Obsession

I was eleven years old when the television show Moonlighting, aired on ABC. Murder She Wrote was the hot detective show at the time, and Jessica Fletcher was TV’s leading lady detective. Nothing against the incomparable Angela Lansbury and the endless parade of relatives and/or murder victims that plagued her everywhere she went, but the young me wasn’t having it. The many deaths in Cabot Cove, Maine were not my cup of Kool-Aid. Sure there was Spencer for Hire or Mike Hammer, but those were pretty much the same show, and there are only so many rugged detectives that the world can handle at one time.

MOONLIGHTINGEnter David Addison and Maddie Hayes. Two good looking people that had onscreen chemistry like no other. The premise was this: A bankrupt model partners with a sarcastic PI to save a failing Detective Agency. It starred Cybill Shepherd as the former model (no stretch there) and an unknown actor named Bruce Willis as the foil to her straight man. The show was funny and exciting and full of something I had had never felt before – sexual tension. From episode one I was on board, full steam. And it had everything to do with Bruce Willis. Everything. He was everything.

It started slowly, quietly. Every Tuesday I religiously recorded Moonlighting on my superior to VHS in every way except for selection at the video store, Betamax, and watched them repeatedly. I watched them until I had all of David Addison’s quips memorized. I watched them so often I could tell you at which point in a chase scene you could see Cybill Shepherd was wearing sneakers. I actually practiced smirking in the mirror. I had never really seen sarcasm before and Bruce Willis was a master of it. And I learned at the feet of The Master.

Soon I was redecorating my bedroom, taking down pictures of Bono and Kirk Cameron, and replacing them with pictures of Bruce Willis. I even moved my Magnum PI poster to the inside of my closet door (sorry Tom). I cut out any picture – no matter how large or small –  and put it on my bedroom wall. I spent countless hours looking for articles about Moonlighting in hopes of finding new pictures of Bruce Willis. It was a gradual decline, but looking back it was definitely obsession.

Moonlighting was on for five seasons. Within that time I amassed a collection of pictures. I lost count at 350. This is what obsession looks like.

When I traveled, I took a picture of Bruce Willis with me. In a frame. (see below)

I wore black for a month when he married Demi Moore, but after Rumor was born I eased up a bit.

Me w/ my Bruce picture at Camp.

Me w/ my Bruce picture at Camp.

I started a fan club which consisted of me and my friend Audra. We were President and Vice President. We said an oath, promising to forever love him (I still do, Audra!) We wrote songs about him. Well, not “wrote” exactly. We took existing songs and changed the lyrics. My favorite was the Genesis classic Invisible Touch changed to “Invisible Look” on account of his smirk. The main goal was contact with Bruce. We wrote letters and made phone calls. We were pretty tenacious in a time before internet and cell phones. The most we ever got back was a signed picture from his agent.

I own The Return of Bruno on LP.

I drank Segram’s Golden Wine Coolers because of Bruce Willis. It’s wet and it’s dry… my my my my! 

I was at a Bon Jovi concert in Los Angeles and they brought Bruce Willis on stage to join. I grabbed binoculars and I swear, he looked at me. HE LOOKED AT ME.

I went to see every one of his movies on opening day up to, and including Color of Night. After that I was a little more lax about it.

I saw Blind Date three times in the theater and bought the soundtrack.

I still cry when I think about meeting him.

bruce-2These days the word “Obsessed” gets tossed around more than a deflated football at a Pats game. We are obsessed with ourselves (‘MERICA!) with cupcakes, with BEING obsessed with something… anything! with Twitter, and for some reason with Taylor Swift. The word “Obsess” means “(to) preoccupy or fill the mind of (someone) continually, intrusively, and to a troubling extent.” The key part there being, “to a troubling extent.” Do you really think about cupcakes all day? Do you tweet about them every twenty minutes? Do you eat only cupcakes? Then you probably are not obsessed with cupcakes and you should stop saying that you are. Do you wear Taylor Swift T-shirts every day? Do you have posters of her in your room… and you are not a fifteen year old? Do you write fan fiction about her and think secretly to yourself that it might come true? Do you get angry when people criticize her for any reason? If you answered yes to these questions, then you are, by definition obsessed with Taylor Swift. The rest of you? Just because you like something more than anyone else seems to doesn’t mean you are obsessed with it. And why would you want to be? Obsession is ugly and weird and for people who don’t have better things to do.

Take it from me. I should know.

(i love you bruce)

Book Review: Not That Kind of Girl

9780812994995_custom-d00451b98fad719e7e291d37e9048eeba78c5d71-s99-c85The title of Lena Dunham’s new book, Not That Kind of Girl is a reference to Helen Gurley Brown’s 1983 book, Having it All. It seems Ms. Dunham found the book at a second-hand store, read it, got inspired and wrote her book as an answer. Unfortunately the answer is coming from Lena Dunham. The absolute last person I would want to take advice from. About anything. When Helen Gurley Brown wrote her book it was groundbreaking. It was a big deal in 1982 for a woman to be married, a business woman, not a mother, and in charge of her body and sexuality. She is a hero to the feminist movement for being the CEO of a company and running a women’s magazine. Sure, a lot of what Ms. Brown wrote is outdated, but she was a ground breaker. Lena Dunham is a cheap knockoff.

