2007 NaNoWriMo Winner

Tonight at 7:03 I put the final thousand words in to the novel, stopping at an awesome 50,017 words. My victory was immediately followed by a bottle of thirty dollar champaign and a victory dance to the Editors newest CD.

It was one hell of a challenge, but I did it.

winner

Only problem is, the book isn’t done. I mean, I’ve got another 30,000 words at least. But I don’t see that as a bad thing.

Professor Clubs Caveman Myths

From USA Today: 

The guys in ABC’s Cavemen look the part from the neck up, but that’s where their similarity to Neanderthals ends, and that’s too bad, says a professor who has spent almost 20 years teaching students about the real thing.

“The commercials were clever, but the sitcom is just a tremendously missed opportunity,” says John Barthelme, a professor at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. “They’re just young guys with hair that talk about chicks.”

Barthelme’s course, “The Neanderthals: Fact, Fiction and Fantasy,” explores the popular misconceptions about these pre-humans that have been perpetuated through literature, movies and now television.

To debunk some of the myths, students read a number of novels, including William Golding’s The Inheritors and Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear, and watch such movies as Iceman, Caveman and Encino Man.

Then they learn how popular culture got it all wrong.

Neanderthals are “more sophisticated than we give them credit for,” says Lindsey Taylor, a senior anthropology major who took the class last year.

The real Neanderthals were very intelligent “evolutionary cousins” to humans who lived between 240,000 and 28,000 years ago, says Barthelme. They stood upright, not hunched over. And although they lived in caves in parts of Europe, they also built huts with mammoth bones and furs in other areas.

They also made exquisite stone tools, says Barthelme, who learned how to replicate these ancient artifacts through his archaeological studies in Kenya. He teaches the class how to make cutting implements out of obsidian or chert, an extremely dense quartz. Barthelme says students are always amazed by how sharp the tools are.

This month, a dead deer will hang from the ceiling of a carwash on the campus, and Barthelme’s students, handmade stone tools ready to go, will cut the carcass for meat.

This has been the culminating assignment of his course since he started teaching it almost 20 years ago. (In other years he also has used sheep, chickens and rabbits.)

After the students finish their work, they enjoy grilled venison in one of the dining halls on campus — but they have to bring their stone tools to cut their dinner.

Barthelme says he doesn’t require any of the students to eat the meat or even to dress the carcass if they don’t want to, but everyone has to make the tools.

The final assignment for the course? To write a creative, entertaining, scientifically accurate movie script about Neanderthals. Barthelme says he has received a lot of good work over the years — much better than Cavemen.

Strike!

The Writer’s Guild has initiated their strike. Since I have to be to work in twenty minutes, I’ll post this clip from Variety and comment later:

Hollywood is going to all-out war, after last-minute talks gave false hope that today’s strike by the Writers Guild of America could be averted — or at least delayed for a few days.

Talks collapsed at 9:30 p.m. PST Sunday after more than 10 hours of last-ditch negotiations, only a few hours before the official start of the strike by the WGA at 12:01 am PST.

At that point, the WGA East had already gone on strike in New York just after midnight local time — even though negotiators for writers and companies were still talking in Los Angeles.

“When we asked if they would ‘stop the clock’ for the purpose of delaying the strike to allow negotiations to continue, they refused,” said AMPTP president Nick Counter. “We made an attempt at meeting them in a number of their key areas including Internet streaming and jurisdiction in New Media. Ultimately, the guild was unwilling to compromise on most of their major demands. It is unfortunate that they choose to take this irresponsible action.”

No new talks were scheduled. And the abrupt ending to Sunday’s talks — which had sparked a small wave of optimism that a strike might be averted — may deepen resentment against the WGA.

For its part, the WGA announced after negotiations cratered that it had withdrawn its proposal to double DVD residuals during the session. Counter had insisted last week that the DVD demand was a stumbling block to making a deal.

Additionally, the WGA said, the AMPTP still insisted on no jurisdiction for most of new media writing; no economic proposal for the part of new media writing that would be covered; Internet downloads at the DVD rate; no residual for streaming video of theatrical product; and a “promotional” proposal that allows re-use of movies and TV shows on any platform with no residual; and a “window” of free reuse on the Internet.

“The AMPTP made no response to any of the other proposals that the WGA has made since July,” the WGA added. “The AMPTP proposed that today’s meeting be “off the record,” meaning no press statements, but they have reneged on that.”

