Friday, December 29, 2006

2006 - The Year of No

I resist efforts to categorize lives into sections called "years." To characterize a slice of time and boil it down to some supposed essence because the earth went around the sun once is to deny the connections in our lives that continue from year to year.

But look! Here I am categorizing like crazy!

The truth is, categorizing stuff is fun. It ignores subtlety and nuance. It's black and white. But it helps you to make sense of the story of you life. So here goes.

One of the things I learned in 2006 is that "no" can be a very positive word. I said it a lot this past year. And I'm better for it. I said no to pointless guilt over a friend's death, no to friends and acquaintances who took more than they gave, and no to a handsome, semi-famous man who wasn't right for me, (No, I won't name him, but he's one of those actors whose face you've seen a million times, even if you don't know his name. And look! I said no again!) In fact, there were a few no's to a few nice men. Nothing wrong them, except they were wrong for me.

And no to guilt over saying no. No!

Can it be just coincidence that "no" and "know" are homonyms? In saying no, you learn about your own boundaries and needs. You know yourself. You celebrate yourself. Know no. Do it.

The voters said no to the Iraq war and to a republican majority in Congress. Viacom said no to Tom Cruise. Britney Spears said no to Kevin Federline. Silly? Sure. No can be fun. No can tease. No can make you search harder for the yes.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Garans Ball-Barans!

I've always loved garans ball-barans, an exclamation unique to Hawaii. I have no idea where it came from, but it whisks me instantly back to fourth grade, and walks to the store to pick up a manapua (that's a local type of dim sum) or some candy after school.

Yeah, I'm going home to Hawaii for Christmas. Take a look at Santa below. Soon, that'll be me.

My Dad sent me a local Hawaiian style take on "The Night Before Christmas." If you've ever been to the islands, you'll get it. If you haven't, there's a glossary for the pidgen terms and phrases that you might find helpful at the end.

Mele Kalikimaka li' dat!
Was da night bafo' Christmas - DaKine Local Style Story

Was da night bafo' Christmas, and all ova' da place,
Not even da geckos was showin' their face.
Da stockings was hangin' on top da TV
('Cause no mo' fireplace in Hawai'i)
Da kids stay all crashed, my old man too.
They leave all da work for you-know-who.

So me, I stay pickin' up alla their toys,
When - boom! - outside get only big noise!
I run to da window, I open 'em up,
I stick out my head and I yell, "Eh! Whassup?!"
And then, I no can ba-lieve what I seen!
Was so unreal, you know what I mean?

This fat haole guy get his reindeers in my yard!
And reindeers not housebroken, you know, as' why hard!
But nemmind, this Christmas, so I cut 'em some slack
Plus, had uku pile presents pokin' outta his sack!
So I wait 'till he pau tie up his reindeer,
Then I yell out da window, "Huui! Brah, ova hea!"

An' I tell 'em first thing, when I open da door,
"Eh, Hemo your shoes! You going dirty my floor!"
He take off his boots, he tell, "You know who I am?"
I go, "Ho! From the smell, must be Mr. Toe Jam!"
He make mempachi eyes and he go, "Ho, ho, ho!"
By now, I stay thinking this guy kinda slow!

He look like my Tutu, but little less weight,
And his beard stay so white, mo' white than shark bait!
He stay all in red, specially his nose,
And get reindeer spit on top his nice clothes!
But him, he no care; he just smile at me,
And he start fo' put presents unda-neath da tree.

I tell 'em, "Eh, brah, no need make li'dat,
And watch where you step! You going ma-ke da cat!"
Then, out from his bag, he pull one brand new computah,
Choke video games, and one motorized scootah!
He try for fill up da Christmas socks too,
But had so much pukas, all da stuff when fall troo.

When he pau, I tell 'em, "Eh Santa, try wait!
I get plenty leftovahs, I go make you one plate!"
But he nevah like hang, he had so much fo' do;
Gotta make all them small kids' wishes come true.
So I wave 'em goodbye, and I flash 'em da shaka,
And I tell 'em, "Mele Kalikimaka!"

When he hear that, he stop... and I telling you true,
He go, "Garans ball-barans! Merry Christmas to you!"

Mele Kalikimaka!

Da kine – the thing, the type of thing, a sort of, a, the (DaKine Local Style Story = a sort of Hawaiian-type story)
Local style – how it’s done in Hawaii
Bafo’ - before
‘as why – That’s why
da – the
seen - see
nemmind – nevermind
pau – finished, done
haole – white person, not necessarily derogatory, literally “foreigner” in Hawaiian
Huui – exclamation
Brah – sir, madam, hey you, form of address, can be either friendly or unfriendly, depending on tone
Uku – payment, tribute, reward
Hemo – take off
Stay – (I.e., “he stay all in red”) – remain, exist, was
Li’ dat – like that
Ma-ke (pronounced mah-kay) – kill, dead
Choke – excellent, top notch
Troo - through
Shaka – hang loose (a hand gesture where thumb and pinkie stick out and other three fingers are closed into the fist.)
Try wait – hang on a second
Puka – hole
Tutu – Auntie
Mempachi – a type of fish
Garans ball-barans – exclamation of wonder or delight

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Across America

Mom and I made it from Baltimore to LA in five days this Thanksgiving week. We took the 81 down Virginia's Shenandoah Valley to the 40, through Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Whew!

It went well. The restrooms at the rest stops along the 40 are remarkably clean. Thank goodness. Above is a shot of Mom at a rest stop in Tennessee along a stretch of the 40 dedicated to Al Gore, Sr. and the men and women of the Armed Forces. We encountered some snow while we sped through the beautiful Smoky Mountains, but Mom's gold ol' Honda Accord soldiered on without a hitch.

