Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Cleaning out my Brain

I'm heading to North Carolina tomorrow morning and will be back on Tuesday. I'm not sure if I'll post or not.

Don't tell Trainer, but I ate a donut today. Why? Because it was there and the ants didn't get it. I'm so ashamed.

The school had a power outage all day yesterday. My room was actually not too bad because I have an exterior classroom - 85 degrees. I'm from a hot climate, so it wasn't so bad, although I did fall asleep at my desk during my planning period. The kids, however, perfected their whining skills. I got a little work out of them, but it's difficult when the light's too dark to read. Class discussion on philosophical issues for the juniors, college stories for the seniors. Power is back today. Good thing, because I had to make a lot of photocopies if I'm going to be out for three days.

I've outlined the plot for my Earl spec. I'll index card it tonight so I can sit on the plane and write like gangbusters, unless there's a good movie on. If it's Gigli I'll get a ton of work done. My objective is to have a working draft when I get back. So if you're on a plane tomorrow and see a blonde girl cracking herself up in the aisle seat, that's probably me. I laugh way too much at my own childish jokes. Why the aisle seat? Because I have a bladder the size of a walnut.

Creative Screenwriting is hosting another screening tonight, this time for Pirates 2 with a Q and A with Terry and Ted. I really want to go but I just don't see how I can get everything together for my trip if I do. I still have to grade papers and call in a sub. And I have to go to Petco.

Plus, I have a feeling every muscle in my body will ache after Trainer is done with me. I think he's as excited about me looking hot at my reunion as I am. I guess that makes sense, because it's his job to make me look good and if people think I'm hot that's a compliment to his own skills. That's why he'd be so disappointed if he knew I ate a donut. I predict an afternoon filled with planks and bicycles.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Shakespeare would be working for the BBC

Have you seen BBC America lately? They just keep hitting them out of the park. The Footballers Wives would kick the crap out of those weak bitches on Wysteria Lane, and rumor has it Life on Mars is another brilliant piece of fiction. It premieres this week.

I've been watching a lot of Hex recently, so MAJOR SPOILER WARNING if you're into that show and didn't see the last episode. The writers went balls out on the way to the season finale.

Cassy is the main character on that show. Blonde, pretty, a talented witch in a line of mystical ancestors, and she recently got pregnant with a seemingly evil demon baby who has yet to do anything particularly objectionable. Her best friend is a lesbian ghost. They kept building up that the ghost was finally going to disappear soon. Her days were numbered; even she accepted it as an inevitablility. No more Thelma.

Then, in the middle of a ritual Cassy jumped under the knife to save her baby, sending her into some dark shadowy oblivion. It happened suddenly, and Thelma had about thirty seconds to say goodbye, but it was long enough to send tears down my face.

They killed off the main character. Killed her in a way that I'd be hard pressed to see how they'd bring her back. It was like something they would have done on Angel, like when they killed off Fred but more shocking because of its suddenness. Good on the writers. They convinced me that Thelma the ghost was out, then killed off the lead. A ballsy move. I can't think of a show on the air in America that would have taken that risk with the story.

If you haven't seen Hex, check it out. The writers have cajones the size of Great Britain.

Drowned rats

Friday night the senior class hosted a luau by our school's pool. It was an all-around successful event. The kids had an absolute blast with no drugs or alcohol, but with plenty of dancing and games and swimming.

At one point our school's social worker proposed to the kids that they should throw one of our teachers in the pool. So they did. His I-Pod got soaked and destroyed, but we got great yearbook pictures. They enjoyed tossing him in the pool so much, they decided to go after almost every teacher there. They got me while I was trying to escape in secret and ran smack into one of my boys, who chased me until they all caught me and dragged me to the pool. Here they are, enjoying themselves. That's me in the blue, in the grip of their glee:

And here is the aftermath:

You know they love you when they throw you in the pool. Either that, or they just want to see you in your clingy wet tank top and skirt:

I have to add this:

One of my students just told me I shouldn't post those pictures because "all my rich friends" would see them and I would be embarassed for them to know I work in South Central.

