Thursday, September 30, 2004

Spaceballs II: The Search for More Money

From IMDb:
Brooks To Make Sequel to 'Spaceballs'

A day after announcing plans to film the movie version of his Broadway musical The Producers in New York, Mel Brooks is being quoted as saying that he is currently working on the script for a sequel to his 1987 Star Wars spoof Spaceballs that he would like to rush into production. Asked by Playbill magazine when the film is likely to hit the screen, Brooks replied: "Best case scenario: a week before the new Star Wars opens. Worst Case Scenario: a year after the new Star Wars opens." The new Star Wars movie, Revenge of the Sith, is due to open on May 19, 2005. Brooks also indicated that he will appear in the sequel (although, he said, he won't have a role in The Producers). "It wouldn't feel right to have anyone else play Yoghurt, and the first one was the best experience I've had making a movie since Blazing Saddles," he said.

May the Schwartz (and the Barf) be with him.

"I'm a mog. Half man, half dog. I'm my own best friend."

"What's your name?"
"Your full name."

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

e-Zine Scene

The other day, Dave Zeltserman of Hardluck Stories Zine opened submissions for the Winter 2005 issue, edited by Michael A. Black.

Yesterday, the new Plots with Guns went live.

We at Thrilling Detective are aiming for a November 1 release.

There's nothing like new issues to kick my imagination into gear. I plan to have a fourth C.J. Stone story ready in advance of Hardluck's December 10 submission deadline.

What specifically got this story moving? Previous stories establish that C.J. and Johnny became partners after a bar brawl in which one saved the other from a beating. Only neither remembers the details too clearly.

The big question was, "How did the fight start?"

I think I've come up with an entertaining answer. Now I just need a main plot.

NCIS Returns

NCIS's second season premiere involved the abduction of the wife and blind daughter of a Spec Ops comptroller. The kidnapper hacked into the comptroller's computer, keeping an eye on him by webcam, forcing him to transfer $2 million of the military budget to an account in Beijing or see his family killed.

Jethro Gibbs and company are back in fine form. One of the things I like about this show is the amount of twists it throws at viewers. After the team apprehends the kidnapper--a former Petty Officer with a grudge against the comptroller--after the family is reunited, with about four minutes of screen time left it's discovered the mastermind who hired the kidnapper was actually the comptroller himself.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow turns 32 today. I remember her best from the 1998 update of GREAT EXPECTATIONS and from her cover of "Cruisin'" with Huey Lewis.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Conan To Take Over "Tonight"

AP reports Conan O'Brien will take over for Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" in five years.

I'm one of those who thought "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" wouldn't last. I thought it was too quirky and far out. I've since come to enjoy Conan's nerdy brand of humor. It takes supreme confidence to act insecure on camera. Real insecurity is easy to spot and is a sure turnoff. But Conan either knows where a joke is going at all times or can rein it in quickly.

I hope he retains these qualities as "Tonight" host.

Early Review: "Clubhouse"

CBS premiered the baseball/coming-of-age drama "Clubhouse" last night. I've mentioned the unfortunate name given Dean Cain's character: Conrad Dean. The creators also saw fit to name the just-hired-batboy lead character "Pete Young," unfortunate also because the actor is smiley and young-looking. (In the pilot, we're supposed to believe he has a license to drive a player's Ferrari to the shop. The older I get, the younger people look to me.)

Pete's mother (Mare Winningham) comes off as straining and whiny, not the stern single mother I expected. His sister, logically I guess, is also whiny. Finally, Christopher Lloyd, who I thought was playing the team manager, actually plays the equipment manager. Holy microcosm, batboy!

To top it off, because this was a pilot, everyone had to be introduced:

"I'm Conrad Dean."

"I know who you are, Mr. Dean. I'm Pete, Pete Young."

Dean Cain is making the rounds of New York talk shows this week. How will he spin this?

(L to R) Dean Cain as Conrad Dean, Christopher Lloyd as Lou Russo, and Jeremy Sumpter as Pete Young in "Clubhouse."

