Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Welles Update

Apparently, there was a screening of Orson Welles's unfinished The Other Side of the Wind at a Bay area event celebrating the "Unknown Welles." Here is our obedient servant Lawrence French's comments on the event at Wellesnet:

The two programs Stefan presented lasted over five hours, but I was personally most delighted to see the rough cut of The Other Side of the Wind that was shown in a special “after hours” session for a select group of Welles scholars.

So, in the grand tradition of Arthur Bannister, here is an Auto-interview about The Other Side of the Wind:

Do you think The Other Side of the Wind is a potential Welles’s masterpiece?

In my own personal opinion, I would say the answer has to be a resounding YES! There are scenes that far exceed anything in Welles work after Chimes at Midnight.

You must be kidding? I thought it was considered far too experimental, or even worse, quite boring by most people who have seen it.

I’ve heard the same stories, but I saw the film long after midnight and it held me in awe. It had scenes of lyrical beauty, great acting and is filmed in beautiful color contrasted with rich black and white. Now, you may also recall that Welles’s Chimes at Midnight The Trial and Touch of Evil also had the same kind of things said about them. The New York Times for instance thought that Chimes at Midnight was a total disaster! And every studio in Hollywood turned down Welles script for The Dreamers, one of the most poetic scripts I’ve ever read! So if we let the so-called “experts” like David Thomson decide that The Other Side of the Wind shouldn’t be finished, it certainly never will be.

So you you really think it can be edited and shown?

Of course it can! Given the footage I’ve now seen, and having carefully studied the script, which I regard as a brilliant piece of work, I not only believe it can be finished, but I regard it as an artistic crime that it hasn’t been finished!

more at Wellesnet...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Got It! (maybe)

Right before I left work today, I had an idea about the flash challenge (let's call this idea #4). I think this one is going to work. Let's see what it looks like on paper (or screen).

I love what we writers call "inspiration".

Flash Challenge

I'm involved in another flash challenge from the Patti/Gerald/Aldo group. This one has a bit different setup than previous challenges and should be very fun. I got my starter paragraph last week and started to do some work already.

So far, there are three different threads I'm thinking about. The first has the standard flash twist ending, but I'm not sure it would actually be plausible. The second and third have potential, but they are much different in tone than anything else I've ever written. And that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

We'll see what happens.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Prescott (part 3)

“Just like we rehearsed. You do anything stupid, I won’t hesitate to kill you. Comprende?”

The Mexican swallowed and nodded his head. His face was a bloody mess after my interrogation. He took the single step up to the porch and knocked on the door. A muscle-bound Mexican in a wife-beater answered the door.

I rushed from the bushes. I used the first Mexican as a battering ram to knock Guillermo down. I slammed the door behind me, turning the gun on the two thieves.

“Is your girlfriend home?”

The tight veins throbbed in Guillermo’s neck. The sloppy ink of prison tattoos stained his shoulders.

Silence was my answer.

The wood floor of the foyer shined with a hard polish. Rugs at the entrance and foot of the steps were Latin in color and pattern. The afternoon sun streamed through the accent windows behind me.

“Is – “

“No, she’s at work,” the first Mexican answered.

Guillermo stared at him. He obviously thought he was a tough guy. It was prison tough. All bravado and no brains.

There’s no reasoning with a man like that.

I wiped down the gun and turned my attention to the first Mexican. “In some ancient societies, thieves were punished by having their hands chopped off.”

His eyes, still glued to his friend’s corpse, went wide with horror.

“If you do exactly what I tell you to do, you can keep your hands.”

The Mexican did what I told him to do. He took the money to the cops and told them the story. He and Guillermo argued about splitting up their take. Guillermo attacked him, but he pulled out his gun and shot Guillermo. He was so tortured by his guilt he decided to turn himself in.

The cops didn’t completely buy the story, but took it anyway. It got them a clearance on a murder and a robbery without having to do any real work.

That night, while lying next to Rita in our shabby motel room, I dreamed of Giovanni Pezzino again.

This time he smiled at me.

This time I didn’t shoot him.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Prescott (part 2)

The air was thick with dried sweat and desperation. You see this scene in urban areas across the country. Men with a limited grasp of English huddled in the parking lot behind a grocery or liquor store. Back East they would be huddled against the cold. Here it was the wind. It tore through the parking lot - sandblasting anything in its way.

The best workers went early. Now, it was the dregs. The ones too lazy or hung over to show up on time. The ones who usually have something else on the side. The ones I wanted to talk to.

It would’ve been easy to spot my guy back home. Gang colors and ink have a way of announcing who you are. Here I’d have to pick up on subtler clues. The guy by the dumpster. Designer jeans. Blue hoodie that hid his hands all morning long.

