Jeremy's Ramblings, Babblings, and Other Pretentious Bullshit.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
In an address to the nation on June 28, 2005:
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Please be seated. Good evening. I'm pleased to visit Fort Bragg, "Home of the Airborne and Special Operations Forces." It's an honor to speak before you tonight. (Especially since a military base was not something the president was used to seeing during the Vietnam years)
My greatest responsibility as President is to protect the American people (Yeah, way to go). And that's your calling, as well. I thank you for your service, your courage and your sacrifice (Three things I lack). I thank your families, who support you in your vital work. The soldiers and families of Fort Bragg have contributed mightily to our efforts to secure our country and promote peace (Note the keyword “efforts”). America is grateful, and so is your Commander-in-Chief (I'm sorry he wasn't here to tell you that, but...oh, wait, that's me!).
The troops here and across the world are fighting a global war on terror (Oh, how’s that going? I never know because I only watch the evening news). The war reached our shores on September the 11th, 2001. The terrorists who attacked us -- and the terrorists we face -- murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent (Much like we do, but with bigger beards). Their aim is to remake the Middle East in their own grim image of tyranny and oppression -- by toppling governments, by driving us out of the region, and by exporting terror (and apple butter).
To achieve these aims, they have continued to kill -- in Madrid, Istanbul, Jakarta, Casablanca (We’ll always have Paris!), Riyadh, Bali, and elsewhere (places he can’t pronounce). The terrorists believe that free societies are essentially corrupt and decadent (Do they now?), and with a few hard blows they can force us to retreat. They are mistaken. After September the 11th, I made a commitment to the American people: This nation will not wait to be attacked again (Boy, did you ever fulfill THAT one). We will defend our freedom. We will take the fight to the enemy (Hell, you don’t even have to be the enemy anymore, we’ll bring the fight to you, anyway).
Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war. Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women, and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York, in Washington, and Pennsylvania (and proposed “Real ID”). There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home. The commander in charge of coalition operations in Iraq -- who is also senior commander at this base -- General John Vines, put it well the other day. He said: "We either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad, or we deal with it when it comes to us." (Laura, get Bartlett’s on the phone!)
Our mission in Iraq is clear (Steal natural resou...Um, I mean, uh, secure freedom?). We're hunting down the terrorists. We're helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror (in what we call our “Three Steps Forward, Four Steps Back” Plan). We're advancing freedom in the broader Middle East (Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia sold separately). We are removing a source of violence and instability, and laying the foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren (Have you noticed peace smells a lot like blood and rubble?).
The work in Iraq is difficult and it is dangerous (I would know...Oh, wait, no I wouldn’t). Like most Americans, I see the images of violence and bloodshed (Where? On the news? Because they’re too busy talking about a rescued pelican). Every picture is horrifying, and the suffering is real (which none of us here in the White House really expected). Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it? (No. It’s no, right? The answer’s no) It is worth it, (WHAT???) and it is vital to the future security of our country (Yeah, in that it’s a huge freaking blow). And tonight I will explain the reasons why. (Why? Because we like you!)
Some of the violence you see in Iraq is being carried out by ruthless killers who are converging on Iraq to fight the advance of peace and freedom (The rest of it is being carried out by otherwise very nice people). Our military reports that we have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters (meaning people with beards and shifty eyes) in Iraq who have come from Saudi Arabia and Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and others. They are making common cause with criminal elements, Iraqi insurgents, and remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime who want to restore the old order (because at least the buildings were still standing then). They fight because they know that the survival of their hateful ideology is at stake (Trust me on this one, Republicans are used to this). They know that as freedom takes root in Iraq, it will inspire millions across the Middle East to claim their liberty, as well (which is tax-deductible). And when the Middle East grows in democracy and prosperity and hope, the terrorists will lose their sponsors (Pepsi already pulled out), lose their recruits, and lose their hopes for turning that region into a base for attacks on America and our allies around the world (Soon, they’ll have to rely on donations from viewers like you).
Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror (the rest of us know that it's not). Among the terrorists, there is no debate ("Purple Rain" is Prince's best album). Hear the words of Osama Bin Laden: "This Third World War is raging" in Iraq. "The whole world is watching this war." (Unless you're in America) He says it will end in "victory and glory, or misery and humiliation." (Boy, this has really been a day of poignant, not-obvious-at-all quotations)
The terrorists know that the outcome will leave them emboldened, or defeated (the option of "reasonably comfortable" was crossed off). So they are waging a campaign of murder and destruction (just like us). And there is no limit to the innocent lives they are willing to take (just like us).
We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who exploded car bombs along a busy shopping street in Baghdad, including one outside a mosque (kind of like the one we accidentally bombed). We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who sent a suicide bomber to a teaching hospital in Mosul. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who behead civilian hostages and broadcast their atrocities for the world to see (although that Flash cartoon of the gerbil in the microwave was funny).
These are savage acts of violence, but they have not brought the terrorists any closer to achieving their strategic objectives (our foreign policy and shoddy border patrol have already taken care of that). The terrorists -- both foreign and Iraqi -- failed to stop the transfer of sovereignty (But of course, you can't stop what really isn't there). They failed to break our Coalition and force a mass withdrawal by our allies (again, we blame ourselves). They failed to incite an Iraqi civil war (Riiiiiiight). They failed to prevent free elections (Define “free”). They failed to stop the formation of a democratic Iraqi government that represents all of Iraq's diverse population (Sunnis sold separately). And they failed to stop Iraqis from signing up in large number with the police forces and the army to defend their new democracy (so they just blew them up instead).
The lesson of this experience is clear: The terrorists can kill the innocent, but they cannot stop the advance of freedom (What do you bet Bush wanted to say that line like Mel Gibson in "Braveheart"?). The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th (September the huh? I already forgot), if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden (or Dick Cheney). For the sake of our nation's security, this will not happen on my watch (It's a Rolex, and that shit's expensive).
A little over a year ago, I spoke to the nation and described our coalition's goals in Iraq (A Milky Way to whoever remembers what I said). I said that America's mission in Iraq is to defeat an enemy (the Iraqi people) and give strength to a friend (Halliburton) -- a free, representative government that is an ally in the war on terror, and a beacon of hope in a part of the world that is desperate for reform (is something we're not going to have any time soon). I outlined the steps we would take to achieve this goal (Step 1: Put right foot in...): We would hand authority over to a sovereign Iraqi government (headed by a wooden marionette). We would help Iraqis hold free elections by January 2005 (in the one place in the world where the voter turnout was lower than our own). We would continue helping Iraqis rebuild their nation's infrastructure and economy (but without letting them actually help us). We would encourage more international support for Iraq's democratic transition (and not get it), and we would enable Iraqis to take increasing responsibility for their own security and stability (two hours of electricity every day is certainly stable).
In the past year, we have made significant progress (thanks to “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost”). One year ago today, we restored sovereignty to the Iraqi people (Trust me, they haven’t stopped dancing since). In January 2005, more than 8 million Iraqi men and women voted in elections that were free and fair, and took time on -- and took place on time (Ummm...What?). We continued our efforts to help them rebuild their country (then destroy it then rebuild it then destroy it then rebuild it...). Rebuilding a country after three decades of tyranny is hard (like being President), and rebuilding while at war is even harder (not to mention just plain stupid). Our progress has been uneven, but progress is being made (By the way, you ever hear that one about the opposite of progress being Congress? Gets me every time).
We're improving roads and schools and health clinics (We might actually start doing that in America soon, too). We're working to improve basic services like sanitation, electricity, and water (They’re just going crazy over that indoor plumbing). And together with our allies, we'll help the new Iraqi government deliver a better life for its citizens (Why can’t they do that with US???).
