TGIM – Fresh Starts

Calling the new year anything but a different day on the calendar is bullshit.

Tell me what’s different about December 31, 2010 and January 1, 2011 except that the rent’s due.  With that non-distinction in mind, I call BS on the idea of a “fresh start” whenever the year rolls over.  You set some new goals, write some things on a new calendar and usually revert to old habits well before anyone starts thinking about 2012.  But…

But here’s the thing about the new year and making a fresh start.  It’s psychosomatic bullshit.  While there isn’t actually any different between 2011 and say, a random Tuesday, it feels different in our minds.  We’re more likely to start actually making some changes with a proverbial clean slate than we are on Tuesday just for the hell of it.  So if January 1 hits and allows you to live the life you always wanted to have, be about it.

I’m writing this on the 2nd day of the new year and I’ve written and flossed every day this year.  Two things I should do every day, without fail, but often did far too little of.  I got a fresh start and I’m taking advantage of it, bullshit or otherwise.  Just remember one thing as you “change the game in 2011.”

Every day is another chance to turn it all around.

If you messed up the first couple days of the year, don’t delay.  Don’t wait for a round number on the calendar or some other excuse to kickstart the changes you want to make.  There will always be excuses of any kind, real or imagined.  Don’t give yourself the out.  Today is all you get.  Make it count.

TGIM – Microblogging

I’ll admit, I’m a little behind.  Been buried with work and trying to make sure I’m out ahead of artists needing script.  Plus I got sick last week, which didn’t do much for my usual lethargic energy levels.  I’ll get back to long form blogging in the near future, but for now I’ve taken up to tumbling with both a personal (mainly photos) and work tumblr.  It’s much easier to post media and things that strike my fancy due to the nature of microblogging, whereas here I feel compelled to deliver true, original content and process stuff.  There’s some decent or better material on both, so give ’em a read and a follow if that’s your bag.

The Rob Levin tumblr (work)

tumblroblevin (personal)


And yes, I know I’m posting a TGIM on a Tuesday. But I wasn’t when I started typing this post, because I’m exhausted and going to sleep.

TGIM – “Firebreather” Movie

I’m a huge fan of “Firebreather,” the Image Comics series from Phil Hester, Andy Kuhn and Bill Crabtree. It’s a great book, and next month it will be receiving the animated movie treatment from the fine folks at Cartoon Network. I don’t talk about the things I really enjoy here or on twitter as much as I talk about what’s bugging me or letting me down. Our pal Firebreather never lets me down.

They’ve just released a teaser trailer for the movie, and while I can spot some immediate changes, it looks like a pretty cool adaptation. You can check out the teaser at the movie’s official site.

For those that want to know what the book’s all about, you can catch up with the first two trade paperback collections here and here. There’s also a new miniseries coming out in December from the old gang, “Firebreather: Holmgang.” You can check out a 4-page preview on CBR and pre-order the book from your LCS. Still not convinced? Check out the “Firebreather vs. Dragon Prince” book next month. Two dragon-ish teens from the combos of Hester/Kuhn and Marz/Johnson/Moder collide. Literally. The one-shot is 120 pages, contains origins and first issues for both heroes, and is a steal at $7.99.

Be about it.

TGIM – Bobby Cox

I planned to write this post a week ago, in a longer and more eloquent fashion. The Braves had just pulled out a victory and a playoff berth. However, life and laziness got in the way, and I find myself writing it at a time when Cox’s days as a Major League umpire are now officially over.

Bobby Cox is one of the greatest and most successful managers in MLB history, with most of that career spent with my hometown Atlanta Braves. When we had the worst-to-first season in 1991 (ending in what I still think is the best World Series of my lifetime, even though we lost), baseball became something more for me. It was the long sport. The one that took 162 games and seemingly nine months of the year to play out. It got my team, and its skipper, into my heart for the long haul. I talk about the Hawks more because basketball is my favorite sport to watch, but my heart rises and falls with the Braves because I’ve invested so much time watching and following the sport.

