, and draft proposals good enough to win the College millions of dollars. That being said, there comes a time when you’re ready to move on…so how do you prepare for it?

1. Find your passion.

This is the hardest part. Most people spend their lives, upset and wanting to fill the void in their stomachs…they have a feeling that there is a job—a life mission!-- they can undertake that will make everyday feel like Christmas. But they’re not sure what it is. Or they know what it is and don’t have the grades, funding, skills, talent, background, connections or education to make it happen. Any self-help book you pick up can tell you how much it takes to make it in any industry: For example in the record business, you not only have to write great songs, and sing/dance/play your ass off, but also know the right people who are in league with madmen that will kill somebody if your CD does not hit the shelves within the next few years.

But you must not only find your passion—you must choose the right one. And you know when you have chosen the wrong one when it feels like work. When nothing goes your way. I truly feel, like Sly said, that everybody is a star. But many people are very talented in a field they refuse to dedicate their life to, and spend their time struggling in a “sexy" field where they are C or D students instead of A. The trick about this postmodern world is first to identify and then embrace what you have going for yourself, and then in a real estate sense, flip properties—use your innate ability or skill in one area to leverage your pipe dreams in another.

But how to find your passion? Don’t people spend lifetimes searching endlessly for this? Don’t people end up on their deathbed with a wistful smile on their lips thinking, “If only I’d known about flowers sooner…If only I’d known planting flowers brings me so much joy.." If you’re still in undergrad, running around partying, within ten years you will be working day and night for little money, or making great money without a personal life to speak of, and you’ll be riding the subway, taxi or plane, and you’ll say, “This is got to stop! I’m not enjoying this! I’ve only had 18 months of this! And I’ve gotta do this-wake up, eat my toast, and scowl on the way to work at 8:30 everyday-- for the rest of my life!?

The sad answer is yes. And doing nothing is not an option. The good news is if you’re doing your passion you’ll feel like you’re going to the playground. And not working at all. So begin searching now.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Doing "IT" Daily



Blogging daily is a wild thing.

I'd like to formally apologize for last week where I didn't blog regularly.

As you can see from my recent posts, I was able to finish a couple of books last week.

And I was also able to catch Ms. Monáe in action in Miami (see the YouTube post above and the "WAS in Miami" post on the Wondaland blog.)

But blogging-- shit---doing anything daily is more than a notion. Especially when you're away from home, tired from gigs, doing publicity, locked in meetings, in the studio, etc. Shoot, even thangs you like to do (like "IT") don't get done because there's just not enough time in the day for it all...

Blogging means only one thing: find a wireless signal and write damnit! don't worry about a topic, humor, or wit--just write!

So, bear with me, I'm learning....

Here's something else I wish could do daily: take our guitarist Kellis Parker to the strip club for his very first time again and again and again.

You should have been there last night. Only one word needed: CLASSIC.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

SLASHER UPDATE!


SLASHER UPDATE!!

Okay, so I've been getting some good script coverage lately from some friends in LA and NY, as well as my trusty colleagues here at Wondaland here in the ATL.

A lot of great comments from all around, which have got me fairly pumped up about moving the rough draft to the next level, the First Draft.

There are some things that are working in the rough draft fairly well, some scenes that I love that I may have to cut in order to better serve the story, some characters that need to be better developed, and perhaps most importantly, an entirely new backstory that I am developing, as well as a shift in the main protagonist.

The things people love (in no certain order): are the friendships/crushes/party sequences of the teenagers, the dialogue, and the backwards-forwards story structure, which plays with time...Greg Tate called the structure "crafty" and that made me smile.

Most importantly, in writing the rough draft, I feel like I am getting to know the characters better, the house better, the horror better.

Just recently I came across something TRUE that is the most horrifying and exciting thing EVER. Oh don't worry, I'm incorporating it. And you will be very afraid. Because as sick as it is, it's a true story.

Oh well, it's all a journey.

P.S. I also talked to Erica Conner, and we're planning to meet next Tuesday to talk through the rough draft and overall story. She's 80 pages into the script, and still excited about the project and taking it to Mandalay Entertainment, which is great. Mandalay made a lot of money off the I Know What You Did Last Summer films, so we'll see....

The Making of Star Wars

I.A.T.M. Pleasure Rating: 83%

Okay, I've also finished The Making of Star Wars.

I read this book for three reasons:

1. To study how Lucas successfully used myths and archetypes to build a timeless story.

2. To study how Lucas successfully conquered the many problems that came up during principle photography, created an innovative effects house and used state-of-the-art special effects in order to create one of the world's first blockbusters.