In the past year, the international community has stepped forward with vital assistance (followed by revelation and subsequent withdrawal). Some 30 nations have troops in Iraq, and many others are contributing non-military assistance (like criticism). The United Nations is in Iraq to help Iraqis write a constitution and conduct their next elections (which John Bolton’s already preparing to fix). Thus far, some 40 countries and three international organizations have pledged about $34 billion in assistance for Iraqi reconstruction (which should more than make up for the $8.8 billion of ours that went missing). More than 80 countries and international organizations recently came together in Brussels to coordinate their efforts to help Iraqis provide for their security and rebuild their country (Their first idea: Kick us out). And next month, donor countries will meet in Jordan to support Iraqi reconstruction (“Go, reconstruct, win!”).
Whatever our differences in the past (paper vs. plastic), the world understands that success in Iraq is critical to the security of our nations (cough, national resources, cough). As German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder said at the White House yesterday, "There can be no question a stable and democratic Iraq is in the vested interest of not just Germany, but also Europe." (He also said he liked “Kingdom of Heaven”, so I don’t know...) Finally, we have continued our efforts to equip and train Iraqi security forces (We just donated some body armor from our own troops. They won’t miss it). We made gains in both the number and quality of those forces (We’ve gone from “way too few and very unequipped” to “lower than average and a little overwhelmed”). Today Iraq has more than 160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions (such as human shields). Iraqi forces have fought bravely, helping to capture terrorists and insurgents in Najaf and Samarra, Fallujah and Mosul (What do you bet he smirked when he pronounced all of these right?). And in the past month, Iraqi forces have led a major anti-terrorist campaign in Baghdad called Operation Lightning (very, very frightening), which has led to the capture of hundreds of suspected insurgents (and a couple zookeepers). Like free people everywhere, Iraqis want to be defended by their own countrymen, and we are helping Iraqis assume those duties (and we’ll still be helping them do that five years from now).
The progress in the past year has been significant, and we have a clear path forward (once we clear all the bodies out of the way). To complete the mission, we will continue to hunt down the terrorists and insurgents (Have you noticed that if you say “terrorist” enough it sounds like “terrace”?). To complete the mission, we will prevent al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists from turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban, a safe haven from which they could launch attacks on America and our friends (Umm, too late). And the best way to complete the mission is to help Iraqis build a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself (So, what exactly are you saying?).
So our strategy going forward has both a military track and a political track (and a go-kart track for the kids). The principal task of our military is to find and defeat the terrorists, and that is why we are on the offense (“offensive” certainly is an appropriate word). And as we pursue the terrorists, our military is helping to train Iraqi security forces so that they can defend their people and fight the enemy on their own. Our strategy can be summed up this way (turn to page 32 in your textbooks): As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down (and probably go for some Del Taco).
We've made progress, but we have a lot of -- (Say it!!! Say it!!!) a lot more work to do (You got that right). Today Iraqi security forces are at different levels of readiness (We’ve put it into this color-coded chart). Some are capable of taking on the terrorists and insurgents by themselves (much like Rambo). A large number can plan and execute anti-terrorist operations with coalition support (they are currently working on anti-terrorist spray). The rest are forming and not yet ready to participate fully in security operations (and as such, they will be thrown into the middle of battle within the week). Our task is to make the Iraqi units fully capable and independent (much like Destiny’s Child). We're building up Iraqi security forces as quickly as possible, so they can assume the lead in defeating the terrorists and insurgents (with America as the slutty cheerleader on the sidelines)
Our coalition is devoting considerable resources and manpower to this critical task (and by considerable, we mean underwhelming). Thousands of coalition troops are involved in the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces. NATO is establishing a military academy near Baghdad (The Donald Rumsfeld School of Buffoonery) to train the next generation of Iraqi military leaders, and 17 nations are contributing troops to the NATO training mission. Iraqi army and police are being trained by personnel from Italy (Ciao!), Germany (Guten tag!), Ukraine (Howdy!), Turkey (Gobble gobble!), Poland (Don’t forget ‘em!), Romania (Love your lettuce!), Australia (G’day!), and the United Kingdom (Pip pip, Tony Blair!). Today, dozens of nations are working toward a common objective: an Iraq that can defend itself, defeat its enemies, and secure its freedom (although the other dozens of nations keep snickering when I say that).
To further prepare Iraqi forces to fight the enemy on their own, we are taking three new steps (two to the left, one to the right): First, we are partnering coalition units with Iraqi units (which make some nice shelving units). These coalition-Iraqi teams are conducting operations together in the field (like softball tournaments). These combined operations are giving Iraqis a chance to experience how the most professional armed forces in the world operate in combat (they’ll be unnecessarily invading other countries in no time).
Second, we are embedding coalition "transition teams" inside Iraqi units. These teams are made up of coalition officers and non-commissioned officers who live, work, and fight together with their Iraqi comrades (and some D-list celebrities...all in the same house!). Under U.S. command, they are providing battlefield advice and assistance to Iraqi forces during combat operations (“Step 2: Attach electrode B to right genital”). Between battles, they are assisting the Iraqis with important skills, such as urban combat (is that like gang warfare), and intelligence (a.k.a. “The Anti-Bush”), surveillance (every Iraqi gets a tracking device, guaranteed!) and reconnaissance techniques (Oh, how I love the paintings of Raphael. Oh, wait, I’m thinking of the Renaissance).
Third, we're working with the Iraqi Ministries of Interior and Defense to improve their capabilities to coordinate anti-terrorist operations. We're helping them develop command and control structures (Every Iraqi computer gets the game “Command & Conquer: Red Alert”, guaranteed!). We're also providing them with civilian and military leadership training, so Iraq's new leaders can effectively manage their forces in the fight against terror (rather than the previous strategy of “run and scatter”).
The new Iraqi security forces are proving their courage every day (They tried sushi for the first time last week). More than 2,000 members of Iraqi security forces have given their lives in the line of duty. Thousands more have stepped forward, and are now training to serve their nation (We got them to do this by asking those who liked ice cream to step forward). With each engagement, Iraqi soldiers grow more battle-hardened, and their officers grow more experienced (This week they’re working on their angry sneer). We've learned that Iraqis are courageous and that they need additional skills (Who knew?). And that is why a major part of our mission is to train them so they can do the fighting, and then our troops can come home (We’re predicting fall of 2008, around the time that “Indiana Jones 4” is released).
I recognize that Americans want our troops to come home as quickly as possible. So do I (This is the point where he twirled his moustache and wrung his hands). Some contend that we should set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces (Yeah, that would be nice). Let me explain why that would be a serious mistake (Oooh, this guy’s got balls). Setting an artificial timetable (who said the timetable would be artificial?) would send the wrong message to the Iraqis, who need to know that America will not leave before the job is done (the job that we started and screwed up). It would send the wrong message to our troops, who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission they are risking their lives to achieve (they got really mad when did the Iraqi Mission Comedy Hour for them). And it would send the wrong message to the enemy, who would know that all they have to do is to wait us out. We will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed, and not a day longer (or a week or a month or a year or five years...).
Some Americans ask me (and by ask me, I mean that they ask one of my minions and despite the numerous filters, the question somehow gets to me), if completing the mission is so important, why don't you send more troops? (Because we don’t have any more) If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them (along with a Get Well card). But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job (they call them “sacrifices”. It’s kinda funny). Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight (it would also piss the fuck out of them). And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever (well, aren’t we?), when we are, in fact, working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave. As we determine the right force level (we’re currently on Force Level Orange), our troops can know that I will continue to be guided by the advice that matters: the sober judgment of our military leaders (and the misconstrued words of Jesus).
