Sunday, May 31, 2009

Get Out Of My Face, Theater

Last night, the wife and I saw Conor McPherson's The Seafarer, a play set in one room that takes place mostly on Christmas Eve. We saw it at the Arden Theatre, which is a great intimate venue in Philadelphia.

The Seafarer is really a simple story of men fighting their demons, both metaphorically and literally. I was impressed by how well McPherson's writing managed to inject laugh-out-loud humor into a play that was at times a very dark meditation on life.

The five actors all turned in wonderful performances too - Joe Hickey, Anthony Lawton, Brian Russell, Greg Wood, and William Zielinski - so I recommend the play itself and the actors without reservation. It really was a treat to see a well-written, well-acted play, something I don't do enough of.


The title of my post is a poor play on words, referring to In-Yer-Face Theatre, a phrase used to describe "young playwrights who present vulgar, shocking, and confrontational material on stage as a means of involving and affecting their audience." There's nothing vulgar about McPherson's writing, unless you find the f word objectionable, but the material is confrontational and at times shocking.

If you'd like to learn more about Conor McPherson, check out this interview. If great actors like Ciaran Hinds are drawn to McPherson's material, he must be doing something right.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Congratulations to Lesli Richardson, as her book Good Will Ghost Hunting: Demon Seed just became Lyrical Press's number one mainstream bestseller. Demon Seed is the first of five books in the series.

Here's the blurb for Demon Seed:

Kalyani Martin is a virgin and has every intention of staying that way despite the overwhelming attraction she feels for the co-host of Otherworlds, her new ghost hunting show.

Devastated by the loss of his wife twenty-five years ago, Will Hellenboek is waiting to die. An archdemon, he bides his time co-hosting Otherworlds with his cousin, Aidan. His instant attraction to Kalyani is simply unacceptable to him. His only goal in life is his death, not sex. And certainly not love.

Ryan Ausar protects Earth from anything that would usurp man's free will. His job becomes much harder when his strongest archdemon stubbornly refuses to come back to work.

When lives are on the line, Kalyani, Will and Ryan must make the choice to give up what they hold most dear. Can Kalyani turn her back on the known world and find a little heaven on Earth in the arms of an archdemon?


The Unearthed enjoyed a nice run atop Lyrical's Mainstream Bestseller List for two months. I'd like to thank those who read it. If you haven't had a chance yet, check it out and see if it might be your thing.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Thank You, Critics

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the critics for panning Terminator Salvation. I'm being serious. I went in to the film with lowered expectations, and as a result...I absolutely loved it.

On Rotten Tomatoes, TS has only a 35% rating at the time of this post. Nearly all the reviews I've read, including Ebert's, have slammed this movie, or worst, damned it with faint praise.

The story is not without its hiccups, but on the whole, it's a well-produced, well-filmed, action-filled joy ride from start to finish. Sam Worthington steals the show as Marcus Wright, and I never thought I'd say this, but Anton Yelchin is excellent as Kyle Reese. The not-so-invisible hand of Christian Bale unfortunately left a few marks on the script, but it's a better movie with Bale-man in it than not in it.

I'm not going to ruin the movie for you, but I will say this: the critics universally called this one wrong. It's a good movie, borderline great, and has an intelligent plot with zero fat on it. There are some nice turns, especially the dramatic reversal that occurs during the climax of the film. If you're a Terminator fan, you owe it to yourself to see this movie.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day

I sometimes think I should have gone to war. Every generation before me did and seemed to treat it as a rite of passage. My maternal grandfather flew in the Army Air Corps, my paternal grandfather fought under Patton, and Dad was a Marine in Vietnam from 1965 to 1967.

The only war I've seen is that which rages at law school: blowhard egomaniacs trying to prove each other wrong on some obscure and ultimately meaningless point of law.

The notion that "men go to war" seems the product of a bygone era. Of course, I don't know if that's how people felt 90 or 70 years ago, I'm just making an uneducated guess based on all the old movies I've seen. And certainly by the end of the Vietnam War, it seemed like people no longer thought this way.

Granddad didn't speak a whole lot about flying all those missions in the Army Air Corps. And Dad doesn't talk about Vietnam much. To them, it was just one of those things they did. Almost as if these were things expected of them.


