Sunday, February 27, 2011


Today is my eldest child's 22nd birthday, which I find highly suspect, as I am only 32. Or else it proves that time travel IS possible. Also, too, I am now marking my age in dog years. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I Love A Good Montage

Normally I'd do some kind of Oscar post, but I don't even have time to do snackies this year (although we'll still be filling out our ballots), so I'll just swipe something cool that somebody else did. Sadly, this is what it sounds like every day at my house. We might be unable to communicate with each other at all if it weren't for pop culture catch phrases.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I'd Buy That For a Dollar

I generally can't stand reality shows. (Except for Amazing Race and the game show Wipeout. I love those two, maybe because they're shows the little kids love to watch too.) A while back I watched American Idol casually, but eventually realized it was basically just a high school talent show, if you came from a high school where the students body wasn't particularly talented.  I never listened to the judges, mostly because they were incoherent and vapid and couldn't put together a grammatically correct sentence with a gun to their heads. (This is why we have DVRs.)

But today I heard NBC is proposing an American remake of the Dutch show The Voice, with judges Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine, and a judge to be named later. (Bob Dylan, anyone? That would be hilarious and largely incomprehensible.)  I would watch this, but in a reverse of American Idol, speeding through the contestants to watch the judges, because I am a shallow pop culture nerd and easily distracted by something shiny.

Edited to add: I had an epiphany while cooking dinner. A buddy cop show with Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine. Yes. With Bob Dylan as their gruff but lovable captain. Hey,it's definitely better than 98% of NBC's current programming. Somebody get me a meeting.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Middle of the Night - Breaking out the Nick Lowe.

You would think that if you invented characters out of whole cloth, you could get them to do what you wanted. Apparently not. Mine are standing around. So here's some Nick Lowe. I adore Nick Lowe. Now I'm off to find a metaphorical stick to do some damage to some metaphorical kneecaps.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Editing Update For Those Who Care

Why do none of my fucking pens work? I'm going to slit my wrists and start scribbling notes in my own blood.

I've decided that the children should start either hunting and gathering in the yard or fishing through dumpsters for sustenance. Ungrateful little hellions.

Three weeks from today. That's my deadline. There will either be a manuscript or an aneurysm. Odds are 50/50 right now.

Midseason Update: Mr. Sunshine.

I believe it may count as damning with faint praise to say that the thing I liked best about ABC's Mr. Sunshine was the theme song and the title sequence.

The S/O watched if first and his pocket review: "Well, I thought it was funnier than that show with the baby that you like." (Translated: "Your tastes are weird and unfathomable and I have no idea what you think.")

So I watched the first episode, and I didn't hate it. But I think it bodes ill for long-term success when the funniest people are the supporting characters (Jorge Garcia, Allison Janney, Nate Torrence) and whenever the main characters start pontificating, I have the urge to go change the laundry.

For example, the most hilarious scene was Allison Janney holding a multicultural child as a human shield while screaming, "Clowns with axes! CLOWNS WITH AXES!" before hurling said child at said clowns and running away hysterically.

The rest of it? Not so much. Matthew Perry plays a self-involved douche, and really, I think we're over our quota for self-involved douches. Andrea Anders is funny, but she's just Linda from Better Off Ted with a name change. (Seriously we lost Better Off Ted for stuff like this? And I must say that even though I work at home and haven't been out in the real world for a while, when did hot pants become acceptable office wear for marketing executives?)

And what's up with Matthew Perry's face? Did he have work done? His face is all smooth and pliable and distracting, definitely heading toward Uncanny Valley territory, like he was wearing an ill-fitting Matthew Perry mask. No? Maybe it's just me.

Anyway, the second episode lost what charm there was in the first episode. (Maybe the lack of Jorge Garcia? Just saying.) It was hackneyed and on the verge of painful in its attempts to be quirky. Looking at the numbers, a pretty good response for the premier translated into a precipitous drop for the second episode, so enjoy Matthew Perry's oddly smooth plastiface while you can, because if viewership keeps heading down it's going to be a quick trip to the dustbin.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

More Bagpipes - Because I Can

Really, nothing more rousing than bagpipes. The iconic "Scotland the Brave."