3. To study the business of how the film got made and how Lucas got the merchandising and sequels deal of the century.

In reference to number 1, the book provided:

  • Breakdowns of each rough draft of the script complete with bulleted improvements that ended up in the final draft
  • Discussions of what Lucas was reading and studying in terms of films, myths, and texts
  • Discussions of the casting process (which provided crazy nuggets such as Lucas's consideration of an all-black cast!)
  • Details about how Lucas continually revised the script even during principle photography (For example, Lucas decided to kill Obi Wan Kenobi while filming, and this decision created a rift between the production and Alec Guiness, who was very upset. Just one more problem Lucas had to fix as they struggled with malfunctioning droids and typhoons in the desert.)

In reference to Number 2, the book provided:

  • A breakdown of each day of principle photography: the problems faced, innovative solutions, etc.
  • A discussion of how design elements were brought to life on screen
  • A discussion of how ILM was started and the many problems they faced and conquered during production (moving from front projection to blue screen, dealing with lack of time, money, personnel, etc.)
  • A breakdown of the run to the finish line: as Lucas says, the film wasn't finished, it was abandoned...because of lack of time and distribution/marketing constraints.

In reference to number 3, the book provided:

  • A discussion of the original deal memo
  • A discussion of the ongoing negotiations between Lucas and Twentieth Century Fox
  • A discusssion of the final deal and its repercussions for Lucas and the film industry
Unbelievable book about a timeless film.

I think the most exciting thing about the book is the amount of perserverance that Lucas had to have in terms of his vision because no one, outside of Spielberg, thought he would win.

The studio tried to pull the plug so many times I lost count.

But Lucas persevered. And won.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Robot Visions

I.A.T.M. Pleasure Rating: 73%

So, at long last, I've finished Robot Visions by Isacc Asimov.

If you've heard the VSHH single, you've surely heard the soaring refrain "YOU KNOW THE RULES!"

Well, when it comes to robots, Issac Asimov certainly created some timeless rules, otherwise known as "The Three Laws of Robotics."

These laws were a direct response to the barrage of SF stories in the '20's and '30's warning mankind of an impending "Frankenstein effect"-- a futuristic society in which mankind would be overthrown by its monstrous creations.

As a term, "robot" stems from a 1920 Czech play named R.U.R. by Karl Capek. The term means "forced worker" or "slave." And of course, in the play the laboring robots overthrow their masters and destroy them in Marxist-style revolution.

But Asimov was an optimist with different ideas. Unlike the scores of other writers that jumped on that bandwagon, he decided to look at the robot as an innocent machine programmed for good, with safeguards embedded in its positronic brain.

Hence, the quandry of a Hal 9000 can never happen in the Asimov universe. The first law of Robotics-- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm--prohibits it. But instead of creating a boring universe, this actually frees Asimov to play with the limits of technology and language.

In the Asimov universe, a company named United States Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation manufactures all the robots with the three laws firmly embedded in each model's "positronic brain." Earthlings are deathly afraid of robots, so robots are typically restricted to space assignments, manufactured in colonies, used at outposts for mining, dangerous occupations, etc. When Earthlings do come in contact with robots, rich moments arise, such as in the story "Bi-Centennial Man," a masterpiece in which a robot begins to convert himself into a human being through organic enhancements--even down to terminating his own existence so that he can finally receive the coveted distinction of being considered human. (Haven't seen the movie yet, but I hope it's half decent.)

Over half a century, Asimov explored the ethical side of these laws. What does "harm" mean to a robot? How does a robot deal with an evil human being, one that may harm others? Etc.

There is plenty here for oppressed folks to chew on. Throughout, robots call their owner "Master." And it took over thirty years for Asimov to consider the female robot. Fittingly enough, that robot was called JANE-1. (It seems fate is on our side here at Wondaland.)

I, Robot was based on his famous short story collection, and countless other short story collections/films/and SF novels have been built out of these ideas. Asimov even invented the term "robotics," and for years real scientists and engineers have looked to his stories for guidance on how they should approach the future. (Which is given even more resonance by Asimov's creation of "robopsychology" and the character of Susan Calvin, one of his more interesting recurring characters.)

At Wondaland, Asimov has certainly simplified our own search for the droid codes that guide "The Metropolis" universe, which I will post another time, after we've finished refining them.

But here is my grand criticism:

1. As an SF aficianado/reader/writer, I side with the post-World War II, dystopian Phillip K. Dick school of SF. Human nature is a bitch, the world's getting harder, and technology is creating change-- but change and growth are two different thangs.