Since the premiere of her show Girls Lena Dunham has been popular. She’s been loved and hated equally in the press. Lena Dunham is a polarizing personality. She’s been hailed as a rebel and a representative of her generation. And she’s been criticised as selfish, out of touch, child-like, and spoiled. Which she is. I mean, I don’t understand how any woman can watch Girls and think, “Gee. I’d like to be friends with them.” Women in Lena Dunham’s universe are stereotypes. And they’re mean! She herself grew up in New York, as the daughter of two artists and attended an all girls school. Then went to Oberlin. And Summered in Connecticut. There’s just something about her that’s un-relatable. Taking advice from Lena Dunham is like taking advice from Jay Gatsby.

having-it-allAnd now the 28-year-old has a book of essays and advice from her years of experience. Basically, the book is full of sex and shtick. And it isn’t very funny. Here is an example from the book. “Not to sound like a total hippie, but I cured my HPV with acupuncture”. Hilarious. In a book that is supposed to be full of advice, or at least things the author has “learned”, the reader is left with… not so much soul baring by the author, but navel gazing. There isn’t much “honest” or “real” in this collection. And I guess that’s the major problem.

Lena Dunham already “has it all”. She was born having it all. The idea that a 28-year-old girl born with a silver spoon in her mouth has written her “memoirs” or an “advice book” is absurd. She is just too young and too privileged to write this type of book. It’s filled with the quirky stories we’ve come to expect from Dunham (trips to the gynaecologist, losing her virginity, finding a therapist, summer camp, and of course, filming a television show. We all know how that can be.) The problem is the stories are repetitive and often boring, lacking the humor and style of better writers like Nora Ephron, Tina Fey or Mindy Kaling.

Maybe I’ve judged her book unfairly, maybe this book is for her “fans” and the rest of us should steer clear. But a good book is a good book. No matter what the target demographic happens to be. For my time and money I can think of at least ten female celebrity memoirs that I would recommend before this one. Ms. Dunham’s stories can best be described as “occasionally entertaining”. If that’s enough for you – enjoy! If not, try Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck, or Happy Accidents by Jane Lynch.

O Captain! My Captain! Remembering Robin Williams

Like many people around the worldrobin-williams-by-Samerry[206123], I grew up watching Robin Williams. I watched him go from Mork on Happy Days to becoming an Oscar winner. He was one of the funniest men to ever live, and a great actor. He was quick, biting, clever and still had the ability to make us all feel. He was a human before he was a movie star. And it showed on screen. His movies taught me about life and love and joy and being able to laugh even when things are bad.

The only way I have of honouring his life is to talk about it here. I can honestly say that everything I need to know in life, I learned from one of the greatest. These are ten of my personal favorite Robin Williams films, what they meant to me, and what they taught me.

  1. Popeye (1980) – When I was just six years old, I managed to win tickets to the premeire of Popeye. No one in my family seemed quite as excited as me, but it was my fantastic coloring work that won those tickets. There was a red carpet and cameras and Robin Williams. It was something. The movie got panned, but I still remember that night and that movie. Even though you hate spinach, you gotta eat it. “I hates spinach!”
  2. The World According to Garp (1982) – The John Irving novel is one of my favorite books. I read the book before I saw the movie, so of course I hated the movie. And I hated it for a while. I re-watched the film some years later and I fell in love. Robin Williams played the role of Garp perfectly, quietly and gave life to him. The movie gave me hope as a fellow writer who has a crazy family of her own. “You know, everybody dies. My parents died. Your father died. Everybody dies. I’m going to die too. So will you. The thing is, to have a life before we die. It can be a real adventure having a life.”
  3. Good Morning Vietnam (1987) vietnamI pretty much had this movie memorised. It was the first of Robin Williams as Teacher roles, and I ate it up. I wanted to have a teacher like him! But of course, there aren’t a lot of teachers that can do really great John Wayne impressions. It was also one of the first times we see him as activist. Standing up for what’s right no matter what the consequence. The lesson: “Okay, if someone is not telling the truth, you say that they are full of… (Vietnamese Class: Shit!) If someone has made you angry or angrier, they have…(Vietnamese Class: Pissed me off!)
  4. Dead Poets Society (1989) o-captainIn what way did this movie not change the way I look at life? I was fifteen years old when this came out and I wished, prayed and tried to figure out a way to go to boarding school. In the 50’s. I know, I know. Impossible. But even as a smart ass kid, I understood the message – Carpe diem, boys. Rip up the instructions, fuck the rules, and live life! Suck the marrow from the bone! And, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” I still believe that. And I’m standing on my desk for you.
  5. The Fisher King (1991) TheFisherKingRobinWilliamsPTSonyPicturesStill one of his greatest films. And the life lesson here is pretty simple. “There’s three things in this world that you need: Respect for all kinds of life, a nice bowel movement on a regular basis, and a navy blazer.”
  6. The Birdcage (1996) – For me this movie was the perfect storm of awesome. You get Robin Williams being hilarious yet holding back because you just have to hold back when you are next to Nathan Lane. And you also get Gene Hackman, who can do no wrong. Together they gave this movie just what it needed to work: heart. “Yes, I wear foundation. Yes, I live with a man. Yes, I’m a middle- aged fag. But I know who I am, Val. It took me twenty years to get here, and I’m not gonna let some idiot senator destroy that. Fuck the senator, I don’t give a damn what he thinks.”
  7. Good Will Hunting (1997) – This movie is filled with so much greatness, and most of it is due to Robin Williams. When he says, “It’s not your fault”. You believe it. And you keep believing it. “So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. anigif_enhanced-buzz-13392-1384973721-10_previewBut you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms “visiting hours” don’t apply to you. You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you… I don’t see an intelligent, confident man… I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you’re a genius Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my fucking life apart.”
  8. Death to Smoochy (2002) – I think this movie is fantastic and totally underrated. You can have your Jumanji and your Patch Adams. I’ll take a little movie that’s really about making kids happy. And you know what I learned? “Even when you’re squeaky clean, you can still fall in the mud.” Oh, and I also learned that every movie is better with an iceskating dance number at the end. I love you Rainbow Randall. 
  9. One Hour Photo (2002) – I loved creepy Robin Williams. I was happy that he (mostly) stopped doing half assed comedies and did more dark stuff. He was good at dark. His character in this film was sad and frightening. “Family photos depict smiling faces… births, weddings, holidays, children’s birthday parties. People take pictures of the happy moments in their lives. Someone looking through our photo album would conclude that we had led a joyous, leisurely existence free of tragedy. No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget.”
  10. World’s Greatest Dad (2009) – I bet you haven’t seen this one. It was fantastic and completely overlooked. It was directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. It’s a little hard to look at now, seeing the way that Robin Williams took his own life. But I’ll never forget the scene at the end when he jumps in the pool. I hope he found the freedom he was looking for. This is how I’ll remember you. “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.” *Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t seen this film, then don’t watch this clip. It’s awesome, but also a huge spoiler. You have been warned. * 

