Daily Dojo

I Wish…

April 3rd, 2013

There were more shows like JUSTIFIED…

Maybe there are and I haven’t yet discovered them (I hope, I hope)… but daaayemm… JUSTIFIED is awesome. I read the short story it was based on (because, well, I’m crazy like that) and it very nearly mirrors the pilot episode (except for a crucial difference in the ending) from the first season, but the beautiful thing is how this show harkens back to that beginning (”Raylan and me, we dug coal together”) yet still evolves over the past three seasons… Raylan’s complicated family history and loss of his father (a good-bye I’ve never seen in before) resounded from where it once began, and let’s not forget the show turned a one time homicidal neo-Nazi into a sympathetic, tragic figure… one that scares you and yet you secretly root for…

And there are no throwaway characters anywhere, every single small or supporting role matters…

This season has been just off the hook excellent, to the point I’m very sad that it was the season finale last night.

Because now we have to wait for the next season…

Just The Facts, Ma’am…

April 2nd, 2013

Oh, the internets is so much fun, isn’t it?

Just so we’re clear, there’s a decided difference between facts and opinions… it seems that there’s more than a few folks battling on the internets who can’t seem to tell the difference between the two…

Here’s an example of an opinion, one I heard often from my days as a video store clerk…

PULP FICTION is a much better movie than FOREST GUMP (I actually dig both movies, but this is something I heard from movie geeks, so stay with me).

Now, I’m sure that for a lot of people out there (especially those who don’t care for violent movies), GUMP is a better movie, and that for others of a certain generation, PULP is head and shoulders above it…

If someone were to state a personal preference for one or the other, I wouldn’t have an issue with it. They’re simply sharing their opinion based on their tastes and preferences.

Where people have been going off the rails with it as of late is with facts… for example, of the two movies above, which one made more money when released?

It was GUMP… via Box Office Mojo:
Domestic: $329,694,499 48.7%
+ Foreign: $347,693,217 51.3%
= Worldwide: $677,387,716

PULP’s take…
Domestic: $107,928,762 50.5%
+ Foreign: $106,000,000 49.5%
= Worldwide: $213,928,762

That’s a lot of money for both (and considering Pulp only cost 12 mil, it was extremely profitable) but it’s clear, from the numbers alone, that GUMP made more money… so why would someone argue that it was less successful?

A reasonable person wouldn’t, however, that doesn’t seem to stop such discourse from occurring A LOT these days. Trust me, I’ve heard it.

I had the same argument online some time ago with an internet troll who claimed that GARDEN STATE was a total failure… which was nuts, look at this from BO mojo

Domestic: $26,782,316 74.8%
+ Foreign: $9,043,000 25.2%
= Worldwide: $35,825,316

That’s off a budget of 2.5 million dollars. That’s a great exchange… but let’s not limit it to just money, what do the critics think? Well, on RT has it at 86% positive for critics… okay, fuck the critics, what did audiences think of it? Via RT, it was at 86%

So critics loved it, audiences (a clear majority) loved it, how in any world could someone make the claim that it was a failure… well, according to the troll, it was a failure simply because HE didn’t like it. Ergo, it FAILED completely. And not just for him, but for everybody (he was clear that it was an abject failure for everyone involved and a blight on Braff’s career)… that’s his opinion.

And, well… he’s wrong on the facts. It was actually a success. He may not like it, but there it is… full disclosure, my best bud is in that movie, I happened to have loved it, as did the Samurai Lady… but facts are facts, it was a complete success.

Said troll was projecting his taste and trying to use it to bend reality. It’s nuts, but it happens.

I see this in political discourse, someone doesn’t like the President, so they start humping false stories that support said dislike, for example, the deficit has doubled since he took office (it’s actually shrunk) or that businesses have suffered (Wall Street profits are at an all time high, worst socialist President ever) or whatever the meme of the day is for those who hate on the President… there’s a lot of those…

And hey, certainly one is free to like or dislike whomever or whatever they please, but get the actual facts straight.

There’s this idea out there that just because someone can have an opinion, that automatically it has value… no, it does not, not all opinions are created equal (the right to have an opinion is, that’s of great value, but the substance of said opinion itself, that depends on content)… some are informed, some are uninformed, and some are just crazy (the latter reserved for high ranking NRA officials) and yet too often dissenting opinions are presented side by side as if equal (especially on political pundit shows) and, well, they’re not, some are informed and supported by facts, some are not, and some are pulled straight from crazy town ether (see Bachmann, Michelle)… and if an opinion butts up against a fact, go with the facts, please… facts are facts, and they’re either with you or against you…

I’ve nothing against opinions, for what it’s worth, but I prefer informed ones over the uninformed ones… don’t you?