Play the Pipes Lowly

It's been all kinds of awesome to see the clips of the Wisconsin protests this last week, especially the police and firefighters, who were exempted (for now) from the most Draconian proposed rights rollbacks. But the thing that gets me every time is the Drum and Pipes Corps. Blame it on my my Scots-Irish heritage, but the bagpipes always make me a little misty.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Speaking of Zombies...

Wow. Here's a lyrical, amazing trailer for the new Dead Island game. (Fair warning: if you worry about zombies eating your family next time you go on vacation and find extreme blood-spewing violence upsetting, perhaps you should go play a nice game of Parcheesi about now. Do not say I didn't warn you.)

Somewhere Somebody's Doing Something: New Horror Series?

According to a headline in my RSS feed yesterday, "Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk Return to FX with Series Pilot 'American Horror Story.'"

Sounds interesting, so I read the attached story and find out nothing, save for the fact that Murphy and Falchuk (Nip/Tuck, Glee) are doing a pilot for FX called "American Horror Story."

FX president John Landgraf sounds extremely enthusiastic about the project, calling it a “wildly brilliant original series.” Given how creative (and oftentimes dark) FX’s original series’ are, I doubt he’s exaggerating all that much. Details are vague on the project other than that, “it’s a horror show with ‘subversive sensibilities.’”
I'm always a bit suspicious when there are no details. Usually that means either someone's trying to create a buzz by keeping things "mysterious" (which generally annoys me no end) or the details sound so ludicrous that no one wants to say them aloud. With the poor track record of horror on television, I automatically fear that it's the second one.

I guess we'll have to wait and see...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

By Request

The five-year-old is currently enamored of this song. He has eclectic tastes. One minutes it's Bach and the next minute it's Beiber. (Well, he is only five). This is currently our jam song. If it comes on in the car, we pull over and dance like maniacs. Besides, if they can bottle whatever the hell Adam Levine is composed of, I am so buying a case of it. Yowza.

It's The Only Coke I Like

From Slither, my favorite scene. Because my brain hurts. ETA: This is literally what happens when I run out of Coke Zero.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Swear I Know Better

I have in the past taught college-level creative writing. I've also read a lot of books. A lot of books. Good books, bad books, books I've read over and over again because they were so good, books I have wanted to ceremonially burn in the backyard and bury the ashes because they were so bad. I consider myself to have a relatively high level of expertise in writing, despite my narcotic-like addiction to modifiers and my unwarranted affection for the comma splice. We all have our demons.

In the rewrite today I hit a chapter -- and not just any chapter, but a pivotal, action-packed chapter in which the protagonists meet for the first time -- and found that it had roughly eleventy-billion POV shifts. Not obvious POV shifts, but little sneaky, stealth POV shifts. If somebody had asked me to critique this chapter, the first words out of my mouth would have been, "Ack, POV shifts! Run!" You want to know how bad it is? Several times I magically shifted into the POV of the dog.

There is one thing that can be said about POV shifts. Don't. There may one time in a million when an intra-scene POV works, but really, it's just sloppy and lazy and unhelpful and amateurish. One of the main mantras I pound into the heads of new writers is to avoid POV shifts completely. Always.

So then I have to ask myself what happened. I know better, really. And yet here that chapter sits, a fulcrum in the narrative, glaring at me. Maybe I was possessed. Automatic writing. I don't know. It was so long ago when I originally wrote this, that I can't recall what I could have been thinking. I do vaguely remember at some point in the distant past thinking, "Huh. I'll have to fix that." Well, now the chicken are home to roost, little evil, red-eyed, POV-shifting zombie chickens.

So now I have two problems. One, when you're confronted with the fact that's you've committed this kind of crime, it mentally brings into question everything you've done. I mean, if I could do that, what else might I have done? And then the little imp in red sitting on your shoulder pokes the trident in your neck and says, "Wow, you suck. Maybe you should go take a nap." Suddenly everything is suspect, and you're waiting for the avalanche of yet-uncovered faults to roll down that hill and bury you.