The 20 Coolest Authors. Ever.

Truman CapoteEverybody has their idea of what cool is. It’s a vibe. A feeling you get from someone. Being cool requires one to have a rebellious attitude, be an underdog, or one of societies outliers. Think bikers, but bikers from the 1950’s, not bikers from today. Today’s biker seems violent and rude rather than cool. But you get the idea. Fonzie was cool. Jim Morrison was cool. Wanda Jackson and Peggy Lee were cool. Kermit the Frog is cool. Einstein was cool.

James Blunt is not cool. Kim Kardashian is not cool. Either is Morrissey or Kanye West. David Foster Wallace was not cool. Brent Easton Ellis isn’t either. Writing a “cool” book isn’t what makes you cool. Having the most Twitter followers doesn’t matter either. It’s how you live your life. And obviously how much you like cats.

What follows is a list of who I think are the 20 coolest authors. Ever. I have intentionally listed 10 dudes and 10 ladies because I’m tired of reading lists about literature that do not equally include women. And yes, I am aware that there are more than just twenty super cool authors, and maybe I didn’t pick yours, but these lists take time and effort to create, so I kept the number reasonable. Fee free to add your picks in the comments. Politely.

  1. Truman Capote – Because he gave zero shits about what people thought. He said what he wanted. Wrote what he wanted. Because In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Because he liked cats pre internet. Cool Quote: “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”
  2. 50459320Margaret Atwood – Because The Hand Maid’s Tale and Alias Grace. Because she went toe to toe with Norman Mailer on gender issues and came out on top. He said that men were intellectuals first, writers or poets second. Women were not. Atwood pointed out, in a speech, that she had herself attended Harvard, and therefore had “a smear of intellectualism.” Cool quote: “Another belief of mine; that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.”
  3. Maurice Sendak – Because Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen. Because In the Night Kitchen was BANNED in America on account of the little boy in the book is naked and therefore inappropriate for children. ‘Merica! Because he was on The Colbert Report right before he died spreading the message for LGBT equality. Cool quote: “Fuck them is what I say. I hate those e-books. They cannot be the future. They may well be. I will be dead. I won’t give a shit.”
  4. Joyce Carol Oates – Because she has published over fifty novels exploring themes of gender, violence, race, monsters, and the darker elements of being alive and human. Because she’s been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize three times. Because she writes horror that will keep you sleepless. And because she kind of looks like Shelley Duval and Olive Oyl. Cool quote: “Homo sapiens is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority, then forgets that symbols are inventions.”
  5. ahem2Ernest Hemingway – Because Ernest once took a urinal from his favourite bar and moved it into his own home, arguing that he had “pissed away” so much of his money into the urinal that he owned it. Because he won the Nobel Prize in literature. Because he once caught seven Marlin in one day. Because he loved cats. Cool quote: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
  6. Mary Shelley – Because Frankenstein. Because she hung out with Lord Byron and had picnics with him. Because she wrote the seminal gothic novel. Cool quote: “I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”
  7. Tom Robbins – Because he has lived an outlaw life. Because he met Charles Manson and told him he wasn’t up to snuff. Because Still Life with Woodpecker, Jitterbug Perfume, and Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates. Because he was suspected of being the Unibomber. Cool quote: “Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.”
  8. Patti Smith Because she’s as good on stage as she is on the page. Because she lived for many years at the epicenter of cool, the Hotel Chelsea in New York City. Because Horses. Because her nickname is “The Godmother of Punk.” Because she co-wrote a play with actor, playwright, and my fantasy Granddad, Sam Shepard. Cool quote: “To me, punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful, freedom to be who you are. It’s freedom.”
  9. haruki murakami and kittenHaruki Murakami – Because he is 65 and he is a dedicated marathon running Iron Man. Because he loves cats. Because he writes food and music better than anyone else. Because he refuses to write blurbs for the back of novels. Because 1Q84, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, and Kafka on the Shore. Cool quote: “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
  10. Agatha Christie – Because she was “Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”. I don’t know what that is, but it sounds pretty badass. Because she created the best detective ever, Hercule Poirot. Because she wrote over sixty mysteries and they are all fun. Cool quote: “Any woman can fool a man if she wants to and if he’s in love with her.”
  11. Roald Dahl – Because The BFG. That’s why. Because he didn’t pander to children. Because he wrote dark, funny books which may or may not have a happy ending. Because when I met him as a kid, he was indeed the Big, Friendly Giant. Cool quote: “So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall.” 
  12. Zadie Smith – Because she changed her name (as a teen) from Sadie to Zadie because it sounded more exotic, and Sadie means Princess – she didn’t like the association. Because On Beauty. Because she was in TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005 list. Not bad. Because she wears cool turbans. Because she is rumored to be working on a musical of Franz Kafka’s life. Cool quote: “An English Lit degree trains you to be a useless member of the modern world.”