Picketing will start at 9 a.m. today more than a dozen high-profile locations in Hollywood with guild members told that they’re expecting to spend at least 20 hours a week on picket lines. Targets include CBS Radford, CBS Television City, Culver Studios, Disney, Fox, Hollywood Center, NBC, Prospect, Paramount, Raleigh, Sony, Sunset Gower, Universal and Warner Bros.

A flurry of back-channel efforts to stave off the strike culminated in the Sunday meeting in Los Angeles that began at 11 a.m. Federal mediator Juan Carlos Gonzalez, who joined the talks a week ago, summoned both sides to the Sunday meeting in the wake of the WGA officially declaring the start of the strike.

Several CEOs were believed to be pushing to jump-start the bargaining process — CBS topper Les Moonves, Disney’s Robert Iger, Fox’s Peter Chernin and Warner Bros. Barry Meyer — but none were among the 25 or so attendees at Sunday’s session.

The strike heightens the likelihood that the AMPTP will turn quickly to launch negotiations with the Directors Guild of America, which has a June 30 contract expiration. Should the DGA make a deal in the next few weeks, it would likely be trumpeted by studios and nets as a repudiation of the WGA’s contention that the companies are not willing to engage in serious bargaining on tough issues.

Labor experts have warned that once the WGA goes on strike, a resolution is not likely to emerge any time soon — particularly with the DGA and AMPTP expected to start negotiations later this month.

“The parties are so far apart on core economic issues that it’s probably not going to resolved quickly,” said Anthony Haller, a partner at the law firm Blank Rome. “The core issues in this dispute aren’t the kind that can be subject to the usual sort of horse-trading you see in typical labor negotiations. It looks like the WGA does not think that the DGA will be strong enough to get what the writers believe they need.”

Until about a month ago, the WGA had been widely expected to not reach a deal by Oct. 31 and then work under an expired contract while the DGA negotiated a deal before the end of the year. But WGA leaders became convinced that such a strategy wouldn’t get the WGA what it wanted and decided instead to threaten to walk out as soon as the guild contract expired.

WGA negotiating committee chief John Bowman has acknowledged the rumors of a WGA strike raised the likelihood that the Directors Guild of America will make a deal soon with the AMPTP. He said that even if the DGA did come to a deal with AMPTP on Internet issues, the writers will not back down.

“The DGA can’t make this deal for us,” he added. “We won’t accept a bad deal.”

Sunday’s last-ditch effort focused on those viewed as voices of moderation, such as “ER” showrunner and former WGA president John Wells, along with WGA negotiating committee members who are also high-profile showrunners such as Marc Cherry (“Desperate Housewives”), Neal Baer (“Law & Order: SVU) and Carlton Cuse (“Lost”).

Conversations among key players from both sides focused on exploring possible concessions in hopes of luring the WGA back to the bargaining table and away from picket lines.

The strike caps a frustrating period for moderates in Hollywood, who were often struck by the unprecedented levels of hostility in three months of negotiations. The two sides were so far apart on so many issues that key players on both sides were seeking not to craft an entire deal but to simply delay the strike for a few days in order to give negotiations another chance.

The major focus of the latest initiative appeared to be to get talks moving without the relentless saber-rattling that’s dominated for the past year with both sides having descended into a bitter battle of words with little actual back-and-forth bargaining. Counter and WGA West president Patric Verrone have repeatedly taken potshots at each other — prompting worries that the relationship between the two men is so damaged that it’s become much more difficult to start moving toward a resolution.

Most of the prior negotiating sessions have ended with both sides issuing vituperative comments. Often, the question of when the next meeting would take place was left unresolved.

Prospects for success out of Sunday’s session had been mixed at best, given the rocky history of this set of negotiations. Additionally, the WGA was already in strike mode over the weekend — featuring a Saturday meeting of 300 strike captains at WGA West headquarters.

Though top execs such as Moonves and Meyer participated in the AMPTP’s pre-negotiations presentation to the news media in July, day-to-day negotiations were handled by Counter, AMPTP VP Carol Lombardini and the top labor relations execs from studios and nets. As a result, the AMPTP spent the first three months of negotiations with a revolutionary residuals revamp proposal that was widely derided by the WGA, leading to a 90% strike authorization.

By the time the AMPTP pulled the residuals revamp off the table on Oct. 16, relations between the two sides had soured enough to diminish the prospects of making a deal.

