Thursday, May 31, 2018

May Words of Wisdom

As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation. --President Ronald Reagan

Memorial Day is a time to honor the lives of those who would rather die than take a knee when our national anthem is played. --Robert O'Neill

The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul. --Robert Wyland

I have nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. --Jack Kerouac

Anti-social behaviour is a trait of intelligence in a world full of conformists.
--Nikola Tesla

A walk on the beach clears your mind, energizes your body, relaxes your spirit, and gives you that easy peaceful feeling. --Unknown

For one to fly, one only needs to take the reins. --Melissa James

When people hurt you over and over, think of them like sandpaper. They may scratch and hurt you, but in the end, you end up polished and they end up useless. --Unknown

It's hard for me to put into words why I like the beach so much. Everything about it is renewing for me, almost like therapy...Beach Therapy. --Amy Dykens

The truth is like a lion. You don't have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself. --Augustine of Hippo

First of all, you have to ask yourself, "Why is there political correctness?" The only answer is because you're afraid to say what you honestly believe. Well, what a fucking shame that you can't say what you believe in America. This place stood for that at one time. --Kurt Russell

I discovered Los Angeles in the late '90's. The city was not at its best at the time, but I fell for it right away. There is something almost haunted about it, a vibrant mythology I find rather inspiring. --Hedi Slimane

The gods are Yankee traders. There are no gifts. Everything has a price, and in bitter moments I have been tempted to cry "Usury!" --Bette Davis

I'm not afraid of werewolves or vampires or haunted hotels, I'm afraid of what real human beings do to other real human beings. --Walter Jon Williams

Because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, how alive am I willing to be? --Anne Lamott

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray. --Rumi

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
--John Burroughs

If you fell down yesterday, stand up today --H.G. Wells

Home is the nicest word there is. --Laura Ingalls Wilder

How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you. --Rupi Kaur

The best way to avoid a hangover is to stay drunk. --Dorothy Parker

In order to write the book you want to write, in the end you have to become the person you need to become to write that book. --Junot Diaz

Monday, May 28, 2018

Even Zuck says, "Better safe than sorry!"

I can remember not long ago when there was a rumor going around the internet that a specific brand/model of television could actually listen in and transmit audio from the owner's home back to the manufacturer (or whoever they authorized to listen in). People who believed this rumor were widely derided as paranoid nutjobs.

Now forward a couple years and many people have virtual assistants like Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, and Google Home in their homes and on their phones. All you have to do is launch your requests for anything from weather, traffic, directions, music, shopping requests and more into thin air, and your device springs to life to do your bidding.

I recently heard the following exchange - I wish I could remember exactly where, I think on the radio, but I'm not sure. It's also not word for word, but this is the gist of it:

Guy 1: You're just paranoid. Alexa isn't spying on you or listening all the time. She only listens when you call her by name to wake up and take your request.

Guy 2: If she's not listening all the time, how does she know when you call her name?


South Park (of course) famously nailed that very issue last season in the episode "White People Renovating Houses". In addition to hilariously spoofing home renovation shows, the episode also had a storyline in which Eric Cartman repeatedly gave orders to his Alexa, prompting viewer's devices to reset their alarms, add hairy balls to their shopping lists, and bid them good night, so effectively that some viewers had to unplug their devices to get them to stop responding to Cartman. Again, Alexa couldn't have not been listening for her name, right? RIGHT???

Which leads me to this, which I first spotted about a month ago, and which surfaced again today. It's a picture of Facebook braintrust Mark Zuckerberg at his desk.

Notice anything? Eagle-eyed Chris Olson on Twitter did.

I don't know about Thunderbird - a brief online search didn't reveal it to be any more or less secure than any other email services - but the other items really caught my attention.

I've had my camera covered pretty much since I got my first Mac and the first thing that popped up on my screen - very unexpectedly - was my big old face from an unflattering angle. What I'd never thought about was the need to cover the audio jack as well. Both would probably have earned me the old paranoid nutjob label in the past.

On the other hand, if Zuckerberg of all people feels the need to cover the camera and mic jack on his laptop, that pretty much tells me everything I need to know about that. Not to mention how ironic it is that the man in the middle of ongoing user privacy issues makes a point of protecting his own privacy while exploiting ours. He may feel entitled to track the rest of us around the internet even when we're not on his site, but he doesn't want anyone to do the same to him. I call that hypocrisy, but I am grateful to Zuck for one thing: if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me. The mic is now covered too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Gotta keep this in mind

Words to live by.

H/T to Kelly C on Gab.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Blast from the past - going through the 2018 network upfronts

It's been a good decade since I worked in post production and tracked shows in development, and over the years I gradually tuned out pilot season and the upfronts, which I used to love. I also used to blog about them like crazy, including my picks for which shows would be hits (I was usually wrong).

For the upcoming season, there are several new network shows that have my attention (alas, not L.A. Confidential, which wasn't picked up) so I decided to revisit my old stomping grounds.

I'm also hoping this helps me get through the first Sunday in eight weeks that won't have new episodes of both The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale and Barry. Sunday, which I'd gotten used to looking forward to, is now a TV wasteland, at least until Joel McHale returns in July. But I digress.

Loglines are from's new show coverage. Let's check out the shows that will be getting a shot at cluttering up my DVR!

The Fix
Logline: After losing the biggest case of her career and being shredded by the media, former prosecutor Maya Travis has left Los Angeles for a quiet life in rural Oregon. Eight years after her devastating defeat, the murderer strikes again, forcing Maya to return to L.A. to confront him one more time. Will she play by the rules, or will she do whatever it takes to get him behind bars?

You had me at: Robin Tunney as Maya. Love her.

Bonus: Marcia Clark is a writer/producer.

The Rookie
Logline: John Nolan is the oldest rookie in the LAPD. At an age where most are at the peak of their career, Nolan cast aside his comfortable small-town life and moved to L.A. to pursue his dream of being a cop. Now, surrounded by rookies 20 years his junior, Nolan must navigate the dangerous, humorous and unpredictable world of a "young" cop, determined to make his second shot at life count. Inspired by a true story.

You had me at: Nathan Fillion as a 40 year old LAPD rookie.

Bonus: A tie between that last line of the logline and playing "Spot That Location" - especially around Hollywood - in the trailer.

God Friended Me
Logline: Exploring questions of faith, existence and science, it centers on an outspoken atheist whose life is turned upside down when he is friended by God on Facebook. Unwittingly, he becomes an agent of change in the lives and destinies of others around him.

You had me at: The possibility of Hollywood not treating believers like hicks/nutjobs. A longshot, I know, but enough to at least give it an episode or two.

Bonus: Not your average premise and it will also be interesting if the industry has learned anything from the profitability of shows that appeal to people outside their big-city bubbles (see also Roseanne reboot and the return of Last Man Standing).

Fox only has two new dramas this year and neither of them piqued my interest.

Logline: A plane disappears from radar and returns years later after being untraceable and presumed lost at sea. No time has passed for those on the plane, but for their loved ones at home, many years have gone by. The series follows their personal lives as well as the larger mystery and purpose that is their destiny.

You had me at: That creepy premise and trailer.

Bonus: Robert Zemeckis is involved.

In the Dark
Logline: A flawed and irreverent blind woman is the only "witness" to the murder of her drug-dealing friend. After the police dismiss her story, she sets out with her dog, Pretzel, to find the killer while also managing her colorful dating life and the job she hates at Breaking Blind, the guide dog school owned by her overprotective parents.

You had me at: That logline. How can you not love it, especially with the sure-to-be adorable dog and Breaking Bad reference?

Bonus: Pretzel could fill my dog-viewing void left by the cancellation of Downward Dog. Levi (his real name) has already made the news. Also, Michael Showalter of The State is involved, at least in the pilot.

It will be interesting to revisit this when the shows launch in September. Happy viewing everybody!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Submitted for your approval - February-April edition

Due to my Mom's death, March and April submissions kind of went off the rails, then I forgot to post this altogether. Nor did I get around to posting what I'd done in February, so here's everything from February through April:

Writer's Digest "Your Story Competition": February's contest was a caption contest for this photo:

Of course my mind went straight to crime, so the caption I submitted was, "I double-counted my poisonous treats, one for every time he'd broken my heart."

I wasn't quite sure if I wanted to submit it, because I couldn't tell for sure if the hand in the picture belonged to a child or just someone pudgy. I decided to go with the latter because if I'm confused about it, other contributors probably are too.

I also got a submission in during March for another anthology. The short story involved is the one I talked about here. It ended up being one of my twice in one day rejections. The other one was for the quarterly ezine mentioned here.

On the bright side, as I mentioned here, my now-aged Better Call Saul script did well in the latest Scriptapalooza competition.

On the downside, I found out that the short stories I submitted for two upcoming anthologies (Mystery Writers of America and Bouchercon) were not selected. Either one would have been a career moment. I really liked both stories too, will need to try and find other places to submit them.

The MWA anthology had almost two hundred entries and chose ten. Bouchercon had about 300 and the "wish we had better news" email I got raved about the quality of all of them and how hard it was for the judges to pick just a few, so I'm trying not to feel too bad, but just one of those would have been huge.

Oh well, onward and upward.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The fine art of naming your internet connection

So "That's What She Said" is still a thing? Okay then.

Taco Bell on the other hand...*yum*

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A day in the middle

Decided I need to have a quiet, low-key day. Just gonna hang out and not worry about accomplishing a damn thing.

Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of my Dad's death. I can't believe it's been that long, but I guess it's true - time flies. And tomorrow is our first Mother's Day without Mom. A couple more milestones out of the way. Think I'll lay low tomorrow as well.

Miss you guys.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The possible return of Sledge Hammer!

Original creator Alan Spencer is in talks to possibly bring back his 1980's titular trigger happy cop, and I for one would love to see it. What I can't make out from the article is if he's planning on bringing back David Rasche as the .45 Magnum loving Sledge, because that would be awesome. From the linked article (bold mine):

Spencer now envisions the title character being called back to active duty after many years away, a trigger-happy lawman thrust into the changed world of forensic crime-solving and increased scrutiny of police. 

Rasche is in his seventies now so I'm not sure if it would work, but I'd love to see him back in shoot first, ask questions later action. If not, re-casting would be crucial but I think it could be done, especially with Spencer in charge.

The article provides a clip from the pilot episode. Here's a few more awesome Sledge Hammer! moments:

And of course, that terrific opening:

Monday, May 7, 2018

Recent reading

I haven't posted one of these lately, so this goes back to January.

Homey Don't Play That! The Story of In Living Color and the Black Comedy Revolution by David Peisner
A somewhat dry but very comprehensive look at the trailblazing sketch comedy show as well as the rise of black comics and actors in the eighties and nineties.

The book covers In Living Color creator Keenen Ivory Wayans's childhood and his trajectory into standup comedy, film, and eventually to the TV show that (along with The Simpsons and Married With Children) would help Fox, then a struggling network wanna-be, move into the big leagues. It also details the creative struggles Wayans had with the network that caused him to walk away from the show.

We also get to witness the career ascension of various cast members including Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier, as well as Jennifer Lopez's brief stint as a "Fly Girl". There's Keenen's often brutal treatment of his writers and his sometimes contentious relationships with his contemporaries, especially where his brutal impersonation of Arsenio Hall is concerned. It was fun to learn how some of the show's iconic characters and famous sketches came to be. And I appreciated the even-handedness that the author used in addressing the race and gender factor that permeated television, the show's cast and writing staff, as well as the careers of black comics and actors. The history is fascinating, especially if you aren't old enough to have witnessed it. We also learn the fate of the reboot that never happened.

If you're a fan of the show and/or anyone involved with it you'll enjoy this detailed behind the scenes look at one of the best comedy shows that ever aired.

Keenen seemed to revel in taking shots at his friends and rivals on the show. Over the course of his time in charge, the show jabbed, among others, Robert Townsend, Marsha Warfield, Byron Allen, Chris Rock, Oprah Winfrey, Sinbad and the Hudlins. But the two contemporaries he mocked the most (and the most gleefully) were Spike Lee and Arsenio Hall.

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny
I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this is the first of Penny's books I've read, and it will not be the last. Her name pops up on a regular basis when crime and mystery organizations hand out their awards and I finally decided to find out why.

And the reason is that Penny is simply a master. A Great Reckoning earned Agatha, Anthony, Left Coast Crime, Barry and Macavity Awards, debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and landed on countless top 10 of 2016 lists.

This book is the thirteenth of her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series and it looks like I'm going to have a lot of catching up to do. It's set in snowy, rural Three Pines, Quebec, where Gamache lives with his wife and a gaggle of quirky friends and neighbors. Gamache has been through a major ordeal I'm not terribly familiar with due to not having read the previous books, but it was brutal and nearly killed him. Now that the dust has settled, he's been transferred from Chief of Homicide to a corrupt local police academy. He takes over with the intention of cleaning it up, but meets with a lot of resistance, especially from one of the instructors, Leduc, who Gamache keeps on the faculty despite his being dirty and at odds with his new boss.

