Friday, July 31, 2020

July Words of Wisdom

A writer is a world trapped in a person. --Victor Hugo

In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. --Ayn Rand

The 550 U.S. billionaires together are worth $2.5 trillion. If we confiscated 100% of their wealth, we'd raise enough to run the Federal government for less than 8 months. Perhaps our problem isn't how much billionaires have but how much politicians spend. --Antony Davies

I can't imagine living out of easy reach of the ocean. The beach is a giant reset button. You can go to the edge of the land and see infinity and feel renewed.
--Avery Sawyer

When you can't control what's happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what's happening. That's where your power is. --Unknown

Sometimes even to live is an act of courage. --Seneca

America needs creation not destruction; cooperation not contempt; security not anarchy. --President Donald Trump

It's a vicious addiction disguised as a weight problem. It's hard to wrap our heads around this, but the sooner we realize we've got a major brain rewiring project on our hands, the sooner we'll be free. --Joan Ifland

Inner peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions. --Pema Chodron

Judge every individual based on their unique personhood. Judge them on the totality of their merits and flaws. Reject judgements based on immutable characteristics. Reject tribalism. Support individual dignity. It's not rocket science. --Gad Saad

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. --Henry David Thoreau

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. -L.R. Knost

Let silence be your general rule; say only what is necessary and in few words.

I shall continue to do what I think is right whether anybody likes it or not.
--President Harry S. Truman

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. --Lao Tzu

An infected mind is a far more dangerous pestilence than any plague - one only threatens your life, the other destroys your character. --Marcus Aurelius

Never let us forget that if we wish to die like the saints we must live like them.
--St. Theodore Guerin

Just wanted to leave you with this spectacular newsflash. It's OK to have different beliefs. That's actually what this country was founded on... You can still be friends with people who have varying views. And if you can't I sure feel sorry for you. --Kirstie Alley

Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist. --Jane Smiley

I. myself, am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.
--Augusten Burroughs

Be messy and complicated and afraid and show up anyways. --Glennon Doyle Melton

I am not good-looking. I used to be, but not anymore. What I have got is I have character in my face. It's taken an awful lot of late nights and drinking to put it there. --Humphrey Bogart

Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within your control. And some things are not. --Epictetus

When I make a mistake, it's like a bad leaf on a lettuce. I throw it out into the waste basket. --Ginger Rogers

Just sayin'

You bastards!

I can't help noticing this is the second consecutive day that a point has been made on the blog by a cartoon. And not, oh say, a so-called "news" source. 

Just sayin'.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Life is hard. It's harder when you're stupid.

Not only did I grow up on these cartoons, but my Dad worked for a company called Acme General. And yet, 1) I never strapped myself to a rocket, and 2) I never needed to be told not to strap myself to a rocket. It just seemed kind of obvious.

I guess they're just growing them stupider these days.

H/T to Christine Zanni/Boomer Nation on FB.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Truly the end of an era: RIP Olivia de Havilland

I thought she was going to live forever. But no one does, not even Olivia de Havilland, who passed away today at the grand old age of 104.

The entertainment industry lost host Regis Philbin and actor John Saxon this weekend, and last night I was thinking that there was going to be one more, because of the "celebrity death rule" that in Hollywood they always go in groups of three. I wish I could take that one back. Despite de Havilland's age this was not what I was expecting when I jumped on Facebook a few minutes ago. She died in her sleep at her home in Paris, where she had lived for decades and where she had marked her most recent birthday on July 1.

For some reason this one bothers me than most celebrity deaths. We were fortunate to have her for so long, and despite her age I was not only shocked by the announcement, but actually cried a bit. I don't usually get that upset over famous people. But de Havilland was one of the last - if not the last - link to an era that is now truly gone forever: the Golden Age of Hollywood. She was one of the true greats, on and off-screen.

I won't bother to extol her accomplishments since they will be all over the media. As much as I loved her as Melanie Wilkes, my favorite performance of hers was as Catherine Sloper in The Heiress, for which she won one of her two Academy Awards. I hadn't planned on watching movies today but I'm going to have to bust that one out.

