Friday, November 14, 2008

Rewriting or Rehashing

So, the Comcast issue seems resolved. Between Mark, who commented on yesterday's entry and someone from the customer service center, my bill will be adjusted for the loss of three days. I had to volley a few e-mails with the customer service guy because I wasn't getting an answer at all on what happened. The final answer I got was "equipment failure." Well, okay. Hard to argue that point. My experience last year just makes me really suspicious of anything that happens with Comcast a month-ish after I move. I do want to reiterate that every time I have dealt with someone at Comcast they have been super nice and these two post-move issues are the only problems I have ever had with them. If I ever find out these customer representatives are sitting in a windowless room in India working 18 hour days and making five cents an hour, then I'll be pissed.


At the Robot vs Dinosaur meeting on Wednesday I brought in two scenes that were actually extracted from a play I wrote ten years ago. The play was a full length piece that should have only been a one act. In the one act version that exists in my head, these two scenes are cut. But I like them and think they have potential to stand on their own. I can't stress enough the importance of having people to reflect back to you what they hear in your work.

One of the scenes, about a 1950s one-armed vacuum cleaner salesman visiting a lonely housewife, I thought was perfect and done. I'd just be having it read to impress my compatriots on how awesome a writer I am. Turns out, that's the one that really needs the most work. The RvD boys pointed out some inconsistencies in what one of the characters was going for. More importantly, they pointed out in some of the housewife's lines where my own voice was clearly rearing up for a joke versus the character organically speaking. I see this all the time in writing classes where the writer has inserted a joke for the joke's sake even though it does nothing to forward the story or express the character's wants or needs.

It's easy to see it in someone else's work. And it's very hard to tell someone "That's a funny bit. I think you should cut it." Actually, it's more hard to hear than to say. But quite often, that's exactly what needs to be done to strengthen a scene. The joke that the writer thought was so precious in reality acts as a speed bump pooching the reality of the scene and thwarting the audiences ability, or willingness, to emotionally invest in the outcome.

Tell the story. Hang on to the joke. You might find a more authentic place for it somewhere else. Or be able to sell it to Yakov Smirnoff.


Yesterday, I asked...

"What distinguishes 'Jules,' a robot built in Bristol, England, from other robots is the ability to do what?"

44% said "eat and make robot doo-doo"
- Robots don't go number 2. They go number 001 1011.

22% said "make realistic telephone interactions"
- Hmm. I wonder if they work for Comcast.

11% said "make up stories"
- A robot that lies? See Cheney, Dick.

22% got it right with "make realistic facial expressions"

According to The Daily Mail, scientists have created the first 'humanoid' robot that can mimic the facial expressions and lip movements of a human being.

'Jules' - a disembodied androgynous robotic head - can automatically copy the movements, which are picked up by a video camera and mapped on to the tiny electronic motors in his skin.

It can grin and grimace, furrow its brow and 'speak' as his software translates real expressions observed through video camera 'eyes'.

Whatever you do, don't give this guy arms and legs! We'll be in big trouble then.

Of course, Disney was ahead of these guys forty plus years ago...