Shortly before Gamache begins his new job, a mysterious and strange old map is unearthed from the walls of a bistro in Three Pines, and he sets a quartet of cadets on the task of solving the mystery behind it. Things go south when Leduc is found shot to death in his quarters and one of the cadets' maps is found in his room.

The characters are well-drawn and instantly spring to life. Gamache is smart and eloquent, and never bitter. One of the things I liked most about him is that he only says as much as needs to be said. And Penny knows her police and procedurals inside out.

"Professionals know that as soon as a murder is committed the weapon stops being a gun or a knife or a club and becomes a noose," he said. "It attaches itself to the killer. He might think he's being clever, taking the weapon, but murder weapons are harder to get rid of than people think. The longer he holds onto it, the tighter the rope gets, the bigger the drop."

The Magnolia Story
by Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino

A quick (under 200 pages) and easy read about how a home-flipping Waco couple became a TV phenomenon.

The book covers how Chip and Jo met and married, then how his home buying and selling, along with her design shop, led to them being cast in the HGTV show Fixer Upper. It's a sweet story of faith, love, and hard work amidst a life of ups and downs. If you're not a fan of that kind of stuff, you're probably not going to like this book, because it's full of it.

When they met, Chip had studied business at Baylor University and was a fearless hard worker who was running several businesses, including buying and fixing up small houses to rent out to university students. Joanna also studied at Baylor, but she was a communications major with hopes for a journalism career. Her interest in and eventual expertise at design was simply the result of how much she loved it and how natural she was at it.

The two don't always come off as equals. Chip, entrepreneurial since childhood, tends to barge into deals without first consulting his wife. Jo's response is usually to panic, then fall back on her belief in both God and her husband's expertise.  And if Chip sometimes comes off as thoughtless and clueless as to how his impulse purchases will affect his family, it's largely offset by his genuine devotion and love for them, and also for his community, especially those less fortunate than him. The fact that he's usually right about a house doesn't hurt either.

In fact, it was his most outrageous purchase that scored them their TV show, which would also eventually lead to the wildly successful branding of Magnolia and the expansion of their business to include the Silos. Jo's horrified on-camera reaction, followed by her decision to make the best of it, followed by the couple going over the purchase and enthusiastically making plans for its renovation, is what sold them as TV stars after a couple of less than inspired previous days of filming.

By this point, I'd learned to adjust my way of thinking quickly since I never knew what Chip would come up with next. I wanted to stay comfortable, but I finally started to realize that with change comes new opportunity. Even though I was sad to leave our home, I quickly got on board with Chip and thought of all the new memories our family could make in a new place. There was a part of me that was challenged to create beauty in a house that seemed to have no potential.

Harvey by Mary Chase
I've been a big fan of the classic James Stewart film Harvey for years, but had never read the play until now. It's always interesting to me to see how stage and film versions differ. In the case of Harvey, the dialogue was transferred pretty much intact, although a few locations were added in the film. The play alternates between only two locations, the library in the Dowd-Simmons home and the reception room at Chumley's Rest, a sanitarium.

Harvey debuted at the Forty-Eighth Street Theatre in New York City on November 1, 1944. In 1945, it earned author Mary Chase the Pulitzer for Drama (the Tony Awards did not begin until 1947).

The titular Harvey is an invisible, six foot tall white rabbit, seen only by Elwood Dowd, an otherwise harmless, forty-ish alcoholic. Dowd lives with his widowed older sister Veta Louise Simmons, and Veta's grown daughter, Myrtle Mae. Elwood has a bad habit of introducing Harvey around as if he's visible (and not a human-sized rabbit) and after this behavior ruins a party meant to launch Myrtle Mae into society, Veta decides to have him committed to an asylum. But Veta isn't exactly the model of normalcy herself, and her and Elwood's trip to the sanitarium causes confusion among the doctors as to which one of them really needs psychiatric care.

Most of what was in the movie is in the play. Myrtle's party takes place offstage (only Mrs. Chauvenet is actually seen). Elwood's conversation with Dr. Sanderson and Nurse Kelly in the bar, where he describes meeting Harvey, takes place in the reception area at Chumley's. And as I mentioned earlier, the hilarious dialogue from the film originated in the play.

ELWOOD: I started to walk down the street when I heard a voice saying: "Good evening, Mr. Dowd." I turned and there was this great white rabbit leaning against a lamp-post. Well, I thought nothing of it because when you have lived in a town as long as I have lived in this one, you get used to the fact that everybody knows your name.

The next two books I downloaded on Kindle for research for the short story I wrote and submitted for the upcoming Bouchercon anthology. Due to Bouchercon being in St. Petersberg, Florida this year and the theme and guidelines for the anthology, I decided to set the story in Key West. I know little about the Florida Keys outside of what I've seen in the media since the most recent storms knocked them around, and also the fact that at times Key West was a beloved residence of both Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. I was pleased with how the story turned out, but unfortunately it wasn't selected for the anthology.

Moving to the Florida Keys: It's an Island Paradise, Right? Right??? by Capt. Fritter
A humorous warts and all look at the realities of relocating to Key West, written by a guy who actually did it. And he did it by going minimalist, and doing it ruthlessly. It's not a lifestyle for everyone, but unless you're filthy rich, it's a way to actually reside in a place like Key West, where the cost of living is high but most wages are low.

I found this guide to be pretty comprehensive. Capt. Fritter goes over the differences within each of the Keys, and which island will suit you - or not suit you - depending on the lifestyle you're seeking. He gives detailed information about the job and housing markets. He gives you both the good and bad of life on his island paradise and I think if you are considering making this move, this book is required reading. Capt. Fritter loves Key West, but wants you to know there's more to life there than sunshine and rum. Also, the book was self-published and could have used an editorial pass, but that doesn't make it any less useful.

I also found it interesting that when I checked out the author's website, Manatee Fritters, it turns out that since publishing this book in 2015, he has relocated to Maui. I haven't read enough of it to find out exactly when or why he moved, but he's still doing it as a minimalist.

VISIT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE BEFORE MOVING...More than likely, most of what you know about the Keys comes from the sunshine and Buffett crowd. White sandy beaches, happy people drinking rum, relaxing in the shade of a palm tree, eating shrimp on the back of your boat...oh wait, I actually do that last one. The high cost of living, the low wages, the bugs, the heat and the bums. Paradise may not be so paradisey once you get down here and all the new and shiny wears off.

Key West Dos and Don'ts: 100 Ways to Look Like a Local by Mandy Miles
This "book", on the other hand, is pretty worthless. It's best described by this one-star review on Amazon:

This book, and I hate to describe it as such, is a collection of one sentence bumper sticker pearls of wisdom that will in no way add to a visitor's experience coming to Key West. Having lived in Key West previously, I still tend to read things about the rock. This was a waste. Gems like "Don't argue with bouncers at the bars" or "Don't give the cops on Duval Street a hard time" give you a flavor. The author also shamelessly shills for her relatives' businesses and the paper where she works. You'd be much better off reading one edition of the Citizen (the local newspaper) than this book. 

Another review suggested this publication should have been a pamphlet, not a book, and I agree. I also found some of what the author seems to think are hilarious little nuggets of wisdom to be kind of snotty.

Don't...Believe anyone who says you can see the lights of Havana from the Southernmost Point. Cuba is 90 miles away and the Earth is round, genius.

And this:

Do...Learn the story of the Conch Republic.

But despite lecturing you to know this part of Key West history, she can't be bothered to actually share the story of the Conch Republic in her "book". You know where you can find the story of the Conch Republic? In Capt. Fritter's book. Or here. Check it out, it's actually kind of hilarious. But the fact that I wasted a few bucks on this? Not so funny.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Not even close


Just a friendly reminder that while 1-800-GOT-JUNK provides a wonderful service, the operative word here is "JUNK". They're not a moving service. They will tear shit up, no matter how valuable it might have been in a previous life. And it will be traumatic. This one is going to be a lifelong hurt that I would give anything to take back, but can't. That's right, guess who fucked up yet again.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

When your car makes it into your crossword puzzle book

Didn't have any trouble with this one.

Great cars and beautiful to boot. I don't know why they don't make them anymore.

The latest addition to my salt & pepper shakers collection

This one may or may not work for some people, but my Mom and I thought it was hysterical and I had to buy it. I got it at the always wonderful Huntington Store on what turned out to be my last shopping trip with Mom in February, before she passed away in early March. I give you Marie Antoinette salt and pepper shakers:

Just like this shark, a magnet holds the two pieces in place. Kind of sick, I know, but creative as hell.