Friday, September 30, 2016

September Words of Wisdom

Stop doing four screenplays at once. Do one at a time and address the problem. --Ridley Scott

There are only two ways to live your life: One is as though nothing is a miracle; the other is as though everything is a miracle. --Albert Einstein

One who possesses hope is forever young. --Daisaku Ikeda

If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be. --Maya Angelou

You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection. --Buddha

First, find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him. --Ray Bradbury

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. --William Wordsworth

Writing is a demanding profession and a selfish one. And because it is selfish and demanding, because it is compulsive and exacting, I didn't embrace it. I succumbed to it. --Rod Serling

Drinking is another way of living. It gives you two lives instead of one. --Charles Bukowski

Weight Watchers humor - When beautiful losers weigh in

After missing four weeks (two of which were spent traveling to and from New Orleans and one of which was a Monday holiday), I finally returned to my Weight Watchers meeting this week. And despite every effort to eat anything and everything alligator, red beans and rice, white chocolate bread pudding and beignet while in NOLA, I weighed in this week at exactly the same number as I did last time I went in. So I was pretty happy about that. Definitely a "no news is good news" situation.

Weighing in can be an art form for members of Weight Watchers. Anything that can add so much as a fraction of an ounce may be shed before stepping onto the scale, and that subject came up during this week's meeting and it was hilarious. Attendees admitted to everything from removing earrings to having weighed their clothes at home to find out which outfit weighs the least (and becomes their official, weekly WW uniform). Since we're big girls, most of us have underwire in our bras and so sports bras often get worn to meetings because apparently they weigh less than our everyday bras. A lot of us, myself included - won't eat or drink anything before weighing in. That's a big reason why I attend a 9:30am meeting and bring a protein shake with me that gets opened as soon as I sit down after weighing in.

Our meeting leader, who has been a member of Weight Watchers since the 1980's, regaled us with stories of weighing in at her meetings in New York City, where she lived at the time. Her co-workers always knew when it was Tuesday (her weigh-in day) because she wore the same outfit, a light silk blouse with a light silk skirt, because it was the least heavy outfit she owned. If the weather was bad, she simply wore a heavy coat over it. She also told us that the Weight Watchers in NYC had signs at the scales forbidding members from completely undressing, because apparently people would do that. She also had it happen once here when weighing someone in and had to tell the member that no, she wasn't taking her clothes off.

I'm pretty low maintenance, just a pair of jeans, a light shirt and flip-flops, the latter of which get kicked off before I get on the scale (everyone takes off their shoes). I figure it will all even up over time. I don't wear heavy jewelry, but I do always have two toe rings on these days (one from Hawaii and a new one from New Orleans) and now I can't stop wondering what would happen if I took them off and put them on a scale. After all, WW does count our weight and more importantly our weight loss, down to tenths of pounds...

Hmmmm. The jewelry thing doesn't sound so crazy after all.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


To the UCLA Extension TV Writing Certificate Program. Which is all on waitlists now. So maybe in January kids.

In the meantime, I guess this means I'm a Bruin of sorts, despite my mad love of all things USC during the L.A. Times Festival of Books on the Trojan campus.

It's all good, I guess, where writing is concerned.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Missing NOLA

I'm not even close to getting all my pictures from the New Orleans trip downloaded and organized, but since I am missing NOLA already, here are some to keep you (meaning me) going until I get them all together:

Streetcar on Canal Street

Crescent City Connection Bridge

Steamboat Natchez. We took a ride the next day.
It was wonderful for so many reasons.

Cafe Du Monde. I'm hooked.

Mule-drawn carriage on Decatur Street. 
They're  all over the French Quarter.

Statue of Andrew Jackson in Jackson Square, 
with the St. Louis Cathedral in the background.

May the curse be with you.

View from my room, looking southeast.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

This is incredibly cool

Underwater footage of a horse swimming.

What's really amazing is when you consider that with those skinny legs, horses don't look like they're built for swimming, but somehow they manage it anyway.

