Saturday, December 26, 2015

The End of an Era... Sorta

TV and video watching hours -- a heck of a lot.
Writing done -- Even more so! (so there).

Okay, so I once again have gotten to the end of the year where I can shame myself for my lax blogging habits. New Year's Resolution One: blog more, and eat less cheese, so I don't have to do one of those expensive and nasty kale juice cleanses that make your pee green.

I can't be too hard on myself this time. I've been a busy girl... between writing and teaching and spending time with my family.

As is my customary thing to do this time of year... I'm relaxing and watching a lot of movies and screeners, thanks to the Academy and my cool Hollywood friend posse. 

The one film I ventured into a theater for was the new "Star Wars" movie ("The Force Awakens"). After all, this was an event (and I didn't have any screeners for it). However, like I saw the original Star Wars in the theaters opening day, I felt compelled to see this on the big screen as soon as possible before anyone could spoil it for me. Some movies are worth the price of admission, thankfully, this was one. I can't really judge the film on its merits alone, as it really rang true as a piece of nostalgia for me. So much of it was designed to "reboot" by reminding us exactly what worked in the first three films (even a certain important scene on the bridge of the ship looked like it was shot exactly frame by frame alike to really hammer in the symbolism/similarity).

The new characters were spunky, They didn't seem that new honestly, albeit there was a bit of gender switching to give more meat to the girl's role -- which totally works for me. I did have a bit of a hard time unseeing Adam from "Girls" in the villain and was feeling like at least Hannah dodged a bullet with that latest break-up (and he seems so nice in that last scene. I should've known -- no guy breaks up so reasonably.)

The fun factor was certain a strong force in Star Wars, and overall, worthy of the price of admission and the butter on my popcorn; but again, I wasn't expecting new and innovative. I wanted the walk down memory lane and that's exactly what I got from it.

I saw "Bridge of Spies," a while back, though that's being lumped in for the big Oscar buzz-push. The story is sitting well with me and was enjoyable to watch; intriguing if not ground-breaking surely. I may not remember much of it in the months to come and can't say I have a burning need to see it more than once, but it was a decent way to spend a few hours.

I know Spotlight is getting all the attention and Oscar buzz this year, and while I enjoyed the slow perk of the newspaper breaking a scandal story, I missed the tension that someone like Sidney Lumet used to bring to such things. It was a good film, a solid film, but it didn't shock or move me in the way I was expecting.

I enjoyed seeing "The Martian" with my family on Christmas eve, although I think my son who wants to be a physicist understood quite a bit more of it than I did. While much of the movie revelled in how smart the guy was in his savvy problem-solving skills; I thought more than once that it had a bit too much math for the likes of this English major. But -- I appreciated the good space story nonetheless (although they could've added a bit more of a love story to add even more heart to the stakes. I mean, it's not like it's patterned after a true story, after all, why the heck not?)

Last night, a reboot of the Rocky franchise with "Creed" was another tug at my aging cinemaphile heart-strings and it was nice to see Sylvester Stallone looking more like Rocky than an overly Botoxed marionette once again. It looks like he's come full circle back to what made him loveable and inspirational. I admit, I found myself genuinely yelling at the screen for young Creed's victory during the well-staged, realistic boxing matches and it was all in good fun for me. I did miss hearing the Rocky theme, or at least more than a few bars of it and my daughter remarked that it just wasn't the same with current rap music replacing "Eye of the Tiger," but I guess there's only so far they were willing to fall into schmaltz without losing a new audience.

Speaking of knockouts, Concussion is a movie that pits the sport of football against science in a cover-up about the dangers of spending years having your head bashed in on a daily basis. The real movie isn't about football, or even about science -- instead it is a character study of a man, a foreigner at that, who tries to stand up for the truth against the machine that is the NFL, and really beyond that, the American people's thirst for the blood sport over the consequences of it driving people crazy and making them kill themselves. As a football fan, I have no idea how to look at the issues brought up in this movie. I still love the sport and I definitely admire Will Smith's performance, once you get passed the accent, which isn't bad as you get used to it. I just don't know how to walk away freeling from this, now that I know my football heroes may all be doomed.

