Be The Guy Behind The Guy Behind The Guy

Swingers, Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, humor, Modern PhilosopherI’ve mentioned many times, Modern Philosophers, that Swingers is one of my all-time favorite movies.

Vince Vaughn is incredible, ridiculous, hilarious, charming, and unbelievably skinny in this flick.

His performance alone is worth the watch.

What I probably love the most about Swingers, though, is that Jon Favreau wrote it to help jump start his career and the careers of his friends.  Now the guy is directing Iron Man flicks, so he clearly did something right.

There’s this great line in the casino scene where Vaughn’s character describes Favreau’s as “The guy behind the guy behind the guy”.

Just typing that made me chuckle.

How would you like the chance to be the guy behind the guy behind the guy?

I’ve got nothing new to report on The Blind Date project right now, but my producer and friend, Matthias, reached out today to ask if he could get a little help from my loyal and supportive group of Modern Philosophers.

If you could lend a hand, it would end up advancing my cause to get Matthias’ company to produce my screenplays.

Like I said…the guy behind the guy behind the guy.

Matthias is the Executive Producer and Cinematographer on a project called Cabinfest, which is entered in a film making contest on BET.  If the project does well, it will draw more attention to Matthias’ company, work, and abilities.

It would also open some doors to get us access to the kind of people who could get my screenplays into production.

Matthias Saunders, Cabinfest, movies, Modern PhilosopherMatthias has long believed that my blog is a key in getting the word out about my movies.  This would be a great opportunity to show him that my readers can be counted out for support.  All he is asks is that you go to the site, check out the clip, and vote for Cabinfest.

It really is that simple.  I’ve already done it, and I wouldn’t ask you to consider it if I didn’t think it was a worthwhile cause.

Here’s the link: Vote for Cabinfest

If you do check it out and vote, please let me know in the comments section.  Matthias would love to see the support and read any thoughts you had on the clip.

Thanks for your help with this.  To further quote Swingers, “You’re so money”.

If you haven’t seen Swingers yet, do yourself a favor and watch it.  Trust me!

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There Are No Cats In Hell

cats, pets, short story, humor, Modern Philosopher“I see you have taken another step towards officially becoming a Crazy Cat Man,” The Devil quipped as he leaned against the doorway the led into my living room.

As always, he was well dressed in an impeccably tailored suit, which he preferred to keep free of cat hair.

That was going to be a challenge today.

“Yes, my descent into madness and the lonely single life is almost complete,” I played along as I took a sip of my Snapple.

“I applaud you for adopting your new kitties,” Lucifer said sincerely as he strode across the living room on his long legs.  “It sounds like they really needed a happy change after such a traumatic experience.”

“There was no way I could turn them away after I heard their story,” I confessed as I handed my guest a fresh Snapple from the cooler. “Their owner died unexpectedly and they needed a home.  The House on the Hill has been too quiet since Luna passed away last summer, so it just seemed like kismet.”

cats, pets, short story, humor, Modern Philosopher“They are quite adorable,” The Prince of Darkness admitted.  “I’m tempted to pick them up and snuggle, but this suit does not look good covered in cat hair.  Plus, I’m a little scared of the darker one.  She keeps growling at me.”

“Cats excel at sensing evil,” I chuckled.

“I’ve always wanted a cat, but I have a very strict No Cat policy in Hell,” Satan explained.  “And for good reason.  The Damned are supposed to suffer for all eternity.  How does one suffer when cute kitties are scampering around?”

“Excellent point,” I conceded.  “Of course, it might be the ultimate torture to have cats available, but not allow your guests to spend time with them…”

The Devil took a long sip of his Snapple as he considered my idea.

“I do like the way you think,” he complimented.  “However, I’m not keen on the idea of having to change all those litter boxes.”