Then, if you can manager to duct-tape the imp's mouth shut, you have to fix it. The trouble is, I'm fond of most of what's in that chapter. I feel like most of what's in the chapter is important. And that's really the worst thing for a writer, having to deconstruct and mangle and eviscerate and behead and chop into little bits the things you are fond of.

It was Faulkner who said, "In writing, you must kill your darlings."  Samuel Johnson said, " "Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out."

Sigh. Time to torch this chapter and start over.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Midseason TV Update: Die, Chicago Code, Die

It pains me to wish ill on Shawn Ryan's The Chicago Code. After all, Shawn Ryan was behind The Wire and Terriers (my favorite best new show last year, RIP). And yet, wish ill I will. You see, Fox  is home to both Fringe and Human Target, two shows that are little happy pinpoints of light in my otherwise dreary existence, and their ratings are nothing to write home about.

But (and this is where I diligently search for some straws to grasp at, because I am nothing if not an expert straw-grasper-atter) if everything else put forth by Fox fails miserably, then the minuscule chances that those shows will be renewed increases by a tiny, tiny amount. (No you can't have admittance to my fantasy world. Unless you have cake and vodka. And the secret password, but mostly cake and vodka.)

So instead of a rising tide lifting all boats, an exploding ship leaves lots of debris for people to cling to. Or something.

Bonus mini-review: Watched Mad Love last night. It had a laugh track. Really. A laugh track? Really? Dude. Really? Watching people be all cute and smooshy mostly makes me want to hit someone. As it was, I could only muster enough disgust to want to poke Jason Biggs repeatedly with a spork. If I walked into the little yuppie pub these people frequent, I would be hard-pressed not to torch the place. Blegh.

The one saving grace? Tyler Labine, show-killer extraordinaire. I would watch an entire one-man play of Tyler Labine reading food labels. Tyler Labine rocks. This show would be so much better if you got rid of every character except for Tyler Labine, possibly by having them dispatched in a hideous spork-wielding monkey showdown.

The scary thing is though, after having enjoyed Tyler Labine immensely in shows like Dead Last, Invasion, and the criminally under-appreciated Reaper, I just last night realized that he is THE VOICE INSIDE MY HEAD. Really, that explains so much.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I Am Not Having A Good Week

Forsberg retired before the game with Calgary tonight. Just like that. My hockey team sucks. As one Denver sportswriter said, "They're playing the worst hockey I've ever seen played."  As I write this, we are losing by five goals. AND IT'S ONLY THE FIRST INTERMISSION

I will literally spend an entire cumulative day driving children hither and yon this week.

Fringe's ratings are tanking again. Which means both it and Human Target will be canceled, which will make me deeply sad in a way that I am unable to properly justify.

Oh, and the kid called from Afghanistan. On the plus side, he's taking some online college course to comply with my demand that he get a degree by the time he's out of the Marines. On the minus side, he got married. Last March. And the other kids knew and didn't tell me. Kid #1 said, "Well, I think mostly he did it for better benefits." Great, I guess if you're going to do something remarkably stupid it might as well be for purely mercenary stupid reasons instead of romantic stupid ones. I feel so much better.

And at the rate things are going right now, the rewrite will not be done, ever. 

Fast-Forwarding Through the Grammys

We watched the Grammys last night, sort of. DVRs are made for just this situation.

Quick thoughts?

Jennifer Hudson - watching Jennifer Hudson and realizing that not only did she not win her season of American Idol, but was booted in 7th place, tells you all you need to know about the relative merits/relevance of American Idol. Which is to say there is none.

Bruno Mars is really adorable. I just want to squish his little face.

Mick Jagger is still weirdly compelling.

Bob Dylan is now forever cast inside my head as the worlds creepiest sideshow barker.

Gwyneth Paltrow sings way, way better than Katy Perry.

