Sunday, April 30, 2006

Great Advice From John Scalzi

Here is a terrific post from John Scalzi;

10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing

Some of it is useful to any smart kid still in school, no matter what kind of artistic inclinations they have.

Muvico Egyptian is da bomb diggity

Once again I am utterly baffled by something I read. Here's a post by Cory Doctorow, someone I usually agree with, btw, that sounds like it was written in an alternative universe. Its's about how some cinemas are changing their business model to try and get lost customers back in the theater. It says, in part:

For me, going to the movies has stopped being nearly as much fun because of the crummy movies, the door-searches, the camera-confiscations, the nonstop advertising, security guards scanning the audience with infrared goggles, and especially the dumb anti-piracy nag-PSAs (hint to cinema industry: if I'm spending £13 to get into the cinema, I'm not a pirate, I'm a customer).

Do what? I don't experience any of this. We usually go to Muvico Egyptian over to the super big mall because the seats are comfy for my big fat ass, it has stadium seating so I don't have to worry about not being able to see over the guy in front of me, and the screens are nice and large. I've checked out most of the chains around and this is my favorite, hands down.

I don't think movies are crummy. If you read my column, even a little bit now and then, you know I tend to really enjoy the films I see and I'm somewhat picky about the ones I choose. I most def won't be watching Flight 93 for instance, even though I hear it's "great." I see a lot of people I respect complaining about the state of film today and I have to wonder what it is they are watching. Is it a straight diet of House of Wax? I've no idea.

The only time I've ever been searched at the door was when we went to the special screening of Proof, with the ever so swoony Q and A with the director. This screening was in the MPAA building and yes, they were looking for cameras, not bombs. The regular movie theaters around here don't search you for anything. I suppose if you looked like you were bringing in a four course meal for the entire family they might stop you and if you have a cup or a sandwich actually in your hand they tell you that you can't take it in but that's hardly a search. Theaters make their money from their concession stands, or they did back in the 80's when my sister was running a theater in San Francisco.

Camera-confiscations - never seen it happen although it would have happened at Proof if we'd had one. Not even camera phones were allowed in. I thought it was silly but we were right in the heart of paranoia land so I wasn't exactly surprised.

Non-stop advertising - er trailers? I love trailers. I used to go down to the Strand in San Francisco (before they turned all porn all the time) when they had all trailer day. That was fun. Muvico probably does play a regular ad or two, like you would see on television but I don't remember them so they can't be much of an imposition. There is a slideshow of ads and trivia playing when you walk into the theatre but the lights are on and it's pretty darn easy to ignore. It also makes for excellent mocking fodder. Maybe it's different where Cory lives.

"security guards scanning the audience with infrared goggles" - wow, that sounds totally crazy. I've never even heard of this practice before. What on earth are they looking for? I shudder to think.

especially the dumb anti-piracy nag-PSAs (hint to cinema industry: if I'm spending £13 to get into the cinema, I'm not a pirate, I'm a customer).

I've only seen on PSA at Muvico. It's about turning off your cell phones and it's remarkably effective. As soon as it's over, or during, cell phones light up all over the theater as people shut them off. And I have never heard a cell phone go off a film at Muvico. When I see those phones turning off, I feel so proud, it's a kind of mom warmth like you get when your kid brings home an A on his spelling test.

The only other PSA I recall seeing is one about picking up your trash and throwing it away on your way out the door.

Cory pays quite a bit of money to go to the movies. I pay 10USD I think, somewhere around there, give or take fifty cents. If we go to a matinee it's less and I've discovered that for me, the Sunday matinee is the best time to go because it's not as crowded. I just found out that students are seven dollars, quite annoying since 75% of my family are students but the print was so small I could never read it before. Ah well, now I know and shan't throw my money away anymore.

Someone called Brian responded to Cory's original post but I stopped reading it right way because the person who sent it in pissed me off by saying that the most important thing about this theater is their penchant for discrimination:
One particularly good theatre ...The Drafthouse, first of all, bans children
You know what? Kids have a perfect right, and a biological imperative, to exist and to learn how to get along in society. You were a kid once. You were a beginner once. You did not spring Athena-like from your father's head all ready to go out drinking with your cronies. You had to practice by going out with family and friends and learning what was okay to do in public and what wasn't. Your bigotry against children is appalling, and in the end, you are the one who loses by writing off everyone under some arbitrary age as unfit for your company.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

What Kind of Life Do You Lead Mister?

A quote:

"The point is, it's the most important event of my lifetime. "
- Paul Greengrass, on the timing of his film United 93

In the interests of disclosure first let me say I think this film is a terrible idea. I hate it. I hate that it has been made and I hate that people are profiting from it.

That said, what kind of life does Paul Greengrass have that a few buildings being knocked down by a maniac is the most important event?

Let's look at some things that have happened in my lifetime - I'm 43 this March.

  • We landed on the moon.
  • Development of the internets for commercial use.
  • Tremendous strides in gene manipulation; wonderful uses in medicine like new ways to get insulin.
  • Fertilization outside of the womb and freezing of zygotes.
  • Stem cell discoveries including the fact that fat can be made into stem cells.
  • Secretariat won the Triple Crown.
  • Super giant squids were discovered.

If you want to just concentrate on bad things (no idea why you would but let's do that since the attacks on September 11 were tragic, let's do it in case that's what he meant.)

  • The AIDS virus appeared, killing millions of people and orphaning a ridiculous number of poverty stricken children.
  • Ebola appeared; man that's a million times more frightening that some hairy guy with a beard who needs dialysis.
  • New Orleans was destroyed while the governments took pictures and ate sandwiches.
  • Dan Brown wrote The Da Vinci Code.

I could go on and on and on but my point is this guy who says that the events that took place on a plane in the early morning hours of September 11, 2001 are the most important is either so bound up in his film that he can't think straight, he has tunnel vision or he's a pessimistic shut-in who only pays attention to a tiny bit of what's out there or has been out there.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Some Blathering About Mary Todd Lincoln

The biggest shock of the week for me was reading that Mary Todd Lincoln was committed to a mental institute for four months at one point in her painful life. I read a little about this today and of course I have some thoughts that I will cram down your throat. I will preface by saying that I am only a woman with no college degree and some brain damage so feel free to ignore me - but on the other hand I've done a fair amount of reading about women's health issues in the nineteenth century.

These are Ms. Todd Lincoln's symptoms, from what I find online.

She spent too much money.

She worried about being alone.

She bought things she had no use for - this in particular is what upset her son and led to him institutionalizing her.

She heard voices.

She thought she had wires coming out of one eye.

She was in touch with the spirit world and had concerns about an Indian guide who was living in her head.

She had insomnia.

She tried to sell her old clothes - something else that mortified Robert.

Carried large amounts of cash around with her.

Had a fear of fire.

She had migraines.

So we have a woman whose husband was killed right next to her. Three of her four children died. She had very little money after Mr. Lincoln died. She was taking chloral hydrate and who knows what else to help her sleep and I seriously doubt that she had decent migraine medication.

Doesn't it make sense that she might have post traumatic stress disorder? Mixed up with a great big helping of depression? Add in the potions she was taking for her headache (tonics in the south at the time often contained mercury according to a book I read about midwifery in the American South in the mid to late nineteenth century) and you have a recipe for all kinds of symptoms.

Was she truly ill or a victim of her times? I don't know but I'm going to find out more. I've requested a book from the library based on letters from members of the Lincoln family.

Years ago, probably eleven or so, I was researching a play I was writing about midwifery. I found this account of a woman whose entire family was poisoned by mercury. It was given as a tonic to prevent yellow fever, I believe. She had six babies and they all died. In the end her husband locked her up in an institution and she died there. Reading about her broke my heart. Her tragedy was so pointless and wasteful. I wished I could go back in time and snatch her out of the hands of the doctors of her time.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

MRI News

Some of you have been kind enough to ask about the results of the MRI I had last month. I didn't actually get the results. I was waiting for Dr. Irani to call me and time kind of went on and I didn't really worry because I thought he would have called me right away if I did have a clot in my brain. I figured it would take some time for him to consult with his colleagues and get back to me and since the next step may be a shunt I wasn't really pressed about getting results.

But then I realized it had been about five weeks so I called and found out he never got the results of the scans. I would have thought that someone would have noticed that the results never got there but maybe it really was my responsibility so I called the MRI place today and they asked for the fax number so hopefully results are winging their way over there right now.

I'll let you all know when I know anything for sure.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Different Kind of Drink

Cam came in today to ask me what is in a Rhode Island Ice Tea. (Then he asked if he meant a Long Island Ice Tea but we should ignore that because it's not funny.)

I told him dirt and dead groundhogs, that's the road part, and the whole drink is much smaller than any kind of drink you can get anywhere else.

Mm mm good.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Safety Schools

A few people chastised Christopher for only applying to the schools he wanted to attend. They said he should have applied to some safety schools.

What's that like being a safety school? What would their ad campaign be like?

Give us your tired, your dispirited, your rejected.

Couldn't get in anywhere else? Give us a shot.

The best school that nobody wants to attend in the Midwest!!

In the end he was right, he's been accepted to the two schools he wanted, Pratt and SVA. Now to decide which one he is going to attend and how in the world we are going to pay for it.

(Let's see if this posts, the last five times I tried to post I got endless cycling instead)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

20 Worst Agents List

Writers who are busy working on getting an agent take note. A comprehensive list of the 20 worst agents is now available here. Put together by the hardworking and super wonderful folks at Writer Beware, this is an extremely valuable tool.

Here are some other sites that can save you a passle of money and heartache:

Writer Beware - a warning site

Preditors and Editors - another warning site, these two sites are a godsend.

Everything you wanted to know about literary agents - a post from Neil Gaiman's journal filled with amazing, absolutely incredible, generous information from Teresa Nielsen Hayden

On the getting of agents - more quality information from Teresa. Someone less giving would no doubt be running seminars and charging a gazillion dollars for this stuff. I'm just sayin'.

You may feel a little overwhelmed by all these choices so start with the 20 Worst Agents list and go on from there. Take your time and read it a little at a time if you get overwhelmed, remember you can do anything in fifteen minutes a day. :-)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Cats eat rats, get feast

This charming story about how a village in China rewarded 200 cats with a lovely fish feast reminds me of the story of the king who had the mice in his palace. He calls in the cats and they get rid of the mice but then he's overrun with cats so he gets some dogs and then he's overrun with dogs...

In the end he gets some elephants to scare something away and then finally some mice to scare the elephants. He's right back where he started.

I'm not saying these villagers are overrun with cats, I'm just saying they had so many rats because they got rid of the snakes in the field and created an imbalance. The rats when crazy so they got the cats. What next? We'll see I guess.

I really like the idea of thanking the cats with a feast. I like to imagine the cats lolling on silken pillows while they are served, waving their tails lazily and purring like mad.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Surprising tidbit in story about title agent who embezzled $670,000

I just read a story that will be up at the main Credit Union Journal page for a day, and then in the archives for April 17th, it's kind of hard to navigate but worth a look.

Anyway, the story is about how a title agent stole $670,000 because she was taken in by one of those Nigerian cons. You know the one, they start off I am Mrs. Zomboga Muufa, my husband was killed in a recent uprising, etc. and she asks you to help her get money out of the country. It's pretty astonishing that she was taken in, especially to the tune of so much money, but this is the really amazing part:

Terry Ayeni, 42, a Nigerian national, duped Donna Burbank into looting funds she held in escrow for homebuyers and their lenders to help Ayeni and accomplices recover what they billed as $35 million in cash that had been blackened to get it through U.S. Customs.


Ayeni is already serving time in Ohio for an identical scam in New York and was scheduled to be deported to Nigeria when his term expires, but is now expected to receive a longer term when he is sentenced in June.

There is a real Nigerian behind the Nigerian 409 schemes. Since this type of fraud goes all the way back hundreds of years to something called the Spanish Prisoner, finding out there is a real Nigerian is shocking to me. How shocking? Well it is kind of like reading a story about Easter crime and seeing that a large rabbit has been taken into custody on suspicion of handing out candy to children without parental permission...

Saturday, April 15, 2006

What is the ROI on that?

I was looking at some craigslist ads again, they are endlessly fascinating and a bit frightening. I'm struck by how often I see a man advertising for a domniatrix. They offer to clean your house in exchange for "firm handling." One guy said he would do laundry and mop the floors if you would hit him, kick him and spit on him. Gee, I think it would be easier and less creepy to do my own housework...

Friday, April 14, 2006

Terrible preview for Lucky Number Slevin

I just saw the worst preview ever. It lied about what Lucky Number Slevin is about but still managed to completely ruin the story. If I were the director or the writer I would be furious right about now. I'm pretty pissed and all I did was watch the film and write a column about it.

Oh if you are interested in my writing process you might want to read my previous post about Lucky Number Slevin and compare it to the column. I used the blog post as a skeleton for the column.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Scholarship dinner thingie tomorrow night

Tomorrow night Cullen, Chris and I are attending a reception for the recipients of the Katy Friel memorial scholarship that Chris won for this academic year. I've never been to anything like this and I'm not sure what to expect. Or what to wear.

It's kind of like doing extra work for me. I always fret about what to wear.

And Cam has to get a "formal" black shirt and white shirt for his upcoming chorus competition. Again I am thrown into confusion by the use of the word formal. I'm pretty sure they don't mean white tie.

My character Mallory, the actress in my 2005 NaNoWriMo entry, should start a website where other actors can see examples of "fall daytime wedding clothes." She will have to do it for me because I haven't a clue.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"Think how marginalized racists are," said Baylor, who directs the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom.

Oh, poor, poor racists. I feel so bad for them! How nasty I am to have marginalized them. Boo hoo.

That quote is from an LA times article. The story is about a "Christian" girl who is pissed because she's not allowed to gay bash at her college, so she's suing. Beautiful. Isn't that what Jesus was all about? Didn't He throw the moneylenders out of the temple because they wouldn't let Him indulge in hatespeak?

Story courtesy of Warren Ellis, who does a lovely job writing about it here. Be sure to read the comments, Johnny Anarchy is particularly interesting.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Lucky Number Slevin

I took the boys to see this movie yesterday. Wow, it is simply amazing. What is life worth in this film? Not a plugged nickel, that's for sure. I remember when Pulp Fiction came out, people were calling it ultraviolent and I was wondering what exactly that meant. Slevin is more along the lines of what I thought they meant. People get shot left and right.

But, much like the Libertine, the movie definitely begins and it means to go on and you can't really complain and say you didn't expect all that violence. You get it right upfront, at the beginning of the film.

Did I like it? Yes. I loved it. The dialogues snaps right off the screen, my stomach hurt from laughing so much, I had no idea what was going to happen or what Slevin (Josh Hartnett) was going to do to get out of these jams, the camera work was fun and interesting and the acting was sublime.

Lucy Liu is adorable. You just want to stick her in your pocket and take her everywhere you go. Morgan Freeman is menacing but somehow fatherly. Sir Ben Kingsley is just incredible, playing a Rabbi gangster who manages to get along with both parts of his personality just fine. Bruce Willis is a mysterious man, who we first meet telling a heartbreaking story. "It all starts with a horse" and so it does. Where does it lead? All over the damn map but oh what a journey.

I am in love with this movie. And you know, I used to not be able to watch a film that had a drop of blood in it.


You can totally tell the audience is very engaged with this film because something happens that is so awful and over the top, and just plain too much to bear, that there were cries of "no" and "oh" and "why?" from all over the theater. It was a heartbreaking instant but how I love to be in a group of strangers all feeling the same feeling, living the same moment. That is why I'm willing to shell out forty-five bucks to take my family to the movies, for that moment of communion.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Adam or Neil, Neil or Adam, hmmmm

I just got notice that Counting Crows are going to be part of this year's HFStival, along with the Strokes and a bunch of other bands. Of course I would love to go see the Crows but this event sells out very quickly so what are my chances? Oh hang on, I am an "HFS comrade" so I have access to a special internet presale. Tum te tum, let me log into Ticketmaster.

Hang on! It's the same weekend I will be at Balticon with Neil. Isn't that always, always, always the way? Bah, humbug.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Jungle de Ikou

Cullen and I are watching crazy anime again. This particular episode reminds me of a show Chris and I saw the other day about a circumcision dance this tribe performs every year.

In the anime show a little girl's dad steals an artifact from an archeological site and gives it to her. She puts on some earrings from the piece and has a "dream" about a scary old man with this ENORMOUS weird penis thing, made from ivory or something. He does this lurid dance while lights flash and he apparently has an acid flashback.

There are quite a few closeups of his thrusting buttocks and phallic device. It's both hilariously funny and terrifying. Then the guy tells her she must dance the same dance when she is trouble and it will get her out of the jam. As if any sane person could remember this dance.

I found the above image, you can sort of see what I mean about this guy's penis. It's the white, pointy thing sticking up in front.

Wow, she's doing the dance. I think she's a preteen, this dance is really inappropriate. Geesh. Wow, she seems to have grown up. Now she has huge, huge breasts. Goodness, what is the message of this show? Now this girl is riding around on the back of a whale shaking her groove thing. I give up, the only point of this show is bouncy breasts and gyrating hips. Thank god she looks of age now.

I wonder what the pitch session for this show was like. Probably just some pictures of the fan service...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Dreaming of zombies

I dreamt I was talking to a zombie while backing slowly away. He was trying to convince me he wasn't a zombie at all. I finally said, "sure you're not. It's entirely a coincidence that your nose is rotting off our face."

"It's not," he cried. "It's rotting on!"

And then I laughed enough to wake myself up.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Get a Horse!

I'm going to try to read all the Pulitzer Prize winners, going back to Age of Innocence, the oldest one in my library. Hell, possibly the oldest one there is for all I know. You could fit my knowledge of the Pulitzer in a thimble and have plenty of room to spare.

I read Age of Innocence last week while I was sick with the GI thing. I liked it as much as I like anything that doesn't send me into rhapsodies. I would say it was okay but that sounds tepid and I liked it more than tepid, if that makes any sense.

Today I started The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington (why does that name make me think of a football player?) It's quite interesting so far and funny in a sly sort of way.

At one point some kids surround a horseless carriage and start yelling "Git a hoss!!"

Gosh that brought back memories. We used to say that when I was a girl. If we saw someone with a broken down car by the side of road that's what we would yell at them. "Hey, get a horse!"

I'm trying to remember where I learnt it. From my greatgrandfather who died when I was seven or eight? He was born in the 1800s and used to tell me stories of horsedrawn carriages. He also taught me to say "One for the money, two to show, three to get ready" before starting any race. He was a dear and I loved him very much.