Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


“Truth comes knocking on the door, and we say, ‘Go away! I’m looking for Truth’.”

The above is from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I just finished the audio book a few seconds ago. First time all the way through.

As mentioned previously, I kept giving away my paperback copies before making it all the way through the end. The book always seemed to resonate with me, and my desire to share it, always trumped my desire to finish it.

The book was a best seller and heralded as one of the most important philosophy texts of the twentieth century. After so many starts and stops, I can’t really tell you what it means. For me, it just sort of ‘is’.

We look at reality in different ways, carrying different perspectives. There is the idea of what something is made of, verses what something actually represents – the Classical verses Romantic dichotomy. Truth in this way, is fleeting.

There is the idea of the ‘Monkey Trap’ that comes out of the book as well – this idea that we could free ourselves from our bonds, if we could just let go of the values that trap us.

The exploration of ‘Quality’ – how we all know what it is, but cannot definitively describe it. If you read the ancient taoist text, Tao Te Ching and substitute the word ‘Tao’ with ‘Quality’, you can see the two words as interchangeable.

There’s also my countless road trips home to Regina from Toronto. I travelled through some of the same country that Pirsig describes in his book. I could relate the road stops, junctions, and motels with different points in the book, based on where I was geographically in my car, when I last heard them.

The book means a lot to me, even though I barely know what the book means.

It doesn’t even bother me that I have such a poor grasp of it. Just means that in a few months time, when I give it another pass, even more ideas will jump out. It’s the book that keeps on giving.

2016 Culture Tally;

Feature Scripts Read: 1
TV Scripts Read: 1
Movies Watched: 7
TV Seasons Watched: 4
Documentaries Watched: 1
Documentary Series Watched: 1
Audio Books: 1

Staring Down Mid-Afternoon

IMG_0044My favourite time of day has become mornings. There’s always so much ‘potential’ for the day in the morning. Morning sunlight kisses the day awake. Morning coffee splashes essence upon tongue. Morning thoughts of future evening’s accomplishments dance through my mind.

Mid afternoon is the worst. The hope of morning has faded. The passage of time has become palpable. Hopes from the morning become reality’s metrics in the afternoon. I’m either on track for a great day, or I’m heading off the rails. A mid-afternoon siesta seems to beckon. Have I earned one?

Evening is the truth that comes knocking on the door, and we either say, “Go away, I’m looking for truth.” Or we say, “Come on in and show me who I am.” Evening is the time to either feel great about the day, or the time to write it off, and look forward to the next morning. It’s the ultimate ‘either/or’ proposition in one’s life.

I struggle to string more than two or three good days together at a time. I have days where I just can’t get it in gear. Can’t tear myself away from distractions. Can’t bring myself to simply begin the day. I sometimes feel like an alcoholic trying to stare down a bottle – trying to summon the will power to do the right thing. My bottle is the choice between beginning, or not beginning.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were outstanding days for me this week. I had the greatest hopes for Thursday, but got tripped up. Friday was so so. It’s now noon on a Saturday. I’ve set the goal to complete the rewrite of my TV pilot.

Let’s see how it goes.

Pattoning Mister Banks

I thought I’d update my Cultural Journal with this entry.

I watched Patton a couple weeks ago. It was critically acclaimed and won many awards when it was released in 1970. I don’t think I had ever seen it before, but I did recognize many of the tropes this movie spawned – the signature trumpet motif, the massive American flag being two that come to mind. I enjoyed the film, but I would have to watch it again before I could say anything of critical value about it.

I also watched Saving Mister Banks. I enjoyed this film and found myself feeling quite emotional over it at times. The subject matter greatly reminded me of my dad, and what it was like living with him in his drinking days. I could go into details, but that’s a whole other article for another time.

I’m most of the way through Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I’ve written about my experiences with the book in past articles, and this most recent pass has not failed to stimulate my thoughts. It’s a hard book for me to wrap my mind around. I find myself struggling at times to follow along. Too many ideas from it trigger secondary thoughts, which trigger yet more thoughts, until I realize that pages have gone by, and I wasn’t even paying attention.