2. I tend to believe that capitalism is the grand arbiter of industry, not morality systems. The tobacco industry shouldn't sell cigarettes to young folks, but the getting's good, you know? Likewise, I find it hard to imagine top-notch researchers not pushing into the danger zone, if there's money to be had. Most likely, if history is a guide, the war machine will be pushing the robotics industry forward and the first law will go something like this: Kill your enemy-- anyone that looks like this, speaks this language, or prays to this god.

3. Like most pre-World War II SF, black folks are nowhere to be found in the future. But I'm used to this...moving on...

There's certainly more good here than bad. Asimov's laws are timeless treasures, essential nuggets of opitimism in the SF universe. I love the essays, especially their deduction that robots could create a better world than humanity alone, and that perhaps, humanity should step aside for the good of Earth and the universe. Brilliant! And, of course, C3PO and R2D2 would not exist without Asimov's vision and the Three Laws, in terms of their behavior.

Lastly, without Asimov's many robot stories and his need for beautiful illustrations, Ralph McQuarrie would not have had a chance to become a renowned illustrator in the SF community. And then, you guessed it, George Lucas would have never had the opportunity to look up and say "let's hire this guy Ralph to do some designs for Star Wars!"

And without those designs, well...let's just say Star Wars might not have ever gotten made. Because all agree that McQuarrie's early drawings--and then later vehicle sketches, matte paintings and character designs--cinched the deal with 20th Century Fox and then guided ILM through their heroic efforts to build a brand new universe.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Song for Chad

Rejected album cover design (notice the typo on Monáe)

A Song For Chad


First, I'd like to apologize for not blogging yesterday.

On Tuesday night, after Janelle's show at Girls Rock Too (at Studio 900 in Atlanta- you should have been there!) we took off for Miami.

Janelle had a radio show and then a performance at The Bohemian Room in Miami. All went amazing. Show was crazy, and her radio interview was one of the best interviews I've heard. (Really shows what research and great questions can do for an interview.)

Anywhoo, i'm here to talk about Chad. Chad Weatherford. My childhood best friend who is now married and in New Zealand. Chad and I have a couple of companies together that we founded based on our respective passions: art and writing.

Over twenty years ago, we met on the playground, realized that we both had a love for Spider Man, and set out to create our own comic book universe. Since then, we've done more together than the law allows.

Today we have two companies: Blak Milk Productions, which does graphic design, merch, illustrations, etc. And Wism, a new company, that we're hoping will one day be our Lucasfilm.

Everything started with comic books back in the day, and now all this. Currently, Chad and I are both doing "imaginography" on the Metropolis project, which includes but is not limited to: graphic design, album artwork, art direction, concept art, video treatments/pre-production, story direction and character design, and hopefully at some point, screenwriting. Yes, I like all of you, would love to see this Metropolis saga on the big screen.

We also have an exciting animated epic named Adam's Song that I'll tell you much more about when it's time.

Anywhoo, this is a Song for Chad. He works in the dark. Lives in New Zealand. And no one knows his name. Recently, I introduced him to the Purple Ribbon family, and they were like "You do exist!" He'd designed album art for Big, done all this video treatment stuff, and yet no one had seen his smile.

Well, in tribute to his hard brilliant work, I've posted some assorted pics below. These come from the Metropolis universe.



Flying ships anyone?




Of course, if you're gonna do Star Wars, you have to have your own stormtroopers. So Chad's been at work searching for the droid control marshals. The first thing he turned in was this:


To which Janelle responded "NOT FUNKY ENOUGH, YOU BIG NOOKIE!" No, just kidding. But she did send us back to the drawing board to reach for more ideas that were more 28th Century. So Chad went back to work. Here's some of his latest droid control sketches. As you can see, everything's a process. And it's like making Star Wars for real.



Not sure yet if any of these will end up as final designs, or if we'll start all over again. But if you're creative, you know how fun the journey can be!

Everyone clap for Chad! This is his song! And he does great work!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Internationationally playalistic


Okay, okay, I promise not to turn my blog into BET.

Just thought you might want to see the new UGK/Outkast video.

Enjoy.

And dig Outkast's Deep Cotton style (tuxes and bowties, yep!)

And dre's killin wit that scottish thang...and it's good to hear the boy rappin again...

Monday, June 04, 2007

BUMP DAT ICKY THUMP



Okay, so I've heard the new White Stripes song a couple of times. And seen the video.

In fact, seeing the video was the first time I heard the song.

It's not "Seven Nation Army" but it does have an icky thump to it. (sorry!)

Anywhoo, i do dig the zepplin vibe of the hook especially, and as always, i love to see jack play guitar live.

See the post above.

p.s. i'll post about the weekend's VSHH events and hit u with some pics later.

Friday, June 01, 2007

VIOLET STARS & DEEP COTTON!


So Janelle Monae has invited a surprise guest to perform tomorrow at Apache.

