Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Blacula, Naked Monsters and BSG's The Plan

I used to dress up in thigh high boots and corsets and the like for Halloween. Since moving to LA, I'm inclined to do that on any given Tuesday, Thus, I am home watching Scream, Blacula, Scream. It has a Blacula, Pam Grier and that Black guy from Ironside. Why wouldn't I be watching that? Next, we'll likley watch The Naked Monster , a hopefully good spoof of such films as The Thing from Another World. It features a brain-dead sheriff, a stolid secret agent and a sexy scientist team with a grumpy retired monster fighter to battle a 60 foot, three-eyed cross between man and dinosaur. It also stars many actors from B movie classics often in their final roles. Who wouldn't want to see that. And after our brains are filled with cheese, we'll watch BSG: the Plan. After all, you must save the best for last. I'll be reviewing all of them (spoilers and all) in the blog tomorrow. Save for Scream Blacula Scream. I'm nearing the end and have no idea what I've been looking at.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Food P0rn, Plot Twists, Updates and Unscheduled Nakedness

Of late, I've grown to really love cold rainy days, because I love to cook. Our home is very toasty and smells really yummy. Thus, last week's weather in LA should have been cooking heaven for me. Unfortunately, Jon and I were still fighting off something going around the office, so I didn't do very much cooking this past weekend. I am proud to say that I've emptied my freezer of leftovers and did not throw them directly into the trash. I whipped up many things over rice or noodles. Jon seemed to enjoy all the dishes, so I suppose it was a successful and frugal effort. All I did last week, cooking wise, was warm up re-invented leftovers. I didn't even have fixings for a lovely and decadent cup of hot cocoa. This would have been really nice on Wednesday when it was really pouring. Even with the carpool, we came home with soggy shoes and thus cold, unhappy feet. The parking lot at the new facility is vast, you see. We were all thoroughly wet before even reaching the end of the building, let alone the car itself. Alas, I could not take advantage of the gray, chilly days. By the time I had all of my ingredients, the weather had changed markedly. To quote my poetic friend, Marie, it went from cold and damp to 9,000,000,000,000 (I believe that may be a bazillion) degrees in about a day. The apartment is like a sauna (albeit a fragrant one). It's weird to be in a room so hot while watching football. Ah well.

On a side note, I swear I just heard a penalty call during the New York/New Orleans for unnecessary punching. Does that mean that there can be punching during the game that's considered necessary? I'm curious. Much time has passed. I've been distracted by cooking and some other more troublesome matters. The blog is very late this week. In fact, there was no blog at all last Sunday. My apologies.

It's now Friday. Jon and I are home sick...again. No, it's not H1N1. It is something that keeps running around the Archive. This fun thing has the body aches and near debilitating fatigue. Even so, I am making a quick version of my favorite chicken stock to make some restorative soups. Jon is not so much for the old fashioned chicken soup, but he does like cream of tomato soup with crackers (Ritz, of course). I have a lovely recipe for roasted tomato and red bell pepper soup by Sunny Anderson, another Food Network diva I like. And with this recipe, he gets the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from the tomatoes, garlic and the red bell peppers. I've also made a crockpot full of mulled wine from a recipe shared by one of my French friends. The whole pace smells wonderful. That helps a lot. And I really like the idea of drinking something that is also known as Glogg. Unfortunately, I have no flagons. The soup is finished and it tastes quite yummy. All we need now are some gooey grilled cheese samiches (yes, I meant samiches).

Food P0rn Part Deux

When Anthony Bourdain did his Food P0rn (I'm using the zero instead of an o to avoid search engine problems, okay), it was an interesting excursion through what highly trained chefs and extreme foodies call a hedonistic experience. It was entertaining and informative, but not anywhere near erotic. I was a little let down by that, because Bourdain is sensual and poetic in expressing his views on foods in any given episode. I've been inspired by this way of viewing food and cooking. It certainly has crept into my prose and scripts. But last week, I was exposed to an artists in sensually describing the sights, sounds and tastes of a kitchen. Alex's Day Off is Alexandra Guarnaschelli's new show on the Food Network. The premier episode featured a very simple meal of bacon, eggs and hash browns. It was sexier than some of my most naughty fiction. The way Chef Alex ordered a 'sloppy pound' of bacon made Jon look up from his work to ask what EXACTLY was I watching. I had been enjoying her posts on the Facebook all week long. One involving a butternut squash caused me to all but run out and buy one in hopes of having a similarly intense experience. Tonight she was talking about a sandwich. It sounded like way too much fun to have with a sandwich. She is extraordinary as a chef and a lover of food. Do have a look at the show.

