Saturday, August 31, 2019

August Words of Wisdom

At night, when the objective world has slunk back into its cavern and left dreamers to their own, there comes inspirations and capabilities impossible at any less magical and quiet hour. No one knows whether or not he is a writer unless he has tried writing at night. --H. P. Lovecraft

You gotta train your mind to be stronger than your emotions or else you'll lose yourself every time. --Unknown

My advice is not to wait to be struck by an idea. If you're a writer, you sit down and damn well decide to have an idea. That's the way to get an idea. --Andy Rooney

There has now been created a world in which the success of others is a grievance, rather than an example. --Thomas Sowell

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. -E. L. Doctorow

No one intimidates me, and I feel sorry for you if you think you do, being delusional must really suck. One major thing I've learned in my life, people will fuck you over, and that my darling is why I keep my circle small and mind my own damn business. --Kate Masters

Activism is a way for useless people to feel important, even if the consequences of their activism are counterproductive for those they claim to be helping and damaging to the fabric of society as a whole. --Thomas Sowell

Writers begin with a grain of sand, and then create a beach. --Robert Block

What we think, we become. --Buddha

I don't have anything to prove to anybody, which is a lovely place to be.
--Edward Norton

Being happy at home is the end of all ambition. --Samuel Johnson

We rise by lifting others. --Robert Ingersoll

Conscience is the most sacred of all properties. --James Madison

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Breaking Bad movie is almost here

October 11, on Netflix. I hope they're ready. Netflix is going to get slammed.

Best part: it's called El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. "A" Breaking Bad movie, not "the" Breaking Bad movie. Which leads me to believe there could be more. And between Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, I will follow Vince Gilligan anywhere. He's created an amazing universe that may just keep on going for some time. And as if to prove that he doesn't miss a thing, someone online pointed out the two pictures hanging by the door to Skinny Pete's interrogation room are of Hank Schrader and Steve Gomez. Now that is attention to detail.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

There are visionaries, and then there's Nikola Tesla

He called it. And he did it in 1926:

H/T to Peggy Vance and America in the 1920's on FB for this popping up on my timeline this fine morning.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Recent reading: "Practice to Deceive"

Practice to Deceive by Ann Rule (audiobook read by Anne Twomey)

I first learned about the murder of Russel Douglas, the nearly decade-long investigation into his killing, and the strange cast of characters involved in the case on a true crime show. When I started digging around for more information I discovered that legendary true crime author Ann Rule had written a book about it and decided to check it out. And I'm glad I did, because there was so much more to this case that couldn't be jammed into a one hour show. And sadly, one of the many things that makes the case so bizarre is that eventually it's almost as if Douglas becomes a mere footnote in his own homicide.

Douglas was found shot to death in his car in a secluded neighborhood on Whidbey Island, Washington, the day after Christmas in 2003. He had been on the island visiting his estranged wife Brenna and their two children for the holidays.

The case was weird from the start. Brenna was strangely unemotional and seemed unsurprised when detectives informed her of Russel's murder. She also wasn't shy about trash-talking him when questioned by the police, freely dishing about his infidelities, extreme sexual practices, and lack of friends. But her alibi checked out and investigators were never able to connect her to the murder, although they always suspected she was involved.

As time went by police feared the case would never be solved. They assumed that the killer had probably tossed the gun into Puget Sound and that it would never be found. Then the gun miraculously turned up in the possession of a former cop who had been holding it at the request of a friend named James Huden, a former resident of Whidbey Island who had relocated to Florida. They also eventually heard from Bill Hill, a friend of Huden's in Florida who claimed that Jim had confessed the murder to him. Investigators headed to Florida to question Huden and although they did talk to him, he disappeared shortly thereafter and would remain in the wind for years.

The investigation also revealed the long-distance affair between Huden and Peggy Sue Thomas, also a former Whidbey resident and a close friend of Brenna Douglas. At the time of the murder the beautiful, charming, and statuesque Peggy Sue was working as a limo driver in Las Vegas, and she and Huden had visited Whidbey Island over the holidays, although both denied any knowledge of or involvement in the crime.

