Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Song #5: "Children's Crusade"

My latest song could be medieval--or modern. Here is the tune (synthetic piano), the sheet music and me singing the song (poorly). The full lyrics are below (not too meaningful without the music). Midi file available upon request. Both the tune and the words are my own original work.

Children's Crusade

From the fields and farms,
From the town and city,
Children take up arms.
They are proud and pretty,
Knowing God chooses them for His holy war.

Their names we will etch in stone.
For a word, they will die alone,
On fields far from home.

We will serve our lord.
We will write our story.
We will wield our sword.
We will fight for His glory,
Then return to our land for eternity.

We have never gone this far.
We have lost our guiding star.
And our faith won't tell us now which way to go.
We don't know who to ask, who to show.

We will cross the sea.
We will serve our mission.
We have bravery.
We have holy permission
To invade what God made only for ourselves.

We have sailed so far from home.
In the sea we will drown alone,
Disowned, to atone.

It was not long ago we could rest,
Feeling safe at our mother's breast,
Feeling warm in a world of consistency
In the arms that could know what's best.
We have had our regrets.

From the farms and fields,
From the town and city,
Children took up arms.
They were brave and pretty,
Knowing God chose them for His holy war.

They would never come back here.
In the sands, they would disappear,
Long ago, far from here.
There is only one thing known,
On a monument of stone,
Their names, alone.

We were children once.
We are souls forever.
We will learn to dance.
We will dance for our pleasure,
Knowing God welcomes us to his home.
We return to reclaim our own,
At last not alone.
Lyrics and tune copyright © Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173.

Also see my other songs and screen stories at Love Strangely.com

Monday, December 22, 2008

My Life Disrupted by 'Slumdog Millionaire'

Yesterday, I went to the multiplex, paid for one movie and saw two. Apart from the satisfaction of screwing the system, this technique gives me the chance to see movies I wouldn't normally see, that I probably wouldn't have the courage to step into otherwise. The second movie is free, so what the heck. But of course it's the second one that usually changes my life.

Yesterday, Movie #1 was Quantum of Solace. Intellectually, it was a quantum of nothingness, but I managed to sit through it anyway -- unusual for me, being that I can't even tolerate a half-hour TV show anymore.

Bond was up to his old meaningless antics of car chases, fistfights, implausible escapes, flippant deaths and gratuitous explosions. What made the product go down easily was the gritty documentary reality it was packaged in. Bond hit the usual European glamor spots but also the Latin American slums. The editing was rapid and visceral and made you feel like you were really there. You could hardly detect the CG graphics or the gazillion dollars it cost to make.

Movie #2 was Slumdog Millionaire, a fairly conventional and implausible boy-meets-girl story set in a startling location: the slums of Bombay. This is the one that kept me awake all night.

In Slumdog, a boy from the rougher side of the city defies the odds and wins the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." Of course, he also wins the impossibly beautiful and virtuous girl in the end.

Movie #1 was a conventional Hollywood product flavored with a layer of dirty reality. Movie #2 was dirty reality sugar-coated with a conventional Hollywood product. In Slumdog, the relative predictability of the script and the frequent references to Americanized culture allow a truly horrifying reality to seep in. Those slums and the countless lives tragically wasted there are REAL.

Yeah, it's a movie, but this reality wasn't created on a sound stage. They just opened the doors of Bollywood, turned the cameras around and started filming the neighborhoods nearby. Unemployed? You ain't seen unemployment, Baby! Poverty? Dickens' characters had it posh! India wrote the book on human degradation, but it takes exceptional circumstances to bring that reality into the American consciousness.

Intensity-averse wuss that I am, I wanted to turn away. I wanted to walk out of the theater, but the script kept lapsing back into farce, reminding me "It's only a movie," and holding me down in my chair.

The young protagonist is sitting on the high-tech set of a glossy TV show recalling his horribly low-tech childhood. It's the hokey but familiar setting of the TV show that keeps us anchored in reality -- that is, in OUR reality, which is an artificial creation in itself.