Tonight his career came to an end. He’s retiring as manager of the Atlanta Braves at the young age of 69. His final accomplishment was taking a broke down and beleaguered team to the postseason against all odds. It came down to the final game of the regular season, but Cox and the Braves willed out one more win. Tonight’s loss in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Giants spelled the end. Many were hoping, in our hearts if not in our heads, that Cox would take this team to an improbably World Series berth and end his final game a winner, but it wasn’t to be. No one can call him a loser, tonight or any other night.

Bobby Cox is kind of like a member of my family. Though I’ve never met the guy (unlike Sid Bream, he doesn’t do signings at local computer stores), he’s been a part of my life for more than twenty years. I cried when he reached 2,000 victories. I was happy and I couldn’t help it. I nearly did the same tonight when he tipped his cap to the Turner Field faithful for the final time.

Some will remember his wins, or deride him for failing to win more than one World Series with the Braves. Others will remember the record he’s not that fond of; the MLB record 158 times he was ejected from the game. Some will say that’s because he liked to argue, but that’s not the case. Bobby Cox was a defender. He defended his team. He defended his players. No one I’ve ever seen loves the game of baseball or the men who played it for him more than Bobby Cox. Players from across baseball talked about wanting to play for Bobby Cox. Coaches who came here or moved on spoke of him with an uncanny reverence.

I’m running out of words that I feel actually say what I feel about Bobby Cox. He’s my manager, and he’ll be missed for a very, very long time. No one, regardless of their success, will ever truly replace him in my heart or that Braves clubhouse. He’s the best.

Thank you, Bobby.

TGIM – “Man on Fire”

I watched Man on Fire for the second time today. I enjoyed it the first time, being that I always love a good revenge tale. At the time of the first viewing, it was when Tony Scott’s current style really overtook the movie and the story barely held together. I was in more of a minimalist/unobtrusive phase at the time, and Scott’s decisions were so in-your-face I had a hard time really enjoying the film for what it is.

That’s been rectified with today’s second viewing. I see exactly what it is and why it’s remembered so fondly and referenced so often. I watched it as reference for an upcoming project after it had been tossed about as a touchstone several times by several people, and I see what they mean. It’s about a driven dude who does what he has to do (with style) in order to get revenge.  I’m always down for that, and it does many things better than most.

I see now why the film works so well. In addition to Scott’s trademark excellence and flourish, the action scenes are both well-executed and revealing about the characters involved. All of the villains remind our hero that they are “professionals,” but they forget they’re dealing with one. And he’s better than all of them. Of course, you also have Christopher Walken’s monologue about how men can be artists at anything, and Creasy’s art is death… It don’t get much better, folks.

What’s amazing is how good Denzel’s performance is. He’s always pretty good, but there’s a lot of nuance in the quiet moments that threatens to be drowned out by Scott’s aesthetic style.  The ticks, the reactions, the exhale in the final scene that says everything you need to know about Creasy. My friend Brian Buccellato who loaned me the DVD told me it was his second favorite Tony Scott film, and I can finally see why it deserves its place both in Scott’s film oeuvre and in revenge picture history.

There was another version of the film made in 1987 with Scott Glenn in Creasy’s shoes, but I have not seen it. Interestingly, Scott was also in the mix to make that version but the studio went a different direction.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I’m a little tired and this made less sense (or at least was more poorly written and unnecessary) than I wanted, but I’m committed to daily blogging.  Tomorrow, the blog I meant to post last Tuesday. One day I might also write about how I think Brian Helgeland is close to brilliant when adapting or co-writing with someone, and pretty horrendous when coming up with original ideas. That’ll take a bit more research to do properly, as I do respect his talent immensely.

TGIM – Back at It

I go through fits and starts. It seems I have months where I’ve written nary a word, and others where I write at least two. I’m generally pretty fast, but never as productive as I want to be.  I want to go through one of those months where I look back and say, “That was a hell of a lot of writing I got done last month.”