Editing Surprises

No I don't mean discovering that Jon has changed my brutal mutant soldiers into ballet dancers. These surprises are about subtlety in the performances that pare very pleasing to someone looking for her characters to come to life. There was a lot I saw live and on the monitors dureing that made me happy during the Blood Oath shoots themselves, but it's hard to see everything. Throughout the fight scene I was watching to make sure that Goggles(Aaron Blake or Brian Avery) didn't lose his red scarf or that Vincent's (Matty Ferraro) ponytail didn't unravel or Rik's (Lance Wesley) military patches stayed in place. There weren't a lot of moments when I could focus on the facial expressions that happened during the fight scene. As a movie fan, I prefer action scenes that are telling me something about who the characters are. I expect the same character exposition during love scenes as well.
For example, the fight scene between Hector (Eric Bana) and Achilles (Brad Pitt) in Troy was a tragic ballet of grief and anger and honor. It was as sad as it was beautiful (Yes, even with all that bare, glistening skin, I noticed the actual fight). My favorite thing about the final duel between Obi-wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker during Revenge of the Sith is that the nature of their entire relationship played out during it. The fight was almost painful to watch. But my favorite example of an American film (Hong Kong action films have this down to a fine art) that uses character exposition during a fight scene and a chase scene brilliantly is Mr. &Mrs. Smith. Their first knock down drag out fight against each other is brutal, but it's also very funny and extremely sexy. It is quite clear that their being on opposites sides has not changed their feelings for each other. And then there is my favorite chase scene in film (same film). They dissect their whole relationship during a harrowing and death defying pursuit on a major highway. See the trailer HERE. It has some of the fight scene (you'll have to wade through an ad for another film). Incidentally, and completely unrelated to my point, I must commend Brad Pitt on his performance in Mr. & Mrs. Smith in that he was completely credible as being dangerous and goofy.

I'm not comparing out modest pilot to those big, expensive films. However, I was still looking carefully at the fight footage as Jon edited it to find my characters. You don't need high end production values to convey a sense of the characters through their action. And I did see them in brief glimpses during the frenetic fight. As Jon worked on the FX one frame at a time, I was impressed by the facial expressions of both Lance and Matty while they were fighting. I saw Vincent's determination, his temper and even his playfulness. In Rik, I saw the intense focus, the temper and the sardonic Colonel Bastard that is in the Soldier's novels. In each of them, I saw protectiveness and sometimes panic over each others safety. I would have never have seen that on the soundstage because I was too far from the action and they were moving way too fast. However, on a regular TV screen, everything was apparent. I could clearly see Vincent and Rik without them uttering a single line of dialogue. It was very exciting.

Project Updates

In other Blood Oath news, we've set a tentative date for the premier screening. I plan to firm it up in the next two weeks. We are toying with the notion of inviting fans of Yaoi, Manga and homoerotic sci-fi to the screening to generate some buzz. We have to decide on that soon as the screening will be the week before Christmas.

It's really odd, but five years ago, Dragoncor/Earthdraggon couldn't avoid shooting in November. Now, it seems that we can't avoid shoots in January and February. That's the current status of pre-production for the next film. It's not so bad though. It's not blazing hot, and a number of actors we're interested in for the horror film and the western are more available during that time (TV season is still on hiatus in January). We decided not to fight against the tide. Aside from the frequent illnesses, all of us are consumed by assisting Lucy with the soundstage launch and the new distribution arm of Dragoncor/Earthdraggon. I have to write up protocols for submissions for that. Jon had to drop everything to do an online, animated advertisement on Thursday for the soundstage. It's been exciting to watch all of this take shape, but it is draining at times for everyone. I can't imagine going into full-blown pre-production on top of all that. There are only so many hats that can fit on one set of heads.

