Gnat woke me early; just as well, since Mondays are the longest days of the week. I had a sausage and half a cup of yogurt and read the paper. The usual gruel studded with broken glass, laced with frosting. I filed one column. Had a cup of coffee. Filed another piece for one of the magazines for which I write. Had a cup of coffee. Had another. Lunch; got Gnat on the bus, went back to the kitchen table, and wrote another column. (Standing up!) Checked the calendar; I’d actually written the column due the next day. Damn. On the other hand, I was now ahead of the game – providing I wrote another one right now, that is. So I wrote another one. Filed it.


Sat down, finished “The Godfather Returns.” Pretty good. Now I start another grim book, but that’s for tomorrow’s Bleat. After a while I went to the school to pick her up; grocery shopping, dinner, dog-walk, then another column. It’s done.


Now this. Oh: I also fixed the graphic above. I mistakenly uploaded a version that had – oh, this is too stupid and petty to mention; like you care.

You do? Well, yesterday’s graphic had the lady in the blue suit holding a copy of last week’s Bleat. I had played with putting a version of it on the table with the magazines, but decided against it; couldn’t get the perspective right. But I left it there and uploaded it anyway. Trashed all the earlier versions, so I had nothing to restore. Hence today’s version, which is bigger and somehow better and just as inapplicable to the Bleat.

The Podcast is now available through iTunes. Hit my page and subscribe! Push me into the top 5000!

Recent movies:

It, wherein Clara Bow fights a hideous spider monster in the sewers with the help of old childhood friends.

Well, no. She was the “It girl,” a Jazz Age term for them what gots that special appeal. Unlike many movie heroines of the time, who look like strange homely creatures who dipped their mugs in flour, she has a rather universal appeal, I think:

You're looking at the 20s equivalent of the Jennifer Aniston haircut or Dorothy Hammill wedge - girls in small Nebraska towns instantly wanted to look like that, I'll bet. If they hadn't already got the idea from drugstore movie magazines. Bow certainly has a vivacity that leaps right off the screen undimmed by the passage of time, but the movie isn’t some great touchstone of Modern Cinema; it’s just “Pretty Woman” from the 20s, notable for its effect and repercussions more than any intrinsic merit. This, however, haunts me:

Where is this? I can’t find any information about where the film was shot – I assume New York, but I don’t know that hotel. I do know it, but I can’t place it. It’s every big 20s hotel, in a way – massive, solemn, with grand public spaces and tiny rooms and the uneradicable aroma of cigars and Pine-sol. It’s not the Pennsylvania or Roosevelt. It probably still stands. But where?

Altogether now – duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh DUH duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh DUH duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh DUH dedeeleeedleleedlleedeleeedleleedlleede

Forward, left, enter room, up stairs, smoke the undead, grab the armor, back down, spin, shoot the sarges on the left and right, sweep the room for health, out, left.

Confused? Okay, this should help.

Long ago and not very far away – twenty, thirty blocks – I’d join the Giant Swede at Wes’ apartment, and we would stay up late playing Doom. Then we would go home and play Doom some more, by ourselves, in the dark. It never occurred to us that we might, ten years hence, be playing Doom 3, take out an imp by shooting the barrel of toxic goo next to him, and think: props to the old school. In fact we would have been dismayed to learn it would take ten years to get to Doom 3. But after Doom 2, frankly, we’d had enough – and besides, there was that Duke Nukem sequel coming any day now to keep us entertained.

I mention this all only to justify why I rented Doom, the movie.

I can imagine the meeting between Producer and Writer.

Producer: So. Doom. Love the title. What’s it about again? My kid plays these games all the time, never see the guy these days ‘cause he’s upstairs blasting away at Mario Kong or whatever.

Writer: It’s pretty simple. A colony on Mars has opened a door to hell, and all these demons come out, and you’re the one guy who has to stop them. So basically you run around and shoot things that move.

Producer: Okay . . . just making some notes here. Mars? I don’t know. They made three Mars movies and they didn’t make any money at all, except for Tim Robbins. Him, he got his. I think he got a call from Bill Hurt after “Lost in Space” and Bill said yeah, the movie will suck, but they’ll give you half a point maybe more just for your name because you’re a serious actor, and you can fund whatever Commie indie shit you want for ten years on the foreign residuals. Although if Hurt had called him it would have take half an hour for him to say that, and you’d have to wait while he dropped the phone and started swinging at bats. Guy’s nuts. Anyway, forget Mars.

Writer: No – it has to be Mars. That’s where the space colony is.

Producer: So it’s not in space. What’s the big deal with space?

Writer: Well, it’s just the audience I’m thinking about here.

Producer: Which is who?

Writer: Guys who played the game, and have been waiting for a movie version for about ten years.

Producer: How many of them are there?

Writer: Well, the game sold 300,000 copies in its first week of sales, which is more than XX sold. The original game sold 15 million copies.

Producer: Yeah, but do those people watch movies? They steal ‘em. But I see your point. Okay, you got your space. But this hell thing, I don’t know.

Writer: You – what? That’s the point.

Producer: Of the game, maybe, but you know, we’re in the reimagining business here. Value added. People go see this expecting demons from hell, we give them something else, shake them up.

Writer: But they don’t want anything else. They want demons from hell. They want imps throwing balls of fire and giant horned creatures with cloven hooves and floating beasts and flaming skulls.

Producer: Nah. Let’s make it about genetic engineering. Say they discovered something on Mars and started injecting it into people and they turned into monsters. You know, we have met the enemy, and he’s like, them?

Writer: Discovered what? Super-genetic bacteria?

Producer: Like that, sure. Anyway – who’s the hero?

Writer: One guy. A lone Marine who’s survives the initial attack and has to fight his way to close a portal before the creatures can make it to earth.

Producer: One guy? Well, see, this is why you guys are in the game business, and I’m in the movie business. You got one guy, you can’t have a ragtag crew that gets picked off one by one, you can’t have any banter, you can’t have any personal issues that threaten the mission –

Writer: (Silence) Our thoughts exactly.

Producer: I’m glad we agree! Okay, here’s what I see – they’re Future Marines, so they got lots of high-tech guns that talk to them. The team consists of the hero, a guy with a mysterious past, a religious nut, a newbie who’s never been on a mission, and a really greasy guy with long hair and bad teeth like Willem DaFoe had in “Wild at Heart.” You see that movie? Oh you owe it to yourself, really. He’s incredible. Anyway, like that.

Writer: Why? Why can’t they be professional, level-headed soldiers?

Producer: C’mon. You saw Aliens. You’re going to do this right you get some wise-cracking Marines who have a problem with authority. The audience identifies with them.

Writer: Maybe 20 years ago, but you’re talking about an audience that’s used to playing cooperatively online, and yeah there’s trash talk but there’s more of an understanding of unit cohesion, the importance of discipline – wait a minute, did you say long hair and bad teeth?

Producer: Yeah. Like Willem DeFoe. I just watched that one again last night –

Writer: In the Marines?

Producer: Well, it’s the future.

Writer: And a religious nut? What do you mean by that?

Producer: Well, uh – really uptight, like the rest of those nuts you know, but he loves to kill, really pro-life ha ha, but when he swears he takes out a knife and carves a cross in his skin as whaddya call it, penzance?

Writer: Penance.

Producer: Right.

Writer: So you want a self-multilating psycholically unbalanced Marine as part of his elite force.

Producer: Now you’re feeling me. Anyway, I want the hero to die like three-fourths of the way through. Not right away, like in that shark movie, or half-way through like in Alien, but three-quarters of the way. That’ll be our trademark. No one will see that coming.

Writer: Maybe not, because he’s the character the players have been identifying with for ten years.

Producer: So?

Writer: Well, you’re taking away their character. You’re taking them out of the game.

Producer: Oh, we’ll make him bad before that, so they don’t mind. Have him kill a bunch of women and children.

Writer: You want the audience to have the character they’ve played for countless hours to kill women and children.

Producer: They won’t see it coming, you gotta admit that. Then end with a big battle and save the world, whatever. Bring it in under 50 mil and we’ll all be heroes for a day.

Writer: You understand that world of mouth will kill the movie almost immediately, don’t you?

Producer: I’m not worried what someone says about the movie the second weekend as long as they show up the first.

Writer: But they won’t. Someone will leak details, and you’ll have to do damage control, show up at conventions with some carefully edited footage, assure everyone you’re respecting the franchise, that sort of thing.

Producer: So what’s the problem?

Writer: Everyone will hate you.

Producer: (Shrug.) Tell you what. When you write the script, you can put in all your buddies’ names. Wherever you want. And you can all come to the set and hang out with whoever plays the hero, and everyone in your company who gets a “producer” credit on your games gets a leased sportscar for a year, just for signing on.

Writer: Deal. But the first guy who dies has to be named “Carmack.”


Writer: Never mind. I never expected you'd know anyway.


New Quirk, of course, and the continuation of the Florida motels. Smallish Screedblog audio upddate. See you tomorrow.


c. 2005 j. lileks. Email, if you wish, may be sent to "first name at last name dot com."