Write Dialogue Better? Sure, Why Not?

I think one of the hardest aspects of writing is the dialogue. I’m currently reading a book with an enthusiastic ten fingers in the air. It has some good, solid advice in it. It is only 135 pages long so it won’t be a daunting task to read. I would advise reading it twice or maybe three times. I know I will, at least twice.

The author, James Scott Bell, says reading dialogue in screenplays will increase your knowledge. He uses examples from Maltese Falcon, which is a great screenplay. If you have a great screenplay, it more than likely will translate into a great movie. Yet, novel writing doesn’t have the same format as screenplays, but dialogue matters in both.

So for the purpose of focusing on improving your novel writing via dialogue, check out the book How to Write Dazzling Dialogue. Bell describes examples of poorly written dialogue, mediocre dialogue, and well-written dialogue where it is understandable. There are exercises you can do to improve your writing, which is also handy. I hope you find it as informative as I have so far.

Cheers and Happy Writing.

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Short Story: Dear Diary

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     The screams coming from our house were heard by the next door neighbors on
both sides of my parents’ house that day. Mrs. Lambert lived to the right of us. She pushed on her screen door, loosening the hinges even more, with her bony hand to investigate. She was married twice. I don’t know what happened to her first husband, but she looked like a skeleton.

     Whenever my mom invited her over for dinner, she always declined with a shake of her head. It isn’t polite to stare, but I couldn’t turn away from her beady eyes in the middle of her shrunken head. It was like she was scared of being in a normal house with normal people. I was glad she had never set foot inside my parents’ house, but I kept this to myself.

     Our windows were open all the time except during the rainy days. I hoped my mom didn’t tell Mrs. Lambert about my birthday party. I doubted she would come, but this was the last person I wanted to see because she would ruin it. I didn’t like how she talked either. Her voice was high-pitched and nasally.  Her conversations usually went the same way with my mom.

     “You know how Jonathan doesn’t like me eating past six o’clock.”

     “I’m well aware.” My mom gave her a short eye roll and prolonged her exhalation, all   the signals of annoyance.

     “Oh, stop it! Jonny means nothing by it.” This sounded convincing enough to me, but not my mom.

     “Your flimsy justification doesn’t erase the sting behind his words, and the last time I saw Jonny, it seemed he had put on weight himself.

     Mrs. Lambert stammered out her words. “Well, I didn’t come over here to argue. I just wanted to wish you a good day.”  And with that, she left without another word.  My mom later confessed she probably shouldn’t have made those comments about our neighbors. She didn’t exactly feel bad enough to apologize to either one of them, but expressed her regret. She had been friends with her since grade school. I’m not sure about her husband. 

     Our neighbors to the right were more personable. I didn’t mind calling them by their first names. Pamela and Marcus were the only adults invited to my birthday party. I made sure of it.

     The day prior to my birthday I arranged the top of my desk with an assortment of balloons, paper streamers of my favorite colors, birthday paper plates and napkins, and random noise makers. I wanted everything related to my birthday as close to me as possible minus my presents. My parents had hidden them in their bedroom. It was off-limits to my sisters, and I didn’t feel like getting into trouble even though I was dying to know if anything on my wish list was in their bedroom.

     My dad had already eaten breakfast by the time I came into the kitchen. He was sipping his coffee as I waited patiently for my eggs and pancakes. They smelled good and tasted better. His glances at me became longer and longer.  I could tell he had some fatherly advice to give.

     “Jackie, don’t let anyone say you can’t do something. If you want to do it, then do it. Once you have it in your head you can’t, you might as well give up the ghost.”

     “Thanks, dad.” “I’m not kidding around.” “I know.”

     “Things like that don’t leave, and set you up for failure again and again.”  His advice would be over when he would knock his knuckles on the table. He hadn’t done that yet. I hoped it would be soon.  “I want you to see things the way you see them. I want you to see things with your own eyes. I want you to be your own person, Jackie, but carefully.”

     “I will.”

     “That’s what I want to hear.”

     I wondered how many times my sisters had heard this. They had no problem tuning him out during dinner time even when he pointed his index finger at them. That finger always lingered when he came to me. It made me feel important and anxious at the same time. He would end his speech with our responsibilities to one another.

     He continued, “I’ve been around here longer than you and your sisters put together.”

     I knew this wasn’t true. I was almost eleven. My sister Margery was seventeen and Alice was fifteen. I knew how to count. My dad wasn’t forty-seven. He nodded a few times at his own words, and finally knocked on the table with his knuckles. This was my cue to put my plate in the sink and grab a plastic bag from the cabinet.

