Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Greece (1996)

     I would like to pretend that I am a better scholar of the history of Ancient Greece so as to not need a refresher before taking up a new book.  Such is probably not the case, however, and it is undoubtedly better to be safe than sorry.  So, before I sat down with Peter Greene's The Hellenistic Age: A History (2007), I thought it would be a good idea to remind myself of just what the Hellenisitc Age was and what came before it.  Hence, the trip through the many maps and decent accounting of the era in The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Greece (1996).
     There are some problems when getting history from a book that needs to put a map on – on average – every other page.  The chronology gets a little confusing as proceeds forward in each section in terms of what the subject is and what the map is about, but the next sub-chapter can jump forward or back in time by as much as a century.  Likewise, where in the Ancient world the map is depicting can cause an odd revisit of information with maybe a new morsel that does or doesn't offer any new insight.
     What I did get from Robert Morkot's book was a good refresher of the Greeks presence in Italy and southern France.  I completely forgot that the Greeks had a colony/city (Massalia) where present day Marsaille is.  I did not know that one of the reasons why one former city's temple of Hera remained intact was because it was located near a swamp renowned for malaria (that is information that goes right into fantasy novel notes files).  While I did know that the Grecian city-states were no strangers to conflict,
     There are many other things I didn't know.  The Greeks were trading for tin from the British Isles in the 6th Century BC.  The Phoenecians (whatever happened to those guys?) and maybe the Greeks circumnavigated Africa by the 4th Century BC.  What has been known as the Dark Ages of Ancient Greece may have been much shorter than previously believed (I prefer the older understanding, but if it isn't true then I need to reevaluate my understanding of subsequent events).  Where I tend to think of Macedon and coastal Thrace as effectively Grecian (and certainly Hellenistic), the Ancient Greeks tended to view their northern neighbors as decidedly un-Greek, even when they spoke a dialect of Greek.
     I think everyone knows that the Ancient Greeks were no strangers to war, but there is a period of time where all of the major players do not go more than three years without getting themselves involved in some military conflict, usually in foreign lands (for the Athenians, this was either to secure trading contracts for grain or to force other cities to give them money).  It becomes easy to understand how the Greeks – while spreading their culture far and wide – never managed to conquer and hold a great empire (for my purpose, I am going with the interpretation that Alexander the Great's empire was mostly a maintenance of the Persian Empire until it fell apart).  The endless fighting against each other was damaging enough, but they invited all of the the peoples who would seek to conquer them into Grecian affairs; in short, they brought it on themselves.
     I still find the history of Ancient Greece to be one of the most interesting to study (let's use that term loosely for me).  Perhaps it is because there has been such a fascination with the literature – be it the myths and legends or the plays of Ancient Athens – from the Victorian era forward and I am just another who was caught up in that.  Maybe it is because of my interest in the Ancient philosophy (still not enough to learn to read Ancient Greek and go to the source material, which is what my professors had to do when they were getting their undergrad degrees).  Maybe it is just the maps – lots of sea, lots of famous battles, and places that can still be visited.  I personally think that there is something very American in identifying with Ancient Athens (especially in the Periclean era), a cultural and military power that shaped and influenced their world – and one that had a mighty, often seen as cruel adversary Persia and a rival (or occasional ally) in Sparta that did not understand the power of the legacy Athens was building.
     This was a worthwhile – though not quick (for me) – way of making sure that I would not go into the real history book unprepared.  I would imagine most people would not make such an effort.  My interest in becoming more informed on the subject won out, however.  I expect to have the post about the Green book next week (where we will find out if this truly helped).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Descendants (2011) (Review)

     I watch a fair amount of movies, but I don't go out to see many.  The ones I do see in the theater tend to be genre films, but occasionally I get an offer to go see a movie that is (perhaps) more adult and worthwhile than Fright Night (2011), Conan the Barbarian (2011), or Final Destination 5 (2011).  Such was the case on Thanksgiving day when I got to see The Descendants (2011), at no personal expense.  This was not a film that I was clamoring to see; Clooney may be a good actor, but I don't feel a strong need to see his films.  I think the most recent one I had seen prior to The Descendants was Michael Clayton (2007), and that did not impress me at all.
     Having never read Kaui Hart Hemmings' novel, I cannot speak to how well the original story incorporated the competing elements of the very human crisis the King family is facing – particularly reluctant patriarch Matt (Clooney) – with the larger scale, non-crisis that surprisingly draws more attention from those who interact with Peter and his daughters.  Director Alexander Payne does not handle it very well, but he is saved by the restrained performances given by his veteran cast – Nick Krause doesn't quite find the tone for his character, and for that I do blame Payne.  Then again, Payne directed for a movie I hated – Election (1999) – and one I found to be wholly overloved – Sideways (2004) – which was somewhat redeemed by the cast.  Payne, from my limited exposure to his work, seems to not like people; he tears them down while trying to give a glimpse of their humanity.  That bleeds through a little in The Descendants, but it doesn't derail the story or ruin the experience.  Instead, Payne finds a way to use this conflict to keep the story messy in a compelling and real way.
     Clooney plays Matt King, a moderately wealthy lawyer who also happens to be descended from Hawaiian royalty.  He has a very large extended family that seems to live in a comfortable sense of disarray – many cousins whose financial situations are less (or much less) desirable than Matt's – and an immediate family from whom he has managed to emotionally divorce himself.  When the audience is introduced to Matt, he is lamenting that latter situation via the voice over.  I tend to despise the voice over. I view it, generally, as a failure of the director to find a way to express the same information through the actual scenes.  It works in The Descendants, as it feels like Matt has a running journal with himself, a type of self-therapy to keep it all together.  Payne keeps the voice overs coming for the first third of the film, but then they pretty much go away (leaving me again convinced that the director was convinced he couldn't find another way to convey the same information).  Clooney does a good job with the character, veering into Doug Ross only once or twice (if he borrowed from other roles he has played, I didn't catch it) to find a level of intensity that didn't otherwise seem to fit Peter.  This is where Clooney – no matter how good looking he is – can convince the audience that he is just an Everyman (albeit, his Everyman is of royal blood, a highly educated professional, and may trade his inheritance for an insane amount of money).  He and Payne find a way for Matt to have a managed collapse of his life while he is pulling himself together, an incredible feat to show on film.
Matt (Clooney) and Alexandra (Woodley) driving around, looking for information and being baffled at why the Sid character doesn't quite fit into the story.
     Most of the cast is good as well.  As noted earlier, Nick Krause (Sid) has some troubles being consistent or finding a tone with his character.  Robert Forster and Beau Bridges aren't given much to do, but both find ways to make their roles seem to fit into the story as absolute presences in Peter's life.  Shailene Woodley (Alexandra) isn't gifted with a great character, at least in the movie.  Alexandra is a problem child who is costing Peter $35,000/year to be watched in an elite boarding school and Matt doesn't trust he completely.  At the same time, he wants to go get her because he needs an ally and support in caring for his younger daughter and seems to think that by virtue of her being female she can do a better job than he can.  Alexandra has truly rewarding moments of that surprising maturity adolescents can have, and just as easily falls back into the confrontational bullshit that keeps adults from taking them seriously.  Amara Miller (Scottie) also isn't given a lot to do with her character other than be a precocious child, to act inappropriately in what are very minor acts of boundary testing or because she doesn't understand the weight of Matt's crises.  I won't complain about how these characters are written because I think that if one considers the characters from Matt's point of view, then one should understand that he doesn't understand them as well as he should, and the blanks that the audience gets are the for which he cannot account.
     There are moments of comic levity, but The Descendants never threatens to be a comedy.  At the same time it is never treading in the emotional deep end.  Like the character of Matt, the presentation is both reserved and confused (in a good way), breaking through every now and then when the emotional truth needs to win out.  It is a daring style that Payne adopts here, but he does it in such a way that – while it limits the amount of emotional investment one has for the characters – makes the audience very aware of just how universally human the central concepts are.
     The events in the movie feel a little too compressed.  To have both events unfolding on top of each other fees like a contrivance, one that probably feels more natural in written form.  There is no central message in The Descendants – it is willing to let its points be lost at times and contradicted, just like Matt as he has to sort through his feelings over his responsibility to his family and the larger family's legacy.  I think that this is a good film, and it has at its heart a very good story.  I expect Clooney to get an Academy Award nomination for his performance here.  To be fair, it is far better than the one that won him an award in Syriana (2005).
     I am glad I saw the movie, and would recommend it to others.  It is not as good as some of the other film's I've seen on my mother's dime – like The King's Speech (2010) – but decidedly better than others – Morning Glory (2010).  It is the best Alexander Payne movie I've seen to date, but I would sooner read the novel than give his other films a chance.  I would guess the strengths are the story and the cast, with Payne managing this one the best he could.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Stuffed COWS '11

     I find it hard to motivate myself to write a full post about anything in the wake of spending 34 hours running and playing Pathfinder Society Organized Play at Stuffed COWS – a local gaming convention hosted at the College of DuPage for (I believe) 13 years now.  That is much longer than my involvement with it, but I have been a regular for a few years now.  I started as a die-hard Arcanis player, but when that world changed rules systems, I was more interested in sticking with something similar to v3.5 than the (mostly) well developed world of Onara.
     So I am just posting this as a kind of filler.  It also seemed to make sense to write about this as soon as possible – The Descendants (2011) can wait a day or two.  Sorry if anyone was expecting something insightful today.
     I had a good time at the convention.  Two players told me that I ran the best table at which they played – at least up to the point they told me – and I felt good because I went out of my way to make sure I could manage the challenge for the PCs without risking it being a death trap.  None of the players who blitzed through an earlier scenario (under two and a half hours) seemed upset about having a lot of extra time on their hands; I did everything I could to make the experience memorable because of what they had their characters choose to do to overcome minor obstacles.  Yes, I felt very self-conscious running a scenario with a player who had already run it for me (he knows where I'm changing the mod or breaking rules on-the-fly), but I think the table enjoyed it and nobody told me I was doing it wrong.
I can across this picture and had to make a character for it.  The end result is Hedda Gørsyn, an Andoren Magus (Kensai)/Bard (Arcane Duelist) who is – at present – all utility, no AC, and little HP.   I just had a better sense of character for her than I did for the Tian Oracle, so it was another female character (and now they outnumber the males).
     I only was able to play three scenarios – this the curse of going up to Wisconsin to do Pathfinder at DCV (see The RPG Table Tent at Work and Play and The Problem Player at the Con posts).  My weredragon got to assert that she is the Sewer Dragon of Absalom.  I got to play a sadistic, but not unintelligent, goblin sneak-thief.  And I got to break out a new character – and had to choose a faction at the table – who was so far out of her element that it was scary.  Actually, that table didn't sit particularly well with me.  There was a teenager who brought real immaturity to the table (not the adult immaturity to which I have become accustomed), and I really don't care for that.  There was a revisit of the theme of a player demanding that all of the spotlight falls on him and not playing well with others (still not me), and of leaving my underpowered PC to fend for herself.
This is a modified piece by Adam Majka with the Pathfinder logo under it.  I used a different version in one of the table tents I brought for players.  I like how this image came out so much, but I wasn't going to drain the ink on the color printer to print it out.
     I got to see some of the table tents I designed in use with other players.  I got to take some pictures of other tents in use.  I was told I won over one player to the use of the table tent, and another commented on how he had shared my laments with a certain bad player with some friends.  I was just really stoked to know that they had ever read anything on the blog.
     I actually didn't hear much in the way of complaining this year.  But the attendance was well beneath where I would have liked to see it.  I think the high water mark was running 10 tables in a slot.  Four years ago it would have been around 18, which means another 40-50 players.  It worked out for making it easier to organize, but I missed the bustle a little.  I did get to see people I have not seen in quite some time (including a pair of brothers who I just assumed weren't gaming any more), and that was cool.
      Here are some pictures I took.  I know that nothing about them conveys the fun or the action we experience while playing PFS.  Sorry about that.
Timothy Bailey's tent for Dr. Wogglebug.  I saw him in action multiple times.
Timothy Bailey's tent for Huang-Fu Zheng.  I did not see him in action.
Hawthorne Candlewood, Jenissa Halvarek (the weredragon), and Dr. Wogglebug after defeating an opponent in Sewer Dragons of Absalom.  Tim Tjarks did an awesome job judging us.
Two witches, a barbarian/oracle, and my magus/bard escorting some goblins (the Snapple lid represents the cage that one of the goblins was put in). 
The table tent and character sheet I used for Hedda's first time being played.  I completely forgot that she would be 2nd level before she actually saw action.  But a second level (no BAB) character like her should not have been thrown to the wolves in a 4-5 tier.  I blame the witches.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Dreamers (Original Text - Part Four) (1997)

     Part IV is the shortest section in the original text.  It is only four paragraphs, all of which could have easily been an addendum to the previous one.  I guess I was trying to give a section to the J.B. character, but that really happens with the next one.
     So, 'Dreamers' was originally going to be a type of horror story where at least two of the characters start acting out their dreams (one of those having some very bad results for everybody).  That fell away rather quickly.  Part of the reason was that I kind of lost contact with the people who very loosely (with the exception of the first dream) inspired the dreams.  As I tried to find the characters I wanted t write, I lost the story I was supposed to be telling.  Not supposed to do that.
     Anyway, if you missed Part III, you can find it here (which has a link to Part II, which in turn has a link to Part I).