Today, most people treat Memorial Day as just part of a long weekend that signifies the start of beach season as opposed to a day to commemorate the men and women who died while serving. I can't condemn too harshly here, because I've done this myself. And though writing a blog post about Memorial Day is a feeble thing, I did want to take this opportunity to thank all the men and women who have ever put on a uniform. You have done this country a great service.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Kidd Chris Returns Next Week...Sort Of

For you Philadelphians that follow this blog, check out Kidd Chris's web site. Apparently, Kidd is on a comeback and will be doing a show over the Internet beginning May 26, 2009.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Kidd Chris Show, they were taken off the air just over a year ago when one of his regular guests, Lady Gash, played one of her more racist songs over the air waves. Here's a link to a news article about the firing, and embedded in the article is a link to the You Tube clip with the song. DO NOT listen to it if you are easily, or even not-so-easily, offended.

I miss the Kidd Chris Show because it was so unlike the other morning zoo shows out there. The comedy was no-holds barred, nothing is sacred, sort of stuff, and the rogues gallery of guests was great. Sure they went too far on many occasions, but that's what I liked about them. Being un-PC was their sacred calling.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Situational Attribution

I've finally figured it out! For years this has bothered me.

For some reason, whenever my wife has a girls weekend with her friends from college, she tends to imbibe more than when the two of us meet up with friends and hang out. I'm not saying she's a drunken mess when she's not around me, just that she's a little more indulgent.

Fellow married men, you may have experienced much the same. If you're like me and wondering why this happens, here's your answer: situational attribution.

The best example of this psychological concept is the notorious Stanford Prison Experiment. Here's the skinny. 24 undergrads were selected to participate as either guards or convicts. Over the course of just six days, they resided in a mock prison. The test subjects were chosen for their lack of psychological issues, history of crime, etc. And the results were...shocking to say the least. I won't ruin it for you. Check out the wiki article if you get a minute.

But back to my wife. It's probably not so much situational attribution in our case. It probably has more to do with my quest to destroy my liver and her attempts to balance our social act with reasonable moderation.

Love you, dear. I'll make sure to sleep on the couch tonight.

Monday, May 18, 2009

First Celebrity Fatality From Swine Flu

I can't take credit for this, but it was too funny not to post. Special thanks to Rongo Jugataris for the pic.

One Of My Favorite Screenwriters Is...Scott Frank?

I love when this happens. You watch a movie, like it enough to look it up on IMDb, and see a name attached to it that sounds vaguely familiar. You click on the name and discover that this person has been involved with several other movies you really enjoyed.

This weekend, the wife and I revisited Dead Again, an overlooked and underrated movie from the early 90s starring Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, back when the pair were still an item. The story follows Branagh as an LA private eye helping out Thompson, a woman suffering from amnesia and horrific nightmares that always end the same way: with a pair of old-fashioned scissors about to be plunged into her torso. The story is entertaining, literate, and has arguably two fantastic twists toward the end. It also features Branagh's personal idol, Derek Jacobi, Andy Garcia, and (Shhh, don't tell anyone because his name does not appear in the credits) Robin Williams in a terrific little role that foreshadowed his later work in Insomnia and One Hour Photo. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it because it's an interesting take on the detective story, and it's really well-filmed. (SPOILER ALERT) I especially love how the climaxes of both plotlines are intercut at the end of the film. Just don't take the ridiculously over-the-top death of the villain at the end too seriously (END OF SPOILER ALERT).

Anyways, I've always thought Dead Again was a well-written and very creative story, so after we watched it I did some snooping on IMDb. I saw that Scott Frank penned the screenplay, so I clicked on his name and made one of those great discoveries: I've really enjoyed a lot of this guy's stories.

It turns out Mr. Frank also wrote the screenplay for Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Minority Report!!!, The Interpreter, and...wait for it...The Lookout!

If you haven't heard of The Lookout, this one is worth checking out. It's a neo-noir set in the Midwest starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a former high school star athlete suffering from a brain injury that prevents him from remembering things for extended periods of time, who gets swept up in a bank heist. It's well-acted, and the plot is tight and well-executed. Not to mention, this was also Scott Frank's directorial debut, and he does a marvelous job.

So yes, I can honestly say that Scott Frank is now one of my favorite screenwriters. Check out Dead Again and The Lookout if you get a chance.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Writer's Blog

Warning: This post contains elements of self-indulgence, so if you're easily offended by this, stop reading now.

I have writer's blog. I was so excited when I thought up this term during my car ride this evening, thinking I had coined a clever if somewhat obvious phrase, but apparently, it's a common enough term to have found its way into the unholy of unholies, the urban dictionary.

