Tuesday, April 30, 2013

And the day started off so well...

I'm not familiar with TSN's The Panel, nor was I ever the target audience for the Hangover movies, but this vid that was unleashed on the hockey faithful this morning cracked my shit up nevertheless:

Two observations: I love to think that Kopi answers his phone like this in real life ("Anze Kopitar here. Stanley Cup champion.") and coach at the end is just utterly priceless ("That's what you get for picking the Canucks last year.")

Then the shit that was Game 1 of the Kings Stanley Cup playoffs happened.

And then I had the following Twitter convo:

I may have tempted fate there.  Having said that...

The postseason is young.  GO KINGS GO!!!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

L.A. Times Festival of Books - Inside Hollywood

This panel featured moderator Margaret Woppler, Alex Espinoza (The Five Acts of Diego Leon), Adam Braver (Misfit), Matthew Specktor (American Dream Machine) and Nina Revoyr (The Age of Dreaming)

Alex Espinoza:
  • Became interested in Hollywood's transition from silent films to talkies.  Silents could be used worldwide, but sound required foreign-language versions to be shot.  During this period the "Latin Lover" was popular with filmgoers.  However these stars were not necessarily treated as well by Hollywood as their Caucasian counterparts.
  • In discussing the layers and complexity of reinvention of self, he mention how early Hollywood would "Latinize" actors who looked the part, even if they weren't Latino.  He told about the silent star studio executives dubbed Ricardo Cortez, who was actually a Jewish New Yorker born Jacob Krantz.
  • Like many of the "Latin Lovers" of early Hollywood, Espinoza was born in Mexico and eventually moved to Los Angeles.

Adam Braver:
  • Misfit focuses on the last weekend of Marilyn Monroe's life, especially in terms of what Hollywood does to people, their identity and need to reinvent themselves.
  • Attracted to Marilyn as a subject because she was a great, real-life complex character.  He felt the key to writing someone like her is finding the core human part of a character.

Matthew Specktor:
  • His father was legendary Hollywood agent Fred Specktor, whose clients included Gene Hackman and Robert De Niro.  Because Hollywood is constantly depicted negatively, he wanted to describe a place inhabited by real people.  In American Dream Machine, the stars are in the background and the experiences of the fictionalized agents sons are not limited to Hollywood.

Nina Revoyr:
  • The Age of Dreaming is about a Japanese former silent star who is tracked down by a young reporter with a script for him.  He is excited about a comeback, but hopes no one looks too deep into his past.
  • Sessue Hayakawa was an inspiration.  Despite his stardom, like the Latin Lovers, Asians were also not treated well by Hollywood.  In addition, growing anti-Asian sentiment in the U.S. at the time meant that Hayakawa was limited to sinister and villainous roles.  This created animosity toward him back in Japan, where his countrymen felt that his roles contributed toward negative Japanese stereotypes.  Revoyr wanted to explore the idea of being hugely successful in an industry that doesn't accept you, and the personal cost of making the necessary compromises to attain that success.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The shortest short-story contest ever

Via Gotham Writers Workshop, it's the Very Short Story Contest!
It may be apocryphal, but the story goes that Ernest Hemingway won a bet by writing a short story that ran fewer than ten words. One version of the story places the bet at the famed Algonquin round table. Whether true or not, there is an actual bet-winning short story attributed to Hemingway:

For sale. Baby Shoes. Never worn.

You have to admit its pretty good. It builds, and theres a whole world of background and emotion lurking beneath those words.

We would like to make a similar bet with you. Write a great short story in ten words or fewer. (You may use a title, but that goes into the word count.) Submit it to our contest. Entry is free. Winner of the bet gets a free Gotham ten-week workshop.
You also have a very short time to enter - the deadline is tomorrow!!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

L.A. Times Festival of Books - Crime Fiction: City of Angels

This fascinating Southern California-themed panel of was comprised of moderator Paula Woods (Charlotte Justice novels), Marcia Clark (yes that Marcia Clark, and the Rachel Knight series) , Denise Hamilton (Damage Control, L.A. Times Magazine) and T. Jefferson Parker (the Charlie Hood series).  Easily the highlight of this year's FOB for me.

Marcia Clark:
  • "Rachel Knight was an avatar" based on Clark's own experience in the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, but way cooler.  For example, Clark has Rachel reside at the glamorous and historic Biltmore Hotel in Downtown L.A.
  • Based on her experience, homicide detectives are the funniest people she knows (particularly in terms of black humor).  She cited a sign in the LAPD homicide bullpen that reads, "Our day begins when your day ends".
  • Her latest novel explores what it's like to be in the middle of a media circus, something Clark, as a major player in the O.J. Simpson trial, knows all too well.
  • Noted that "we live longer lives" and so have time for more than one career.
  • She has a deal with TNT to develop her books as a 1-hour drama series.

Denise Hamilton:
  • With sex scandals all over the news, she wondered what it would be like if you were one of the people involved and had a deep, dark secret that would destroy you if it was revealed.  
  • As part of her research she asked a friend who works in Public Relations if they had ever turned down a client.  The answer: Kim Jong Il, although they were impressed that he'd heard of them.  Hamilton also asked if they had to believe that a client is innocent.  The answer was no, but they still have to be able to maintain their firm's professional rep.  This was the reason they also turned down Michael Jackson - it would have hurt their credibility with clients.
  • Considers her work "surf noir" that explores the dark side of Southern California's beach culture.

T. Jefferson Parker:
  • Many people in law enforcement want to write because they have such great stories.  His connection to this was a neighbor who was the Forensics Director of the ATF's Orange County office.
  • His latest Charlie Hood novel is his last with that character.  He wants to start a new series, although he hasn't figured out yet what it will be.  Admitted that ending a seires was "a little scary", but the fun part of writing is finding out what happens next.
  • When he writes, he feels like he's along for the ride, rather than in charge.
  • Has 17 million books in print.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

L.A. Times Festival of Books - Crime Fiction: What We Can't Tell You

I don't know who comes up with the titles of the "conversations", but they need to give it up.  Just call it what it is: Conversations with authors.  About their latest books.  I'm not sure what it what things they couldn't tell us that the FOB had in mind, but luckily for me and the rest of the audience, these authors told plenty.

Moderator Tom Nolan (Ross McDonald: An Autobiography and Artie Shaw: King of the Clarinet), Ariel S. Winter (The Twenty-Year Death), Attica Locke (The Cutting Season, Black Water Rising), Fuminori Nakamura (The Thief), Chris Pavone (The Ex-Pats)

On how they came to write their current novels:
Nakamura: Fascinated by pick-pocketers and prostitution.  The Thief combines both.

Locke: She is from the south, where some old plantations live on as venues for tourism and events.  In addition, in the south "plantation" can mean pretty much any venue.  She was invited to a wedding that was held at an old plantation that really was a former plantation and as an African-American wasn't sure how to feel about it.  She became interested in exploring the location's past and present and the book was written "to explore that...with a dead body."

Pavone: After a couple decades as an office drone, he was startled when his wife came home one night and asked, "How would you like to live in Luxemborg?" She worked for Amazon and had been offered a job overseas.  One big move across the globe later, he found himself a stay-at-home dad in a strange land.  He often made small talk with mothers he met at the park with his kids to and was fascinated by one woman who would chat but would never really reveal anything about herself.  It made him wonder if she was hiding some sort of terrible secret that she had to keep from everyone and that launched the protagonist of The Ex-Pats.

Winter: The Twenty-Year Death follows a Fitzgerald/Hemingway type character in the last twenty years of his life (1931-1941-1951) from the heights to depths of success.  His agent wanted him to write a character that could recur in future books, but Winter decided to have his character recur at different points in his life in one story.

On becoming a writer:
Pavone: Was a voracious reader as a kid.  In college he majored in government, then ended up working in the book publishing world and loved it, mainly because most people involved were in it for the love of book and writers, rather than the money.  But after twenty years in the biz, he tired of it and decided to write himself.

Nakamura: He suffered from depression as a teen and coped by writing out his thoughts.  When he went to college he couldn't figure out what he wanted to do and decided to write out his diary as a novel and loved it.

Winter: Always wrote, had decided to become a writer by the 6th grade.  In college he he decided he wanted to be a playwright, but grew dissatisfied with the collaborative process and turned to back to prose.

Locke: Always wrote as a kid, but grew up wanting to be a filmmaker.  By twenty-four she was working as a location scout and sold a script only to be told that it wasn't going to be made.  Her husband was in law school and they were broke, so she became a "writer for hire".  While she made enough money to buy a home, nothing she wrote was being produced and she tired of writing for people who didn't read in what she described as a "fear-based industry".