This is what they think of white people. Our reputation just really sucks, doesn't it?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Illusionist

Saw The Illusionist last night through Creative Screenwriting's screening series. That's why I love LA. Want to see a movie for free and meet the people who wrote it? No problem. Just another Wednesday night in town.

Anyway, it was a very stylized film. It had just a distinct tone to it, very sepia and eerie music by Philip Glass. It did a good job of catching you up in this world and making you believe in it. It's about a magician who falls in love with an uptown girl who's the assumed property of the crown prince.

The acting was phenominal. Rufus Sewell played his usual over-the-top bad guy. I wish his motivation was clearer earlier in the film, but he does have a nice speech that gives you a glimpse into why he does the things he does. Jessica Biel played an unexpected part and played it well, but the film really belonged to Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti. Those two guys can act their pants off. How does Ed Norton mold himself like that? He's charming guy and tragic guy and devious guy all in the same film.

My only problem with the movie is that I saw almost everything coming. It's my fault, really. As an English teacher and a writer, I know foreshadowing when I hear it, and the ending was foreshadowed about ten minutes into the movie. But if you're not sitting there, analyzing the language, the film will catch you up. In that way it reminded me of The Westing Game, or of an episode of Hustle, which is a compliment. It's not so much what the magician does, it's how he does it that mystifies you.

So in that way, the film is true to its intent. It's a nice little fairy tale of love and tragedy and magic and sacrifice. Plus, it's pretty.

Halfrek hugged me.

I met Kali Rocha and she was fabulous. She did a really great job of teaching the class, although I was also impressed with the way the kids payed attention and asked questions. She was even very nice to me when she learned I was a fan and had extremely complimentary things to say about Buffy, Joss and Sarah Michelle Gellar. She was a sweetheart, not at all made of anything scary.

Buffy was her first job. How lucky is that? I want to be that lucky, dammit.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I'm totally getting my picture taken with Halfrek

I am a huge Buffy fan. Huge. Buffy is what all television shows should be, it's the reason I started wanting to write for TV, and if I could have been on any writing staff ever it would have been Buffy. That show is how it's done. I often say I want to be like Joss Whedon when I grow up, but prettier and not a dude. I even go as Buffy every Halloween.

So you can imagine how excited I am that tomorrow one of my friends in a downstairs classroom is bringing Kali Rocha, who played Halfrek, to speak to his class. I'm bringing my class too and I'm very excited. My friend asked me to bring in an episode of Buffy she was on and I was more than happy to do so. A legitimate excuse to show Buffy at work? Pinch me.

I'm totally stoked. Most of the time when I meet TV celebrities I freeze, but most of those times I don't have someone to introduce me. I just hope I don't freak out. Or do what I did the time I came face to face with my hero, Joss. I stared at him with giant doe eyes and stopped breathing until he went away, trailing Nathan Fillion. I'm assuming Kali Rocha will not be trailing Nathan Fillion.

I'm so stoked. Did I mention that I was stoked? Yeehaw.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

That other road thingee

Today I was out at Santa Monica on the beach. Lots of hot guys around playing frisbee. Some were even foreign hot guys, and who comes up to me? The forty-something insurance salesman with a wife and two kids. But whatever.

This guy told me he once thought about being a teacher but decided to be an insurance salesman so he could provide for his family. He likes his job, but still kind of wishes he gone into teaching and coaching basketball because that's where his love really lies. He hates the lifestyle of being rich. His kids go to private schools and he lives in the fancy house with the fancy neighbors and drives the fancy car. And in ten years, he said, he'll be a teacher. His kids will be all grown and he can finally go do what he really wants to do.

He's not the only person I've heard say something like that. People tell me all the time how much they wish they could teach, but the money is just not good enough. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to teach forever. I want a staff writing position, and eventually to be a showrunner and executive producer. But in the meantime I do a job that's good for my soul, and I don't regret that. I guess it's easier to do when you don't have kids. Then again, my mom did okay on a teacher's salary.

I hope that insurance salesman does become a teacher some day, and I hope he's not too old to run around on the basketball court when he finally makes his move.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Really? It's been a decade already?