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Things I Think Of at Weddings

Last night, my thirty-two year-old cousin had his reception at Fiesta off Rte. 17 in New Jersey. Below are a few excerpts from the monologue that tends to run through my head at weddings:

I had trouble finding my placecard because whoever wrote them misspelled my name "Gerard." (Circling the farther rings of my extended family, fewer people actually know my name.)

My brother and I were seated at Table 7, which was coincidentally always the last table served. We had just received the main course when the DJ pumped up the music and yelled, "Let's get this party started!"

I had actually been first on the dance floor an hour earlier (my usual freestyle feel-the-beat). Granted, we were a fairly older crowd, but the energy seemed to be missing for the longest time. Usually, a couple of songs are played that I just have to dance to. Not the case here. It felt like an experiment, followed by no one. (If anyone captured my moves on camera, I'll post a few pics.)

When the time came for the bouquet and garter toss, the single women were shy to step up. The bride had to call on people to come up. (One person she called on was already engaged, so she didn't need the bouquet's power to bring on an engagement, am I right?)

On the groom's first attempt to toss the garter, he sling-shot it in the opposite direction. On the proper throw, I came closer than I ever have to making the catch. It landed next to me, and someone else dove for it. In the end, I was thankful, as they matched up the garter-catcher and the bouquet-catcher. (Is that the tradition? I thought catching was supposed to single-out the next people to marry, not that these people would marry each other.)

Rapidly approaching the big 3-0, I've seen many friends and relatives around my age marry and have children. I can't help wondering what happens after the reception, after the honeymoon. What then? I don't have the answer, which is probably the reason I'm single.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Computers Powered by Spinach?

BOSTON - "Eat your spinach," Mom used to say. "It will make your muscles grow, power your laptop and recharge your cell phone... " OK. So nobody's Mom said those last two things. But researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they have used spinach to harness a plant's ability to convert sunlight into energy for the first time, creating a device that may one day power laptops, mobile phones and more. (Read full AP story)

Friday, September 24, 2004

"Pedro, Who's Your Daddy?"

(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez reacts to giving up an RBI-single to New York Yankees' Ruben Sierra in the eighth inning against the New York Yankees, Friday, Sept. 24, 2004, in Boston.

"What can I say?" Martinez said after a 6-4 loss, his second of the week to New York. "Just tip my cap and call the Yankees my daddy."

"Gettin' JAG-gy With It."

Do series change writers between cliffhanging season finales and thrilling-conclusion premieres? It's seemed so the last two years on JAG. In tonight's tenth-season premiere, Lt. Col. MacKenzie must evade an assassin targeting her due to her association with CIA agent Clayton Webb (Steven Culp). Webb was believed to have died in last season's finale. Harm was quick to point out Webb had faked his death before, but the mildly psychic Mac said, "This time I know it's for real. I can feel it." And the episode closed with Harm consoling her.

Mac: Will you always be there for me?

Harm: Yes.

Back to tonight's premiere: Mac finds a rogue British agent in her apartment who believes Webb is alive. Instantly, Mac is back to scouring for traces this is true. No mention of her nigh-infallible sixth sense.

It turns out Webb is alive, hiding out at his family homestead, and the British agent who offered to help Mac find him is actually the assassin hired to kill him.

Webb's mother shoots the assassin in the back, and the episode ends with a melodramatic breakup for Mac and Webb. Harm is ready to talk things out, and Mac pushes him away.

Where's the consistency?

Reaching the Big Screen

Before THE NIGHT OF THE DANCE, I read PERSUADER by Lee Child, a native Brit now living in New York who writes about wandering American hero Jack Reacher. A writer and director are now attached to the movie based on Child's first book, KILLING FLOOR. John Rogers (CATWOMAN) is the writer, and Clark Johnson (S.W.A.T.) is directing.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

"These Birthdays are Making Me Thirsty."

Today is a birthday for Seinfeld cohort Jason Alexander (45), whose new sitcom based on the life of sportswriter Tony Kornheiser has been called "so bad, it baffles science" by IMdb users,

and for Jaime Bergman (29), who starred in F/X's sitcom of sexual innuendo Son of the Beach as lifeguard B.J. Cummings. She has since married Angel star David Boreanaz. They have a son, Jaden Rayne.

