Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Saucy Review of Things to Do, 2008, Before Posting Things to Do, 2009

Last year, in the hopes of avoiding the annoying Resolution phenom, I made a List of Things to Do in 2008. Before I move on and make my '09 list, I thought I'd review and see what I can cross off the list from this past year.
  1. New job: No joke. Really need to get me a new one of these. I need to start teaching for a living, or working for a publishing company, or actually supporting myself as a writer (or any combination thereof) sometime this year, because working in the legal department of a major motion picture studio is the opposite of being creative, and it's sucking my creative energy. Done. Quit Fox, went freelance, am trying to work out a more flexible part-time gig. (Mustn't discuss details, lest I jinx it.)

  2. Finish losing the weight I put on during Daddy-Palooza 2006-2007. That's about -- gulp! -- forty-five pounds. On someone who's not even 5'4", that's a whole lotta weight. Uh... yeah... well, this needs to go on '09's list as well. Nuff said there.

  3. Turn fifty. Okay, this one doesn't really need to go on the list, because, hey, it's happening in November. But I want to do it in style -- a party, or an exciting trip somewhere, and I want to have No. 2 accomplished by then, so I look completely hot for whatever I'm doing to celebrate. I plan on buying a very expensive, chic little dress and some very tall, impractical shoes. Check. Fifty successfully turned, birthday party complete success, shoes exceedingly impractical, by God.

  4. Get a literary agent. I'm tired of being told how impossible this is, how hard, how it's nearly futile, how it happens to only the luckiest few budding writers.... Yeah. I get it. Now shut up about it. I don't want to hear that kind of naysaying bullshit from another breathing soul (if they want to go on breathing). It's happening, it's happening this year, and you can either help or get the hell out of my way. (If there's anything ambivalent or confusing about No. 4, please feel free to write me and ask for clarification. I dare you.) This is another carry-over---spent too much time on my book design classes and photography lessons to get much of this done.

  5. Finish the triathlon. In one piece. Undrowned, unscraped, un-shin-splinty. So there. Nope. Not this one either. Had to give it up because I was busy finishing up at Fox. But I'm still thinking of going it freelance, either in La Quinta or Carpinteria this next year.

  6. Get a home. Not just another crappy apartment. A home. As in house. As in, with a yard. With a space to plant bare-root roses (yellow in memory of my godmother, Linny). And room for a boxer (the dog, not the prizefighter). I am through asking permission about what colors I can paint my walls and how many pets I get to have and what kind of showerhead I can have. I'm a grown-ass woman, and it's time I exercised all rights and privileges therein. Well, at least we've decided the general area where we want to move---and rents are a lot more reasonable out there. Wish us luck---moving this item to '09.

  7. Be more patient. Stop the foot-tapping, steering-wheel-pounding, standing-in-line sighing. Enough ahready. This isn't a conspiracy against me. I need to just grow up and get over myself. Likewise, to be more tolerant of people's oddities and peculiarities. You know what, if you want to eat sardine-and-peanut butter sandwiches, as long as you're downwind of me, that's fine. I'll go on loving you all the same. Yes, by Golly. I think I can safely say that, for the most part, I have become much more zen about things. I'm not entirely devoid of passion, mind you, but I am learning to take this in better stride, without the road rage and the queue meltdowns. Mechanical malfunction still makes steam come out of my ears. I'm working on it.

  8. Stop apologizing for being me. It occured to me during the whole ordeal of the past eighteen months that I have spent the better part of my life apologizing to somebody for being me. To my mother, for being born at a time when she wasn't prepared financially or emotionally to have a child. To my father for not being... well... Christie Brinkley. To my ex-husband for not being his mother. To various men* that I've dated for not being, alternately, too virginal, not virginal enough, too opinionated, not decisive enough, too headstrong, too sensitive, too young, too old, too fat, too short, too blonde, too redheaded, too... Well.... shit.... just too "too," really. My new motto when it comes to people in my life, particularly male-type people, is this: "I'm not sorry. I don't apologize. Please don't forgive me. Please don't 'fix' me. Please don't deconstruct, reconstruct, rescue or repair me. This is the package, and if it's not what you want, this town is chock full of 'Acting for Commercials' classes that are chock full of plastic-titted bikini models just waiting for you. The door's thataway. And it locks from the inside."Happy to say, well and truly done. Not sure exactly what it means, except that it might mean I'm single forever and ever. But I think, for the first time, I'm really happy with that arrangement. It gets lonely, but it never gets hurtful and abusive. A definite improvement, for sure. For a deeper explanation of this, stay tuned to 2009's list, when I will further elaborate.

  9. Travel. I want to go to Maui (with Kim) for fun this summer, and I want to go to Prague sometime before the end of the year. I want to see Prague before they start using the Euro, and my weak-assed American dollar isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Unfortunately, due to rising oil prices and airfares, Kim and I never made it to Maui. But we did have a splendid trip to North Carolina's GORGEOUS Outer Banks, staying in Kill Devil Hills (where the Wright Brothers made one of their first historic flights) and seeing the sites on the East Coast. Beautiful. Lovely. It was a fortuitous turn of events that led us on a fabulously unexpected adventure. Travel? Check!

  10. Finish "Vision," the collection of linked short stories about a half-dozen people who see (or think they see) an image of Virgin Mary on a freeway support at the corner of Pico and Sawtelle. An item for 2009's list. Next!

  11. Finish a first draft of "Death of the American Western," the novel I started in the MFA program. It can (and mostly likely will) be, in the words of Ann Lamott, a "shitty first draft," but it has to be finished and ready for revision by December 31, 2008. Ditto. Next!

  12. Get the publication arts certificate. This will hopefully provide me with certain skills that will allow me to accomplish No. 1 and (spoiler alert!) No. 13. Can't cross this off yet, because I'm still in the middle of the program, but I'm on track for it. Will be completed in June of 09.

