Category Archives: my scripts

Bull Run Mountains, VA (Piedmont)

 

I did a little field trip today to the Bull Run Mountains behind Haymarket, VA, just north of Va-55 and I-66.  There is a road, Antioch, which connects to Hopewell Road and goes through the mountain pass (at about 1000 feet) and goes down to The Plains, VA.

I think I was here in the fall of 1962 (while a patient with NIH) with high school (Science Honor Society) old friends.

I found a horse attraction, then a county park with a lake, and then went up the mountain.

Three videos follow.  I talk a little about the last story in my DADT-III book, “The Ocelot the Way He Is”, as this is the area that “Bill” drives through to meet “Nolan” and then go to the fictitious ashram or intentional community, after which stuff happens.  (See June 25, 2014 for treatment of “Two Road Trips”.)  I also talk about some legal issues that could potentially occur with hosting asylum seekers.

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(Posted: Thursday, January 12, 2017 at 8:30 PM EST)

More background on the connections between my novel manuscripts

I do expect to get back to more detailed editing of the novel “Angel’s Brother” within the next week.

But I wanted to make some more notes about the connection between this novel document, which continues from some notes on July 3, 2014.

First, let me give some history.  To the best of my knowledge, “Novel 2”, or “Tribunal and Rapture”, as started first, in the summer of 1999, after I had been to Europe and my mother was more or less recovered from bypass surgery.  (I did not go back from Minnesota but for about a week, but the whole situation then was stressful.)   I believe a draft with most of it was finished by early 2000, all while I was living in the Churchill in downtown Minneapolis. As I note, the story is largely told through the viewpoint of someone other than myself, a retired Muslim-American FBI agent, with considerable military experience, and with a largely secular, modern life (Dubai-like), including a UFO abduction.  He has no conflicts over scriptural religion and modern individualsm, and tends to believe that all three major Abrahamic faiths have more in common than their differences.  I met Muslims like this in the 1980s and 90s during my career and never gave any thought to terrorism.  The book is apocalyptic, ending with the “evacuation of the angels” to a colony on Titan, a moon of Saturn.

I apparently started the “Novel 1” (“Rain on the Snow”) in the summer of 2000, after a vacation and then a minor crisis at work.  The first part, which presents “Bill” getting invited to a “re-education” Academy (in west Texas) to get to join a doomsday prepper squad (the whole “There is no ‘they’” thing), his getting involved with a mysterious youth Matt who comes across as a Clark Kent, and his being jailed after effectively being framed for Matt’s “death”, ending with his escape with the help of his other minions, and climatic ritual at the end of the book, preparing him for a new world.

When I went to Europe at the end of April 2001, I thought about the idea of deploying the novels.  I remember an afternoon in a hotel in Toulouse, France, having a debate with myself, and thinking about “Rain on the Snow” as the logical choice because the events happened first.

Well, not exactly.  I had written a lot of backstory passages for “Tribunal and Rapture”, which also explained some of the setup of “Rain on the Snow”.  I remember a weekend in July 2001 (about two months before 9/11) when I drove from Minneapolis to the Northwest Angle, and gave a lot of thought to the sequel, “composed first”.  I remember “Frankie and the Path Pit”.  (Frankie is one of Bill’s old boyfriends, who becomes a kind or archangel at the Academy.)  I began to think that this background material needed to be put into “Rain on the Snow”.

So between late 2003 (after I returned to Virginia, because of Mother) and 2005 (in the heart of my substitute teaching) I fashioned a new structure for “Rain on the Snow”, as a kind of Opus 111   The original story center at the Academy and then jail – itself a two-act structure, turned into the “Theme and Variations”, and the entire backstory became the Sonata form, the first movement.   But many of the individual passages and summaries had been proposed as passages in the early chapters of TR (like the “Nighthike” scene at the very end became an erotic backstory insert into Chapter 8, when A;I reads the story of Bill’s escape.)   In TR, I had also played with the idea of lumping much of the backstory material into one prologue (as Clive Cussler and Irving Wallace would do).   I called these passages the “Lumps”.

