An Essay That I (Daniel S. Duvall) Wrote in the Linear Earth Year 1997 on a computer that a feline sometimes sat near at a table that sometimes was the site of games of Scrabble

From Dogs to Jackie: The Evolution of Tarantino’s Dialogue

By Daniel S. Duvall

PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED (around 1,800 words)

In January of 1992, audiences got their first impression of writer/director Quentin Tarantino’s work when Reservoir Dogs debuted at the Sundance Festival. The opening scene of that film (nearly eight minutes of conversation between seven men) contains dialogue with characteristics that many critics describe as Tarantino’s trademarks: long monologues, conversations saturated with references to popular culture, humorous debates about social etiquette such as tipping, and male locker-room style banter with much profanity. As Dogs opened around the world, critics latched onto these qualities and declared them integral to the film’s popularity. Tarantino’s name became synonymous with engrossing dialogue. Critics, fans, and film scholars wondered if his sophomore effort would have similar dialogue at its core.

Tarantino’s second film as a writer/director, Pulp Fiction, refined the style of dialogue that made Reservoir Dogs a must-see film. The Pulp Fiction screenplay opens with a rambling conversation between two armed robbers on the relative risks of holding up banks and liquor stores. Tarantino then treats readers to banter between two hit men about fast food, foot massages, cunnilingus, and the rumored cause of death of a colleague whose nickname (Tony Rocky Horror) is derived from popular culture. Even the longest monologues in Dogs are dwarfed by a two-page speech that Christopher Walken’s character Captain Koon delivers. With Pulp Fiction, Tarantino confirmed that his brand of dialogue has four main ingredients: pop culture allusions, long monologues, humor, and male-bonding banter, all woven over story beats that reveal just enough to keep readers wondering “what next?”

With Jackie Brown, his third full-length feature as writer/director, Tarantino deviates from his past style. The screenplay includes only a couple of pop culture references (Samuel L. Jackson’s character Ordell Robbie describes his pothead girlfriend Melanie as “worse than a Cheech and Chong movie”1 ), and rarely does any one character speak more than six consecutive sentences. There is only one extended humorous debate (as Ordell tries to convince a reluctant friend to ride in his car trunk while holding a shotgun), and the male bonding is limited to a couple of moments between Ordell and his recently-out-of-prison buddy Louis. If Tarantino deviated from his traditional dialogue style to break fresh ground and find new ways to keep readers captivated, Jackie Brown could be hailed as a fresh change of pace; unfortunately, the dialogue in Jackie Brown consists mainly of repetitive exposition.

The Jackie Brown script contains much dialogue lifted directly from Rum Punch, the Elmore Leonard novel on which it is based. The novel and the script both tell the story of a stewardess named Jackie who decides to steal half a million dollars from a gun dealer with the help of a bail bondsman. It sounds like fertile source material for the man who helped to reinvent the crime genre in 1992, but Tarantino remains too faithful to the source dialogue. Whole conversations are lifted nearly verbatim from the novel, and many of them consist of characters explaining in great detail what they plan to do or what’s at stake.

Even some of the dialogue that Tarantino adds to scenes from the Leonard novel is remarkably undramatic. Consider the following exchange in a department store:


Can I show you something?


Not right now. I’m just killing time

waiting for my wife. But thanks anyway.


Sure thing. If anything grabs you,

Don’t be shy.


Thanks, I won’t. 2

It’s not exactly up to par with the Jules/Vincent foot rub debate, is it?

In addition to their unique dialogue, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction differ from most screenplays in their structures; both tell stories out of linear sequence. In both cases, the non-linear structure allows Tarantino to parcel out exposition for maximum dramatic impact; Dogs, for example, jumps back in time to show a conversation between mafia boss Joe Cabot and his old friend Larry after giving readers enough information to wonder: what went wrong with the diamond heist? Is someone on the team a police informant? Will Mr. Orange bleed to death? Did anyone else survive the botched heist? Jackie Brown includes one non-linear sequence, but it seems forced and artificial, as if Tarantino wanted the script to include a structural quirk whether or not it made the narrative more engrossing. As several characters converge on a department store to try to nab half a million dollars, the script hops back in time to depict the same moments from different points of view. Graphics reveal the clock time (4:12pm, 3:52pm, etc.) to clarify the sequence of events. Unfortunately, there are no narrative cliffhangers that preceed the time jumps, and the repeated moments serve only to drag out what could have been a fast-paced, exciting scene. If Tarantino wanted to emulate the qualities that made his previous directoral efforts a success, he should have focused on crafting engaging dialogue instead of forcing a crowbar into his narrative structure to pry open space for a non-linear sequence.

The dialogue in Jackie Brown is exceptional in one respect: the way Tarantino uses voice-overs to reveal characters’ thoughts. The use of voice-overs for this purpose is nothing new; Red’s ongoing narration in The Shawshank Redemption3, Harris Telemacher’s narration in L.A. Story4, and the closing voice-overs of certain X-Files episodes like Red Museum, Firewalker, and Ice5 are all recent examples of dialogue that gives readers and viewers direct insight into a character’s mind. Tarantino uses this conventional tool in unconventional ways to overcome a main problem faced by anyone who adapts a novel to the screen: translating internal exposition from the novel into sights and sounds.

The unique voice-overs appear during a sequence in which a multitude of characters try to outwit each other and walk off with half a million dollars while avoiding the watchful eyes of shopping mall patrons, undercover federal agents, and sales clerks. In the novel, when Louis (friend and underling of gun-dealer Ordell Robbie) notices bail-bondsman Max Cherry in the department store where the cash is in transit, he first wonders out loud to his heist-partner Melanie what Max is doing there, then thinks about it:

“That’s the guy I used to work for, Max Cherry. What’s he doing here?”

“I don’t know,” Melanie said. “Is he a cross-dresser? Ask him.”

“He’s married, he could be here with his wife,” Louis said, and remembered that Max didn’t live with his wife, they were separated. Or he was here with his girlfriend, that could be. [] Dressed up in a suit and tie, he had to be with some woman.6

Here is the same moment in Tarantino’s script:

He sees Max Cherry. [] He thinks;


Ordell didn’t say nothing about Max

fuckin Cherry being here. If this was

a job, you’d walk away right now.

There’s too many goddamn fuckin

surprises and that goddamn Melanie went

in before I told her to. I shoulda

known better to take that air-headed

terrorist bitch with me on anything.


Maybe he’s just here with his wife or


The moment in the novel merely establishes that Louis is not concerned about Max’s presence. Tarantino seizes the opportunity to reveal how tense and freaked-out Louis is about working a plan with Melanie. He then punctuates the moment with an extra laugh as Louis abruptly switches to rational thought, concluding that there may be no reason to worry about Max. Traditional voice-overs generally provide exposition in a neutral tone; Tarantino uses this voice-over to reveal the character’s high-strung state of mind. The moment also serves as a setup, though it is not apparent at the time the voice-over occurs; the glimpse into Louis’ tense mind is paid off two pages later when Louis snaps and kills Melanie.

Another voice-over pulls us into Max’s head right before he approaches Amy (the salesclerk) to execute his part in the plan to snatch Ordell’s money from under the noses of Louis, Melanie, the Feds, and the mall regulars. Here is the moment in the novel:

It was Max’s turn.

Nineteen years dealing with people who took incredible risks. If he walked over to that counter, he’d find out what it was like.8

And in the script:

Amy is alone by the cashier counter.

It’s Max’s turn.

As Max looks at Amy, we hear him think;

MAX (V.O.)

Max, old boy. You’ve spent nineteen

years dealing with people who take

incredible risks. You walk over to that

counter, you’re gonna find out what it’s


Max takes a few moments

then walks over to Amy.9

Though the moment in the novel is nearly identical to its translation in the script in terms of literal content, Tarantino’s use of this beat as a voice-over accomplishes several dramatic functions. It heightens the tension of the moment by reminding readers that Max knows the plan involves high risk; if he’s caught, he could spend most of his remaining life in jail. His freedom is at stake. It also clarifies that this moment represents a significant turning point in Max’s life; he can either remain a mundane bail bondsman or choose to turn his life around by taking a chance at swiping half a million dollars. The voice-over also underscores a recurring theme of the novel and script: you’re never too old to empower yourself.