I have the audio book version (I keep giving away the paperback versions I buy), and I’m enjoying the experience of sitting still and listening to it, rather than reading it. Ideas entering my brain through an aural means is a departure from reading those same words off the page. It harkens back to the idea of the ‘Chitaqua’ – a travelling lecture given by masters of a certain subject matter in the days before radio and television.

Last night I finished Season 4 of Archer. The dialogue of this series fascinates me. The words are funny, but they shouldn’t be as written on the page. Context and delivery are critical here. I’m learning a lot, and even managed to track down the pilot script. I’ll be giving that a read soon.

2016 Culture Tally;

Feature Scripts Read: 1
TV Scripts Read: 1
Movies Watched: 7
TV Seasons Watched: 2
Documentaries Watched: 1
Documentary Series Watched: 1

Sexy Spreadsheet Maintenance

I’ve spent the past couple days conducting maintenance on my spreadsheets. A couple years ago I created a master spreadsheet that I worked from, that contained the contact information for every production company, client, contact, writer, producer, and PM I sought to meet. I used it to track my points of contact, documents I’ve sent, and results of these actions. It became a bit ornery to navigate and it fell out of use.

Now that I have a couple of scripted projects that are ready to pitch, I’ve gone back to that old spreadsheet, and refined it. I’ve decided to break it down into five distinct spreadsheets;

Production companies that produce SCRIPTED content.
Production companies that produce NON-SCRIPTED content.

I’ve completed the SCRIPTED spreadsheet. There are 67 entries right now, and I’ve contacted most of them with my two projects. Most who’ve gotten back to me have been receptive to reading my work.

I plan to compile the WRITERS spreadsheet today.

Forty-three Spins Around the Sun

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 2.39.17 PMYesterday was my birthday. Forty-three spins around the sun. For the first time in my life, I was curious to see exactly what that meant – where exactly is the Earth on this day in its orbit, relative to every other time of the year. I just googled the question and found a website that answers the question.

I don’t feel the usual cringe when I think about growing older. Everything feels so much less dramatic since turning forty, and I got a few years to go before I start fretting about the big Five Oh. Inside, I feel like I’m in my late twenties – like I’m on the cusp of establishing myself in a rebooted career, in a rebooted city – like every other late twenty something in this town.

On the other hand, I have the advantage of wisdom. I’ve had ample time to perfect my mistakes, while still boldly moving forward with yet uncommitted ones.

Things are pretty simple as far as I see. Sell a script. Use the money to pay the rent while writing more sellable scripts. Maybe pick up a few gigs along the way. Looks like a pretty good life to me.

Paul and Renee came up with a cake. My friend Lucy also stopped by. Jazzy was a big part of the evening as well. It was a perfectly satisfying, yet comfortably subdued affair. We drank beer and shot the shit. Saturday will be the big party, with a dozen or more coming over.

On the culture front, I’ve been keen to study some Pixar films. I’m interested in telling funny stories with as little dialogue as possible. To this end, I watched Wall E and Bugs Life. I’m going to track down the scripts this week, and give ’em a read.

I’m planning to take another pass at the SciFi Animated Pilot I wrote in October. The subject matter is adult oriented, but the target is kids. Pixar manages this dynamic better than any studio I know. Upon reading the scripts, I’ll provide a more detailed account of what I’ve learned.

2016 Culture Tally;

Feature Scripts Read: 1
TV Scripts Read: 1
Movies Watched: 5
Documentaries Watched: 1
Documentary Series Watched: 1

Star Wars

forceI watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens again last night with Nadia at the IMAX Theatre. It’s even better the second time around! Dialogue is good. Characters are good. The plot is good. Action is good. It’s a really good movie. It might even be one of the best of all the Star Wars movies.

The other cultural thing I did yesterday was read the pilot to The West Wing. I binged on the entire series last year on Netflix. This time around, it was great to curl up with an Aaron Sorkin penned script and study it intensely. I actually reread it again this morning.