Nearly ten years after Russel's death, Huden was finally located in Mexico, extradited, and convicted of the murder. Peggy Sue was also charged with murder and despite never admitting to any wrongdoing eventually accepted a plea deal on a lesser charge. Despite considering the crime as a murder for hire deal between Brenna, Peggy Sue and Huden, police were never able to turn up any evidence to prove that theory and were unable to charge Brenna with a crime. The still besotted Huden refused to implicate Peggy, who the authorities believed had lured Russel to the remote location by telling him she wanted to give him a Christmas present to deliver to Brenna, knowing that Huden would be laying in wait. Ultimately, while the judge threw the book at Huden, sentencing him to 80 years, Peggy Sue's deal only gave her four years.

One of the things that the program didn't have time to get into - and which Rule gives a large portion of the book to - is the tragedy-marred story of Peggy Sue's large family. She was the daughter of Jimmie Stackhouse and his second wife, Doris. Jimmie's first wife, Mary Ellen, was brutally murdered in their California home one night by a disturbed teenage neighbor while their six children slept. Jimmie was out of town for Navy training and so Mary Ellen's body was discovered by their young children. The Navy transferred Jimmie back to Whidbey Island where he met Doris, a divorcee with two daughters who started out babysitting the Stackhouse kids before becoming their stepmother. Peggy Sue was the only child of both Doris and Jimmie, and grew up as the indulged baby of the family. When Jimmie and Doris's marriage ended years later, he married for the third time to a woman named Terry, who had three children from a prior marriage, bringing the total number of offspring in Jimmie's life to a full dozen.

In addition to Mary Ellen's murder, the family would suffer more untimely deaths over the years. Robby, one of her sons, was nearly killed when he got caught under the wheels of a school bus, but recovered from his injuries, only to be shot to death at a party as a young adult. Brenda, also one of Mary Ellen's, committed suicide in her early fifties. Traumatized by her mother's murder, Brenda suffered throughout her life, but finally hit rock bottom when police asked her to testify to incriminating statements made by Peggy Sue. She died just before the trial would have started and before Peggy accepted her deal. In addition, one of Terry's children would eventually die in a car crash. And it didn't stop there. In doing even more research on the story, I learned that Jimmie Stackhouse died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound last October.

Another aspect of Peggy Sue's life that Rule fleshes out in the book is her brief third marriage. Twice-divorced by the time of Russel's murder, Peggy Sue met millionaire horse breeder Mark Allen when he was a passenger in her limo. A quick courtship ensued before the couple married at Allen's ranch in New Mexico. Peggy Sue brought along her two daughters and her mother Doris but as much as the generous Allen bent over backwards to accommodate them and indulge Peggy, she was unhappy with ranch life. She was particularly dismissive of Allen's love for his prized thoroughbred racehorses, which she had zero interest in.

The marriage quickly soured. Despite Allen's attempts to make her happy, Peggy Sue spent most of her time in New Mexico drinking and squirreling away his money and items purchased with his money, including a houseboat. The marriage was over within a year. The following year one of Allen's horses, Mine That Bird, pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Kentucky Derby when he won the race despite going off at odds of 50 to 1. Rule can't help but gloat over the missed golden opportunity to have reveled in the attention and glamour that Peggy Sue would have enjoyed as part of Mine That Bird's Cinderella story, if only she had attempted to be a decent wife to Allen.

The audiobook was read beautifully by Anne Twomey, and the story was so compelling that the first thing I did when I finished listening to it was to start all over again. Props to Rule for taking such a tangled tale and finding a way to tell it all in a way that never makes the reader/listener feel lost or confused.

Creepy factoid: Like Peggy Sue, author Rule's maiden name is Stackhouse. In the book, she indicates that they are not related.

In the spring of 2009, Mark's horse Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby and was headed for the Triple Crown. Bird's winning run was the second largest upset in the 185 year history of the Kentucky Derby. Had she stayed with Allen, Peggy Sue would certainly have enjoyed the Derby, the fancy clothes and ridiculous hats, mint juleps, and most of all being in the winner's circle as the wife of a winning owner. It would have been almost like reliving her Ms. Washington days, not to mention the purse that went with the win.

Three books were written about Mine That Bird's courage, and a theatrical movie is still rumored to be in the works. How Peggy Sue would have thrived in the exciting and inspiring Derby outcome. But she had burned those bridges.

