Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May Words of Wisdom

Don't let the shadows of yesterday spoil the sunshine of tomorrow. Start every day with a new hope. --Unknown

Writing is both mask and unveiling. --E.B. White

Very few writers really know what they are doing until they've done it. --Anne Lamott

Everything in your life is a reflection of a choice you have made. If you want a different result, make a different choice. --Unknown

Follow your heart, but take your brain with you. --Alfred Adler

The quieter you become, the more you can hear. --Ram Dass

Never argue with stupid people, because they will drag you dow to their level and then beat you with experience. --Mark Twain

People change because they are sick and tired of feeling broken or sad. Deciding to do something about that makes you a warrior willing to go after something better. --Patricia Hole

Relish the opportunity to be an outsider. Embrace that label, because it's the outsiders who change the world, and who make a real and lasting difference. --President Donald J. Trump

I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians. --Charles de Gaulle

Never understood those people who live for negativity. We all have ups and downs, but to exist to bring others down is a poor use of time. --John Cena

Focus on your potential instead of your limitations. --Alan Loy McGinnis

Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength. --Saint Frances de Sales

A good laugh is sunshine in a house. -William Makepeace Thackery

I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left. --Margaret Thatcher.

And in the gentle arms of the night, and under the watch of the brilliant moon and star, we give ourselves the opportunity to refresh, so that we are ready to rise and greet the day with the rising of the next sun. --Jill Alman Bernstein

Be disciplined about what you respond and react to. Not everyone or everything deserves your time, energy and attention. Stay in your light. --Unknown

Creativity requires the courage to let go of uncertainty. --Erich Fromm

A room without books is like a body without a soul. --Marcus Tullius Cicero

Bring peace into chaos and soon the noise diminishes, the scattered minds ease and the light breaks through. --Brendon Burchard

Just remember that all the crap someone puts you through, sooner or later finds its way back to them. --Unknown

Inexplicably I am drawn to the sea, mesmerized by its rhythm and flow, I breathe in as it breathes, I rise in each ebb of the tide and let go, allowing the water to wash my soul. --Jill Alman Bernstein

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Recent reading

I haven't been reading much since starting the UCLA Extension writing classes in January, so I figured I might as well get this post up since these few have been waiting months to see the light of day. All three are fantastic and highly recommended.

The Lyons by Nicky Silver

This is the third of Silver's plays that I've read. The first one, The Altruists, I absolutely loved. It was a master study in liberal/social justice hypocrisy, which floored me because those are very much Silver's people and I was shocked he'd go after them. It was darkly hilarious, with a horrifying, heart-wrenching climax. On the other hand, Beautiful Child made me want to take a Silkwood Brillo Pad shower after reading.

The Lyons, which in 2012 became the first of Silver's plays to make it to Broadway, presents a truly dysfunctional family. Patriarch Ben Lyons (played by Dick Latessa) is on his deathbed, with his ditzy, distracted wife Rita (Linda Lavin, who received a Tony nomination for her performance) at his side. They are at each other's throats, their marital pact apparently held together all these years only because that's what their generation did. That isn't stopping Rita from planning for life after Ben's demise - even as he's succumbing to cancer, she's flipping through magazines looking for living room redecorating ideas and bringing up ancient history that she's kept quiet about for years and which means nothing to her foul-mouthed husband now.

The bickering couple are soon joined by their two grown children: Lisa (Kate Jennings Grant), a divorced, recovering alcoholic and Curtis (Michael Esper), an unsuccessful writer who is gay (much to his father's displeasure) and too wrapped up in his own romantic relations to have been involved much with his parents in recent years.

Death in many forms abounds in The Lyons. Ben kicks off before the second act. Lisa will end up romancing a terminal patient down the hall from her father, while Curtis's relationships are revealed to be works of fiction.  Rita, seemingly unconcerned at the loss of her husband, has the most lively reaction of the three, none of whom seem to be able to handle being together, but aren't doing well on their own.

For me, one of the problem with reading plays is that you don't hear the actor's voices or feel their energy. In his introduction, Silver lavishes praise on his cast and what they brought to the play. If there's ever a locally produced revival of The Lyons, I'll be first in line for tickets.