  13. Stephen KingStephen King – Because more of his books have been adapted into films than any other author, so sayeth Guinness Book of Records. Because Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Lisey’s Story and On Writing. Because he survived a near fatal car accident and kept going. Because he writes NY Times book reviews. Because he was in a band called Rock Bottom Remainders with Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Matt Groening, and Scott Turow. Cool quote: “Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.”
  14. Octavia E. Butler – Because she was the multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards – the highest praise for science fiction writers. Because she was born and raised in Pasadena, California… just like other cool women like me and Julia Child. Because she attended my alma mater, Pasadena City College for her AA, and eventually moved to Seattle. Because she called herself a hermit, and because I met her and she was awesome. Because Parable of the Sower and Kindred. Cool quote: “Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”
  15. John Waters – Duh. He is the epitome of cool. Cool quote: “You should never read just for ‘enjoyment.’ Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends’ insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick ‘hard books.’ Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for god’s sake, don’t let me ever hear you say, ‘I can’t read fiction. I only have time for the truth.’ Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of ‘literature’? That means fiction, too, stupid.”
  16. George Elliot – Because she was a badass feminist in Victorian times. Because, like the Brontë sisters, Mary Ann Evans created a pen name so the sexist assholes of the times would take her seriously. Because Middlemarch. Because she had a twenty year-long relationship with a married man. Because she wrote what many say is the greatest novel in the english language. Cool quote: “You may try, but you cannot imagine what it is to have a man’s force of genius in you, and to suffer the slavery of being a girl.” 
  17. 251550_523966377619405_374295507_nMark Twain – Because he was a riverboat pilot. Because his BFF was Nikola Tesla. Because A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Because he loved cats, and played pool with them. Because the awesome Hal Holbrook did a one man show AS him. Cool quote: “One cannot have everything the way he would like it. A man has no business to be depressed by a disappointment, anyway; he ought to make up his mind to get even.”
  18. Ursula K. Le Guin – Because her first name is Ursula. Because she is considered to be the best science fiction writer alive. Because The Dispossessed.Because her books tackle complex subject such as alternative worlds, politics, natural environment, gender, religion, sexuality and ethnography. Because she submitted her first story for publication at age 11. Cool quote: “I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.”
  19. Alexandre Dumas – Because he wrote about the most badass dudes ever, namely The Three Musketeers, and The Count of Monte Cristo. Because he was a world traveler and a ladies man said to have fathered at least seven children from some forty affairs. Because he was a well liked dude of his times described as, “the most generous, large-hearted being in the world. He also was the most delightfully amusing and egotistical creature on the face of the earth. His tongue was like a windmill – once set in motion, you never knew when he would stop, especially if the theme was himself.” Cool quote: “Never fear quarrels, but seek hazardous adventures.”
  20. Susan Sontag – Because her nickname was “The Dark Lady”. Because she was admitted to college at age 16, and married her professor two weeks after meeting him. Because her book On Photography (1977) did not contain a single photograph – as specimen or illustration. Favorite quote: “I don’t like America enough to want to live anywhere else except Manhattan. And what I like about Manhattan is that it’s full of foreigners. The America I live in is the America of the cities. The rest is just drive-through.”

Tom Robbins in Seattle: It’s All Cosmic Theatre

Tom Robbins, Seattle 2014

Tom Robbins, Seattle 2014

Last night I was fortunate enough to hear Tom Robbins read from his new book Tibetan Peach Pie, at Town Hall here in Seattle. The event sold out months ago. I worked selling his books so that I could have a front row seat and finally meet him. I would have worked for free. Tom Robbins is one of my favorite humans. Ever. Definitely one of my favorite Toms. (Having already met Tom Waits, Robbins was the final Tom on my list.)

There were a few hundred people in attendance. The 82-year-old author read stories from his life and from his latest, and probably his last book. The hall was silent and respectful as he spoke. Heads nodded in agreement and understanding, and faces were plastered with smiles. These were my people. We all came out to sit in the glow of the man who had written our collective favorite books. Robbins wore exactly what you would expect – standard dark sunglasses, jacket, green sneakers and blue jeans. Nothing about his presence said, “I’m 82 years old!”. He was funny, charming, flirtatious and cool. Just like you’d expect.

He spoke at length about Seattle and its past. Smart guy. Seattleites love to talk about Seattle. One woman asked, Do you think Seattle has lost its soul? She had to repeat the question a few times. Robbins paused before saying he didn’t think Seattle was ever a very soulful city. It has a lot of heart, but soul? Not so much. If anyone else had said that?They would have been drawn and quartered. But it was Tom Robbins. Little Tommy Rotten. He gets to say what he wants.