Finally, I made an Access Database of the enhanced “Tribunal and Rapture” but I applied the stages of screenplay analysis  (Hague, see Feb. 3, 2016), to each of four major characters (most of all Bill) separately.  Later I’ll figure out how to get this analysis into WordPress.

The character Ali has been taking training in remote viewing in a manor in Virginia that is probably modeled after the Monroe Institute.  Some of the materials he views are essentially “The Book of Bill” (rather like “The Book of Eli” (2010)), and some have been stored on optical (EMP-proof) CD’s.

But in “Angel’s Brother”, a major element of the setup is Bill’s duopoly of novels.  The plot builds up to another Nighthike-Initiation-Immolation scene before the “real” Armageddon and evacuation of Earth by the chosen.  But CIA agent Randy has to figure out whether what is in “The Book of Bill” is really fact or fiction (like the 1998 indie sci-fi film “The Last Broadcast” about the Jersey Devil).

In “Tribunal and Rapture” (Novel 2), the protagonist, Ali Mogul, is depicted as mixed-race (about the same as president Obama, perhaps).  So the story is told through the eyes of a minority person (who includes his son, Amos, who gets in trouble with the law with computer hacking, at at time when hacking was just getting started). But in “Angel’s Brother” I move back (that is, regress, from the viewpoint of social and political correctness) to making the primary character subjects white males, both attractive, one gay and one “straight” (sort of), one college age and one entering middle age, in the late summer of life. That makes erotic tension buildup through the first two thirds of the novel possible.   (I’ll have to do a Hauge analysis soon. )  I was drawn back to this viewpoint by my interest in shows like “Smallville”, “Everwood”, etc.  with “attractive” late teen or young adult male character leads.

One can imagine a movie franchise based on all three novels, each of which encapsulates its prequel.  Perhaps the sequence would be called “Tribunals”.  Maybe it could be a Sci-Fi cable series of about three seasons, 8-10 episodes each.  I’d be game for it but I couldn’t do all three alone right now.

At the end, it seems that there is an “evacuation” from an Earth that is going to see its way of life challenged.  (That’s also true of “Epiphany”).  I know how this will come across to some people:  I don’t have room onboard for “losers” (as Trump would see them).

(Posted: Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017 at 11 PM EST)

New “DuoSkin”, artificial epidermic for temporary tattoos, can server as smartphone interface, maybe fodder for sci-fi rituals

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There’s a bizarre new technology, “DuoSkin”, which can be “pasted” onto human skin, and then be used as a smart phone interface, even as a trackball.  It can even glow.

So people will use it as a temporary tattoo, decoratively.  Most of the videos about it show the users as women.  With Caucasian men, other than bikers and swimmers, care would need to be exercised in placing it.

I can imagine adding a ritual to my screenplay “Do Ask, Do Tell: Ephiphany” near the end, where one of the “angel candidate” characters has the skin applied as part of a ritual, to be “survived”.

Microsoft is supporting this product with research; not sure how they find willing subjects.

Here’s an article on the subject on Geekwire.

CNN has a more expansive story on the aesthetics of the technology here.

There are known issues as to whether wrist tattoos  (especially in some men) interfere with “smart-watch” functions, but that’s a different issue.

Related posting earlier on Notes blog.

(Published: Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016 at 10 AM EDT)

Pimping out my own DADT books at Outwrite DC today.

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I did set up an exhibit at the Outwrite DC in Washington DC today at the DC Center for the LGBT Community, in the atrium at 2000 14th St. NW (ha, ha, only about 5 miles from Nationals Park, a half-mile from Town DC and 930 Club, and Atlantic Plumbing, for that matter).