Friday, September 16, 2016

For Father's Day: A public service announcement

Today marks the fifth Father's Day non-celebration since my Dad passed away in 2011 and his absence has been felt in ways I never anticipated. My Dad was the guy in the family who kept everyone in line. Not all of us needed to be kept in line, but when the need arose, he checked it. Sometimes just being the wealthy, successful one in the family is enough to keep certain people kowtowing, but he also just didn't take any crap from anyone, and more often than not it was a pretty effective combination. I wish I had inherited his assertiveness and ability to relish a good fight, but I didn't. I just don't see the appeal of battle. I like people to just be decent to each other. Take the high road. It isn't that hard.

Kona Jim.

Since I won't be celebrating today, let me offer some advice in my Dad's memory. This is probably going to sound terrible, and a lot of people will think it can't or won't happen in their family, but I can tell you from experience it's important. No matter how close you think your family is (or isn't), bad things often happen when someone dies if there's a lot of money or property involved. It happened to us and during the period after my Dad's death, it seemed like everyone had a inheritance battle horror story to share with me.

If you want your wishes regarding how your estate is to be distributed - and especially to whom, and who gets what - you need to have a will or trust. You need it in writing and made legal, because no matter how well you think everyone gets along, or is getting along at the time you shuffle off this mortal coil, once you're gone it's a whole new ballgame.

And now that you're gone it's a free-for-all. If there's money involved, trust me when I say there is no depth that can't and won't be plumbed, your final wishes be damned. And it's not just money - people can and will misrepresent what your relationship with them was really like if it will make them more sympathetic and seemingly entitled. I can't emphasize this enough: There is no depth too low for certain people if there's money involved. And it only takes one person to go that route for it to turn into an ordeal. And that's on top of the rest of your family wanting to mourn you. Now they've got this shitstorm to deal with. I know, because I lived it and as executor I had to deal with all of it, and as a result I feel like I never got the chance to mourn my Dad properly. There was too much drama - much of it manufactured - but all of it not how he wanted things to go after his death.

My Dad did have a trust, but it wasn't updated. There were two major changes he was planning on making because things had changed and he knew his health was failing, but he thought he'd have more time to do it. He didn't. He talked about what he was going to change and he made notes, but neither is legally binding. A lot of people (myself included) knew about his plans for his estate, but once he was gone that didn't matter. And knowing that in addition to everything else that happened, there was the idea that a family member just shit on his final wishes and by doing so, his memory just rubs salt on the wound.

We buried my Dad's ashes at sea off the coast of his beloved
Kailua-Kona. A black flag indicates "a vessel in mourning".

I got my share of the inheritance that I was entitled to, but someone else got screwed, and someone else got the other half, rather than the monthly allowance my Dad was going to set up for them. Yeah, you can get a lawyer and sue and drag out the unpleasantness for God knows how long. Not everyone has that kind of stamina and not everyone wants to drag their family into a court battle. I'm not even sure it would matter - my trust includes the line ...after the death of the Trustor, this Trust shall be irrevocable. This Trust may not be modified, amended or revoked by an guardian or conservator of the Trustor, nor by any Court. So I think it's pretty iron-clad. Another reason to not only have one, but keep it updated as things change in your life.

And sometimes a person is just so horrible and toxic - and are free to be themselves now that they don't have to toe Dad's line - that you can find yourself willing to pay any price to have them out of your life. Which isn't hard, because I can tell you from experience that there are people who are more than happy to choose money over family, and/or despite the last wishes of a deceased, supposedly loved one.

Now that I've gotten all that out of my system (sometimes you just need a good rant) I want to get back to the point of this post. If you don't have a will or living trust, get one. I know with a trust you don't have to go through probate, with a will alone I think it depends on the size of the estate, so I would recommend going with a trust. I have one. My mother has one. No more of my Dad's hard-earned money will ever go to someone contrary to his wishes.

I'm guessing the laws and cost will vary depending on where you live, but I paid about $1,000 for my living trust here in Southern California and it's worth every penny to know that when I die, my family won't be left with the clusterfuck that followed my Dad's death. As a bonus, it also includes power of attorney for both personal affairs (including finances) and medical care.

Another thing to note is that if there is someone in particular that you want excluded from any claim to your estate, I highly recommend that be included in writing as part of your will and trust. You don't have to give a reason, just state that you are not providing for them. It was in my Stepmother's trust, it's in mine and in my Mom's. If I kick off tomorrow I don't need to worry about someone slithering in to try another ripoff or wreaking more havoc. It's all in writing and it was done through a lawyer, and it's irrevocable.