I've decided to go to my class reunion in two weeks. Fortunately the school I went to considers professional achievement more important than getting married and having a family because I don't think I could stand it if I had to get those looks of pity for not having landed a husband yet. Instead, most of our class is still single because we all decided to have strong careers and to travel.

Then again, my career isn't exactly where I want it to be either, but at least I'm making the effort. I think I'm going to use the five hour flight home to work on my Earl spec. Luckily I did not have to settle for a red-eye, so I can actually get work done the entire time. I wonder if I can get a whole first draft done during the flight? That would be pretty awesome. I go home for a reunion and come back with a comedy draft and new memories.

I'm just excited to show off what I look like these days. I was never this in shape in high school. Skinnier, yes, but not in shape. Plus, I know how to dress myself and wear makeup now. I was always trying to hide my looks in high school, I guess as a sort of "fuck you" to the idea that looks matter. I was more intersted in people taking my brain seriously and I thought good looks would get in the way of that. Now I realize that you can use the looks to get your brain in the door. So at the reunion, I'm putting on the slutty dress. Eat your heart out, obnoxious bitch who tried to make me look dumb in front of that cute boy who liked me. You're probably fat and ugly and I still look like a teenager.

(For that, I have to give credit to my good genes, so way to go Mom, and to Will, my trainer. Thanks for the abs, honey.)

Because that's really what the reunion is all about, isn't it? Showing everyone how successful you've become? Or is that just me and my ridiculous sense of competitiveness?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

How to run a yearbook on $0 a year

I don't have any equipment for yearbook. Actually, that's not true. Yesterday my rep gave me a camera. So now I have a camera.

Two months ago I requested cameras, computers, printers, scanners and other assorted items. Firday I learned that none of these things we actually ordered. I don't even have tables, so if I did have computers I would have to put them on the floor. The only storage I have is a plastic filing cabinet I bought at Staples. I do have a pretty nifty darkroom door the kids will hopefully tire of playing with, but the actual darkroom doesn't even contain a sink. It's pretty much just a room with red lighting and a lot of electrical outlets.

Not that anybody was going to use it for darkroom purposes anyway. It's going to be turned into the yearbook room when I get equipment. If I get equipment.

I'm not really sure how TPTB expect me to make a yearbook without any computers. Maybe they think people still glue the pages down. Of course, to do that I'd still have to have some glue, and maybe a light table. I just have four walls and some chairs. I even bought the trash can to put in the room.

Maybe we can spend the semester mastering telepathy so we can beam the yearbook directly into people's brains.

Monday, July 10, 2006

I'm not even supposed to...zzzzzzzzzzzz.....

Oof. People tend to envy us teachers for our long summer vacations, and I certainly understand that. While normal people go to work all year with the occasional two weeks off, we get two months of free time to do with as we please. It is nice; there's no denying that.

But we pay for it. Oh my do we pay. I went to a barbecue last night and made a new friend, who invited me out to watch a band play in Downey. Seriously, Downey. Anyway, I got home at 2 am and had to be at work this morning at 7. That means getting up at 6:15. I can't be late to work. You can't really sneak in late when you have thirty kids waiting for you to open the door and tell them what to do. I also had to be prepared to give them work first thing, and I never did get around to making a lesson plan this weekend.

Fortunately one of the girls I was out with last night is a twelve-year veteran teacher. She heard of my dilemma and opened up her bag of presents to give me a class set of a story called "On the sidewalk bleeding". Then she gave me a nice suggestion for a follow-up activity that makes the kids think and draw while I sit here and zone out. That's what I'm doing right now.

Come to think of it, that's a pretty good deal. Yes, I have to be at work at an insanely early hour and I can't be late, but if I plan it well I can spend my day sitting at the computer while the kids stay busy. I have to read out loud for a few minutes and run a little discussion, but that's something I can do in my sleep. Good thing too, because I think I'm actually asleep right now.

Next time somebody wants me to go see a crappy band play in Downey on a Sunday, I'm just going to say no.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Pilots on the horizon

Jane Espenson says everybody's writing spec pilots these days. As soon as I'm done with my Earl spec, I think I'll give that a whirl. I've got two major ideas - one of them an hourlong scifi drama. I'm going to guess that scifi is not selling from unknown writers, right? It's too expensive to produce.

