Monday, May 21, 2007

Here's Something You Never Want to Hear Your Child Say To You Over the Phone.

"Okay, Mom... We went fishing today and... and... long story short... we now have... a goose."

First off, what d'ya mean "we," white man? Second... oh, hell, there is no second... What d'ya mean "we," white man?

They've named it Aflac. They're taking it to the Wildlife Center tomorrow, after it opens. (And that's an order, soldier!)

A goose, indeed... Goodnight, Mabel....


Friday, May 18, 2007

Stop the Presses!

An arts program in Los Angeles needs our support! Self Help Graphics and Arts, a program that supports Latinos artists in printmaking. The East L.A. arts center has felt the bite of reduced federal and private-sector grant money (since we have this great big war we have to pay for), and is on the verge of having to close its doors. Self Help is seeking alternate sources of grant money, but, as anyone who has applied for artistic or academic grants knows, this is a lengthy process that will require time -- time Self Help doesn't have at the moment.

One look at the samples of their past exhibits will tell you this is would be a huge loss for the arts in this city. Exhibits aside, take a gander at their building! With every passing year, art programs that aren't a part of the entertainment industry (live theatre, live dance, visual arts programs) are vanishing because conservative political forces conspire to syphon funds away from the NEA and local arts sponsors. Programs are being eliminated in our public schools and state-funded universities, and the people feeling this most acutely are people in economically challenged areas. Less grant money means less opportunity for struggling new artists who cannot afford to sponsor their own shows and display and promote their own work, especially in predominantly minority communities. Nothing marginalizes a community more than silencing its artistic voice.

Self Help's website speaks for itself, so I won't ramble on about it. They provide support for artists who might not otherwise find a venue for their work, and gives them the skills and opportunity to get that work shown publicly. That warrants saving. As someone who isn't a visual artist (but plays one on the computer), I ask you to do whatever you can to assist Self Help in reaching its $100K fundraising goal. I know that you guys are being pulled in a lot of directions, moneywise, but a lot of small gifts can go a long way.



Monday, May 14, 2007

The Television Fates Hate Me!

If I like it, it gets cancelled. That's one of Murphy's most indelible laws.

It's official. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is cancelled. I survived the West Wing's cancellation. After John Spencer died, and the show was going into its eighth season, Jed Bartlett was leaving the Oval Office, and Toby was on his way to the hoosegow for contempt of Congress, it seemed that the show had naturally run its course. The fact that I also lost Will and Grace (which I'd only just discovered a season and a half before) the same year was hard, but I don't blame myself for that one, since I was a 'Manda-Come-Lately. I've been spending the past five years in school, trying to finish my bachelor's and get my MFA, and I don't watch much television.

But I coped with losing the two smartest shows on television, secure in the knowledge that witty dialogue and smart characters (who do dumb things, which makes them interesting) would be back in the form of Studio 60. Now, that's gone. Where do I turn for my searing, sardonic dialogue, my witty banter, my deeply disturbed, multi-faceted characters who cover their pain with humor and crazy antics?

To make matters worse, since last year, I've lost my HBO, and wno't be able to watch the only other show I love beyond reason (and I mean, beyond reason, because, hey, it's a show about polygamy), Big Love. The season premieres June 11th. My only hope is to DVR it on my sister's set, and hope that I get a chance to stop by and watch it every week.

Don't tell anyone I watch Big Love. I shudder to think what will happen if the Fates perceive my obsession.

Below, a nowhere-near-complete list of my favorite shows cancelled unceremoniously (be aware that some of them were obsessions back when I was, like, fifteen or so):

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (Couldn't they at least show us the last episodes?
West Wing (Over? Sure, but I miss it all the same.)
Will & Grace (I have my reruns to keep me warm, tho')
Arrested Development
Kingdom Hospital (Odd? sure. Uneven? You betcha. But how can you not love a show where Christ --or is He? -- shows up strapped to a chainlink fence? That's some mighty fine television, dammit!)
Dead Like Me
Joan of Arcadia (I'll admit to bias here -- Joe Mantegna is a friend.)
My So-Called Life
Tour of Duty (they had it backwards -- the show should have lasted for 11 years -- they should have cancelled the war after three)
St. Elsewhere
Sunshine (God, I had it bad for Bill Mumy -- I was sixteen, gimme a break!)
Star Trek (the original series)

There are probably more, but this is all that came to memory right off the top of my head. I told someone the other day that I'm a television jonah. I'm cursed. I'm taking it personally (because when you stop and think about it, who's it all about?)

Damn.... damn, damn, damn....


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Why an MFA? Sr. Catharine of Perpetual Cellphone Bills Explains It All For You.

As I get closer and closer to finishing my MFA, I have had a couple of people ask me why I bothered, since its not like you can't write without one. This is ever so true. People all over the world write beautifully without MFAs in Creative Writing. So why, indeed? Why should a writer spend over $30K to get a degree that won't necessarily make them a better writer*?

I wrote an essay over at Helium that explains my stance on this issue. Hope you enjoy it, and I hope it answers all your questions about this topic... so that I don't have to.


*For the record, I have absolutely no doubt that the MFA experience has made me a better, braver writer.

Friday, May 04, 2007

What YOU Write!

But enough about me and what I write. Let's talk about you, and what YOU write. Or what you might write, if you be courageous enough to pick up the soon-to-be-thrown-down gauntlet.

Every year on November 1st, tens of thousands of intrepid writers and writer-wannabes gather over at National Novel Writing Month ( to undertake the Herculean task of writing a 50,000-word novel in a mere 30 days. Impossible, you say? Nay, say I, and so says NaNoWriMo's founder and yearly participant, Chris Baty. Baty founded the site in 1999 with only 21 writers, convinced that the biggest stumbling block novelists face when sitting down to write a first draft is the absence of a deadline. Baty refers to the deadline as the single most important tool in writing, next to the implement with which the writer applies the words to paper. In his FAQ section, Baty writes:

"NaNoWriMo is all about the magical power of deadlines. Give someone a goal and a goal-minded community and miracles are bound to happen. Pies will be eaten at amazing rates. Alfalfa will be harvested like never before. And novels will be written in a month."
And they are. In fact, Baty lists eleven novelists who've published novels that were birthed as NaNoWriMo projects. There are no awards given (except an icon, a certificate and the satisfaction of a deadline met). It's art strictly for art's sake, says Baty. At the end of it all, a writer is guaranteed nothing but a good headstart (or, more optimistically, a completed first draft) of a novel.

But wait, I hear you say! We can't wait until November to begin our writing adventures. And besides, we laugh in the face of expositional narrative prose! This is Hollywood, baby, and in this town it's all about the screenplay. Well, fret not, my starsmooching little friends. For now, there is a sister site to NaNoWriMo called And if you hussle on over there right this minute, you'll be in time to sign up to write a 20,000-word screenplay in 30 days in the month of June. The same rules apply to the screenplays as to the novels (with the exception that screenplays may be written by a partnership of two writers, whereas novels must be singularly authored).

Writing is a solitary business, and one of its downfalls is that a writer can fall victim to the oppressors that live inside her own head. The benefit of spending 30 days, twice a year, locked in mortal combat with a literary endeavor, and being in that boat with thousands of other fellow combatants similarly engaged, is that you have back-up, support and many voices of sanity that will bring you out of your head and back on the path to getting the words out. As my mentor, Rob Roberge, has said, "A first draft's job is to get written." That's all. Just get written. Because every writer knows that writing is rewriting, and you can't rewrite what has yet to be written.

So, my little spectators, it's time to get those feet wet in a safe, supportive atmosphere where you don't have to show anyone your work if you don't want, but will find a receptive audience if you do.

Let's see what you guys can write. C'mon, baby. You know you want it.