Saturday, March 03, 2007

A sleep trance, a dream dance, A shared romance

As you know, I like wonderfully smart women like Linda Ellerbee. It follows, therefore, that I like Linda Ellerbee. That's why I was surprised to learn that she published a third volume of autobiography in 2005 and I only just found out about it this year.

Well, this is why God, Goddess or whoever's-in-charge made libraries. I requested it, it came in, I'm reading it now. I like it, even though I'm appalled at her dissipated memory for assigning a quotation from Charlie Brown to Snoopy. I expected better.

But that's not important right now. What's important is that I love when you find connections between things. On page 247 Ellerbee writes about the time her daughter told her she was getting married.

"We've picked September 1, 2001," Vanessa said.

September 1, 2001, was my 30th birthday. So let's review. In the last two days, purely by chance, I:

Have heard a CD by a band I had never heard of before but like. The first song and first word of which have the same name as one of my characters, if we're not going to quibble over spelling and we're not.

Have learned that one American title for a film by a writer/director I like is the same as the story I've been working on writing or selling since 2004. And at a passing glance, so is the subject matter.

And the daughter of a woman whose work I like was married on my birthday.

I choose to believe these are all good signs for the pitching forum I'm going to tomorrow.

Holy crap.

Most of you know by now that I've been working on/trying to sell for a few years first a screenplay, then novel called My Girlfriend's Boyfriend. Some of you may also remember my paying homage to French filmmaker Eric Rohmer.

Rohmer has a talent for dialogue (given that I have to assume that through the translator) and a taste for writing about women, misunderstandings, ambiguity, and dancing. As do I, he said modestly.

You may even remember that I tend to get really if passingly sad whenever I think someone's encroaching on "my" title or ideas. With all of the above in mind, you'll understand my chagrined reaction to coming across this.

On the one hand, it makes me want to bang my head against the computer desk, virtually speaking. If for no other reason than who's going to believe I didn't know about it and it's all an amazing coincdence?

On the other, it is an amazing coincidence-this is a film by Rohmer I've never seen. And I kind of like the thought (or confirmation) that a filmmaker who engages me and I are working with similar ideas.

Nevertheless...holy crap.

The world is a very, very, very, very strange place.

Case in point.

That does it.

You may have heard of a little something called Conservapedia. This is, as Sean at Cosmic Variance says,
a rightward-tilting alternative to Wikipedia that aims to ensure that future generations of conservatives grow up really dumb.

Sean has a few examples of their...well I hesitate to use the word "definitions." Let's just say their "original interpretations." Most of these are worth, at best, a grimace and roll of the eyes. Including:

Since atheists have no God, as a philosophical framework atheism simply provides no logical basis for any moral standard. They live their lives according to the rule that “anything goes”. In recent years, this has led to a large rise in crime[1], drug use, pre-marital sex, teenage pregnancy,[2] pedophilia[3] and bestiality.

But here was the straw that broke the bloody camel's back:

Anything Goes
“Anything Goes” is the title of a 1934 musical production written by Cole Porter. Popular songs from the musical include “You’re the Top,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” and “Anything Goes.”

Because Porter was a homosexual, we can conclude that ‘anything goes’ was also his philosophy of life.

A word for any conservatives who may, by happenstance, have stumbled across this blog. Your support of one of the most careless (in every sense of the word) presidents in modern memory and his war of choice is one thing.

But when you start taking ignorant little shots at one of the great writers and composers of the 20th century...that's when I have to ask you to step outside.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Ho. Ly. Shit.

So yesterday I got one of those periodic packages I get from press folk containing one or more CDs they're hoping I'll review. My philosophy on unsolicited packages like this is that I'll scan the PR sheet and if it makes the band look interesting I'll give it a test spin.

This one, for a band called Hail Social, describes them as "ethereal, stylistically-lithe dance rock," and, quoting The Stranger, "Some bands burn white hot, but Hail Social burn hot pink." Well! That did indeed sound just like my cup of tea.

We eighties guys can't resist our hot pink.

I made a mental note to put this album in the CD player this afternoon. Then I put the package down and thought no more about it. Didn't look at the cover or anything until I started playing it just before signing on here.

First things I noticed: That clapped-out drum machine sound that I actually like 'cos it's so retro. Synthesizer figures that sound like children's toy pianos. All good so far. Then the lead vocalist, who actually sounds like a less-operatic (and that's a good thing) Freddy Mercury starts singing.