BEN: Why are you here? We don't see you. You're not part of us. Not really.
CURTIS: I have my life!
BEN: You walk in here and you "forgive me"!? Go fuck yourself. 
CURTIS: It would be easy, you know. It would be nothing to kill you. I could take a pillow, I could hold it, press it on to you, until you were dead. And it would be nothing.
BEN: So do it. I'm going to die soon anyway. You think I care how it ends? I don't. My life is one long parade of disappointments. And you're the grand fucking marshal. Do it!

Star-Crossed: The Story of Robert Walker and Jennifer Jones by Beverly Linet

Star-Crossed is the sad story of actor Robert Walker, who died in 1951 at the age of thirty-two from what was believed to be an adverse reaction to prescription drugs. And while the book addresses Walker's untimely death, it focuses mainly on his life.

Walker was a nineteen year old acting student when he met classmate Phylis Isley, who would become the love of his life and eventually his wife. She would also eventually become Jennifer Jones, the protege of David O. Selznick, who made her into a huge star. Eventually Jones and Selznick dumped their respective spouses for each other and Walker never recovered from the loss of his adored wife.

Star-Crossed is mostly Walker's story. Jones is a cipher - you don't really understand at which point she fell out of love with her husband and into love with Selznick, except maybe at one point where she expresses that being an actress was more important to her than anything else in life, and Selznick was obsessed with making her into a star. Early in their marriage, Jones (then still Phylis) produced two sons, which derailed her career for a few years while Walker became hugely successful in radio. Selznick on the other hand engineered a movie debut as the title character in The Song of Bernadette that put her on the Hollywood map and earned her an Oscar. Selznick would go on to micro-manage her career and he also protected his secretive, publicity-shy wife/star from the press, which is probably why there isn't more information available about her during those years.

While Jones's debut was being carefully crafted, Walker signed with MGM and quickly became a popular star. Today he is mainly remembered for his role as the psychotic Bruno Antony in Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, but he was a star long before that film. But he went downhill after Jones left him, drinking heavily, agonizing over his loss, getting into trouble with the law and eventually spending time in a sanitarium. He seemed to have found some inner peace after being discharged, making his premature death all the more tragic.

Walker didn't suffer alone. Jones was dominated by Selznick, frequently suffered from depression and attempted suicide several times. Mary Jennifer, her only child with Selznick, committed suicide at the age of twenty-one by jumping off the roof of a Los Angeles office building. Ironically, the part of the book where Jennifer really blooms as a fully developed person is after Selznick's death, when she met and married Norton Simon, a multimillionaire industrialist and art collector with whom she blossomed into a sparkling society hostess and philanthropist.

My personal life has been completely wrecked by David Selznick's obsession for my wife. What can you do to fight such a powerful man?

Film School: The True Story of a Midwestern Man Who Went to the World's Most Famous Film School, Fell Flat on His Face, Had a Stroke, and Sold a Television Series to CBS by Steve Boman

The title says it all - that's exactly what Steve Boman did. And it was even more difficult than the title suggests.

Boman embarked on film school after years as a journalist and briefly working in the field of organ transplants (he helped coordinate donations and carried the cooler containing the organs).

To his credit, Boman worked and succeeded in circumstances that would have crippled a lesser man, and he did it while being separated from his family (a wife and young daughters back home in the midwest) and suffering a mild stroke at the beginning of his second year. He also worked like a dog to get through the USC film program. Just reading about his schedule of classes and film work was exhausting.

Boman happened to be at USC during the 2007-08 writer's strike when fate fell into his lap. CSI:New York writer/producer Trey Callaway decided to fill time during the strike by teaching a pitch class at USC. Boman enrolled and created a show based on his previous job in the world of organ transplants, then wrote and delivered a pitch so impressive it wound up being optioned by CBS.

The resulting show, Three Rivers, starred a pre-Hawaii Five-0 Alex O'Loughlin and Alfre Woodard. Reviews were mixed and the show didn't score CBS-level ratings, and it was cancelled after only a short stint on the air.