Rest in peace, great lady.

Hollywood Walk of Fame pic from the WOF's Instagram. Other pics snicked from the internets.

Updated 7/26/20 (3:18pm): I realize they probably have these standing by, but damn that was fast: TCM remembers Olivia de Havilland.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Check your criminal privilege

Crime writer humor.

We're all in this together!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Interesting take

Kinda sad, though.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

I love this so much

Snicked from the internets.

And now I'm craving their food.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Sad but true

Nailed it.

I don't know much about this guy, but you can find more of his work here.

Monday, July 20, 2020

When life gives you lemons...

Gotta say, I really admire someone who can take a crappy situation and find a way to make it work for them. This is currently on eBay:

Click to enlarge.

I haven't had any luck with the non-surgical masks (they make me feel like I'm being smothered) otherwise I'd order these. I hope this vendor makes a mint off these things. Good on him/her.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Recent reading: Hell Hath No Fury: A True Story of Wealth and Passion, Love and Envy, and a Woman Driven to the Ultimate Revenge

Hell Hath No Fury: A True Story of Wealth and Passion, Love and Envy, and a Woman Driven to the Ultimate Revenge by Bryna Taubman

I'll get to the book. But let's face it, we're all here because of the USA miniseries that just ended. So...

So...USA Network's Betty Broderick miniseries (under the umbrella of Dirty John, apparently now a franchise) wrapped this week and as much as I was all over this series, I found the final episode rushed and unfulfilling. I don't know why they didn't dedicate more than one episode to Betty's two trials and I'm boggled they didn't include any sort of follow-up info at the end of the episode. Not even a slide mentioning that in addition to her over-the-top crazy behavior back in the day she has blown two parole hearings and is still incarcerated because even now, all these years later, she refuses to express any kind of remorse, not even the minimal obligatory amount that would give her a chance to be released from prison. In case her story from the breakdown of her marriage to the histrionics during her trial didn't show her to be obsessive, narcissistic, entitled, and dangerous, she continues to be her own worst enemy while simultaneously living in the fantasy world of her warped perception - still, to this day - where she was and is the true victim, not the two people she shot to death on November 5, 1989, more than thirty years ago. She hasn't evolved one bit since then.

When I first heard about this miniseries I wondered how in the world they would top the 1992 TV movies starring Meredith Baxter (A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story and Her Final Fury: Betty Broderick, the Last Chapter). Baxter's out-of-control portrayal of a woman who was, well, out-of-control earned her an Emmy nomination. You really got a sense of how delusional and bonkers Betty was, how she could wear people down and leave utter wreckage in her wake while justifying it all.

First, let me get the obvious out of the way: Amanda Peet's performance in the Dirty John version is also going to get her an Emmy nom and possibly a win. She created a Betty separate from Baxter's, a daunting task, and I would love to have seen her get more opportunity to show Betty's over-the-top performance at her trials. I'd also like to give props to Christian Slater, who I think did a great job as Dan Broderick. Like Stephen Collins (in the Baxter version) before him, Slater had a difficult task not being totally overshadowed by Peet as Betty, but he really gave a lot of depth to a non-confrontational man confronted by an increasingly unhinged force of nature he mistakenly thought he could control.

And sadly, as in the real-life trial and coverage, Linda Kolkena Broderick, despite having been murdered in cold blood, runs a distant third. She's a young and beautiful upbeat contrast to what the short-fused Betty has become. Was she unqualified for the job Dan self-servingly gave her and did she knowingly have an affair with a married man? Yes, and that's a story too, and not necessarily a pretty one. Did she deserve to be shot and killed at the age of twenty-eight? No. But all we really know about her from this show is she was a trophy wife.

Portrayed by Rachel Keller (who was fantastic in season two of Fargo), she is largely ornamental, although she does get in a couple good scenes where Linda performs Betty's notorious obscenity-laced answering machine rants for her shocked friends. But I didn't think Keller got nearly the opportunity to flesh out Linda as much as Michelle Johnson did in the Baxter version, although I would go to bat for Keller as the far superior actress.