Best to them all.

That's My "Smallville" Part III

Tom Welling and Erica Durance as the just-introduced Clark Kent and Lois Lane (photo by David Gray)

The purist in me was against it, but amidst the many radical strands left by last season's finale (Clark beamed into space, Jonathan in a coma, Lana leaving for Paris, Pete Ross moving to Wichita...), Lois Lane's arrival in Smallville was a much-needed dose of sanity.

The show has always played the "strangers we've met before" card well. Lois is driving through a corn field, trying to get a lead on her cousin Chloe's disappearance when Clark crashes back to Earth, naked, with no memory of the past three months.

Lois gives Clark a ride to the hospital and uses her trademark pushiness to get him squared away. Meanwhile Kryptonian reprogramming keeps Clark's answers short: "I'm fine," "You talk a lot," "I'm leaving."

Martha, visiting comatose Jonathan, spots Clark leaving and tries to jog his memory. She finally does so with the aid of Dr. Swann's (Christopher Reeve) assistant, Bridget Crosby (Margot Kidder).

Martha: You don't know anything about my son!

Bridget: You're right. I don't. But I do know what it's like to love someone whose calling is greater than yours.

Martha: You and Dr. Swann?

Bridget: In another lifetime.

Bridget presents Martha with a piece of black Kryptonite, which she uses to separate Clark's persona from that of the Son of Jor-El.

The episode ends with Lois at Chloe's grave, vowing to find out what happened, even if she has to do it alone.

Clark: You're not alone...You're not the only one who misses her.

Lois: I'm just the only one doing something about it.

Clark: I get the feeling you like doing things yourself.

Lois: My father raised me to be independent and self-sufficient.

Clark: That'd be one way to describe you.

Lois: About the only thing I like about you at the moment is your mom. I figure you can't be as weird as I think you are with a mom that cool.

(Clark smiles)

This is gonna be fun.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Does Whatever a Spider Can

AP: PARIS - A French urban climber who calls himself "Spider-Man" scaled a 59-story Paris office building Wednesday with his bare hands and without using any ropes.

To the Editor

Ray Banks rails against Anne Rice's repudiation of editors. Rice, claiming to be very demanding of herself, has come to believe she can produce better work alone than if she teamed with an editor.

I've revised this entry several times now, trying to get past my emotional reactions as both a writer and an editor, to plain facts:

An editor is a writer's first formal audience. The writer is too close to the work, and friends and family are too close to the writer. An editor is a good representation of what strangers (a.k.a. the general public) will think. An editor will make comments which any writer, status aside, has the right to take or leave.

What are editors ultimately good for? Credibility. In the age of self-publishing, the presence of an editor signals readers that an author's ego hasn't gone unchecked, that the read might be worth their time, that at least one person besides the author approves the work.

The editor takes as much pride in editing as the writer does in writing, yet in the end, the editor yields the spotlight to the writer and the work.

Not Long Awaited

Tonight is the season premiere of "Smallville."

Once upon a time I was painfully aware of the four months between TV seasons, hating how cliffhangers kept me in suspense. This summer I was able to turn off the anticipation switch.

It's a fringe benefit of regularly submitting my work: Instead of waiting to hear about one submission, I start planning of another.

They say good things come to those who wait. Instead of waiting for one good thing, I went off in search of other good things. I return now, right on time to reap the first good thing.

The Day That Was

I went to New Jersey yesterday for a dental appointment in the afternoon, followed by a buffet dinner at Minado in Little Ferry for my aunt's birthday. In the in-between moments, I was able to read about twenty pages of James Hime's THE NIGHT OF THE DANCE, DetecToday's October featured read. I'm sufficiently hooked.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Pedro Wants Mommy

After giving up eight runs in five-plus innings during an 11-1 loss to the Yankees, Pedro Martinez says, "Hold me."

Friday, September 17, 2004

Find Your AQ

After seeing the commercials during last night's "Joey," I had to find my AQ, a personality quiz brought to you by Land Rover testing people's taste for adventure. My result:

Some people spend their lives wondering if they have what it takes to persevere and achieve greatness. Not you--testing your strength is part of your life's mission. Our initial calculations reveal that you are the Aggressive Outdoor Encourager.