The genre:
Nakamura: Despite writing about crime, he is regarded as a writer of serious literature in his native Japan, but doesn't mind people categorizing his novels as either genre or pure fiction.  The film Diary of a Pickpocket is a favorite of his and he referred to it while writing The Thief.  He actually practiced picking pockets of friends and claimed to have had a pretty good success rate.

Pavone: Interested in unreliable narrator/narratives.  On the topic of success: Only one-tenth of 1% of the American reading public needs to purchase your book in order to be successful, so he's okay with 99% of the public not buying his book.

Locke: She feels caught between literature and mystery, and doesn't like to be pigeon-holed as a mystery writer because she's worried she will miss out on potential readers.  Feels that crime fiction is inherently political because it involves distribution of power.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Here comes the Festival of Books

The L.A. Times Festival of Books takes place tomorrow and Sunday at USC.  I've got my schedule and tickets ready to go.

I went to the FOB last year for the first time and had a blast, and also came home with a truckload of books.  Really looking forward to going again.  It will be interesting to see how many more books I own by Sunday night compared to right now.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Double-fisted customer service fail

So a few days ago I bought something online, as I do frequently.  New vendor, same credit card I use all the time for online purchases.

The other night I get an email from the vendor.  My credit card has been declined and would I please give them a call to fix this.  The email politely explains that issues other than hitting my limit could be the problem and since I know the limit isn't the problem, I assume I typed in some of the info incorrectly.

Before I call the vendor, I look up my credit card online and see that the charge for this vendor is listed as a "Pending Transaction", along with a charge from Apple for some recent iTunes purchases.  So not only did I not type in incorrect credit card info, I've seen this status before so I don't worry about it so much as I wonder why the vendor got a declination notice.  I've had a lot of charges listed as "Pending Transaction", however this is the first time a vendor ever reported it to me as a declination.

So I call Capital One and ask why the vendor would have been told the charge was declined.  Unfortunately, what I got was a roundabout explanation that Capital One hadn't actually rejected the charge, but that the vendor somehow needed to respond with more information to justify it (????)

I told her it was legit but she kept insisting the next move was by the vendor.  At one point she suggested they cancel the first transaction and do it again.  My question to her was why this would make a difference, why would it go through this time when it didn't the first time.  In fact, that's what I kept asking her: Why was this transaction a problem, why was the vendor told it was declined, and most importantly, WHY WAS IT DECLINED???  I wanted to know and she couldn't or wouldn't tell me.  Even despite the fact that I was telling her it was a legit charge and I wanted it accepted and paid.  And I don't know if Capital One has outsourced their U.S. customer service overseas, but she had a heavy accent which made her difficult to understand to begin with and that only made her additional inability to give me a straight answer that much more aggravating.

In fact I was so aggravated that when she put the onus on the vendor yet again, I hung up on her in frustration.

Then I called the vendor.  Or rather, the obviously not the vendor company that is contracted by the vendor to handle payments but answer the phone as the vendor but are awkwardly and obviously not the vendor.  Okay fine, not going to tell you how to run your business.  But the billing company you outsourced your billing to should be able to tell me what declination reason they received.  And they couldn't.  And then they next morning they call back and inform me that the reason the charge was denied was because Capital One didn't authorize the transaction.  But they didn't say why.

All together now: WHAT. THE. FUCK???

So Capital One can't or won't tell me why they declined the charge, and the vendor can't or won't give me the specific reason they were declined, their sweetly worded email about how it could have been any number of reasons that don't include me being a big fat loser over my limit notwithstanding.  Both are telling me to call the other company.

So here I sit thinking, you know what?  Fuck both of you.  Vendor, if this is an example of your customer service maybe I'm better off without you and your product.  And Capital One, I guess you need to be replaced.  I've just added this to my to-do list.

Seriously companies, I'm trying to give both of you my money and my business.  How hard is it for you to embrace that?  Guess what - I'm done with both of you.

But just to cheer me up, I received an email from Capital One (or the company they contract with to conduct customer service surveys) this morning asking me to complete a survey about my recent experience with their customer service department.  Oh boy, are they going to get an earful.

