Posted by Bob Greenberger on February 27, 2012
After toiling in other people’s universes, I have a pretty good idea as to how worldbuilding should be done. I’ve seen it handled well and seen it done not so well. I have certainly contributed to shared worlds such as the Latchkeys universe that is now here and worked within the strictures of the DC Universe and of course, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Until now, though, I haven’t had to do any universe building of my own – at nothing that has ever been completed and seen printing (those are still developing).
But, to be hired to work on someone else’s world and be asked to help build it, now that’s an interesting creative challenge. Almost a year ago, Peter David contacted me and Mike Friedman about joining him on doing some work for M. Night Shyamalan’ s next movie 1000 AE. An original story, it was to star Jaden Smith, son of Will, and was set, well, 1000 years after mankind has left Earth. We signed the standard Non-Disclosure Statement and were shown the screenplay, which at the time was a draft from Gary Whitta, reworked by the director.
Since then, the movie morphed into After Earth, and now stars Will and Jaden Smith. You can see it for yourself on June 7, 2013.
Our assignment: figure out how things got this way. We got on the phone with some of the crew at Overbrook Productions, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s outfit, asked our questions, heard their ideas, and was pretty much freed to figure things out. Our main contact has been Caleeb Pinkett, Jada’s brother and a more enthusiastic, smart supporter you cannot ask for. We had several months to research, draft, and present and since the three of us have been working together for over 20 years, we had a comfortable rhythm.
I cannot tell you how much fun it was to figure things out. It meant reading history and science and trying to come up with spins on things so they weren’t stereotypical. We had to think about space, alien lifeforms, interstellar travel, rebuilding human society over a millennia, all using the script as our only guide. And of course, being a movie, the script kept evolving and we had to keep up with it.
We delivered a 273-page Bible, color coded to identify different threads and timelines. Fairly quickly, word came back that they loved it. Then they asked for some minor tweaks. Since then, after a new screenplay draft was written by Stephen Gaghan, they have come back to us to do some additional writing as new elements required explanation and background.
The notion that we’ve invented some things that may turn up in the movie and related material or be the basis for others to work with was pretty cool.
Plus, there are other After Earth plans in the works, but I can’t go into detail yet. Once we’re allowed to share, trust me, we will. You have no idea how exciting this has been to work on – more for spending quality time with Peter and Mike than the Hollywood glitz of it, but that part ain’t shabby.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on February 24, 2012
My second week as a fulltime student teacher was certainly a lively one and it continued to open my eyes into how much time and prep is required.
In World Lit Seminar, we were concluding Imagining Argentina and I tried a few tricks to prompt my students into better participation. First, I assigned journal prompts to see if that would have them come in better prepared. I gave two pop quizzes to ensure they were actually keeping up with the reading and I graded their journals one day. It seemed to help overall and they responded better.
On Tuesday last week, I had my first formal observation from my advisor so I donned a tie and my kids rose to the occasion. They used their journals to kick off the morning conversation and when I had them pair off to work up a list of themes which we then charted on the computer screen, it worked well. My write-up was positive and I have potential, he thinks.
Wednesday was a chance for the kids to use the quotes they had been collecting from the beginning, and use them in groups to create Found Poems. Not only did it give them something creative to do, it allowed them a chance to review the material as we prepared to close out the novel with a graded seminar discussion. Thursday, they should have finished the book and come in prepared with questions they wanted to offer for the discussion and I let them review, revise and accept the questions to be used. This gave them talking points to study for and on Friday one of my two classes would have the seminar while the other would have to wait until after the winter break.
The kids brought their A game, which was observed by my cooperating teacher. It was a solid conversation that didn’t need much facilitating from me. We actually ran out of time before questions which was a good mark and my post-observation discussion went well and I can now try the advice when we return to school.
Meantime, over in English 10, we were concluding poetry and did a little grammar, preparing to move them into Shakespeare. The students in those classes have taken to calling me Mr. G or Coach G. (where that came from I can’t say). My teacher there spent quite a bit of time with me reviewing the students’ personalities and needs as I continued to refine my Macbeth lesson plan. For that, feel I will need to be practically scripted and will spend this week completing my detailed notes.
Two first year teachers were telling me how they teach all day, stay after school to do work then go home for a few more hours of work and prep. It sounds all-consuming and I was assured it is the first two-three years but by then you have built up a repertoire of lessons and techniques and will feel more comfortable and relaxed, which explains how I see the more veteran teachers jot some notes to themselves and go teach.
The lessons continue, even during this week off.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on February 22, 2012
Normally, I am filled with excitement right about now. I wax rhapsodic about the coming of spring as signaled by the Mets’ pitchers and catchers reporting to Port St. Lucie for Spring Training. It is usually a sign of renewal and hope.