     My plan was to help my parents after breakfast, but now I wanted to be by myself. My excitement of turning a year older bubbled inside me as it did earlier. After I closed my bedroom door, I removed my diary under my mattress, and scribbled the date with my special pen. It had my name on the side of it, and was a gift from my best friend, Sherry, from last year’s birthday.

July 2, 1981

Dear Diary,

Tomorrow is my birthday. I can hardly wait. turn eleven. I can’t believe this. I’m four years away from being a woman. My mom says you become a woman when you’re able to have children. I think you become a woman when you can wear a bra. I’m still flat chested unlike my sisters. I wish I could be like them. Don’t tell anyone. They would rub it in my face. I try not to show my disappointment in being treated as a girl by my parents because I don’t feel like a girl anymore. I’m no longer in the single digits. At least my mom doesn’t tell the story of how I was a blessing even though I know I was an accident. My sisters will always be better than me. It isn’t fair. I wish I had been born first. Then they could be jealous of me. My parents probably got me stupid gifts. If my mom actually knew me, she’d know I really wanted a white bra with lace around the edges. I wish I could wear a dress like Margery. And why don’t boys call me? Other girls in my grade have boyfriends already. It isn’t fair. Sherry  told me she’s a woman now.  Her mom let’s her wear a bra. You want to know what my mom did when I asked her to buy me a bra? She touched my chest. How embarrassing! IT’S SO NOT FAIR!!! I stormed out of the room. We haven’t talked about it since. This was two weeks ago. I’m going to be the only one not wearing a bra to my party. How lame! I just want everything to go perfect tomorrow. I haven’t felt this nervous since I don’t know when. I almost feel like vomiting. I better go downstairs before my parents look for me. They have no idea I have this.  I promise to write soon.

Yours truly,

Jackie

P.S: I think I love Danny.

P.S.S: I think Sherry does too.

     I thought I had brought the birthday decorations back to my room. I guess I hadn’t because when I went to the living room my dad had already ripped open the red balloons. His cheeks were getting their workout. I counted his progress. There were
fifteen. I tore into the blue ones, and handed him one. I watched him take a deep breath, then blow. His process was a sight to see.

     My mom was in the kitchen making my vanilla cake. I requested a lemon filling and frosting. It smelled so good. I knew she would let me have a taste of the frosting if I went in there, but I wanted to help my dad instead. She usually saved some for me anyway.

     My dad and I were making good time when one of the balloons broke in his grip, making a loud pop. We both jumped a little bit. He then exaggerated his movements, and it sent us into a fit of giggles. After all the balloons were gone, and our cheeks couldn’t take anymore, they were ready to be hung. I handed them one by one to him in the archway. We next coiled streamers to be hung in the archway and outside the front door. The house was looking more and more like a party celebration.

     I was thinking how I would remember this day for the rest of my life when someone knocked on our door. My parents didn’t hear it the first time, but I sure did. I guess girls have better hearing than their parents.

     “Someone’s at the door, dad.”

     “Are you sure?”

     Before I could answer, the knock became more insistent.  This time because he put down the streamers on the floor.

     “I can get the door, dad.”

     “Let me see who it is first.”

     My dad could be overly protective. He turned halfway to me. “This better not be one of your sisters.” I smiled. I wished it was. She would be in so much trouble. There was a time for pranks. This wasn’t one of them.

     I followed slowly behind him to see who was at the door. The third loud knock brought my mom out of the kitchen. She nudged me aside and went to my dad. He opened the door enough for me to see a police man.

    He said politely, “Mr. and Mrs. Simms.”

     “Yes.”  They said in unison.  

     “May I speak with you in private?”

     The police man must’ve seen me because he pointed in my direction.  My dad ushered my mom outside and closed the door behind them.  I wondered what they were talking about, and it didn’t take long to hear my mom’s voice.

     “Oh, God! Not Margery!”  I scrambled to the door and pressed my ear to it.

     “I think you should sit down with your husband, ma’am.”

     “I want to see her.”

     “Let’s give it some time, ma’am.”

     “Where is she?”

     “The scene is still being processed.”

     “My poor baby. Was she decent?”

     “Yes, she was found clothed.”

     There was silence, and I moved just in time when the door swung open.  It hit the wall with a thud. I stood there, unable to move, inches from my parents and the policeman. I had not obeyed my dad. He didn’t say anything. I watched him help my mom inside. She looked out of it, not sure of where she was.

     “Mom? Are you okay?”

     “Not now, Jackie. Go to your room.”  When I didn’t move, he raised his voice.  “Right now, Jackie!” 

     I stood my ground, but it was no use. The police man knew what to do in these situations. He took my hand and led me away from my parents. I asked questions along the way, but he gave no answers I wanted to hear. We entered the kitchen instead, and around the same time my mom let out her first scream.

     I had known friendly policemen, but he was not so friendly. The way he looked at me scared me too. I didn’t want to see him anymore, and turned my back to him. This is when I noticed my mom had taken my birthday cake out of the oven. It rested on the stove burner. I wanted a bite, but I didn’t have any for fear he might tell my parents what I had done. He finally left the kitchen when he heard commotion, but not before ordering me to stay in the kitchen.

     I finally learned what happened in between all the sobbing and talking of Mrs. Lambert with my parents. I was for once happy she had come into our house. My sister liked to take long walks. My parents saw our town as home sweet home. Young children played outside without any danger. Boys rode their bikes up and down the roads all hours of the day without fear. Girls ran back and forth among their houses without a care in the world.

     This changed when Margery was discovered by an elderly man walking his dog. He had noticed her legs sticking out of the bushes. I couldn’t believe someone would be so cruel to my sister. She was annoying at times, but she didn’t deserve to be beaten. She had been the first murder in over five decades.

     It became almost unbearable for my sister Alice after her death. My parents never let her out of their sight, and dad insisted on having a strong teenage boy with her every time she left the house. I wish he had said that to me. If I wanted to go anywhere, it would be him with me. He didn’t think the boys in my grade could protect me. He didn’t know the strength of Danny.

     I cursed at Margery for ruining my birthday as I laid in bed that night.  It wasn’t right of me to feel this way, but I did because mom never frosted my cake, and dad blew up the balloons for nothing. The streamers were useless. The plates and napkins wouldn’t be unwrapped. My friends would never see me blow out eleven candles. I never would eat any of the food I requested.

     As my eyes finally closed, I stayed sleeping until late into the next morning. I spotted them before I sat up. My parents had not forgotten. There were more presents than I imagined. The biggest one was wrapped in shiny red paper. I hopped off the bed and went to my knees. I tore off the wrapping paper. This present was on my list. I had finally gotten a boom box. I was so happy. I wanted this feeling to last.

     I grabbed another one. It was from Margery. She must’ve given it to my parents before she went for her walk. She liked to leave things until the very end. Tears fell down my face as I tore off the wrapping. I opened the box.  It was a necklace with my initials on it. It was the similar to the one she wore. She had never taken it off.  She wore it everywhere.  I closed my eyes and promised to Margery I would do the same.

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Even a Hermit Needs Water and Sun

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Even someone who doesn’t mind being holed up in the apartment likes to get out once in a while.  The traffic was still congested for Monday, but it was all worth it when I arrived to my destination of Huntington Beach.  There’s nothing better than visiting any beach in California.  It was even better I didn’t have to drive.

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Huntington Beach is known for its great surfing weather, and aptly named Surf City.  It was a perfect combination of breezy and sunny with a high of 68 degrees Celsius this day.  I put my feet in the Pacific Ocean and felt the coolness of it not be as shocking as minutes ticked by.

I held tiny clams in my hands, which left them slimy long after they left.  I took pictures of surfers that didn’t turn out.  I took videos of the tide coming and going.  I was amazed at the power of the waves and how it eroded the sand underneath my feet.  I laid on the dry sand soaking up the sun.  I walked the pier and saw signs not to fish for Great White Sharks.  It was a relaxing day from start to finish.

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Everything must come to an end and so I left HB as it was getting chillier.  Until the next time and until more pictures, and hopefully less blurry and without a FedEx truck, I hope to do this again soon but at a different CA beach.

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The Three-Pronged Blog

Pre-Prong: Introduction

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     I’ve postponed posting this because I thought what if someone reading this will view me differently than they already do. What if a handful of people reading this decides to drop me a few notches on their friends or acquaintances coolness tape measure? I came to the conclusion of so what.

     This led to my own recognition of wanting to get my stories written as quickly and methodically as possible; but on the other hand, my inability to write since February of this year has bothered me greatly. It had to do with fears and anxieties of what would happen once I got my stories written.

     The curse of being an over thinker at times. Why am I trying to outsmart my own self? Why am I not meeting my own needs? Why am I procrastinating in all ways possible so I don’t write? Why is my mind half in and half out? Why am I not trying to dissect this big, fatty deposit away?

     I decided to not fight it anymore. I promised myself to take and make the time to devote myself again to my novel-writing, but only after I had written this more serious blog. So without further delay, here it is.

Prong One: Home in Los Angeles

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     I have very little in common with the earlier settlers of California except hoping to better myself for a more comfortable future. Most of us would agree the United States emerged from rather dark beginnings and its rapid growth in the late 19th and early 20th century occurred on the backs of the perceived lesser races. This isn’t to place blame on a certain race or group, but I’m aware to not minimize the plights of others. You will see why I’m commenting on this now instead of later, and how it all ties into my later prongs.

     I moved to California in late 2006. There would be more diversity compared to the city I was currently living in the Midwest. I was excited for my new beginning as it was my first step in completely breaking away from my comfort zone. I soon called Los Angeles my home away from home. I settled into a tiny apartment miles away from Beverly Hills or Brentwood or Pacific Palisades or anywhere one might associate the rich and famous. I was never going to be the one to take part of the finer things Los Angeles had to offer. This wasn’t my goal nor did I want it. I was on a mission of a different kind. Ten years later I never had the chance to show my longevity in Hollywood, but the positive result was gaining personal growth in areas I never imagined. With some broken promises to myself, I learned to put together my fractured life and proceed forward as best as possible.

     While Los Angeles in 2017 has its faults such as the gridlock on most of the highways especially the dreaded 405 and 101 that goes hand in hand with the insistence of entitlement and impatience on the road, it has its perks such as the weather and location. There’s something special about the triad of having the ocean, mountains, and snow in close proximity to each other. I haven’t been to the snowy areas of Los Angeles County, but I enjoy driving to the ocean and seeing mountains on the horizon. I still haven’t been able to answer the rhetorical question of would I move to Los Angeles again knowing what I know now. The majority within myself says, “NO,” while the remaining is a less forceful, “yes.” There has been definite trade-offs. Life never happens the way you expect it should be, and as much as I wish I was a fortune-teller, in the long run it would cause me more grief than not. So, I kick away the rhetorical question and replace them with others.

     My life has become more about living, reflecting, and changing since moving to Los Angeles. It leads me to what I recognize my life will be until my last breath. I might not always succeed one hundred percent, but who I am will always incorporate maximum living, better reflection, and long-lasting changes no matter where I call home.

Prong Two: Race in Los Angeles

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     I recently watched the documentary, Let it Fall, about the social and racial events leading up to the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. It covered the tense, violent relationships between the police and minority communities, Korean store owners and its non-Korean patrons, and negative views of Caucasian people by disenfranchised populations. As I listened to the major players involved, it dawned on me how there has been positive growth in some areas, but others have sadly remained the same.

     While much of the vagrant population encompasses people suffering mental health issues and drug addiction, a homeless person is a homeless person. They continue to be a “burden” or “tragedy,” depending on how you view it. They have been pushed out of most areas in Los Angeles including downtown. The city tries to help them with limited resources. There are signs posted near stores not to help them, but this doesn’t deter them. They hold signs daily when you drive around busy intersections. The different racial populations continue to remain the same in their respective neighborhoods as well.

     Visiting K-Town was never a must do on my list. I don’t really feel any closer to Korean people when I visit there. I’ve been back to South Korea once and K-Town a few times. Many assume I know my native language. They get confused looks on their faces when I speak to them in English. I’ve heard more than once I speak really good English by both Asians and Caucasians. Most of my responses incorporated some kind of justification, but now I’ve learned not to take part in this ignorance. The fact remains I have good English because I’ve lived here most of my life in the United States.

     Some were brave to ask me if I’m married because of my last name. The perplexed look was usually the same as if they didn’t believe me. I could see the wheels churning inside their heads. After telling them I’m adopted, they are usually satisfied with my answer. I’ve learned the importance of picking the right battles. It isn’t worth my blood loss or theirs.

     I’m sure studies have been conducted if race relations between the various racial communities have improved, worsened, or stayed the same since the riots. I conducted some non-academic research of my own. It brought me to the conclusion that given the current political climate and economic disparity, race relations have pretty much stayed the same. The “Black and White” community view each other with the same generality as it did in 1992 as do the other racial communities.

     There might have been a few pockets that found more common ground to stand and overall understood each other better, but it wasn’t enough to make a wide-ranging difference Los Angeles really needs. We are quick to lump the actions of a few people and apply it to anyone who resembles the so-called “other.” I believe the majority of people in any ethnic group who works toward progression is often thwarted because of economic conditions. They have proven time and again to restrict achievements and success. It does breed violence with senseless killings during gang warfare and crimes perpetrated by all ethnic groups.

     So how do people who have prejudice against certain ethnic groups jump over that hurdle so the differences aren’t so negatively impacting? Viewing others with color blinders is good in theory, but people can’t and don’t operate this way. Life was never this simple. It never will be given the current technological advances. We need to be realistic. We need to be smart. We need to see others individually and collectively because our survival depends on both. The importance of education (and not in the normal sense of attending college or a university although that is equally valid) and consideration/empathy for others different from yourself are major determinants of the willingness to see the another person’s viewpoint on an individualistic level.

     It’s easy to sit behind a computer talking about this and that problem. It’s harder to go out and make a difference in communities that desperately need it. I’m not advocating volunteering without planning, but we can all participate in helping others in need in our own way. Because race and class issues are deeply embedded into institutions, it will never fully change until we start treating everyone as equal not just in theory or on paper. I hope over time individual achievements and societal progressions merge to a point of where everyone can equally benefit from future economic stability.

Prong Three: Interracial Relationship in Los Angeles

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     There are some who feel more comfortable maintaining relationships within their own racial circles. I’m not one to tell another this is right or wrong. Everyone is entitled to his or her own views. We have our soft spots of who we find attractive. Some hide behind their obsessions and call it something else, but for the most part we like who we like, we love who we love. I’m definitely attracted to certain people over others. I find certain facial features more appealing than others. I’m not so caught up in hair lines where for others this is the make it or break it factor. There are other things I’m not so forgiving.

     It wasn’t one of my goals to be in a relationship when I moved here, but here I am in an interracial relationship. It’s been the longest one of all the past combined. I hope it’s the last one I ever have. My partner and I watched Let it Fall in different rooms and came together after it was done for discussion. We had many of the same
views and responses to the documentary.

    We agreed the police officers should’ve been charged for using excessive force regarding the Rodney King beating. We agreed the Korean shop owner should have gotten prison time for killing the Black girl. We understood the frustration of the Black communities had for the LAPD. We understood the dangers and difficulties it is to be a cop in certain neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

     This led to his observation of dining at Asian restaurants where the waiter/waitress would talk and serve me first, than him. This was never on my radar because I wasn’t affected more or less. It likely was harmless, but it something my partner noticed time and time again. He also commented how Asian people stare at him when they saw us together as if they disapproved of him. Again, it wasn’t something I didn’t place much emphasis on. Let’s say I didn’t lose any sleep over this. Again, it didn’t concern me.

     This opened my eyes to the challenges he might be facing while being in an interracial relationship. It never feels good to be on the receiving end of disapproval by strangers. I’ve been there, and it isn’t the greatest thing to experience. I’m not sure if this was the full intent of these stares, but I put enough confidence in his awareness skills to know he wasn’t making it up.

     A professor of mine once lectured about his view on relationships: the person you marry or date has more to do with randomness than destiny. While I agree with some of this, I’m not sure humans can be simplified as ping-pong balls bouncing around and off each other. It is likely some might collide for short time periods while others stay as far away as possible due to chance and never touch each other. It mattered not so much on who you ended up with compared to the longevity of the relationship.

     If two people are meant to be together, someway and somehow it will happen; and while this isn’t a guarantee the relationship will last forever, coming together is half the battle or least in my case. There is comfort in having someone similar to your background and culture. While we are radically different in appearance, I have more similarities with my partner in personality and interests than not. We have our disagreements and sometimes things can get heated, but this is one of those things that happens in any relationship. I mentioned previously the simplicity of viewing others with color blinders on, but in looking at our relationship my partner’s race has become less of a factor. It doesn’t mean I’ve closed my eyes to our racial differences, but it also doesn’t mean it’s the most widely discussed topic in our conversations.

Post-Prong: What Should I Call You?

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     I’ve been called a handful of racial slurs because of my Asian appearance. This is what comes from lack of understanding and unwillingness to learn. I’ve learned how to not carry this bag of weight unnecessarily. I’ve forgiven these people for their insecurity.

      The reality is everyone has as much to contribute as the next person, but not everyone does so constructively or at the right time. We must never lose sight of the different vantage points each of possess. We should keep an open dialogue in how to address a particular person or group because not everybody feels or reacts the same way.

     Recognizing others might be more sensitive to various topics within a particular racial category, group, or neighborhood is something to consider. It’s all about your tone and street smarts. While it doesn’t take much to be polite these days, not everyone has that on their agenda. There are many degrees of separation within race and class. It makes for difficulty in finding agreement on possible solutions.

     I conclude with the full quote by Rodney King from 1992. It is merely food for thought in this time of multiculturalism. The best I can offer is rumination. Take what you can or need. Learn from it or not. Agree with some of the sentences. Don’t agree with others. It is up to you, but above all question when necessary.

“I just want to say – you know – can we all get along? Can we, can we get along? Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids? And… I mean we’ve got enough smog in Los Angeles let alone to deal with setting these fires and things… it’s just not right – it’s not right. And it’s not going to change anything. We’ll get our justice; they’ve won the battle, but they haven’t won the war. We’ll get our day in court and that’s all we want. And, just, uh, I love – I’m neutral, I love every – I love people of color. I’m not like they’re making me out to be. We’ve got to quit – we’ve got to quit; I mean after-all, I could understand the first – upset for the first two hours after the verdict, but to go on, to keep going on like this and to see the security guard shot on the ground – it’s just not right; it’s just not right, because those people will never go home to their families again. And uh, I mean please, we can, we can get along here. We all can get along – we just gotta, we gotta. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while, let’s, you know let’s try to work it out, let’s try to beat it, you know, let’s try to work it out.”

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Movie Review: Get to Know the Movie Called Chuck!

View Chuck in Hollywood, CA?  Why not?

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After viewing the trailer for Chuck on television, I pretty much knew I’d be seeing this movie this weekend.  It was playing in a few theaters near me and one was close to my old stomping grounds.  Today was the day to see it at Arc Light.  The movie did not disappoint.  I would rate it four out of five stars.  It wasn’t perfect, but was pretty damn close.   There shouldn’t be any spoilers in this review. 
Information about Chuck

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Chuck is the movie about Chuck Wepner, also know as “The Bayonne Bleeder.”  He served as the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s character of Rocky although Sylvester Stallone has denied this allegation.  It would later be settled in court.  This was not in the movie, and for good reason.  It would have detracted away from the movie’s primary focus being Chuck’s conduct in his relationships and how it affected his family, friends, and most of all himself.
Chuck was written primarily by Jeff Feuerzeig and Jerry Stahl.  It was directed by Philippe Falardeau.  It had a superb cast including, but not limited to Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan and Spotlight), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men and A Handmaid’s Tale), Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy and Hellboy), Naomi Watts (St. Vincent and Birdman), and Pooch Hall (Suits and Ray Donovan). 
Some of the best, emotional scenes were between Chuck played by Liev Schreiber and John played by Michael Rapaport as his estranged brother.  I was able to suspend my belief these were actors, which to me is the mark of great acting.  I saw tiny sparks of comedy in their interactions during intense scenes, which again is the mark of great acting.
I’m well aware this was a boxing movie too.  The fight scenes were well choreographed and shot.  The movie’s soundtrack matched the ugly outfits picked by the costume designer. The cinematography gave the viewer a realistic 1970s New Jersey feel.  The whole production was top-notch.
Liev Schreiber as Chuck was one of those protagonists you can’t hate for too long despite his womanizing ways, drinking binges, and egotistical personality traits.  I always got the sense his flaws prevented him from attaining complete acceptance by others, but more important they outweighed his desire to be rewarded justly.  There is a scene with Chuck and Sylvester Stallone played by Morgan Spector, and by the end of it you feel for him.  It wasn’t for his lack of trying in life because he really did try to the best of his abilities at that time.  He was a boxer who basically went fifteen rounds with Muhammad Ali, had his short claim to fame, and found himself swimming against the currents of his life after it.
What Else I Liked about Chuck
Chuck is a down to earth, human story.  I like these kinds of stories.  They translate well on the screen if done the right way.  I can say hands down that it was done the right way.  I began to see a few parallels between the movie Chuck and the movie Rocky besides the obvious.  Yes, the characters were similar.  That’s a no-brainer.  Yes, the underdog got the chance to go the distance with the champ.  Yes, some things didn’t go as planned along the way. 
Sylvester Stallone was fairly new in Hollywood at the time he wrote Rocky.  He had done various odd jobs to pay the bills.  When he was satisfied with his draft, he shopped it around.  The studio offered him a handsome amount of money, but he rejected it until he was offered what was requested.  It’s hard to imagine anyone playing the role of Rocky, and the rest is history as they say.  At the end of it all, Chuck and Sylvester mirrored each other too, with the end result being recognition for dues paid.  I conclude that while Sylvester Stallone turned Rocky into a franchise (and can we all agree it should’ve stopped at Rocky IV with Drago), Chuck got something of equal worth: his own movie about his own life.
Conclusion
This review isn’t meant to stand the test of time.  Some might disagree with parts of this.  I am open for debate.  My views might change over time, but I doubt it.  I hope this encourages others to see this movie.  If you don’t, at least, watch Rocky with the commentary.  It’s pretty entertaining.  There’s a comedic side to Sylvester Stallone you won’t find in his movie Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot!  On this ending note, have a good night, and happy movie watching. 
Images by IMDB/Trailer by IFC Films
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Story Idea/Writing Exercise of Mine

