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Archive for October 2005

Is that a padlock in your pocket?

McGill University yesterday cancelled what remained of its atrocious football season following a hazing scandal that involved rookies, a broomstick, and a particular body orifice.

Which is beside the point – my point, that is. My point is the photo that the Montreal Gazette used to accompany today’s story of the reaction to the cancellation. That’s the photo at left (click to enlarge, ha ha). Is it just me, or…?


Netsurfer Digest just may be dying. I only work there – and have worked there for more than 11 years – and I don’t want to reveal any proprietary information on the process we use, but I do want to worry in public.

Most of NSD I put together weekly, without regard to timeliness. In the Breaking Surf portion, however, we try to stay on top of the breaking wave of tech, science, and online-relevant news. The publisher handles those assignments and writes half himself. I don’t get paid enough to do that.

The problem is that since the end of August, the publisher has slacked off. NSD came out September 1, September 15, and October 2 – not a good record for a putative weekly. I have three issues worth of articles waiting to go out. I’ve been doing my work, and our writers have submitted everything I’ve asked of them. And we wait.

Furthermore, I sort of haven’t been paid since June – well, there’s no “sort of” to that at all. The publisher has lagged in pay before, although not by this much. I trust him, and I consider him a friend even though we now live thousands of miles apart and see each other only every three years or so. Then again, I trust too easily in financial matters (remind me to post about the Strategy First fiasco some day).

The dilemma has come to a head. Every year, I work hard on the NSD Halloween issue. That issue is a repository for all the Web sites I find in the year that are too extreme for the standard NSD. I match the sites to a narrative, and everyone has a good time. But the work for that issue is about three times the work of a standard NSD. The motivation to do it this year escapes me. I should already have the articles out to my stable of scribes, but I keep putting the work off.

If I don’t get the editorial surfing and narrative done in the next two days, I might as well drop the curtain on the Halloween issue, and quite possibly on NSD itself. But in that case, I just might have to wave goodbye to five months of back pay.

Especially demoralizing is the fact that not one single reader (and we have thousands upon thousands of subscribers) has written in to ask what the heck is going on. That’s as surprising as it is worrying.

I spend about 15 hours a week on NSD. I could easily fill that time with paid research work, but I would miss it. One thing that’s kicking around in my head is the concept of a NSD-type blog, in concert with the best of my writers. NSD used to be a free, ad-supported service. Could something like that be again? Even if it starts from point zero?

I hate moving my cheese.

Bonus irony:

If you search for “contributions to society” on Google, this blog is the third entry on the second page of results.


News@Concordia keeps a list of all blogs related to the university – well, at least those it knows about. 101 joined that blogroll last weekend, which explains the heavy traffic I see. Hi, all.

I had another screenwriters’ meeting tonight. Anne was there, and she spouted how much she had enjoyed “Sheep’s End”. It was another small meeting, which means another productive meeting. I didn’t leave with hte same prospects of work that I took away last month, but those didn’t pan out anyway. I did learn of and skim what seems to be an excellent text on story: “The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing”. Used copies seem to go for about $5 US, so I no doubt will order a copy somewhere. My only real question is why did I jot down “James Marshall” at the meeting when the author is “Evan Marshall”….

Bonus question for the Webosphere:

Anybody out there have a copy of the functioning, stand-alone HID Explorer application for Mac OS X?

Concordia Journalism blogs

I found four through Google Blog Search. You can see them in the sidebar to the right.

The Pod is four students, starting their second years as I write this. I bet they’re surprised I found them.

Writer’s Blog is a former student of mine who also leans toward scriptwriting, it seems. Os was also a student of mine, although he hasn’t graduated yet – and his blog is in a coma.

Of All the Gin Joints in the World belongs to a first-year student who isn’t in my JOUR 202 class. The fool.

Any more out there, folks?


I trapped another mouse last night. A female. That bodes ill for keeping my house mouse-free.

Oh, she went for a peanut-butter-baited trap. I recommend always using it, even if the package says you don’t have to.

I stumbled onto a blog of a journalism student at Concordia, which led me to seek out more. I’ll add a blogroll category for that this weekend.


I gave Alex some notes this week and he seemed to appreciate them a whole lot more than the help with storylines on the girl project. That was encouraging. And schmoozing with others starts next week. I’m on the mule train to success!

Unfortunately, all those notes have slowed my own writing. I’m a day or two behind on my self-imposed deadline on the project I’m doing with Nearmiss. I should get the minimum done today.

I found a few more interesting screenwriting blogs and I’ve added them to the blogroll to the right.

Matt Watts is a TV writer in Toronto.

I Can’t Really Film, but I Can Write Sometimes (henceforth referred to as I Can’t Really Film) is a woman in San Francisco who seems to be at pretty much my level – a pro writer outside scriptwriting who is trying to break in. She also has some fundamental troubles she’s trying to overcome, although with her it seems to be the spine of her stories. I’ll be keeping on eye on her posts.

Shouting into the Wind is a woman in Los Angeles who has her own eye firmly keyed on the TV industry.


Webs provide for family

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. It’s never been a big deal in my family, and in general is less of a celebration compared to Americans and their Thanksgiving holiday.

But tonight, oh, tonight, my young will be feasting on the fruit of my victory.

It’s a male Mus musculus. It preferred the peanut butter to the unbaited trap. And it took the trap right in the eye. This one died behind the TV cabinet downstairs. It’s a male, so it didn’t have kids. On the other hand, killing males does nothing to control a breeding population. We’ll see if we catch more….

Scene pulses

I’ve been working on a miniature questionnaire to help take the pulse of scenes and tackle my weak points.

