So many things.

This is just a brief “What’s Happening” post to let you know some cool things:

1. I am running my third half-marathon next Sunday in San Diego
2. I am starting a 15-day (hopefully) juice fast the next day.
3. I GOT A BOOK DEAL
4. Holy crap!
5. Yeaaaaah!
6. So anyway, now there’s lots to do. I’m strategizing readings, interviews, Twitter things, a new, separate website for the book, all kinds of things. Writing a book is hard, selling a book is harder, marketing the book is harderer. Still, you will ALL very soon have a copy of my book in your hands. By year’s end if I can make it happen. I’m narrowing down cover artists (which will be a very exciting prospect if all goes well) and readying the word cannons (which is what I call my hands). You’ve been warned!

Music Mondays – Top 5 TV Theme Songs ( Cable TV Edition)

These top five lists are pretty fun. I found myself wasting part of a morning playing this amazing game:

Which reminded me that kids nowadays don’t even know what a theme song is. They’ll never know the joy that comes, ten, fifteen years after a show is off the air, when you can bond with a person just by humming the first few notes of a song, having them join in, a wordless mutual understanding of days gone by…

Where was I?

Theme songs! This week, the Cable sitcom edition. For a show to qualify, it had to be on a station other than the “Big 3”. See… hold on, let me explain to the young’uns. When I was little, if you paid for TV

5. It’s Garry Shandling’s Show
First of all, it’s frightening to see how young Shandling looks in this clip, because I always used to think he looked really old when I would watch the show. So many of his jokes went over my head as a young kid, I mostly remember odd comments about lips and hair. I need to find some episodes to watch. This one is notable mostly because of how ridiculously meta the whole thing is, much like the sitcom itself.

4. Brothers
First, this show was pretty groundbreaking in its time. Three brothers run a bar, one of them has only recently come out, and it dealt honestly with the reactions of his somewhat sensible middle brother and rough-around-the-edges older brother. And it was pretty damn funny. Mostly though, I remember it because it was really fun to sing with my Dad. (and since it’s the 80s, something needed to feature saxophone…)

3. Fraggle Rock
Hell yes. This song was a god damn party in a box. Listen to that guitar! It’s Muppets, it’s Henson, there’s no resisting.

2. Any theme from the WWF
If you were a fan of horrible production values, large sweaty men, campy drama, or any combination of prayer-saying, vegetable eating, and vitamin taking, then you know what I’m talking about. I could (and have) spent hours on YouTube reliving the glory of Ricky Steamboat’s recovery from the savage attack of the Macho Man, Koko B Ware’s singing career, Hillbilly Jim leaping from the audience to save Hulk Hogan,  George “the Animal” Steele learning how to talk, Cap’n Lou Albano… man, it doesn’t get much better.

1. Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea / Mysterious Cities of Gold
Nickelodeon used to mine a bunch of foreign shows to round out their programming schedule. These two hold a special place in my heart, because they provided the spark that grew into a love of long-form writing. Pretty much every other show on TV for kids was episodic, a thirty minute story with no ramifications carrying over from week to week. These two shows were all about the quest. There was the promise of a goal, an endpoint (and in the case of Spartakus, some pretty kickass Bic and Bac musical breakdowns).
I know the original (non-US) versions of Voltron and Robotech also followed some pretty epic arcs, but I grew up in Wyoming, and our cable stations were pretty limited…
Anyway, the Spartakus theme is sung by Menudo if I remember correctly, and my friend Chris would always judiciously work fart noises into the Cities of Gold theme (right before the aahhhhh-aahhhAHHahhhAhhhh part) which was always good for a laugh.

I think I’ll hit up some obscure cartoon music for next Monday’s Music selections.

Top Five Odes to Big Booties

I need to get into a regularly scheduled groove for posting blogs. I figure this will be just like when I got into jogging., The only way to do it is to do it. To tie it in with jogging, last week my iPod shuffled in three songs in a 30-minute run that all focused on the glory of the gluteus. Seems like a great place to bring back Music Mondays! Some weeks I might give you a top five list, other weeks might focus on a particular artist or song style, but this week, what’s shakin’ is what’s shakin’. Yeeeeah.