Untitled Serial Killer Excerpt
candle
     I sat across him at a restaurant table. When he pointed out his faulty pen, all I could do was look at the blue ink on his tip of his finger. I should’ve felt sorry for him, but the only thing crossing my mind was why couldn’t this guy afford nicer pens. The blue circle on his finger kept getting bigger the more he rubbed his spit onto his skin. I imagined his dermis getting stuck on the bottom of innocent shoes walking by. MY GOD! This was getting worse by the second. I felt the vomit rising in my throat at the thought of him touching me.
     After I couldn’t take him anymore spitting on his finger, I excused myself for the bathroom because my tension headache was banging against my temples. When you have to leave, you have to leave. I never should’ve opened my apartment door. I never should’ve hopped the subway. I never shouldn’t been so damn desperate. I hadn’t been taking my profession seriously. There was no stopping the brown whale as my mother used to say once he wants to wipe you out.
     My head turned for a brief moment to look back at the disaster sitting at my table. Unknown to my dear friend who arranged this blind date at my pleading, this night would eventually take an unfortunate and random turn. I won’t deny I’d become lazy over the last year. I wanted the same rewards with the least amount of effort. You get what you pay for, and by the looks of it this wasn’t such a great bargain.
     Let me divert a little bit. I graduated from high school knowing that ending my sentences with a preposition is a grammar sin. Many people grow up being scarred by their English teachers. I was lucky. Mine for the majority was a hot middle-aged man who had an affinity for periods, commas, and capital letters. I read and reread those classics thinking of his different smiles and forearm muscles. He preferred to be called Mister Z. His last name was Zonfield. I don’t remember his first name. All that comes to mind is Stripes, but that isn’t right. What a perfect specimen to be on the end of my first man crush.   If only he had been aware of this at the time, but by now I’m sure his knees are wrinkly and his belly a little droopy.
     It was while trying hard not to expel my lunch over dinner where I thought again of my blind date.  His face bothered me so much. He had that kind of nose with a slight upturn at the end. It only accentuated his receding hairline. Someone should have demanded he get some hair plugs way before I ever came into the picture.  I almost felt sorry for himKey word is almost.  The way my blind date dressed was plain awful with no adequate excuses.  Just because Target decided to sell the latest attempt at trendy doesn’t mean his body would look good in it.  COME ON!  GRAB ONTO SOME REALITY! The shirt he was wearing looked a bit too feminine. He was clearly sucking in his gut under that hideous pattern.  His butt didn’t look sexy, but lumpy.  Maybe if he wasn’t violating every fashion no-no, he’d find men like myself staying instead of screaming horrors on the inside. 
     After I expelled my lunch, which wasn’t such a bad idea as I had overindulged in a Krispy-Kreme donut earlier, I wiped my mouth to get rid of all the evidence. My mother was a great role model.  She made sure to always make sure my movements count.  You had to really mean it. Her attention to detail was above all the other mothers. This brought whispers of her inappropriateness when she picked me up after school. The teachers were afraid she was touching me in ways a boy shouldn’t be by his mother. I saw it in their eyes during the parent-teacher conferences. I spit in my fifth grade teacher’s face when she suggested I was lying. No one disrespected my mother, not then, and certainly not now.
     We were just that close. She was my best friend. I was a mama’s boy, spelled M-A-M-A, and not a momma’s boy, spelled M-O-M-M-A. There was nothing comedic about our relationship. It was as serious as cancer. I wash my hands three separate times, vigorously pumping the soap dispenser equally three separate times, and dry them thoroughly on paper towels thanks to her. I grab the door handle with a clean paper towel thanks to her. I am confident when I step out of the shower that I cleansed every inch of my body thanks to her. She taught me if I didn’t like someone or something, I could always leave knowing I did the right thing.
     This circumstance was no different, but I was in for a little surprise. My body stiffened when I realized my blind date was gone from the table when I returned. Where did his funky nose go? Who gave this guy a right to reject me like this? Wait a second… is that his fugly body under the table? I smiled for the first time that night. Yes, it was him. He was still there. YES! His body was barely visible under the table, but he was most definitely there.  As I got closer, I saw his lumpy butt when it should’ve been planted on his chair. He contorted and writhed on the floor like a dying fish, gripping his throat.  I could see his face was pale, but nothing like the blue I had imagined.
     A waitress gave me a shove as she rushed past me, and fell to her knees besides my blind date. JEEZ! This wasn’t the Pope on the floor. She put an ear to my blind date’s chest. Are you kidding me? He clearly has a pulse! He can’t breath! You idiot!  She pushed on his chest, rather lamely. I doubt she even knew what CPR stood for. I wanted her to be my next based on pure stupidity. She wised up and tried her best to expel whatever was lodged in his windpipe. THANK GOD! I must’ve said it too loudly because she turned and looked at me. Someone else had replaced her and was much more convincingly trying to help my blind date.
     She sprung to her feet like a coil and was at my side. “Isn’t this where you were sitting? Is he allergic to anything? Where were you?  What’s your name?  What’s his name?”   I didn’t answer her because I’m not one to give credence to a blond-haired bimbo with a poorly done boob job. This bothered her and then yelled with annoyance, “I’’M TALKING TO YOU! HELLO, DO YOU HEAR ME!” My eyes widened with a crazed look.  I didn’t want to bring attention to myself, but shouted anyway. “Bitch, everyone heard you including my dead cat.”  Her look of horror was satisfaction enough. She backed up with regret.  I had regret too: my steak dinner, just the right spices used and now wasted. I licked my lips once and got out of there.
     I breathed a sigh of relief as I walked to my black convertible. No one was following me. No one would be looking for me. I had planned it this way. There was one kink in my plan and that was the blond-haired bimbo. I sped away not sure if my uneasiness about her was warranted. There had to be a pill to help this uncontrollable anxiety I had been having the past few days, but I’m not one to rely on weak remedies. My plan for tonight involved a man dying, but not at the slow pace I thought. He was probably dead by now. This brought the second smile to my lazy face, and then I started chuckling at the thought.  If he wanted to be alive, he should’ve brought a pen worthy of his hand.
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Book Recommendation: Shambling Towards Hiroshima

