Worldbuilding Wednesday – Alamo 400k

Setting the bar tour aside for a while because it’s basically the same thing as the job interview thread in the main story. I should have realized that a while ago. Oh well. Back to normal worldbuilding.

If you asked the average North American what Alamo 400k is most would say they’re terrorists (although some people would think ‘heroes’ in the head while they said it) but beyond that answers would vary.  Some would say they’re anti-globalists.  Some would say they’re anarchists.  Some would say they’re white nationalists.  Some would say they’re anti-NBHs.  Some would say they’re nothing more than a drug cartel.  The stated goal of the Alamo 400k group would surprise many –  

“To provide overt and covert aid to anti-communist guerrillas and resistance movements in an effort to counteract pro-communist movements in Africa, Asia, and South America.” 

The origins of the group would be even more confounding to the “man on the street”.  In the late 1860s a former Texas Ranger was discovered to be funding and organizing an extralegal secret police force designed to keep the Pecos Republic free of “undesirables” such as labor organizers, anti-capitalists, pacifists, anarchists and the like.  It took until 1870 for the for the legitimate Pecos authorities to uncover the full extent of this network and their operations.   

While a few ringleaders (or scapegoats depending on who you ask) were imprisoned, this organization was incorporated almost wholly into the Pecos government structure in 1871 with the founding of Branch 4, an ill-defined and shadowy organization that has at various times acted as investigative law enforcement, intelligence service, and expeditionary military force.  For the majority of the 19th century Branch 4 focused on infiltration and intelligence gathering of anarcho-communist organizations and other social anarchists.   

No later than 1920 (but possibly much earlier) Branch 4 began focusing the bulk of its assets on communist groups, most critical including those based outside the Pecos Republic.  Branch 4 was dissolved in 1943 after numerous incidents of unwarranted appropriation of government funds and military matériel, political corruption, and illegal activity on foreign soil.  The core of Branch 4 true believers continued to operate in secret using funds and equipment stashed away in hidden depots for just such an occurrence.   

The former operatives of Branch 4  became associated with the name Alamo 400k after the 1947 San Antonio bombing by South American extremists (retaliating for the Pecos-US air strike on Sao Paulo) which they claim killed 400,000 people (the official number of dead and missing from that attack is closer to 20,000).  It is also variously claimed that 400k refers to the number of members in the group, but no reasonable intelligence agency believes they have even a hundredth that size of organization.    

The decentralized and highly secretive nature of the organization makes it difficult to gather concrete information on.  The widely varied actions it undertakes are evidence of several key members with unaligned personal agendas.  Each of these key leaders seeks to increase their own authority and resources while weaken those of their ideological or personal enemies within the group.

Each claims to have the true vision of what Alamo 400k is and does their best to prove it by games of one-upsmanship and occasionally outright conflict.  Individual agents follow their leader’s example and often compete for power, profits, and prestige.  A successful, high-earning agent gains more influence within the organization than a weaker, less profitable one, and some try to improve their own track records by stealing from or hindering other agents, usually covertly but sometimes openly.

Alamo 400k’s own culture and rules exacerbate this behavior — the best way to find an opportunity for advancement is to create a vacancy yourself. 

Ela’s dead, the final Ela-mare

One time there was this movie called Adventures in Babysitting, the 1987 one I mean, I think they did a remake and I don’t mean that one.  In the movie Adventures in Babysitting, Brenda, played by esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller, tries to buy a hot dog from a hot dog cart guy by signing over a third-party check to him.  It is the greatest scene in movie history.   

When I was a kid I loved that movie for a variety of reasons, chief among them because one of the kids being babysat was a girl that liked the Mighty Thor and I didn’t know until then that girls could like comic books.  It was a revelation it was.  I found out later that not many girls like comic books but some of them do. 

It’s the first movie Elizabeth Shue was in, and the first PG-13 rated Disney movie.  There’s a lot of history there.  I know what you’re thinking “wasn’t esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller briefly married to Will Arnett?”  Yes, yes she was.  And you’re probably also wondering why Will Arnett and Amy Poehler got divorced.  Sometimes people just fall out of love.  Yes, Canadians are allowed to get divorced, I was surprised too.   

“Jeremy was esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller the lead in the movie the Relic?  You know, the lead character that got licked up and down by the titular Relic, which was a cabinet monkey lizard monster?” 

Yes she was, it wasn’t one of her more esteemed character roles.  But she got paid 1.5 million dollars for doing it.  Invested at a 7 percent rate of return, which is generous I admit, that’s 7.6 million dollars today.  A lizard licked me once and I didn’t get a red cent. 

“Jeremy why do you keeping spelling Ann with an E, isn’t that incorrect?” 

Yes it is.   

“Jeremy why wasn’t the Relic a better movie?” 

Well, it’s not like the source material was super strong you know?  And even if it was, the underlying message about museums and their negative role in society and the scientific community isn’t going to be easy to communicate in a movie.  Plus, 1997 was smack dab in the middle of the wonky CGI era so the creature didn’t look great.  I wonder if they used a practical effect tongue for the licking scene.  I wonder further what esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller would say about how you drop in to a scene where you’re getting licked by a cabinet lizard monkey monster.  I’ll ask her at the next family reunion. 

Dropping-in is a technique Tina and Kristin Linklater developed in the early 1970s as a method to create a spontaneous emotional connection to your role. 

https://wordsdeferred.com/2021/07/12/filling-plot-holes/

I thought this post about plot holes was pretty good, check it out if you want.  One time I “promoted” a post I thought was neat and the guy that wrote it took the time to message me and tell me that he has 20,000 followers and he doesn’t need me to help him.  I cried for three weeks.  Not because of that, because of the shark hormones I take.  And to be clear, no sharks are being killed to harvest these hormones, they’re taken from humans with shark DNA spliced in.  Which is fine. 

There are probably lots of plot holes in Ela’s narrative because the spine of it is random RPG tables and I don’t have an outline or anything guiding the tale.  There are probably even more unresolved plots.  My other blog is even worse and I don’t even have the excuse of RPG nonsense on that one.  The other day someone said to me “Why don’t you stop this solo campaign bullshit and do some real writing?” and I says to them I says “I don’t have the creativity for that” and then they reminded me of that other blog and that shut me up.  I had forgotten about it.  How did I forget a blog that I post on three times a week and write for almost every day?  Dunno.  But I did.   

For D&D Ela I was content to let the dice dictate everything, hence her sudden and unceremonious death.  For comic book Ela I’ve been more flexible, but I’m at a real crossroads now.  Not to give anything away but decisions need to be made.  Dice or free will? 

I can’t remember if I blogged about this, possibly blogged about it twice, or if I just thought about it and blogged about it no times, but now that I’m back in the swing of TTRPGs I’ve been thinking about running a campaign again.  And what I’ve been thinking is that I don’t know if I will.  I have a lot of desire but more and more I find it a stumbling block that my game friends all like games but they don’t really like the same thing.   

I’ll start planning a modern investigative spooky campaign and then remember that no one likes that but me.  Then I’ll start working on a cyberpunk intrigue-based campaign and then I’ll remember that no one likes that but me.  So then I’ll think about the kind of campaigns they like and I groan because it’s all stuff I don’t like.  My gaming circle is hilariously mismatched like sitcom roommates.   

And I know that it doesn’t really matter, we’ll all get together and have a fun time no matter what, but it’s hard to want to spend a lot of time on shit when you’re the only one who’s really into it.   

There’s a scene in Adventures in Babysitting where Brenda, played by esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller, loses her glasses and thinks that a giant rat is a fluffy kitty and tries to pet it.  When I was younger, one time when I didn’t have my glasses on, I thought a baseball cap was our cat TJ.  I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t come to me because she was super friendly.  It was because she was a baseball cap in that scenario.  And they’re not known for being overly personable.   

Now my eyes are great because I had the laser eyeball surgery.  Also, not for nothing, but I have fantastic knees.  Maybe the best knees in the world.  There’s no way to know for sure.   

The movie Adventures in Babysitting was released with the title A Night On The Town in other countries.  Does that mean babysitting isn’t a thing in other countries?  Or do they call it something else?  Must be the first thing otherwise they would have called it Adventures in BLANK right?   I wonder what that says about American child rearing.  I know the movie Date Night was called Crazy Night in many other countries because date night is an American concept.  I wonder what that means about Americans and our relationships.   

Writing tip of the day – When writing a female character, make sure that in the middle of a scene apropos of nothing you have her start thinking about when she first started “developing”.  That’s totally cool.  Remember that scene in Die Hard when in the middle of a firefight, Bruce Willis starts talking about how he got hair on his balls?  You need to apply that same level of care to female characters.   

Zero tips for overcoming writer’s block (and one for overcoming tennis elbow)

My elbow hurts. I haven’t played tennis in years. I wish I still did. Use an elbow strap to protect the injured tendon from further strain.

I haven’t been very motivated to write recently so I have nothing today. I look down my nose when people post about how they have nothing to post about but I’m nothing if not a hypocrite. I could force myself to write something but since I’m just doing this for fun there’s no reason. WP is 33% posts about what to do about writer’s block, but when you’re just writing as a hobby why not lean into it?

Speaking of WP the other day I logged into something with my e-mail and it said “welcome sopantooth!” It enrages me. Quit connecting all my shit to other shit without my permission, internet.

One time no one asked me about the origin of the name sopantooth. For reasons unknown, I had Spanish toothpaste written down on my “ideas” pad and when I had to create a user name I mangled that into sopantooth. Why didn’t I use my real name? Because I am old.

You see when the internet first became a thing it was all about whacky fake names, no one used their real name on the internet, that would be crazy! You didn’t want people on the internet knowing who you were. You’d be killed for sure! Nowadays the internet is all about detailing every aspect of your real life to people so they can like and subscribe and give you five stars and follow all your social media. But I am slow to adapt.

I started reading The Poppy War, it’s pretty good.

Apples are the only fruit I like that are consistent. I like pears and peaches but they’re too unpredictable – it’s hard to get a good one all the time. At this point in my life I’ve undoubtedly eaten thousands of apples, maybe tens of thousands. And I realized in all that time I don’t think I’ve ever eaten one upside down. I don’t know why, but that really bugs me. It literally makes no difference which way you hold an apple – why do I always put the stem up?

I wondered how monkeys and apes eat apples. Most monkeys don’t have hands big enough to hold an apple so that doesn’t count. From what I saw apes mostly do it like we do, but not always.

Did you know that you can’t fool birds with sleight of hand? I didn’t. Human brains fill in the gaps, which is what stage magic relies on – you didn’t actually see whatever move in the magicians hand but you assume that it happened. Birds only act on what they actually see. So keep that in mind if you ever want to trick a bird.

And yet you can fool dogs by pretending to throw a thing. I suppose because dogs are smarter than birds and paradoxically smartness makes you vulnerable to foolingness.

I read this week that due to new technology, Death Valley is no longer known to be the hottest place on earth. The high temperature there is merely 134 degrees and thanks to new satellite shenanigans they now know that it gets up to 177 in the Sonora desert. Death Valley is therefore now lame. Please adjust accordingly.

If violence isn’t the answer, you misunderstood the question – Madripoor the City (part 1)

• A nosy, meddling reporter for a local newspaper

I’ve already introduced News Dan and the News Dan New Van, but he’s more of the underground conspiracy nut, so let’s have another character on the reporting scene.  If you’re going to have a super-world why not Superman it up?  Let’s say that Lim Boon Keng is a reporter in his civilian identity.  Some people say that having an existing character fill a new role is lazy.  Others say that’s character development.

• A special police division that deals with ‘supercrime’

I haven’t thought much about the Madripoor police other than they don’t care about the poor areas down the hill.  I figured that meant it didn’t matter, but that does mean they do care about the business downtown and the rich people zones.  Rich people have their own goons, but they probably want other people to yell at, too.  I’ll say that there’s not enough need for a full time “supercrime” division, instead the best (most murdery) cops are tagged for being brought together into a task force as needed and they’re totally badass like in the Raid.  The ace of this squad is surely a superperson, I’ll think on that.

• The detective who leads the ‘special task force’ that deals with ‘supercrime’

There has to be someone who keeps tabs on things and pulls the taskforce together when needed.  That will be Captain Raden Wijaya, a former counter-intelligence and anti-terrorist agent with the Indonesian government.  In order to do his job he maintains connections with the various criminal syndicates in Madripoor.  He’s not corrupt though, not really.

• A government agency with a sinister agenda

What manner of sinister agenda could exist in what is already a wretched hive of scum and villainy?  I suppose what it would be is a group that wants Madripoor to lose its independence.  Not a government agency but a secret conspiracy of government officials who want to see Madripoor annexed to the Empire of Japan.  Quislings – is that what you call people like that?  I don’t know but it’s a cool word.

• The premier superteam in The City and their roster

Much like the police, I never thought about Madripoor having a superteam.  But, it doesn’t have to be a superhero team right?  The idea is that there are too many factions and too much money being thrown around for one person or group to take over, but there would still be someone at the top of the super-evil heap even if they’re not in control.  I imagine they would be somewhat reclusive, an alliance of older villains in semi-retirement who came to Madripoor to live out their days in wealth and safety. 

I’ll have to think more about that as well.  One character idea I’ve wanted to work in but couldn’t find a place was a Coalition States communist who thought that robbing banks would help bring down capitalism in the CS but eventually realized they were just wasting their time and gave up.  Seems like a good candidate for this group.

• One ‘independent’ superhero who works the City

I’ve introduced several superpeople of various stripes but not many true blue heroes.  Another half-idea I’ve had is for a super team of aliens ripping off the X-men (how they used to be anyway, I don’t know what they are now) doing the “protecting a world that hates us” thing.  Another kernel to follow up on and flesh out.

• Two Villains who work in The City

Several of these are already in the mix.  But there’s always room for more.  I’ve mentioned a minotaur guy walking around, let’s say he’s one of these two extra villains.  In the Marvel universe there’s a thing called the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation which is a fighting deal for superpowered people.  It’s never been taken all that seriously aside from giving the Power Broker a reason to give people powers once in a while, but as a wrestling person I find it amusing. 

The “man” calling himself Jefray Kurnia Arwadi actually is THE minotaur of legend, awoken in the modern age (the 70s) from some manner of stasis.  How did they explain Heracles in the Marvel universe?  Was he just supposed to be out and about doing Heracles stuff for a thousand years?  Surely he was asleep in a cave or something.  I’ll have to look into that. 

Anyway minotaur-Jef wakes up and gets involved in a short lived superpowered boxing league and then UCWF before finally making his way to Madripoor to fight other super-people for money.  He’s likes fighting, you see.  How about this, the Minotaur survived to Roman times and got into the gladiator scene and the rich folks got tired of him winning all the time so they had a sorceress put him to sleep for a thousand years and chucked him down a mine shaft.  They had mines.  But did they have shafts?  There’s so much about Ancient Roman mining I don’t know

A while ago someone asked me why there are not many African superheroes and my idea was that the colonial powers employed a super-squad of hitmen to kill any African people with powers to help prevent them from becoming symbols for the African people and fomenting revolution.  In recent times, this group has been destroyed and one of the survivors is our second guy here – coming to Madripoor to hide from the many people that want him dead.  He’s not a white supremacist himself but just an amoral mercenary.  I shall name him Steelwing.

• A rival evil organization with an unknown agenda

Ela isn’t really an “organization” but I have thought it would be amusing for her to run into a super-powered singer who’s rich and famous to really torque her off.  I’ll flesh that out some more.  She shall be called Songbird.  Which is a little on the nose, but hey, comic books right?

OOC – The City

Do I still need to put OOC on these things? It’s always clear right? I guess I should so people can skip them if they want. Or only read them maybe.

“Ah, the City. I will spread my buttery justice over your every nook and cranny.” – The Tick

I recently purchased an RPG called Henchmen from Canterbury Games Studio.  It’s one of many cool games that I’ll probably never play.  The idea, as you can probably guess, is that you’re the minions of a supervillain trying to survive and become elite mooks.  For me it’s the right amount of tongue-in-cheek without being full on silly. 

There’s a section about creating you city that I think can be helpful for writing and roleplaying both.  The worldbuilding between the two isn’t exactly the same as I’ve very geniusly pointed out before but there’s a lot of overlap, my genius notwithstanding. 

When I’m playing an RPG what really gets me engaged, especially in a modern or future setting, is a city that seems like a real place.  It’s somewhat less important to me when I’m reading but it’s still always kind of a breaker when the story takes place somewhere that doesn’t seem like a real place.

Here’s there’s list of things you should come up with to populate your city, all credit given to Canterbury Games Studio mea culpa etc.  It’s superhero focused of course, but I still think it’s a good way to get the ideas popping around.

• A nosy, meddling reporter for a local newspaper

• A special police division that deals with ‘supercrime’

• The detective who leads the ‘special task force’ that deals with ‘supercrime’

• A government agency with a sinister agenda

• The premier superteam in The City and their roster

• One ‘independent’ superhero who works the City

• Two Villains who work in The City

• A rival evil organization with an unknown agenda

• The heads of the three richest families in The City

• The mayor and chief of police – to give harried no comments to the news anchor

• A TV news anchor – for when the henchmen see their crimes on the news

• A famous rock/pop star, who is really ‘big’ in The City

• A famous industrialist

• Two ‘ordinary’ criminal gangs

• A no-questions-asked fleapit hotel

• A major hospital

• A university with an active research department

• A bank with extensive vaults

• Three facilities, like labs or factories, that work on advanced technology, experimental science or chemicals

• The docks and/or an airport where foreign material and individuals can enter or leave the city

• An infamous prison, holding facility or insane asylum

• A casino, either legitimate or illegitimate depending on the laws of the city

• The fanciest hotel in the city

• A slum with a sinister or ironic nickname where the police only go in force

• A bar or club where the lowlifes hang out

• A bar or club that only the elite can enter

• A public park or open space – good for covert meetings and public showdowns

• The known public headquarters of a superhero or superteam

• A district full of the mansions and houses of the elite

• A big public entertainment venue such a stadium or concert hall

• The City’s biggest shopping district

• The City’s financial district

• The headquarters of a major news organization

Bot seeking bot

That’s a Venture Brothers reference.  I was pretty bummed when that show got cancelled even though they only made one episode every 3.5 years.  Now I hear they’re making a Venture Brothers movie on HBO.  I’m cautiously optimistic (name of my sex tape).  If it’s just more Venture Brothers, I’ll probably like it.  If the movie is supposed to “wrap-up” everything from the show, I probably won’t.  That never works.  I’m looking at you, Peacekeeper Wars.  Even though it was a financial failure, Serenity is the way to do it. It didn’t put Firefly to rest, it was just an interesting Firefly story.  Sure, it was kind of dumb because they had to narrate and reset everything for people that hadn’t watched the show, but it was good.

“Jeremy, you’re not really keeping your promise to subject us to 70% less content on this blog”.

I know, but it’s not that much more and what I didn’t anticipate (always in motion, the future is) is that I would get mad at DIRECTV and cancel my service with them and since I don’t like any of the streaming services, I watch 70% less TV now.  And further, since my only other time-consuming hobby is running RPGs which I’m not doing currently, something has to give.

“Jeremy, just because you write something doesn’t mean you have to post it.”

Trust me I don’t, I write tons of stuff that I just then delete and everyone’s happy.  But this has to do with my fellow wordpressarians.  Ergo.

I have 169 “followers”.  I’d say at least 100 of them are bots.  Probably more. I assume that most other people have a similar situation, but one time I said something like that to a fellow wordpresser and they got real mad at me.  Maybe all of your followers are legit.  I don’t know.  I mean no offense.  I know that mine are not. 

What I don’t understand is what the value of those bots are.  I understand why dating sites use bots, it makes it seem like there’s people on there you could meet.  And I understand why there are bots on social media, but what are all these fake wordpress accounts for? 

Normally I get zero new followers in a week, this week I had 15 – all of them bots, randomly generated user names with the same picture of a blandly attractive blond lady.  Why are these accounts being created?  Since I don’t try to make money in wordpress, I don’t understand how it works.  For the people that are monetizing wordpress, does it makes sense to have bot followers?  I know bots are used to click-generate ad revenue, is it something like that?

The only thing I know about the financial part of WP is that if I get 75,000 followers, I can get a free merchant account of some kind to sell all the Ela merch I’m obviously creating (I guess that would be a time consuming hobby).  The only way I could ever get that many followers is with bots.  Is that reason enough for someone to make bots?  Seems like if you can make bots, you could come up with a better scam. 

Do they only make bots so they can sell you bot-blocker plugins?  That doesn’t seem very lucrative.  Why would you want to bot-block? Even though I know it’s fake, I can look at that 169 number and pretend I’m cool.  I suppose there’s probably bots that are actually malicious and can do bad shit to your site.  I guess I should look into getting rid of them. 

It’s probably just collateral damage, it’s easier to bot-spam everything everywhere in the hopes of hitting something of value rather than making targeted attacks. 

And he said “Blog the best blog in the world, or I’ll eat your soul”

And I said “okay”.

My other fiction blog is about a magic lady where magic is not something people know about or believe in generally.  It’s also about wrestling because why wouldn’t those two things be together?  I read a novel recently that was about wrestling and the guy that wrote it also runs a magic school and I thought “this guy is my audience!” so I tweeted him about my blog and he never responded.  What good is social media anyway if people don’t do whatever I want with little effort on my part?

Anyway, because this story takes place in a “realistic” world, I really struggle with having the protagonist resolve anything.  The basic story is that magic is becoming harder and harder to do because no one believes in it, so those that do know about it are turning to the dark side because it’s easier.  So she’s going along doing whatever and then she finds out about some bad magic people doing bad shit and then I don’t know what the next thing in the story should be.

Because I’m an RPG gamer who likes writing instead of being a writer, my instinct is of course to have a violent confrontation – roll for initiative!  But I mostly try to avoid that for two reasons.  One, people in a “realistic” world are rarely so cavalier about murdering everyone, morals and emotions and all that.  And two, the police and the law and such tend to frown on murder.  And while it would be interesting to write about a magic serial killer who was killing for “good” and the moral quandaries and technical difficulties therein, that’s not what I want to do. 

So I keep trying to think, what do people do when there’s some bad shit going down and there’s no legal authorities that can get in the mix?  And the answer is that they probably don’t do anything, other than be sad about how they’re helpless.  But that’s most people, and stories shouldn’t be about people that don’t do anything, they should be about people that are exceptional, or at least interesting in some way. 

How do you solve problems without violence?  Remember that episode of Futurama where Vice-Presidential Ranger Michelle Nichols exclaims “Killing him isn’t working and that’s all we good at!”  I do.  The obvious answer is have your protagonist be smart and do smart shit and out-smart them instead of resorting to violence.  MacGyver style!  The problem with that is I’m dumb.  How can a dumb person write a smart character? 

I have the same problem with RPGs.  Sometimes people make adventures where I the player, not the character, have to be smart or solve a mystery or a puzzle or something and I can’t do it because I’m stupid as hell.  So I usually play a character who’s supposed to be stupid because how am I supposed to portray an INT 20 wizard? 

So I’ve been trying to think of some movies or books or media I can check out where the problem is something where the obvious answer is “murder” but the character is question is not a murderer so they need to figure something else out.  The first thing that came to mind was the House of Sand and Fog, but thinking about it, the main lady essentially just got someone else to do her dirty work.  I also thought about Avengers Arena, but looking back at that, it’s mostly just people struggling about violence and then being violent.

If you have any ideas on things I can read or watch to get some inspiration on how characters can deal with extreme circumstances without being smarty pantses or D&D style murder hobos, let me know. 

I suppose the other obvious answer is “if she’s magic, bro, have her magic her problems away”.

I used to have a dream semi-often where I found out about a sex trafficking operation and the police and the state government people and everyone were in on it, so I spent all my dream-time trying to figure out how to do anything about it.  I tried calling the FBI and they said they couldn’t interfere for some reason, and then I spent the rest of the dream freaking out and not knowing what to do.  I suppose it was a stress dream of some kind. 

Anyway, I guess I turned that dream into a blog accidentally.  With magic.  And wrestling. 

OOC – Danger Zone!

When I was a kid I used to watch classic boxing in the basement Sunday mornings.  In my memory, it was on IPTV but that can’t be right, why would boxing be on public television?  I occasionally watch YouTube clips of classic fights.  But I can’t really say that I’m a boxing fan.  Not even a casual fan.  It’s more like something that I keep half an eye on sometimes.  And yet I still manage to get all riled up whenever anyone talks about Mike Tyson being a great boxer.  Who did he ever beat?  He knocked out a bunch of chumps and then lost to anyone decent he faced.  

That’s not relevant to anything really, but I thought about it because I’m going to talk about Million Dollar Baby which is a good movie with a stupid name.  I never saw Baby Driver because that is also a stupid name.  I did like Gone Baby Gone though, I guess the key is not to start or end your title with baby.

