1948 – The Naked and the Dead

 

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this was a time when folks still read books

no television (yet)

no video games (yet)

no smart phones (yet)

the population was still curious about the world

so what did they read?

Norman Mailer

The Naked and the Dead

World War II

South Pacific

Anopopei (fictional island)

Americans killing Japanese and Japanese killing Americans

Japanese soldier shot while smoking (eyes closed)

homosexual feelings (between soldiers)

men die and are sent back home

those who survive talk about the future

after all is said and done

the military industrial complex goes on

number one best seller

later a hit movie

Hollywood

Aldo Ray and Barbara Nichols

Cliff Robertson

technicolor

still relevant

same old story

nothing learned from past mistakes

 

 

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1948 – The Louisiana Story

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In 1948, the Standard Oil Company commissioned this movie to promote their drilling expansion into several Louisiana bayous. It was sold as a documentary but is actually a docu-fiction as it is primarily propaganda to make the locals believe that drilling for oil in their back yards was good for them, when the opposite was true. Louisiana was exploited for its riches and left polluted, ugly, and poisoned.

The Louisiana Story

he was just “the boy he wasn’t given a name

his father was only “the father” and valued just the same

set in Cajun swampland about a boy and his raccoon

the good guys were the drillers making poor crackers rich too soon

the villain was an alligator who must have eaten the boy’s pet

river life was hard until the good old boys made them forget

the moral of the movie was drilling for oil was good

never mind the explosions or the black poison in the woods

money was the hero and damn the pristine swamp

standard oil should be praised for their awful damaging romp

this was not true story even though they wanted you to believe

back then we were gullible and this they could achieve

we feel for the raccoon and he’s a lot like us

oil is the alligator destroying land without a fuss

The Louisiana Story was praised in California at the ’48 awards

best writing was the nomination for the oil baron lords

the music won a Pulitzer but that was in ’49

filmed in black and white fictitious by design

looking backward is helpful and maybe we can learn

before all the land is polluted and our morals have all been burned

 

LA Weakly

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Groundworks Coffee in North Hollywood’s old train station is a writer’s paradise. Twenty years ago Starbucks were designed with old wood floors and velvet couches where one could hang out and read or just listen to jazz with their coffee. Today, their barebones “buy our mass produced liquids and leave” philosophy has made an American “hangout” not overcrowded by the homeless very difficult. Americans have always loved a coffee shop in order to conduct life. LA Confidential, Pulp Fiction, and The Big Lebowski all use this venue to deliver their best scenes and lines.

Writers love coffee shops and bars. Period. Life waltzs by and stories pour out naked and unafraid. Groundworks is built in a historic train station where the Southern Pacific ran electric lines through the Valley one hundred years ago. In the 1920’s it was one of the largest such sytems in the world. Groundworks sits in that same era. Wooden and old school, their coffee is good and there is plenty of room. Even when it is almost full, it doesn’t seem crowded. The spacious dining area is complimented by a giant outside balcony where the platform used to hold ticket holders.

A cute young couple sprinkles sugar, grain by grain into their common cup while forking their kale salad in each other’s mouths. Serious writers type away into Final Draft and are joined by dwellers without home internet who conduct business and wireless realtionships around the world. Buses and sirens infrequently break the sound barrier but the overall atmostphere is calm and quiet.

A three bladed ceiling fan stirs a graveyard of LA Weekly copies that rustle and snap. I recently boycotted the LA Weakly and want to explain my frustration.

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LA Weekly has been around since 1978. Jay Levin, Michael Douglas, and some other fine humans pooled their resources and founded our mainstay of an alternative newspaper. Printed and distributed weekly (hence the name), it soon became Los Angeles answer to New Yorks’ own Village Voice. Edgy and topical, LAW served us with the hard to find out word on the street, trends in music, art, theater, and food. Movie reviews were world class, and polictial insight was topnotch. Stories of police brutality, cruel landlords, and homeless situations brought about change when no other voice could. It was always free. Supported by ads from strip clubs, marijuana doctors, restaurants and bars, it was rare to find a copy by Friday as the paper came to call on Thursday. The payroll included many Pulitzer Prize winners along with my favorite, Henry Rollins.