And a couple of final notes: Mine That Bird was not in fact headed for the Triple Crown. He finished second in the Preakness and third in the Belmont; in fact he never won another race after the Kentucky Derby. And a theatrical film, 50 to 1, was made and released in 2014. I've seen it, it's hokey as hell but gets the story across. One can only reimagine it with Peggy Sue in the picture (literally and figuratively) as Allen's faithful wife, standing by his side through all the trials and tribulations of getting Bird to Churchill Downs. I wonder who would have been cast in her role.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Anyone who's ever opened a bag of chips will get this

From the Department of It's Funny Cuz It's True:

H/T to Everyday Culinary on FB.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

"A Moveable Feast" - The TV series

Now this is a show I could look forward to: Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast being adapted for for television. From the article:

Village Roadshow Entertainment Group, along with the author's granddaughter, actress Mariel Hemingway, and producers John Goldstone and Marc Rosen are set to develop the memoir as a "Hemingway origin story." No outlet is attached yet, nor is there a writer to adapt the project.

Rosen (Sense8) brought the project to Village Roadshow. The potential series would follow the young Hemingway as a poor but ambitious young journalist and writer in Paris in the 1920s, where he lived with wife Hadley Richardson, and encountered the likes of Aleister Crowley; John Dos Passos; F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald; James Joyce; Ezra Pound; and Gertrude Stein - and before he became famous.

I reviewed (and loved on) A Moveable Feast here.

I've always gotten the feeling that Mariel is protective of the Hemingway legacy, so I'm feeling really hopeful about this. Casting will be interesting (and crucial) but again, if this happens, I think (hope) Mariel will make sure it gets done right. It's only in the early developmental stages but I really hope this happens.

The title comes from a Hemingway quote: "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."

Monday, August 12, 2019

Twitter goes all Attack Watch on disgraced sleb

Just when I was thinking I'd just about had my fill of the toxic hate on Twitter, the Twitterverse took me back to the good old days when everyone could have their say without being censored by @jack and his crew.

So Lance Armstrong, who cheated his way to seven Tour de France victories then was unceremoniously stripped of his wins, titles, sponsors and reputation when it was revealed that despite his repeated denials that he had juiced to give himself an unfair advantage over his competitors, decided to take to Twitter today and brag about biking past an amateur cyclist:

And just like in the good old days, Twitternation did its thing. Enjoy! I know I did!

And this was the glorious killshot:

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Success!!! (of the non-writing kind)

Today I had the first major procedure on my teeth since I was fifteen years old when I had a quartet of teeth pulled (two molars and two wisdom teeth). Outside of braces and a few cavities, my mouth had been relatively drama free since then despite the fact that I haven't always been on top of regular cleanings.

Last month I learned I had receding gums and was told that if it wasn't addressed eventually my teeth would start falling out. Luckily, they have a fix for that. They basically cut the gum and pull it away from the teeth, and insert donor tissue (you can also use tissue taken from the roof of your mouth, but then you have an additional site that has to heal), then stitch the gum back up over the new tissue. Not only does this cover the area exposed by the receding gums, but it also prompts the surrounding tissue to regenerate, creating even more of a buffer. And since other than the gums my teeth appear to be in great shape, this should prevent potential tooth loss going forward.

One of the things that really got my attention during the diagnosis is that I assumed it was due to age, but both the dentist who caught the condition and the periodontist who performed the procedure told me that it was more hereditary than anything. My Mom had serious dental issues for at least the last twenty years of her life. Part of the problem is that her previous dentist apparently wasn't really on the ball and by the time she got a good one a lot of the damage was done. She lost countless teeth, had multiple root canals, had to have partials, and was limited to what kinds of food she could eat. And even with all the treatment, she had constant complications as her teeth continued to crumble. Keep in mind that the dentist and periodontist who treated me never met or treated her, so they had no way of knowing how bad her situation had been. My Dad also experienced significant tooth loss the last five or so years of his life, so this stuff definitely runs in the family.

I'm looking at a total of about four weeks to complete recovery, and today was only the top and bottom of the right side. I figure I'll have them do the left side (which isn't nearly as bad) after the first of the year. Luckily the front teeth don't have a problem but I'm guessing if I didn't address the situation, those would have been affected eventually as well.

I've been home for about an hour and while the numbness is still pretty bad, I can tell it's starting to wear off. I'm stocked up on soups, soft food and stuff to make smoothies, so I'm all set for the weekend!

Don't neglect your teeth, people! Given my spotty dental care record, I feel like I may have just dodged a bullet.

