Friday, January 31, 2020

January Words of Wisdom

The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul. --G.K. Chesterton

We are living in an era when sanity is controversial, and insanity is just another viewpoint - and degeneracy only another lifestyle. --Thomas Sowell

Commit to showing up with full vitality and excellence each day and a funny thing happens: Your life becomes vibrant and extraordinary. --Brendon Burchard

Political Correctness is a weapon used to silence people who tell the truth.
--Aayan Hirsi Ali

The question isn't who is going to let me, it's who is going to stop me. --Ayn Rand

Human beings are born with different capacities, if they are free, they are not equal. And if they are equal, they are not free. --Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The waves of the sea help me get back to me. --Jill Davis

I do not understand the mystery of grace - only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us. --Anne Lamott

Discipline equals freedom. --Jocko Willink

Beauty starts in your head, not in your mirror. --Joubert Botha

Sometimes, the most fearless thing we can do is to keep showing up with love and grace and joy in our real, right now lives. --Sarah Bessey

I just think about taxes and traffic and I'm there. --Adam Driver (when asked if playing bad guys comes naturally to him)

Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire. --Jennifer Lee

It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view. -Oscar Levant

It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own. --Marcus Aurelius

The young boy from Washington - whom the steel workers had nicknamed "The Wet Nurse"- had no inkling of any concept of morality. It had been bred out of him by his college. --Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged)

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. --Martin Luther King, Jr.

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.

Stranger than fiction, stranger than real life - writing wisdom from Lawrence Block

The difference between fiction and non-fiction is that fiction must be absolutely believable. --Mark Twain

If real life were fiction, you couldn't get the damn thing published. --Lawrence Block

This popped up in my email today from Writer's Digest. It's a lengthy but excellent article titled "Stop Making Sense: Explaining Some Fiction Rules of Logic". It's from a 1990 issue but still completely and totally relevant. It was also written by Lawrence Block, an Edgar and Shamus winner and MWA Grand Master, so it's got that going for it. Do check it out if you're looking for some writing wisdom, it's well worth your time.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Assholes of Twitter

Twitter can be a real insane asylum sometimes. Did I say insane asylum? I meant total shit show. When I see some of the things people post on that platform, I find myself marveling at how misinformed, nasty, uncivilized, and awful people feel free to be, especially when they feel emboldened by not having to actually face the Twitter peeps they're spouting off to. I'd bet good money most are spineless keyboard warriors that would fold in a face-to-face debate.

What's really crazy is that these jackasses are often the most blatant practitioners of the very intolerant behavior and faults they like to accuse others of wallowing in. You know, bigot, racist, homophobe, misogynist, hater, and lots of other buzzwords that have lost their meaning due to chronic abuse and misuse. You know, these people:

But this one really scraped the bottom of the barrel, even for Twitter:

The "stepping away for a bit" post isn't anything unusual. People being treated like shit to the point of needing to take a break (while Twitter doesn't do a damn thing about it because they're too busy shutting down opposing political viewpoints) is nothing new to this particular version of the Wild West. It's the person who was being bullied in this particular case that set me off. Who is Tank Schottle on Twitter, you ask? Well, he's this guy:

That's right. A Special Olympian. Which is a new low even for batshit crazy Twitter critters.

I don't know who bullied Tank Schottle and I'm not going to waste my time on the offending posts and the resultant weeping for humanity caused by the knowledge that this piece of shit walks among us. I've been on Twitter long enough to know how unreasonable - and often scary - some of those people can be. I'm just not in the mood to pull on the boots and slog through some unhinged garbage that some chicken-shit asswipe thinks makes him look like a big man on the Twitter campus.

I hope after the initial sting wears off that Tank gets back in the Twitter saddle and continues to be one of the people that keep it from becoming completely unpalatable. I did try to help in some small way:

But as you probably noticed, 280 characters wasn't enough for my wrath, so say hello to this blog post.

It's been a while since I had a good old-fashioned blog rant. Feels pretty good, in case you were wondering. 😹

Updated: Can't keep a good man down!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

San Francisco is literally the shit

This just popped up on my Twitter feed: a poop map of what is supposed to be a world class city:

Of course, you could probably do a map like this of Los Angeles and at least portions would look the same. Sad watching the deterioration of my beautiful state.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

We have cover art!!!

Got a pleasant surprise this morning when an email popped up from the editor of Crossing Borders, the upcoming anthology that will include my short story "Like Deja vu All Over Again". It is gorgeous:

The book will be available for preorder soon.

I had a brief jolt when I noticed that they had screwed up my name on the back cover, listing me as "Michael" instead of "Melinda". I sent an email to the editor asking if it could be fixed. Turns out she had already caught the error but accidentally sent us the images from before the fix. So it's all good. All's well that ends well.

But just look at that cover again. IT'S SO PRETTY!!!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

RIP Terry Jones

Woke up to the news that Monty Python's Terry Jones has passed away. He was 77 years old.

My Mom turned me on to Python back when I was a teen and they were still pretty new to the States, their show having just recently begun airing on PBS, and I've been a huge fan ever since. I even got to see them live back in the 80's at the Hollywood Bowl. I still have the program and I've always thought of that show as kind of a bookend to my Mom seeing the Beatles at the Bowl.

I know I should be quoting Python (John Cleese's Dead Parrot rant comes to mind) to describe Jones's departure from this earth, but I just can't bring myself to do it. The man was a comic genius and the world is a poorer place without someone like him in it.

His death wasn't a huge surprise - he was diagnosed with dementia in 2015 and Michael Palin periodically updated fans online about his visits to Jones and his deteriorating state. But it's still hard news to digest.

Jones was remembered on Twitter this morning by his surviving fellow Pythons:

I wish I could think of something clever to say to remember him by, but I guess I'll have to settle for busting out the DVDs and spending the next few days basking in the genius of Monty Python. RIP Mr. Jones and thank you for sharing your comic gifts with the rest of us.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The return (FINALLY!!!) of the Helms Bakery?

I remember a few years back there was talk of bringing back the Helms Bakery in Culver City, but nothing ever came of it. Until now: according to their website it's back on.

It's described as a cafe that will serve breakfast and lunch as well as a bakery. There's no date given for the opening, but while we're waiting we can check out some Helms bakery treats being sold out of their beautiful vintage Helms truck on the grounds of the Helms Bakery District (Thursday - Sunday, 12 noon to 4pm only).

I can barely remember the Helms trucks as a child. I think I came in at the tail end of their service, but I do have vague memories of the sliding drawers and how good their baked goods smelled and tasted. Hopefully the new cafe will live up to its history. I would love to see the return of the Helms brand to Southern California.

Image snicked from the Helms Bakery District website.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

TV Time!

There are so few TV shows that draw me in these days, but in recent days I've discovered a few upcoming ones that I'm definitely looking forward to. Here they are:

1) Hulu has announced a new show starring Steve Martin and Martin Short as true crime nuts who find themselves involved in a real life crime investigation. The as-yet untitled show has been ordered to series.

Let's face it, those of us who watch and read a lot of true crime often find ourselves wondering what we would do if we got tangled up in an investigation. I can tell you one thing: If someone asked me to help them kill their spouse or talked about wanting them dead, I would call the cops immediately. A lot of people don't, assuming the person making the statement isn't serious and/or just blowing off steam. It's kind of sad thinking how many people could have avoided being murdered if those threats had been taken seriously and reported immediately.

2) I decided to put HBO's new space comedy Avenue 5 on the DVR after seeing a commercial that makes it look like a lot of fun. Hopefully it fulfills its promise, because if it does it should be a kick. This article fleshes out the concept and characters.

Updated 2/2/20: Three episodes and out. It's painful to watch something try so hard to be brilliantly quirky and end up just painfully pretentiously and amateurishly quirky. Can't believe this is the same network that brought us the brilliant Barry. Laters, Avenue 5.

3) Lifetime will air Surviving Jeffrey Epstein this summer. It will be interesting to see what names producers and the network will be willing to mention and how deep of a dive into Epstein's "suicide" they're willing to take. It will also be interesting to see what kind of unfortunate accidents they have if they name really big names or dig too deeply into the scandalous circumstances of Epstein's demise.

Happy viewing!

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Our parents got the best singers

No Auto-Tunes, no Pro Tools, no choreography, nothing artificial at all. Just a gifted guy with a God-given voice and a microphone singing a great song.

My Mom saw The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl and Dodger Stadium back in the early sixties. Years later my druggie sister got ahold of the programs from those shows and sold them for drug money. She stole a lot, but those were the worst.

The 80's weren't too shabby. I saw Oingo Boingo a ton of times including many shows at the late, great Universal Amphitheatre, Cheap Trick at The Colosseum, Queen at The Forum, The B-52's at The Greek, and Cyndi Lauper at Irvine Meadows, among others. But I haven't attended a live concert in years and I don't feel like I'm missing anything. I would have loved to have been at this one. What a great performance. No gimmicks, no pretension, just a great song sung by a great singer.

I recently watched the Linda Ronstadt documetary (Netflix has it on DVD) and while I've been a fan of a lot of her music from back in the day, the film really drove home again what it's like to watch a gifted, versatile singer with a flawless voice stand in front of a microphone and just sing. There's just nothing like it.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Writing advice from Edith Wharton

Wharton is best known for her Pulitzer-winning The Age of Innocence, but I've always been a The House of Mirth girl. Seriously, it's one of my desert island books. I should probably add The Age of Innocence to my endless list of books I want to read and need to get to. None of which has nothing to do with this being great advice.

H/T to Career Authors on FB for the link.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Hey kids! Wanna see a $50,000 refrigerator? Of course you do!

Well here it is:

Yep, it's a fridge. All $50,000 of it.

This is what happens when Smeg, Dolce & Gabbana, and Williams-Sonoma collide:

"Add to Cart", Okey dokey.

If that design doesn't float your boat, they also have this one:

"Add to Registry"

But wait - there's more! From the Smeg website:

This is what a perfectly normal Smeg fridge looks like. It runs about $2,000:

In case you aren't familiar with Smeg's products, they're beautiful and expensive. You often see them in homes decorated with a retro theme. We saw at least a couple while touring the apartments at Castle Green last month.

My kitchen has a retro design but as pretty as their stuff is, I haven't yet been able to bring myself to pay Smeg prices.

P.S. You can score this one for less than $3000. Such a deal:

Updated 1/17/20: You know how some vendors will send you follow-up emails prompting you to complete your purchase of items you've looked at on their website? Yeah, that's not creepy at all. Anyhoos, this came in an email this morning:

This is only partial. The email included the other Smeg fridges I looked at as well. Because apparently it's time to stock up on expensive refrigerators.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Ah, the eternal question...

This popped up on my Facebook timeline and yes, it's a constant concern. LOL.

When you're looking up strange ways to kill people, dispose of bodies, or following weird conspiracy theory accounts on social media because they're good for "what if" story really, officer, I'm a writer and it's just research.


Monday, January 6, 2020

Redrum! Redrum!

When crime writing and cooking collide:

Gonna bake a cake 'o death.

H/T to im not right in the on FB.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Thought-provoking writing advice from Go Into the Story

A couple of great articles from Go Into the Story (The Official Screenwriting Blog of The Black List) popped up on my Twitter feed this morning and were so good I felt compelled to share them here. These articles and the blog as a whole focus on screenwriting, but I think the advice pertains to story regardless of in what format it's being told.

The Theology of Cinema: Forgiveness.
First of all, when you headline your story with a picture of Lieutenant Dan I'm in. Because it's an instantly recognizable example of a great moment in cinema when Lieutenant Dan thanks Forrest for saving his life back in Vietnam, and perfectly demonstrates the point author Scott Myers is making here.