November 2017 was a dark day here in SOCAL. A mysterious group of investors with dubious motives called “Semanal Media LLC” bought the beloved paper and immediately fish gutted it. Men with ties to Orange County politics and Tea Party money fired most of the talent as Henry Rollins quit in protest. They now produce a shadow of the former paper certainly not to ever offend a conservative again. I resolved to boycott the paper I so dearly loved and read. Recently I picked up a copy to see what I was missing.

Not very much.

The type of paper they now use is a much thinner quality that Motel Six rejected for use in their toilets.

The volume of pages is shrunk in half.

The main story was a complaint about how pot smokers will now be taxed in legal stores. The Tea Party abhors taxes unless they bail out bankers or bring relief to second homes after a hurricane. 

The diet size content is mostly ads.

The number of copies is less, much less.

This week’s edition is more of the same crap.

Dull, boring and non-entertaining.

Why?

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Darkest Hour, a movie in the 2018 race for an Oscar, has a memorable line that sums up the new LA Weakly. One of Churchill’s contemporaries complains ” The man has one hundred ideas a day. Four are good.”

Writing a Crime Story

Recently, my oldest son, John Jr.,  who writes a weekly column for LA Screenwriter, penned an excellent article that writers need to find their genre or type of stories they are inclined toward. It made me think about what my own genre might be since I seem to write about a variety of themes. However, I gradually realized most of that I like to write has a dark side. Even the poetry I labor over is full of heartbreak, loss of job, loss of status and the down and out. Oh, there is plenty of love for many things, but it is definitely not about rainbows and unicorns. My first and second novels were about cowboys and witchcraft. I wrote a true story about a convicted murderer – Murder and Deceit. I continue to write two blogs about two men wrongly convicted of murder in Minnesota.

https://jacknissalkeisinnocent.wordpress.com/

https://kenandersenisinnocent.com/

So far this year, 2017, I have completed two screenplays,  a western with a dark twist, and a modern crime story. Over my life I can think of two things that affected my love of those kind of stories. In college I read all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series. I felt transported back to London circa 1890 and accompanied him and Dr Watson on every coach ride and all nighter at 221B Baker Street. In the late 1980’s I saw a movie, True Believer, starring James Woods and Robert Downey Jr. The plot revolved around Shu Kai Kim, a Korean wrongly convicted of murder. This was a subject I never considered before and it opened up a new way of looking at the American Judicial system for me.

In the last 20 years, there is one story I become addicted to: HBO’s Sopranos.

Caldevino

Pictured above is the late Frank Vincent and a friend of mine, Chris Caldovino. I have watched every episode over 100 times and go through all six seasons every year. It never gets old. The creators stocked the show with plenty of rich characters and a string of plots that seem real. In the 1990’s I binged on Law and Order and today I am a fan of Michael Connelly, LA’s own creator of Detective Bosh.  The list is long, and I think the point is made how I found what I like to write.

Let me share some ideas on the “how”. Stories need conflict. There is plenty in crime stories. The very subject suggests that is their nature. However, Sopranos took it into ordinary life. Tony and company are rarely shown pulling a major heist and usually only murder one of their own. The series is about the struggles of the day, gangster style.

What if…

In Stephen King’s majestic book, On Writing, he reveals one of his techniques. He explains that he thinks of an ordinary event in his life, and asks “what if”. This is where original fiction is born. In my first published book, Western Soul, there is a short story called “Spearfish Gangsters”, that is based on my family reunion at Lake Texoma. Since then, I have learned to look at other so-called “ordinary events” and ask “what if”. Doing this should help in getting a plot or a premise together.

Memorable characters…

The success of shows like Law and Order, Sopranos, The Wire and Deadwood can be summed up in two words – memorable characters. So, how does a writer create a character, one that audience relates to or cares about? I begin with their names. As I start to think for a good name for the story, I keep a stack of index cards handy. I write a single name and tape it to the wall above where I work. They stay up there until the story is complete. After I feel there are enough names up there, I begin to write a back story, sometimes a paragraph, sometimes several pages, about who these names are. I tape those to the wall under their names as they come to me. This may take weeks. I don’t set a time limit, except to work on them five days every week. I force myself to look at them every day. There is where the story lies.

