Wednesday, October 27, 2010

From the Desk of Bone Daddy

However you choose to celebrate this harvest season, I send best wishes for a fun time. My San Francisco sojourn will take me off the grid, as it were, and I'll return next week with what will doubtless be a mighty tale of celebrating Halloween and Dia de los Muertos. Tidings of good cheer from the desk of my sole decoration this year, Bone Daddy!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kitchen Heroics

Comic book scribes hail from a variety of backgrounds, yet I doubt any can match Gail Simone for pure mojo: the former hairdresser challenged the mistreatment of female comic book characters with her website, Women in Refrigerators, and used its popularity to start a career in comics. She writes with wit and style, often portraying traditional heroes doing non-traditional things, like the following scene, written by Simone and illustrated by the great Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez:

She might have baked for her Justice League friends in the past, but I doubt Wonder Woman evinced such funny and logical reactions before. "I'm afraid to try it," says Flash, "and I'm afraid not to try it." Batman and Martian Manhunter (don't you love superhero names?) don't hesitate diving right in. She's saved the world countless times, how bad can her cookies be? No, it's safe to say they must be tasty. It also appears that Superman was in the kitchen with her and for all we know he helped bake the cookies with his heat vision: if that isn't teamwork, nothing is.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Weekend Wonders

How was your weekend? This is a shout-out to the San Francisco Giants for making mine when they took the National League pennant, as well as to Battlestar Galactica, a delicious dinner, and one strange, obscure 70's sci-fi film. The Giants haven't played at Candlestick Park since the turn of the century, perhaps most memorably in 1989 during the Loma Prieta earthquake, and admittedly I've not followed them as closely since childhood days when we would watch them at the 'stick in the freezing fog or under blue skies. Be that as it may, I'm thrilled that they'll be at the World Series this year.

Friday night I was gifted with a member's-only pass to the Science Fiction Museum for a world premiere of Battlestar Galactica: The Exhibition. It was a dream come true, as I had the privilege of attending a Q&A session with the main movers and shakers of the show (Mary McDonnell, who played President Laura Roslin, was sadly absent). Michael Hogan (Colonel Tigh) sat at the far left, with Richard Hatch (Apollo on the 1978 show, Tom Zarek on the new one), Glen Larson (creator of BSG), Kate Vernon (Ellen Tigh), Ronald Moore (driving creative force behind the re-imagined version), and Edward James Olmos (Admiral Bill Adama). Anybody who adores this show like me can understand that this was simply awesome; everyone else, your patience is appreciated!

I mentioned a delicious dinner. The gal was up to her usual kitchen antics when she created a feast for me and a friend, and let me tell you it was hog heaven. Nothing complicated, as the gal herself can testify: Chicken thighs for cheapness, pounded flat, wrapped around cheese and chutney, 350 degrees for an hour. The stuffing will leak all over the pan but it makes sort of a gravy so that's okay. Nice to put a pan of little white potatoes in at the same time. Hear that rumbling? That's my stomach, the old sentimental fool.

For dessert the oddball confection Z.P.G. envisions an over-populated world choked by smog, thus the meaning of the title: zero population growth. That's Charlie Chaplin's daughter, Geraldine, clutching her infant on the right. Though breaking the law of the land by bearing a child, she and Oliver Reed seem quite unaware of their crimes against fashion. Such a desultory tale populated with screeching dolls and Ringo Starr hairstyles is understandably and deservedly obscure. I'm surprised it even made it to dvd, unless a 3D remake is around the corner. I'm seeing Joaquin Phoenix and Lindsay Lohan.

The Boon of Entrecard

Entrecard has been good to me, creating access to great blogs that I might otherwise have missed in the teeming multitude of the online community. Dropping on these sites enables me to see the latest (if any) posts by writers whose work I admire and enjoy. Though it might appear a bit hinky to acknowledge others' work by dropping on it, this form of currency is not meant to compete with pigeons but to establish an exchange rate of real value, which is to say established by the quality of the work. I've really come to appreciate this unique aspect of Entrecard.

Forums are something I miss, a bygone aspect of Entrecard that seems now like part of a distant and simpler past. They provided direct contact with the network on a variety of topics, the kinds of things you don't often discuss in personal messages with people you've never a met but enjoy conversing with on intelligent and stimulating subjects. Now I fall back on comments, which are even more impersonal. I would like to see the forums return. It would also be good to see better diligence on buggy sites. Not that it happens often, but every once in awhile there is a run of bad blogs that make me question Entrecards' due diligence. I've come to realize the value of connections with "good" blogs sufficiently to keep me dropping; by the same token, the slightest increase of viral sites in this community could easily drive me away.

Overall, Entrecard has been a positive experience and I expect to continue dropping for the foreseeable future.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Witchy O'Donnell

Is she or isn't she? This is the question across the nation as Christine O'Donnell, Tea Party challenger to Delaware Democrat Chris Coons' Senate seat, equivocates and contradicts her way out of teenage dabblings in witchcraft. Quite a quandary. At first she admitted to the dabbling. Soon after emerged the now-notorious campaign ad in which she said into the camera, "I'm not a witch. I'm nothing you've heard. I'm you." (Are these the two options, she's a magic user or mirror?) The novelty of a politician taking a stand whether they are or aren't they a broom-carrying member of the local coven wore off quickly -or seemed to: this week O'Donnell is back on topic and saying that not only does she regret the ad but, yes, she did dabble. Doesn't mean she'll be dressing up for Halloween, except maybe as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Ha. That's cute, but the joke's on us: airhead politics, sadly not a novelty, is keeping O'Donnell's name in the media and makes very real the possibility that she will unseat the incumbent. That's sad.

Campaigning in 2008, Barack Obama had a name for this kind of thing: silly season. He was referring to ridiculous attempts by his opponents to focus on superficial details of his background, but the idea here is the same: make enough noise and your recognition factor goes up, regardless of the quality of the racket. Too often voters go with name recognition rather than any true understanding of candidates. Thus the ongoing saturation parade of the likes of O'Donnell will likely prove more effective than Chris Coons' strategy of sitting by. You would almost think he wants to lose his job and be remembered as old what's-his-name. Maybe it's not too late for him to come out as a warlock.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wayback Wednesday

Mesmerizing footage shot from the nose of a San Francisco cable car days before the 1906 earthquake leveled most of the city. This is so wonderful I had to share it:

And here is chilling footage taken after the devastating quake:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Best Halloween Movie

If there is such a beast. There has to be a "best" in every category, right, when it comes to pop entertainment, meaning most enjoyable and capturing the essence of the category in which it figures, in this case Halloween movies. Donnie Darko leaps (hops?) to mind, an odd little theory generator -there are as many theories about what it means as there are people who have seen it- and autumnal costume drama. Best rabbit mask, to be sure.

Does a movie have to take place in October to qualify for this coveted slot? That qualifies ET the Extra-Terrestrial, which might not be scary to anybody but those of us with a horror of raisins on legs from another star. (Personally, I'm hesitant when I encounter them.) Or does "best" mean "scariest"? Day of the Dead takes place on Halloween, is terrifying, and has zombies in it -that automatically puts it at the top, right? Trick 'r Treat and Halloween are no-brainers for contention. When it comes to scary, The Exorcist and Poltergeist and The Nightmare Before Christmas can't be forgotten. So many good movies for one day of the year.

Thinking about this brings me back to Frank, the scary rabbit-angel from Donnie Darko. He inspires me to extricate myself from the couch and remember what's best about Halloween: strapping into a good costume and getting out there to enjoy the holiday.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Writing on the Wind

A quote comes constantly to mind as I prepare the manuscript for its nationwide tour of publishers. When asked if he revisits his old work, writer/illustrator Frank Miller replied, "I'm not a masochist." Tell it like it is, Frank.

I would reply that though there is some resemblance to my hand, the old work in hindsight seems to have come from another's. A tacit admission of masochism, this also speaks to my social graces: even a stranger who writes as poorly as they that penned my past drafts, I can see past that and be their friend. I can make the effort; though not guaranteed, odds at success are good.

Sentimentality should be tossed out the window. Write on the wind, like the arrow from a bow. Remove your preconceptions. Pulling the catgut taught, the conviction for a bull's eye fills your vision, clearing at the peak of tension and release, your handiwork revealed in honest light.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Poison Arrow

Discovering a new writer can be one of life's gifts, that first encounter with an incredible, unimagined dimension miraculously captured in words. China Mieville's latest, The City & The City, just started this week, could be miraculous or something else altogether; a new writer is just as easily and all the more likely your worst enemy. I'm not deep enough into the novel to know either way. Authors can hide what is magical in their writing, what really grabs and bridges the page to your mind, revealed with patience and careful reading; just as easily and all the more likely nothing's there. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

One writer is always new yet old, magical at a glance but upon closer scrutiny vile, scurrilous and loathsome. Any writer in love with their first draft please contact me immediately and spill the beans how it is done. What feels so good, so right, flowing onto the page loses something in hindsight, is a complete mess and beckons with hours of editing. What can you do.

Sounding less than thrilled is not the same as reluctance. I look forward to shaping the raw work into something readable. It's going to be work, that's all, to cobble together disparate sections of what will one day compose my second novel. Editing on the first one is a horse of a different color. I'm shaping it beyond readable, which is most certainly is, into publishable form, but laying out the intimations of the next was an act of nothing less than self-defense.

Other writers have warned me against finishing a manuscript. If you don't have another project to jump into, the ensuing dread is akin to facing the end of existence: What if I don't have another book in me? The question punctures your skin like a poison arrow, devours the belly, burns the spleen and dissolves the heart, worming its dirty way up your spine like it was a ladder of doom and bursts your brain. The real downer is that you shot yourself, concocted your own doom. Who wants that? So, overlapping the end of one project with the beginning of another provides good protection against being your own worst enemy.

That's how things stand so far. If this is my last blog post, you'll know why!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Speechless Tuesday

Halloween, we have our costume:

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Writing a novel is an endless process of discovery. You believe the end is near when suddenly a new crop of problems emerge, problems that can't be ignored, and it is back to what seems perpetual tinkering. Possibly every writer goes through this but I can only speak from my own experience of infinite regression. One issue crops up more than any other: blindspots. The manuscript has blindspots to spare, so many I could sell them on eBay. They arise from plot/character conflict, when one demands superiority over the other. That is almost all I see now, as if I were working not on the document itself but an x-ray of it: rather than tissue the bones are exposed and I read not words but plot or character and the undying tension between them. Makes for a special kind of blindspot, points of black that show up on the page like signs of disease.