“Plus, having kitties in Hell would give a whole new meaning to the term ‘cats in heat’.  And don’t give me a dirty look.  You know it had to be said,” I informed him.

cats, pets, short story, humor, Modern Philosopher“Cleo and Cassie, love the names by the way, are lucky to have a new home,” Lucifer stated as he rolled his eyes at my comment.  “Cali is going to enjoy having company around the house again while you’re at work.  Just spare the kitties your brilliant wit.  They’ve already suffered enough.”

I couldn’t disagree with his logic.  I was very lucky to have Cleo and Cassie come into my life, and now life at The House on the Hill is a little like Heaven.  Even with The Prince of Darkness hanging around and drinking all my Snapple…

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Run When Ya Don’t Wanna

running, health, fitness, humor, Modern PhilosopherI’m going to share some sage advice, Modern Philosophers, and I’d like you to ignore the poor grammar…

Run when ya don’t wanna.

Three days this week, I woke up early from my air conditioned induced slumber, to run before work.

In all three instances, I did not want to get out of bed, I did not want to run, and once I actually hit the road, I was absolutely certain there was no way in Hell that I’d do the whole four miles.

As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, I completed my four miles every day.

Now I know many of you are not runners, so I’m not asking you to take this advice literally.  Just apply the running metaphor to your life as you see fit.

Because there’s always going to be an instance when you don’t want to do something, but once you force yourself to do it, you’ll be glad that you went through with it.

That’s how I felt every morning when I returned to The House on the Hill after sticking with it and completing my four miles.

I have to admit, I felt even better about my run because I had been so dead set about doing it.  The fact that I was able to overcome my own attempts at self-sabotage gave me a true sense of accomplishment.

Star Wars, Ben Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, running, fitness, humor, Modern PhilosopherSo I know this isn’t Ben Kenobi level advice.

But cut me some slack.  I’m no Jedi.

I’m just a lazy, out of shape guy, who managed to pull the Jedi Mind Trick on myself to make me believe I love running five days a week.  Which has led to my losing 65 lbs and feeling amazing.

Hey.  Maybe I am a Jedi.  But my powers only work on me.

Life is always going to present you with situations that you’ll want to avoid.  Sometimes, running from those situations might be the best thing to do.

However, there are just too many of them.  Inevitably, you’re going to have to put on your big girl or big boy toga and just do what needs to be done.

It’s like pulling off a band-aid.  No one really wants to do it, but the quicker you rip it off, the faster the pain fades and you can get on with your life.

The way I see it, if I had blown off those runs, I would have been angry at myself.  I also would have felt like crap all day because I really need that physical activity to jump start my day.

So I might have been able to steal another hour’s worth of sleep, but I would have paid for it in regret, self loathing, and fatigue all day.  Going for those runs was definitely the best thing I could have done.

Which leads me to believe I need to start doing more things I’ve been avoiding.

The Sure Thing, John Cusack, fitness, humor, Modern PhilosopherNow you’re probably wondering why I’ve inserted this pic from The Sure Thing.

If you knew it was from The Sure Thing, then I am impressed.  Gold star for you.

I’d intended to use this pic in last night’s post about my new kitties, but didn’t get around to it.  This is the scene where John Cusack tries to woo Daphne Zuniga with a story that mentions Cassiopeia.

That memorable line is why I chose to name one of the new kitties Cassie.

Cusack also mentions Cassiopeia in Serendipity when attempting to woo Kate Beckinsale.

Which now makes me believe I need to work Cassiopeia into conversation with any attractive, available women I meet.

I’m not always comfortable chatting up an attractive woman, but I now accept that sometimes, you’ve got to run when ya don’t wanna.

See?  I brought it around full circle.

Give my advice a shot.  Let know if it works for you…

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The New Cat House On The Hill

cats, pets, adoption, Modern PhilosopherIt’s been almost a year now, Modern Philosophers, since Miss Luna left The House on the Hill for Kitty Heaven.

Over that time, I have carefully kept an eye on Cali to see if she was depressed or withdrawn because of the loss of her sister.