For our purposes, imagine J.B. looks like this (and not a young, thin Bill Pullman).


     Jeff Binghampton, J.B., was no a classic lady killer.  He had a charm he could turn on or offm and there wasn’t an ugly girl who would ever find him at all worth being interested in.  Unfortunately, the women he spent time with were exposed to this charm more often than most.  It had a cumulative effect, like radiation.
     The only person who was immune to it was Melissa.  She and J.B. were friends, sort of, but J.B. wouldn’t want her.  She was a better adversary – a friendly one – than she could ever be a lover.  J.B. could never understand why Jason would make the swap.  Maybe the two had figured out a way to keep one and the other.
     At least Jason didn’t lose his sense of freedom.  It never happened before, so it would be uncharacteristic to say that it never happened anymore.  MacLeod wasn’t much of a drinker, but he really wasn;t into the bar scene.  So it was Larry Pudenski, both Carvers, Jason MacLeod, and J.B. in a quest to see how many bars and how much alcohol were necessary for a good time.
     The fourth bar they hit was the first one that wasn’t overcrowded.  Don Loomis’ was a rare thing, a pub that survived in the heathendom that was the suburbs.  Real darts and good whiskey, and even MacLeod seemed happy.  Still, if one looked, and J.B. did, it was easy to see that Jason was at work.  He was after Pundeski’s dreams, but that didn’t mean that J.B. had to let that happen.  This evening was for fun, and Jason MacLeod could do his research some other time.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dreamers (Original Text - Part Three) (1997)

     This is my least favorite section from the original text.  First, it starts the change from what the story was supposed to be into the mess it became.  Second, it is just barely sketched out enough for it to make any kind of sense.  I would like to think that if I were rewriting this, this section would be very different.  So, take a look at what was satisfactory in 1997.  (In my very limited defense, this is the only section that was written over at least four different sessions – I can tell from the different pens used to write it – and it does try to better realize the characters than anything in the first two sections.)
     You can find Part II here (which conveniently has a link to Part I).


     Larry called it Church Sunday.  Originally that meant Easter.  Now it was any Sunday that didn’t conflict with things like vacations, work, the Superbowl, or other sports.  Larry was likely to have two Church Sundays a month.  This was one of them.  Church was something Larry felt he had to do.  He would rather be playing basketball or doing inventory at the warehouse.  Religion did not fit into Larry’s Pudenski’s life with any ease.  His parents had given his to him as though it were a task.  Larry would sit dutifully, quiet, in a neatly pressed suit, and pay his homage to God without it requiring any real thought.
     Church Sundays had a nice structure to them, though.  Up a lot later than usual, a big breakfast, a few hours in the House of God, and then the better part of the day was still available.  Back in the days of high school, Larry and Jason would hit a bucket of balls at the driving range, or go rock climbing, or do something that made it feel good to get out of a suit.  Of course, Jason didn’t dress up to go the church.  He was a guest where he went but he didn’t try to impress.  He and Larry never spoke of religion on Church Sunday.
     This Church Sunday, like many before it, Larry would spend with Nancy Klein.  It was work.  She wanted some rewiring done in her parents’ house and Larry was happy for the side job.  It was easy work, and Nancy was good company.  Not many of the people who hire an electrician stock a refrigerator full of beer for them.  Larry and Nancy would talk for about half an hour before he ever touched a wire.  Then he would make her help out so he didn’t lose the company.  If he was lucky, Mike Carver would stop by and help out.
     “Do you want to hear about my dreams, Larry?”
     His head hidden inside a wall he had been forced to cut into, Larry had a full grin.  “I can assume it was sexual.”
     She playfully slapped his rump.  “No, my ambitions and goals!”
     “Doesn’t sound as interesting.”  He finished fishing out the wire that had fallen from its connector and laid bare against the wood studs.  Fire hazard, if it were still live.  Half the wires that ran through this house were useless, serving only to clutter the space.  Whoever had done this before him did a piss poor job.  “Beer me.”
     Nancy returned in a matter of seconds with an ice cold bottle of Old Style.  It helped clear the dust from Larry’s throat.  It felt good.  Larry sat down on the hardwood floor, his back propped up against the wall.  “So what are your dreams and aspirations?”
     “You just want to talk about sex.”
     Larry shrugged.
     “I didn’t sleep with that guy from Friday.”
     “Good for you.”
     Nancy glared at Larry and silently cursed his sarcastic tone.
     “What?  If you want a guy, you get him.  I’ve seen it.  You remember that time with my brother?”  Nancy blushed and started to turn away, but Larry pushed the issue.  “His girlfriend was coming back in two days and he was going to propose to her, and you take him home and —”
     “That’s enough!”
     “It’s true, Nancy.  It’s a miracle they’re still together.”
     Nancy reached down and took Larry’s beer away.  She gulped down half the remaining contents.  “Get to work.”  She walked back to the kitchen and grabbed a fresh beer for herself.  Four months.  It had been four months since she had sex.  Everyone who knew her just expected the sex.  Larry’s brother was just talking to her, showing an interest in her life.  She wanted that right now.  After Don, Nancy had only slept with one person.
     Soon, Mike Carver arrived.  He brought his own beer and took a can to Larry.  This was Larry’s job and Mike was just there to hang out.  This was never afforded to them on the job for R.A. Pudenski Electrical Contractors.  The beer most certainly not.  Mike and Larry were drinking Guinness and speaking of one of their co-workers, and man called ‘Drover’.  Nancy stumbled into the conversation at an inopportune time and it broke the moment.
     “Pudenski, I want this finished sometime.  You’ve been here four different times...”
     “When are your parents coming back from Europe?”
     She turned to Carver who had asked the question.  He was smiling and happily drinking his beer.  Out of the can.  “Jesus, Carver, get some glasses for that.”  Before he could do anything Nancy walked into the kitchen and brought back two Guinness glasses.  Larry thanked her and Carver finished his first before he poured a fresh one into his glass.
     “So, when are they coming back?”
     “Next week, I think.  I’ll just be gladd to be done house sitting for them.  I haven’t had a night’s sleep in my own bed in over a week.”
     Carver eyed her with curiosity and Larry suppressed a chuckle.  “Oh really.  And whose bed have you been sleeping in?”
     “My parents’, dumbass,” Nancy spat.
     “There are laws against that,” Larry added glibly.  “Sorry.  No, if I stay and finish tonight then I’ll be done tonight.”
     “Then stay and finish.”
     “Holy shit, Jason,” Carver gasped.
     Nancy turned to face Jason, who was most definitely out of place at this gathering.  “How did you get in here?”
     “Walked in.  Door’s not locked, and I figured these two boozehounds would be teaming up on you, and I’m too sweet a guy to let a friend suffer like that.”
     “Bullshit.”  Larry put down his beer and picked up one of his tools and began to play at working again.  “What are you doing here, MacLeod?”
     “I have reasons.  Nancy, could I have something to drink?  Coke if you have it.”  Jason watched Nancy as she stomped out of the room.  Turning back to the electricians, he began, “You guys are entirely too hard on her.  If you want to hang out with her, why don’t you do it at her place?”
     “Nowhere near as nice.  No pool there.”
     MacLeod shrugged.  Carver has a point.  Still...
     “Your dream, Pudenski?  I asked Dr. Hall what he thought.  He wants me to do a paper on it.”
     “So keep your mouth shut next time.”  MacLeod almost smiled, enough so that Pudenski and Carver could tell he was at least partially joking.  Not very many people understood MacLeod’s sense of humor.  “But for now, I need you to keep a journal of your dreams.  Especially anything that shares elements with the first dream.  Then I get to come up with some reason this relates to a childhood trauma.”
     Carver’s face lit up and he pounded his left fist against the wall until he finished his beer.  “Like the time you pushed him off the roof, Jason?”
     Pudenski laughed.  MacLeod shrugged.  “Come on, Pudenski was nine.  We should look for something a little earlier than that.”  He stopped as Nancy came back in with his Coke.  “Caffeine free?  Oh, ‘Beggars and Choosers’.”  MacLeod reached out and squeezed Nancy’s shoulder.  “Thanks.”
     She nodded, but moved towards Larry.  The last thing she wanted to do was even think about sleeping with somebody who was practically married.  “You aren’t going to finish today, are you?”
     Larry looked over at Jason.  “Okay, genius, do you remember anything from when you worked for us?”
     “Three inch heavy wall pipe.”
     Nancy was the only one who didn’t get the joke.  It was a great big no.
     “Then keep Nancy out of our way, and you’re going out with us later.”  There was still the edge of laughter in Larry’s voice.  Still, he and Carver soon became all business and it wouldn’t have taken much more than that to drive Nancy from the room.  She and Jason walked to the TV room.
     “No studying?”
     “Just Larry.”  MacLeod was aware most of the women he knew understood his propensity to use last names almost exclusively, but he tried to be more personable in front of Nancy.  “He’s my new assignment.  Interpretation of dreams, and how work-stress may relate to certain imagery.”
     Nancy sat down in a chair too expensive to be comfortable.  It didn’t even face the forty eight inch LCD television.  To be born with money.  “Does Larry know you’re studying him?”
     “Huh?  Yeah, everything but the work-related stress.  But you were helpful there.”  Jason effected a high-pitched whine. “Do this.  Finish now.  Drink less.”
     “I didn’t invite you here.”
     “You’re not sorry.  Where’s the remote?”
     She handed it to him.  “So, where’s Melissa?  If you aren’t hitting the books, shouldn’t you be with her?”
     Jason got lucky.  He found a game on ESPN.  Sunday nights were made for ESPN.  “Yes.  But I’m not.  I’m here, soon to be out drinking with Pudenski and Carver.”  A slip.
     “And J.B.?”
     “Why don’t you just do him?” Jason blurted out.  “You are so into him.”
     “Fuck you!”
     “Whatever.  If you can’t admit —” It was possibly the greatest catch had ever seen.  He watched it in replay four times, never failing to marvel at the majesty of the leap, the concentration, the catch.  “Where was I?  Yeah, you want J.B.  I’m not saying he’s not an asshole.”
     “Because he is.”
     “Exactly.  Doesn’t change the fact you want him.  And he has a woman, and we both know you’ve had your share of attached men.”
     “I’ve had three girls’ share of attached men.  And if he went along with it, he’d just be a dog.  That’s not what I want.”
     “You’re damned if you do, and, well I guess you’re just damned if you do.  Cheer up and watch the game.”
     Nancy was up and put her hand on the phone.  Jason couldn’t remember he walking over to it; she was just suddenly there.  That, or he was into the game.  “I’m calling Melissa.”  The look on Jason’s face told her that he didn’t much care if she did or not.  “And I’m going to tell her you’re free tonight.”
     The television was off.  Jason practically knocked the chair over getting up.  The look on his face said it all.  Nancy started dialing.
     “Don’t do it, Nancy!”  Jason didn’t realize he was shouting.  His face was beet red, his eyes wide with anger.
     Nancy stopped.  She had heard Jason had a temper but she didn’t think to link it to Melissa.  He was always in a good mood with her.  What the hell was the problem?  The tension was not welcome.
     “She going to be okay?” Carver whispered frm the doorway.  There was no answer.  Nancy and Jason stood there like statues, one enraged, the other terrified.  “Maybe you need to relax.  I’m not going to judge, but I think that one of you has to choose to step out of the room.  Who’s it going to be?”
     “I’ll go.”  Jason mechanically moved, very obviously fighting to find some calm.  “Don’t make that phone call.”
     Carver asked the question with his eyes.
     “Melissa,” Nancy mouthed.
     Carver merely shrugged.

