Obligatory Columbine Post or My favorite Ninja Turtles characters were Wingnut and Screwloose.

I should have known better than to write about conspiracy theories in the same entry that I talked about the Columbine shootings. In response to those terms crashing together in a Google search engine, I got the following comments on my previous blog entry:

" starviego says...

You are still being lied to about Columbine. Big time. If you want to find out what really happened at Columbine I suggest you read what the eyewitnesses had to say:


Now, normally [not that this has ever happened before], I think I'd just say something like "Jesus God, poke a hole in the ground, and these wackjobs just spring up like roses planted in the finest cow shit," but two things occurred to me; one, I didn't enable comment moderation in the first place because of my firm stance against censorship of any kind, and my deep want for the blog to be a comfortable, open place for the exchange of ideas. Any ideas. And two, this subject is something I know enough about that I can actually speak on, so why not expend the few minutes or so it will take to set this starviego [who on a mountain of skulls, in a castle of pain, sat on a throne of blood...] fellow straight?

Not that I expect it to do the least bit of good.

First off, let me say it kind of sickens me to link to tabloid garbage like "What Really Happened," so to assuage my guilt, and assure equal time and representation to both sides of the issue, I'd like to link Dave Cullen's book "Columbine." Again, I can't recommend this book enough, and I hope Viego will take the time to pick the book up and read it, if nothing else then to find out what really happened [see what I did there?], from someone who's followed the tragedy from the very beginning.

Excerpts of the book and commentary from the author are available at slate.com, where Cullen is a frequent contributor. Enjoy the freebies here:

"God I Want to Torch and Level Everything" - Columbine killer Eric Harris plans the massacre.
By Dave Cullen

The Depressive and the Psychopath - At last we know why the Columbine killers did it.
By Dave Cullen

The Four Most Important Lessons of Columbine - How "leakage" and the "active shooter protocol" have prevented other tragedies.
By Dave Cullen

Inside Columbine - As the assault raged, students fought to keep a wounded teacher alive.
By Dave Cullen

Now, with that done, to address the "truth" I was linked to. I would also like to say this isn't the first time I've come across this page about the Columbine tragedy -- while working on an earlier draft of my college penned screenplay "Un-Filmable," I had plans for one of the characters, a hacker, photographer, and conspiracy shut-in to go on a Lone Gunman-esque rant about the tragedy, and in my searching for something ludicrous that could possible pose as the truth, I came across this page. In the end, I wound up going with much more subtle references to Columbine, mostly just out of fear that if "Un-Filmable" ever defeated its own name and became a real movie, I didn't want anyone lending any credence to that garbage because they'd "seen it in a movie."

I considered going line by line with the article, ticking off each huge mistake, but in all honesty the lack of citation and the endless repetition of the same, erroneous point would make that a bit useless. Instead, I'll focus on what the author or authors seem to want the point to be, conveniently stated at the top of the article:

"Columbine : 101 witnesses can't be wrong" Right away, we have a statement that is emphatically not true -- eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable, and while still used, the fact that this article immediately assumes that anyone who was there during the shootings obviously saw and heard everything exactly as it happened. However, the following "accounts" of victims seeing people other than Klebold and Harris attack the school can easily be accounted for through high stress and costume changes.

Yes, that's right, costume changes. As the shooting proceeded, Klebold and Harris shed their "trademark" [Re: God, cringe] trench coats, and continued their attack. To illustrate, imagine you witnessed the beginnings of the shooting outside the school, where both killers were still dressed in their coats. You run into the school to take cover, and the shooters enter the building soon after, one of them shedding their coats. What you see, however, is two shooters outside dressed in long black coats, and two more shooters inside, dressed in a black coat and another in a simple t-shirt. Coupled with the stress, it is not unlikely you now believe you are being attacked by not two, but perhaps three, even four shooters, as opposed to the actual two. When looking at the size of the attack, along with the sheer brutality and the slowed response of law enforcement in this instance, common sense might even indicated to someone in that situation that they were being attacked by not two shooters, but an entire platoon of natural born killers. But it is important to remember that Klebold and Harris were moving, changing weapons, and shedding their coats, and all of those actions would lead eye witnesses to incorrectly believe there were more attackers than there actually were.

Another oft-mentioned point in the article is eye witness identifying other kids at the school as shooters, which can be explained away as easily as a byproduct of the size of Columbine's enrollment. Though Klebold and Harris were not the outcast they are often portrayed to be, the school had upwards of 2,000 + students at the school, and not everyone knew the shooters by face or name, and faulty identifications are not only likely, law enforcement expected it.

Furthermore, had there been other, living shooters at the school, there is no logical reason law enforcement wouldn't have identified them and brought them up on charges. Remember, out of a desperate need to blame and charge someone, Mark Manes, who provided the shooters with some of their weapons, was given what many see as an excessive prison sentence. If there were others to be held up and charged for this, what possible reason would there be for them not being pursued?

Other parts of the article mention the explosions happening in some parts of the building, while the shooters were identified as being in different parts of the school. The explanations here are far more banal -- many of the bombs that Eric Harris built for his attack had timers and fuses, and lots of them were left or thrown far from the killers during the attack. It is also important to factor in the stress on the victims during the attack, and the echo chamber that that the hallways of Columbine effectively became.