Million Dollar B is not in my top X favorite movies ever but I really like it.  It’s a movie that I always stop and watch if I see it’s on, or I did when I had satellite TV anyway.  Now I just roam around the house rootless and rudderless.    

I watched it with my lady the other day and after it was over she asked me “What is the point of the Danger character?”  I’ve seen that movie in part at least a dozen times and I never thought about that before.  What is the point of that character?  I’ve been thinking about it ever since and I really have no idea.

At first you think, well he’s the comic relief right?  But nothing he does is really that funny.  And I would suggest that it’s not that it was supposed to be funny and wasn’t.  So what is he?  Generally, I think a character like Danger would be a morality pet but he’s definitely not that.  I don’t think he interacts with Maggie at all and she doesn’t need a Jiminy Cricket anyway, she’s fine on her own.    

So what does Danger provide?  He gets his ass kicked and then comes back.  So you’d think that he’s the example of how you should never give up.  But he’s not, because again Maggie never thinks about giving up (on boxing anyway) and he doesn’t come back to the gym until after she’s gone anyway.  

The only thing that Danger really does is give Scrap a reason to punch out Anthony Mackie.  Which is kind of a neat scene, who doesn’t like seeing an asshole get their comeuppance, but is ultimately pointless.  Is that scene supposed to let us know that Scrap was a hard mofo in his day?  That’s pretty firmly established already I think.  And even if it wasn’t established, that isn’t important to the story either.  Is that supposed to tell us that Anthony Mackie is a puss?  Why would that be important?  

Thinking about it, the Anthony Mackie character doesn’t bring much to the story either.  He harasses Maggie in one scene and she blows him off and that’s pretty much it.  Sidenote, in my mind I remembered the harassment as being much harder to watch.  By the standards of women being harassed in movies these days, it was pretty mild.  If that movie was made today, there for sure would have been an attempted sexual assault or something. 

So I got to wondering if the character of Danger is from the book.  I was slightly wrong about the origin of the movie it turns out, there is no book, the screenplay was “inspired” by the book Rope Burns which was written by a cutman and longtime boxing trainer about his real experiences in boxing.  Which is probably why a lot of people think that Million Dollar Baby is based on a real story.  

The only thing I can figure is that one of the stories in Rope Burns was about a goofy kid that came in to train and wanted to fight Tommy Hearns for the middleweight championship and they put that story in the movie even though it didn’t really have anything to do with anything.  I feel like that’s a thing that happens when a screenplay is written based on a collection of short stories, the writer falls in love with one thing that really doesn’t belong and wedges it in there anyway.  I have no examples, but I think it’s a thing.  

Anyone else have any ideas on what the Danger character is supposed to be or accomplish in that movie?  Also, should I start a new segment where I take Best Picture winners and talk about how much better they would be with changes I would make since I’m a better writer than all the writers that have written best pictures.  I mean, you didn’t win best screenplay did you, Million Dollar Baby?  DID YOU?!

In other news I watched a couple episodes of an Amazon show called Red Oaks.  It’s highly touted and recommended.  I don’t get it.  Is there a twist coming or some subtle context I’m missing?  It appears to be a very standard 80s teen movie turned into a TV show.  The fact that so many people think it’s great makes me think I’m missing something.  

Is this a Jennifer’s Body situation?  When I watched Jennifer’s Body I thought “this is a horrible cheesy horror movie like any other” but instead I guess it’s some kind of powerful statement about feminism and is lauded as something great.  I re-watched it and I still don’t get it.  It seems like the exact opposite to me.  Seems to me like the screenwriter’s whole pitch was “What if Megan Fox makes out with Amanda Seyfried and we make it a movie?”  But I acknowledge that I’m wrong about that.  

Is that what’s going on here?  Is Red Oaks Jennifer’s Bodying me?  What am I missing? 

OR do people just like it because the 80s have a weird nostalgia for people my age even though they were little kids for most of that decade?  

One thing that really irks me about Red Oaks is that I know for sure that in 2013, we all decided that we were done with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and then WHAM Red Oaks slaps me right in the face with Skye.  

Critical update please read immediately

I just realized that I accidentally named two characters Maggie. Good thing I caught it before the fiction police came after me.