     True to his word, Larry Pudenski finished.  Everything was done, and he and Carver got Jason out of there without further incident.  Nancy still wasn’t at ease about it.  She couldn’t honor Jason’s demand.  She had to make that phone call.
     “Hello, is Melissa there?”  The girl on the other end didn’t answer right away.  Then she made it as hard as possible to actually get Melissa on the phone.  That didn’t help at all.
     “Nancy?  What’s wrong?”  Melissa could hear the tremor on the other end.  She had talked to Jason about Nancy just the night before, and Jason was sure that she and J.B. would get together.  Was that it?
     “Jason was just here.”
     That was worse.
     “He has some project involving Larry.” Nancy offered that to put the unasked question to rest.  “I jokingly said I was going to call you and say that he was free tonight, and he went ballistic.”
     And?  Melissa could see it happening.  “You shouldn’t have done that, then.”
     “Is he like that with you?”
     “Then what was it?”
     “Nancy,” Melissa sighed, “I know you might not understand, but Jason is losing his friends.  He and Pudenski are family, really, so they’ll always be close, at heart.  But after he starts working on his Ph.D., he isn’t gong to be hanging out with Carver, Burke, or any of us.  Maybe not J.B., whether he decided to get off his ass and finally try to be a doctor.  He’ll be immersed in academia, and it’s going to help him to do that.”
     “He doesn’t have to leave us behind.  ‘Us’ as in you?”
     “I hope not, but probably.”  Melissa coughed.  “I love him Nancy, and I’d like to think that he loves me, but I think anything’s possible.  He could walk away from Carver?  Then he could do the same with me.”
     Nancy didn’t want to make Melissa feel bad.  She wanted to know why Jason got so angry.  If it anyone else, she could have just asked Jason.  Maybe she still would.  “Okay, sorry about all that.  But why did he get so angry about it?”
     “The truth?”  Melissa didn’t wait for Nancy to respond.  “We haven’t spent a weekend together in over a month.  And I’ve been after him a bit.  Women have needs.”
     Sex?  Jason got angry because he didn’t want to have sex with his beautiful girlfriend?  “Wait.”
     “It’s not exactly what you think.”
     “That he’s insane.”
     “There are details I’m not going to get into, but Jason wants a night with the guys.  We’ll spend some other time together.  School is paramount.”
     “Are you studying?”
     “Not tonight.”
     “Do you want to come down and hang out?”
     “You’re not propositioning me, are you, Miss Klein?”
     Nancy laughed.  “I know you’re not into girls.  And neither am I.  I’ll keep the door open for you.”
     “See you in an hour.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

     Well, this is certainly better than the previous live action Captain America (1990) movie.  And I didn't even hate that one, though it was hard to understand why Marvel couldn't find a studio to go big budget with the title after the success of Tim Burton's Batman (1989) – I had no knowledge of the various complications and property rights that went into that earlier effort.  I avoided seeing Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) in the theater because I didn't feel any need to see it.  It turned out to be a rather fun superhero/comic book film, which is to say that it was infinitely better than the disaster that was Thor (2011) – a movie so bad I didn't even write a post about how much I disliked it – and partially redeemed both mishandled movies about the Hulk.
     Sure, one could point out that I like Chris Evans.  I've seen most of his films, from the underappreciated Not Another Teen Movie (2001) to Cellular (2004), Fantastic Four (2005), the undecipherable mess that is London (2005), Sunshine (2007), Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), Street Kings (2008), Push (2009), The Losers (2010), and (regrettably) Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010).  The chances of me passing up on a film that he is in are pretty slim, though I don't imagine I am going to see The Nanny Diaries (2007) before I die; it may be on an endless loop in Hell and I'd like the first go through to be fresh.  Evans is a good-looking guy, able to be charming and endearing to the point that he can hide his obvious physicality.  And in The First Avenger, he gives Steve Rogers the heart, dedication, and innocence that makes the entire project work.
     I don't want to knock director Joe Johnston.  He knows how to shoot a highly technical, special effects laden movie.  Surprisingly, he does a better job with the character interactions and dialogue than the action sequences, something that has been his strong suit.  Maybe Johnston has truly found his stride as a director.  Maybe Marvel makes sure that its properties are 'ready for shooting' and takes a lot of the guess work out of the equation.  Whatever the cause, Johnston directs his most complete film to date.  He may indulge a little too much in the comic bookish-ness of the story, but I have to think that plays to the die-hards and fanboys
     Since I've limited my fawning over Evans to just listing what I've seen him in, I should probably do a better job of addressing the rest of the cast.  Hugo Weaving – of <insert bad guy here> industries – makes for a better Johann Schmidt than Red Skull; the accent gets ridiculous and the megalomania less believable.  I would have preferred my Red Skull being a loyal Nazi super-soldier (which is what I thought he was supposed to be...clearly I don't know much about the history of the Red Skull) rather than an earlier version of Cobra Commander.  Hayley Atwell does a fine job with the underwritten role of Agent (Peggy) Carter, helping to tamp down the testosterone and give some amount of sexual tension to the film.  Sebastian Stan is quite enjoyable as Bucky Barnes, and he and Evans have the kind of chemistry that makes one believe their characters are life-long friends.  Recognizable faces Neil McDonough and Derek Luke aren't given much to do, but they do help make Captain America's squad of soldiers more memorable.  Stanley Tucci is, as usual, excellent.  I'm not sure when he went from good actor to that dude who totally owns his roles – it would have to be after The Core (2003) – but he is in near perfect form here.  I would cite that as another example of Johnston emerging as a director who can handle actors as well as effects.
     I don't regret missing this in the theater.  It is a good, fun action movie that doesn't take itself too seriously.  It also doesn't run away from some obvious truths: soldiers get killed in battle and nobody in the war thinks promotional product Captain America is worth cheering.  The transition from the story to the follow-up feels forced, but it is.  Not much that could be done about that.  In terms of a grade, I'd rate Captain America: The First Avenger as an A or A- (depending on how much one appreciates slow motion in their action sequences).  Maybe that is my man-crush on Chris Evans speaking, but this is the best, most fully realized of the Marvel films I have seen – besting even Iron Man (2008).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lord of the Flies (1954)

     A couple of things first.  Yes, I should have read this some twenty-odd years ago.  Yes, my vision of Ralph is a young, skinny Balthazar Getty – before Young Guns II (1990) and Feast (2005) – because seeing that 1990 version of the story had been my exposure to it (and I saw it in the theater opening weekend).  Clearly one could never film the story as written, because nobody is going to make and mass market a story with scores of naked British boys running around on a tropical island.  I hope that much is true.  How did I come to read it now?  Well, I have a stack – and list – of non-fiction books I want to read as part of this year's reading project, but I wanted to get another novel in this month.  My mother has a couple of copies of this book, but the one I borrowed was her's in high school; I have a feeling that one cannot find this book with a $1.25 cover price at present.
Here is my mother's old address in central Pennsylvania (she didn't live in Spring Mills, but apparently there was no post office closer to her home).  Please take note of the phone number – EMpire 4-1537.  This is just 52 years ago, and rather than listing it as 364 -, they used EMpire 4.  Pure craziness.  Apparently only a handful of years prior they were still using five digit phone numbers in those hills.  It is realizing moments like this that make me feel as removed from her background as civilization becomes to Jack's band of hunters.
     I am not going to pretend to offer any insight to Lord of the Flies (1959).  I read it for enjoyment and on that level it is a fine, though not earthshaking, book.  Perhaps because I know the story, the impact and message feels weaker than if I were discovering it for the first time.  I did manage to get through the book in decent time – three days, doing the last 100+ pages and notes on Sunday while waiting to catch an encore presentation of The Walking Dead (2010-present).  If anyone were at all curious, Lord of the Flies is much more satisfying on all levels than the zombie show. 
     I would like to think I get what Golding was going for, even when he used relatively obscure meanings for commonplace words.  I thought the inclusion of the actual Lord of the Flies felt forced and out of place, as though Golding had his manuscript together but lacked a proper impetus/plot device to drive the big change while simultaneously giving it another level of meaning.  Maybe I'm wholly wrong on that note.  I did have some slight difficulty keeping some of the minor players straight – another result of knowing that only three of the characters really matter in the scope of the story – but that quickly resolved itself.
     What did strike me was how uncharacteristic of my experiences were Golding's expectations of these children.  While I do not want to equate Indian Guides or Cub Scouts to British schools (I imagine the latter to be much more strict and regimented, especially in the 1950s), I do know that when I was a child, we children made good account of which of us were where and who was in charge.  Moreover, we didn't seem to have any problem trying to organize (though we clearly lacked any know-how and most ability to do anything worthwhile without great direction and guidance).  Golding's boys don't know who all is on the island – and that is amongst themselves – and fell that there is still a great need to indulge in endless play.  That seems very contradictory to the human nature I've witnessed.  Then again, I grew up in a world that had already read Lord of the Flies, so perhaps we were being slightly readied for better behavior should we ever crash land on an island and have to fend for ourselves.
     Yes, the cruelty of the boys – when it is finally allowed to come out – feels true.  So does the ever returning sense of uncertainty that all of the boys experience.  There is something very real that Golding is touching on, but he seems to dance around it at times, content to have his characters dash off for a swim or talk over one another rather than delve deeper into their beings.
     Now, Lord of the Flies is not to be confused with the Cheapass Games product "Lord of the Fries", itself a disappointing follow-up to the great "Give Me the Brain".  By the way, "Give Me the Brain" is also better than The Walking Dead, but as it is an interactive that should be expected.  No, this is a good book (that I guess I can't quite accept as great) that most people read when they are closer in age to the victims of circumstance that people it.
"Give Me the Brain", in all of its original Cheapass glory.
"Lord of the Fries" goes deluxe.  There just seems something contradictory about a deluxe Cheapass Game.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Beaver (2011)

