Archive for November, 2008

Non-Renewable Resource

I had fun today. It was one of those days where things just clicked. Now, according to the First Law of Good Fortune, that means that tomorrow should be a really crappy day. But I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it. I’d like to make a few points about today:
Firstly (though this happened on Monday), you know that filming thing that I just wrote a blog about? On Monday I get to school and you know what the director tells me? "The footage is all too dark. We’ll have to reshoot the whole thing." And by "we", he means him.
Bam. Score one for me. Next time you’ll listen to the writer guy and cast good actors, Mr. Director.

Karma is wonderful when it works in your favour.

Next, I’d like to tell a short story about a friend of mine named Matt.
Matt has this deep, booming voice. It can be intimidating, but it’s perfect for what he wants to get into: Radio sports broadcasting. Since grade 9 I’ve told him that he’s destined to be the next Andy Frost (the announcer for the Leafs who also has a talk radio show on AM 640). As it happens, Andy Frost is Matt’s idol.
You with me so far?
Last night the Leafs lost 6-3, to my endless joy. That fact has nothing to do with this anecdote, I just thought I’d mention that.
Right. So, a couple of days ago, the Leafs made a trade, giving up Steen and Colaiacovo for Stempniak. I won’t go into detail about that trade, because that’s not the main point of this story. I’ll only state that most people think that it was a poor trade for the Leafs.
After the Leafs game last night (did I mention that they lost?), Andy Frost did his usual radio show on AM 640. And guess who called in to discuss the Stempniak trade? Matt! And Matt did awesomely well. He went into a ridiculously detailed argument for why the Stempniak trade was a good thing. His conversation with Andy lasted about five minutes, which is far longer than the typical two minutes Andy gives his callers. By the end, Andy was thoroughly impressed, even going so far as to state that even Bob McCowen (one of the great hockey analysts) hadn’t thought of some of the points that Matt mentioned.
I tell this story for a few reasons. First of all, because I’m genuinely proud of Matt. You could see just how happy Matt was this morning in school. Cloud nine. And why not? He spoke with his hero last night, and his hero loved him. What could be better? I’m happy for Matt.
But it sort of makes me sad for myself. It makes me wonder if I’m ever going to have a chance to speak with my heroes like Matt did. And it makes me wonder who my heroes really are.
I toss names around a lot, sure. But if Bob Barker suddenly appears before me and talks to me, there isn’t much I can say. Would I love to do Bob Barker’s former job? Sure. But I’m not passionate about it like Matt is about radio broadcasting. So maybe Bob Barker isn’t so much of a hero as he is just an entertaining guy.
Alright… who else do we have? 
What if Cole Sprouse gives me a call?
Now we’re cooking. I can see it now: My voice fails me. My hands go clammy. I don’t know what to say. I manage to get out a few incoherent sentences, and later slap myself for sounding like such a goofball. Would I love to do Cole Sprouse’s job? Acting for Disney? Are you kidding me? I’d sell out my best friend to have the opportunity to do that job! So yeah, Cole Sprouse (I use Cole as an example, but you can throw Dylan in there too) would be an example of a genuine hero whom I wish I could emulate perfectly.
But you see… I’m screwed.
Andy Frost is over 50 years old. The Brothers Sprouse are 16. Do you see the problem?
While Matt looks up at his hero, I look down on mine. If Matt wants to follow a similar career path as Andy, he has 35 years to establish himself. If I want to follow a similar career path as many of my heroes, I have a negative amount of time to act.
And that’s alarming to me. It means that I’m setting impossible goals for myself.
So either I need a space-time continuum defying miracle to occur, or I need to find new heroes.
This sucks.
Third and final point of the day.
I’m finding it harder and harder to enjoy myself. That might seem to conflict with the first sentence of this blog, but listen anyhow. This is hard to explain, but I’ll do my best.
It’s still easy for me to enjoy myself while I’m doing something fun. That seems obvious, right? If I’m playing soccer, I’m having fun. If I’m hanging out with friends, I’m having fun. Duh.
But the moment I leave my friends and head home, I suddenly become depressed. I start thinking "Man. I only have a few months of this left before university. Then these times are gone forever."
I spent a good while today hanging out with some eighth graders. Think of me what you will, but I enjoy their company as much as (and often more than) the company of anyone my age.
I can’t screw around with musical instruments with anyone my age. But for a thirteen year old, a clarinet is not only a clarinet. It’s also a sword. And a rolling chair chair isn’t only something to sit on – it’s also a viable method of transportation. A shoe shiner? That’s also a contest to see who can withstand ‘carpet burn’ the longest. Seventeen year olds are just too mature to see the world that way. And that’s a shame.
I had a ton of fun. They’re psycho, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But it makes me sad because I’m never going to be able to have fun like this again after June. Worse, I’m going to lose touch with most of these wonderful people.
That’s what really worries me about going away for university, you know. I’m not worried about losing my close friends. They’re loyal people. Even if I went to the moon for university, they’d still be there after four years, ready to greet me upon my return.
I’m much more worried about losing those loose friends. The ones who I don’t know all that well, but who I love just the same. I don’t know if I can handle losing all those people.
Of course, even if I stay in Toronto for university, I still won’t be able to screw around in the school music room anymore.
So once again… I’m screwed.
No matter what happens, I’m going to lose a large piece of myself in June.
Either I need to stop being a kid, or I need to live in a state of constant unhappiness. What the hell am I supposed to do? I am who I am. I’m completely powerless to be anything other than myself. I don’t want to change.
But still the world tells me: Adapt, or become extinct.