Tom Robbins - June 26, 2014

Tom Robbins – June 26, 2014

He talked a little bit about his process. He doesn’t do multiple drafts. Just one. (That’s what do! I rarely tell folks that because it isn’t normal. But nothing about being a writer is normal. Normal people don’t lock themselves away with blank pages and agonize over them for hours on end.) Robbins says he tries to write about two pages a day, correcting and changing as he writes. ‘When it’s done, it’s done.” He said. Amen.

There were a lot of aspiring, struggling, or otherwise stumbling writers in the audience. One young lady in a Cat T-shirt asked, When did you stop being afraid of your writing? Robbins walked away from his podium and approached Cat Shirt. I guess he didn’t hear her, or he found the question so ridiculous he had to get a good look at who was asking. Cat Shirt repeated the question, touched his green shoes, and backed away almost blushing. Tom Robbins returned to the mic and told the audience he had never been afraid of his writing. Why would someone be afraid of their own writing? Afraid? Silly.

He said he only has a vague idea when he begins a novel. He knows the effects he wants to leave the reader with, but not much more than that. He does a lot of research, educates himself, takes what he knows and sets out to write… like a canoe on open water. Let’s see where this baby takes us! He said that John Irving works the other way. Irving doesn’t begin a novel until he has every detail in place, until he knows everything that will happen down to the final line. Two great writers. Two completely different ways of writing. (I loved hearing that! John Irving wrote my other favorite novel, A Prayer For Owen Meany.) As a writer I think it is important to understand that there is no right or wrong way to write. You can read as many books about writing as you want, but it won’t teach you how to write. All you can do is read. And write. Every day.

“It’s all cosmic theatre,” he said. Tom Robbins has indeed lived an imaginative life. His life and his books have influenced my life choices. I told him that when I finally got to meet him. I’ve been waiting close to thirty years to say thank you to the man who changed the way I see the world and the way I see language. I read Still Life with Woodpecker and it changed everything. Language suddenly came alive for me and I was hungry for it. I didn’t know books like that existed. Books filled with outlaws and women who said fuck. Books with talking inanimate objects and recipes for homemade bombs.

SN858950Tom Robbins opened my eyes to a new way of living and a new way of thinking. He wrote books about people who didn’t just accept society as it was and lived life on their own terms. He wrote books about the falsity of religion and the transitory nature of love. He wrote books that spoke to me and for that I am forever grateful.

“Who knows how to make love stay?

1. Tell love you are going to Junior’s Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if loves stays, it can have half. It will stay.

2. Tell love you want a memento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language. Remove the ashes of the burnt hair and use them to paint a moustache on your face. Find love. Tell it you are someone new. It will stay.

3. Wake love up in the middle of the night. Tell it the world is on fire. Dash to the bedroom window and pee out of it. Casually return to bed and assure love that everything is going to be all right. Fall asleep. Love will be there in the morning.”

Thanks again, Tom Robbins. I love ya.

Film: Oscar Predictions 2014

12-years-a-slaveIt’s been said that you buy a Golden Globe, but you win an Oscar. That may or may not be true. I’m not naive enough to think that there isn’t a big political game played with the Oscars. I know there are huge amounts of money spent by producers (Mr. Weinstein) campaigning for their films. They want votes and they will make sure they get them.

I know all of that and I don’t care. I still love watching the show, being super judgmental about who is wearing what, and of course, being right about who will win. It’s usually pretty easy to figure out who’s gonna win. But this year, this year is a little different. The way I see it, there are two movies which could take the big award, and possibly sweep. ’12 Years a Slave’ and ‘Gravity’. Below are my predictions (and hopes) for who will take home the coveted, eight pound, Golden Man.

Best Picture: ’12 Years a Slave’

Both ‘Gravity’ and ’12 Years a Slave’ have a great chance of winning best picture. Academy voters adore historical biopics, and especially one with this much weight. ’12 Years a Slave’ wasn’t an easy movie to watch. It wasn’t supposed to be. It was supposed to make you hurt and feel. It did both.The acting was superb, and Academy voters have a history of rewarding films like this one. On the other side of the coin we have “Gravity”, a film that showed real cinematic vision and originality. Some people found the script to be far-fetched, but whatever. Have you been to space before? I doubt it. So keep your totally unsubstantiated opinions about what is or isn’t possible about space to yourself. Oh, and remember it’s just a movie.

Although “American Hustle” is gaining momentum at the moment, the votes have already been cast, and I look at it as a long shot. Too bad there isn’t an award for best hair piece in a film. It would totally win. Both ‘Nebraska’ and ‘Philomena’ were better movies than Hustle, but unfortunately they are not sexy and not many people saw either. I did. I saw them both in the theater and said, “Those movies are going to get nominated.” And they did. They just won’t win.

Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey – ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

A disheveled Matthew McConaughey gets arrested in scenes for 'The Dallas Buyers Club' in New Orleans Oscar voters love nothing more than someone who gains or loses an insane amount of weight for a role. There is a long list of actors (Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Renee Zellweger, Christian Bale, Charlize Theron, Adrien Brody, Natalie Portman …) who have used this to their advantage. Some people say, “It’s not acting”, but they are wrong. It’s called “Method Acting”. It’s been around since Dustin Hoffman actually ran miles before filming scenes in ‘The Marathon Man’. This year I think it’s safe to say Matthew McConaughy will be added to the list. He gave a great performance as the straight guy who saved the gays in Texas from The Aids. His character was despicable at first, but after he met a drag queen with a heart of gold (Leto) he softened just enough for Academy voters to love him. I think he’s a shoe in. He seems to have stepped away from his Rom/Com roots and wants to be taken seriously now. I can’t believe that I live in a world where Matthew McConaughy will have an Oscar.