While Luna’s death devastated me, I vowed that if the right situation ever presented itself, I would definitely consider opening my heart and home to give Cali some company.  I didn’t want her to be lonely just because I was afraid of losing another beloved pet.

That situation presented itself on Wednesday.

My neighbor texted that her mother’s church was desperate to find a new home for two kitties whose owner had died unexpectedly.

I love animals, and the idea of these two poor fur babies going through such an incredible trauma and then having to go to the shelter broke my heart.

I made up my mind almost immediately that I was going to take them.  They were sisters, seven years old, indoor kitties, and the church didn’t want to see them separated.  I also knew that it’s much harder for older kitties to get adopted.

We went after work to meet them.  I was told their names were Coco and Cricket, which I thought was a sign because, when added to Cali, it would give me the 3 C’s.

Once we got to the camp where the kitties were staying, we discovered there was some confusion about the names.  We were told one was named Chop Chop or Choppy (what kind of name is that for a cat???), and no one was clear which name went with which cat.

So I made a mental note that the names had to change, too.

Even though it was a bit of a struggle to get the kitties to come out from under the couch, I brought them home.

I’d like you to meet Cleo…

cats, pets, adoption, Modern PhilosopherCleo has been difficult, but I understand.  She went through a very traumatic experience, and The House on the Hill is the fourth place she’s stayed in the last two weeks.

She did a lot of growling and hissing that first night.  Even managed to scratch me once.

Now, on her second full day here, she is sitting in the living room window as I type this.  Cleo has actually allowed me to pet her tonight, which made me very happy.  She has also been gobbling up kitty treats.

This is Cassie…

cats, pets, adoption, Modern PhilosopherCassie is very shy, and has been mostly staying under the couch, but she is coming out more often to explore.  Last night, she even jumped up into the high window in the master bedroom.  In fact, she just came out from under the couch, and is thinking about jumping into living room window Cleo has abandoned.

Cassie is happy to let me pet her, and actually comes over to me in search of contact.

I haven’t seen her eat yet, but a lot of the dry food was gone when I got home, so I’m hoping she has been filling her belly while I’m not watching.

GREAT NEWS!!!  I just crept into the kitchen to find Cassie eating!

Of course, Cali is as adorable as ever…

cats, pets, adoption, Modern PhilosopherI’ve been worried about how my little black cat would react to her new sisters.  She had  me and the house all to herself for the past year, and we have definitely bonded.  She sleeps with me almost every night, she is constantly flopping in front of me in hopes of getting her tummy rubbed, and she loves sitting in my lap while I write.

I know she has been lonely since Luna passed away, but she has also settled into a comfortable life with me at The House on the Hill.

I feared I would disrupt all that.

Actually, I just had to run because Cleo finally decided to explore upstairs and Cali hissed at her when she reached the top of the stairs.  That confused me because Cali is usually the quiet, timid one.

Cleo is now hiding under the bed, and Cali is under her chair with her tail all puffed.  Cassie wisely fled in the opposite direction, eager to stay out of it.

It’s going to be an interesting weekend, but I’m excited at the prospect of expanding my little family.  And I’m so glad to be able to help a couple of sweet kitties in need.

Send some good thoughts my way, Modern Philosophers, as I try to get everyone settled in at The Cat House on the Hill…

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Not All Fireworks Are Explosive

short story, The Devil, fireworks, humor, Modern Philosopher“I hear you had one Hell of an Independence Day!” The Devil declared as he strode confidently into my living room like he owned the place.

As always, he was well dressed in an impeccably tailored suit, which made me look like a homeless person in my well worn shorts and ratty tee shirt.

“What do you mean?” I asked with the same oblivious energy I usually reserved for his wild, confusion entrances.  “It was too hot, so I stayed inside and watched the game.”

“Word around the rings of Hell is that you had much more to celebrate than America’s independence from the stuffy Brits,” Lucifer added, supplying more information, but doing absolutely nothing to clarify his original statement.

“You’re confusing me, dude,” I admitted and took a long sip of Snapple.

Sometimes, it was just easier to tell him I had no idea what he was talking about, rather than trying to play Name That Vague Train of Thought all afternoon.

The Prince of Darkness stared down at me like I had three heads.  Had I three heads, I can assure you they would all be throbbing with migraines from his annoying presence.

short story, The Devil, fireworks, humor, Modern Philosopher“Didn’t you have a really spectacular Tuesday?” he asked.  “Matthias loved your screenplay, and you finally bought an air conditioner.  You must have been celebrating all day Wednesday!”

It was adorable that he was so excited and thought I’d had a rager to celebrate.

“Oh, yeah,” I nodded once I understood down which track his train of thought was headed.  “I was pretty pumped about the screenplay.  For once, I felt like my writing career was headed in the right direction.  I didn’t have a wild party, but I was excited.”

“You’ve got to get a little crazy about these achievements, Austin,” Satan advised as he sat down on his end of the couch.  “Writers don’t get the recognition they deserve, so sometimes, you’ve got to celebrate yourself.  You kicked ass and earned the right to feel good about what you accomplished.”

“I will keep that in mind the next time I hit a writing milestone,” I promised and then crossed my heart with my index finger to prove I was serious.

“And buying the air conditioner was almost as giant a step as leasing the RAV,” The Devil informed me.  “Taking care of yourself is important.  I don’t see anyone else coming around here to look after you.  It’s about time you spend a little money on Austin.”

short story, The Devil, fireworks, humor, Modern Philosopher“You were doing so well with your pep talk until you pointed out that nobody loved me,” I whined in that little annoying voice that keeps people from loving me.

I reached for another bottle of Snapple, but my guest slapped away my hand and grabbed the cooler.

“Snapple is for winners, not for whiny babies,” Lucifer announced with just a little bit of Hellfire in his eyes to really get my attention.  “I didn’t say no one loved you.  I stated that no one was here taking care of you.  Big difference.  Do you understand?”

“Sure,” I nodded.  “Thinking the one thing cost me my Snapple.”

The Prince of Darkness was not amused.  He dragged the cooler over to the other side of the couch, close to where he kept his pitchfork.

“You had a great week.  Revel in it.  Don’t take away from it by feeling sorry for yourself.  Save the self pity for some brooding character in your next screenplay.  Maybe you should go sit in the air conditioned atmosphere of your bedroom for a few hours, and remember how good it feels to put yourself first.”

That was actually some pretty decent advice, and if I went up to bask in the chilled aura of my new purchase, it would save me from his constant pestering.

But I couldn’t do that to the guy.  He came all the way from Hell to the one place on the planet that was actually a little warmer, just to spend time with me and boost my morale.

“Thanks for the advice,” I said sincerely.  “I will make a better effort to stay positive and look out for myself.  I really did kick ass on that screenplay.”

A devilish grin quickly grew across Satan’s face, and he returned the cooler of Snapple to its rightful position between us.

short story, The Devil, fireworks, humor, Modern Philosopher“I’m glad you’ve taken my words to heart,” he crowed as the grin exploded into a beaming smile.  “This makes me something akin to your Yoda, doesn’t it?”

I grabbed a Snapple from the cooler, and just have him a look.

“Don’t push it,” I advised.  “Our friendship already cripples my Inner Catholic School Boy with massive guilt.  Don’t mess with my Inner Star Wars Geek.”

“Point taken,” The Devil acknowledged.  “Here’s to an eventful week.  Well done.”

He raised his Snapple bottle in toast.  I tapped his bottle with mine, and then chugged down half its contents because I was a bad ass writer, and bad ass writers make their own rules and drink at their own pace.

