2015 by Dots per Inch

Whangarei Central Library

I actually read stuff this year — 91 titles as a matter of fact, seven of which I didn’t finish for various reasons. This compares very well with 2014’s measly 24 titles.

Highlights, in no particular order:

  • Justified pilot script by Graham Yost;
  • Transparent pilot script by Jill Soloway;
  • Steve Jobs 19 March 2015 draft script by Aaron Sorkin;
  • The Fade Out issues 1–12 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips;
  • Alex + Ada by Sarah Vaughan & Michael Luna;
  • Lazarus issues 1–20 by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark;
  • X-ed OutThe Hive, and Sugar Skull by Charles Burns;
  • Down Under by Bill Bryson;
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout;
  • No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy;
  • Cop Killer by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo.

Honourable mentions to The Ballad of Halo Jones by Moore and Ian GibsonThe Walking Dead issues 136–149 by Robert KirkmanCharlie AdlardStefano Gaudiano, and Cliff Rathburn, and Ms Marvel issues 1–5 by Sana AmanatG Willow Wilson, and Adrian Alphona.

I feel like I should read more text-only books but I suspect that’s my easily triggered inferiority complex.


2012 in Print

Yah, it’s the end of 2012 already so time for a quick blow-out.

Another average year in terms of quantity of reading. Texts, as you can see immediately below, were a bit on the thin side.


Other People’s Wars – Nicky Hager
Road Dogs – Elmore Leonard


Ongoing titles Walking Dead, Powers and Scalped continue to rate with excellent storytelling. Castle Waiting, Dolltopia and RASL were very pleasant surprises.

RIP – Thomas Ott
Castle Waiting Volumes 1 and 2 – Linda Medley
Tamara Drewe – Posy Simmonds
Walking Dead Volume 15 – We Find Ourselves – Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
The Killer Volumes 1 and 3 – Matz and Luc Jacamon
Dolltopia – Abbi Densen
Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense: Being Human – Mike Mignola
Scalped Volume 7 – Rez Blues – Jason Aaron and R M Guera
RASL Volumes 1-3 – Jeff Smith
Powers Volume 14 – Gods – Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming


This year’s overall slant towards television writing is represented below with the number of pilots listed.

3:10 to Yuma – Michael Brandt & Derek Haas
Analyze This – Peter Tolan and Harold Ramis and Kenneth Lonergan
Gilmore Girls – Pilot – Amy Sherman-Palladino
Arrested Development – Pilot – Mitchell Hurwitz
My Name is Gary Cooper – Victor Rodger
30 Rock – Pilot and S01E07 – Tina Fey
Groundhog Day – Danny Rubin & Harold Ramis
The West Wing S02E04 – Aaron Sorkin
Justified S01E08 – Benjamin Cavell
Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino

I’m a little worried I might’ve spoiled things a bit by reading Django Unchained before its opening here in New Zild but I enjoyed the script heaps more than the script for Inglorious Basterds (the film of which I have yet to see in its entirety [and those bits I have chanced across have been intriguingly tasty]).


Another Letter to Aaron Sorkin

Dear Mr Sorkin

Further to my letter of 23 October 2007.

Your latest show, The Newsroom, has graced our screens and I want to say a couple of things: thank you, and welcome back. We’re enjoying the show, and we’re glad to hear there’s a second season due next year.

It’s nice to have you back on the small screen, Mr Sorkin. We missed you.

Yours sincerely

David Mamea

Post script: Some people have taken issue with your self-plagiarism.

You know what? I find it very comforting.


I Heart “Sports Night”

Watching Sports Night with The Goddess followed Cameron’s Logarithmic Curve. We started back in February, watching about an ep a week. March was the same. April was a wash-out. But as we entered May and The Goddess got to know the characters – in particular their relationships – as an ep’s end credits rolled, I would hear a Little Voice beside me: Can we watch another one?

Such requests are unheard of in the Mamea household.

In between, amongst others, Desperate Housewives, Lewis and Build A New Life in the Country, an evening with Dan, Casey, et al, became two-ep affairs. Then last week, on a couple of nights, we watched three eps in a row. And only two nights ago, we watched five.

Then I had to explain to The Goddess why there were no more eps to watch.

In the after-match debrief – and also while we worked our way through the DVD set – it’s the little details that stand out. How less is more – where what’s not said can define a relationship far better than declarations of loyalty or bemoanings of betrayal. How a certain behaviour can really be mere displacement. How expectations of standard TV drama situations and relationships were not met because they were handled with wit, intelligence and compassion. It’s safe to say that for all the verbosity, wit and good intentions of the characters, they’re as inhibited, neurotic and selfish as anyone in the real world.

I could go on and on about Sports Night but others have said it better in the nine years since it was first aired. As sad as it was that it got canned after only two seasons, it ended as well as it started, and you can’t say that of many television series.

POSTSCRIPT: The Goddess is quite reluctant to try Mr Sorkin’s West Wing because, for all my arguments that politics is merely behaviour and relationships on a different scale and plane, it’s about politics.