Slumdog owes a lot to Salaam, Bombay, Mira Nair's 1988 film that first brought us the slums of Mumbai and the orphans surviving there. Slumdog is even more effective because it mixes the two worlds and gives us frequent familiar references to our own culture. No longer is this a tragedy of a land far, far away but only a few feet from the call center worker you talked to yesterday.

But the movie I most associate with Slumdog is The Matrix. It's like we've taken the red pill and are finally seeing the reality that was there all along, behind our own false computer-generated one. It's an ugly, offensive reality, but it is what it is, and you don't make it go away by pretending it isn't there or, as American's usually do, by trying to buy it off.

As many American references as there are in Slumdog, the protagonist has only one brief encounter with real Americans. The scene is played as farce but captures our culture perfectly. An American couple, driving an expensive car, want to see the "real" India, so the boy shows them the slums. While they are away from the car for a few minutes, local hoodlums totally strip it, leaving only the shell. When the boy and the couple return, the boy is blamed, and a policeman starts beating him for it.

The couple recognize the boy's innocence and are offended by the open injustice of the beating. Insurance will cover the car, and they remedy the injustice to the boy in the American way: by giving him a hundred dollar bill. They have now paid off reality and can go back to their comfortable suburban matrix.

I wish it were that easy for me.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Theory of Personality Change

Most great movies aren't really about fighting evil or saving the planet; they are about a single character facing his own internal demons. The protagonist encounters an outside difficulty (alien invasion, false arrest, serial killer, etc.) which challenges his basic assumptions about life. To win the battle, he has to overcome a barrier inside himself. Only then can he slay the external monster.

To defeat the enemy, the hero has to do something different than what he is programmed for. He has to "trust the Force," take responsibility, rely on others or adopt some other philosophy that is normally alien to him. In doing so, he shows some insight into his own previously self-defeating behavior.

In real life, we each face similar challenges. We are flawed heroes in our own movies. From time to time, unexpected difficulties arise, and defeating them often depends on detecting our own defects and counteracting them.

They don't make many movies about unemployment, divorce, mental illness, alcoholism or loneliness, but if they did, they would show a hero making compromises where he never thought he would. Like in the movies, the conflict could make the protagonist stronger in the end, but only if he rises to the challenge, finds some insight and changes his behavior.

We each possess a "personality." That is the style we have of interacting with the world. One person, for example, may be a natural salesman, while another prefers detached mathematical problems. Our personality is our script, engraved in our nervous system, that we play out again and again in a variety of circumstances. If we move to a new city and start our life over from scratch, our personality will follow us, to the point where we will probably find ourselves in remarkably similar circumstances to the ones we left behind.

Our personality is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because at least we know what to do with ourselves in new circumstances: We repeat the tricks that seemed to work for us in the past. It is a curse because our personality reinforces itself in what we choose to see and do. Thus, it can prevent us from escaping from our own dysfunctional behavior.

In the movies, the protagonist usually has a fatal flaw—say, a fear of snakes, a fear of commitment or a fear of repeating some traumatic past event. This trait initially developed as a survival mechanism to protect the character's fragile ego at a time when he was vulnerable. Once formed, however, the trait distorts his decision-making, often encouraging the exact emotional circumstances he most fears.

Why do some people find themselves in abusive relationships again and again? Their personality leads them there. They don't want to be abused, but their assumptions about life, probably formed in childhood, somehow draw them back into the same circumstances where abuse thrives. An abusive environment is comforting in a way, because at least it is familiar to them and they know how to respond.

Any trait that is a "talent" in one set of circumstances can become a barrier in another. For example, obsessive dedication to a goal might help you get ahead when the goal is truly achievable, but it can sap years from your life when the goal is unrealistic. Every personality has its drawbacks, and confronting them is one of the fundamental dramas of life.

A good rule of thumb when dealing with others is that personalities don't change after childhood. They are too engraved in the nervous system. There is no way to talk someone out of their dysfunctional behavior, no matter how rational you think the issues are. Addicts will be addicts and paranoids will be paranoids no matter how much your counsel them or offer them alternatives. Because the basic patterns are so deeply ingrained, your ability to change people by cognitive means is extremely limited.

And yet people have to change to adapt to the real world, and they do change! It is something that usually requires drama, however, just like in the movies, and the process is almost never pleasant.

A personality is self-reinforcing, because the decisions a person makes tend to lead them into circumstances in which they feel most at home. If someone has the power to mold his own environment, the personality will have free rein to continue its flaws, because there is no incentive to change. True personality change only happens when the person hits a brick wall and there are no alternatives.

In a Hollywood production, it may take an alien invasion to force change in a character. In real life, it's divorce, unemployment, the death of a loved one or some other basic rupture in the space-time continuum. Pain formed the personality and only pain can change it.

Sadly, there's no way around it: People usually have to face the hard consequences of their action before they get that "Ah-hah!" moment where they try a different technique. An addict (as all of us are) has to hit rock bottom before he is really ready for change.

Of course, reality might kill him first, just like the monsters in the movies, but that's the nature of the game. The stakes have to be high, and you have to be facing a genuine abyss before you will question your strategies.

—G .C.

©Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173.

Friday, December 19, 2008

How to Sleep at an Airport

NOTE: This article has been rewritten and re-released in Homeless by Choice: How to Sleep In An Airport
Go there instead! (Article below retained only for archive purposes.)

Two days ago, the Las Vegas airport was shut down by snow, and my cross-country flight was diverted to Phoenix. I have been living at the Phoenix airport since then, and I may have to stay here three more nights before I can finally get to Las Vegas. That's the risk of flying standby during the Christmas rush.

I feel a lot like Tom Hanks in the movie, The Terminal, who is trapped in limbo at JFK airport because his passport is no longer recognized.

But what most travelers would regard as a nightmare I see as a pleasure. You see, I have perfected the skills of airport survival and can live as comfortably here as anywhere else. As airports go, Phoenix is a workable one. The passenger concourses are open all night, and there's free wifi in the air. There are also no fixed armrests on the seating, which is an important element if you plan to spend the night.

It turns out the most important difference between pleasure and pain in a long airport stay is being able to comfortably sleep. I have slept in many airports around the world and have worked out the rules by trial and error. The requirements for sleep are pretty simple. You don't need a feather bed, but you do need warmth, padding and safety. Here are a few tips I have put together for your convenience...

1) Some airport terminals stay open all night (PHX, LAS, PHL) while others don't (CLT, BOS and most small-city airports). When a terminal stays open, you can remain in the secure area and sleep wherever you are comfortable. No one is likely to bother you. If your flight has been canceled or delayed and you genuinely have no choice, the airport authorities won't evict you, but you can also pretend that your flight is delayed and stay there by choice. In my experience, once you are inside security, no one will ask.
In the many times I have slept in airports, they only people who have woken me up were employees offering me pillows and blankets.
2) WARMTH is the most critical element to comfortable sleep. Room temperature of 78 degrees is comfortable when you are awake but can be painfully cold when you are trying to sleep. Even if you are flying in the summer, you should always travel in long pants and a warm sweatshirt, sweater or jacket. I also travel with a woolen cap and a light blanket (like one might steal from the plane). I find that I can sleep comfortably when I have several layers of clothing, my winter cap, and two light airline blankets.

3) Some airports have seating with fixed armrests between each seat (CLT), and some have no armrests (PHX). Obviously it is much easier to sleep when there are no armrests and you can stretch out across several seats. You sleep best when there is some padding under you and you can raise your legs to the same level as your head. Even in airports when there are fixed armrests, you can usually find some seating without them (LAS, PHL): Try going to a different concourse (A, B, C, etc.). If you find only seating with armrests, you might have to sleep on the floor but you can also try sleeping in a fetal position curled around the armrest. (It sounds bizarre, but if you are limber enough, it may work out and be more comfortable than the floor.)

4) It is nice to be able to block out light and sound. You can block out light with a sleep mask (available at drug stores or at Wal-Mart for $3) or by pulling your cap down over your eyes. Sound can be blocked with foam earplugs. Without them, you'll be blasted by automated security announcements ("Never leave your bags unattended....") and the CNN newsroom playing on the screen above you.

5) If you choose to leave the secure area, be sure you have a boarding pass to get back inside. (If you have been bumped from one flight to another, you can probably get a fresh boarding pass from a gate agent before you leave the secure area.)
Note: Most airlines won't issue boarding passes at the airport until four hours before boarding time, but they may issue them up to 12 hours before when you do it on-line. You can factor this into your plans. When entering security, TSA may require your boarding pass to be current (not for yesterday or tomorrow), but you'll have to try it to find out.
6) Airport food can be frightfully expensive, so I always bring dried food from home. (Dried pork chops are a favorite: Cook them in the oven -- but then leave them there for several hours at the lowest setting to make them dry and portable. You can do the same with any other meat or fish.) Liquid drinks and canned goods aren't allowed through TSA security, but you CAN bring an empty water bottle and any powdered drink mix. Fruit also passes security, as do most prepared meals.

7) Don't forget your toothbrush! Always bring it in your carry-on bag, not in your checked luggage. Everything essential to your journey should always be in your carry-on, because there's a roughly 1 in 200 chance that your checked bags won't arrive when you do. (But don't worry, they will show up eventually.)

8) A travel pillow is nice (like one you might steal from the plane), but if you don't have one, you can create a makeshift one from available clothing.

9) You don't have to worry much about safety. A secure airport terminal is one of the safest places on earth. Everyone there had to pass through security and is stable enough to at least afford an airline ticket. All employees had to pass through government background checks and wouldn't be there if they had any significant criminal record. Your carry-on bag and other belonging can be stored under your sleeping bench, in such a way that someone would have to wake you if rummaging through them, but the risk of this happening is low.

These rules are handy if you are truly delayed and have to sleep in the airport, but you can also think of other possible uses. Let's say you arrive at a city late at night and don't want to pay for a hotel. If the terminal is open all night, you can just remain there after you get off the plane. (You can even ask the gate agent if the terminal will remain open.)

There are worse islands to be shipwrecked on.

Also see my Red-Eye Survival Guide for in-flight sleeping tips.

Here is an example of typical airline seating with armrests. In a pinch, I can sleep fairly comfortably on these by wrapping myself around the armrest in the fetal position. It is more comfortable than it seems. The majority of the world's population sleeps in worse conditions.

See the revised article at Homeless by Choice for updates.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Kilroy Café #21: "God Finally Smites Vegas"

Here is the latest Kilroy philosophy essay, released today. You can print it out on a single page via the pdf file, or you can read the full text below. Also see my other Kilroy Café newsletters.

Sin City had it coming
but He was busy and only got to it now.


Predictions from a thousand pulpits finally came true this week as Las Vegas reeled from a series of scourges of Biblical proportions.

In the latest calamity, an unprecedented 2-day snowstorm shut down nearly all access to the city by road and air, cutting off its vital supply of gamblers from other states.

The vision of a "White Christmas" on the Las Vegas Strip served as a bizarre symbol of the economic chill that has befallen the city in recent months. No region has been harder hit by the current recession than this oasis in the desert. Although some local leaders remain in denial, it is now increasingly clear that Las Vegas, like Coney Island, will never regain its former glory.

God Himself was not available for comment, but a source close to God revealed that the Supreme Being was quietly pleased with the turn of events in the entertainment Mecca.

"When people pray to God and ask for justice, they expect it to happen right away," said the source. "God doesn't work like that. He has to do things His own way on His own timetable."

The spectacular collapse of the Las Vegas economy is said to have vindicated God's new "low intervention" philosophy of moral enforcement.

By most accounts, God has kept a low profile in recent centuries, parting no seas and releasing no catastrophes that couldn't be explained by "science."

Snowstorm aside, the current collapse can be seen as the city's own doing, the result of the past hubris and narcissism of its residents.

As recently as a year ago, there was a broad local consensus that the exponential growth of the previous two decades would continue indefinitely. In 13 years, the metropolitan population doubled from 1 to 2 million, and locals believed that it would quickly double again. Current figures indicate most forms of growth are now negative.

Gambling was seen as a "clean" industry with no visible drawbacks. Few residents perceived it as a fragile and exploitative pseudo-economy buoyed up by the illusory wealth of inflated housing values nationwide. Vegas was built on easy credit and couldn't help but collapse when the credit dried up.

God's role remains largely invisible and seems to be limited to systems development rather than daily operations. The source explained that when a system is designed right, God can just sit back and watch things happen.

"He doesn't have to do a damn thing," said the source, who quickly apologized for his profanity.

"What goes around comes around," said the source.

—G .C.

©Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173. See my other philosophy newsletters at www.KilroyCafe.com

Monday, December 15, 2008

Song #4: "Tumbling Down"

This song is intended for a female singer. Here is the tune (synthetic piano), the sheet music, and me singing the song (poorly). The full lyrics are below. (Midi file available upon request.) Both the tune and the words are my own original work.

Tumbling Down

You can never be too young
To climb the Himalayas.
Grab the lowest rung
And pull yourself along.
Wishes are the truth
and caution won't delay us.
Arrogance of youth,
where nothing can go wrong.

But it's a long way up
If you climb too high
And the world comes tumbling down.
And we all come tumbling down.
When our dreams crash back to the ground.
Tumbling down.

When we learn how to fly,
We think we are immortal.
We will never die,
no matter what we do.
Stepped into the air
And found out we were mortal.
We would take the dare,
When flying is brand new.

But it's a long way up
If you fly too high
And the world comes tumbling down.
And we all come tumbling down.
Get your feet back down on the ground.
Tumbling down.

Falling, falling, falling, falling,
Falling, falling down.
If you think the rock is solid,
When you reach it starts to crumble,
out into the air you start to fall,
And you don't understand it at all.

When the world comes tumbling down.
And we all come tumbling down.
And it all makes sense to me now.
Tumbling down.

Lyrics and tune copyright © Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173.

Also see my other songs and screen stories at Love Strangely.com

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Song #3: "A Walmart Christmas Carol"

Here is a new Christmas classic, written this morning. If you must, you can listen to me singing the song (badly) or you can sing it to yourself with the full lyrics below.

A Walmart Christmas Carol
(Sung to the tune of "Silver Bells")
In November
And December
There's a chill in the air.
In the mall there's a feeling of Christmas.
Children begging,
parents wond'ring
how to pay for it all.
The solution they come to
is clear....

Credit cards, Credit cards.
It's Christmas time at the Wal-Mart.
Ch-ching-a-ling, merchants sing,
"You don't have to pay for it now."

Chinese labor,
Almost slav'ry,
Bought for pennies a day,
Making things that are pretty but useless.
Buy the product,
Never use it,
That's what most people do,
But the burden remains all the year.

Credit cards, Credit cards.
It's Christmas time at the Wal-Mart.
Ch-ching-a-ling, merchants sing,
"You don't have to pay for it now."

In recession,
Failing economy,
Let's remember the spirit of Christmas.
Buy the product.
Buy the service.
Buy whatever you can,
'Cause the bill won't come due 'til next year.

Credit cards, Credit cards.
It's Christmas time at the Wal-Mart.
Ch-ching-a-ling, merchants sing,
"You don't have to pay for it now."

Lyrics Copyright (c) 2008, Glenn Campbell, Glenn-Campbell.com
The author sings the song... in the parking lot of a Walmart in Florence, SC:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Song #2: "Just One Candle"

My second 3-minute song, completed this morning, is quasi-spiritual. It is intended for a female singer.

Here is the tune (synthetic piano), the sheet music, and me singing the song (poorly). The full lyrics are below. (Midi file available upon request.) Both the tune and the words are my own original work.

Just One Candle

I was walkin' down by Jordan
Thinking of my Sin.
That was when I found forgiveness
Coming from within.

Every step that you take on the road of life
Is haunted by doubts and burdened with strife.
It's a world of danger and needless lies,
So you give it your best and compromise.

When all hope is gone, you look for the light.
It takes just one candle to light the night.
It takes just one smile to ease the pain,
To carry you forward to love again.

If there is a God in Heaven
Looking after me.
I don't need to ask forgiveness.
I know He can see.

For when I was alone by the riverside,
I just wanted peace and a place to die.
There was no one to see me cry that day,
So I picked myself up and walked away.

When all hope is gone, you look for the light.
It takes just one candle to light the night.
It takes just one smile to ease the pain,
To carry you forward to love again.

If there is a God in Heaven
Looking after me.
He don't need my adoration,
Just my honesty.

Honesty... and I'm the host.
It's lies inside that hurt the most.
Your life is a chance to prove what's right.
You can't give up without a fight.

For when I was alone by the riverside.
It was only myself with nowhere to hide.
Because it don't matter what you believe.
It's only yourself you must never deceive.

When all hope is gone, you look for the light.
It takes just one candle to light the night.
It takes just one smile to ease the pain,
To carry you forward to love again.

I was walkin' down by Jordan
Thinking of my Sin.
That was when I found forgiveness
Coming from within.
From within.

(c) 2008, Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173.
Also see my other songs and screen stories at Love, Strangely.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Screen Story #28: "The Problem with Paradise"

In my latest screen story, an office worker imagines a tropical paradise, then goes there, but he doesn't find the bliss he expected. The complete story is below. --GC

The Problem with Paradise

NOTE: This short film is entirely without dialogue.


We find ourselves in a "cubicle farm"—a cavernous office space of partitioned office cubicles. From above, they look like a massive rat maze leading off into the distance.

In one cubicle, labeled "JONES," a young man in a shirt and tie is goofing off. He is sitting at his desk throwing wads of paper into his wastebasket on the other side of the cubicle. His shots are accurate every time, indicating he has had a lot of practice.

Jones is facing his computer screen but seems reluctant to work. He is bored silly. He fiddles with the pen in his hands and looks up at two items of personal interest tacked to the partition in front of him. One is a photo of his girlfriend TRACY, and the other is a calendar showing an idyllic tropical scene.

The calendar shows a photo of a perfect beach on a perfect tropical island. The water is perfect blue and the sand is perfect coral white. There is a perfect palm tree leaning out over the calm water, and below the palm tree is a wooden lounge chair with no one sitting in it.

As Jones dwells on the photo, we hear the sound of waves gently lapping on the shore and seabirds softly calling.

Jones' reverie is broken by a supervisor walking by just outside the cubicle. Jones quickly snaps to attention and pretends to be working on his computer. The supervisor eyes Jones suspiciously but says nothing. The supervisor departs, and Jones relaxes again. He looks again at his calendar.

Below the photo on the calendar is the month of January. At the end of the month, two weeks are blocked off, saying "VACATION." At the beginning of the month, two days are crossed off, January 1 and 2. Jones is obviously looking forward to his vacation, but it's still a long time away.

In a montage, we see Jones go through day after boring day in his cubicle, crossing off one number on the calendar every evening. The supervisor again walks by, eying Jones suspiciously. Finally, Jones crosses off the last day of work before his vacation. He is ecstatic! He grabs his winter jacket, takes one last look at the calendar photo, then rushes away.

We remain behind, still looking at the calendar photo. We hear the sound of waves gently lapping against the shore and seabirds softly calling.

Then Jones himself appears in the photo! His head pops up first, looking directly at us, then he walks fully into the frame. He is finally there--inside the calendar photo!

The camera tracks into the calendar picture, and now we are there, too!

Jones is awed by the experience, and it takes him a while to get used to it. He is now in the tropical paradise he has dreamed of for so long! He is carrying a bag, which he sets down in the sand. Then he examines the wooden lounge chair and slowly sits down in it.

He begins to fidget in his lounge chair. So what should he do in paradise once he is there? Apparently, he hasn't thought about that.

He reaches for his bag and opens it. He pulls out a cellophane-wrapped calendar entitled, "Tropical Paradise." It is apparently a new copy of the same calendar he has on his wall. He takes off the cellophane and opens the calendar to January. Indeed, it is the very same scene we saw before, showing the same tropical view Jones is now part of. The only difference is there is no writing in the month section.

Jones takes a thumb tack out of his bag and tacks the calendar to the palm tree beside him. He marvels again at how the scene in the calendar exactly matches the place where he is now.

Jones takes a felt-tipped pen out of the bag and writes on the calendar. On the date just after the last one he crossed out at the office, he writes "I FINALLY ARRIVE!" On another date a week later, he writes, "TRACY ARRIVES!"

Jones sits back down in the lounge chair and starts to fidget again. He looks at the beach around him but eventually becomes fixated on the calendar. We begin to understand what his problem is: He has arrived a week before his girlfriend and has nothing to do in the meantime.

We pull back and can now see more of his paradise. Jones is a truly isolated figure on a big and lonely beach. Behind him in the dunes is the simple bungalow where he is staying. There are no other buildings visible—indeed no other sign of human life.

A seagull walks by Jones in the sand, looking at him disapprovingly. He resembles the supervisor who walked by Jones in his cubicle. Jones looks uncomfortable and throws a rock at the seagull, who flies away.

In a montage, we see Jones trying his best to kill time while waiting for his girlfriend to arrive. He collects shells on the beach. He bathes naked in the waves. He tacks his snapshot of Tracy to the calendar, and he crosses days of the calendar every evening.

In a scene resembling a beer commercial, his hand is seen reaching for a clear glass beer bottle standing in the sand with a slice of lime stuck in the top. The hand then returns the bottle to the same place, empty. Then another empty bottle is placed there—and another and another, until there are a whole pile of empty glass beer bottles lying in the sand.

By the end of the first week, Jones is looking like a sunburned, weather-beaten, frustrated castaway, desperate to get off of this hellhole island. He is sitting in his lounge chair throwing seashells at a bucket a few feet away—just like he did with wads of paper in his cubicle. His perfect aim indicates he has had a lot of practice.

Then Tracy arrives! We see her walking down the beach in the distance, wearing winter clothes and carrying two heavy suitcases. Jones races out to meet her!

In the distance, we see them embrace and kiss. As corny love music rises, they roll in the waves in each others' arms, swept away by their passion for one another.

Hand in hand, they walk toward the bungalow. They go inside and the door closes behind them, while we remain outside. A wooden heart shape on the door makes it clear what is happening inside.

The next morning, Jones alone emerges from the bungalow. He is looking refreshed but still a bit frazzled. He goes to the calendar and crosses off the date showing Tracy's arrival. He pulls another wooden lounge chair from the front of the bungalow to underneath the palm tree beside his own chair. He sits down in his chair and waits.

Tracy emerges from the bungalow wearing a bikini and carrying a beach bag. They glance at each other lovingly. Tracy goes to the chair beside Jones' and starts unpacking her towels, brushes and cosmetics.

She then starts a primping routine. She covers herself with suntan lotion and paints her toenails, as Jones looks increasingly bored. Eventually, she puts a mask over her eyes and starts tanning, shutting out Jones completely.

They have nothing to say to each other, and Jones has nothing to do!

He looks over at the calendar tacked to the palm tree. Six more days to go! He sinks down in his lounge chair with a sigh, like a prisoner who has given up hope. Grimly, he stands up, goes to the calendar, crosses off another day, then returns to his chair.

Now, we pull back and see the scene as it was in the calendar, except there are two lounge chairs under the palm tree now, with an unidentifiable man and woman sitting in them. The sound of surf and seabirds is heard. The camera tracks back to reveal we are in the office cubicle again, looking at the slightly-different calendar.

Jones walks into the office now, to the scattered applause of his office mates. He is well-tanned and full of good cheer. He is thrilled to be home! He waves warmly to his supervisor, who still looks suspicious and doesn't wave back. He settles into his cubicle and seems to see it in a whole new light—a positive one!

He looks up at the calendar of the tropical scene. Thoughtfully, he reaches up and takes it down. Then he pulls another cellophane-wrapped calendar out of his bag and removes the wrapping.

This calendar is entitled "FANTASY OFFICE SPACE." Jones opens the calendar to February, which happens to show a cubicle farm almost identical to his own. He tacks the calendar to his wall where the tropical one used to be. Then he takes down the photo of his girlfriend and puts it in his drawer.

He stares at the calendar for a while, the one showing the office space. As he does, we hear the sound of waves gently lapping at the shore and seabirds softly calling.

Jones shakes off his reverie and resumes his work on his computer.


Copyright ©2008, Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173. The photo source is my own Oahu photo album.

Also see my other screen stories at Love, Strangely.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My First Song! -- "Galaxy Queen"

After a week of work (across 7 states), I have just finished my first complete 3-minute song. I have no significant training in music, don't play an instrument and can't sing, yet I still believe can write a decent song. Skeptical? Just give a listen.

You might want to listen to the tune first (synthetic piano). Then, if you find it compelling, you can listen to me singing the song (video 1/2011). Here is the sheet music (2-page pdf) and below are the lyrics. (Midi file available upon request.) Both the tune and lyrics are my original work.

As the songwriter, it is my responsibility to provide a simple tune and lyrics. (Since I have no formal musical skills, I can't go any further.) It is someone else's role to provide the arrangement, the voice and the instrumentals. I may fine-tune the words, but to me the song is done, and I am ready to move on to the next project.

Below are the lyrics. What do they mean? You decide.

Galaxy Queen
You sent a garrison of soldiers
Flying up to Neptune's borders;
They were following your orders all along.
It was all a great charade
To fix the fallacy you made
When you decided to remain upon the throne.

Your rocket ships, your laser blasts,
Your luscious lips say nothing lasts forever.
You offer war; I pray for peace.
The closing door prevents release to Heaven.
Hostage seven.

In the galaxy, there's no more understanding.
All diplomacy has perished by the gun.
And it's plain to see that the sun is no more shining
On the tragedy of the god that you've become.

Turned upside down and wrong side right
I thought I'd found my satellite in you.
You eased my doubt, released my fear
'Til you blew out the atmosphere we live in.
You're so driven.

In the galaxy, there's no more comprehending.
All democracy has vanished on the run.
And my eyes can see that the moon is no more smiling
On the travesty of the bitch that you've become.

Running rings round Jupiter feeling sorry for myself,
Knowing that your spies are everywhere,
Knowing at the root of it are the demons in yourself,
Knowing you could face them if you dare.

You want it all, you get the curse
As queen of all the universe forever.
But I knew you and you knew me
When we went through academy together.
Lost endeavor.

In the galaxy, there's no chance left to flower.
All diversity has fled what you've begun.
And the stars can see that the risk of too much power
Is insanity in the child you've become.

Turned upside down and wrong side right
I though I'd found my satellite in you...
Nothing's true.

(c) 2008, Glenn Campbell. Photo source.
You can see all my songs here. All my songs and screen stories are indexed at LoveStrangely.com