His name is Deep Cotton. He's nine feet tall and the son of John Henry.

He's read too much Dr. Seuss plus he's got a drinking problem.

Be there or be square.

And if you don't have the Janelle Monáe single by Saturday night, you're a wussy.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Black Folks vs. The Future


Blacks Vs. The Future:

Okay, I promised to talk to you a little bit about being black, doing tech stuff, and approaching the investment community.

Let me start by saying that my first experience with this phenomenon was with a product called an Illumiplate, a license plate that actually illuminated from within. Not to be confused with license plates with little lights or neon borders, the digits of the Illumiplate glowed incandescently. You had to see it to believe it: the plate actually had glowing digits you could read from half a mile away. So, of course, cops loved it, and wanted to get black folks Illumiplates immediately.

Anyway, this brother I know patented the plate and the proprietary technology and built a company around the product, and we then took it to the VC community and the state and federal government. It was a beautiful invention, like the coming of blue jeans. You could certainly imagine that, within ten years, everyone would be driving a car with a plate like this because it had so many aesthetic and functional competitive advantages. The plate's surface was basically a digital canvas, so from a vanity perspective you could have a honeymoon photo or an Outkast logo in all its blazing glory on the front of your car. It was ridiculous.

We talked to congressmen. People in the military. State troopers. They all loved it. We began looking at the various states, the billions of automobiles across the world, and it became apparent that this was a multi-billion dollar product.

But we had two major issues: 1) the inventor and all the founding members were black; 2) we didn't have the right friends: people that know great people and give great advice.

Politicians openly wanted to get cut in before any legislation moved forward to allow the Illumiplate on the streets. VCs wanted the technology, and wanted to throw us some nickels and dimes for coming up with their new cash cow.

We had no friends in the tech community. No leverage. No counseling from folks in the appropriate industry, which would have certainly helped seeing as our friend who invented the product was set on running everything and keeping the lion's share of pie for himself.

It was an amazing mess.

But for me, the most striking thing was how white people would look at the product. They would hold it in their hands, flipping it back and forth and damn near trying to crack it open to see how it worked, and then ask technical questions that, perhaps, they thought we couldn't answer.

To many of these white businessmen, it seemed simply inconceivable that we had done this. That it wasn't a top research lab or university that pulled this technological feat off: that it was just a few n*gg*s sitting alone in a room. Perhaps it was just as far-fetched to them that we would be able to successfully commercialize this product, build the General Electric- the entire infrastructure- needed to push, market and distribute this product around the globe.

Perhaps, in some regard, they were correct, but here's where the paths of whiteness and blackness differ. As James Brown said, we don't want nobody to give us nothing. Open up the door we'll get it ourselves. With money, you can hire folks that have much more experience than you, build infrastructure, market things properly, make things happen. Take a leap: treat a young black guy like Mark Zuckerberg and you never know what might happen.

We just need a fair deal. Not a they're-some-n*gg*s-they-don't-know-the-difference deal.

We never expanded our team. We never pulled in the money. We never built a coalition to make it possible. And the invention died. Maybe died's not the right word. Went back to that place where good ideas go, where they can be born again to a white person, who knows the right people, attracts the right level of funding and then gets on the cover of Forbes magazine smiling.

Like Col. Sanders, who probably never cooked a piece of chicken in his life, bragging about his secret spices.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

BODY ROCK VIDEO TREATMENT



Submitted the following video treatment to Purple Ribbon upon Big Boi's special request. Never shot. Would love to shoot this...if the perfect crazy party-dance song came along. Let me know what you think...


Property of Blak Milk Productions


Body Rock”

Video Treatment


We see DICK MICK, a black newscaster dressed in a badly tailored baby blue suit and a horrible toupee. His lips are ashy, and he talks with a lisp. When he turns to the camera, we see that his eyes are wide with fear— he looks like a man who has just seen an elderly woman harassed in broad daylight.


As we hear the opening chorus, he says, “As you know, this is DICK MICK of BTV NEWS…What you are about to see is shocking…lewd, crude…and partially nude. Please brace yourselves: Perhaps you have even heard about our next story…a group of hooligans calling themselves the Purple Ribbon Posse…Like nefarious criminals from the Wild West they have colorful nicknames! They call themselves Donkey Boy, Lil’ Co and Killer Mike…Over the last two months, they have gone on an outrageous rampage through the South… where with colorful phony guns they have been making outlandish appearances in banks…and using security cameras to make horrible music videos…see for yourself.”


As the first verse begins, we see Lil’ Co in a bank, waving a monstrous blurred out squirt gun. People are running and screaming, diving over counters. He stands in the center of the room, rapping, acting crazy and making the scared fat security guard do the body rock. Killer Mike and Donkey Boy are behind him, pushing their blurred out squirt guns in crying customers’ faces and forcing them “to do the body rock.” Two beautiful female customers begin to enjoy doing the body rock. Making suggestive glances at the security cameras, they throw off their corporate attire and begin gyrating and doing the body rock like professional strippers. Their torsos are blurred out, even though their bright bras are still visible. A blind man goes by doing the robot. A bank teller pours Moet on an elderly dancing woman, whose wig falls off. The peaceful bank has become a riotous party. A ticker tape scrolling across the bottom of the screen reads “Coming NEXT: the BTV world-wide premiere of BODY ROCK!” The shots alternate between black and white security camera footage and gritty color handheld shots.


We see Dick Mick again, sweating and visibly disturbed. He is seated with Big Boi, who is dressed in bowtie, with a briefcase. Dick Mick says, “I’m here with Lucious Leftfoot, a mild mannered businessman, an innocent bystander now traumatized by one of these banking incidents. Do you care to tell us what happened?” Big Boi’s eyes are glazed over, as he fights for words: “The-They made us do the Body Rock.” We see security slow-motion footage of Big Boi being forced to do the Body Rock (Big Boi is circled with yellow). Dick Mick swallows, looks book at the camera, and says: “And now these criminals, the Purple Ribbon Posse, have had the gumption to actually make a professional music video…see for yourself…”


As Killer Mike’s verse begins, we go to a bright video set, complete with sexy, prissy models, dangling microphones, gaffers and impressive cameras. The professional shots alternate with security camera footage. Models gyrate. People hold up drinks and blurred out squirt guns. Right after Killer says “Gucci Man!”, the sound lowers and we hear the instrumental. We see Dick Mick standing in an aisle at a convenience store. In a grave voice, he says, “Here we are in Pay-For-It. As you can see, the hysteria has grown. There are Donkey Boy action figures. A Body Rock exercise tape. And Killer Mike Halloween costumes. See for yourself…” We pan over to a group of children who are in a rampage— dressed in Killer Mike Halloween costumes. We see security camera footage of the kids yanking things off shelves, doing the body rock and laughing with monstrous blurred out squirt guns. We cut back to the end of Killer Mike’s verse.


When the second chorus begins, we see Dick Mick again, standing on the steps of a church. He grimaces, then we follow his glance over to the church sign, which reads: “Come Do the Holy Rock!” We see Cee-lo in a jheri curl. He is eating chicken. His name flashes on the screen: Rev. Spicy Man. Dick Mick says, “Rev. Spicy tell us about the Holy Rock.” Rev. Spicy Man pulls a chicken bone out his mouth and says quietly, “Will my wife see this?" Dick Mick nods no.


Rev. Spicy says, "Okay.” Then says loudly in a preacherly tone: “It started a few weeks back, when I had a religious experience doing the body rock in a club of ill repute. And I decided that my congregation needed to experience what I experienced that night. Since then, the Lord’s mercy has been good to us. The whole choir and congregation is doing the Holy Rock, and our offerings have gone up expeditiously.” We see the whole choir doing the Holy Rock.


We cut back to the interview, where Dick Mick is frowning. Disgusted, he shakes his head and stands, saying “I can’t believe this..” Meanwhile, Rev. Spicy Man does the Holy Rock in the chair, and then passes him a collection plate and says “No one leaves my church…without doing the Holy Rock!” Dick Mick laughs, “What you want some money?” Rev. Spicy Man nods. Dick Mick sighs, takes out his wallet, and begins to take out a couple of dollars. But Rev. Spicy Man reaches over with a laugh and takes his whole wallet.


As the third verse begins, we CUT TO the professional music video, where Donkey Boy is holding up his action figures and doing the Body Rock with Lucious Leftfoot and the wigless elderly woman. The blind man goes by doing the robot. We see security footage as well. As the verse ends, we CUT TO a busy downtown area where Dick Mick is standing on a street corner. Dick Mick says, “Here we are outside of Old National, Georgia’s largest and most historic bank…As you have heard, the culprits will be here any minute…for their first openly televised performance of body rock The police are here, ready to arrest these criminals when they arrive. You can see their fans are here too, the press, what a crazy scene… Oh this might be them…”


An old white utility van pulls up. The door slides open, and a dozen kids spill out dressed like Killer Mike with blurred out squirt guns. They begin doing the body rock, so do the fans and innocent bystanders …a purple smoke grenade explodes in the street…a party starts in the street…Then the Purple Ribbon Posse appears and all hell breaks loose with even the press doing the body rock…Instead of arresting the posse, the police begin taking off their clothes and doing the body rock…Dick Mick screams, “All hell is breaking loose! Mass pandemonium! Cut! Cut!” As the screen fades to black, Dick Mick begins energetically doing the body rock.

--chuck lightning

2.19.06

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Pleaure Scale (Guest Starring the Ohio Players!!!)


The PLEASURE SCALE (Guest Starring the Ohio Players!!)

Well, guess I'll be reviewing albums, films, and books here from time to time, so it's good to have a scale. And who betta to rate how pleasurable something is than the Ohio Players, I mean with albums named Pain, Ecstasy, Orgasm...

They know a thing or two about things that feel good, and things that feel bad. So what I've done is equated each part of the scale to the amount of pleasure found in each album cover. Period. It's NOT about the music found on the respective album, just a reflection of the level of joy brought into the male psyche by the cover design itself. So here we go:

0-10%...


11-20%...



20-30%...




30-40%...



40-50%...


50-60%...



60-70%...




70-80%...



80-90%...


90-100%...

And once again, for the playas that missed it!


This is further proof that they don't make albums like they used to. Also proof that the "Tip Drill" controversy started in the 70's if not earlier.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

BJORK RAISES HER OWN FLAG!



Bjork Raises Her Own Flag: 85% (for details on the ratings see the Pleasure Meter post)


It's hard out here for music lovers. Music still costs money. And to make matters worse-- as fellow WAS member MitchOWski asked, "When's the last time you really LOVED a song?" And we actually had to think about it.

Well, after a couple weeks of listening and marinating on not only the question, but also Bjork's album Volta, I finally have a proper answer: Tracks 1,2, 3, 5, 6,7 and 9. But who's really counting?

This is Bjork. I expect the trees to start dancing while I'm listening to her album. The earth to tremble. Birds to flap their wings to the beat. A dolphin to jump out of the ocean and land in my eardrums.

The tragedy of innovation is the curse of adulation--the aficionado that wants it faster, smaller, longer, weirder, and right frickin' now! Because deep inside we think you can still take us someplace new...

So, of course, we're expecting a lot, but Volta doesn't disappoint. The starter "Earth Intruders" bangs tribally, and you can almost feel the Bacchae gathering around you as you listen: you almost feel them pinching your skin, whispering "thumping...marching...grinding the sceptics into soil...we are the earth intruders/stampede of resistance/we are the canoneers/necessary voodoo," and as the song crashes to a close, you know Bjork is back again. Like stellar tracks such as "Wanderlust," this song is spritual cousins to "Hunter" and other pounding masterpieces from Homogenic.

But that's a good thing. Or a bad thing.

It's good to know Bjork can still deliver thematically and lyrically, and it's good to see that her Timbaland collaboration wasn't a smoking bust, but there's really nothing new here...a stellar summation, perhaps, of places we've already been....

It took a little while, but I'm now a HUGE fan of "Dull Flame of Desire." For some odd reason, it reminds me of Minnie Ripperton's take on "Light My Fire." It's most likely the way Antony sings: for some odd reason, the timbre of his voice reminds me of Jose Felliciano for some odd reason...The movement of brass reminds me of "Unravel," putting the song on Homogenic territory again. The new thing about this song is the idea of the duet, which Bjork has done sparingly outside of her work with Thom Yorke on Dancer in the Dark. I have to admit that the fact that the lyrics come from Stalker ( a Tarkovsky film, which I haven't yet seen) also add a subtle allure.

"I See Who You Are" sounds like something cut during the Vespertine sessions: a quiet kiss punctuated with melodic blips, Asian harmonics, and a sea of silence. Simply wonderful.

But for me it's "Vertebrae by Vertebrae" that really gets the album started. So here's a concept: How about Bjork singing to a Bernard Herrmann score? Bernard Herrmann scored Psycho and Vertigo. So you get the point. Bjork, like Missy Eliott, has always prided herself on diving into the deep end where most singers see no water at all. And the result, is shockingly beautiful, gorgeously unbelievable. This is the album's best song. It's like she's lost in a Hitchcock film, and there's no way out. Produced by Bjork with Damian Taylor, this song is the best song I've heard all year.

The lyrics are as good, if not better. It's a short story about a woman becoming a werewolf, becoming one with nature, becoming one with herself...which is to say she is "hungry and curious..[and]...looking forward...[to a place where] the air is thinner...." Her growl becomes a howl as the strings stab, and you can almost see her in the moonlight, writhing in existential pain, as she shrieks, "my arms ooze out my shoulders!"

