Wednesday, August 31, 2022

August Words of Wisdom

I try to call the play as quickly as I possibly can and then shut up and let the crowd roar because, to me, the crowd is the most wonderful thing in the whole world when it's making noise. --Vin Scully
 
I have a deeply hidden and inarticulate desire for something beyond the daily life. --Virginia Woolf
 
Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion. --Aristotle 
 
A good character is the only guarantee of everlasting, carefree happiness. --Seneca 

If you want to be beautiful, make beautiful choices. --Epictetus

Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges. --Bryant McGill
 
I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity. --Albert Einstein
 
Most people fail, not because of lack of desire, but because of lack of commitment. --Vince Lombardi

Many may mock you for following the old ways, but if they are not going on the same journey, their words are meaningless. --Ryan Landry
 
I don't want to suffer, so excuse me if I excuse myself from situations that suck all of my energy. --Sylvester McNutt

Sometimes it takes courage just to stay alive in this world. --Seneca
 
Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me. --Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
 
The uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow. --Ayn Rand
 
We don't have inflation because we are living too well. We have it because the government is living too well. --President Ronald Reagan 
 
First you take people's money away quietly and then you give some of it back flamboyantly. --Thomas Sowell
 
When a clown moves into a palace he does not become a King. The palace becomes a circus. --Turkish proverb 

Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one's thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. --Frederick Douglas

If you want to change the world, change education. --Nelson Mandela
 
Truth is a force of nature. --President Donald Trump 

I like to be a free spirit. Some don't like that, but that's the way I am. --Diana, Princess of Wales



Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Holy moly: Footage Of FBI Raid On Castle Mar-a-Lago

This is unbelievable. Unbelievably AWESOME, amirite? 

Seriously, where has the @stevenvoiceover Twitter account been all my life? Check out some of his other videos, they are hilarious! Bonus points for doing a damn good job on the Python voices.
 
H/T to Twitchy on FB for the heads-up.
 

Monday, August 22, 2022

Delicious solitude

It's overcast and wonderfully quiet here today. Just the sound of the little creek outside the apartment. I love the sound of water.

 
And yes, I know the basil plant is dead and long gone. The squirrels like burying things in the dirt, so I've left it for them. I'll deal with it eventually.

Smart guy.


Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Saul Gone (spoilers!)


Well, sadly, it's over. Monday night marked the end of not only Better Call Saul, but also of the entire Breaking Bad universe. Although Vince Gilligan hedged his bets with, "Never say never," not only does he not have any plans for future projects in this world, he's already moved on to his next, non-BB/BCS show. With the cast aging and the braintrust moving on, it doesn't seem like we'll see any further adventures of Albuquerque's criminal and legal masterminds.

So how did it go? Kind of the way it had to. Not happily all tied up in a bow with Jimmy and Kim reunited to live happily ever after, not in a hail of bullets like its predecessor, but looking back on it, it kind of ended not so much the series but the saga of Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman/Gene Takavic the way it inevitably had to end, with all his misdeeds catching up to him and forcing him to make a decision on how - and in which persona - to make his final stand.