Miranda Lambert, don't know/don't care, but did notice that whatever she was wearing appeared to be made out of flattened pieces of cow liver sewn together. And not in an avant garde Lady Gaga way, but in a look-what-I-made-in-my-future-homemakers-class-out-of-things-I-found-in-the-barn sort of way. (Was I snooty and elitest enough? If not, I can try harder.)

Too much Rhianna. She sang flat and she was blocking my view of Adam Levine. (rowrr)

Great minds think alike: the S/O and I both wondered at the exact same second if John Mayer was late for a Johnny Depp lookalike contest and when Drake was going to admit his fondness for musical theater, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Lady Antebellum, really? I mean, I don't care for Emimem too much, but at least there's some there there. Lady Antebellum is an example of the Rascal Flattenization of music. Lowest common denominator pudding. Or oatmeal. And not even good oatmeal, the kind with rolled oats and spices and chunks of apple, but off-brand instant oatmeal, where you added too much water and it went all grey and soupy. I hear that damn song and it at once fills me both with an unspeakable ennui and a desire to do violence to someone, preferably Justin Beiber.

Favorite moments: Norah Jones singing "Jolene" and the fact that in every category it was nominated in, my favorite song of the year was referred to as (The Song Otherwise Known As Forget You). That was one forgetting great song.

(Also, too, it is my contention that Nicki Minaj is the modern-day equivalent to E.G. Daily. If you got that reference with out looking it up, you are hereby awarded extra-super-secret double points. )

Friday, February 11, 2011

Kitteh Pron

Since I have no time for anything else, moar Pete.

Pete yawning, because the paparazzi bore him.

Pete sleeping.

Pete not sleeping, but only because he's momentarily in between sessions of power sleeping.

I think Spike has a complex, because he spent last night sleeping on my head. And if you've never had a 17 pound cat sleep on your head, well, you probably slept better than I did last night.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I'll Take Sweden

Peter Forsberg has signed with the Avalanche for the remainder of the season. Normally I would be drinking copiously and wearing a party hat about now, save for the fact that A) I have no time, and B) the Avs have suddenly collapsed like a hobo's cardboard summer home.

Still, there's 29 games left. Plenty of time. I'll be making the appropriate sacrifices to the hockey gods.

If It Was Easy, Everybody Would Do It

Several years ago there was a commercial, I don't remember what for, where the product would somehow free you up to do those things you always wanted to do, like take a trip to France or write a novel. Yeah, because writing a novel is just like a vacation. I hated that commercial.

Or to badly misquote someone somewhere that I can't be bothered to track down: Having written is great, it's the writing that's hard. 

Somewhat in that vein (the vein of not-writers thinking about how thrilling and/or easy it is not only to write, but to write something decent) there's a new documentary called Bad Writing.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Leaping into the Void

So, submitted another short story today. Depending on the tendency to believe either the glass is half-full or the glass is now empty, broken, and being brandished as a weapon, that's either twice the chance for publication or twice the chance for rejection. I think we all know which way I lean.

And remember what I was saying about poor impulse control? And how sometimes I do things because they seem like a dandy idea at the time but, in retrospect, are either insane or at least inadvisable? Well, I've been casting about for sources of motivation, experimental strategies to get me off my metaphorical butt and attend to all the bits and bobs in my metaphorical desk drawers.

So in looking at the vampire novel, which is a terrifically unwieldy at 160,000 current words, I started hacking away like an intrepid jungle explorer with a pith helmet and a machete. The first 8 chapters or so went swimmingly. In fact, chapter two was completely obliterated because it was chock full of stuff I said better somewhere else or stuff I didn't need to say at all.

Sitting there and looking at what I'd done, I was in one of those moods, the moods where I look at my own work and say, "Hey, this is actually pretty good!" (This is opposed to my more usual mood, where I look at my own work and say, "Hey, who wrote this crap?")

Gripped in some mania (and I wasn't even drinking), I decided a it would be a great motivational tool if I sort of shopped it around -- after all the first few chapters looked so good -- and see if I got any feedback. Well, file that brilliant idea under "B" for "be careful what you wish for," because, yes, there is a publisher who wants to see the novel. Said publisher would like to see the novel at under 100,000 words. By the end of March or so.

This is why, when I'm advising unpublished writers, I tell them to never, every query until you've got a finished product. Never. As in don't. Do. It. 

After the initial 10 or so seconds of excitement, the very tiny, underused, reasonable part of my brain reminded the rest of my brain that this means I need to cut the novel by a third over the next couple of weeks, which will entail major revisions and probably executing 1-3 major characters without even giving them so much as a blindfold and a cigarette.  (and much like my children, threatening them with death makes them behave no better, they just sit there on the page, smirking).

Giving the fact that I have basically two-full time jobs, one that pays for groceries and tuition, and one that pays nothing and consists of me endlessly chauffeuring people to various locations, I'm uncertain how this is going to work.  I guess that 2.5 hours I was wasting foolishly sleeping is going need to be put to better use.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

'Nother Kitteh Update

To say the small cat has made himself at home would be an understatement. For now his name is Pete, or Pedro, depending . He has somehow hypnotized me into giving him canned food every other day. He tolerates the hounds, but does not want them touching him.

Spike is indifferent.

Pete thinks all pillows belong to him.

Even if he has to share them with the small child.

When Is a Snow Day Not A Snow Day?

School is canceled here in southern Louisiana. See, it's a bit chilly, and somewhere some cars slid on some ice. It's all kind of funny, because I grew up in Colorado and Wyoming, where we have actual snow days. And, man, it really had to snow to get a snow day.

One winter afternoon, the Friday of a three-day weekend, I was determined to come home from college. I forget now why I was so determined. Maybe it was just the fact that they'd closed the road between Laramie and Fort Collins, and at various times in my life I've been the kind of person you didn't tell they couldn't do something.

So I threw my laundry and my cat into the truck (at the time I had an old brown and gold, go Cowboys! International pickup truck with a hole in the floorboard and a radio that would work if you smacked it hard enough) and set off for the alternate through Cheyenne and down through Denver. I had heard rumors that they were going to close that road too, so I didn't really take the time to think it through.  I learned later I was the last vehicle through before they closed the road. Take that, state troopers!

It's 55 miles between Laramie and Cheyenne and usually takes about 45 minutes. Of course that doesn't take into account driving in a blizzard. I was the final vehicle in a mangy line of trucks and cars, and one by one I watched them slide off the road. At least until it became a whiteout and then I only saw the outlines, like dinosaurs in the mist, as I passed them by. Slow and steady wins the race.

Eventually it was just me and a Volvo full of college boys. The road was gone as far as we knew,and all that was left was a featureless white expanse. In the Volvo ahead of me, one kid had a ski mask on and was hanging out the window, trying to make out markers. I don't know how fast we were going -- come to think of it, the old International's speedometer might not have been that reliable either -- but it was pretty damned slow.

If you've never been in a whiteout, I don't know if I can adequately describe it. It's like a dream, maybe.  It's like that episode of the old Twilight Zone where the girl falls through the rip in dimensions and her parents can just hear her voice while she wanders through a disorienting void.

The radio had quit, the cat was asleep, and all I had was the thump of the windshield wipers, the whistle of icy air up through the floor, and the occasional glimpse of the idiots in the Volvo. Roughly three and half hours after we started out, we hit Cheyenne. Following a stern talking to by the state troopers explaining that we were lucky to be alive and double-lucky not to get a ticket, we spilled out onto I-25, where, remarkably, the sun was shining. Ah, to be young and bone-numbingly stupid again.

So today I can tell that story to my kids, not as a cautionary tale about taking foolhardy chances because you have poor impulse control, but as an exemplar of the hearty, can-do stock they come from, people who aren't afraid of a little ice, people ready to cross the windswept, snowsculpted plains in gas-guzzling deathtraps so their moms could do their laundry.  Snow day? Pah.