Even the greenest screenwriter knows that a film is about the hero's journey. Forrest may be the main character, but he isn't the only one who will go through a tumultuous journey. Jenny's is one, Lieutenant Dan's is another. He goes from being confidently secure in his place in the world and in his life's meaning, to having that sense of security and control ripped from him, to hitting rock bottom, and finally constructive acceptance of his situation, which leads him to personal and spiritual peace and happiness. And audiences respond to that.

Lindsay Doran (known as The Script Whisperer) on The Psychology of Storytelling.
This article is from 2014, but it popped up on my Twitter feed today. Doran gave a talk with a lot of valuable information on what audiences want to see in films/stories and why. It has a lot to do with the character's relationships and resilience. A perfect example given is the first Rocky movie - a lot of people (me included) don't remember that Rocky actually loses the fight against Apollo Creed. It's the fact that he was an underdog who rose to the challenge and gave Creed his toughest fight ever, plus the evolution of Rocky's relationship with Adrian and its culmination after the fight that audiences responded to and remember.

These are both great articles. Do check them out when you have the chance.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Mom's Birthday, and the beauty of this world even in death

My Mom would have been 78 years old today.

The Brother and I aren't big on visiting grave sites. On my side of the family (he's my half-brother from Mom's marriage to my Stepdad) nobody is buried. Everyone is cremated with their ashes spread, so there were never any graves to visit. In fact, when it's my time I want my ashes spread in the ocean. We spread my Dad's ashes in the sea off his beloved Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. For me, anywhere there is sea, sand, and seashells will do.

On The Brother's side, everyone gets buried. But that doesn't seem to translate into a lot of visits to the grave sites. It's just important that they're buried.

When Mom died I had a pretty good idea of what she would want: cremation, no burial, not a lot of fuss, and not a lot of money spent. But since I assumed that like most of the women in our family she would live into her 90's, we never discussed it. So no plans were ever made, although she would joke about me sneaky-spreading her ashes around The Arboretum. Spoiler alert: I failed to do that.

Which meant that when The Brother and I suddenly had to figure out what to do when Mom died unexpectedly in March 2018, we kind of met in the middle. She would be cremated, but she would also be buried. The fact that we fortuitously ended up at the same place where my Godfather Jack - a friend of my parents since high school who was like a brother to Mom - was also buried, helped make the decision easier, especially when they were able to give us a plot for her within eyesight of Uncle Jack.

This year Mom's birthday fell on a Friday and since the cemetery picks up flowers on Thursday, we thought this would be a great day to visit her grave and leave her some flowers that would be there for a while.

There were two other things that blew us away today at the cemetery. The first was the Christmas decorations. Apparently the cemetery suspends cleanups during the holiday season, so the place was like a Christmas wonderland. I had no idea they leave the decorations up, but I'm glad they do because it's just gorgeous!

The pictures don't do it justice. It was just dazzling. Some of the grave sites had decorated trees! Seeing it, you would never see this graveyard as a place of death, but as a place of life, celebration, and joy.

On top of that, as we were leaving, we were caught up in traffic for a funeral that was breaking up with a huge number of attendees. The Brother and I were fascinated by the idea of someone who brought out a crowd like that. A sign we passed on the way out identified the deceased as Ruby Jewel Ball. I'm thinking family matriarch. There were so many families - I spotted at least two with little girls in matching dresses, like Mom used to do with my sister and I back in the day - and lots of what looked like happiness and fellowship. No one was crying, but there was a lot of interaction, love, and comforting each other. Ruby must have been something.

It's crazy how fast the time has gone by. In just a couple months it will be the second anniversary of Mom's death. It will be nine years in May for my Dad, which is even crazier. There are so many things I wish for in this life, and often one of them is that time would just slow down.

Earlier today I was wondering how long I'll feel compelled to recognize the anniversaries on the blog. Part of me would kind of like to let it go and stop obsessing over it, part of me feels it would be disrespectful. I guess I'll find out in early March.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The future is now

You guys, it's now the year 2020. JAYSUS!!! It's so futuristic!

Let's hope it's a good one for everyone out there.

Pic snicked from the internets. If it's yours let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.