At least that was what Lucifer had led me to believe…

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Meet Joe Cool(er)

humor, summer, heatwave, Maine, Modern PhilospherIn all the excitement about my screenplay news on Tuesday (He Said Yes To The Screenplay), I forgot to tell you about the other life altering event that occurred on the very same day, Modern Philosophers.

After fifteen years at The House on the Hill, I finally caved and bought an air conditioner!

Before you mock me for not holding to my convictions (It costs so much to heat this house in the winter, I refuse to pay to cool it, too!), please keep in mind that it has been brutally hot in Maine for the past week.

It was so bad, that I didn’t even leave the house last weekend after my morning runs.  My neighbors actually asked if I was sick because I’m always out walking.  I confessed that my health was fine, my step count had to suffer because there was no way I could handle the heat and humidity.

I could not sleep, and that was the real tipping point for me.  I don’t mind taking it easier on the physical fitness front, and I can deal with it being a little uncomfortable when I’m on the first floor eating and watching TV, but to spend the night tossing and turning because it’s too damn hot is unacceptable.

Usually, the tower fan in the bedroom is enough to lull me to sleep, but this recent heatwave was Heat Miser at his finest.  Clearly, he’s grown tired of his brother getting all the headlines in Maine, and decided to show that he can be a royal pain in the ass, too.

The temperature upstairs in The House in the Hill was about the same as what my Sunday guest is used to on a daily basis in his home office.  In fact, I was so delirious from the heat that I was certain The Devil was sitting at the foot of the bed, counting sheep as they jumped through rings of Hellfire.

humor, summer, heatwave, Maine, Modern PhilospherOn Monday night, I went next door to talk to Mark about air conditioning options.  We looked at several brands online, and once he promised that he would be around after work on Tuesday to help me install my new purchase, Operation Joe Cooler was a go!

As with all big life changes, it did not go according to plan.  Which is why I hate change.

I drove straight to Walmart after work.  I could not find any of the air conditioners that had been advertised on the store’s website.  Nor could I find a single associate to help me locate them.

Apparently, the employees had all melted in the heat and humidity, and that puddle I’d stepped in back in aisle 7 was actually Louis from the Hardware Department.

Finally, I found an associate stacking cans of cat food.  He was pretty sure they were sold out, but he did wander around with me until he found someone who could state, with certainty, that there were no more air conditioners to be found in the store.

I nearly lost my cool at that point, but I was too exhausted to have a tantrum.  I just stormed out of the store (slowly, though, because it was so damn hot) and drove down the road to Lowe’s.

At Lowe’s, I discovered an associate guarding a stack of six air conditioners near the front door.  They had just been delivered, and were the only ones in stock.  They were larger and more expensive than what I had planned on buying, but the sweat pouring down my back convinced me to just do it.

I reasoned that I’d gone fifteen years without one, so I’d saved enough money over that time to spring for something other than the $99 Walmart special.

Mark helped me to install it.  And by “help”, I mean that Mark did most of the work while I asked stupid questions and stood around sweating.

Now I have this in the bedroom window…

humor, summer, heatwave, Maine, Modern PhilospherThe thermostat on my new weapon against Heat Miser registered 85 degrees when we first turned it on, but it quickly cooled the room to a more comfortable temperature.

I fell asleep to the machine’s reassuring hum for the last three nights of the heatwave.  I ended up waking up around 4:30 each of the next mornings and turning it off because the bedroom had achieved a late autumn feel by that time.

Obviously, I slept much better.  It still took me a little time to unwind and relax because my body temperature was so high, but once asleep, I dreamed of building snowmen and hanging out with Santa Claus.  It was delightful.

Yesterday, Heat Miser finally decided to take a break.  We had torrential downpours all day and then powerful winds rattled the windows all night.  The temperature plummeted into the 50s overnight, and there was no need to turn on the air conditioner.

I’m writing this out on the porch now, and again the temperature is very tolerable.  But even if it does decide to become mostly boiling with a chance of Hellfire again, I know I will be okay.