The other critical element of our strategy is to help ensure that the hopes Iraqis expressed at the polls in January are translated into a secure democracy (‘cause their language is pretty hard to translate. Just a lot of yelling and babbling as far as I’m concerned). The Iraqi people are emerging from decades of tyranny and oppression. Under the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Shia and Kurds were brutally oppressed, and the vast majority of Sunni Arabs were also denied their basic rights, while senior regime officials enjoyed the privileges of unchecked power (God, this is sounding more and more familiar). The challenge facing Iraqis today is to put this past behind them, and come together to build a new Iraq that includes all of its people (preferably alive).
They're doing that by building the institutions of a free society (plus shipping and handling), a society based on freedom of speech (Shut up!), freedom of assembly (Go away!), freedom of religion (Praise Jesus!), and equal justice under law (Praise Gitmo!). The Iraqis have held free elections and established a Transitional National Assembly (Which gets a laugh in Congress when I call it “TNA”). The next step is to write a good constitution that enshrines these freedoms in permanent law (and then rewrite it). The Assembly plans to expand its constitutional drafting committee to include more Sunni Arabs (we’d certainly love to draft them, too). Many Sunnis who opposed the January elections are now taking part in the democratic process, and that is essential to Iraq's future (along with our plan to stop fucking things up over there).
After a constitution is written, the Iraqi people will have a chance to vote on it (provided the polling places aren’t burning piles of rubble). If approved, Iraqis will go to the polls again, to elect a new government (composed of marionettes and/or aspiring dictators) under their new, permanent constitution (Yeah, permanent like OUR constitution?). By taking these critical steps and meeting their deadlines, Iraqis will bind their multiethnic society together in a democracy that respects the will of the majority and protects minority rights (which will be impressive, since we can’t even seem to do that here).
As Iraqis grow confident that the democratic progress they are making is real and permanent (Shhh, don’t let them know it’s not true), more will join the political process. And as Iraqis see that their military can protect them (again, Mum’s the word), more will step forward with vital intelligence to help defeat the enemies of a free Iraq (which such bits of intelligence as “Stop destroying our country”). The combination of political and military reform will lay a solid foundation for a free and stable Iraq (at least, that’s what we’re saying. We also thought there wouldn’t be any major casualties, though, so what do we know).
As Iraqis make progress toward a free society, the effects are being felt beyond Iraq's borders (Iran, for instance, is shaking in its boots). Before our coalition liberated Iraq, Libya was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons (the nuclear weapons just wanted to be friends, though). Today the leader of Libya has given up his chemical and nuclear weapons programs (we’re planning on invading next spring). Across the broader Middle East, people are claiming their freedom (the fools). In the last few months, we've witnessed elections in the Palestinian Territories and Lebanon (they voted for Clay Aiken). These elections are inspiring democratic reformers in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia (where our family has ties with the corrupt royal family and where the American military bases that inspired the 9/11 hijackers to carry out their deeds are...Um, I’m sorry, did I just say something?). Our strategy to defend ourselves and spread freedom is working (if by working you mean “not working”). The rise of freedom in this vital region will eliminate the conditions that feed radicalism and ideologies of murder (Really, it’s that easy? Radicalism and murder are purely Middle Eastern philosophies?), and make our nation safer.
We have more work to do (no shit), and there will be tough moments that test America's resolve (or there would be if Americans knew what was going on). We're fighting against men with blind hatred -- and armed with lethal weapons (starring Danny Glover) -- who are capable of any atrocity. They wear no uniform (the football team got all the funding); they respect no laws of warfare or morality. They take innocent lives to create chaos for the cameras (which is completely unlike the Jessica Lynch rescue). They are trying to shake our will in Iraq, just as they tried to shake our will on September the 11th, 2001. They will fail (We recently got a statement from Will, who said, “Stop shaking me!”). The terrorists do not understand America (They keep asking, “What’s so great about ‘The Bachelor?’”). The American people do not falter under threat, and we will not allow our future to be determined by car bombers and assassins (just liars and corrupt businessmen).
America and our friends are in a conflict that demands much of us (loss of sanity, ignorance toward the facts...). It demands the courage of our fighting men and women (who we abuse), it demands the steadfastness of our allies (who we ignore), and it demands the perseverance of our citizens (who we oppress). We accept these burdens, because we know what is at stake (Mmm, who could go for a barbecue steak right about now, huh?). We fight today because Iraq now carries the hope of freedom in a vital region of the world (Omaha?), and the rise of democracy will be the ultimate triumph over radicalism and terror (Yeah, because we’re really going to eliminate THOSE soon). And we fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens, and Iraq is where they are making their stand (Yeah, it makes sense to attack our country and its citizens by retreating to a different continent). So we'll fight them there, we'll fight them across the world, and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won. (Apparently at this point in the speech there was applause from sparkly-eyed, blissfully ignorant Republicans.)
America has done difficult work before. From our desperate fight for independence to the darkest days of a Civil War, to the hard-fought battles against tyranny in the 20th century (not to mention watching “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” three times a week), there were many chances to lose our heart, our nerve, or our way. But Americans have always held firm, because we have always believed in certain truths (until now). We know that if evil is not confronted, it gains in strength and audacity, and returns to strike us again (Which is why impeachment papers need to be drafted). We know that when the work is hard, the proper response is not retreat, it is courage (Does that include joining the National Guard in 1972?). And we know that this great ideal of human freedom entrusted to us in a special way (Oh, unnecessarily invading a country is a special way of being entrusted freedom?), and that the ideal of liberty is worth defending.
In this time of testing, our troops can know: The American people are behind you (Because we’re going to be drafted soon). Next week, our nation has an opportunity to make sure that support is felt by every soldier, sailor, airman, Coast Guardsman, and Marine at every outpost across the world (How so, George?). This Fourth of July, I ask you to find a way to thank the men and women defending our freedom -- by flying the flag, sending a letter to our troops in the field, or helping the military family down the street (Yeah, Corporal Johnson’s really going to give a shit if I have a flag in my front yard while he’s involved in a shootout). The Department of Defense has set up a website (hotDoDgirls.xxx) -- AmericaSupportsYou.mil. You can go there to learn about private efforts in your own community. At this time when we celebrate our freedom, let us stand with the men and women who defend us all (Just sign this paper and get on that plane).
To the soldiers in this hall, and our servicemen and women across the globe: I thank you for your courage under fire and your service to our nation (Lord knows it’s more than I’d do). I thank our military families -- the burden of war falls especially hard on you (Not that I’d know. My daughters are busy doing body shots in Cabo). In this war, we have lost good men and women who left our shores to defend freedom and did not live to make the journey home. I've met with families grieving the loss of loved ones who were taken from us too soon. I've been inspired by their strength in the face of such great loss (Not inspired enough to actually do something about it, but you know what I mean). We pray for the families (unless they’re Jewish or Muslim or their kid is gay). And the best way to honor the lives that have been given in this struggle is to complete the mission (If only he really believed it).
I thank those of you who have re-enlisted in an hour when your country needs you (And I can assure you that in an hour, your country will need you. There’s a plane out back). And to those watching tonight who are considering a military career, there is no higher calling than service in our Armed Forces (despite the impressive advertising campaign of the shopping mall security guards). We live in freedom because every generation has produced patriots willing to serve a cause greater than themselves (I am not one of them). Those who serve today are taking their rightful place among the greatest generations that have worn our nation's uniform. When the history of this period is written, the liberation of Afghanistan and the liberation of Iraq will be remembered as great turning points in the story of freedom (but only in the textbook, “Delusional Views of American History”).