Another thing that bugged me was that one of Betty's issues, in addition to aging, was weight gain. At the time she shot Dan and Linda she had socked on about 60 pounds, not an insignificant amount. Peet's Betty was tall and lean to the end. I don't know if Peet refused to gain weight for the role or a fat suit wasn't working, but this was a glaring omission. I kept waiting for her to get bigger and she never did, and I found it distracting.

I thought the Baxter version did a better job of showing Betty wearing out her friends with her years long, non-stop obsession with Dan and Linda. In the USA version there were hints, but then suddenly her friends were testifying against her with a vengeance and it was kind of jarring. If you didn't know better, it was like they were friends one day, then turned on her the next. From what I've seen and read over the years, Betty's friends went above and beyond for her, until they just couldn't do it anymore. I feel like this series did them a disservice in that respect.

Also, at the time Betty shot her victims she had a boyfriend who spent nights at her home, although after her arrest she downplayed the relationship. This was proof that in addition to being well-educated and described by those who knew her as capable of being smart, witty, and fun, she was able to get on with the relationship aspect of her life. She had options most divorced women could only dream of. She could have had a life beyond Dan, - and thanks to Dan, who was court-ordered to pay her $16,000 per month alimony - a financially privileged one. That she couldn't - or wouldn't - move on speaks volumes to her obsessive need to punish Dan and Linda for having a life beyond her. There was absolutely no mention of the boyfriend in the miniseries. I could excuse this omission if this was a 90-120 minute MOW that had to make some hard editing decisions, but an 8-hour miniseries that took its sweet time with other aspects of the story...not so much.

I did think that it was a neat observation of Betty not being able to take responsibility for her actions when, at the end of the final episode, Betty (to the tune of "The Twelfth of Never", her and Dan's song) relives some of her self-sabotaging behavior with more constructive reactions than the crazy ones she actually committed: not crashing her truck into Dan's house after receiving news that Dan had sold their old home, not dumping the kids on Dan (thinking he wouldn't be able to deal with them; not only did he deal, Betty inadvertently gave him the custody she would try and fail to recover), and showing up for her divorce poised, sane, and coping. Yet these were followed by a sequence where Dan doesn't deny his affair with Linda the first time Betty asked about it (he would deny it repeatedly before finally admitting Betty's suspicions had been right all along), instead admitting right off the bat that he was in love with Linda. Even when Betty (in what was no doubt a fictionalized sequence) could own up to her own shortcomings, they had to be offset with one of Dan's. Betty couldn't take complete ownership of her actions, and she still can't today.

Having said all of this, the USA version is still totally worth watching. Great acting, great writing, great directing, just least up until the end.

Finally to the book. Hell Hath No Fury is a quick read (I bought it in the afternoon and finished it in the evening) but it is packed with information about the Betty Broderick case. It doesn't go into a lot of depth where Betty and Dan's early years are concerned, but it also doesn't leave out issues the USA version skipped over, including Betty's boyfriend. It's pretty much stripped down and factual.

One of the things the miniseries could have addressed was the Broderick children in the aftermath of Betty's conviction. Their mother deprived them of their father, and to this day they remain divided on whether or not Betty should be in prison. There's also no follow-up on Linda's family and friends, not to mention the loss of the children she would have had with Dan. In the book, it's indicated that her father couldn't bring himself to attend the trial of his daughter's killer, although Linda's sister made a victim's impact statement just prior to Betty's sentencing.

Towards the end it seems like the book is going to get preachy in Betty's defense, but then it veers right back into acknowledging that killing Dan and Linda - whatever their faults - wasn't justified. If you want additional info and background on the case, this book is a great addition to the USA miniseries.

Kerry Wells, growing exasperated, pointed out that Betty wasn't nearly as helpless as she had portrayed herself. Betty had expressed herself vehemently to everyone she met, and she had frequently threatened to kill Dan Broderick. Betty's response drew gasps from the courtroom spectators: "I never did anything. Those were just empty threats."

Saturday, July 18, 2020

"...go forward together..."

