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Friday, December 30, 2005

Styracosaurus Crowned!

Styracosaurus, that spiky-necked glory of the Jurassic era, has garnered the top spot in our "Name Your Favorite Ceratopsian" poll, with mighty Triceratops a close second.

Triceratops may be a classic. But Styracosaurus is cooler (Joe Tucciarone's well-known painting of the face-off with the Daspletosaurus - in an otherworldly twilight of aurora and mist - says it all, I think).

Psittacosaurus, stretching forward in a final bipedal spurt, snapped its beak shut on the bronze.

Here are the numbers:

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Favorite Ceratopsian

The "Favorite Ceratopsian" sidebar poll is only a few days old but the competition is fierce. The two favorites are - of course - Styracosaurus and Triceratops. Styracosaurus is currently ahead by a horn's length. But by the end, the competitors could be running frill and frill.

The results, as of this morning:

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Beer Cheer

I'm off to a holiday party this afternoon. I will not drink beer there - and yet I will be smelling of beer throughout! How is this possible? Is it a Christmas-tide miracle?

No. It ain't no miracle.

When I took my seat on the bus this morning, I didn't notice the seat was already occupied. Occupied by beer.

I'd almost forgotten what it was like to reek of beer.

Now I remember.

Fortunately, I'm no longer single and so I can hang at the Christmas party without worrying too much about the impression I might be making on the opposite sex. Although some women - or so I have read in magazines - find the smell of stale beer quite erotic. I might have turned this to my advantage in the olden days, moving in on an attractive coworker for a slow dance, then leaning close to whisper seductively: "My ass smells like beer."

Anyway, if you run into someone today who smells like beer, say "Hello". It's almost certainly me.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Winter Solstice

Today is the Winter Solstice.

The Winter Solstice - always occurring on December 21st - is the shortest day of the year (so if you would normally work an 8 hour day, on the Winter Solstice you might only have to work a 3 hour day, but maybe still get paid for the whole 8 hours! Ask your employer!).

FUN FACT: The word "Solstice" has its origin in a Middle English expression, shouted around December 21st: "Die Sol iss't ice!. Got saue oll!", which translates: "The Sun has turned to ice! God save us all!"

The day of the Winter Solstice - marking the first day of Winter - is about 7 to 8 hours shorter than the normal day (Check your local newspaper for the official length, as it varies from year to year due to the regular migration of the poles away from the ecliptic. This year, December 21st will be 16 hours 13 minutes long).

If you're not prepared, the sudden change in day length can lead to complications farther down the road. Here are some tips to help you stay on track:

Be sure to factor in the 7 or 8 fewer hours in your countdown to Christmas. If you think you have 3 days and 5 hours left, double check your math! You may only have 2 days and 21 hours.

Drink lots of fluids and don't overexert yourself. Avoid TV, as this will only upset you.

After the the Winter Solstice, your internal clock will be off by the 7 or 8 hour difference (7 hours and 47 minutes this year). So tomorrow, and in the coming weeks, you will find yourself wide awake about midnight, thinking you have to start your work day. The effect is identical to jet lag and should be treated as such - i.e., keep sightseeing to a minimum your first day, drink fluids, eat meals at the same times the locals do.

The hours taken out of the Winter Solstice are traditionally taken out of the Daytime, so don't be alarmed if most of your day is spent in overwhelming darkness. If you find yourself becoming depressed, drink alcohol until the depression seems to fade into the distance.

Having a big Celebration on the Winter Solstice can help you come to terms with its unnerving strangeness. The traditional celebrations of the early Celtic and Pre-Celtic Europeans are fun and spiritually enlivening:

- Put decorations on a sacred tree.

- Hang the sacred mistletoe of the druids on the lintel and use it as an invitation to sexual foreplay (this is no time of year to hoard your bodily warmth - share!)

- Holly too because of its magical and medicinal powers can be used to bless the home, inviting the gods to keep the family healthy and productive in the next year

- If Elves show up, don't freak out. Remember, you already have absorbed a lot of information on Elvish customs unconsciously. Treat them with respect and deference. "The Lord of the Rings" is a fine guidebook. Flying caribou and the like, though shocking to some, should not be entirely unexpected.

It's almost 11am now, and its long past time I got home and ate supper.

Happy Winter Solstice!

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Blue Planet

"...Whoa!...Wow!...WOW!...Holy shit!...WOW!!!..."

(my wife and I watching the first episode of Sir David Attenborough's "The Blue Planet" tonight)

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Eye, Neal, Feelin' Ill

Home today for day 2. Sick. Sick? Am I sick? I feel sick.

We have 2 thermometers here in the home. 1 digital, 1 analog (non-mercury), and neither one has given me a satisfactory temperature reading. I got at least a dozen different readings from the digital thermometer, no two of them the same. And the analog (non-mercury) thermometer, after levering up my tongue for 15 minutes, declared that I had a fever of 98.7 degrees.

Lots of stuff I need to do around the house today though - take clothes to cleaners, work on new script, pay car insurance, prepare for Christmas trip to see family. But do I dare to aggravate these hair-raising symptoms?

Hair-raising symptoms:

- I am warm and dry
- I am warm and clammy
- I have a sore neck from being home sick yesterday staring for hours at the computer
- My eye only photographs in black and white...

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Krayon #5

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Monday, December 19, 2005

10 Best Medieval Movies

10 Best Film Depictions of the European Middle Ages

1. Andrei Rublev (1969)
2. Becket (1964)
3. El Cid (1961)
4. The Lion In Winter (1968)
5. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
6. The Name Of The Rose (1986)
7. The Navigator: A Mediaeval Odyssey (1988)
8. Robin and Marian (1976)
9. The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971)
10. The War Lord (1965)


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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Marriage, Year One

365 days ago, my wife and I were wed at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

We danced under the dinosaurs.

We are so cool I can't stand it.

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Krayon #4

For those interested, I do these color scribbles in good ol' Crayola, because I like the smell.

I have a big box that some Christmas candies came in one year with "CRAYONS" written on the lid in black Sharpie. I open the lid. I take a long wiff of the contents. And everything is alright.

I do the Krayonage - theoretically - without planning, without thinking. I try to anyway. I'm of the personality - as I mentioned a couple posts ago - to think and rethink, plan and replan, and so I try to practice impulsive, rough-n-ready, chaotic creative action as much as possible. I realize the irony in making an effort to be spontaneous. My primary art training is as a filmmaker and screenwriter, which are jobs that - try as we might - just don't lend themselves over-easily to the random dance of improvisation and funky drum of accident.

For example, the following conversation has never taken place, ever:

FILM WRITER/DIRECTOR: Say, I want to make a big budget action movie.
STUDIO EXEC: Can I read the script?
FILM WRITER/DIRECTOR: There is no script. I'm going to just wing the whole thing. It's going to kick ass.
STUDIO EXEC: Good for you. Here's $20 million. Let me know when you need more.

Filmmaking, because it involves dozens or hundreds of technicians - and millions of dollars - and scads of guilds and unions - just can't happen like that. It would be exactly like a construction company's putting up a building improvisationally. A side effect can be that one's yummy/stinky creative fecundity gets constipated in moviemaking. Or arthritic. Or impotent (Or make up your own Physical Affliction Analogy!). And if you try to make a full-time go of it as a screenwriter, you're almost certainly in danger of some creative stagnation. It takes real effort to keep the spark alive - to keep the romance alive - the delight in imagining something new and crazy, and trying through a medium to get strangers to imagine it just as vividly as you first did.

So the Krayons help me in that way. I wanted to go into art school when I graduated from Kettering Fairmont High School (Kettering, Ohio - suburb of Dayton), but, thank God, took the film school gamble instead. Still, I love all the visual arts and the more I work, the less difference I see between one medium and another. I get an idea and, being horny for a variety of media, I'm better able to let the idea find it's best home rather than trying to force it violently into the few, or one, medium or format I'm comfortable with.

So get out some crayons. Give yourself 15 minutes. Go mad. Throw the results in the trash. Do another one. Or don't.

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Return to Dreadful Talon

I went back.

I had to. I had to go back.

And the Talon - the Dreadful Talon of the Underground...

...was GONE.

Where is it? Where has it gone?

It could be anywhere.


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Friday, December 16, 2005

The Dreadful Talon of the Underground

Last night, I sat on the Metro platform, on one of the wide granite stumps that might be bases for some future colossal statues of movie stars, but where people currently wait for the train. My head hung between my knees with despair at the unduly long length of the voyage longness. If you don't hit the trains at just the right time, the trip takes forever. I'd just been to therapy, where I'd whined for an hour about finances.

And I had just been fooled by that goddamned Wilshire/Western train, thinking it was the North Hollywood train and I ended up back at Wilshire/Western again where I had to wait once more for the Union Station train to take me back to Wilshire/Vermont where I got off and had to sit around forever to again wait for the North Hollywood train...

(If you've taken the Red Line in Los Angeles, you understand what I'm talking about and you feel my pain)

So, yes, tired, irritated, and wondering if I should throw myself in front of the North Hollywood train if it ever finally arrived, or should actually get on it this time, staring at my shoes in the pose of a constipated dad reading the newspaper...I saw it...

...on the floor...

...by my left foot...

...the Dreadful Talon of the Underground.

It was a big toenail cutting.

Not just any big toenail cutting.

It was like a long slim sliver of sliced almond, the color of eggnog gone bad, the shape of a new crescent moon as drawn by a child or a drug addict.

For the sake of my own emotional and mental self-protection, I silently denied the truth: "It is not a cheddar-colored cutting from a large man's big toe toenail. No. It is certainly not that. No. No. Not that." And I stared at it a long time, my creative mind going to work scanning all sorts of random notions in a desperate attempt to re-identify the thing.

But the best alternative I could come up with was: "Crescent-shaped curve the width of a large man's big toe tonail with a translucent plasticky consistency and a sheen that suggests it might have spent many dark hours at the bottom of a shoe...which MUST NOT BE a toenail clipping."

But there was no denying the truth.

I wanted to touch the toenail - in the same way you might want to touch a piece of cat poo if it showed up on your plate at a restaurant. You'd say: "Can that REALLY be cat poo?" And, just to confirm the nightmare truth, you'd have to give it a poke.

