Friday, February 5, 2016

January reading

Only two books, which was a disappointment, but I did get a lot more writing and blogging done last month, so that's where a lot of my time went. Plus it gives me the chance to really expand on my review of the one of the books, because it warrants it.

LA Late @ Night: 5 Noir & Mystery Tales From the Dark Streets of Los Angeles by Paul D. Marks

This small collection of L.A. based tales from Shamus Award winning author Marks packs a neo-noir punch. A successful defense attorney gets a pang of conscience after getting a famous director off on a murder charge. A young man new to town is lured into murder by an enigmatic woman. Lots of raw emotions and nostalgic, frustrated cops old enough to remember Los Angeles in the "good old days", before crime and criminals got out of even their control. A number of characters and locations are intertwined in the stories, and Marks knows the late-night streets and dark sides of the City of Angels like the back of his hand. The collection also includes the first chapter of Marks's Shamus-winning novel White Heat, which is set in 1992 during the Rodney King riots.

"Icy steel from my backup gun pinches my ankle. I never go anywhere without some kind of weapon. Hey, man, this is L.A. and it's not the L.A. I grew up in. You never know when you'll have to draw on someone. But if you do, you're fucked. Because in this AliceInWonderlandWorld up is down, right is wrong. And the bad guys win. Still, it's better to be judged by twelve than carried by six, my training officer told me all those years ago."

Breaking Away: The Harrowing True Story of Resilience, Courage and Triumph by Patrick O'Sullivan with Gare Joyce

Harrowing is right. There are awful parents pushing their kids beyond reason in order to realize their own unattained dreams, and then there's John O'Sullivan. Breaking Away is the memoir of former NHL player Patrick O'Sullivan, whose father bullied him into being the successful hockey player O'Sullivan Sr. never was. And bullied in every sense of the word, physically, mentally and emotionally. John O'Sullivan beat the crap out of his son and terrorized him for years in his single minded pursuit of on-ice stardom, until Patrick finally took his final beating and walked away not only from his dad, but eventually from his entire, enabling family as well.

O'Sullivan's dad being a problem child is old news to the hockey world, but I don't think many realized just how bad it was until this book came out recently. John's actions were abuse, plain and simple, and it's mind-boggling to me that Patrick - even as a young child - was subjected to this treatment and no one, not even family members, ever stepped up in his defense.

Once he realized that his son possessed a significant amount of athletic ability, John became obsessed with engineering Patrick into an NHL player. He saw himself as a Walter Gretzky-type, only without any sense or concern of what he was doing to his son and by extension, his whole family. His "training regime" for Patrick included waking him up in the middle of the night to work out, kicking him out of the van on the way home after a game to make him run, and overfeeding him in an effort to get him to grow to an NHL-caliber size, and that's just barely scratching the surface.

One thing that really shocked me was the abuse he took from then-head coach Marc Crawford during his time with the Los Angeles Kings. Crawford seems to have singled O'Sullivan out as his whipping boy for reasons that only he knew. I can't help wondering why General Manager Dean Lombardi - known for his high regard of his player - didn't step in, especially since everyone knew O'Sullivan's history.

O'Sullivan isn't sure if a contract dispute affected his standing with the Kings front office, but the fact was that shortly after the deal was signed and Crawford was canned, Lombardi shipped him to the Edmonton Oilers in a three-way deal that brought the Kings Justin Williams from the Carolina Hurricanes. Williams would eventually be a big piece of the Kings teams that won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014, but O'Sullivan wonders - as do I - if Lombardi could have and would have gotten Williams for a different player or players, if it weren't for the contract dispute. It might have been interesting to see what he could have done in L.A. long term.