The pilot feature four story-lines. It’s also much funnier that I remember – every other line was a barb or zinger between the characters. Conflict between characters was subdued – but it remained ever present. Like crew members on a star ship, they were all up against the conflict communally. What one felt, the others also felt.

Sorkin also packed his characters with idiosyncrasies that were both subtle and apt. The smallest little quirk – such as Leo’s crossword puzzle – would be spread over a couple of scenes. These quirks served the dual function of being both funny, and bridging story lines. I made notes on the script and saved it.

I spent most of my day yesterday, writing a one page description of my Christmas script. It’s almost easier to write the whole screenplay, than it is to come up with a compelling one-page description of the plot.

I’m going to give the document another pass today, then send it off to the production companies that requested it.

2016 Culture Tally;

Feature Scripts Read: 1
TV Scripts Read: 1
Movies Watched: 3
Documentaries Watched: 1

The Culture Journal

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 1.05.35 PMA Facebook friend had posted his ‘culture journal’ online for 2015. The number of scripts he read, movies he watched, plays he took in, novels he read, exhibits, shows, and other cultural activities on his list was staggering. I was left feeling inadequate – like I can do so much better.

This isn’t a case of me comparing myself to the popular kid in school who got all the chicks. A little less facebookery, and a little more culturaldasity – and I’m there. Already this year I’ve read one screenplay, saw two movies and one documentary. I’m seeing the new Star Wars again tonight with Nadia.

I don’t think I need to create a culture journal. My blog will do just fine. I’ll keep a running tally as I go. Thus far, it looks like this;

Jan 1 – Read Brooklyn, watched Star Wars.
Jan 2 – watched Raiders of the Lost Ark, watched The Internet’s Own Boy – a documentary about Aaron Swartz, a hacktivist who downloaded over 20,000 academic journals using MIT’s network. He wanted to make a point about academic freedom. The US Gov’t charged him with 18 counts of cyber crime. He committed suicide.

Today marks the first business day of the year. I’m currently sitting in a coffee shop. I have a to-do list of near term goals I wish to accomplish. Sunk my teeth into a couple items already.

I’m looking forward to what the day brings.

2016 Culture Tally:
Scripts Read: 1
Movies Watched: 2
Documentaries Watched: 1


Reading Star Wars

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 1.50.25 PMOn Thursday I read the script to Star Wars. Last night I watched the film with the family (on VHS). At times I even read aloud from the script as certain action scenes were taking place. No one seemed annoyed because we all have seen the movie countless times.

I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately, and find myself writing the action sequences in my head as I watch. I can almost see the words on the page. This exercise has had a positive influence on my own work.

Today I’m reading Brooklyn. Later I plan to set some writing goals for my near future. At present I have vague ideas, but nothing firm.

I’ll be heading back to Regina today. Probably in the daylight so I can see the prairies as I drive. I may not even have anything playing on the radio – just me, my thoughts, and highway lines to keep me company. I’m looking forward to the trip.

Interloping on 2016

IMG_0363New Year’s Eve was on the farm was a special kind of experience. Mike had invited all their friends from near and far to be part of the celebration – which coincided with Tammy’s 50th birthday. I didn’t know most of the people there, while all the people there had known each other for most of their lives, so I was feeling a bit like an interloper – a welcomed interloper – but still an interloper.

The vibe suited my mood just fine. While there was booze and food aplenty, I didn’t really feel like partying. Just watching.

I made sure to have something boozy in my cup when fireworks went off at midnight. Lots of hugs and well-wishes.

This morning I awoke to the sound of Codie vomiting in the bathroom. Mike still hasn’t been to sleep. Everyone else looks like they got beaten to submission by a cocktail molotov. Apparently there’s still a ton of booze left in the shop.

I don’t really have a plan for the day. There’s talk of a sleigh ride. Maybe some hockey too. Mike has enough sticks to go around. We’ll see how she goes.

Happy 2016 everyone!