So I got to do a good interview.  I covered the narrative of my own William and Mary expansion, my own getting drafted during Vietnam, how that mixed with the debate on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and led to my first book in 1997, and how 9/11 complicated my proposals for a “Bill of Rights II”, leading to the second book in 2002, and how freedom of speech and the Internet led to the substance of the third book in 2014.  I did mention “open access”.  I mentioned that I have a draft screenplay for how you might film it.

The interviewer did get the idea that external pressures matter, and that even with a fight for liberation and equality (and the tension between those two concepts), individual moral compass, in reacting to the needs of others in any group one belongs to, matters.  That’s kind of paradox of identity politics.

I got three clips.  The people filming me were unfamiliar with my camera, so the sound is hard to hear,

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(Posted: Saturday: August 6, 2016 at 6 PM EDT)

Update: Aug. 10

Here are a few more videos (other than the QA for “Queer Brown Voices” which is here).

A “simple song” video

Introduction 1

Introduction 2

Introduction 3

Introduction 4

More on the idea of “character diversity”, particularly in love or intimate scenes, for my own fiction

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I wanted to add a note about any potential “casting diversity” or, for that matter, character diversity issues in my own manuscripts (last taken up in January 2016).

It’s true that many of my manuscripts (novels and screenplays) focus on “me” or my avatar as a central driving character, and that my tastes in what is “desirable” (Fort Eustis memories) drive the tension.

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In fact, there is a certain pattern in many of them.  A character like “Bill” meets a charismatic, larger-than-life and tall young white male hero (symbolizing “virtue”)  in the early chapters (rather like Ayn Rand’s fantasy for the young John Galt). Later, he loses his “individual contributor” job and has to face becoming more “sociable”.  He gets contacted to go to some sort of re-regimenting “re-education academy” in the country (in West Texas in a couple scripts, in West Virginia in another, and a simple “intentional community” in DADT III last story). He has to learn to do “real jobs”.  It sounds a little like Maoist re-education (the right and left come together at the other side of the Moon, you know).   At the “academy” he encounters the hero, and builds up to an intimate confrontation.  In the meantime, the outside world has an existential catharsis.

“Bill” is different but he’s not supposed to get off as a “member of a group”.  He has to learn to share the risks that others had to endure.  It’s seen through a moral lens.

But a couple of more recent manuscripts present the narrative primarily through a separate, heterosexually married white male character, with “Bill” inn his backstory, and with some gay interests.  In the novel, the character is a good family man whose marriage will be challenged by a gay college student, as well as “extraterrestrial” events (and a mystery virus to boot).  In another screenplay “Titanium” the protagonist is a white male journalist whose fiancé has been abducted (possibly by aliens) when she “went up”.  But the reporter has another girl friend, who is of opposite race, and helps the girl friend raise a child.  But I’m in the background. It get’s pretty complex.

I grew up in a world where most movies and entertainment catered to conventional white stereotypes of what is desirable from men and women.   People did not think about the idea that other kinds of people should be presented as “attractive” then as they often do today,

(Published: Friday, July 8, 2016 at 11:30 AM ET)  Related post today.

“Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany”, detailed outline and screenplay structure

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I have recently completed a shooting script for “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany” (formerly, “Conscripted”). It is quite detailed except for the secondary backstory flash scenes. The script notes in Final Draft 9 are quite helpful with tracking the details.  I had explained this on Blogger Dec. 30 here.

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Although the July 30 post is still a fairly accurate overview of the story, I have changed some significant deals in how the story progresses.  There is only one visit to each of the “ashrams” until near the end, so the physical journey around the space colony has been simplified.

I think it’s useful to review Mchael Hauge’s “Screenplay structure: Five Key Turning Points” link and map the screenplay onto his outline.

Introduction: Setup:

Bill (me) gradually regains consciousness in a dark room in bed, and feels like he is in a “paralysis of sleep” state.