But along the way, Boman scored an agent, got to rub shoulders with legendary director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential) who executive produced Three Rivers (his first foray into network television) and showrunner Carol Barbee (UNreal, Hawaii Five-0, Jericho, Judging Amy), among others. He's upbeat about the Three Rivers roller-coaster, as he is with his unlikely success as a middle-aged film school student at one of the most prestigious film schools in the world.

The only thing that bothered me is Boman's lack of credits since Three Rivers and Film School. In the afterword he assures readers that life is great and he's writing and working on developing a new show, but Film School was published in 2011 and in a search of the web and imdb, it seems like nothing but radio silence since then. Boman comes across as a great guy and an extremely talented, hard-working writer, so I hope everything is okay and that we hear from him again.

Looking back, the amount of toil and effort that went into creating this show was astounding. Many very talented people worked extremely hard on THREE RIVERS. The set itself was huge. Paramount knocked out the walls of two adjoining soundstages and built a connecting hallway between them to give us extra space. The whole enterprise was breathtaking in its scale. It was like building a warship, which then sails out of the harbor all proud and sparkling clean...and is promptly sunk in battle, to the dismay of everyone onshore.

Monday, May 29, 2017

To all who serve and have served the greatest country in the world

You have my thanks and respect for everything you do. The sacrifices made by you and your families will never be forgotten. God bless you and the United States of America.

Friday, May 26, 2017

You can actually Call Saul

On a recent Better Call Saul, Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) made his first on-screen appearance as alter-ego Saul Goodman, commercial producer and future morally flexible attorney for high school chemistry teacher turned meth cook Walter White.

What I didn't notice at the time is that they didn't give him the usual TV/movie "555" prefix. And then word started popping up on the internet that the number actually works. So I tried it - and it does! You get a recorded message from the man himself. It's a real Albuquerque phone number, so the usual charges apply *disclaimer*.

Update: In case you didn't see the show or jot down the number, it would probably be helpful if I included it: (505) 842-5662.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Gator Meat has been obtained!

Gator bites this weekend thanks to Harmony Farms in La Crescenta!

Update 5/28/19: Made gator bites last night - very good, very easy and very spicy! Recipe is here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How to torpedo your writing career before it even begins

Today is one week out from the May 31 deadline for the NBC Universal Writers on the Verge Program and the Warner Bros. Writers' Workshop. I was even thinking of blogging about it, but there didn't seem to be much to be said except that the deadline is in a week, so I had decided not to bother.

Until I saw this on Facebook:

Writing scripts is only part of the job in television. You also have to be pleasant to work with, cooperative and know your place in the food chain. A fledgling writer is in no position to make demands.

Read that comment. Never mind that English might not be this person's first language. The grammar isn't the problem. It's the attitude.

Would you hire this person? Especially for a job that has way more people wanting in, who know how to conduct themselves professionally, than there are positions available?

There are other issues with this comment. Many successful writers have tales of having to submit countless times before scoring a meeting with an agent, an editor, or a producer. It's not something that usually happens overnight.

I don't know how many writers they select for the program - maybe a dozen -  but they must get thousands of submissions. You can't tell me at least twelve of them won't be promising writers with at least a decent attitude. I'd love to be a fly on the wall at NBC Universal to see what they think of this comment and whether it alone torpedoes this person's submission.

I do know that this is not how you break in.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

This guy on my walk this morning

I'm pretty sure it's an egret, a snowy egret, I think. Also saw a California Sea Lion in the channel.

Why the obnoxious attention to detail? Because I picked this up a couple weeks ago in the local Barnes & Noble.

Apparently, the herons I've seen around are Great Blue Herons. Per the pocket guide.

When you need a good laugh

This lion is here to help!

H/T to Something Funny on FB.

Monday, May 22, 2017

This made my night

Congrats Smashville!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day to my Dad: 10/8/40 - 5/14/11

When my Dad died on May 14, 2011, one thing that I didn't think of at the time was that every seven years or so, the anniversary of his death would fall on Mother's Day. Today is one of those years. I think he would be happy to know that everyone is doing well, and that Mom is going to have a great Mother's Day with The Brother and I.

