Friday, October 30, 2009

Scary Movies

In today's issue of CS Weekly, we recommend several terrifying films to rent for Halloween. I chose "The Ring."

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween Spookiness

Last night I barely slept because of the car-rattling, howling winds outside my window.

I do not exaggerate.*

Even though many people who live in Los Angeles are transplants, and presumably knew at one point how to drive in bad weather, for some reason when the weather drops below 60 degrees and rain or wind sets in, everyone here seems to lose their minds. However, last night the fear made sense; during my commute, cars and traffic lights were swaying back and forth like crazy.

At home I baked and ate about a pound of pumpkin seeds (here's the simple recipe I used) and read "A Great and Terrible Beauty" by Libba Bray, which has plenty of ghostly scares.

Last but not least, I had to contend with a monster red spider** that was lurking in my bathroom. While brushing my teeth, at my most vulnerable, I saw it lowering itself quickly toward my face! I backed away, and could only watch in horror as it zipped up its web to the ceiling again. My husband's out of town, and I have an irrational fear of spiders landing on my face and eating my eyes, so obviously I had to kill it.

This task required a chair, paper towels, a can of Raid, and lots of whimpering. I was also concerned I might have nightmares about its revenge, but since I didn't sleep much, that wasn't an issue.

Clearly the best course now is to eat lots of Halloween candy to stay awake.

* At least, not yet.

** I'm willing to concede it was a normal-sized spider.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


November's coming up, which means NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is about to start. The challenge is to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Here's everything you need to know about joining in. It's a great way to leap into a new project.

Wouldn't it be cool if every month had a literary theme?

You've heard of music used as torture -- how about a month where people give a second chance to the books that tortured them in high school? I already have an atrocious name picked out for this imaginary phenomenon: NaNoGitMo.

For me, the perfect example of a NaNoGitMo book is "A Separate Peace" by John Knowles. I didn't particularly enjoy it when I had to read it for Freshman English in high school, but last year I re-read it and absolutely LOVED it. Now I consider it to be one of my all-time faves, which made me wonder why it bugged me when I was a teenager. The fact that we had to analyze sentence structure and use color-coded highlighters to, well, highlight certain themes probably had something to do with it, although oddly, I genuinely liked Faulkner when I was sixteen. Maybe I was just weird.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mad Men 3.11

Gaaaaaaaaaaah, 4.5! We've reached 4.5 out of 5 razor blades!!

Tonight's show annihilated me. The tables were swiftly turned from the previous episode; I felt much worse for Don than for Betty, who was rather cold (albeit understandably) during Don's tearful revelations. Jon Hamm knocked it out of the park. The mystery of Don's Creepy Drawer was also answered; as Betty asserted, part of him wanted her to know.

I don't recommend double Mad Men episodes, particularly when Monday morning is imminent. It's a bit too intense if you don't spread them out, although both episodes I watched tonight were excellently written.

On the non-depressing side, I loved seeing Roger Sterling flirt up a storm with Annabelle, a woman (gasp) his own age, and it was nice seeing and hearing him banter with Joan again. Also, Joan smashed a vase over her husband's head, which was all manner of awesome.

I find Don and The Teacher to be super annoying, so I'm hoping their break-up isn't temporary. For some reason his other affairs didn't bother me in the same way, or even at all in a few cases, but this one definitely bugs. Maybe because I feel we're treading on ground that's been covered before.

Only two more episodes left this season. Hold onto your horsemeat.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mad Men 3.10: A "Ballad of Disatisfaction"

Wow, okay, last Sunday's Mad Men gets 4 razor blades (out of 5) on the Depressing Scale from me. I nearly cried. Incidentally, it was written by Kater Gordon and Matthew Weiner, who recently took home the Emmy for Best Writing. So yeah. The writing was good, and it was depressing, and I'm left with two questions:

1. Why does Don have a creepy drawer AT HOME filled with cash/his secret dual identity?? Hasn't he heard of safe deposit boxes? (And considering that Pete and Cooper already know his secret, even the office would be a safer location.) Needless to say, Betty is incapable of dealing with the knowledge of his "divorce," and my heart completely broke for her and the endless betrayals Don subjects her to. Also depressing: The flickers of guilt Don does so well.

2. Who called the Drapers? Hot For Teacher and Mr. Politician both denied all knowledge, but it had to have been one of them -- right?

(I want a spin-off called Carla: The Long-Suffering Housekeeper/Nanny, in which we learn what her job description is, exactly, and possibly see her at church.

Sally: Why don't we go to church? Carla goes every week.
Betty: We don't need to go every week.)

Those of you who watched this episode in real time get some relief and time to recover. I, however, must continue immediately to the next episode. Please don't let it be as depressing.

Friday, October 23, 2009

10/23: Happy Anniversary to Me & Joe and Henry & Clare

Henry and Clare, you ask? Who are Henry and Clare? Why, they're the couple in "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger. I read the book two weeks ago, on the recommendation of my friends Kirsty and Mallory. Still can't decide if it was romantic or tragic, but it kept me riveted for days. It also kinda freaked me out because their fateful wedding (in which Henry time travels, as he is wont to do) is the same date as my wedding to Joe five years ago. Plus I'm from Chicago, which is where Time Traveler's Wife takes place. Freaky.

Joe and I celebrated on Wednesday by having dinner at Mozza in Los Angeles. Extreme yumminess was had. This weekend we'll probably stay in and watch The Curious Case of Benjamin Button on Netflix. Another time-bendy story! What does this mean?

P.S. I haven't forgotten about Mad Men. I need to catch up on last week's episode, so I'll have a double-header up next week :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Because Otherwise It Wouldn't Be a Bestseller?

Sarah Palin to discuss her book on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

It's not a book club pick, but this news did prompt me to check out Oprah's past selections, and I think she's kind of a genius when it comes to variety. I didn't realize she'd included "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy, not to mention three Faulkners, two Toni Morrisons, a Barbara Kingsolver and a Joyce Carol Oates.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Romance Novels... With Babies!

Yesterday I go to the laundry room to put my clothes in the dryer and to my complete delight I see that someone from my building has left a bunch of books on the table, for anyone to take and enjoy.

They are romance novels featuring extremely wealthy babies!! The covers remind me of the ubiquitous Hot Guy With Baby posters in college. I had no idea this was a genre. I think I love it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Conversation I had with my husband recently

Me: (dancing in front of fridge) Do you dare me to chug a Guinness for breakfast?*

Joe: Um, no, I dare you not to.

Living with a writer can be tiring. Luckily there is a guide for this type of thing. McSweeney's archives has an "excerpt" from The Complete Guide to the Care and Training of the Writer in Your Life by David Zeltser.

My favorite part: "Designate a warm, cozy area of your home as a 'studio.' Your writer will appreciate a couch and blankets or other soft bedding material. Keep in mind that your writer may not write right away. Never shout at your writer. If your writer is frightened, he or she may run."

*Mom and Dad, if you're reading: I was totally kidding.
Everyone else: No, I wasn't.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Halloween Magic

My husband, L.A. magician Joe Skilton, is performing tomorrow night at the Magic Castle for the Magic of Jazz event. The evening begins at 8 with the musical stylings of the Janis Mann Quintet, followed by Joe's show at 9:30 down in the WC Fields Bar.

October is fantastic time to visit the Magic Castle. Besides the insane amount of decorations (every inch of the mansion is covered in cobwebs, skulls, and other spookiness), Halloween weekend is packed with parties, awards for best costumes (including Scariest, Most Magical, and What The Hell Is It?), and a Cabaret Macabre. Also, from October 26 - November 1st, you can see the awesome Rob Zabrecky in Early Close-Up.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mad Men 3.9: I Totally Pegged the Teacher

The show's not fooling around anymore; I give Sunday's Mad Men 4 razor blades out of 5. Yep, it was that depressing.

Sal got fired for being gay, basically. And Don referred to him as "you people." Ouch!

Don's new father figure/most demanding client, Conrad Hilton, drunkenly admitted that Don was like a son to him -- only better, because Don also came from nothing. That part was rather sweet. The depressing part (you knew there'd be one) occurred shortly after at a business meeting, in which Mr. Hilton appeared to have no memory of this bonding event and completely rejected Don and his hard work.

Betty sort of started an almost-affair and had to throw a fake fundraiser to cover up the non-event. Got it?

Don started an actual affair with Sally's ex-teacher, just like I predicted five episodes ago. It's official: he has a type, and it's not blonde. Which sucks if you're Betty.

In the midst of historical events, Betty told her African American housekeeper, Carla, that perhaps the country wasn't ready for civil rights.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Like Father, Like Son

Variety reports that Stephen King's son, Joe Hill, has sold the film rights to his upcoming novel, "Horns."

The book comes out February 9, 2010, and centers on a "26-year-old man who wakes up from a hangover and finds horns sprouting out of his head." The horns may be related to the unsolved murder of the man's girlfriend.

I wonder if Joe was born with talent, or if he studied "On Writing" like the rest of us? ;)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Election Nostalgia

This time last year I was an emotional wreck regarding the Presidential election.

Every day I checked HuffPo, Politico, Drudge, Defamer and for news, laughs, horror, and electoral vote predictions. I'd also drop in on and Washington Post, and after work I'd watch MSNBC, CNN and PBS, followed by The Daily Show and Colbert Report. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. On the weekends I phonebanked, either down the street, or, as the election drew closer, at the Sony Studios Lot in Culver City (they had acres of Krispy Kreme and pizza).

Also around this time last year, our Honda Civic was stolen. It was parked in tandem with our '96 Toyota, which the thieves moved out of the way and put back after taking the car they wanted. (What, the Toyota wasn't good enough to steal?! Its stereo was, though.) The car was recovered at a motel parking lot with a fake shotgun in the back seat; we believe our poor Civic was an unwitting accomplice in a series of robberies. We had to get all the keys replaced, but at least we got the car back.

Is it weird to be nostalgic for a time of sleeplessness, rage, and stomach-clenching anxiety?

Maybe what I miss about the election is the feeling of being involved, tuned in and focused on so many political issues. It's impossible to maintain the heightened, intense level of interest I had going last year and stay sane, but I realize now it was an exciting time that I look back on fondly.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mad Men 3.8: "You Don't Kiss Boys; Boys Kiss You"

Aaaaaaaaand we're back with a vengeance to 3 razor blades out of 5 for this Sunday's "Mad Men" episode. In previous weeks we'd dropped to an inconceivable 1 razor blade, but those days are over. THEY ARE OVER.

I need to take a moment to do something I don't normally do in these reviews, which is to point out something other than how depressing the show is: the direction and scene cuts were jarring and a bit off (which doesn't take into account the truly odd-and-getting-odder ad break placement). I literally don't know what happened in the creepy Pete subplot. He took advantage of a poor French Au Pair, but how much advantage he took is difficult for me to say. Of course Pete can't just be nice to anyone -- although for a flicker of a second I saw him in a new light, foolish me -- which was a large factor in this episode's rating.

Anyway, Betty has probably warped Sally's little mind regarding male/female dynamics for the millionth time by telling her she must be passive with boys, and also that the first kiss in any relationship is the only exciting one; all subsequent ones are a mere shadow of it (!!)

Despite her bizarre claim about kissing, Betty's trip to Italy with Don was pretty hot. They were acting like a couple of newlyweds, which was refreshing to see. Upon their return, however, Betty declared that she hates their life, their house, their friends, etc. So, you know, they were happy together for approximately 40 hours, minus the flight and time change.

Last but not least, Joan has been reduced to working in the women's dress department of some fancy Manhattan store (we know it's fancy because the brand Hermes can be seen in many of the shots). This is utterly humiliating for her, especially when Pete struts in, but I was also struck by the fact that Joan is always the best person ever at whatever job she's doing. She was an uber secretary and soap opera reader (remember that one episode last year?) and has already risen to the position of manager at this new place. Both at Sterling Cooper and the department store, she anticipates and fixes every problem expertly.

She should probably be ruling the world.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Finding a New Voice

I'm writing my current novel from the POV of a 16-year-old girl. Establishing her voice has been fun but challenging. Although I'm at 30,000 words so far, and definitely in the groove, I still find myself asking, is this the language my narrator would use? What is/should her vocabulary be? If her grammar is deliberately incorrect from time-to-time, will that be distracting for readers, insulting to teens, or feel real? I sent the first chapter to my 17-year-old cousin to find out if she thinks it's authentic. I don't think I've ever been so nervous about getting notes!

In the meantime, I'm really enjoying the Pardon My Youth YA book club at Skylight Books. So far, we've read:

  • The Messenger by Markus Zusak
  • What I Saw and How I Lied* by Judy Blundell
  • Rats Saw God* by Rob Thomas
  • Tyrell by Coe Booth
  • Fat Kid Rules the World by KL Going
  • For October: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

I also try to pick up at least two YA books whenever I'm at the library. This weekend I read Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart (hilarious and wonderful) and Looking For Normal by Betty Monthei (more middle-grade than YA, and a gutwrencher).

*I read these two prior to joining the club, proving that YA's scope and appeal goes far beyond the shelf it happens to be categorized on.

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Whip It" Review

The roller derby flick "Whip It" (starring Ellen Page, directed by Drew Barrymore and written by Shauna Cross) hits theaters today, as does my screenplay review of the film.

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Quick Pic of Santa Monica

I went to the beach a few weekends ago for the first time in ages. When you move to L.A., you think you'll go every Saturday, and for awhile, you do, and you can't believe how great the skating and bike path is, stretching smooth and wide for miles along the ocean, from Malibu to Manhattan Beach. But then your brake pads wear down and you don't replace them and life kind of gets in the way and you realize it's been months since you've looked at the water, and that you only see the Santa Monica pier on television shows, even though it's only 35 minutes away.