Sunday, January 25, 2015

Instant Playlists

So, I am not a playlist maker as a habit. I've done a few on occasion, but generally speaking, I have no time for that noise. I wasn't a mix tape kind of girl. I bought the CDs I loved, and learned pretty early on that the rest of the regular radio fare grew teeth grindingly stale by the time it cycled out of the top 40 rotation. My brother is the musically inclined one. The one who plays four (or five?) instruments, the one who toured in London with his college band, the one who knows every single artist that hits the popular hive mind six months before I've ever heard of them.
In summation, I was not the kind of girl who kept up with the music scene.
And then Pandora happened. And I don't have to put together playlists anymore. They just happen!

How aptly named, sweet muse of harmony!
Your algorithms play straight to my soul,
With troubadours of old and new alike,
Revealed as if we were old acquainted!

In other words, I have suggestions.
For background music - Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
For running music - Two Door Cinema Club, or M83
For all those bands you can't remember the names of - The Submarines
For refreshing music - Bon Iver


And now onto the weekly updates.
Film Count 2015 : 22
Watched this week:
(*not first viewing)

The Artist is Present
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou*
Fantastic Mr. Fox* 

Things that are technically TV shows even though I only watch them streaming on the computer: 8
New this week

The Fall

Books of 2015 : 7
New this week:

Telegraph Avenue
The Structure of Scientific Revolution
The Darkest Part of the Forest

Things I'm Eagerly Awaiting in 2015 this week:

Watching a tremendous list of foreign films that just came to Netflix

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Oscar Edition - The Wes Anderson Conundrum

So, I'm always conflicted about the Oscars, and basically every award program for commercially produced films (Independent Spirit Awards included. You bunch of sexy sellouts) . Honestly, who cares about award shows that are essentially nothing more than marketing campaigns for media properties that hardly need more brand awareness? And then there's the messy knot of trying to hand out merit awards to art, as if one could really be superior to the other, and the headache inducing clash of seeing purely commercial properties and high art put into head to head competition, with one awarded above the others by vote of a phenomenally homogeneous panel of judges.

Which is my way of saying, I don't generally pay super close attention to what the Oscars are up to. But I still do love seeing the filmmakers I love getting recognition, because I want to see more movies from them, and while I'd like to think that merit of work would be enough for artists to continue to get funding, we're also not naive enough to think that it doesn't come down 100% to money. Except perhaps for Terrence Malik, if you're not making a profit, you're not getting backers on your next project. A smaller or more niche film is going to need wider distribution to find it's audience, but paradoxically is less likely to make its way out of limited release, or even escape the event horizon of VOD nowadays, making it harder for the people who would like to see niche films to find them in the first place, because the more off the main road a film is, the less likely it is to show in the 30plex chain cinemas. No, you're only going to find those showing at the three screen urban art houses. Until they get Oscar nods. Then suddenly the multiplex has room on the dance card. It's a vicious cycle.

This year we have two filmmakers who came to the awards via the quirk route - Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson.

Linklater of course directed the refreshingly experimental Boyhood, but long before that, he helmed what has become the equally far reaching Before trilogy, which, if you haven't seen them yet, stop what you are doing and go find them. Now. Don't come back until those credits roll on Before Midnight.

Anderson has been slowly building one of the most cohesive and precious collections of films ever put together, over the past 20 years. And while I love Anderson's work, with his dollhouse chic art design, his impeccable taste in music, and his thoroughly developed voice, there is something I am starting to take issue with in his work.

Anderson's first commercially produced and distributed work was 1998's Rushmore, which, being set in a private boy's school can be forgiven for a certain top heaviness and homogeny among his characters. His follow up, 2000's The Royal Tennenbaums, expanded half a breath to included the same number of female characters, and also featured Danny Glover as Henry Sherman, accountant and love interest of the Tennenbaum matriarch Etheline.
Since Tennenbaums on, his films have become less inclusive, more whitewashed, and even more male centered. Moonrise Kingdom came the closest to cracking out of this shell, but while it featured a female lead, it still centered around a male organized institution, allowing him the convenience of writing a heavy majority of male roles. Anderson writes in a style that I describe as a 14 year old boy explaining what he thinks adults are like, and I mean that as a compliment. There's a challenge to writing from a child's perspective, even if it is in a satirical way.

I love your films, Wes, but is it impossible to write about anyone other than independently wealthy or upper middle class white men?

And yet, I was happy to see The Grand Budapest Hotel nominated, and in so many categories. I also think that lack of diversity needs to be a pressing discussion among artists in both film and literature, and an especially salient point in a year when a brilliant film like Selma is nominated  for best picture, but nothing else, and every single acting nomination was for a white actor. Is there really no work of merit being made by anyone else?