Outline the story…

This is a key step many writers skip. Sometimes an idea occurs and a paragraph or a page or two is done quickly. Then the writer struggles with where to go from there and the story dies a common death. An outline is the road map to the story. Once the outline is done it needs to marinate as more ideas are produced by finishing the project. As actual writing commences, you will be flooded with more pictures in your mind that add color to the story. An outline will keep the story living and breathing. I suggest the Save The Cat templates that are free online for screenwriting, but are useful in any story.

Goals…

Setting a goal to complete is crucial to any project. You start by committing to a daily goal. Let’s say you only want to work  five days per week. Then set a goal of words (if a novel) or pages ( screenplay). When you finish the day’s work, you are done. Go enjoy the balance knowing you did what you said you would do. Make a chart of your progress and stick it on the wall so you can hold yourself accountable. Then set an over all goal of how much this needs in words or pages. Once you do that, it will be easy to see how long until you are done. Don’t worry if you get behind, just keep going.

Real Estate…

There’s a saying in the real estate business “Location-location-location”. The saying applies to story telling and especially crime stories. Most writers agree you should “write about what you know.” Where you set the story is every important, even if the place is fictional. Get to know the real estate in your story. Make it real or make it up. If it is a fictional place then draw a map of what you imagine. Your audience will see this map as it unfolds in your story. Screenplays MUST be seen. The real estate is in every scene heading. Where is it? What does it look like? Day, night or what? Hot or cold. Let the audience feel where the story takes them.

Crime stories don’t need a moral or a point. They must be entertaining. The Godfather has no point to the story, but I love seeing Michael evolve into the Don no matter how many times I have seen the film. The Sopranos have no point but if Gandolfini was still alive I would love just one more episode to see what the old crook was up to. The characters become your friends.

Next Sunday I will probably post a poem I have been working on about my hometown. It’s called “I remember Denison…in its hey day.”

 

 

One Encounter (with Quentin Tarantino)

Doing a number … Quentin Tarantino's new film, The Hateful Eight, will not be a direct sequel to Dja

Mr. Tarantino has made the news lately after his New York Police speech and receiving the wrath of right wing pundits and those who feel they must defend the cops no matter what misdeeds they perpetrate. As I delighted in seeing his demonstration of not fearing consequences, inwardly I wondered if his timing was exposure for his upcoming movie. Police Unions all over the country have vowed to boycott his films, which always drives more into the theaters. I do not doubt Quentin’s passion for those who are being victimized by racist cops, but I don’t think he minds being in the news.

The Hateful Eight is a western due in theaters by Christmas and as a true fan I am excited for more western themed films by him.  I have met Quentin several times and found him to be fascinating and personally nice to me. I  thrilled hearing him discuss back stories of how he made Pulp Fiction and others.

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jackie-brown

A few years ago I went to a screening of “JACKIE BROWN”,  a movie he made in 1997. “JACKIE BROWN” is based on a book by Elmore Leonard, RUM PUNCH.  The storyline is a bad guy, Ordell Robbie (Samuel L Jackson), is smuggling his half million dollar profits made by illegal gun sales from Mexico to LA, with the aid of a flight attendant, Jackie Brown (Pam Grier). The plan is fouled by an informant and Jackie finds herself in a trap by the cops.  Brown masterfully outwits the bad guy and the cops with the help of a bail bonds man, Max Cherry (Robert Forster), who is a law abiding business man  struck by her charisma and charm.

On the bonus DVd, Tarantino talks about how he and Lawrence Bender went through a pile of scripts to choose RUM PUNCH, as a project. However, when I saw the movie with the director and listened to him talk about it, he told a different story.