For the last couple of weeks, I've had trouble coming up with things to blog about. I have only one rule when blogging: write about whatever I want so long as it isn't self-indulgent, look how great I am/woe is me crap. So I know I've hit rock bottom when I break the one rule I've set for myself.

How do bloggers combat this fairly common occurrence?

Some of my favorite bloggers have an overarching theme to their blog. My good friend, Nate Green, explores the nuances and oddities of language in fiction and in marketing in his blog, 500 Words on Words. Peter Rozovsky somehow manages to be prolific and accessibly esoteric with his wonderful blog, Detectives Beyond Borders.

Speaking of prolific, Seana Graham manages four of her own blogs, each one with its one motif, while also being a frequent contributor to many other blogs.

On the other hand, Adrian McKinty blogs about the "psychopathology of everyday life," to steal his turn of phrase, which is a pretty big umbrella covering just about anything and everything.

So yeah, I may take a week or so off from the blog to recharge and think up something more intelligent than "writing about the practices of other bloggers." See you soon. I hope.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Cinderella Story...

Tomorrow will be the second of two rounds of golf I've played in the last two years. It's going to be ugly...

I've gone to the range a few times this year and managed not to hit any shanks. Yet. I'm tempting fate by even writing that word, "shanks," but I'm not a superstitious moron, as I've explained before.

I'm hoping to shoot in the mid-80s. That's a reasonable number given the course I'm playing and the state of my game. At least they sell beer on the course, so if it's not looking good I can purchase some "aiming oil."

But if you want the real Cinderella Story, click here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

That's Alright, He Always Wanted To Be Captain USA...

RIP Dom DeLuise, you will be missed. So it looks like ole Burt and Dom won't reunite for another Cannonball Run flick. Well, okay, that was never going to happen anyway, but I must say I have a rather unhealthy affection for these two Hal Needham movies, especially the first, which features a great cast including Dino and Sammy Davis, Roger Moore parodying himself, and Jackie Chan Subaru Driver.

These two movies definitely qualify as '80s flicks: ridiculous premise, characters very broadly drawn, and loads of mindless fun that yes, does get stupidly silly sometimes. Still, though, this is the Burt and Dom show, and it brings back a lot of fond memories from childhood, most of which I spent watching HBO.

And nobody beats Captain Chaos/Captain USA.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I'll Pass On The Beer Pong; I Didn't Bring My Kevlar

Competitive endeavors tend to bring out the best and the worst in man. On the one hand, you get teamwork, class, and athleticism that is beautiful to behold, like the Boston Celtics' unbelievable run between 1957 - 1969 and the Bulls' dynasty of the '90s which was briefly interrupted by Jordan's first of many retirements. On the other hand, you get soccer riots, players with egos large enough to have their own gravitational pulls, and fans that resort to the worst kind of mob mentality creating and almost relishing in that utterly pointless us v. them mindset.

But who could have thought a harmless game like beer pong could end like this? Now I understand that combining competition and alcohol is probably not the best idea, but what the hell kind of argument over beer pong could end in a fatal shooting?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Best Rejection I've Ever Received

This is not a tongue-in-cheek post. My sincere thanks to Uwe Stender of TriadaUS, a literary agency located in Pittsburgh, PA, for giving me the best rejection I've ever received.

I sent an e-query to Dr. Stender regarding my suspense thriller, Face Blind, on April 22, 2009. That same day, Dr. Stender asked me to send a hard copy of the full manuscript. Very excited, I sent it via regular mail the next day, April 23, 2009.

I opened the mail yesterday, May 1st, and sadly found one of those self-addressed stamped envelopes we writers are all too familiar with. Dr. Stender had returned my cover letter, but had also actually taken the time to write a personal note explaining why he'd rejected the story.

That Dr. Stender was able to respond so quickly while taking the time to explain his rationale is mind-boggling. Most agencies or publishers take weeks, usually months, to respond, and even when they do, it's in the guise of a form letter with no feedback whatsoever.

So, my sincerest thanks to Dr. Stender, a true professional. I hope perhaps someday we can work together, assuming I don't land a different agent before then.

I'd also like to thank Debbie Carter of Muse Literary--she too rejected my last two manuscripts, but she did so very quickly and even gave me some feedback on why she was passing.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Rita's Monthly Chat!!!

My good friend Rita Vetere is hosting her monthly chat this Monday starting at 8:00 PM EST. This month, Cindy Jacks and Sean Cummings are her featured guests. If history is any indication, it will be a great time!

Please stop by on Monday, May 4th at 8:00 PM EST for the festivities. You won't be disappointed.