When the WGA took nine of its 26 proposals off the table two weeks later, Counter responded by saying that negotiations could not continue unless the WGA backed off on its proposals for increased residuals in DVD and Internet downloads.

For studios and networks, the key area for bending would most likely take place in new-media residuals and new-media jurisdiction. The WGA is seeking 2.5% in new-media residuals and TV minimums for work in made-for-new media; the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers is asking for the status quo.

WGA West president Patric Verrone emailed members Sunday, urging them to hit the picket lines.

“Pickets will be the most visible and effective part of the strike in the next few weeks,” he said. “They make us visible in a way that is outside the AMPTP’s control. They deter and often prevent scabs from taking our jobs. They disrupt production, especially when members of other unions honor our line. But most importantly, a large turnout of pickets demonstrates visibly and irrefutably to the AMPTP that we are serious about getting a substantive, fair deal.”

Verrone also warned that participation is mandatory and asked each member to contribute 20 hours a week.

“If there is a personal circumstance making strike support duties impossible when requested, members are required to arrange alternate times,” he added. “Adjustments will be made on a case-by-case basis through the individual captains. Flexibility should not, however, be mistaken for optional participation.”

The requirement to picket is certain to create awkward situations on both sides.

One scribe explained that he was incensed after getting a WGA memo informing him that he would be required to picket the studio he works most closely with. The scribe said he’s perturbed at the WGA for putting him in the position of being seen holding a picket sign in the sight of execs who have paid him big money to write projects.

“This is a potential relationship killer, and it’s wrong of the guild to force me to picket the people who’ve done so much for my career,” the writer said.

The picketing instructions also told WGA members to not talk to the press and to not bring hors d’oeuvres. “This is not a posh strike,” one captain said in the message to members.

(Michael Fleming contributed to this report.)

“Hollywood has no fury like a writer scorned. ” – Kurt Hunt

Meeting Matthew Good

Matthew Good performed at Stages in Kingston this past week as part of his “Nothing to Hide” Solo Acoustic tour.  This was my third time seeing Matt, catching him before in Ottawa in 2003 and in Kingston in 2005.  The show opened with a performance from Dala, a gorgeous acoustic female duo from Canada.  Out of all the performers that have opened for Matt at previous shows, these women were by far the best.

Matt took the stage soon after the girls finished up.  A plus with an acoustic shows is that setup time is cut largely in half.  I’ll admit I was weary about the show, thinking that without the band it wouldn’t be as good, but I was greatly mistaken.  Matt’s performance was unbelievable.  He interacted with the audience, carried a joke from 2005 when he admitted he’d thought Stages was a strip club and even dedicated the final song “True Love Will Find You In The End” to his EXPLETIVE DELETED ex-wife, Jenn.  The highlight for me was hearing Suburbia and Black Helicopter, two of my favorite songs.

After the show, Alex and I had the opportunity to meet Matt.  Talk about a surreal experience!  Matt has had a huge influence on my life for the past ten years, his music has helped me through countless problems, including, but not limited to relationships and writer’s block.  I remember exactly where I was whenever I heard a song for the first time.  In fact, the first time I heard “Born Losers” I was in Nairobi, it was 1AM in the middle of a torrential downpour and I was using a computer that was running on generator power.  See what i mean?  Anyway, Matt was very genuine, we shook hands, exchanged pleasantries, snappped a few pictures; I couldn’t believe I was standing next to Matt Good.  Much to our surprise he announced he’d be playing a US tour in March, with stops in Buffalo, Rochester and New York (as well as several other locations around the country).  The entire ride home, Alex and I were on cloud nine.  I kept repeating over and over, “I can’t believe we met Matt frickin’ Good!”

All together an amazing time.

Editors – The Racing Rats

After a stellar performance at BBC Radio 1’s Electric Proms, I’ve become an even bigger fan of the UK band The Editors. Their newest video “The Racing Rats” is fantastic to watch, but unfortunatly there isn’t an adequate copy floating around the internet (The audio and video don’t sink up.) I stumbled across this BBC Radio 2 concert that’s just as good.

I like the Editors for several reasons. First and foremost they sound great. Their first single, Munich, still ranks as one of my favorite songs ever. Second, having seen them in concert I know they are passionate about their music. Watching Tom perform, its easy to see that he immerses himself in his music and let’s emotion take over. The Editors remind me a lot of a 1980’s U2, back when Bono wasn’t saving the ‘starvin children.’

Check them out.