I shadowed him from the opposite side of the street. Not as much cover as the time I had to whack Don Alfonso, but doable. I followed him to a rundown house with a patch of dirt for a yard. This passed for a slum in Prescott.

I went around back and slipped in the kitchen. The floor was littered with empty beer bottles. Mexican brands I didn’t recognize. A garbage bag full of marijuana in the corner. They weren’t too worried about raids.

I heard the distinctive click of a hammer being pulled back. A voice said, “You’re in trouble now, esse.”

He held the gun sideways in that stupid banger pose he’d probably seen in a dozen movies. He didn’t realize that pose decreased his accuracy by roughly 50 percent. And it got worse every shot after the first.

Guns have a finite range of efficacy. He was too close. One move and the gun was mine. I pistol-whipped him and he fell. He wiped his mouth and stared at his bloody hand.

“Did you rob the Tick Tock Diner last night?”

He stared at me.

I kicked him in the ribs. “Did you rob the Tick Tock Diner last night?”


“Who was your partner?”


I pistol-whipped him again. He spit teeth like Pez.

“Who was your partner?”


“Where can I find Guillermo?”

“No se.”

I hit him again and again, breaking his nose.

“His girlfriend’s. On Wildflower.”

“You’re going to show me.” I grabbed him by the collar and dragged him out the back door.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Prescott (part 1)

“I’ll get it to you tomorrow. I swear.”

“You have no more tomorrows.”

He backed away. “Please. Have mercy. I’m begging you.”

“You know who I am. You know what I do.”

He tried to run - slipped. He struggled to get up, but couldn’t. The stack of plates he knocked over were like ice under his feet. He managed to crawl into the corner where he curled into a whimpering little ball.

I pointed my gun at his head.

The gunshot still echoed in my ears after I woke up. The echo faded by the time my eyes adjusted to the dim light. I rolled out of bed; the thin motel carpet scratchy under my feet. I threw open the blinds and stared out the window.

The smell of Rita’s shampoo wafted from the bathroom. We got to Prescott, Arizona two days ago. The money ran out shortly afterward. She left a few hours ago, searching for a job. She would have to be the bread winner for a while. There isn’t a checkbox for “killing people” in the skills section of most job application.

I was alone except for the ghosts.

Prescott was a little nothing of a town. None of the buildings were more than two stories high and the roads were almost always empty. All the blue sky and open spaces would make any native New Yorker uneasy.

I flipped through the Gideon bible you find in every hotel. Someone had tucked a five dollar bill inside. My lucky day. The page with the five had a verse underlined. Ezekiel 36:27: "And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."

I slipped the fiver in my pocket and headed to a nearby diner.

Giovanni Pezzino borrowed money from Jack Lupino to open a new restaurant. It was somewhere on Hester, east of Mott. He served authentic Tuscan food - just like his father used to make before coming to the States. Pezzino’s restaurant quickly became a favorite spot for New Yorkers. It was just outside the main section of Little Italy, so it wasn’t overrun by tourists during the summer months. Lupino got his money back with a nice bonus on top. But then, Pezzino decided to stop paying for protection.

Why I dreamed about Pezzino after all these years was anybody’s guess.
Diners are different across the country. But they all have the same key ingredients. Hard booths and shiny table tops. The smell of stale cigarettes and staler coffee. Greasy food for cheap. Sixty cents for a coffee. Eighty for a bagel. Ninety if you wanted cream cheese. A far cry from Manhattan prices.

The bell above the door sounded, and I looked up reflexively. A cop walked in, went over to the register, and began talking to the man behind it. The man, most likely the diner’s owner, had a black eye. I thought nothing of it at first, but the cop was taking notes. I heard the words “Mexican” and “five thousand dollars”. The diner had been robbed.

I hate thieves. I killed dozens of people, but never anyone who didn’t deserve it. They all knew the rules. They knew what would happen if they broke them. Jack Lupino didn’t pull any punches. But thieves are bottom-feeders. You couldn’t trust them. They had no honor. They preyed on civilians who just wanted a nice, quiet life and the Mets to win a game now and then.

Rita and I said we had to stay under the radar. But someone had to pay.

Friday, January 2, 2009

He's Coming

I've always been intrigued by the idea of serialized stories - especially on blogs. Kevin Wignall did a serialized novel on his blog a couple years back (can't find the link any more). I toyed with the idea of doing that here a while back, but my schedule just seems too erratic. However, I am going to do a small scale test.

Starting Monday, Frankie the hit man (hero of my Shifting Gears story) will be making a comeback. It's a serialized piece, each chapter being a flash story in its own. Each chapter is less than 700 words. New installments Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

If this one week experiment goes well, I might try it again later down the road.

I eagerly await your feedback.