... On the horizon for my viewing: 

Room, Steve Jobs, Joy, Carol, The Revenant, Brooklyn, Sicario, Crimson Peak and more...I certainly have my work cut out for me. Bring on the giant homemade cappucinos and real buttered popcorn.

As for TV bingeing, if you can only pick out a handful of options, I heartily recommend:

The Leftovers (although will somebody PLEASE explain the ending to me? It was one of those things where I absolutely loved it, but I have questions, so many questions. I seriously hope they'll renew it for another season and maybe explain a few things).

The Affair (although that ending, oy!)

Transparent, currently my favorite binge-watching series, though be prepared to be sad. I'm okay with sad, but you know -- not everyone's in the mood, especially during the holidays. Still, it was just so well done. I thought it was even better than season one and I really loved season one.

Childhood's End is a nice quick binge that I enjoyed. I thought they did a really nice job with what was one of my favorite science fiction stories.

Homeland was good because I never get tired of watching Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin. I thought this year was actually better than last year's post Brody mission (though it was a bit confusing as to how we see her all devoted Mommy in the beginning and then we don't hear from her kid for the rest of show. It's okay, Carrie and motherhood seem like a mix destined to send that kid for a lifetime of therapy anyway).

The Knick was another compulsively watchable show that I think was even slightly better in season 2 than it was in season 1. Both were terrific and I'll watch Clive Owen doing anything performing brain surgery on an awake patient while singing "Daisy, Daisy" fixing syphalictic noses and separating conjoined twins (and saving them from American Horror Story plotlines). What will I do now that it's over? What a fun madcap mad man you were, Clive. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted and I will really miss this show done by one of my favorite filmmakers, Steven Soderbergh (you had me at Sex, Lies and Videotape).

Silicon Valley is a fun guilty pleasure. I watched this every week as it was just too much of a guilty pleasure to wait on, but this show is consistently a hoot in my book. I think that a new season is coming up soon, so if you missed season 2, catch up already.

The Mindy Project, now on Hulu, is good for a laugh, make that many laughs Mindy is the bomb in my book (and I mean that in the awesome, this is great way -- not in the Quantico/Jack Bauer sorta way. I don't think I could ever get tired of the comedy of Mindy Kaling -- so much that I highly recommend the audio book "Why Not Me?" her latest release, which is even better than her last book. Her delivery is key, so I really suggest the audio book on this one. It's short at only 4 discs, perfect for the mid-sized road trip. Bravo for Hulu for picking up her show.

Catastrophe, a British import that is in its second season on Amazon Prime is one of the funniest shows in TV. While season 2 is a bit more grim than season 1 (this is British comedy after all, so expect dark humor) -- there are plenty of laugh out loud moments that will have you spouting Guinness from your nose. Definitely don't miss this show.

The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime is a bit of a slow burner and admittedly I'm only halfway through of this one; however, the idea is so intriguing and you can never go wrong with something based on a Phillip K. Dick story. Solid acting, high stakes and a totally new take on time travel, if you want to call it that, this show is worth losing sleep over from what I can tell.

As for Network TV, I just finished binge watching Quantico, which was my favorite of this year's new TV series. At this point, I don't really have time to get invested in many new Network shows, seeing as my week nights are overbooked with Scandal. How to Get Away with Murder, Grey's Anatomy, The Blacklist and The Big Bang Theory. After checking out most of the recent offerings, Quantico got my attention for the most part. I have Limitless on DVR standby as well, after seeing a couple of episodes and liking it, but maybe I just miss seeing Dexter's sister in a cop role (typcast much?) In any case, Quantico was certainly worth my time.

I won't even get into my British BBC TV fetish -- though I will say, if you missed Sherlock, Broadchurch, Black Mirror, Poldark, London Spy, Humans, Jonathan Strange, River, Happy Valley, or Doctor Foster -- get thee to a Netflix on the quick, or stay tuned for PBS to pick up the slack. Need I remind you that this is Downton Abbey's last hurrah as well, so clear up your calendar and make room or no quail egg 'n cucumber soup for you. There's too much to get into reviewing these flicks and some of them have yet to make their way to our side of the pond, so be on the look out.

Also, the French version of The Returned is finally back with season 2 on The Sundance Channel. It's even darker and more mysterious than season three and is rivaled by only The Leftovers in it's ability to cause complete confusion, yet still be compulsively watchable (it's like these people went to the David Lynch school of filmmaking; and lucky for us at that). Something about people dying and coming back to life that really brings out the Mullholand Drive in storytellers aparently. Or maybe it's just some big inside joke that I don't get. In any case, I hope they have a season 3 soon so I can understand what I watched in season 2. I'll devour every episode, if they do, as I did with this season.

Next on the agenda TV-wise, are catching up with Cookie on Empire and the Netflix offerings that I keep hearing about: Kimmie Schmidt and Master of None. I've seen the first episode of both and think they look promising for binge fair. I also haven't yet seen season 3 of Orange is the New Black, which is in my queue. So many shows, so little time.

Speaking of which, I'd better get back to viewing if I'm going to get all these in before the year's up.

Cheers for now. Stay Tuned for Part Two soon.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Some of my favorite books that I've read, purchased, or am reading currently...

I have created a store on Amazon with some of my favorite recent books in case anyone's interested in what influences my twisted mind. This list is just sci fi, dystopian fiction, mostly (but not all) YA. Mostly what interests me and what I write. A couple I'm in the middle of reading but am really liking. The Nancy Farmer book, I just bought for .99 so I don't know if it's good but I loved her twisted book about clones "The House of the Scorpion," so how bad could it be. Yes, I am an Amazon Affiliate, so if you buy anything from this store or link I get a few cents to kick back to Amazon to buy more books to feed my habit. Hey, there are worse habits than being a voracious reader. Besides, I honestly don't think you can call yourself a writer if you don't read regularly. That just seems insane to me.

There's some amazing deals on some of these books, things you can get for Kindle for .99 or under 3 right now. All of these are definitely worth the download. Here is the full link to the store. And here's some of the selections:

Friday, December 27, 2013

The end... of 2013

As we draw to the close of another fabulous year of procrastination and productivity. I tried to finish my book during NaNoWriMo and I made great progress, but find that I just can't work on a project without rewriting along the way. My inner editor got the best of me and so I didn't finish; but I still like the concept and decided to try to treat every month like it's NaNoWriMo, and write "a book in a month," because as a writer, it seems like a healthy lifestyle. I can say that more of my young adult novel is completed than not and who knows, I might finish a rough draft of it in January. I'm certainly going to aim for that. But the bottom line is... I'm enjoying what I'm writing, I think it's good and I'm telling a story that I would want to read and hopefully many others will like it too.

 I want to wish you all a happy New Year and remind you that there's only a few days left to finish that book, screenplay, graphic novel, novella, short story, comic strip, poem that you intended on writing this year. So get going, post haste.

Personally, in addition to the YA novel, there are a few writing competitions I will be working on entries for. I don't want to say which because I'll jinx it and yes, I believe in such things... some people have a year of magical thinking, I make that work for me on a daily basis. I'm also planning on sending two recently finished picture books out there into the wild blue yonder, as soon as the editors all get back into their offices from their lavish vacations. Hopefully, everyone will come back sated and happy and ready to publish.

I also will make much more of an effort to post more often, sharing more of the fun things that keep me from writing like this little ditty called "18 Weird Things Writer's Do" (it's remarkably accurate).

Happy New Year Everyone... now get back to work!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Moleskine... The Book of Champions

A talented writer friend recently posted on her Facebook page about the challenges of pronouncing Moleskine, the fancy schmancy pocket notebook for professional writers. She went on to say she thought it was pronounced mole skin and dabbled with the theory that it could have been made from moles (something I myself had wondered, so it's not that ridiculous a thought). I too used to call it Mole skin... in fact, I probably will continue to call it that thanks to a rebellious gene that I share with my father, who for years insisted on mispronouncing famous actor's names. My father would kvell about his favorite show "Steinfeld" all the time (sometimes he called it "The Steinfeld," if he was feeling proper). When I'd correct him, he told me he didn't care, he liked "Steinfeld" and so it was. Thus, mole skin sounds cool to me.

So cool that I drool over the Moleskine display at Staples whenever I pass, thinking I really should break down and get one. I'm a professional writer, after all... I need one. I deliberate over sizes, small enough to fit in my purse, or big enough to write a whole book while waiting in LA traffic? Tiffany blue for that Audrey Hepburn/Truman Capote feel, or basic black for simple, gritty, Cormac McCarthy-like prose? Sometimes I've even gone so far as to put one of the precious Moleskines into my shopping cart, only to replace it back on the shelf when I realize that part of being a professional writer is acknowledging that $12 or $16 bucks is way too much to be spending on an itty bitty blank notebook, when a .99 cent notepad will work just the same. Truth be told, I can barely read my own handwriting; thus if I were to pen my next novel by hand a la Hemingway, I probably would never be able to read what I wrote, so it's a pointless item for me anyway.

However, it is a writer's staple. A tool of the trade. The status of which says "You have a Moleskine notebook, therefore, you are a real writer."

Much like the way real writers own Mont Blanc pens. I was once given an authentic Mont Blanc pen many years ago. I treasured the pen because it was the most expensive writing instrument I had ever owned and a luxury I would never have spent on myself, especially since it wasn't something I could wear to a cocktail party or jazzy soiree. Still, it was cool.  This is a pen of a successful author. A pen to sign one's name at book signings with. I loved that pen. No one was allowed to use that pen and truth be told, I never used it either. It didn't write as good as my two dollar, disposable Uniball Visions (which I love... I can almost read my writing with a Uniball fine vision pen... almost). And so, the Mont Blanc, or Monty as I sometimes called it in private, was my pen to save for special occasions. My famous author pen for when I made it big. Monty was on standby, that was until the day my beloved toy poodle somehow got her grubby paws on him and took a big bite out of his plastic exterior. I don't know to this day how the dog got Monty, or what happened to that piece of him that may very well have found its way to my little dog's intestines (such are the tough stuff NYC toy poodles are made of). I held on to the remnants of Monty, the glossy black plastic shrapnell holding a smooth flowing, non-clog ink barrel. It would have worked just fine I'm sure. But my symbol of victory was marred. Flawed. I stuck it in a drawer and have never seen it since. It probably got tossed in the garbage for all I know, which is just as well.

I pass the Mont Blanc display and every now and then think of replacing it. But I don't. Buying it for myself now feels much like buying myself a dozen roses. It's cheating. Besides, I don't need a special pen to say I'm gonna make it. Or a Moleskine book, no matter how you pronounce it.

I use my laptop to take notes, or I write on scraps of anything I find in my bag at the time if I'm on the go... the yellowed backs of receipt stubs, envelope scraps... sometimes the notes make their way into my stories. Other times they get swept up into the great compost of thought. And when you see me at a book signing, I'll be using my $2 Uniball Vision. You might even be able to read the signature.


PS  Here's a cool video on how others pronounce Moleskine. I still don't really know how to say it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Busy Making Other Plans

You know the John Lennon lyric "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans" (from the song Beautiful Boy, if you ever wondered)? Well, I've actually been doing both writing and planning on writing (and procrastinating, of course).

If you Google my name, you'll find I've been busy writing thousands... and I mean thousands... of articles on everything under the sun from "How to Teach Your Toddler to Brush his Teeth" to "The Advantages of Taekwondo" to "Preventing Foot Pain in Ice Skating." It seems like you name something and I've written an article on it; even things like "How to Buy Baby Calves Online" (which I do kind of feel guilty about, I mean, I didn't stop to think of what people would do with the poor baby calves, once they followed the steps to buy 'em. Before you judge me, stop and think -- maybe they're buying calves for humanitarian reasons... like to give as gifts to rich kids who need a petting zoo. Maybe the lives of those baby calves will be even happier, more joyful and more fulfilling than mine, once they're purchased. You never know).

My personal favorite of these was written a few years ago, when I first started this non-fiction pay for play type of prose... "How to Kill Mosquitoes in a Car." I kid you not. Someone assigned me this to write based on the fact that supposedly numerous people were Googling this burning query. Every now and then, I wonder what sort of person Googles the steps to mosquito persecution when sequestered in an automobile. I have, on occasion had to follow my own steps to get rid of a bug, usually a bee and the stop the car and run out screaming until it flies away method seems to work best for me. Still I keep picturing that lone wolf hunting down the perfect method to mosquito-in-car extinction. Truth be told, I couldn't keep a straight face while writing those particular words of wisdom, though the task was to write it without humor. That's the only problem with these little ditties, for the most part, the clients I write for specifically do not want my questionably "sophisticated" brand of Bluesy humor. Never mind that it's taken me years of honing this writing style to a finely tuned barbed machine of wit and whimsy. Forget all of those classes at UC Berkeley I had to take in comedy to become "a professional" (okay, so it was one class in comedy, and it turned out to be a snoozefest, as I recall. But hey, it was an easy "A").

So there you have it. I haven't been blogging because I've been writing. Some of that writing has been on my books, to which at this point, I am working on two fiction YA books (three if you count the one I start and stop with a dear buddy, when the stars align and we manage to carve time out between coming up with excuses why not to write the darn thing... that's what happens when you get two professional procrastinators in a room. Still, you never know, we could surprise ourselves and finish it one day). Aside from my two (or three) fabulous young adult fiction books, I've also managed to write and complete a really witty, fun picture book (but don't get too excited, the illustrations aren't done yet... and I am illustrating this one by myself). I'm also writing a biography of a really cool martial arts master.

And in between all this writing, writing, writing... and planning... and playing with my kids... and trying to make sure they grow up to be smart, responsible, funny people that add to society in some outstanding way (nurture, nurture, nurture)... in between all the dog walks, plant waters, and hours spent battling cellulite on an elliptical road to nowhere soul sucking machine; among the hours spent staring into the vast ocean and picking sand out of uncomfortable places; between all the great books read (see my Goodreads list if you don't believe me); between all the shlepping and shopping and hours spent playing with Spotify;

There's the Summer Moviewatching (so far, Pacific Rim and Man of Steel have both been loud and fun). And, of course, ample TV watching... so many shows, so little time:

Now for what you really want: This Summer's TV Watch

So far, I've been enjoying: Orange is the New Black (well worth a months subscription of Netflix), "The Killing," "True Blood" (still but honestly, it's getting a little boring lately), "The Newsroom" (I'm an Aaron Sorkin junkie, am I alone with this addiction? I wonder), Dexter (still fabulous in it's final stand, Charlotte Rampling rocks, though I do not trust her for a nanosecond... in fact, she and Jonathan Lithgow's character seem to have something in common), Ray Donovan, Continuum (my time machine sci fi fix), Stephen King's Under the Dome (my SK fix), Falling Skies, The Bridge, Royal Pains, Suits, Necessary Roughness (Nico, make a move already; who knew Jonathan Stamos could be cool to watch again), Covert Affairs (I'm thrilled that Annie and Auggie are together but I kinda miss the cheesy That Girl animation and upbeat music from the old intro), Mistresses (Don't judge me, it's summer), Switched at Birth (Come on... Angelo..  need I say more?), The Fall, Longmire (a new addition, I'm catching up on last season with Netflix, along with missed episodes of The Walking Dead and Supernatural... yes, I'm behind, okay? There's just not enough procrastinating hours in a day/week to keep on top of these things). I'm probably missing stuff. I'm looking forward to Breaking Bad again, although since I know it's the last season... I'm sad already that it's only for a short while before it's gone for good. Sniff. I miss Mad Men already, and it's only been a few weeks. Here's a recap from that last great episode of the season:

Until next time... Go, Make other plans, I dare you. The Universe waits for no one.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

TV Watching Hours 10; Pages Written 2

It was a fairly decent catch for the TV watching tour de force this week. Best things were:
--Breaking Bad - Some stellar acting and writing, as always. Was I the only one who had flashbacks, when Jesse went in to deal with the meth heads to that episode a couple of seasons ago, "Peekabo," where he entertained the little boy while his insane, meth addicted parents killed each other with an ATM machine? That had to be one of my favorite episodes. This one wasn't quite as emotionally charged, but it was still nice to see Jesse being the reluctant hero, yet again. I think he surprised the heck out of the jaded Guss, who seems to be taking a shine to him as an actual protege or something. Walt definitely seems jealous of losing Jesse and tried his best to get him and keep him for himself. And what about Walter, going all Heisenberg with his "I'm the bad guy, they fear me, not the other way around" BS. Skylar should have known not to call him a nice guy. Nothing will piss a guy off more than calling him "nice" (loved her last line btw, "Someone's gotta save this family from the guy who's saving this family.") Walt, not being able to admit that he's scared and in over his head, instead came back swinging with his braggadocio hangin' out. Even though Skylar was right about pretty much everything, it was cool to see Walt back on the offensive. Nice comeback, and nice tush too Apparently, good ol' Heisenberg's been working out while waiting for the meth to turn blue.

--Torchwood-- I haven't always been so sure about this newfangled American approach to Torchwood. It's been a little too straightforward and not the usual kinky, wacky, British alien thing that I'd grown to love about the series and somehow, Jack Harkness, with his American accent, Tom Cruise smirk, and Kirk Douglass chin always stood out as from another country, surrounded by all the Brit and cockeny accents; now he's mortal, in LA, just another handsome, aging gay dude in a military coat he could've gotten off the rack at a vintage shop on Melrose, on his way to his next acting gig. But low and behold, things get a lot more fun and freaky, in this episode, written by the fabulous Jane Espenson, my Cal alumni sister in sci-fi fantasticness. Aside from an salaciously hot flashback, with Jack once again wooing a sexy foreign guy, fresh off the boat, in need of a shower, with his otherworldly charms, we get some insight into how this whole "undead" thing started and you know aliens have to be involved, FINALLY... and the two are tied together, in a blast from the past that leads to Jack being the cause of this whole thing in some way. Okay, that works for me. I'll take some more of that, thank you very much. Can't wait until next week.

--True Blood - I've been enjoying this season a lot more than last. Maybe it's because putting Sookie with Eric and making Bill the king who still pines after the love he let go away appeals to the romantic in me and nothing boots up a love story like unrequited vamp love, I guess. Then again, maybe I just prefer witches with serious sorcery to hedonistic undefinable devil worshipers as an antagonist. Call me crazy. I thought the whole dream sequence with Sookie, Bill and Eric was a lot of fun and nice way to tie both hunky vampire dudes into the situation. They ended the episode on a note of true suspense, although you know Bill's going to make it out okay in the end, so is Eric, for that matter. And Sookie, well, she might as well be immortal. As for the subplots, they've wrapped up the weird ghost with the Aunt Jemima headwrap taking over Lafayette's body to kidnap Darlene's devil spawn thankfully. First Lafayette is a vdealer, then a v slave, now he's a medium... uh, gee can't the poor guy get a break. All in all though, it's still one of my favorite guilty pleasures and I'll miss it when the season's over. Thankfully, they've been picked up for another one.

Ah, better get back to work. Boo hiss.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rolling in the Deep

Come on, you know you'd rather watch Adele sing "Rolling in the Deep" and "Rumor Has It" in her cool, artsy, angst ridden video than write anything. I know I would.

The more I listen to Adele's new album, the more I like it, and I bought it first day it came out. She's just amazing. Perhaps her first album was more solid, in that every single song was a keeper. But there's so much great stuff on 21. And it's got that retro sound that also is so contemporary. Really, there's no one like her.