This Just In…

April 1st, 2013

The news of the day…

The NRA reverses its previous positions, comes out and baldly states that regulating firearms by requiring owner and operator licenses, safety tests and classes, background checks, will actually save thousands of lives and pledge to use their considerable clout to push the laws through Congress.

Congress finally agrees to chuck Obamacare but proposes to replace it with a single payer, Medicare for all program to insure each and every person in America gets healthcare… admitting that this will save a lot more money and lives in the long run.

At the same time, they admit that public servants such as school teachers, police officers and firefighters actually ARE a valuable part of our society and propose doubling the pay for each, especially teachers, and structure a benefits program that mirrors what each member of Congress gets..

And Congress decides to funnel more money into education and less into the pockets of defense contractors.

And pass laws requiring long, terrible criminal sentences for bank and securities fraud, sentences far worse than what drug dealers receive.

The Republican party admits that their party has been a haven for bigotry, ignorance and hate groups and proposes a zero tolerance policy toward those who champion bigotry, homophobia and intolerance. They tell Donald Trump if he has a problem with their position, he’s free to start his own political party of rich racist white guys, in the meantime, take that orange top and shove it right up his bigoted butt.

And the GOP admits that the government actually does quite a lot of things right (see firefighters, cops, teachers, etc), our government did put a man on the moon, after all, among other things. They realize taxes go to provide valuable services and protection for all citizens, and represent an investment in the future of our country.

Democrats grow a spine and actually champion laws that the majority of the country support (see above gun safety laws, single payer health care, better pay for teachers, etc) instead of simply grabbing the less offensive conservative policies and claiming them as their own (see Obamacare)… they also reverse the Patriot Act and champion free wi-fi for everyone in the country, to much acclaim.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (and their friends) are arrested for war crimes and shipped to Hague.

Media programs actually fact check their guests, and each other, live on the air. Blatant falsehoods (known in the industry as a “Romney” or “Romneys”) are not tolerated.

If only it wasn’t the first of April, right?

Friday Fight Scene - War of the Worlds

March 29th, 2013

Okay, so we’re back with this… today’s fight scene is a tad different than the norm… it’s the initial fight between Tim Robbins and Tom Cruise in WAR OF THE WORLDS… here we go…

Now while this fight isn’t as dynamic as one might find in MI III, it’s still a classic piece of work simply due to the context… Cruise knows that if wingnut Robbins fires at the aliens, it will give them away to all of them… so they have a silent, powerful struggle over a shotgun as Cruise’s daughter looks on… not only does he have to stop Robbins, he doesn’t dare make any noise, either.

And he’s losing to the bigger man.

This fight is a setup for something bigger, of course, a big realization Cruise comes to later regarding his host (Robbins) and a turning point for his character… and that’s why this scene is so awesome, beyond the obvious suspense with the aliens, it’s about character…

In Which I Share A Few Words About Blogging…

March 27th, 2013

Hey, how are you?

Been awhile, I know. The blogging thing, I mean. I know, you’re like, “what the hell, Josh?”

See, the thing is, I write a lot more in other fields (my professional fields) and sometimes there’s simply nothing left at the end of the day for the blog. I’m a huge fan of blogs, I read them every day at breakfast and check in before I go to bed, but I find myself in that weird zone of, well, what do I write about? What do I have to say here?

When I began this blog, it was mostly about theatre and stuff like that, because I was still, at that time, a very active playwright. And the timing was fortuitous, since at that time there was a vibrant theatre blogging community and we went back and forth on the subject of theatre and whatnot… there were some fantastic discussions and some glorious flamewars, among other things.

As far as I know, that’s not really occurring, many of those don’t blog any longer or, like me, they blog about other things… for my part, I stopped proactively pursuing a career as a playwright (I stopped writing plays) to work on screenplays and fiction, among other things. I had a kid (and now I have two!) and the life of a penniless playwright wasn’t nearly romantic as it once was. And, to be honest, theatre itself changed, at least the community I was involved in… downtown indie theatre got a LOT more expensive, too expensive, really, considering the mostly zero returns.

Or perhaps I just moved on. It happens. I loved doing theatre, and would welcome a chance to do more… but I don’t miss a lot of the hassle… and, in the end, if the hassle outweighs the bennies, you move on… and for the time being re theatre, the hassles far outweigh the bennies… I have stories in that regard, but I’m not going to share them, not yet.

So I can write about screenwriting, and have… but there is a vast and vibrant screenwriter blogging world out there (and I’m fortunate enough to call a couple of the best ones at that friends) and, to be honest, I’m not yet ready to share a lot of that, either… it’s a journey I’m in the middle of, I guess, and I always prefer to have perspective whenever possible.