CSI: Miami – Times They are a Changing

I remain flummoxed by the tones and plots on CSI: Miami this year. I'm not displeased by any stretch. I'm just really surprised and a little suspicious. What's going on here? I mean we have a hostage situation in one episode that does not behave in anyway like any other hostage situation I've seen on most police dramas. The twists and turns in that episode really surprised me – and not unpleasantly (see, I was paying attention to more than half naked CSI Cardoza (Eddie Cibrian). A side note, Jon postulated during last weeks episode where CSI Cardoza was running around shirtless and shoeless in low slung shorts while on the beach that perhaps the near naked thing is the actor's MO. I did some image surfing on the interwebs and found that he does, indeed, have no problem with being in a towel or less. Delightful. But where was I? Ah, yes, fun plot twists. The hostage ep was very interesting. My only criticism is an ongoing one. I'm not sure how many times armed gunmen have overrun their law enforcement building, but I really think after the first time, there would be some sort of armed security at the entrances. Last weeks ep, Bad Seed, was truly unique for the series. It didn't have an outright bad guy for one thing. The killer was a number of elements coming together to create food contamination that was in no way intentional. And the investigation was more science and less interrogation. In other words, the issues were really complex. The solution was not ideal, yet the journey to the conclusion was satisfying. Wow. And I'm really liking the more team-like feel between the actors. Horatio Cain (David Caruso) was content to let the team run with the ground work. He came in for the key interrogations. I'm seeing more and more of this from him. It fits the Steve McGarrett paradigm. In later seasons, he also was less in the field preferring to orchestrate the actions from behind the scenes. Still, I hope we haven't seen the last of Horatio's deadly shooting.

Unscheduled Nakedness

The best thing about the heat wave two weeks ago was some late season skin baring amongst the fitness conscious hot guys in the neighborhood. Two Saturdays ago, it looked like a calendar photo shoot had erupted outside our building. It wasn't like a Diuex du Stade calendar (that link is so not work safe). It was more in the racy fireman range. One of the lovely specimens was stretching on a utility pole in front of our building. He had on some sort of white spandex bike pants rolled down low. He was built as though fashioned by a talented sculptor, and he was glistening with sweat. But what I liked most was the self-effacing smile that graced that gorgeous mug in response to my most likely maniacal grin. He was so sporting about my leer, I didn't feel it was right to ask him to wait while I fetched my calander. There were about a dozen more such specimens getting in their runs on the route to Marina del Rey. I sure as heck didn't mind the heat any more.

Speaking of changing seasons. The change to standard time is next week in the US. As a reminder in the UK, the wonderfully naughty PSA aired. Thank you, Sylvette for the pleasant heads up!

Finally, thanks to everyone who sent notes of concern. We're on the mend. We just had to really take some time and rest.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

No Blog This Week

I was actually writing it despite delays due to cooking and the usual chores, but I have to deal with some pre-production issues as Ralph is unavailable. I have been completely distracted by this. So, double the fun for next week. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Garden Gnomes, Cakes and the Wandering Blog

Jon and I are tasting fondant and experimenting with gingerbread squares. No, these aren't some really strange marital aids, but more on that later. I wanted to open the blog with Craig in garden gnome form. The Archive commissioned an artist to do these funky three foot tall versions of long term employees for the garden at it's headquarters. Craig's is this Mini-Me thing wearing Peppermint Patty's shorts and sandals. The expression is the strange squint he gets with one eye bigger than the other when he's thinking something homicidal. But Craig hasn't sent me the photo. I'll get it, believe me. Meanwhile, back to the gingerbread.

Adventures in Architecture

We're opening up our local holiday baking repertoire to include gingerbread houses. Thus, Jon was using templates and a ruler and making bevel edges on the squares so that they stood interconnected without being glued. I blame the Food Network. Of course, one has to watch the holiday specials. Otherwise, I would have never seen Sandra Lee's Kwanzaa Cake. I still wish I hadn't, but I'm glad there is now evidence online. Every year there are shows with gingerbread cake competitions. These produce some amazing cakes, but we were never convinced that they tasted good. All the ingredients had to be edible, but many did not appear to be tasty. Thus, Jon got a wild hair about building a tasty gingerbread cake that would look interesting even as it is being slowly demolished by holiday revelers. We made our first batch of dough this weekend. It's makes for sturdy walls, but the taste is rather bland. We'll try a more cake-like recipe later today. The idea is that bricks could be cut and stacked from the cake. Yes, this all sounds a bit involved for a table centerpiece. I gladly concede that.

The Food Network thing has grown from catching my favorite cooks on Saturday mornings to watching the competitions like Food Network Challenge (That started because one of the ads showed a contestant whose cake literally burst into flame. We had to find out how a cake can burst into flame) and the Next Food Network Star. We get wrapped up in these competitions. Lately, I've been wrapped up with the latest winner of the Next Food Network Star. I used Melissa D'Arabian's pastry recipe in the apple pies I made in Philly. I posted photos on her Facebook page and we've been corresponding ever since. And she's not the only one I hear from frequently. Many of my favorites are very net savvy and like to interact with fans. It's been so cool to receive praise from chefs I admire. And I'm not above some cross promoting. I'm thinking of sending them the Vincent Greven Cookbook. A complimentary blurb never hurts a title.

Needless to say, holiday cooking has taken on a great deal of complexity due to my broadening culinary interests. I'm planning my Thanksgiving menu now. I'll complete my cookie list very soon. The sales on baking ingredients begin in a few weeks, and I have to know how much we'll need to fill the ever growing list. We have learned that the cookie doughs we make freeze for weeks with no difference in taste when baked. That will enable us to stretch the cookie making out over more time and not make December so pressed with getting them done and shipped. I'm toying with the idea of making the Thanksgiving dinner a fund raising event for Feeding America. That will depend upon whether we can fit a decent sized table in this tiny apartment with room to move around. I rather like the idea of having some foodies over for a salon and fundraiser. We'd still show some awful movie to talk over. Some traditions must be maintained.
All of this interaction with the TV chefs means I'll be documenting everything I'm doing this holiday season. This will include videos that I'll likely inflict er, I mean share with the blog.

Oh The Places I have Gone

In addition to actually publishing my blog here and on myspace. It has an automatic feed to my author page on amazon.com and my facebook page. I also share parts of the blog with various sites with specific interests. I put the cooking bits on Paula Deen's Get Cookin' site and I post any sci fi or horror related revies on Doorq.com. I'm usually very busy shortly after finishing the blog. What I didn't know was That it is appearing elsewhere where many eyes are seeing it. I've found two instances where my TV reviews and reports were on the news feeds to the shows I was talking about on the Internet Movie Database and the blog is listed on Blogs to Watch at Google.com. I wish I'd known. I would have plugged my books or film projects somewhere in the rant.s I shall endeavor to do that in the future. Meanwhile, I'm pleased that the people I'm yelling about may actually be reading my praise or critiques.


My writing continues at a good pace. I should finish the script I'm working on now. By next week, I hope to move onto the one that's been the focus of two years worth of research. The films and other projects have reached a juncture where I can't talk about them. Hopefully, I'll be free to do so next week.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Bad Chemistry, Fall TV and Kitchen Perils

I have to admit, finishing that first story in Mom's memoir left me exhausted. I've never had that happen with any writing before. I suppose that's because I've never been as personally to my work before. Then I had an immediate case of remorse about sending it to some close family members. In short, I was really distracted by the time it came to writing the blog. There were many things I wanted to write about, but I had no energy.

This week, my distraction is most evident in the kitchen. After a spice mishap and a near tragedy involving a pan full of hot canola oil, I decided it might be safest and sanest for me to adjourn the weekly cooking until tomorrow. When I get klutzy in the kitchen, it's best to leave. It was only a matter of time before I slipped with a knife or my newest toy, my ultra sharp mandolin. The sofa and my keyboard are far safer than my stove.

This week, my focus seems to be on pop culture. I have Fall TV rants to expand upon. But these seemingly fannish observations are a lot about writing and how it interacts with actors and other, less creative influences that make well intentioned scripts go horribly wrong. So for my literati geeks out there, this is germane to 'real writing.' and it is easy to relate even if you have never seen the shows.

Experiments in Chemistry
Spoiler Alert for CSI, CSI:Miami and Eastwick. Also, the opions below are my own. They are strongly heald and well reasoned. Yelling at me will not change them.

I was most unhappy going into the new season of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Fan reaction to last seasons changes prompted the network to interfere with this season. First off, some vocal fans were unhappy with the departure of William Peterson and unhappy with Lawrence Fishburne's character. Despite having the series created around him and being an executive producer, William Perterson always had one foot out of the door at CSI. It was always a matter of time before they left. I was leery of the introduction of Fishburne, but impressed with his choices in portraying his new role. He allowed himself to be an entry level tech on the team and opted to play Dr. Raymond Langston as a highly talented mega nerd. It was a refreshing choice for an A-list action star. Some fans though were annoyed that he was not being more like Morpheus from The Matrix trilogy. I was mightily vexed, because I so enjoyed what Fishburne was doing with the role. I was even more vexed at the return of Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox) whom I've loathed since the pilot. More on that later. But CSI is a clever program for it's genre. It is the most innately funny of the CSI shows. It also takes itself the least seriously. Fans wanted the Matrix, the opener gave it to them in spades complete with more bullet time than has ever occurred in a network TV show. For a couple of seconds, Dr. Langston became Morpheus and kicked One of the multiple intruders dressed like Agents through a plate glass window. It was one very amazing scene that was brilliantly foretold in the opening in riveting slow motion (please, watch the opener HERE). It was the only place where Fishburne broke his choice of character, thank goodness. In the remaining parts of the episode, he was his usual nerdy self. I think this was the producers' way of saying 'You want the freaking Matrix, you've got it. Doesn't it look ridiculous?'

A writer can develop and define a character, but an actor is the one that breathes life into it through the choices made in how the writing is expressed into action. Those choices affect everything including the character's chemistry with other actors in the show. In the case of Fishburne, the nerdy doctor and former pathologist, there is a lot of natural chemistry with the Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Robbins. The chemistry works and it makes sense. It was probably in the script, but the actors really ran with it. Thus, they are delightful to watch.

However, there are characters who have no chemistry, especially no romantic chemistry no matter how much a writer wants it to happen or how blatant it is supposed to be in the script. This scenario happens more often than not. Unfortunately, if the writer is a series creator, the chemistry created in the script is often foisted upon the actors whether they feel it or not. The results are often disastrous. In the case of CSI, it's Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle. The characters have always had terrible chemistry. Each had more chemistry with almost every other character. Together romantically, they were painful to watch. But for whatever reason, it was forced down the viewers throats that they were destined to be a couple. Yet Sara leaves the team once because of burnout after Gil proposed. When she returns briefly, she never asked after him. Then she left the entire country and informs him via a video e-mail. He inexplicably follows. This season, I'm to believe that she's left the man she's married at this point to return to a job she had come to loathe for crushing her soul simply because they need a little temp help. I am to further believe that she left her new husband while living in Paris. Is CSI now pure fantasy??? I am appalled at how little real thought is put into this season's developments. Yet, I shouldn't be. Script writers, especially creators, rarely seem to realize which characters are really right for each other. I think the reason is that screenwriters still think that their vision is the only one that matters. That just isn't the case in TV or film. In film, there is the actor's and director's vision to contend with. In TV, it's mainly the actors. But they are the ones that are reaching viewers each week.

Smart writers and producers run with the chemistry that develops between the characters even if it's unexpected. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the epic love story was supposed to be between Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar ) and Angel (David Boreanaz). However, it became clear that the stronger chemistry was between Buffy and Spike ) (James Marsters) . Fortunately the talented Jane Espenson ran with that chemistry making for some wonderfully steamy episodes and a heart rending series finale. It was really good stuff. Ms Espenson, I believe, is responsible for running with the sizzling chemistry between Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) and President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) in Battlestar Galactica. Running with the acros choices can make for fabulously fun TV viewing.

Unfortunately, many TV writers and producers try to force the original plans for their characters onto the actors and their viewers. Thus, we have Sarah Sidle and Gil Grissom or B'Elanna Torres and Tom Paris (Star Trek: Voyager) or JD and Elliot on Scrubs which is a tragedy that keeps repeating.

We've been lucky with our characters and actors. I try to cast with personal chemistry in mind. Most times, I have at least one of my leads cast before I look for the other. Thus, I have someone to interact with the actors in the audition. Thus, My Vincent and my Rik have good chemistry together in Blood Oath. My Shadow has chemistry with my KD in The Gunslinger. The only problem we had was with The Privateers. We wanted Dravyk's love ultimate love interest to be a surprise. We also meant for he and Commander El-Minya to have a hostile relationship. Well, Karl Urban and Denise Hurd had far more on screen chemistry that we'd ever planned. So we tweaked future versions of the script to have Dravyk be a flirt with El-Minya mainly to annoy her. They are thus still a lot of fun to watch on screen without implying that there will be more to the relationship.

Fall TV Rant
This section is less about the craft of TV writing and more about my opinion on a couple of network TV shows.

I didn't rant much about CSI: Miami last season. It was kind of a ho-hum season. Not even the stupid things that happened rose to a level where I felt the need to shout about it. I was hopeful going into this season. The ads implied a fun flash back to such things as how Horatio Caine got his signature sun glasses and how his team was formed. I envisioned an amusing romp in the past while Eric Delko fought for his life....again. Alas, aside from one detective having a porn moustache, there was nothing at all amusing. It was the usual, heavy handed goofy stuff. There was, however, a new character. CSI Cordoza (Eddie Cibrian) was introduced in the series opener. He is tall, dark, gorgeous with dimples. By episode two he is caught in a hostage situation in police headquarters (yes, I said police headquarters). My irritation at the half dozenth time that station has been invaded by armed gunmen gave way to glee when Cordoza whipped off his shirt (as you do in hostage crisis). I'm not sure what other inane things happened after that (my mind had wandered to somewhere fun with CSI Cordoza), but I now have a reason to continue watching the show.

The biggest delight of the new fall season has been Eastwick, the ABC TV show based on The Witches of Eastwick, a novel by John Updike and a film by George Miller. It's the story of three women who are unhappy in their lives brought together by a wish to fulfill their most secret desires. Their wishes begin to come true with the arrival of the mysterious and wealthy Darryl Van Horn, someone who may not be of this Earth. The series brings the talented and gorgeous Paul Gross back to American TV. Like many women and some men, I fell madly in love with him as Constable Benton Fraser in due South. Gross managed to be very charming and sexy playing a wide-eyes innocent, straight laced Mounty. He is incendiary as the gleefully wicked Van Horn (who has the delightful habit of whipping off his clothes as often as possible). The series is scary and intriguing yet it has a light, humorous touch. The rest of the cast is really good and really easy on the eyes. I'm not sure how long the series can run. In the book and the film, the trio of women coming together is the beginning of the end. Things sipral out of control fairly quickly. I'm not sure how long Eastwick as a series can keep the suspense going before it has to reach a conclusion, but I'm more than willing to go along for the ride.

Real Life Stuff

I haven't been just watching TV these last couple of weeks. I've been working on business plans with Ralph and helping shape a book proposal for another writer when I'm not doing my own writing. Ralph and I are juggling a lot of complicated things so that when we make our next film, we will continue making films. This keeps me really busy even during the day at the Archive (That makes for some awkward moments, believe me. I've already had an actor come greet me and Jon while hip deep in processing books for upload). It's been nice to have a little diversion from the telly. In the next few weeks, the Blood Oath pilot presentation will be finished. In addition to pitching it, we plan to have a screening with Manga, anime and yaoi fans. If any of you are in LA next month, I hope you'll come take a look. We'll also be doing auditions for the horror film. Casting is always interesting. This time, I'll keep a detailed visual and written record of the process. As always, stay tuned.

And now, I must return to the kitchen. I have a carne asada recipe that I have to crack.