By the way, if you're in the Arcadia area and need a periodontist, hit me up for a recommendation. The doctor and his staff were just wonderful and what could have been an extremely stressful experience for me ended up going about as well as I could have hoped for.

8/10/19 update: Okay, so the swelling has started (one side of my face is much fatter than the other, and that's saying something) plus once the numbness wore off I could poke my tongue over there to see what it felt like. It felt sore and pulpy and gross. Guess this is going to be a little rougher than I anticipated, but still not as bad as when I had four teeth pulled at once. Also, I did a bit of a rewrite on the original post, which showed signs of the sedation drugs not quite having worn off when I wrote it :)

Monday, August 5, 2019

Recent reading: "Hollywood Homicide"

Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett

Garrett's debut novel scored a slew of Best First Novel awards, including the Anthony and Agatha, and I can see why.

Dayna Anderson is a failed actress who has accepted her fate and gracefully retired from the biz, after her one big break as the tagline spouting face in a series of commercials for a chicken restaurant chain ended and didn't result her career taking off. To her credit she's not bitter, despite now being broke from lack of work and partially dependent on a couple of financially better off friends. Unfortunately her parents are also not doing well, resulting in foreclosure threats. Dayna had given them the last of her savings, but when the calls continue, she stumbles on a decidedly unconventional way to score some bucks.

She's pouring her last few dollars into her gas tank when she spots a billboard offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a hit and run driver who had killed a young woman nearby. Dayna realizes that the night of the accident, she and several friends had driven by the scene and may have also caught a picture of the offending vehicle as it sped away, nearly t-boning their car. She decides she'll try to solve the crime and collect the reward money. Yep, that's her plan.

And off she goes, way in over her head, on an adventure that is both hilarious and dangerous as she accuses pretty much anyone with any connection to the victim of being the killer at one time or another, while juggling calls to the tip line every step of the way so that she can be sure to score the much-needed reward money. She has help in the form of her fashion and fame obsessed roommate, a friend who is a former child star turned obsessed computer wiz, a weird former cop doing his own investigation into the death, and an elusive love interest who has just scored a starring role on a CBS cop drama called LAPD 90036. (In case you're wondering, that zip code belongs to the area that includes The Grove, Park La Brea, and the stretch of Wilshire Boulevard between Fairfax and Highland).

Garrett uses her knowledge of the industry (she has an episode of Cold Case to her credit) to skewer it and its denizens, and she does it extremely well, but without cynicism or malice. Sparkling with a great sense of humor, Hollywood Homicide is a breezy and entertaining read. It's also the first of a series featuring Dayna; the second, Hollywood Ending, is being released this week and I'm looking forward to it. I won't be surprised if it turns out to be as much of an awards magnet as its predecessor.

And work me they did. I didn't have a spare moment all day except for lunch. When I called the tip line, I got voicemail. My theory was too good (and too long-winded) to leave after the beep, so I waited until I got off work at four, calling the Voice as soon as I got to the lobby. It took me all the way to Robertson to get my story out. "Did you at least write it down?" I asked the Voice.

"It's in your file, 1018. Right next to my notes about Montgomery Rose, BMW owner. Right next to you swearing up and down the killer was the boyfriend of a quote PrimaDonna6969. Right next to you letting us know a Marina Choi did her friend in. Your file is fatter than a contestant on Biggest Loser at the first weigh-in."

Saturday, August 3, 2019

The LOL Line

Last night I started watching a documentary called The Creepy Line, about how Facebook and Google collect information from their users and then use it for - and sometimes against - these same users. I haven't finished it yet, but what I have seen so far is mind-blowing. We're living in manipulative algorithm hell. You should see this movie.

Still, I thought it was kind of funny when this popped up on my FB today. One is an account I follow because I'm a fan of Better Call Saul, AMC's fantastic Breaking Bad prequel. The ad that followed it was "sponsored".

If you never watched Breaking Bad, the joke is that Walter White's first meth lab was a piece of shit RV, and White eventually became a client of sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman and ruined his life.

And LOL at Facebook. The algorithm gods giveth, and the algorithm gods taketh away. Debating whether or not to inform RV Road Trippers how they ended up on my feed. I also wonder what kind of money an account pays to get an ad sponsored. Because as much as I love watching Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, I will never be in the market for an RV.

But just because their algorithm is shitty, I still don't want FB following me all about the web. Bastards.