So I blog about movie fight scenes (something of a specialty of mine) and the occasional snark or, even better, pimping some of my friends’ work whenever possible (my friend Bob has a movie starting to shoot in Vancouver, my bud Ato is shooting the second season of his series, and my buddy Todd’s thriller novel continues to get good reviews, so check it out)…

And as much as I like writing about martial arts and TUF (the current season is pretty fantastic, imo, much better than last season), I find I’m usually too exhausted to write something substantial enough to share on the blog, and usually by the time I’ve found the space to write it, everything’s usually been said on facebook…

So I do that, but the real truth of the matter is, most of the time I don’t have time to write anything in the blog other than a couple sentences… when I embarked on this blog, I had no kids, a part time office job and a video game habit that would interfere with my writing jags… I wrote when I felt like it, and if I didn’t feel like it, I didn’t. The blog was good exercise in that regard, it gave me a reason to write even if I didn’t feel like it…

But now, these days, I have two very active sons, I don’t play video games and more importantly, I write every day, rain or shine, sink or swim… and I’m very happy with that, but some things fall by the wayside (video games for one) and so blogging has suffered.

Which is okay, since I began this blog mainly has a form of fun and word exercise, nothing more. But I felt I should explain.

BTW, this is what is known as, in the blogging world, as navel-gazing… heheheheh…

But it’s not over, it’s just evolving… I will be doing more here, I promise, there are things to talk about as the days march on and we wait to see what the tide brings us all… it’s important to acknowledge that the rests and the spaces between the musical notes are just as important as the notes themselves… in life as much as in music…

So the blog has been on a rest, but there will be music to follow, I promise…


March 11th, 2013

My play SPOOGE THE SEX AND LOVE MONOLOGUES is available for free on Monday, March 11th via Original Works Publishing, so please like their page and pick up a copy of my infamous play SPOOGE from Amazon…

UPDATED… OW posted an interview with me about the play here: #FREEPLAYMONDAY Q&A with Spooge playwright Joshua James | The Carriage Return Original Works Publishing

Blogging Break…

February 28th, 2013

So sorry for the unannounced blog silence, at the moment juggling a few things that are taking up space, time and, well, everything… will be back posting regularly soon.

Creatures of Appetite by Todd Travis: Free Giveaway

February 16th, 2013

My buddy Todd Travis has a book out, and is sponsoring a free giveaway weekend on Amazon, so I wanted to give you a head’s up, it’s called Creatures of Appetite. It’s a fun, fast thriller and I think you’ll dig it, so get it now while it’s free… it’s actually listed as the #20 bestseller in suspense thrillers (free) here’s the blurb:

For fans of DEAN KOONTZ and THOMAS HARRIS, a tale of snowbound terror and suspense:

They call it the Heartland Child Murders.
Everyone else calls it a nightmare.
Locked doors dont stop him.
He leaves no trace behind.
He only takes little girls.
His nickname

The Iceman.

A deranged serial killer roams wintry rural Nebraska targeting little girls with a demented purpose that no one can fathom.

Special Agent EMMA KANE, a former DC cop and damaged goods now with the FBI, is assigned to baby-sit burned out profiler JACOB THORNE, once the best in the business but now said to have lost his edge, as they both fly to Nebraska to catch this maniac.

Thorne is erratic, abrasive and unpredictably brilliant, but what he and Kane find in the heartland is much more than anyone bargained for, especially when the Iceman challenges them personally.

The clock is ticking and a little girls life is on the line.

And maybe even more with that, once they find out what hes really up to.

Todd Travis

Get it free here: Creatures of Appetite

Friday Fight Scene(s) - The Seven Samurai & The Magnificent Seven

February 15th, 2013

Today we’re going to feature a fight scene that was replicated in two movies, one of my favorites films, The Seven Samurai, and it’s American Western version known as The Magnificent Seven.

My favorite scene is the wise warrior who reluctantly demonstrates his skills, seen here in the original:

The character was played by James Coburn in the US version, and he rocked it. He had fewer lines than any other member of the Seven, yet he was the most memorable (he actually delivers my favorite line in the whole film). Here’s the same scene as the above (forgive the quality, it was the only video of the scene I could find)… check it out.

It wasn’t, of course, THE EXACT same scene, because now GUNS have been added to the mix, and that changed things, but the essence of the scene is the same, the structure is the same and the impact, the same if not more.