Mel Gibson (with The Beaver), Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, and Jennifer Lawrence star in The Beaver.
[Yes, there are some spoilers in this review.]
     Maybe Jodie Foster just isn't a very good director.  She has yet to make a well-received film – though a sample size of three is not enough to draw definitive conclusions – while at the helm.  She gets talented actors to work in these projects, some of whom have Academy Awards on their resumés, but something in the material never really clicks.  Such was the case with Little Man Tate (1991) and Home for the Holidays (1995), and it continues on with her most recent effort, The Beaver (2011).
     Sure, Foster publicly lamented that Mel Gibson's tirades were sure to draw negative attention to the film (it wasn't as though Gibson was a bright and shiny commodity when she brought him on to star in the movie).  She also made some veiled statements that the studio neither promoted it or secured a good release date.  None of those factors apply to me, since I saw it much later and – even with his screaming anti-semetic and other drunken behaviors – I am not troubled by seeing Gibson starring in a film.  I like Mel Gibson as an actor and director, excepting Apocalypto (2006) which bored me to no end.  I am willing to put his hateful bits aside and watch him perform.
     Gibson is given the most realized role in Kyle Killen's script.  As Walter Balck, Gibson is a marginally successful man (his success is due to inheritance  more than diligence or ability) who has fallen into an apparently irreversible state of clinical depression.  Rather than allow the audience to experience this, to invest anything in how this changes his life – destroys the meaning he had found in it – Foster gives the audience a voice over courtesy of the Beaver.  And this is before we have been introduced to the Beaver.  It isn't as though this is done to save on running time; The Beaver clocks in at a brief 91 minutes (and take about five of that away for the closing credits).  Foster sets up the tale with bullet points that don't help establish the severity of Walter's condition.
     The rest of the Black family is either unlikeable or just there.  Foster manages to have her character, Meredith Black, be both.  Meredith is entirely unsupportive as a spouse and a mother, not being able to recognize her younger son when she goes to pick him up at school and kicking her husband out of the house because his mental illness is too hard for her to handle.  There is absolutely nothing redeemable about the Meredith character, though I imagine Foster thought she was giving the character some heart by having her viewing old family photos on her computer at work – hey, way to fail as employee as well – but Meredith's insistence that Walter return to what he used to be (and not necessarily get better) marks her as a damaging factor in everyone's life.
     Anton Yelchin (I don't know why this guy keeps getting work) is tasked with the least sympathetic character in the movie.  As Porter Black – it is entirely possible he is a douchebag because his parents (read: Kyle Killen) gave him the pretentious name 'Porter' – Yelchin is supposed to portray ultra-smart, mildly smarmy, and borderline depressed all at once.  I don't know that anyone could pull that off (and shame on Killen for writing the character the way he did), but it is well beyond Yelchin.  There is nothing about Porter that gives credibility to his gift for writing or empathy.  Indeed, if he had any degree of empathy, why is it so removed from his family?  All of them?  It seems that Porter – who gets as much screen time as Walter and the Beaver – has these abilities so that he can interact with Norah (Jennifer Lawrence).
     Norah is a woefully underdeveloped character, a high school valedictorian with a 4.0 GPA (I guess this private school has no 5 point honors classes, so sure) and cheerleader who is also a talented artist coping with the heartbreak of her brother's tragic death.  Maybe the grab-bag of possibilities was supposed to stand in for character, but it just smacks of lazy writing.  Lawrence doesn't get to do much with the role, either.  She gives a performance that is somewhere between her work on The Bill Engvall Show (2007-09) and X-Men: First Class (2011), and well below her outstanding turn as Ree Dolly in Winter's Bone (2010).  She gets to respond to Porter's bullshit, and then need him to give her the ability to be expressive.  I would expect much more from Foster than to willingly craft a movie where a girl needs a boy in order to find some sense of completion.
     The film itself has little real sense of time.  The Beaver takes charge of Walter's toy company, he and Walter become a kind of celebrity, and lose everything all in the span of a couple of months.  The new toy that launches as a $100 million dollar winner is being shoveled into landfills within weeks.  I would guess the original script had the story paced differently, but whether it did or not Foster does nothing to help it find some kind of reality in the regard of time.
     There is also the issue of how Foster occasionally makes light of the severe depression Walter faces.  Yes, his suicide attempt plays rather matter-of-factly (and with some dark humor), but the rest of the jokes and jabs at the depressed guy, the guy who thinks his life is worthless come across as mean.  No one in the film seems that appreciative of Walter's condition or wants to help him; everyone just wants things to be good for them.  Oddly, the Beaver is both the most likeable and most dastardly character in the entire cast (but he sure sounds Australian to me, not English).  I would have liked to see more from the Beaver, how it acted to erase Walter's connection to the parts of his life he cherished.  But neither Foster nor Killen seemed that interested in giving that kind of take to the disassociative state the Beaver brings about.
     I like Jodie Foster as an actor, but I think she needs to stay out of the director's chair.  That or make sure she has much better material with which to work.  There is nothing positive about The Beaver that will make it memorable.  Yelchin and Lawrence no doubt have many roles ahead of them where they can portray better designed characters, but Foster and Gibson are not going to be offered prime roles any more.  To have both of them waste their talents in this mess is simply depressing.
     The Beaver doesn't satisfy as a pure drama, and its humor is often dark and hurtful.  It has a good cast (except for Yelchin, who I think is not worth hiring...but that apparently is just me), but nothing to say and no style about it.  I would give it a D+ as a theatrical release (where it would be a solid C were this a made-for-TV movie).  I say avoid it, not because Gibson is toxic but because Foster doesn't know how to tell an interesting story as a director.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Power and the Glory (1940)

     Back in the mid-1990s I had the good fortune to have a professor who took the GenEd literature course we students took during a summer session – some because it would transfer to real schools, some because they needed credits to get back into real schools, and some because they had no means of taking courses at a real school.  He had us read the standards that the good students read in high school, The Sun Also Rises (1926) and The Great Gatsby (1925) and an insane amount of short stories (I want to say we read 50 for the eight week class).  One of the short stories was "The Destructors" (1954) by Graham Greene.  He strongly encouraged us the read The Power and the Glory (1940) – he couldn't get approval to add it to the approved curriculum.  Strangely, I made no effort to read the novel for about 15 years.
     I don't know that anything I have to say about The Power and the Glory will do it justice.  It is surprisingly good and overcomes the disinterest Greene seems to have in his own characters for the first two chapters.  Sure, I had to actually look up the word "quay" (a wharf or reinforced bank where ships are loaded or unloaded) and had to flashback to how june bugs popped off the kerosene lamps at Owasippe (a Boy Scout camp near Whitehall, MI) in order to understand all of the beetles "exploding" against the walls and lights.  Once Greene seems willing to give some depth to his characters the story becomes alive and urgent. 
     Sadly, I am more than willing to admit my ignorance of the real world situation that lead to priests being outlawed in the state of Tabasco.  Part of me wanted this entire story to be allegorical, but Greene makes (some of) the sins of man into a type of virtue and gives an eloquent voice as to what the sacraments provide.  His Whisky Priest has plenty of time to reflect on the nature of the Church and what he has to offer to them.  There is a role that God plays in their lives, but he doesn't pretend to know what it is.  Those he tends to often have a type of weakness of character, where those who tend to him – non-Catholics all, and one atheist who may be the second most important character in the novel – display the strength of character the Church has not fostered.  Greene both celebrates and condemns the Church at the same time, a remarkable feat.
     There are a few lines/ideas that stuck out for me (and in a relatively short span of pages):
✝ On page 172, Greene's Whisky Priest muses on power and dangers of Love, thinking 'Love is not wrong, but love should be happy and open - it is only wrong when it is secret, unhappy... It can be more unhappy than anything but the loss of God. It is the loss of God. You don't need a penance, my child, you have suffered quite enough,' and to this other, 'Lust is not the worst thing. It is because any day, any time, lust may turn into love that we have to avoid it. And when we love our sin then we are damned indeed.'  Later, the priest allows for Love to be the scariest thing God has to offer.  He would run away from even a glimmer of that kind of force.
✝ On page 182, Greene has one of the best lines ever.  'All the same, it's good to see a priest with a conscience.  It's a sign of evolution'.  In the novel, a schoolteacher offers this biting critique of how the priests used to take what little money the peasants had and denied the children the things they needed to survive for the services of baptism and communion.  The Whisky Priest had finally come to terms with what he needed to do as a man, but he is properly diagnosed as having evolved from a man fleeing the persecution to one who will take seriously his sacred duties (and is hoping for information about one of his benefactors).
✝ On Page 194, on the topic of what is allowable Greene offers, 'A man may want to rape a woman.  Are we to allow it because he wants to?  Suffering is wrong.'  Now this seems pretty straightforward, but the Church – and the Whisky Priest – have argued that suffering in this world may make the blessings of Heavan that much more sweet.  The Lieutenant – the man who has been charged with eliminating the last remaining priest – is presenting what he feels to be a reasonable vision of the future.  There will be law and order, and thus justice.  But there won't be any lies about how there is something to be gained – something noble – in being made to suffer.  Suffering is something that should be abhorred and its causes challenged.  That this type of world needs the priest to be executed is the contradiction that cannot be overcome.
     How good is The Power and the Glory?  I would easily put it in the top 20 books I've ever read (I didn't feel this way in the early chapters).  While I abandoned Cormac McCarthy's The Road (2006) because I felt it was going nowhere – see what happens when books aren't part of a project – I have to imagine that it cannot put humanity, suffering, and the compassion in better light than Green did 66 years earlier.  I cannot imagine this novel making much of an impression on an adolescent and how it may deeply offend Catholics, so it makes sense that it is not a staple of high school literature classes.  But I would definitely recommend that everyone read it. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dreamers (Original Text - Part Two) (1997)

For those  who may have missed Part One (and the rambling that preceded the story), it can be found here.  Part II is only ten paragraphs long and took up about one handwritten page.  It is not the shortest section in the story.


     Vicki didn't say anything to Burke as she took him home.  Burke tried to find a radio statio that played what he considered music.  After about a minute he gave up and turned the radio off.  Usually, this would be where he felt the need to start a conversation.  Vicki sat waiting for the opening line.  Burke didn't have a classic opening line like J.B.'s "You're so different from..." or Jason's "So then she slapped me".  No, Dave stole his from old television and movies, occasionally from music, but they were always brilliantly utilized.  If nothing else, Burke knew where the dialogue should go.
     They were less than a minute from Burke's and still not a word.  Vicki was tense in the driver's seat, now pondering if he was going to attempt to move their relationship to something beyond friendship.  That would explain it.  Or Burke might just be angry.  Or drunk.  Somewhere there was a reason.  It was not so frustrating as it was...well, Sean had a pleasant surprise waiting for him that night.
     Burke got out of the car silently.  Vicki asked about his cousin but he only shrugged.  He disappeared into the apartment building.  Vicki didn't leave right away.  She thought of getting out and trying to find out what was wrong.  Then she thought of Sean again.  She was off like a flash.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

     Vicki Souser sat bolt upright in her bed, drenched with a cold sweat.  It was very different from the sweat she and Sean had created a few hours earlier.  She felt her shirt cling to her body and her hair matted awkwardly around her shoulders.  Sean lay beside her on his stomach, his head twisted toward the far wall.  He could sleep through anything.  That had been a good thing on more than one occasion. 
     By habit Vicki maneuvered to the kitchen.  She wouldn't call it a scary dream.  It was just off.  She didn't want Burke.  Burke didn't ignore her.  Things didn't happen like that.  Their trip the night before – or was it earlier today? – was just like all the others.  Why was she dreaming about Burke?  She would just assume to have wild, debauched sex with J.B. as to even consider an affair with Burke.  As she sat down at the kitchen table, eating a small bowl of chocolate chip ice cream, she developed a fantasy about she and J.B. and a cabin in the woods.  Sean slept through it.
     Off in his apartment, Dave Burke slept soundly.  He hadn't been troubled by his dreams in years.  He never remembered his.  To Burke, life was completely composed of one's waking moments.  Dreams seemed like wonderful manifestations of neglected imagination.  Burke never looked for the hidden meaning to a dream.  He would not have agreed with the concept of latent content of dreams if he were aware of it.
     When Burke did wake in the morning, he was rested.  It was between 7:15 and 7:21 a.m., because he always woke up within that span.  Looking at the alarm clock he noted the time – 7:18 a.m.  It was one of the patterns Burke had fallen into over the course of his young life.  This meant that, on most days, he slept for about six hours.  After a night of light drinking he usually slept more.  Once in a very great while he found himself asleep at 9:00 AM on a Saturday.  He didn't work weekends.  Not at the store.
     Burke showered and got dressed.  He rarely ate breakfast on the weekend but he did today.  He watched one of the TV shows he liked, on tape because he would never have seen it otherwise.  He fought the temptation to open a beer while he watched it.  It wasn't even 10:00 a.m. when it was over.  Soon after the tape was rewound Dave's cousin stumbled out into the kitchen for coffee.  They made small talk for a short while.  In the afternoon there would be band practice, so they just relaxed until then.
     Elsewhere, Larry Pudenski and Mike Carver worked.  Jeff Binghampton slept a good portion of his Saturday away.  Melissa Brooks might have been studying, as it was assured to be the case with Jason MacLeod, but it was more likely that she would be out with friends from her school.  Nancy Klein woke up alone, but that was no surprise.  She went home alone.  That happened more and more frequently now.
     Saturday plodded along, not noticing anyone's dreams.  Saturday was for the dreams of the conscious mind, a respite from the closed-box world of the work week.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Without Distinction (2001*)

