Archive for the ‘Braak’ Category

Christopher Durang – America’s most beloved author of community theater audition monologues – has a new play called Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.  In 2013 it won the Tony Award for Outstanding New Play.  It won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Production, the Drama League Award for Best Production of a Play, the Drama Desk Award for Best Play, the Outer Circle Critics Award for Best Play and the Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best Play.  Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike prominently features a Magical Negro housekeeper who has the power of Voodoo.

If, after reading that, you think to yourself, “That’s enough.  This is the 21st century and I have no interest in racial caricatures of any kind.  Nothing in this play could possibly make up for this conspicuous, shameful, and easily avoidable failure; I am happy to condemn this play to company with the rest of the detritus of civilization left behind as humanity continues on its long moral arc, without hearing another word about it,” well, then, I agree with you.  You can ignore this play for the rest of your life, and not be one degree the worse for it; go forth, and be not bothered by Christopher Durang.

In criticism, though, as in life, it is important to be thorough.

(more…)

Guns of Cydonia

Posted: March 6, 2014 in Braak
Tags: , , ,

Behold! Here is a new thing!

Cities on the Red Frontier is the name for a series of interlocking sci-fi/western epics set on Mars in the 27th century. This is the background material for these stories, which I am probably never going to get around to. I wrote the screenplay for the first one, Guns of Cydonia, but Bruno Heller has since announced that he’s making his OWN sci-fi-western-on-Mars, so the heck with it.

I am putting the screenplay up here and all the background material that I thought of, and giving it to you, the world. Read it, steal it, add to it, take from it, do whatever the hell you want.

The script is available at the Cities on the Red Frontier Site.

Happy birthday, everyone!

Imagine This for a Second

Posted: February 21, 2014 in Braak
Tags: ,

I am just saying, like, imagine this, imagine that Leni Riefenstahl made a move in the 1930s, and in that movie an army of sub-human rat-monsters tried to destroy Germany with the aid of a sneaky shape-changing mastermind with mind-control powers, and so Hermann Goering got together a Nazi Obermensch, Werner Von Braun, a berserker soldier, Ed Harris’ character from Enemy at the Gates, and the Viking war-god Tyr. And these guys got together, and without any attempt at communication or negotiation or anything, they all get together in Berlin where the manipulative shape-shifter has managed, due to the failure and incompetence of Germany’s old ruling bureaucracy, to bring his entire army of hideous rat-men to fight them. Then they just end up wrecking all the rat-monsters, finally Werner von Braun invents an atomic bomb and shoots it at the Rat King and it blows him up, and this causes a psychic backlash that annihilates the entire rat-species. Victory for the German people, &c.

If you saw that movie now — like, if someone had unearthed it from a trove of forgotten secret Leni Riefenstahl movies — you’d be really uncomfortable with it, right? At the very least, you’d watch it and think to yourself, “Yeah, that pretty much IS how the Nazis saw the world — the Germans are outnumbered surrounded by subhuman enemies, undermined by spies and traitors, governed by corrupt buffoons, and only military might and technology and the purity of their mythic heritage can win the day, and they’ve got no choice but the complete destruction of all of their enemies.”

I’m not saying that’s what the Nazis DID, obviously — they did a bunch of horrible other things. But this is how they SAW themselves, right?

I’ve just been thinking about this, it’s started to make me uncomfortable with…certain movies that I may have seen recently.

I saw this movie the other day.  It…could have been worse, I guess, but it also could have been better.  On the one hand, I guess if you’re going to use the Comanche as a plot point, it’s nice that the war is started entirely by greedy white guys, and propagated by a white guy who can’t admit that he did anything wrong.  That’s a step forward.  On the other hand, a hundred Comanche get massacred and it doesn’t have any bearing on the story at all, the Lone Ranger just wants to rescue that lady, Tonto just wants to get his revenge.  No Comanche massacre was required for either plot OR story in order for that to happen.

It’s especially galling because let’s be real, that entire movie was just a set up for an amazing 20-minute railroad battle climax set to Hans Zimmer’s orchestration of the William Tell Overture.  And that part was great!  It was fantastic!  But also literally every single minute before was interchangeable plot filler.  I heard that they were going to have werewolves in it originally, I wish there had been werewolves.  That’s the thing about this movie; if you’d taken out the Comanche massacre and put in some outlaw werewolves instead, it would have been exactly the same movie.

Anyway, I’m not going to talk about any of that, or even about why did Johnny Depp play Tonto, or any of it.  Instead, I’d like to take a few minutes and talk about Frame Stories.

(more…)

I think the way to describe the “best” narrative – that is, the narrative that, regardless of its content, is the most structurally-sound, streamlined, well-put-together – is that it is both unexpected and inevitable.  While watching it, you can’t predict the outcomes of the events you’re seeing onscreen, but once you’ve seen it and you look back on it, you realize that it couldn’t possibly have happened any other way.

What I think is interesting about this is that it seems to describe two different modes of appreciating a movie, so what I’m going to do is assume that this is (as it intuitively seems) a correct assertion, and proceed from that to elucidate what I think are the two fundamental elements of narrative.  Some of this is going to seem pretty obvious, but just because a thing is obvious doesn’t mean it isn’t worth exploring a little bit.

