Thursday, August 17, 2017

Escape

To quote Jon Lovett, "What a week." Oh, man. Listen, I am sure we are all feeling the same things right now -- rage, more rage, despair, and a huge sprinkling of WTF, but we'll get through this. The nation will overcome. Trump won't be prezzy forever. He may not even be president for the duration of the year. Any solace in that? Probably not.

Fight the good fight.

But sometimes we need a break from: protesting, calling our senators, tweeting, yelling at our Facebook friends. What better way to escape than with some quality television options. (I thought about blogging about heavy topics, but I don't have it in me right now.) Plus, television informs my art. No other medium inspires my storytelling quite like it.

Here are my recs.

In no particular order...

Animal Kingdom (Tuesday 9pm ET, TNT): Basic cable used to blow, but TNT has been showcasing excellent series and this show is exceptional. Produced by John Wells of ER and Shameless(!), and set in Southern California, Animal Kingdom is about the Codys, a crime family run by Smurf, the matriarch. She is ruthless, cunning, and she's taught her sons all she knows. It's gritty, clever, and compelling.
 Shetland (Netflix): Produced by BBC and based on books by Ann Cleeves, Shetland is a mystery series set in the Shetland Islands. The first season is one mystery split over two episodes. You could binge this satisfying show in a weekend, and then book a trip to the islands. It's atmospheric, chilling, and cleverly done. Make sure to watch with subtitles since the Scottish brogue is hard to decipher for American ears.

Master of None (Netflix): Aziz Ansari writes and produces this comedic gem where he plays Dev, an actor trying to find love and work in New York City. I feel like I overuse the word 'clever,' but this show is worthy of the adjective. It's funny, smart, and insightful. Season 1 is solid, Season 2 is gold.

You're the Worst (FX, Hulu, Season 4 premiers in Sept): There's something magical about two terribly selfish people finding love with each other. Jimmy is a struggling British writer whose one published novel has gotten little attention. He loves to drink, and loves to heckle. Gretchen is a self-absorbed publicist who can't maintain a relationship to save her life. And yet, you root for these two kids. Like Judd Apatow's Love, but way, way better. My favorite line from Jimmy: "Scrambled Eggs -- a dish so pedestrian, its name is the recipe."
 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Netflix, CW): Do you like neurotic Jewish girls? And musicals? What about smart takes on feminism? And stereotypes being turned on their heads? What about all that stuff in one show? Why are you not watching CEG? Seriously, you're missing out! Rachel Bloom is my hero. She'll be yours too. If you're not sure, watch her videos on YouTube. My faves: JAP Battle Rap, I Give Good Parent, Sexy Getting Ready Song. You're welcome.

Dear White People (Netflix): This satirical series, based on the movie of the same name and written by Justin Simien, portrays students of color who go to a predominantly white college and deal with social injustices. It's highly stylized with a sharp narrative structure. Each episode is told through the point of view of a different character. Barry Jenkins directed one of the best and most heart-wrenching episodes of the season featuring Reggie and a campus party that goes wrong. The mood skips from joyous to harrowing in a blink. Race, sexuality, class -- it's all covered with humor and complexity. Everyone should be watching this. The show has been renewed for a second season.

Okay, that's it from me.

Recommend your favorites.



Monday, August 14, 2017

Stop Feeding the Hate



My family had a difficult time last week. We lost an amazing member of our family. My husband’s Uncle Ron was one of the kindest and most generous people I’ve ever had the honor of knowing. Ending an already grief filled week with the horrific events that happened in Charlottesville resulted in my struggling to figure out what to write for today’s blog post.

So I decided I’d talk a bit about hate.

For the longest time, ‘hate’ was considered the ‘h-word’ in our house. Even now that our daughter is old enough to know most of the curse words we still don’t like to use the word ‘hate’ in our family. If she says she hates her pencil, we challenge her to express her frustration a different way. Then we talk about why we don’t want to say hate often. And why is that, you ask?

Because hate feeds hate.

You start feeling justified in hating one thing, then it becomes easier to hate something else. And then something else. And then someone else. And it builds. Hate feeding hate.

I remember the first time I felt true hatred toward a person. It scared me so much I sought help. I needed to talk to someone because I didn’t like how it made me feel. I’m grateful that back then we didn’t have Facebook or Twitter or other social media outlets. Who knows what I might have said or done in the heat of my hatred. I knew I had to find a way to let go of that hate because I could feel it festering, and it made me look at all the other aspects of my life through a negative filter.