Because The House on the Hill is now wired to chill, and I’m Joe Cool(er).

How have you been beating the heat?

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He Said Yes To The Screenplay!

screenwriting, movies, humor, Modern PhilosopherEight words can really change your mood and the flow of your week, Modern Philosophers.

As I was leaving work last night, I discovered a message from my producer, who had just read my screenplay adaptation of two of my short stories.

Great work on the screenplay.  I love it.

It had been a long, hot, humid, exhausting week with very little sleep and I was feeling overwhelmed and run down.

After reading that message, I was elated.

And all it took was eight simple words.

Of course, there was much more to our conversation than that, but I was overjoyed not only that he had liked the screenplay, but also that he had gotten back to me so quickly.

A screenwriter’s life is a lot of hurry up and wait.

I’d busted my butt to complete that first draft in one week, but I had prepared myself for a long wait before my producer would even have time to read it.

Alas, he surprised me with a message on Monday night, just a day after I’d told him the draft was done, asking to read it.

Then a day later, he sent me the eight magic words.

That kind of turnaround is nothing short of a Hollywood miracle.

There will definitely be some waiting now, but he did mention the plan was to start production in September.  That’s only two months away!

Now that I know he likes the screenplay, I can tell you a little more about my process.  As you know, I was adapting two of the short stories from this blog: The Blind Date and The Bookstore Attraction Conundrum.

screenwriting, movies, humor, Modern PhilosopherThe short stories were written three and a half years apart, and had nothing that linked them other than that they were both about first dates.  They also totaled about nine pages, and my producer asked me to turn in a screenplay of at least thirty pages.

Adding The Bookstore tale to The Blind Date was my first idea to increase page length and add characters to the film.  Once my producer signed off on that, I had to come up with a thread to turn two totally separate stories into one movie.

What I ended up doing was taking a character introduced on the very last page of The Bookstore Conundrum, and making her the co-protagonist in the screenplay.  Then I concocted a creative way to bring her into the world of The Blind Date’s main character.

I also took a character who is only mentioned in conversation in The Blind Date, and made him an actual character in the screenplay.

As a result, the first scene of the screenplay focuses on the main character of The Blind Date and two characters who barely existed in the short stories.

I went on to add one more character because my new co-protagonist needed a sidekick.  My producer had asked for more characters, and I had given him exactly that.

Since I knew we would be looking to keep the budget small, I made sure to minimize the locations.  Aside from the bookstore and the restaurant bar, which are the settings for the original short stories, I only added a scene inside an apartment, and another on the street outside of that apartment.

Those are two locations very easy to find cheaply in Los Angeles.  Pretty much everyone working on the movie will have an apartment that could be commandeered for the shoot, and there are empty streets everywhere in that town.

screenwriting, movies, humor, Modern PhilosopherI also set the story over the course of just a couple of hours.  That means no costume changes, and no real worries about continuity.  It’s a romantic comedy, so it’s all about the characters and dialogue, which means no action scenes or special effects.

Once I figured out the hook to link the stories, it was a very easy screenplay to write.  Almost everything I write is based on my personal experiences, and borrows from elements in my life.  For this one, I thought it would be a nice touch to add some of my family background, namely losing both my parents at an early age.

It’s surprising how something so sad can add just the right amount of heart to a romantic comedy about the perils of a first date.

I wasn’t sure if I was just going to copy the short stories line for line into the screenplay, but I ended up bringing over almost every line of dialogue.  I also added new dialogue, and used screen direction to breathe more life into the scenes.

The finished product is thirty-two pages, and while you can see both distinct short stories in the screenplay, it is a much larger and well-rounded story now.

screenwriting, movies, humor, Modern PhilosopherI can’t wait to have more news to share about the production, and I look forward to sharing behind the scenes information and pics here on the blog.

Maybe when the short film is completed, we’ll have a viewing party for blog followers at The House on Hill.  If you attend that gala, don’t forget to bring Snapple!

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