After September the 11th, 2001, I told the American people that the road ahead would be difficult, and that we would prevail (And how blindly you followed me. It’s called power, baby, and I swim in it every day!). Well, it has been difficult -- and we are prevailing (I assume he used finger quotations around “prevailing”). Our enemies are brutal, but they are no match for the United States of America, and they are no match for the men and women of the United States military.
May God bless you all (and have mercy on us).
(More applause from people who apparently just like clapping).
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Well, our generation finally got its nickname, if an Associated Press article printed last Sunday is to be believed. After the Greatest Generation, the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers and Generation X, we have been dubbed...
THE ENTITLEMENT GENERATION!!!
Yes, we apparently feel that we are entitled to everything. The article states that our generation has "shockingly high expectations for salary, job flexibility and duties but little willingness to take on grunt work or remain loyal to a company."
The article further quotes Dr. Mel Levine, a pediatrics professor at the University of North Carolina Medical School, who states, "We're seeing an epidemic of people who are having a hard time making the transition to work — kids who had too much success early in life and who've become accustomed to instant gratification," and says that too many of us "are heavily committed to something we call 'fun.'"
Is this true? Are we passing on Generation X's standard of living for ourselves and updating it with a desire to own everything? Granted, it may seem that way. More and more, people my age are rising to positions that would normally take them another five years to achieve.
But isn't the desire to get everything now simply a human desire, regardless of age? Does anybody really say to themselves, "I can't wait to be unappreciated and underpaid for ten years before I really start making a living for myself"? Besides, wouldn't a sterling example of entitlement be our Baby Boomer President, who coasted his way through the Vietnam Era before using his family connections to ascend to the leader of the free world?
I would be fully willing to agree with the title of The Entitlement Generation if those young people didn't work for their rewards. However, the young successful people that I know got there through a combination of unwavering idealism and tireless effort.
For example, it took me one year to go from being a kid who worked odd jobs (newspaper sports writer, Mystery Shack tour guide) to getting a comfortable lower-middle class position. However, that one year involved commutes from Barstow to Anaheim, 12-hour days and constant slaps in the face (demotions to the mail room, "special" projects, etc.). And now that I like where I am, I've stopped putting in that extra go-getter effort and my progress in the company has come to a stand-still. And those who get promotions over me do so because they work harder than I do.
I do not think that our generation believes that we are "entitled" to everything. I do not think that we were spoiled by the previous generations. I feel that we simply do not want to put up with the crap that those previous generations went through, and that our rewards should be in direct relation to our effort. I have no qualms with those who work harder than I do to get those promotions over me. They deserve it, and I do not.
I leave you with a final question: If those older than us are really frustrated with the Entitlement Generation, and truly feel that we do not have the drive and potential to work hard, then why do they continue to give us those jobs?
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Last night I went for a haircut. This is actually an event with more fanfare and build-up than one might think. The haircut for me happens usually every six months, and in the past has been accompanied by tears that were not my own. The next day elicits gasps of shock from co-workers, all of whom proclaim with the keen eye of a sleuth detective, "You got your hair cut!" I always want to pull out that lame grade school joke and tell them that I simply got my ears lowered, but I can only imagine that it would warrant confused looks.
Let me tell you a little something about my hair. We don't have that good of a relationship. Not to say that we don't get along. But we just don't really talk. Of course I take care of it. I lather it in shampoo and run a brush through it every morning. But for the most part, I let it roam freely, sticking out whichever way it pleases. Unless I'm in a show, I don't make it conform to any sort of gel or spray, and those occasions when I do, it puts up a damn good fight before settling down. I imagine the relationship between my hair and I is not unlike that of Medusa and her snakes.
I allow this behavior under one condition: it cannot distract me from my everyday life. And yet, every four to six months, it breaches this part of our contract, and I punish it by cutting it down to a reasonable size. This usually involves me walking into Supercuts, giving the instructions "I want it much shorter, but still long enough that I can slick it back if I want to", and twenty minutes later having a haircut that is not great, but decent enough. Just how I like it. Then I retreat to the car to get a closer look and I see the hair equivalent of a hyperactive boy dressed up for church: behaving, but very obviously not wanting to.
Last night, however, was an experience that brought me and my hair a little closer (which is quite a feat considering we are connected at the scalp). I walked into Supercuts, and all I'll say is that I should have seen it coming. My usual instructions were met with a look of confusion from the woman cutting my hair. "So you want it short, but long?" "Well, shorter than this, I want it out of my face, but long enough that if I wanted to slick it back, it wouldn't try to spike up on me." "Um...okay. Do you want a shampoo?"
SIDE NOTE: When I was single, which was a very long time, I always enjoyed getting a shampoo at the hair salon. It was a chance for me to go to an unseen corner with a woman (who was usually at the very least somewhat cute) and share something that I felt was rather intimate. I am fully aware that this sounds pathetic (and regarding the fact that I'm paying her to do this takes it to levels that I frankly don't want to explore right now), and indeed it probably was. All I'll say is I'm glad that I now see it for exactly what it is. Anyway...
Another bad sign was when about halfway in, she exclaimed, "You have a LOT of hair!" This is usually what someone says when first meeting me (along with "Who let you in here?"). When someone who for the last ten minutes has been concentrating on nothing except my hair suddenly realizes, "Whoa, what a hippie", that's definitely not good.
And yet, there is nothing that I can do. My glasses are resting on the counter. I cannot see what she's doing. I can only feel where she is cutting and try to form a picture in my mind of what the shape of my silhouette is turning into. I surrender my trust to her. All I can do is look in the mirror at the word "SUPERCUTS" shouting from my chest. I realize that they print the word backwards on the apron/tarp/blanket that they wrap around you so that you can read it correctly in the mirror. I wonder if they did that because people were making the checks out to Stucrepus.
After the cut, I was in a hurry, so I left a 28% tip (my only other options were 6% or 111%), and retreated to the car. Everything was as it should be.
...or was it?
I sensed something wrong. My hair seemed to be wailing, crying, shouting at me. I looked at it in the mirror. Everything seemed fine from the front. "What's wrong?" I asked, "It looks fine." But still my hair wailed. I decided to feel around, and I saw the problem. While the front of my hair was definitely shorter and out of my face, the back of my hair still extended to the middle of the my neck. I had a mullet!
It seemed impossible. And yet there is was, my fingers gripping onto the extended length of mane that creeped down the back of my neck. What made this woman think that "shorter, but long enough to slick back" meant "business in the front, party in the back"? Why would she think that this slacker-looking kid dressed in jungle tones without an ounce of denim would be the type to proclaim that "the South will rise again"?
I promptly went to a rehearsal of "Rocky Horror Show" (opening Friday at the Maverick Theater in Fullerton. Shameless plug), and greeted every cast member that arrived with, "Hi, how's it going, I went to Supercuts and they gave me a mullet, do you know anything about cutting hair?" One of the two guys playing Riff Raff pulled out a pair of cruddy scissors that was one of the many contraptions on his knife, and proceeded to do a better job on my hair than the woman who trained at a school and had the competent equipment to work with. Now it resembles a brown furry helmet, but at least the mullet was eliminated, and both me and my hair are happier.
When telling one of my friends what happened, she replied, "Don't get your hair cut anywhere that has the word 'Super' or 'Fantastic' or 'Great' in it." I realized that she was right. It seems that it is common practice in the business world to say that you are what you are not. Supercuts is actually Effective-But-Occasionally-Giving-You-Mulletscuts. Restaurants that proclaim to have the World's Greatest Burgers (and there are many) usually cannot live up to the claim. It seems like only Super Mario is worthy of the title (name me any other plumber that can storm a castle and defeat a fire-breathing dragon).
