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Showing posts from July, 2011

Things I Remember: The 1970s (Cont'd)

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1. In the 1970s, the Miami TV station now known as CBS4 (call letters WFOR) used to be Channel Six (call letters WCIX) and was the big independent station in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market. It was on Channel Six that I watched such vintage shows as I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, Hogan’s Heroes, Family Affair and – in the late 1970s once I got into it – Star Trek: The Original Series. (Channel Six, in its last year as an independent station, also aired the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

It was also on Channel Six where I first watched many of the older movies I’ve reviewed online at Amazon, Epinions and Viewpoints. Before cable and videocassette recorders took off in the 1980s and changed the way Americans watched movies at home, the only way most of us were able to see older theatrical releases on the “boob tube” was by watching edited-for-TV editions of films which were no less than two or three years old on the three major networks’ “night at the movies” shows;…

Things I Remember: In the 1970s

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It's been a very long time since I've read Stephen King's The Stand (in either the original or the Uncut, Unabridged editions), but among the many details and characters in that huge doorstop of a novel, King had one of his main dramatis personae (Frannie Goldsmith) keep a journal in which she sometimes wrote about the pre-Apocalyptic world so that her unborn child would have some idea of what life in the pre-plague years had been like.

Because I have not cracked The Stand open since at least the year 2000, I am not sure if Fran merely jotted down lists of people, places, events, foods and other slice-of-life items which were part of her life or if she wrote more detailed descriptions, but I figured I would try to do something similar here, not only to give readers a glimpse into pre-21st Century America but also to help me jog my own memory about my younger days.

From the 1970s, starting around 1972, I remember:

1. The last major air attacks on North Vietnam in the sprin…

TV Movie Review: John Adams (HBO Miniseries)

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As a rule, even though I am a history buff and love historical films, I am not a big fan of biographical films about politicians, especially politicians who lived way before the 20th Century.

I suppose it is because (a) Hollywood biographies tend to cherry-pick through the subject’s life to reinforce certain story points the writers or directors want to make, and (b) pre-20th Century set movies tend to be costume dramas as well as history lessons. These are unavoidable realities, but I tend to feel restless when I sit down to watch any flick set before 1860.

So when a friend of mine loaned me his three- DVD set of 2008’s HBO miniseries John Adams, I was quite prepared to simply set it aside for about a week and then return it, unwatched, with a polite thank you note attached.

Since I really don’t know as much about the American Revolution and the early days of the Republic, I figured I ought to at least watch Part One to see why John Adams had gotten so much good buzz.

Luckily, K…

Book Review: Neptune's Inferno

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Although the naval battle of Midway (June-4-6, 1942) is often called the "turning point" of the Pacific War between the United States and Japan, many historians consider the six-month-long Guadalcanal campaign to be the true pivot point on which the tide of battle turned in favor of America and her Allies.

Midway, for all its merits as an "incredible victory" for the U.S. Pacific Fleet and a morale boost for the nation six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, had been a defensive engagement; the breaking of Japan's JN-25 naval cipher code, cool-headed leadership on the part of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the availability of three U.S. carriers, bad planning on the part of the Japanese, the carefully-laid ambush of the Japanese carrier force, the bravery of U.S. aviators and a great deal of good luck all contributed to stopping Japan's eastward advance and a possible invasion of Hawaii.

However, the United States could not have defeated Japan by merely hol…

The Ups and Downs of Being a Star Wars Collector

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It’s hard to believe this, but 34 years after I was given my first Kenner Star Wars action figures – R2-D2 and C-3PO – and a Landspeeder for my 15th birthday, I’m still one of those geeky guys who buys collectibles based on the characters, vehicles, creatures and locations shown in George Lucas’s space-fantasy saga.

Several years ago, for instance, my neighbor Maria drove my mom and me to the Mall of the Americas to go pick up my new prescription glasses. I didn’t plan on going on a major shopping trip – what with the economic slowdown, my shaky finances and all – so I left my credit card at home. However, I did take a $20 bill given to me on my birthday just in case I had a chance to browse around for an inexpensive DVD or music CD.

Because I have been collecting Star Wars figures since I was in junior high (middle school to younger readers or people unfamiliar with the designation), I also harbored a slim chance that the KB Toys store at the Mall of the Americas still existed. A…

Return to High School

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Is there life after high school?
Moving on is simple. It’s what we leave behind that’s hard.” - Author Unknown

What is it about the whole high school experience that has such a powerful hold on our imagination, our emotional compass?