We got off the 40 in Oklahoma to find Eakly, a tiny town along the 58 where Mom used to visit her cousins every summer. We asked a guy in a pick up truck where the cemetary was, and he pointed up the hill, near the water tower. Sure enough, there it was. There we found Mom's biological father's grave. His name was L.T. Moore, and we know little else about him, except that his mother and father and baby brother are also buried nearby. But the graves include photographs of the deceased. It's the only record we have of what he looked like. He definitely had Mom's eyes. Or she has his eyes, I guess I should say.

I futzed in IPhoto with this photo, and it got a lot more interesting. Who knew they grew corn in Virginia?

We got back to LA on Thanksgiving Day, grateful for a safe trip and the opportunity to do it. Sick of the car, we walked to El Compadre to have Mexican food on turkey day.

I'm still downloading photos. More soon.

Friday, November 17, 2006

On the Road Again

I'm heading out of town tomorrow to join my Mother for a major road trip. She's moving back to Hawaii after many years of exile on the East Coast. Huzzah! We'll be driving from Baltimore, MD through this great land of ours, all the way to Los Angeles. We'll get up early each morning and drive until it gets dark, then find a cheap motel and crash. We figure on it taking us five days or so, depending on weather.

Along the way we hope to stop off in Oklahoma, where my mother and grandmother were born, to place my grandmother's ashes on the graves of her parents somewhere near Eekley, OK. My mother drove across country with my grandmother a couple of times. And now I join Mom on yet another journey. It's like we're coming full circle in a wonderful way.

I feel optimistic and curious about the trip. America is a huge, beautiful country. I can't wait to see more of it! Sure, the weather may not be great this time of year, and we'll be staying in Motel 6's, but still -- it's an adventure. Making it more exciting will the presence of Mom's huge white cat, Jake. He's a scaredy fellow, so it should be interesting trying to get him in and out of his carrier each morning and evening. I won't have reliable access to the internet, so you won't find any new posts here for awhile.

But if you're driving through the lower Midwest next week and see two women and a cat in a gold Honda heading west, be sure to wave hello.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


I recently did a rewrite of a script I thought I'd finished months ago. It's based on a terrific YA book called Mara, Daughter of the Nile, which I read and loved many years ago, when I qualified as a young adult.

The book is fantastic, featuring a clever heroine, sexy hero, and a plot full of believable twists and turns. I wrote what I must say is a terrific script. A friend of mine has the option on the book, and we've been pitching it around town.

But the cool and horrible thing about being a writer is that your work is never done. With another meeting looming to pitch the script, my friend and I decided to polish the script up a bit and make it even better.

Here's the weird thing - it was easy.

Normally, writing is fun and rewarding for me, but it's hard. Scriptwriting is a strict medium - you must know how to tell a story visually, using only action and dialogue. A feature script should run between 90 and 130 pages. You must capture your audience within a few pages, spilling out action, exposition (cleverly disguised), character, setting. Every single scene must advance the plot. Every single line of dialogue must serve at least two puposes, often more. (What purposes? Well, it must advance the plot, show character, and contain subtext -- just for starters.) You can't just maunder on aimlessly, like I'm doing now. Tighten, cut, sharpen.

So I was amazed at how easily this rewrite went. My fingers tripped happily over the keyboard. I made major changes that flowed seamlessly.

The reason? The rewrite makes sense.

This is key and not as obvious as you'd think. In Hollywood, you get notes from producers/actors/development people like: Why don't you give the hero a brother on the front lines of the war, so we can see the action there? This, when the story never involved anyone's brother or the front lines of any war. That's an exact note we got on this script. We were also told to change the female protagonist to a male and to make it more occult. This about a script about a clever young woman who saves an empire thanks to her wits - not due to some supernatural causes.

We didn't incorporate any of those notes. What we did do was (writers take note) ADD MORE CONFLICT. Drama equals conflict. By simply adding conflict to the setting, we upped the ante, sharpened the characters' dilemmas, and added color. That, and I blended two of the villains into one. Never underestimate the power of a fascinating antogonist. The book had several, and I boiled two of them down to one, and he became the main bad guy -- and a much more interesting character.

My friend went to a screening of a movie full of great black actors, and the film's director told a story of how he pitched the movie around town and was asked if he could turn an educated black character in the script into a downtrodden white man. This naked sort of racism, talking down the audience, and just plain stupidity is what you must constantly face in Hollywood.

So when the notes make sense - the rewrite flows. When the notes don't make sense - throw 'em out.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Elections are over now, so...

...this quote is particularly relevant.

"The occasion is piled high with difficulty. As our case is new, we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. "

Abraham Lincoln, 1862

Stylish Elements

I'm crazy about Maira Kaiman, a New York artist who illustrates children's book, teaches design, exhibits her work, and who has a monthly column in the New York times. In it she paints and writes and inspires. Alas, you need a subscription to view it, except for this week! Go now! View as many as you can before the free subscription is gone!

Go to:

Maria Kaiman has now contributed to every writer's friend, "The Elements of Style" by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White (one of my favorite authors). She has illustrated it! What a brilliant idea.

Check out more at:

Tacky Jacky

I wish I had the guts to put a photo of Tacky Jacky up on my blog. She's one of the comedians I saw at the Improv last night. She was hilarious! But the only photos I can find show her sitting on the toilet.

The Improv in Hollywood is another great reason to live in LA. Okay okay, they've got Improv clubs in other cities (Hello, Brea, California!) but because we're LA, we get all the good folks.

We get a few stinkers too. The first guy who got up to make us laugh last night -- didn't. I can't remember his name, which is just as well because I'm a softie who doesn't like to slam people for trying something as hard as stand-up. This dude had low energy, little confidence, and talked about subjects that were tough to relate to. But after him, things looked up, as one comedian after another made me giggle. A very out lesbian comic named Sabrina was a particularly funny. This woman really knew who she was and what we might find funny about it.

Then came Tacky Jacky. She's a friend of a friend, so I was prepared to smile and be nice no matter what. Then she made me laugh my ass off.

Her comedy, my friends, is not for children or the faint of heart. Be prepared for references to every bodily function, sexual act, and humiliating truth about the human heart. You can listen to her songs at, but I don't think the mp3 files quite convey how funny she is. She's 4'11", with pixie pigtails and a wide eyed demeanor that quickly give way to songs like "Shave Me" and "Irish Cock." She's not just shocking for its own sake though. In "Loser" she talks about how she's happy to support her no-job boyfriends because she just wants to, well, to put it nicely -- have sex with them. The refrain of the song features repeated use of the word "fuck," naturally. Anyone who's every been a woman can relate.

(In a dry, academic voice): She's poking fun at both herself and our society's prudery.

Easily shocked or offended? Stay away. Otherwise - await her arrival at an Improv near you. Maybe one day she'll get a TV sitcom of her own.
Los Angeles has a beautiful new train station building downtown. It's probably been there for a few years and I just didn't notice. Yes, the traditional, lovely old train station building remains where it has stood for lo! these many decades. But on the other side of the tracks the city has built a grand, rather nice modern entrance, with a broad smooth road (see above) circling past the entrance (see below) that can fit far more people.

Please pardon lousy photos - they were taken with my camera phone.
Los Angeles is an underappreciated city. We've got world-class museums, a great newspaper, fantastic weather, every kind of food you could ever want, and an attractive, spacious new train station that provides incentive to take public transportation all over the Southland.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Drawing Lessons

I've embarked on an attempt to draw.

Let's be clear - I can't draw. At least not yet. I have no intention of trying to become an artist who draws for any reason other than my own pleasure. I have two friend who are terrific artists and who make a living at it - one as a designer and one as an animator. And I have no illusions that I will ever approach their skill.

But, in the spirit of a creative type, attempting to foster her creativity in whatever way possible, and sort of as an experiment, I'm going to try to follow the lessons in a book I found that helps folks like me learn to draw better. I'm going to follow the assignments as best I can and see what happens. Maybe it won't work! Maybe I shall always draw sucktastically (hey! Shakespeare made up words.)

So the first assignment was to scribble. Part of the point of the book is not to judge yourself, and to realize that all kinds of drawing are valid and have artisitic possibilities. The author showed an adult scribble drawing of one student right next to a Jackson Pollock, and you could see the similarity. Of course, the Pollock was better. But still!

So here's one of my scribbles, drawn to fast music, per her instructions. Just using drawing pencils and pastels. At this point I had yet to purchase my very cool drawing markers. (More on them in an upcoming post.)

Yeah, amazing, ain't it? (cough cough) Or perhaps it could better be described as -- dull. Ah well. Moving on. Here's another scribble, done to more fast music, which is at least more colorful.
See how easy drawing lessons can be when you don't actually have to be good? What I'm hoping is that after a few more months of effot, we shall all look back at these sad little things and compare them to my later masterpieces in astonishment. Either that, or I'll just die of embarrassment.

The best thing to emerge from this so far is my childish delight in my drawing materials and in putting a pencil in my fist like a kid. Life is full of responsibility and attempting to act like an adult. So it's fun to have permission to be silly and childish. I do believe that most good artists are playful. I can always use more of that.

Here's the book I'm using, by the way:

I know, I know. It's for teens. But the subhead says "A Creative Method for Adult Beginners Too", so I hold onto that to preserve a few shreds of dignity. The book got some great reviews, and so far it is very upbeat, encouraging me not to judge myself.

Yeah, that's gonna happen.

Stay tuned for more efforts. Or wince to yourself and click past them. It's all good.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Today's theme: flight.

The guy who shot this photo is my favorite so far found on Flickr. His handle is Antimethod, but his real name is Cole Rise and he's only 21 years old.

Access his photostream at:

Bird in Flight

Found this shot on Flickr (, a fabulous website where anyone can post as many photos of their own as they like. I wish I'd written down the photographer's name and could give you a link to see his other stuff.

I've got a thing for birds, lately. When I was a kid, I decided that if I had only one wish, it would be to fly. Guess that's why.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Brian Wilson - Rocking Genius

Brian Wilson rocked the house at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus last night in concert. You wouldn't think an over-60 seriously medicated relic from the Beach Boys would give one of the best concerts ever in the history of the world, but Brian and his band did just that to celebrate the 40th anniversary of "Pet Sounds," Wilson's acknowledged masterpiece.

It didn't hurt that I was there with my best friend, a musician himself who, when he hears "God Only Knows" or "You Still Believe in Me," tends to smack himself on the forehead and shake his head in disbelief at their beauty.

For the unintiated, it's hard to reconcile the thought that the composer of "Little Deuce Coupe" is a certifiable musical genius. But it's unequivocally true. Check out the snippets of Wilson's harmonic brilliance at (click on #14 - "Our Prayer" and you'll see what I mean.) Wilson can hear these fantastic, haunting, unusual harmonies complete in his head. He's Mozart writing about surfing, love, and loneliness.

So the evening alternated between the abiding melancholy that infuses Wilson's work (Listen again to "Surfer Girl." The sense of longing is palpable.) and rocking good times. The set started off with the band grouped around Wilson, singing "Surfer Girl" with nothing but a couple of guitars and some bongos accompanying them. Wilson was animated, and the band was tight, infused with energy and love for the music. After a few more songs "unplugged," they fanned out to their instruments and were joined by original Beach Boy Al Jardine, who led them in a rousing version of Phil Spector's "And Then I Kissed Her," originally released by the Crystals as "And Then He Kissed Me." Jardine was in good voice, and the crowd gave him a well-deserved standing ovation, since this is the first time in recent memory these two original Beach Boys have sung together.

A series of hits (like the amazing "In My Room," one of my all-time favorite songs) and catalog songs (a blissful "Sail on, Sailor") followed in quick succession. The band's joie de vivre took hold of the audience and never let go. That set ended with the magical "Good Vibrations" (another of my faves), but after a quick five-minute instrument change, everyone came back out to do the entire album of "Pet Sounds." Beginning with the sweet/sad "Wouldn't It Be Nice," they lilted through every track on this classic record. Wilson took a moment before "God Only Knows" to say how proud of the song he was. Then he and the band transported the audience to a land of swirling, heavenly harmonies, infused with sadness, gratitude, and wonder. My friend stood up at the end of the song, and everyone in the auditorium followed suit to give a standing ovation. Wilson was visibly touched.

The first encore was perhaps the greatest encore I've had the privelege to witness. With everyone on their feet, Wilson and the band ran through a string of rabble rousing rock 'n roll, starting off with Chuck Berry's "Johnny B Goode," running through "Surfin' USA," "Fun Fun Fun" and a hilarious "Barbara Ann." We all danced and clapped in time, singing along with the familiar lyrics. Heard live and fueled by the love of the audience, these hits crackled with energy and excitement. You remembered what rock 'n roll was really all about.

In a seemingly impromptu final encore, Wilson came out unexpectedly to serenade us with his gorgeous, heartfelt solo hit, "Love and Mercy." It's a song that means even more today, in the midst of war and uncertainty, than it ever did.

"I was lying in my room
And the news came on TV
A lotta people out there hurting
And it really scares me.

Love and mercy, that's what you need tonight.
So love and mercy to you and your friends tonight.

Love and mercy tonight."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Herewith shots that show details of my trip to France. At the market in Sarlat, locals bargain over truffles, wine, walnut oil, and local fruits and veggies.
A gargoyle at the Palace of the Popes in Avignon appears very friendly.
Proof I was there - me at Les Eyzies, a town in the Dordogne region that sported a fantastic Museum of Prehistory.
A little boy sports armor in the medieval town of Carcassonne.
Back in Sarlat, candles glow before a figure of Mary.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Pogue Mahone

Which in Gaelic means, "kiss my ass."

I saw the Pogues at the Wiltern last Friday, and their rowdy Irish/punk music kicked butt.

Sure, lead singer Shane McGowan slurred most of his brilliant lyrics. During intrumental bits he wandered around the stage, struggling to walk in time with the music, haphazardly pointing his fingers at the ground, almost in rhythm.

But he remembered nearly all the lyrics! And every other member of the band played with a professional intensity and verve that had the whole crowd bopping. Some of them moshed in the pit down below me (I was up in the loge seats - far above the plunging animals, thank you!), and wrapped their beefy arms around each other to sway in long lines during the slower songs.

The Pogues are a band who can get you bouncing to their pounding beat without using an electric guitar, who can make your heart beat faster with a mandolin and an accordian. Lead singer/songwriter Shane McGowan is a notorious drunk (to quote one of his own songs "the miserablest son of bitches bastard's whore") but he can reference everyone from Coleridge to Donleavy to Bredan Behan with a romantic Irish fluency not found anywhere else. His songs talk about hell, ghosts, prostitution, drugs, death, horse racing, dog racing, and every form of alcohol known to man. (There were five green bottles/ Sitting on the floor./ I wish to Christ/ I wish to Christ/ That I had fifty more.") But he can also be intensely romantic, even sweet, conjuring beautiful images of misty mornings or the sound of the haunting corncrake's cry. Hell and heaven intermingle everywhere. A sweet, quiet lullaby with will whisper, "May the ghosts that howl/ 'Round the house at night/ Never keep you from your sleep./ May they all sleep tight/Down in hell tonight/ Or wherever they may be."

In the song "Turkish Song of the Damned," on their masterpiece album "If I Should Fall From Grace with God," Shane sings "I come old friend from hell tonight/Across the rotting sea./Neither the nails of the cross/nor the blood of Christ/can bring you hope this eve." Not only is the "rotting sea" a direct quote from Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," but Shane throws his own crazy ideas about god and hell and Jesus into the mix. He's a Catholic, if not a good one. But then -- he's Irish.

In the far more romantic song "Fairy Tale of New York," Shane and Jem Finer write these classic and typical opening lines: "It was Christmas Eve, babe/ In the drunk tank/ An old man said to me/ Won't see another one..." This lovely song is a duet, and the woman responds at one point: "You scumbag, you maggot/ You cheap lousy faggot/ Happy Christmas your ass/ I pray God it's our last." The song then swoops into a lyrical chorus and finishes with her saying: "You took my dreams from me/When I first found you." He replies: "I kept them with me, babe./ I put them with my own./ Can't make it all alone/ I've built my dreams around you." It's an amazing Poguian mix of anger, alcohol, romance, and poetry.

We all expect the toothless Shane to expire from drink at any moment. But he's lasted this long. Maybe I'll get another chance to see them in a rabble rousing concert one day.

Monday, October 16, 2006

France Photos

Just got back from France, and am worn out with a bit of a head cold. But here are a few of my photos. First up, the Roman aqueduct near Avignon called the Pont du Gard.
And here's a bird's eye view of Provence, taken from the ruined Chateau at Les Baux.
This is the Dordogne river, the central/south/western portion of France. Land of castles, foie gras, walnuts, and strawberries.

Here you can see Wendy and Jennifer, my intrepid travling companions, looking down on the valley from Les Baux.

More later. Off to rest my weary head...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Off to the South of France

I've been too busy at work and at play to post much lately. And next week I'm going to France, so you won't be hearing much after this for a couple of week.

I know. Lucky me.

These pics will give you an idea of what I'm in for. With friends Wendy and Jennifer, I'm winging my way into Bordeaux, then it's off to the Dordogne area -- where castles lurk atop every hill and caves hold paintings made before the dawn of history.

I'll inflict my own photos on you when I get back.

After three nights near Sarlat in the Dordogne area (spent eating and drinking lots of great wine, I hope) we drive down to Provence and stay in Arles to see Roman ruins, more hilltop towns, and to pop a cork on some Chateauneuf de Pape.

After I get back, self-imposed writing deadlines loom, and this blog will again take a backseat. But at the very least I'll impose a few photos and impressions of the places I'm going, just in case you're ever of a mind to go there yourself.

A bientot...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Do Women Have An Expiration Date?

Horrors! A 29-year-old virgin!

That's right, chick magazine Jane has a new feature where you can help find the poor old virgin a nice man she can pop her cherry with. Check out the virgin's blog at


Sarah looks normal, but guess what? She isn't! She's a virgin! There's that horrible, shocking word again. What's wrong with this girl? There must be something. After all, we all had sex when we were fifteen in the back seat of our horny older boyfriend's car right? It was horrible, but we "got it out of the way" and "became a woman." That's what normal girls do. Heaven forbid we wait until we actually feel comfortable with ourselves and with the man we're with. Lord knows that if we wait until our twenties, thirties, or forties -- or forever! -- to have all-important intercourse, we must be fat, ugly, or seriously twisted inside.

Quoth the editor on the Jane website:

When Sarah first e-mailed me, I thought she'd be the type of girl whose voice is so hesitant, you have to read her lips to figure out what she's saying. What I didn't expect was a tall blond with a nice rack who performs stand-up comedy at open-mic nights.

You mean good looking girls with great senses of humor can be virgins? Virgins speak in normal tones, have boobs, and tell jokes in front of hostile crowds? What a revelation!

Remember when virginity was valued? Far be it from me to wax nostalgic for the "good old days," but at least back then, women weren't seen as warped for NOT having sex.

Now we have to hurry up and get women laid before they turn 30. And we can profit from it by featuring their freakishness in a magazine that's supposed to be advocating for women.

Hate to break it to you Jane -- women run the gamut from experienced to virginal at all sorts of ages, with no connection to their level of attractiveness, intelligence, or sense of humor. Some women wait for love, or for maturity, or for the just the right penis to give it up. More power to them.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Imagination = Power

Am toying with a book idea with a theme of "Imagination = Power." If only that were true in the real world. Herewith, a few quotes to keep inspiring me on that theme...

"Imagination is more important than knowledge." – Albert Einstein

"Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality." - Jules de Gaultier

"Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere."- Carl Sagan

Friday, September 08, 2006

Where the Turf Meets the Surf

Welcome to Del Mar Race Track! This little slice of heavens sits not far from the ocean in San Diego County and was founded by Bing Crosby and others back in the thirties. No dirty racetrack full of desperate weirdos this! Mom and I went with our close family friends, Joe and Sharon, this Labor Day weekend, and the place was packed with young families, teens, babies, and grandparents.

These photos were taken with my phone, so please forgive the lousy quality. But I couldn't resist sharing one of my fave spots in Southern California. Above you can see the paddock area, where the jockeys receive last minute encouragement and instructions from the trainer and owners before mounting their charges to head out a brief, fast, dangerous, exciting contest. The grey you see here is one of the many fillies competing in this race, which was for mares and fillies only.

The first race that day took place on turf, the inner ring of grass inside the dirt track. Here you can see the horses approaching the starting gate. Del Mar has an Austrailian announcer, and every time he says in that sexy nasal tone: "The horses have reached the starting gate," I whisper a damned fine Aussie imitation like some sort of readheaded mynah bird.

Here are the horses as they passed us the first time. They'll go around the track once and hit the finish line just past this point.

Mom won the exacta on this first race with a horse named Sip One for Mom and another horse whose name escapes me, whom we shall call Winner. An exacta is a type of bet where you pick the hoses that will come in both first and second. Mom "boxed" this exacta, which means she bet it both ways - Sip One for Mom first, Winner second, and Winner first, Sip One for Mom second. Sip One for Mom was a bit of a longshot, but Mom just had to pick it in memory of her mother, my grandma, who passed away a few months ago, and who would've loved to bet on the horses -- and who didn't mind a little drink every now and then either.

Mom won about $83 on that exacta, which was the biggest single win for out little group that day. I lost every single time. All part of a vast losing streak I've been on for months in every sort of gambling endeavor I try. Poker at with the girls at work, smiling at cute guys, trying to get writing project off the ground, you name it. Zero. I'm overdue for a win here, Universe. Just a friendly reminder.

But it was great to see Mom win. And even in the humidity caused by nearby Hurricane John, Del Mar is beautiful. We Berry folks have a family tradition at this track - my Uncle Bruce was the attorney for the track for many years. I have fond memories of hanging with my cousins, wandering the grandstand, eating cotton candy, and having my Dad place bets for me. Now that Uncle Bruce is gone, the track is a wonderful reminder of him. I'll tell you a secret - his ashes were scattered on the far turn.

Friday, September 01, 2006

What to Watch This Fall

In this week's installment of Notes from the Wasteland on Monsters & Critics, I advise you on what to bother watching and what to avoid as the new fall season of TV begins.


This column only covers the network shows, so I want to put in a special shout out to HBO's fourth season of
The Wire, which may be the best show ever put on television, and which premieres September 10. The first three seasons (available on DVD - rent, buy, or steal them!) are some of the most absorbing, intelligent, funny, violent, real storytelling you will ever see. This is art, on par with the best literature and film, written and produced by a reporter for the Baltimore Sun and a former infantryman/cop/teacher (Dave Simon and Ed Burns) who know the world they're depicting intimately.

It's fun too. Don't get put off when I compare it to Shakespeare or Citizen Kane, thinking somehow that it's good for you but hard to swallow. Pop the first two episodes in of Season One, and you won't be able to stop. And don't be fooled into thinking this is just a cop show -- this show is about life in these United States, from the most intimate moments between human beings to the failings of our society. I get the chills just thinking about how good this show is. You. Must. Watch. It.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Taller = Smarter

Today's self-serving post features a Reuters article that indicates...

Taller people are smarter: study

NEW YORK (Reuters) - While researchers have long shown that tall people earn more than their shorter counterparts, it's not only social discrimination that accounts for this inequality -- tall people are just smarter than their height-challenged peers, a new study finds.

As a six foot tall woman who has endured much derision, romantic heartbreak, and far too many "weather up there" jokes due to my height, I can't help being tickled, if skeptical.

In a bar once, a man looked up at me, and said, "You're an Amazon. I could climb all over you."

What to say but, "No, you couldn't."

Overall I see height as a blessing, in spite of my fear of high heel shoes, low hanging branches, getting into a Miata, airplane seats, and twin beds in cheap hotels.

Read the whole delightful article at:

Friday, August 25, 2006

Your Inner Jackson Pollock

Think you got what it takes to be the next Jackson Pollock? Take a look at his masterpiece, Number 1, and then go to:

Whoosh your cursor over the blank screen and see splotches and lines of color appear. Click the mouse to randomly change colors as often as you like. Press ESC to see the credits.

Sadly, after a few attempts of my own, I have come to the conclusion that he was a genius, and that NOT just anyone can do this stuff. Maybe you'll do better!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Create and Motivate

Create your own motivational poster! (That's my first attempt above.)

Click here:

Here's another one. What a hoot!

Monday, August 21, 2006

About the Author

So I'm writing a book proposal. It's tough. I can't talk about the subject matter of the book, alas, but figuring out how to best write a proposal for a non-fiction book is just as much of an adventure as writing the book itself.

Okay, maybe it's less work than writing the entire book, but that's kind of the point. You describe the contents of the book, then why it simply must be published, then you show it to an agent who hopefully says, "Wow! I must represent you and sell this to a major publisher for lots of money." The publisher is also thrilled with it, and they give you money to finish the book for them. So the proposal is a sales tool, an extended pitch. I just finished a rough draft of the About the Authors section. Whew! Yes, there will be two authors -- I have a co-writer, who shall remain nameless for now. After I get the whole proposal together (including two sample chapters) I'll hand it over to him and let him tinker with it before we start submitting it to agents. It isn't easy to write laudatory malarkey about yourself, but it's all about selling in a book proposal, so I had to retire my native modesty for a little while and talk about all the wonderful things I bring to the plate.

And the subject? It's a corker. It's rip-snorting entertainment, with a touch of inspiration. Once the book is published (see? I'm just positive that it will be) I might post the proposal itself so that folks can see how it works.

Next up? The all important About the Book section. Oy. Wish me luck!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Agent Insight

Get inside a literary agent's head with this blog:

The agent reps authors who do fantasy novels, but even if you write other sorts of books, this blog will give you an idea of what NOT to do. Funniest pieces involve her ripping apart various queries and manuscripts sent to her by clueless, hopeful writers.

Writing is hard. Not everyone can do it. Even those of us who can (cough cough) have a tough time doing it right. Tidbits like these are most helpful.

Cliche Central. Hey! Is that a cliche?

People are lazy. People talk, drive, write, and live without thinking.

Wake up! Pay attention to your life. Pay attention to what you say, write, and do. It affects others. And it affects you -- it makes you who you are.

As a writer, I'm always keeping my eyes peeled (that's one of my favorite idioms - "keeping your eyes peeled" -- it's just so gross and evocative) for cliches in writing. Cliches crop up constantly due to laziness. Came across a couple of interesting sites that list and debate what phrases and words have had just a tad too much use:

Reminds me of a bumper sticker my Dad saw once. It said: "Eschew Obfuscation."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Emmy Predictions

In my latest delightful column I fearlessly predict who will win an Emmy, then shamelessly offer my opinion on who actually should win.


'Cause it's just such an important topic.

Also, Monsters & Critics now has forums, where you can post your thoughts on movies, TV, news, reviews, columns, etc. The site has over 1 million unique viewers every month and over 150,000 a day!

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Rat's Head

I arrived at my backdoor last night to find this resting on my doormat.

Yes, it's a rat's head.

Sorry. I know it's gross. You can imagine how I felt upon finding it resting in front my back door. I picked up the doormat and shook it. The rat's head flashed its bloody neck stump as it rolled onto the pavement of my porch. I haven't had the stomach to get a broom and sweep it into the vegetation nearby.

