Friday, March 28, 2008

Exercise #7 - How to Make Buttons

Miranda July excels at getting inside the minds of children, and she embodies that in this absurd short video called "How to Make Buttons."

Watch the video, then come up with a short humorous poem, flash fiction piece, or humorous essay on how to make something, some sort of object we see every day.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sea World vs. Hollywood

I work and live in Hollywood. The other day Eddie Izzard jogged past me down Hollywood Boulevard. Glamorous types hike with their even more glamorous dogs at a site near my house where Errol Flynn used to live. Silent movie stars built my apartment building. I work on a major studio lot where George Clooney and Brad Pitt can be seen regularly. Famous writers, former studio heads, and pushy producers come into my offices every day for meetings. It's so omnipresent that it's old hat. I forget that some folks might think these things are interesting until I mention it casually to someone not in the industry and see their eyes light up.

So what charmed me this weekend? Hanging with my friend's twin boys at Sea World.

Yes folks, it's the anti-glamour of captive marine mammals, hot sun, and five year old boys who each must have their own ice cream bar shaped like Shamu.

I have mixed feelings about places like Sea World. The seal/sea lion exhibit was awfully small for the eight animals they had cooped up in there. I was relieved to hear during the dolphin show that the dolphins had been born there, but the enormous pilot whales could barely turn around in the pool they kept them in, pre-show. I silently prayed that when they are not performing, they have a much larger world to swim in.

But those twin boys were shivering with delight as they watched the whales splash the audience with their enormous tails. At one point, one of the boys, exhausted from all the excitement, came over and draped himself over me, the way my elderly cat does when he wants to cuddle, and nearly fell asleep.

I'm sure I don't really need to expand on the sweet charm of such a moment. It blows seeing Eddie Izzard in a bright blue jogging suit out of the water. No offense, Eddie.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Single Chicks Rule

As a happy woman who happens to be single at the moment, I really appreciated an email sent to me recently by a friend entitled "The Fairy Tale." Single or attached, check it out. It's so true.


Once upon a time, a guy asked a girl "Will you marry me?" The girl said: "NO!" And the girl lived happily ever-after and went shopping, dancing, camping, drank martinis, always had a clean house, never had to cook, did whatever the hell she wanted, never argued, didn't get fat, traveled more, had many lovers, didn't save money, and had all the hot water to herself. She went to the theater, never watched sports, never wore friggin' lacy lingerie that went up her ass, had high self esteem, never cried or yelled, felt and looked fabulous in sweat pants and was pleasant all the time.

The End

Match it for Pratchett

Author Terry Pratchett has been diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimer's Disease and has donated half a million English pounds to Alzheimer's research.

If you've read Pratchett's hilarious fantasy novels, which satirize everything from the Iraq war to the the post office, you know what a loss it will be when the disease finally takes control of his brilliant brain. Where else can you find a mysterious, occasionally vicious sentient suitcase, a troll policeman, and an orangutan librarian? Check out Wyrd Sisters to meet some of the coolest witches on earth, and Death's apprentice in Mort.

Want to help? Head on over to Match it For Pratchett, where you can click and donate to match Pratchett's own donation to Alzheimer's research, which is apparently fastly underfunded. Who knew?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Shoes in the Rain - Exercise #6

This week's writing exercise comes from this intriguing photo, found as usual on ffffound.

What happened here?

Write a sentence, a poem, a short story, or whatever you want, giving the reader some idea of what's going on in this photo.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Farewell to "The Wire"

The best TV show ever made is over. I'm depressed that there will be no more new episodes of The Wire.

Don't worry, I won't spoil the ending here. I have a group of friends who still haven't seen the last two episodes, and I must remain mum for fear of inciting their wrath. This weekend they will all come over to my house (I'm the only one with HBO), as they have all season, to watch those episodes, eat pizza, and raise a glass of Jameson's to their favorite show.

Yes, it's almost like a cult. Want to join?

Seriously, if you haven't watched this show, YOU MUST. Anyone who does watch it acquires an almost evangelical fervor about it. Check out this post on McSweeneys if you don't believe me.

Start with Season One, because this novel-like series builds a complex, fascinating web of characters and stories from the very beginning. Events in Season Five harken back to moments in Season Three, or even all the way back to Season One. It's the portrait of the American city. It features some of the best unknown actors on the planet. It's brilliant, angry, violent, insightful, and often hilarious.

It's damned entertaining and enlightening. For a taste, check out this famous scene from Season One, when detectives McNulty and Bunk go to the scene of a long gone murder... and solve it while saying only the word "fuck."

Then go watch it all. A few episodes in, and you'll be joining our cult. I guaran-damn-tee you, dog.

Thanks to creators David Simon and Ed Burns for this show. They are fricking geniuses, our modern day Aeschylus and Sophocles. As Omar Little (played by Michael Williams, pictured above) would say. True 'dat.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Don't Die, Dammit

So here's a real life story that suggests some interesting fictional possibilities.

Reuters reports that "The mayor of a village in southwest France has threatened residents with severe punishment if they die, because there is no room left in the overcrowded cemetery to bury them."

In an ordinance posted in the council offices, Mayor Gerard Lalanne told the 260 residents of the village of Sarpourenx that "all persons not having a plot in the cemetery and wishing to be buried in Sarpourenx are forbidden from dying in the parish."

It added: "Offenders will be severely punished."

The mayor said he was forced to take drastic action after an administrative court in the nearby town of Pau ruled in January that the acquisition of adjoining private land to extend the cemetery would not be justified.

Lalanne, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Wednesday and is standing for election to a seventh term in this month's local elections, said he was sorry that there had not been a positive outcome to the dilemma.

"It may be a laughing matter for some, but not for me," he said.
(Reporting by Claude Canellas, Writing by Andrew Dobbie; editing by Sami Aboudi)

What if the folks in this small village DID stop dying? What if they all remained alive as long as there was no room in the cemetery, and this went on for years? And then what if, all of a sudden, someone offered them land for burials?

Possibilities for story everywhere in this big crazy world!

I feel a short story coming on.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Are You a Cat or a Dog?

All right, one more personality test - are you more Cat or Dog?

Here's my result. Rather predictable for those who know how much of an animal lover I am.

You Are: 50% Dog, 50% Cat

You are a nice blend of cat and dog.

You're playful but not too needy. And you're friendly but careful.

And while you have your moody moments, you're too happy to stay upset for long.

What spice are you?

There are days when I love to do these stupid personality tests that tell you which type of dog you are, or which Star Wars character you are. Today's test - what spice are you?

Go here to take the test.

My result? Well, I found it hard to pick which type of food is my favorite, so I picked Italian because my four months in Bologna were the tastiest of my life. So here's what I got.

You Are Basil

You are quite popular and loved by most people.

You have a mild temperament, but your style is definitely distinctive.

You are sweet, attractive, and you often smell good.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Homicide Report

Found a sobering, fascinating blog on the LA Times site today called The Homicide Report. written mostly by blogger/reporter Ruben Vives, with contributions from Jill Leovy. It catalogs every single homicide in LA County, along with victim's age, occupation, race, family, and the particulars known about the death. Click on a sidebar and they'll tell you why they report the race of the victims - because race is a huge factor in whether you will die via homicide. Black men make up 4% of the population in Los Angeles, but they are far and away the most numerous victims of homicide. Other statistics are available if you look around and click, including a homicide map of LA, which shows that the area south of the 10 Freeway is much more dangerous than the area north of it.

The story at the top of the page today when I clicked showed a photo of a young black football player, shot to death by two Latino youths when he failed to tell them any gang affiliation. Click on the comments, and you'll see everything from political commentary to condolences.

Each death suggests a longer life cut off too soon. Each suggests a story, a character, or a dreadful moment. It's the real life stuff that trumps fiction every time, and leads a writer to wonder how the earnest lies we write can ever illuminate the truth out there.

Misogyny in Hollywood? No!

Today's must read: Radar Magazine has a funny, spot-on piece available online called "No Country for Fat Chicks," which highlights the most misogynistic films of the past decade.

They begin with Superbad, tweak Ocean's Thirteen, and rightfully slam my pick for most misogynistic movie of the decade, Sin City. Take that 13 going on 30, Bridget Jones' Diary, and Hustle and Flow!