Thursday, February 26, 2009

An Unreal Estate Agent

Unreal Estate Agent and author, Phillip Jose Farmer passed away in his sleep today. He was 91. If you are a fan of “science fiction” (an ever-blurring and dated classification these days) then you probably know the name. The “Riverwold” series & the Wold Newton Family stuff ( is just plain fun reading.

For further information on Phil Farmer please see the following write ups here:,0,5906330.story, here:, and here:

He was a writer and a fan (which is evident in his calling card) and he pushed the envelope. He’ll be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tough Love Vs. Spanking

A friend recently passed this information onto me via e-mail:

Most people think it improper to spank children, so I have tried other methods to control my kids when they have one of “those moments.” One that I found is effective is for me to just take the child for a car ride and talk. Some say it’s the vibration from the car, others say it’s the time away from any distractions such as TV, video games, computer, iPod, etc. Either way, my kids usually calm down and stop misbehaving after our care ride together. Eye to eye contact helps a lot too. I’ve included a photo of one of my sessions with my son, in case you would like to use the technique.

We’ve been seeing some pretty dramatic responses from our children since we started using this technique.

Please click on the picture for a larger version of the non-spanking technique of correcting inappropriate behavior in children.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Script Frenzy 2009

30 days. 100 pages. April. Are you in?

Well, you could be. I make mention of this writing exercise now because I would like you to consider joining me in writing a screenplay in the month of April. I figure now is as good a time as any to make the offer so here it is. Script Frenzy is from the same people who bring us NaNoWriMo every November, the Office of Letters and Light. Submitted for your approval, check out Poke around long enough and you’ll find the following:

Script Frenzy is an international writing event in which participants attempt the daring feat of writing 100 pages of scripted material in the month of April. As part of a donation-funded nonprofit, Script Frenzy charges no fee to participate; there are also no valuable prizes awarded or "best" scripts singled out. Every writer who completes the goal of 100 pages is victorious and awe-inspiring and will receive a handsome Script Frenzy Winner's Certificate and web icon proclaiming this fact.
Even those who fall short of the word goal will be applauded for making a heroic attempt. Really, you have nothing to lose—except that nagging feeling that there's a script inside you that may never get out.

The 5 Basic Rules of Script Frenzy

1) To be crowned an official Script Frenzy winner, you must write a script (or multiple scripts) of at least 100 total pages and verify this tally on

2) You may write individually or in teams of two. Writer teams will have a 100-page total goal for their co-written script or scripts.

3) Script writing may begin no earlier than 12:00:01 AM on April 1 and must cease no later than 11:59:59 PM on April 30, local time.

4) You may write screenplays, stage plays, TV shows, short films, comic book and graphic novel scripts, adaptations of novels, or any other type of script your heart desires.

5) You must, at some point, have ridiculous amounts of fun.

Of those 5 Basic Rules, number 5 is a must.

“But I’ve never done anything like that. I wouldn’t know where to start.”

Well, you’ve got to start somewhere and worrying is bad for your health. Don’t worry; there is helpful advice on the site for whatever genre that you decide on writing. There is support & instruction, there are screenplay programs to download & use for your script too. Perhaps writing a screenplay is something that you’ve always wanted but you felt that you just didn’t have the time to do it. Well in April your time has come.

“What software, if any, would I use?”

Well that’s a good question and the answers are circular; use what is the best tool for you. I’m not a professional writer but I have played with some of their tools. I’ve used “Screenwriter 2000”, dabbled briefly with “Final Draft”, and wrote a script once with “Celtx”. These days when I want to bring out the guns for a screenplay, script or puppet-script I just fire up my Screenplay Template from Microsoft and I’m off to the races. Since I’m addicted to “WORD” anyway it makes a nice even flow. You can score a copy of that template here: if you so desire. Script Frenzy has several free programs that you could use and discounts on “Final Draft” if you just have to spend money. The choice is up to you. As for yours truly, the Screenplay Template for Microsoft WORD is the weapon of choice.

“I’m still not convinced.”

That’s OK. This is something that I find particularly cathartic; writing. Perhaps you will as well. Yes, now it may seem foreign and be outside of your comfort zone but come April and YOU are writing YOUR script, telling YOUR story the exercise becomes more tangible. You walk into the month of April someone who has ideas and creative possibilities swimming in your head and you walk out of April as a writer who has just completed his/her first draft of a screenplay. You did it. Congratulations writer!

“It can’t be that easy – what’s the catch?”

This will be the third Script Frenzy that I will participate in. The only catches in this process are the internal ones that you will have to answer for yourself, writer. Consider this; you like a good story don’t you? Sure you do. Haven’t you ever found yourself screaming at the TV after watching a goofy show or after renting an expectation crushing DVD from Blockbuster, “That really STUNK! I know I could do better.” Are you sick and tired of the rehashing of tired storytelling in most Hollywood productions? Yeah? Well, do something about it! It’s time to fire back at Hollywood and April is your time to shine.

Script Frenzy, as is the case with all of the writing projects from the Office of Letters and Light, is an exercise in creativity. It’s free, by the way, and they hold non-profit organization status. You can donate if you want but it’s not required. Remember, you are writing the first draft of a script. It’s a FIRST DRAFT so you don’t need to get hung up on if your T’s are crossed or if you transitions in and out are the industry standard. Just write it. Have fun with it. Tell your story. You can do it. I know you can.

30 days. 100 pages. April. GO!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Polar Bear Plunge 2009

I didn’t think it was going to happen this year for yours truly. After all, there is a member down from the EC-5, as well as, 2 out of 3 Chicks down with the sniffles. “It’s just not in the cards.” I told myself. “There’s always next year.”

Then I checked the SJG boards – then my watch – then the boards – then my watch – then I got a call. It was from Print Shop, friend, Geocacher and Mastermind of our Polar Bear Plunge expeditions. He was calling to ask how Mother Hen was doing. I told him that she was doing well and that she was sitting at the computer hacking away at some project. I asked how he was feeling. He told me that he was on the way to Sea Isle City to register. I asked him when the Polar Bear Plunge was going to happen. “2:00 PM”, he said. I wished him well, told him that I would tell Mother Hen that he said Hello, and that if anything changed on our status about NOT GOING that I would let him know.

There’s always next year.

I looked at my watch. I found myself pacing. I started walking back and forth and it didn’t take too long for Mother Hen to take notice.

“What are you doing?” she asked.


“You’re pacing.”

“Am I?”

“Yes. Knock it off.”

“Sure.” I said. On some level I guess I meant it but my feet did not get that message and soon I was walking the path between the kitchen and the dining room once more. We (as a team, the EC-5) had pulled out at the last minute due to certain circumstances beyond our control. We said that we would take the year off. Mother Hen was out and, as previously stated, 2 of the 3 Chicks were out due to having colds – that left yours truly stewing in his own juices; and friends, that’s a lot of juice.

“What do you want to do?” Mother Hen asked with a gleam in her eye [NOTE: not THAT gleam. Gentle Reader, I’m surprised at you]. She had the Polar Bear Plunge gleam in her eye.

“How about a day at the beach?”

And so it came to pass that Mother Hen and I traversed to Sea Isle City for the 2009 Polar Bear Plunge! We agreed that Mother Hen would not go in and that I would be the only plunger from the EC-5 this time out. She would photograph the event and be support on the beach for our peeps from South Jersey Geocaching. We text’d Print Shop so that he knew to look for us, met up with some of the finest people I’ve ever want to jump into freezing ocean water with and, as they say, the rest is history.

As I type this I’m unsure of all the stats but I’d say there was at least a million-bajillion people there. The outside temperature was in the mid forties and the ocean temp was about 38 degrees. This difference in temp was noticeable. Last year it was an even 38 degrees so you did not feel the difference in the temperature. This year you did. But that was all right, we had a BLAST.

Thank you to SJG Plungers. It is a JOY and an HONOR to share this particular bit of insanity with you. Mother Hen got some great shots, which will I’m sure be posted in the appropriate areas.

...And Doug is still THE MAN.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The 81st Academy Awards

For the last few years or so right here at Chicken Scratch I would pick whom I thought was going to win the big categories for the Academy Awards. I would do this yearly not because I’m “star struck” or care whatever whoever is wearing, no; I did it because I love movies. I am a movie geek. It’s what I do.

This being the case, I have a confession… of the five films nominated for best picture (see here: for a full list) I haven’t seen any of them. But that’s ok because really, at its core, the Academy Awards is a tad skewed.

“What did you say?” Oscar asked rearing his golden head in my direction.

“Yeah – That’s right!” I responded, “I said it.” In fact, I thought to myself as Oscar resumed his stance on that tiny little podium of his one really doesn’t have to see the film to guess what the outcome of the contest will be – no; all one has to do is think like the Academy voters think.

“Huh?” you may ask and an understandable question you pose Gentle Reader – once more, I am impressed.

Here… we will do the first one together. Empty your mind… Pretend that the only thing that you have to worry about is what you are going to wear on the red carpet… Put aside any thoughts of real world sensibilities or eking out a living. Stop. This is Hollywood. Back to our purpose… Think like a Academy voter… I must be progressive… Those whales won’t save themselves… How can I retrofit my third Hummer with an engine that burns bad reviews from bloggers or critics? …Ok. Ok… We’re there! All right, we are now ready to Celebrate the Arts and Sciences of Motion Pictures! Let us look at the first category, “Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role”.

Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor”

Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon”

Sean Penn in “Milk”

Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler”

You can eliminate Richard Jenkins and Brad Pitt from the list. Their performances were wonderful (I’m sure) but Jenkins is new to Oscar gold and Pitt is young (relatively). Jenkins is a great character actor and Pitt has his entire career ahead of them with solid and bankable pictures. That leaves three. Frank Langella might get it because he is the elder statesman of the pack. Sean Penn might take it because despite his edgy repute he is a great actor. Mickey Rourke might walk away with a statue because people like to route for the underdog and Rourke hasn’t been the lead horse in a race for a long time… The Academy voter will really be deciding between the oldie, the actor, or the outcast?

And the Oscar goes to…

Sean Penn.

There, now that wasn’t so hard was it? Of course it wasn’t.

“Why even do this?” you may ask. “Why is this worth all of my trouble? I mean I don’t even go to the movies.”

Yet another fair question and usually I would agree with anyone who didn’t like film to stay away from the Oscars at all costs. This year, however, thinking like the Academy thinks has its perks. You see two radio stations NJ 101.5 and SOJO 104.9, in conjunction with “Bayport on Lake Bay” is giving away a $300,000 “Luxury Townhome” in the “Atlantic City area’s Newest Waterfront Community”. So click here: for the official listing of the nominees for this years presentation, think how the Academy thinks, go over to the “Red Carpet Prediction Contest” ( enter, and make your choices known. If you win the waterfront townhouse in Atlantic City all I ask is that you have us (the Evil Chicken 5 – Me, Mother Hen and the Three Chicks) over for a BBQ once you get set up.

What can I say? I love BBQ.

I’m coming for YOU Oscar… and this time I’m bringing friends!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The X-Prize

Sometimes the some of history’s most amazing moments are simply missed, forgotten, or passed over. Few remember when the microchip changed the world or when a global networking of computers decided to call itself the ‘Internet’. One may arrive at the question “Why is that – why do we ignore such moments that will have such an impact on us in the future?” I believe it’s because until a milestone or some step forward directly affects our lives we, as a populous, are happily oblivious. As a society (and once our basic survival needs are met) we tend to focus on the big issues such as if Brittany will take her kids with her on new world tour or lamenting the fact that Jerry Springer is just not as much fun anymore since they toned down all the fighting.

Not that I’m throwing stones. You don’t have to cruise along here on this particular corner of the blogosphere to see that pop culture and Evil Chicken are like this {NOTE: Evil Chicken is now holding up his right hand – the index finger is pressed tightly against his middle digit signifying that there is a close relationship. He is now releasing said gesture and returning his fingers to his wireless keyboard.} I too am swayed by the siren call of mass consumer corporate goodies and bright & shiny things. Anyway, I mention all this in preface to an article that I stumbled across from Wired Magazine’s site (which ROCKS out loud if you happen to be or aspire to become a techno-geek). It is about the Automotive X-Prize. Check it out for yourself here: The goal of this Automotive X-Prize is, “to inspire a new generation of viable, super-efficient vehicles to help break our addiction to oil and stem the effects of climate change. Teams will compete for multi-million-dollar cash prizes by designing and building super-efficient vehicles that will achieve 100 MPG (2.35 L/100 km) that are commercially viable.”

The first X-Prize winner now hangs in the Milestones of Flight gallery of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. It is right between the Spirit of St. Louis and the Bell X-1. Space Ship One won the ten million dollar “Ansari X PRIZE for Suborbital Spaceflight, successfully challenged teams to build private spaceships to open the space frontier.” Now you too can grow up and be an astronaut. Seriously. This Anasari X-Prize was won on 10/4/2004, when “Mike Melvill broke the 100-km (62.5 mi) mark, internationally recognized as the boundary of outer space.”

We did not notice. It didn’t directly affect us. Hey, it’s ok, Judge Judy was on. This next X-Prize, the Automotive one is different and it is as tangible as asking yourself just how much YOU paid at the gas pump the last time you filled your tank. With any luck this will have a direct impact on our lives in the extremely near future. I love the concept of competition and how 25 teams of visionaries from around the world just might present us with something truly revolutionary. Can you imagine a world where we were not so utterly and completely dependent on the whims of madmen, oil barons, status quo automobile manufactures or OPEC?

This concept, the X-Prize Foundation, pleases me to NO END. Big changes can come from the little guy. “Revolution through Competition” is the Foundation’s theme. For more information check them out here:

Best of luck to all the teams and participants in the contest; I am now officially looking forward to triple digit mileage. I believe it can happen, that it can be commercially viable, and that this moment in history, when it happens, will not be passed over or forgotten.