A final note is that many students reported later than Klebold and Harris had approached them with their plans before the attack, often times joined by other students, such as Chris Morris [it is important to note that Morris cooperated with the police throughout their investigation]. This is absolutely true, in so much as Harris and Klebold leaked their plans many times, and Harris was actively hoping to recruit other shooters for the attack -- however, many of his friends blew this off as "Eric being Eric," and by the time of the Columbine attack, the only accomplice Eric had effectively recruited was Dylan Klebold.

So, to answer that ludicrousness, YES, 101 eye witness can be mistaken. Sorry, Viego, this is why an investigation takes place after the eye witness interviews.

to those in a position of power, and even more ludicrous because in the aftermath, both boys left in-depth documentations of their plans and thought processes. Hiding a The final bit to the "What Really Happened" article is the part I find most insulting and disturbing, because it suggests this tragedy was somehow planned or staged to help push through the Brady Bill [which was pretty much assured to pass at this point anyway] and similar gun control laws. This would mean some outside force would have had to put Eric Harris up to the attacks [Eric psychopathy made him generally unresponsive to adult influences, and it seems equally unlikely that with how transparent the boys were in their personal materials that neither would have revealed a secret co-conspirator], and then abandoned him completely, fully assured that Harris would be able to construct the timers for his bombs and get the guns and ammunition needed without a problem. In actuality, Harris hit walls in both situations, almost not getting the weapons he needed in time and ending up with many bombs that did not detonate properly.

"What Really Happened's" bogeyman is somehow both a genius, Oz-like master planner, and an inept people manager [the George Lucas of the New World Order, I suppose], the kind of monster that bitter, NRA pledging gun-nuts love to picture as their antagonists, but one that doesn't quite stand up to things like proven facts. Luckily, these right-wing conspiracy cranks have never been ones to let that stop them before, and probably aren't going to let that stop them now.

Again, I implore anyone who disagrees with me to pick up Cullen's book, as well as downloading the wealth of information that has already been released to the public about the case. As a strong supporter of the First Amendment, I respect the lunatic fringe's right to post this kind of speculation all over the internet. But it also lets me reply, and add my bewildered and dismissive final comment:

And I just thought "Idiot Summer" was a clever title for my last blog.

And so begins the Idiot Summer.

Title is a Gin Blossom reference. There's a shocker.

Past two days were hot ones, but I'm acclimating better than I expected. Never been good with hot weather, despite the pilgrimage west that's upcoming. I think I can get away with calling it a "pilgrimage," even though I don't know if it's the proper term for a trip you have no intention coming back from.

Cue "Canterbury Tales" reference here.

Today was busy. Had to go out with Dad, for soda, a new hamper. He had errands too, then we got dinner for everyone [Re: pizza] on the way home. Strange that took up most of the day. Meant to pick up "The Wrestler" on DVD, slipped my mind. Knew I needed a few other things -- legal pads, for sure. Irregular hours are getting to me a little bit... been dozing off closer to nine every morning, and waking back up around noon. Surprised that's been sufficient, but I haven't been feeling tired lately -- only the minor slips in memory, upset stomach. No panic attacks, at least not like usual.

Actually, there might be another reason for that last bit. Blew up about something. Surprisingly cathartic. Certainly don't want to turn into one of those people who has to make a huge scene to feel better about something, but for the moment, can't argue with the results.

Been trying to pick up my room some. Hasn't been cleaned much since moving in -- honestly, short of the bed and the bathroom [both of which are easily tended to], haven't needed to clean much. Just stacks of books and clothes, but somehow, knowing roughly how much longer I'll be here has left me thinking it's time to start using drawers. Before, something about it seemed counter-productive, even though I knew I wasn't going to whisked off into the night to a new location like before. Maybe some of not moving in was denial. I think some was defiance too, after being ousted from my house like I was [pleasantly, but quickly, and still ousted].

Entirely possible some was laziness. Will neither confirm nor deny.

My mind has been on many things the past two days. Finished a book about "Columbine" by Dave Cullen, I'd recommend it, if you have any interest in the subject matter -- I cried once, got pissed off a couple of times, and spent some of the book almost... scared. But it is keenly interesting to me, always has been, and the Columbine shootings have marked a lot of my work, going so far as to make a couple appearances [sort of] in "Un-Filmable."

Also done some brainstorming about other projects, and find myself, strangely, looking ahead. Idle, non-movie talk with Casey has gotten me on another conspiracy kick, and a little bit of Wikipedia here and there have given me a few ideas for a "bible" to a X-Files-like project. Likely doesn't have legs, rarely gotten far with it before, but there is something about taking all these claims and dumping them into a drama. I've always been a big Rod Sterling fan. I also have a copy of "The Octopus" coming in the mail. Probably talk about it more later.

Old ideas seems fresher, too. "Assisted Living" and "Fragile" have both slipped back into my head, even though I haven't given either much thought since I finished first draft on "Trendsetter." I also know a very talented actress, who I don't get to talk to as much as I like anymore, and I promised her once I'd write a movie for her to star in. I haven't forgotten, and thinking of her, and thinking of everything I've done up to now, putting all these stories in a sort post-Christmas, never spring, winter months... I can really see her in one, against that white and gray backdrop. As soon as I have time... maybe she's even Joan, in "Fragile." Maybe there's something else, even better.

I'm really getting ahead of myself. Other things... wrote to Kaley today, really glad she's willing to keep up correspondence. Mean to write to Ian soon, but I understand his internet has been sort of... spotty. Likely, there's no rush.Can't begin to describe what it's like having all these letters back and forth with all these creative people -- I feel a little like Samuel Johnson, if I can take a minute and be so arrogant. God, I've been such a literature student today.

Need to call the girls, have been trying to get Sam. Sent her a text tonight, but as usual, it was a bit late for normal people. Story of my life. Sent some Facebook messages to some people I haven't heard from in a bit, but started thinking about -- Alex, and Genevieve, and Andrew had a birthday recently. I miss his music, from his Solo Project blog.

Lots of music in my head lately. Not sure why, been hearing a lot of Regina Spektor, and Team Dresch when that lets up, and it seems so crisp and clean that sometimes I don't even have to pull up my iTunes to enjoy the songs. Funny I mention that, because nothing ever strikes me as less interesting than when people write in their blogs about the music they've been listening to. I get... embarrassed for them, almost. Isn't that strange?

Dad is going to a friend's birthday party, and wants me to make him some mix CDs, so I'm spending a lot of time on a particular message board, pulling up music I haven't listened to since high school. Could never have swung such a project on the old laptop, and dad got me a few DVD-R's for my trouble. Always up for more storage space, even though I just recently discovered ADrive.com.

Hoping to get out this weekend, and see "Wolverine." Would like to go opening night, depends on if anyone I know is up for seeing it, giving me a ride.

And I should be writing [Re: Trendsetter].

Lots to keep me busy.

Finally, importantly, Justin has some new work up on his blog [Re: Calamity Cash and the Town with No Name]. As always, be sure to check the M.R.C.R.W. Just great, exciting stuff. He's really getting into some of the meaty, action-filled parts of the book, and I feel like every drawing is just dripping with that tension, and anticipation. Definitely worth the look.

Notes on "Trendsetter" pages, self-chastising...

On "Trendsetter" work: over the weekend I put a lot of time into the script, and came out on the other side with about ten pages worth of material. In comparison to the progress I've made up until now, that was very encouraging. I'm still not "feeling it," and it's not coming together as naturally as it should, but my enthusiasm is pretty strong, which has made some of the more difficult moments writing more bearable, and at least somewhat productive. The only reason I'm not posting an exact page count is because I'm sort of beyond the point where a page count means anything. The script is currently in pieces, and until I manage to put it all back together again, there's just not much of a way to record my progress.

Hoping for that one thing which will make the work whole. Just taking more time than I'd like.

What can't be helping is how lazy I've been with the blog. Last entry was Tuesday, and there's just no real excuse for that. I have been reading more, but it doesn't take long to sit down and just put something out here, about what I've been doing, and I'm annoyed at myself for letting this go. It may not seem like much to anyone from the outside, but missing a week seems to be the path towards missing a month, and I just don't want to do that. Despite this weekend's work, I know I've been less productive than normal [if that's possible], and I need to stay on myself better.

It's also making me miss things. A friend of Glen's, this girl named Tessa Morrison, came in over the weekend, and I sort of wanted to get out, hang out with her and everyone else again, and just generally be social. But I found out in the middle of the week, and without a blog entry to remind myself, never got in touch with anyone to see if I could have swung a ride to Huntington. Probably was a pipe dream, since everyone is more or less based there now, but if I had remembered before Friday night, I could have at least tried... kicking myself over that.

These things don't happen when I take the time to write them down -- I don't even usually have to refer back, just the initial act is reminder enough.

So, something to be better about.

More soon. Cheers.

Looking forward -- Randall Nichols, producer.

An oft mentioned friend of mine called me yesterday with some interesting news, and offered me a job as a producer on an upcoming project he's planning. I've accepted [a no-brainer, really], and am looking forward to being able to change the "unemployed" moniker in my sidebar. I am not, currently, allowed to say anything more. It is all very tentative, but it is still very good news.


Markers and milestones.

A few things have happened over the past couple of weeks that just... weren't really all that important in the grand scheme, not in comparison with everything else that has been going on, that was much more serious and important. To make matters worse, time and I appear to be on poor terms again, as even though the days have seemed to fly by, looking back at my blog, only about a month has passed. It seemed like longer. Faster, longer -- one disproves the other, doesn't it?

Anyway. Other things also become apparent while looking back over the blog, milestones that I didn't see much point in celebrating when bad things were going on, and honestly probably wouldn't have felt were a big deal even if they hadn't been. Nothing has ever seemed more hubristic and masturbatory than those journal entries or message board notes that obnoxiously triumph "100 POSTS!!!" and yet...

Several entries back, the Mojo Wire reached 100 posts, each authored by yours truly. Around the same time, the blog got it's official 500th visitor [Re: not unique visitors], probably having reached said accomplishment unofficially about a week before, as the sitemeter counter came a little later in the blog's life. Of course, this doesn't account for those friends who read from the comfort of Google Reader or my mirror blog on Facebook.

The same counter also tells me that my traffic has rose to about 7 visitors a day, 3 of those tending to be people actually reading what's on the page, while the other 4 are unique hits that only stay long enough to see they want nothing to do with what goes on here. Most of said "unique" hits are because of my entry "Tandoori to Go" which is the number one search result for the phrase on Google. People looking to order Indian food to go and instead finding my production notes and depressing, insomniatic rants are usually from Canada, or the fertile crescent. I guess if I had the start up funds, I'd move there, and open a restaurant with a crack team of delivery people.

Ah, dreams.

The blog itself is just a little over six months old, far longer than I thought I'd actually stick with it, and I guess this post is, in part, celebration of that time. I've found a lot of use for this space, and even though I am not entirely pleased with some of the ways I've chosen to use it, being able to write and plan things out here has been greatly beneficial to me. After the week or so spent writing about Steven, I feel more cemented here. I've said it before, and I haven't been wrong yet -- I think I'm sticking with this.

Finally, I'd like to use this space to show off a creative thing that my cousin Travis Cole has been up to. Travis is a recent graduate, who's about ready to start a new job in Maryland, but his passion is sampling, a genre of music I don't know loads about, outside of a couple of DJ's Anna told me about, the work RZA has done on samurai cartoons and Kill Bill, and the Boondocks Mix tapes that were released in conjunction with Aaron McGruder's excellent TV series.

Travis puts his own tracks up here, on his Myspace page. He's particularly fond of using old jazz and funk tracks, and has passed along to me several blogs which post mp3 recordings of old, discontinued LPs in the genre, all conveniently posted on Rapidshare. I give you those sites' links here, here, here, and here, but am remiss to name them specifically as I don't know the owners of the blogs, nor how under the radar they wish to fly. If any of them find this blog, they can of course request to have the links removed, or their site mentioned by name, by putting their request in the comment section of this post, or e-mailing me at mojo.wire.productions@gmail.com.

I'm not a huge fan of jazz and funk music, but because of my exposure to the genre through Joey Strummer's work, and my love of grind house and Blacksploitation films, I've found a lot that appealed to me, and I know some of my other friends really like the music, so this should be right up their alley. And I encourage everyone to check out Travis's work, too.

Here's to six months and 500 more.



Trendsetter work has been slow going, and the other day I realized I still hadn't done the comic book [Re: Calamity Cash and the Town with No Name] re-writes I'd promised Justin I'd do. He's about on page 21, last I talked to him, and I knew there were some things as close as page 23 that I wanted to tweak a little if I could. Hopefully, my mid-morning e-mail will reach him no problem, and we'll be on our way. Short of a lot of little things that'll need my attention at the end [probably], these re-writes were the only part of this project on my end that was still what I'd consider "unfinished." Now it's pretty much up to Justin and his awesomeness, and his work has indeed been awesome, improving exponentially with each subsequent page.

Feeling excitement about this -- effectively, the book is roughly half-way done. Earlier projections were way off on the time, but the project is also quite a bit bigger then it should have been [my fault entirely]. I'm anxious to see it all come together though, just because I don't think I've ever written anything with so much over-the-top action before. Very curious to see if my talky, Kevin Smith-ripoff bullshit can either translate or be set aside to work in the action genre, if for no other reason than that I liked walking around, running scenes through my head, and swinging my fists into the open-air like some half-mad shadow boxer while playing fight scenes through my head.

Not a whole lot time to enjoy this, however. Need to get back to "Trendsetter" work, and I am also pushing 48 straight hours awake, and a little sleep for the sake of my focus and clarity would be a good thing too. Considering a trip into town soon, if only because I have the overwhelming urge to be around people my own age. But not in this condition, certainly.

More later.

Back to Work

My last entry about the "Trendsetter" screenplay was exactly one month ago today. And though I can account for all of those days lost, and have good reason they went towards minimal work on the project, my guilt is high.

Not that no work has gone on, however. My stack of notes has doubled in past month, and my outline has filled out a bit. I am usually apprehensive about posting notes and outlines on this blog, but looking at my notes, I realize this will make no sense to anyone other than me, and I think it would benefit me to have a copy online, in case of catastrophe [could it be any more obvious I misplaced my notes and only found them after digging through papers all night?].

"Trendsetter" Outline

Intro. - Brandon, Eddie, Tess, Br. Mom, Pixie Girl.
Brandon's Apartment - Brandon
Outside w/Mailman - Brandon, Mailman
Inside w/Faye - Brandon, Faye
Outside waiting - Brandon, Teenage Girls, Eddie
Eddie's Car - Brandon, Eddie
Outside All-Mart - Brandon, Eddie
Inside All-Mart - Brandon, Molly, Eddie [Call from Tess, NEW Molly scene]
Hosp. Front Desk - Brandon, Nurse/Attend.
Hosp. Waiting Room w/Tess - Brandon, Tess [SPLIT]
Brandon's Apartment - Brandon, Faye, NPR. [Save Faye?]
Brandon's Apartment w/call - [NEW]
Brandon v. Tobias - Brandon, Tobias [NEW character], Faye [Loc. Unknown]
Brandon's Apartment - Brandon, Faye. [NEW]
????? - [NEW, pssb.: Brandon/Faye, Brandon/Eddie/Molly, MONTAGE? FN]
Hosp. Again - Brandon, Tess [NEW, SPLIT]
Inside All-Mart - Brandon, Eddie, Molly [Molly Ltd.]
Hallway - Brandon [Neeter cameo]
Faye's - Brandon, Faye. [SUB.]
Outside Brandon's - Tess.
Brandon's - Brandon, Tess. [FINAL]
Outside Brandon's, POST. - Mailman, Pixie Girl.

Looking at that, I can take some inventory, and see what work is ahead of me. I have at least 6 new scenes to write [possibly more], as well as restructuring on two Tess scenes [who's leftovers should form a pretty stable base for her new scenes as well], and the introduction of one new character who will have to be foreshadowed in there... somewhere before he appears, and possibly have him show up in some capacity in the middle. I also have a few tweaks I'd like to make to my protagonist and his attitude, which may or may not take heavy re-writes to the script as a whole -- it will probably have to be done last, and I predict at least one more aesthetic go-over after that, to tighten dialogue, catch continuity errors, and hopefully sweat down the overly long beginning which may not seem apparent in this outline, but will likely be there in the next draft.