I hope this may end up being helpful to someone. I wouldn't wish what we went through with my Dad's estate on anyone. And for those of you celebrating, have a wonderful Father's Day. Just make sure your affairs are in order, for the sake of those you love and wish to provide for even after you're gone.

South Park deals with the NFL/anthem debacle, and it's sheer genius

The other night the world welcomed South Park back for its 20th season and a few days prior to the premiere the trailer leaked, indicating that Matt and Trey would address the issue of famous, filthy rich professional athletes refusing to honor our National Anthem prior to games. The world waited with bated breath to see how they would skewer the situation and we weren't disappointed.

And just for good measure they also tossed in a drive-by poke at the whole Ghostbusters 2016  fiasco as only they could, as Cartman is accused of claiming women can't be funny. With typical slimy Cartman insincerity, he hands various female classmates a mic during assembly asking them to be funny. They all refuse to even try, showing a total lack of sense of humor about the situation.

The Ghostbusters 2016 dig is also tied into the anthem storyline. The townspeople approach J.J. Abrams about writing a more inclusive, acceptable version of the anthem - I mean, rebooting the anthem.  Because if there's someone who knows how to reboot a beloved classic, maintaining and respecting what made the original so popular, while bringing in a whole new generation of characters and fans, it's J.J. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Abrams.

All of which led to this brilliant moment:

For our national anthem we now ask you all in solidarity
to please rise...or sit, or take a order to honor

Thursday, September 15, 2016

I like this woman. I really do.

Because with her around I'm not the fattest, saddest broad on the internets. And as a culinary school grad, I can make a hell of a lot more than sammiches. But I digress.

I like this guy even better.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Never Forget

Back in 2011, if someone had told me what world we'd be living in fifteen years after the horrific events of 9/11, I would never have believed our so-called "leaders" would be coddling the very people who attacked us. I just don't understand it.

Note: I have picked these images up from the internet over the years. If any are yours please let me know so I can give credit. God bless America.

Speaking of images, there are some amazing and heartwrenching ones here.

Updated: Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who was with President Bush when the Towers were hit, is doing an amazing blow-by-blow of the President's day on Twitter.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Not The Onion

Men's restrooms at Brown University to be stocked with feminine hygiene products.

I would give anything to hear this article read by Movie Trailer Announcer Guy, preceded by, "In a world gone mad..."

Man, these little social justice warriors are going to be in for the shocks of their lives when they get out into the big bad world and get belted with a heaping dose of reality.

As usual, South Park nails it.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you...

A link to this post popped up on the SinC Guppies Yahoo Group and given the title, I thought it was about "Taking Fictional Characters on a Road Trip". The post is actually more about the importance of scouting when using actual locations in your stories and the equal importance of consistency if you create your own world, because either way your eagle-eyed viewers will let you know if you get something wrong.

It's a terrific post and well worth a read, but the way it was presented on the list got me thinking about, well, actually taking my characters on the road with me. There are so many possible ways to do it.

You could have one or more of your characters join you next time you're on a trip. Preferably alone in a car as your non-writer family/friends/co-workers probably wouldn't understand your need to confer with your imaginary friend(s). Ditto flying, I'm guessing it might send up a red flag among the flight crew and other passengers. But if you can get them alone, it could be enlightening to find out how they react to certain things or what they decide to share about themselves while stuck in a car with you for an extended period of time. Or you could solve the talking to yourself issue by having the interactions in your head and jotting down notes. After all, you are a writer. The simple act of writing shouldn't send up an alarm, at least not the way talking to someone only you can see would.

Or maybe just drag them along with you the next time you're running errands. Again, I'd leave them in the car or keep the interactions to yourself. Sure, you're never going to see any of those people in Costco again, but why risk attracting the attention of security guards? They also might not understand the writing explanation, unless their rapidly dwindling book section carries your latest, in which case congratulations, you've just become a celebrity at your local big box store. But for a lot of us that's getting ahead of ourselves. We've got to get the books written first and to do that we need to get to know the people who are going to populate our stories.

Or just go for a drive with them. You don't have to be going or doing anything in particular. Just spend some time alone with them, getting to know them.