Here is the elusive Miss Kitty, aka Killer. She's the feral mother of my cat Lucy, and I feed her evening and mornng on my back porch. I have no proof, but I believe the rat's head is a gift from her. Several years ago, before Miss Kitty was born, I fed her mother, Zoe, on a regular basis. I never managed to get Zoe spayed; she was too wild to tame, and I had yet to rent a cat trap. One day she brought her nearly weaned kittens, one of whom was Miss Kitty, to me, presenting them as if to say - now what? I responded by putting out more food. The kittens ate hungrily as their mother watched.

After work the following day, I came home to find the head of a snake on my doormat. It was a good two inches long, still silvery and scaly.

So you see, this gory gift giving runs in the family. My Lucy comes from a line of fearsome female hunters. Rodents, birds, and their ilk should be grateful that I keep her safely indoors. If this keeps up, who knows what sort of head will show up on my doormat next? Coyotes beware.

Hit and Run

I was rear-ended on my way to work this past Wednesday. I had stopped at a huge intersection so as not to block traffic, and this young woman in a black American coupe smashed into me going about 25 miles per hour.

(No, this is not a photo of any of the cars involved in this accident, but it is a close approximation of how I feel after this whole brouhaha.)

What the hell was she thinking? It's a busy city street, morning rush hour, signs indicating construction up ahead -- PAY ATTENTION, WOMAN!

But it gets worse. As I sat there dazed after the impact, she got out of her car and walked up to my window. She was in her mid-twenties, brown hair, white, maybe 5' 6" (make a note of that in case you ever see her...) and said "Are you okay? Why don't you pull over there (here she motioned to a side street, away from all the heavy traffic we were now blocking) and I'll meet you." "Okay," I said, trying to focus. When the light turned green, I made my way to the side street...only to see her take off in her smashed coupe in a completely different direction.

I saw red. "You BITCH!" I screamed, pulling a U-Turn at top speed and racing after her. Only to be blocked by a truck in the small turning lane. I tried to squeeze by, determined to get her license plate -- and scraped the fender of the truck. Damn! But I did get the first three letters of her plate: 4TL. So if you see that woman in her smashed up car, get the rest of the plate for me, will ya?

I was a surprised at my own fury. I hadn't cared about the consequences; I just wanted revenge. I'm not an angry person, but this and other recent experiences have taught me a bit about myself. It takes a lot for me to feel put upon. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, perhaps too much. But once I realize that you have fucked me over, that's it. I get mad. Ram my car, then you run? I will hunt you down until a truck interferes. I will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.

I gave the driver of the truck my insurance info and called the cops. One showed up not too much later, after I'd had a good cry and a very nice tow truck man checked in on me. So now my car's in the shop for the next month or so, insurance should cover the rental and most of the repairs, and I'm booking a luxurious massage for myself to take care of the whiplash. Everyone the whole rest of the day was very nice to me, and I felt a lot of gratitude toward my seatbelt, grateful to just be alive. After all, it's just a car. It's just money. I'm alive and can move all my parts with only a bit of pain. And that'll improve.

I love living in LA, but if this had happened in a smaller town, the cops would've shown more interest in tracking this idiot down and arresting her. The LAPD cop I spoke to was courteous but doubtful she'd be caught. Seems to me there can't be many black American-make coupes with a license plate that begins 4TL. Surely half an hour spent in a database search could turn up a few likely suspects. But my guess is that there are too many more serious crimes to spend their manpower on. I'd be happy to ID her in a line-up, but I don't think I'll get the chance.

Sof anyone ever hits you - don't pull over and let them be free of traffic until you get their information, or at least a license plate number. And wear your seatbelt!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


I've had two otherwise reasonable people argue with me recently, saying that English should be the official language of the USA, and that everyone who lives here "should" learn English. Apparently, not learning English is "un-American," and we "waste" tax dollars on teachers who teach in other languages (I've yet to find proof of this).

What I find un-American is this attempt to undermine the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech. The most basic part of speech, before you even get to the words, is which language you are using. So not only does our Consitution guarantee you the right to say obnoxious or offensive things, it allows you to say them in any language you choose. AND - the government cannot dictate which language you say things in, just as it can't dictate what words you say. So this attempt to dictate which language people speak to each other is little more than thought control, which is expressly forbidden in the Constitution. These folks who think they are being so very "American" in their assertion are in fact attempting to undermine the founding document of our government. They themselves are thus un-American.

As for tax dollars, I'd like to know how my friends would pay to make sure everyone in this country spoke English. Are they willing to drag folks to classes against their will? How would these classes be paid for? What standard should we hold people too when we test them? Should those born in this country be assumed to speak English and thus not be tested? (I've encountered many who think they are fluent in English because they were born here and yet don't know good grammar from a hole in the wall -- should these people be taught too at taxpayer expense?) If someone takes these classes and these tests and fails, what punishment should be meted out? How do we pay for the bureaucracy necessary for all this?

Apparently English just somehow, magically, is the language of this country. When I asked where that was written down, either in the Constitution or in some other legal document, I got a blank stare and and the assertion that it just is true. I was told that in France, people must learn French, and it's the same in other countries. Even if that is true, which I doubt, why should America become more like France? Should we violate our own Consitution to become more like a country where you are guilty until proven innocent? The freedoms guaranteed to Americans are what make this country great, and they are what draw immigrants here, including every single one of our ancestors, barring those of Native American descent.

I think mostly people just don't want to be inconvenienced. I have a Russian landlady who struggles with English, and I've had my frustrating moments trying to communicate with her. But guess what? The Constitution doesn't protect you from frustration. It doesn't protect you from being offended. In fact, it very specifically allows people to be offensive and frustrating. That's freedom, people. It's messy. It means we all don't think the same, look the same, talk the same, and act the same.

Welcome to the messy, polyglot economic powerhouse that is America. Welcome to every shade of skin from whitest white to darkest black. Welcome to every language, every creed, every orientation. The US Consitution is a document outlining a country based on the principle of freedom. This is what it looks like. This is what it sounds like.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Adorable Children

I know I'm biased in thinking that my friends have particularly well behaved and adorable children. But really - they just are! Herewith, proof, at least of their physical cuteness. I visited my friend Ruth this weekend, and took these photos. First, there's Emma, now five.

And here's Dash, all of two. He has a fondness for machinery already. At this point he can't operate a car or a saw, so he has fun with simpler tools, like this juicer, or the mop and bucket. He needs to come over to my place and make me some fresh squeezed orange juice before tending to my hardwood floors.

As you can see, Dash is a redhead, so I sometimes feel like he might be mistaken for mine when I'm pushing him on the swing at the park while Ruth is off playing hide and seek with Emma. But both kids really do look like their lovely Mom.

For more proof that my friends have adorable children, scroll down to see Hunter and Logan playing with sparklers. Although my obvious talent for photography might have something to do with it too... cough cough.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Remember when sparklers were the coolest thing, and you couldn't wait to write your name with them on the Fourth of July? I got a chance to recall that kind of excitement at a friends' BBQ on the 4th.

Maritza lit up the sticks for the kids, who reacted warily at first to the jumpy fire at the other end.

But pretty soon they were jumping around, throwing down poppers, swinging those sparklers like swords.

You gotta love Burbank, that bastion of suburban life. You can't buy sparklers there -- Maritza had to go all the way to Asuza to find some. But they had a fiery display spurted out from the Starlight Bowl that led to a traffic jam of SUVs in the Burbank foothills.

We adults, full of barbecued meat, veggies, and Death by Chocolate, lounged nearby and awaited the fireworks, which burst nearly overhead thanks to Pam and Scott's excellent location. We concluded, that amortized over 30 years of July 4ths, the view of the fireworks had to add at least a quarter of a million to the value of their home.

Young Hunter's commentary during the display was even more entertaining than the fireworks themselves. During one burst he said, "It's a puppy!"

The Emmy's - Now with Only One Foot in the Grave!

My latest and most popular column so far is up at Monsters and Critics ( I take the Emmys to task and am rather opinionated, shall we say, in my views. One opinion begets another, so there are already a few comments from readers. Some praise me. Some say I am "very small in my thought." Whatever -- it's all good! Hate me, but read me!

Monday, June 19, 2006

What to Watch This Summer

My latest column shamelessly uses the tried and true "List" to get your attention. I'm sure you've noticed how ubiquitous lists are in magazines these days. People love debate. They enjoy comparing their own thoughts rankings with a writer's opinion. We writers are happy to use that to get you to read our stuff.

So check out my list of top ten things to watch on TV this summer season at and compare it to your own private list. Curse me for a fool, or laud me as a genius, but just check it out. We writers love attention!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Movies for the Dead

I joined a group of friends at the cemetery for a movie the other night. Every summer, Hollywood Forever, cemetery to the stars, hosts movies on Saturday nights. Yes, it's rather appalling to think of "Philadelphia Story" (a great movie, by the way) being projected onto the wall of a mausoleum while picnickers enjoy wine and cheese not far from the tomb of Douglas Fairbanks and one of the Ramones. It's disrespectful, I suppose. When I discussed this outing with friends at work, they expressed a distaste for disturbing the dead in such a manner.

But I enjoyed it. I've always liked cemeteries -- they are not only peaceful, but fascinating. We're all so afraid of death. How we decide to mark our deaths provides a fascinating show for those left behind. And Hollywood Forever contains the remains of Rudolph Valentino and Mary Pickford. What better way to celebrate them than to watch the very medium that made them famous amongst their crypts? When I went to Paris, I visited Pere-Lachaise cemetery and found Oscar Wilde's tomb covered with lipstick kisses. I couldn't help wondering - were most of them put there by men or women? Was Oscar's shade uttering excoriating witticisms on this foolishness, or did he appreciate it? Just how long does a lipstick kiss last when smooched onto stone, anyway?

Just to clarify - at Hollywood Forever, picnickers are not actually seated on or near tombstones during the films. There's a big grassy area where you can drop your blanket or set up your beach chair. We established our enclave at the foot of a large mausoleum, but we did not touch it, since the resident had fortuitously built an iron fence around it to keep picnickers at bay. Port-a potties, with electric lights inside, stood by at the other end of the grassy area to accomodate those particular needs. Loud, bass-heavy dance music pounded incongruously at us as DJ continued to pick songs utterly inappropriate to either our location or the movie selection. I think I recognized a Prince song at one point, but the vocals and upper registers were so faint, it was nearly impossible to tell.

As Valerie and I ate grapes, salad, and cheese, sipped a fine merlot, and chatted with her friends Vanessa and Monty, a full golden moon rose over the palm trees. Night fell, and I reclined as the movie revved up and took the crowd by storm. At first the sound was almost too echoy to for comprehension. But my ears quickly assimilated. The only obstacles to enjoyment were my aching back (note to self: next time bring a beach chair), the couple in front of me, who would snuggle and kiss at unpredictable intervals, blocking my view at crucial dramatic moments (note to self: curse all couples for snuggling while I recline alone), and the fireworks, which began around 10:30 on the Paramount lot a few blocks away (note to self: develop contacts to get invited to cool Saturday parties on the Paramount lot that feature fireworks.) Normally I'm a fireworks fan, but the loud cracking and popping interfered with the ripsnorting dialogue that drives "Philadelphia Story" to its hilarious conclusion. Nonetheless, we all applauded as it flew to its end.