Cognitive Dissonance and a Short-Hair Wig.
[I've found that it helps if you hum "Alice's Restaurant" while reading this.]
I was the first in my family to go to college, so winning a National Merit Scholarship was a pretty big deal. I would have gotten a full ride, if my father's lower-middle-class income had been just a few dollars less. But nooooooo. According to the hardship tables, we qualified for only a pittance - $100 a year.
However, my parents were dazzled by the fact that their firstborn could be a Merit Scholar. So they bit the bullet, took out a second mortgage, and covered my out-of-state tuition.
That lasted for a few months, until they heard that I had participated in some demonstrations against the Vietnam war.
They thought the war was peachy. And I could never figure out why they wanted their boy to come home in a body bag.
Come to think of it, that may be the root of several familial problems since then.
So that's when the money dried up. I took on a couple of jobs, after classes. But they weren't enough. Things were getting desperate. My draft card said 1-A, and my lottery number turned out to be 33.
That year (1971), Uncle Sam was hell-bent on drafting every male teenager with a number under 125. None of us could quite wrap our brains around the surreal image on TV of some fat, decrepit old guy, reaching into a large glass container to pull out a blue plastic capsule containing a potential death sentence.
I knew a few vets, and I saw what the war had done to them. It wasn't pretty. Some of them came home with missing parts. Body parts. Mind parts. Some of my friends never came home at all.
So I seriously considered emigrating to Canada. I also studied the qualifications for becoming a Conscientious Objector. I even thought about going to jail.
Then I got a really stupid idea.
I could get a draft deferment *and* a full scholarship... if I joined the Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps. The only Air Force officers in harm's way were jet pilots, and my eyesight was too crappy to qualify for jet school. So I bit the bullet and suffered through six weeks of basic training during the summer. After returning to campus, I struggled through twice-a-week ROTC classes.
Have you ever heard of cognitive dissonance?
I got pretty weird.
Even for me.
I grew my hair down to my shoulders and bought a short-hair wig for ROTC classes. I wrote anti-war articles for the college newspaper. I was tear-gassed in public demonstrations.
But I dutifully showed up at the ROTC classes. Twice a week. I knew they were the only things between me and a body bag. Life went on that way for several years.
At some point, my ROTC instructor attended a weekend track meet in which I was competing. I didn't know he was there. When I won a silver medal in the mile, my shoulder-length hair was flowing freely in the wind.
A few days later, just before my next ROTC class, the instructor confronted me in the hallway. He was a Captain. He was also a dickhead, but I would have hated him anyway. We argued military history and tactics during every class, and I was usually able to point out the flaws in his reasoning. He was a sore loser.
As I stood at attention in the hallway, the Captain looked at my head very carefully. He walked all the way around me, smirking.
"You know, I saw someone who looked a lot like you at a track meet this past weekend. Do you have a twin?"
So the jig was up. "I cannot tell a lie. That was me, sir."
"Did you get a haircut since then?"
I could tell that he wanted to rip the short-hair wig right off my head. But he also knew that I was wound up pretty d*mn tight. He was also aware of the fact that I was ready--and perhaps even a little eager--to break his jaw. So he bit the bullet, and submitted paperwork instead.
The Air Force had no rules about wigs, but the Captain submitted paperwork anyway. I got a copy, a few days later. He wanted ROTC to discharge me "for the good of the service."
However, the military had paid for most of my schooling. And I had signed a contract, giving them certain rights. For example, if I failed to qualify for my ROTC commission, they had the option of drafting me for four years of slavery as a non-officer grunt.
But during my years of cognitive dissonance, the world had moved on, as it always does: Nixon had started his crime spree, and the war was winding down.
In short, the Air Force didn't really need another troublemaker. So when I graduated, they gave me this nice parting gift instead.
And I spent the next few years trying to get back to normal.
Whatever that is.
1985, N. Hollywood, CA: The L.A. Police Department gave me this cool one-inch lapel pin [click to enlarge] after I helped thwart a house robbery.
While jogging one morning, I ran past two guys sitting in a parked car who were obviously trying to hide their faces. On a hunch, I doubled back five minutes later, and noticed the same guys standing in the side doorway of a nearby house, jimmying the lock.
So I sprinted back home and called the police, to describe what I'd seen. They responded with several patrol units, a couple of motorcycle cops, and a helicopter.
One of the motorcycle guys stopped by my apartment a few minutes later, and said the robbers had been caught in the act. He was really pumped. Cops love to catch perps while they're perpetratin'.
PS: The homeowners later gave me a gift-wrapped bottle of champagne, so I got the full hero treatment. They always waved after that, whenever they saw me jogging past their house.
High School Daze 4: Mathletes.
Mathletic competitions are just like athletic competitions, except there's not as much risk of pulling a hamstring...
L-R, T-B: Peter Marengo, me, Peter Nadolski, Rande Funkhauser, Kevin Reopel, Ruth Hannum / Mike Livingston, James Lane, Nels Berggren, Lance Tomei.
[click to enlarge]
[The prizes were mostly math books, and I have a sh*tload of 'em to prove it. ;-) But a Catholic high school once gave me a $20K scholarship. Too bad I'm not a fan of religious education.] [Junior High Daze: National Spelling Bee]
High School Daze 3: Reunion Nostalgia.
I've been planning for nearly a year to attend my 50th high school reunions (there were two in Massachusetts this month: details below), but things started going downhill in April. That's when I got laid off, after nine years of writing and editing in a network radio newsroom. Since then, I've been having a tough time getting other work. Employers don't like hiring people my age. Surprise! To make matters worse, the recession of 2008 had pretty well wiped us out, and I was hoping to stay on the job until they carried me away in a pine box.
Then in June, I became really, really sick. Thought I was gonna die. And I'm still recovering from that. Hence, the prospect of back-to-back reunion weekends began fading away. Money became an overriding issue. It ain't cheap to fly in from Arizona. So I wrote this blog posting, to work through the powerful feelings of longing and loss:
My father's career moved us around a lot. By the time we arrived in Westfield (97 miles west of Boston) during the late summer of 1968, I had attended three different school systems in Maine, another one in NYC, and one in eastern Massachusetts (30 miles northwest of Boston). I was none too happy about leaving my Chelmsford friends, but I was particularly grumpy about Westfield's lack of a cross-country team. I spent some time harassing the track coach, the late Robert T. Andersen, in his dark and dank A/V cave, but he eventually got sick of me and passed the buck to his assistant coach. Reign Rix then peppered me with questions about the three years I'd spent on the CHS x-country team, and asked whether I could design effective workouts if we created a new team at WHS. I said yes, and for some reason, he believed me. So he wangled some crappy old sweatsuits for us, and we were off to the races. Literally.
L-R [click to enlarge]: me, Coach Reign Rix, Jim Gusek, Dan Fountain, Bert Cashman, Mike Rood. Not pictured: Bob Grace.
Later, I found out that WHS had no winter track team, so I cooked up some workouts for them/us, too. We were invited to run at a meet in Boston, and that's when I got busted.
The toughest part of moving away from Chelmsford was leaving Kathy behind. We talked on the phone and wrote letters, but it wasn't the same. So when I qualified for the Boston YMCA indoor track meet, we made plans. Confidential plans. Top-secret plans. Our parents wouldn't know anything. At the meet, a photographer from the Boston Herald Traveler was roaming around, taking lots of photos. When he noticed us smooching, he thought it would make a cute picture. We laughed, knowing that his editor wouldn't pick THAT photo from the hundreds he'd shot.
The next morning, after both sets of parents finished reading the Herald Traveler, we weren't laughing quite so much.
A few months later, Kathy and I split up. They say long-distance relationships never last. But I still have that bronze YMCA medal. And some wonderful friendships, from both schools, that are well past the 50-year mark.
Plus... the treasured memory of a not-so-secret kiss.
High School Daze 2: As Schools Match Wits.
The two pieces of the puzzle finally fit together - in the yearbook pic, I was mysteriously missing. But now, thanks to a screenshot of a screenshot by teammate William Sharpe and his dad, I have mysteriously reappeared. We were losers, but we were *handsome* losers. ;-)
L-R, T-B: Georgia Keefe, Arthur Newcomb / Rosemarie Fisher, James Lane, William Sharpe, Bruce Dewey, Deborah Baker // Bruce Dewey, William Sharpe, James Lane, me.
High School Daze 1: Boys State Rebellion.
My lovely wife recently dug this out of a long-forgotten storage box...
Summer 1968: Town 4, Massachusetts Boys State www.maboysstate.org
Each high school in Massachusetts selects an unsuspecting junior to get a patriotic indoctrination in the U.S. electoral process from the American Legion. Chelmsford made the mistake of selecting me. The Boys Staters lived on the UMass-Amherst campus, and we were supposed to form town groups, elect town-level leaders, stage a couple of conventions (Republican and Democratic) and elect state-level candidates.