     In the fall of 2001, after I had decided to stay in school – having just returned to it – and not enlist in light of the September 11th attacks, I wrote a play for a class.  It was rather short (I think seven pages) and titled 4200.  The professor, Dr. Robert Schneider, had me rewrite it – take it seriously, he said – and suddenly it was 17 pages and had a new title: Without Distinction.  It makes sense to me, but no one else seems to get it.  Fine.  Play got an A – mostly because Dr. Schneider liked a bit of direction that had a character glaring at another with "Hell's Own Fury" – but he encouraged me to give it another pass and see if there was anything else I wanted to say with it.  Sure, but not if I wanted to be honest about anything.  Then it occurred to me that I just had to be honest about how much Tim sucked and I could write whatever I wanted.  At the same time, I could make the other roles more substantial (they aren't real people) and give them their own motivation.  This allowed me to keep Tim mostly out of the first twenty pages (and arguably means that he is not the main character).
     The finished product is essentially what it posted here.  Sure, this was (sort of) rewritten for consideration of filming it as a short film in 2004.  There is one very short added scene; Dr. Schneider liked the idea for it when it was a play, but there would be no way to stage it on the ultra-cheap, so out it went.  I like to think, even though Tim is completely absent from it, it does more to showcase the complete and total disconnect he has from one of the primary characters.  It also gives the character in the scene some level of emotional investment in what is going on.  There was even someone slotted to play that role (we had four of the eight roles cast), and it wasn't an easy pitch to a twenty year old I just met – hey, I also need you to get naked for a twenty second scene.
     This is not an attempt top recount anything that actually happened.  This is a work of fiction.  It was originally written with the idea that it would make sense to an audience aged 18-24 and at a college or university.  As an adult, it sure paints the 'young adult' in a very poor light, but that is part of what people tend to fondly remember.  I also want to point out that this was written well before Clerks II (2006) and Randle's rant at Dante.  Oh, Kevin Smith, how you vex me. 
      Okay.  There are some things in this that are straight out of real life.
1) Mike, his fraternity brother, and I went to the place in Iowa City that had two pound burritos and then the hospital.  Turns out Mike had mono and was actually sick.
2) Parts of Mike's final speech are drawn from a rant directed at me in 1997 (specifically, he did not want to celebrate the anniversary with a drink...which is odd, because he didn't need an excuse to drink in those days).
3) No, I did not recognize my (at the time) most unfavorite person in the world when I saw her face to face.  As one can infer from reading this, my dislike was entirely directed at an event and had nothing really to do with any actual person.  I cannot say that I know anything about the character of the real person, but I do think I wrote a decent role for a nasty character.
4) I could not give completely accurate directions from 632 S. Van Buren to the residential hall, but they still could have gotten there without me (or so is my ongoing contention).
5) Yes, the Tim character is supposed to be unlikeable (much like the real Tim was at the time, and for some time after).  
6) The tattoo is really just something I wrote on my hand from time to time – it has something to do with a Soul Asylum song.  The real Tim is tattoo free, but it sure felt like it added the right amount of authentic creepy to include it in a shot.
     On the other hand, very little of the dialogue is anywhere near true to real life events (save for parts of Mike's speech at the end).  It being a work of fiction and all, there is a lot of putting words into the mouths of characters that, were they real and actual people, just wouldn't belong.  Likewise, I know that at least two of the names don't correspond to any real people in regards to what one may consider source material for this story.  I did try to get a correction recently, but since I was not given the courtesy of a response (have absolutely no contact with someone for 17+ years and then ask them for a favor...maybe not the best strategy).   So, that leaves the story with Matt and Craig as creatures that are wholly of my devising (and thus should further convince anyone that this has little relation to anything that may have ever actually happened).  I actually like much of the false dialogue I've crafted here.  There is a line very early on that caught on amongst the few people who were going to make this a film.  
[Speaking of films...I would love to see this acted out with puppets.  That would probably be the best possible film version of it.]
     Now, the problem that may exist is, "Have I been clear enough that this is a work of fiction?".  I like for people to read what I write; not going to pretend that I don't have an ego or that I think I have nothing to say.  I will admit some do it much better than I do, but I like to think I occasionally find a voice. But I do have some fears about this one coming back to bite me in the ass.  This was written in 2001, and I'm sure there are those who could argue that is more than five years past any lifespan I earned to write about anything resembling this (this assumes a 1:1 ratio of experience of a thing to getting to lament about it).  It being a whole decade later, I would like to think this is now okay to share.  Having written that, I won't discourage people – if you make it all the way through this preamble and then the script – from sharing it, warts and all, with anyone whom it may offend (see former most unfavorite person in the world).

This is a work of fiction.  This is a work of fiction.  This is a work of fiction.  This is a work of fiction.

“Without Distinction”

Written by
Timothy Allen McNeil



TWO WOMEN are in the room.  AMY, an attractive college freshman, is standing next to her bed, sorting clothes to be laundered.  She is less than enthusiastic about this task.

STEPHANIE, Amy’s roommate, is seated in a plastic desk chair in the middle of the room watching television.  She is dressed to stay in.


Amy looks over at Stephanie.

(Amy’s) POV shot of Stephanie watching the television.

Amy drops the clothing in her hand and moves across the room to answer the telephone.

              (Pacing about the room)
     Hello? ...Okay. So, are you coming over
     now? ...Well, no, probably not for a
     while, but that doesn’t mean........No,
     then.....Can I speak now? Okay?...
     Listen, do whatever you want. I’ll be
     here, though, so if Mike and his frat
     brother still want to do something...
     Fine, put him on.

Amy looks pleadingly over to Stephanie.

(Amy’s) POV shot of Stephanie still watching the television. Stephanie looks up for a second and slightly shakes her head.

                   AMY (CONT’D)
     Hey. ...No, I’m good, I’m fine actually.
     ....Yeah, hey, is he being an asshole to
     you, too? ...Lucky you. Are we still on
     for tonight?

Amy picks up a CD case with her spare hand and pretends to be interested in it.

                   AMY (CONT’D)
     No, she’s going out tonight. ...I doubt
     it. Because Polly’s coming in to visit.
     ....Yeah, it’s spring break for them,
     too. ...Probably some sorority thing.
     You can understand that, Mr. Beta-Sigma-
     Psi. Why don’t you just come over now?

Amy sets the CD case back near the stereo and walks over toward the closet.

                   AMY (CONT’D)
     No. No, don’t ask him...

Amy covers her face with her left hand and drops to her knees in exasperation. She runs her left hand through her hair as she slowly rises to her feet.

                   AMY (CONT’D)
     Of course he doesn’t. ....You ask him if
     you’re that concerned about it. It isn’t
     as though.....exactly. ...I don’t know,
     then. Come over in about an hour. ....
     Because I have some things I can be
     doing and you haven’t seen him in a
     while. ...Fine. Goodbye.

Amy turns off the phone and places it back in its cradle.  She walks back to her bed.

(Amy’s) POV shot of laundry covering bed.

                   STEPHANIE (O.S.)

              (picking at clothes)

     That was Tim?

     Yeah. And Mike.

     I thought Tim didn’t call you. I know he
     has a standing appointment to stop by
     once a week, sometimes more than that.
     But I don’t think he’s ever called here

     Yeah, well I got wrangled into showing
     Mike and his friend a good time. Tim
     just wanted to know what time they
     should be here.

     That is the most inaccurate use of the
     word “just” I have ever heard.

              (raising voice slightly)
     Shut up, Steph. Things aren’t all that
     great between Tim and me right now.

     Right now? Okay. I imagine that whole
     stalker – stalkee relationship is a hard
     one to manage.

              (softer tone)
     He’s not like that anymore. It’s just

     What? Is Greg giving you a hard time
     about him? I though he and Tim settled
     their problems months ago. Unless Greg
     still doesn’t trust him.

     I really don’t know. I guess he thinks I
     shouldn’t be sleeping with other guys
     while we’re going out...even if we are 
     three hours apart.

Stephanie turns from TV and looks at Amy, wide-eyed.

     Did I miss something?

Amy drops clothes and turns to face Stephanie.

     What? No! God, Stephanie, you think I’m–

     Don’t even try that with me, Amy. You
     want to protest that issue, you better
     do it with someone who knows a whole
     hell of a lot less than I do. Speaking
     of which, he’s seemed fine around me. So
     what’s the problem between the two of
     you now?

Amy looks away and refuse to make eye contact with Stephanie.

     I don’t know. I don’t think either of us
     know how to be friends, what with how
     much there is between us. It’s like we
     are...we are...I don’t know. And he
     should either...

     Shit or get off the pot?

Amy turns back to face Stephanie. She is smiling.

     Oh, that’s tasteful.

     Okay. Fuck or walk.

Amy stifles a laugh. She turns back toward her bed.

     I’m suddenly very happy you are going to
     be out tonight.

     I’ll bet. Then you can have the room to
     yourselves. But what will you do with

Amy spins around a glares at Stephanie.

(CU) Amy’s eyes.

Stephanie offers up a “no offense” gesture as she rises out of her chair. She walks over to her bed and sits, facing Amy.

     I’m kidding, Amy. Listen, I’m not
     against you and Greg. And it isn’t like
     Tim is anyone’s idea of the perfect guy.
     But he’s here and obviously interested.
     Maybe you should make the call on
     whether anything is going to happen or
     not. ...I mean, if the best way he can
     show you how he feels is by bringing a
     porno over for you to watch—

Amy points an accusatory finger at Stephanie.

     Hey, that was for you.

     I’m so sure it wasn’t.

Amy relaxes and sits on her bed facing Stephanie.

     Don’t give me that. You told him that
     you had never seen one before. That’s
     why he brought it over. Granted, it
     didn’t help matters that we played it
     right away.

     You’re the one who was eager to put it
     in the VCR as soon as you saw it. And it
     probably didn’t help that we let
     everyone on the floor wander in and
     watch some. Or that it had that line.

              (slightly laughing)
     Yeah. “Play with my la-bi-a.”

Stephanie laughs. She reaches out and squeezes Amy’s hand.

     It might be time to stop dealing with
     him with kid gloves. He’s a big boy. He
     can take it. Probably.

     Tim is not like everyone else, Steph.
     I mean, he thinks he’s being respectful
     when he refers to people as mister or
     miss and their last names.

     That is a little weird, but it is kind
     of a guy thing. Calling people by their
     last names, anyway.

     But it isn’t just that. He’s perfectly
     fine just sitting here quietly, out of
     the way, and listening to us babble on
     about meaningless shit.

     That could be from being a stalker.

     That’s not funny, Steph.  It’s just that
     he’s gone so far to get my attention,
     and now that he has it, he won’t come
     out and just say what it is he wants. Or
     if I knew he was just fucking nuts.

     Would it matter?

Amy looks quizzically at Stephanie.

                   STEPHANIE (CONT’D)
     If he told you what he wanted, not if
     he’s crazy.

     It would let me know just what he wants.
     It would help us sort through all of
     this shit.

     That’s not what I meant. Would it get
     him any closer to what he wants.

Amy fall back on her bed and throws her hands in the air in exasperation.

     I don’t know what he wants!

Stephanie reaches up and grabs a pillow. She throws it at Amy.

Amy bats it away and sit back up.

     Yeah, you do. I think you just have to
     decide if you’re willing to tell him
     that you know and that it’s okay.

Amy reaches for pillow and throws it back at Stephanie.

                   STEPHANIE (CONT’D)
     Or not.

     Yeah. You try doing that and get back to
     me on how well it went.

KNOCKING at door.

Amy slowly gets up from her bed.

Stephanie smiles at Amy and gets up from her bed. She walks over to the door and opens it.

(Stephanie’s) POV shot of door opening, revealing POLLY, a short but happy freshman from the University of Illinois. She is wearing a light winter coat and carrying a travel bag.