Anyway, on to my stats for the  year. An addendum to this list - books are new to me, but not all the films are first viewings. This is just a little compilation, mostly for me, of what I've seen for the year. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this list yet, but hey, with the new year, there was a perfect opportunity to do some actual journaling with this blog, so why not? Might make for some interesting stats, might not. Maybe you'll be reminded of something you wanted to see years ago and never got around to, and now you're trying to remember what the heck it was. And now you'll know. You're welcome.

Film Count 2015 : 18
Watched this week:
(*not first viewing)

Brick Mansions
Pee Wee's Big Adventure*
The Darjeeling Limited*
The Gambler

Things that are technically TV shows even though I only watch them streaming on the computer: 7

Low Winter Sun
Inside Amy Schumer
The New Yorker Presents
Project Runway AllStars

Books of 2015 : 4
New this week:

Lockwood & Co. The Shrieking Staircase
Miss Marple Complete Short Stories
Object Lessons - Paris Review Anthology

Things I'm Eagerly Awaiting in 2015 this week:

The First Bad Man, Miranda July
Nightcrawler (Missed it in theaters, out soon on video)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Things You Can Do With A Blog

I still love my blog. I still see a lot of fellow bloggers out there. Although with all the other options available that sometimes test my patience worse than a census taker, most of the peeps who were blogging when I started are either gone completely or have scaled back to the realm of long lists of "Hey I'm Back" posts, punctuated by weeks or months of silence.


Originally, this blog was a way to connect with fellow emerging writers, as I fumbled my way through the querying game. That's over for the time being. I have a superstar agent who does the querying for me (yay!) though I do miss it sometimes. When the waits become long, as they are wont to do in this world of stodgy old publishing, I used to be able to just shoot out a few new queries, see if anyone responded. In a way, being out on submission is being even more adrift than when I sent those first fumbling, misfired attempts out into the big wide world. Now I must be patient. I must wait politely without touching the cake or messing up my nice dress before the guests arrive. Well nuts to that.

Eventually, this will be the place to talk about any book type news. Exciting news. Like... anything.
For now, I'm left with the other options for blogging, like talking about my daily activities, but those are not going to be particularly exciting.

Work for me involves sitting down and writing, drawing, painting or sewing. Repeat for 365 days.
Work for darling dearest husband (who always knows he's going to be asked to do something when he gets called thusly) involves sitting at a computer and clicking on files until a movie is pieced out from hundreds of hours of footage. Repeat for 365 days. You're all caught up.

So, for 2015, I'm going to just keep a loose record of things that are awesome that I'd like to share with the world, mostly the writing world of course, but anyone else that wanders in, welcome, and go ahead and share things you find that are

Here we go :

Film Count 2015 : 12

The Deep Blue Sea
Edge of Tomorrow
The Summit
Last Night
Cast Away
1976: Hunt vs Lauda
After Hours
The Art of Flight
Only Lovers Left Alive
Night Moves
The Spectacular Now

Things that are technically TV shows even though I only watch them streaming on the computer: 2

Mozart in the Jungle
Bored to Death

Books : 1
Greenglass House

Things I'm Eagerly Awaiting in 2015: 6+
Trigger Warning, from Neil Gaiman, which comes out in less than a month.
The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, all of which are out, but I haven't had the chance to see them yet.
Crimson Peak - but we'll have to wait for the fall
Knight of Cups -? not sure when this one will be released.
Anything Werner Herzog, Sophia Coppola or Wes Anderson decide to make this year, but I don't know of any upcoming projects at the moment.

I could post reviews of each individual item, and sometimes I will, but at this point, I would recommend all of the above. I much prefer having discussions about books and film than reviewing them anyway.
So, what would you recommend I add to the list for the coming year? Only 51 weeks left now.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Godspeed, NaNoers!

Good luck to everyone out there in the home stretch. You're over the halfway point, but still with plenty of running room to finish this race in style.
As for me, well, I toyed with the idea. I looooove drafting. Love it. Drafting something new is probably my favorite part of the writing process. Revisions get messy, and are full of decisions and second guesses. First drafts are just a wild alcohol fueled road trip through the desert of wonders and fever dreams. For me, anyway. I am a poor planner when it comes to road trips and new manuscripts.
So the temptation to do my own NaNo every month is strong. So strong.
But, I had to start the month out finishing the revision of my #1 manuscript, and getting it back out into the world.
After that I have three other manuscripts that are whole things, but not very good whole things yet. They need time and attention and piano lessons and lots of healthy home cooked meals to turn them into something presentable.
 After that I have at least 5 or 6  very early first drafts that are more nebulous collections of ideas and character sketches than manuscripts. They need even more work. More dozens of revisions before they are even ready for beta readers.
So, no time for falling in love with some new story, Dr. Jones. I have neglected manuscript children to tend to  before I go out and adopt three or four more. Though I really want to. I did put a few thousand words of something super brand new down in a brand new file before I stopped myself, went back to my second most polish manuscript, and discovered major fixes for some major flaws that have been hanging me up for way too long.