Being traded was only part the problem. It was who he was traded to. Edmonton, for the past ten years or so, is where hockey careers go to die. As an organization, the Oilers just don't seem to be able to get their shit together, and it was the beginning of the end of O'Sullivan's NHL career. O'Sullivan reveals a couple issues he had with the team that help explain the Oilers woes. The team promptly used him in roles he had never played in his entire hockey career (third line, five-on-three penalty kill); he says he was tempted to ask them if they'd confused him with another player. Then they started making him a healthy scratch. To add insult to injury, Edmonton's arena, Rexall Place, is the only one in the league that doesn't provide private elevators for the scratches to ride up to the press box. They had to walk through the concourse, in full view of fans. Edmonton is getting a new arena, hopefully they remedied this situation, but that's indicative of the type of organization O'Sullivan found himself at the mercy of.

Another shock came when O'Sullivan and his fiancee decided to go over his finances, which were soon to become their finances. He was shocked to discover that over a period less than four NHL seasons, he had given his mother, who had finally divorced his father, $400,000 and yet she didn't seem inclined to do much with her life, nor did she seem to care that her two daughters, both younger than Patrick, seemed equally uninspired. After letting his mom know that the gravy train was coming to a halt (he was more tactful about it) she suddenly stopped taking his calls or communicating with him at all. He figured it would work out, but then wedding invitations and Christmas gifts sent to his mother and sisters were returned unopened. He hasn't had any contact with them since.

The only negative criticism I can offer is that there are several instances of dropped words in the text. Not sure how these weren't caught during editing, but they were numerous enough to be noticeable.

That O'Sullivan has managed to attain peace and a normal family life of his own is remarkable, but it seems like some scars remain. In the caption of a photo of O'Sullivan helping his young son hold a golf club, he says of his kids, "If they choose to play sports, I hope it's something other than hockey." That would apparently just hit a little too close to home, and that left me with a twinge of sadness despite his triumphing over the hellish life his monstrous father subjected him to.

"Two years before I had been a twenty-goal scorer playing on a second line for an emerging team. But no one remembered that after the season in Edmonton. The team was a mess, the worst in the league, and I was a healthy scratch. People would put it together: if he can't play for Edmonton, who can he play for?"

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Another once great channel bites the dust

E! Entertainment Network cancelled The Soup, one of my long-time favorite shows at the end of 2015. E! used to have some great entertainment shows, but started going downhill when they went the "reality" star route, starting with Paris Hilton and continuing these days with the inane Kardashians. Apparently one half hour per week was too much to ask for some smart, witty programming. I've noticed while channel surfing these days that E! is practically all Kardashians, all the time.

The Food Network (and apparently its substation, The Cooking Channel) is rapidly becoming the next E!, in that it's a channel I used to watch all the time, but rarely if ever watch these days. I actually bitched about this on Twitter recently:

This morning:


Friday, January 29, 2016

Sick as a dog

Started getting the sore throat late Wednesday night and sure enough, by Thursday morning I had the full-blown head cold going on. Still sick today and had to drag myself to the store because I was running low on tissues and cough drops. Agony.

Fortunately, if this had to happen, glad it did it this weekend instead of next. No plans this weekend. Next weekend: Cirque du Soliel's Kurios.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Snowy Road

Looks like the east coast is going to survive the big snowstorm, thanks to their sense of humor.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

This seriously makes me want to go on a sandwich rampage

Los Angeles Eater's list of the most Epic Los Angeles Sandwiches to Eat Before You Die.

Some of these look really good, and one of them is right in my neighborhood. Seriously craving a sammie now.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Amazon gets into the screenplay app business, with a huge bonus

Not sure how I hadn't heard about this earlier, but in November Amazon launched Storywriter, a screenwriting program that can be used both online and off. I just downloaded it and haven't really had a chance to try it out, but apparently it's pretty simplistic and easy to use.

And it's free.

But there's more. Apparently Amazon Studio is using Storywriter to scout new talent for its original content. You don't need an agent, contacts or an uncle in the industry. You submit direct to Amazon Studios from Storywriter, simply by clicking on the submit option. It's that easy, apparently.

It also imports already written scripts from a variety of formats. I imported one from Final Draft and it was quick and flawless. I'm impressed so far and am looking forward to playing around with this thing and even submitting a script.

Friday, January 22, 2016

RIP Gleneagles Hotel

Sad news. The Gleneagles Hotel of Torquay, England is no more. Why is this significant?

It's significant because the Gleneagles and its strange former owner, Donald Sinclair, were the inspiration for Basil Fawlty and the BBC series Fawlty Towers.

In the early 1970's the cast of Monty Python had checked into the hotel for a few weeks. John Cleese and his then wife, Connie Booth, were taken with the "marvelously rude" Sinclair. In 1975 Fawlty Towers, inspired by Sinclair and his hotel and created by and starring Cleese and Booth, debuted on the BBC and went on to become a world-wide hit.

Clockwise from top: John Cleese, Connie Booth,
Andrew Sachs and Prunella Scales.

The hotel was built in 1963 and will be replaced with "retirement flats".

H/T to Ministry of British Comedy on FB.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sophie's vet afflicted by political correctness

All dental health matters!!!

Kitteh lulz.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

More Bundt mania!

Funny that this just turned up in this month's Food Network Magazine: The colorful history of Bundt funnel cakes.

From the magazine:
Fifty years ago, a home baker from Houston single-handedly brought the Bundt pan back from the brink of extinction. The Nordic Ware company in Minneapolis had produced the fluted tube pan for more than a decade, but sales were so low they were thinking about discontinuing it. Then, in January 1966, Ella Rita Helfrich entered the annual Pillsbury Bake-Off with her Tunnel of Fudge Cake - a chocolate Bundt cake with a soft fudgy center. 
Ella Rita didn't win the contest (she took the $5,000 second-place prize), but her cake started a craze: Pillsbury received more than 200,000 letters and phone calls asking about the pan, and Nordic Ware started manufacturing Bundt pans seven days a week to keep up with demand. Ella Rita, for her part, was featured in magazines and newspapers and made regular department store appearances to autograph Bundt pans for excited fans. When she died last July at the age of 98 more than 60 million Bundt pans had been sold, and the Tunnel of Fudge Cake remains one of Pillsbury's most-requested recipes. 
To honor Ella Rita, and the 50th anniversary of her cake, our test kitchen chefs created three more Bundt cakes, each with its own surprise inside.
Here are FNM's recipes: Red Velvet Cream Cheese Bundt Cake, Jelly Doughnut Bundt Cake and Peanut Tunnel of Fudge Cake.

Pic snicked from Pillsbury's website.

And here's the cake that saved the Bundt pan: Tunnel of Fudge Cake.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Grandma's Thousand Island Dressing recipe

This makes a giant tub of the most delicious Thousand Island dressing you'll ever experience. At family gatherings we would joke, "Would you like some lettuce with your dressing?"

Speaking of lettuce, this is no time to break out the fancy-schmancy artisan greens. This is a heavy dressing, so just chop up a head of iceberg lettuce and tell your inner food snob to shut it. Also, no need to add in much of anything else to the mix, although croutons always go well with thousand island.

It's a lot of work (plus you have to make it the day before). There are a lot easier thousand island recipes out there. But this one stands on its own, so it's worth it when you want to make something out of the ordinary. Because it makes so much, it also works well for pot-lucks where you get stuck "only" bringing salad.

  • One 64-ounce jar of Best Foods Mayonnaise
  • 1 bottle of Heinz Chili Sauce (it only comes in one size)
  • 2 bunches green onions, chopped (use some of the greens)
  • 6 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemons
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (I've also used white vinegar if it's all you have)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine mayonnaise and chili sauce in a large bowl. Mix well. Don't panic - I know it looks awful at this stage, but it will get better. Trust me on this one.
  2. Add in everything else and mix well. Doesn't it look better already? I told you so.
  3. Refrigerate overnight.
  4. Serve. Don't forget the lettuce!
  5. Enjoy!