Polly steps into the room. She and Stephanie hug.
                   POLLY and STEPHANIE

Polly steps back and sets down he bag. She shifts on her feet while speaking.

     Hey, guess what? You know that guy I
     told you about...Matt? He’s here. Isn’t
     that great?

Stephanie smiles but shrugs at the same time.

Amy walks towards Polly but is shaking her head.

     Hey, Amy.

Polly looks back at the door way before Amy can respond.


MATT, a boyish University of Illinois freshman enters. He is carrying more bags and wearing a bulky winter coat and scarf. His hair is mussed from wearing a knit hat, which is sticking out of one of his jacket pockets.

     Honey, these are my friends. This is

Polly indicates Stephanie.

Matt attempts to extend his right hand to shake but cannot do so because it is restricted by a bag strap.

Stephanie steps forward to shake, but helps Matt remove the bag from his right arm first. The two tentatively shake.

Polly takes another bag from Matt and cheerfully shakes him by the shoulders.

              (almost mumbling)
     Hey. Stephanie. I’m Matt.

     Hey, Matt. Wow...Polly has told me a lot
     about you. I’m really glad you could
     make it out.

Matt blushes and looks at his feet.

Polly grabs the bags and moves them out of the way.


Polly settles next to Matt and hugs him close. She directs Matt’s attention to Amy.

     And this is Amy.

Matt looks at Amy and then quickly looks away.

Amy gives Matt a vague wave and turns back to face her bed. She begins to pick through her clothes again.

              (to Polly, in low tones)
     Away for the weekend together, huh?
     What would your parents say?

Polly and Matt both blush. Matt suddenly becomes uncomfortable being so close to Polly and tries to pull away.

Polly playfully pushed Stephanie.

Stephanie laughs.
Matt relaxes.

     No, I think it’s great, Polly. It’s not
     like we’re under the watchful eye of
     parental authority. We can do whatever
     the hell we want. ...At least you’ve
     found someone.

Polly looks over Stephanie’s shoulder at Amy.

(Polly’s) POV shot of Amy sorting clothes on bed.

                   POLLY (O.S.)
     What, some crazy guy hasn’t latched onto
     you yet?

                   STEPHANIE (O.S.)
     Jesus, Polly. I have to live with her.

Amy looks up at the three and listens.

(Amy’s) POV shot of Polly, Stephanie, and Matt.

                   STEPHANIE (CONT’D)
     Besides, there are a multitude of guys
     worse than him out there. There is this
     one guy she says...

Polly looks at Amy and then back to Stephanie. Stephanie quickly changes the subject.

                   STEPHANIE (CONT’D)
     I just don’t know if I’ll find someone
     as good for me as Matt, here.

Stephanie reaches out and gives Matt a playful shake.

Matt flinches and tenses up again.

Polly smiles briefly then becomes serious.

     That’s the other thing, Steph. We didn’t
     ...we didn’t come here alone.

     What? Who else did you bring?

Polly shifts her feet and leans into Matt for support.

     See, she said the that roads might be
     bad because of the weather. And that
     Matt and I might want some time for just
     the two of us. And...

Polly looks to Matt.

Matt looks into Polly’s eyes. He slowly turns his head to face Stephanie.

     She said you were all close. You, and
     Polly, and Amy. ...She said that you
     would be happy to see her.

Matt turns his head back toward the still open doorway.

(Matt’s) POV shot of INGRID, a self-assured, if cold & vindictive University of Illinois freshman, entering the room. She is wearing a light winter coat and a small overnight bag.

She hands the bag to Matt and begins to take of her coat.

              (to herself)
     Don’t overwhelm me with the warmth of
     your greeting.

Matt puts her bag with the others and takes Ingrid’s coat. He helps Polly take off her coat. He then looks for somewhere to put them.
Stephanie points out the closet and Matt goes over and hangs up the coats. He takes his own off but folds it over his arm.

     Hey, Steph! Surprised to see me?

Amy’s head snaps up. She spins around to see


and drops whatever clothes she was holding.

     Yeah. More than a little surprised. I
     thought you had to go home for a family

     Nope. That’s not until summer.

Stephanie laughs nervously. She looks back at Amy.

Amy gives up on her laundry and moves over toward Matt. She takes his coat and hangs it up. Amy remains next to the closet.

Matt quickly moves back over to Polly.

Ingrid briefly looks over at Amy then turns her attention back to Stephanie.

     So you decided to pay us a visit? Okay.
     We can make room for you.

     Oh, come on, Steph. We can’t be so
     insensitive to Matt.

Ingrid looks over to Amy.

                   INGRID (CONT’D)
     Amy, you know what I’m talking about.
     What is he supposed to do if you and
     Stephanie monopolize Polly’s time the
     whole weekend?

     Yeah. You’re all kinds of conscientious,
     aren’t you, Ingrid?

Ingrid smiles wickedly and makes a cat claw swiping motion.

     Me-ow, Amy. I know for a fact that you
     let people of far lower character than
     me into this room with great frequency.
     What? Am I ruing your plans for the

Amy leans against the wall and lolls her head back.

     God, I hope not. I’d like to think that
     you’d have better things to do than to
     drive five hours and ruin a good time.

     Yeah, tell me about it. You would think
     that when it comes to driving for hours
     and having a good time you would be
     thinking about someone else. Someone
     whose school is a couple of hours
     closer. Especially if it’s a really good
     time. ...I’m just here to enjoy some
     Iowa ambience and spend some time with
     my friends. Is that so bad, Amy?

Stephanie sighs and steps between Ingrid and Amy. She is noticeably uneasy.

     Come on, you two. Lighten up. Ingrid’s
     probably just worn out from the drive.
     And Ingrid, Amy doesn’t need to be
     reminded that Greg isn’t here this

Ingrid looks askance at Stephanie.

Amy huffs and looks away.
Ingrid looks at Amy.

     Works out, though. Doesn’t it? I mean,
     it would be really crowded with all of
     us and Greg. And then none of us would
     get to spend any time with you, Amy.
     .....So, what are we doing tonight?

Amy pushes off the wall and stalks back toward her bed.

     I’m sure I have no idea. Stephanie made
     the plans for what she and Polly were
     going to be doing tonight.

     You aren’t going out with us, Amy? Why

     Something better planned, eh?

Matt (POV) looks from Amy to Ingrid to Polly. He then looks back at his shoes.

     Maybe she has some schoolwork to do.
     It’s okay. We can still do...whatever.

     Yeah. Come on, Ingrid. We can still have
     a good time. The ZTA house is having a
     low-key thing tonight. Just members and
     a few guests.

Ingrid shakes her head and grins.

     I don’t know. Maybe you were right
     before, Steph. Maybe I’m worn out from
     the drive. It might be nice to just
     spend the night relaxing and catching

     Amy isn’t going to be in tonight.

Amy glares at Stephanie.

Stephanie weakly smiles.

Ingrid glances back and forth at the roommates, still grinning.

     So what are you doing then, Amy?

Amy starts to speak but stops. She sighs, looks away and then back at Ingrid.

     Actually, if you really need to know,
     I’m supposed to be playing babysitter
     for some guys in from Iowa State.
     ...They don’t know where anything is in
     town and I’m supposed to take them to a
     few parties.

     Just some guys from ISU?

Amy shakes her head.

                   POLLY (CONT’D)
     Who, then?

Amy and Stephanie share a knowing glance.

              (looking at Ingrid)
     Is it someone you know? Yeah. One of
     them, anyway. Mike. And one of his
     fraternity brothers.

     Mike? Mike who?

Ingrid’s eyes go wide and her jaw slack as she realizes which Mike.

     Really? Just when I thought things
     couldn’t get anymore interesting.

Amy spins around in a huff.

Stephanie half steps towards Amy and shoots an angry look at Ingrid.

Polly tires to step between Amy and Ingrid but is restrained by Matt.

     Ingrid, come on. Back off a little.

              (looking at Amy)
     Is this something you want to endorse,
     Polly? I mean, now that you have

Amy turns back to face Ingrid and interrupts her.

     How’s that going for you, Ingrid?

Ingrid grimaces, nods her head, and takes a step back.

     This isn’t about me and you know it. I
     thought we has this conversation before.
     You know how I feel about Tim. And now
     you’ve gone and gotten yourself involved
     with Mike?

     Mike’s a friend.
(Over the next few lines, Amy interrupts Ingrid multiple times. Ingrid does not pause.)

     Yeah. He’s Tim’s friend. He knew—

     —I know, Ingrid—

     —about the letters. He and Tim—

     —I know, Ingrid—

     —have been friends since forever. And no
     matter why you’ve gotten yourself—

     —I fucking get it, Ingrid!—

     —with Mike, it’s going to come back to
     Tim. And it’s going to fuck up your
     relationship with Greg.

     I have never done anything to threaten
     my relationship with Greg.

Matt leans forward.

     I think...maybe we should just wait
     outside. This doesn’t really concern us.

Ingrid cocks her head toward Matt.

     No, Matt. It doesn’t concern you. Your
     interest here goes about as far as Polly
     will let you get into her pants.


Polly looks shocked and blushes.

Matt is half-angry, half-confused. He looks about for cues as to whether he should speak up in defense of his honor.

     Fine. Sorry. But I’m not the bad guy

     You’re not the altruistic friend,
     either, Ingrid.  You really do derive
     some kind of perverse pleasure from all
     of this, don’t you?

Ingrid softens a little.

     No, Amy. I don’t. I’m sorry if it seems
     that I do, but this all has an air of
     absurdity to it now. This is a nightmare
     that has gone on too damn long.

     It is none of your goddamn business,
     Ingrid. What the fuck do you care who I
     spend my time with? I don’t think he
     wants to hang around with you, either. I
     don’t even know if he knows who you are.

Polly laughs briefly. She looks apologetically at Amy.

     Oh, I think he knows who Ingrid is. I
     mean, how many people go around
     indiscriminately attacking his character
     and impugning his honor? He does have
     friends. It must have gotten back to

     Why is that my fault? All I did was not
     keep silent on a subject where everyone
     knows what is going on.

              (to no one in particular)
     Well, I know now. ...I can think of
     better topics of conversation. But if
     what she says is true...he sounds kind
     of scary.

     Tim is most definitely not scary. A
     little odd, sure, but he’s been like
     that since grade school.

     I just know what I heard.

     You only heard what Ingrid had to say.
     If I believed everything I heard, I
     would be convinced that you’re a virgin
     who’s as desperate to get laid as is
     humanly possible. But having met you, I
     can see that isn’t the case. You’re just
     a little afraid of girls. And there’s a
     bit of a difference between the two,
     isn’t there?

All shift awkwardly as silence builds.

Stephanie claps her hands and forces a smile.

     Well, this is shaping up to be a
     delightful evening. Can we stop with the
     personal attacks?

     Yeah. And it probably isn’t a good idea
     for all of us to stay in. Not if it’s
     going to be like this.

     Dammit, Polly. I don’t want to be
     responsible for ruining anyone’s

     You sure you don’t want to blame me for

Matt chuckles but hides his head in his chest.

Amy huffs.

Stephanie steps forward in between Amy and Ingrid.

     We’re done with that, Ingrid. ...We
     need to decide what we’re going to do
     about tonight.
              (to Ingrid and Polly)
     We can still go out...or we can stay in
     and just swap stories right here.
               (to Amy)
     Okay? ...Why don’t you get ready for the
     guys? You still have some time.

Amy (POV) looks back at her bed, then Ingrid, and then at Stephanie.

                   STEPHANIE (CONT’D)
     I don’t think anyone is that concerned
     with your laundry. ...We can stay if you

     Do whatever you want, Steph. I’ll handle
     it when they get here.

                                                CUT TO


TIM, a short, heavy freshman wearing a worn U.S. Army jacket and Detroit Tigers baseball cap, is walking with two other FIGURES down the streets of Iowa City. They are: MIKE, a tall, athletically built freshman who is wearing old, out of date clothes and a work coat, and CRAIG, a somewhat dazed sophomore who is wearing shorts and sandals. Mike is behind Tim’s left shoulder. Craig is further back, behind Tim’s right shoulder.