Tarantino’s uses this traditional thought-depiction tool (the voice-over) in wholly untraditional ways, thereby reminding all script readers (and writers) that seemingly tired techniques can be given original, unprecedented twists. It is the one redeeming quality of an otherwise repetitive, exposition-heavy script.

Jackie Brown is too faithful to Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch. A breezy, entertaining screenplay might have come about if Tarantino had taken more liberties with the dialogue by sprinkling in his unique blend of popular culture allusions, prolonged debates and conversations, and machismo banter. Instead, Tarantino has crafted a crime film that hovers around the average, the mediocre. Tarantino gave the crime genre a fresh shot in the arm with Reservoir Dogs and ventured into bold new niches with Pulp Fiction. With Jackie Brown, Tarantino has replaced the qualities that made his work entertaining with boring, traditional dialogue. Tarantino’s latest script can be summarized in four words: the book was better.


1. Quentin Tarantino, Jackie Brown [undated screenplay draft], p 3.

2. Tarantino, p 123.

3. Frank Darabont, The Shawshank Redemption (New York: Newmarket, 1996).

4. Steve Martin, L.A. Story & Roxanne (New York: Grove Press, 1997).

5. The X-Files [TV show] episodes Red Museum, Firewalker, Ice.

6. Elmore Leonard, Rum Punch (New York: Dell, 1992), p 286.

7. Tarantino, p 119.

8. Leonard p 291.

9. Tarantino pp 124-125.




(Or Fear And Coughing in Los Angeles)

(Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Medicinal Mist)

by Daniel S. Duvall

2001 [circa May]

I was nestled on my sofa watching Boston Public and sipping tea when the fever began to take hold.

All day Sunday I was plagued by a nasty allergy attack.  By Monday afternoon, my right sinus cavity was noticably swollen and in intense pain, so I began to wonder if the allergies had weakened my immune system and allowed a virus to take hold.  I also began to cough and feel tightness in my chest, which is usually my harbinger of infection.

Around 8:30pm Monday night, I starting burning up with a fever and noticed that my new cough was worsening.  I went to a nearby hospital emergency room, where I waited from 10pm to 11:20pm before a weary nurse took my temperature and blood pressure.  (100 degrees, blood pressure 135/76, pulse 110 bpm.)

I was then sent back to the waiting room until 12:30am.  Other patients included a man whose thumb had nearly been severed by his wife (perhaps in a tragic re-enactment of the recent “Simpsons” episode) and a woman who had suffered a stroke and kept insisting that she heard three men screaming nearby.  “Tell them to shut up,” she wailed like a Poe protagonist.  “They are screaming and screaming right over there!”  (I bear no grudge against these people for eating up valuable time that the doctors could have spent prescribing me an antibiotic.  Strokes and severed digits take priority over young men with bad coughs.)

Finally, moments before David Letterman waved goodnight on the lobby TV, I was summoned to an examining room.  The doctor worked his magic and concluded that I have indeed contracted yet another sinus infection (the bane of my health) that has rapidly migrated to my lungs.  He gave me a 10-minute breathing treatment where I inhaled a medicinal mist out of a tube to open my bronchial passages.  He also prescribed the antibiotic Biaxin, which I just picked up at a 24-hour pharmacy.

Oh, that medicinal mist.  After five minutes of inhaling it deeply, I began to feel a bit light-headed.  It was a pleasant little buzz that reminded me of how I felt after a few sips of Wild Turkey in the Chateau Marmont bar during Gosnell’s visit, but I wasn’t sure if it was a sign that something had gone horribly wrong.  Perhaps the mist was blocking the flow of oxygen to my brain.  When an intern walked by, I called out, “I feel a bit light-headed.”  (I couldn’t resist doing an imitation of J. Depp as Hunter S. Thompson in the opening of Gilliam’s wonderful cinematic adaptation of “Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas.”)  The intern told me not to worry, so I sucked down that mist and relished the high.  Soon my lips, jaw, and cheeks were tingling, and I began to worry if I’d be able to drive home.  After another five minutes, the vapor was all gone.  Damn!  I’d like to keep some on hand for recreational use.  The mist also accelerated my heart rate, like caffeine and weed all rolled into one sweet lung-healing shaman’s gift.

En route to the pharmacy, I was pulled over by a Los Angeles cop.  My driving was fine, but I’d turned on the runner lights as I warmed up the car and forgotten to pull the knob all the way out before I left the hospital.  I’d also forgotten to have the nurse remove the hospital ID band from around my wrist.  “Sweet Jesus,” I thought as the cop approached my car.  “Here I am high on that eldritch mist, hair all akimbo, unshaved, with an official-looking hospital bracelet around my wrist.  This cop will perceive me as an escaped mental patient and gun me down where I sit before I can explain.”

Luckily, he believed me when I said I was en route to fill a prescription and had forgotten to turn the lights all the way on.  He let me go with only a $40 ticket when he could have cracked my skull open and left me for dead on that lonely stretch of Vermont Avenue, where stray cats would later feast on my corpse.

I arrived home at 2:30am (having left at 9:45pm) to find Alley Cat looking out the window.  He gave a few inquisitive chirps, which I think translated to “What happened?  You said you’d be back shortly.”  I greeted him with our usual ritual of gentle head-butts, purring, and chin-scratches.  He then sniffed the bag from the pharmacy and rubbed his cheeks against it, claiming it as his own.

What alarms me most about the whole experience is how swiftly this bug got severe: it went from a little tickle in my throat Sunday afternoon to a throbbing sinus cavity, clogged nose, infected lungs, and fever about 16 hours later.  I considered waiting until morning to go to the doctor, but then I remembered that Jim Henson was killed by a rapid-onset bronchial infection that was caught late.

It’s interesting to note that Sunday morning was the first time in a long while that I forced myself awake with an alarm clock for a meeting with some UCLA friends.  I suspect that I would’ve been fine if I’d slept until I woke up naturally.

Now that the heart-quickening effect of the breathing treatment has worn off, I’m going to sleep.  The alarm clock is now in the dumpster, nestled where it belongs among stinky milk cartons.


Lucidity in Five of Director Richard Linklater’s Films

Lucidity in Five of Director Richard Linklater’s Films: Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, The Newton Boys, and Waking Life

an essay written by Daniel S. Duvall

© 2017 Daniel S. Duvall – all rights reserved

Waking Life (written and directed by Richard Linklater) is a film by, for, and about people who understand that each individual on this planet can choose to be more than a citizen, more than a customer, more than an employee: in other words, more than what they are told to be.

Characters in Waking Life either choose to become lucid and take control of their dreams or just go with the flow. Don’t get distracted by the debate in some reviews about whether the main character (played by Wiley Wiggins) is awake or even alive; this film is a metaphor for the common human journey to the many forks in the ever-branching road of life where we find our locus of control and have a chance to seize it. The question is not “is the main character awake,” but rather “what does it mean to be awake?”

Waking Life suggests that we are only fully awake and alive when we trust ourselves and follow our instincts instead of being buffeted (like a small metal sphere) through life (like a pinball machine) by external forces.

Linklater’s oeuvre is saturated with characters on that journey toward full lucid control over their lives. Some are farther along the path than others. In Slacker, most of the characters have already achieved an “awake” frame of mind. They are comfortable in the present, with nary a time card or punch clock in sight. (“Sorry I’m late,” a painter says to her friend at dusk. “That’s all right. Time doesn’t exist,” the friend responds.)

In Dazed and Confused, high school students search every nook and cranny of their hometown for that magic timeless place and reach the depressing conclusion that it does not yet exist; they do, however, realize that they might have the power to create such a place on their own. In Before Sunrise (written by Linklater & Kim Krizan), the two main characters extend the present moment, a moment of connection with a stranger, for as long as they can over one long night in Vienna, but in the end they are jolted back into a world where clocks dictate what they must do. (“I hate this. We’re back in real time.”)

Even The Newton Boys (written by Linklater & Claude Stanush & Clark Lee Walker), a western based on the exploits of real-life bank-robbing brothers, is at its core about individuals seeking control over their lives. The Newtons rob banks so that they can retire young instead of picking cotton until they are in their graves.

Indeed, of all the external forces that can buffet characters around in Linklater’s films, the clock and calendar of society are perhaps the most omnipresent. The heroes of Dazed and Confused are imprisoned by external schedules (moving from class to class) until the final bell rings on the last day of high school. Once they are free of school, they have deadlines imposed by parents and coaches to grapple with: freshman Mitch has a curfew while Randall “Pink” Floyd has less than one day to sign a document that will allow him to remain on the football team (provided he sacrifices control over how he spends his time that summer). The Newton brothers are on a tight schedule every time they pull a heist: one can’t dally at the scene of the crime after one blasts open a bank vault. Before Sunrise is Linklater’s purest depiction of the external clock as an antagonist; if the boy played by Ethan Hawke didn’t have to catch a train by a certain time, he and the girl played by Julie Delpy could have gone on talking and sharing ideas forever. The characters resurface in Waking Life, continuing trains of thought that began in Before Sunrise.

The protagonist of Waking Life starts down the path to lucidity when he discovers that he cannot know what time it is even when he wants to; every clock he looks at is distorted and unreadable. A wise soul later advises him that the inability to read clocks is a sign that one is dreaming. Once you know you’re dreaming, this sage advises the hero, you can seize control of the dream and dictate what happens. Writers, rambling conversationalists, painters, and other artists might recognize that state of mind where time is irrelevant, when one is immersed so deeply in the present moment of a creative frenzy that the clock literally loses meaning.

Another recurring Linklaterian notion: television (like the clock) is an external force that exerts a hypnotic influence over viewers (and renders them into non-lucid sleep, metaphorically speaking). Consider a childhood memory of Jennifer Schaundies, who appears in Slacker as “Walking to Coffee Shop.” Jennifer’s bio (on page forty-four of the Slacker tie-in book from St. Martin’s Press) includes the following anecdote: “Formative Experience: As a small child, nearly choked to death on a Brach’s butterscotch candy while watching television in a dark room. She tried to continue watching television as her mother held her upside down by the ankles and shook her.” There have been empirical studies that examine the alteration of brain waves before, during, and after a session of TV watching, and I’m inclined to believe that Linklater and his friends are on to something. Louis Mackey, who plays the Old Anarchist in Slacker and appears briefly in Waking Life, once told me over the phone that he does not own a television. And at one point in Dazed and Confused, the characters attempt to name every episode of Gilligan’s Island. In Slacker, a young man attempts to dissuade a friend from leaving the country: “I’ve traveled… when you get back, you can’t tell whether it really happened to you or if you just saw it on TV.”

Waking Life is simultaneously the most obscure and the purest depiction of Linklater’s recurring message that we are all sovereign individuals who can shake off the influence of clocks and TVs in order to seize control of our time and lives: obscure because viewers will be distracted from the message by the dazzling psychedelic animation (I like to say that each frame of Waking Life is a hyperlink between your mind and the collective unconscious), but pure because at the end Linklater himself reappears as a pinball player and states his message clearly. There is only one moment, and it’s right now, Linklater advises the protagonist and the viewer, “So wake up.”


I am an Eben/Primate Hybrid with Artificial Intelligence Technology Augmenting my Nervous System

UFO/Contact/Oddness Journal

by Daniel S. Duvall

September 10, 2019

Perusing a 1977 issue of Flying Saucer Review (Volume 23 Number 3), I noticed an article by Berthold Schwarz — part 2 in a series of articles he wrote about Betty Hill (whose contact experiences with her husband Barney were partially documented in the book The Interrupted Journey).

This article on pages 11-14 (and part of 31) contained information about Betty Hill I’d never before encountered. The article also has a passing reference to Stella Lansing.

Betty Hill in her teen years had dreams about the deaths of two friends (different events, both involving cars) prior to the incidents – precognition.

Betty’s sister Janet had children who interacted with what may have been the ghost of a child named Hannah who had (per empirical records) died at age 5 or 6. Janet also interacted with Hannah.

Visitors to that home (at least one) heard Hannah — somewhat tying in with the “crying baby” pattern that I first became aware of via season one of Hellier. “Somewhat” in the sense that — okay, this is a stretch — but per the Schwarz article, a scoutmaster from the local Boy Scouts showed up at the house to see Janet’s husband Donald, and while he was there, he heard Hannah crying “Mommy.”

Also, someone named Tom (who at the time of an encounter with Hannah was married to Betty Hill’s niece) heard Hannah crying while he tried to sleep in a room that Hannah favored.

12th of September, 2019

I just read an article in Flying Saucer Review that piqued my interest given its intersection of imagery from the lore of fae folk and UFOs — and the three entities described by a witness had “rainbow” wings. The article, titled The Winged Beings of Bluestone Walk (written by Eileen Morris), chronicles the testimony of Jean Hingley about her January 4, 1979 interactions with three beings; the article includes a sketch that looks to me like a conflation of a Grey with a wee winged entity.

September 14, 2019

Thoughts on an abduction encounter that happened on October 27th, 1974 as reported by Andrew Collins in two Flying Saucer Review articles (V 23 N 6 & V 24 N 1)…

4 of the 5 individuals involved stopped eating meat after the encounter; the adults subsequently periodically tried to eat meat & fish, but doing so made them feel ill. Makes me think of the reports that “EBE 1” (Roswell survivor) would not eat meat — and how ingesting animal flesh allegedly makes such entities ill.

Just a hypothesis here, but perhaps John & Elaine (the adult contactees discussed in these articles) were hybrids all along.

At the time of the incident, child Kevin was a below-average reader; after the encounter, his literacy skills improved, and by 1977 he was reading at a level well-advanced for his age. Post-contact intelligence increase fits a larger pattern.

Other kids in the car at the time of the incident: Karen & Stuart, who both apparently slept through the weirdness.

As I was reading the first article for the first time, I got to the description of the green mist on the road (the mist appeared after the family had seen a light in the sky but before their missing time), and I wondered if this was a fake ET encounter staged by the military. After parsing the entire report, I’ve concluded that this was a genuine ET contact experience.

Also, the green mist description stirred a memory, and I wondered if I’d read this article before — after reading the whole thing, I know that I hadn’t read this particular article before, so either I read about this case in some other context or there’s a different case that I read about involving green mist.

John & Elaine are/were cognizant of environmental issues, though the article doesn’t indicate if they had been prior to the contact.

A sub-section in the article (“Strange Occurrences Since the Encounter”) details low-grade harassment by humans, which got me wondering about the degree of surveillance (phone taps and perhaps video monitoring) in use in England at that time. Given the long history of “Shadow Box” tech etc, I wouldn’t be surprised if chatter about the family’s UFO encounter drew the attention of “Men in Black”-type “authorities.”

The first article mentions four other UFO encounters that John had; at least three of them were before the October 27, 1974 experience, and I find it odd that he’s not sure if the other happened shortly before or shortly after the “missing time” abduction.

During a hypnosis session on October 16, 1977, John said, “No visit – they are here always” in response to a question about “the purpose for their visit.” Made me think of my first ever psilocybin mushroom experience (spring 2002), toward the end of which I asked the entities I’d communicated with if I could communicate with them again another time — one of them replied, “Of course; we are always here.”

At the end of the first article, the family’s surname is given as “Avis” — last night (or early this morning), I found a relatively recent online interview in which Andrew Collins discusses this case and gives the family’s surname as “Day.” Other online research suggests that “Elaine” is a pseudonym for “Sue.”

The second article documents John’s recollection of a shaft of white light cutting through the green fog/mist and approaching the car. John recalls “a sensation of ascent” — characteristic of abduction experiences reported by others. Later in the article, Collins notes that Elaine also “had the feeling of ascent.”

John recalls the interior of an examination room having “no seams in either wall or ceiling” — this and other descriptions of wherever he was remind me of Bob Lazar’s descriptions of the smaller craft that he allegedly worked on reverse-engineering.

Elaine recalls being offered discs that resembled “pink peppermint creams” — she opted to not ingest any. Later in the article, there’s a description of a liquid that Elaine ingested, and she recalls being given the option to stay — all of which evokes fae lore about fairies offering food to humans as a way to bind them to the fae world. After the “pink peppermint creams” moment, an entity made music — another parallel with fae lore.

Elaine recalls seeing a star chart of the solar system that includes Earth, and she noticed 11 planets and not 9.

Sub-section titled “Computers” mentions an “organic computer” that the ETs can interface with via their minds, which reminds me of a thought that popped into my mind earlier this year: “Biology is a form of technology.”

The “examiners” on the craft as described by John & Elaine were shorter and in other ways quite different from the entities that the abductees interacted with. John asked about the examiners and was told, “Like yourself, they are of a different period of time.” This hints at the ETs being in some sense “time travelers.”

Near the end of the second article, Collins reports that Kevin “can recall ascending in the mist…”

I just read through all of my notes here and am ruminating about the fae lore parallels (a topic of interest to me in recent times) and the star chart on which Elaine saw 11 planets. I wonder what present-day astronomers would make of the latter.

September 20th 2019

I’ve been reading The Tujunga Canyon Contacts by Ann Druffel and D. Scott Rogo — I’m at the start of Part III (A Further Contagion).

In Flying Saucer Review Volume 26 Number 2, I read a review of a 1979 book called UFO Phenomena and the Behavioral Scientist (edited by Richard F. Haines), and the review noted that the book includes a 130-page section by R. Leo Sprinkle about the C. Higdon case, an incident that intrigued me when I read about it in FSR — that case includes a good amount of physical evidence (the bullet that Higdon shot and the medical records from before and after his encounter that document healing). I’m gonna start reading that section of the reviewed book soon, as I found a PDF of the tome online (NICAP).

On page 264 of UFO Phenomena and the Behavioral Scientist, there’s a section of a transcript in which Higdon describes the apparel of the beings he saw. As I read that section, I wondered if this may have been a MILAB-type fake ET encounter. One page 268, Higdon describes the food of the entities as “meat” — which seems to lend credence to the encounter being staged by humans, but there’s the puzzling physical evidence (bullet/healing). Do some ETs (non-Ebens) consume animal flesh?

Hypothesis: Carl Higdon was a MILAB victim; genuine ETs do not eat meat. So what could account for the strange stoppage of the bullet? A form of human-made electromagnetic force field unknown by the public? Regarding the healing evidence, the FSR article about this case (not sure which issue it’s in) indicated that the before/after x-rays of scar tissue were rather clear evidence that the scars had vanished; what I’ve read in this longer account so far is less definitive.

September 21, 2019

I stopped reading the longer account of the Higdon abduction once I concluded that it likely did not involve a genuine ET experience.

FSR Volume 26 Number 4 includes a review of The Tujunga Canyon Contacts.

Early in chapter 11 of the Druffel/Rogo book about the Tujunga abductions, there’s a quotation from a woman referred to as Lori (a pseudonym). Lori’s account (which I shall quote here) made me think of a quotation from the Betty & Barney Hill case (something I read in The Interrupted Journey, though I was unable to find the exact quotation when I looked in that book early this morning). Lori reported, “And then my eyes went up to its eyes. That’s the only thing I was conscious of. I don’t even know the power those eyes had, but they were extremely intense — almost as if they were lights, or something. They held me, and it seemed as if I were held in that gaze for eternity.”

September 22, 2019

Thoughts re: Chapter 12 of The Tujunga Canyon Contacts

Lori says of the entities, “They have all these powers of light, but I don’t think they can hold a physical form for very long. They want to figure out how to combine what they are and what we are. That would make a better being, and it would last longer and have more powers.”

That quotation offers a new perspective on the “hybridization” scenarios. I’d never before encountered the notion that maintaining corporeal form was a difficult task for the entities.

Further along in the chapter, there’s info about a machine that Lori saw aboard a craft during her 1975 abduction; she believes the machine could “turn sound into light.” Makes me think of the DMT entities and Terence McKenna’s descriptions of such “elves” singing objects into existence.

September 30, 2019

ET/Fae encounters seem often (maybe always) customized for the individual(s) who perceive the weirdness. Thus, those who look for evidence of the entities as entirely material beings (and UFOs as only material objects)…

(thought to be articulated in more detail later)

Non-sequitur, maybe: I’m baffled by how some people can encounter entities during psychedelic experiences and after remain atheist or agnostic.


An Autumn 1999 Conversation: Daniel S. Duvall, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski

Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski Yammer About Screenwriting

an interview by Daniel S. Duvall

© 2017 Daniel S. Duvall – all rights reserved

In the entertaining introduction to the published version of their screenplay Ed Wood, Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski describe the titular director’s posthumous fame as “a classic American success story: an eccentric individual achieves immortality, simply because he wouldn’t bend to tradition.”

Alexander & Karaszewski know about avoiding tradition. In an Industry that encourages endless recycling of familiar stories and genres, these two guys don’t just seek the path less taken; they create altogether new paths by writing unpredictable stories about esoteric people and situations. While the multiplexes entertain the masses with the latest batch of serial killer potboilers and computer-generated spaceships, Alexander & Karaszewski quietly craft their unique scripts in their Beverly Hills office. A biopic about an Angora-obsessed grade-Z filmmaker widely hailed as “The Worst Director of All Time?” Another biopic about an uneducated pornographer who became a multi-millionaire while redefining the legal definition of free speech? Who could have predicted green lights for projects such as these in a town flooded with pitches that begin “It’s X meets Y” where X and Y are any given “event” films that grossed at least five times their budgets?

Ed Wood and The People Vs. Larry Flynt are page-turning scripts that yielded two of the better films of the 1990s. Alexander & Karaszewski initiated both scripts, and the resulting films firmly cemented their reputations as skilled storytellers who can shape biographical material into compelling screenplays. Thanks to this reputation, the guys landed a gig to write an Andy Kaufman biopic.

Man on the Moon takes their craft to the next level. While most scripts give the reader an objective clue about what’s “really” happening in the story, this script has the same effect that Kaufman’s presence had on audiences. Just when you think you’re in on the joke, you realize that you’ve pulled the wool over your own eyes.

At the end of this interview, Alexander & Karaszewski discuss the writing of a comedy that they directed. Released under the title Screwed, the project was known as Foolproof when I spoke with the legendary writing duo via telephone in the autumn of 1999.

“Maybe those moon men are on to something,” opines Screwed’s emasculated protagonist as he watches “an old scratchy Sci-Fi Christmas movie” in which Martians plan to kidnap Santa Claus. It is on page nineteen of a May 1998 draft that Willard Fillmore, the overworked servant of a verbally abusive pie mogul, plots revenge: he will kidnap his tyrannical employer’s beloved dog (Muffin) and demand a million dollar ransom with the help of his buddy Rusty, a professional fryer of chicken.

This plan is destined to spiral badly out of control, for Willard and Rusty are characters in a script by Alexander & Karaszewski, writers who excel at devising complications that escalate exponentially until their heroes are, well, screwed.

“Obsessive, unpleasant characters who just refuse to back down or listen to common sense [are] a recurring motif through most of our scripts,” Alexander notes in the interview below.

In Screwed, at the end of the first act, the plan goes massively awry as Ms. Crock (Willard’s abusive multimillionaire boss) finds the ransom note (“PAY US ONE MILLION DOLLARS OR HE’S A DEAD DOG”) and assumes it is Willard who has been kidnapped. (Muffin, unnoticed by Willard or Rusty, escapes and returns home approximately one minute after the guys wrangle him into Rusty’s van.) When Willard and Rusty realize what has happened, they fleetingly consider giving up. Then they decide that a man is worth more than a dog, so they send a new note: now the ransom is five million dollars. Wackiness ensues: I don’t want to spoil the hilarity of the second and third acts, but be aware that Willard and Rusty eventually set out to acquire a corpse to keep their ever-evolving plan viable.

At various points in the project’s development, Screwed was titled Ballbusted, then Pittsburgh, then Foolproof. The film is the directorial debut of Alexander & Karaszewski. In the section of the interview about about Screwed, I’ve left the references to the title Foolproof intact.

First, though, Scott & Larry regaled me with anecdotes about how they wrote Man on the Moon, how that project evolved in the editing room, and their screenplay for a live-action Jetsons film that as of July 2017 has not been produced and at one time had Joe Dante attached to direct.

The following interview with Alexander & Karaszewski took place in mid-October of 1999 – near the end of the twentieth century!

Daniel S. Duvall: Did you originate the Man on the Moon project?

Scott Alexander: A lot of cooks can take credit for having the idea first. We had the idea right after we wrote Ed Wood. Miloš [Forman] says he had the idea after he saw Andy perform about twenty years ago. Danny [DeVito] had always thought it would make a good movie. Even Jim Carrey says he wanted to make this movie, too. So a lot of people happened to get together in a room and say, “Hey, what about a movie about Andy Kaufman?” Just sort of a Jungian synchronicity.

DSD: How did your process differ from Ed Wood and The People vs Larry Flynt?

SA: This is the only job we’ve ever gotten without a meeting. With every other movie, we’ve either written on spec or gone into an office and done a pitch: “Here’s what’s going to happen. Here’s what it’s about. Here’s the problem, and here’s the first act, the second act, and the third act.” With Andy Kaufman, it never happened. Because of our other biopics, people trusted us. Danny and Miloš called us on the phone, and we said “Okay,” and then Danny called Universal, and Universal said “Okay.” And then the check showed up, and we had the job without meeting anyone. We felt that Danny and Miloš are pretty smart guys, and if they say there’s a movie there, then there certainly must be a movie there. But their job wasn’t to write the movie; that was our job. So suddenly we realized that we were on our own, and we got a little scared because we hadn’t figured out the story at that point. So we started acting like journalists and interviewing people and trying to figure out the three acts.

Larry Karaszewski: On Ed Wood and Larry Flynt, we actually knew the story we wanted to tell before we did the research. We did months and months of research, but we had an outline, and we did the research to plug into the story. Andy Kaufman was the first time we agreed to write a movie, and then had to start from scratch and totally figure it out. We really were lost. There was no book on Kaufman at the time.

SA: As opposed to the seven that are out now.

LK: Correct. We started interviewing every person who knew Andy. Anyone who worked with Andy, or anyone who had dated Andy, anyone who grew up with Andy. Family, friends, colleagues. The more we interviewed people, the more lost we became. Every single person that came in was sort of describing a different person. After four or five months of this we didn’t know what to do. We were looking for our Rosebud, something to explain the real Andy Kaufman to us. We ended up taking Lynn Margulies, Andy’s girlfriend, out to lunch one day. She mentioned that she had once thought about writing a movie about Andy but could never really figure out how to do it. We said, “We’re just looking for the real Andy Kaufman.” She said, “There is no real Andy Kaufman.” And that put the lightbulb in our heads. That would be the subject of the movie: no matter how much you think that you’re on the inside with Andy, he’s a person who’s not happy unless he’s wearing a mask.

DSD: As you sorted through all your interviews and research, how did you settle on the key events for your broad outline? You seem to be fans of Syd Field.

LK: Our material and our subjects tend to be very strange and avant-garde, but we put the Hollywood formula on top of it so that the studios have a comfort in knowing that while the story may be odd, it plays by traditional Hollywood rules.

SA: In terms of making index cards, it was easy to do a first broad pass and say, “What’s every famous thing Andy ever did?” Just throw it all out there. Then you start getting a sense of the key events of his life: he goes to college (which isn’t in the movie), he meets George Shapiro, he moves to L.A., he gets a job on Taxi. You start mapping out the obvious stuff. But because Andy’s life was about trickery, we could just completely deconstruct the chronology of his life. The order never really mattered; it just became a sense of trying to move the cards around on the big table and say, “What feels like a three-act structure?” Also, we wanted to include a lot of the famous routines, but we didn’t want the movie to simply be an in-concert kind of movie: we had to give each of those routines a dramatic structure and a dramatic purpose. That helped us a great deal in structuring it. Andy had certain routines that were funny and essential to the movie: Mighty Mouse, wrestling, Carnegie Hall. We had to figure out a way to make those events fit inside the drama so that you weren’t simply watching a person on stage re-creating Andy’s act, but there was some kind of dramatic arc going on that particular evening for that particular sketch. We did it almost like an old-fashioned musical. If you watch Singing in the Rain, they managed to work in a moment where Gene Kelly has to take voice lessons, so that motivates him to sing that song, and it becomes a production number. It’s dramatically motivated. It wasn’t just like a concert film, or a film about a comedian like Lenny where you’re just cutting to [Lenny Bruce] on stage doing his routine. We wanted to see, like, now Andy’s having a mental breakdown backstage, and what he does on stage will be a catharsis for what’s going on in his real life, even though it’s probably all made up by us. Also, a lot of the routines are big con jobs of one kind or another because Andy was all about manipulating reality. For every routine we had to figure out, are you seeing this through Andy’s eyes, or through the family’s eyes, or Zmuda’s eyes, or the audience’s eyes? Is the audience in the movie theater in on the joke, or are we tricking them? A lot of times it had to be something like the family watching Andy on live television so you get the sense of danger through their eyes, as they were worried about their son being injured, so it plays like drama.

LK: It’s sort of an odd movie in that it is a portrait of one guy, but the movie quite often intentionally has to go outside his head, or make you think you’re inside his head, and then it turns out the movie’s tricking you. We wanted the movie itself to feel like an Andy Kaufman routine. The movie feels Kaufmanesque. In a weird way, it’s similar to what Bob Fossey did with All That Jazz, where he turned his life into a Bob Fossey musical. We’ve turned Andy’s life into an Andy Kaufman routine.

DSD: That often comes across in the screenplay within individual scenes that seem to be heading one direction in tone, and then there’s a quick bit that makes you reframe or question the reality. Like when he’s in the wheelchair at the airport. The scene is very sad and poignant, and he seems to be genuinely frail and sick, but then he makes a wry aside to a fan who suggests he add an I.V. bag to the chair: “That’s good. I’ll use it on Letterman.”

LK: I like that scene. I wish it were in the movie.

DSD: What about the moment when Andy’s sister notices that the alleged Cedars-Sinai doctor is wearing old tennis shoes?

SA: That got in, but we had to fight for that one. That was an editing room thing, where Miloš was like, “This scene we can cut shorter.” There was a big bloody battle over the shoes.

DSD: That moment seems essential to keep shifting the reality around, to plant the question of whether or not the guy is a real doctor.

SA: It’s a weird movie: because the script had so many pieces to it, in a sense nothing was essential. We’ve never had a movie like this, where you could make a fight to include or to cut out anything. The movie could work with or without any given scene.

LK: I’ve never worked on a movie that was more liquid in the editing room. Different versions didn’t resemble each other. It was weird: depending on which set pieces were in or out, it became an accumulative effect, which is “What do we think of Andy?” If he was too nasty too many sequences in a row, what might have seemed more charming in the script might have turned him into sort of a jerk in the film. Then you could pull out one of the set pieces, and suddenly there’s a quick tender moment with him and Lynn, and he seemed sweeter. Whenever you have the lead character in a film, you really want to try to understand this person and get under his skin and learn who this person is so you know how he’s going to react. With Andy, that was impossible. In fact, I would say that the thesis of the movie is that you will never get to know this person. No matter how many times you think you know the real Andy, you’re not even close. When that is what the movie is about, your movie is set on shifting sand. It was very difficult to get a hold on who the guy was. Sometimes that was enjoyable, and sometimes it was confounding. We had to find the right balance. People seemed to get a kick out of how disorienting the script was, how it’s sort of fun and entertaining, but you always have butterflies in your stomach because you never really understand if this is true or if you’re just being jerked around some more. The final movie has less of that, because it wears an audience out after a certain point. Audiences need more of an emotional investment.

DSD: In addition to the fight over the doctor’s shoes, were there other notes from the studio or Forman that you strongly disagreed with?

LK: Lots of battles.

SA: Battles like you have on any film. We were very much a part of the process. What’s great about Miloš, and with Tim Burton [on Ed Wood], is that everyone was allowed to express an opinion. There was a lot of give and take.

LK: What was different on this movie is people got very protective of Andy, which certainly never happened with Larry Flynt or Ed Wood.

DSD: People like Kaufman’s family?

LK: It was more like shifting sand; as the months of post-production went on, people kept switching sides. Sometimes people would fight for the movie, and sometimes fight for Andy’s memory, or fight for the scenes that Andy would have liked. Or, “Oh no, Andy wouldn’t like that, we have to cut that out.” Or, “I don’t know what Andy’s dad is going to think of this.” The producers of the film are friends of Andy. George Shapiro was his manager. Bob Zmuda was his writer. Danny DeVito worked with him for years on Taxi. We never really worked on a film where the people whose lives we were examining were also the producers. So a lot of times the arguments got a lot more emotional. People got more worked up on this movie fighting for what they thought was right than on any other film we’ve done. You’ve read the script; the big battle was over the closing shot. The closing shot was in and out and in and out of the movie repeatedly, because there were all these arguments over whether it was too sophisticated an ending versus an emotional ending. Sophisticated versus emotional: what makes for a better ending? One version was the Kaufmanesque version, and one version was the emotional catharsis version.

SA: And people kept jumping sides. It worked either way.

DSD: Do you really miss any scenes that were cut prior to shooting or filmed but edited out?

SA: Something that sort of bums me out that isn’t in the final movie is the way Andy made street theater part of his everyday life. We interviewed millions of people, and all of his friends brought up the same issue; if you wanted to be friends with Andy, you had to be prepared to just go with anything. Just to walk down the street with him, you had to be prepared for anything strange to happen, to go with the flow. If you couldn’t handle it, you couldn’t really live in his orbit. He was constantly trying to confuse or upset or mess with the heads of complete strangers in the vicinity. In the longer draft, there was a lot of that. But the movie got shorter and shorter, and it just all fell out of the film, which is a shame because it was a big part of his everyday existence.

DSD: Are there any specific cut moments you wish you could restore?

LK: I have affection for those scenes, but I’m happy with the way the movie plays now. In general, we are not screenwriters who want directors to throw stuff back in. We’re usually the guys saying, “Make it a little shorter, make it a little quicker.” But there is beautiful stuff in Andy’s life, like him going on Fridays and pretending to be a born-again Christian. That was a great sequence that just wound up never being shot.

SA: Though it does appear in the Newmarket Press publication Man On The Moon. In the final film, Andy seems to do the majority of his deconstructions on stage. There’s a rubric of performing officially. There was a lot more of the [street theater] in the original script.

LK: When he fools other people, it’s just the immediate cast. We had a lot more of him just going nuts on the street. There are scenes of him doing these antics, but it tends to be with Zmuda and George Shapiro.

DSD: So the scene in which he answers a fan’s letter, goes to meet her, and panhandles during their date got cut?

LK: The first half of that scene got shot, where he’s screwing around with the girl, but not the part where he panhandles. But even the part that was shot is not in the movie.

DSD: Possibly on the DVD.

LK: Yeah, I think Miloš is going to be aggressive with the DVD and throw in a lot of the Kaufman stuff that the fans will really like.

SA: We spent a bunch of time in the editing room in New York, and it’s sort of comical how often Miloš would bring up the DVD before we even had an actual final cut of the movie. He was worried about, “We’ve got to make sure we keep this cut of this other scene for the DVD.” It’s sort of funny too: Ed Wood was a book, Larry Flynt was a book, and now Man on the Moon is a book. It helps us in the cutting process when we’re trying to get the 175-page version of the script down to the normal shooting length of around 120. We say, “Let’s lose that scene but keep it for the book.” At least you know that somewhere somebody will know that you wasted all your time and effort on a scene that’s actually pretty good, but doesn’t fit into the big picture. The first draft we ever showed our producers was around 170 pages, but there was a longer version that they never saw. Doing the book, we put in alternate scenes that nobody had ever seen except me and Larry just because we thought it would make our producers scream with shock to open the galleys and read scenes they never even knew about. When you do the research and the work and you like something and then cut it out just because it doesn’t fit the final form, you still want to have an audience somewhere.

DSD: Did the casting of Jim Carrey affect your rewrites at all?

SA: No.

LK: No, not at all.

DSD: What was your time frame for writing the script?

SA: It took forever. It took us a year. My God, these last two biopics, Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon, each one took a year for the first draft, which is just an extraordinary amount of time to spend on a first draft screenplay.

DSD: During that year, were you focusing just on that project?

SA: Yeah. A lot of it was the months of tracking people down and doing all the interviews, and then organizing all the research, and then a couple months of saying, “This will never work.” Somewhere around month seven or eight, we finally started writing. We always end up with these long drafts because the biopics take so long to write that by the time we finally have a printout, we feel bad that our employers have been waiting so long. So even though it’s too long to shoot, we feel obligated to turn something in just to reward them for their patience.

LK: Also, we feel it’s better to get everyone’s input into at least one cutting round. When you have Miloš or Tim, who have to direct, we like to give them the script and see what they’re reacting to.

SA: Jersey [Films] was great. At about 150 pages, Danny said, “Let’s go shoot. We don’t need to cut it.”

DSD: Was there ever a point on Man on the Moon where you were ready to walk away from it, or was it pretty enjoyable all the way through?

SA: There was a point where we were trying to structure the script, and we called up our agent and said, “This movie’s not going to work. Tell Universal they can have the commencement money back.” He told us we were fools and lazy and shiftless: “Just pound out something. It’ll be fine.” It was the toughest script we ever had to write, so there were times when it felt like we would never see the end.

DSD: How does your time frame for writing the biopics differ from your time frame to write a completely fictional spec?

LK: I’m not sure the last time we wrote a fictional spec, actually.

SA: I think we were nine years old.

DSD: Looking back on your past few projects, would you change anything if you could travel back in time for one final rewrite?

SA: Maybe condense the fund raising in Ed Wood. I don’t know. Life’s too short to travel back in time. Maybe we should have killed the kid at the end of Problem Child.

DSD: Do you ever do any uncredited script doctoring?

LK: Never. Absolutely not.

SA: We’re morally outraged that you would even ask that question. No, we do, once in a while.

LK: Yeah. We become really very grouchy when we’re juggling work, and directing Foolproof put us way behind on our writing obligations. Neither of us finds working on someone else’s script emotionally satisfying.

SA: We got a kick out of working on Mars Attacks! because we love working with Tim Burton. Tim brought us in, and at the time they had sort of a ludicrous start date when they thought they were going to start shooting. They were taking the whole script apart and trying to add a million jokes, and we killed ourselves working on it for a few months, and then the budget was too high, and they pushed the start date back, and we had other obligations and had to leave it. The first writer came back on and sort of put back a lot of his stuff. It probably ended up being sort of unsatisfying for everybody. We didn’t get credit. Most of the first half, we added a lot of goodies. I wish in hindsight we’d been able to stay on that movie. Taken it all the way through. But we would have ended up on it for three years.

DSD: How does the day-to-day experience of working in The Industry differ from how you imagined it when you were students at USC?

SA: It’s much more of a traditional grind, traditional work. We go to work every day, write our scripts, and go home and play with our kids. It isn’t that life-changing. We rarely interact with the glitz of Hollywood. Once in a while we get a movie made and go down to the set. Ninety, ninety-five percent of the time it’s just me and Larry sitting in a room.

LK: Looking at each other.

SA: Which is certainly never how I envisioned my adult life.

DSD: Do you have any pet projects that you would love to make if someone handed you a huge budget and no creative restrictions?

LK: We’ve been very lucky in that our dream projects have gotten made. When we were toiling in the Problem Child days, we sort of had a gleam in our eyes like, “If only someone would make that movie about Ed Wood that we’ve talked about. Or that crazy idea we have for a movie about Larry Flynt.” Those would have been my answers ten years ago, and in the past ten years those movies have gotten made.

SA: Our next biopic is about the Marx Brothers, which is a subject that’s been dear to both of us since we were little kids. We’re attached to direct it.

DSD: What was the story and approach you took on your Jetsons script?

SA: We loved the script we wrote.

LK: It’s a damn shame that it didn’t get made. It was a few weeks away from production, and the plug got pulled. There were production offices. There were sets being designed.

SA: It was a great concept. What if you have a futuristic world where machines do everything and people have gotten complacent, and on page thirty all the machines break down? We thought it was a hell of a good idea for a Jetsons movie.

LK: Jane Jetson now has to make breakfast for the first time instead of pushing a button. The space cars don’t fly. Nothing works.

SA: The problem with all these so-called franchise movies is they take famous characters from a cartoon or TV series or a comic book, and then they give them these arbitrary plots. They tend to be about the dad losing his job, or a real-estate company taking the land that the house is built on.

LK: They’re all about real-estate speculation for some reason. We said, “If we’re going to come up with a Jetsons movie, let’s come up with a premise that’s about the concept.” The premise became the machines stop working.

SA: We’re proud that we gave The Jetsons a real plot.

DSD: Was that intended to be live action?

LK: Live action. Joe Dante was directing.

SA: The experience probably soured us on big, expensive mega-production kind of movies. The two we worked on, Jetsons and Mars Attacks!, just became so exhausting and so terrifying.

LK: Suddenly you’re getting notes like, “Does it have to take place on that set? Because that set’s going to be too expensive to build.” Which is the sort of note you never get when you’re writing Ed Wood.

SA: There’s too much synergy. The Burger King people are going to be reading the script, and things like that. That just doesn’t interest me as a filmgoer or a filmmaker.

DSD: The Burger King execs can actually have creative input?

SA: The input gets really weird. On Jetsons, they had this Academy Award-winning production designer who designed these gorgeous sets. They were just amazing looking. They were so beautiful. And the studio’s note was, “It doesn’t look like the cartoon.” Of course it doesn’t look like the cartoon: that was a cheap, two-dimensional Hanna-Barbera drawing.

DSD: This might explain why Scooby Doo has been stuck in development hell for years.

SA: Sure; dogs don’t talk.

DSD: Were you going to have Astro in The Jetsons?

SA: We solved that problem, too. We actually came up with a way to make Astro talk. And the studio wanted a big cartoon blue dog.

DSD: Of the writers working in the Industry today, whose work do you admire?

SA: I thought Kario Salem’s script for the HBO movie Don King was terrific.

LK: I thought Alan Ball’s script for American Beauty was really good.

SA: We love Albert Brooks. Particularly his early films, which are obsessed with obsessive, unpleasant characters who just refuse to back down or listen to common sense. That’s become a recurring motif through most of our scripts.

DSD: Are you pretty settled into features, or would you take a TV deal if someone offered one?

SA: People are always trying to make us write a thirty-minute pilot, but I don’t know. What do they do every week?

DSD: You’ve turned down sitcom offers?

LK: It’s an open-ended offer. “Come in with something, boys. What have you got for us?”

SA: We’re happy doing what we do.

DSD: How did Foolproof [released as the film Screwed] originate?

LK: Foolproof was a pitch that we set up back around ’92 or ’93.

SA: 1990.

LK: Was it? I don’t remember. It was actually the last script we wrote before Ed Wood. We really had very little in mind except to try to be funny. At some point while we were writing the Andy Kaufman script, Norm MacDonald had read [the project ultimately titled Screwed] and loved it and was trying to get a bunch of people to make the movie.

SA: It’s probably going to surprise people when they see it because it’s so dissimilar to the biopics. When we were making it, the movies we kept talking about were the crazy comedies of the ‘30s and the mid-1940s. Particularly, Universal made a lot of these films; the ones we like were directed by a guy named Edward Cline. He did some of the WC Fields pictures, like Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. He made these completely absurd fast-paced comedies about these nutty guys trying to do something ridiculous. They’re sort of shameless, the way they’ll do anything to go for an absurd joke.

LK: And also, I’m sort of a fan of pure comedy as opposed to plot or heart or romance…

SA: We do have a plot.

LK: But so many comedies today get taken in by heart and romance that slows the movies down. We just wanted to make an old-fashioned Marx-brothers kind of movie along the lines of Duck Soup or Horse Feathers or Monkey Business, the really insane ones, as opposed to after they added the opera songs and things like that.

DSD: Were you writing it with the intention of directing it?

SA: Originally no. It was a pitch where we sold it as, “We just want to write the funniest film imaginable.” It’s certainly the most convoluted script we’ve ever written. It’s convoluted for the sake of being convoluted; that’s sort of the joy of the movie.

LK: It’s a screwball farce.

DSD: Do you remember about how long that took to write?

SA: A few months.

DSD: Why the change in location from Atlanta to Pittsburgh?

LK: Because Norm MacDonald isn’t a southerner. It was originally written for like a 68-year-old black man.

SA: It was written back when Driving Miss Daisy had come out.

LK: Right, so we thought like Robin Harris and Redd Foxx as two guys who sort of hate the world. And then Robin Harris and Redd Foxx died.

SA: So it became Norm MacDonald and Dave Chappelle. We picked Pittsburgh because the movie has to take place in an environment where jobs are hard to get and people have an edge of desperation. It’s probably more like Pittsburgh back in 1975, but Pittsburgh has always had that reputation as the place where all the steel mills closed down.

LK: It sort of led the whole class of men without jobs. Probably has no relation to the Pittsburgh of today, “City on the Move.”

SA: But technically our movie doesn’t have a time frame on it. Maybe the movie actually takes place in 1975. It just doesn’t say it.

DSD: Is it too late to add a graphic at the start? “Pittsburgh: 1975.”

LK: Never too late to change anything. We may even change the title. It’s such a loony film that we want people to know what they’re in for. We would love a title like the old W.C. Fields titles, like Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. Something that conveys the lunacy of it all. Throw Momma from the Train is a great title.

DSD: Whereas Foolproof could be the title of a bad made-for-TV heist movie.

LK: Correct.

SA: It’s unusual for a comedy in that it doesn’t really have a key concept. Most movies are like, “Adam Sandler is a water boy!”

LK: This movie is more a series of misunderstandings that just get bigger and bigger. There’s no sort of key five-second idea.

DSD: Kevin Smith only directs projects that he originates. Would you ever direct a non-Alexander/Karaszewski script?

LK: We’ve been developing some other writers’ work over the past year as producers, and a couple of those we’ve contemplated the idea of maybe directing. I think I’m into it a little more than Scott is. I actually think that writing and directing are two different hats entirely, and the idea of interpreting someone else’s work sounds appealing.

DSD: During the production of Man on the Moon, were there any Internet rumors that struck you as just completely off-the-wall or inaccurate?

LK: Yeah, there was this one that said “Andy Kaufman is dead.” Now where do they get a rumor like that?


May 1st, 2000: I Adopted Alley Cat


May 1, 2000

15 nights ago, I thought I heard a cat crying outside my apartment building as I was drifting off to sleep. The next day, I clearly heard a series of cat cries. I looked out my bathroom window to the driveway below – and saw a brown alley cat peeking out of a maintenance hatch in the building next door. He yowled for a minute and then vanished into his cubbyhole.

Someone had set out a water dish for the stray, and I took down a can of tuna. Alley Cat was quite skittish those first few days. He’d be sitting in the driveway birdwatching and quickly bolt for his cubbyhole the second I rounded the corner. I’d leave a plate of tuna by the hatch, then watch from my bedroom window as he scarfed it down.

I was worried – a literal hole in the wall is no place for a cat to live! And his cubbyhole was adjacent to the driveway… surely it was only a matter of time until someone ran over the lil trooper. I began to clean and cat-proof my apartment, for I knew what I had to do.

A few days ago, a neighbor in the parking lot waved me over after he saw me fill AC’s water dish. He told me that the cat is only 7 months old, and he and his wife had been taking care of him but had to give him up because they were worried about fleas. Well, Christ; that’s what flea collars and flea dips are for. And instead of finding him a home, they just set him out on the street. Nice. The neglectful fool told me he’d be glad to see me take the cat in.

Last night, I took a bowl of Friskies down to Alley Cat. For the first time, he let me sit nearby as he ate, and then he rubbed his cheek against my outstretched hand. Contact! Trust! After two weeks of anonymously donating meals, I became Alley Cat’s friend. I spent a good hour playing with Alley Cat in the driveway. I tried to get him to follow me back to my Cave, but he got skittish as soon as we rounded the corner and his cubbyhole vanished from sight. Twice he followed me that far, only to be scared back by cars. On attempt three, we got to the end of the driveway, and I picked him up. I cooed and talked and told him what a good cat he was. All was well until we neared the steps to my building – then, sheer cat panic. I set him down, and he bolted. Disaster.

Tonight, I returned to the driveway with a can of tuna. I wasn’t sure if he’d trust me after the “I’ll just lug him home” fiasco, but he popped out of his cubbyhole and inhaled the fish. Then he purred and played and climbed all over me, just like last night. I told him I’d be right back, and I fetched a large printer box from my apartment. After a good 45 minutes of play, I sensed the right moment for Operation Alley Cat Relocation. I scooped him up, set him in the box, and quickly flipped all four flaps shut. Then I grabbed the side carrying handles and used my thumbs to hold the lid closed. You wouldn’t believe the yowls of indignation: “I trusted you, human, and now I’m in a tiny pitch-black jostling cell?”

I wrangled the box into my apartment, kicked the door shut behind me, and set the box on the couch. Then I stepped back to let Alley Cat assess the situation. He popped out of the box and gazed around. Much yowling. This went on for about five minutes. Then he tentatively explored the floor around the coffee table, stretched out underneath it, and shifted into a series of plaintive meows. After another ten minutes of cautious exploration of the facilities (including the discovery of the Food and Water dishes near the kitchen door), he seemed to realize that this warm, carpeted pad beats the hell out of a hole in the wall. Soon he was curled up with me on the couch, purring and stretching his claws in that Happy Cat way that emulates the motions of kittens pushing against Momma Cat.

It’s now about 6 hours later. He’s napping on a blanket in the middle of the living room floor. I wonder how long it’s been since he’s had solid, uninterrupted sleep: a cat’s street life involves constant hyper-vigilance, so it’s no wonder Alley Cat is catchin’ up on the REM. (Tangential anecdote: a research team once [unethically, in my book] surgically removed the part of a cat’s brain that inhibits muscle movements during sleep – the equivalent part of the brain that prevents us from physically acting out our dreams as they occur. The test cat would drift off to sleep, then groom and run around with his eyes shut. Apparently, cats dream about grooming and running around. I personally have observed cats’ legs twitch as their eyes bounce back and forth under closed lids.)

Dear God, I hope he knows what to do with the litter box. I showed it to him and demonstrated digging motions in the sand. He stared at me like, “What the hell are you doing?” But so far, he hasn’t peed or pooped anywhere.

Tomorrow, the search for a nearby vet begins, and I shall stock up on Iams brand dry cat food.

I may permanently name him Alley Cat, or I may name him after one of the Muses of Greek mythology. I’ll decide soon. And since his age estimate is 7 months, I do believe his birthday shall be Halloween.

So, it looks like I’ve found my Familiar for the next 10 to 15 years. Or, as the Jungians might say, he found me…



My First Magic Mushroom Trip: A Vintage Report from 2002

How I Spent My Spring: What I Recall From My First Ever ‘Shroom Trip

Written by Daniel S. Duvall on 30 April 2002 (five weeks after the trip)

My name is Daniel Steven Duvall. Near the end of March in 2002, I spoke with disembodied voices at the onset of my first (and so far only) psilocybin mushroom trip in the living room of the one-bedroom Hollywood apartment that I share with two housecats.

Just before I ingested the mushrooms, I said out loud, “I would like to speak with Bast and Mescalito.” Bast is the Egyptian goddess of cats: I figured She’d feel right at home in my pad, where I chirp and meow with my best friends (two former strays) every day on a couch that has absorbed the scent of much pot smoke. I called out to Mescalito even though I’ve never ingested mescaline. I was just screwing around and never expected anything to actually answer. Imagine my astonishment twenty minutes later when the empty air three feet in front of me said, “You asked to speak with us. What did you want to know?”

I had a spiral notebook in which I’d planned to jot down observations about the trip as it occurred. Here is the last entry, written as I cupped the fungi in one hand: “I can sense power thrumming through the mushrooms. Do they feel this way in nature or only after they’ve been irradiated by the U.S. Post Office?”

Before I replied to the disembodied voice, which I did not recognize, I reached for the notebook. My mind was humming with ways to translate the experience into sentences. “Not now,” the voice told me.

But that’s what I do. That’s what I am,” I responded. I realized that the primary voice was not alone when a chorus of laughter erupted in the empty air. Some of the laughter came from my kitchen. I’m puzzled as to how I remained centered as “reality” melted away all around me, but I sense that the mushrooms have a built-in panic suppressor.

I’m still not sure if the voices were just hallucinations or if I was literally communicating with external entities: I’m hesitant to endorse any particular hypothesis too quickly, though my gut feeling is that some form of Higher Intelligence really was in my apartment that night. Spirits? Gods? Aliens? I have no idea. But they sure felt real. At one point, my whole living room stretched into a giant cocktail party filled with my ancestors and those of everyone I have ever met.

When I emerged back to normal consciousness just after sunrise, I could not speak for about five hours. I lay on the floor, shivered, and reflected on as much of the trip as I could remember: I melted into the carpet. I communicated telepathically with the bacteria that live down there. I saw “reality” turn into building blocks of pure energy, the Legos and Lincoln Logs of the universe. My feline friends, Alley Cat and Thalia, stretched out next to me and purred as I curled up into a fetal position.

The whole experience confirmed in a very direct way something that I’ve suspected ever since college. It is a suspicion that has flavored the themes, text, and subtext of my spec fiction for more than a decade. Here is my latest articulation of it: spiritual evolution is suppressed by certain laws (like those that prohibit the growth and ingestion of some plants) and social structures (such as the forty-hour work week) that reinforce artificial hierarchies and discourage people from trusting their own instincts.

Near the end of my psilocybin trip, I asked the primary voice if I could come back to the psychedelic spirit world again. I got the impression that I could and indeed would at least several more times in my life. The basic message of my trip was one of self-empowerment.


A True Ghost Story from August 2000

My Brush with Something Supernatural

A True Story

Documented on 9 August 2000 on Yucca Street in Hollywood CA 90028

By Daniel S. Duvall

Something just passed through my apartment, I’m pretty sure.

This literally just happened minutes ago.

Like all of my encounters with anomalous phenomena, this event was unexpected, unpredictable, and unnerving.

It’s about 5 AM. (I’ve been keeping nocturnal hours lately.) I’d just finished brushing my teeth when I noticed Alley Cat peering intently into the kitchen, tense, poised, on alert. He sometimes gets that way if he spots a bug, so I assumed there was a spider or something nearby. I turned on the kitchen light and followed his gaze — nothing. An empty floor, spot-free walls. I checked again to see where he was looking. He crept toward the kitchen and just stared into the open air of the doorway.

That’s when I noticed I was getting cold. There’s a reason that old cliche exists in so many ghost stories, I think. In the space of 5 seconds, I developed goosebumps, and my shirtless torso was suddenly chilled to the bone. Granted, the early morning hours get cooler here in L.A., but this felt like I was standing outdoors in an Ohio December.

And the rational part of my brain shut off, and I thought, “Oh, something’s here.”

Alley Cat continued to gaze at the empty doorway — and then he stretched his head and neck forward the way he does when someone scratches him between his ears.

My heart’s still pounding at triple its normal rate.

I retreated to my desk chair about 4 yards from the kitchen and watched as Alley Cat interacted with empty air for about twenty seconds. I remained chilled — and suddenly I was warm again, and Alley Cat blinked, sat down, and turned to look at me. I got down on the floor, and he sauntered over and rubbed against me and asked “Meow?” I scratched his head and rubbed his neck and said, “I don’t know what it was.” I noticed his neck & back muscles were still exceptionally tense. He stretched out beside me, looked back at the kitchen door, apparently no longer saw whatever had been there, and licked my nose. Back to normal.

Shortly after I moved into this apartment, I had 2 experiences with a clock radio that made me wonder about the location: one night the radio switched itself off while I was in the room–

Ah, shit. He’s getting squirrelly and checking out the kitchen doorway again– and here come the goosebumps holy God there was just a thump against the door frame.

Chill lasted about 30 seconds that time. AC crept to the doorway, stared at empty air again, then whirled around as if following something move toward the hallway. Chill then went away.

I’m seriously spooked. Will finish report momentarily. Going to visit with AC on floor.

Okay, AC feels safe enough to dig and pee in his litter box, and the chill’s been gone a few minutes. However, I did see something out of the corner of my eye just after the chill went away: a blur of white flitting from the hallway to the bedroom.

Anyhow, the radio. One night it switched itself off, and we’re talkin’ about the kind of switch that takes effort to slide from the left to the right. It clicks and locks into place at each position (on/alarm/off).

Several nights later, the radio was again sitting on the floor to my left as I worked on the computer (this was before I had furniture, so everything was on the floor). I got up and went to the bathroom, but I could still hear the radio – which suddenly got all muffled. When I came back into the room, I found it facedown in the carpet – and it hadn’t been balanced precariously or anything before.

Those events were over a year ago, and nothing odd has happened here since, until this morning.

I’ve been thinking about holding a séance here. Seems like the time is right.