Roughing It

Let’s say I have to write a scene with corporate suits speaking corporate-speak. I want it to be fluid – a language that’s appropriate to the characters but still accessible to the audience. Minutes and minutes of talking heads yakking at each other – but interesting. Touchstones are Oliver Stone‘s JFK, the ‘law’ halves of Law & Order episodes, and any episode in Aaron Sorkin‘s West Wing.

My first instinct is to just write the scene and get it over with. This can be difficult if I’ve little or no idea how suits talk to each other. In the past it’s become a war of attrition: the objective of narrative-propelling talking heads can be forgotten in a distressing and dispiriting fug of expository dialogue, with an end-result of dropping the scene completely, followed by a period of self-loathing whimpering in The Goddess’ compassionate and patient arms.

I know what I want. I can almost taste the scene. The problem is writing the scene that I want even though I very probably have no idea what happens in it.

The solution is awfully simple: take tiny steps. Write what I know. Then write it again. Repeat until well done.

I’ve noticed a pattern to how some of these scenes take shape. Below are the stages of development that a scene can undergo:
–  the nugget,
–  the description,
–  as good a start as any, and
–  a work draft.

The nugget


TWO SUITS cook up a plan.

The description


BOUFFANT and COIFFURE walk and talk about BALDY’s imminent death.

As good a start as any


JAMESON RODERICK and TREVOR ALMOND prowl the open-plan offices and corridors.


[PLACE HOLDER: confident growls of world domination]


[PLACE-HOLDER: squeaky noises of dissension]


[PLACE HOLDER: growly grunts of alpha-maleness]

A work draft


RODERICK JAMESON and TREVOR ALMOND walk and talk as paralegals, interns and secretaries work into the night.


Did -. Did you –

His more athletic companion glares at him as a BEAVER-LIKE INTERN cuts in:


Sorry to interrupt, Mr Jameson, but Sir Templar asked me to give you this.

Roderick relieves him of an UNMARKED ENVELOPE and, after a microbeat, the intern takes the hint and disappears.


(off envelope)

Is -. Is that –

Roderick steers his cream-doughnut-loving toady towards –


– where Almond slips out of his grip and takes a trembling breath:


I -, I’ve changed my mind.

They stare at each other for a long beat. Almond, of course, looks away first.


It’s too late.

(off Almond)

It is done.

OUT ON Almond: there’s no turning back now.

As you can see, each draft gains more depth and colour and tone – I’m building on what’s gone before and with each tiny step I’m that much closer to what I want. What I wanted in the first place and what I end up writing may be two very different things but that’s for another post. What matters is that I’ve now got something to really work with.

Another seventy-or-so more scenes to go.


A Late Letter to Aaron Sorkin

Dear Mr Sorkin

I’ve been a big fan, Mr Sorkin, for a looong time.

I first noticed your work when Jack and Tom chewed the scenery (and each other) in A Few Good Men. Even though Det. Steve Keller Michael Douglas played The American President, I still enjoyed how you mixed in the love and politics.

And then there was Sports Night. A comedy with no laugh track? A drama that played for just half-an-hour? A show which wasn’t really about sports but about relationships? That used sports as a metaphor for what it meant to be a decent human being in this world? You sly dog, you: I was hooked. You showed me that not only was it possible to be funny and enlightening, you made me a believer in intelligent television – sometimes less was more.

The West Wing did not disappoint. Only you could create a drama about politics without regularly resorting to situations in which the world was saved at the last second. I only got to Season Three unfortunately – life had plans for me and I drifted away. I hear that around Season Four, life had its own plans for you, too.

I’m not afraid to say that I had a flutter when I heard you were returning with Studio 60 on Sunset Strip. So what if Teevee quickly tired of the numerous rants soliloquoys. And you have to admit Ken Levine was pretty funny with his if Aaron Sorkin wrote a show about baseball. I knew without question that I was going to tune in whenever it reached our shores.

The first half-dozen eps were classic Sorkin. I lapped it up. Whatever industry japes and spikes were there went straight over my head. So you wanted to vent – I was cool with that. And maybe your signature back-and-forth dialogue wasn’t so fresh a third time around – I didn’t mind; it was nice to have you back on the box. But then there was the The Harriet Dinner two-parter. Then the 4am Miracle ep. Then The Disaster Show.

Mr Sorkin – all due respect but… WTF?

I’m sorry, Mr Sorkin, but I just… I can’t take any more. I’ve stopped watching. I may never know how Danny and Jordan go with the baby, or if Matt and Harriett’s rollercoaster love will straighten up and fly right, or even if the New Black Guy will get his first sketch aired. I don’t care. I feel insulted. If I wanted will-they-or-won’t-they relationship arcs or idiot-plots-A through to -Z, I’d be watching CSI or Medium. I wanted to enjoy your last outing but it didn’t work out. It wasn’t me, it was you.

Please don’t take this to be a beatdown. I’m a big fan of your work – even if Studio 60 plumbed some depths, it was still superior television. Whatever your next show is, you can count me in, no questions asked.

Yours sincerely

d f mamea