Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Metric

I recently had a piece published in The Metric. (Rest Assured: I Didn't Sleep With Your Mother)

The story can be found here:


A review of the story by the editors:

"A love-life life in finances.  An unusual premise leads to an extraordinary and heart-wrenching short story.  As readers, we are placed in the shoes of the narrator’s recently ex-partner and, in balancing the books on everything from electricity bills to drug habits, we are shown the wasteland of a life post disastrous relationship.  Faced with the final sum, a cordial request to pay up, and the narrator’s less-than-thoughtful plans, we can take some small comfort from the title, at least. Baltis’s work is so practical and tragic as to be comic in its narrator’s surprisingly relatable quest to set a price on love."

Monday, April 8, 2013

Waiting out the winter

Things are heating up on the steppe. By heating up, I mean it's gone from just below freezing to just above freezing with freezing winds. I'm finishing up my next novel, Endless Knots, and happened to stumble upon some old Mongolian short fiction books printed before the switch over to democracy.

Nice to read from a real book again. Most the reading I've done over the past two years has been on a Kindle and I forget what real paper feels like. I like the Kindle format, especially for note taking and looking up words, but real paper reminds me of why I started writing in the first place.

Summer is on the way, which means I need to figure out my residency status for next year. Mongolia one more year, then New York. After that I'm retiring. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2012 reading list

2012 came and went. We survived the Mayan apocalypse and somewhere in there, I was able to read a few books. In order starting in January of 2012:

We/ Yevgeny Zamyatin
Fahrenheit 451/ Ray Bradbury
Robopocalypse/ Daniel H. Wilson
Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga/ Hunter S. Thompson
Lolita/ Vladimir Nabokov
A Visit from the Goon Squad/ Jennifer Egan
A Broom of the System/ David Foster Wallace
Absurdistan/ Gary Sheytenygart
Intimate Glimpses of Mysterious Tibet/ G.E.O. Knight
The Sun Also Rises/ Hemingway
Fiction and the Figures of Life/ William H. Gass
The Art of the Novel/ Milan Kundera
Freedom/ Jonathan Franzen
Alice in Wonderland/ Lewis Carrol
Drown/ Junot Diaz
Rabbit Redux/ John Updike
Bird by Bird/ Anne Lamott
The Last Disco in Outer Mongolia/ Nick Middleton
Self-editing for Fiction writers/ Browne & King
Love in the Time of Cholera/Gabriel Garcia Marquez
How to write a sentence/ Stanley Fish
The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break/  Steven Sherrill
Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead/ the Frank Meeink Story as told to Jody M. Roy
On Writing/ Stephen King
The Power of Habit/ Charles Duhigg
Rabbit is Rich/ John Updike
Biocentrism/ Robert Lanza with Bob Berman
Gone Girl/ Gillian Flynn
Lost at the Con/Bryan Young
Prince of Tides/ Pat Conroy

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Photo shoot

This week we shot a three minute short penned by Oliver and me including all members of Batbileg's Family (sans crazy Uncle Tumor). The gist of the shot is as follows: the family is getting their photos taken by Chuka (boyfriend of the middle daughter Monkzul). Ariunzul shows up late, her father (Batbileg) strips down to his wrestling outfit, and Rick didn't get the memo that the family WASN'T dressing in traditional clothing. Below are photos from the shoot. The video will be posted shortly (this week!)

Dan doing his filming thing

With Key, one of the show's producers (and go to guy for EVERYTHING!)

setting up the shot

Tuul and Selenge. 

Chuka and Monkzul

The children of the family and one boyfriend with silver hair

Chuka and me

Lining up

Our director
Selenge and me at our interview session at Cafe 9

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Batbileg's Family

Things are happening rapidly.

The last two weeks have been met with a quick shoot at a mall behind Blue Sky Tower as well as the solidification of filming locations and production details. It's official, Batbileg's Family will broadcast on Mongol HD starting February 1st 2013! Below is our first cast photo, as well as a quick shot Selenge and I took last Sunday. Good job to our producers at MGM, who have been working their tails off to get this show out as soon as possible.

More updates coming this week as I'm finally in the world of smart phones... which should prove interesting!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Up and away: Mongolia’s first sitcom and its origins

Published November 19th in the UB Post 

Mongolia’s first sitcom is coming faster than winter. The sitcom, Batbileg’s Family, will be a single camera styled television show based heavily on tried and true sitcom format America has been broadcasting since the 1950s. It will be an interesting mix of movie cinematography and mockumentary styled interviews. In last week’s installment, I spoke of the finer details involved with creating the sitcom (i.e. chicken suits) and promised to keep everyone updated regarding the sitcom’s progress. This installment will do just that, as well as dig deeper into how the sitcom came about.
Oliver Claycamp, the sitcom’s head writer, originally developed the idea earlier this year. Growing tired of Mongolian television and its lack of comedy, as well as it import of Korean shows and bad overdubbing of western shows, Oliver proposed a question: Why doesn’t Mongolia have its own sitcom? Mongolians watch plenty of television and are highly influenced by Western programming, from music to cinema. So, why not write the first Mongolian sitcom? Why not create a wholesome family show and film it in a style that has rarely been seen on television here?
Oliver first proposed to me the idea of the sitcom through a series of text messages. By this point in our friendship, we’d proposed so many strange writing ideas to each other I was sure he was playing a joke on me. Regardless, I readily agreed for two reasons. One, I have a problem saying no to people especially involving creative endeavors. No sense in missing an opportunity to try something new. Two, I was intrigued. Was it possible? Could two American writers pull it off? Who would produce it? Could we find an American to act in it? When would we actually start filming it?
The answers came over the following months. Yes, it was possible. Yes, two Americans could pull it off with the help of a clever Mongolian woman, Zola, Oliver’s wife, our translator and go-to-guru for culturally relevant jokes.  Mongol Grand Media, a new production company setting a new standard for Mongolian media productions would produce it. Strangely, I would end up acting in it playing the American character, Rick, which wasn’t the original plan but since feels like it has been the whole time. And for the final answer, December will be the month it starts filming.
This week MGM studios have seen many things: from countless sponsor meetings to heated discussions regarding a three minute episode to better advertise the show. Originally, Joon Wook Kim, our Korean director, wanted something Simpsonsesque, an opener involving an extended action shot that details the shows youngest character, a 10 year old boy named Batta, moving through the family’s home and weaving in and out of everyone’s business. Oliver wanted to film an actual scene from the show, to show the interview style as well as the settings and theme. After a long discussion involving Oliver, myself, the executives producers, Joon Wook Kim, and phone calls to Dan Peters, our lead cameraman/go to guy for anything and everything technical in the show, a decision was reached: the three minute episode would be a quick storyline in which the family is attempting to take a portrait at a local photo studio. The shoot is planned for the following weekend.
Saturday also saw the first official video shoot for the sitcom. In the scene, Rick, the American character in the show, sits in an abandoned playground as the snow falls round him. He comments on the coldness of the weather and how he is feeling lonely. His phone rings and he suddenly grows excited that someone is calling him. He takes the call only to tell the person on the phone that he is busy and that he can’t be bothered. The short can be found via Youtube: Lonely Rick.
On Sunday we shot our first commercial featuring members of the sitcom. The commercial, for the Niislel gym near Zaisan, features a long shot of the gym, the people working out there, and a quick cameo by Rick who’s running on a treadmill when he becomes distracted by the pretty girl running next to him. The commercial also features Mongolian top model Temka, pumping iron and looking fierce.
Progress can come in different spurts. It can be fast, nearly blinding, and seem to appear out of nowhere and it can be slow, molasses slow, with no end in sight. Batbileg’s Family falls into the former category. Since first hooking up with MGM in September, the show has barreled towards it filming date. With the official filming date taking place this next week, the cast nearly solidified, and all the pieces falling into place, it’s starting to feel as real as the first mockumentary of a fictional Mongolian family can possibly feel. Excitement is in the air, and history is soon to be made.