Maggie McGraw will now be rechristened Maeve McGraw, which ruins the joke that only one person in the world got, but these are the sacrifices that have to be made in the name of art.

As all real writers know, no two characters in a work of fiction should share the same first name. They can’t even have similar-sounding names. If there’s a Laura in your story, there sure as hell better NOT be a Lyra. If there’s an Ed, you’d be a damn fool to include a Ted . Of course this is all opposite when it comes to twins – twins MUST have similar sounding names.

The good news is that this rule can help you determine if you’re real or not. If you realize that you don’t know any two people with the same first name and that your phone number begins with 555, you can safely assume you live in a fictional world. Depending on what fictional world you live in, you may want to escape to the real world. Things aren’t all roses here, but if you’re a character in the Road or some other horrible depressing novel you probably want out.

If you send me 200 dollars I’ll tell you the secret word that will let you jump into the real world.

“But Jeremy, if you’re real and I’m fictional how am I even reading this? And how can I get you the money?”

The internet is a confluence of the real world and the world of make believe, it’s funny how many people don’t seem to realize that. It’s pretty obvious folks. And I know how to cross over.

“But how do I know that you’re real?”

Because I’m not even in the number one roster slot of Jeremys amongst my peers. I’m Jeremy #2. I was Jeremy #3 for a long time but I managed to move up a place.

The reason for the one name limit is that when you’re writing, you’re supposed to imagine that your audience is stupid. People like it when you treat them like they’re six years old. Obviously they would be confused by multiple characters with the same name: “Wait, was it good-guy Steve or bad-guy Steve who launched the missile at France?” Clearly there’s NO way to figure it out from context.

That’s why the Two Jakes was just a horrible flop.

Along the same lines, good writing is having your characters say things they would never say for the benefit of the audience. “I’m a lawyer and I’m talking to you, a fellow lawyer, but I will now explain what a pre-trial hearing is for the sake of the audience because they’re morons.”

I don’t remember what I watched the other day but it was pretty good and then at the end, the main character literally just explained the whole plot of the show. That’s what made it go from good to great. Now that’s writing!

Stolen writing advice from someone better

Being a soulless Gen X mutant, normally I don’t try to help people or do anything, I just sit in my flannel shirt in my dimly lit basement listening to Alice in Chains and reveling in the fact that I don’t care about anything and only being happy when it rains.  And also not even then.  As a Xer I spend my time normally not caring about money or success or anything but Bikini Kill. 

Normally I wouldn’t post twice in a day either, but if I wait I’ll forget.  Sometimes I write myself notes of things to write about later and then I never remember what they mean later.  This has been going on for 30 years.

There’s a pretty common piece of writing advice which is “write a lot”.  If you feel blocked it’s because you’re thinking too much.  Just write something, anything.  Write every day all the time.  The theory is that you get better at something by doing it.  A basketball player doesn’t get better by thinking about shooting, they get better by shooting baskets in an empty gym. 

Part of the idea is that most of what everyone writes, except for a few geniuses, sucks.  So if ten percent of what you write is going to be good, you need to write tons and tons to make that ten percent pile as big as possible. 

For me, this advice was one of those things where I said “That sounds right” but didn’t really take it to heart.  Today though I heard something that really made it land for me. 

This information is coming to me 5th hand so the details are probably wrong but the gist is correct I think.  There’s a book called Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.  According to a different book that referenced that book that was referenced on a YouTube video that was referenced on a TV show that was referenced on a podcast I listen to, in Art &Fear they talk about an art teacher.

This art teacher decided to play a cruel joke on their class in the name of the social sciences.  They divided the class into two groups.  Group one was told their grade would be based on the number of pots they made.  Group two was told that their grade would be based on their best pot.  But hold onto your butts folks, because the first group was lied to, everyone was judged on their best pot. 

The gag is at the end of the semester (or whatever) the first group had made better pots.  The theory is that while group two spent all their time trying to make one or a few good pots, group one was cranking out pots right and left; ergo they got good at making pots, ergo they made a lot of crappy pots but the good ones they made were better than the people who were trying to make good ones. 

This may not even be a true story, but it made the “write a lot” advice sink in for me. 

I already write almost every day but nevertheless in order to write more, I will be starting a 5th blog with a new fiction narrative,  working title – Blood Orgy in The House of Pain.