Filming, Day One

Remember that screenwriting adventure that I wrote about a short while ago?
Well, Friday was the first day of filming.
In theory, this should have been cool. Normally everything that I write
stays on the paper or on the computer screen. But for the first time, the words
that I put on paper would be given life by actual human beings.
But like communism, some things just aren’t as cool when put into practice.
Problem #1: A bad cast can make any script sound bad.
Right from the get-go, I knew that it was going to be a rough day. I looked
at the cast list, and immediately saw a few problems. The "idiot" character is
being played by an actor who doesn’t know the meaning of "puzzled" or
"half-asleep". He only has one tone of voice: Rage. So when the script tells him
to sound confused, he sounds like a murderer. When the script tells him to say
"What?", he says "WHAT?!"
Actually, for whatever reason, he inserts an "H" sound at the beginning of
"What?" and pronounces the last part of the word wrong, so he actually says
Secondly, one of the characters is supposed to be the
"wise-old-man-on-the-mountain" type. White hair, long flowing beard, filled with
the wisdom of the ages, always using big words, et cetera. You know what I mean,
right? Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a man with white hair and a long flowing
beard to play the part. So who was cast? A Jamaican kid, of course! Because
that’s the next closest thing.
It doesn’t help that the guy has no emotion whatsoever. He’s explaining a
powerful life lesson to a young student with all the intensity of a bubble bath.
Problem #2: Bad ideas do not look good when acted
I mentioned that some ideas that I objected to managed to make it into the
script. Well guess what? Those bad ideas didn’t suddenly turn into good ideas.
When acted out, they looked even worse. So much that I actually cringed with
shame when I heard the actors say the lines.
Maybe the ideas would have sounded better if performed by professional
actors, rather than a Jamaican with no emotion. Maybe.
Problem #3: The director is supposed to say "cut".
And he did. Occasionally. When the filming was done. But did he ever say
cut in order to correct one of the actors? Once or twice in two hours. Not good.
Problem #4: Teenage boys do not enjoy dramas.
This isn’t a problem with the filming as much as it is a problem with the
film as a whole. This film is going to be viewed by a thousand boys aged 12-17.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but teenage boys tend to stray away from dramas.
We don’t usually watch soap operas. We need to see exploding heads and car
chases. It’s a genetic thing. When exploding heads and car chases are not
available, we’re content to watch a comedy. But we’ll never watch a drama.
Unless we’re with a smoking hot babe who has offered to blow us afterwards. But
aside from that, no dramas.
And this film is a drama. "We need to make this funny!" I said. "This is a
mistake!" I said. But alas, the director wanted to go in a serious direction.
I did my best to put a few jokes in there. But 75% of the jokes I inserted
got canned. Only one joke made it into the final script. It’s the best one,
fortunately, and one that might just singlehandedly save the film.
But probably not. Especially since it has to be set up and delivered by the
Jamaican guy.
At least it’s the actors who will get the brunt of the mockery. I’m not
looking forward to the few seconds where "Written By:" appears on the screen

