Melinda and Melinda

I made the mistake of seeing Woody Allen’s new movie MELINDA AND MELINDA today. Don’t make the same mistake.

The movie takes the story of a woman who crashes a dinner party and follows the ensuing events from two points of view, one dramatic, one comedic. The dramatic storyline isn’t dramatic and the comedic storyline isn’t funny. But both stories are equally dull.

The acting is stagey and artificial. The actors aren’t so much performing their lines as they are simply reading them. The casting sure isn’t what it used to be in a Woody Allen movie, either. Besides the handful of "name" stars (Will Ferrell, Chloe Sevigny, Amanda Peet), the rest of the cast is filled with LAW AND ORDER bit players who aren’t the least bit memorable.  Ferrell, who stars in the "comedic" half, spends his time imitating Woody Allen imitating Bob Hope. It’s excruciating. (Remember the big names Woody Allen used to be able to get for his movies? The way things are going now, Brad Garrett will star in his next one).

The movie looks and feels painfully dated and out-of-step, depicting a New York and New Yorkers that only exist in old, and much better, Woody Allen movies. Everybody is a writer, doctor, or artist who lives in a fabulous apartment, engages  in casual adultery and quotes Chekov in everyday  conversation.

It’s been years now since Woody Allen has made a good movie. I wish he’d take some time off to recharge and reinvent himself…instead of continuing to turn out these listless films.

Mystery News Roundup

Screenwriter Ben Ramsey has been hired to adapt James Patterson’s ROSES ARE RED for the big-screen. If the film is made, it would be the third movie starring Morgan Freeman as homicide detective Alex Cross.

After ten years of foreplay,  David James Elliott’s Harmon Rabb finally beds down Catherine Bell’s  Mac in the series finale of JAG, which CBS has decided to cancel…opting not  to continue with a re-formated version of the series with a new cast shot on the cheap in San Diego. Zap2It reports that the finale, scheduled for 9 p.m. ET April 29, will find Harm
and Mac "forced to face [their] feelings once and for all" following a
"bombshell" revelation by Gen. Cresswell.

The premiere of ABC’s private eye drama EYES tanked, coming in third for the hour, dropping 29% from its ALIAS lead-in and, more troubling, losing viewers at the half-hour mark.

My Book Haul

As usual on my trips, I came home with a box of books. Here’s what I bought during my journey between L.A. and Santa Fe…

Hardcovers (used):
Dark Trail by Ed Gorman ($2)
Ryan Rides Back by Bill Crider ($2)
Texas Capitol Murders by Bill Crider (signed first edition $7)
Finding Moon by Tony Hillerman (signed first edition $20)
Blackening Song by Aimee & David Thurlo (signed first edition $20)
North of Montana by April Smith (first edition $4)
Ashworth Hall by Anne Perry (signed first edition $9)
Pentecost Alley by Anne Perry (signed first edition $9)

Hardcovers (new):
Sight Hound by Pam Houston (signed)
Rabbitt Factory by Larry Brown (signed)
Ya-Yas in Bloom by Rebecca Wells (signed)

Paperbacks (used)
Wild Wild West #3 by Robert Vaughan
Trailback by Robert Vaughan
The Lawmen by Robert Vaughan
Range Wars by Robert Vaughan
Galveston Gunman by Bill Crider
The Babysitter by Andrew Coburn
Diablo Grant by James Reasoner
Hawthorne Legacy by James Reasoner
Old Boys by Charles McCarry (An ARC)

As you can see, I’m  on a western kick lately.

Our Trip – Day Four

We started our day by taking the aerial tramway up to Sandia Peak, where we took in the breathtaking views and lobbed snowballs at each other.  Afterwards, we went into Santa Fe where we strolled through the Plaza. We bought jewelry and moccasins for Maddie, a book and a cowboy hat for me (to wear while I read all the westerns I bought in Flagstaff), and some jewelry for Valerie. We returned to Albuquerque just in time for a wonderful dinner with my friends authors Aimee & David Thurlo, followed by dessert at their house in Corrales, where they plied us with fantastic sugar cookies (from a hundred year old recipe) and  introduced Maddie to their horse, their dogs, and their pet rats.  David says the rats actually gnaw affectionately on his fingers while he writes (he called it  grooming…I still call it gnawing). To me, rats chewing on my fingers while I write is a nightmare come true, but he likes it.  Hey, every author has their own unique way of motivating themselves. I’m sure there are some authors who use leeches.  Tomorrow, we plan on bumming around Albuquerque and visiting Page One books. On Wednesday, we head back westward to Sedona, AZ and lunch with author Richard S. Prather, one of my childhood idols.

