Archive for December, 2013


Everything I know about good Gamesmanship, I learned from my older brother. He now has kids, and I tried playing a board game with my nephew, and niece, with help from our Dad, now Grandad.

Seriously, from my brother, I learned what it means to play fairly, to know the rules, to play by the rules, and to be ok with either winning or losing — as long as you were playing fair, and acting fair, whatever the outcome.

I had to report to my brother that my young nephew had disappointed both Grandad and myself by being a really bad sport after not-winning the third of three games he had actually won. Everyone, especially young ones, likes to win. No one, especially young ones, likes to lose.

But I had to tell my brother and his wife, soon after, that my nephew had up-ended the game board because he was upset that he had lost. My brother, as his father, was especially upset, being the person that taught me gamesmanship in the first place, 40 years ago, and had believed in it for at least that long. My nephew’s mother was equally upset. Except, my brother sounded upset on more than a fatherly, parentally level — he was incredibly not pleased on the level he was upset when he was six and I was three, when I wasn’t playing games level and fair and reasonable, and gracious in loss as well as win.

This is an incredibly important lesson. I hated to have to be a part of imparting it, but I realized all of this even as I ratted my nephew out to his parents, my sister-in-law and my big brother, being  the guy who taught me that gamesmanship was important and, in a big way, moral. Morality is the big thing to teach.

So: Gamesmanship is the big thing that lets us still happily play games to this day, even with every Striving effort to best the other;  with no hard feelings – and with all admiration –  if the other guy achieves.


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A Hard Day’s Night at the Opera

When I was about 22 or 23 years old, a half lifetime ago, I had this mash-up idea one night that stuck with me for years. I saw the bits of it that I saw clearly very distinctly in my head, but the rest was fuzzy, whenever I tried to develop and finish it. Yet, tonight, it comes back again, and I still remember it. One of those ideas you only get when you’re that young, that open, that high, and that inspired. That I remembered it even the next day is pretty fancy a feat; that I remember it 20 years later is weird indeed.

It was decades before they even invented the term “mash-up” to describe a creative synthesis. This was a mash-up of three of my most favorite things: the Marx Brothers, the Beatles, and Mozart (as incarnated, specifically, in my favorite movie, Amadeus). It was called “A Hard Day’s Night at the Opera.”

There’s a scene in Amadeus where Mozart hears his music being played, and runs full tilt down a palace corridor, that reminded me of the Beatles running full tilt away from screaming fans at the beginning of Richard Lester’s movie. The Beatles were compared to the Marx Bros. in the film A Hard Day’s Night, which Lennon in an interview later dismissed (“There were four of them, and four of uz, so that’s why they said it, that’s all.”).

There was to be a Sig Rumann character, a jealous composer (the Salieri character); and a Margaret Dumont empress.

Then there were to be the four of them, incarnated as composers. I wrote, once, in a notepad (that is somewhere, but I know not where), a scene in which they introduce themselves.

JOHN: I’m Beethoven, John Winston Beethoven. This is James Paul McMozart. Over there is the silent one, George Harrison Bach.

George honks a horn in a four-note Bach melody.

JOHN: And Ringo.

RINGO: Hullo.

There was a scene in which, like in the Amadeus scene, they take a mediocre ditty of Salieri’s and start riffing on it, building it up, and it becomes an orchestral “Hey Jude.”

I always loved this idea. It probably would only stretch long enough to make a 20-minute short, but a great one. Any longer and it would grow thin. Any shorter and why do it?

It would still take a considerable budget to pull off, what with being a costume historical, and requiring a talented composer/arranger and musicians to do the score, and actors who could be the Beatles and the Marx Bros at the same time.

And a script that conquered the idea and followed its logic to a height worthy of all of these guys.

Never did it. Twenty years I’ve been carrying it around in my head, occasionally taking it out of its box to say, “Isn’t it pretty and shiny and fun,” then parking it again.

I have so many impractical ideas, but I do love some of them so.

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Mozart In America

It is a curious fact of history that Mozart was at his most active contemporaneous with the American Revolution. As Lexington and Concord waged, so did concertos and opera tours across Europe. Which leads me to the alternate history idea: that should Mozart have lived, he would eventually have come to tour the new United States. Mozart in America, 1804. A tale worth telling.