Thoughts:
  • Gene should have gone with the vacuum cleaner man when he had the chance instead of trying to handle the taxi cab driver situation on his own. The cons are what always got him into trouble and he just couldn't resist. If he'd vanished again rather than approaching Jeff and Marion, he would have been able to stay ahead of the law and out of prison. 
  • Major (but only) gripe: Gene not closing the Band-Aid tin with the diamonds. I saw that coming a mile away. In fact, the whole time he was struggling to open the phone I kept saying, "Close the lid. Close the lid." Surprised these guys would be that sloppy. You could argue that Gene was frantic to make the call, but it wasn't like closing the tin would take a lot of time. A rare whiff.
  • And of course, the diamonds spilled. Doesn't matter as it turns out, because Gene didn't have had time to make the call before the cops found him hiding in the dumpster, much less get away.
  • The return of Marie Schrader was a pleasant surprise. I always wondered what would happen to her in the aftermath of Hank's death.
  • Watching Gene revert back to Saul was both amazing and disturbing. Witnessing him manipulating the Feds to whittle a life sentence down to 7-1/2 years was Saul Goodman at his best/worst. The utter lack of remorse was kind of horrifying, especially after Marie insists to the Feds that they cannot make a deal with Saul, only to have him make a mockery out of the situation. That line about him only needing to sway one juror to escape a guilty verdict in a jury trial was stunning. "One. All I need is one." Welcome back, Saul Goodman. He's still got it.
  • The Feds did get a bit of mojo back when Saul tried to further sweeten the deal by offering info on Howard's death. Saul was unaware of Kim's recent trip to the ABQ and the Feds took great joy in breaking the news to him and taking some of the smug wind out of his sails.
  • Loved it when Walter, in the flashback, called Saul out on his time machine question - that the real question isn't about going back to another time, but about admitting regrets, and he was right.
  • Also loved when Jimmy, who had entered the room as Saul, reclaimed his real name in court. "The name's McGill. I'm James McGill." However, the chanting on the prisoner bus indicates that it's the Saul Goodman persona that will keep him safe in prison, because the criminals consider him one of them, if not flat-out idolize him. It's like Jessie's comment back in the early days of Breaking Bad: "You don't need a criminal lawyer. You need a Criminal. Lawyer." In prison, he will be Saul Goodman to his fellow inmates, and will therefore never escape Saul as he'll be there for the rest of his life.
  • From what I'm seeing on the internets, it seems like a lot of people feel like he's come full circle back to Jimmy and that was his redemption, but I'm not completely sure. It was good to see him take responsibility rather than weaseling out of the consequences of his actions yet again, but it also seems like Saul was the strongest of the three personas, and not one that he'll ever completely shed or escape as I mentioned above. Gene was easy to jettison - that was the skin he was never comfortable in and while probably the one he was safest in, it was also a prison of sorts. And even as Jimmy he wreaked havoc on so many people around him. So him going to prison for real was finally justice served, regardless of which person he decides to be. He did the crimes, and now - unlike Walt, Jesse, Mike, Gus, Lalo, Nacho, Tuco, Hector, and so many others - he will do the jail time.
  • Regrets? Yeah, I guess he had a few. Finally taking responsibility for all the shady shit he's pulled over the years and doing the time he's earned gives him some redemption, allowing him to go back to being Jimmy McGill. But nothing is wrapped up neat and clean - he will never leave prison, and what Kim's future might hold seems bleak. I just hope he doesn't regret it in seven years.
  • Speaking of Kim, I do like that they didn't kill her off, something that Better Call Saul fans were concerned about over the years. But her life is in shambles and if Jimmy had kept his seven year deal, they might have been able to get back together somewhere down the line. The fact that she made the trek to "The Alcatraz of the Rockies" to see him indicates to me that she may never be able to completely break off from him and get on with her life.
  • I'm also convinced this show is going to clean up at the next (it's last) Emmys, and that's going to include a long-awaited (by the show's fans) nod for Rhea Seehorn and guest star for Carol Burnett, whose character was instrumental in bringing Gene down by reporting his license plate number, depriving him of enough time to make his getaway and finally place that call to Ed The Vacuum Cleaner Guy. A frail old lady in Omaha, Nebraska finally brought Saul Goodman to justice. Crazy.
And that, Dexter peeps, is how you do a series finale that doesn't make the fans hate you.
 

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Character traits

There were many qualities that made Mr. Rogers renowned as a kind, caring person, a man of immense and admirable character. One quality was his innate decency, because that was simply the kind of man he was. It was always a beautiful day in his neighborhood because he made it so. And it was clear that he dearly loved the children who watched his show. He was genuinely caring and sought to teach the most vulnerable of our society, our children.

Another thing that made him so beloved was his creative ways to deal with issues that affected members of his young audience. This image, which popped up on my Twitter feed recently, is a perfect example:

Like a good neighbor...

As I read this, I had two reactions - one was being touched by his typically sweet and creative reaction to the blind girl's letter and her dilemma. Most people would might have taken the approach that since she's blind, there's probably a lot of things she doesn't know are happening (or not happening), especially considering television is a primarily visual medium. Not Mr. Rogers. He found a solution and put it into action. And it was minimal effort for him, but probably meant the world to that little girl. It was totally a Mr. Rogers thing to do.
 
The other reaction I had is how this one simple anecdote is worth a thousand words in terms of describing what kind of man he was...and how effective this would be in establishing him as a character in a story.
 
One of the things that is difficult for writers is describing their characters without making it a drudgery for readers, or turning it into a checklist of traits, both physical and non-physical. In screenwriting you really don't get into much description that isn't absolutely necessary. FRED ROGERS, gentle, grandfatherly, 60-ish, is about all you want to put in the script when he's introduced. Even in a novel you don't want the action to grind to a halt because you have to describe to the reader that the quiet, unassuming old guy in the red cardigan is the epitome of decency and here is a list of qualities to back that up, but don't assume he's a ineffective because he's also deceptively clever when it comes to dealing with kids, all as shown by the fact that he took it upon himself to find a way to resolve this girl's issue in a way that would benefit the child. And it's so simple.
 
You could explain all that with just this one anecdote about him - that when a blind child expressed concern that she couldn't see him feed his fish and worried about the fish going hungry, he made a point of narrating the feeding so she would know the fish was okay. Because not only does the story tug at our heartstrings, but it tells the audience everything they need to know about this character without dragging it out. One simple act that is so typical of Fred Rogers and that he probably didn't make a big deal about speaks volumes about what kind of man we're seeing here. Even if you were describing him to someone who had no idea who he was, relating this simple story about him would bring them up to speed.

Legendary screenwriting instructor Syd Field said, "Action is character." For me, this quick anecdote about Mr. Rogers is a perfect example of that. Don't tell us what a character is like. Show us who he is.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

You know, I learned something today...

I literally just saw this pop up on social media - South Park debuted 25 years ago tonight!

I knew this was their 25th year, but I didn't realize that today was the exact date. The pilot ("Cartman Gets an Anal Probe") aired August 13, 1997. This also means that the boys are now 33 years old.

So Happy Birthday, South Park, and thanks to Matt and Trey for two and a half decades of rude crude hilarity.

Don't kick the baby!

Thursday, August 11, 2022

From the Department of What Could Possibly Go Wrong and How Can I Use It in a Story?

 

Yeah, I'm adding this article to my writing notes, because it doesn't scream "dystopian society" AT ALL. *Sarcasm* (In case you didn't pick up on that.)

Bon Appetit shares my skepticism: Whole Foods Wants Your Handprints. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? From the article:

Jeff Bezos is one step closer to transforming your mortal bag of bones into a lean, mean, money-dispensing machine. The body part in question: Your hands. Amazon is rolling out its palm-scanning technology at more than 65 Whole Foods grocery stores in California over the coming weeks.
 
Customers can activate their palms by registering a handprint via an Amazon One kiosk or at checkout in participating stores. Along with a skin scan, you’ll need to offer a bank card, provide your phone number, and say “yes Jeff” to Amazon’s terms and conditions. Once set up, you can lug all the organic kale and age-defying collagen powder you like to checkout. You’ll hover a palm over the scanning device to pay—just as you would place a hand on the bible—then you’re good to go.
 
You need to read the whole article, because the author really isn't having any of this. And I'm not either. I remember writing checks at the checkstand, and really, it wasn't that hard. Now all we have to do is jam a credit card into a slot for a few seconds, and off we and our groceries go. Easy peasy. If that's too much of an inconvenience, I don't know what to tell you.
 
So apparently the way it works is that you give Amazon your unique handprint, they store it in the cloud or something like that, oh, and it's tied to your credit card. If that isn't a security breach begging to happen, I don't know what is.
 
Look, I like Whole Foods as much as the next person, but I'm also not keen on having my life turned into an episode of The Twilight Zone. So yeah, this one's a pass.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Accepted!!!

Great news! I really wanted this one. From the email:

Dear Melinda,
It is my pleasure to notify you that your story "As Seen on Television" has been accepted for our 2023 Anthology, ENTERTAINMENT TO DIE FOR. The editor, who will be working with you if any revisions are needed, will be in touch. 
 
Entertainment to Die For is the next anthology from Sisters in Crime Los Angeles. This means I will be published in four consecutive years and in three of the last four SinC/LA anthologies. I don't know who my editor is, but it was previously announced that Sara Paretsky will be writing the forward. Great company to be in. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Another great one gone - RIP Vin Scully

Vin Scully, long-time voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, died yesterday at the age of 94. It was a life well-lived, but also a tough loss for Los Angeles, where Scully was a legend and part of the soundtrack of so many Angeleno childhoods and lives, including mine. It's been years since I've watched a Dodgers game, but I can still hear Scully's voice in my head announcing, "It's time for Dodger baseball!"

Part of Scully's appeal was that in addition to being one of the very best at what he did, he was also a class act. I have literally never heard a negative word about him. A devout Catholic, he credited his faith and his work in surviving the premature deaths of his first wife and his eldest son. His second wife, to whom he was married for 48 years, passed away last year. 94 years is a good, long life, but the world is a poorer place without Vin in it.

This article on mlb.com has some great vids of some of Scully's many finest moments in the broadcast booth.

"You and I have been friends for a long time, but I know in my heart that I've always needed you more than you've ever needed me, and I'll miss our time together more than I can say. But you know what? There will be a new day and eventually a new year. And when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, rest assured, once again it will be "time for Dodger baseball." So this is Vin Scully wishing you a very pleasant good afternoon, wherever you may be." (Vin Scully's signoff after his final game.)

Monday, August 1, 2022

Meet George Jetson!


George Jetson, future Spacely Sprocket operator, was born somewhere, to someone, yesterday. Congrats!