Cross-Pitch

Everything is a hybrid these days – from the half-and-half in one’s coffee to the electric cars zipping down the diamond lane. Screenwriters have long-nurtured hybrid consciousness, hence ye olde “cross pitch” wherein the tone of a prospective project is described as being “this meets that.” The results, to continue the metaphor, are often mixed, but the practice makes for quite a parlor game. The trick is to lay the title on your cinephile drinking buddies and have them decipher its cinematic genealogy. A couple of my favorites: “I Love the Smell of Napa in the Morning” (“Sideways” meets “Apocalypse Now”) or “My Life as a Droog” (“A Clockwork Orange” meets “My Life as a Dog”).

1977 Redux,” a piece I wrote for the inaugural issue of F•L Magazine (as editor, I can grant myself such license), was essentially two of my favorite films, “Annie Hall” and “Star Wars” fused into a multi-genre satire – it even had haiku, if I remember. The idea was one I had first explored in a column penned for the Lumaville Daily Echo about my “perfect woman” (this is before The Contessa arrived to realign my romantic paradigm). After some intense soul-searching, I realized that my romantic preoccupations could be traced to when I was five years old, back in 1977, the year both George Lucas and Woody Allen’s films were released. That’s right, I was desperately seeking a hybrid of Annie Hall and Princess Leia. Mercifully, I never met her. The side-buns, vest and tie combination might have been a little much, now that I think about it.

So far as I’m concerned, the Contessa is Fellini’s “8 ½” meets anything starring Sophia Loren, though she would demurely deny such a comparison. Her husband, according my FilmArt3 collaborator Raymond Scott Daigle, is Warren Beatty meets “Gong Show Host” Chuck Barris, which I suppose is a compliment though I look nothing like either (Daigle is the average of the young Orson Welles and “Clerks” auteur Kevin Smith). I’d like to think that I was Lord Byron meets Peter Sellers, John Lennon and actor Alfred Molina, but I’m really just Tiny Tim meets Alfred Jarry, the French surrealist playwright and inventor of satirical pseudo-science pataphysics (as in “Joan was quizzical, studied pataphysical science in the home” per the Beatles’ “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”). Look them up – the likeness on both counts is creepy enough to have caused me a minor identity crisis. I might have to cut my hair.

I’ve heard Sonoma is often considered Tuscany meets Mayberry, which is apt I suppose, the way that Napa is “Falcon Crest” meets “The Corporation.” However, I would submit that Sonoma also has a bit of Robert Altman’s “MASH” inasmuch as, at least in my experience, there’s a quiet subversive streak swaddled in a sort of theater of the absurd. Back when music columnist pal J.M. Berry (Jim Morrison meets Sir John Falstaff) and I shared an office, we used to joke about installing a wet bar a la Trapper John and Hawkeye Pierce’s “swamp.” Needless to say, our summer-school pipedream was handily kyboshed when fate intervened and I ended up in Building 3, my corner of which I’ve styled as SoHo art gallery meets studio bungalow. The “Mash” vibe persists, but now there’s a kind of “Casablanca” meets “All the President’s Men” aspect as well. I attribute this to the surfeit of white linen suits now prevalent in the newsroom. The trend rests on the padded shoulders of Flash Lely (Peter Parker meets David Bowie, circa “Thin White Duke” period). Hopefully, this trend will ebb before someone orders a piano and we defiantly sing “La Marseillaise.”

Wine Pill Popper

No Parking, reallyWhile driving to FilmArt3 today, I was greeted by my own voice on NPR’s Morning Edition, which, trust me, is quite a weird way to start the day. Science and health reporter Allison Aubrey quoted your humble scribe in “Red Wine Pills: Buyer Beware,” an interesting story about resveratrol, a compound in red wine thought to promote longevity. I had offered my services as a human guinea pig to further the wine-side of the research in the Bohemian last year, which inspired Aubrey to followed up. You can read and listen to Aubrey’s story here.

Movable Type

Just my type.I cannot recount the amount of times I’ve mistyped the title of this column as “Nomavile.” What is my subconscious trying to tell me with that elusive letter “l?” That my entire career rests in the hands of copy editors? Or that a darker premise lays beneath the plumy label? Perhaps it was the postcard. Some months back an unsigned postcard arrived on my desk, which chided me for using a satirical term other than “Slo-noma” to describe the town. Though I was nearly stupefied by the novelty of this anonymous wit (more “uh” than “awe”), I’m hooked on Nomaville.