But these days we do have a boat load of social media outlets to express our frustrations. Places where we read post after post and tweet after tweet, feeling our anger build higher and higher. The hatred is in our comments and tweets—from expressing our hatred for the white supremacists who acted this past weekend, to the terrorists who bomb innocent people, to the people who open fire in schools and gay nightclubs, and to those who gun down cops. Hatred is even in even our negative comments about our Presidents (I use the plural because while this presidency seems worse it’s not new). We are hurt and angry and confused—hatred is bubbling and it wants to be released. So we do. We find a target and let it fly.

I don’t think most of us sitting behind our computers associate expressing our feelings of frustration with perpetuating hate. We want people to hate things like what happened this past weekend in Charlottesville. If we don’t, then we have no hope left for humanity. So if we hate what happened, then we can hate those who did it—along with anyone else who we feel didn’t live up to our expectations of how they should have reacted to the situation. I get that. I feel that.

But the reality is when we share those feelings we are feeding the hate. We are keeping the hate alive. We are telling others that it’s okay for them to do the same.

Commenting that the white supremacists are pieces of shit who deserve to burn in hell will not make them change their beliefs. It will only feed their hate.

Our posts and tweets about how the President sucks for not saying the right thing at the right time will not stop racism. It only feeds the hate of others.

I’m not saying we can’t feel all these things. Again, if we don’t feel them then I worry about humanity. But I think it’s time to start questioning ourselves about the effect of our viral comments and actions.

Many of the people stopping by our blog today are probably in the writing community. We have platforms where people listen. We have a chance to help stop the spread of hate through thoughtful consideration of what we share. We’re writers—we should be able to express our feelings in a way that will encourage others to act in support and unity rather than to fuel hatred and division.

Let’s all do our best to stop before every post/comment/tweet/share/like and ask ourselves what side of the line it falls on. Does it have the potential to feed hate, or does it help close the divide and move us to unity?

I’m not saying we should stand by and accept what’s happening. But what we’ve been doing clearly isn’t working. It’s not getting better. As individuals, we can’t change the beliefs and behaviors of others, but we can start spreading light. We can start spreading love. Hopefully, if enough of us shift the dynamic then it will start to drive out the hate.




~Carrie

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Guilty Pleasures (That Keep Me From Writing)


A Post By Jonathan

We all have them. We all want to get rid of them. But no matter how hard we try, they never seem to go away. They are our guilty pleasures-- and they're here to stay.

We writers are naturally guilty people anyway, so when we're working on a book or article it's tough to view any other activity (besides writing) as okay or something we can feel good about. I'm not talking about family commitments, the day job or other essentials of being a functioning adult. I'm talking about those conscious decisions we make, in our (for some rare) moments of free time, to spend (waste?) hours and hours doing something that is easy and requires no thinking and just makes us happy, OK?!

Anyway, here are my top three guilty pleasures and how they keep me from writing:

Oh come on, I know you watch it too. Sure, it's only an hour show on a Sunday night, but most of the episodes are so awesome that you just have to spend a couple days on the internet figuring out what you missed, and on twitter gleaning everyone's reaction, and watching the after show show episodes (and the after the after the show show episodes).

So maybe GoT is more than one guilty pleasure... But it pretty much takes up my whole Sunday night (but I've read the books, that's got to count for something, right?) My Sunday nights will get even more guilty with the arrival of this next one.


This may not resonate with a lot of my fellow writers, but I love, love, love NFL football. It's not just the games, but I play fantasy football as well (probably way too much of it). I've been meaning to quit my league(s) for about ten years now, but I keep lying to myself that it's the only way I stay in touch with my buddies. I mean, what kind of buddies can they be if we only commune online over a fake game with fake players for four months out of the year?

Well when you're a dude this can sometimes be the only way you stay in touch. It's so fun and so easy to waste time on, reading articles, stats, etc. Apparently fantasy football costs companies 13.4 billion dollars a year in lost revenue due to workers spending time on it. Sorry boss!

Oh Netflix. You dirty little time sucker. How you waste my life with your amazing original series and ease of viewing with your no commercials and enticing streaming of many seasons of the most obscure shows on the world wide web. I really loved that Manga black hole you dragged me down the other night. Even though that cartoon was entirely in Japanese I'm pretty sure I got the gist. Don't mess with the Japanese... If only writing were so easy. I could just sit on the couch with my potato chips and let the ideas wash out of me and flow from my fingers and onto my laptop. Ain't so and will never be so.

So here's a PSA for you kids. Don't be me. Don't do Game of Thrones or Fantasy Football or Netflix or Drugs. Just keep your nose to the grindstone and keep on the keepin' on. That said, feel free to celebrate with any of your guilty pleasures once you've put the time in or completed a project. They won't feel nearly so guilty if you actually deserve them.

Now if you ever want to talk about a series or know of another fantasy league I can get into, just leave a note at the bottom! And thanks for stopping by.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Rumpus Room Reads #6 - "The Great American Alimony Escape"




I’ve had this book on my list to revisit for some time now, due to the outrageously delicious trash cover.  Like some of the other Rumpus Room Reads, this one didn’t come from my Grandma’s basement.  Not even ten books in and I can barely stick to my mission-statement formula!  


But come on, who could resist talking about this thing, even if it was purchased for like fifty cents from a beat up cardboard box in a Publix in Fort Myers, the purgatory of Florida (which is itself the purgatory of the USA)?  It’s so in-your-face seventies swinger kitsch, it’s practically giving me crabs (bell-bottomed crabs at that).  The font is brought to you by Quaaludes.  The human math equation at the top with the guy in the microscopic pink towel and tiki beads aching to get timesed by the Breck Shampoo girl who adorably stole his undershirt if only it wasn’t for his flabby avatar with the so-large-as-to-be-useable towel staring gloomily at his past marital mistakes - it seems to actually involve the man marrying himself?  It’s confusing me, frankly, but I somehow escaped ever taking calculus (physics, too, damn you lackadaisical public school education!).  


The novel itself is heinously dated and misogynistically objectifying to the point where as a twenty first century woman I’m fairly certain I betrayed my gender by ever completing it.  Poor Jed, before he discovered tiki beads and grooviness, married boring old Denise and had some boring sons with her.  Then twenty years later he was like, catch you on the flip side, Denise, I’ma get me some of that strange all those draft dodgin’ hippie kids were rapping about over their doobies!  But see, kids, he gets sick of banging different free-spirited nudity-lovin’ tight bodied twenty two year olds every night, so he decides to just bang one free-spirited nudity-lovin’ tight bodied twenty two year old.  Oh, sorry, I’m totally exaggerating.  She was twenty four.  Anyway, Maura, the nude young romance novel editor, tells him she can’t marry him until he ditches the alimony payments to Denise.  Cue the scheme to find Denise some schlong with a wallet attached, which they find in the form of Barney, a well hung middle aged momma’s boy virgin Jed trains for Denise’s pleasure with tennis and dancing lessons and bridge lessons
.  
It’s not even really worth delving into the rest of the plot.  This isn’t just me saying that - it’s the first book I’ve reviewed here that I couldn’t find a plot synopsis for anywhere on the internet.  By the end of the book, every character described above and even more thirsty bicentennial-era skanks end up at some Caribbean sex resort with the subtle name of Gomorrah.  Surprise surprise, the plot twists everyone one intercourse friend to the left, and Jed ends up back with Denise, tearfully apologizing post-coitus for the whole hackneyed midlife crisis because, as he put it, “I’d like to be a little fat and flabby.”  Because we all know that  marriage is nothing but a dangerously attractive form of entropy.  Below, without comment, a selection of quotes to better flesh out the mood:


“Sheltered by marriage, he had been unaware of the full force the winds of freedom of the sexual revolution had unleashed.”


“And where the hell is Gaby?  She could at least come and tell me what’s happening.  Or bring me a sandwich.”


“Barney arrested his piston movement in mid-revolution, his body suddenly hunched like a cat discovered on the buffet table.”


“Keep your hands off the other guys’ women, towels, and diet margarine.”  


In my attempt to find out more information about this book, I was surprised to discover in his 2013 online obituary that, far from being solely an author of slender seventies trash novels, author David Rogers was a Broadway playwright who also wrote for television, opera, and “night clubs,” wrote a Tony-nominated musical adaptation of “Flowers for Algernon.”  He studied at the Theater Wing alongside Jack Lemmon and Lee Marvin and contributed to the Zigfeld Follies, writing for such stars as Tallulah Bankhead, Bea Lillie, Bea Arthur, Carol Haney, and Hermione Gingold.  Most shocking to me, though, was the last line - “He is survived by his wife of 50 years, June L. Walker.”  

What was this happily married man doing writing about moist heaving aging divorced swingers?  Was it all an escapist fantasy made safely digestible with the addition of the return to the wife at the end?  Or was he deeply grossed out by the whole scene, intentionally making everybody involved vapid and foolish out of derision?  I believe the latter, especially given the little throwaway line early in the novel by some beefy Scottish stereotype masseur gossiping about some other almost-fifty dude meeting a barely legal second wife in line for Woody Allen movie.  

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Black Jacket Hack Job #21 - "The Partner"

By Cheryl Oreglia


I have been avoiding all non obligational things this summer, especially reading and writing, not unlike the protagonist in John Grisham's best selling novel The Partner, minus the ninety million dollars. 
My summer objective was to lounge around the vast recesses of my mind, drenched in memories, with utterly no expectations. This is my chosen form of escape and let me just say it's not going well.
My sister suggested I read something fun, I believe she used the words for pleasure, pounding her fist on the coffee table for emphasis, "read this and maybe hit the shower this week."
She spilled my coffee with all her zeal. See, I would rather sit here watching a ring form on the dark wood then leave the comfort of my "housecoat." That's normal. Right?
She threw a worn copy of John Grisham's "criminally entertaining," novel The Partner at my head. Arizona Daily Star claims "compulsively readable." I was able to catch it was alarming finesse for someone my age. We'll consider that a sign.
Now these are rather weighty accusations as to the readability of this novel and I believe someone should substantiate these claims. 
I carried the book around for two days like one of those beloved miniature chihuahua's before opening the first page. The first chapter was quite a jolt and I was hooked like a big old catfish. It happens. 
I suppose the attractiveness of a story has much to do with the interests of the reader. So...avoidance queen, coffee addict, no expectations kind of girl was unexpectedly caught in the Grisham web.
If you only read romance or horror, do yourself a favor, and browse through a Grisham novel. There's an entire exegesis on torture, a complicated trail of betrayal, deep dark secrets, torent lovers, grieving mom's, sleazy senators, and way to many lawyers. He must of been in the middle of a law suit when he wrote this book. 
I'll skip all the flowery language, subtle nuances, and intellectual wit. Here's the short version.
Fat lawyer, good mind, bad marriage, trusted, slipped out of town with ninety million dollars, "now they don't want justice - they want revenge." Poor Patrick is found, tortured, tried, but there's a twist, as unexpected as a double yolk. That's a clue.
This book is so good I'm planning on re-gifting at the next wedding I'm invited to. (That should curb the invitations)
The ending is worthy but you're not going to like it. Just sayin.


What have you got your nose stuck in this summer? Do tell. 


Living in the Gap, drop in some time. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Google Search: "What if Ghosts..."

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
amazon.com/author/kozeniewski

Hey everybody!  First of all, to answer the burning question on everyone's minds: no, we're not dead.  Far from it.  Brenda and Abby both ran into unexpected situations and had to bow out for the last two blogposts.  Not to worry, guys.  As we all know, everybody gets one:


Just kidding, of course.  We're a pretty easygoing blog and life happens.  I'll be flip-flopping my slot with Abby this week and she'll take August 7.

It's my turn for a Google search post!  I may have mentioned this before but I'm sort of half-assedly working on a haunted house novel.  So weighing on my mind lately has been the question, "What if ghosts were real?"  For those of you who don't know me in real life, I am a supreme skeptic about basically everything.  That means God, ghosts, karma, chi, and ear candling all go basically in the same basket for me.  (That is: the bullshit basket.)  Naturally I mean no offense to any of you who are believers, just as you doubtless can respect my opinion while not sharing it.  That's the beauty of freedom of conscience after all.

Anyway, I digress.  Rather than Google "What if ghosts were real?" I decided to just google "What if ghosts" and let the algorithms do the rest.  Here's what I came up with:


It seems Google either knows me or most people are like me, and a couple of those hits were the exact subject I was thinking of: what if ghosts were (or are, depending on your tense) real?  More interestingly the first hit was "What if ghosts are aliens?"  I actually saw an episode of "Doctor Who" about that once.  Trust me, you do not want ghosts to turn out to be aliens, if the BBC is anything to go by.

However, I was feeling lucky today, so I indicated that to Google, which ended up choosing the last option, apparently, and took me to this site:


Those of you who are interested can go to the link directly.  But I thought I might save you all some trouble and ply you with my own listicle on that very subject:

8.  Tell the ghost, "Are you a ghost cop?  Because if you're a ghost cop, you have to tell me."

7.  See if the ghost will take a message to one of your deceased loved ones.  Then spend half an hour giving really explicit directions on how to reach their house in Heaven, i.e. "Turn right at the Dairy Queen but if you see a stop sign you've gone too far."

6.  Ask, "What's it like being dead?"  Ghosts never tire of that old chestnut.

5.  Never, ever throw a sheet over your head and cut eyeholes out of it.  Ghosts consider that "ghostface" and it is extremely offensive.

4.  As subtly as possible, lick the ghost.  If no saliva remains behind, it is a real ghost.

3.  Ask questions about current politicians and sports teams who have moved to different cities to see if the ghost has been paying attention.

2.  Start making a vase on a potter's wheel and if the ghost just so happens to come up behind you and semi-erotically join in, so be it.

1.  Netflix and chill.
 
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