In fact the only thing I don't know at this point is if I'll ever get the item I ordered in the first place.  I think it's kind of in limbo right now.  And at this point I just don't give a crap either way.

Updated 4/25/13: Apparently Capital One and the vendor worked things out - the product arrived yesterday.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Don't meet your idols. Not this one anyway...

Seriously, what kind of sick fuck even thinks up something like this, much less puts it in writing? (bold mine)
After Sedaris finished his monologue, 200 or more guests filed into a basement level "lobby" in the Ann Arbor Hill Auditorium. It was in here that I waited 2 hrs and 47 minutes for Sedaris to sign my one copy of When You Are Engulfed In Flames...

...Five years ago I started a small library of autographed books for my sons.  Currently they are 4 yrs. and 7 yrs...

...So last night I waited... 
I waited almost three hours last night for Sedaris to inscribe this for my two sons "Me cago en la crica de tu madre" or in English "I shit in your mother's pussy." 
My sadness and anger do not stem from Mr. Sedaris's lack of judgement or unapologetic humor, but from my own realization of a irreconcilable disappointment from a writer I used to really enjoy.
Sedaris is a best-selling and award-winning writer, but I think KBallen makes an extremely astute observation in her post when she suggests (again, bold mine), "Sedaris has always offered a digestible form of humor in his writing. Whether his humor takes this form in reality or whether his editors clean up his work before publication remains a mystery."  That mystery may have just been solved.

I haven't read any of his stuff, but Sedaris is considered a renowned humorist.  He is also an out and proud Gay, and I mention that because I think it's the reason KBallen's experience with him hasn't registered a peep on the internets.  That's right, the dreaded political correctness that I so despise because it's so hypocritical.  Seriously, if someone like, oh say, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter crudely signed a fan's book with, "I shit in your mother's pussy" it would be so fucking viral so fast there wouldn't be words to describe it or means to clock it.  And rightly so.

And keep in mind, this is what he signed for a fan.  Not someone he had a beef with or was hassled by, but someone who waited hours for the pitiful honor of getting his signature on a book for her little boys.  And Mr. Creative Genius came up with, "I shit in your mother's pussy" for a fan who wanted to add this signed book to a library she is compiling as a legacy for her young sons.

And to make matters worse - if that were possible - Sedaris knew who he was writing to.  He didn't just write, "I shit in your mother's pussy", he preceded it with "To Emmett & Harrison".  He knew he was writing this disgusting crap to her children.  Fucking disgusting perv.

I've seen a number of my favorite writers (James Ellroy, Joseph Wambaugh, John Cleese, Carol Burnett, Anthony Zuiker and James Manos, Jr. off the top of my head) in person and not one of them disappointed.  I didn't get autographs, but I'd bet good money none of these people would have signed something so disgusting and uncalled for.

I feel bad for KBallen and I hope she burns Sedaris' piece of shit book with its trashy, rude and ungrateful sentiment.  She and her boys deserve better.  And Sedaris deserves shit.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Good news/bad news, Marina del Rey

The good news: We're getting a DRYBAR!!!

I'm one of those people whose hair looks fantastic when professionally styled and like crap 99% of the time I do it myself.  This place is going to make bank off of me.

Then I looked a few doors down and saw this unfortunate sight:

Beyond Scents is a great little gift shop with a lot of unique items, a lot of which are beach-themed, which I love.  I was shocked to hear that they're closing.  You can still order their scented products online.  The store was pretty much cleaned out, but I grabbed a sea dollar wine stopper, a couple small bottles of their oils (cinnamon and vanilla bean) and a few other small items.  I'm really sorry to see this store go.

I guess I'll have to drown my sorrows at the Drybar.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Easter! Not so fast, Google.

This is what the Twitter hashtag #fail was invented for.  Yesterday, on one of the two holiest (if not the holiest) day of the year for millions (I think it's actually billions) for Christians of all faiths around the world, Google somehow thought this was a good way to mark the day:

Happy Birthday, Cesar Chavez.  Rise from the dead and we'll be impressed.

This snub did not go unnoticed by the internets.

There were some really beautiful images and eloquent sentiments all over my Facebook feed yesterday:

Some people went for humor:

Then there was the cold, hard truth approach:

The family and I had a wonderful Easter, capped by dinner at the always awesome North Woods Inn.  Hope yours was great as well.