I didn't touch the toenail. But I did begin to weep. Or nearly so.

The toenail and I spent many more long silent minutes together. When the North Hollywood train finally came I got up, boarded it. The toenail stayed behind. Perhaps it was going to Wilshire/Western.

I wonder if it's still there.

I badly want to go back and look for it on my way home this evening.

I want to pick it up.

I want to send it in the mail to my friends.

I can't stop thinking about it.

I am a servant - a slave - of the Dreadful Talon of the Underground.


The Vermont-Wilshire Metro Station escalator shown above is a mere stone's throw from the Vermont-Wilshire Metro Station escalator famously interviewed by Tony Pierce.


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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Paper Noom

My wedding anniversary is coming up.

Yes, MINE. My anniversary. An anniversary that belongs to no other. My wife may try to take it from me. But I will not let her. No. No I shall keep the anniversary all to myself.

Sometimes I wonder if there isn't something wrong with me.

This weekend, my wife - who is a very good friend of mine and someone I think you'd really hit it off with - and I myself will celebrate OUR first year of marriage.

Assuming there are no great disasters between now and then.

I mean, that comet they've been talking about for years could finally hit. Or I could be eaten by a land-shark. Or my wife could have a moment of clarity. But barring any of these disasters, we'll be celebrating our first year of marriage.

It's the PAPER Anniversary. I remember that because my sister got some toilet paper as a joke on the first anniversary of her first marriage. I think it must have been a joke. I don't think that marriage made it up into the precious stones and metals. It might have gotten up to FORMICA - which has turned out to be a very very good thing, since it has allowed her second marriage to happen and that marriage has for many years issued forth long-lasting juicy goodness.

Does the PAPER Anniversary mean that I have to give my wife a piece of paper? Or is it just that people who have a mind to give us gifts bestow bits of paper? Does money count as paper? I'm thinking only checks are paper, since "paper" currency is actually made out of that mysterious fiber material that old Mexican ladies weave in the deep, deep dungeons of the Treasury Department. So checks, bonds, money orders, bits of cardboard, grocery lists, parking tickets - these are all legitimate gifts to give on the 1st year wedding anniversary.

I think I will give my wife a Set Of Principles. Yes, I'll pen a Set Of Principles on paper and give it to her. I suppose the Principles should apply specifically to our marriage, perhaps should be guidlines for her - for us - to follow in the coming years.

Here's one possible version. Let me know what you think.


1.) Always keep your head on straight. Do not let it drop away or lean askew.
2.) Never let the cats become too hungry or too vengeful. This way lies suffering.
3.) Remember that weekends start with the last day of the week, but end with the first day of the week. Don't get too tripped out by this.
4.) If one finds oneself angry at one's spouse, and one is a woman, then one could think maybe that it's not really one's spouse's fault actually.
5.) Only three things need be maintained in order to keep any relationship fresh and joyous and free for a lifetime. These three things will remain forever a mystery. Avoid sinking into long dark depressions over this eternal truth.

Unless you have any last minute suggestions, I'm going to run off now and prepare the gift. I have crayons, of course, but the newsprint I have is old and yellowing, so I'd better get some fresh.

I ate a fortune cookie this morning. The fortune, which I'm keeping in my pocket, says:

03 08 11 25 40 49

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Scribosphere 1 Page Challenge

In reponse to Michael Patrick Sullivan's invitation to the scribosphere to post a single screenplay page for public consumption, I offer a link to the writing samples page of my site.

There you will find gigantic pdf's of 1-page samples for you to enjoy and/or deride.

script page jpg


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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I Am Not A Blogger

I am not a REAL BLOGGER.

You know who's a BLOGGER. Tony Pierce is a BLOGGER. But me? No. I ain't no Blogagger.

REAL BLOGGERS are...what's the word?...spontaneous. Yes, spontaneous and fearless. Like great jazz artists they riff, in the moment, on their secret thoughts and bring them to life for the public to consume like pearls before swine - we may assume a species of pearl-eating swine, or at least oyster-eating swine.

But me? Me, I'm not spontaneous enough, not loosey-goosey enough to be a serious BLOGGER. Blogging comes from the heart, not the head. And my head is big. Too big. I've got a big head. A head to big for Blogging.

If only I could grow my heart, like the Grinch. The Grinch's small heart grew 3 sizes in one day. If we are to believe the animation, the Grinch's small heart grew 3 sizes in about 6 seconds. I don't even know what my heart size is. How do I get that measured? Do I go to my doctor? Or would a good tailor be able to measure it for me? I'm getting off track. The question is: how can I grow my heart - in such fashion as the Grinch's grew - so that I can be a REAL BLOGGER, not just some brainy guy with a contrived wit?

Perhaps I could give to the poor. That's one way of growing the heart, isn't it? It's a pretty expensive way, of course. And what with all the expenses I have at this time of year, maybe now's not the best time. Sometime next year maybe I could give to the poor - maybe after we get this screenplay optioned. Till then, I'll just wish the poor well. Will that work? Will that grow my heart?

Best wishes to the poor!

