Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?

Super Bowl XLIV edges Final Episode of M*A*S*H as most watched ever

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File this under No Freakin Way. 

I figured someone would come along one day with a movie that took Titanic off the number one spot, but this is a record I had hoped would keep for a while.


Written by taj

February 8, 2010 at 3:01 pm

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In keeping with the habit of only writing on Mondays…

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…here are a few random thoughts that have percolated over the last week:

–Been listening to the original cast recording of Les Miserables.  If Hollywood can produce big screen versions of Rent, Chicago and Nine, it’s time somebody brought Les Mis to the screen.  So long as they cast Timothy Spall as Thinardier. 

–ABC really ought to release The Path to 9/11 on DVD. 

Amerika could use a decent DVD package as well.  I’ve never seen it, and I’d like a chance to.

–I really wanted to do a write-up on Avatar (the more I think about it, the more I think conservative film critics have missed something), however, some paying writing gigs have come up, and paying the bills comes first.  For the time being, read this

Lost‘s final season begins tomorrow. 

The Killer Angles is one helluva novel.

Written by taj

February 1, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Success…in 109,360 words.

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I have written a novel. 

About six months ago, a friend of the family and I were talking, and he asked me what I would do with my life if money and time were not a problem.  I’d be writing novels, I said. 

This friend of the family has a couple of connections–not the kind that guarantee a book contract some day, but the kind that can look at my work, and give me the kind of help I need to attract one. 

After we had this conversation, I decided I finally needed to take this thing seriously.  I had a bunch of ideas floating around in my head, three of which I thought would make pretty good stories.  One of them was a holy-cow-never-gonna-write-it-till-I-got-a-few-under-me idea. 

I ran the ideas I had past some people; all of them said to go for the one I didn’t want to touch.  Who can argue with that, right?  Besides, I’ve been writing freelance regularly for a couple of years now; my discipline was better, but I had doubts about my stamina. 

So I looked into some books about how others authors wrote their novels.  Most of them mentioned outlining, a practice I had felt discouraged about because, as any serious writer knows, you’re supposed to let the plot and characters unfold and develop naturally.  You put your characters together in a setting, hit puree, and see what happens. 

I’ve tried that approach before.  Nothing ever happened. 

So I started an outline last October.  By the end of the month, I had laid out the bones of the story.  Since then, I’ve worked nearly every day to give it flesh and clothes.  I set my pace at 1,000 words a day, and just kept at it till it was done. 

First draft clocks in at 378 pages, double spaced.  I finished it last Friday. 

Now it will go in a drawer for a month.  I need some distance because, as it sits, this draft is pretty crappy.  Good writing is rewriting.  I need some distance so I can come back at it, kill about 10,000 words, and hope there’s a story there that’s really worth telling.

Written by taj

January 25, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Posted in General

Quick Review: Avatar

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Saw the movie.  I hope to expand my thoughts and deliver a real review, but here’s the gist: Avatar is a great B-movie, wrapped up in incredible special effects. 

The story is its biggest weakness; the narrative fails to challenge the audience on any level.  And that’s okay–there’s a lot left there to enjoy.  The problem is that there’s so much there Cameron never bothered to tap.

Hope to write more on this soon.  For now, Overstreet’s review pretty much nails it.

Written by taj

January 11, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Something to keep in mind regarding Avatar‘s cash haul

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UPDATE 1/7/2010: Just checked the updated numbers, and Avatar has sold an estimated 51,858,700 tickets.  That places it at # 87 in box office receipts adjusted for inflation.  Not too shabby. 


[I]t helps that 75 percent of its domestic business is coming through higher priced 3-D ticket sales.

Box Office Mojo puts Titanic‘s est. ticket sales at 128,345,900.  So far, Avatar hasn’t made the list.     

Hope (and I do mean hope; plans these days just never seem to come together) to see it in 3-D this weekend.

Written by taj

January 4, 2010 at 8:10 pm

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A Brief Word on Under the Dome

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1074 pages.  The story achieves lift-off somewhere around page 100, and rockets full-throttle all the way to page 1042.  Those last 32 pages kill the entire ride.

Written by taj

December 29, 2009 at 5:15 pm

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Overstreet posts best review of Avatar I have read so far…

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I usually find film critic and author Jeffrey Overstreet’s insights invaluable.  And in regard to Avatar, he does not disappoint.

Most critics either gush over the film or dismiss its contrived plot, but others have managed a more balanced approach.  James Cameron has always delivered a feast for the eyes, and anyone familiar with his work would agree with Steven Greydanus–Cameron is a master manipulator adept as making his themes seem weightier than they really are.

I never suspected Avatar to be any different, but all the talk of its sermonizing has started to make me wonder if it was somehow weaker.  Overstreet’s reaction to the film has at least compelled me to take the time and go see it (maybe), but still manages to cut through the hyperbole.

The masterstroke of the original Star Wars‘ trilogy was its bold third-act subversion of audience hopes and expectations. Lucas made the villain we loved to hate into a redeemable human being, one who could be saved by grace. Avatar has nothing so bold or redeeming as that, nothing to discomfort audiences with the wild truth.

What begins as mythmaking devolves into political pulpit-pounding, a narrow-minded “war-for-oil” critique of recent and present-day American military interventions in the Middle East that sounds oh-so-2004.


So I’ll join the chorus in singing “I can’t believe my eyes.” But I cannot echo the recurring declaration that the movie is “mind-blowing” unless I mean that the movie short-circuited my intellect as I watched. The waves of toys spilling from Cameron’s toybox momentarily distracted me from the fact that what he’s built from them is flimsy and crude.

As an achievement in technical innovation, Avatar is phenomenal, a ride worth taking more than once, but as adventure movies go, it is impressively new in every way except the way that matters most. Its look will last. But its heart won’t go on.

After waiting 12 years for another Cameron film, I had hoped for better.  Sure, Cameron could never live up to the hype he generated.  Who could? After all, this was the film to which Titanic was a mere detour, right?


Written by taj

December 18, 2009 at 11:45 am