My plan is to hold each scene up to this template and answer all the questions. If a scene fails to provide answers, it must be fixed or thrown out.

Plot: How does the scene advance the story? What story beat does it hold?

Theme: How does the scene advance the theme? What meaning does it impart to the audience?

Characters: What is the conflict between characters? Where does the tension come from, and what does it lead to? What does each character want out of it? What are the internal motivations of the characters here? The external motivations?

That’s what I have so far. Have anything else?

I need to work on stories of monkey vs. monkey – conflict between people. So far, my stories are monkey vs. leopard – most of the conflict is people fighting a situation. Some analysts call this the difference between character-driven and plot-driven stories. I’m trying not to compromise. I want to do both at the same time.

In other news, a man who is getting paid to write a children’s book on Canadian heroes wanted to use my John McElroy essay. He declined my more than fair offer to sell it to him.

Bonus Mus musculus update:

(Well, I assume it’s Mus musculus….) The mousetraps I bought claim to attract mice with scent impregnated in cheese-shaped panels of plastic. I used two traps as is and added peanut butter to the other two. We’ll see which trap snags a rodent first.

I found a pile of dried vegetation and a few mouse droppings under Child One’s “bed” – it’s really a sofa, which she prefers to sleep on. I don’t know if the vegetation was a mouse nest or a random concentration of dead leaves and stems from her plants in that corner of the room.

Visitors among us

I get a kick out of watching Web site stats. A little thrill runs through me when I see my small but worldwide audience, not out of vanity but because it proves just how different the world is.

Cultural evolution does not change at a steady rate. In the 20 years from 1900 to 1920, the world saw an enormous leap in technology. The horse fell by the wayside. Aviation technology established itself as a presence, if one only for the rich.

The next 20 years, to the start of the next world war, was more or less static. Inventors started on many inventions that would have an impact, but these devices did not have much of an impact on everyday life – television, for example. Part of the problem was the Depression, of course, but don’t underestimate a lack of war. Sure, Japan romped through Asia and Italy tried to take on Ethiopia, but for the most part, the wealthy nations did not wage war and in fact signed treaties meant to restrict the technology of warfare – battleships, for instance. Ironically, the battleship treaties led Germany to develop the intriguing pocket battleships, but that’s another story….

World War II was the crucible of the greatest advances of the 20th century. Radar, computing, electronics, jets, rockets, women in the workforce – this war hastened so much. But was 1960 so different from 1950? Not really. Aircraft were bigger and cars were pointier, but life in 1960 essentially was the same as it had been ten years earlier. In the next ten years, rock music exploded, as did disaffection and drug use.

But look at us today, and compare us to the mid-1970s. We use CDs, but we listen to the Beatles. We cook frozen dinners, but we do it in the microwave. We watch Giligan’s Island, but we watch on HDTV on more cable channels than we know what to do with.

In the last 30 years, the only real cultural motion has been in computers and the access to global peers. I could take one of my students – 19 years old, born in 1987 – and I could drop that person in 1995. She wouldn’t feel one iota out of place. She’d feel perfectly at home in 1985, but she’d miss her IM chat and she’d have to worry about long-distance charges on the phone. But that’s 20 years ago.

Take a person in 1975 and drop them into 1955 and there’d be a huge culture shock. Place a 1960 person into 1940? Forget about it.

We’ve had a static culture for 25 years or so. The Clash is on the radio and seems right at home. The only difference is communication.

That’s why I like looking at site stats. It shows we’ve changed.

I also like looking at the stats because they’re like a puzzle to interpret. Some of the key stats for this blog:

Alligators in a Helicopter is my top referrer, with 12 of the last 100 referrals (a referral is when a visitor arrives through a click on a link). Screenwriting Life is second, with six.

A Technorati search for “Serenity” produced five visiting clickers, and a search for TriggerStreet produced one.

The most amusing stats are the Web searches that lead people to this blog. Among them:

• casey schroeder gmail
• elvi return policy
• videotron mail relay
• videotron smtp server
• hurricanes story webs
• blue’s clues episode inside locked trunk

I love that last one.

Most of my visitors come from El Monte, Calif. I suspect those visits are mostly Scott the Reader, and that the city isn’t strictly correct. If not, all you El Monteans should comment here. Second place is Houston, and I suspect that is my brother – all of them are Mac OS X entries from the same ISP. If you read this and you’re in Houston and you’re not my brother, speak up!

I also have a reader at the Toronto International Film Festival, which is sort of encouraging. And an Inktomi spider visits me once a day, so I can feel important.

New mouse

I have managed to knock one errand off my list. The Concordia Bookstore is in the same building as the Journalism Department, so it was easy to buy a new mouse there.

I swung for the fences. I spent $80 (Canadian, after tax) on an Apple Mighty Mouse. Because of my small hands, the high arch of most mice aggravates tendonitis in my hand. The Apple mice are low, so I figured I’d treat myself. It’s the second best mouse I’ve used – unfortunately, the best mouse I’ve used was a CompUSA house brand that the store no longer sells. My girls knocked the batteries out of it one day, and replaced them backwards. I recognize the smell of burning circuitboard in the evening. It smells like… defeat.

When I got home, the malfunctioning double-clicking mouse was no longer malfunctioning. I wasn’t sure what I should do with the pristine, returnable $80 Mighty Mouse. Elvi pointed out that we need a back-up mouse anyway, so why don’t I just keep it. She spoils me, she does.

I’ll spell it out plainly, since no one else seems to: the Mighty Mouse has right click, left click, and scroll-button click (functionally although not physically). The side squeeze buttons are awkward to use, but you only have to squeeze one side. The scroll button works well, although I’d prefer it slightly larger.

Every click…
...contributes to world domination.