"Pneumonia," the song that follows it, has a beautiful brass arrangement that sound like lost ships calling to each other on a misty sea. Which is appropriate because the song is really a song for lost girls, girls who dared to love, girls that have been broken in so many pieces by so many men that they can't find their way home again. A stunner that completes the most sublime sequence on the album.

"Hope" reminds me of Vespertine again: light arrangement, Eastern harmonic plucking and lyrics about terrorism (WTF!) The less said about this, the better. I'm still deciding how I feel about the lyrics, and the song concept overall, but it's interesting, produced with Timbo, and at least, not standing still thematically.

Then there's "Declare Independence." An anthem that does for Bjork what "If 6 was 9" did for Jimi. There's only one problem here: this anthemic electro-punk song should have been on Homogenic. This statement should have been made soooooo much earlier in her career. In fact, the most amazing thing about this song is the fact that Bjork hadn't done it already. It's as if this was the true sentiment, the invisible ink, swirling in all the words and worlds of all her songs, and she finally said fuck it--i'll just come out and tell you what to fricking do--MAKE YOUR OWN FLAG...RAISE IT HIGHER....HIGHER...DONT LET THEM DO THAT TO YOU!

but perhaps, as in all things, this song is right on time.

Because, as the song throbs and pounds, and Bjork begins to chant down the colonists, you begin to understand what this album was all about. It wasn't for you. You have all her albums. You've seen all her videos. You know this is what she's been singing all along. But there's someone else out there. A new fan, lost in a world of bling and horrible Real World reruns. Someone who is listening to Bjork for the very first time. This young girl has never heard all of the queens and kings that Karen O worships: she's never heard of the Gang of Four or the Clash or the Slits or heard X-Ray Spex or Siouxsie & the Banshees, heard "Free Money" by Patti Smith, or any of the countless anthems by Kate Bush, Sleater Kinney or Liliput.

And this anthem is for them. And I hope these teen rebels love it. And burn this world down. And build a new one.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Happy Birthday Star Wars!



The Star Wars universe began this weekend, thirty years ago.

Isn't that crazy!?

As mentioned before, I've been reading the new Making of Star Wars book. It's insane.

Here's a few quick items you can take note of when you're building your own personal epic.

  • You've got to read: Joseph Campbell, Tolkein, Bruno Bettleheim, and more fairy tales and myths than the law allows. That's what Lucas was consuming as he wrote and rewrote, edited and revised the script over three years. And that's just for the story. Then, of course, he was taking in films as well: Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress, which provided the plot, and films such as The Dam Busters and Battle of Britain and Tora! Tora! Tora!, which provided the manuevers for the challenging dogfight sequences.

  • Your only friend is history: Who knows what the future will be like? We all thought we'd have our flying cars by now. So Star Wars looks back. Simply put, the production would not have been possible without World War II. The uniforms, aesthetic and philosophy of the Nazis and the ongoing imperial machinations of America during the Vietnam conflict supplied the belief system and look of the Empire. The Y-wing and X-wing fighters were designed after WWII bombers and jets. Same with a lot of the pilot garb and maneuvers from the war films. Of course, we all know this historical research extended to ancient times from other cultures such as the samurai, which provided Darth Vader's helmet, Luke and Obi Wan Kenobi's garb, etc.

  • Your future is used: Lucas's biggest contribution to science fiction, though, was the idea of the used future. The idea that things shouldn't be polished, sterile, clean. They should be dirty, rusty, used. Ships and guns should look like they might not work at all. This is an amazingly simple concept that makes perfect sense. And it has been used in so many genres and films since then: Alien/Aliens, Lord of the Rings, etc.

  • Your best costumes and ideas are junk: Literally. They built the moisture collectors on Tatooine out of airplane junk; used faucets to make comlinks; cannibalized actual World War II weapons to make blasters; old photographic flash units to make lightsaber handles, and on and on. Most of this stuff came from junkyards, garage sales, bins and warehouses of junk, damaged goods and products that were yesterday's news. They even used scrapped technology, like the Vistavision camera and other junked high-end equipment in their struggle to create detailed FX projections at ILM.

  • You'll figure it out as you go along: All the great films I've heard of have terrible, draining shoots. Star Wars was no exception. And with malfunctioning robots, monsoon rain in the desert, no money, scant pre-production time, you already know...And that's just the technical stuff. On the story side, Lucas was still figuring out all the details we hold dear. Luke was on the set for days being called Luke Starkiller!

  • You better have geniuses for friends: It helps to have close friends like Coppola and Spielberg reading the drafts of your script. Brilliant actors like Harrison Ford still waiting to make it, begging to get in your film. And to have friends like De Palma (who was casting for Carrie at the time) helping out during your casting sessions. The important thing to realize here, though, is that you have to have faith and vision. Many of the folks around you, if not geniuses, are most likely very talented in their own right: how can you gather together, pool your resources and do something that's never been done?


  • You better be rich: This is the most important. Star Wars would not have happened without American Grafitti, which in turn, would not have happened without The Godfather (Coppola produced American Grafitti using his Godfather war chest). But let me say it again: Star Wars would not have happened without American Grafitti, which grossed over $100 million in 1973 and became one of the highest grossing films of all time. This made Lucas respected...and rich. This made Lucas capable of putting up the $473,368 (which would be $1,713,454.18 today!) needed to set up Industrial Light & Magic, hire Ralph McQuarrie to start the crucial sketches and designs needed of robots, landscapes, vehicles, characters, stormtroopers, etc. This meant Lucas could pay salaries himself, begin casting his film, roll up to the last seven days before filming, the very gates of the shoot itself...with Twentieth Century Fox nodding its head yes, while not laying down one greasy dime for production...
Sounds like someone else I know, but more on that another time.

It's a celebration, b*tches! Happy Birthday STAR WARS! You changed my life.

Friday, May 25, 2007

One of the Scariest Places in America 1.2


SLASHER UPDATE!

Okay, this morning I finally talked to Erica!

She's on her way to Costa Rica and she has the script with her. So we'll see...

She's been caught up finalizing a deal with Brian Grazer, so she says we'll talk next week.

In other news, yesterday I spoke with Greg Tate, friend and esteemed writer of classics such as Flyboy in the Buttermilk, and writer for Rolling Stone, Vibe, Village Voice, etc. He read the script, for which I am forever grateful! Thanx Greg!

Anywhoo, Greg liked a lot of the toys in the toybox. Writing is a little like building things: you have different textures and materials, joints and tubes, nuts and bolts, a couple wings, windows and monitors, wheels and an engine to make the whole thing go...and you put all this stuff together, try to think of a new name for this beautiful monstrosity other than THINGAMAJIG and then give it a push...

The waiting is the hard part...waiting to see if it flies, explodes, gets crushed by a passing semi, or makes it safely back to the ground or to the other side of the the road.

(Did I mention that before you gave it a push, you packed your heart and soul onboard?)

Anywhoo, Greg liked where Slasher was headed: the world, the characters, the teen drama/romance, the dialogue...but he wanted more focus on some characters that are minor as of now...and his feeling is that there are definitely different genres at hand...in fact, because of the feel of the police investigation, he feels that the film could be "a cross between The Inside Man and The Ring"...which he thought was cool...and I find interesting in theory...

Of course, the challenge here is that (in practice) it still needs to make you spill your popcorn and hold your girlfriend's hand! It still needs to move at 999 miles per hour...your heart has to feel like it's running up the stairs from at least the mid-point on!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Christmsas in July (TRANSFORMERS!!)




Okay, for the next 2 minutes and 33 seconds this is the only thang that matters.

We knew this sh*t was comin.

But this is gonna be like Christmas in July.

Could Atlanta become a black Silicon Valley?


Back to our discussion of innovation.

Could Atlanta become a black Silicon Valley?

In its current incarnation, and without some drastic measures, I have an easy answer for you: NO.

In his amazing post on how to create a Silicon Valley, Paul Graham names the two types of people needed to get the tech start up engine churning: rich people and nerds.

To get nerds, you have to have an academic/research community. And Atlanta does: We have Emory University, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University....sounds like enough nerds to me.

When I was at Morehouse, I met so many geniuses that everyday I would say if we don't leave here and start a Microsoft? (for details on my question mark, see my post below)...then we've lost our minds...

What about rich folks?

That doesn't seem to be a problem either. According to an article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the ATL has cash and mulit-millionaires comin' out the wazoo. In fact, we're ranked No. 7 in the nation in terms of our concentration of households with more than $5 million in investable assets, and ahead of similar size cities such as Charlotte and Miami in terms of our rate of growth in the area of wealthy households (households with at least $1 million in investable assets.)

So wealth ain't the issue either. So what's the problem?

As Paul Graham points out, there is a distinct connection between technology and liberalism. He even provides a map from the recent election: just in case you're unsure how your region rates in terms of its notion of liberty. But if you're from Georgia, you already know the deal: you're from the home of Confederate battle flags, Sons of the South, and on and on.

But maybe a few key examples from the Wondaland's forays into the Atlanta investment community will help you understand what's really goin on.

Suffice it to say that I do believe Atlanta has a severe case of warped world views, racism and chronic "traditional value syndrome." From a tech investment standpoint, Atlanta's very sick, on both the black and white sides. If I were a doctor, I would recommend surgery immediately.

For more on this, see my coming post Black Folks Vs. the Future.