Two other young men, both tall, Brutus and Randy, watch through a one-way window and try viewers (similar to the idea in “Strange Days” (1995, Kathryn Bigelow). .  Elmo, the geek arrives, and does some shell scripting on an older-looking computer terminal to set up “remote viewing” levels for the other arrivals in the space station.  The other young men don’t exactly know where they are either, but can look out on a landscape that resembles Titan, a moon of Saturn.  Gradually, some other young men from Bill’s life arrive, including “Tompom” and Aaron.

Bill relives his own fictitious screenplay, called “The Sub”, where a precocious student comes on to him (when he is teaching), and where he sinks into legal trouble.  The fiction is shown in black and white. Past real incidents that fit the screenplay occur in color.  Bill momentarily experiences a fleeting memory “before anesthesia” of returning home from a party and concert (Elmo had been there) and being surprised to find his mother returned from hospice, before getting a mystery email and leaving the house. But the memory disappears, like a dream that is hard to remember.  The other guys, especially Randy and Brutus, practice reading Bill’s fictitious mind/

The Turning Point occurs when Nolan arrives.  Though he resembles the other young men, he seems to be in charge, and is regarded as an “angel”.  As Bill completely regains consciousness, Nolan escorts Bill underground through some chambers to a subway system called the “Mobius”.

The Opportunity first shows Randy checking into a hotel, having trouble checking his social media, but looking up a former mentor, Tobey, on line, and learning it takes time for posts and messages to process.  He has dinner with the other men, who have similar experiences.

Bill checks into barracks of what are called “Ashram 3”, with technology of about 1900.  He meets Tovina, who looks about 40 but who hints he dated her in the past and took her to the Senators’s last baseball game. Bill has to learn the housekeeping and cooking chores, sees an unusual garden. He finds a piano that doesn’t work on more modern compositions.  He plays some yard and board games with the kids and finds gravity is a bit weird.

Bill meets Richie, about 50, an old nemesis from his social life years ago in the City.  Richie continues to “domesticate” or “feminize” Bill. Randy arrives, and explains the rules for using the Mobius Metro.  Other college kids “Wechsler” and “Kip” arrive. Wechsler stays “overnight” in the Ashram to monitor Bill, who starts noticing the days seem like a perpetual twilight, like summer at the North Pole.

Bill travels by Mobius to Ashram 4, which looks colonial, mid 1700s.  He learns piano tuning and glassblowing, and finds out that he can’t even play Mozart on the “fortepiano”.  He meets a former music chum from his days at William and Mary, “Jonesboro”, with whom he refreshes his memory of how he got into music (which got “into his blood”).

In the “Progress” stage, Tompom, Kip amd Wechsler set up a stage play at Ashram 1 (based on year 2001) after traveling from Ashram 3.  Then they put on the play, showing what went on behind the scenes to get Bill “fired” when he was subbing after the school found out about his screenplay.

Bill visits the low-gravity softball field and plays some workup, and has chest discomfort.

In the “Point of No Return” Bill gets a keyhole heart treatment, which will not be disruptive, in the “City” near the hotel, under normal gravity.  Then Sydney (also from William and Mary) visits him.  Elon trains Bill in managing the software that controls the access others have to his own “telepathic broadcast” which more or less replaces social media.

Bill is recovered enough to visit Ashram 5, which shows a village as it might have looked at the time of Christ. He learns how “money” works in the ashram, and among angels (where there is a galactic “bitcoin system”). He interacts with Sydney, who confronts Bill about what used to make him tick. Bill learns he will choose a “messiah” among the other young men there.

At “Ashram 2” (1960) Bill helps build a recital hall where his music will be performed.

In “Higher Stakes” Bill travels back to the City, gets a nanobot injection to help with his memory, and sees the setup: much of the colony is set up as a cylindrical rama with artificial gravity, perpendicular to Titan, so when on it there is a Coriolis effect.

He returns back to Ashram 3 and gets some practice in “just living” before the young men assemble and trade stories as to how they got there. The travel together by “train” to Ashram 1 to re-enact the story of Bill’s 1960 expulsion (although that could have fit Ashram 2 better!)