Two years, five months and several odd days after visiting my alma mater with one of my Class of 1983 classmates, Maggie Wunderlich, I’m still somewhat bemused by how many memories can get stirred up by the simple act of opening a door and crossing one’s old high school’s threshold.

I had last visited South Miami Senior High in the spring of 1989; Conchy Bretos, then the person in charge of Miami-Dade Community College’s Recruitment and Retainment Department, knew that I had attended that school from August 1980 to June 1983. I was a somewhat respected college-level student journalist at the time, so Ms Bretos thought I’d be suitable to explain to a ninth-grade English class what Miami-Dade was like in comparison to high school and what the College had to…

Writing 101: Adapting Prose Story From Prose to Screenplay Format - Part Four

Adapting a literary work, no matter if it's a novel, play, short story, poem or a non-fiction book or magazine article, is a process which requires a lot of careful analysis, patience and a knowledge of how film differs from the various written media.

The biggest difference between, say, a novel and a movie derived from it is that though both tell essentially the same story and feature the same protagonists and antagonists, the form in which they're presented and (of course) "consumed" is very different.

Take, for instance, Stephen King's It, a 1000-plus page doorstop of a novel which is set in two different time periods (1958 and 1985) and has a huge set of characters and situations, as well as a complex plot and a very "big" finale.

Before ABC-TV aired the television miniseries based on the novel, my friends and I often wondered how such a huge novel could ever be adapted into a satisfying audio-visual experience. After all, It not only had a large …

The Process of Adaptation, or: The Writer's Dilemma

When I began adapting Love Unspoken, Love Unbroken into its as yet untitled screenplay sibling, I thought that it would be a somewhat easy project because its source is a short story with a small cast of main and supporting characters and only a few settings – the narrator’s college campus office, his apartment, a cemetery in Miami-Dade County, and the high school he had attended back in the early 1980s.

Love Unspoken, Love Unbroken (or, as it was originally titled, Reunion) also has a very simple structure – it’s an extended flashback to the narrator’s final day as a high school senior in June of 1983, with a “present day” (1998) frame which serves to set up the main story and give it what I hoped at the time would be a poignant epilogue.

However, because I have learned – from both watching movie adaptations of novels such as The Hunt for Red October and reading how-to books along the lines of Sy Field's Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting - that adapting a prose story t…

Writing 101: Adapting Prose Story to Screenplay Format - Part Three

Comparison: Prose Story Excerpt and Its Screenplay Adaptation

For readers who are curious about the difference between prose format and screenplay adaptations, I present an excerpt from the short story I wrote in 1998 and its still-in-progress script version. (The formatting in the screenplay section may look odd so please bear with me on this.)

Two girls, walking backward and waving their hands in leave-taking, turned around and saw me standing there, leaning against the wall with my hands jammed tightly in my jeans’ pockets. They smiled at me; one of them, a tall, pretty redhead whose name I didn’t remember, walked up to me and hugged me.

“Well, fellow graduate, we’re finally outta here,” the redhead said when we were apart once again. “I haven’t had a chance to ask, but what are your
plans, Jim?”

I smiled sheepishly. “I’m going to college in the fall,” I said.

“Where are you going to school?” asked the redhead’s companion, a blonde from my fifth period art class. Her name was Mari…

My 2004 Review of the Star Wars Trilogy DVD Set

At last! Where have you been?-- C-3PO to R2-D2, A New Hope

Part One: A Fan's Dream Comes True at Last.

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2004, Lucasfilm Ltd. and 20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment released -- some might say unleashed -- the DVD edition of one of the most anticipated movie collections since the invention of this increasingly popular format: The Star Wars Trilogy. And despite some opposition from fans who (a) wanted the DVD set to include both the 1977-83 versions and the 1997 Special Editions and (b) are unhappy with further alterations made to the "Classic" trilogy especially for the 2004 DVD editions, The Star Wars Trilogy four-disc set has been selling briskly. (It's No. 1 in DVD sales at Amazon.com.)

I've been a Star Wars fan since 1977, so not only have I seen the existing five Episodes of George Lucas' space fantasy set "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away" at the cinemaplex, but I've owned every VHS release since I purchas…

Writing 101: Adapting Prose Story to Screenplay - Part Two

Once I made the decision to adapt my short story - Love Unspoken, Love Unbroken - as a no-frills, just-to-see-if-I-can-do-this screenplay, I had to start thinking about the story’s structure and how best to approach it so it works well as a movie.