They are having a conversation as they approach Burge Hall, a dormitory.

                   MIKE, she totally believed me.

     That’s because the Cyclones suck at
     football. You could probably convince
     half of the people here that you played
     in the Iowa - Iowa State game.

     That’s not the funniest one, though.
     Dude, tell him about the girl from the

     No. She was just dumb.

     Oh, come on. Tell him.

     This isn’t going to live up to the
     billing, is it?

     All that happened was I told a girl at
     Subway that I bruised my uterus and she
     said, “guys have those?”

     That’s hilarious. That has to be the
     funniest thing I have ever born witness

     That is kind of sad, then, Craig.

     What are you trying to say.

The three walk into Burge Hall.

                                                CUT TO


     I can’t believe that neither of you are
     smart enough to follow written

Tim stops.

Mike and Craig catch up to Tim and then stop.

Tim looks over his shoulder to Mike.

                   TIM (CONT’D)
     Okay. I can’t believe you can’t follow

Craig feigns being hurt. He clutches his light jacket to his body.

              (to Tim)
     Don’t even give me that. You don’t know
     the names of any of the streets. You
     would have me wander around a strange
     college town looking for a particular
     dormitory? From what you told me, you
     couldn’t even find your classes the
     first day.

Craig chuckles.

     You couldn’t even find the school? What
     are you, some kind of stupid?

Tim starts walking again.

              (looking forward)
     At least I can read, Craig.

Mike and Craig follow Tim.

     I know enough to be able to recognize
     the kind of beer and porn I like. What
     more do I need in life?

Tim looks over his shoulder at Mike.

     He’s a winner.

     You act like this is some kind of huge
     imposition on you. What did you have
     planned for tonight? Sit at home and
     watch TV?

     They don’t call it “must see” for

Craig rolls his eyes. He thumps his chest and stresses the word “us.”

     Who are you to complain about it?
     There’s no party without us.

     That would be a shame. You would have to
     sit in my apartment, drink my roommates’
     Beer and drool over their Playboys.

     Yeah. That isn’t that bad, either.

Mike reaches out and grabs Tim by the arm. Both stop. Tim turns to face Mike.

Craig stops shortly thereafter.

     Seriously, why is this a problem for
     you? It’s not like you’re not over here
     every week.

     Not the last couple of weeks. Not to see
     her, anyway. I got out of there before
     she came back. And that was only to get The
     Princess Bride back from Stephanie.

Tim turns and starts walking again. Mike and Craig follow.

                   MIKE’re avoiding her? That would be

     Something happened.

     Really? Something actually happened?
     Well, praise be and ring the bells. You
     actually did something.

     No, I didn’t.

     Why the hell not?

     Because I’m not like you. I’m not going
     to throw back a few beers and forget
     about how my actions affect other

     What a boy scout.

Tim stops. Mike and Craig stop immediately after. Tim turns to face them both.

     Mike and I were both in the Boy Scouts,

              (to Tim)
     That doesn’t mean you have to be
     joyless. You don’t have to be such a wet
     fucking blanket. Having a beer isn’t
     going to kill you.

Tim grimaces.

                   MIKE (CONT’D)
     You wouldn’t even call her.

     I wouldn’t call to make plans for you.
     And I’m not really sure why I had to
     call to verify those plans. You’re under
     the delusion that you and Amy are
     friends. You fancy yourself a lady’s
     man. I would think that you would have
     little need for me in this scenario.


     They aren’t my plans. It isn’t me and

     —She and I.

     Fuck you, too.
     It isn’t excluding you. It isn’t about
     taking her away from you. It’s about
     having a good time with friends. And
     it’s “she and me” anyway.

              (to Tim, in an annoying tone)
     Don’t you want to be my friend?

              (to Mike)
     My mind is made up, okay? And it’s
     either “she and I” or “her and me,”
     depending on whether it’s the subject or
     the object of the sentence.

     Jesus Christ, you anal retentive
     bastard! I just want to go to a few
     parties or something. I don’t think
     that’s too much to ask.

     Nothing wrong with fun.

              (to Mike)
     You made these plans with her. She knows
     you’re coming. My job is just to deliver
     you and leave.

Tim starts walking again. Mike and Craig immediately follow.

     I called her because you wouldn’t! What
     the fuck, Tim? I thought all that petty
     shit was behind the two of you. So
     unless you actually have something
     better planned you should come out with
     us. ...Have some fun, for Christ’s sake.
     Besides, won’t it just piss her off if
     you’re not there with us?

Tim offers up a weak smile and shakes his head.

     I don’t think so. Things just aren’t
     that way right now.

Tim stops in front of a door. The number on it reads


Craig shifts back and forth uneasily waiting for Tim to knock.

     So? Change them. That is why you came
     here. Yeah, you’re an English major and
     this is Iowa. But you’re here because of
     her. So spend tonight with her and have
     a good time.

Tim takes off his hat and brushes back his hair. He sighs and looks Mike in the eye.

     I’m also here because no other school
     would take me. Besides, “fun” means
     different things to you and me.

Tim reaches out his left hand to the door. There is a


“99%” written beneath his thumb.

(CU) He stretches out his fingers and touches the door. He slowly curls his fingers into a fist and pounds the door three times.

              (under his breath)
     I don’t think you have any idea what fun
     is. Or happiness.

Door opens. Tim is face to face with


Tim straightens up.

     Tim? ...Come on in.

(Craig’s) POV of Tim and Mike walking into room. Stephanie backs away to where Polly, Ingrid, and Matt are. Craig follows.

                                           SCENE BECOMES


Polly, Matt, and Ingrid are sitting on sleeping bags laid upon the floor. They are watching television.

Stephanie shrugs as she looks from Mike to Tim. She motions them toward the two chairs in the room. One of the chairs is occupied with various school related object.

Stephanie forces a smile.

     Have a seat.

(Camera pans) Craig looks to Mike, Mike looks to Tim. Tim closes his eyes and shakes his head.

Mike pats Craig on the shoulder.

     All yours.

Craig cautiously moves toward the open chair.

Stephanie happily turns and walks to her bed. She plops down upon it and half turns toward the television.

Matt acts as though he is oblivious to the new arrivals. Polly is comfortable in Matt’s arms, but becomes distracted by Ingrid’s reaction to Tim’s arrival.

Ingrid tenses up.

               (quietly, to Polly)
     I told you. I fucking told you.

Mike looks back to Tim and smiles.

Tim hangs his head and steps closer to Mike.

     Just sit down, okay?

Mike jumps a little. He creeps over to Amy’s bed which is still covered with clothes. He sits at the mid point of the bed and spins so that he is laying down with his head on the pillow.

Mike puts his hands behind his head and smiles broadly.

Tim retreats to be near the door.

               (quietly, to Ingrid)
     Didn’t see that coming, did you?

              (quietly, to Polly)
     Oh, this was worth the drive.

                                                CUT TO


Amy is in a shower stall. The water is on. Amy is facing the shower head. Shot is from the small of her back up.

Shot slowly tightens as it raises to her head and shoulders.

Amy turns to face camera. She is crying. She pushes hair away from her face. She slumps against back wall and slides down into a crouch; arms conveniently cover her breasts. She sniffs meaningfully.

(CU) Amy’s face. She wipes her eyes.

     No. Not over this. I’m not going to cry
     over this.

Amy sighs. She looks up and has to close her eyes because of the spray. She offers a light laugh.

                                           BACK TO SCENE

Tim exhales and checks his watch. He gets Stephanie’s attention.

     You can take it from here.

Stephanie looks shocked and rises from her bed. She meets Tim by the door.


     Where do you think you’re going?

     What do you want from me?

     You can’t leave before she gets back.

Camera pans over to Polly, Ingrid, and Matt.

Ingrid leans over to Polly.

              (quietly, to Polly)
     What is she doing?

              (quietly, to Ingrid)
     I think she is asking him to wait for

Camera pans back to Tim and Stephanie.

     I don’t need to be here.

     Mike’s your friend.

     Yeah, he is. But Amy invited him here. I
     was supposed to drop him off.

(Tim’s) POV – Mike is reading a shirt on Amy’s bed.

                   TIM (CONT’D) 
     There he is...dropped off.

Stephanie looks confused.

     What about his friend? I don’t know him.

              (raises his voice)
     I don’t know him, either.

Tim composes himself.

                   TIM (CONT’D)
     And I don’t know what I’m supposed    to be
     doing here. I was supposed to bring Mike
     over. He was invited tonight, not me. He
     and Craig.

     She said that? Or do you believe it
     because she told Mike you were acting
     like an ass?

     She isn’t going to want me here, okay.
     That’s a good enough reason for me to

Camera pans back to Ingrid & Polly.

              (quietly, to Ingrid)
     I wonder why she doesn’t just let him go
     if he wants to go.

              (quietly, to Polly)
     I think there is something that we
     missed. She’s hiding and he’s running.
     What does that say to you?

Polly shrugs.

Matt pulls Polly close and shushes the two young women.

Camera pans over to Craig. He is picking at something caught in the tread of his sandal. He looks very bored.

              (to Mike)
     What’s going on?

Mike shrugs.

                   CRAIG (CONT’D)
     I don’t know anybody here.

Mike sits up and gets Stephanie’s attention.

     I’m sorry. This is my fraternity
     brother, Craig.

(Mike’s) POV – pan of the room. Everyone looks confused as to what Mike is doing.

                   MIKE (CONT’D)
     We’re just in town for the night. We
     wanted to go out...go to some parties or
     something...Amy was supposed to meet us

              (to Craig)
     Nice to meet you, Craig. I’m Stephanie.

Stephanie slowly makes her way across the room and back to her bed. She introduces Polly, Matt, and Ingrid on the way.

                   STEPHANIE (CONT’D)
     This is Polly. And this is Matt, her
     boyfriend. And this is Ingrid.

Tim’s head snaps up. He glares angrily at Stephanie, who is not facing him.

Tim looks to Mike. Mike barely shrugs.

Stephanie reaches her bed and sits back down.

                   STEPHANIE (CONT’D)
     Matt, this is Craig, Mike, and Tim. I’ve
     known Mike and Tim since grade school.

Matt looks to Ingrid and then to the three guys.

     Hey. Mike? Craig?

Matt cautiously looks over to Tim.

                   MATT (CONT’D)
     Tim? ...You’re Tim, huh?


             (very quietly, anticipating Matt’s answer)
     Oh. I’ve heard so much about you.

Matt flinches a little at Ingrid’s remark.

     Well...hey. I guess the rest of you
     already know one another, then.

Ingrid smiles evilly.

     Yes, except for...

Craig nods but still looks disinterested.


     Yes, the rest of us do know one another.
     We went to the same high school.

Tim huffs and walks over to be between the two beds. Ingrid tenses up as Tim walks past her.

Polly leans over to say something to Ingrid, but Matt pulls her close and whispers in her ear. The two of them resume watching the TV.

              (to Stephanie, quiet but angry)

     Yeah. So what?

     You don’t know?

Stephanie shakes her head.

                   TIM (CONT’D)
     She’s the one who told Jaime I was a
     “total fucking psycho.”

     Jaime? Why?

     Because of the letters.

Mike starts picking through clothes on the bed.

              (to Tim)
     Your own fault, you know. And why did
     you ever write more than just the one?

Tim glares at Ingrid.

              (to Stephanie)
     If I had known it was her.....I can’t

     If you knew it was her.
     Just relax. You’re stuck here. You might
     as well come out with us, then.

     Yeah, Tim, it’s going to be okay. Ingrid
     can’t do anything about tonight. She’s
     just sitting over there watching TV.

     She probably didn’t expect me to be

     No. As a matter of fact, that was one of
     the first things she asked Amy about.

     Take it as a compliment and move on.

     She’s maligned me enough in the past for
     me to dwell on this a bit.

     I don’t know if I agree with that. But
     if you really want to know what she
     thinks of you, try taking a long car
     ride with her. ...Of course, if you just
     want to settle the score, she’s sitting
     right over there.

(Tim’s) POV – Ingrid watching TV. She briefly looks up and meets his glare with one of her own.

                   MIKE (O.S.)
     Or you could just grow up.

Mike shifts uncomfortably on the bed and digs an object out of the pile and tosses it to the floor.

                   MIKE (CONT’D)
     Come out with us. Part of this whole
     college experience, of being young, is
     getting beyond the notion that enjoying
     yourself is somehow wrong. There isn’t
     much Ingrid can do to ruin your evening
     if she’s stuck here.

     I’m not going out with you and Amy. I
     don’t want to go and she wouldn’t want
     me there.

              (to Tim)
     I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.

Tim hits his head against the wall behind him.

              (to Stephanie)
     You just don’t like Greg.

     That’s not what I—

     I never heard that story.

     It’s not a story. I just said that, when
     I was drunk, that I really like Greg and
     that Amy should marry him.

     And that means you don’t like Greg.

     No. Tim knows what I’m talking about.

     Yeah, you don’t like Greg. And that
     doesn’t make this right.

     Well, he’s not here, is he?

     I looked. He isn’t.

Mike picks out a pair of purple lace panties. He holds them up and shows them to Craig, Tim, and Stephanie.

                   MIKE (CONT’D)

Craig chuckles dumbly.

Tim slaps Mike’s hand. Mike drops the panties.

     Behave yourself.

     I’m bored.

     I don’t care. You don’t go digging
     through somebody else’s dirty clothes.

Mike picks the panties back up and smiles.

              (imitating Homer Simpson)
     Worn panties. Sexy.

Mike sniffs panties.

Tim slaps the panties out of Mike’s hands again, much harder this time.

                   INGRID (O.S.)
     A little presumptive, isn’t he?

                   POLLY (O.S.)
     Mike? Or Tim? I think you’ve read this

(CU) — Door opens. Amy enters room. She is dressed in a beige bathrobe. She closes the door behind her.

Tim walks across the room and corners Amy near the door.



     I thought you said Stephanie and Polly
     were going to be out.

     That’s what I was told, too. So what?

     And Ingrid?

     I didn’t know she was coming.

Tim gives Amy a look of disbelief.

                   AMY (CONT’D)
     I didn’t. I would have told you if I
     knew. Listen, I know how you feel about
     Ingrid. I wouldn’t have you two come
     together without some kind of a warning.
     I know she isn’t a big fan of yours,
     either. This could be something really
     unseemly, and I don’t want to have to
     deal with the aftermath of that.

(Tim’s) POV – Mike and Craig.

                   TIM (O.S.)
     Well, they’re here. You can do with them
     what you will.

Tim turns to leave.

Amy reaches out and grabs Tim by the arm. She pulls him back so that the two of them are face-to-face.

     You can’t just drop them off.

     I keep getting that, but you and I
     agreed that I would just drop them off,
     didn’t we?

Amy huffs.

     Let me get dressed.

Tim stands, staring.

                   AMY (CONT’D)

Tim nods and looks away.
Amy enters the closet to change clothes.

Tim walks back over between Mike and Stephanie on the beds.

Mike is going through prescription medicine bottles on the table next to Amy’s bed.

              (to Tim)
     So...what do you think of Matt?

     Not much.

              (not noticing Tim’s disinterest)
     Polly called me about two months ago to
     tell me about him.

Tim offers up a sarcastic “good for you” expression.

                   STEPHANIE (CONT’D)
     She was so excited. She had never been
     kissed before. Not for real. She didn’t
     even think he could be interested in
     her, but I guess he’s kind of shy and it
     took a while for things to develop.

     Hey, great. Doesn’t really help me,
     though, does it?

     Hey, it offers hope to the least of us.

Tim notices Mike fiddling with a bottle of medicine.

     Put the fucking medicine down! Now.

              (to Tim, giggling)
     Chill, dude. He isn’t hurting anything.
     If it were something embarrassing, I’m
     sure she wouldn’t just leave it out.

Tim glares at Craig. Craig looks away.  Tim sighs.

(Tim’s) POV – Polly and Matt watching television.

                   TIM (O.S.)
     Hey, Polly. I heard you guys were going
     to be out tonight.

Polly smiles. Matt hugs her close.

     Yeah, but Ingrid was tired. And we
     didn’t want to risk the bars. So we
     decided we could have just as good a
     time if we stayed in.

                   TIM (O.S.)
     Really? Well, if you’re not going
     drinking, you probably are better off
     staying in. I know I had planned to

Ingrid leans over and whispers to Polly.

              (very quietly)
     I’ll just bet he did.

Polly flinches.

Amy emerges from the closet. She is wearing a sweatshirt, jeans, and white socks.

Camera pans room from trio on floor to Stephanie, then Tim, and finally Mike. Mike is again going through her medicine bottles.
                   AMY (O.S.)
     Looking for something, Michael?

     My throat is sore. I was hoping I could
     take something.

                   AMY (O.S.)

Mike nods innocently and quickly sets the medicine back on the table.

Amy shoots and angry look at Tim and then to Mike.

                   AMY (CONT’D)
     Well, if you’re not feeling well,
     perhaps we shouldn’t go out tonight.

Amy walks over to her bed.

               (to Amy, forcefully)
     No. You do not have me drag them here
     from Ames and then decide you don’t want
     to do anything. That’s not fair to them
     or to me.

Amy cocks her head to indicate Ingrid.
     Things have changed, Tim. ...Maybe we
     could just hang out.

     The eight of us? No thank you.

Amy stares at Tim.

     Look, if you want us to go, all you have
     to do is ask.

     Please leave.

Tim reaches down and helps Mike out of Amy’s bed. They gather Craig out of the chair and start him toward the door.

Mike pauses to speak.

              (to Matt)
     Nice to meet you.
              (to the ladies)
     Stephanie, Polly, Ingrid...goodnight.
     Amy, ...I’ll call you later.


Craig reaches door and opens it. He stands waiting in doorway as Mike and Tim reach him.

                   AMY (CONT’D)
     Yeah, I think we’re just going to go to

Tim’s face brightens as he turns back to face the girls.

              (with comic flourish)
     Well, why didn’t you say so? And we were
     just about to leave.

Ingrid looks surprised.

     I knew it.

Polly smiles. Matt looks confused.

Stephanie stifles a laugh.
Amy glares at Tim with Hell’s Own Fury.

     No? That’s a shame, because the numbers

              (mock outrage)

Craig and Mike exit. Tim bows for effect.

     Okay, then. Goodnight, all.

Tim exits and closes the door behind him.

                                                CUT TO


Tim, Mike, and Craig stand outside the door. They begin their egress from the building.

     You know, you’re going to pay for that.

     She’ll forget about it. It isn’t like
     I’m the center of her world. Besides,
     I’ve already been forgiven for worse. I
     doubt this is going to be the final

     At some point, all these transgressions
     are going to be enough. You would be
     better off not acting like that.

              (to Tim)
     You and that girl have something going
     on, don’t you? That’s why you were all
     pissed off that Mike had his hands in
     her panties.

Tim starts to answer but Mike cuts him off.

              (to Craig)
     No, they don’t. Not anything like you’re
              (to Tim)
     But tell me, Tim, do you think that’s
     what Ingrid saw?

     Hey, fuck her! If I knew it was her when
     we went in there—

     If you knew it was her? What the fuck,
     Tim? How could you not know it was her?
     You went to high school with her. She
     was in our chemistry class. ...And what
     would you have done anyway, huh? I’ll
     tell you what. You would have sat and
     stewed and not done a goddamn thing,
     which is eerily similar to what just
     happened! If you knew it was her. Maybe
     it’s time you empower yourself in some
     other way than in the hypotheticals in
     your head.

All stop. Craig retreats a step. Tim and Mike face one another.

     You have something to say? I sure could
     use some advice from the guy who cheated
     on his girlfriend the first weekend of
     college, the guy who doesn’t know well
     enough not to dig through other people’s
     personal property.

     I wasn’t the problem in there!

     The hell you weren’t! I wasn’t the one
     causing a scene. I could have been at

     Dude, your home’s back in Illinois.

Tim turns angrily toward Craig.

     Hey, fuck you, too, booze hound! You’re
     about as useful as tits on a bull. You
     make people uncomfortable.

Craig steps up to confront Tim.

     I was just chillin’ in there, dude. I
     didn’t piss your girl off. She didn’t
     ask me to leave. That was on you. Maybe
     I should just—

Mike steps between Craig and Tim. Mike shoves Craig back.

              (to Craig)
     Back off, Craig. You don’t appreciate
     the situation.
              (to Tim)
     And neither do you. You don’t want to
     hear it? Too fucking bad! I wasn’t the
     problem in there. You could have stayed
     home? That would have been helpful. You   
     didn’t come to Iowa to hide from her.
     For Christ’s sake, everybody knows why
     you’re here. Ingrid fucking knows. You
     think not being there tonight is going
     to quash suspicion in her mind? You
     think that brooding and being unpleasant
     says “she and I are just friends?”
     You’re fucking kidding yourself.

     I don’t need you telling me what to do.

     But do you know why? ...Because you
     never fucking do anything! The only
     advice you would take is to be an
     obstacle to your own success and
     happiness. What did it matter that
     Ingrid was there? You could have just
     swallowed your goddamn pride and been
     polite. Or gone off on her. What the
     fuck do I care? You could have said,
     “Amy, it would mean a lot to me if you
     would still take Mike and Craig out.”
     And she would have done it because you
     asked. Instead you bark fucking orders.
     You wouldn’t ask her and you never will.
     You fucking pine for this girl and she’s
     right there! You want to know something?
     Not dating her, or fucking her, or
     whatever you have in mind isn’t some
     high and mighty moral act so long as you
     really want to. And why don’t you? What,
     are you afraid of Greg? So what. I’ve
     seen you beat the hell out of guys twice
     your size. And over what? And how long
     were you upset about that? ...What then? 
     You think you and Amy wouldn’t last? You
     wouldn’t! You’ve never had anything
     approaching a healthy relationship. But
     that doesn’t mean you don’t try. You
     can’t live with yourself if you lose
     her? Then try being an actual friend and
     put some energy into finding a girl of
     your own. But it’s fucking time you grow
     up and stop this pointless obsession! I
     don’t want to hear about this for the
     next decade, okay? I don’t want to raise
     a glass with you to celebrate the
     anniversary of her throwing you out of
     her life. I don’t. I want you to be
     happy, Tim, but it isn’t my job to do it
     for you. I’m not here to tell you what
     to do. You have to figure that out for
     yourself. I didn’t ruin anything for you
     here. She doesn’t look at me and see

     But you were the one who got to fondle
     her privies.
               (to Tim)
     Looks like you’ll never get to do the

Tim takes a step toward Craig. Craig takes a half-step back and stumbles and falls to the ground.

Mike laughs.

Tim turns back to face Mike.

     You want to go back? Then do it. God
     helps those who help themselves, you

     We do what’s right because it’s right.
     We don’t give thought to reward. I
     thought some of that stuck with you.

     No wonder you’re so miserable.

     But you don’t do anything, Tim! Here is   
     your chance to make a difference in your
     life. You can go back to her room and
     say what you need to. You tell her what
     you want and what she means to you. Or
     we can all be in the same boat: outside
     on a cold night with nothing to do.

Tim indicates Craig.

     Wearing shorts like stupid, here.

     What’s it going to be, Tim?

Tim scratches his chin and sighs.

     I’m hungry. Come on, I’ll take you to
     the place where they have those two
     pound burritos.

     You’d rather get a burrito than go back
     there and fuck that girl? You’re nuts,

     I wasn’t kidding about my throat. I
     wasn’t looking through those bottle to
     be an asshole.

All three resume walking.

     Well, then, I can add the University
     hospital to the grand tour. You may as
     well see the largest employer in the

     Yeah, that’s a lot better than parties
     and drinking and loose sorority girls.
     You’ve got a great friend, here, Mike.

     Sometimes. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

     You don’t think this is memorable?

     Oh, no, it is. I was just looking for a
     night I could forget.

All three walk out of frame.

                                                FADE OUT