The Bag Means Your Mind

A delightful mix of insightful comments and ignorant assumptions about screenwriting... and such.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Worlds of Fun

Today, our final day, we arrived at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. The weather was perfect, if not a little on the hot side. Blue skies, a perfect setting for the curtain call of our trip. The park itself is quaint and pleasant. It just has a friendly air about it. It’s also small enough to traverse in a few short minutes.

This year they opened a new coaster, the Patriot. It is the tallest, fastest inverted coaster in the region. How that region is defined is anyone’s guess. Since I’ve seen bigger and faster, I can only assume that the region constitutes at the very least the perimeter of the park. While the ride is silky smooth and thoroughly enjoyable, it doesn’t do anything new. In fact, the first two elements are taken directly from the many Batman: The Ride clones floating around this great country which starts out in exactly the same way. Of course, critiquing coasters like this is borderline psychotic since few people have the experience to appreciate the fineries of coaster riding, but it makes me feel better and the doctors say that’s good.

Anyhoo, even though Patriot is the marquee coaster of the park, it isn’t the best. That distinction is reserved for a little coaster called Spinning Dragons. Partly resembling a Wild Mouse coaster, riders traverse the track in single four person cars. What makes this coaster interesting is that the cars freely spin around while the ride is in motion (see pic). It’s a lot of fun, and each ride is different than the last.

Worlds of Fun also has Mamba, which is a copy of Steel Force from Dorney Park, and Boomerang, which is a copy of the dozens of Boomerang coasters that blight parks around the country. What an awful ride.

Then there is Timber Wolf or as I prefer to call it, the Lumbering Oaf. The scariest part of that wooden coaster is the fear that it might not complete the circuit and end up coming to a peaceful rest at the bottom of one of the hills. It might be the slowest wood coaster I’ve ever rode.

While this all seems fairly negative, we had a good time. I enjoyed myself, and each of the coasters. They all have their good sides, and since the trip was winding to a close, I wanted to savor every last moment.

Now, the trip is over. Tomorrow, we head back to Philly, and begin to put back the pieces of our shattered lives which consists mainly of going through a week’s worth of junk mail. With any luck the plane will take off when it is supposed to and we will get home with time enough to unpack, get reacquainted with our homes and drift off to sleep in our own beds*. I'll reflect on my vacation, then it's back to writing.

*Sleeping in your own bed can never be underestimated.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Six Flags St. Louis

If you haven’t already guessed, our stay at the St. Louis Days Inn didn’t go so well. Slow drains, exposed piping in the room as well as box electrical outlets jutting out from the wall creating that rustic, hide-the-women-and-children, warm fuzzy feeling. I’m never staying at a Days Inn again (if I can avoid it), and I am now the national spokesman for Microtel Inns*. They are cheap and, for the most part, clean and well maintained.

Enough of that. We hit Six Flags St. Louis (SFSTL) on Monday. It was oppressively hot and although there was rain in the forecast, we weren’t rained on once. SFSTL is a nice park, but it is nothing to write home about. It isn’t well maintained and is filled with forgettable rides. But because we already have Six Flags season passes, we only had to pay for parking and whatever overpriced mediocre food we wanted to consume.

But after four parks, the grind of the trip is beginning to show, and I’m becoming less patient, and generally enjoying the parks less and less. Four days ago this park would have been a nice romp. On this day it was just another Kentucky Kingdom and with the compounded heat, we were looking for an excuse to bail.

The only coaster of note was the Boss, a wooden coaster that plays good cop/bad cop at the same time. When riding it in the rear of the train, it throws you around causing multiple contusions. Eric immediately dubbed it the 300 Ughs. Because crowds were sparse, we were able to re-ride with little effort, and the wait for the front was no wait at all.

From the front, the Boss is a much smoother ride. Speed without the pain, the Boss is actually an exhilarating coaster when you strip away the rough edges. Highlighted by an unusual straight away after the first hill, the track winds through the hills and ends with a double helix ala The Beast. But while it is a fine ride, it’s no Beast, and the double helix is little more than an annoyance.

We left SFSTL early because we had a five hour commute ahead of us and no real reason to hang around. Kansas City is up next, our final stop on the trip.

*I am not a spokesman for Microtel Inns. If I could get my hands on the guy who is spreading these falsehoods, I'd give him the what for.

Holiday World

We somehow slept through the night in the rat hole formerly known as the Tell City Days Inn, scarfed down a mediocre continental breakfast punctuated by a truly awful cup of what local area residents would later describe as orange juice, and headed out to Holiday World.