Those two elements are Plot and Story.

(more…)

Campaign Setting: DUNGEONWORLD

Posted: January 18, 2014 in Braak
Tags: , , , ,

(At work, they have banished me from the internet BUT they have not gone to any lengths to make my job appreciably more interesting.  See if you can guess what I’ve been doing with all my cognitive surplus.)

Dungeonworld!

A vast complex of tombs and caves, dungeons and ancient cities, bounded on all sides by impenetrable adamantine rock.  The Dungeonworld is a tower of dungeons, stacked who knows how high and who knows how deep.  Each level has approximately the square area of Germany, with an average thickness of about half a mile.  The levels are usually (but not always) separated by a layer of adamantine rock; likewise the outer wall.  Topographies vary widely from level to level and even within levels:  in some places there are vast, open spaces surrounded by adamantine; in others, there are nothing but dense catacombs and fields of mausoleums left by the enigmatic first inhabitants of the Dungeonworld.  Civilizations have cropped up and died out, turning graveyards into cities and back into graveyards; new nations have carved themselves out of the effluvium of the old, while others have simply colonized what’s been left behind.  How the Dungeonworld came to be, how its people came, and for how long they’ve been here, is all history so old that there are no records –Chrysopolis (the City of Gold), the capital of the Dwarven Polities, has kept records for five thousand years, and the Dungeonworld was ancient even then.

These nations battle for a finite supply of dwindling resources, looting tombs and crypts for magic talismans and enchanted weapons, the mystical puissance of which can be extracted and used to conjure food, water, light and heat.  Kingdoms battle viciously over spontaneously-occurring rivers of fresh water, over mushroom farms and hunting grounds that have grown up in the weird, underground ecosystem.

Above all the kingdoms of Dungeonworld battle for space – access to the levels both above and below, where more resources and greater riches might lie in wait.

(more…)

“Describe” actually literally means something like “draw a circle around.”  That’s why, in geometry, you don’t draw a circle, you describe one.  I want to play a kind of a game in which we use the word “describe” very literally – so, when we talk about “describing an idea” or “describing a person”, we have to find a way to say it as actually drawing a circle around something.  And the attendant implications of that circle are that it is both real and arbitrary at the same time.

If you think of a piece of paper, and on a piece of paper there are a bunch of dots, and some dots are red, and some are blue, and some are green.  You could draw a circle (here “circle” is being defined very loosely) around only the red dots, and then you could say, “look, there’s a red object on the page!”  Is that true?  Well, yes, kind of.  I mean, there are red dots on the page, those are real.  And the circle is certainly real, you just drew it.  There is, in that respect, definitely a red object there.  But at the same time, you could have also drawn a circle around all the blue dots, and made a blue object – so, we could say that there’s one real object (the red one), and two more potential objects – the blue one and the green one, since those dots are still there, they’re just waiting for you to draw a circle.  But really there’s more than that, because you could have drawn a circle that included one blue dot for every red one and said there’s a purple object, or a circle that included all the dots and said “here’s an object I call ‘dots’”, and those would be equally real.

Real in the sense that they exist; arbitrary in the sense that you could just as easily have drawn a circle around something else.

So, the first step is imagining some nonsense. 

(more…)

braak

Okay, I wasn’t going to write about this.  I am practicing this new thing where I try not to get worked up about stuff, and instead try to maintain a sort of zen equanimity about things that I can’t control, that don’t affect me, and that — in the long run — probably don’t matter very much.  But I read this article from Glen Weldon at NPR: “Dear Zack Snyder, Regarding Wonder Woman“, which is one of those dumb open-letter things where you write to someone who you know could not possibly care about what you have to say.  I read it and then I sort of succumbed to temptation, and so I guess I am going to write about this whole business.

So.  Zack Snyder is directing Batman Vs. Superman, and Wonder Woman is going to be in it, and for the part of Wonder Woman they have cast an actress named Gal Gadot, who was in the Fast and Furious movies.  Here she is:

936full-gal-gadot

(more…)

braak

I saw this on the internet and wanted to respond to it. I’m actually at the very beginning of the millennial generation, I think, or the very tail end of Generation X – the lines are fuzzy, but I was born in 1981, which is roughly where the line is drawn. For whatever reason, I find myself more instinctively protective of the younger generation than I am sympathetic to the older one. Partly this is because I have a younger brother, who is most certainly a millennial; partly because I just hate the Olds, I expect.

So, I want to politely offer up a quick “Fuck You” to Brooke Donatone, author of the Slate article “Why Millennials Can’t Grow Up,” just up here at the top, and I’ve got a little bit more later on about just why I think Brooke Donatone should have her license to practice psychotherapy revoked. (I assume you need a license for it? Or can anyone with an opinion and a finally-honed sense of judgment just hang out a shingle? Is “psychotherapist” an actual job, or just some sort of a weird cult?)
(more…)

Have YOU been reading THE MOST IMPORTANT FANTASY NOVEL OF THE 21ST CENTURY?

Well, put it down, it is boring, read my book instead.

Not convinced?

Perhaps this new cover art from Casey Conan will change your mind!

MRRH4