They travel to Ashram 2 (now!) to do the concert.  As a Setback, some of the music still doesn’t work. But the Nanobots start to work, and Bill finally remembers how they got there

In the “final push” Bill plays his music (with Elmo’s help), and the “tribunal” ritual starts.  Brutus stimulates Bill, who impregnates Tovina.  The ritual poses the question, what in people really should matter?

Bill returns to the world, which has been placed in upheaval by repeated power grid failures, while accepting that UFO’s are real because they have been seen publicly.  After Tovina gives birth to Bill’s child, he can return to the spaceship and join on a journey with the angels to other planets.

The people on Earth will rebuild, another cycle of history, but for the next couple hundred years, doomsday preppers (like “Survival Mom” on Facebook) will take over.  History will have many up and down cycles before man is ready to move to the Stars.  Only the chosen few seem to go now.  Oh, please, how do you deserve to be “chosen”?

The “City” on Titan should look like the art work in this video of Alexander Scriabin’s Symphony #1 in E, with the “famous” choral conclusion.

Play the grandiose ending!

(Published Wednesday, February 3, 2016 at 10:30 PM EST)

PBS Digital Studios: “What’s the Most Realistic Artificial Gravity in Sci-Fi?”

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PBS Digital Studios offers a series of 10-15 minute “science teacher” monologues about various topics in sci-fi and possible future space travel.

One of these is “What’s the Most Realistic Artificial Gravity in Sci-Fi?”

The 11-minute short discusses the artificial gravity of “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “Ringworld”,  “Halo” (game), and “Babylon 5” (a sci-fi series from the 1990s).

Most of the problems in science fiction have to do with the Coriolis Effect.

A small space station would have to rotate quickly to achieve enough “force”.

The film considers “Halo” to have the most realistic idea.  But that depicts a ring about 4/5 the diameter of Earth.  The ring could be expanded to a cylinder.  In my “Epiphany” screenplay, you could imagine an alien civilization (maybe from Tabby’s Star and a possible Dyson Sphere 1450 light years away) being deposited near Titan, but eventually NASA would detect it.  My setting is more like that of Babylon 5.   Since it is a cylinder mounted on Titan, the gravity of Titan (1/7 that of Earth) would add to  Coriolis problems.

Artificial gravity from “centrifugal” and “centripetal” force does not have the “benefit” of the gravitational field of a nearby body of much larger mass than oneself (that is, a planet).  Maybe gravity plates with some sort of neutron-star stuff could be constructed by an alien civilization.

Here’s a sample “Game Movie” from Halo that may convey an idea of what this world could look like (it’s long).

And here’s a doc about the making of “Babylon 5” which might convey the feel of that world.

On June 1, 2016, CNN ran an article by Thomas Page, “Space Oddity: NASA’s Guide to Future Living“, the “Cylindrical Colony”

(Published Tuesday Jan. 26, 2016 at 11 AM EST)

Some notes about film color, value, saturation, and hue, as might apply to my own work

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Back in the 1998-2003 period when I was living in Minneapolis, IFPMSP held many forums on filmmaking technology, including film stock.

I wanted to give a few links about concepts regarding image color and focus, because they would become relevant to filming my “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany”.

Of course, people pay tuition and get degrees from film schools to learn these things.

Leighcotnoir has some valuable links.

Look at this explanation of hue, saturation, and value, particularly the 3-D cone near the bottom of the page that gives an example based on “red”.

It’s also important to study the concept of “primary colors”, as explained here, along with color wheels.  Note how primary “additive” colors (red, green, blue) work, where as “subtractive pigments” (Yellow, magenta, cyan) work in tandem, because when paints are mixed, the light wavelengths that may be reflected are “subtracted”.

There is also the “hue-saturation grayscale”, as explained here.