I still miss him for a number of reasons. One biggie is that this year - just last month in fact - I was published for the first time. My Mom is fond of telling me that when I would send them stuff I'd written, they'd wonder if they thought it was great because I was their daughter and they couldn't be objective, or if I was really that good. That question was finally answered with LAst Resort, not to mention so far I've been acing my UCLA Extension classes.

He would have gotten a huge kick out of seeing me in print. He wasn't the easiest guy to impress, nor did he flatter or give compliments unless it was truly warranted and deserved, but he would have been having a blast with this.

I've also been able to move on from the clusterfuck of family drama created after he died and was no longer around to rule with an iron fist. Sometimes it actually helps to have one of those in the family, so that you don't have the inmates running the asylum. That whole episode was a bitter pill for a long time, not only because of the stress and aggravation it caused, but especially because it was so hatefully disrespectful of what everyone knew were his final wishes and what he would have wanted. But that crap is now in the past, and there it will stay. For the most part.

Because whether you consider it making lemonade when life gives you lemons, or every cloud having a silver lining, the fact is that although I once thought I'd never want to revisit that period of my life, with the passage of time it has in fact provided me with a ton of story fodder I wouldn't have otherwise had, including my Better Call Saul script for the UCLA program. And I know my Dad would have loved that.

Rest in peace, Dad, and know that all is finally well.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Venezuela Diet

This has been making the rounds on the internets today. Not to make fun of a dire situation, but this is funny (and sadly, accurate): The Venezuela Diet. Share it with the social justice warrior in your life!

The "Apple" Store.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Scenes from an overcast beach morning

Overcast during beach walk this morning. Didn't care.

Stormy looking skies eventually gave way to sunshine.

Bird was here. Probably a gull.

Lots of doggies out this morning. This one left prints that
looked like a little bear.

Venice Pier. I'm pretty sure I've taken a shot in the past
that looked almost exactly like this.
Now this really confused me. On a few occassions I've seen LAX reverse it's usual "take off to the west (over the ocean)/land from the east" pattern during bad weather. But for some reason today, this guy landed from over the ocean. Even weirder, I saw a couple others taking off in the normal direction. Not sure what his deal was.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The crime trope that won't die

Lee Lofland (founder of Writers' Police Academy) would like to point out yet again, there is no such thing as cordite, people! 

Although your favorite TV detective might glean that a vic was shot very recently because the smell of cordite is lingering in the air, which also means the perp can't have gone, he/she doesn't, seeing as how they haven't manufactured the stuff since World War II. I don't know why this is so prevalent after all these years, but it is. For some reason, readers/viewers with little to no knowledge of police work or detective work have been conditioned to understand that the supposed presence of cordite = a gun has very recently been fired.

Nope. And I keep hearing real cops don't use "perp", either.

One of the panelists at the L.A. Times Festival of Books mentioned that if you get gun details wrong, you'll hear about it from numerous readers. I would start by not using cordite as a story device.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Some advice from an editor re: submissions

Okay, not the most exciting title I've ever given to a blog post, but this is good stuff: The Biggest Mistake You Can Make When Submitting Your Work.

There's actually several good pieces of advice in the article. It reminded me of hearing that the problem with entering writing contests is that a lot of work is submitted because it's the deadline, not because the work is ready to be submitted. I've probably done that a few times myself over the years.

H/T to Aerogramme Writers' Studio on FB for the link.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Holy fucking shit

Pardon my language, but this wreaked major havoc with my fear of heights. I feel queasy just watching it online. No way I'd ever be able to do this:

Who in their right mind does this? And who keeps turning around to film instead of watching where they're going? You're just one spooked or stumbling mule away from a nightmarish death. Sweet Jesus.

H/T (I guess) to Shit Only Horse Riders Understand on FB.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Hold on to your paychecks...

Whole Foods looking at lowering prices across the board.

Does this mean they'll no longer be known as "whole paycheck"?

Now if only they could do something about parking on the westside of L.A.

H/T to House Beautiful Magazine on FB for the link.