This year, I felt the anticipation building but without the fervor and the team officially reported yesterday and I still struggle to muster the enthusiasm. I love the team and hope for the best and will try to go to Citi Field and catch a few games, but I just know right now that the team being fielded will not be able to compete.
The team’s management clearly mishandled their investments with Bernard Madoff and with Irving Picard coming at them for the profits they didn’t earn, coupled with an operating loss of something like $70 million; the team could not afford to be very active during the winter to plug the holes that were clearly needed. As a result, the team couldn’t even pretend to be serious about Jose Reyes, not making him a formal offer and letting him go to the free-spending Florida Marlins.
Most of the other teams in the division made some significant upgrades while the league as a whole probably let more talent slip to the American League than vice versa. Still, the Mets who will take the field on Opening Day are a mix of young and promising and those passing their prime years without a feared starter on the mound or closer in the bullpen.
It’ll be great to see a healed and healthy Ike Davis man first base, tossing to a healthy Daniel Murphy at second. David Wright, the face of the team for the last few years, remains at third but the entire first half of the season will be clouded with questions of management trading him by the July 31 deadline. Such distractions usually take their toll on a hitter but we can hope the revised right field wall at the ballpark might compensate for that as he hits more homers and regains confidence on the field. Ruben Tejada is a slick fielder but in no way replaces Reyes as a table-setter or base-running threat.
The outfield will have Jason Bay in left, hoping for one more season of power and right will be patrolled by Lucas Duda, whose bat may be the team’s best hope. He’s a better first baseman, it seems, so it’ll be interesting to see where he winds up. The newly acquired centerfielder Andres Torres will have to prove he can hit, field, and blend in with the team.
The rotation is solid but unspectacular and it all comes down to how healthy Johan Santana is more than a year after his surgery. He began throwing off the mound the last few days so we’ll see what happens. Still, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, and Mike Pelfrey are all swell guys but no one fears them. Johan or a surprise will round out the team and the mildly upgraded bullpen should hold more games, keeping them competitive but there is no closer to shut down the opposition.
This is a transitional year as the youth movement continues, the Picard case goes to trial, and the team saves their money for next winter when a strong crop of free agents might be on hand to help. For the 2012 season, I can but hope they play with heart and keep the travails off the field not be a distraction.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on February 20, 2012
Uncle Donnie helped paint my bedroom before I was born. His wife, Ruth, and my mother were as close as two sisters can be and Don was a part of my life. They married before my mother and had two children before I arrived, but it felt as if we were growing up together. As was the habit, the two families left the boroughs and headed for Long Island. With pride the two houses were exactly eight miles apart door to door, meaning we’d see one other with regularity.
As I grew up, Don would take us on his motorboat for a day of fishing. On the way back home, we’d stop for Dairy Queen, warned not to drip ice cream on his precious car. He was the first car fiend I knew and he was successful enough in work to change cars every few years, preferring diesel engines.
In time, he would hire me to come help him prepare the boat each spring. My pay was a fat roast beef deli sandwich, some chips and a soda. I don’t recall if we ever spoke that much or what we talked about, but it was companionable time together.
Later on, when I had my first college girlfriend, he cracked a joke that acknowledged he was accepting me as an adult, something I truly appreciated. He also helped me buy my first car for which I remain grateful.
As I entered the publishing field, he’d often inquire about the mechanics behind the comics given his role in a company that manufactured prints for businesses, hotels, and the like. It was a family business he entered after marrying Aunt Ruth and rose quickly through his hard work but blood won out, eventually forcing him from the only real job he knew.
Having grown up in Bridgeport, he knew plenty about Fairfield so gave us recommendations when we moved up and it turned out he knew people we had come to know while a niece of his wound up a classmate of Kate and Robbie’s.
Our time together was never long but frequent enough to be friendly and supportive. He didn’t ask much of the world. Time to fish and play cards, read, and see friends. An avid Giants fan, I knew not to call on Sundays during the games and our last conversation was on Super Bowl Sunday and he was looking forward to the game.
Don’s life as an active senior grew complicated from various illnesses and this past year proved exceedingly difficult for him. He grew frailer and more tired until finally he began a series of hospital visits and while there, had a heart attack that began his decline. He wasn’t ready to go quite yet, surviving that but moving into hospice care where he hung on for one final week, a final chance to talk to Ruth and his daughter Ellen, my mom, Uncle Eric, and Aunt Myra.
He finally passed this morning and for the last few weeks he has weighed heavily on my mind. He endured much personally and professionally but wasn’t one to complain. He was there for the family and reveled in all of our accomplishments – an ideal uncle in that regard. Family gatherings will be a little less relaxed with his absence but his spirit will remain with us all.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on February 19, 2012
The nicest thing about Farpoint is just how relaxed a convention it can be. For whatever reason, this weekend was one of the best con experiences I’ve had in a long time. First, the storm that threatened to spoil the show never materialized. Second, the guests had a great time and shared their enthusiasm with the crowd. Dealers reported good sales which is also a good barometer of the mood.
We arrived Friday night after an unusually hellacious trip down, just in time for the Prometheus Radio theater production to kick off the events. Actresses Kate Vernon and Kristen Bauer were on hand to participate and were clearly enjoying themselves performing with the regulars. They were followed by a ridiculously short two-song set by the Boogie Knights. We skipped the remainder of the program to finish checking in, unpacking and saying hi to tons of people. Soon after it was time for karaoke and hearing Kate belt a few which was fun.
Saturday was its usual self, starting with me chatting then showing movie trailers, aided by Glenn Hauman. I managed to visit with folk until I participated in the two hour writer’s workshop which was a little less structured than usual but the small audience seemed to appreciate hearing from Howard Weinstein, David Galanter, Kelly Meding, Bob Jones and me.
With an hour between panels, the Crazy 8 Press gang met to go over the usual business nonsense then trooped to the panel room and regaled one and all with wit and witticisms.
I was invited to be a judge at the Masquerade and got to meet the guests, including Michael Hogan who was a real pleasure. The masquerade was a strong one and we enjoyed the experience. In the judge’s room, Deb was given the chance to select the recipient of the Robbie Greenberger Most Original Award. After we concluded our work, we returned to the ballroom where Marty Gear was auctioning off a variety of items, including a meet and greet with Kristen. He got the bidding up with a person pledge of $325 but began telling a prolonged vampire joke until more money was raised. Alan Chafin grabbed an empty box and began canvassing the room to collect spare change and bills as Marty’s joke droned on. People were tossing in their cash and it was being rapidly counted. Hogan, Peter, and I made our contributions and we finished with something like an additional $360, which let Marty tell the overdue punch line. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by Bob Greenberger on February 16, 2012
Hard to believe, but it’s already time for the spring convention season to get underway. I hit three shows in fairly rapid succession, helping transition from winter to spring, and renewing acquaintances or seeing friends. And of course, plenty of time to interact with fans, which is the primary reason I’ll be attending.
Farpoint, in Timonium, Maryland, gets underway Friday and I’ll be there all weekend long. Here’s my schedule:
10-11:00 AM: Trailer Park aided and abetted by my pal Glenn Hauman.
1-3:00: Writers Workshop
This is Howard Weinstein’s baby but he invites several of us to participate and he usually has me address matters of time management among other creative aspects.
4-5:00: PM Crazy 8 Press
All six of us: Howie, Glenn, Peter David, Aaron Rosenberg, Mike Friedman, and yours truly will be trumpeting what we’ve done, how we’ve done it, and what’s coming next.
10-11:00 AM: Bob & Howie Show
Once more, Howie and I will regale a bleary-eyed audience with news about ourselves, topics of interest, topics that interest the fans, and general chit chat.
1-2:00 PM: Comics: Reboots, Crises, and Civil Wars
A general comics conversation, as several of us argue amongst ourselves (for your amusement), what has been going right or wrong over the last year or two.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on February 14, 2012
One of my goals during the semester break was to complete reading the growing stack of comics on my night table. While it took me longer than I expected, I actually caught up on every periodical on hand. I had been working hard to stay close to Flashpoint then the New 52, but it meant the Vertigo titles were stacking up, forlorn and whimpering.
I like many of the titles and appreciate that all of them have different tones and voices, set largely in their own worlds, allowing for greater personal perspective. The line has waxed and waned and is poised for refreshing in the coming months as a number of their longer running books wrapped up.
The Vertigo books, more than the DCU titles, cry for collection. Some of that has to do with the sometimes erratic publishing schedules but also the fact that none of them are meant to be read in single-issue installments. Just about every book I read was a chapter in a longer arc that was clearly intended to be collected.
Editorially, I object because it makes the books inaccessible. If any DCE titles needed recap pages, it was these books, especially if there were more than four weeks between issues, which happened a lot. As a result, it meant my sitting and reading four to six issues of each title made for a far more satisfying reading experience. Apparently writing done-in-one stories just isn’t the Vertigo model.
Creatively, the most consistent of the books remains Fables which continues to find new and interesting ways to use the fairy tale characters of our childhood. Bill Willingham deserves all his praise for the sustained effort, along with kudos for letting others play along. Chris Roberson did some marvelous work with his Cinderella miniseries. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by Bob Greenberger on February 12, 2012
This was my week to begin solo teaching in World Literature Seminar. The students had been given a schedule with the expected reading, two writing assignments, things they were to note in their journals. As a result, there were no secrets what we were doing day by day. I was preparing like crazy, making sure I had plenty of background material and notes to talk about. I was psyched and ready to lead some spirited conversations.
I was therefore somewhat stunned and disappointed to find that regardless of preparation, both classes more or less sat there. Lump-like, they would answer a question and let it lay there to die a lonely death rather than ignite a discussion. On more than one occasion, I ran out of material without a plan B because no one would pick up on a thread and run with it or argue with one another.
Worse, on Thursday, my cooperating teaching observed and scribbled furiously. She assured me it contained both good and constructive notes but we will discuss this tomorrow so I await her thoughts. After one of the classes that day, I walked up to four of the guys and asked why they weren’t talking, and that’s when we finally began the class discussion I had been hoping for. I used that to open Friday’s class which helped a lot.
What’s weird is that I didn’t feel this much pressure in December when I had less time to prep and had five classes to teach. The difference of course is that this is what counts. This is what will determine if I get certified and therefore become employable. There’s a tremendous weight that comes with it and I am trying not to let it get to me.
Their first papers arrived on Friday and I spent Saturday proctoring ACT tests and giving the papers a read, making notes and copy editing. I’ll read them a second time before grading because I want to get this right.
I also spent part of the week finishing my plans for Macbeth and reviewed them with my other teacher. She made some good comments and I gave her a revision which we will talk about tomorrow. This week, I worked with the students as they worked with writing a précis about the poems they had chosen. It was educational for me and I was glad I could translate to help students get their work done. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by Bob Greenberger on February 7, 2012
Growing up, I always recognized that Ramona Fradon’s artwork was different, curvier and softer in many ways than Gil Kane or Carmine Infantino. But you couldn’t help but like her open, appealing storytelling and characters. Her artistic touch on Metamorpho and later Super Friends were perfect while she was badly miscast on things like Freedom Fighters and even selected issues of The Brave and the Bold.
From the legion of writers and artists working in the first two generations of comics, Ramona was one I had never had the chance to meet or speak with. It was therefore serendipitous when Dynamite Entertainment invited me to edit The Art of Ramona Fradon which is a visual showcase for her work and was an extended conversation between the artist and fellow creator Howard Chaykin. Chaykin spoke with her on numerous occasions and the raw transcript needed to be shaped which is what I did. But in researching her career, I realized there were pockets of work Howard never explored and other gaps that needed filling in. (And speaking of Chaykin, my overdue The Art of Howard Chaykin retrospective is finally on press and should be out in the spring.)
I was tasked with calling her myself and conducting a supplemental interview so I found myself spending about ninety wonderful minutes with Ramona last year. She was gracious and displayed a pretty good memory so those gaps filled in nicely.
It was easy, then, to take the various transcripts and edit it into a pretty coherent chronology of her life and career. The book took time to assemble given the hunt for illustrations from across her career but the work is done and I see it now being solicited in the current issue of Diamond reviews.
If you grew up on her work and want to get to know the artist, I strongly suggest you get this for yourself. I’m certainly proud of having worked on this, honoring Ramona and her work.
After the cut is the complete press release with additional details. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by Bob Greenberger on February 4, 2012
It was a rush.
I finalized my Unit Plan on Imagining Argentina earlier in the week and began rereading the book, taking notes for the day-by-day discussion. My cooperating teacher scheduled a review of the plan for Thursday after school so there was plenty of time. But as the week wore on, she realized she was going to be more or less done with her foundation work by Thursday. As we reviewed the schedule, taking us through the end of the third quarter, it actually made more sense to begin the book on Friday so we’d be done by the winter break.
On Thursday, the plan needed only one minor tweak, which built off of a class exercise we had just done and she promised the students we’d be doing again. That was easy so I adjusted my plan then prepared a unit schedule to hand out to each class, copied everything they needed and could just wait.
Now, I had five classes all to myself in December, with nowhere near this amount of prep time, but Friday I found myself with butterflies. I was genuinely nervous, partly because this was real; it counted towards my certification and was not an emergency Band-Aid. At long last, I was actually going to have my teaching observed and critiqued.
Period 3 wound up having a fascinating, eye-opening conversation about language heard in school, showing conscious and unconscious forms of negative language being used. As a result, there was suddenly less than 15 minutes for me to hand out the books and schedule plus take them through a brief history of the country to set the stage for what they were going to read. That zipped right by.
For the next period, even though we were having an equally interest conversation, we were more conscious of the time and I did get through the full presentation. However, a student asked a question I thought I was prepared for and sort of fumphered my way through the answer. Afterwards, it was suggested I admit to not having the full answer and would get back to him the next class.
And with that, my six weeks running World Literature Seminar was underway. Meantime, I helped my 10th Grade teacher by playing accuracy judge for all four of her English 10 classes during the in-class Poetry Out Loud competition. That certainly filled my day and helped me get over the surprising anxiety. I still need to complete outlining my Macbeth unit plan for her, but at least have a little more time for that.
Now we’ll have to see how the students react to my solo performance with my first formal observation set for week’s end.