I first heard the term at a party when a strange woman whispered it in my ear with the same intonation as that cop at the end of my favorite Polanski flick: “Forget it, Jake – it’s Chinatown.” On her breath the word was imbued with a unique breed of wine country weary – ennui in a major key – so alluring that I immediately set upon moving here. Someone else once parsed “Nomaville” as very bad French for “not my town.” I can assure you, the sentiment is not mine, despite the occasionally mislaid letter.

Sometimes characters are omitted intentionally. I once owned a typewriter whose designer did away with the numeral one with the thought that a typist could use the lower-case “l” instead (why anyone would ration typewriter keys is beyond me). Born squarely in the age of the personal computer and a touch-typist since the age of eight, I had purchased the typewriter at a flea market to burnish a sentimental notion I had about being “writerly.” I was in my early twenties, insufferably artsy and never intended to use the typewriter; however, the entire design of apartment revolved around it, as if it were a shrine to the great god Smith-Corona. I’d lay sacrifices before its holiness – half-bottles of wine, hand-rolled cigarettes, a tattered copy of Keroauc’s “Subterraneans,” crescent-shaped from living in my coat pocket. Then later, when the typewriter wasn’t looking, I’d sneak the booty back and shiver on the fire escape while enjoying my haul. The typewriter undoubtedly knew of my duplicity, which is likely why it refused to type an address on an envelope after I’d jammed up my computer printer.

The letter, as I remember, was a query to the typewriter’s manufacturer regarding the “Silent Secretarial” and its missing number. Perhaps the great-and-all-powerful Smith-Corona knew of my intentions and didn’t want me to know the truth. Or, maybe, it didn’t want to know the truth itself. What I do know is that the typewriter eventually disappeared in some move or other, though at least two keys, my initials, seem to have revisited me in the form of cufflinks recently purchased by the Contessa. The letters must have been wrenched like gold teeth from the old machine and I wear them like some primitive talisman to ward off the spirit of writer’s block (a charm that seems to be failing at present).

Mercifully, I’ve never had to manhandle manuscripts from a manual typewriter while on the job, though I’ve pushed a million words or more through computer keyboards since going legit at 24 (prior to that I published a satire tabloid until I sold its Internet domain name a year after the dot-com bubble had burst, which lost me a critical zero or two on the purchase price). Since then, I’ve gone through countless beige boxes and have retired at least three laptops to a shelf in my office like so many technological trophies. Thus far, their keys remain intact, but surely not for long.

Orange

This is not an iPod ad.Of the many joys to be experienced working with Raymond Daigle at FilmArt3, making our weekly “Flipbook” short films has been one of the more rewarding. Our latest endeavor is Orange – a little flick that began life as a dodge of sorts. Three House MultiMedia designer Barney LaHaye called to get the title of our next film for our house-ad in the Sonoma Valley Sun, but we didn’t have a title. In fact, we didn’t even have a film. Raymond and I theorized that if we gave Barney a purposely vague title, the film could be about anything. Raymond suggested Orange and the ad was placed. In the meantime, inspiration struck – a quick chat about silhouetted characters in front of an orange backdrop sparked the seeds of our dialog, which I had on paper within half and hour. We laid the vocal track in Studio B at KSVY with Raymond and Flash Lely performing the male characters and Sharon Nalezny lending the female voice. We shot against green screen the following day, however, Raymond elected to be behind the camera so I pantomimed in his place. After we learned some hard-won lessons about chroma keying, Raymond finished the cut this afternoon. The result is a comic riff on communication between the sexes with a certain color thrown in for good measure. However, the cross pitch might read “an iPod ad meets Woody Allen.” Watch it here.

Old Bird

Eat me.After seeing this photo from the New York Times, I think anyone worth their genome would argue that “heritage” turkeys owe a genetic debt to dinosaurs. In fact, a theory has long been advanced that birds don’t just resemble dinosaurs, they are dinosaurs. The Dinobuzz page at the University of California Museum of Paleontology elucidates:

Ask your average paleontologist who is familiar with the phylogeny of vertebrates and they will probably tell you that yes, birds (avians) are dinosaurs. Using proper terminology, birds are avian dinosaurs; other dinosaurs are non-avian dinosaurs, and (strange as it may sound) birds are technically considered reptiles. Overly technical? Just semantics? Perhaps, but still good science. In fact, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of birds being the descendants of a maniraptoran dinosaur, probably something similar (but not identical) to a small dromaeosaur.

So, consider that this Thanksgiving. The poultry on your plate is probably something similar (but not identical) to a small dromaeosaur. And it’s a reptile. Yum. Kind of makes one’s appetite go the way of the dino, or dodo, or whatever… Pass the Tofurky.