Or pondering how to tell, at any same rate.

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Dateline- HOLLYWOOD!

DATELINE – Hollywood, CA. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer is fired from his coveted production deal with Disney Studios, which want to focus not on things like The Lone Ranger, but more on Avengers and Thor type deals. Picked up by Paramount Pictures, recently signing off on a deal for never-to-be-produced (with anyone good) Indiana Jones sequels (?!), Bruckheimer, 70, admitted that his first pictures to lens in the new deal are to be Top Gun 2, starring Tom Cruise, and Beverly Hills Cop 4, starring Eddie Murphy, if anyone can still get it up.

More news as events develop. Ur reporter, out.


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Does the Impractical Prove Ever Practical

I’m sitting here thinking about how I always come up with really impractical ideas for things to do. I feel that big itch, to do something with the idea, to produce it/publish it/get it out there, share it, do something about it, do something with it, but it seems like it’s so impractical there’s no point in spending the time. Most of my ideas have this weird impractical tinge to them, even the really big ones that I’ve pulled off to date. This is about a sub-category of that type of idea that I really feel compelled to do something about.

Tonight I’m watching Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, on cable tv, and thinking about apologizing for it. Commentary and editing run in parallel processes in my head as I watch it, as I remember all the earlier times I watched it. The apology can come in the form of mentioning the handful of bits that are actually worthwhile about it; controversial to think anything is worthwhile in something written off as a complete waste of time even by ardent Star Trek fans. There are plenty of other moments that are wincingly indefensible, and some things that are awful, but exist not because they were ill-conceived from the moment of inception, but because a problematic and short-budgeted production made them unavoidable howlers.

I think about writing a review, in which I could go over all of this point by point. The good, the bad, the unavoidably ugly. I think again that I have the ability to produce video for the Internet’s YouTubes, in which I could produce a five or six minute commentary and show clips, both of what’s bad and what could be done differently, and then show instead of telling. Or, I could actually go all the way, and re-edit the whole movie in a way that seems more satisfying.

I did that once, just upon the realization that I had all the movie technology to do so: take a movie that needs work, that could be improved by editing and other types of post-production, and then produce it, just because I can. Make that twice. People have made semi-fame for themselves by doing remixes and mash-ups for Internet viewing, but they followed through, and I never have.

I suppose I was worried about copyright violation or being sued or something, concerns that seem ridiculous this far on into the twenty-first century. Secondarily, I was concerned about the “waste of time” factor in doing anything about it.

Even just writing the critical review of Star Trek V, the Shatner movie, the lowest-bar effort in this regard, as far as what’s on my mind tonight (since it’s still on as I type this), seems like more effort than it’s worth. No, it’s more than that. It’s that I feel like, showing clips that demonstrate how I think the movie could be improved by editing decisions that were never made before I couldn’t help thinking of them tonight – I can see the edits in my head, and I like the results, and I want to show them off, demonstrate the difference they make to an audience – actually doing some of these edits and presenting them seems like it makes the point a lot better than just writing about it would do, but that requires more effort and more time. (Well. It sounds braggy, but I’ve leveled up as an editor to the point where it takes very little effort and time to make cuts like these, since I’ve already thought them out. What takes a stupid amount of time is rendering them for the Web, because my editing system doesn’t natively render-for-the-web, it takes multiple half-hours.

Doing the whole movie would feel like a satisfying weekend’s cutting, but it would take a third to a half a day to render, and then another useless number of hours to upload, and nobody wants to watch that much of this movie, anyway.

It’s not just this movie, though. It’s all these other projects I think of all the time, as I watch things that I think could be improved, because that’s what happens when I watch things that have the possibility of improvement: I edit as I watch. I can’t help it. Then I think about how I wish I could show what’s in my head to someone else, because it would be interesting to put it out there and have a conversation about. I can’t help that either.

Except by doing nothing.