But I had a different idea. After organizing a rebellion, a bunch of us took over the convention hall and staged a third-party convention. We were nearly kicked out and sent back to our high schools in disgrace, but the coup got so much publicity that several of us received invitations to attend Harvard, instead. My family couldn't afford the tuition, unfortunately.
[click to enlarge]
Reunion Sites R Us.
Does your high school class need a reunion website?
"Pulitzer Prize Nomination" Fun Facts.
If someone claims they've received a "Pulitzer Prize nomination" or they were "nominated for a Pulitzer Prize" - they're bullshitting you. Their work was simply entered into the competition, which is something ANYONE (even you or me!) can do, by writing out a check and filling in a form:
The Pulitzer organization itself explains their use of the word "nominee," with a warning to all the bullshitters out there:
Since 1980, when we began to announce nominated finalists, we have used the term "nominee" for entrants who became finalists. We discourage someone saying he or she was "nominated" for a Pulitzer simply because an entry was sent to us.
Just FYI. ;-)
"Zoetrope Novel Contest" Fun Facts.
If someone claims they've won or placed in the "Zoetrope Novel Contest" or the "Zoetrope Contest for the Novel" - they're bullshitting you. Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope company has never held a "Novel Contest." They've sponsored the "Zoetrope: All-Story Short Fiction Competition" and the "American Zoetrope Screenplay Competition" for many years, and they recently started a "Coppola Short Film Competition":
For example, one of my scripts was a Quarter-Finalist in their first screenplay contest, way back in 2004.
Just FYI. ;-)
Fond Memories Of The Newsroom From Hell, #2: Powerless.
August 7, 2018, 11pm, NBC News Radio: The power shuts down, inside our building. Our announcer gets stuck in the elevator. After awhile, a mucky-muck comes in, walks up the three flights of stairs, and explains that our computers are on an emergency generator, but our A/C and lights are not. He really brings home the company's priorities. Outside temp is hovering near 100 degrees (38°C). Inside temp is shooting up to match. I ask the mucky-muck if he's gonna order some pizza, to show that the company appreciates our willingness to work in these horrifying circumstances. He ignores me. It's dark. Really dark. Part of my job involves reading numbers off a printed page, so I pull up the whitest computer screen I can find, to throw some light on the d*mn paper. We all keep working, while sweating our balls off. After a few minutes, the mucky-muck finally decides he's had enough of these unbearable conditions, so he heads for the exit. I yell after him, "Pepperoni and spicy sausage?" He chuckles and continues out the door, never to be seen again.
Fond Memories Of The Newsroom From Hell, #1: An Imaginary Conversation About A Thieving Soda Machine.
Friendversary, my a**.
Facebook now sends automated reminder Private Messages.
F*ck you, Facebook, and your unwelcome invasion of my privacy.
I'm A F*cking Genius.
When I named my screenplay's Facebook page Côte d'Azur, I never dreamed that French travel agencies would inadvertently insert the title into their Facebook postings, and not check to see where the link ended up.
Free advertising. Not targeted very well, but still, it's eyeballs... ;-)
Août To Lunch.
[Follow-up to Glass Half Full.]
After I pitched Côte d'Azur to some British agents, one of them replied:
"Unfortunately, we're not able to do much with your screenplay, simply because the majority of the British Film & TV media are looking to set stories here in the UK, unless you're a film-maker with the clout of Ridley Scott or Danny Boyle who can influence that choice."
So I figured that maybe I should approach some French agents. When I was living in Nice during 1977-8, I noticed that almost everybody in France took a one-month vacation in August (Août). Of course, I assumed they outgrew that - after all, you can't shut down the WHOLE COUNTRY for an ENTIRE MONTH. It's 2019, fergawdsake. But then I received my first response (an auto-reply) from a Paris agent:
"L'agence est fermée pour la trêve estivale du 26 juillet au 31 août."
Which means: "The agency is closed for the summer break from July 26th to August 31st."
Lemons = Lemonade.
My old workplace gave me 15 vacation days per year, but allowed me to schedule only 6 at a time. So in February, Anikó and I designed our 6-day May holiday. We paid for the flight, the rental car, and the cottage in the English countryside.
Then, in April, I got fired. No explanation. So we said whatthehell, and tacked several days in Wales and London onto the end of our vacation. It was the nicest holiday we've had, in more than ten years.
When we returned, I got sick and nearly died. So I cranked out a spec screenplay about my wasted youth, thinking it might be the last thing I ever wrote. After being converted into an eBook, it appeared almost immediately on Amazon's Performing Arts Best Sellers list.
I'm so glad I got fired and nearly died. And I'm especially grateful for that misspent youth.
Côte d'Azur eBook.
My latest free eBook:
, in 8 different formats: .mobi (Kindle), .epub (iPad, Nook, Android, etc.), .html (browser), .pdb (Palm), .lrf (Sony), .pdf, .doc, .txt
It's also at Amazon:
, but they arbitrarily set a minimum of $0.99, and I'm trying to get them to match Smashwords' $0.00 price.
LATER: Amazon was very high-handed when they rejected my price-match request ("We retain discretion over our retail prices") that included link #1, so they received links #2 through 6 in reply:
They finally caved. ;-)
STILL LATER (11/12): The eBook is currently #1 on Amazon's Performing Arts Best Sellers list!
Glass Half Full.
I'm used to querying American screenplay agents, who very rarely acknowledge that I've contacted them, even after several weeks have passed. So with my new script, I decided to approach British agents as well, and after just THREE DAYS, I've received FOUR lovely rejections, including this one:
"Thank you for submitting Côte d'Azur to us for consideration. Jonathan and his team enjoyed your work, but I’m afraid in the end it fell a bit outside of what he is looking to take on at the moment, and he doesn’t feel best-placed to sell your work in the way it deserves. So he’s going to step aside, and wants to leave the field clear for you to find the right person to represent your screenplay."
Pelosi v. Trump.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says Trump's slogan of "Make America Great Again" would more accurately be described as "make America white again."
Trump says: "Speaker Pelosi said 'make America white again,' that's a very racist statement."
Net result: Trump supporters are now switching to Pelosi.
"Searching for Bobby Fischer" (1993) trivia.
Early in this film, young Josh Waitzkin (Max Pomeranc) finds a chess piece in the dirt at Washington Square Park. Vinnie (Laurence Fishburne) offers to trade a baseball for it. In the next scene, Josh takes out a flashlight and examines the chess piece in his bed, before going to sleep. It turns out to be a knight from the Lewis chessmen:
It's surprising that I can't find anything about this on Google.
Somebody in the Props department was obviously on the ball.
So to speak.
LATER: The knight is not even mentioned in the shooting script (PDF p5-9).
Côte d'Azur screenplay.
I just finished my latest screenplay, Côte d'Azur!
"There's nothing quite so romantic as spending one's youth in a foreign land."
You can view the 71pp screenplay PDF here. Yes, it's short. I hate wasting words.
*** NOTE: seeking investors or producing partners. Option or sale offers also welcome. ***
eMail: HotTip [at] Gmail.com (replace [at] with @)
Facebook fan page.
Free eBook drops soon!
Eric is a 20-something American guy who's having the time of his life on the French Riviera. Or maybe Eric is the 60-something who's looking back on his earlier years with nostalgia and trying to alter the course of his life. This screenplay was inspired by Lawrence Durrell, and his experiments with metafictional techniques in The Avignon Quintet and The Alexandria Quartet.
So, we fly to London on Thursday, May 16. We settle into our digs, a beautiful cottage near a charming English hamlet, and spend a few days just drinking in the atmosphere and recovering from the jet lag. I might have drunk in a bit too much of the atmosphere, because I started having trouble with the stairs. My knees felt like they had knives stuck inside. Finger joints, too. By the time we began our daily outings into the surrounding countryside, on Monday, May 20, the pain was so bad, I could barely get out of the car. Not fun, but I gamely soldiered on, with just a few breaks for bitching and whining. OK, maybe more than a few.
When we broke camp and headed for Wales, on Saturday, May 25, I was starting to get used to the pain. I figured this was my introduction to the infirmities of old age, that this was the way it was going to be from now on, and I had better "man up" and stop whining so much. Getting out of the car was still like having nails hammered into my knees, but I learned to cover my reaction to the pain with twenty or thirty short gasping breaths, followed by a quiet whimper.
London on the 28th was a challenge. Most of the stuff we wanted to see was within walking distance, but for me, the 30-minute walk to the British Museum was comparable to the Bataan Death March. So we tried applying liberal quantities of Guinness. It helped. Guinness always helps.
It was a fascinating vacation, but I can't tell you how happy I was, when we climbed onto the plane to return home on Saturday, June 1. During the flight, my left nostril started spewing copious quantities of a clear liquid, and my left ear nearly exploded during landing. There were no improvements by Thursday, June 6, so I figured I was f*cked enough to consult a doctor. She prescribed a Z-Pak (Azithromycin), which I now know triggers a severe allergy (hives), so I ended up being double-f*cked. She said the only thing I could do was pray for death. No, wait, that was me - she said I should treat the respiratory infection as an extreme case of the flu (bed rest, liquids, cough drops) and hope that death came quickly. No, that was me again.
There were many days that I didn't really want to live, because it seemed like nothing was improving. But I have a good wife, who slaps me around (figuratively) when I whine, and she got me past the praying-for-death stage. It's now July 1, and I ain't healthy, by a long shot (the skin on my hands is currently peeling off, like a molting snake), but I'm headed in that direction. Yup, I can finally see the light at the end of the Chunnel. Thanks again for all your good wishes.
First do no harm.
So I hobble into the doc's office with painful joints, coughing and lotsa phlegm. I now know that she had a choice between treating it as viral (drink fluids, take cough drops, bed rest for at least a week or two) and diagnosing it as bacterial (Z-Pak! 5 days and done!!). She could see my eyes light up, when she mentioned that she had a 5-buck Z-Pak coupon from WalMart, and when she asked if I had any allergies, I replied, "None that I know of."
Fateful last words. Turns out my body was allergic to the Z-Pak (Azithromycin) poison, and it left me with an excruciatingly painful case of hives. The last time I developed hives, over a 22-month span in 2006, 2007 and 2008, it took one regular doctor, one osteopath, two emergency room docs, three allergists, three acupuncturists, two homeopaths, and a hypnotherapist to bring me back to normal.
I hope this case won't last 22-months, but I still can't help hearing these words, running through my mind, over and over, "First do no harm."
#InfoSec (Facebook Bug Bounty): "he said, she said."
My latest report - Memory Corruption: Facebook Is Truncating Postings
Vulnerability Type: Memory Corruption
ME: I am including 2 examples from 2009: 1, 2. As a published author, I write in complete sentences virtually all the time, so these postings jumped out at me.
FB: In order for us to investigate this would it be possible for you to deliver the original content of these posts? Otherwise, do you have any other proof that these aren't just the original posts?
ME: Do you really believe that Facebook members keep verbatim copies of the material they posted ten years ago?! This material popped up on the Memories page that Facebook generates for me every day, and these truncations have been occurring for many months now. You don't trust me (and rightly so), so even if I provide "proof" that this problem actually occurred, you still would not believe me. By the way, do you really think I wrote truncated messages ten years ago, so that I could lie to you now?! C'mon.
FB: We can confirm that your posts have not changed since 2009 and that we're not truncating the posts. Note that Facebook has changed a lot since the time these were posted and many people used Facebook differently even though that might not be clear to present users as many changes were added gradually and therefore the way our services are used change over time from user to user without users explicitly noticing how the way they're using Facebook might have changed.
For those keeping score at home, my record is still perfect: 0 for 6.
Updates: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
#InfoSec (Facebook Bug Bounty): "significant security or privacy risk."
My latest report - Photos Can't Be Hidden From Page Timeline and News Feed
Vulnerability Type: Identification / Deanonymization
FB: Thanks for reporting this issue to us. After reviewing the report, this issue does seem to introduce significant security or privacy risk. [...] As we might introduce changes in the future to fix this issue, we won't be able to reward you under our program.
ME: If the issue introduces "significant security or privacy risk," why am I getting no reward? And if you "might introduce changes in the future to fix this issue," it sounds like you're stealing the info that I provided to improve Facebook.
FB: Sorry that was a typo :) What we were trying to say that the issue does not introduce significant security or privacy risk to pass the minimum bar for our bug bounty program.
For those keeping score at home, my record is still perfect: 0 for 5.
Happy International Workers' Day!
Facebook Doesn't Really Want To Know, When Members Die.
One of my high-school friends and I have been creating Facebook memorials for our departed classmates:
, and if I discover that the deceased has a Facebook account, I memorialize it:
, so other people won't receive ghoulish suggestions for People You May Know, ads or birthday reminders.
Actually, I USED to memorialize my classmates' accounts. But now, Facebook tells me: "you'll need to provide documentation to confirm you're an immediate family member or executor of the account holder."
In my experience, family members or executors don't normally care about the Facebook accounts of people who have passed away. Or, if they really DO want to memorialize an account, they can't figure out how to do it. It took me several tries, before I could decipher Facebook's byzantine documentation.
So Facebook now seems to be taking the position that most of the 10,273 Facebook members who die everyday will continue to haunt us.