I think it's a great way to get to know your characters and flesh them out. It also might build scenes for your story. It's a legit question - how would my detective kill time while waiting for his car to go through the wash? With nothing to do but sit and wait, could that be the moment he puts two and two together and finally IDs the killer? If my protagonist is fed up with her life, is that the moment, while watching her car getting sudsed up from behind a pane of glass, that she finally makes the decision that's she's done with this world? Or will the sight of her car being wiped clean make her feel like she can make a fresh start and try to plow through a little longer? Will one of my supporting characters poke fun at my supermarket purchases or will they want to join me for dinner when they see what I've bought? How happy - or not - will my suspects be when I drag them to a farmer's market? What books would catch their eye at Barnes & Noble?

I don't expect them to hang out at home with me. While I love and need my solitude, I understand it's boring to other people. Watching someone write, clean house and binge watch shows is not exciting. And I don't necessarily want them around all the time. But the more I think about this, the more I feel like I just stumbled onto a brilliant way to develop my characters. I feel like they just got a lot more interesting.

Keep them talking.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Writing advice: Write what haunts you...whatever that might be

The last couple of days I started jotting down notes for an idea using stuff from my life. I don't usually draw from my own life because to be honest, it hasn't been all that exciting or marked by amazing accomplishments. I just sort of exist.

But for some reason I'm suddenly jotting down little experiences that have stayed with me over the years and trying to work out how I could turn them into a novel-length story. And not the good things, the other things. One of my notes: "This could be cathartic."

Just little things. Nothing that the average person would consider life-changing, good bad or otherwise. I would say I consider these experiences to "haunt" me based on the question, "Why do I still remember this stupid thing after all these years?" It's not like I've had a life of epic tragedy, but everyone has their internal scars. Which is why I was so happy to read these quotes from Mary Casanova's article at Strand Magazine:

When I first heard other authors talk about writing what haunts you, I thought it meant I had to have come from a dreadful, abused childhood.

I worried that my early years...doomed me as a writer. There simply hadn't been enough pain and anguish.

Most of us are fortunate that our lives weren't spent enduring years of misery, but for some people there are seemingly small things that end up defining them, or at least haunting them. There are days when I can't remember what I had for lunch the day before, but there are memories from childhood and my earlier adulthood that seem to have followed me all through life. Things that might not seem like big deals to others, but for some reason I can't shake them.

Sometimes little things become big things, at least to the individual that they happen to. And for me, I think there's a story in that, or at least that can come out of that.


Click to biggify and see what I'm so damn excited about.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Just when I thought there weren't any more ways for me to procrastinate when I'm supposed to be writing...

Babys concert videos!!!

They were a big favorite of mine back in the day. It's all soooo seventies!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

You know, there was a time when stealing a horse was punishable by hanging

I don't know why a horse would be allowed to graze with a loose leadline (if you don't know why, watch until the end) but other than that, this is hilarious. Nice horse, too. Really nice horse.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Namaste. Sort of. Not really.

Actually, I'm not in a really good place, spiritually, emotionally or in any other way. But, fuck off anyway. Seriously. Namaste.

Truth be told, I don't actually know what Namaste means.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Well, I have been feeling a little lost lately...

I think it was the "champagne" answer to the "Pick Your Poison" question, but in my defense they didn't have a "cheap chardonnay" option.

Hey, at least I'm in some damn good company.

You can take the test here. H/T to The Write Life on FB for the link.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

This is freaking phenomenal - The 9/11 Seinfeld spec script

Don't let the idea of it put you off - you have to read this. It's amazing. It is genius. It's the imagined post-9/11 Seinfeld episode.

From the article linked above:

Here's a great way to make a name for yourself as a comedy writer: write a pitch-perfect spec script for the classic sitcom Seinfeld...set in the days after 9/11. Yes, Seinfeld may have gone off the air in 1998, but comedian Billy Domineau imagined a world in which the show kept airing and Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer acted like the entitled, selfish, near-sociopathic New Yorkers that they always were during one of the most trying and intense times in the city's history.

The writer, Billy Domineau, is a freelance joke-writer who decided to do the script as an exercise in bad taste for a sketch-writing student he was working with. He started writing it in mid-July, and within days of it hitting the internet he had acquired representation.

Do take the time to read it. It's brilliant. I don't think Domineau missed a trick.