  13. Be financially secure. Need I elaborate? I thought not. Ironically (or because the Universe has a twisted sense of humor), my inability to make a decision about investing my finances, and thus turning to temporary solutions to stash my nest egg, like Certificates of Deposit and money market accounts, has all but ensured that I will come through this current financial crisis relatively intact. Had I invested the money in bonds or mutual funds, I'd be royally screwed. (We won't even discuss the sad and sorry state of my 401K.)

  14. Get more sleep. Done.

  15. Eat less crap. Done.

  16. Take less crap. Done.

  17. Have more fun. Definitely done.

Not so bad. Ten out of seventeen accomplished. I'd say it was a pretty productive year. It was a big year, in all respects. In many ways, it sucked, in a few really brilliant ways, it rocked the heavens. But here I am, for better or worse, trying---still, in spite of the wisdom that fifty brings (ahem!), trying to figure it out. That means answering a few really big questions for myself. Like, what do I want to be when I grow up? Like, I am alone, but am I lonely? Like, is it really possible for me to spend the rest of my life only taking jobs I want and like? (No. Seriously.)

At least I'm asking the questions, though many answers remain as yet undiscovered.

Stay tuned for the List of Things To Do, 2009, in which we shall ask these and many more earth-shattering questions. For now, though, I'm ready to put the past to bed and say good-bye to the list for 2008.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sadly, The Search Is Over

The remains found in the marshy area a mile or so from Casey Anthony's parents' home have been positively identified through DNA as being those of Anthony's missing three-year-old, Caylee Anthony. I wish I could at least feign shock and surprise, but it is the outcome we all suspected was coming.

Casey, who was charged with first-degree murder back in October and has been in jail ever since, has been refused the right to attend memorial services for the child whose absence she neglected to tell anyone about for one month, and then whose abduction she blamed on a Hispanic woman who lived in her apartment complex (the woman has been cleared of all charges when the FBI established her solid alibi).

During the 31 days between the time Casey says Caylee went missing and the day her "abduction" was reported to authorities (by Casey's mother, mind you, who also reports in the same 911 call that Casey's car smells "like a dead body in the damn car"*), Casey was spotted and (courtesy of CCTV security cameras) photographed shopping and partying as if nothing were amiss. She also put her time without Caylee to good use by stealing and forging her mother's checks and committing petty theft.

The marsh where the little girl's remains were found was apparently a favorite burial ground for Casey Anthony for her childhood pets. Searchers say they had been previously unable to search the area because the rainy season from the previous spring had put the whole area under water.

My heart bleeds for Casey's parents who have lost a grandchild and a child to this mess. I dread the day they suddenly come to the realization that somehow, in spite of what I'm sure were good intentions, they managed to raise a monster.


* Cadaver dogs later gave a "positive" on the trunk of Casey's car for the presence of human decomposition. Further tests of the air in the car confirmed this finding.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

CORALINE -- Coming in February

Neil Gaiman's novella, Coraline, is coming to the screen in February. It is a strange amalgam of traditional stop-action model 3D, and digital 3D, and it looks really fun. Since I first was exposed to the story through the audiobook (read by Gaiman), it'll take a little getting used to to hear Coraline talking with an American accent.

Still... here's the trailer.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

It's Beginning to Smell A Lot Like Christmas, 2008 Edition

I decided today that it was time to let go of the summery colors decorating my little one-room apartment, and move this sucker toward winter. Don't laugh. No sooner had we here in SoCal decided to put our fans away and take down the window sun reflectors, ninety-five degree weather would return and we'd be sweltering. (But global warning is a myth, and Sarah Palin would like you to know that.)

But I think we're safe now.

I changed my sofa decor and set about to making this place smell---if not look, exactly---like Christmas.

For this we refer to the "Christmasification List." It lists the following steps be taken:

1. Replace summery, beach umbrella--colored slipcover and bedspread replace on sofa and bed with more neutral, deeper shades. I found a dark brown microsuede quilt on sale at Target, and complimented it with some lovely throw pillows. My existing red throw goes nicely.

2. Buy real pine wreath from Trader Joes, which can be cheaply replaced once it dies, sometime in the next two weeks.

3. Bring out Christmas decorations. I have gone with a lit ceramic Victorian street scene, and a Jack Sparrow-like pirate nutcracker. A ceramic Christmas tree is to follow, but Target was out of them until next week.

4. Cinnamon-soaked pine cones. Lots of them. As potpourri. Yum.

5. One Glade apple-cinnamon scented oil candle for the kitchen to complete the effect.

Things the list has barred this year? Real or fake plastic Christmas trees. As those of you who have been reading for a while already know, this is a cat zone, and therefore, sacrifices must be made. In 2006, the horror of a real Christmas tree with the many decorations from my and Savannah's childhoods, and the many shattered glass shards swept off the tile floor, convinced me that a fake tree would go over better in 2007. In 2007, I went with a tiny fake tree, the real pine wreath, and tiny ornaments I was sure the cats couldn't get off the tree.

I was wrong. Sweeping up tiny shards of tiny glass ornanents.

This year, it's all good. Ceramics and plants. I'm not going as far as George Bush did when he encouraged terrorists to "bring it on." But I'm pretty sure I've hit on a winning combination.

Happy December, people.


(cross-posted at MySpace)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Damn That Cable Company, Anyway.

I'm having intermittent problems with my cable internet reception, and no one at the cable company can figure out what the problem is.

Let's see if we can take a look and diagnose the trouble ourselves, shall we?

Oh. Dear. Yes. Well. That might be the problem, I suppose.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Rick Astley? Really?

I can't bear it. I missed the parade, but I'd like to stop now and give thanks for YouTube for preserving this moment forever.

"I like Rickrolling!!!"

No. Stop. You're killin' me.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Getting Organized

In an attempt to break the oppressive malaise (or is it ennui?) that has kept me from writing creatively for the past several months, I have taken to cleaning and reorganizing my apartment. I am taking stuff to storage, rearranging where things are put, attempting to create clean, open spaces in a tiny single apartment, and making things work more efficiently and with less drama.