The Dream Lives

It’s cutting it close, but it’s above 2100, right? Harvard and Yale are still alive in my mind.
To break it down:
Math – 90th percentile. This means that I did better than 90% of everyone who took the test.
Critical Reading – 94th percentile. This means that I beat 94% of everyone who took the test.
Writing (and this is interesting) – 99th percentile, meaning I beat somewhere between 99 and 100% of everyone who took the test.
I find the writing score interesting because a few days ago I spoke to my English teacher and told him that I was applying to Harvard and Yale. At some point during that conversation, he said (and I quote):
"Are you in the top 1% of writers that I’ve ever had? No. And that’s what Harvard and Yale would be looking for."
I’m going to tell him my score at some point and make him feel really shitty about that 80% he gave me on my last assignment.
Also interesting is this:
Applying to Harvard and Yale is a Big Deal, apparently. In school today, my Relgion teacher (whom I didn’t think knew my name) asked me what US schools I was applying to. Harvard and Yale, I said.
Gasps from around the class. Shock. Amazement. Questioning.
I’m not sure if people respected me more for those 50 minutes, but it felt like it.
And it got me thinking: If I get into Harvard or Yale, and if I can get this novel published…
Well… maybe people will know my name by the end of the year. Maybe. I dare not hope to become popular or anything, but having people know my name would be a step in the right direction.
And a final interesting point:
My former grade three teacher has taken a renewed interest in me. She was one of the first people to say of me: "That boy’s got potential."
She saw my dad tonight at the Father Bressani High School Open House (If the school is unfamiliar to you, just imagine that Hell decided to have an Open House, and you’ll get the general idea). According to her, I’m still the brightest student she’s ever had and she still thinks about me frequently. She asked my dad what I’m been up to recently. My dad, ever the braggart, told her about the novel and the SAT scores.
According to my dad (also a master of hyperbole), she burst into tears, exclaiming: "Oh, I was right! He’s going to be something!"
To make a long story short, she told my dad to give me her email address. She wants to keep in touch and hear about all of my amazing accomplishments.
What the hey. She was a nice enough teacher. I’ll drop her a line.

SAT Results Tomorrow

Just what the title says. I’m surprisingly nervous about this.
Even though the odds of me getting in to Harvard/Yale are slim, I still want to see a good score tomorrow. I don’t know why, to be honest, because here’s the deal:
The SAT is out of 2400. To get into Harvard/Yale, a +2100 is usually needed. 1500 is the average score amongst everyone who writes it, just to put things in perspective. In other words, I need to be well above average here.
So here’s my plan. If I look at my score tomorrow and see a score less than 2100, fuck it. Harvard and Yale are out. I won’t even bother applying.
Because just applying to Harvard and Yale is a bitch. The application is ridiculously long, and then there are essays to write and supplementary sheets to fill out on top of that. Furthermore, I’ll have to write round two of the SATs in December. In preparation for that, I’m going to have to teach myself an American History course that covers 1860-2000.
In summary, it’s a lot of effort.
If my score isn’t above 2100, then the slim odds of getting in to Harvard and Yale will be pretty much wiped out. So there will be no point in killing myself writing extra essays and teaching myself a course and writing another three hour exam.
So, thems be the terms. Wish me luck. I’ll know by tomorrow at 10am, probably.