Well, tonight I wrote this meta-something about how I spend all my time doing this. While waiting for an idea that’s actually, you know, maybe practical? In some way? That I could use these same skills and thoughtfulness on, and apply to it? Unless, if I did enough impractical things, but shared them all, it would lead to something practical…

…? Kind of haunting. Spend a lot of a lot of impractical hours, on the hope that it miraculously turns out to have been practical effort and time all along?


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The Key to other Keys

OR: I should have done this long ago

It was a cold and rainy eve the night that we first met
And though I may not recall her face her smile I can’t forget

—“Dylan in C” (1994)

I should have bought one of these years ago, I think to myself, trying out my guitar capo for the first time. Just clamping it on for the first time, then playing the same old chords I only know how to play, have played for years until it all sounded monotonous, brought out other tones, harmonics, melodies, tunes. So that’s why people use these things, I think. Suddenly a new flood opens out of the rock, out of the aether, when you just tighten up to a different set of chords, in a higher key. There’s three new inspirations with two new positions.

I should have done this long ago, I think again. But at least I gave myself time to level up on playing those chords, so I could just let myself play around now that I finally got this – key. It’s like a key. A key that unlocks other keys. Which lead to new passages, new doors, new territory.

I never could play the song I wrote years ago, specifying a key, that I didn’t have access to, until this key unlocked that key, finally.

Technically there should be a video or audio clip here of me playing a song, but I should have done that in the last week of October, which is when this memory is from, instead of now, so for now, tonight, I’ll just write about the memory. That moment passed. I have to wait until the next right moment comes, when I play something that I record in order to post it, again. It has been a long time. An elliptical orbit.

I’ll explain that metaphor later, in case anyone doesn’t get it.


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Best Pictures-All

I started a few memory exercises years ago. People used to memorize poems, but I’ve never been one much for that. Even for my own poetry. (Which, I remind myself, I really ought to be able to recite, at least my favorites.) Come to that, I can’t even recite complete Beatles lyrics in the shower, even though I’ve listened to each of those songs a dozen thousand times.

One of my memory exercises was to recite all of the Presidents of the United States of America, forward and backward. Another was a long Monty Python sketch, forward-only. The third was to memorize and recite all of the winners of the Best Picture Oscar(R) award from AMPAS, not just backwards and forwards, but odds and evens years, random access, whatever. It occasionally comes in handy in crossword puzzles, when the clue is “Best Picture (year)”.

I’ve lapsed on all of these, in recent years. Last night, I decided to recite the Best Picture winners from 1980 to the present, and it went okay, until I got to the last three years, the elevensies. The aughts were hard to remember, I had nearly as much trouble for the thirties and the fifties and sixties, once upon a time. Got those down. But the recent ones are more and more difficult to remember.

2009 was The Hurt Locker. Okay. Got up to there. So, 2010, 2011, and 2012. 2012 was Argo, I remember that because I was like, “WTF? Argo? It was okay, but Best Picture?” And then I stuck on 2010 and 2011. For an hour. Eventually I had a brain spark and shouted, “The Artist!” But I couldn’t remember whether The Artist was 2010 or 2011; even so, there was one missing.

In vain, hopeless, I searched the “cable-channels-of-movies-on-demand” for help, and “The Descendants” (2011) came up, and its precis said it was an Acadamy-Award-winning movie. I recalled that it was nominated for Best Picture, but it didn’t seem stored in my memory as the winner for whatever year that was (just one ago, from this one).

Damn, dang, damn, damn, dang, damn, dang, dang, argh. What was the one?

I had this idea that there were two (or three?) “The _________” movies in a row. So, “The Hurt Locker” and “The Artist” were at least two, so the third “The ___________” was what? Or was it just two? So those were the only two “The ___”‘s?

Finally, 24 hours later, I looked it up, looked into it. “The King’s Speech”. FeCK! Right. Of course. That was 2010. “The Artist” was 2011. So there *were* three “The ___”‘s in a row.

It’s always easy to remember when you read the list, and then go “ohhhh yeahhhh.”


Now, I just need to remember how to recite my poems. I only ever wrote poetry for a year and a half or so, nearly 20 years ago. As if the Muse came and then fled. I wrote a bunch. All memorable, so I can take up the task of memorizing them, because they’re mine, my words, my poems, and I need something to recite while I’m in the shower.