Grotowski has said, “good ideas are borrowed, great ideas are stolen” and we see that here (actually, I don’t know if Grotowski actually originated that or appropriated it, as per his statement)… it’s not actually STOLEN, of course (the US film rights were paid for)… but the take on that is, when something’s awesome, you bring it home to what it means TO YOU… cowboys and samurais seem like they should be far apart, but, as we can see from this, they’re not (and indeed, this was part of a long tradition of westerns and samurai movies influencing each other), the idea cuts to the heart of what it means to be a warrior and a master of arms.

What are the optimal biases to overcome? (Aaron Swartz’s Raw Thought)

February 12th, 2013

We finished up with Aaron’s RAW NERVE series yesterday, but he does have a bonus post here called What are the optimal biases to overcome? (Aaron Swartz’s Raw Thought) which I also recommend.

I wanted to take a week and highlight every post in the series simply because it had such a profound effect on me, in many ways, more than I think I can cover in a mere blog post. It just hit me where I live, I guess.

I also picked up the free ebook THE FLINCH Aaron recommended (and was the basis for Lean Into The Pain) and read that, which also rocked me to my core, but in a different way. I realized that I have actually DONE much of that, that many of the high points of my life were when I did exactly that, and the low points were when I flinched.

I would say the same is true of my best friend, too, a very accomplished fellow.

What the series really did was articulate a process I sensed but sometimes circled around in my own life and in the world, and perhaps that’s why I felt it so much. I wanted to pass it along, and I hope it has as much reverb for you as it did for me.

We really suffered a loss when this talented young man took his own life, and that’s enough for me to boycott MIT for the rest of time.

Fix the machine, not the person (Aaron Swartz’s Raw Thought)

February 11th, 2013

Last post in Aaron Swartz’s RAW NERVE series, and it’s called Fix the machine, not the person (Aaron Swartz’s Raw Thought).

“In 1967, Edward Jones and Victor Harris gathered a group of college students and asked them to judge another students exam (the student was a fictional character, but lets call him Jim). The exam always had one question, asking Jim to write an essay on Fidel Castro as if [he] were giving the opening statement in a debate. But what sort of essay Jim was supposed to write varied: some of them required Jim to write a defense of Castro, others required Jim to write a critique of Castro, the rest left the choice up to Jim. The kids in the experiment were asked to read Jims essay and then were asked whether they thought Jim himself was pro- or anti-Castro.

Jones and Harris werent expecting any shocking results here; their goal was just to show the obvious: that people would conclude Jim was pro-Castro when he voluntarily chose write to a pro-Castro essay, but not when he was forced to by the teacher. But what they found surprised them: even when the students could easily see the question required Jim to write a pro-Castro essay, they still rated Jim as significantly more pro-Castro. It seemed hard to believe. Perhaps some of the subjects were inattentive and did not clearly understand the context, they suspected.

So they tried again. This time they explained the essay was written for a debate tournament, where the student had been randomly assigned to either the for or against side of the debate. They wrote it in big letters on the blackboard, just to make this perfectly clear. But again they got the same results even more clearly this time. They still couldnt believe it. Maybe, they figured, students thought Jims arguments were so compelling he must really believe them to be able to come up with them.

So they tried a third time this time recording Jim on tape along with the experimenter giving him the arguments to use. Surely no one would think Jim came up with them on his own now. Again, the same striking results: students were persuaded Jim believed the arguments he said, even when they knew he had no choice in making them.3

This was an extreme case, but we make the same mistake all the time. We see a sloppily-parked car and we think what a terrible driver, not he must have been in a real hurry. Someone keeps bumping into you at a concert and you think what a jerk, not poor guy, people must keep bumping into him. A policeman beats up a protestor and we think what an awful person, not what terrible training. The mistake is so common that in 1977 Lee Ross decided to name it the fundamental attribution error: we attribute peoples behavior to their personality, not their situation.4″

There’s a lot more to that, and I suggest you read it all… but for a more personal example, small children, I’m a parent now of two very rowdy young boys, especially my youngest. Before I had kids, I’d see a parent out with a howling toddler in the midst of a tantrum and reflexively think, “wow, they must be sucky parents”… of course, that’s a false assumption because, well, throwing tantrums is something ALL toddlers do, even the best ones, especially if they’re tired or don’t get what they want. I didn’t understand that then. I sure as hell do now.

Not that they’re are no bad parents, there are, but that snap judgment did just what the above described. Attribute behavior to a person and not their situation.

Other parents get it, we share a common experience and understanding, in fact whenever I get together with the parents of my son’s friends, we’re always like, “oh, you’re going through that, too?”

Because they know the situation and are in the middle of it. And thank the Buddha for friends like that.

So read the rest of the post here: Fix the machine, not the person (Aaron Swartz’s Raw Thought).