Already a Year?

It’s hard to believe it, but it’s been over a year since I killed off s3c0ndh4nd (November 5th) and turned this space blue (November 12th).

Time flies.

Today I went back at looked at some of the Saga entries on this space, and you know what? I think I’m starting to miss having s3c0ndh4nd and company around.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve enjoyed being myself and speaking about my own life a great deal. But there’s only so much entertainment value in that before this space becomes nothing more than a personal diary. I like looking back on my own life, but I also like providing some small amount of entertainment to the few people who read this.

I think the key is to try and find a balance between being Michael and being s3c0ndh4nd/Kakunaman/Cyanize/Edge.

Once this Harvard/Yale crap is finished with, I’ll probably be bringing them back. Unless you guys have some objection to that, of course.

Also, I think I’m getting tired of this blue. It was perfect for Cyanize, but I’ve never been particularly fond of it. I’ll happily take suggestions for a new colour scheme.

Teamwork and Screenwriting

I’ve experimented with many forms of poetry and prose over the years. If you know me at all, you know that while I do have a certain distinctive style of writing that I tend to stick to, I’m not against switching it up every now and then.

Today I made my first foray into the world of screenwriting. Not only that, but I worked with a team of writers as well. The goal was to write a script for a three minute film that the film club is producing.

Let me be the first to say that screenwriting isn’t easy. It’s so different from anything that I’ve ever written before that at first my writing felt foreign to me. I couldn’t express what I wanted to without it sounding stupid. By the second hour, the words began to flow more naturally, but I still had a great deal of trouble with it.

Further complicating matters was the teamwork element of it. Having the most experience at writing meant that I naturally developed into the unofficial lead writer, but I still had to deal with a director and three underlings. When I write alone, I’m the one calling all the shots. If I feel like writing a blog asking why blond hair looks brown when wet, I can. This isn’t the case when you’re part of a team. Even though I did have a decent amount of influence on what was written and what was not, I didn’t have complete control. Some of my ideas were shot down by the rest of the group. Some ideas that I didn’t agree with were loved by the rest of the group. As a writer, you have to deal with that sort of thing, I guess. If the rest of your group wants you to write something, you have to do it, even if you think it’s a stupid idea. And you can’t make it sound bad, either. You have to take that stupid idea and make it sound good without changing it into a smart idea. It’s pretty hard to get motivated about writing something that you think is crap.

The first draft turned out okay. It could have been much, much better, but it wasn’t a disaster, either. I learned a few things today, I gained some valuable experience, and in the end that’s what really matters.

After all, if this short film goes pear-shaped, who’s going to be the laughing stock of the school? The actors, of course. They’re the ones that people see. No one pays attention to the credits where it says "Written by:"

Hell, I don’t even do that.

Any ideas, guys?

Grade Five

I used to understand how things work.
This isn’t the case anymore. I don’t understand how the human mind works. I don’t understand how social interaction works. I don’t know what a "party" is. I don’t know what "normal" means. I don’t know how people define "socially acceptable". I have no clue how to make friends. I’m not sure why some issues are a big deal and why no one cares about others. I just don’t get it.
But I used to.  
Here’s how I look at my life. Before I was ten years old, I didn’t know much. I hadn’t hit the "Age of Reason" yet. Most of what I did and thought back then proceeded directly from my family or friends. Decisions weren’t my own to make. I made some bad decisions, granted, but they weren’t my fault. I was just a little kid.
At around ten years old, I began to understand things for myself. I didn’t think about things. I just knew. This is what I would call my Golden Age. It was the only time where I can remember knowing how to be a normal person and knowing how to make friends and how to make plans for Friday night and such. It was the only point in my life where my social status was actually on the upswing and I was making new friends at a faster rate than I was losing old ones.
This Golden Age lasted from when I was 10 to when I was about 14. Then I entered high school and the immutable laws of the universe were suddenly reversed and everyone but me received the memo.
This space was created at the very end of the Golden Age, two months before I entered high school. And I’ve looked through those blogs of the past many times before and wondered what changed between then and now (besides the fact that I’ve improved dramatically in terms of spelling and grammar).
But those few blogs are all I really have to remind me of those wonderful years gone by.
Or not.
A few days ago I happened to stumble upon an old notebook labelled "Language Journal". "Michael Anthony Danese" was written on the cover.
(And indeed, I always wrote my middle name on things back then. It somehow didn’t feel complete if I omitted my middle name. Also, I think I liked to show off that my initials spell MAD. Maybe I’ll start including the "Anthony" again on future tests and assignments. Maybe I’ll hyphenate it. Michael-Anthony. Hm. It’s weird. I’ve never liked either my first and last name because of how common they are, but when you combine them, I sort of like the ring they have. We’ll see about reviving that tradition.)
Also on the cover was written St. Gregory the Great, meaning that the notebook was in use from September-December 2001, the few months that I attended that terrible, terrible school.
I was pretty overjoyed when I found the notebook. It was a firsthand account of how my life had been back just before the dawn of the Golden Age, after all. Maybe it would help me to recall some of the things that I had forgotten. At the very least, I was interested to see just how much of my ten year old self I can see in my current self. 
Every once in a while I might post one of these entries here. This one is dated September 7th, 2001. I’ll give you a bit of background information first.
In grade four, I wrote the PACE standardized test and did extraordinarily well. As such, I was labelled as "gifted", and given the option of switching schools to go with all the other gifted students and learn things a year ahead of everyone else. I was incredibly reluctant to do so. I cried on several occasions. And while my parents had encouraged me to go because of how great an opportunity it was, they hadn’t forced it upon me. In the end, I chose to go, promising myself that I would leave the new school after two years and return to my old one. Early on though, I realized that I wasn’t going to last two years in this school. I knew no one at the school, and everyone I met ended up being a prick. Except for one boy. Ben was his name. I sort of became friends with him. But then Ben made another friend, and began hanging out with him instead of me…
Friday, September 7th, 2001.
What I Liked and Didn’t Like About the First Week of School
I didn’t like the first week of school very much because on the first day I thought I had made a friend but then he BETRAYED me and so I was left all ALONE because I didn’t have any friends but then I got a devilish plan for vengeance!! I can’t tell you though, Miss Bozzelli, because you’d find a way to stop me! That’s all I can say about the first week, okay, bye!
It’s so unlike anything that I would say now, but so very much like me. I’m fiercely loyal to people I consider close, but I tend to make the mistake of expecting the same sort of fierce loyalty reciprocated. I’m the jealous type, I guess you could say. I also like breaking the fourth wall and addressing the reader directly. We weren’t supposed to do that with these journal entries, but I did anyhow. Little things like that show how I’ve developed as a person and as a writer. I find it very cool.
And for the record, I don’t remember what my devilish plan for vengeance was. All I can remember is that there was a devilish plan for vengeance, that it didn’t involve violence, and that I never went through with it.
Also, I kind of freaked myself out with this entry. As the 21st century continues, parents are becoming more and more afraid of kids. The terrorist attacks which would occur four days after this entry was written made everyone more fearful of everything, not only planes. I wonder how a grade five teacher would react to this sort entry if it were dated September 7th, 2008. Perhaps they wouldn’t have cared, but it’s entirely possible that this could be considered a cry for help. At any rate, here’s how this teacher reacted back in 2001:
"Michael, I’m sure your friend did not intend to hurt your feelings. It’s best to talk things out, especially misunderstandings. Violence is not the answer. Maybe we can talk about it?"
And smartypants me decided to respond to her response: "I didn’t mean violent revenge, silly. I’d get suspended."
If you’ve hung in for this whole entry, thanks a bunch. It was something I just had to talk about. I’m going to continue looking for other old notebooks, and I’d encourage you to do the same. You’ll make yourself smile at least once. I promise.