This has involved packing and scrubbing, calling the Sears repairman to come and fix my broken fridge, go shopping for a replacement for the sporadically working television, trying to redesign my living areas into more functional zones of operation. I used my Target gift cards (given me by the friends who know and love me best) to purchase several things that will help me organize my shelves and storage spaces.

Here is the beginning of organizing the bookshelves, which will store my photography and printing supplies, important papers and collections of writing.

And here are the two bins purchased to help organize the chest of drawers into socks and undies and bras.

And here is the cat bin. Hey. Wait. What?

Apparently, I have a cat bin. It wasn't purchased as a cat bin. It was purchased as a place to store all my notebooks for my writing and residency notes. It seems Inuyasha didn't get the memo. She's thinking it's the cat bin.

Hmmm... The question now is, how to convince her she's sadly mistaken. Unless of course, I'm the one who is sadly mistaken.

Another trip to the other Target is in order tomorrow for more bins and magazine boxes, so that I can rearrange my living area and make it a more reasonable space.

And to get more cat bins.

Oh, dear.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Where There's Life, There's Hope. And Vice Versa.

This book is information that EVERYONE needs to have in order to save their own life.

This is simple, it's easy, and it's the right way to live, whether you have cancer or not. Dr. Servan-Schreiber has lived for fourteen years after his diagnosis of brain cancer. There's no reason not to live this way every day.

The human brain and the human heart are the two biggest weapons in our fight against terminal disease. What a revelation!


Monday, November 03, 2008

A Non-Partison, Non-Political Story of Selflessness and Compassion.

Mitch Albom had a piece published on freep.com on my fiftieth birthday (Sunday, Nov. 2) about one Marilyn Mock, a 50-year-old Texas rock yard owner who committed what could be termed the Granddaddy of all Random Acts of Kindness in history. While attending a foreclosure auction with her son, who was buying a house, she met a young woman named Tracey Orr, who was most definitely not there to buy a house. Tracey was there to say good-bye to her own beloved house, which she lost after she'd lost her job and had fallen behind on the payments. The mortgage company foreclosed. Touched by Orr's story, Mock found herself bidding on the $80,000 home. She won the bidding at $30K. She and Orr have worked out payment arrangements. The long and the short of it was that Mock made it possible for Orr to get her beloved home back, to the tune of $30,000. For a woman Mock had never met. Just because her heart had been touched by Orr's story.

People, I've made no secret of my choice for president. But make no mistake. No matter who wins tomorrow, the road ahead is going to be long and bumpy, more for some of us than for others. The economic crisis we face are not going away tomorrow or next months or on January 21, 2009, when we inaugurate the man we select tomorrow.

We are going to need to be good to each other, and kind to each other. We are going to need to cut each other some slack and give each other a break. We are going to have to come together and create a grassroots support system for those among us who struggle the most.

Apparently, Marilyn Mock doesn't see the country as a "have/have not" affair, but rather a place where we share what we have with those that have not. I like Marilyn Mock's view of America, and frankly, I think we all need to think about buying into it. I think if we make that effort, we'll come through this mess okay.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hope On Hudson

Hope Edelman, who used to teach creative non-fiction at my alma mater, Antioch, gave an interview on our local CBS Channel 2 news about Jennifer Hudson's loss of her family this past weekend, particularly her mother. Edelman is the author of Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss, a collection of stories, including her own, of women who hve lost their mothers.

I had hoped to study with Edelman during my creative non-fiction semester, but she left Antioch before the opportunity arose. (I'm not taking it personally, though.)

My heart goes out to Jennifer Hudson and her sister for their loss. I'm hoping they can find their way out of a pain so deep as to be unimaginable.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gone Two Bunchin'!

Yep, I'm going to be gone for a few days, starting Sunday. I'm going to the spa to indulge in treatments and long, loooooongggg soaks in the lithium-laden water of natural desert hot springs. I'm planning on reading, sleeping, eating amazing food and maybe taking an early morning walk in the desert.

I am taking my computer, but the odds are good I won't be blogging. I've decided to relax and put my election neurosis on hold for a few days, while I indulge in a cranial-sacral massage and a lovely mud bath. I'll be back and available to blog probably by Saturday.

Be good. Behave. Drink responsibly. Stay in school. Don't do drugs.

And, since I'm away relaxing, why don't you guys take a little break, too, by flipping through the Christian Science Monitor's Autumn Foliage photo page. If this doesn't lighten your heart, you don't have one, by golly.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Just When You Thought People Were Kind of Useless

Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart just won the first annual Naked Voodoo Chicken Dance Award (hereby nicknamed... uh.... the "Voodie"... yeah.... that's it) for being an absolute, undeniable mensch.

Today, Sheriff Dart declared a moritorium on evictions in Cook County unless and until financial institutions start proving they've fulfilled their responsibilities regarding giving occupants -- whether owners or tenants -- sufficient notice. Sick and tired of hearing about his deputies serving papers on renters who had been paying their rent on time, only to be screwed over by unscrupulous landlords, Dart said today, "We're not going to do their jobs for them anymore. We're just not going to evict innocent tenants. It stops today." And it did.

At the end of the video, several deputies are seen attempting to complete an eviction, only to discover an elderly ill woman in the apartment. The eviction was suspended, and Social Services was called in to provide the woman with aid.

So, here's to you, Sheriff Dart, for finally putting the brakes on unjust evictions.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

~These Confusing, Disorienting Times ~

It's easy nowadays to look up from our busy lives and discover that we have totally lost our way, and are now completely rudderless and without our bearings to find our way home. But don't take my word for it.

Just ask these little guys.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Portrait Of An Unhappy Kitty

Freya has a major tummy issue. She's been throwing up since late Saturday morning. Just when I think it's over, it starts again. She's sequestered herself in the top-most spot in my closet.

She is going to see a new vet today.
UPDATE: From unhappy to mildly indignant, but otherwise okay. This is what comes from escaping into the night and eating something dead and rotten one finds hanging out on the ground (let that be a lesson to us all!!).

But, kitty has subcue fluids, a shot of penicillin, a shot of B-12 and a shot to cure her "kitty acne," too.

All better.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Deer One

I am not going to apologize for this. It is hopelessly, tragically, critical, severely adorable, and I do NOT care who knows it.

Rupert the Fawn

There. There's your morning dose of precious. Now be gone with you and spread the cute.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

So Long, Paul.

Dear Paul,

I can call you Paul, right? I mean, it only seems fair, since I've been in love with you for the past 40 years. The first time I saw you was on television, in a movie called What A Way To Go, with Shirley MacLaine. I originally wanted to see the movie because my previous love, Gene Kelly, was in it. But then I saw you, and I had to break Gene's heart and dump him for you. I was ten. I do realize I'm not alone. I'm just one of the legion of women (and men -- not that there's anything wrong with that) who fell in love with you and never fell out.

So, before you go on to wherever it is you're destined to go, I'd just like to list a few reasons why I... why we... why we all... loved you.

We love that you were so incredibly beautiful, and yet, according to everyone who knew you, you had no idea, and when the topic was brought up, it merely annoyed you.

We love that you were more interested in being true to a character and turning in a good performance then you ever were about the way you looked or the likability of your characters.

We love that you were married to the same woman for fifty years, which has got to be some kind of movie star record as far as we're concerned. And we love that the two of you seemed to genuinely still love each other after all those years together, and that you grew old together, and that you were the example that it can be done.

We love that you were able to look at the blessings you received and be gracious enough to give back when you could, and that you found a way to do it in a way that will continue to generate charitable income (hopefully) for years to come.

We love that, no matter your age, your eyes stayed every bit as blue as ever, and that there was always a bit of the demon twinkle in them, even if you weren't smiling at that moment. And we loved that you were almost always smiling.

We love that you were here, that you were one of us for a while and that you worked hard and played hard and loved your family. We love that you gave us your performing self, but kept your personal self private. It preserved our mystery.

We love that we were able to love you for a time and we are a little melancholy that we must now love you from an ever greater distance than before. But we will go on loving you, because it's what we do, regardless of the people we love in real life.

So, safe journey. Peace be with you. And thanks again for all the great good fun.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Black Ops Cat

Seriously. Why are we wasting time and endangering human operatives?

This guy's good.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My New Favorite Champion Swimmer (Not Michael Phelps, Smarties.)

Meet Christopher Marino, age 13. He's the one on the left in the picture. Christopher and his father, Walter, (pictured with him) had a teensy-tinesy little adventure not long ago. They were swimming off of Florida's Atlantic coast when they got caught in a powerful rip current and were swept apart. Nearly three miles apart. For 12 hours, Walter and Christopher treaded water, growing further and further apart with each passing minute. To gauge distance, Walter continued to call to Christopher, using lines from Disney movies back and forth.

"To infinity," Walter would call.

"And beyond!" Christopher responded.

Eventually, there was no response. Walter was sure Christopher was gone. When he was rescued by fisherman and transferred to a Coast Guard cutter, he went down below because he couldn't bear to watch them come across Christopher's lifeless body. When the Coast Guard called him up from below, he was sure the news would be the worst. Instead, they pointed to a Coast Guard helicopter flying overhead.

"See that helicopter?" they told Marino. "It has your son on board, and he's fine."

Christopher beat Walter back to shore, though he was nearly a quarter mile farther out to sea. Both Marinos suffered from mild exposure and dehydration, and jellyfish stings, but were otherwise fine. The Coast Guard rescue unit was pretty gob-smacked. They had been looking for the pair for nearly as long as they'd been gone, and were sure after the first ten or so hours, they'd find bodies.

How did these two survive? Walter survived by refusing to panic, even after he thought he'd lost his son. He remained calm, thought of his daughter and how he couldn't let her suffer two deaths in the family, and alternated between floating on his back, and dog-paddling with the rip current until he was rescued.

As for Christopher, we'll never know how he survived after he lost contact with his father. Christopher is severly autistic and is almost entirely non-verbal, save for vocalizations and lines from movies and t.v. shows. Marino believes it was autism that saved his son.

Christopher has no fear of death, Marino explains. "And the water is one of his favorite things." Christopher is soothed by water, so managed to avoid panicking himself. When they wafted through a jellyfish school and began getting stung, Christopher did start to freak out, but Walter talked him through it. Shortly thereafter, the boy drifted out of his father's earshot.

We will never know what happened to Christopher once he was separated from his father. We only know he kept on swimming and treading water, until he was picked up by Coast Guard helicopter. It was the rescue of the father that led to the rescue of the son, as the Coast Guard was able to reorient their search for Christopher once Walter had been picked up with the fishing boat. If Walter had given up, as he considered doing for a moment when he thought his son was lost, then his son would have been lost.

So, move over Michael Phelps. Christopher Marino is my new favorite championship swimmer.


Where's Caylee?

I can't imagine why police and the FBI think this crackpot killed her child and disposed of the body. What with her sterling character and her upstanding, forthright demeanor.

Ummm... Casey? If you can find some free time in your busy schedule of being perpetually arrested and arraigned on child neglect charges, petty theft, check forgery and identity fraud, do you think you might take a moment to tell law enforcement what the hell you did WITH YOUR FREAKIN' KID?

Somebody give me a rolled up newspaper. Someone needs to be hit upside the head.


Monday, September 15, 2008

SNL's Fey as Sarah Palin

There's just one thing to say about Tina Fey's portrayal of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live this past weekend.


Okay, really funny would be a couple of other words. But Fey's resemblance to Palin (which people have been discussing for days now in anticipation of just this sketch) is truly eerie. It also give me ideas.

Anybody ever see the movie "DAVE"?

Just sayin'....


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Here's Something You Don't See Every Day.

It's not unusual to see huge feature credits in the middle of a trailer for a movie that has an "all-star" cast. But the trailer for Gus Van Sant's "Milk," the biographical account of the political ascendancy of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay candidate to be elected to public office, includes an absolutely ENORMOUS single-card credit for writer Dustin Lance Black. (The image at right really doesn't do it justice -- it's HUGE in the trailer.)

Black, who has but a few credits to his name, has written several episodes of one of our favorite, favorite HBO series, Big Love. It's very rare that a relatively unknown screenwriter is given that kind of nod, particularly in a trailer. His agent must be Jesus Christ, I swear. But it's nice to see anyway.

Here is the trailer:

Personal favorite moment:
Dan White (as played by Josh Brolin): America can't survive without the family.
Milk (as played by Sean Penn): We're not against that.
White: Can two men reproduce?
Milk: No, but God knows we keep trying.
Penn's performance looks (as usual) amazing. I have so resisted him, on principle more than anything (I think it was the whole Madonna nightmare that soured me), but I think I'm finally coming to the point where I can come out of the closet and admit the truth.

Yes, America, it's a fact. I'm a Sean Penn fan.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Billy Joe Don Bob's What Not To Wear

Here's a credibility fashion tip. If you're from south of the Mason-Dixon line and you're on a show called "MonsterQuest," talking about the night you went out squirrel hunting with a relative named Earl, and you and he came across Big Foot, you probably don't want to wear a trucker hat and a pair of overalls during the on-camera interview.

Just sayin'.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Chorus Line and A Haunted Hotel.

Confession: I'm a bad, bad Broadway mommy.

I have a child who loves to sing and act, and is quite good at it. She has been exposed to a number of Broadway musicals, operas and plays that most kids her age have never seen or even heard of. And yet, the one musical that totally revolutionized theater in the 1970's -- the one that put Marvin Hamlisch on the map, and made Michael Bennett a household name (at least in the households that watched the Tony Awards) outside of New York -- my daughter had not only never seen, but had never even heard the original Broadway recording of.

A Chorus Line. The self-described "greatest musical... EVER," according to the website dedicated to the Broadway revival and touring companies there of. And who are we to argue the point? So, when I was able to get hold of two tickets to the touring company's performance at the San Diego Civic Theatre for this past Thursday, I grabbed 'em.

Not wanting to drive all the way to San Diego and back in the same day, I decided we should book a hotel in the area and spend the night. I am not particularly familiar with the refurbished downtown area of San Diego, so picking a hotel was kind of a crap-shoot. The ones closest to the Civic Center were very expensive. I took a run at hotels.com and a couple of other similar sites, and came up with the Courtyard Marriott - Downtown. It was walking distance, it was a Marriott (much like Pizza Hut, you know it might not be great, but it won't totally suck), and the price was right. I booked it.

I figured the show would be the event. But then, we got to the hotel. The Courtyard Marriott, it turns out, has situated itself in what used to be the old San Diego Trust & Savings Bank building, originally built as part of the downtown financial district in old San Diego. The building was declared an historic landmark sometime in the 90s, and underwent a conversion to a hotel shortly thereafter. The designers did everything they could to preserve the original feeling of the building. The woodwork, the marble-lined hallways, the deep rust-and-gold carpeting -- all restored from the original office building design. All of it combines to give the hotel a really kind of... well, frankly... creepy feeling. In the best possible way, of course.

The lobby has been preserved and turned into the hotel bar and dining room, and the original ceiling was fully restored. It is pretty breathtaking. The teller windows have been converted into customer service windows.

The elevator lobby has also been restored and preserved, much as I'm sure it looked when the building first opened. We thought the hotel was beautiful when we first checked in, but it was the elevator ride to the room that first clued us in that perhaps this was no... ordinary hotel. The ornate doors and mahogany paneled interiors of the elevators really set the stage for what's to come upstairs.

The hallways looked like something out of Stephen King's Overlook Hotel. I was a bit disappointed that we didn't see two spectral twins floating, zombie-like, through the hallways. Maybe that costs extra. Who knows? I guess I should have been suspicious of the lower room rate after all. Why, here is one of the hotel's perky young guests, taking her elevator ride to her room. Is that a look of apprehension on her face?

In any case, the rooms are very comfortable, though the added bathroom designs are a bit awkward. Still, the beds are decent, the air conditioning works with a vengeance, and...

Here's our pretty hotel guest, fully recovered from her elevator ride, relaxing in her peejays with a novel (about young vampires and werewolves in love, but why quibble?). She seems to feel safe and secure enough, doesn't she? Nothing ominious here.

Surely, there are no such things as ghosts to keep this young lady on edge here at the lovely Courtyard Marriott - Downtown.

And here's our lovely young miss, taking care of some last minute details on the handy hallway phone (circa 1940s). (Note: She's not that blurry in real-life -- the photographer is still trying to master the new camera on moving targets.) No ghoulies or goblins to taint her holiday.

After all, so what if the hallways outside the room are long, marble-bedecked and not-so-well lit. It's not like anything spooky can happen in an old bank-and-trust building built in 1928 in downtown San Diego, right?

I mean they've complete renovated. Seriously. It's not like they'd have anything spiritually tainted from the original building... like... say.... the bank vault or anything.

In any case, the play was wonderful, Savannah and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and (except for some sound issues we had with the venue), it was a smashing theatrical experience.

The hotel, though... that was a nice little find. So much so that I've purchased tickets for The Drowsy Chaperone next month. Hopefully, Savannah will be able to get away from school for a day to see it with me.

We'll be staying at the Courtyard Downtown San Diego, thanks. We're sure they're just dying to see us again.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

New Toys Make Everything Better

It's a bit fraudulent for me to put this in the Art and Photography category. These are some photos I took with the new DSLR I bought two days ago, as a belated Bastille Day present for myself. (Hey! Back off! If I say it was a Bastille Day present, it was a Bastille Day present, damn you all!)

Because I've been lacking in consensual human subjects, I've been forced to play with playground equipment, foliage, architecture and textures. Still, I've been able to get some really nice photos, with very little experience or knowledge. I have purchased a book called The Digital Photography Book (Volume 1), but haven't had a chance to read it through yet.

I took a lot of photos of plants. Nonconsenual photos of plants. Naked plants. Alright, so it's plant porn. Arty plant porn, but still.... Parental guidance strongly suggested. I'm using the link for the Flickr slideshow. Hopefully, it'll work for everyone.

My little Olympus point-and-click camera has been very, very good to me (all the photos in my Maui and my North Carolina albums were taken with the Olympus). It's a fantastic little camera. The Nikon, though, is in a whole other league. I'm looking forward to learning how to use it. Many, many thanks to M3 at Do They Have Salsa In China for letting me pick her camera brain, and for recommending the Nikon D40. I'll have to get the car fixed up and take that road trip up north in the near future now. Word has it there are two very willing, cooperative little human photographic subjects living up there.

And... uh... Note to Julie and Jim... the camera's coming with me tomorrow.

Fair warning.


(cross-posted at MySpace)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Joseph M. DeMarco

Update: Article (from whence I got the photo) in Variety.

Joseph DeMarco, Executive Vice President of Business Affairs for Fox Searchlight Pictures, and one of my first bosses when I started at Fox 13 years ago, passed away this morning at 3am during emergency abdominal surgery. He arrested during the administration of anesthesia. Or so they tell me.

He was three days past his 48th birthday.

He was a friend, an agitator, a supporter, a fan of my writing, and, at times, a big huge pain my butt. But, first, he was a friend. In a chance meeting in the Commissary Cafe, when I told him I was leaving Fox to pursue writing, his response, in his typical Jersey boy growl*, was, "It's about time. What took you so long?" Then he hugged me, wished me luck and told me he knew I'd do well. Immediately thereafter, he went out on sick leave, and I wasn't able to see him again before I left. I'm so grateful for that last fortuitous meeting now.

Searchlight will not be the same without him.

Rest in peace, Joey.

Prayers and healing thoughts to his wife, his brothers and sister, his neice and nephew and the rest of his friends and family.

*Okay, he was from Seaside, not Newark. But still... Jersey is Jersey, right?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Not My Favorite Director, But As a Pitchman, Michael Bay is AWESOME!

I've never cared much for Michael Bay's movies, but I'm not much for explosions and such. And I do own TRANSFORMERS, so I guess I don't hate his stuff. It's just not my cup o' tea most of the time.

But I love me some Verizon, and I love me some clever commercial, and the two have been combined in a television/internet spot for Verizon FiOS that can only be described as "awesome!"

("Awesome pussycat!" I laugh every time I see it.)

Something in Bay's delivery makes me think he's a huge Stephen Colbert fan. But then, who isn't?


Thursday, May 15, 2008

ANTM Cycle 10 -- Go (Full) Figure!!!

Okay, I'll admit it. I had Anya Kop picked as ANTM Cycle 10 winner from the fourth week of the show. Quirky accent (sort of Eastern European meets native Hawaiian meets imitation of Cycle 8's Natasha Galinka), "broken" nose, gamin, elfin, ethereal and characteristically sized two, the tow-headed Kop seemed to embody everything ANTM has always held dear -- edginess, beauty, the ever-touted body angles. Every week, she took gorgeous picture after gorgeous picture, won challenge after challenge. I picked her as the winner, in fact, after she won a challenge that earned her a discreetly nude photo shoot with ANTM judge, Nigel Barker. The unearthly results were breathtaking, and I was sure that Kop would walk away with the whole burrito.

Ironically, it was walking that proved to be her downfall. In the final stomp-off (semi-finalist Fatima -- she of the female genital circumcision and perennial whine -- having been thankfully eliminated by her stilted Cover Girl TV spot), it was down to the battle of the blondes. In a glittery runway show for House of Versace, each girl strutted in two gowns chosen for her by Donatella Versace herself. As lithe and long-limbed as Anya was, when it came down to it, she simply didn't rock the dresses. Whitney's first gown -- a curious gold number that was pretty enough, but was a bad choice, cut- and color-wise for the full-figured model -- didn't wow the judges. But her second gown -- a raspberry satin-and-chiffon mini with an amazing, billowing cathedral train that had a life of its own -- seemed like it was made for her. In spite of her difficulties in taming the wild train, Whitney was a vision in swerves, curves and hot pink on the runway. In the end, the judges felt it was Whitney who brought the stomp, and they fabulously defied my cynical expectations by choosing her Cycle 10's Top Model. I hope Versace lets her keep that raspberry dress, because it won her the competition.

After she was selected, Tyra made the point of correcting the oft-misquoted term "plus-sized" model by saying, "The correct term is 'full-figured'." There is a distinction. In modelling terms, apparently "plus-sized" is size 12 or larger. Whitney, a solid sized 10, is just a normal sized girl who happens to photograph like a high-fashion model. Go figure.

Now, frankly, I like Whitney. She's a little catty and has a bit of an attitude, but in a harmless, kind of sweet way that Southern girls have. And, let's face it, plenty of her predecessors have been bitchier and more evil. I rooted for her week after week, sure she'd be eliminated any minute now (she was in the bottom two four times during the cycle). But Whitney is smart and she's funny -- she has a bigger, more impressive personality than any of her predecessors (with the possible exception of the aforementioned Galinka, who has actually built a little career as an entertainment correspondent here and there). My favorite Whitney line has to be, "I never met a potato I didn't like." Atta girl. You speak for all of us.

So congratulations, Whitney. Go out there and break the trend of ANTM models who win, then vanish into thin air. (Where in the world is KariDee, by the way?) In your honor, I'm gonna go make some breakfast!


Monday, May 05, 2008


A horse is not fully grown until at least five years of age. The bones are not knit. The tendons and cartilage are not set. Hence, the tendency to refer to racehorses as "colts and fillies," terms for immature horses.

When you watch, bet on or in any way support American horseracing and their inclination to run horses from one to three years of age -- including the Triple Crown -- you are advocating and supporting animal abuse. Pretty hats and lovely rose wreaths do nothing to alter the fact that forcing thoroughbreds -- bred these days with spindly, thread-like, porcelain legs because it's prettier -- to run a mile and a half at top speed is a cruelty.

The death of promising filly Eight Belles, who placed in the Kentucky Derby this past Sunday, only to break down after the finish with two broken front ankles, is the result of this capricious foolishness. It's vicious and hateful. Anytime you go to Santa Anita or Hollywood Park and bet on a horse, or go to an OTB parlor, you support the abuse and cruelty that is American horseracing. Please see past the pomp and circumstance of this idiotic and brutal "sport." If we're so interested in seeing who the best jockeys are, let's let them run the races from now on. Perhaps people would find it a tad less interesting if we were euthanizing a jockey at the finish line after he broke down because he was asked to run too far, too fast, way too young.

I'm not saying we should ban the sport. I'm only asking that we start setting age minimums and shortening distances, so that we don't have yearlings, twos and three-year-olds running these grueling distances at full-bore. These aren't Dixie Cups. These are living, breathing creatures that we have responsibility for. If we started viewing horseracing as we do dog fighting, Eight Belles might have lived until her fourth birthday.

Rest in peace, Eight Belles. You were a hearty lass.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Lovely Party Gift

As most of you already know (because you saw the now-gone ticker at the top of the site), I left my job of 13 years on Friday, to pursue a life of freelance work as a writer/teacher (hopefully)/copy editor/literary bon vivant. (Okay, that last one might be pushing it a bit.)

As a tribute to this major life transition, my friend Gerry forwarded me this link* on a talk by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist who built a career studying brain disorders (her brother is a schizophrenic) and how to treat them. One morning in 1996, Dr. Taylor awoke to discover she was in the middle of having a stroke.

In this nearly-19-minute talk, she relates her experience as she watched each of her left-brain functions (walking, talking, reading, writing, memory) shut down, one by one, and the ensuing enlightenment that she acquired from the experience. Take 20 quiet, uninterrupted minutes and listen to what she has to say. It is all we fear, all we hope for, all we imagine in our wildest imaginings.

In the end, I promise you won't regret it. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor didn't.


"How many brain scientists have been able to study the brain from the inside out? I've gotten as much out of this experience of losing my left mind as I have in my entire academic career."
~Jill Bolte Taylor~


* The transcript of her lecture can be found here, but I encourage you to watch if you have the time. She exudes an energy and passion that can't be captured in the printing of her words.

P.S. According to Dr. Taylor's website, she has been named by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. That's her, right there, under the "M."

(cross-posted at MySpace)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Things We Learn At the Laundromat

Just sitting here at Granada Laundry (where the wireless is free, but the quad-load washers cost the equivalent of the military budget of a small Latin American nation), and am bombarded by three flatscreen televison, each blasting something different -- basketball on the one over my head, a Spanish-language comedy in the Northeast corner, and a Spanish-language talk/reality show in the Southwest corner.

The cacaphone is so overwhelming that, not only can I not understand anything coming from the Spanish stations, I can't even understand the guys who are commentating the basketball game -- and they're speaking English. I do get a glimpse, between shuffling clothes in various degrees of cleanliness from one washer/dryer to the next, though.

Here are a few of my observations:
  • Televised sporting events -- once so big a part of my life -- have lost all their glamour for me. I mean, I think I'd rather be set on fire than watch another game. This is especially true of basketball.

  • There are certain sight gags that are universally funny, regardless of the language in which they are narrated. When one of the three phones at a desk of the fat, badly dressed boss rings, and he to answer all three of them, one at a time, before he realizes it's his cellphone that's ringing... golly, that's just plain funny. It does kind of beg the question that, if in our little comedy world of suspended disbelief, we're willing to buy that the boss has cellphone technology, how come he never heard of trunk lines, but why be petty?

  • Even in Mexico, there are no depths to which people will not stoop -- including a bread-eating contest -- for the promise of being on television with their favorite soap opera stars. (Somehow, I find this oddly reassuring. I'm not sure why.)

  • Another thing that's universally funny -- losing a contact lens at a crowded fancy restaurant. English or Spanish, seeing two people crawling between the well-dressed legs, searching for a tiny contact lens, while trying to be inconspicuous....? Well, admit it.... just thinking about it makes you chuckle, doesn't it?

  • When basketball is on a flatscreen at a laundromat, husbands are rendered useless. (Another good reason to have a washer and dryer at home. On the service porch. As far from a television as possible.)

  • The laundromat is a pretty good place to meet single men -- until it occurs to you that they are doing their laundry in the laundromat because, at forty-whatever, they can't afford to buy a house in LA either. Not that that makes them a bad catch but.... yeah. Maybe it does.

  • The laundromat is not the place to try and attempt any serious creative writing endeavor.

So, these are the things I've learned from tonight's trip to the laundromat. It really is kind of like going to another country. You don't speak the language, you have to pay for the privilege of being there, but, if you're diligent and lucky, you leave with some cool stuff -- in this case, clean undies.

I spent two and a half hours in another country today -- Vietnam. I had my bi-monthly manicure/pedicure, so I have gorgeous hands and some killer sexy toes, too. But today, I actually indulged in one more thing I'd been dying to have done. I had my eyebrows professionally shaped. It was a more complex process than I'd realized, involving hot wax, tweezers, a brow brush and a small pair of scissors. But I can tell you that, when all was said and done, it was ever so worth it. My eyebrows are totally rockstar. It doesn't seem like much, perhaps, but I really think eyebrows are a radically overlooked facial feature. The ladies at the salon have been bugging me to get it done for ages, and I've resisted. But I finally relented, and experienced, for the first time, the agony that is hot wax hair removal.

Can I ask one question? How in the name of God and all that's holy to women stand bikini waxes? And the idea of Brazilian waxes... I mean, I wear thong underwear, too, but.... Hello! People! Have you never heard of RAZORS!!! To all foreign agents with nefarious intent who might be reading this.... if you are hellbent on getting me to divulge any government secrets, might I recommend a Brazilian hot wax? One strip, and I will reveal any confidentiality I know -- and make a few up besides. A moment of silence, please, for Mr. Schick and Mr. Gillette.

The Vietnamese ladies in the salon had their television turned to HGTV, which was pretty freakin' wonderful, let me tell you. It made me appreciate the joys of homeownership and the fringe benefits that come with same. Like being able to paint your walls real colors (note to self -- chocolate brown and two shades of green in the same room are not only very feng shui, but they actually make a small room look bigger). I love color. I miss color. I'm so tired of beige I could scream. But I won't. Because I live in attached housing, where I share a wall with my next door neighbors (who also happen to be my landlords). The other thing about owning your home is you get to equip it with things that could prove useful in the course of everyday life.

Like a washer and dryer.



(cross-posted at MySpace)

Thursday, April 24, 2008


(In other places, other forms, I have long griped about having to navigate long lines at all the food stations, the salad bar, and then the cashier, just to get lunch. Today was a day, like any other day. But because I'm cranky, I decided to confront my frustration through satire.)

LOS ANGELES, CA -- Twentieth Century Fox Studios was devastated when it was hit with yet another sudden torrential downpour of lunch at approximately 11:42 am Thursday. Caught completely by surprise by the event, chaos ensued as Fox commissary workers scrambled to keep their heads above water, braving cash registers and hot tables to try and stanch the flow of lunch which pounded away mercilessly at the studio's meager resources.

"It was horrible," wept Imelda Nunciago, 26, a commissary cashier. "They just kept coming. Plate after plate, tray after tray, sushi package after sushi package. And the soft frozen yogurts, topped with sprinkles!! It never seemed to end. We have barely been able to hold on!"

Fox emergency supervisor Perry Goldwinkle said, "This has happened before. We thought we were ready for it. But how can you predict something like lunch, for God's sake? And lunch this heavy -- this unstoppable? It's impossible."

News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch could not be reached for comment, but an unnamed source close to Murdoch was quoted as saying, "We here at News Corp sympathize with the victims of this lunch, and the company intends to do whatever it can to help people recover and get past it."

The heavy lunch was expected to continue until approximately 2:30 pm Thursday, with scattered snacking and a possible dinner arriving later Thursday night. No word yet on whether Governor Schwarzenegger plans on declaring Fox a disaster area, making it eligible for FEMA assistance.


Jeeez... She's So Cranky

I am, you know. I've got a one-inch fuse right now, so if you'd like to pick a fight, I'm your girl. Someone here at the office said I had "senioritis." "You so want to ditch today and go get that 'prom tan'." And truer words were never spoken.

8 days. Eight days. EIGHT DAYS.

And yet, miles to go before I sleep. (In.)


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Now They've Gone and Done It.

They sent me the diploma.

Now, they'll never be able to take it back.

Apologies to the recently departed Mr. Heston when I say,
"From my cold, dead fingers...."



(cross posted at MySpace)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Miss Sowards Gripes For The Rest of the Week

I saw MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY on Saturday night, and thought it was very charming.

As many of you know, I never -- I MEAN, EVER -- read movie reviews of films I haven't seen yet (ever since Roger Ebert decided to show his contempt for a movie by revealing it's biggest plot twist without a "spoiler" warning, the rat bastard!).

I figured I'd be safe reading a review on MISS PETTIGREW, because I'd already seen the film, and instead, ran into my second-biggest pet peeve with movie critics. This one -- Hilda Yeshigian from my very own Cal State Northridge's Daily Sundial -- hadn't seen the film. Or perhaps she HAD seen most of the film, but decided to go to the ladies' or make out with her boyfriend during a couple of crucial scenes. In any case, her lapse in attention caused her to make two fairly obvious and egregious mistakes to anyone who had actually seen the film from beginning to end -- and hadn't made out with their boyfriend, or anyone else they happened to be sitting nearby (though I did see it at the DGA, and the guy sitting next to me was tres yummy!).

I won't reveal her errors, lest I pull what I've come to refer to as an "Ebert" for those of you who haven't seen it. Suffice it to say that such review boo-boos are not limited to college/university journalists. I can't tell you how many times I caught Richard Schickel, of no less venerable publications than the LA Times and Time Magazine, in what I've now come to call a "double Ebert" -- an unannounced spoiler that reveals a major plot point that never actually happened in the film! So Miss Daily Sundial is in good company.

Truly, I didn't disagree with the overall premise of her critique, but because she seems to be lacking a familiarity with a certain style of film made in the mid- to late-thirties, she kind of... well... missed the point. Again, this is not at all unusual. There are very few truly good film critics in the world. Schickel's predecessor at the Times, Charles Champlin, wasn't bad. Paid attention. Wrote well. Didn't (as far as we could tell) engage in nookie with the concessions girl instead of actually watching the film. (I should say, "isn't bad" because I think he's still considered "emeritus" at the Times, and reviews special releases from time to time.)

Anyhoo... this is a gripe I've had for a while. I love the movies -- I love going there, I love watching trailers, I love sitting in the theater, waiting for the lights to go out and the film to start. I even love the little dancing hot dog. I love it all. I love the experience of movies. And I generally hate most movie critics, mostly because the vast majority of them not only don't know anything about movies, but don't really like them in general, and it shows. I wonder sometimes how interested most of them are in the history of film. Or even in old films, without the history (I'm not much of a trivia buff, for certain.) I'm sure our Miss Daily Sundial has seen Titanic, but has she seen A Night At the Opera, with the Marx Brothers? Maybe she has. Who knows? I guess the question is really, did she manage to make it all the way through to the end without turning away from the screen to snog her boyfriend?