Which brings us to the here and now. The last month was one of the least productive in recent memory. I can’t go through that again because shaking the rust out is much tougher than staying in a groove.  When I first started this blog (as Authentic Impostor) I was doing daily updated Monday through Friday with the occasional weekend post.  Shortly after that I got laid off, but the updated continued. And then they didn’t.  Days went by, then weeks. I don’t think I’ve ever missed a month, but I’m sure I’ve gotten close.

Working freelance has led to awful habits. I don’t wake up the same time every day. I confuse distractions with research. I have days where I don’t make money and I don’t get any work done.  Living in a city like Los Angeles, I can’t exactly afford it.

I was most productive the first six months after Top Cow.  I was a hustler, working on more projects and putting in longer hours than when I had a regular check coming.  A lot of that was fear, but part of it was about habit-forming behaviors like blogging.  I was doing it daily, usually in the morning, which put me in a better, more focused mood to create.

They say it takes twenty-one days to create a habit.  I’m going to spend the next four weeks (because I don’t want to blog on weekends) trying to make this thing daily and worth your time. Maybe I’ll even revisit Wake Up Productive, which I did for two weeks and abandoned.  Maybe there’s something to the twenty-one day tip.

In any event, I want to write more.  I want to finally finish a screenplay (see tomorrow’s entry).  And I want to know why Jason Aaron and I are the only working writers still double spacing after periods.  Neither of us has the answer.

If you have any suggestions for blog topics or want to ask me any questions, leave a comment and I’ll address in a future post.  As always, no topic is too stupid, but the person suggesting it might be.

TGIM – Moments of Peace

We’re coming up on 2am and I’ve barely done any non-editing/non-web-based work since last Tuesday night.  You see, I made the decision to get a puppy a few weeks back, and he finally came home on the 29th (of June).  I’ve been exhausted taking care of him and trying to instill some sense of discipline.  And making sure he doesn’t eat the cat.  I can’t believe it hasn’t even been a week yet.

I know it’s nowhere near as tough or as difficult as parenting a child, but it’s the closest I know and a hell of a lot of work.  Couple that with the fact that I feel like a failure most of the day when I’m not getting through and he’s acting a fool; I’m constantly tense.  It’s only when he gets some crate time or finally goes to sleep at night (when I put him in his crate and ignore him, which he’ll pay me back for by getting me up at 6am) that I get to exhale.  That’s a literal description of my days.  There’s literally never a moment where I breathe and go, “Aaaaah, this isn’t so bad,” if he’s up and around.  He’s on me, under my feet, biting me, biting Cookie, getting into something he shouldn’t or having an accident 18 hours a day.

I haven’t been able to do any real writing since I got him.  It’s frustrating because I haven’t written, and frustrating because I wasn’t sure I was ever going to again.  Hill hit me with a pass on a treatment this afternoon and I hadn’t been able to get at it for hours.  I put him to bed a little earlier tonight and had time to do a revision (starting on it after midnight I think) and fire it back over to him.  He whined for a minute when I first put him in, then it was smooth sailing.  A moment of peace.  I’m breathing and he’s not crying.  I can get used to this.

It’s only a matter of time before he’s trained and I’m missing that little puppy that used to be all about me (and biting me) every second of every day.  I’m trying to take stock of these times since I know I’ll miss them when they’re gone, but it’s trying.

Here’s Bender, since I know someone would ask to see him:

Need sleep, although I just realized I don’t think I picked up his last poop.  Never a dull moment…

Updated:  I was right, I left poop on the lawn.  I’m not really complaining.  The puppy is awesome, he really is but he’s a puppy and that means he’s stressing me, hence this post.  He’ll get more awesome once he’s trained. Now that his poop has been dealt with, I came in to find this on my chair…

Cookie is awesome.

TGIM – Sage Advice

Inspiration often comes from the least likely sources.  It could be an experience, a story, or an offhanded comment.  I remarked just last that one of the most inspirational mantras in my life comes from Tom DeLonge, who said “Tomorrow could be the best day of your life.”  Yes, the same guy responsible for dick and fart jokes during his Blink-182 tenure comes into my mind whenever I’m having a shitty day.  Go figure.