I find this quote to be very inspirational, but it also makes me sad, because after I read it the first thing that sprang to mind is, "Wow, you can tell he's from another era." People are so divided and it's not only sad, but destructive. So much potential for greatness, so much hatred and division.

Maybe - hopefully sometime soon - people will dare to be great and go forward together. We can only hope. The other path leads nowhere good.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Recent reading: "The Castle on Sunset"

The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal in Hollywood's Chateau Marmont by Shawn Levy

This is a wonderful, amazingly comprehensive look at the star-studded history of the legendary Chateau Marmont, the gorgeous, historic hotel that towers over the east end of the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood.

Levy has done his homework. The book covers the entirety of the hotel's life, beginning in 1926, when Fred Horowitz bought a then-remote piece of property west of Hollywood on which he envisioned building a luxury apartment building whose design was inspired by the Chateau d'Amboise in the Loire valley of France. The Chateau opened in early 1929. Later that year, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. Three years after the crash, Horowitz sold the Chateau to Albert E. Smith, co-founder of the Vitagraph movie studio and the parade of owners - and eras - began.

The book is broken into sections of ownership and the hotel's status during those periods, beginning with "The Dream" (1927-1932), "A Second Birth" (1932-1942), "An Identity Emerges" (1942-1965), "Tumult and Decay" (1965-1975), "Rescue and Restoration" (1975-1990) and finally to the Chateau most people know today, the high-priced, high-profile celebrity hangout developed by famous - and eventually infamous - hotelier Andre Balazs: "A Golden Age" (1990-present).

Hollywood embraced the hotel over the decades. It has served the industry as a home for some of its most celebrated, giving them a private, inspirational place to create, a then-inexpensive first home for those new to town who would go on to become legends, a discreet place to carry on affairs, as well as a place to encamp when the dissolution of one's marriage required a quick, discreet new address, and eventually a Hollywood hotspot.

There are tales of creative genius, scandalous behavior, and the hotel's obsession with protecting its denizens and their antics from the media and masses. As the building deteriorated over a certain period of its life, it's ability to keep the secrets of its tenants and visitors earned it a surprising loyalty from people who could afford to stay at more elegant and well-kept places. In fact, a large contingent of its residents embraced the hotel's descent into shabbiness, willing to tolerate patchwork and sometimes non-existent repairs, maintenance, and updates because they loved the life that the Chateau's walls protected from the outside world. Actress Jill Clayburgh once implored a reporter not to praise the Chateau in print: "Oh, don't mention the hotel! Then all the tourists will come. If you must say something about this place, say it's terrible. Please say it's terrible!" There was something about life at the Chateau Marmont that couldn't be found anywhere else, and those who lived in it and loved it were willing to put up with a lot to keep that aspect of it intact.

The book of course covers the infamous drug overdose death of John Belushi, and it's an expectedly depressing story. But as much as that would seem to be the obvious chapter to pull a quote from, I had to go with these paragraphs from the last few pages of the book, because it really sums up the life - past and present - of a place that touched so many who lived within its walls, so many of whom were creatives and for whom the Chateau Marmont was such a large part of their life, work, and art.

You can't fully tell the history of Hollywood movies or the Sunset Strip without making reference to it; it sits inside a pair of stories in which, technically, as an inanimate edifice of concrete, steel, wood, and glass, it has taken no part. Stately, steady, solid, redoubtable, it presides over its setting - literal and figurative - with an air of patient boredom. All the sensations that have transpired within and without it, all the zealots and visionaries and schemers and charlatans who've inhabited it, all the deals - of all sorts - that have been sparked or completed or scuttled within its confines: It's a saga of weight and drama and impact befitting an entity of far longer and more storied history.

Chateau Marmont isn't as old as Hollywood or as large or as influential. It doesn't define the Sunset Strip or symbolize it or embody its greatest legends. But it is intrinsic to the stories of both those institutions.