The runner-up would be Leo DiCaprio. He’s been working hard at playing crazy, and he got it right in Wolf. Too bad he didn’t lose forty pounds in the process. Better luck next time, Leo. Personally I’d love to see Bruce Dern win. It was a great and subtle performance that deserves more than just a nod from the Academy. But the chances of that happening are slimmer than McConaughy’s waistline.

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett – ‘Blue Jasmine’

Blue-Jasmine-Cate-Blanchett-4 For me, it’s a tight race between the always incredible Blanchett and Ms. Bullock. Both women star in films centered around them. For Sandra Bullock especially. I mean, without her there would be no movie at all. She IS ‘Gravity’. And as amazing as her performance was (and it was), I still think the little golden dude will end up in the hands of Cate Blanchett. I saw ‘Blue Jasmine’ in the theaters and left saying, “She’s going to win for Best Actress”. And I still think so. Her role as a wealthy divorcée suffering a meltdown is a Master Class in acting. Every breath she takes is deliberate and spot on. She played a very unlikable woman who you couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for. If the recent Woody Allen scandal doesn’t disrupt voting, you can be assured she’ll walk away with the statue.

And then again, there’s always Meryl Streep.

Supporting Actor: Jared Leto – ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

primary_DallasBuyersClub-2013-4There is no one in the world who I want to punch in the face more than Jared Leto. I can’t stand him. He’s pretentious and obnoxious and a poor excuse for a rock star. But He’ll probably take home the prize this year. It makes me crazy to say it. He’s going to win for playing a sympathetic composite character designed to make McConaughey’s dirt bag character look like he has something resembling a heart. Big whoop. It’s been done before and better than Leto. But I think he’ll win anyway.

I’d love to see Fassbender walk away with the award, but that won’t happen. The Academy rarely gives awards to villains unless the guy was a cute villain like Christoph Waltz in ‘Django Unchained’. There was nothing cute about the bat-shit-crazy slave owner played flawlessly by Fassbender. And that’s why he won’t win. If Leto somehow manages not to win, you can expect to see the statue go to Barkhad Abdi for ‘Captain Phillips’.

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o – ’12 Years a Slave’

Lupita12yas_2784544bI know that all of America is in love with Jennifer Lawrence at the moment. I get that. I am too! But I still think Lupita Nyong’o will walk away the winner tomorrow night. Her performance was heartbreaking and pretty much perfect. Lawrence won last year for ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and I didn’t think she deserved it. And I don’t think she deserves it for her portrayal of a manic house wife in the 70’s. She might win, but it will be due to her popularity as a celebrity more than for her performance. If we are giving acting awards to women playing angry wives, then I think June Squibb ought to win for her perfect portrayal of a bitter, mean-spirited wife in ‘Nebraska’. The chances of her winning are slim, but I’ll be damned happy if it happens.

Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón – ‘Gravity’

gravity_ver2_xlgI love his films, and he deserves to win. ‘Gravity’ was a masterpiece. He already took home the Directors Guild award, so I think this one is in the bag. His vision came to life on-screen, and he used some new techniques that raised a few eyebrows in the film world. Steve McQueen is the runner-up in this category, but I don’t think it’s his year.

Best Screenplay, adapted: ’12 Years a Slave’

But don’t count out Jeff Coogan’s touchingly funny ‘Philomena’, a movie based on another horrific true story. ’12 Years’ might have an all around sweep and take everything it is nominated for, but this category might be one that upsets it. Weinstein has been making the rounds with this film, making sure Oscar voters don’t forget about the little movie that packs a huge emotional punch. Don’t count it out just yet. It stars Dame Judi Dench, after all. She won for ‘Shakespeare in Love’ and was on-screen less than eight minutes. Total.

Best Screenplay, original: ‘Her’

I know that’s not the popular choice here, but it is in fact the right choice. It really is an original idea. And that should be rewarded. Most folks are giving it to ‘American Hustle’, but I feel like I’ve seen that movie before. And more than once. It reminded me of ‘American Gangster’ and ‘Casino’. I didn’t find it to be very original at all. This might be the only award given to the wonderful Spike Jonze film. It deserves it. I’d love to see Woody Allen take home the prize, but considering the recent news and scandal, I don’t see that happening.

Best Animated Feature: ‘Frozen’

I don’t see much of a race here. Disney is back in full force with this pro-female cartoon. Everyone loves it, and the lovely and talented Idina Menzel will be on hand to sing “Let It Go” from the film. If for some reason it doesn’t win, expect to see ‘The Wind Rises’ take the prize.

Best Documentary: ‘The Act of Killing’

frontpage1 Another category where I am going against popular opinion, but that’s just how I roll. The odds on favorite to win is ‘Twenty Feet From Stardom’ about the backup singers (like Judith Hill) and legends (like Darlene Love) who sang lead but were never given credit. It’s one of the only nominated films that folks actually saw in theaters, and it made more money than the rest. It will probably win. But I’m still holding out for the incredible film, ‘The Act of Killing’ in which American director Oppenheimer contacted the paramilitary thugs who in the 1960s killed thousands of Indonesian civilians. Nearly 50 years later, he persuaded them to reenact their own crimes, in the form of the Hollywood movies they loved. Yeah, it should totally win.

Best Documentary, short: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life

Just trust me on this one.

Best Foreign Language film: ‘The Great Beauty’, Italy

I haven’t seen any of the nominated films, so I am guessing here. All of the folks who know about these things agree that ‘The Great Beauty’ will take home the prize.

As for the rest, you’re on your own. Expect ‘Gravity’ to take home editing and cinematography awards, and probably ‘Gatsby’ for costume design. Make-up will go to ‘Dallas’, and you can never go wrong with picking John Williams to win for Best Score. Although ‘Gravity’ might be a solid bet.

I hope my predictions have helped you in your own Oscar pool. But don’t blame me if I’m wrong. There’s a first time for everything.

An Open Letter to Santa Claus

black-santaDear Santa,

I know you are super busy getting ready for your amazing trip around the world, but I wanted to drop you a quick line. I haven’t asked you for anything in a long time because I’m pretty happy and I am old enough to buy my own toys. But I thought I’d reach out to you this year and ask for a couple of things. Not for me, but for the betterment of the universe.

First I’d like to ask that you bring a big stack of history and geography books to the folks over at FOX News. Maybe you didn’t hear all the way up at The North Pole, but one of their “on air personalities” named Megyn Kelly (Yes, spelling Megyn with a Y is both annoying and pretentious, but that isn’t the point) decided that you are a white male. I figure if you give them books about the arctic and its native people, they will see that you probably are not a Caucasian dude. Most white guys who went to the North Pole back in the day died of ice related accidents or from being really freaking cold. A book about geography might help them learn about people from different parts of the world and how they don’t all look the same. And while they are looking up The North Pole they could look up Jerusalem and see where that is. If “Jesus” was a real dude who was actually born in Jerusalem, there is no way he looks like he did in those pictures in Sunday school. Providing the folks at FOX with some actual books with facts in them might be the perfect gift for this year.

keep_calm_and_be_tolerant_christmas_tree_ornaments-rf369fce0fe0541bbac0d0825810ef70d_x7s2y_8byvr_324My next request is kind of a big one. Tolerance. Not just for me, but for the whole world. Actually, mostly people who use Christianity as a way to be intolerant and mean. People like… Phil Robertson. (AKA the beardy guy from Duck Dynasty) This is a guy who used to go around to bars and hand out Bibles. This is a guy who was baptized at age 28! That means  it was a choice he made to love god and be a better person. Well Santa, he didn’t get the memo about Christians being kind and loving and accepting. In fact, he compares homosexuals to terrorists and drunks (one of which he used to be) and says that Muslims don’t watch his show, so it doesn’t matter what he says about them. Not very Christian. Not very human! If the rest of us have to tolerate racist rednecks, then perhaps they can learn to tolerate everybody else.

So Santa, as you can see my Christmas wishes are not selfish ones. I just want to live in a world where my gay friends can watch TV like the rest of us. I want to live in a world where people on a show with “News” in the title are held to higher standards… like facts. There is no excuse for hateful statements about people you don’t know. There is no excuse for being a bigot in 2013. You are pretty much our last hope, Santa. Well, you and Jennifer Lawrence.

That year I asked for a bike with a cool flowered banana seat? You totally came through. And I learned how to ride a bike. Just do the same thing for mean people. But instead of a sweet bike, send them some tolerance and hope. Given enough time and patience maybe they’ll learn to ride with confidence and joy, just like I did.

Things I’m Over, Things I’m Loving – Winter 2013

MjAxMi1hYTIwZDM3YmFjYTllMTZkThings I’m Over

  1. Christmas Consumerism. I’m staying with people, so I have a TV in the house for the first time in about ten years. Oh. My. God. I saw a car commercial where the a girl was asking Santa for a car. A CAR. Then I go on FB and see/hear posts featuring kids already opening presents, kids demanding certain presents, and adults patting themselves on the back for… being really good at shopping, I guess. Spending money isn’t thoughtful and it doesn’t require any talent. If you want folks to feel loved and special try making a gift, or spending time together.
  2. Christmas competition. war-on-christmas2Speaking of commercials, what’s with the implied competition? Am I supposed to worry about what my friends and neighbors are doing and then out do it? I supposed to “Own” Christmas? Out-gift the competition? Christmas supposed to be about love and community, not spending money and showing off.
  3. The War on Christmas. The first thing to understand is that not everyone celebrates Christmas, so not everyone cares what race Santa is. And white people, you don’t own Christmas. Christmas is different in every culture, every state, heck – every family. So just live and let live y’all. I’ll keep my black Santa next to my hispanic nativity, which is right next to my Disco menorah. Thank you very much. Now mind your own business.

Things I’m Loving

  1. Nebraska. The film, not the state.I have nothing against the state, I’ve got friends there, but I’ve never been there. The film on the other hand, I saw over the weekend and I can’t stop thinking about it. Alexander Payne is back with yet another movie that made me cry. His movies are often very funny and very real. This one is the same. It tackles themes like aging, and identity and what that means to a persons life and to a family. It is filmed in black and white, but it doesn’t feel condescending or lame or gimmicky. (I’m talking to you Francis Ha) Go see it. It’ll make you feel good.
  2. Beyonceku-xlargeI love that she released an album digitally and without fanfare. Target is refusing to sell her physical album because they think they won’t make money. (Stupid Target) I love that Bey took a page from Cher’s playbook and does copious amounts of costume changes in each of her 17 music videos. I love her voice. And I love her willingness to show her backside.
  3. Law & Order marathons on USA. svu_gallery_600x500It makes me so happy that they have themed marathons like, “What Would B.D. Do?” or “Locks and Loaded” all of Benson’s hair styles displayed for you marathon style. Awesome.
  4. 1375786_10151732595407496_1569055580_nOrange cat. Everyday, at least once a day, I go outside and look for Orange Cat. I don’t know where he lives, but he walks the battlements (the fences dividing the properties) daily. I call him and he comes and lets me pet him. He’s pretty awesome. I made a cardboard box bed for him that he has never used.
  5. Sesame Street Parodies. They’ve been doing these for years. They have done Law & Order, Downton Abbey, and even The Hunger Games. They are hilarious and fun. The Richard Belzer muppet in particular has a great likeness. 

In Defense of Miley Cyrus

750When I was twenty years old, my responsibilities were few. I went to school, went to work, and managed my small amount of money by spending it all on Pay-less Shoes. I grew up in front of my family and the people at my school. Nobody ever followed me around or wanted to take my picture when I went to the grocery store. I dressed in tight clothes and tried my hardest to look sexy. I experimented with fashion, sometimes to my own detriment. That’s what you do in your twenties.

Miley Cyrus will be twenty-one in November. She’s been working as a professional singer/actress since she was nine years-old. She’s grown up in front of a camera and thousands of strangers watching her every move. But she is still just twenty years old. She’s allowed to make bad decisions about her life, her hair, and her career if she wants to. Not that I think she is making bad decisions. I don’t. I give her props. She’s no different than the pop princesses who came before her, shocking old ladies with lewd dance moves and questionable fashion choices.

Madonna 1978 Lee Friedlander

Madonna 1978 Lee Friedlander

When Madonna was 20 years old she did a full nude photo-shoot. She was bold, brazen and completely shameless in her quest for fame. And it worked. Madonna was an overnight sensation because she used her sexuality in a new way: On her own terms. Madonna sang songs about sex from a female point of view. This hadn’t really been done before. Female singers sang about love and loss, they sang about romance and passion. They didn’t sing about fucking. Until Madonna came along.

Everything changed when “Like a Virgin” came out. Here was a strong, attractive young woman singing about having hot sex. Make no mistake, she’s not singing about how much she loves him, or how she misses him. She’s singing about how good the sex is. It’s soooo good it makes her feel like a virgin. Implying that she is NOT a virgin. At a time when ladies were singing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, and “Let’s Hear it For the Boy”, this was a shock to the system.

Little girls suddenly started dressing like Madonna. It became a fad. “Madonna Wannabes” could be found at any school or mall across America. This infuriated parents. Madonna was called a devil said to encourage young women to act out sexually and wear off the shoulder shirts.(Scandal!) For us girls, it was a perfect act of rebellion – it didn’t hurt anyone, but totally pissed off mom and dad. Adults just didn’t get Madonna and Madonna used that to her full advantage. When she rolled around the stage of the VMA’s in a a white wedding dress, sporting a “Boy Toy” belt buckle and humping the floor – it was a big middle finger to the establishment, American parents, and pop music divas. But you would have thought she killed adorable kittens with her teeth on live television. She was just 26 years old. Looks pretty tame by todays standards: 

Miley Cyrus is just doing her version of humping the floor in a wedding dress. She is becoming a woman and shedding her Hannah Montana persona forever. Can you blame her? What if people wanted you to be the same person you were at twenty for the rest of your adult life? I bet you’d tell them to fuck off. And that’s exactly what Miley Cyrus seems to be doing. If you disapprove just change the channel. Or better yet, lighten up.

We could stand to lighten up. It’s 2013 and sex is still taboo. We are still scared of the female body. In 1992 Madonna released her book “Sex”. It is full of highly stylized, naked pictures of Madge in various locations and costumes. People called it “Hard-core Pornography”, and you had to have ID to purchase it. (Obviously Americans in 1992 had no idea what hardcore porn really looked like.) In ’89 Madonna came back with “Like a Prayer”, a video that was so upsetting to some folks that it was denounced by PepsiCo and The American Family Association. Americans seem to find sex and nudity so vile that children need “protecting” from it. It’s absurd that Janet Jackson’s bare nipple brought an entire country to a screeching halt in a split second. A nipple! Something that all humans have at least two of! A nipple caused a scandal. In 2004!

Miley_Cyrus_Y100_Miami_Concert1No matter what you think of Miley Cyrus, she isn’t going anywhere. She has proven herself a provocative and fearless performer. Miley Cyrus is brave. She isn’t afraid to look ugly. She isn’t afraid to look awkward. She isn’t afraid of trying new things. She isn’t afraid of not being liked. Like Madonna did before her, Miley is using reaction as fuel to the fire. And I think she deserves a break. She isn’t that outrageous. (If the people of America want to get upset about something, how about that date rape song that Robin Thicke was singing while Miley was gyrating? Huh? Why not ask HIS dad what HE thought about it?)

Miley is totally awkward and self assured at the same time. And that’s why I like her. She’s twenty years old. We all thought we knew it all while secretly being scared to death that we didn’t. In a time of Perfect Pink Princesses, Selena Gomez and One Direction, I find Miley Cyrus refreshing. I like that she is embracing being weird and awkward. I like that she shaved her head. I like that she’s a little crazy. I say go for it. I like a girl with Moxie. It wasn’t that long ago that a young woman named Madonna shocked the country by singing about sex while wearing a white wedding dress. I think folks will be talking about Miley and her twerking for years to come.

Good for you, Miley.