Woke up this morning and was getting ready when Monster was acting a fool (again).  I decided to leave her alone in the living room and hang out in my room for a while.  Somehow this led to me turning on the TV and seeing that there was a Drake “documentary” (which I use loosely considering it was on MTV) called ‘Better than Good Enough’ on.  I copped his first official release, ‘Thank Me Later’ last week and I’m feeling it.  [Sidebar: I’m new to the Drake camp, and I learned from my girlfriend who he was. My hip-hop cred is gone at this point.]  The doc was fairly straightforward in execution if you’ve seen any of these “about to blow” promo things before, but I was struck by some of what he and his producer 40 said.

They didn’t have the usual hip-hop braggadocio, but they did have unflappable confidence.  Each was supremely confident (not cocky) about their own abilities, and felt like with their combined might it was a wrap.  No way they couldn’t make it.

I feel the same way about what Hill and I have rolling right now.  It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.  I had forgotten this for a bit and spent a little too much time and effort focused solely on the comics side of what we’re trying to do.  We have other ambitions outside of just comics, and outside of just writing.  There’s no tunnel vision in our goals unless we put it in there.

Thanks, Drake, for being on TV this morning and having something to say.  The positivity is back.

TGIM – Nothing?

Ever have those days when you can’t seem to find anything to be happy about? Yeah, me too. Usually they end in a Y.

I’ve hit a critical point in my life/career and it’s not something I’m really comfortable blogging about. Let’s just say that frustrations have mounted and I’m trying to find the best direction to push out in so that I can get back to being happy and productive.

A lot of my struggles of late have to do with my own lack of appreciation for the work that I’m doing. I just don’t feel that I’m delivering the level that I want for myself and that people who pay me to write deserve. I always want to be better, but that’s not the issue here. I know when I’ve done my job and want more, and when I’ve come up short. I feel like everything is coming up short of late and I can’t seem to grab onto anything that feels like the goods.

I’ve got things to be happy about, but I can’t seem to remember that or focus on it. But tomorrow is another day, and another chance to get it right or do better. So maybe that’s today’s TGIM.

TGIM – 10 Fingers

I mentioned my hand was one of the things throwing me off my game of late.  I got the cast off on Thursday and despite x-rays looking just as bad to my lay eye as they did on the initial break, the doc says I’m good to go.  When he put me in the cast, he said the hardest part would be getting mobility back in my finger.  It would be painful, might require physical therapy, and would take some time.

Thursday was nothing but pain.  He showed me some simple exercises designed to stretch the tendons in my finger and I was supposed to do them at least once an hour.  They hurt like hell, with the one closest to the tip of my finger being excruciating and not showing any progress.  As I began to have a slightly movable finger, I became discouraged by the fact that I could only move it by pushing on it with the other hand.  Trying to do it on my own power was more painful than the exercises.

But then Sunday happened.  I slept in and worried that my fingers had been in the same position too long.  But as I got through the first couple exercises of the day, I realized my hand was moving – just a bit, but progress is progress.  It’s gotten better over the last day or so to the point where I can form 3/4 of a fist, and the exercises don’t hurt much at all.  My finger is starting to look like it might also one day straighten out.

And so we give thanks today, for my eventual return to two-handed glory.  There’s still a way to go to get back to full mobility, and my finger still looks swollen, but we’re on our way.  After this I need to get the strength back.  The weirdest part is re-introducing the finger into use.  I’ve been so used to using my ring and pinky on the left hand that even my un-hurt middle finger feels foreign.  I have to force myself to do things like type, turn pages, and pick up bags and other items just to get it back in the rhythm.

My spirits have lifted as the cast has come off, so I’m riding high these days.  Who knows.  Maybe the Hawks won’t even do anything to ruin that.

If you’re wondering about the image in the center above, that’s my shower glove, the XeroSox.  You actually suck out all the air from the glove once it’s on, providing a vacuum seal.  It’s exactly as crazy as it sounds, but it meant the difference between taking a bath or a one-handed normal(ish) shower.  And if you follow me on twitter, you’d have seen that fetish photo weeks ago.