The other idea is a really good one, I'm just not sure about the genre. It's a workplace situation that lends itself to sitcom, but I'm just not a sitcom kind of writer. I'm going to try it for the first time with Earl, but I don't see it being my forte. I could try going in with a partner to write it, but I don't see myself working well in a partner situation either.

I'm thinking instead of focusing on my strengths. I do drama, so I should write a drama, even if the idea is a conventional sitcom one. After all, Boston Legal is that kind of show. So is Sex and the City. Either of those shows could have been straight comedy, but put a twist on the genre by going an hour and incorporating dramatic elements. Who knows, it might turn out so interesting that it gets some buzz. At the very worst it can suck and I'll spend a couple of months honing my skills. Maybe I could turn it into a feature if that happened.

What do you think? Any suggestions on that kind of enterprise? Anybody else tried it?

Caller ID is good.

Last night I got my first ever jealous girlfriend call. I got a blocked call, but I answered it because I have a friend who always blocks his phone even though it's really annoying to everyone else. Instead of my friend, some girl said "Hey!" all cheerful like. She announced herself as Rebecca. I told Rebecca she had the wrong number and she assured me she didn't because my number was in her boyfriend's phone. I told her I still had no idea who she was and she hung up.

What the hell did she accomplish with that? I have no idea who her boyfriend is so I can't help explain why he has my number, which could be for a myriad of reasons. She didn't learn anything about me. She didn't call with questions or anything, just to make an accusation I guess. But the person she should be pissed at is her boyfriend. Then again, I don't even know if her boyfriend did anything wrong since I still don't know who he is. And if you have to go through your boyfriend's phone to see what he's up to, your relationship has bigger problems than some girl's number.

I love how little interactions keep coming up like that. In our daily interaction we get these little glimpses of people, and if we're paying attention they're perfect quirks to add to a character. I'm not very good at making stuff up out of nothing but I'm great at taking what I see and mixing it together. So what Rebecca doesn't know is that one of these days she's going to find herself in a script. That's what she gets for calling me and not explaining herself.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Gimme a show. You know you wanna.

Yesterday was the first day of the new semester. I have a schedule to die for. Junior English first, Senior English second (At the moment it's filled with 45 kids but that will change I really really hope) and Yearbook fourth, although they have apparently decided to make yearbook a dumping ground for kids who have nowhere to go. No matter; I convinced them it would be awesome. By the end of the class period I had them all begging me to be editors.

That's why I can't wait to get to pitch. John August posted recently about superpowers, but I've already got mine. Infectious Enthusiasm. I'm an insanely positive person and when I get excited about something I make it hard for other people not to get excited too. It's my special gift. And I don't even drink caffeine. It's why I can convince the kids that they do like to read after all, or that essays are kind of fun in their own way. Okay, maybe not all of them. But I've converted a fair share.

I'm ready to pitch. I figure if I treat it like a class I can't fail. So I'll bring in a white board and some markers and do a lesson plan on my screenplay. I can't lose. I've got enough spec TV episodes and a ton of ideas ready to go. Now I just need an executive producer to pitch. Any minute now.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Vegas, baby. Vegas.

So calories stay in Vegas too? Because I've consumed a lot of crap this weekend. I came to Vegas to watch two of my friend get married in what turned out to be a comical ceremony filled with giggling. But it was fun. More power to 'em.

For the record, I don't gamble. One guy last night gave me a numbers card. I didn't get a single number. That's why I don't gamble.

It's weird being in Vegas with two married couples and friends who might as well be. It meant I got abandoned a lot at the bars because I was the only person who actually wanted to be there. That actually ended up being pretty cool because it made it easier to meet new people. I met a bunch of people from LA, but last night I hung out with some Canadians. I spent all night quoting episodes of Trailer Park Boys and making fun of their accents.

Even though they live in the desert, the friends I'm staying with don't keep ice in their freezer and they don't put drinks in the fridge. They drink warm soda. They also put chocolate sauce in their granola. Bizarre.

Married people are weird.