This subject could be further refined, as there are many songs celebrating different types of butts and the athletic feats they’re capable of, but this list is about praising booties of all shapes and colors, as long as they’re big. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. Without further ado:

5. Buddy Bolden’s Blues – Jelly Roll Morton
It’s considered one of the first known jazz tunes, and it’s not exactly praising the virtues of the butt, but we have to take the bad with the good. And hey, this rendition comes from Dr House himself, with some cool ragtime pimp talk at the end:

4. Big Bottom – Spinal Tap
Comical, sure, but it has its heart in the right place. I don’t know if this was the origin of phrases like “The bigger the cushion, the sweeter the pushin’…” and “wear me like a flesh tuxedo”, but it deserves its place in history.  This particular performance features every bass player in the known universe:

3. Big Ole Butt -LL Cool J
It was this or Mix-a-Lot, and LL wins by being first. This video contains everything that made the late 80s/early 90s the greatest time in music and fashion history. Seriously ladies, bring back dayglow green mini-dresses with three gigantic buttons on the ass, that’s a great look. Now that I’m an adult and can afford Kangol hats and track suits, nobody’s wearing them anymore. Cruel fate!

Anyway, enjoy this. There’s acting in it. If you weren’t around when music was on MTV you’re in for a treat – thought bubbles, cameramen with ADHD, needlessly pacing in front of a white background, a panther running around everywhere, come on son….  indulge yourself in this madness. Also, some of those butts ain’t that big.

My top two songs get it right for a very special reason – they treat the big booty like Holy Communion. Seriously, both of these songs are like going to church. I don’t think there’s been a song written about a narrow ass, and god willing, there won’t be. Huge choruses, thundering guitars, giving all glory and honor to the booty, forever and ever, amen.

2. I Like it – Foxy Shazam

1. Fat Bottomed Girls – Queen

And that’s the list. No ifs or ands, and way too much butt.

If you have a different way to sing the praises of booty, let me know – what are your favorite booty songs?

Listen Up!

Podcasts! Everyone loves podcasts, especially YOU, even if you don’t! I’m planning to make this blog a bit more regularly scheduled. Topics. Lists. That kind of thing. I’ll probably eventually theme them, you know, Music Mondays, Writing Wednesdays, Sporting…Fridays. Something like that.

In the meantime, let’s talk podcasts! I got into podcasts specifically because I hate top 40 pop music, and Los Angeles radio shifted so quickly away from interesting talk/indie music formats to all JackFM style pop that it snapped many a neck. So began my quest to find interesting things to listen to, unfettered by censorship and playing in a wide open field.

Really though, I’m a fan of Adam Carolla’s acerbic humor (even when he tells the same story fifty times), and when they blew up LA’s last talk station, I followed him to podcasting. Some people do it daily, others weekly, others… whenever, but here are my top five good listens:

1. The Adam Carolla Show – an acquired taste, maybe. Not for everyone, I get it. He has enough of a balance for me between times I think he’s spot on and times I couldn’t disagree more, but for unscripted free-association banter, he’s the king. His Podcasting empire grows quickly (hear also: Penn’s Sunday School and Alison Rosen is Your New Best Friend – which is my favorite name for a podcast and I’m eternally jealous I didn’t think of making that the name of my blog so long ago). Here’s a quick hit, technically from when he was still on radio, I think, but still… Adam discussing a swimming pool project with Joel McHale. Right around the 2 minute mark this turns into the greatest anti-LA rage ever…

2. The Film Vault – Anderson and Bald Bryan, two guys who like movies but aren’t necessarily in LOVE with movies, talk about…movies. This show somehow broke away from the Carolla network (though Bryan’s still there on Ace’s show) but they’re thriving and doing their own thing. Every show is a creative top five list (Top Five Badass Bitches, Top Five Credit Sequences, or as of this writing – Top Films Films to NOT to Watch While High). If you like hanging out with your friends and casually discussing movies, you’ll feel right at home here. If you love film theory and dissecting the finer points of a director’s oeuvre (or if you actually know the definition of oeuvre) this probably isn’t for you.

3. Booked! – I don’t think there’s actually an exclamation point in the show’s name. There should be. Rob and Livius talk about books. I think one of my running themes in listening is letting people watch and read things so I don’t have to. Take that great Film Vault formula and set it in a bookstore. You get the idea. Head to their site now if you want some good suggestions on things to put into your eyeballs.

4. The Dana Gould Hour – Holy crap is this show funny/interesting/amazing. It’s a fairly new podcast, and thus far only comes out once a week, but it sits so firmly in my wheelhouse that I don’t think I’ll be able to live without it. Gould (famous as a stand-up as well as his stint writing for The Simpsons) riffs about a different topic each week (prison, the apocalypse) with his fellow comedians. He peppers in hilarious bits throughout the show (Letters to Penthouse as read by Don Knotts) and also likes to talk about quirky news stories and oddments from the past. Also, everyone should hear Adam West’s Batman Has Diarrhea.

5. This American Life – technically this is just the radio show packaged as a podcast, but man do these guys know how to tell stories. I’ve wasted more time in parked cars and outside of offices simply because I could not move until I heard the resolution of whatever was being discussed. And it’s a wide range of things here – prison stories, art stories, news, entertainment… If “real news” is the highway, these guys are the roadside attractions, but beyond being more entertaining than the news, they’re often more informative. Here, Shakespeare as performed at a maximum security correctional facility.

Too many to list. The Joe Rogan Experience, Bullseye with Jesse Thorn, Nerdist (which has one of the best theme songs ever), WTF with Marc Maron, The Bill Show, and on and on and on. Stop listening to your radio. There are better things out there than whatever the music industry is trying to force feed you. Get into podcasts now before They do. You know. They. Them.

For the most part, everything you’ll find is free, and with fewer (or no) commercials. And best of all, a much higher quality of product, because things aren’t being filtered through multiple layers of network censorship, focus groups, and producers and executives who have no idea what they’re doing. Get to listening! If you have suggestions, throw them my way. What’s on your iPod?

Writing and Why We Do What We Do (a Seven Layer Dip of Thoughts on Stuff)

Wow, another writer pontificating about writing. Not exactly though. This will be brief, I think. I just finished reading the last “Letters in the Mail” installment I got from the Rumpus (Matthew Specktor this time), and he had a line in there that reminded me of another quote I was thinking of  earlier this morning (this one from someone decidedly NOT a writer, but it’s interesting how these things tend to happen.)

You have a thought, then you notice other people having that similar thought, and you wonder why so many streams of consciousness are flowing in one direction. I suppose that doesn’t count in this case, since he wrote this letter back in mid-February, but it reached me after I returned from Poland. He has some thoughts in there about living in Los Angeles, wanting to leave it, coming back, what drives all of these things, and ALL of these are thoughts I was having while wandering in Warsaw and Krakow.

So much rambling, just to get to this: first, the original quote I was thinking of this morning from Charles “Mask” Lewis, founder of TapouT clothing (yeah, I know. I don’t wear the shirts, don’t like them, but I respect the guy’s vision, his work ethic, and his drive).

“Maybe it might not be me that touches a million people, but maybe I’ll touch that one, that touches a million”

I see so many of my fellow writers  pondering what it means to “be” a writer, to call yourself an author, the difference between an author and a writer (I posit there is none. Writing is the act of putting words to paper. When you’ve finished a work, it’s been authored. You’re both. Congratulations!). Sales platforms, fanbases, that dreaded new word: “platforming”. All of it is important, yeah, but the reason I do it, and the reason I’ve always done it, is to have a shared experience with someone. I create a world, breathe life into its people, pass it along. If you pick it up and you enjoy it, my work is done. (cooler still, the world that springs to life in your head exists somewhere between us, what you see is not what I originally built. It’s like you’ve moved into a house I made and painted the walls and moved the furniture a bit. Which, to get on another sidetrack, is why I love writing plays – you actually get to see the influence of other people’s thoughts on your words, and then there’s STILL another layer of interpretation there when the audience sees the final work. Cue Inception noise).

On to Specktor’s quote:

“The measure of a writer’s success isn’t sales; it’s more along the lines of something biological: you hope to move out and inflame some other person’s imagination with these fragments.”

There are many more great liens in the letter, about how writing encapsulates moments in time (his letter dovetails nicely with a memory that takes place while in LA with his then-fiancee, written from the perspective of having moved away from LA for a while, marrying that girl, and now writing again from LA, his fiancee now an ex-wife).

I’m knee-deep in the first draft of my next novel, having some… interesting discussions in my writer’s group about the feedback process and the author’s agenda.

Which is to say: Writing is for me (the author). The first draft is mine. The story is for me and me alone. It’s fun when it’s working. The second draft is polishing the amber, working out the flaws, shaping it into something salable (like a miniature elephant, perhaps), and then, when it becomes a novel, that last leg, it’s not for me. It’s for you (or him, or her, or them. Hopefully many of Them). It’s out of the nest, pupating and becoming something else (to clumsily mix metaphors and add one last parenthetical).

I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t care why someone is a writer (or author, or novelist, or whatever word they use to describe shades of what is essentially the same color). As a fellow mechanic, I might be interested in seeing what you did under the hood. But I’m most interested in the car itself. Let’s see how the thing I built runs when someone else gets behind the wheel.

Jetlagged

My body has returned to Los Angeles, but my consciousness is somewhere over the Atlantic, racing homewards, trying to hold on to Poland, but unable to stay in that great country. So much to do, so little time. But here are some things I plan to write about in the coming weeks:

The Hunger Games Trilogy: It’s amazing how much reading you can get in when everyone else in the room is speaking Polish. This series has as many merits as it does problems. I can see why people have tried to attach the “Battle Royale did it first” tag to the books, but they are pretty vastly different. For al of its merits, I can’t get over a few very simple, very repetitive flaws… more on that later.

Poland: I’ll probably spend the next month or two dissecting the whole trip, from photo shoots with models to historical sites to cultural differences, landscapes, graffiti, you name it. There is much to discuss and many pictures to be shown.

MMA: Steroid scandals, weird matchmaking, circus sideshows…the more it changes, the more it stays the same. I’m going to try to do something sportsy once a month or so on here.

Photo apps: I started using AutoStitch on this trip, had some fun taking in big landscapes and buildings and things. I need to edit them and make them presentable, but why not see how Blogger handles them in the meantime? I hope you can enlarge/zoom and see all the sights.

Sleep: Not writing about it, just going to go do it. I’ll regale you all soon enough with my whimsical adventures…

So yeah, The Expendables…

Okay.

Okaaaay. It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog. In my defense, I’ve launched an online lit mag/small press in the time its taken the Expendables to launch a sequel. Things are happening, stars are aligning, all that jazz. I’m writing this from a cool little apartment in Krakow, Poland. I didn’t come here to write, not exactly, but getting out of the country and seeing the world is doing wonders for the work-in-progress.

A visit to Warsaw, a city that’s got one foot in the future, and another foot still healing from being stepped on by Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. The people here are stoic, quiet, proud – on the surface. Get them talking and they’re friendly, gregarious, they love to laugh.

Silver and Gold living statues  in the Krakow town square spent more time talking to each other than they did performing. A musical revue began with a sexy lady in a huge fur hat, short shorts and thigh-high boots standing on top of a tractor that wheeled onto the stage powered by two acrobats pedaling while a third rode inside of the tire. All this prior to a man snorkeling through the air while serenaded by an old 50s love song, which was followed by a crazy man firing blanks from a real AK47 over the crowd. A man who looked like Jerry Garcia brought his horse to the town square so people could pay to pet it. That was the whole act.

There’s graffiti everywhere and on every building young and old. There’s no way I can complain about tagging in LA, not after what I’ve seen here. But there’s a pulse, a vibrancy to everything, a sense of place and purpose and history.

There’s a church in the town square where a herald has played the trumpet every hour, on the hour, every day…for the last 600 years. Think about that for a minute. Every hour on the hour for almost three times as long as America’s been a country.

Krakow amazes me at every turn, and there’s more to see and more to do, and all of these things are slowly worming their way into my work-in-progress, a dirty, two-fisted Sci-Fi tale about genetic augmentation, sociopolitical strife, and government machinations in a near-future Los Angeles. It’s ambitious, sprawling, and fun as hell to write.

Now, I’m off to explore more of Krakow, but pictures will follow here, rambles, updates, what-have-yous. Things are in the works, and if all goes well, more of my words should be in print by this time next year.

In the meantime, go entertain yourselves at ThunderDomeMag.com. Read about our upcoming print and web collections, and submit!

Macho Movie Review: THE EXPENDABLES

This movie. This f’in movie here. Look at it! It’s the cinematic equivalent of that guy who wears too much Brut, but he can get away with it because he’s awesome. You know the guy, all swagger, no style. But there’s just something about him that lets him get away with it.

The Expendables is a film where the sum of its parts is not greater than the whole, nor is the whole equal to even a fraction of its parts. It boasts a superstar action cast, and wastes 70 percent of their screen presence.

Stallone, though a bit too surgically enhanced in the face, is still able to convey that everyman/toughguy persona to perfection. He’s not afraid to show his age here, running with a gait that betrays old knees and stiff joints. He attempts to have a character grappling with the consequences of his actions (a bit tacked-on, but he gets an A for effort).

The movie does everything it’s supposed to do.The short list of awesome action cliches (mild spoilers below):
Bad car logic:
A car chase through the streets of New Orleans comes to an end inside of a warehouse. How does Stallone get his truck into the warehouse? Through a plate glass window, of course. do we see this window coming? No. Do we know that Stallone’s truck is headed up a ramp? No. We are to trust that the awesome force of Stallone causes the truck to fly through the window somehow (but at least we don’t know what floor it’s on…)

Bad villain logic:
The bad guy’s plans all go to hell, so he tries to make his escape. He runs away with the girl as his hostage, presumably to have a shield of some sort, a bargaining chip. Here’s the problem: Her dad is the leader of the nation and he just got killed. So did all of his army. Stallone’s coming for vengeance, so the bad guy’s dying either way. Why does he drag her through the jungle, slowing himself down? Why not shoot her and get away faster?

Odd fight logic:
Dolph Lundgren has Jet Li dead to rights, ready to kill him, but of course pauses just long enough to let Stallone shoot him. There’s a brief “TELL ME THE PLAN SO YOU CAN DIE WITH HONOR” dialogue exchange, and we’re led to believe that Dolph dies in the warehouse. (odd sequel logic prevents this at the end).

My favorite part of this movie is that Mickey Rourke seems to be in a completely different film, one about a psychologically tortured ex-mercenary who’s trying to start over in a tattoo shop in the middle of nowhere. Every once in a while, Stallone’s film comes barreling through, and they interact, but I honestly wanted to spend more time seeing what Rourke was up to.

On a fanboy sidenote, it was pretty cool to see Randy Couture go one-on-one with Stone Cold Steve Austin, but any MMA fan worth their salt noticed the Nogueira brothers early on in the film as bad guys. Surely they could have worked a two-on-one fight scene in there. Missed opportunity.

As goofy as the film is, it just works. it’s just a bunch of past-their-prime and/or B-list action stars saying “hey, remember how fun these kinds of films were?” And it is fun. From the bad laser-sights on the rifles that kick off the film to Terry Crews’ hilariously over-the-top automatic shotgun/nuclear death dealer the action is non-stop, the explosions are loud, the fights are down and dirty.

You can’t ask for more out of a film like this…but a little extra character development would be nice.

The vibe of the film is best summed up in the glorious meeting between Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Schwarzenegger. They trade barbs, posture and menace each other, but you can see the “can you believe we’re still doing this?” glee in their eyes.

Arnold’s going to be out of office soon, so if they can get him into the sequel, I’ll be more than willing to go for one more last hurrah with these guys.

Read more horror!