So instead of running this race, I'll be the kid by the curb holding up the encouraging sign and cheering you on as you go on to finish the marathon and inspire the rest of us. Now get going. You'll be able to see the finish line around the next bend.

Monday, October 27, 2014


Is coming.
I've only done it one other year (two years ago...I think...) and I nailed it.
Nearly every other year I've been in the thick of another project, and didn't want to put on the breaks to crank out something "new".
But I'm about to finish my current WIP, like probably tomorrow, and I want something new ready to jump into right away.
Something about autumn turns me into a writing machine. That coupled with the fact that this is the part of the year in which time starts to suddenly move faster, and commitments pile up like snow until you are buried in parties and activities and gatherings - all of which are fun, but it is an easy time to lose track of yourself.
So what I'm saying is, I'm leaning towards taking a crack at NaNo this year.
Anybody else?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What's Up Wednesday

"What's Up Wednesday" is run by Jamie Morrow and Erin Funk, and is an awesome weekly bloghop that gives readers and writers a great venue to keep in touch through the magical world of blogs. Come hop with us!*

So, it's Wednesday again, and today started off great - for about ten minutes. I'll get to that below. 

What I'm Reading 

I'm still working on Film by Marisha Pessl.  But I also stumbled upon the Lockwood & Co. series by Jonathan Stroud while at the bookstore this weekend with junior. Sooo I had to pick that up too.   

What I'm Writing 

Almost done with the revision of the MG adventure. I'm in the last 40 pages or so (word and chapter counts are changing daily) And I want nothing more in the world than to spend the rest of the week with my manuscript. But alas, bills need to be paid, food needs to be consumed both by myself and by the child and husband, and parts of the house occasionally need to be tidied up for the sake of living like civilized people. The words "writer's retreat" have never sounded more heavenly than they do right now.  

What Works For Me  

Oh good gravy. Nothing. A Time Turner would be nice. Or a household staff. I'll take either one, just to get the massive workload done so I can concentrate.  

What Else I'm Up To

Well, one of those things happened this morning that is inevitable, but non the less disheartening. Our dear oldest cat, Lola, who is somewhere around 17 (we adopted her as an adult stray, so we'll never know her exact age) and still phenomenally spry, took a turn for the worse the past few days. Now, and old cat being slow and lazy is a tough call. Is she just old? Or is she actually ill? The last time she was at the vet and had her blood work done, she was in perfect health for a very senior cat. This morning it was obvious that she needed some medical attention. The vet decided to keep her overnight, and run some tests. It may be a simple infection, and it may be something serious or more chronic. For now, we wait, and spend the first night without our dear girl in 15 years. We went through this before a decade ago, and that time, our kitty never came home. And that made me feel the worst. Not that our cat had a sudden unexplained illness, but that he had to spend his last night in a cold cage at the vet's office, and not in his warm home with his family. As least I was with him the next day when it became clear that treating him was not helping him, but leaving them in someone else's care - even the super competent vet - is still terribly hard. 

So, here's hoping the rest of the WUW world is having a better day, and hoping for good news tomorrow. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What's Up Wednesday

"What's Up Wednesday" is run by Jamie Morrow and Erin Funk, and is an awesome weekly bloghop that gives readers and writers a great venue to keep in touch through the magical world of blogs. Come hop with us!*

Look at that beautiful fall wreath! It's October! Love!  

What I'm Reading 

Night Film by Marisha Pessl.  Just started, but it's glorious so far. Next up is Measure for Measure again, as I've got Mr. Cate nearly convinced to produce a Shakespeare film with me.  

What I'm Writing 

Back to revising my MG adventure story. Notes came back from Fabulous Agent, and now I'm polishing like a fiend over here.  

What Works For Me  

Making time to write. I don't mean requiring myself to write, I mean allowing myself the time to work. Mr. Cate is in the middle of a training program for his dream job, which means my income is the main income around here at the moment, which in turn has made me feel that every spare moment should be spent on my business, and working working working, or else I'm a slacker. But last month I was forced to step back and take a week away, and guess what? Things went along just fine. I'm now setting aside some time each morning to work on my manuscripts again. Getting some writing done always makes me feel that I accomplished something that day, even if everything else is just a whirlwind of nonsense and tasks that never get completely finished. 

What Else I'm Up To

Made my second appearance at the Holy Hill Art Farm, which was just as much fun as last year, even though the weather was 20 degrees colder and 100% rainier than the forecast described. It was still a good crowd, and a great weekend for me. It was also me and mister's anniversary - 12 years with this old scoundrel. 

What else is going on out in writing world??