The park is located in heart of wondrous Santa Claus, Indiana. The park is divided up into themed areas representing major holidays. There is Christmas, 4th of July, Halloween, and Thanksgiving (new this year). It’s a family park, so burlesque shows were hard to come by.

Holiday World is primarily a water park, but when they aren’t spending time on the lazy river, they are installing world-class coasters. All three of them are famous. Voyage, their newest, opened just this year. Some are calling it the best wood coaster in the country. Holiday World has free parking, free sunscreen and free unlimited soft drinks (I’m crappin’ ya negative). Do not underestimate the power of free beverages.

Voyage was the impetus behind my desire to go to Holiday World and to some extent the very purpose for this massive trip. So you can imagine my dismay when I saw a sign that read something like: “Voyage is closed today. Go cry to your Mommy about it.” Needless to day, it took the wind out of me. I was going to phone my mother and tell her how sad I was, but I sucked it up like a big boy and headed into the park.

Everything I read about Holiday World said it wouldn’t be that crowded on Memorial Day weekend, so, of course, the place was mobbed. We headed for our first coaster, The Raven, and saw a huge line. In reality, the crowd isn’t that huge, but the bastards in charge decided that they would only run one train that day. This caused the line to drag. We waited forty minutes to ride.

The Raven is a fine coaster with some wonderful air time with a quick paced romp through the woods. It was voted the #1 wood coaster several years in a row (2000 – 2003), and it showed. I personally, wasn’t wowed by it, but it is a solid offering.

After the Raven was the Legend. This one is taller and faster than the Raven, but a little rougher. Again, it was very good, but not anything to do cartwheels over. And again, only one train running and an unnecessary forty minute wait. My opinion of the park was steadily declining because I hate needlessly waiting in line because the park doesn’t feel like putting two trains on the track.

With both coasters out of the way, I felt a little rudderless. Instead of getting back in the long lines, we ventured down to gawk at and long for Voyage. When we reached the newly created Thanksgiving themed section of the park, I look up to see people going into The Voyage station. I look again to see a train navigating the tracks filled with people. We all rushed to the line to find it fairly short. Within minutes we were taxiing up the lift hill.

The Voyage exceeded all of my expectations. It is a wonderful ride that overshadows both the Raven and Legend. Breathtakingly fast and nimble, this ride redefines what we expect of a coaster. It breaks no records yet sets itself apart from all contenders except for maybe the Beast. Is it better? Tough call. I’d still stay with the Beast because the end double helix is just so perfect, it elevates the entire coaster to near perfect status.

While Voyage has a bump or two, they don’t hold it back. The front is a wonderful blend of speed and air time. I rode it three times. Each time, the ride got better and better. This is a wonderful coaster. It innovates as well as masters all of the traditional elements. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The Voyage single-handedly reversed my opinion of Holiday World. I still think they need to treat their customers like their time is valuable.

After Holiday World we headed west to St. Louis. Our four plus hour marathon to Missouri netted us another date with Days Inn and another sub-standard hotel room. More on that later.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Kentucky Kingdom

Greetings from Kentucky y’all. Well, actually Kentucky is a memory. I’m blogcasting live from Tell City, Indiana. We pulled up to the Days Inn to find that we had reservations in what amounted to a bomb shelter with running water. Wonder of wonders, this meager hotel was a WiFi hot spot. My bombshelter with running water has internet access! I will consider this a saving grace at least until I attempt to slumber on the semi-soft slab of concrete they call a bed.

Today we visited Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. It’s an odd-looking park plopped down in the middle of town right next to an airport. Part carnival, part water park, part corporate mega-park, it possesses a conflicted heart. The people were nice and the mullets were plentiful. It somehow amazes me how thick the accents get as we travel south and west.

Coaster-wise Kentucky Kingdom isn’t all that bad. Chang is a record breaking stand-up coaster that was a sheer joy to ride. Smooth and acrobatic, it isn’t the pain induced blur that is Cedar Point’s Mantis. We rode it twice and counted ourselves lucky for getting to experience its grandeur.

On a more traditional note, Thunder Run, a wooden coaster, looked very average but proved its mettle with a fast and mostly smooth ride. All of the other coasters (three more) were mediocre to downright painful.

This is probably our first and last trip to Kentucky Kingdom, but it’s not for a lack of quality or the result of a bad experience. While it has some solid rides, it doesn’t have the firepower to command repeated visits.

Tomorrow it is off to Holiday World located in the bustling metropolis of Santa Claus, Indiana. It is Christmas every day (Santa is always there), and the soft drinks are free with admission. Hopefully, I’ll ride a brand new coaster called the Voyage. It is supposed to be the bee’s knees. They also have the Raven* and Legend which are both regarded very highly. If nothing else we will have three world class coasters to experience.

*Someone fell off and died last year. They stood up on the train as it careened downhill. In the inner coaster circles we call acts like that… stupid.

Kings Island

The Beast

Son of Beast

We woke up to overcast skies. Rain and thunderstorms ruled the forecast. Even my best Shamanic chanting and bone throwing were no match for the waterlogged clouds. I decided to leave a good tip for the cleaning lady* in order to generate some positive, My Name is Earl, karma. The tip wasn’t sunny skies good, but it could be enough to get us through the day with a only drizzle or two (I’m not made of money people).

Paramount’s Kings Island is the second stop on our journey. It is home to the Beast, the longest wood rollercoaster on the planet. Son of Beast also resides at the park. It is the tallest (maybe 2nd tallest) wood roller coaster in the world. It also has a loop. Fuck’n A.

Our spy network confirmed that Son of Beast was down for maintenance and wouldn’t open until mid June. Bummer. There were also reports that a few of the coasters weren’t operating. Double Bummer.

So we get to the park and the sky looks miserable. Riding Beast was the first and only ride on my list (because Son of Beast was down). If I ride, it I consider my day a success. So as soon as the park opens we dash to the Beast. Well, I can’t exactly dash with my ankle the way it is, but I ambled with determination. Some call it a desperate mosey. Ok, I call it that, but nonetheless, we arrived at the Beast mere minutes after the gates opened.

It was ready to go, and we were just about the only people in the station. We waited for the front seat, and off we went. If you enjoy riding rollercoasters, then you really do owe it to yourself to get to Cincinnati and ride it before the apocalypse (It’s coming).

Before Beast I did not care for wood rollercoasters. They were rickety. They were rough. They were tame. I had no patience for them and their wooden ways. The Beast changed that. Three years ago I concluded that it was number two on my list. Today I entered the ride expecting a wonderful nostalgic ride. What I got was nothing short of a re-education.

The ride was wicked fast. The front was fairly smooth, and with the weight of the train behind you, the scenery was a blur. What makes Beast so good is the fact that the first part of it is a fantastic, almost peerless tear through the wilderness. The second part is almost beyond words. There is a Nirvana. The emotional and physical coalesce in a finale that is breathtaking. I know this reeks of hyperbole, but it I swear it isn’t. It’s the truth.

The second part of the ride begins with a second lift hill. This hill drops the rider into a long gradual descent into a double helix. This gradual descent results in a train that seems to be clearly out of control, dangerously so. At breakneck speed, it slams into the tunnel to start the double helix. Light pours in from holes in the seemingly rickety boards that make up the tunnel.

You careen through the tunnel, white-knuckled, praying to the Burger King (or whoever it is you worship). The train continues to gain speed until you are sure the train will jump the track, but it doesn’t. It never has in 25 years yet no matter how many times you ride it, but that fact gives you no solace in the moment.

I finished the ride in awe, and instantly I knew that this work of art was the best coaster I had ever rode, wood, steel or otherwise. I ended up riding it four times before leaving for the day.

Back to the park. In the morning, there were a number of coasters that were closed (as our intelligence indicated). We found out that most, if not all, of the rides would eventually open. So why were they closed? They were short staffed, and wouldn’t be getting reinforcements until 4pm when school let out. I can’t tell you how comforting it is to know that little Johny has to finish his spelling test before I could ride Top Gun.

The unexpected highlight of the day was that Son of Beast eventually opened despite what the intelligence gatherers said, and I rode it exactly one time. It was all I could bear. Like it’s father, Son of Beast is fast and furious. It is long and has a loop, fuck’n A, to spice things up. Unfortunately, the ride is so rough it rearranged some of my bones. I’m also kinda sure it bruised my brain (as I write this, I have no memory of the fourth grade and I’m not entirely sure how to do long division).

Son of Beast is a wonderful, horrible ride that I will look forward to riding each and every time I go to that park. Each time I will hold hope that they find a way to fix the organ-liquefying jostling that goes on during the ride.

In the end, the weather held out minus one or two isolated showers. The sun even came out for a spell. We went on every coaster we wanted to, and left for Kentucky at around 7:30pm.

Tomorrow and for the rest of the trip, we are in uncharted territory. All four parks are new to us, so we will be sampling coaster culture from Kentucky to Kansas City. I may not have web access again until Monday or Tuesday night. At that point, I hope to throw some more thoughts up here.

*It's kind of presumptuous for me to assume that the person cleaning the room is a woman. It could very well be a man wearing a skirt who answers to the name Alice.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Cedar Point

One park down, five to go. Millennium Force was down for the day and the forecast threatened thunderstorms. While we would not get to ride our favorite coaster, the weather held out quite nicely. In the group photo (from left to right) it is Winfield, Sean, Jessica (my wife), Eric, and Greg. Eric, Greg, Jess, and I have been taking marathon coaster trips like this one for some time now. Winfield and Sean are two coaster fanatics who joined us for day one and headed home.

Day one went great. We rode some coasters and the weather was fine except for a slight tornado warning* that pretty much ended our day, but that didn't happen until early evening after we had accomplished nearly all we wanted to do. The park wasn't crowded at all except for a bunch of school field trips and a gaggle of specially abled individuals. One of them rode a wooden coaster called Blue Streak right before our friend Greg was to board. While waiting to be collected, this person, who was already slobbering all over everything, proceeded to put the entire buckle that riders use to restrain themselves into his mouth. Greg had the attendant wipe off the buckle afterward, but I maintain that the belt buckle was sufficiently cleaned by the kindly gentlemen's mouth.

After changing into dry clothes after being soaked by a downpour, we picked up stakes and traveled the 4 hours South to Mason, Ohio. I write this now minutes before I slumber and attempt to do it all over again tomorrow at Kings Island.

The Beast awaits. More on that later.

*No shit. It started to rain hard, and we huddled in the coaster station to keep from being soaked. Then the dutiful attendants told us to leave the station and take cover lest we be sucked up by a twister. The tornado never did come (sigh), but we saw some wicked cool lightning.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

More on That Later

Six amusement parks, seven seven days (see illustration).

Now you have to understand, I don't like long car trips, and my arthritic right ankle swells up inflicting untold pain on me if I walk on it for an extended period of time (20 seconds).

So why then would I embark on a journey that involves over ten miles of walking and over a thousand miles on the road? Two words. Roller coasters. I love 'em, and each year me and my compatriots venture out in search of new coasters to ride.

This year we are doing a sweep of the Midwest. Starting out at Cedar Point amusement park off of Lake Erie, we will sweep down and through to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, then fly home. Along the way we will visit Paramount's Kings Island in Cincinnati, Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville, Holiday World in, get this, Santa Claus Indiana, and Six Flags St. Louis in our first of two parks in the great state of Missouri.

The itinerary goes something like this:
Fly to Pittsburgh on Wednesday, drive 3 hours to Cedar Point and stay the night.
Go to the park on Thursday, all day
Drive 4 hours to Kings Island, sleep for a few hours
Get up at the crack of dawn and go to the park and walk around all day.
Then after we are all thoroughly exausted and ready to pick fights with Girl Scouts, we will drive to Kentucky Kingdom.

Rinse... repeat. You get the idea... for seven days. No potty breaks. Do not pass go. Deposit 200 dollars.

We will be deriving most of our nourishment from the park's ample supply of chicken fingers, hamburgers, and waffle cones. By the end of this Bataan Death March* of a vacation we will be weary, but we will thankful that it is all over. We won't regret a second. At least I won't.

Unfortunately, I just discovered that my favorite coaster is currently down for X-Files-like reasons. Luckily I have tasted its sweet nectar before. To add insult to injury, it looks like we will be dodging a steady stream of lightning bolts all day long.

I hope this is not an indicator of what's to come. If any of our hotels have internet access (I think a couple do), I'll throw up a post or two during my journey and hopefully have a pic or two to share. All of you who are interested (Hi Mom), will be taken on a wonderous journey full of pitfalls and revelations not unlike the coasters I will be riding. Of course I could just be some idiot blogging to an indifferent universe.

*I really shouldn't compare the Bataan Death March to my trip as I am pretty sure the soldiers who went through that ordeal had absolutely no access to roller coasters.

Monday, May 22, 2006


Now that I’ve completed my first draft and am waiting to go on vacation (more on that later), I figured I’d put together some metrics. This may or may not be of interest to you, but for me, it is an interesting way to look at how you work, and what you might be might be capable of in the future.

Let’s take a look at the overall numbers:

Total Pages: 165
Given that it is better to write too much than too little, this is still more than is necessary. I’m going to have to chop out 50 or more pages.

Total Words: 31,122
Not an important stat, but because my script is description heavy, I expect this number to drop considerably during rewrites and for future scripts as my craft improves.

Total calendar days: 38 with an average of 4.34 per day.
This is just tells me how much actual time it took me to write and how productive I was while still including the days I did not write.

Total Writing days: 26 with an average of 6.36 pages per day.
This shows how prolific I was while writing.

Now lets take a look at the work itself.

Act I
Length: 37 pages
Total calendar days: 12 with an average of 3.08 pages per day.
Total writing days: 7 with an average of 5.2 pages per day.

All in all, not too shabby. Started off a little slow, but acceptably so.

Act II
Length: 92
Total calendar days: 22 with an average of 4.18 pages per day.
Total writing days: 16 with an average of 5.75 pages per day.

Clearly Act II is way too long, but I’m happy with the output nonetheless.

Length: 36 pages
Total calendar days: 3 with an average of 12 pages per day.
Total writing days: 3 with an average of 12 pages per day.

When you get down to the end, you just want to belt it out ASAP. Of course I was staring in the face of a deadline of getting it done before vacation*.

The Big Picture:

So what does it all mean? Well, it is obvious that if I can wrangle in Act II better next time, my writing time will be shortened by a few days. But I might not be able to devote the same amount of time to Act III in the future so it might not affect the overall timeline too much.

Using the above information as a guide I could theoretically write the first draft of a 90 page script in 21 total days. A 120 page script would take 28 days. Considering the anchor that is my full-time job, writing a first draft in under a month, at this point, is a worthy and achievable goal.

*More on that later.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Minutes ago I put the final touches on my football script. And my God, it weighs in at 165 pages. Part of me is unhappy that I overwrote by about 50 pages, but the rational part believes that it is much easier to cut down, than to build up.

I just hope that when it comes time to kill my children that I can do it with a clean conscience and a sound mind*. I know there is a lot of bloat, but hopefully I can salvage the gems while cutting out the fat. Is that a mixed metaphor? I don't care. I'm tired.

Now I can go on my roller coaster vacation (more on that later) with a clean conscience. When I get back I'll survey the damage and start a rewrite.

*If you thought, even for a fleeting moment that I honestly was talking about murdering real children, then you have neither a clean conscience nor a sound mind...sick-o.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Act III - The Anvil Nears

92 pages. 18 days. 5 pages a day (roughly). Act II is in the can. All 92 pages of it. Yeah it went long, so what of it? What I hope to learn from this is how to best construct an outline that resembles an actual story. I failed this time out, but next time maybe I will have the knowledge and foresight to construct an outline that yields only an 89 page second act (baby steps to the act break).

Now it's on to Act III. The good thing is that Act III is fairly concrete in the outline. The bad thing is that I really want to get this puppy done before I go on vacation (next Wednesday), and so I hoped to get a draft done by this Saturday. I need time to unwind and relax before this cruel mistress of a vacation is upon me. I plan to write all night tonight and tomorrow. If I can write “FADE OUT” before 10am on Saturday, I will count myself lucky.

Once done, I will hand my first draft over to my good friend Ryan, who will do me the honor of suffering through it for a read. I’m not afraid to let him read my stuff at its worst because he already knows that I not write good. So he will read it, and he will weep, and I will promise to use verbs… again, and after all of the crying and writhing is over, we will go back to being friends, but I’ll have to go on knowing that my words have killed just a little part of him. Somehow, I will.

But it gets better. Ryan will most likely be the very first person to read it. And when I mean first, I mean first as in before me.

No, I don’t read my stuff as I write. I might glance over the previous day’s work, but for the most part I don’t like to dwell on the past. So, I’ll write and I’ll leave those particular dogs to their slumber. Ryan can wake them up, cuz I want no parts of those mean SOBs. Truth be told, the real reason I probably do all of this is so when I give him the next draft, it will be exponentially better, and my merely mediocre script will seem like it was shat out by Charlie Kaufman, and I will be temporarily restored to literate status*.

*The opinions of my subconscious do not necessarily reflect the views of the host Tom entity, and will be denied by said entity if questioned.