And “Filmschoolonline”  explains the “attributes of the visual image”, including Brightness, Contrast,  Quality of Light, Focus, perspective.  Here, color is explained in terms of saturation, hue, and emphasis.

There is also the opportunity for 3-D without glasses, “autostereoscopy“, a kind of holography, as explained in Sciecemag,

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I do want to discuss the color scheme for the “flashbacks” or “backstories” of my Epiphany screenplay.

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The Final Draft document shows several color modes:

White — Black and white presentation (the embedded screenplay “The Sub”).

Blue — scenes at ashram, in mild color-blindness called green-weak deuteranomaly  (see a color blindness “simulator“).

Red — backstories in full color as they would appear in nature  (moderate value and saturation)

Orange– backstories known to and told by characters other than Bill, higher saturation.

Green — historical narrative told to characters other than Bill (higher value)

Purple — immediate, quick flashbacks (higher value and saturation)

Yellow — acted historical narrative (treat as red)

Gray — historical relative to “Sub” screenplay, black and white

Some directors change aspect ratio for different kinds of backstory.  I think this creates problems, because different theaters handle cropping different (in many auditoriums, 2.35:1 is accomplished by vertical cropping, so presenting some backstories in smaller aspect can require more cropping). I would prefer 2.35:1 for all scenes, but use different color schemes.

Much of the action takes place in an “ashram” which is envisioned as the inner surface of most of a cylinder mounted near the space station on Titan, about 2 miles in diameter and 10 miles long, rotation for artificial gravity, that  is, a “rama”.

I’ve talked about Clarke’s novel here before, but it seems that there have been few movies about societies of people raising generations while on an evacuation ark (like “Evacuate Earth“).  These situations certainly could explore the idea of “social capital”.

(Published Saturday Jan. 23, 2016 at 7 PM EST)

 

 

Regarding debating diversity at the Oscars: for my scripts, not all casting can work if race-blind

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There has been some “whining” about the supposed lack of racial diversity in Oscar nominations, as in this Washington Post Style article by Lonnae O’Neal, “Only role reversals will end all-white Oscars lists” — online, it’s “Maybe Hollywood’s not racist; it just has a processing disorder”.

Later MLK Day, in fact, Spike Lee (and maybe others) announced boycotting the Oscars under the “Oscars so White” (#Oscarsowhite) hashtag on twitter.

My own experience at the movies (and with television mini-series) is that I see plenty of black actors in favorable roles — especially as police detectives, politicians (especially presidents), athletes, and physicians.  No one would quarrel with Viola Davis’s effectivness as a  law professor in “How to Get Away with Murder“.  It would have been well to nominate Will Smith for his role in “Concussion“, no argument there. I recall Morgan Freeman’s role in David Fincher’s “Se7en” (1995) alongside Brad Pitt  (remember the “chest shaving” scene before they both wear a wire for the climax).  And, by the way remember the climax, “What’s in the box?” (maybe an inspiration for Richard Kelly’s “The Box”), with Kevin Spacey as the satanic villain.

There is a problem, however, in my own mind, with some scripts.  Suppose I get my novel “Angel’s Brother” published and it gets interest, or I get some traction for my “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany” screenplay.

In both of these, it’s important that some of the leading characters be attractive young white males, for what I have presented as “gay sexual tension” (however stereotyped and potentially prejudicial) to work.  I wonder if films like “Judas Kiss” or “The Dark Place” could have worked with African-American young actors in at least one leading role, for the same reason.

“Epiphany” particularly has some supporting characters in the “ashram” scenes where the characters can be cast in a race-blind way.  And, for example, in “Angel’s Brother”, the leading characters (Randy, about 40 and Sal, about 21) are conceived as white, the CIA chief could very well be cast as African American (Morgan Freeman would be perfect).

Don’t forget, by the way, that Morgan Freeman has been trying to produce “Rendezvous with Rama”.

(Published: Monday, January 18, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT)