Friday, August 31, 2007

A Little List of Dreams

from Jacqueline

Yesterday, while getting ready to go out and ride my horse, I put my back out putting on my riding breeches. One leg in, then – I am bent over and cannot stand up. At times like these, there is a quandary. Do I risk further injury by trying to take off the one leg of the riding attire that is on my body, or do I try to stand up? Do I hop to the freezer to pull out an ice pack, or hop to the bedroom and try to get on the bed, one leg in my breeches and all? Frankly, I don’t remember what I did, I just know it hurt. Now, here’s the irony in all of this. Before leaving my desk to get ready to go out to see the horse, I was reading an article in the New York Times (I kid you not, this is what happened) regarding the fact that women in the 45-55 age range were generally faster, stronger athletes than women in their early twenties. Yaaay!! I thought, as I leapt up from the desk in a fit of early morning athletic joyfulness, and ran to the bathroom, where I had thrown my riding breeches when I came back from the barn the day before, and ... there you go. Middle aged athlete with a dodgy back.

However, the continuing adventures of my spinal cord was not going to be the main thrust of this post today. I was going to talk about lists. Of course, top of my list at the moment is an appointment with my chiropractor (non-invasive technique, none of that snapping and cracking).

I’ve had a list for some years, I revise it at the beginning of each year. My list comprises all the things I would like to accomplish, see and do before I quit this mortal coil. Part of it is this sense of trying to fit in as much as I can, though I do not feel as if I have to rush it all, which for some reason I did in my early twenties. And part is a sense of adventure, doing things that, when I was growing up, I never thought I’d be able or have the opportunity to do. I came from a small town where a steady job in a local typing pool or the sausage factory was all that was on the horizon. My parents were so worried that I my horizons might be stunted by this limited range, that they would drive me past the local laundry once a week, saying, “There, that’s where you’ll end up if you don’t work hard at school.” I would sit in the back of the car and say (really – I can’t believe they didn’t stop the car and chuck me out), “If I have anything to do with that laundry, it will be because I own the place.” I was fourteen at the time, with a bit too much “lip” even if I say so myself.

Back to the list. While reading the New York Times (yet again), I came across an article pointing to the fact that list-making is quite the thing at the moment, with researchers putting it down to our stress-laden, got-to-do-it-all lives. Not sure I completely agree with that, but I will add that, when my coaching practice was in full swing, one of the things I asked my clients to do was to list their dreams, their ambitions, and those things that should happen in their lifetime to give them the sense of a life well-lived. I think for most of us it’s quite simple: To have family and friends that we love and care for, to have a sense of worth in our work, our daily round, and to have some things to look forward to and back upon. There are a million quotes out there attesting to some variant of this little list. But beyond that, there are those things we’ve heard about, read about, or that a friend’s done, that we would really like to do. The things that grab our imagination. Here’s a quick run-through of some of mine:

I want to go on a riding safari in Kenya – none of this Land Rover lark, I want to be on horseback, staying at lodges, preferably ones that have already been swept of poisonous snakes. Cannot abide snakes.

I want to visit the baby elephant orphanage run by Dame Daphne Sheldrick in Kenya – I adore elephants.

I want to go hiking in New Zealand – thank heavens I won’t be able to afford such a venture until long after the back is in full working order again.

I want to take my parents on an Atlantic crossing on the QM2

I would like to be a good enough rider to compete at the higher levels of dressage. Back permitting.

I have loads of book ideas I want to explore, fiction and non-fiction. Want to do them all.

I would like to go to Antarctica – the fact that I cannot abide the cold could be a bit of an issue here, but I am assured that modern severe weather garb will take care of that for me.

Bhutan, I want to go to Bhutan.

And Montana, and Peru.

And most important, there is a whole list of personal wishes, to do with those I care for most and how we spend our time in this world with each other, and that list has to do with love, with respect, with having good times, and with the personal album of memories we carry with us from day to day, with even those ordinary things done together that we cherish.

So, go on, inspire us all – what’s on your list? And I bet as soon as I read it, I will want to add it to mine.

(PS Just read through this list of "I wants" and am almost embarrassed by it. Reminds me of when I was a kid, telling my mother I "wanted" something. Usually something we could never afford. Her response would be, "Now you know what it is to want - call it an experience!")

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

I Love Librarians

I’m certain I’ve made this statement in print before, perhaps even on this blog, but it bears repeating; I love librarians. I mean that in the most respectful and honest way. They support two of the more embattled groups in America; The reader and the writer. But my appreciation of librarians is a long-term, deep-seated emotion. A relationship which eclipses most of those I have had with individuals. Certainly any of my blood relatives that aren’t my children.

The first non-kid book I read, a Jacques Yves Cousteau text on the ocean and it’s wonders, was suggested to me by the librarian at South Olive elementary school. Although I lived on the coast and spent much of my time in the salty waters of the Atlantic, I was ignorant of the varied life forms that contributed to the world under ours. From fish with their own luminance in the deep reaches of the sea to something as common as a Seahorse, I fell in love with the ocean.

More recently, as a published author, I have found librarians to be the most supportive and enthusiastic of fans. Barbara, the reference Librarian at the county branch closest to me always saves my reviews and articles. She is quick with the optimistic prediction and always makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something special.

Booklist, published by the American Library Association, gave me my first starred review for Walking Money. I had several copies within a week from librarians who had followed my book from the start.

This year I attended a party hosted by the Florida Library Association related to the Florida Book Awards. Aside from a good time in Orlando, I made new friends and have been invited to a number of events associated with Libraries this year.

What could be better that a smart woman telling you to keep quiet? A smart woman with a blog who knows books. I refer to the self-titled Book Bitch (I’ll call her BB for short since I’m not sure she wants her true identity revealed here) and her great blog, which is part of her webiste A librarian here in Palm Beach County, the BB is a lovely woman who reads like eighty books a week. Her daughter reads seventy-four a week.

One librarian outside of Los Angeles made my day earlier in the year. I was on tour with Field of Fire and had a down day. I visited the local library to catch up on e-mail. I had to fill out a form to use the internet at the library. When I handed the form back to the librarian she looked it over and said, “You know there’s a writer named James O. Born.” I knew, but I didn’t realize anyone else did. It made my tour of Southern California.

So as I prepare to leave for the Decatur Book Festival in Georgia tomorrow I want everyone who makes use of a library to give his or her librarian a hug for me. I am, unfortunately, under a court order to stop hugging random librarians. One of them requires that I stay 100 feet away from her at all times. But I would ask that you guys do my bidding. If you happen to be attending the book festival just outside of Atlanta this weekend, drop by and say hello. If not there then at the Southern Festival of books in October, The Miami Book fair in November or The Vero beach Book festival the following week. If you’re a librarian, let me know and I’ll make a fuss. At least as much as the legal system will allow.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Woke Up, Got out of Bed, Dragged a Comb Across my Head

By Cornelia

I couldn't think of anything even barely approaching wit or profundity this morning, and as it's getting on in time here without inspiration, I thought I'd share a typical day's schedule of life here at the Chateau Ultra-Trashy.

4:17 a.m. Lila, who fell asleep in my bed the night before, wakes up and starts laughing in the dark for no discernible reason, then begins to tickle my feet with her feet.

This lasts about ten minutes.

5:03 a.m. Waking up from a sound sleep, I realize Lila is no longer in bed with me when I hear the magnetic locks on the kitchen cabinet being popped, one by one.

I have no idea how she does this. When I lose the magnet lock, I have to get out a screwdriver and take the doors off by removing the hinges.

5:04 a.m. I race into the kitchen to find Lila wearing an inside-out fleece, one of my gold cowboy boots, and a striped tube sock.

The Nutella jar is on the counter, half-empty, and she has also
mashed up a box of cereal and a one-pint container each of sour cream and vanilla yogurt in a large mixing bowl, a mixture which she is now eating with a large barbecue fork. I notice a big blob of Nutella on the toe of my cowboy boot.

6:07 a.m. I have just gotten Lila and self back to sleep when the phone rings. It is Intrepid Spouse from San Diego, wondering where his other striped tube sock is, since it isn't in his suitcase and he knows he packed it.

I am silent for about 30 seconds, then say, "And what could you possibly need a striped tubesock for, at 6:07 a.m.?"

"Oh, sorry, did I wake you?"

6:09 a.m. While I have been momentarily distracted on the phone, Lila has woken up again and managed to dump an entire bottle of conditioner on her hair. She walks into the kitchen totally starko.

The tubesock is gone, but my cowboy boot is now on her OTHER foot. She smiles at me.

6:15 a.m. After finding the pliers we use to turn on the bathtub taps (ever since Lila took the actual tap handles outside and slipped them through a rent in the fabric of the space-time continuum while I.S. was replacing the washers some months ago)...

... I turn on the shower to get the conditioner off Lila's head.

6:16 a.m. I sneak away with my cowboy boot to hide it on an upper shelf in the linen closet.

Meanwhile, Lila sneaks out of the shower and finds twelve new rolls of toilet paper under the bathroom sink, which she proceeds to unroll back in the shower.

I briefly wonder how she managed to do this in the time it took me to walk three feet from the bathroom door to the linen-closet door. Presume she found another rent in the fabric of the space-time continuum.

6:17 a.m. I wrap Lila in a big bathrobe, mush the water out of the toilet paper, go to the kitchen for a garbage bag, and scoop all the wads of sopping paper into it. Lila uses this interlude to re-pop kitchen cabinets and finish Nutella.

6:19 a.m. I hose off Nutella and drag Lila back to bed with me, then pull small bureau in front of bedroom door so I will hear her if she sneaks out again. Figure I can sleep for approximately two hours before I have to even think about getting up to take her to school. She is looking drowsy. Good.

6:32 a.m. Wake up from sound sleep to hear Lila whooping it up ouside on her monkey swing. Look out bedroom window. She is wearing bathrobe and my cowboy boot, again.

I know this means I will get another "anonymous" note from the woman in the house below us, berating me for not controlling my children, because she and her husband must be allowed to sleep until 8 a.m. "Unless we are less than efficient at work in the aftermath."

She is Swedish and her grammar is always a dead giveaway. I consider buying a package of earplugs and nailing them to her front door, a la Martin Luther.

I will read her note aloud to myself later when I find it in my mailbox, doing my Swedish Chef imitation from the Muppets. Then I will burst into tears due to lack of sleep. Standing in the middle of the driveway.

7:04 a.m. Bring Lila back to bed with me. This time drag LARGE bureau across bedroom door. Lila laughs and tickles my feet with her feet. It is at this point that I realize I have forgotten to remove the cowboy boot.

8:30 a.m. Alarm goes off. Lila is asleep and refuses to get up. I thank God that I had the foresight to blow my last yuppie-scum dot-com editorial paycheck in 2001 on a German espresso machine that only makes me push one button before it grinds the beans, tamps them down in some interior container, heats water from an interior reservoir, and brews me a double espresso with perfect crema.

Too bad we all got laid off before I could afford to upgrade the kitchen counters, which are still covered with black-and-mustard sheet flooring from ca. 1952. But whatever.

On the bright side, the coffee machine speaks twelve languages. I switch it to Portuguese to amuse myself, then fill huge coffee mug to brim with espresso and cold milk and dump in three packets of Splenda.

Light Sweet Crude. Yum.

8:34 a.m. Check email. Read thirty blogs. Remind myself I have to write a blurb for Sandra, drive to Kaiser in Oakland to get copies of girls' medical records for Grace's school forms, dye my hair, check rental car prices online, call my mother, call my editor, call my agent, call my sister, call Aunt Julie, call Candace about Vermont, call Annie and Millie about staying with them next Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Boston--respectively--write a blog post, finish an interview for someone else's blog, clean the house before Thursday night when Chrissy and Lily are coming over for pizza, figure out where Martha and Rebecca and I are having lunch tomorrow, call Wells Fargo to see if they'll unfreeze my credit card so I can actually rent the car, call the Hertz place on 95th and Broadway in NYC to see if they'll be open Labor-Day Monday, find my passport, find Grace's passport, fill three prescriptions, pick lemons from the tree in the driveway for the pasta with prosciutto I want to cook at Ariel's on Central Park West Sunday night, get directions to Rhinebeck from Jessica Bard, buy a digital camera for Grace somehow for her upcoming photography class, get a haircut, ship Grace's guitars to New Hampshire, and lose twenty pounds-- preferably in the next forty-eight hours.

9:05 a.m. Realize Lila was due at school five minutes ago. Start looking for socks and underwear for her. Wonder if we have anything for her bag lunch.... find Triscuits, salami, carrot sticks. She will not eat carrot sticks but I will at least look like I tried when the teachers and aides open her lunchbag.

9:07 a.m. Have found white socks, tie-dyed t-shirt, undies, bra for Lila. Cannot find pants for her except the cropped sweats with the big hole in the butt. Search her bureau, dining-room-table laundry pile, interior of dryer, floor of her room, floor of my room. No pants.

Wonder if Intrepid Spouse washed any of her pants during his weekend "Laundry of the Valkyrie" juggernaut. Unlock back gate to check clothesline across driveway, for which he eschews dryer so as "to reduce your carbon footprint, Bunny."

Find one pair of Lila-fitting navy sweatpants with white stripes down the sides, eleven-and-a-half pairs of spousal sweatsocks, and my very last decent sweater. Sweater is now shrunk to the size of a potholder--Intrepid Spouse believes that hot water works best on everything.

9:15 a.m. Can only find my OTHER cowboy boot and two mismatched left sneakers of Lila's, after I get her dressed. I discover my pair of new fuzzy leopard ballet flats right under the sofa, however, next to half a bagel and the now-empty conditioner bottle.

Wonder if I will be arrested for Fashion Cruelty Perpetrated on an Autistic Child if I send her to school in tie-dyed t-shirt, striped sweatpants, and fuzzy leopard shoes--not least since they're taking the kids on a field trip today. Lila pets shoes gingerly with her fingertips and breaks into a satisfied grin, singing a little repeating melody to herself. I decide it's a case of Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.

9:21 a.m. Grace wanders into kitchen as I'm heading out the back door with Lila. She uses the magnet lock to open the cabinets, says, "What happened to the Nutella? There was that whole huge jar in here last night."

I say, "Long story."

Grace says, "And she ate that entire baguette, too."

Me: "We had a baguette?"

Grace holds up the paper tube in which the skinny erstwhile loaf formerly resided. "Can you buy some Entenman's on the way back up the hill?"

I say, "Um..."

Grace hands me five bucks. "Now you owe me one hundred thirty."

And now I know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall....

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Raves & Rants & Romance, Arkansas

By Paul Levine

I got a sneak peak at "Fast Track," Lee Goldberg's two hour, action-packed pilot for German television.

SOCKO! It's a tire-screeching, heart-pounding, street-racing tale with the look and feel of a feature film.

Lee wrote and executive-produced the pilot, which was shot in English, and will be sub-titled on the Continent. While incorporating the action sequences of a Bruckheimer film, it's laced with the wit and charm that Lee brings to all his writing. I'm betting that "Fast Track" will be syndicated in dozens of countries around the world, including cable in the U.S.A.
Lee is a well known television writer ("Monk," "Diagnosis Murder"), showrunner ("Martial Law"), novelist ("The Man with the Iron-On Badge," "Mr. Monk and His Two Assistants"), non-fiction writer ("Successful Television Writing") and international playboy. Okay, maybe not the last item; he doesn't have the time.

While Lee Goldberg is a big macher, in Germany, I remain a little pisher.

Actually, I remain transgendered. Yes, "Polly" is back. The book club edition of "Solomon and Lord" is out with a new cover and the vomitous title "Liebe Lebenslänglich," ("Lifelong Love").
As anybody who's read the book knows, Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord are antagonists whose relationship is always on the brink of disaster. And...Victoria would never, ever wear that silly pink-bowed prom dress.

President Bush "reluctantly" accepted the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Earlier in the day, the President reluctantly removed a splinter from his butt. Or to paraphrase MSNBC's Chris Matthews, the Administration has pruned the rotten limbs from the tree. Rumsfeld. Rove. Gonzalez.

Now if they could only do something about the trunk.

This award goes to Bill Stewart of Romance, Arkansas. Not making up the name of the town. The late John Keasler of The Miami News (also departed) often referred to the fictional town of Bark, Ark., but Romance is real. Here's Mr. Stewart, as quoted in The Washington Post (still alive, as of today).

"The reason for the Michael Vick thing . . . is because athletes have a keen insight into courage and determination, which is what pit bulls possess," said Bill Stewart, a breeder in Romance, Ark., who publishes the Pit Bull Reporter. "Athletes understand better than anyone what dogfighting is about. It's about two highly conditioned athletes going at each other with everything they have to try to win. It's the purest form of combat on earth."


A newspaper story recently reported that the tiny town of Arvin in the San Joaquin Valley was the "smoggiest" place in the United States. That sent me to Wikipedia Maps to have a satellite look. Wikipedia maps have little squares that can be clicked to show the locations of schools, parks, police stations. But on this satellite map, part way between Arvin and the even tinier town of Weedpatch (yes, from "Grapes of Wrath" fame), I found these unique locations. "Central City Crackhouse," "Dopers Delight," "Wetback City West" and "Huerta's Whorehouse."

I'm asking Agent Jim Born to investigate.


The Los Angeles Times reports that a small L.A. garment manufacturer made a custom pair of diamond and ruby encrusted jeans for Las Vegas hotelier and big shot Steve Wynn (right). The cost, $18,000. Just wondering what this says about values, folks.

Meanwhile, on the homestead, Renee keeps asking me to throw out my $11 bell-bottom jeans from the 1970's.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

A cautionary tale

Patty here…

Good crime fiction ratchets up the tension at every turn of the page. Life must get progressively worse and more dangerous for our heroes and heroines until the pressure becomes unbearable. Just when you think they’ve hit rock bottom, something really bad happens. We call it upping the stakes.

This week while my foot was turning banana yellow and the air brace on my sprained ankle was making my toes numb, my stakes got seriously upped.

My Web site disappeared into the ether.

The guy who hosted the site on his server died some weeks back. It was sad because he’d handled all of the computers in my life for as long as I can remember. He also protected me from spam and hackers. His company was sold. I stayed with the new guy. A week ago I stopped getting email. I called to find out why. No response. I tried again. And again. Nobody called me back for four days.

To make a long story short, my friend died without leaving a password to get into the server where my Web site lived. His spam-busting routing system was so complicated that none of the so-called experts called in to solve the problem could figure out what he’d done or how to access my files. So why is it we didn't have guys like him looking for those weapons of mass destruction?

Nobody has a back up of my site, not even me, mostly because I don’t know how to back up a Web site and had no idea I should even be worried about that. In an instant, my site was wiped out—all the text I’d written, every link, every photo, and every review quote I’d accumulated for the past four years. Every everything. Oh sure, I can reconstruct most of it from scratch, but it’s going to take me days if not weeks. My Web site now lives in some quirky time capsule where it will stay forever—alone and inaccessible unless somebody figures out how to break it out. Maybe I'll start a new movement: FREE WWW.PATRICIASMILEY.COM. We'll have rallies and hand out some of Miss C's bumper stickers. It's 8 p.m. Do you know where your Web site is?

Luckily, my Web designer, the fabulous Maddee James, saved my bacon (as Our J always says) by restoring my email and agreeing to host the newly reconstructed site. Whew!

Paulie, who’s a funny guy with a vivid imagination, predicts this tale will find its way into a book one day. I hope it’s one of his. Along with all the thrills and chills his writing offers, I'd welcome some of his signature humor right now.

This whole episode got me thinking about the material things I’ve lost, sold, or given away but wish I had back.

1. My Web site
2. My parent's Royal manual typewriter
3. My green gauze culottes (but only until summer’s over)
4. My sense of humor

Got anything you want to add to the list?

Happy Monday!

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Spelling, Words Carefully Chosen, and the Errors That Irk Us

from Jacqueline

I am usually fairly good when it comes to spelling, but like everyone else, I make mistakes. I always run the spell-check, because I write for publication in both British-English and American English and sometimes get my s’s and z’s muddled up, and I also slide in the odd programme when I mean program, and colour when I mean color, or vice versa. I hate making mistakes, and try not to be irked when I see others making mistakes in print, whether it be in the actual spelling of a word, in a word out of context, a malapropism or, in an historical novel, a word used that wasn’t invented at the time in which the novel is set. So I could perfectly understand being corrected last week when I spelled “umbrage” incorrectly – thank you, Allie. (I’m also a bit old-fashioned, so I tend to use “an” before historical, hotel, herb, horrific ... apparently that rule is way out of fashion now).

I have some pet peeves of my own. Whenever I hear or read that someone is “chomping at the bit” I want to say, “Champing. It’s champing.” Horses do not eat their bits, they champ, which means a constant gnawing in anticipation of moving. Of course, a purist will tell you that once upon a time, the words had a similar meaning, and in truth they do today – but the word here is champing.

Humble pie is another. The word should be “umble” because the pie in question was made of what was known as “umble” – traditionally the offal from a deer. It was meal made by poorer people, because it was cheap. You would have to eat umble pie or go hungry if, for example, you had lost your money in a wager. Also, in days of yore, it wasn’t only people from London who dropped their “h’s” – even Queen Elizabeth 1st dropped her h’s because that’s the way people spoke then, so eating umble pie, meaning to come down in the world, became mixed up with umble as in humble. But if we are to join those purists, the saying should be that one eats umble pie when brought down a peg or two. By the way, anyone remember these guys?

Humble Pie.

Just recently, reading a novel by a very well known writer who shall remain nameless, in dialogue she described a person’s teenage habits. The book was set in 1915, and the world did not have teenagers until the 1950’s. It’s a relatively new word. And though it was a small error, it put me off the book. Now I know how people feel when they think I’ve made an error in my books – however, I can safely say that most of the time I have an explanation. And if it's an error of language or research on my part, I try to put it right, but you can't always do that when the book's published. (By the way, you would not believe how many people tell me that the word “smog” was invented in Los Angeles in the 1950’s. Sorry – it was London in 1904 at a conference on public health. The “noxious blend of smoke and fog” was described as smog and the word quickly became part of the lexicon, with the particularly nasty smogs continuing to be referred to as pea-soupers).

When I was training to be a teacher – and that really was in days of yore – there was a trend towards completely ignoring issues such as spelling and grammar, and allowing the creative waters to run in the children without them having to be concerned about anything but the story – and that makes sense, to some extent. My approach was to allow the kids to run wild in their stories, encourage them to use new words, to congratulate and support enthusiastic and imaginative storytelling, but to draw attention to some of the words that needed a bit of assistance from the dictionary. I remember when I was at college, I wrote to my mother and happened to tell her that I had been to a certain play and it was mesmerizing. Generally, her letters to me were few and far between, after all, not only was she working hard at the time, but we also spoke on the ‘phone once a week. However, I received a letter almost by return letting me know that I had spelled “mesmerize” incorrectly. And as far as she’s concerned, it’s wrong today in this post, because I’m writing in American English, not British English. For my mother, reading in England, it should be mesmerise, with an “s.” And I could go on about how the punctuation is different too, but that’s just going too far. By the way, when did “spelt” become “spelled?” Or is that another old-fashioned thing? Could it have been lost when those spelt loaves became a staple at Whole Foods? Or was it never correct at all?

As professional writers, our work should be polished, it should not only have the spark of creativity, but be presented to the reader without errors. Oh, I wish. I have yet to understand how a manuscript that leaves my hands with spelling corrected, and with punctuation checked, ends up with all manner of typos and other errors by the time I finally get the book in my hot little hands. One of my editors referred to this phenomenon as our sacrificial offering to the gods of perfection. Personally, I think technological advances in typesetting have a lot to answer for.

So, having given a few examples of the things that might cause a passing frisson of irk, what issues of language get under your skin, when you’re reading a book or magazine? Or when you’re in conversation? Chances are I’ve crossed someone’s line with this post – there’s a spelling, a grammatical error or an issue of style that has rattled a cage. But what, in your opinion, matters, as far as language is concerned, and what really is of no consequence at all?

And while I’m on my Friday soapbox, does anyone have an opinion on the overuse of the word “that” in American writing today? Try going through anything you write and taking out every “that” – it’s amazing how many you can do without, and how much they hamper the rhythm and flow of the language.

I may not be back at the page until much later today. I am having a tooth extracted this afternoon – a very large molar tooth. I am terrified of the dentist, that’s all I need to say. I am a wimp. I have had better Fridays.

Finally, here’s a quote attributed to the poet, Alexander Pope:

“Compose with fury and revise with phlegm.”

Hmmm, each to their own.

And thereby hangs a tale ... or is it only tails that hang?

Paul, I’m sure you have a quip about revising with phlegm ....

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Superbad is super funny

The last two weeks have been rough on me between issues at work and my son moving away to college. By Saturday night I felt exhausted both physically and mentally. I desperately needed relief. I wanted some stupid, mindless entertainment but since I’ve already read all books I've written, I decided to go to the movies instead.

I’m sure you’ve picked up on the fact that I’m not a huge fan of the super spy (except Bond) so anything with the name “Bourne” was out of the question. Rush Hour III held no allure either. But a little movie named Superbad caught my attention. I plunked down my money and was prepared to invest two hours, which I don’t usually do lightly.

The movie starts out as vulgar and then moves on to crude and classless. That’s right, I loved it. I wouldn’t recommend it because I would not take responsibility for adults hearing the language and references made by the teenaged characters in the film. But there was some endearing, realistic factor that drew me in. The film almost reminded me of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which has stood the test of time as a classic for a generation. The simple plot but well defined characters make you want to see what will happen next. At least for some viewers.

The put-downs and comebacks are a far cry from the “Your mama” jokes of my teenaged years or the “Your father looks like the Kaiser” comebacks of Paul Levine’s formative years. I doubt the dialog has much in common with Jackie’s “Bob’s your uncle” phrases or whatever the hell language they spoke in that country she was raised in. I still watch Fawlty Towers as a way to learn a second language. But Superbad’s sexually laced dialog fades into the story as the movie sprints along.

Perhaps it would be no surprise that I loved the two cops in the movie most of all. Their wild, twisted, weird view of things made me laugh from the moment they took the screen. I know the portrayal will offend some of my colleagues but if you can’t laugh at yourself then don’t laugh at others. Seth Rogan and Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader give inspired performances.

The movie is written like I was taught to write: Without regard to sensitivities. No political correctness. No effort to make it a mainstream hit. Just a quick, crude, shocking cruise through the lives of a small group of teens over the course of 36 hours.

Witty? No. Sophisticated? Definitely not. Funny to a jackass like me? Absolutely.

I'm interested in your take on this or similar movies. Post a comment or drop me an e-mail.