Yeah. I think I detect some growth. I think. Or maybe that's the coffee going to work. Do you notice anything? Is my Blogging getting any better?

A REAL BLOGGER is also courageous. Or ballsy. I am neither courageous (a word which is derived from the Latin word for "heart", by the way) or ballsy (an English expression derived from the colloquial word for "testicles", by the way). The REAL BLOGGER embraces the punk aspects of art. "I AM!" shouts the REAL BLOGGER, reminding anyone within earshot - or eyeshot - including himself (or itself) that he (it) is the God of the moment. Me? Not as much. My battle shout is "I AM...worried that you won't like me."

I've got to shake that shit.

How can I go from "I AM worried that you won't like me" to "I AM"? How? One way might be to shorten all my sentences to two words. That's good. I like. I'm cool. I rock. Blogs rule. Me too. I AM. Like me? Poor bastard.

But I'll keep working on it. Even Miles Davis didn't become a REAL BLOGGER overnight.

Hey, I know. I'm going to go back and change every instance of "real Blogger" to "REAL BLOGGER". That'd be kinda neat. You agree?

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"Oliver Twist", Chapter 52

Chapter LII

Fagin's last night alive.

The court was paved, from floor to roof, with human faces. Inquisitive and eager eyes peered from every inch of space. From the rail before the dock, away into the sharpest angle of the smallest corner in the galleries, all looks were fixed upon one man- Fagin. Before him and behind: above, below, on the right and on the left: he seemed to stand surrounded by a firmament, all bright with gleaming eyes.
He stood there, in all this glare of living light, with one hand resting on the wooden slab before him, the other held to his ear, and his head thrust forward to enable him to catch with greater distinctness every word that fell from the presiding judge, who was delivering his charge to the jury. At times, he turned his eyes sharply upon them to observe the effect of the slightest featherweight in his favour; and when the points against him were stated with terrible distinctness, looked towards his counsel, in mute appeal that he would, even then, urge something in his behalf. Beyond these manifestations of anxiety, he stirred not hand or foot. He had scarcely moved since the trial began; and now that the judge ceased to speak, he still remained in the same strained attitude of close attention, with his gaze bent on him, as though he listened still.

A slight bustle in the court recalled him to himself. Looking round, he saw that the jurymen had turned together, to consider of their verdict. As his eyes wandered to the gallery, he could see the people rising above each other to see his face: some hastily applying their glasses to their eyes: and others whispering their neighbours with looks expressive of abhorrence. A few there were, who seemed unmindful of him, and looked only to the jury, in impatient wonder how they could delay. But in no one face- not even among the women, of whom there were many there- could he read the faintest sympathy with himself, or any feeling but one of all- absorbing interest that he should be condemned.

As he saw all this in one bewildered glance, the death-like stillness came again, and looking back, he saw that the jurymen had turned towards the judge. Hush!

They only sought permission to retire.

He looked, wistfully, into their faces, one by one, when they passed out, as though to see which way the greater number leant; but that was fruitless. The jailer touched him on the shoulder. He followed mechanically to the end of the dock, and sat down on a chair. The man pointed it out, or he would not have seen it.

He looked up into the gallery again. Some of the people were eating and some fanning themselves with handkerchiefs; for the crowded place was very hot. There was one young man sketching his face in a little note-book. He wondered whether it was like, and looked on when the artist broke his pencil-point, and made another with his knife, as any idle spectator might have done.

In the same way, when he turned his eyes towards the judge, his mind began to busy itself with the fashion of his dress, and what it cost, and how he put it on. There was an old fat gentleman on the bench, too, who had gone out, some half an hour before, and now come back. He wondered within himself whether this man had been to get his dinner, what he had had, and where he had had it; and pursued this train of careless thought until some new object caught his eye and roused another.

Not that, all this time, his mind was, for an instant, free from one oppressive overwhelming sense of the grave that opened at his feet; it was ever present to him, but in a vague and general way, and he could not fix his thoughts upon it. Thus, even while he trembled, and turned burning hot at the idea of speedy death, he fell to counting the iron spikes before him, and wondering how the head of one had been broken off, and whether they would mend it, or leave it as it was. Then, he thought of all the horrors of the gallows and the scaffold- and stopped to watch a man sprinkling the floor to cool it- and then went on to think again.

At length there was a cry of silence, and a breathless look from all towards the door. The jury returned, and passed him close. He could glean nothing from their faces; they might as well have been of stone. Perfect stillness ensued- not a rustle- not a breath- Guilty.

The building rang with a tremendous shout, and another, and another, and then it echoed loud groans, then gathered strength as they swelled out, like angry thunder. It was a peal of joy from the populace outside, greeting the news that he would die on Monday.

The noise subsided, and he was asked if he had anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon him. He had resumed his listening attitude, and looked intently at his questioner while the demand was made; but it was twice repeated before he seemed to hear it, and then he only muttured that he was an old man- an old man- an old man- and so, dropping into a whisper, was silent again.

The judge assumed the black cap, and the prisoner still stood with the same air and gesture. A woman in the gallery uttered some exclamation, called forth by this dread solemnity; he looked hastily up as if angry at the interruption, and bent forward yet more attentively. The address was solemn and impressive; the sentence fearful to hear. But he stood, like a marble figure, without the motion of a nerve. His haggard face was still thrust forward, his under-jaw hanging down, and his eyes staring out before him, when the jailer put his hand upon his arm, and beckoned him away. He gazed stupidly about him for an instant, and obeyed.

They led him through a paved room under the court, where some prisoners were waiting till their turns came, and others were talking to their friends, who crowded round a grate which looked into the open yard. There was nobody there, to speak to (r)him;¯ but, as he passed, the prisoners fell back to render him more visible to the people who were clinging to the bars: and they assailed him with opprobrious names, and screeched and hissed. He shook his fist, and would have spat upon them; but his conductors hurried him on, through a gloomy passage lighted by a few dim lamps, into the interior of the prison.

Here, he was searched, that he might not have about him the means of anticipating the law; this ceremony performed, they led him to one of the condemned cells, and left him there- alone.

He sat down on a stone bench opposite the door, which served for seat and bedstead; and casting his blood-shot eyes upon the ground, tried to collect his thoughts. After awhile, he began to remember a few disjointed fragments of what the judge had said: though it had seemed to him, at the time, that he could not hear a word. These gradually fell into their proper places, and by degrees suggested more: so that in a little time he had the whole, almost as it was delivered. To be hanged by the neck, till he was dead- that was the end. To be hanged by the neck till he was dead.

As it came on very dark, he began to think of all the men he had known who had died upon the scaffold; some of them through his means. They rose up, in such quick succession, that he could hardly count them. He had seen some of them die,- and had joked too, because they died with prayers upon their lips. With what a rattling noise the drop went down; and how suddenly they changed, from strong and vigorous men to dangling heaps of clothes!

Some of them might have inhabited that very cell- sat upon that very spot. It was very dark; why didn't they bring a light? The cell had been built for many years. Scores of men must have passed their last hours there. It was like sitting in a vault strewn with dead bodies- the cap, the noose, the pinioned arms, the faces that he knew, even beneath that hideous veil.- Light, light!

At length, when his hands were raw with beating against the heavy door and walls, two men appeared: one bearing a candle, which he thrust into an iron candlestick fixed against the wall: the other dragging in a mattress on which to pass the night; for the prisoner was to be left alone no more.

Then came night- dark, dismal, silent night. Other watchers are glad to hear the church-clocks strike, for they tell of life and coming day. To him they brought despair. The boom of every iron bell came laden with the one, deep, hollow sound- Death. What availed the noise and bustle of cheerful morning, which penetrated even there, to him? It was another form of knell, with mockery added to the warning.

The day passed off. Day? There was no day; it was gone as soon as come- and night came on again; night so long, and yet so short; long in its dreadful silence, and short in its fleeting hours. At one time he raved and blasphemed; and at another howled and tore his hair. Venerable men of his own persuasion had come to pray beside him, but he had driven them away with curses. They renewed their charitable efforts, and he beat them off.

Saturday night. He had only one night more to live. And as he thought of this, the day broke- Sunday.

It was not until the night of this last awful day, that a withering sense of his helpless, desperate state came in its full intensity upon his blighted soul; not that he had ever held any defined or positive hope of mercy, but that he had never been able to consider more than the dim probability of dying so soon. He had spoken little to either of the two men, who relieved each other in their attendance upon him; and they, for their parts, made no effort to rouse his attention. He had sat there, awake, but dreaming. Now, he started up, every minute, and with gasping mouth and burning skin, hurried to and fro, in such a paroxysm of fear and wrath that even they- used to such sights- recoiled from him with horror. He grew so terrible, at last, in all the tortures of his evil conscience, that one man could not bear to sit there, eyeing him alone; and so the two kept watch together.

He cowered down upon his stone bed, and thought of the past. He had been wounded with some missiles from the crowd on the day of his capture, and his head was bandaged with a linen cloth. His red hair hung down upon his bloodless face; his beard was torn, and twisted into knots; his eyes shone with a terrible light; his unwashed flesh crackled with the fever that burnt him up. Eight- nine- ten. If it was not a trick to frighten him, and those were the real hours treading on each other's heels, where would he be, when they came round again! Eleven! Another struck, before the voice of the previous hour had ceased to vibrate. At eight, he would be the only mourner in his own funeral train; at eleven-

Those dreadful walls of Newgate, which have hidden so much misery and such unspeakable anguish, not only from the eyes, but, too often, and too long, from the thoughts, of men, never held so dread a spectacle as that. The few who lingered as they passed, and wondered what the man was doing who was to be hanged to-morrow, would have slept but ill that night, if they could have seen him.

From early in the evening until nearly midnight, little groups of two and three presented themselves at the lodge-gate, and inquired, with anxious faces, whether any reprieve had been received. These being answered in the negative, communicated the welcome intelligence to clusters in the street, who pointed out to one another the door from which he must come out, and showed where the scaffold would be built, and, walking with unwilling steps away, turned back to conjure up the scene. By degrees they fell off, one by one; and, for an hour, in the dead of night, the street was left to solitude and darkness.

The space before the prison was cleared, and a few strong barriers, painted black, had been already thrown across the road to break the pressure of the expected crowd, when Mr. Brownlow and Oliver appeared at the wicket, and presented an order of admission to the prisoner, signed by one of the sheriffs. They were immediately admitted into the lodge.

"Is the young gentleman to come too, sir?" said the man whose duty it was to conduct them. "It's not a sight for children, sir."

"It is not indeed, my friend," rejoined Mr. Brownlow; "but my business with this man is intimately connected with him; and as this child has seen him in the full career of his success and villany, I think it as well- even at the cost of some pain and fear- that he should see him now."

These few words had been said apart, so as to be inaudible to Oliver. The man touched his hat; and glancing at Oliver with some curiosity, opened another gate, opposite to that by which they had entered, and led them on, through dark and winding ways, towards the cells.

"This," said the man, stopping in a gloomy passage where a couple of workmen were making some preparations in profound silence- "this is the place he passes through. If you step this way, you can see the door he goes out at."

He led them into a stone kitchen, fitted with coppers for dressing the prison food, and pointed to a door. There was an open grating above it, through which came the sound of men's voices, mingled with the noise of hammering, and the throwing down of boards. They were putting up the scaffold.

From this place, they passed through several strong gates, opened by other turnkeys from the inner side; and, having entered an open yard, ascended a flight of narrow steps, and came into a passage with a row of strong doors on the left hand. Motioning them to remain where they were, the turnkey knocked at one of these with his bunch of keys. The two attendants, after a little whispering, came out into the passage, stretching themselves as if glad of the temporary relief, and motioned the visitors to follow the jailer into the cell. They did so.

The condemned criminal was seated on his bed, rocking himself from side to side, with a countenance more like that, of a snared beast than the face of a man. His mind was evidently wandering to his old life, for he continued to mutter, without appearing conscious of their presence otherwise than as a part of his vision.

"Good boy, Charley- well done-" he mumbled. "Oliver, too, ha! ha! ha! Oliver too- quite the gentleman now- quite the- take that boy away to bed!"

The jailer took the disengaged hand of Oliver; and, whispering him not to be alarmed, looked on without speaking.

"Take him away to bed!" cried Fagin. "Do you hear me, some of you? He has been the- the- somehow the cause of all this. It's worth the money to bring him up to it- Bolter's throat, Bill; never mind the girl- Bolter's throat as deep as you can cut. Saw his head off!"

"Fagin," said the jailer.

"That's me!" cried the Jew, falling, instantly, into the attitude of listening he had assumed upon his trial. "An old man, my Lord; a very old, old man!"

"Here," said the turnkey, laying his hand upon his breast to keep him down. "Here's somebody wants to see you, to ask you some questions, I suppose. Fagin, Fagin! Are you a man?"

"I shan't be one long," he replied, looking up with a face retaining no human expression but rage and terror. "Strike them all dead! What right have they to butcher me?"

As he spoke he caught sight of Oliver and Mr. Brownlow. Shrinking to the furthest corner of the seat, he demanded to know what they wanted there.

"Steady," said the turnkey, still holding him down. "Now, sir, tell him what you want. Quick, if you please, for he grows worse as the time gets on."

"You have some papers," said Mr. Brownlow advancing, "which were placed in your hands, for better security, by a man called Monks."

"It's all a lie together," replied Fagin. "I haven't one- not one."

"For the love of God," said Mr. Brownlow solemnly, "do not say that now, upon the very verge of death; but tell me where they are. You know that Sikes is dead; that Monks has confessed; that there is no hope of any further gain. Where are those papers?"

"Oliver," cried Fagin, beckoning to him. "Here, here! Let me whisper to you."

"I am not afraid," said Oliver in a low voice, as he relinquished Mr. Brownlow's hand.

"The papers," said Fagin, drawing Oliver towards him, "are in a canvas bag, in a hole a little way up the chimney in the top front-room. I want to talk to you, my dear. I want to talk to you."

"Yes, yes," returned Oliver. "Let me say a prayer. Do! Let me say one prayer. Say only one, upon your knees, with me, and we will talk till morning."

"Outside, outside," replied Fagin, pushing the boy before him towards the door, and looking vacantly over his head. "Say I've gone to sleep- they'll believe you.¯ You can get me out, if you take me so. Now then, now then!"

"Oh! God forgive this wretched man!" cried the boy with a burst of tears.

"That's right, that's right," said Fagin. "That'll help us on. This door first. If I shake and tremble, as we pass the gallows, don't you mind, but hurry on. Now, now, now!"

"Have you nothing else to ask him, sir?" inquired the turnkey.

"No other question," replied Mr. Brownlow. "If I hoped we could recall him to a sense of his position-"

"Nothing will do that, sir," replied the man, shaking his head. "You had better leave him."

The door of the cell opened, and the attendants returned.

"Press on, press on," cried Fagin. "Softly, but not so slow. Faster, faster!"

The men laid hands upon him, and disengaging Oliver from his grasp, held him back. He struggled with the power of desperation, for an instant; and, then sent up cry upon cry that penetrated even those massive walls, and rang in their ears until they reached the open yard.

It was some time before they left the prison. Oliver nearly swooned after this frightful scene, and was so weak that for an hour or more, he had not the strength to walk.

Day was dawning when they again emerged. A great multitude had already assembled; the windows were filled with people, smoking and playing cards to beguile the time; the crowd were pushing, quarrelling, joking. Everything told of life and animation, but one dark cluster of objects in the centre of all- the black stage, the cross-beam, the rope, and all the hideous apparatus of death.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Krayon #3

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Krayon #2

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Krayon #1

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Eternal Enigma Of The Dangling Shoes

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Virgin and Child Painting

What can we possibly say?

"Mother Mary with the Holy Child Jesus Christ" (Oil on Canvas, 1913)

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Row Dream


Row your boat
Gently down the stream.
Life is but a dream...

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Stop Someone Else!

Remember: if YOU don't buy an Albino RabbitCrow t-shirt, SOMEONE ELSE will!

Are you willing to take that risk?

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Dr. Phanagrams

I don't know that much about Dr. Phil McGraw, to tell you the truth.

I've never really observed the famous psychologist counsel a patient with debilitating psychosis, or initiate the grieving process with a couple whose child has been eaten by Great White Sharks. But I feel confident that Dr. Phil is a good man. A good, good man. Otherwise, why would he be on tv?

There is a rigid screening process, you know, for those who have tv shows. Not only must tv icons possess knowledge and wisdom, they must also possess verve and pizzaz (also "pizzazz", also "pizazz"). What a miracle it is when all four traits are alloyed in a single mortal man - or woman!

No, I may not know much about Dr. Phil (except he is from Oklahoma and his dad sold oil drilling equipment in Texas). But one thing I do know - there exist many fine anagrams for "Doctor Phil". Many fine anagrams.

Here are some...

10 Anagrams For "Doctor Phil"

1. Loch Torpid
2. Dr. Hopi Clot
3. Dr. Pith Loco
4. Lot Rico, PhD
5. Clip Hotrod
6. Dr. Lit Pooch
7. Old Itch Pro
8. Orphic Dolt
9. Proto-Child
10. Cold Trip Ho'

What anagrams of "Doctor Phil" can you at home construct?


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Monday, December 05, 2005

Don't Want No Bent Font

I'm going to change the font.

Or change the size of the font.

I don't like this font size. It's too big. Too chunky. Of course, by the time you read this - you who exist in the far, far future - I might have already changed the font, and you may be thinking "What's wrong with this font? I like this font." Or more probably: "This font is too small. I wish he'd use a bigger, chunkier font."

Yeah, I want a smaller font. A font that says: I've got a lot to say and I don't want you to have to scroll in order for you to read it. That is how gravely important my posts are - so important, that to scroll is to disrespect them.

But still, I am gripped with fear. FEAR. What if I choose a font that's too small? What if I choose a font that gives people headaches? What if I choose a font that is so irritating that people don't get headaches because they don't spend more than 1.5 seconds looking at it before they zap over to an easier-on-the-eyes site with pictures of girls or kittycats. Or kittycats dressed up as girls.

Yeah. A smaller font. I'm going to do it. Maybe I'll just start with the sidebar over there. Just do a smaller sidebar font for starters.And then proceed from there.

But then serif? Or sans-serif? I'm thinking serif is easier to read, right, if the font is small? Is that right? Maybe it's the other way round.

Damn. These are dangerous times.

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RabbitCrow Walk

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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Archers Manifesto

Emeric Pressburger
Emeric Pressburger wrote a letter to persuade Deborah Kerr to appear in "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp". Thank God, he succeeded. In the letter he laid out a "manifesto" for The Archers, the name he and Michael Powell gave to their long collaboration.

"The Archers Manifesto"

- One, we owe allegiance to nobody except the financial interests which provide our money; and, to them, the sole responsibility of ensuring them a profit, not a loss.

- Two, every single foot in our films is our own responsibility and nobody else's. We refuse to be guided or coerced by any influence but our own judgement.

- Three, when we start work on a new idea we must be a year ahead, not only of our competitors, but also of the times. A real film, from idea to universal release, takes a year. Or more.

- Four, no artist believes in escapism. And we secretly believe that no audience does. We have proved, at any rate, that they will pay to see the truth, for other reasons than her nakedness.

- Five, at any time, and particularly at the present, the self respect of all collaborators, from star to prop-man, is sustained, or diminished, by the theme and purpose of the film they are working on. They will fight or intrigue to work on a subject they feel is urgent or contemporary, and fight equally hard to avoid working on a trivial or pointless subject. And we agree with them and want the best workmen with us; and get them. These are the main things we believe in. They have brought us an unbroken record of success and a unique position. Without the one, of course, we should not enjoy the other very long. We are under no illusions. We know we are surrounded by hungry sharks. But you have no idea what fun it is surf-bathing, if you have only paddled, with a nurse holding on to the back of your rompers.

We hope you will come on in, the water's fine.

Check out the Michael Powell / Emeric Pressburger fan and scholarship site Powell-Pressburger.org, which features this manifesto as well as a wealth of info and links re The Archers and their films.

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Black Narcissus (1947)

I saw "Black Narcissus" (1947) last night at the Motion Picture Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater, the kick-off for a 100th birthday tribute (though he died at age 84) to British master director, Michael Powell. The tribute features a weekend of screenings of Powell's films.

An unexpected treat were video greetings from Martin Scorsese and Michael Powell's widow, Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese's long-time editor. Expressing their regret that they couldn't attend in person - they are cutting "The Departed" - each gave a short tribute to Powell, Schoonmaker's concluding with obvious emotion. Schoonmaker met Michael Powell, in 1979, when Martin Scorsese invited his hero to New York during the cutting of "Raging Bull" (1980). "Raging Bull" won Schoonmaker the Oscar for Best Editing.

I have seen "Black Narcissus" dozens of times. I first saw it on a VHS tape my dad had made from a copy he borrowed from his local library. My dad sent me dozens of these pirated VHS's in the years after I left college and it kept me immersed in movies that I, being young and of narrow taste, might not go out of my way to see. Now I am older and have broader, deeper, wider taste and there are still many movies I should see but might not go out of my way to see.

There was a discussion before the film with cinematographer / Technicolor titan, Jack Cardiff, who is over 90 and has more energy and wit and good humor than I have - or could hope to. Film historian David Thomson moderated. Thomson was a friend of Michael Powell and responsible for setting the director up as Dartmouth's artist-in-residence in the 70's when Powell was suffering the obligatory British Genius Backlash, in which great British directors are forgotten for a decade or two before being praised to the skies again just before they die with everyone saying "Oh, I was always a fan of his. I'm surprised you've never heard of him. Have you seen 'Tales Of Hoffman'? Oh, you must. It is a masterpiece. It is exquisite. Yes, I'd like to think of him as my artistic spiritual godfather." Then you kick that person in the groin until they stop screaming.

After Sid Ganis, the new Academy President, gave a canned "Michael Powell, Michael Powell, Michael Powell" speech, Thomson got up to tell several moving stories about his acquaintanceship with the master, but he began his speech by mentioning - for the first time in the evening - Powell's partner, Emeric Pressburger. I was the first audience member out of the gate to applaud. The man next to me kicked me in the groin until I stopped screaming.

Because we in America love the myth of individual success, and we treasure, above all things, the integrity & triumph of the individual human ego, we tend to make a single genius responsible for the excellence we see. We chase, drooling, the top supermodel, the top grossing movie, the top sports team, the top serial killer. Everyone else is an "also-ran". But Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger were partners on the Archers films. On over a dozen movies of the 40's and 50's the credit reads: "Written, directed, and produced by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger". We are inclined to forget that. We should not.

The first question Thomson asked Jack Cardiff was about the ins & outs of the Powell / Pressburger collaboration. Cardiff said they very much balanced each other with Michael Powell being the experimental, improvisational half of the partnership and Pressburger the down to earth, practical half. I was reminded of the David Lean / Robert Bolt collaborations. There the dividing line between director and writer was clearly drawn, but Lean was said to be the intuitive, emotional side of the partnership and Bolt the intellectual, theoretical side.

The screening was a digital projection of a digital restoration made from the "original" (I don't know if this means camera original) 3 black-and-white Technicolor strips (for a quickie tutorial on the Technicolor process go here) and was the best version I have seen of the film to date, better than the Academy Film Archive photo-chemical restoration of a few years ago which was fine, but occasionally murky. The clarity of the image was such that one or two of the process shots showed their seams in a way that might have been disguised by a traditional print.

What I most enjoyed about seeing "Black Narcissus" on a large screen with such clear and clean projection was not that it was even more visually stunning - although that is true - but that I could enjoy the subtleties of the performances which are difficult to see on even a big-screen tv. Slight movements of the eyes describe gigantic internal character movements. A mild tightening of the lips reveals blazing internal shame. I found myself grinning widely, delighted by Deborah Kerr's giddy girlish grin as she begins to remember the locked away passions of her past. Moments between characters seemed magnified too and the sexual tension in scenes was far more taut than many 21st century films. In fact, this time around seeing the movie, I was shocked at how filthy and sordid it all is - all that sex. Sex, sex, sex. It's all about the sex, that picture. Digusting. And so, so wonderful. And what could be more sexy than Deborah Kerr, as a nun, trying day and night not to think about sex - trying not to even think about thinking about sex? Even better, Deborah Kerr, as a nun, trying day and night not to think about sex, while trying to get juicy Jean Simmons (who plays a convincing South Asian) to stop thinking about sex? At the same time, "Black Narcissus" is a deeply spiritual film and tackles the irreconcilable clash between desire and devotion head on.

A new Criterion Collection "Black Narcissus" DVD came out a few years ago. I think it was made from the Academy restoration. I hope they reissue the film with this new, much better digital restoration.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Introducing Albino RabbitCrow

Is it Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer charging you head-on in a snowstorm?

Or a map of the Secret Island of Dr. X, showing the inlet where he docks his submarines, as well as the location of his Death-Ray reactor (in red) - which must be destroyed at all costs?



The Albino RabbitCrow


He/She is the star of all the December 2005 merchandise now available at the Rabbit + Crow Shop. On shirts, stickers, posters, cups, and even teddy bears, the ALBINO RABBITCROW turns common crap into sublime crap.

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