You are daring and courageous, never missing an opportunity to push yourself to the limit. You are capable of a demanding routine and enjoy putting in a hard day's work. Your energy and dedication are mind-boggling.

A bit of an exaggeration, but I am game for most anything, and once I start working, I keep at it past a few mental quitting points.

It Ain't Moby Dick

Robert B. Parker (above), creator of Boston P.I. Spenser, turns 72 today. Raymond Chandler, whose Philip Marlowe inspired Spenser, was vocal about his high aspirations for genre fiction, followed in the 50s and 60s by Ross Macdonald and John D. MacDonald, in the 70s by Parker and Roger L. Simon, and the trend continues.

If there is a divide between literary and pop fiction--IMO it's mostly the invention of academics wanting their work to stand out--it doesn't come into play when I write. I write because I get an idea that can't be rationalized away. The best I can do is express it in a story, however that story is finally categorized. I can't imagine telling myself, This is genre fiction, so I can stop at a certain depth. (a.k.a. the "It Ain't Moby Dick" attitude) My internal monologue is more like Never know who'll read my work. Better go all the way.

Many academics look down on popular fiction with good reason. I'm not going to defend the tree-killers you see on supermarket racks. But the majority of authors K-Mart shoppers never hear about: authors who despise tree-killers as much as I do, yet can't see themselves writing the Great American Novel. These authors simply want to speak to an audience through the format that best speaks to them.

All earnest writers somehow uncover and express their ideas, and deserve equal credit for doing so.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

"Live from New York..."

From the executive producer of the cancelled "Wayne Brady Show"--in the same time slot--comes "The Tony Danza Show."

I'm a Danza fan, but I don't know...

Question on Everyone's Mind: How many shows before someone from "Who's the Boss?" is a guest?

Answer: Four. Today's guest: Katherine Helmond

Getting Personal (All Part of the Job)

The other day, Dave White blogged about writing and embarrassment:

Why are we embarrassed about our writing, creative or non-fiction?

I know that each of my stories have gone through some form of embarrassment for me. All the stories had something in them I did not want seen at some point, and there is always a moment of hesitation before I submit them. I find it's because there is always something personal in the stories, something about myself I'm not sure I'm willing to share.

I've said before that "Get Miles Away" is my favorite of my stories. It accomplished a lot of things in terms of writing and what I was hoping to do with my work. But it's also my most personal story. Beth was based on an amalgam of women I knew. The stalker felt things that I felt about these women (although pushed to a higher, more dramatic level--I had the feelings, not the knife or the homicidal thoughts, it is a mystery after all. I only knew the shock of being left without warning, and I asked what if someone unstable felt that....)... I was also Jackson Donne in the story as well. Just wanting to help. All of my stories have a part of me in [them].

In order for a story to be successful, you have to put a part of yourself into it. Some sort of emotion, something to make the story come to life. And that's hard. It's something inside of you, something you never let people see. When you write, [you] put that on the page for everyone to see.

Until the final, published copy, writing is constantly in development. As such, writers cannot know going in how much soul-searching they'll have to do.

I'm reminded of a workshop class I took at Hofstra with Phillip Lopate. My first piece was a P.I. story, which turned out to be the antithesis of what he wanted. I ended up writing a series of stories featuring a protag very much like me, with perhaps a bigger chip on his shoulder.

If anything, these stories were probably too specific to me and my hometown, not accessible by a wider audience--as I learned submitting stories for which I'd gotten A's in class. But the experience taught me to try over-the-top first and make adjustments later.

The class also showed me subtleties of fiction; the more grounded it is in reality, the more readily people will believe it. Conversely, authors who try too hard to protect themselves in fiction leave readers with a muddled picture; they may start wondering what secret is so precious to the author, but odds are they'll stop reading before they start wondering.

As personal as writing may seem, it is nonetheless a profession: the business of fiction writing is to create worlds that seem real and at the same time are not real. When Harrison Ford appeared on Inside the Actors' Studio, he offered the following advice:

"Live in front of people. Live in front of people. Let them see the good, the bad, the ugly, the weak, the strong, the conflicted, the terrible. One of the things about acting that gives me the greatest satisfaction is the opportunity for that emotional exercise. That investment to the point where it produces true emotion."