Something else to put on the docket for 2014, besides the other stuff.





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It surprised me to know how much active interest there was in my starting a regular blog. “Finally,” one supporter said to me, as just one word in a longer sentence expressing doubt about the venue I was seeming to choose for such a venture. In essence, he said, Rob’s finally going to have a blog, and he’s going to waste it on a flighty start-up blog thing?

Rob’s finally going to have a blog? As in, “Where was this blog years ago, so we could have started following it every day back then?” Why have you waited so long?

I have a very small audience, but I was forced, for the Nth time, to realize that I do, yes, have one. And what is a blog? Some guy’s take on things, posted regularly — daily, one hopes. Whatever that guy comes across that makes him think, let’s have it. Let’s hear his take on that thing. As a reader, I have my own take, or maybe I’ve never heard of it, so maybe I’ll read this guy’s take on it, then investigate it myself.

The important thing is, this guy, and his take on things. I want to read that. I’m interested in that. I’m amused and entertained by that. I’m challenged by that. I’m moved to thoughtfulness by that.

I honestly didn’t realize, until I started making noises about having a blog, that I had an audience who were happy to hear my take on things, in the form of a blog. As of now, I realize that I do.

It is enough to make me want to have and keep up and respect having an actual blog.

This is just the prelim version. The actual version starts and runs for the next year, I think I promised my faux-admin guy, who will help me out, but really wants me to learn to help myself. As if I could learn to fish and feed myself every day, without help. Hah.




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Impractical idea #9017

I have all sorts of ideas that have no practical application. That is to say, they won’t make any money at all, even if wildly successful. I’d have to develop them on my own dime and then give them away for free.

Tonight’s idea was inspired by the last few minutes of MST3K: The Movie (1996), which happened to be on tonight. The idea was for an app, iphone/ipad/whatever. It’s called: Abacus.

It is an abacus. For anyone who wants to learn how to work an abacus. Abacuses have the same UI as i-devices: sliding your finger. So the animation goes clickety-bead clack, and math is performed. Plus a tutorial mode, so that you can learn how to use one, so that human culture does not forget how to use an abacus — in fact, it re-learns it, right when VHS tapes and digital calculators are going extinct.

Obviously you can’t charge for an abacus app, but I bet you could move a lot of the merchandise, to curious and interested geeky people who like math and always-wanted-to-know how to use an abacus.


Totally impractical, completely worthwhile as a project, but absolutely not worth doing, except that obviously, it is, and there’s a huge (non-paying, free) market for it. It’d be nice to be the guy (and/or team) that does it first, does it right, does it so first and so right, nobody bothers doing it again. Just shipping it out there, to the world culture, to preserve world culture, and to teach maths to everyone again.


That’s the kind of idea I have every day. It’s like a blurse, or a cessing.




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Post-recording from Anthony

“I like it. I’m proud of it,” Anthony said, one late night in 1996, after we’d just recorded the best tape recording of our career/lives. He added:

“Nobody else would’ve done that.”

It was a — how can I describe it? A re-creation of “War of the Worlds”, Orson Wells’s 1938 broadcast. It was an improvised effort, entirely unplanned, among three friends from high school, without the fourth (Grog)  that made us a foursome, late into my and our friendship, but in 1996, that was all and enough.

It was the last tape and recording of Anthony, but we still sounded like we were just getting started on a podcast career, all of us. We just finally sounded like we could do it *for real*, but we never did it again, because …

Well, never mind that. “I like it. I’m proud of it. Nobody else would’ve done that.” Makes me laugh, every time, and smile, and know — no, nobody else would’ve done that, nobody else ever DID do that, we were the only ones who would ever *do* that, and we *DID* it, and the recording survives, telling that we did, did, did, do it, did it, done it.


Thanks to God, we were the only ones who would have done that, and we did it, and that we (thank you, Dave) recorded it, and so not only did we, were were, the only ones who did that; but that, people can hear what we done did, that one night, in 1996. So long ago, and such yesterday,

Good morning. This is maybe why I started a blog.



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