Shambling Towards Hiroshima

shambling

This is probably the most whacked-out book I have ever read.  It is satirical in nature and focuses on WWII, Reptilian Creatures, and Hollywood.  The main character, Syms Thorley, is thrust out of his B Hollywood movie and into a rubber suit meant to put the F in fear.  If he succeeds in being ultra realistic and thus spreading Fear among the Japanese, then he will have fulfilled his role in the Knickerbocker Project.  Read for yourself to see how he navigates his way with the U.S. Navy and the outcome of not using the atomic bomb. 
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Movie/Documentary Recommendation: The Loving Story/Loving

Loving Story
The life of Richard and Mildred Loving, both reluctant to be the face of interracial marriage, sort of mirrors how well this movie did in the Box Office.  Let’s just say the gross total doesn’t cover its production costs as of today.  I’m not sure why more people didn’t want to see it in the theater.  It might be an ugly reminder the United States once enacted laws to preserve the status quo.  The last state to officially legalize interracial marriage was Alabama in 2000.  The film focuses less on the courtroom drama and more on their hardships as the Loving family tried to raise their children safely.  It wasn’t until they won their case in the Supreme Court in 1967 that they were able to return to Virginia and raise their family in relative stability.  The viewer never loses sight of the connection between race and power on both the national and personal level.  I won’t spoil the ending, but I found myself more hopeful than anything when the credits rolled.
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Documentary Recommendation: Great Human Odyssey

Great Human Odyssey

humanodyssey

I learned how resilient and strong our Homo sapiens sapiens ancestors were after watching this.  The rough terrain, unrelenting weather, and scarcity of food they endured and survived really make us the smartest bipedal animals in existence.  I watched all the great peoples of the world with primitive hunting styles and ways of life existing “alongside” the industrialized societies of today.  We have really turned into a population as an whole that our ancestors might question, good and bad.  Many millennial children will be the first to not be in a better place economically and physically compared to their parents.  I wonder hundreds of years from now will things have actually changed for the better given all that has gone and continues to dwindle.  It’s good food for thought as we seem to be turning into a world of machines and speed.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Netflix where this can be viewed as well as on PBS.  Everything in moderation, right?
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Book Recommendation: The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood

The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood

joeeszterhas

Dare I say this recommendation might be reserved for bathroom reading?  I say this because it is written in such a way that it could be read in short spans of time since much of this book is structured in easy compartmentalized sections throughout the chapters.  Joe Eszterhas has written some non-Oscar nominated films that he is very proud of and should be because 1) he made it in Hollywood and 2) he’s managed to stay relevant in Hollywood for a considerable amount of time although on IMDB his last written work was in 2011.  You probably recognize his work of Basic Instinct, Flashdance, Jade, Sliver, and Showgirls which he won a Razzie (Golden Raspberry) Award for Worst Screenplay.  Nonetheless, he carved his niche in Tinseltown and this book has some good advice for novices wanting to dive head first into film.  It’s a good read for those who just want to know more about Hollywood from a person who does have experience and the realities of all it has to offer. 
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