Rule of thumb says the protagonist should have his goal in the first twenty minutes -- there is no way in hell that's going to happen here, but getting it as close as possible, and pulling off a "Clerks" sort of thing might work, and it'll be interesting to see when I get that far.

I expect to start work again on this Sunday or Monday Night -- my weekend is already filling up, and I know today is going to be a wash because of something personal I have to do. There are more than a few bumps in the road along the way[especially ?????, which I honestly have no idea what is going to be there, but I know, from my outline, that things are going to need to happen in that small block], but all of this seems doable [and relatively untaxing], and even though a month has passed without nearly enough work going to this, looking at the materials I have at hand makes me think Trendsetter should be feature length by May.

To end things on a lighter note, I dug up something a week or two ago while transferring files to the new laptop. As most writers do, I have a tendency to put myself into my work, not to the degree that I could necessarily be accused of "Mary Sue-ism," but enough that a lot of my fellow writers occasionally turn up their noses or make fun of me when mentioning certain characters or scenes I've written. Generally, I don't think it matters much whether you have a a penchant for writing yourself into something or if you work from characters and settings far removed from your "base," [and anyone who claims doing more of one than the other denotes some kind of skill probably hasn't done enough of either, in my experience] but I do try and go easy on characters that too resemble myself these days.

Hilariously, this has happened again, though this time not intentionally. Some may remember my post about Neeter, a small character who's been in several things I've written, but never made it to final draft in anything, until hopefully now. One of the projects that Neeter almost appeared in was the SULK comics Sam and I worked on during college, and a single sketch page was produced of the character.

I'd all but forgotten about this sketch, with my instructions to Sam to lampoon Scott McCloud a little bit by making my shy perv look like his famous "Making Comics" avatar. Of course, after leaving college, yours truly cut his hair, changed his glasses, and took on a messy, despondent sort of look. With all that coupled with my trademark flannel, I've inadvertently given myself another fictional twin.

Not that it matters, especially since "Trendsetter" is live action, and everything Kyle's told me thus far says Neeter is likely going to end up a bald, skinny guy when the part is cast. But the coincidence made me laugh, and you almost have to wonder...

Art imitates life, or life imitates art?

You tell me.

Remembering Steven Bach: Special Thanks

I think, for the time being, I've done all I can. I'm not saying there aren't more Steven Bach stories I have to tell -- there are quite a few, and some I may get to typing up, eventually, and some I may only tell over coffee with old friends, and a few I've decided to pretty much keep just for myself, at least for the time being. It's selfish of me, but also comforting, to have a few things that only I know, or at the very least, that only I have my perspective on.

I may [probably] have one more post about Steven in me this week. If I do, it'll be posted over the next couple days, and if I don't, it was just too painful to go back there one more time, and maybe it will show up at a much later date, one night when I'm in a panic and needing to soothe myself with something sentimental.

I want to thank everyone for coming here over the past week or so. It meant a lot to me to do this, to do something in response to Steven's death, and it meant more to me that some people found this blog on a search engine, and kept coming back to see what was posted each day. If anyone has any story or sentiment they'd like to have posted, just e-mail me, or place it in the comments section of this entry. I'll do my best to get them up in a timely fashion.

I'd like to thank Anna for being there for me on the night it first hit, and Sam, for making sure I had someone to talk to when I first needed them. Exes or not, I couldn't ask for more compassionate friends.

Speaking of friends, I'd like to thank Ian for his letter, Savannah and Julia for their call last Thursday, and Dave for getting me out of the house and onto a couch for Wrestlemania this past weekend. Don't know if Steven would approve of the subject matter, but it was good to have some fun again, and I think Bach would be more than supportive of that. I'd also like to thank Lex for finding me so much stuff about Steven online, during a time when I could barely type his name into a search engine. John for the nice story about Bach's enthusiasm, and being in class with him. To anyone else who helped, or took time to listen, I thank you, sincerely. Last but not least, a final mention goes to Glen, who's comment on my "Raging Bull" article made me feel like I did right by posting all these. And in some ways, that meant the most to me.

To Steven's niece, Cara Venable, your responses to these have given me a new insight into my professor's life [Stevie?!]. I'm very pleased you were able to find me, and I hope some of these entries have brought you comfort. So many of us are so far away, it is nice to find a way to mourn together without actually being together.

To the anonymous mother who posted here: Thank you. I don't know if I knew your child at Bennington or not, but the fact that it was important enough for you to post consoling words here puts me in your debt. Whoever you are, you are kind, and I wish there were more people like you in this world.

I also want to thank my other professors, April Bernard and Annabel Davis-Goff, for returning my e-mails, and for having such kind and considerate words for me in a time like this. Though I wouldn't feel right posting their letters verbatim, I think the things they said to me were the most comforting, and I'm grateful.

Thank you all. There are no real words to express my gratitude, and much like these stories about Steven, none of this feels like nearly enough. I hope those who have found the blog through these unfortunate circumstances will continue to check in, even if only periodically, but if not, I completely understand. I am under no delusions that this past week might be the most important my blog has ever been, or ever will be, and I am proud for that.

Finally, to Steven Bach. Rest in Peace.

Remembering Steven Bach: Graduation

I wore a suit and tie at graduation. It was a weird moment, Bennington has this pre-grad dinner thing for the parents and the faculty to inter-mingle a little bit, and I figured I ought to try and look nice at least this once in my life.

My parents and I were separated for a bit, which wasn’t such a bad thing, but while looking for them, I ran in to Steven, who was dressed nicely, but that was far less strange for him than it was for me. We shook hands, he asked me something, what I don’t remember exactly, but while we were talking, he reached out and grabbed my tie, and laughed a little.

It was an odd move. Even my closest friends don’t usually opt to enter my personal space so casually. But taking my tie in his hand, he lifted it up [thank god it wasn’t shorter, or I’d have been throttled], and Steven shook it at me a little, and said that, certainly I hadn’t bought this right? Someone had bought this for me right?

He looked across the way, to where Sam was sitting with her family, and nodded, implying that maybe my girlfriend had helped me get away from my usual flannel and black t-shirt ensemble.

“Sorry, Steven. This one’s all me.”

He nodded, not believing me for a second, even though for once this fiction writer was totally telling the truth.

He patted me on the shoulder, said congratulations, and said I should stop by his office before I left, so we could talk one last time before I was out of Bennington for good. And we tried. He called a couple of times; I stopped by his office every free chance I could get. But we never managed to get together before graduation was over.

I don’t have a lot of regrets as far as graduation went. I said goodbye to the right people, hugged and cried at most of the right times, and had several of my professors give me good words on the way out. Even got to tell this important girl something special too. But I didn’t get my last conversation with Steven Bach, didn’t get those words of wisdom from a mentor that I thought would serve me well in the real world.

That’s always upset me. Even before he died, that’s not a moment you can get back with a person – it’s very set in a certain time, part of a certain rite of passage. And it’d passed.

Shame though. Knowing Bach, it probably would have helped a lot.

Remembering Steven Bach: Coats

I was talking to Steven before class one day – it was the middle of winter, and yet, there he was, standing outside smoking, and I was anxious enough to pick his brain about something that a Vermont snow wasn’t going to deter me like it had most of the other students in my class. I remember this time in particular I’d just bought this “new” army coat, a vintage number from the South Pacific, went way past my knees and was double breasted, and was new only to me – it had a nice long life before I ever got to it.

I don’t recall what the conversation was about. I do remember, somewhere half through it, I heard laughing, familiar laughing, the kind of laughter you sort of know, and looking over, I caught the girls – Sam, Hannah, Julia, Savannah – on their way into the barn. I didn’t know what the joke was, but I resolved to ask later.

When I did, they mentioned that me, standing there next to Steven, in my long coat, with my glasses pushed down on my nose, looked like me confronting some older version of myself, better dressed and with more hand gestures – but still sporting the almost ankle-length coat with the glasses on my nose. Which wasn’t odd for Bach, he always had these awesome trench coats. Steven, they said, and Steven Jr.

Nickname didn’t stick. Probably for the best. But that comparison meant a lot to me, and I told that story for several weeks afterwards, and sort of rediscovered it when talking to Anna the night I found out.

Merely aesthetic, of course. Still, it was an honor.

Remembering Steven Bach: Raging Bull

Steven had a lot of Hollywood stories that ran the gamut from Orson Welles’s eating habits to how marijuana use helped bulk up the box office take for Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”. A few pretentious hipsters in my class found it obnoxious, but I always marveled at listening to someone talk about “Marty” and “George” and other Hollywood big-wigs on a first name basis, with a wink and a nod towards this mistake, or that lucky break.

I think my favorite story from Steven was about the movie “Raging Bull.” Made in 1980, the film was based on the real-life story of Jake LaMotta, a skilled middleweight boxer with a sadistic mean streak and delusions of grandeur long after his prime in the ring. The film’s director was Martin Scorsese, and was one of the first to feature his “regulars,” actors who would go on to perform in the bulk of his films, such as Joe Pesci, Theresa Saldana, Frank Vincent, and “Raging Bull’s” star Robert DeNiro.

Steven’s high ranking position at United Artists put him in line to green light the film, but because of some of the content of the script, he [and his bosses], were thus far unwillingly to do so. The film, as it was made, begins with the character of Jake LaMotta in his kitchen, getting into a verbal, and then physical, altercation with his pregnant wife, which ends with him slapping her and knocking her to the ground. However, in the draft that Steven held at the time, the slap was then followed by LaMotta towering over his fallen wife, and kicking her repeatedly in the stomach, over and over again.

Not that this was the only questionable content in “Raging Bull” – earlier drafts also featured heavy focus on organized crime, and a slew of even more morally ambiguous characters than LaMotta himself. DeNiro also had several discrepancies with the screenwriter’s vision, and Scorsese’s, and before post-production had even begun the film was already a mess.

So while this draft of “Raging Bull” certainly couldn’t be made, Steven and the other big wigs at UA demanded a rewrite. The younger Scorsese was defiant, as were the screenwriters, and neither were willing to make the requested changes, putting the project suddenly in doubt. It seemed like the studio/distributor and the movie’s auteurs could not be reconciled, and despite frequent calls from the movie’s cast, particularly “Bob DeNiro” [as Steven called him], to both UA and Scorsese, no one was budging.

Though the project was not yet dead, Steven was still surprised to come into his office one morning and find a revised version of the “Raging Bull” script sitting on his desk, waiting to be read. What was in this draft, Steven was not quite as forthcoming, but it can be assumed this was far closer to the version of the film we all know now, the one that was made, and UA shortly cleared the picture for take-off.

The secret behind this draft, however, seemed destined to remain a mystery, save for one small clue on the bottom of each page – the initials of “RDN.” And while Steven said he couldn’t be sworn to anything, he felt he could say with certainty that the draft’s author was the movie’s own star, Robert DeNiro.

Good old Bob.

The rest is history – Mardick Martin and Paul Schrader would receive credit for the screenplay, and Scorsese and DeNiro would go uncredited.

Remembering Steven Bach: Phantom of the Opera

I’m not a very original guy. I have been known, on occasions, to hear someone I consider intelligent and funny make a witty observation, and then rip-it, verbatim, into my own observations where applicable. You could probably compare it to a child, mimicking his parent’s movements in play – and while it’s cute then, even useful, it isn’t a terribly attractive habit in older people.

Nevertheless, I am guilty of it, and a great deal of them come from Steven Bach. I’m going to share my favorite here, knowing full well it means I will never be able to use it again, but I feel it is only fair to give Steven his due.

One day in class, we were talking about current movies dealing with musicals and operas. The Joel Shumacher [of infamous Bat-nipple fame] remake of “Phantom of the Opera” came up, and Steven said this:

“Yes, I saw Phantoms, and I’ll tell you exactly what I think. The whole movie could have been done perfectly, and it wasn’t, but it could have been, and when those lit candelabras rose out of the water, all I could think was ‘Who in the fuck green lighted that?’”

Remembering Steven Bach: And yet more links.

The site has been getting a few more hits than usual, which normally I wouldn't care about, but I have to admit to feeling proud that when people go looking for information on Steven, they come here. I want to share these things with people who loved him.

It matters.

Daily searches have found a few more links.

The Guardian has an article up about Steven.
He loved the whole European way of life, so I think he'd have appreciated the mention.

THR.com has the lesser seen AP article about him up, plus a picture that's a little more current than the mustachioed one that's been shown a lot lately.

Nikki Finke's LA Weekly Blog has a short entry on Steven, with a lot of heartfelt comments.

More importantly than those three links, however, is the new post over at Ian's blog, "A Wave of the Hand." Most of the classes I had with Steven, Ian was right there with me [we actually became friends in Bach's Intro to Film History class], but also shared a special connection by having Steven as his faculty adviser. Ian and I were both drawn to Steven for similar reasons I think [if I can say so without overreaching], as we both had plans to reach high from out of ambiguity, and with Steven as our role model, those dreams seemed somehow more attainable.

I also recommend checking out Ian's blog on a regular basis if you can. He's a talented writer, and is currently playing the role of gaijin in Japan, which he blogs on regularly.

Remembering Steven Bach: The Complex He Gave Me.

I think about Steven Bach every day.

Hard thing to admit about a person. Harder thing to believe, I think. If someone said that about one of their professors to me, I would probably nod and say sarcastically “uh-huh, right, bullshit,” because that’s one of those things that’s believable if you’re talking about a parent, sort of believable if you’re talking about a romantic interest, or someone you’ve seen every day of your life, or maybe someone you shot in ‘Nam, but otherwise, real difficult to swallow. Despite this, I mean it when I say not a day goes by I don’t think of Steven, specifically, something he said to me one day in Screenwriting class.

It was an odd situation to impart a life lesson. We were at this huge table, Steven at one end, near the door, and maybe twelve of gathered around a long table, with me and my friend Casey on the end. We usually had to shout so everyone could hear what we were saying, and if one of us was talking to Steven himself, well, god knows what was going to get lost in translation. But it was still a prime seat, in a lot of ways, sitting across from Bach, in a way, being the only student in front of him. When he was just talking about something, just lecturing, he would be looking right at you, and nothing in the world was better.

One day in class comic books came up. It’s not odd in writing classes that I’m in for the topic to rear its head, and Steven had a lot to say on the subject, and it seemed like nearly all his questions were pointed at me. I felt like I was doing pretty well, but suddenly, Steven reached out, and tapped his fist on a pile of paper’s -- someone’s screenplay, but not mine, which didn’t stop him from saying;

“Randall [he used to draw out the first ‘a’ when he pronounced it]… you screenplay, your people and their problems… when you write your comic books, do you write about the same thing?”

Seemed straightforward. Comically so, in fact, especially compared to all the technical questions he’d been asking before. And yet, I had been in college a couple years now, and this felt a little like a professor’s trap.


“Well, now, tell me, have you ever considered doing something else? Something like Maus?”

The question hit me like a knock-out punch. For those who don’t know, “Maus” is Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel about the Holocaust, with the Jews portrayed as mice, and the Nazis as cats. The book is amazing, probably Spiegelman’s best [which is saying something], and a measuring stick for what’s “good” in the business of comics, being both a popular work, but also an artistically successful one too [boasting a compelling subject matter and an incredible successful narrative to boot]. Even the suggestion that you could just decide to do something like that seemed immediately unfair to me -- like asking a kid who just started playing with Legos to design the new building to go up on Ground Zero.

“I don’t… I don’t know if it works like that? I mean, I don’t think he just set out to write Maus.”

And Steven leaned over on the table, and motioned his hand out towards me, and smiled.

“Well, why not? Why don’t you just write Maus?”

I didn’t know what to say. The sunglasses hid how wide my eyes were at the suggestion, but I saved no face because my mouth was hanging open so wide. And there was no chance to press him on the subject, by the time I’d regrouped any at all, he had found another topic, another person to quiz about what they wanted to do, and I was left just sitting there, a little… well, let’s be honest. Livid.

I walked back to class that day alone, cursing at myself, pissed at Steven. The gall. “Why don’t you just write Maus?” I mean, if you could just decide to do something great in whatever medium you were working in, why would anything ever be bad at all? Why wouldn’t every creative thing out there break boundaries and impress everyone? It was impossible. There was nothing wrong with just writing, writing what you yourself wanted to read, or see. And if it was going to be a “Maus,” then it would be, because the time was right, because you were on top of your game. You didn’t make “Maus,” it came to you when it was ready, and maybe it was all just luck in the long run.

I thought about it for a long time – never asked, it didn’t seem like I was supposed to, in a way, and eventually, I think I came to it. I think – and I wonder, every day if this is really the case – that what Steven meant didn’t mean I needed to write some incredibly socially conscious work about a real life genocide, but rather that the story needed to be important, it needed to be told, what I was saying had to matter. And maybe, to write anything good, I had to actually have something to say.

This seemed to work. It seemed applicable. I’ve told a lot people this story, and I come to the same conclusion every time. And when I say it to myself, in my head, I always picture Steven smiling.

I got less angry. But I never put it out of my mind.

Talking to Steven’s students, my peers, the ones really touched by him, the ones who are actually pursuing careers using the skills Steven imparted, they all talk about things like “inciting incident” and “three-act structure.” And I learned all those things too, and I could certainly do to take them all a lot more to heart when I’m writing.

But every time I pick up a pen, open up word, scribble down some notes. I think of Steven, and I ask myself “Why don’t I just write Maus?”

And then a lot gets deleted. Knowing his feelings on drafts, I think Steven would want it that way.

Remembering Steven Bach: More Links, and other comments.

I'd like to take a moment to share the three or four comments I've gotten about Steven on this page. The way Blogger.com is set up, I find that comments sometimes get overlooked in the presentation, and besides, some people said some nice things about Steven, and I want them here with the other posts on the front page.

No particular order, of course.

"For the last 5+ years I have had a Steven Bach quote taped to my laptop. "If in your 4 years here you do not learn that love is all that matters, that love makes the world go 'round, then we have utterly failed you."

Funny that laptop should stop working completely mere days before Steven did. I know how much he meant to you, and to all of us, and I too wish we could be together for this one.
RIP you crazy old man." -- Samantha Roman, former student.

To my comments on Steven's teaching methods:

"Randall - you hit the nail on the head! Steven was a fabulous story teller. As a child, when the holidays came around, we'd wait patiently by the phone for "Stevie" (as he was known to family) to call. His enigmatic lifestyle as the big hollywood executive, who was far too busy with too many important things to hop a flight to poe-dunk Denver for the holiday, left us with baited breath by the phone to hear the stories of his latest adventures! One Easter in the mid 70's he phoned us and casually mentioned he was celebrating the holiday with his friend Peter.... as he nonchalantly shared his exploits, the color drained out of my grandmother's face, as she realized her son was phoning her from Peter Seller's home! At the tender age of 6 or 7, in the height of the Pink Panther fame, I recognized the name and realized this was a BIG DEAL! Steven was only talking to family, and probably trying to defend his choice of not coming home, not trying to get a huge pedagogical point across.... so I can only imagine what it was like to have him as a mentor and teacher!!" -- Cara Venable, Steven's niece.

From an anonymous visitor:

"I'm the parent of a recent Bennington grad; she was also a devoted student of Steven. I've been quite moved by your comments this week. You were all incredibly lucky to have had such an inspiring and inspired teacher, and I hope you all find some comfort in that inalterable fact." -- Anonymous

And finally, by way of Japan:

"NPR clip of Steven on Fresh Air talking about Leni: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10698820

Steven always did have an unmistakable voice." -- Ian Rogers, former student and advisee.

And using Ian's link as a springboard, here's a few more I've found over the past several days. They're from various blogs, few I know much about other than what I could glean from a short visit. It is my plan to check them all out better in happier times.

"Elbow of Justice" -- a blog by a Bennington alum, and former student of Steven's. Some very nice thoughts, and a few comments from others.

"Mr NYC" -- another blog, I assume NY related. A short tribute which I was glad to have taken the time to find.

And finally, his obituary from the Los Angeles Times. Largely a re-write of the Associated Press/NY Times piece, but with a little extra information, and a great a picture of Steven with his mustache.

Updates continue tomorrow at six.

Remembering Steven Bach: Deadlines

I don’t ever remember getting a syllabus from Steven Bach. I’m sure I did, I just don’t recall one, not in the traditional sense.

I do remember getting the schedule in “Advanced Screenwriting,” which showed us having plenty of time in the four months in that term to write our movie. And then I remember being two months in and hardly having twenty pages and feeling doomed, and being three months in and being absolutely paranoid that every single other person in class was farther along. Then being three weeks from the deadline and not sleeping any more, and knowing there was no way in hell the script was getting finished with all the other shit that had to be done by finals. And then getting done a week ahead of time, and feeling like a burden’s been lifted, and all that stands between turning the damn thing in early and being free of those crushing chest pains was Steven looking at you just as you were about to hand over the 120 pages you crippled your ink cartridge to print out, and smiling, and asking you if you’re sure you don’t want to give it one more once over, sweat out just a little bit more before you hand it in.

I’m glad I got to do that with him more than once.