He went on to say he has no trouble reconciling what he does for an audience's benefit--serving whatever story he's trying to tell--with the privacy he likes himself.

I infer that, as part of his process, Ford creates the emotion he shows. As much as he gives his audience in performance, none of it reveals anything about him as a person.

Only the most superficial readers draw connections between an author's fiction and his real life:

"How could you write that? What does it say about you?"

"It says something about the character, not me. If I want to reveal something about myself, I'll write a memoir."

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The Mother Lode

I made some orders last week, and by coincidence they all arrived today:
  • The 2005 Novel and Short Story Writer's and Poet's Markets - tried-and-true resources for us freelancers

  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 2 by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill - Literary allusion meets superhero mythos. What could be better?

  • Successful Television Writing by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin - I didn't have the early aspiration to write for TV that some do, but I have always wondered how it's done, what goes on behind the scenes. I've also learned to explore any avenue of writing. Never know when one will come in handy.

  • Quantum Leap: Music From the Television Series - this CD includes songs from memorable episodes as performed by Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell, instrumentals from composer Velton Ray Bunch, and an interview with Bakula.

  • The Transporter Special Edition DVD - I'd wondered about this movie since its quick exit from theaters two years ago. Great action and not as inconsistent as I'd heard. Worth the $10 and change I paid.

New Hardluck Stories Zine

Dave Zeltserman proudly presents the Summer 2004 issue of Hardluck Stories Zine, guest-edited by Allan Guthrie. Guthrie requested a blind-editing process, resulting in stories from Ray Banks, Ed Lynskey, Cathy Myers, Gary Warren Niebuhr, Mike Wiecek, and Candace Wiggins.

Particularly interesting were Guthrie's rules on writing, summed up in Hunting Down the Pleonasm. While I've never had the urge to make my own list, I do think rules can help us all stay on the right path.

Hearing about new issues makes me wish I had stories in them. I can think of no better feeling for a writer than that of being productive.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Sports Recap: Swiss Accuracy

I had dim sum with the family yesterday at Crown Palace in Marlborough, NJ to celebrate a pair of birthdays, and on the way home my cousin Alan flipped around the radio listening to the Giants and Jets games--in which he has fantasy investments this year.

Early on, Alan was taking it on the chin, losing to an opponent who had drafted both Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens. (McNabb's four TD passes and Owens's three catches totaled 42 fantasy points.) Alan's day was somewhat redeemed by Tiki Barber's late-game 75-yard TD run, making the score 31-14.

I got home in time to watch Roger Federer finish off Lleyton Hewitt 6-0, 7-6, 6-0. And going in, I thought the Aussie counterpuncher would have a chance if Federer's serve was less than perfect. It turned out all of Federer's shots were cleaner, just that much more accurate. Following wins at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, Federer became the first man since Mats Wilander to win at least three Grand Slams in the same year.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Coolest Basketball Name: Clyde Drexler

Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets star Clyde "The Glide" Drexler was ushered into the Basketball Hall of Fame Friday night by his boyhood idol Julius Erving. In his 15-year career, Drexler led the Blazers to the Finals twice before winning the 1995 title with his hometown Rockets. A member of the original Dream Team, Drexler was one of an increasingly rare breed--the unassuming superstar.

Weekend Birthdays: Virginia Madsen, Rachel Ward

Rising to popularity in the 1980s, Virginia Madsen seems to have adopted a lower profile than older brother Michael lately. I remember her best from the made-for-cable movies Third Degree Burn (1989), in which she plays a femme fatale to Treat Williams's private eye, and Crossfire Trail (2001), in which she plays the widow of a man to whom gunfighter Tom Selleck had made a promise. Madsen turned 41 yesterday.

I first saw Rachel Ward in repeats of Sharky's Machine on WPIX. All this time I thought she was Australian, but checking IMdb, she was born in England. She has, however, been married to Aussie Bryan Brown since '83. She turns 47 today.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

DetecToday Chat with Allan Guthrie

As DetecToday moderator, I'm pleased to welcome Allan Guthrie, author of the Edinburgh noir novel Two-Way Split, to our next group chat, Sunday, September 29, 2:00 - 3:00pm ET (7:00 - 8:00pm GMT).