In other news, Miranda July's wonderful film "Me and You and Everyone We Know" will be playing for one week only at the Nu Art Theater in Los Angeles starting tomorrow. I am not sure if it will go into wider release than this (I can only hope), so this might be your one chance to see it. And I'm telling you now, GO SEE IT! I've talked about it in a previous post, but I cannot stress how great this movie is.
Monday, June 20, 2005
Why am I so awkward around people who are feeling miserable? I try not to be. I try to be the guy that you can turn to when you have troubles. Someone who will listen to you, sympathize with you, give you sage advice (as opposed to oregano advice, which is usually no good...though it tastes quite nice).
This morning, however, was a different story. I was walking over to the fax machine, anticipating the steady rhythm of the fax papers being scanned (CHUNG CHUNG SHIIIIIIK, CHUNG CHUNG SHIIIIIIK. I could sing "We Will Rock You" to it). And I was looking forward to being greeted by a co-worker of mine, who we will call "Princess Ezenwa" for purposes of anonymity. Princess Ezenwa is someone with whom I share very short-lived but enthuasiasic conversations. The following is the typical exchange:
PRINCESS EZENWA: Hey, Jeremy!
JEREMY: Well hi! How's it going?
PRINCESS EZENWA: Fabulous! You?
JEREMY: Downright awesome!
PRINCESS EZENWA: Wonderful!
Granted, no revelations or insight are extracted from these brief conversations, but since I live a life filled with commas, parantheses and ellipses, it's nice to have a conversation fueled by exclamation marks. Also, Princess Ezenwa has a nice smile and a congenial nature, which in an energy-draining office is something that you cannot get enough of.
But this morning, as I proceeded to the facsimile transporter (as I would call it if I were brainier), I noticed that Princess Ezenwa was sitting in front of her monitor, the sound of crying emanating from her. Her regional manager was sitting next to her, rubbing her back in a "there there" style gesture. Those are usually pretty sure signs that something is wrong.
So, what did I do? Did I walk over and ask what's wrong? Did I try to hear her problems out and offer advice? Did I even fax what I wanted to fax? No. I simply looked at the paper, gave a look like I forgot something ("Oh, that...thing that needs to be...done...I should do that...now."), and retreated back to my desk.
I feel like a jerk. I can't even help out Princess Ezenwa, whose cheerfulness helps me out from day to day, the one time when she's feeling down. What kind of a man am I? Why do I shy away from misery? I was recently told that the fact that I haven't cried in a few years was sad and kind of pathetic. Is that true? Do I shut out sadness from my life?
It is not that I deny that sad things exist. I know about a lot of the death, torture, war, famine, greed that is out in the world. I just choose not to let it get me down. Is that so wrong? After all, if you are trying to help humanity, don't you need a little hope and optimism that everything will turn out okay?
Of course, if you're trying to help humanity, you also shouldn't pretend that there's something wrong with the paper that you're going to fax. Maybe I'm just a really sympathetic jerk. I'll go with that.
Monday, June 13, 2005
Why is everyone so afraid that we're going to forget 9/11? Not since "Remember the Alamo" has there been such an overwhelming campaign for the memory of a tragedy. Every time I see a 9/11 bumper sticker, it says "We will never forget", "Always remember", "Don't forget", "I believe I have some sort of recollection", etc. Have you ever had to tell someone, "No, remember that day when the planes hit the buildings and Dan Rather interrupted 'The View'?" Has anyone ever said, "9/11? Oh, yeah, that was the day the Jamiroquai album came out, wasn't it?"
I saw a play last night where the central message was, "While 9/11 will someday be forgotten, we must try to keep the memory alive." What? 9/11 is going to be forgotten? By who? When was this decided? Try to find three more significant events that happened in the U.S.A. in the last 100 years (no, Watergate and the Kennedy assassination are not acceptable answers). I can assure you that we will forget about The Shot Heard Round the World, John Wilkes Booth and the War of 1812 long before we forget about 9/11.
So those of you who are fighting to make sure that we all remember what happened on that day, you can stop working so hard. Trust me, we won't forget any time soon.
And while I was unable to come up with any sort of unique insight on the situation, I felt I should point out the fact that I had the interesting experience recently of seeing a punk band that was actually pretty good performing in a church in front of a bunch of high school kids, who instead of dancing or moshing, just sat and nodded their heads to the truly rousing music. How far we've come from the days of The Sex Pistols.
P.S. This brief blog is dedicated to those whose eyes have been hurting by reading the novella length of my usual posts.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
As I pull into the parking garage, I look at my clock. 3:56 p.m. I'm one hour early. Should I wait in the lobby for an hour? Will it look desperate if I'm too early? The last thing I want to be is desperate. But the thing is, I AM desperate. This is a huge opportunity for me, a chance to get out of working an office job for the rest of my life and making a name for myself before I hit 25. Of all days, why did THIS one have to be the one where there's no traffic on the freeways (Santa Ana to West Hollywood in 90 minutes, including a bathroom break in Montebello. A personal record)?
But don't think about that, Jeremy. Don't think about the stakes. Just go in and do it. Brush the hair one more time. Make it look good...okay, well, at least decent. I should wear the tie. No, I shouldn't, semi-casual is best. No, make a good first impression. Always better to be overdressed than underdressed. Remember that you're in a town full of rich, judgmental people. Maybe if I stay in the lobby for an hour, then I can go up at 5:00, as if I just happened to show up right on time. Wearing a tie. Not wearing a tie. No, wearing a tie. I put the tie on. Remember to get the new White Stripes CD after I'm done. If this goes well, it will be a celebration present. If it doesn't go well, it will be a way of cheering me up.
In the elevator, I press the button marked "L", hoping it stands for "luxury". The doors open, I step out and realize that there is no "lobby" in the sense of a big open area with floor listings, a fountain and people walking to and from the building. There are just elevators and a desk with three security guards in suits nicer than any I own, the kind of guards that have perfected that charmingly abrasive look of someone who is going to throw your ass on the street in the nicest manner possible.
Trying to look indiscreet (which I realize later is the worst possible way to act around a security guard), I get back into the elevator. Okay, Suite 520. Is this is a legitimate company if they're in a suite in a building? Shouldn't they have their own, like, studio or something? Okay, Jeremy, don't be a backwoods idiot. They set up the projects and then give them to studios. As I press "5", two people walk in (an older man and a beautiful woman, an oft-seen pairing in this neck of the woods) and press "2". They say the following in a somber tone:
SHE: So how are you feeling?
HE: I...You know, I still don't think it's quite set in yet.
SHE: I know. It's really sad. Really tragic.
HE: He was a great guy.
SHE: Yeah, and the thing is, I had lunch with him a couple of days ago, and we were saying that we needed to--
HE: You look great, by the way.
SHE (suddenly happy and appreciative): Oh, thank you very much! So do you!
Bing! goes the elevator doors and they step out. Is that all it takes to cheer those people up? "You look great"? If someone close to me had died, I wouldn't give a shit if I changed into Rudolph Valentino. Ooh, remember to reference a lot of movies and movie stars at the meeting. Show them that you know what you're talking about.
I step off the elevator (after the doors opened, of course, because that's much easier) and find plastic spread out on the floor. Are they cleaning? Renovating? I need to go to the bathroom. Do I really? Kind of, but not enough to go. Then why am I walking in that direction. Because, Jeremy, you want to buy time. Oh, yeah, that's right. Is that Paul Rodriguez washing his hands? No, just some random guy. Wouldn't that be weird if I saw a celebrity? Probably not going to happen.
I step into the...Oh my god, this office is really, really nice. There are various novels and posters of book covers adorning the walls. Not like how I pictured a production company being. But then I remember that this is a story-oriented company that loves adapting books. They want Michael Connelly to walk in, see a copy of his book on the receptionist's desk and feel good about himself.