Editing Your Life

I’m always amused by the way some actors and writers edit their credits, trying to pretend that some of their work never existed (you don’t hear Michael Mann talking about his days on VEGA$ much). Jessica Alba has been doing a lot of that credit-editing lately as she promotes FANTASTIC FOUR and SIN CITY. In her GQ interview, for instance, she charts the course of her career like this:

At 13 she decided to give acting a try and immediately found herself cast in an episode of the TV series Chicago Hope, playing a teenage girl who contracts gonorrhea of the throat from her 30-year-old boyfriend. Imagine explaining that
to your pastor. Next, at 16, she joined the Atlantic Theater Company
Acting School in Vermont, founded by David Mamet and William H. Macy,
where she was drilled in contrapositive Pygmalion fashion, on the intonation of lines like, “Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!

She forgets to mention that, between her gigs with David E. Kelley and David Mamet,  she spent three years in Australia as a regular cast member acting opposite a zany dolphin on THE NEW ADVENTURES OF FLIPPER  (you don’t see Emmy & WGA Award winning writer Terrence Winter hiding from his producing gig on that show… he even mentioned it in his Emmy acceptance speech. That’s being a man. That’s integrity, bucko. In fact, I’ll admit here and now I worked on FLIPPER, too… and, even worse, THE HIGHWAYMAN).

Alba wants you to think she just burst onto the scene with DARK ANGEL. Speaking of bursting, let’s talk about Dave Gardetta, the horny reporter who was interviewing Alba and aching to go more, much more, in-depth :

Alba made an off-color joke about lawyers, and she glowed: Her skin
glowed, her hair glowed, her lips glowed. Where once her carnal
features—lips, breasts, posterior—seemed preternaturally swollen, as if
in a dead-heat race to burst from her skinny, teenage frame, now Alba
and her twenty-three-year-old body have settled into delicacy and grace
and balance while still drawing chat-room catcalls like “Damn! Shortie
got back!”

Down, boy. And later he writes:

And then one day her body rebelled against God. Her teenage breasts bloomed; her buttocks began straining against her dungarees.

You can almost hear him panting as he beats the keys on his computer…or something further south.

I’m Baaaack!

I’m back from Hawaii… where it rained non-stop for 9 out of the 10 days that we were there. Ah well, it was still nice to get away from L.A. for awhile.

Many thanks to my brother Tod for keeping the blog lively in my absense… and doing his best to get me into trouble (again!!) with the fanfic community. 

(Note to Tod… as you proved here, and during your guest-hosting stint at Elegant Variations, you’re a natural blogger. When are you getting a blog of your own??)

As The World Turns

While Lee continues to sun himself in Hawaii, the rest of us have to get back to living, which in my case means avoiding the writing I need to do…hence, a bevy links to things that have inspired me to great horror this afternoon:

The Literary World Waits With Baited Breath: Pop singer Ashanti has vast plans to take over the the writing world, she just can’t figure out which avenue to drive on, or, as she told Teen Hollywood, "I was thinking, do I want to do something for the children, or do I want to do something like Ashanti: Behind The Scenes?" I can’t tell you how I’ve clamored for both. I think: Ashanti — My Secret Desire To Be In the Battlestar Galactica Movie would cover both bases.

Dean Koontz Let His Dog Write A Book: And here Lee and I thought it was cool that our sisters will have a book out together next year.

A Year In Books: The Kansas City Star takes a look at the last 12 months of books…including this gem from January:

“Basic Instinct” and “Showgirls” screenwriter (are you ill yet?) Joe Eszterhas publishes his 700-plus-page memoir, Hollywood Animal, which will stand up 11 months later as one of the year’s worst books — or at least the one with the highest hubris quotient.


Postcard from kauai

Here’s the view from our condo in Kauai, where I’m enjoying the Christmas holiday with my family (click on the photo for a larger image).Poipukapili We’re having a wonderful time —  though the weather has been cloudy and rainy for the most part.  We’ve been going to the beach  and taking long walks anyway, even if it’s pouring.   I’ve managed to write a few pages on DM #6 since we got here…though not nearly enough.  We get up early, spend most of the day outside, and are exhausted by the time we finish dinner. We’re all in bed by 9 or 10. I’m sleeping really well (which I haven’t been able to do since my surgery last month), though the roosters outside wake me up around 4 a.m. and I have to put a pillow over my head to go back to sleep.  I still have to go to physical therapy here for my arm, but somehow it isn’t so bad when I can take a long walk on the beach afterwards.  We’ve only been here since Wednesday night…but I already feel so much more rested.

I hope you and your loved ones are having a Merry, and restful, Christmas, too!

All I Never Got For Christmas Part 3: The Final Conflict

Our last episode…

Denise: Funny, I wanted Rock ‘m Sock em’s and and EZ Bake oven, too. I got the former from a secretary as a gag gift because my writing partner and I fought so much. It blows. And I bought the latter as a holiday gift for my daughter. Interesting, going on the web site I found out back in 1963 when it came out it cost 19.95, exactly what I paid for it today. Now I know why I never got it. You do the math. Sadly, I never wanted things. I wanted people. We were the only three people in our family on this continent and we weren’t even Christian! So Xmas became a sad anemic ritual. Now I do the whole shabang, tree, big dinner, lots of cheer, and what a pain in the ass. When I was 9 I got a real Singer sewing machine that I didn’t even ask for and it was thrilling. I still use it today. The best toy I ever got was the Mattel Thing Maker with the open hot plate that I’m sure could cause third degree burns and industrial fires. God I loved that thing. I can still smell the Goop you used in it today. David C.: I can only think of one story – and it came way past childhood. My (well-intentioned) mother bought my then-fiancee a hobo-doll that looked insane. It so scared the hell out of her that I had to bury it in a box in the garage. Convinced that it was a cousin of Chuckee, and would therefore chew its way out of the box and murder us in our bed, she insisted that I take it to the dump where it was bulldozed into oblivion Vanessa: Things I wanted but never got: plastic high heel dress up shoes, Strawberry shortcake doll. Things I got that ended up sucking: Barbie dolls. Wanted them so bad. Then I cut their hair and realized that changing their outfits was really, really boring. Other thing that ended up sucking: Shrinky-Dinks. Plastic things you colored on that shrink in the oven. Whoopdy-doo! Kristy: I wanted a Barbie Head Doll forever. Then I got her and found out that she had the same balding problem after a month as my Uncle Bill for whom my Aunt Julie took responsibility for pulling all of his hair out because "he wouldn’t do everything she wanted." So back to the Barbie head doll. The brush was too small and the fake rollers didn’t make her hair do anything but stick inside them. I even remember the makeup it came with was like one giant hard cake of chalk, like writing chalk. What a disappointment she was. Barbie Beauty Queen beheaded onto a plastic plate. Sick really. Oh and now that I think about it, you had to place her between your legs to get any leverage on that long silky plasticide-like hair. Much like an oral sex pose. It was Barbie Head Doll…but c’mon…. Carey: Since I was an only child, I pretty much got everything I asked for when I was a little girl. Except, I always wanted a pony. Living in Palm Springs, all of my friends had one so I thought why couldn’t I. For every year I asked, my parents thought that horse-related gifts would suffice: a collection of Black Beauty novels, plastic collectible horse figures, cowboy boots, etc. While all those things were cool, I still wanted the horse. My sucky Christmas gifts didn’t come until I was an adult, actually, last year to be exact. My husband of five years (now ex) gave me boat loads of Bath & Body Works lotion–the really strong smelly stuff. While most women love that stuff, my asthma kicks in just being within two feet of it. (I think he was trying to inadvertently kill me for leaving him.) Also, a good friend of mine gave me one of those martini shakers that have recipes for all bar drinks engraved on it. I am not a heavy drink and put myself through college being a bartender and cocktail waitress. I guess, the friend wasn’t as close as I thought. Jerrilyn: This is the very stuff that has probably inspired me to avoid therapy lo these many years, but if you insist: Things I wanted from Santa: Barbie with the cool poofy silk skirt, EZ Bake oven and every packet and miniature box of cake mix they made, and a real microscope. Things I got in my stocking each and every year: One apple. One orange. One banana. And a small package of sequins. (Additional note of pathos: Since we didn’t have a fireplace in our mid-century (hah!) split-level house in the suburbs of Chicago, my brother and I hung our brown stockings (borrowed for one night only from my dad’s sock drawer) from a piano bench in the living room–the room with the clear-plastic slipcovers over the pastel blue couch. The above was what my sweet Jewish mother imagined was enough for her kids to get from that Santa Claus. Barbara: I wanted cowboy boots. I was probably 8 or 9. For some reason, I thought my parents weren’t going to get them for me and I was really upset. I searched the house hi and low, couldn’t find my hidden gift. (They knew better than to leave it under the tree before Christmas morning.) By the time Christmas day arrived, I had worked myself into a real snit. When I opened the box to see my authentic, leather, pointy toe boots, I made one attempt to pull them on and then threw them across the room declaring in a hysterical pout, "They don’t even fit. I found out later that those boots are stiff and you really have to work them on, especially when they’re brand new. Linda V.: I really wanted a chemistry set, and in a moment of temporary insanity when my mother gave the gift-getting over to my father, I actually scored one. Of course, I didn’t have a lick of talent for anything scientific, and the only thing I ever ended up doing with my chemistry set was burning sulfur. The house would smell like rotten eggs for days on end. Mary: I don’t really remember any gifts that sucked, but I will say that the gifts that hold up best, long-term, seem to be live animals. Like the hamster I got one year – it was the best gift I can remember. I would have liked a pony, but I understood it was never going to happen. Jennifer: Well, I have thought long and hard about this one (I was an only child for the major portion of my childhood) and the only thing I can think of is a baby blue jersey wrap skirt from K-mart that said "Disco" on it. Thank god my mom said no. I told her she’s not the one wearing it, and she replied, "Yes, but I’m the one who has to walk around with you."

Happy Holidays one and all…Tod

All I Never Got For Christmas Part 2: The Spawning

A continuation from below…

Stacy: Okay, I totally wanted this doll, and I can’t think of what she was called, but basically you would make this food for her (packets were included I think, probably some scary red powder that had to be mixed with water or something) and feed her, and then she would develop diaper rash. The television commercial showed the red-dot rash emerging from pin holes in her bottom! I thought this was the coolest doll ever! But then my mom heard from other moms that much of the food stuff gets stuck inside the doll and the doll starts stinking up a storm in no time. My mom refused to have two (if I got one my little sister would want one too!) smelly dolls in the house, so she instructed Grandma to get Baby-Crawl-Away for us instead. Here comes the story of the doll that blew. Baby Crawl Away was only coordinated enough to crawl on the first two seconds of her battery. (You had to take her plastic ass apart constantly to put new batteries in.) After that she was a mess of arms and legs and fell flat on her face every time. Sometimes my sister and I would race our Baby Crawl Aways and bet on which one would bite it first. And to make a doll that (so-called) crawled, she was all hard plastic with mechanical joints and stuff–the least cuddly doll ever. So when she fell on her face, it didn’t really occur to anyone to pick her up and hold her, so everyone just left her there in her battery-induced seizure. Sad. And no match for diaper rash on command…. Chad: The year was 1984 (I think) I asked for the 8-bit Nintendo game Commando from Santa – I also told my mom that she could buy it at Toys R Us. She proceeded to tell me that Santa doesn’t buy his toys from Toys R Us. I then explained to her that I knew she and my dad were "Santa," and that there was no real fucking Santa.So Christmas rolled around and under the tree was a box for me from "Santa" that was roughly the shape of a nintendo game. I opened it up and found a god-damned piece of black coal. My mom told me that kids who don’t beleive in Santa get coal. That was my christmas present for the year. And yeah… it sucked. Jennie: Since I was lucky enough not to need to ask for my two front teeth, I got to concentrate on other stuff. I totally bought the advertisements that Maniac was a cool game, and it sucked. That was my school of hard knocks education on advertising. One year my brother and I asked for a Coleco Vision game system, and it rocked. The graphics were way better than the Atari systems my friends had, and we spent hours playing Donkey Kong, Ladybug, and Xaxon David DB: When I was in high school I wanted a subscription to Playboy and my mom wouldn’t get it for me. When I was in grammar school, the kids across the street from me got these really cool new transistor portable radios, leather covered, they could hold in their palms up to their ears. I asked my dad for a portable radio and he got me a big pink one with tubes. Try taking that to school in your bookbag, or pulling out a pink radio in front of the local Pacoima gangs. Ned: The six foot long GI JOE aircraft carrier…$100 from Kay-Bee Toys with multiple levels for all your GI Joe action…pretty sure "Shipwreck" was the action figure that came with it. That or Optimus Prime from the Transformers. I can remember countless annoying sweaters or other boring clothing items instead. Then there were the pillow cases we got from our babysitter, Mrs.Cooper. Way boring!Of course, probably the worst Christmas I had, which I don’t even remember,came when I was all of 20 months old and was pounding on our piano in the living room. The lid came down and lopped off the tip of my left index finger. We hurried to the emergency room and the doctor decided to sew it back on. Country wisdom being we can always take it back off again if it wasn’t going to set. Dr. Rodawig knew what he was doing and I have the tip to my index finger to this day…albeit a little misshapen. Clair: I never got the EZ Bake oven and I always asked for it. I also never got the Play-Doh Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop. Instead, my twin sister and I got the Play-Doh Monster Mold set, which was totally lame. It had a pump — sort of — through which you squeezed Play-Doh into these monster molds. Then you pried the two halves of the mold apart, and you were supposed to get cool-looking monster figurines. Instead, you got big lumps of Play-Doh with lines in them that might have looked like monsters if you were astigmatic. Plus, when we tried to create multi-colored figurines, as shown on the box, we just wound up squishing together all our different colors of Play-Doh so it could never be used for anything else again. Then again, we were four, so maybe it would have worked better if we’d had better motor skills. But I’m sure we would not have had these problems with the Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop.