Friday, December 22, 2006


Am I the only one, or is the premise for the new Rocky movie totally dumb and fatally flawed? Okay, I concede I have not seen the movie and am only basing this opinion on the trailer...

So, based on the trailer, this seems to be the premise: There's a computer simulation that pits boxers from different time periods against each other. Problem one. It's a computer simulation. That anyone would assume anything from that is just dumb.

Okay, we'll let that go and continue. Computer simulation Rocky, from the 70's, wins the boxing match against the current champ. Okay, fine. But based on this, 30-years-older Rocky decides to take on the champ he "beat" in the simulation. Big problem two. Does he not realize the simulation was him in the 70's??? When he was already over the hill as a boxer in his 30's???? The simulation didn't age him 60 years, does it? And if it did, how could it? I would love to have heard the discussion at the studio where someone decided this was a good idea.

I know the whole Rocky franchise is about the underdog beating unbelievable odds, but this premise is just about the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

And really, does the world need another Rocky movie??? (Did we need more than one in the first place?)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

American Title III

Kim Howe has made it to the next round!

Vote for her by sending an e-mail to with One Shot, Two Kills in the subject line. Vote from every e-mail address you have. Tell your friends!

For more info about the contest visit

For more info on Kim visit:

Good luck Kim!!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Golden Globes... Comedies and Foreign Language

More Golden Globes talk....

First the comedy/musicals:

I haven't seen DREAMGIRLS, yet, so I can't comment on that... But I have seen the other four nominated films and if LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE doesn't win this category, there is no justice in the world. (Although I expect DREAMGIRLS will win and I guess it's not fair of me to claim this is wrong, since I haven't seen it. But I do think it will win and probably not because it's better. It's been well reviewed, there's Oscar buzz and it has big stars... Therefore, will probably win.)

But LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE! I think this just came out on DVD and I want to see it again. It was a fabulous movie. The characters were amazing and not predictable and there's not one minute of wasted time or dialogue in this film... (I'd like to watch again to test this assertion...) But no wasted scenes or lines is a big deal in comedies, where so often there are portions there just to be funny, that don't really serve the story... Not in this movie. But I'd call it a "dramedy" not a comedy... Great movie.

THANK YOU FOR SMOKING is largely funny because of the amazing premise and good performances. But I found that most of the funny stuff was shown in the trailer and the story wasn't that riveting and overall I was a little underwhelmed. I probably just went in with overly high expectations... I wish I'd seen it when it had its world premiere at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival. By the time it was released to theatres, it had made the festival circuit, showing at Sundance, too, and there was way too much hype around it. However, if you haven't seen it -- especially if you haven't seen the trailer -- rent it. There are some unbelievable lines/ideas in this movie. And it has one of the best premises I've seen in ages... A story where the protagonist is a lobbiest for the tobacco industry. Too funny. Amazing satire.

I've talked about a couple of times... I really did think this movie had moments of uncomfortable brilliance and Sasha Baron Cohen is amazingly adept at turning a light onto ugly things about western society in a very unorthadox way (no pun intended) (well, maybe a little bit intended).


Really? I mean Meryl Streep was fabulous in that role, but really?


Will let you know, if I get a chance to see it...

And the foreign films... I've only seen two of these... But want to comment anyway, 'cause I can't stop myself and the two that I saw were AMAZING!!!

VOLVER (Spain)
Go see this movie. Right now. Even if you think you hate subtitles. Go. Even if you've seen a Pedro Almadovar movie before, and you think he's too weird. Go. Trust me.
This was his most accessible Almadovar movie I've seen (no porn stars getting kidnapped and seduced, no transvestites, no major religious controversies)... Don't get me wrong. I love Almadovar's movies... and you've got to love a director who introduced the world to not only Penelope Cruz (who's great in this, as she was in his other film ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER -- another film that's really worth renting...) but also Antonio Banderas in TIE ME UP, TIE ME DOWN. If you haven't seen either of these actors work in their native tongue, you're missing something...

PAN'S LABYRINTH (Mexico) I saw at the film festival this year and although it's not my kind of movie, per se, the buzz was so great I picked it. And I was blown away. It's a fairy tale and the protagonist is a little girl... but don't let that fool you into thinking it's a movie for children or simplistic in any way. Very dark. Very creepy. Very good.

THE LIVES OF OTHERS (Germany) I haven't seen this. (Don't know if it's been released to theatres here, yet... Maybe now it will be.) But I've heard from others that it's amazing. I know it screened at the Vancouver Film Festival but not in Toronto... Too bad. Can't wait to see it.

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA (USA/JAPAN) I'm actually looking forward to seeing this, but I didn't see the first one... FLAGS OF OUR FATHER. I kinda hope they'll rerelease it along with this one so I can see them both on the big screen... A double feature would be great. Clint Eastwood understands storytelling, so I have high expectations for these films and like the idea he's showing the history from both the US and Japanese perspectives. Great idea.

APOCALYPTO (USA) I don't think I'll see this movie. Partly because of the whole Mel Gibson thing and partly because, while I can take a lot of violence in movies if it's in context and important, somehow I can't take the violence in Mel's movies. I found BRAVEHEART horrible to watch and most of the violence completely gratutitous, and don't even get me started on his Christian snuff porno. Why did I go see that???? Okay, I felt like I had to out of curiousity and to judge whether all the anti-semetic accusations etc. were justified... But I'm done with Mel Gibson as a director, unless he does something that isn't 95% graphic violence -- which is what I've heard about Apocalypto.

Impt note: I'm not a rabid anit-violence in the movies person. I love Quentin Tarantino's films. Pan's Labryrinth has some graphic violence... but it's not the whole freakin' movie and it fits the story and adds impact when it's there. It's Mel's 20 minute battle scenes with nothing but gore (or the 70 minute shredding of someone's body in the Passion) that I take exception to. No one needs to see that kind of violence.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Penguins, Polar Bears and Spreading Ignorance

Every December that beverage company we all know, which herein will remain nameless (because I'm a little afraid of them), starts airing those stupid commercials with penguins and polar bears. Makes me a little crazy.

Okay, you can argue: Who cares if it's impossible (other than in a zoo) for penguins and polar bears to be in the same place? Who cares if polar bears only live in the far north of the northern hemisphere and penguins only live south of the equator? (Although penguins get way closer to the equator than polar bears ever do.) Who cares if the ads (which must be in the north, because it's december and it's dark) show lots of open water when that much open water is improbable for that time of year--even with global warming. Who cares?

Me. I think it does matter. (I also think it matters when words are spelled incorrectly, or poor grammar is used in materials targeted to children. But that's another topic.) So many people get all their information from television these days, and if they see penguins and polar bears together enough, they start to think it must be true. Just look how the Flintstones influenced fundamentalist Christians. LOL.

Proof of my theory that these ads are evil? I just read today that, "A new science textbook for school claims that polar bears eat penguins..." This was reported by Graeme Paton, in British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph. Peter Cotgreave, the chairman of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, is quoted in the article as saying, "....It reflects a loss of respect for science."

Yes, that's true. But I also think it proves that it does matter what you show in ads and movies. How influenced the average person can be by misinformation. (Hey, great fascists and dictators understood this. They called it propaganda. Arguably the good people at Fox News understand it, too, but I serioulsly digress.) Obviously the writers and editors of this text book (TEXT BOOK!!!) were influenced enough by images like those ads (that beverage company isn't the first offender, here) that they believed this was a fact.

Maybe (I hope) the people who created those ads knew the polar bear/penguin land they created was fanciful... but I fear far too many of the viewers who see it, including children, don't understand the fanciful part.

(But I totally buy that there are polar bears on the island in LOST. ;-)

Golden Globe Noms are in

Okay, this is already old news for die hard movie buffs (from YESTERDAY) but I can't help giving my 2 cents about the Best Picture Nom's...

Today, the Dramas:


I loved two of these films (Babel and Little Children) I really liked the other three. I think I've listed the films below in the order I'd rank them...

BABEL is a little sad but totally engrossing. I've been planning working on a blog post comparing and contrasting the themes in Babel with another good film I saw at the festival this year, BREAKING AND ENTERING. But that film hasn't opened yet. (opens at Christmas?) Anyway, for me, Babel shows the worst of human nature and Breaking and Entering the best... I
talked about Babel on the Drunk Writer Talk blog a while ago, so won't do it again, here...

LITTLE CHILDREN really blew me away, too, and is another film I'd like to see again... There are so many layers to it... Some which I'm sure I didn't notice or get on first viewing... It explores suburban life, personal fullfillment over family obligations, settling, infidelity, child abuse (on both overt and more subtle levels), guilt, shame, prejudice, mob mentality...
I also think the film was just interesting as films go, using some devices like voice overs and other intrustions that I really thought worked and added humor to what could have been a very dark film. This film didn't get a very wide release, but maybe this nomination will help that. If it comes to your town, check it out. I also talked about this movie on Drunk Writer Talk...

THE DEPARTED. Okay, now I'm thinking about it again, I'd probably put it on my LOVED list along with BABEL and LITTLE CHILDREN, but I thought it deteriorated into almost comedy at the end... (So tragic it becomes comedy?) But maybe the "everyone's corrupt", "you can't trust anyone" message is encapsulated in the way this story ended. I think I'd like to see this film again... and to see the Chinese film it was based on, INFERNAL AFFAIRS. But both Leonardo di Caprio and Matt Damon blew me away in this movie. Molly likes to say you could see Damon's character's ulcers growing. I just thought he made an amazingly charming (and therefore diabolical) bad guy. (Although I already knew he could do this from THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY... which I liked more than most people did... but I'm a big Patrica Highsmith fan. And I liked Damon's Ripley much better than other supposedly "better" actors who have played him, including John Malcovich... It's easy to believe Malcovich is evil and the point of Ripley is that he's a sociopath hidden in sheep's clothing. Cloying, engratiating, self-effacing sheep's clothing... Okay... how did this become a blog on Patrica Highsmith's wonderful character, Tom Ripley??

Back to the films...

Anyone who reads this blog or the Drunk Writer blog, knows I love multiple interconnected stories... but I think BOBBY suffered from not having strong enough story arcs for each of the individual stories in the film. Most were just character sketches...
I also think viewers of this movie need to know some of the historical facts in order for the movie to have any tension or forward drive... This, to me, makes it an imperfect movie -- though like I said, I did like it...(I knew the "important historical fact" going in, not because I remembered, if I ever even knew, but because someone had given me a spoiler, which I normally hate, but for this movie, I think it helped me enjoy the film.) The spoiler detail is that other people were shot the night Robert Kennedy was assassinated. If you know this... you watch the movie wondering which of the characters, Emilio Estevez (filmmaker) is introducing us to, will get shot. It adds some drama and tension in a film that doesn't have a whole bunch until the final 10 minutes, which are then nothing but tension and drama. I expect politics also affected this nomination... That is, the film's very politically relevant today with the US in another unpopular divisive war.

THE QUEEN was another film I liked but didn't love. I admit I have an odd soft spot for QEII. Maybe it's because when she was younger, I always thought she looked a bit like my mom... (Probably just the same hairstyle. My mom is prettier.) Or maybe I associate her with Christmas because our family used to always watch her on TV Christmas morning. Andrew is a few years older than I and Edward a few years younger and I think my sisters and I felt like we grew up with those boys, watching them (and their stodgy older brother Charles) appear with their mum in our living room every Christmas morning via the TV. But this movie really boils down to some amazing performances... I agree with the best actress nomination for Helen Mirren... (I also think the actor who played Tony Blair -- Micheal Sheen -- and maybe the guy who played Prince Charles should have been nominated... but I'm not sure about the movie getting nominated... But also not sure what I'd nominate in its place, so there you go...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Eavesdropping on Di

Okay, what possible reason could the US Secret Service have had for tapping Princess Diana's telephone? Hoping to get some good gossip? Maybe hear some royal celebrity phone sex? Perhaps an overweight agent was hoping to get some weight loss tips (because those "anna" web sites for anorexics/bulimics didn't exist yet)?

Seriously... I think they just tapped her phone because they were curious and they could. Makes you wonder if they often tap celebrities' phones for fun.

If you could listen in on someone's conversations and get away with it, whose would you listen to?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Snotty sleeves

One of the good manners lessons my mother taught me as a very young child was to cover my mouth when I sneezed or coughed and NEVER to wipe my nose on my sleeve. Only people who grew up in barns do that, apparently.

Well, the City of Toronto is trying to get us all to move into barns, with their "Do the Sleeve Sneeze" campaign. I guess the idea is that if you cough or sneeze onto your hands and then touch stuff, like the hand railings in the subway or whatever, everyone who touches where you touched will pick up your germs.

Maybe this makes sense... But gross! I wonder if we'll start to see lots of slimy looking coat sleeves this winter. I think I'd rather get the flu.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

An Embarrassment of Shoes

I'm all for descriptive collective nouns, but when someone recently referred to my front hall as containing "an embarrassment of shoes" I took exception.

Shoes are great. I totally related to the main character in In Her Shoes. No matter how much a girl's weight goes up or down or sideways (mine's gone all three directions too many times to count) shoes look great. And regardless of weight issues, I just don't have one of those clothes friendly bodies. Never have. Never will. I'm short. I'm stocky. I'm learning to live with that. One way I live with it is buying great shoes. And earrings. I'm big on earrings.

Yes, it's true. I own enough shoes to make Imelda Marcos slightly giddy, but I'm not embarrassed about this. Hmmmm... What would be a better noun for a large shoe collection? A pride of shoes? A glory of shoes? A spectacular?

Don't know. But I do know the the sunbeam, which arrived in my living room midway through my writers' group meeting this morning, highlighted an embarrassment housework sins.
PS. Photo of shoe from Fluevog.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Welcome Margaret Moore

I've been remiss in posting interviews and am very happy today to post an interview with Margaret Moore. This interview was first published in the Toronto Romance Writers Newsletter Romantics in March, 2006.

Margaret has forty (forty!) published books and novellas under her belt, over six million copies in print and is a USA Today Bestseller. She has written for multiple houses, most recently HQN where she was one of the imprint’s launch authors.

Maureen McGowan: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. When did you first know you wanted to write novels?
Margaret Moore: Not until I was home with my second baby, and even then, it was sort of, “Hey, this might be fun.” I didn't want to go back to a “regular” job, my degree is in English literature, I have a vivid imagination, and my friend had recently given me THE WOLF AND THE DOVE, which I really enjoyed. I wasn't somebody with a burning desire to write and be published. I had a burning desire to be an actress, actually, but—and this is hilarious in retrospect—the possibility of rejection made me decide I wouldn't be happy in theater.

MMcG: Going into publishing to avoid rejection. That is funny! Tell us about your first sale. How many manuscripts had you written? Did you have an agent?
MM: I started writing an historical, then thought short contemporaries would be an “easier” sell. The gods laughed and laughed. I got a couple of rejections on partials, and then took a course at George Brown College on romance taught by Valerie Susan Hayward, who was a Harlequin Temptation editor at the time. She left Harlequin here to go to Silhouette in NY shortly after they started Harlequin Historicals. She phoned me from NY to say, “Are you still working on that historical? 'Cause they're desperate here.” (Or words to that effect.) I took a week, worked like a maniac finishing and polishing my historical, then sent it off. Four months later, Tracy Farrell phoned to say they wanted to buy it. A WARRIOR'S HEART, the first book I sold, was the first manuscript I ever finished. I didn't get an agent until many years later when I decided to try the single title waters. I have to say, I'm still fuzzy on when to call in the agent rather than just picking up the phone and asking questions myself. Poor agent.

MMcG: You’re well known for your medievals. Have you written in other time periods?

MM: Although I most often write medievals, I've written books set in the Dark Ages, Restoration England, Victorian England and the Regency.

MMcG: Do you think the market for historical romance is changing? Is so, how?

MM: I live in hope that the days of Regency domination are coming to an end. But I've been hearing medievals are a hard sell since 1988. And the midlist has been dying since then, too. Apparently rumors of the demise of both have been somewhat exaggerated. Still, I hope there's going to be a return to more variety. That was one thing I always appreciated about Harlequin Historicals—they were very open to different time periods.

MMcG: Tell us a little about HERS TO COMMAND.

MM: This is the story of a very handsome man who's basically been drifting through life on his looks and charm. He does, of course, have Very Serious Issues beneath that pleasant surface. He meets a woman who, essentially, hires him to command her soldiers. That woman and those circumstances lead to love, and his desire to prove that he's more than a pretty face. The woman who arouses those feelings has, naturally, some Very Serious Issues of her own, and tries very hard not to fall in love with handsome Henry.
This is the fourth book in my Brothers-in-Arms series; Henry is the brother of the heroine in the first book (BRIDE OF LOCHBARR), and their brother was the hero of the second book, LORD OF DUNKEATHE. Henry's was supposed to be the third story, but we hit a bit of a snag, and instead I wound up writing about his friend, Merrick, in THE UNWILLING BRIDE. However, I was able to include Henry in that book, and use an incident from that book to good effect when it came to telling Henry's story, so it all worked out.
MMcG: HERS TO DESIRE is out in August, 2006. What’s it about?
MM: It's about Henry and Merrick's friend, Ranulf, and a character affectionately known as “little Lady Bea.” She's in THE UNWILLING BRIDE, and it's fairly obvious Ranulf likes her. He's in HERS TO COMMAND, too, but it isn't until HERS TO DESIRE that I get them together. I just love Bea —she's a chatty young woman who was a lot of fun to write. And Ranulf...the poor guy. He's so in love with her and trying so hard not to be! I had a blast getting them together—although they are in serious jeopardy in the story, too.

MMcG: Cake or pie?
MM: Oooooh, noooo! Can't I have both? Chocolate cake and cherry pie are my favorites.

MMcG: Okay, you don’t have to choose. What’s your favourite thing about being an author?
MM: I get paid to make things up. I enjoy being self-employed. I never liked group work in school.

MMcG: Your least favourite?
MM: It's very isolated. I literally don't get out much.

MMcG: How much research do you do for your novels? Any tips for aspiring historical authors regarding research?
MM: It varies, depending if I'm using a time period I've already researched, or using a new one. I think the amount of historical detail a writer uses is part of their voice and style, so there's no definitive answer to how much research a writer “should” do. I want things to sound realistic, and I always keep an eye out for the “telling detail,” some interesting and unique tidbit that's indicative of the time and/or place.

MMcG: Where do you get your inspiration? Characters first? Plot? Dreams? Divine intervention?
MM: I start with a character (most often the hero) and a time/place, and build from there. If I start with the hero, I try to imagine the sort of woman that's going to make him furrow his brow a lot. Sometimes I'll get a seed of an idea from my research, sometimes from TV. For instance, my next series is about four half brothers because of Bonanza. I always thought it was neat that Hoss, Joe and Adam (have I got the name of the oldest one right?) had the same father but different mothers.

MMcG: Are you a plotter or a seat-of-your-pantser?
MM: I know the beginning, I know the end, but the middle is a free-for-all.

MMcG: Do you write full time?
MM: Writing is my job, but do I spend eight hours a day at it, five days a week? No. How much time I spend working on a book depends on where I am in the process. If it's the first draft, I take a lot of breaks, because it seems like every sentence is a decision—if I do this, then that can happen. If I do that, then this can happen...and on and on. That gets fatiguing. Once the first draft is done, I work for longer stretches. At the end, I'm literally working morning, noon and night.
I think the hardest thing to get across to somebody who isn't self-employed is that you're never really “away” from your work. It's always there, lurking.

MMcG: That is so true! What are you reading right now?
MM: I just finished DEVIL'S BROOD by Alfred Duggan. It's about the Plantagenets—what a family! It was research and a little dated, but I enjoyed it. There were some great anecdotes about William Marshall I'd never heard before.

MMcG: What are your favourite books, movies, TV shows?
MM: Books —Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, anything by Lucy Maud Montgomery, and several more. I was a bookworm growing up, as my Grade Two teacher noted on my report card.
Movies: Too many to really name, but off the top of my head: Errol Flynn's Robin Hood, Galaxy Quest, The Count of Monte Cristo (latest version), Gladiator
TV —The Amazing Race (my daughter and I have twice gone to NY to watch the season finale at Madison Square Garden, which is how we came to be personally “philiminated” by the Amazing Host, Phil Koegan), Survivor, Lost, The Apprentice, Prison Break, 24 (I could listen to Kiefer Sutherland all day!), Corner Gas. One thing I can't watch is medical shows.

MMcG: Johnny or Brad?
MM: I assume you refer to Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt?
MMcG: Tee hee… You got it!
MM: Johnny. I love Don Juan de Marco (should have that in the list above). Brad's too pretty for me. And I prefer dark hair to blond. Currently at the top of my hierarchy of hotties is Gerard Butler, followed by Richard Armitage, and Jamie Bamber.

MMcG: Good list! What’s the most annoying question you get asked at cocktail parties or book signings? Have I asked it? :-)
MM: It's “Are you still writing?” And it's not annoying so much as rather baffling, as if, once I found out I could actually get paid to write, I'd quit. I appreciate that people really don't know what to ask a writer, though.

MMcG: Are you still writing? Just kidding. What are you working on now?
MM: The first book of a new four book series for HQN (the one about the half brothers). It's called MY LORD'S DESIRE and it's set during the reign of King John. (MY LORD'S DESIRE will be released in February, 2007)

MMcG: What’s your #1 piece of advice for aspiring pre-pub’s?
MM: Write what you want the way you want. Publishers don't want “same old, slightly different characters.” They want new.

MMcG: And my final burning question: Flowers or chocolate?
MM: Chocolate all the way, baby!

MMcG: Great! Now I know how to bribe you if ever I need to! Thanks so much for chatting with me.

Check out Margaret’s website at

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Recreating Moments in Time

Last night, I went with my brother and some of his friends to a concert by The Musical Box. Never heard of them? Well, neither had I.

Turns out they're a Genesis cover band that not only cover Genesis songs... but actually reenact actual concerts--down to the costumes, sets, movements, on stage banter, even (if you believe my brother) the in-the-dark-pre-first-song tuning noises.

Here's a picture of faux Peter Gabriel in concert. (See below for real Peter Gabriel in same silly costume.).

I have to say, the concert was pretty cool, if a little bizarre. Bizarre that so many people are so seriously into the early days of Genesis that they'd want to see these concerts reenacted. Bizarre than many of these people (including my brother) were too young to have ever seen these concerts when they actually happened. (Early 70's)

Me? I didn't discover Genesis until the Duke album... Way past the era being reenacted by The Musical Box. Watching the concert I couldn't help wonder why, if I had as a 10 year old, discovered bands like Yes, (and Rick Wakeman) and Jethro Tull etc. Why not Genesis? (I realized the "cool" bands from the early 70's I did know about were all introduced to me by older cousins or siblings of friends. I guess none of them were into Genesis.)

It also made me slightly nostalgic for the much maligned decade of the 70's. As much bad music came out of that decade, it was also kind of a renaissance period for rock music where exremely talented often classically trained musicians (above bands, plus Frank Zappa come to mind) were exploring the limits of the new electric/electronic instruments--pushing them further than "rock and roll" ever had, creating symphonic-style concerts and albums, rather than a bunch of hit songs.

Now, I'm no sort of music historian so I'm probably talking out of my ass here... but the concert did make me nostalgic for a time when FM radio was avante guard, for a time when not all music had to have hooks or get radio play to be appreciated, for a time when when black lights and strobes were the "coolest things ever!"

Would I have sought out this concert on my own? No way. Did I enjoy the experience? You bet.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tagged by a Candy Cane

Christine D'Abo tagged me with a holiday get to know you questionnaire. Love when that happens. Especially when I don't have anything to blog about and lack the time or energy to come up with anything original. Thanks Christine!

Your Name: Maureen

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Depends on what's in it... If there's brandy or really good rum, I'm going for egg nog. (Has to be good egg nog, too... not full of a gazillion artificial ingredients) If it's really great chocolate made with milk (none of that powdered add water stuff) I'll go with hot chocolate. (am I picky or what?)

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa is a wrapping machine.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? My house has white outside... but I'm ashamed to say they've been up since the previous owners. (they don't show that much in the summer, honest.) I'd prefer colored. Can't get too gaudy at Christmas is my motto.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Haven't for years... Good idea, though. Need more kisses.

5. When do you put your decorations up? Late... (Like most things I do.) Probably not until a week before Christmas. (earlier if I'm having a party or something.)

6. What is your favorite holiday dish? There's nothing better than turkey dinner for me... But my mom's home made butter tarts run a close second.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: Coming down the stairs with my sisters in our nightgowns to the bright glare of the light on my Dad's old super 8 camera. My Dad was serious paparazzi material. Also, although the tree was always up well before Christmas, my parents used to stay up most of the night and seriously turn our house into a wonderland. That first glimpse of the living room (once we got over being blinded by the camera light) was always magical.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? People are often shocked by this... but I don't think my parents ever pretended it was true. As soon as we were old enough to ask questions, we pretty much knew Santa was a story. I remember one Christmas where my older sister and I decided to torture our mother by not telling her what we asked Santa for after visiting him at Eatons. "Why do you need to know, Mom?" But it was all a joke.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? When we were kids, we used to open one. Traditionally the one from my Grandmother on my mom's side... But I don't really remember when that tradition started or when it ended...

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? Ummmm... I don't understand the question.... Drunk? I like lots of decorations. Lots of colors. Lots of lights. The tackier the better.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Love fresh fallen snow. Hate driving in it. (but good snow tires help)

12. Can you ice skate? I used to skate well... but apparently it's a skill you lose if you don't use... All these little muscles in your shins and feet you don't realize you have until you try skating again.... ouch.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? No one thing really stands out. I remember some strange thing from childhood like a chemistry set and a woodburning kit. Things I'd really wanted and got.

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Seeing my niece and nephew play with their new toys.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? See above re: butter tarts. My sister makes a mean Bouche de Noel, too. (Yule Log.)

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Our family's in transition and I think we're busy building new traditions... My favorite from when we were kids was a strange one. Spagetti christmas eve. I think it was because it was so easy to cook and my mom was always so busy. I remember one year there was a power outage and she cooked it on a Coleman stove. A wonder we didn't die of asphyxiation.

17. What tops your tree? A Mexican tin angel I bought in California.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving? Giving for sure. I love Christmas shopping and always go way overboard.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? Tough one... I think The Huron Carol. Do Americans know that one? If you don't, you should. Beautiful.

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? I'm pretty ambivalent on the candy cane, but given all the other yummy alternatives at Christmas, I'm going to jump off the fence to the yuck side.

Okay... Eileen Cook, Maia Caron, Mel Francis, Sara Hanz

You have been tagged.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Crazy Weather

Okay, the weather may not be the most exciting blog topic, but we Canadians love to talk about the weather.

And this month it's strange. Yes, this is a huge monster country so the weather is pretty diverse, but normally this time of year you can count on a few things. One of these things certainly isn't snow in Vancouver or Victoria... They never get snow, even in the dead of winter, never mind November.

Yes, it's normally getting cold on the prairies by this time of year, but the minus 40 windchills they've been having in Edmonton, Calgary etc. are insane.

And... it's balmy where I live in Toronto. Okay, not exactly tropical, but my thermometer said 15 yesterday, which is almost 60 degrees Farenheit. In the sun, you don't need a jacket. We often have snow by now. Maybe not the kind of snow that will last all winter, but perhaps an early blizzard that's annoying and turns to slush and reminds us of what's heading our way in January and February.

Instead, we're getting the nice fall weather we really didn't get much of in October. Yipee.

My apologies to my fellow Canadians suffering in less favourable weather conditions. I'm sure we'll get ours, too... Soon...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Agent Hunting

Just in case any of you have yet to discover the wonderful group blog The Debutante Ball, I thought I'd post a link to Eileen Cook's post today on how she found her agent.

click here

(How's that for a lazy blog!) Not Eileen. Me. LOL

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My flag's at half mast...

Robert Altman died. No more Robert Altman movies. That's so sad.

I know, I'm making him dying all about me, about how I'll be deprived, but I love his films. Just a few weeks ago I watched NASHVILLE again. Actually, it might have been my first time all the way through. I'm pretty sure they cut it when they show it on TV and it's not the kind of movie that does well with commercial breaks. "I'm Easy" was one of my favourite songs when I was about twelve and the first song I learned to play on the guitar. (Not too impressive, very few chords, but hey...) And that scene when Carradine sings it... when Lily Tomlin, and Shelly Duval and Geraldine Chaplin and Cristina Raines are all convinced he's singing to them... Amazing. And such a beautiful song.

SHORT CUTS has to be my all time favourite movie, and MASH and THE PLAYER and GOSFORD PARK and COME BACK TO THE FIVE AND DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN and THE COMPANY are all favourites, too.

Less loved, but seriously liked: COOKIE'S FORTUNE, A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION and others...

Robert Altman. The cinema will miss you. I know I will.

Monday, November 20, 2006

O.J.'s contract cancelled!

There is a God.

This just reported in a Publisher's Lunch Extra:

Monday, November 20

Faith Restored--Simpson Cancelled
News Corp. just released this statement: "News Corporation Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch today announced that the company has canceled publication of the book If I Did It as well as the corresponding FOX broadcast network special.
Mr. Murdoch said: "I and senior management agree with the Americanpublic that this was an ill-considered project. We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown-Simpson."

If he still gets some of the advance, I sure hope the Goldman and Brown families get it like they should.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Brain hurts. Head about to explode

Why? I just spent 36 of the last 60 hours at the Robert McKee Story seminar.

I went into the weekend with fairly low expectations for at least four reasons. (One may well question why, then, I paid the exorbitant entry fee... but that's a whole other topic...)

The reasons for my lowish expectations...

1. I don't have the time right now to spend 36 hours in a classroom, so I thought I'd spend the whole time chomping at the bit to get out of there and actually write, rather than hearing about writing.

2. I've been to so many conferences this year, I thought I was "craft workshopped out".
Not that I think you can ever learn too much about writing, or stop learning... But I do think that once you hit a certain limit over a period of time, you need a chance to absorb, to apply what you've learned to your work, to see if those lightbulbs will stay on or burn out, to grow as a writer, to develop new problems that you might work out if you go to a great workshop.

3. I own McKee's book and while I admit I've only skimmed most of it, I've read the first third (maybe quarter) quite thoroughly, and based on that, I didn't think he'd have anything to say I hadn't heard or read in one way or another from someone else.

4. I have this theory that McKee's popularity has more to do with cult induction techniques than what he actually has to say. In other words, when you put a large group of people in a room for 12 hours a day, 3 days in a row, with breaks so short that you barely have time to pee or eat. And Oh! Something I didn't realize until I got there the first morning. Twelve hours a day. One food break. That's right. One. We got 3 fifteen minute breaks (each barely long enough to pee, because of the lines for the toilets) and a single one hour break (barely long enough to eat, because there's no place to eat close by, so you spend most of the time, using the toilet, running somewhere to get food, waiting for your food, and paying for your food, leaving only maybe 3 minutes to actually eat it...)

But I'm a convert. Yes, the man is an arrogant, misogynistic, uncouth dinosaur who thinks his opinions (including many which have nothing to do with writing) are fact. But he's brilliant.

Or maybe I'm just under the cult spell....

I expect the drunk writer talk blog will be dedicated to McKee talk this week...

Must sleep now....

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction: Mandatory Film Viewing for Writers

Okay, calling something mandatory is a little over the top. But seriously. If you're a writer, you should go see the film Stranger Than Fiction.

It poses an interesting question to writers... What if your fictional characters were real? What if the words you wrote on the page had consequences for an actual human being? What would you do?

Writers of popular fiction are taught to throw rocks at our characters, to put obstacles in their path, to consider "what's the worst thing that could happen to my character" -- and then make it worse, to give a character two choices: sucky and suckier, to make sure every consequence of a character's actions is the opposite to what they expect.

No matter how you say it, we live to make our characters' lives hell.

So, back to the film. The premise is fabulous, the performances great and the story worked. For me, anyway. I even bought the attraction between Will Farrell and Maggie Gyllenhall. (That girl can act! I mean, she has my man Peter Sarsgaard at home and she made me believe she wanted Will Farrell.)

Okay, sorry for the Peter Sarsgaard distraction. I find him distracting And he isn't even in this movie.

Back to Stranger Than Fiction... For most of the film I kept thinking, how are they possibly going to end this? And that's a good thing. In my opinion, the audience shouldn't be able to see the end coming, except in films following genre conventions... which this one does not. When I first saw the end coming, I was disappointed. It felt like a cop-out solution out to me. But by the time they actually got there, it worked. I loved it. It moved me. And it makes a comment about happy endings, but I don't want to explain how, because it will ruin the ending.

I highly recommend this movie, particularly for writers.

What if your characters were real people? Dream come true or worst nightmare?

Little post script... There was a very funny minor character in the movie--a psychologist working at the IRS. He only had one scene, but it was great. I didn't recognize the actor -- and I normally recognize actors (see my Phantom of the Black Dahlia post). And then, during the end credits, one of the main actors listed was Tom Hulce. Tom Hulce, I thought? Mozart from Amadeus? Larry Kroger from Animal House? Who did he play??? So I waited until they listed the cast. He was the hilarious psychologist. Very funny.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Christian Bale night and too much of a good thing

Okay, I don't want the title of this post to imply one can ever get enough Christian Bale. Not me, anyway. I've been fascinated by him as an actor ever since he did Empire of the Sun as a young boy.

The other night, I went to see The Prestige and Harsh Times back to back and I'm pretty sure I could've sat through another film with Bale in it if one had presented itself. (I highly recommend Rescue Dawn, but don't know when it opens. Keep an eye out.)

My too much of a good thing comment refers not to Bale, but to his moive The Prestige. Now, don't get me wrong, I liked this film, mostly. It's my kind of movie. But something about it didn't work 100% for me and it got me thinking... Did the filmmaker try to do too much? Did he try to combine too many interesting elements? Did he overdo it?

Spoiler alert... I'm going to to try to avoid spoilers here.. but if you haven't seen the film and plan to, you may want to stop reading now, or skip down to Harsh Times.

The Prestige has three timelines and through the first half or so of the film, it was sometimes hard to tell which timeline we were watching. At the time, I found this disorienting. It was exacerbated by the fact that two of the timelines had similar elements.... In one, Hugh Jackman is decoding Christian Bale's secret journal and in another Bale is decoding Jackman's. Also, one had Scarlett Johannson and one had Piper Perebo--who look remarkably similar. (Not that you'd mistake them in the movie... I'm just saying... I'm sure that's how Piper got cast.) Another source of confusion was the accents... Part of the film is in London and part is in the US, but the accents weren't used as cues, with plenty of of American accents in London and vice versa... And we had an Australian actor (Jackman) playing American, American actors (Johannson and Perebo among others) playing British, and a Welsh actor (Bale) doing cockney. Not to mention David Bowie doing a quasi-German accent. And each of the actors occasionally slips and lets his/her real accent show. I think Michael Caine might have been the only lead actor using his own accent?

Combined with all that, the plot has multiple double-crosses, devious plots and the two major characters are illusionists by profession. So, I guess one is bound to get a trifle mixed up.

But--big but--by the time we hit the last quarter or so of the film, I actually decided that all that initial confusion actually works in the movie's favor. The disorientation felt purposeful, a devise the filmmaker used not unlike the misdirection techniques used by his illusionist characters. In my opinion, it made the story a puzzle to work out and more interesting to watch.

So where did it break down for me? I think it was the sci fi element. Maybe it's too much to expect us to believe in all these magical illusions and sort out the double crosses and timelines and also buy what actually happens. (This is where I'm going to be vague to avoid spoilers.)

Still it was pretty cool. Okay as I write this, I'm decidedly warming up to this film. I've got to get one of my drunk writer buddies to go see it so we can discuss.

On to Harsh Times.

I first saw this film over a year ago at the 2005 TIFF. I remember being kind of blown away then. Overwhelmed anyway. So I decided to see it again.

On second viewing, there is much to admire about this film made by David Ayer (Training Day).. but I'm not sure I can give it my highest ringing endorsement. A low budget film to be sure (a boom mike almost comes down to hit Eva Longoria in the head in one scene) I never expected this film to get a wide theatrical release. I expect it wouldn't have, if Bale hadn't recently made a few commercial films. (like Batman Returns and The Prestige.) It certainly is a film that goes for shock value -- I think that's why it stuck in my mind the first time I saw it during a week of many, many films.

I don't want to give even the hint of a spoiler... If you're going to see this film, you're best going into it completely cold... But I love this quote from Rick Groen's review of the film in The Globe and Mail. "Harsh Times opens with a deadly nightmare and ends with a vast bloodbath -- in between, things get a little gruesome."

Pretty much sums things up. Christian Bale should take out a patent on psycho characterizations.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Shooting yourself in the foot

Why do so many aspiring writers get so angry about the industry? Yes, we get rejections. Yes, they can be arbitrary and subjective. Yes, there's plenty of conflicting advice out there. Yes, lots of good books don't get published. Yes, lots of mediocre ones do.

If you can't accept these things, (and others), don't try to be a published writer.

What's got me riled up?

One of my e-loops has a visiting agent this week. Great opportunity for un-agented writers to ask questions, get a feel for said agent, etc. Also, apparently, a great opportunity for a writer to be rude and ensure said agent will never accept him/her as a client.

This particular agency doesn't respond to queries unless they ask for a submission. Fair enough. "We'll contact you if interested" is a pretty common practice in the job hunting world. It's perfectly fair for a literary agency to do this.

The agent also explained how rare it is for a query to catch his eye. Really? This was news to people? Anyone who has spent even a minute in this industry also knows this is just the way it is. Agents get oodles of queries and can't possibly request pages from all of them. He explained this quite well from his perspective in his post.

Why then, would a writer reply with a really snarky note to the agent suggesting that if the agent isn't looking for submissions, why he didn't just state that on his website and not accept queries.

I want to scream at this writer.

He is looking for clients. If he weren't, he wouldn't be answering questions on the loop. He wouldn't be looking at any queries. He accepts queries in hopes of something truly exciting (to him) catching his eye and finding a new great writer.

Dear writer: All he told you was the truth--that he can only request pages for a very small percentage of the queries he gets in. This is true of all agents--especially those who are well-established.

Okay. Rant over. I'm done.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Continuing on my mini-reviews of films I saw at the festival that have recently hit the theatres... I thought I'd touch on Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

Freakin' hilarious. Super offensive.

It's hard to describe just how offensive this movie is. Offensive to residents of middle Asiatic countries, offensive to Jews, offensive to blacks, offensive to gays, offensive to women, okay, basically offensive to human beings.

But hilarious.

I already blogged about the midnight premiere of this movie at the TIFF... (Donkey carts, a broken projector and Michael Moore on the first night; Dustin Hoffman sitting in the audience the back up night.) But I don't think I touched on how truly funny the film is.

Part of me thinks I should be ashamed of myself for finding this movie so funny. It makes you wonder when joking about something crosses the line. But perhaps the reason Sasha Baron Cohen's satirical comedy works so well is that every topic he tackles is so far far over the line.

Also shocking is how little some of the unsuspecting people he interacts with in the movie react to his blatent racist and sexist comments. Many don't bat an eyelash. Scary comment on American society.

Friday, November 10, 2006

What American Accent do you have?

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: North Central

"North Central" is what professional linguists call the Minnesota accent. If you saw "Fargo" you probably didn't think the characters sounded very out of the ordinary. Outsiders probably mistake you for a Canadian a lot.

The West
The Midland
The Inland North
The South
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Outsiders mistake you for Canadian a lot. LOL.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

How does Kate keep her eyebrows plucked?

A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting my aunt, who is not a fan of Lost. I made her watch it anyway. When I asked why she didn't like it, her major complaints were things like: why hasn't Hurley lost more weight. I admit I've wondered the same thing, on occasion, but they explained that partially with the food from the hatch, and I was surprised during one of the early episodes this season to find out how few days they've actually been on the island. (42? Can't remember, but it was fewer than I thought.) And really, worrying about those kind of details misses the point and the fun of Lost in my opinion.

Still...watching it tonight I had to wonder... How does Kate keep her armpits so hairfree? Her eyebrows so nicely plucked?


Monday, November 06, 2006

Marie Antoinette

Okay, I know this movie's been open for a few weeks and is old news... But I was out of town when it opened and in spite of being very excited about this movie, didn't get to it until tonight... I'm a big fan of Sophia Coppola. I also liked the idea of using modern music and sensibilities in this film to make Marie Antoinette's situation more relatable. To emphasize how very young the last King and Queen of France had been.

I wasn't at all discouraged about the lukewarm reviews or the booing the film received in Cannes. I figured the movie was bound to piss off the French, who wouldn't like an American filmmaker using American and British actors to tell the story of this important (albeit Austrian) woman from French history. I've also learned over the years that I often like films the reviewers don't...

But the movie fell flat for me...

There was much to like. It's great to look at and I actually think Kirsten Dunst was very good in the role. The look she gives the camera during the opening credits was worth whatever they paid her. I also liked Jason Shwartzman as the King and found their developing relationship cute and kind of sweet.

So what went wrong? It occurs to me that this film is a good example of why storytelling is so important. But I'm not typically a stickler for straightforward storytelling in movies. (Me and my drunk writer buddies often disagree on films because of this, I think.) I do like movies that don't tell an obvious story as long as it has compelling characters I love watching... And some of the characters in Marie Antionette were interesting... Notably Antionette herself...