And I start grabbing for the CD booklet, to make sure I heard him right. Sure enough, the first line of the very first song is:

"Annabelle you never knew the words to any songs..."

That's its title.

This is the most cosmic bribe I have ever received.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

F.U.T.K. or .............What's all this talk about love?

I didn't set out to the video store yesterday intending to get a couple of "celebrity/politics" documentaries. I think I was just looking for "rebels who stood up and won" stories. Which brings me to the Dixie Chicks' Shut Up & Sing.

This is a better film than The U.S. vs John Lennon. Partly this is because of the intimacy of documentarians Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck's approach. Another, related reason is because The Chicks' movie is almost unfolding in real time, so thankfully we're spared any glib synopsis of "just what it all means." The Lennon flick pauses periodically so celebs ranging from Yoko Ono to Walter Cronkite can give us their overview from the safe vantage point of more than 30 years later.

Politics aside for a moment, in some ways this could be a typical video for any band's fanbase, with footage of them with their families or hanging around backstage, doing radio interviews and such.

It's exceedingly enjoyable just on that level. The Dixies come off both as the kind of hot Chicks I've always known they are, and the shrewd women I want to think they are. Politics should never have been allowed to overshadow these women's gifts.

Of course it did, at least briefly, but the filmmakers never succumb to the temptation to dot all the i's and cross all the t's about that. They just present the footage of what happened as it happened.

There is a link between the material showing them with their families and the freedom of speech issue. Again, the movie admirably never hits us over the head with this, it's all done by allusion. A short sequence with Natalie's father, a steel guitarist who has played with and produced for the band, gives you a sense of the context in which she was raised.

Their relationship seems to be filled with a lot of affectionate teasing. It's not at all hard to believe he would have helped raise someone with as big a mouth as hers (and I mean that in the best way).

And seeing each of the women with their children (the Dixie Chicks all seem to have uncommonly darling children) is impossible to forget. When the backlash digresses into death threats, you're always thinking, these women are each somebody's (more than one somebody) mother.

I'd always heard something about motherhood and apple pie not being something "real" Americans, like the kind who picketed their shows, spoke against. Much less threatened.

Check out the trailer and I'll be back in a few minutes with a lighter note.

On that lighter note, each time I see the Chicks they seem to come one step closer to perfect. You may well be asking yourselves, what could they do now?

Eight words: Jokes about blow jobs and not wearing panties. These are my women.

Of course, the irony of the pro-Bush crowd's attack on the Chicks, as they know very well, is that it has allowed them to explore slightly new musics and a vastly new audience. If that crowd hadn't been such idiots...

A brief digression that may seem off-topic, but I'm going somewhere. The Late Shift, Bill Carter's intensely readable book about how NBC let David Letterman get away, ends with Jay Leno looking like a "loser."

Dave, meanwhile, looks like a winner as, after regularly cleaning Jay's clock in the ratings, he goes off to host the Academy Awards. We all know how that worked out. Letterman was widely judged to have screwed up the Oscar gig, and shortly therafter Leno started beating the pants off him in ratings if not creativity (I don't want to get into that).

My point is, these kinds of stories are always ongoing. And because the Dixie Chicks story is still unfolding, it means that the movie necessarily ends before a very nice chapter in it indeed, when they sweep the Grammys with five wins and are further rewarded with a big jump in sales of their album.

Which brings me to my Wish List. I haven't made this kind of naked appeal in some time, but if you scroll up, look over to the right there and click the View my complete profile link...

Everybody wants to be a clown, or, lick my reactograph

Things I've Found In Books:

Just now, on page 221 of the Seattle Public Library's copy of The World of Entertainment, by Hugh Fordin.

This is a book about MGM, and includes a reproduction of a chart labeled
Portions of an audience reactograph chart during a preview of Good News

Some thoughtful person has circled the word "reactograph" in pencil; drawn a line to a question mark and asked "What is being measured?"

Now, that would seem obvious, even if "reactograph" isn't a real word (which it isn't), from the context. What was being measured was the audiences response to the preview of the 1947 film, their reaction, you might say.

But, when you first look at it...

Coming to you on a dusty road, Good loving

Weird. So I'm driving my cat home from a follow-up visit to the vet, and one of those "greatest hits of all time" radio stations goes on a real nice streak of songs. And I don't know if this was deliberate, but I noticed something.

They played, in a row, "California Girls" by the Beach Boys, "Soul Man" by Sam and Dave, "Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison, and "Think" by Aretha Franklin. Each one of those songs links with one of the other ones.

What's the connection, top-10 fans?

at first just ghostly, turned a whiter shade of pale

In keeping with my secondary theme this week of the Beatles, I watched the U.S. vs. John Lennon documentary on DVD. My reaction to it reminds me of the one I had when I saw Imagine: John Lennon in the theater: It didn't tell me anything I didn't know, but it's nice to have the pictures.

I've never considered myself that well-read of a Lennon fan compared to some, but perhaps I am. I've certainly read enough to know they left out a few things in this film. Some, like the Lennons' separation during part of the time period covered by the film, are perhaps understandable.

But it's harder to understand why they left out one of my favorite pieces of trivia. One of the photos in the FBI John Lennon file was not in fact a picture of him, but a musician named David Peel, who appears briefly. John Lennon was one of the most famous faces of his time and the freaking FBI couldn't properly identify him.

And I didn't feel that enough was done to draw the connections between what was happening then and what is happening today. Still though, it's nice to have the pictures.

PS if you're wondering, yes I know the song quoted in the headline is not a Lennon song, it's just that it started running through my head at some point during the movie.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

When the sun shines they slip into the shade and...

Trivia question, Beatles fans. What was groundbreaking about the May '66 single "Paperback Writer/Rain?" Besides the backwards vocals on "Rain," which is not what I'm looking for, cool though they are.

What you gonna do when it all cracks up?

What you gonna do when things go wrong?
What you gonna do when it all cracks up?
What you gonna do when the Love burns down?
What you gonna do when the flames go up?
Who is gonna come and turn the tide?
What's it gonna take to make a dream survive?
Who's got the touch to calm the storm inside?
Who's gonna save you?

-Simple Minds

Well some of the crowd are on the pitch...

I'm planning to attend a forum this Sunday on "Pitching to Agents." It'll be my first time at such an event. I know that a few of you who read my blog are writers ranging from the still-fledgling like myself to the actually published.

So on the theory that it's better to ask a stupid question than to make a stupid mistake, I thought I'd ask: Have any of you ever been to an event like this, and if so, can you tell me what to expect? In terms of what, if anything, I should bring or what I should be prepared to do, etc?

I'm going there with the possibility of being able to make a five-minute pitch to an agent. But that's not definite-writers will be chosen to pitch, by lottery, after the agents speak. I think I'm prepared to make a verbal pitch if "my number comes up".

But would it be a good idea to have sample chapters or a synopsis on hand? Or would that just mark me out as unprofessional?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The real terror.

"Daily Show" watchers among you...did anyone else notice the scariest thing about the segment tonight with the bigots running pig races outside the mosque? When the correspondent was interviewing people at the race, you could hear music in the background.

It was, clearly, "The Macarena."

In 2007.


Savage but not smart

On Media Matters:
On the February 26 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, after playing an audio clip of the beginning of singer Melissa Etheridge's acceptance speech at the Academy Awards in which she thanked her wife and four children, Michael Savage said: "I don't like a woman married to a woman. It makes me want to puke. ... I want to vomit when I hear it. I think it's child abuse." Savage later similarly stated: "I want to puke when I hear about a woman married to a woman raising children because, frankly, I think that it's child abuse to do that to children without their permission. What does a child know? Ask them when they're 16 whether they want to be raised by two lesbians or two men," adding: "What are the two men doing behind the other wall? You think the children don't hear it?"

A choice of replies (with kibitzing from the usual suspects):

One...Yes, let's ask your average 16-year-old boy if he wants to live with two lesbians.

(Colley: Well, it depends on who the two lesbians are...)

(Keitha & Annabel: Hey!) think children don't hear it when men and women have sex? When my old friend Marco Pecenco's mom was dating the man who later became his stepfather...well, he used to say at times he was tempted to pound the wall and say Knock it off! I'm a kid, for Christ's sake...

I like this story

Sad though it is.

A classical music producer in Britain has admitted to deception by passing off recordings by famous pianists as the work of his late wife who, he said, wanted to end her cancer-ridden life "on a high note."

The confession by William Barrington-Coupe that he released other musicians' recordings under the name of his pianist wife, Joyce Hatto, has shocked the classical music world.

"What I've done is completely wrong, but I didn't go in for wholehearted piracy. It wasn't a question of putting other people's performances out but covering little, involuntarily noises. She had so much pain," Barrington-Coupe said in a letter to recording company BIS records published Tuesday.

Barrington-Coupe, who was sentenced for tax evasion in 1966, has said he was not motivated by money and had made a "thumping great loss" after selling just 8,500 Hatto CD's.

Michael Spring, sales manager of Hyperion Records, some of whose recordings were published as Hatto's, said: "I feel we should do something, although it will cost a lot of money to bring him to court. We need to get a list of all the recordings he's pirated."

Read the whole item.

You can call me an old softy, but I find his actions incredibly sad, romantic and sweet. I think the copyright holders of the original recordings should get a fair share of any future monies they bring in, but beyond that no action should be taken.

Apart from the potential (but inappropriate) double-meaning of the word "closet"

...this is pretty accurate.

Ben Hecht:

The sad thing about writing fiction is that unless one writes classics one writes in a closet. Nothing can disappear like a book. The characters I made up are still alive...but in the closet always. Like all writers who have tried hard, I dream sometimes that the closet door will open.
-A Child of the Century (1954)

To shock and surprise of all...

...the Van Halen reunion with David Lee Roth is off. As I say, I'm not exactly surprised, but I suppose I am just the teensiest bit disappointed. Van Halen used to be so fun when David Lee Roth was with them. Then they got Sammy Hagar and all the fun went away.

Hagar may have his fans as a singer, but I'm talking fun. David Lee Roth was everything you want a rock n roll singer to be: Kind of stupid, frankly a bit sexist, a little childish, and loudmouthed.

But you didn't care about the loudmouthed part because he was so imminently quotable:

"The bad news is, we've lost our way. The good news is, we're way ahead of schedule!"

Sigh. Them there those were the days, my friends. Those were the days.

Pink loses her "sexiest woman in the world" title

At least as far as I'm concerned, and that's all we're really concerned with around here. I like my sexy women with just a few more curves and bounce.

Besides, I gave her the title, I can take it away.

Recommended Recommended Reading

In recommending an article by Glenn Greenwald about Joe Lieberman, Mark Evanier makes a pretty good point or two himself. Excerpts follow...

Here's Greenwald:
The reason our mission in Iraq has proven to be so disastrous and corrupt is very simple -- the advocates and architects of that war are completely corrupt, inept, and deceitful. Recognizing this fact and ceasing to accord people like this respect and credibility is infinitely more important than any specific debates over particular policy or strategic questions. Everywhere Joe Lieberman goes, he should be asked by journalists why anyone should listen to anything he says, or believe anything he says, in light of his history of deceitful statements and tragically wrong assertions...

And Mark:
What I'd love to find, and I mean this, is a solid "how we'll win in Iraq" article by someone who hasn't changed their rationales more often than their boxer shorts or panty-liners. My problem with a lot of the pro-war advocates is that they keep futzing with the rules, moving the goalposts each time they fail to complete a pass. It's like when Cheney said that the British troop withdrawal was a marker of success. You know that if Great Britain had pledged not to withdraw those troops, he would have said that was a marker of success. No matter what happens, they say that it's what's supposed to happen. The claim is made that everyone needs to be quiet and not question the strategy for six months. And then when things are worse in six months, they'll be saying everyone needs to be quiet and not question the strategy for another six months, followed by another six months and then another and another.

...but you should probably read at least the Greenwald in full (sorry, Mark).

Monday, February 26, 2007

The swan's escaped

This is the trailer for the new film by the makers of the brilliant daddy cool movie Shaun of the Dead and TV series Spaced.

I'm looking forward to this film inordinately, like a dog looking forward to getting its head skritched.

This trailer also contains a monkey. In keeping with my theme this week.

Oh yes...

One more thing about the Oscars. When Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst walked out on stage, the orchestra played the theme from the '60s Spider-Man cartoon series (Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Friendly neighborhood Spider-Man).

What does that say about Danny Elfman's failure to write a good, original theme for Spider-Man (after two tries)?

Singles remind me of kisses, albums remind me of plans

Given a chance to vote for my 10 favourite albums of all time, this is what I came up up with.

Electric Landlady by Kirsty MacColl
Blaze of Glory by Joe Jackson
Actually by Pet Shop Boys
Dare by The Human League
This Is the Day...This Is the Hour...This Is This! by Pop Will Eat Itself
Into The Gap by Thompson Twins
The Pacific Age by OMD
The Lexicon of Love by ABC
Drive by Peplab
The Happiest Days of Our Lives by My Favorite

Their stipulation that there should be no live albums or compilations was a bit of a stumbling block on one or two of them. As was my own choice to limit myself to one album per artist/band/composer.

For example, Electric Landlady is in a very close race with Kite as my favorite Kirsty MacColl album, but I decided to be loyal to my first. My favorite Joe Jackson album is probably his two-disc live set.

Actually shouldn't be as cohesive as it is, given the number of producers, but it is. Dare, Gap, and Lexicon are the three great electro-pop albums of the early-to-mid '80s. And Peplab, somewhat to my surprise, may be the album I've most listened to after reviewing in the past couple of years.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

That was the worst damn Oscar show I have ever seen

And I'm old enough to remember the great "Rob Lowe sings!" debacle of 1988. This was a lot like watching an episode of The L Word. And I don't mean because of all the lesbians. I mean because the ladies looked great (see below), but it was a show best enjoyed on mute.

Having little or no investment in most of the nominees this year (like most of America, I haven't seen most of the films), I could only judge the show as an entertainment unto itself. And oh, my God.

At first I thought, what fool decided to put all the "minor" awards first? Then they got to the "major" awards, and I was longing to see someone I'd never heard of thank people I'll never know.

Observation: All Melissa Etheridge songs sound alike. It is therefore inconceivable that anyone really likes them. So her victory was an even bigger "we're going to show the world we care" vote than the Dixie Chicks five wins at the Grammys.

At least their songs are good. As is this one, which comes to mind for no particular reason:

Getting my facts from a Benetton ad
Lookin' thru African eyes
Lit by the glare of an L.A. fire...

-David Bowie, "Black Tie/White Noise"

I don't know about you, but four hours of Hollywood slapping itself on the back is hard enough to watch when movies like Toy Story 2 are the nominees. When the nominated films are such that a bunch of actors (who, as a rule, shouldn't talk) feel encouraged to wax profound...oh, boy...easy, stomach. Don't turn over.

Let me just get one other thing out of the way. You're going to be seeing a lot of blog posts, etc, using the words "Marty" and "finally." While I wish Scorsese no ill will, I've always hated the insinuation that it was some sort of injustice, or he'd been "overlooked" before this because he hadn't won.

Anyone lucky enough to be making a living wage or better in Hollywood has no right to complain. About anything. Period. Ever.

On a related matter, to Jerry Seinfeld: It is not funny when a multi-millionaire complains to a room largely full of other multi-millionaires about being asked to think about someone else once in a while. Or when he whines about the cost of Junior Mints at the movies.

And I've accepted the fact that I'm never getting rid of Seinfeld as long as anyone else has a TV, but can Jack Black's 15 minutes pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease be over soon?

Moving on, I admit I was only rooting for Peter O'Toole because I wanted to hear the speech. He has little more right to complain than Scorcese did, but if he's disappointed, I hope he takes solace at least in the knowledge that he's Peter O'Toole...and his fellow nominees are not.

No, I can't believe I just referenced Chevy Chase in writing about Peter O'Toole either, but there it is.

And now for our first great-looking lady of the show tonight, Gwyneth Paltrow:

Oh, by the way, why I want to be Tom Hanks:

[Anne] Hathaway approached and asked him, "I don't know you, but can I hug you?"

Obviously that's Anne to the left. Below we have Naomi Watts...

...and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

A few words about Ellen DeGeneres' fashion sense. It's not like anyone was expecting her to wear a figure-clinging gown (like Jessica Biel, left). But can we agree that Jon Pertwee, 1973, is not a good model?

And finally, on behalf of all writers everywhere, I want to thank Best Original Screenplay winner Michael Arndt for prostrating himself at the feet of the cast and the directors of his film in his speech.

I could really feel your pride in and love for the written word there, Michael. All the respect you deserve backatcha.

Random Flickr-blogging 1569

Now that's a play.


Check this out.

A woman named Suze Orman, who is a financial counselor and TV host, has come out as a lesbian. Which is great, right? Yeah, but some things about her reported statements strike me as kind of weird.

Orman says she wishes she could marry her partner Kathy Travis, partly because it would save them both a lot of money.

"Both of us have millions of dollars in our name," she told The New York Times Magazine in its Feb. 25 edition. "It's killing me that upon death, K.T. is going to lose 50 percent of everything I have to estate taxes.

Yes, I love all that romantic talk too. Of course, I have to admit that never having heard of Orman, when I saw this item I went looking for news and images of her. And far be it from me to stereotype...but...I can't imagine how this could have come as a shock.

It also seems kind of odd to me that she says
I have never been with a man in my whole life. I'm still a 55-year-old virgin.' ''

So a woman being with another woman is not "real" sex, then?