If you have any interest in historic Hollywood - and especially if you're as crazy about it as I am - you need to read this book. And now I need to add staying at the Chateau Marmont to my bucket list.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Do's and Don'ts of The Obligatory Apology

Exhibit 1: Lin-Manuel Miranda (Pulitzer, Tony, Grammy, Emmy, and Olivier Award-winning creator and star of Hamilton, the hit Broadway stage musical)

The former golden boy of the progressive left (courtesy of his haranguing then VP-elect Mike Pence from the stage after being tipped off he would be attending a performance, and issuing a Hamilton casting call requesting that no white actors apply) found himself being eaten by his own when the film version of Hamilton was released over the weekend on Disney+. Apparently a lot of keyboard warriors, many of whom probably paid through the nose to see the show on stage and worshipped Miranda in the past, have decided that he should have demonized his characters more, rather than celebrating them for launching the greatest country in the world.

Miranda didn't apologize so much as passively agreed with the criticism while making a plea for the creative process. But he did cave:

"All the criticisms are valid. The sheer tonnage of complexities & failings of these people I couldn't get. Or wrestled with but cut. I took 6 years and fit as much as I could in a 2.5 hour musical. Did my best. It's all fair game."

MY VERDICT: Dude, where's your balls? The correct response is, "Hey losers, I took 6 years of my life, busted my ass, and fit as much as I could in a 2.5 hour musical. Did my best. If you think you can do better, then do it. I'll wait. No? That's what I thought. Now fuck off, I'm busy overachieving."

But either way, I think Miranda can forget about completing his EGOT with this one. Too "problematic" for our enlightened era. I just think he should have manned up and called out the hypocrisy of calls to cancel a work of art that was lauded as progressive genius just within the last five years.

Exhibit 2: Peter Lenkov (CBS showrunner, rebooter of Hawaii Five-0, MacGyver, and Magnum P.I.)

Despite being a CBS golden boy with his hat-trick of reimagined classic TV shows, Lenkov was unceremoniously dumped by the network this week due to fostering "toxic work environments" on his shows. This news came out of nowhere - at least to the public - and not only cost Lenkov the reins of MacGyver and Magnum (H50 recently concluded its run) but also the final year of what was no doubt quite the lucrative producing deal, not to mention future opportunities to reboot every single show ever aired in the history of television.

Lenkov sounds like a real piece of work. He was reportedly dismissive of female and POC writers, gave preferential treatment to "his boys", and was just an all-around jerk. And he's been doing it for years - there's even stories from his tenure on CSI: NY, which he worked on way back in 2005-2010 - and despite the millions he's probably earned for the network over the years, CBS finally had to deal with him due to multiple complaints.

I don't know how you fuck this up. All he had to do was be a halfway decent guy. I was working in post-production when CBS was trying to reboot H50 and a big part of my job was tracking shows in development. The new Hawaii 
Five-0 was something that took a couple years if I remember correctly and it was something that CBS really wanted to make happen. In addition they were also trying to make Alex O'Loughlin happen, and Lenkov is the guy who came up with the pilot script that finally got the Five-0 reboot with O'Loughlin in the lead role off the ground and on the air. Plus, I remember being at a Screenwriting Expo around this time where producing partners Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman were discussing the reboot and raved about Lenkov's pilot script.

Then Lenkov managed to launch two more reboots that nobody outside of CBS were clamoring for (MacGyver in 2016 and Magnum P.I. in 2018) and somehow made them successful, or at least successful enough to survive on Friday nights, usually a graveyard for TV shows. The man was a machine and all that machine needed to do to continue to thrive at CBS was just behave himself. He didn't, and now the machine has been brought to a screeching halt.

One thing Lenkov is definitely NOT good at writing is a decent apology for being an asshole:

"Now is the time to listen and I am listening. It's difficult to hear that the working environment that I ran was not the working environment my colleagues deserved, and for that, I am deeply sorry. I accept responsibility for what I am hearing and am committed to doing the work that is required to do better and be better."

MY VERDICT: WRONG!!! This is barely even a damn apology; it's just a half-hearted steaming pile of buzzword salad. And no, I don't buy that he's "deeply sorry" about the shitty work environments he foisted on his "colleagues". What he's deeply sorry about is getting busted and shit-canned.

Successful showrunners make bank, so he probably has more than enough money to retire on now, which leads me to think he just doesn't give a crap with this half-assed statement. It's like he thought, you want a statement? Here's a statement. Now piss off while I bathe in my millions.

Update 7/21/20: Hoo, boy, just when I was noticing that this story seemed to have fallen off the face of the earth, Vanity Fair exposes more horrific details of Lenkov's reign of terror, including abuse of his MacGyver stars Lucas Till and Meredith Eaton. I figured he bullied the behind the scenes staff, but his stars? Also more stories of toxic sludge and a non-stop barrage of denials from Lenkov through his lawyer makes me think this story isn't, in fact, going to go away any time soon.

Exhibit 3: Halle Berry (Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actress)

Berry made the mistake of just mentioning that she was excited about tackling the role of a female to male transsexual in an upcoming film. Cuz you know, that's what actors do. They play roles. She made two other mistakes, according to The Outraged of Social Media: she considered playing a role that isn't exactly what she's like in real life, and she didn't nail each and every personal pronoun by magically and instantaneously undoing 50+ years of habit and conditioning. You all know the drill by now - the backlash was unleashed and Berry dropped out of consideration for the role and posted the obligatory apology:

"Over the weekend I had the opportunity to discuss my consideration of an upcoming role as a transgender man, and I'd like to apologize for those remarks. As a cisgender woman, I now understand that I should not have considered this role, and that the transgender community should undeniably have the opportunity to tell their own stories. I am grateful for the guidance and critical conversation over the past few days and will continue to listen, educate and learn from this mistake. I vow to be an ally in using my voice to promote better representation on-screen, both in front of and behind the camera."

MY VERDICT: Bravo to whoever actually wrote this! Probably her publicist. This statement hits every bullet point on the obligatory apology checklist. Let's hear it for an award-winning actress promising to never, ever, play a character that is the least bit different than who she is in real life.

On the other hand...woman, you are an actress. It's your job to play a variety of people/types and if you pulled this off you might have been looking at another trip to the Oscars. On one hand, I think she folded too quickly and easily. But on the other hand, if POC are no longer off-limits to the outrage mob I can see where she probably thought fuck it, I'm not playing this game, and decided to cut her losses and move on.

Look, I'm not the biggest Halle Berry fan in the world but if you get the chance to cast her in your movie, you do it. She comes fully equipped with a built-in fanbase/audience, she's a freaking Oscar winner, and a big name that will get your project both financing and publicity. And as for a non-trans telling your story, she brings attention and prestige to your story that a lesser-known trans actor may not be able to do. That's how Hollywood works. It will be interesting to see if that film can get financed without a well-known, award-winning actor or actress in the lead.

Also, am I the only person who noticed that this situation involved telling a woman of color to know her place? So racist.

Exhibit 4: Leonydus Johnson (Actor, neither French nor a candlestick, but in the running to be my new imaginary boyfriend)

In response to Berry's obligatory apology, this popped up on my Facebook feed yesterday:

MY VERDICT: Okay, you see this? This is how you deal with the outrage/cancel mob! This is how most of the real world reacts to these situations. Plus, gotta love a guy with a sense of humor. Well, I do anyway. Seriously, how much fun would it be to hang out with Leonydus?

(The French candlestick community...😂)

Up next: Since we're talking celebrity foibles, I predict the next cringe-worthy "apology" will be coming from the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum. These pinheads got themselves into the news recently by changing their name to "Lady A" after the rioting started. Unfortunately for them, no one seems to have done due diligence, because it turned out there's a female musical artist named Anita White who has been going by the name "Lady A" for 20+ years. Bonus points: Ms. White is African-American!

Apparently the parties tried to come to a co-existing agreement that didn't pan out, so get this: yesterday, it was announced that the recently christened Lady A (the band) is suing the longtime Lady A. Come for the hypocrisy and pandering, stay for the awkward obligatory apology! Seriously, whoever is making these decisions for this band needs to just stop. Just. Stop.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Two years

Home is where the heart is. Until it's not.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Happy Independence Day!!!

Hope you all have a wonderful 4th!!!