But this film just didn't work for me. It spent a lot of time (a lot) showing us how much time it took for Louis and Marie to figure out how to make a baby... (Did we need to see him turn away from her in bed or prematurely ejaculate so many times? Did we need to see more than one letter of concern from her mother on the topic?) And then, after spending too much time on that, and an inexplicably long time watching her walk through gardens, it basically skipped forward to the revolution, with the most abrupt movie ending I've ever seen. Maybe cutting off the end of the movie, was supposed to symbolize cutting off her head?

Anyway... didn't work for me. I also didn't see why Sophia bothered to show Marie having an adulterous affair, without really exploring how this affected her or her marriage. A wistful look out a window one bored afternoon was all we got. Was the affair just to show she'd had good sex at least once in her life? Or just to get a sex scene into the movie? Didn't feel like it needed to be there, to me.

Sorry Sophia. I guess not every movie you make will be perfection for me.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Fun Quiz

Fun? I guess that says something about me that I find taking a little mini-test fun. Sometimes I do miss school. Is that sick or what?

You paid attention during 97% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create a Quiz

Anyway... I want to know which question I got wrong! I thought the test was pretty easy. I'll bet it was the religion one. Since when are religious topics taught in high school anyway?

Have fun if you do the test. :-)

What is it about Princess Diana?

I went to see The Queen last night not because I'm obsessed with the monarchy or Princess Diana, but because I'd heard Helen Mirren was amazing and the film was getting really good reviews.

I thought the film was good... and shows the other side of a media frenzy story we all know from the other side... (The Queen's tepid response to Diana's death.) But other than the great performances I didn't think the film was amazing...

What I did find amazing is how, after nearly ten years, I can still cry when I see the images of people putting flowers in front of the various palaces in London after Diana was killed. What was it about that woman?

She was a twit, in my opinion. The worst kind of upperclass bimbo twit. Yes, she did have a bad marriage that wasn't entirely her fault. We can feel bad for her for that. Yes, she did do a lot of good charity work. We can admire her for that. (But most of the Royal family do charity work--notably Princess Anne--yet they don't get the same media coverage for it.) Yes, she appears to have been a very good mother. Good for her. Doesn't make her less of a twit.

But I was wrecked when she died. Devastated. I teared up for months each time I saw her photo on yet another magazine cover. And I teared up big-time several times during the movie last night, even though the character we were supposed to be sympathetic with during that movie was Queen Elizabeth II, not Diana.

For me, I think my unnatural attachment to Diana comes partly with my age. She was exactly a year older than I am and when she got married at such a young age in such an elaborate ceremony... Even though I hadn't thought I had an ounce of Cinderella fantasy in me... Seriously... who wouldn't get caught up in that spectacle as an eighteen year old or whatever I was. My sisters and I had a party in our parents' basement and a bunch of our friends spent the night. The big plan was to stay up all night and watch the wedding in the morning while drinking champagne. Sadly, we fell asleep at some point, but we only missed a little of the run up stuff around 5:00 am EST.

But I remember it so vividly. I also got up to watch her funeral. I figured if I could get up at 5:00 am for a wedding, I should do it for a funeral.

I can't believe it's been nearly ten years... or that I can still cry about it.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I was tagged last week, when I was away and cut off from blogland, by Sara Hanz to reveal 5 interesting things about myself. Hmmm.... I'm not that interesting. This'll be my challenge of the year.


1. I've jumped out of an airplane at 13,000 feet without a parachute. Okay, I was strapped to a strapping young man who had a parachute. Tandem skydiving. Don't know if I ever need to do it again, but I'm glad I did it.

2. In high school I did musical theatre. Sadly, being short I never seemed to get parts for adults, though. When I was 17 I played a 9 year old boy... Oliver. Yes, sad but true.

3. I ruptured my achilles tendon about 14 years ago... Unfortunately, my stupid doctor (don't even get me started about HMO's in the US) thought I was just being a wimp and I walked on it for six weeks before she'd refer me to a surgeon, who immediately scheduled me for emergency surgery. I've got a 24" scar up the back of my leg 'cause they had to graft tendon from up near my knee.

4. About a year after the achilles tendon repair I hiked to the top of Half Dome. This photo of some guy climbing the cables doesn't really capture the steepness. Being short, I basically had to pull myself up these cables with my upper body (couldn't reach the cables any other way.) This photo also doesn't capture the traffic. I was almost crushed by a huge football player guy who was on the way down as I was going up and was terrified. Actually, terrified doesn't quite cover it. His friends tried to get me to move off the cables so he could go by more easily but I decided I'd rather leave one boot braced on a post and let the shaking but huge man slide over me than let go completely. what you can't really see in this photo is it drops off to the right and left, too...

5. Now I'm on to physical feats... I've done a 100 mile bike trip in one day. The Solvang Century. Not an easy ride. It's not only is 100 miles in one day, there's about 4000 feet of climbing, some of it steep. Boy, I have got to get back into shape!

I tag.... Margaret Moore, Christine D'Abo, Nadine Dajani , Mel Francis, Michele Ann Young

Halloween Scrooge

I don't know when it happened. I used to love Halloween. I trick-or-treated up to an embarrassingly high age... I think the last year I officially went out I was 13, but my friends and I were into the pillow case collection receptacle method by then (the serious stuff) and went home to change costumes mid-night so we could return to the houses that gave the best candy. Hard core.

I even went out trick or treating one year in University to a subdivision near my residence. I don't think we fooled anyone, but a few of the good-sport homeowners actually gave us some candy. And I used to love dressing up, going to a party or two, handing out candy to kids. Fun.

But for the past 6 or so years I've been a total scrooge. I just can't be bothered. I don't even know how many kids go out in my neighbourhood because I've never been home. The first few years I lived in this house I had an excuse. Oct 31 is a month end and since I was the CFO of a hedge fund, we had to value our fund at month end and I rarely got home before midnight -- long after even the most die-hard teenage trick-or-treaters had called it a night. Then, I think the next Halloween came on a Thursday, which is my critique group night... One year I think I went to visit my sister and her family in Ottawa... (love seeing my niece and nephew in costume)
But tonight I'm turning off the lights and going to the movies. Can't be bothered. Don't want the candy in the house. Don't know any kids in my neigbourhood. TV's upstairs and don't want to keep going up and down to the front door. (How lazy is that???)

Bah, humbug.

Halloween... love it or hate it?

Friday, October 27, 2006

On the road...

Have found it hard to get to a computer this week to blog... But I have made a (way too long) post on the drunk writer talk blog today about conferences...

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Mountains Exist!!!

After 36 hours of wondering whether the hotel's marketing materials had been a big fat lie, mountains have emerged from the fog, creating a beautiful vista from my hotel room in suburban Vancouver. (Otherwise known as Surrey)

Eileen Cook, on the other hand, remains shrouded and I'm beginning to believe she only exists in blogland and not in real life :-)

Having a great time at the conference so far and my mind is swimming with too many thoughts to be very coherent.

I just came out of an "advanced" class on mastering POV. Two quick thoughts:

1. I've noticed the use of the word master or advanced in the title of a workshop (this one used both) greatly increases the number of male writers in the room. Perhaps I'm not being totally fair, though... The presenter was a sci fi writer and some of the participants may have attended mostly to hear him.

2. The degree to which writers of other genres know nothing about romance or women's fiction continues to amaze me. Although, given the ounce of reflection possible while I was typing that last sentence, I realize that until 4-5 years ago, I knew nothing about romance, either, so why I expect a sci fi writer to have a clue, I don't know. (When I wrote my first romance, I thought I'd be breaking new ground by doing a sex scene from the hero's POV. Little did I know they ALL DO THIS. At least for the past 10-15 years...)

Not that the presenter didn't have a clue. It was actually a very good presentation on POV (one of the best I've seen) -- just not what I'd expected from an "advanced" class on "mastering" POV. Virtually every member of RWA knows what he taught in that class and it shocks me how new the idea of staying in one character's head for a scene was, to many of the writers in the room. Also interesting... he suggested that if you have two main viewpoint characters, you should avoid scenes where both are present, or if such a thing cannot be avoided, you should write that scene from a third viewpoint character's POV. He said to use one of the main viewpoint characters and not the other, but have them both in the scene would be difficult and confuse the reader.

Made me think romance and women's fiction writers and readers must be really smart. :-) But I already knew that.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Last King of Scotland

Okay, during the film festival I promised I'd blog about some of the great films I saw -- perhaps closer to their release dates.

I've just realized that a few have come and gone already... Ooops.

But one that's in theatres right now you should check out is The Last King of Scotland. A deeply powerful film about a dark period in Ugandan history.

It tells the story of the brutal dictator, Idi Amin Dada. This is the synopsis from the official web site for the film:

"In an incredible twist of fate, a Scottish doctor (James McAvoy) on a Ugandan medical mission becomes irreversibly entangled with one of the world's most barbaric figures: Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker). Impressed by Dr. Garrigan's brazen attitude in a moment of crisis, the newly self-appointed Ugandan President Amin hand picks him as his personal physician and closest confidante. Though Garrigan is at first flattered and fascinated by his new position, he soon awakens to Amin's savagery - and his own complicity in it. Horror and betrayal ensue as Garrigan tries to right his wrongs and escape Uganda alive."

When I saw the film, I wondered if Dr. Garrigan had been a real person, and I've spoken to a few people who are convinced he was, but he wasn't. He's just an amazingly clever device used by the writer to show how the world (most particularly the British who aided in Amin's rise to power) got sucked in by the initially charismatic dictator and how the world came to see the truth and horror that was Idi Amin. The "trick" here is that the novelist wrote the book (on which the movie is based) as a memoir. Okay, I assume it says novel on the cover, but it's written as a memoir making lots of people think the protagonist really existed. The writer side of me is really impressed by this idea... What a great way to fictionalize historical events. Create a character, plunk him in the middle of the events you want to show and write his memoirs. I guess this isn't entirely original--others have done it. But this movie (and I assume novel--haven't read it) does it well. (Actually, in many ways Hotel Rwanda did this, too... Sure, that hotel manager existed, I actually saw him at the film's premiere at the Toronto festival in 2004, so it's not the same situation as Last King... but the manager's role in using the hotel to save people was reputedly grossly exaggerated in the film in order to tell a good story. To roughly quote General Dallaire, the UN leader in Rwanda: "Yes, the UN used that hotel for refugees. Yes, I think I remember there being a helpful manager." In some ways, this distortion of a real life character bothers me more than creating a completely fake one. Yes, centering Hotel Rwanda on a sympathetic and proactive protagonist was a good way to create a story appealing to the public... Perhaps it's the Canadian patriot in me that didn't like how they misrepresented Romeo Dallaire in that movie. He should have been the hero, and instead he was a drunk Nick Nolte, but I suppose it wouldn't have sold as many tickets. If you want to see the Rwanda story told more acurately, rent the documentary SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL.)

But I'm seriously digressing. Back to The Last King of Scotland. I first doubted the doctor character was based on a real person during the resolution of his story. I don't want to put any spoilers here... but I felt that if the circumstances surrounding the climax of the film were true, then his story would be better known. The climax of the film occurs during the 1976 hijacking of an Air France plane which Amin allowed to land in Uganda and whose hostages were famously rescued in an Isreali army raid. (and immortalized in the 1977 TV film RAID ON ENTEBBE)

Anyway. I thought THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND was a really great film. It's not for the faint of heart, there's some brutal and graphic violence, but the story is one everyone should know and the performances were amazing.

Forest Whitaker was astounding and James McAvoy (dubbed the It-boy of this year's Toronto festival because he had 3 films screening--one I liked STARTER FOR TEN, one I didn't PENELOPE) was equally good as the naive young doctor.

Check it out! If you've seen it, let me know what you think.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Writers are nice people

There are lots of stereotypes of writers--particularly romance writers I suppose--and the more writers I meet, the more I think these stereotypes aren't based on any kind of reality.

Not for genre or mainstream fiction writers, anyway.

This year, between serving on the board of my local RWA chapter and attending way too many conferences for my own good, I've had the pleasure to meet many authors including several big-time bestselling authors. I have to tell you, they just couldn't be a nicer, smarter more generous group of women.

Maybe it's because in romance and women's fiction we're writing about human relationships, so the writers who are good at showing these relationships to readers via their words, are also good at human relationships in "the real world". Maybe it's because writers understand what makes people tick?

Don't know... But what inspired this post was a lovely dinner Saturday night with Mary Jo Putney who kindly came up to Toronto to speak to our TRW members. While answering our questions in the afternoon, she was frank and open and honest and encouraging,and then was gracious and really good fun when the board took her and her husband out for dinner in the evening.

I'm wondering, if all stereotypes exist because they're true... where are the nasty diva's eating bon bons? Where are the sad introverts who live only through their characters? I've never met any writers like that. Have you?

(Not that being an introvert is a bad thing . I'm a bit of one myself. By sad introvert, I just mean that stereotype of a lonely romance writer with absolutely no life or friends besides her cat. The Joan Wilder before she goes to Columbia stereotype.)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The verb "to see" -- a grammar rant

I'm not a picky grammarian--especially not in spoken English, but nothing makes me cringe more than “I seen”. I actually have a pretty good friend who says it with some regularity, but I must admit I don’t think I would have given him the chance to be a friend if he hadn’t been the partner of another good friend. (I suppose that says more about me than him, doesn’t it. Too quick to judge at times.)

The other night I heard someone being interviewed on TV say, “I have saw.”

Okay, in speech we all make mistakes, (hey, we make them in written english, too), but this person did it more than once making it seem like she thought it was correct.

People. It’s not that hard.

Of course, this is from someone who co-founded a weblog called Drunk Writer Talk… But really, Drunken Writer Talk doesn’t sound as good, does it? Besides, my dictionary lists both words as adjectives :-)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Back from Jersey


I watched ET tonight (very highbrow TV selection) and Anna Nicole's mother was on. She was chastising her daughter for not having buried her grandson yet. "What kind of mother would do that?" she said.

Not that I'm defending Anna Nicole or her parenting abilities... but what kind of mother would go on National TV and criticize her daughter????

Seriously. Apple don't fall to fur from the tree there, do it?

I'm blogging on drunk writer talk today about setting career objectives and sticking to them. The NJ conference was great. Really glad I went.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Control and hairdressers

I was born a honey blonde. That’s what I would have called it anyway. It wasn’t ever platinum like my older sister’s, but still blonde. I liked the colour. In my not-so-humble opinion, it looked like 24 carat gold in sunlight. That and its softness almost made up for its limp, fine, impossible to style, poker straightness.

Sometime during my thirties—I’m not exactly sure when, because I moved to California when I was in my late twenties and I think the sunshine masked the exact year of change—my hair darkened and dulled, turned less golden blonde and more dark dirty blonde or even (gasp!) mousy brown. So, in spite of having much disdain for artificial blondes when I had my own, I started to add highlights. I’ve had a bit of a chemical dependence ever since.

After quitting my conservative day-job, I wanted to try something different. Having green eyes and that Irish/Scottish complexion thing going, I always wondered what I’d look like with red hair. I confessed this to my new, crazy-in-a-good-way hairdresser, Farzana, along with a desire to have something bold, something funky, something that didn’t scream 40-years old. (A milestone I’d just reached.)

The first few times she cut and coloured my hair, I’m sure we discussed what I wanted ahead of time. I seem to recall having input on the colours she used.

Not so much anymore. Now I walk in the door and she goes, “I have a great idea!” and several hours and many dollars later I emerge with some crazy hair colouring.

Not that I’m complaining. I keep going back, don’t I? And Jenny Bent remembered me at a conference because of my hair. (And I’m pretty sure it was in a good way.)

When I went in to see Farzana on the weekend, my hair had a strawberry blonde base, not unlike the natural colour of my youth, and some chunky highlights in a lighter blonde, and some red, and some brown… I loved it when she’d done it back in July and it had faded to something soft and pretty but roots were coming in. I wanted to know if she could freshen it up and fix the roots, without doing the whole hog double process it had taken to get it where it was.

Somehow, without much discussion, I walked out a few hours later with very dark hair. Deep brown on the bottom and a deep auburn on the top. For a natural blonde, the dark hair thing is a little disturbing. I’m not sure if it suits me yet. I do know I should have had her dye my eyebrows, too. I look freaky without makeup.

How much control do you give your hairdresser? Do you know exactly what you want and tell him/her? Or, like me, do you throw caution to the blow dryer?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Nadine Dajani

I had the pleasure of meeting fellow Canadian, Nadine Dajani, this summer in Atlanta after corresponding with her a few times and discovering a strange connection... Not only are we both accountants turned fiction writers, we have a connection through the Cayman bank she works (worked now, I think). No, I'm not filthy rich and I've never laundered money through the Caymans. The connection is through a past job of mine. My former employer is a (very ligitimate and totally above board) client of said Cayman bank.

Nadine's first book FASHIONABLY LATE is coming out in June 2007 from Forge books. I, for one, can't wait to read it. It's set partially in Montreal and partially in Cuba and the heroine is a Lebanese Canadian. What could be more interesting than that? Those critics who say chick lit is all about rich white American women should do a little research!

Anyway, perhaps I should get around to the point of this post?

Nadine just launched her website and is running a great contest all week via her blog to celebrate. Check it out!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Phantom of the Black Dahlia

I went to see The Black Dahlia last night and I really, really wanted to like this movie. I'm a big Brian de Palma fan, generally, even when he makes it hard to be one.

I had just about completely lost interest in all the subplots and connections and over-the-top-for-no-good-reason characters in The Black Dahlia, when who do I see strangling Aaron Eckhart? Winslow Leach! Okay, not Winslow Leach,
but the actor, William Finley, who played Winslow Leach in one of my all time favourite movies (but which oddly never seems to make my top ten lists when I make them) Brian de Palma's campy 1974 classic THE PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE.

If you've never seen this movie, why not??? YOU MUST.


To explain my obsession with this movie, I need to fill you in on a little personal back-story. In 1974 I was twelve (which makes me 29, now, right?) and living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Both of these facts are important. For some bizarre reason I'm sure would be worthy of a Phd thesis, Winnipeg went NUTS for this movie. I don't know the exact statistic, but I think it sold more tickets per capita in Winnipeg than anywhere else in the world. Like double or triple. It was such a phenomenon, that Paul Williams,
who stared and wrote the score opened his world tour in Winnipeg. He was pretty big at the time after writing all those Carpenters hits and had a few hit records of his own accord. (Rainy Days and Mondays, springs to mind.) I only saw The Phantom of the Paradise in theatres twice (I wasn't technicaly old enough to even get in once) but had friends who saw it upwards of 15-20 times. This, I guess, is where the twelve-years-old detail comes in. My friends and I all actually thought Paul Williams was pretty hot. Maybe it was the idea of a man who was our height? Or his pretty long blond hair? His munchkinesque face?

Anyway, I love this movie. I loved the music. I knew (still know, sadly) every lyric to every song. (Must buy the soundtrack to test this assertion, but I'm pretty confident.)

And in case you think I'm making this whole Winnipeg connection up, or blowing it out of proportion, the third hit when I googled the movie title today brought up this link to something called Phantompalooza held just this year in Winnipeg. Looks like all the major cast members attended. Too funny.

Has anyone else seen this movie? Or am I alone in my crazy obsession.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

More funny words

I'm ranting over on drunk writer talk today, so thought I'd keep things light here ;-)

This is part deux of the Washington Post contest. In this part, entrants were asked to alter a word by adding, subtracting or changing one letter and then providing a new definition. (I like #4)

1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

2. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

3. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

4. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

5. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

6. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.

7. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

8 Karmageddon (n): It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

9. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

10. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.

11. Dopeler Effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

12. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

13. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

14 Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

New meaning

I'm not responsible for this. According to my sister who sent it to me, the list is from the Washington Post. Hilarious.

Our family has been playing a game we called "Dictionary" that we thought we invented, long before the game "Balderdash" hit shelves. So this idea is near and dear to our hearts.

Entrants were asked to assign a new meaning to existing words. Enjoy.

1. Coffee (n.): the person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.): appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.): to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.): to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.): impotent

6. Negligent (adj.): describes a condition in which you absent-mindedly answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.): to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n.): olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.): emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.): a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.): a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.): the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (n): a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (n.): a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.): (back by popular demand). The belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.): an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Tucked in my paper yesterday was an LL Bean catalogue. A CHRISTMAS catalogue.

Give me a break! I'm having enought trouble believing it's September.

It drives me nuts how businesses keep moving the holiday season farther and farther forward. Before long, we'll have Christmas decorations in March.

Ho. Ho. Ho.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bella wins people's choice

An American independent film, Bella, won the people's choice award at the festival and I actually saw it.

I wouldn't have put it on my top ten at the festival list, though... Not that I didn't enjoy it... it just didn't seem like anything that special to me. I had to look at the listing to remind myself what it had been about.

Now that I'm remembering it... it was probably a good lesson in slowly revealing backstory. For you writers out there, it's probably a good one to see when it's released for that reason alone. Nice redemption story, too... But I saw the ending coming a mile away and I think it was the ending that swept so many people up and caused them to vote for it...

For those of you who don't know... Toronto doesn't have an official prize like many big festivals. Rather, the public get ballots at each screening and can rate a movie on a scale of 1-5. (Actually, this process has changed just about every year I've been to the festival, but the idea that the audience picks has always been there.)

It's a strange voting system... because you're asked to vote right after seeing a film and I don't know how you can know on the first day whether you'll like the films you just saw better than the films you're going to see. Also, some people may see only one film at the festival, others, like me, see nearly 50. But even 50 doesn't make a dent in the 350 or so films screening... I suppose it's really a contest of how many audience members the film inspires to actually fill out a ballot -- which is, in fact, a test of something.

Suspect system or not, good films tend to win this category each year, (Tsotsi, Hotel Rwanda, Rabbit Proof Fence, The Whale Rider all won in previous years. (If memory serves... I couldn't find a list online,) so I guess there's something to the system. One of the reasons film producers like to premiere their films at the Toronto festival is because the audiences are real movie goers for the most part, not just industry people and press.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Amazing Grace an amazing ending

Well. The film festival is over for another year. I feel dizzy and tired and just a little sick.

I saw so many great films, but they're all whirling around in my brain right now, so it's hard to pick a favourite. Last year and the year before it was easier... Brokeback Mountain in 2005 and Crash in 2004 were easily my favourites... This year, I haven't decided yet, but AMAZING GRACE, is in the running.

I actually had tickets for 5 films today, but only went to 3 -- skipping the first and the last of the day at 9:00 am and 9:00 pm.

I decided to make AMAZING GRACE my final film. It was the official closing film of the festival and was wonderful.

It's the story of William Wilberforce who, I admit, I'd never heard of before. He was the British member of parliament responsible for the bill which abolished slavery in Britain in 1807.

The film is being released in February 2007 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the passing of this bill -- which Wilberforce had been fighting for for nearly 30 years largely against the sugar industry.

Make a movie date in your calendars now for February.

I was supposed to go to THE DOG PROBLEM in the morning... but decided to sleep in. I'm sorry about missing that one. I've heard good things and I don't know if it's been sold to a distributor yet so it might not make it to theatres. Scott Caan is the filmmaker and it stars Giovani Ribisi.

I also saw two documentaries today. The first was SHOT IN THE DARK and Adrien Grenier of Entourage was both filmmaker and subject. I've been a fan of Adrien Grenier since I first saw him in THE ADVENTURES OF SEBASTIAN COLE a lovely little coming of age film, nearly ruined by a horrible fake accent done by Margaret Colin playing his mother, but saved by Adrien and by Clark Gregg as his cross-dressing transgendered step-father.

Anyway, SHOT IN THE DARK is a documentary about Adrien confronting his biological father whom he hadn't seen since he was five. The film was shot in 1999-2000. I expect he couldn't get anyone to give him the money to turn it into a real film until Entourage made him a bit famous. HBO Films is the producer of SHOT IN THE DARK. No surprise. Anyway, if it shows up on HBO or the documentary channel, it's worth a watch. I also saw THE KILLER WITHIN about a man who came close to being a Columbine type mass murderer in 1955 but actually got off scott free after killing a fellow student in his college dorm. There was never a trial, for reasons that are never made 100% clear.

Anyway, this man lived 50 years with no one knowing what he'd done. He told his wife a bit, but his two daughters (one biological, one from his wife's first marriage who he'd raised since age 4) didn't know and neither did any of this friends or family or co-workers. (He became a prominent psychologist and professor -- an irony not really explored in the film.)
In his late 60's, he decides to come clean and blames it all on bullying. He tries to turn himself into a victim. The film is largely about his daughters coming to grips with finding out their father is a murderer. Chilling how this man shows absolutely no emotions about what he did. Chilling. On the other hand, he went on to lead a productive life and raised two daughters -- one of whom wouldn't even exist had he been tried and found guilty. The film asks a lot of questions about forgiveness and the ability to reform and frankly about sociopathic behaviour...

Anyway... All in all, a good day at the festival. Over the next while, I'll blog more about some of the films.

Now, sleep.
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