For further details, visit my Yahoo! Groups moderation page.

"Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty."

I posted the following on Dave White's blog. Dave wrote a P.I. story called "Closure," honestly dealing with the aftermath of 9/11, which we published at Thrilling Detective:

Now and then I find myself wishing we could turn back the clock to before 9/11 and somehow prevent the taking of the planes and the loss of life.

I guess the truth is none of us at that time could have predicted an attack of this specific nature. We have a tendency to look back and think times were better, happier. I guess they were, in part. But overall, knowing is better than not knowing. We can do more with information than we can without it.

No one can prevent all atrocities. The best we can hope is to be on guard.

As Wendell Phillips said, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

And Dave, as one of the people who helped publish your 9/11 story, I know you didn't write it for personal gain. My hunch is everyone who values personal freedom was dumbstruck by 9/11. To engage in our freedoms again, we had to come to terms with the day, find a healthy way to express our anger, our grief, our fear, our hope for the future. "Closure" was your way of speaking up, and I'm sure you helped others do the same.

Friday, September 10, 2004

And Now Back to Our Show

Around 10am yesterday, a fitting went bad on one end of the cable connection to our house. No juice for the cable modem and the local channels were very snowy, but some higher ones like Bravo, USA, and YES were passably clear.

I watched some videos, but on the whole tried not to think too much about the outage. I worked out as usual, caught up on some sleep--and believe it or not--watched the premiere of "Joey" through the lousy picture. (It's an okay show; I can't imagine any other Friends doing as well on their own.)

Not too bad, but I still prefer voluntary breaks from technology.

Around 10:30 this morning, a repairman found and replaced the bad fitting, and we were good to go.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

AP: Bacall on Kidman

Here's what Lauren Bacall said when British reporters called co-star Nicole Kidman "a legend."

Birthdays: Return of the Pink

Pink Panther star Peter Sellers (above, in photo from official site) was born this day in 1925.

When we bought our first VCR in the mid-80s, the Pink Panther and James Bond movies were among the first my father rented: "Kato, can't you see I'm on the phone?"

E! personality Brooke Burke (in UPI photo) turns 33 today.

And singer Pink (no photo) turns 25, making me feel old.

Not So Deep Dutch?

On yesterday's episode of "Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind," Sarah Weinman posted The Gender Divide, Part I: Why I Don't Like Elmore Leonard. She writes:

...In theory, I should be a fan of [Leonard's]—his books are dialogue-heavy, which I like; his stories move fast, another thing I really like, and his characters are full of interesting quirks and are often unapologetic about their moral ambiguity—again, something I dig. So why don’t I respond to Dutch’s books? It could be that I’ve tried the wrong ones (I’ve read RUM PUNCH, some of FREAKY DEAKY and less of MAXIMUM BOB along with a few of the stories in WHEN THE WOMEN CAME OUT TO DANCE) but the answer came to me as I watched an episode of the late, lamented “Karen Sisco,” (which is, of course, based on several of Leonard’s novels, including OUT OF SIGHT). As played by Carla Gugino, Sisco comes across as reasonably sympathetic, a gun-slinging Federal Marshal who loves her daddy and still acts like a woman, not a guy in a skirt. She has flaws, and Gugino injected her with a good mixture of humor and cynicism that, at least, worked for me. But as written by Leonard, the subtlety of Sisco is lacking, and I know less about her than when I started. Somehow, she—and many of Leonard’s characters—come across as less human. That somehow, Leonard is so into giving his characters cool things to say and weird tics that he forgets that the parts have to add up to an appreciable sum. That the reader has to be engaged in some form or another.

I'm not curious enough to analyze male/female reading tastes, but I did comment:

I've only read a few Leonards and am ambivalent about them. Most of the time I like Leonard's command of the language, but his theories on story (Don't use adjectives, don't describe the weather, etc.) don't always work on the page. A main concern for him is the sound of his writing, but at times the characters sound like one author talking to himself.

This problem is more noticeable with Robert B. Parker, who either doesn't have the skill or the inclination to mask his authorial presence better. Parker claims not to read much fiction "except Dutch Leonard," and his worst books show the same predictable patterns of banter and theme that I see when Leonard coasts.

For example, I completely believed GET SHORTY, but Leonard's more recent PAGAN BABIES--though set in the turmoil of Rwanda--was more or less the same story of a hard guy trying to pass as not hard.

Leonard and Parker will tell you stories--regardless of period, setting, and other nuances--are about larger themes: people interacting, love, death, redemption...I suspect they go to this spiel when they actually coasted through writing a book and can't talk more specifically about the story therein.

Freshness, or at least the appearance of freshness, is a big draw for me. Leonard is great at his pet themes and Parker is great at his, but I don't know...When I pick up a new book, I want to read something new. If one author covers the same ground too often, I move on to a new author.

Like Sarah, I'm a fan of sharp dialogue and stories that move well. While I can only stand Hemingwayesque minimalism for so long, the same goes for introspection. Too much of the former sounds impossibly slick; too much of the latter leaves a character with no blanks (to be filled as readers see fit).

While I Was Sleeping...

Early to bed, early to rise. I've never been able to stay up for Leno, Letterman, and O'Brien. I do my best work in the wee hours of the morning, which requires me to sleep early and has caused me to miss some improbable sports comebacks such as the Yankees' Game 5 comeback against the Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series.

I normally watch NCIS at 8pm on Tuesdays, but as occurs all too often, last night's Yankee game pushed NCIS to 1:37am. I turned to the U.S. Open and saw that Jennifer Capriati--"This one, a long time have I watched"--had come out flat against Serena Williams in their quarterfinal match. Capriati lost the first set 6-2, and I figured Serena had the match in hand.

This morning, I clicked on Yahoo! Sports and saw Serena pumping a fist, but the headline read Capriati gives Serena the boot.

Chair umpire Mariana Alves overruled two crucial calls. Later, replays showed at least two other incorrect calls. Alves is not scheduled to umpire again, and we're left to wonder if she's been fired.


Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Shannon Elizabeth

American Pie's Shannon Elizabeth turns 31 today. I remember her pre-Pie, as a guest on "USA High," a 1997-99 cable sitcom about an international high school in Paris. The students were of course played by mid-20s actors. It's also Angie Everhart's 35th birthday.

Monday, September 06, 2004

McRaney Released

AP reports Gerald McRaney has been released from the hospital after successful surgery to remove a malignant growth from his lung. He will remain in Houston a few days before returning home to Mississippi to rest, and plans to be back in Los Angeles by September 29 to resume work on his new WB sitcom.

The Unofficial End of Summer

Most every Labor Day has been a tease--one last holiday before the work really starts. This fall is only the second since I reached school age that Labor Day doesn't signal school, doesn't make the air feel just a touch cooler.

The first fall I took off was after earning my B.A. from Hofstra. I needed that time to realize I should go to grad school. For some people, grad school is a chore: more intense than undergrad, seemingly without point except to move your appellation a few letters up the alphabet. In my case, I had slacked off just enough as a senior to feel I had something to prove.

With that in mind, I dissected the workload as much as I could, reminding myself that every bit of effort would be worth it in the end. It was the difference between a B and an A, which, for the first time, really mattered to me. I wanted to see the actual--not estimated--limit of my abilities.

Common wisdom says, "If you've done your best, you have nothing to regret." I say until you're tested, or choose to test yourself, you don't know what your best is.

I suppose I'm testing myself this time, too. I taught composition for six years, which earned some money, but ultimately held back my own writing. When younger teachers started landing the creative writing jobs I'd wanted from the beginning, I caught on it was time for a change.

Eight years ago, grad school was the best way I could improve as a professional. Today, it's a matter of getting my name out there. Again, I will narrow my focus, try to do the little things right, all in the end to be at the top of a mountain shouting, "Drago! Drago!"

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Batman's Birthday

Today is a birthday for

Michael Keaton (53) who, against my expectations, turned in the definitive live-action portrayal of Bruce Wayne/Batman as Dark Knight.

Rose McGowan (31)

and Raquel Welch (62), still sexy after all these years.

Speaking of Batman, next Saturday, WB Animation will premiere a new cartoon focusing on a young Bruce Wayne's early years as the Caped Crusader. Play the opening sequence with Quicktime here.

Same Old Comments

After some consideration I've switched back to HaloScan commenting, requiring no login, and letting visitors sign as themselves instead of "Anonymous."

Saturday, September 04, 2004

"How You Like Your Ribs?"

Who else remembers that scene from Action Jackson (1988) where Carl Weathers takes a blowtorch to a bad guy?

I use Weathers's one-liner here to relay AP's report on the 16th Annual Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off.


Encyclopedia Brown Author Turns 80

My brother had several Encyclopedia Brown books, and I remember them because they had the solutions in the back (which I always skipped to).

At that age mysteries seemed like magic tricks to me. Putting one of my own together seemed like the most difficult and coolest thing to do. Still does.

Donald J. Sobol, creator of Leroy "Encyclopedia" Brown and friends, turns 80 today.

Bad, bad Leroy Brown,
the baddest man in the whole damn town,
badder than old King Kong,
meaner than the junkyard dog.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Realistic Fiction and Escape

Australian author Emily Maguire, guesting this week on Sarah Weinman's blog, writes:

Something my editor said to me yesterday has been bothering me, and I‘d like to hear your thoughts on it. She said that when the real world is in a mess and the future looks bleak, (i.e. now) people read fiction to feel better. Her theory is that most people turn to non-fiction to understand current events and the more depressing these current events, the more uplifting fiction needs to be...I argued that any fiction can be an escape from grim reality as long as it sucks the reader right into the story. That’s all fine and good, she said, but at the end of the book, the reader has to return to the world and if the story has left them more depressed than when they started reading, they won’t thank you for it...Since many of you write and read fiction dealing with murder, brutality and other nasties, I wonder if you can articulate why you enjoy this fiction. Is it simply an escape into a fictional world that grips you sufficiently to hold you there, or do you want something more? Since the real world is shitty and unfair, do you want this to be reflected in the ‘realist’ novels you read, or is the knowledge the world is shitty, unfair etc. the very thing that drives you to seek out worlds where life is actually pretty just?

I left a reply in Sarah's comments section, on which I'll expand here:

IMO, the only required difference between real life and fiction is that fiction have "roundness." Expectations set up in the beginning of a story must be addressed by the end.

I prefer fiction that is more real because it's easier to relate to. The shorter the leap from reality to fiction, the more willing I am to make it.

I read crime fiction because it distills many of fiction's elements to their purest form. Mystery is the most basic element of fiction; curiosity keeps readers turning pages. In crime fiction, the mystery, suspense, characters' motivation are all more evident.

Finally, I read crime fiction to play at being both the hero and the villain. Again, I find it easier to get into these roles when the world of the story is closer to the world I live in.

Writing a Better Way to Contact E.T.?

Reuters reports--contrary to previous attempts to communicate with aliens--Rutgers University professor Christopher Rose believes "If haste is unimportant, sending messages inscribed in some material can be strikingly more efficient than communicating by electronic waves." (Read full story)

Caviezel the Next Superman?

From IMdb:
Caviezel Poised to Sign Superman Deal

The Passion Of The Christ star Jim Caviezel may be ready to sign a deal to star as Superman in the long-awaited new film Superman Returns. The hunky actor - who movingly portrayed Jesus in Mel Gibson's controversial epic - is said to be very close to an agreement with studio Warner Bros. despite his agent's recent insistence the part had not yet been offered to him. Big name stars such as Jude Law, Josh Hartnett and Brendan Fraser have already been offered, and turned down, the role. However, according to respected comic book author Mark Miller, Caviezel's participation is all but guaranteed. He writes, "You remember I told you to relax about Superman? That a very, very trusted and experienced director we'd all love was coming over? That everything would be fine? Well, my same good buddy has informed me that Jim Caviezel is officially the new man of steel and what a perfect choice he is. Expect an announcement shortly."