Morons at the Gate

There are signs everywhere (and TSA personnel) telling you not to bring liquids on the plane, to remove your shoes, and to take your laptop out of your bag to go thru security…and yet there are still people who *don’t* do this, turning the security check into a crawl. Is it really that difficult to comprehend? Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

The Vanity Press Kool Aid

Mrs. Giggles blogs today about the slew of self-publishing hype lately. She says, in part:

The problem with self-publishing propoganda, if you ask me, is that most of these circus barkers are telling people what they want to hear, as opposed to telling them the hard facts. They tell barely literate high school dropouts that grammar and writing ability don't matter because stories "come from the heart" or something like that. They tell desperate authors that traditional publishers are evil people who deliberately set out to crush their dreams. They tell these people that they are entitled to be authors, and yes, fame and success and respect will follow shortly after because look at the handful of current self-published authors who have made it big, blah blah blah.

[…] Self-publishing is no short cut to success – it is another way to get published, but it is also another kind of hard work awaiting the author. And the rewards are far lower than you would reap with traditional publishing, unless you are an expert in your field with a ready-made audience at your seminars and classes […] or you are content to sell a dozen or so copies and knowing that there is an audience, however small, that appreciate your art.

I couldn't agree more. The problem is that most of the reporters writing about vanity presses either have their own agenda or don't dig deeper than the press releases they are giving. Recently, Publishers Weekly profiled several fast-growing "small presses" but neglected to mention that two of them — Greenleaf and Morgan James — are vanity presses that make their money selling books to authors rather than readers (hat-tip to Victoria Strauss for that one). PW is an industry trade publication…they should know better.

Night and Day

NIGHT AND DAY, the new Jesse Stone novel, is so slight, you almost expect the words to evaporate from the white pages. I noticed the white because there's so much of it. I doubt there has ever been so much white space in a book before. The story is barely a sketch with a plot so thin it's practically non-existent. There isn't even a murder in the book…or a real mystery, as such. If anything, it's more of a vignette about Jesse, because the crimes, such as they are, aren't mysterious, involving, or interesting on their own. They aren't even felonies. The story doesn't even feel long or substantial enough to qualify as a novel, so think of it as a extended short story padded with lots of re-stating of information we already know and pages of rapid-fire banter, some of it clever, most of it quite familiar and tired (especially if you've read the Spenser novels). Which all leaves enough white space on the pages to write your own novel in the margins.

It was a pleasant diversion for a couple of hours, certainly not the worst Jesse Stone book (or the worst Parker), but far from the best. It was interesting, though, to contrast the book with the new, and wholly original, Jesse Stone movie that aired the other night. The movie was far better than any Stone novel in the last few years. Selleck and his team have the Parker voice down and managed to craft a much more interesting plot that felt true to the spirit of the early Stone novels. Parker remarked in a recent interview that he doesn't do any rewriting. It shows. 

Don’t Mess with Perry Mason

PERRY MASON reruns have been playing on a Portland, Oregon TV station every day for 42 years.:

When Patrick McCreery was named general manager at Portland’s Fox KPTV six months ago, corporate bosses gave him a free hand as long as he followed an unwritten 42-year-old rule: Don’t mess with “Perry Mason.”
“It’s untouchable,” McCreery said. “We can add shows and take others off the air, but ‘Perry’ is nothing to fool with.”
[…]Managers don’t know of another U.S. station that’s continuously broadcast “Perry Mason” as long as KPTV, where the show debuted 15 days after ending its nine-year run on CBS. It’s among the least-expensive shows to buy, even as KPTV has moved from showing it on film reels to 1-inch tapes to digital tapes and now digital with closed captioning.
“Most markets don’t want it,” Dunevant said. “They figure that with high-definition sets and 5.1 stereo sound, what viewer is going to want to watch an old black-and-white show? We’ve found very loyal viewers. It’s the linchpin of our daytime programming.”

No More Life on Mars

ABC has cancelled the US version of LIFE ON MARS. But in an unusual move sure to please fans, they are going to let the producers shoot a final episode that wraps things up. The series only lasted a few episodes longer than the UK original which was, in just about every way, better than the U.S. version, despite the likes of Michael Imperioli and Harvey Keitel in the cast. The question now is…will they use the same ending as the British original or come up with a new fate for time-traveling cop Sam Tyler?

Trust Me, It Gets Better

TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES showrunner Josh Friedman and DOLLHOUSE showrunner Joss Whedon are well aware that viewers haven't been happy with the last three episodes of their respective shows. DOLLHOUSE star Eliza Dushku is urging viewers to stick around until episode six, when the show really gets good:

"[…] Joss is best off left alone to do his thing. That happens around episode six—six through 13 are just extraordinary. I love one, two, three, four, and five, but Joss’ first script that he did after the pilot is number six, which is called “Man On The Street,” and it is just unbelievable. From that point on, the world unfolds in Joss’ way, with Joss’ speed, and it’s really remarkable. "

Only it happens five episodes too late for all but the most rabid Whedon fans. Meanwhile, Friedman acknowledges on his blog that his show, now in the final legs of it's creatively wobbly and ratings-challenged second season, may have gotten bogged down the last few weeks in Sarah Connor navel-gazing, but it's going to rebound:

[…]some months ago I determined to steer the show towards its title, towards Sarah Connor. I wanted to explore not simply the idea of chasing Skynet and all that that entails, but also the psychological effects of doing so. It wasn’t enough to just hunt/fight/protect; I wanted to see what was going on inside her head, especially when those around her doubted her. Now some of you find that interesting, some of you don’t, some of you probably would but don’t think I’ve done a good job depicting it. And most of you are just pissed there’s not enough Cameron.
Is it difficult starting up with dark, psychological episodes after being gone for two months? Seems that’s the case. People are worked up about the Friday night thing and the ratings and I probably underestimated that microscope in my desire to explore Sarah and her demons. To be completely honest, the network warned me not to do it but I felt (and still feel) these stories […]were/are vital parts of the show.

He was even more candid about the short-comings of the last string of episodes in an interview with I09.

He wanted to show the aftermath of terrible things happening, and he was in love with the idea of a whole town that's struck by tragedy. Unfortunately, the execution wasn't as great as it could have been.

"Don't feel bad about not liking 'The Desert Cantos,'" Friedman told me.

Friedman said the writers wrote down all 22 of the season's episodes on a white board, and then went through and erased the weakest episode, and then the next weakest, until they were left with the best, by common consent. "The Desert Cantos" was the first episode to get erased, said Friedman.

The good news is, the remaining six episodes are among the best, according to all the writers. And the last three episodes of the season are all in the top four episodes of the season according to the writers' room consensus, said Friedman.

I admire both of these guys very much as writers and as showrunners, but c'mon, what were they thinking? In this highly competitive primetime environment, no series can afford to have three episodes in a row that suck…especially the first episodes that are intended to be sampled by new viewers. 

It's a lot ask viewers today, especially those sampling a show for the first time, to stick around if the first episode or two that they see doesn't wow them. Or, as New Jersey Star Ledger critic Alan Sepinwall put it:

But this whole "things get better X number of episodes" routine from skiffy showrunners is starting to get annoying. And even if Friedman's right, good lord were these episodes a slog. […]Some combination of actress, writing and network notes have made Sarah Connor — a character so iconic she got her name in the title over future messiah John — into this opaque nothing. […] Either Friedman's telling the truth and the show is about to take an abrupt turn for the better, or he's not and it'll be canceled soon (and I'll be gone before that happens). This was a bad, bad stretch for the show. End of story.

I've been a TERMINATOR fan since the pilot, so I will probably stick with it until the bitter end, even though it has been very uneven this season…and downright boring for the last three weeks. But DOLLHOUSE lost me after episode two and I can't think of any reason to come back for episode six.

The Mail I Get

Barbara Early sent me this amusing email

I thought you'd like to know what Amazon is recommending to readers of your books. I'm not sure what make of it. 

Dear Customer,

We've noticed that customers who have purchased or rated Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse by Lee Goldberg have also purchased Inside Animal Hoarding: The Case of Barbara Erickson and her 552 Dogs by Arnold Arluke. For this reason, you might like to know that Inside Animal Hoarding: The Case of Barbara Erickson and her 552 Dogs will be released on March 15, 2009. 

The book is described as an indepth look at "one of the largest and most intriguing cases of animal hoarding in recent history." Why that story would be of interest to Monk readers is beyond me. But it does give me an interesting idea for a character that Monk can encounter in the next book…