I check in with the receptionist and take a seat. I have a copy of my screenplay and a notebook with me in case she really wanted to give me notes, like she said in the e-mail. I start pretending to read my script. No, Jeremy, don't sit like that. Frat boys and slackers sit like that. I sit back in my chair, left leg resting on right knee. Think sophisticated, mature and confident. The receptionist turns the corner and I quietly hear him say, "Jeremy is here to see you," which is met with a very quiet (yet still audible) reply of "Oh, shit!" My first day as a Hollywood screenwriter, and already I'm the cause of expletives. I return to my script, convincing myself that I simply caught her off-guard with my astounding punctuality.
Someone walks by, and I look to see if I recognize them. A second person walks by and I look to see if I recognize them. Stop looking to see if you recognize people. Remember, mature and sophisticated. You don't give a shit if they're famous. They should be looking at YOU to see if they recognize you. A third person walks by and I look to see if I recognize them.
I overhear one half of a phone conversation: "Well, I guess he's not that young...Yeah, he's 32...Well, what about Tobey Maguire?...Yeah, with 'Spiderman', he showed that he could do that inner angst...No, that's still up in the air...Tell her we're looking at either Michael Bay or Brian Helgeland...Well, doesn't she have a relationship with Brian Helgeland?"
What am I doing here? They're talking about Tobey Maguire, Brian Helgeland and Michael Bay. I'm an awkward, uneducated, unknown kid from Idaho who has delusions of being a good writer. I'm not a Hollywood guy. I don't belong here. Can I deal with the bullshit? Because there will be bullshit. You know this. People will be rude to you. I have little tolerance for rude people. Will I drive people away? Worse yet, will I be desensitized by the Hollywood system into becoming a pretentious dick? Should I just leave right now?
"Jeremy, hi!" I stand up and get a good look at the woman who I met before. She looks different. Or maybe I was just too tired the last time we talked. She looks nice. Of course she does. Anybody with any power in Hollywood looks attractive. That's how they persuade you to do anything they want. She escorts me into an office with a poster for "Vertigo" on the wall. I ask the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock to watch over me.
The conversation goes surprisingly well. I remember to ask questions. I remember to fill in any pauses or silences with an observation or subject change. I slip in several movie references without making them seem arbitrary or out-of-place. I talk about the mechanics of screenwriting versus the mechanics of playwriting (as I'm pretty sure she thought I didn't really know the difference). I remember to mention the projects all of the projects I'm working on. "Orange Alert". "American Way". An adaptation of "The Land Southward". An adaptation of "Maus". All the while, she is really sweet and supportive, and seems very sincere and low bullshit.
"American Way" sparks her interest, and she tells me about how I should also try writing graphic novels. Um...okay. That'd actually be really cool. I never thought about that before. I'll have to ask Jason about that. He'd know about it better than I would, I'm sure. The rest of the ideas are great ideas, but not marketable as movies, she tells me. For a first-time screenwriter with no college education or real Hollywood connections, I need something that can be easily sold.
So I succomb and say, "Well, I do have a screenplay that I currently don't like but am doing rewrites on about teenage girls who make money while in high school by doing con jobs." She points at me and says, "There you go. That's what I'm talking about." I know where she's coming from. Granted, her studio would not make a movie like that. They're into dramatic adaptations of novels. But how else am I going to get noticed unless I give the big studios something that they want to see? Still, there's no other way? I have to write mediocre screenplays before I can write good ones?
She reveals to me that she wants to be a sort of mentor to me. I send her my scripts, she helps me fine tune them, telling me what the studios will want to see, and then she can help me pass them on to people who would actually make them. Which is a fantastic to-die-for opportunity. I'd be a fool to say "no", right? Right?
I get walked around the office, meeting various people whose names I most likely will not remember. I really have to work on my skills at remembering people's names. Faces I'm good with, but when it comes to names and dates I always draw a blank. She introduces me to someone who I assume has some sort of pull in the industry since he has his own office. She mentions "American Way" to him and he likes the idea, chuckling mildly at the thought of a retired superhero who still goes everywhere wearing his costume.
Then she says, "Tell him about your screenplay." "Oh, yeah," I say, trying to sound eager and passionate about my lame idea, "It's about teenage girls who make money in high school by pulling con jobs." "Okay," he replies, "this is a screenplay?" I feel like a fraud. Goodbye to artistic integrity. Now I'm pitching High Concept screenplays to guys who look at me with only moderate interest.
I'm led out of his office and am offered lemon cake. Not wanting to refuse, I pick up a piece and take a bite. This is a bad idea for two reasons. One, I'm not that hungry. Two, there are no napkins around and I'm holding it with my bare hands. I quickly shift the piece from my right hand to my left. If I'm to shake any more hands on my way out, I don't want to give them any frosting.
And so here I am. Jeremy Gable from Post Falls, Idaho. Walking out of a Hollywood production company with a screenplay that I didn't open, a notebook that I didn't write in, a validated parking garage ticket, and a once-bitten piece of lemon cake.
The door closes behind me. I quickly retreat to the bathroom, throwing away the piece of lemon cake and washing my hands. I shouldn't be so weird about my hands. They're just hands. Yeah, you're a pianist and a typist, but Jesus, man, they're just hands. Get a grip on yourself.
I check my watch. 4:55 p.m. Now I'm going to go back to Anaheim, change into my crappy clothes, hang out with my girlfriend and probably play a little "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City". Wow. Was that me in there? That didn't seem like a guy who would go back to O.C. to play video games and hang out with his girlfriend. Who was I in there? Anybody worth noting? Anybody worth remembering? Somebody who is going to still continue to tell challenging, thought-provoking stories?
I start the ignition on my $15,000 car and Air America Radio comes on, broadcasting the voices of people who truly want to change the world to an audience of millions. Perhaps popularity and social change can be hand in hand. Maybe I can help fuel a change in society's standards through movies. Like that woman said (after calling me an "intellectual"), "A screenplay about teenage girls doing con jobs can still be smart."
I decide how best to word the experience that I just had and decide that the words "exciting opportunity" fit best. I pull out my cell phone and begin to dial...
Monday, June 06, 2005
A couple of nights ago, I went to see what has become a very important yearly tradition for me: The Blank Theatre Company's Annual Young Playwrights Festival. Every June, the theatre puts on a dozen shows from writers no older than nineteen and as young as thirteen. Three shows are performed each weekend, and they are given the best production that one can give with a minimal budget. C and D-list celebrities are cast in the pieces and professionals in the theater industry help the writers flesh out their plays.
I was first involved in the festival when they produced a play of mine three years ago. It was an incredible experience. They brought in a supporting player from the television show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to star in it, and a Tony-nominated Broadway director to be my mentor for the piece (although in the midst of Tony Madness, he only had time for a half-hour phone conversation). For a kid who had just moved to Anaheim after living in Barstow (and growing up in Idaho), to see a team of professionals - all volunteering their time - quickly and efficiently bring my play to life was an incredible, exhilirating experience (I wish I could have remembered more of it. I was operating on four hours of sleep every night...much like nowadays).
I have tried to help out when I can (I served on the Play Selection Committee last year, and would have been in one of the musicals if my work schedule had permitted...which it didn't), but my favorite way of contributing is as audience member. There have been weeks in which all three shows were fantastic (last year's third week was a particular highlight) and weeks that were rather forgettable (2002's fourth week was quite simply not good).
This week's selections ranked high. After an amusing but forgettable start, the festival was kicked into high gear with Tessa Leigh Williams' "Home For Christmas", which was a frantic, intense and original look at a mother and daughter who drive each other literally insane. Williams is the kind of girl who, at first glance, seems like the typical teenager, the kind you'd see not giving you the time of day. Yet she is a really sweet girl who writes suspenseful, consistently surprising plays (I wish I had been writing the same kind of plays when I was her age). This, along with her subway thriller "Last Stop Downtown", which was a highlight of last year's festival, has shown her to be a very promising new voice.
Then the evening concluded with Kit Steinkellner's "The Room Next Door". For the last three festivals, Steinkellner has proven to be a real find. While most of the writers submit pieces that are either staged sitcoms (this is a festival in Hollywood, after all) or attempts to show how "edgy" they can be (sorry, Bryce), she writes with grace and elegance, etching characters who are witty, intelligent and fed up with the absurdity of modern life (these characters are usually fans of classic movies and music). So imagine my shock when the play opened with two "Oh my gawd" college princesses fussing over their looks and saying they'd have sex with each other if they were guys while an English girl with glasses sat in the corner reading a book. Fortunately, what seemed at first to be a semi-autobiographical sitcom idea turned out to be a comment on the withering of the idea of true love in the 21st century, and the characters, who started out as caricatures, each showed unexpected depth as the play progressed.
So, the real reason that I'm writing this (apart from continuing to mention the names of these talented writers until they become famous, which reminds me...Yelena Moskovich, Shane Lynch, David Watson, Adam Westfall Cochran, Max Freedman, Jason Connors) is to show the change that I went through from last year's festival to the one I attended last night.
Usually, I spend copious amounts of time before and after the festival going around, talking to everyone I know (which is an extensive list, seeing as the same people return year after year) and "schmoozing" (for those unfamiliar with Hollywood, that comes from a Yiddish word meaning talk, and refers to the unique way that the artists of Hollywood can simultaneously have a casual chat with you while at the same time feverishly networking).
This time, however, I found myself just giving general greetings to those I saw, extending simple congratulations to the playwrights and spending most of my time talking to my friend who came with me (and brushing off the colony of ants that invaded my jacket while I was leaning against a tree in front of the theater). Having been so furiously working in Orange County theatre, I suddenly realized that the theatre scene in Los Angeles in many ways frustrates me.
I'm not talking about the quality of the shows. For being a town that is dominated by sitcoms and action film sequels, Los Angeles continually puts on interesting, original and challenging works that, while not always successful, are usually noble efforts. I often bring up the productions of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", "The Woman in Black", "Cold/Tender" and "Heathen Valley" as great theatrical experiences.
But I realized that the typical L.A. Audience Member that populates these shows drives me absolutely insane. They are wearing outfits that cost more than I make in a month and are covered in more chemicals than a lab rat. They show up to theatre not because it is the most exciting form of storytelling and an excellent way to instigate social change, but simply because it is an avenue to the film and television industry. They spend any downtime schmoozing with anyone that could possibly further their career (upon finding out that I'm a writer, I usually get approached by actresses), and they always seem to emerge from the shows with a look of "I didn't get it".
Last year, my sister told me that when she was going to see the Young Playwrights Festival with me, her agent suggested to her that she use the time spent there to network. He encouraged her to talk to people, sell her image, etc. The idea really made both of us uncomfortable. She couldn't just go to see a show? She had to try to go around charming the pants off of everyone? Then after the show, she waited around while I, yes, went around trying to charm the pants off of everyone.
Before the show on Saturday, the theatre's artistic director was talking about Young Playwrights Festival success stories. He proudly noted past festival winners who graduated from the graduate playwriting program at Yale and whose sitcoms were picked up for a second season. I was seated in the front row and he said, "I see right over there Jeremy Gable. We produced his play 'American Way' last fall, and he recently received a great review in L.A. Times for a show that he adapted in Orange County. So he's busy doing...playwriting?"
The inflection behind that last word was really telling. Almost as if to say, "That's it?" Apparently, escaping a small, uncultured town and becoming a produced playwright at 22 without any sort of formal education in the subject is not a good enough success story. That won't happen until I have a prestigious degree or a television show to my name. I realized that I would have been more impressive if I had told him about the meeting I'll be having at a production company this week, and that as long as I stay at Hunger Artists and The Blank, I'll only be worth mentioning if I'm attending the performance.
Sure, Orange County theatre is a place that has trouble with finding decent actors, securing financial stability and pulling in crowds. But the majority of people who go to see a show in Ornage County are there to see a show. No agendas, no desperation, just a passion for live performance. It's so nice to go to a show and not have to perform.
So my hats off to those writers that will try to preserve the magic of live theatre. Keep the dream alive, and don't let glitz and glamour tarnish it.
Friday, June 03, 2005
This past week, I received a bit of exciting news. There is a very real chance that I could be on the road to taking the "aspiring" off of "aspiring screenwriter", one of the many titles that I hold. I say this not with stars in my eyes, but with the firm, grounded belief that this could either be my foot in the door, or a fleeting chance that quickly disappears in a wisp of smoke.
This is a loose transcript of the not-so-chance meeting that I had with an audience member after the closing performance of "Marat.Sade" on Sunday. Crucial names have been censored in case these people want nothing to do with me later on:
SHE: Hey, great job. You wrote the adaptation, right?
SHE: Great adaptation. Really great job.
ME: Oh, thanks. (Trying to sound appreciative while being really freaking tired)
SHE: Do you write screenplays?
ME: Um, yeah, I have, but they're not very good. (This is true)
SHE: Really? Why is that?
ME: I don't know. I just write them and go, "Mmm. I dunno." (This is also true)
SHE: Oh. (The director, GLENDELE, enters)
GLENDELE: That could be because he's not very good. (That's a joke)
ME: Yeah, I'm only good with other people's material. (Another joke)
GLENDELE (laughing): Yeah. Oh, by the way, Jeremy, *NAME*. *NAME*, Jeremy. (She exits)
SHE: Well, I'd like to talk with you more. I work for *PRODUCTION COMPANY*. You know *MAINSTREAM MOVIE NAME* with *BIG ACTOR NAME* and *BIG ACTRESS NAME*, we made that one.
ME: Oh, right. (Hadn't seen the movie, but had heard OF it)
SHE (fishing through purse for card): I can't seem to...Well, you can ask Glen for my contact info. We should talk.
ME: Definitely, definitely. It was great meeting you. (Now fully awake and sincere)
SHE: Yeah, nice meeting you, too.
MY INTERNAL VOICE: I'm a moron!
So after a swapping of contact information, I was asked to send any screenplays that I had. I quickly went through my small canon of screenplays, and was highly disappointed in what I found:
"Loner" (Drama), 1998. A high school drama about a loner (didn't see that coming, did you?). I basically keep this one around for kicks. The self-indulgent story (I was a lonely sophomore in high school while I wrote it), the wants-to-be-witty dialogue, the unbelievable characters, and the absurd notion that a sixteen year-old who mopes around while reading Erich Segal will be lusted after by not one, not two, but THREE cute teenage girls is simply laughable. PASS!
"Lockdown" (Drama), 1999. I started writing this the day after the Columbine tragedy (I've always coped with tragedy through writing. My first full-length play happened because of 9/11, a fact that made me feel somewhat guilty when I was cashing the first royalty check that I received from it). It is about a fictional high school in a fictional town that is fictionally shot up by a fictional deranged kid (not in a trenchcoat, but a tuxedo. I don't quite know my reason for this, but I like it). Bogged down in cliches and weepy dialogue, it reaches the height of a forgettable TV movie. And after seeing Gus Van Sant's "Elephant", I'd simply be too embarrassed to even try with this one. PASS!
"Post Falls" (Drama), 1999-2003. Have you ever had a relationship where you wanted so badly to stay with the person, but there were just too many problems and you finally had to give up and cut all ties? I have not had one of these myself (I'm not bragging, it's simply because I was very inexperienced for a long time when it came to relationships), but I imagine it is something close to my relationship with this screenplay. I worked on continuosly for four years, coming with dozens of different drafts. It's a semi-autobiographical tale of going to high school in a small, boring town, with only my one good friend, who I looked up to as a brother, to help me through. The only problem is that I'd never been able to make it good. My high school years were boring as hell, so I had to come up with a lot of contrivances to make it an interesting movie (sex, parties, arguments, mean parents, car crashes, etc.). It made for a script that was either very organic or very cliched. I eventually gave it up, vowing to return to it when my sense of nostalgia (along with my sense of storytelling) had improved. PASS!
"Project" (Drama), 2000. My good friend Katie sent me this, which was her first and to date (I think) only screenplay. Seeing a lot of potential (along with the wrong formatting and only a 70-minute running time), I asked if I could do a rewrite on it. Together, what we came up with is an interesting cast of characters (they're all, GASP, high school students!), a plot that, while cliched and convoluted, is fast-moving and not entirely predictable, and some really great dialogue (along with some really crappy dialogue as well). Basically, it's something for us to be proud of. But not anything that we'd really want to show anyone. PASS!
"Cult Classic" (Comedy), 2001. A very absurd comedy written at a low point in my life. A video store employee in Victorville comes across an old, obscure Western movie musical featuring an actor that not only looks like him, but has the same name. His investigation into the film leads him to an underground cult who worships the actor. While recently re-reading it, I found it to be fresh and original, great characters and plot, but too amateurish in its dialogue and has too many jokes that fall flat. This has potential, but it needs a huge re-write first. POSSIBILITY!
"The Rules" (Drama), 2004. My glorious return to screenwriting, made not-so-glorious. The first ten pages of this script were based on a dream that I had, in which I and couple of friends conned some poor stiff out of a couple hundred bucks. From that, I wrote this Mamet-wannabe screenplay about teenage girls who pull con jobs while dealing with their impending high school graduation. Think the more boring aspects of "Ghost World" and the more manipulative aspects of "House of Games" meshed into one poorly constructed, lazily written mess. PASSY PASSER PANTS!
On a side note, looking at all of these descriptions, I realized that I really want a movie to be filmed in my hometown of Post Falls, Idaho. Of those six scripts, three of them actually take place in Post Falls, and two of them take place in an unnamed small Inland Northwest town (like I could be any more obvious). I can think of two reasons for this. The non-selfish reason is that it is an immensely beautiful town with kind-hearted citizens who would quite literally flip if an entire movie was filmed there (believe me, I know. For "Dante's Peak" they destroyed a small town about a half-hour from where I was living, and the residents there loved them for it). The selfish reason would be so that I could return to the place where outdoor activities are king, and a teenager with an obsession for independent/foreign films will find himself mocked, and show them all that I MADE IT!!! I'm weird like that.
So, anyway, I was left with a bunch of "no" scripts, and one "maybe". It was looking like I could see that wisp of smoke forming. But then I remember the voice that existed not only in the back of my head, but in the mouths of a few other people, telling me to adapt my latest play "Orange Alert" into a screenplay.
"Orange Alert" is a story fueled by my subsequent love and frustration with Orange County, as seen through the eyes of three women trying to fit in with the standards of O.C. living. It has numerous scenes, a handful of characters and, unlike my previous plays, an actual progressing plot (my earlier works were exercises in style and dialogue), so it's a natural for an adaptation to the screen.
So I spent the last few days working on reformatting, cutting, and restructuring one of the few scripts of mine that I actually really like. And yesterday, before I sent it off, I read it straight through one last time, fixing any typos or making any changes I felt were necessary.
I was amazed to find myself looking at the story in a different way. With a lot of the unnecessary dialogue exchanges taken out and the world of the story expanded to include the citizens of Orange County (who are essential to the love/hate relationship I have with this place), it seemed to be more rich and natural than its theatrical counterpart. Not only did I have a screenplay that I liked, but I actually liked it better than the stage play.
But is it because it really is better as a screenplay, or is it because of the standards for movie writing (because let's face it, a lot of the best movies would make only mediocre plays. Only a few films like "My Dinner With Andre" would work on stage, and most plays, like "Angels in America" and "Oleanna" tend to lose their power when put on film)? My love of movies came before my love of theatre, so is this where I'm supposed to be? Am I going to be doing the Alan Ball route, turning my mediocre plays into really good screenplays?
I guess will have to see how the adaptation is received. I'm just hoping that when my friend Darcy told me about a month ago that big changes were coming for me, this is what she was referring to (see, Darcy, I told you I'd work you into this post).
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Being a movie fanatic, one of the things that I've had to accept over the years is that there are no new stories. Everything has been seen before, everything has been said before, everything has been done before. Unless your movie rhymes with Smeeing Smohn Smalkovich, it is going to resemble a story that we've seen several times before.
Like Roger Ebert has said before, a movie is not what it's about, but how it is about. What you say is not as important as how you say it. I received proof of that last night. If you told me a story about both the joys and pains of aging, I would simply nod my head and say, "Oh, yes, I fully agree, I've felt that way for a long time." Unless you happen to be Miranda July, and your story happens to be the Cannes and Sundance award winner "Me and You and Everyone We Know".
This is the funniest, most beautiful, most inventive, most poignant, most honest film that I have seen in a long time. It is a story told through small vignettes, featuring characters that connect in both likely and unlikely ways. The plot develops as easily as unfolding a piece of paper, and yet with each fold comes a surprising development. The dialogue is both very natural and exceedingly funny. The characters are all very human people with thoughts, motivations and feelings, and the actors who portray these characters are pitch-perfect. The photography is so beautiful that often I forgot it was done with a digital camera. The music is unconventional, and yet so strikingly perfect. It is one of the most flawless works of film I've seen.
All I will reveal about the movie is that each of the characters, from the six year-old boy to the elderly man, are dealing with getting older. Each character faces this theme in a different way, and yet they all fit in the same world. To see these characters interact with each other is one of the most profound joys that I've had in a movie theater. That is all that I will say about the plot. The least that you know going into this movie, the better.
Miranda July, the writer/director/star, is 30 or 31 years old (depending on her birthday) and a performance artist who has worked in several different mediums. She is beautiful, funny, fiercely intelligent and above all, an incredible storyteller. This was her first feature-length film, and based on the strength of it, I cannot wait to watch her career.
The amazing thing about the film is not just that it entertained me and moved me like few other films have, but that I left the theater feeling a little changed. Lately, I have been in a funk. I have constantly been tired and exhausted, and have consequently been frustrated. A late night talk with Brey a couple of days prior helped pull me out of that funk, and this movie only enhanced my newfound spunk.
While trying to leave the theater, there were couples blocking me on either side. Instead of pushing my way past them or jumping over a row of seats, like I probably would have done a week ago, I sat it out, taking bets on which one would move first. Then walking with Brey back to the car, we planned and executed a beautiful simultaneous hop on Wilshire Boulevard. The transformation that Brey started and this movie finished is quite amazing.
Right now, I'm listening to clips of the music on the movie's website (www.meandyoumovie.com) and remembering many notable images in the film (a goldfish teetering on the roof of a car, a woman with socks hanging from her ears, the word "fuck" written on the windshield of a car) while turning my latest play "Orange Alert" into a screenplay. On Sunday, I was approached by a woman from a production company who had just seen my adaptation of "Marat.Sade" and expressed interest in any screenplays I had. Looking back at my crappy screenplays, I decided to try to give her something more substantial. I'll keep you updated on how that goes.