Quentin lived in South Bay and Torrance when he was growing up, and told us he regularly shoplifted at K-Mart as a teen. He took CD’s, clothes, and books for an extended time, never getting caught. One day on one of these forays, RUM PUNCH  caught his eye and he stuffed it in his pants. He got caught, had to pay a fine and do some community service. The next week he went back and stole it again. When RUM PUNCH came up in the submitted scripts, the incident came flashing back into his mind and he decided to make the movie-Tarantino style. He changed the name and the color of the star, as well as some other points.

Pam Grier said the same night how she came into the project. She was shopping at Hollywood and Highland (near my own residence) in Hollywood one day when she saw Quentin “macking on some white girl” and he came over to her. He told her he was a big fan and had a part for her in an upcoming movie (Jackie Brown). She said she was interested and told Tarantino to send her the script. He agreed and she asked how he could manage that (she lived in New York)? He muttered “I’ll find you”. True to his word, she came home one day months later in New York, and her doorman had a package with postage due. “That mother f***er didn’t even have enough for the postage”. She read it and loved it, thinking she was targeted for the role Bridget Fonda played. She was stunned to find out she would play the lead, which she did magnificently.

Jackie Brown is one of my favorite Quentin Tarantino movies. Constructed beautifully, it stands the test of time. Here is what he said in New York last week that is pissing off so many.

Welcome to the new look and content….

A new look and fresh content has arrived.  Last month I posted several “tastes” of my newest book “CALIFORNIA BEAT POETRY- NUMBER 2” with yours truly reading some of the poems.

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I have revamped the look of this place, and will offer a weekly look at things that cross my path and other beatnik thoughts and items I am puzzling over.

 

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Feel free to comment or contact me at :jkb817@gmail.com.

I am on Facebook.com/bucherjk and Twitter.com/bucherjk

My books are on Amazon : http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0988930587?keywords=john%20bucher&qid=1446395124&ref_=sr_1_4&s=books&sr=1-4

Last week while I was coming back from the post office I encountered the crew from Jimmy Kimmel and ended up on the Holloween show:

On Friday I will talk about Quentin Tarrentino and his new movie about to debut. Having met him a few times and hearing his back stories about some of his favorite  works, I will feature an older movie he made- Jackie Brown. See you then.

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Wild – The Movie

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I have seen some worth while movies lately, EXODUS-GODS AND KINGS and SELMA, but the one I have been waiting for, WILD, is out now and it is worth putting on your list. This Oscar worthy story was also my favorite book for 2013.  Cheryl Strayed was unknown to most of us when she told her story of her own failures and broken life. Growing up, her mother struggled in an abusive relationship, they moved to Minnesota and built a house on 40 acres without electricity, water, or indoor plumbing. Cheryl went off to college to graduate magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota. While she was a senior , her mother became very sick with lung cancer and died. Strayed worked as a waitress and a multitude of jobs as she wrote and traveled around the country. Her grief over her mother surfaced in self-destructive behavior, heroin use and having many sexual partners. On a whim at first, she found a book about hiking the Pacific Crest tail, that spans 1100 miles from Mexico to Canada across the rough mountains of California. Her book still sells world-wide and is one the best written accounts of a single woman’s triumph over some the hardest days some people will ever face. I was lucky to meet her last year and hear her own way of telling this real life account. This book still inspires me.

me and cheryl strayed

The movie is crafted to include enough to stay true to the soul of the book and give you the great feeling of going with her on the incredibly difficult journey. REESE WITHERSPOON  surprised me with her adaptation into a brave hiker facing elements that would try a seasoned Navy Seal. Her portrayal of Cheryl makes the movie a must see and Oscar worthy. When I was in my 40’s I felt the need to do more with my life, mountain biking, skiing, and hiking, to see what my limits were. I climbed Pikes Peak twice, and these one day events do not compare with her 1100 mile odyssey, but I did learn how it feels to give everything you have physically and mentally and still need more from somewhere to reach to top. How Cheryl found the will and courage to not quit is baffling. Along the way she found herself again and found she was one of those rare individuals who can accomplish the impossible. However, as a writer I feel the book and the movie would have never been made had not she perfected her craft as a writer and made this a special gift to all of us at Christmas. Buy the book and see the movie!