One of the reasons for choosing this story instead of, say, my thinly-disguised recollections about my first time with a woman, was its simplicity. It is, in essence, a long flashback (with a dream sequence tacked on for good measure) set in June of 1983 during the main character’s/narrator’s last hours as a high school student, with a frame story set in what was “present day” in 1998.

Love Unspoken, Love Unbroken has several built-in advantages that make it fairly easy to adapt, at least in theory. It has only a small set of main characters. There’s Jim, the narrator, a college professor and best-selling author in the frame story, and a Harvard-bound high school senior in the main body of the story. There’s Mark, his best friend since …

Writing 101: Adapting Prose Story to Screenplay Format - Part One

Even though my writing career has taken many unexpected turns (such as my becoming a journalism student in high school and, more recently, becoming a regular online reviewer for such sites as Amazon, Epinions and Viewpoints), I’ve always dreamed about either writing a novel (doesn’t every writer?) or an original screenplay.

Over the past 30-plus years, the biggest literary projects that I’ve successfully completed (other than reviews and online musings) have been a trio of short stories which I’ve submitted to a website called Literotica.

Two of them, as you might have guessed from the website’s name, are about sex; I (rightly or wrongly) wanted to write a thinly-disguised account about my "first time" and share it with at least part of the world, plus I thought it would be a good “pushing the literary envelope” exercise.

The third major story which I submitted to Literotica was not about sex at all but rather my first major stab at serious fiction, a short story titled “Lo…

My Epinions Review of a Really, Really, Really Bad Movie: Jaws - The Revenge

alexdg1's Full Review: Jaws 4 - The Revenge

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.

One of the unhappy realities of a moviegoer's existence is Hollywood's penchant of exploiting a popular and critically-successful film that was intended to be a one-time affair and makes unnecessary (to the audience, anyway) sequels that are (a) rehashes of the first film, (b) not as well-made as the original, and (c) so illogical and awful that they can't be even be considered "so bad that they are good" guilty pleasures.

Jaws: The Revenge (also known as Jaws 4) is one of the best examples of totally worthless sequels. It makes More American Graffiti look like a masterpiece worthy of a zillion Academy Awards, and it is even sillier than Jurassic Park III (which doesn't even have a Michael Crichton novel to justify its existence on film).

Written by Michael de Guzman and directed by Joseph Sargent, this movie asks us to suspend …

Book Review: Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead

Ever since I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time in the spring of 1981, I have been a huge fan of George Lucas’s Indiana Jones, the fedora-wearing, whip-wielding, fast-quipping globe-trotting archaeologist-spy-soldier of fortune who risks life and limb going after “rare antiquities” imbued with supernatural powers.

Like many Raiders fans of my generation – I was in my teens when that first George Lucas-Steven Spielberg collaboration was released – I loved that film and its two sequels partly because of the non-stop action set pieces, partly because John Williams had composed a kick-butt score, partly because they mixed elements of the old Saturday matinee serials and the James Bond flicks, but mostly because Harrison Ford was so likeable playing the Man in the Hat.

Now, even though I own all four feature films and the three Adventures of Young Indiana Jones box sets, I only own a few of the novels and novelty books which fill in some of the gaps in Indy’s long career…

Writing 101: Quality or Quantity?

Quality or quantity?

As an online reviewer at various sites, I have tried – not always successfully – to strike a balance between being prolific and giving readers well-written, honest and balanced reviews.

Because how much I earn – which is not a heck of a lot of money – depends on how much material I produce, there is always a temptation to try to write as many reviews as possible within a month’s time. It does not matter if I am paid a fixed rate per article at one site or if I have to hope I have written about "hot" (i.e., popular) products which will bring in some income share at another site. If I do not write over 15 reviews a month, I simply will not earn enough money to make it worth my while.

The logical assumption is that it is acceptable, even preferable, to write as many reviews as possible within a particular span of time (a month, say). Some people actually do try to write two, three, or even four reviews in one day and keep up this pace for a month or even…

What I Believe

1. I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, shot and killed President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

2. I believe that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had no advance knowledge that there was going to be an attack on American installations on the Hawaiian island of Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941. I also believe that FDR did not “sit” on any intelligence reports that a Japanese fleet was on its way to Pearl Harbor so that American forces would be caught by surprise and thus enable FDR to drag the nation into World War II.

3. I believe that the Holocaust – the attempt by Nazi Germany to exterminate the entire Jewish population of Europe – did happen, no matter what David Irving, that bizarre Catholic Bishop Williamson, the President of Iran, and many Holocaust deniers claim.

4. I believe that President Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and is therefore a legal citizen of the United States of America, no matter what some nuts out there (including, for Pete’s sake, a Democrati…