Monthly Archives: October 2007

“The Orphanage”

Though it doesn’t come out here until sometime late in December, in the interest of all things spooky and Halloween-ish, I wanted to share with you my thoughts on one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen — and I’ve seen plenty o’ scary flicks in my day — the Spanish-language thriller, “El Orfanto” (The Orphanage).

“The Orphanage” screenshot!

Produced by “Pan’s Labyrinth” director, Guillermo Del Toro and masterfully directed by Spanish music video director Juan Antonio Bayona, the film is, hands down, one of the best movies we’ve seen this season. And not only is it a fantastic movie, but it is also absolutely horrifying.

OK, I know what you’re thinking: “Tom thinks everything is scary.” And, well…I do. But this movie really is terrifying! I actually screamed out loud (at a screening!) twice. Christine was mortified, but so scared herself that I don’t think she really noticed.

Though the visuals here are just as lush and creepy as anything you’d encounter in “Pan’s Labyrinth”, the real star of “The Orphanage” are the sound effects. Reminiscent of the truly spooky soundtrack in Robert Wise’s similarly-claustrophobic “The Haunting” (1963), the strange creaks and moans of the orphanage itself are positively spine-tingling.

Yes, I said spine-tingling with a straight face, and that’s because they are!

“The Orphanage” screenshot II!

We were so unnerved by the soundtrack that we were both literally squirming in our seats. Seriously, I haven’t heard sound-editing like this since those kick-ass canon balls blasted through the hull of the ship in “Master and Commander”. And they won an Oscar for those!

Without giving too much away, “The Orphanage” is about a husband and wife (the super hot Belén “The Sea Inside” Rueda) who move with their young son into an abandoned orphanage in a remote seaside village in Spain. Abandoned orphanages? Remote seaside villages? Subtitles? Scary enough on their own, right? Well, just wait, because as you can imagine, it’s all downhill from there.

So, mark you calendars — “The Orphanage” opens in limited release on December 28th — brush up on your Spanish, and girder your loins, because this art house thriller will scare the living crap out of you!

Oh yeah, and Happy Halloween!


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Christine’s Creepy Cupcakes!

Hey everybody, Farmer’s Daughter (aka Christine) here. Before I begin my first post, let me explain something about my new user name. Our friend Justin, who used to be impressed if I boiled water correctly, began calling me farmer’s daughter every time I did anything remotely domestic. And since Yeti9000 was taken, I guess the name kind of stuck.

Most of you know how much I love to bake, so when I heard they were having a Scary Dessert contest at the LAPL Halloween party on Saturday, my heart started to race. I was immediately full of ideas and couldn’t wait to start baking.

Farmer’s Daughter mummy & monster cupcakes!

I decided on cupcakes (I know, shocking!) and looked to an old issue of Martha Stewart’s Kids magazine for inspiration. I decided to do mummies with a yellow cake and monsters with chocolate (both baked from scratch of course!), using a cream cheese frosting.

Although next time, I would probably use a butter cream frosting because it holds its shape way better than cream cheese.

Close-up on my mummy cupcakes!

The mummies were VERY time consuming, so as you can see, I only made six of those, and the rest were monsters with green frosting.

Unfortunately, we were running late (no surprise there, except that it was my fault this time!). So by the time we got to the party, they had already judged the desserts. My friend Dora, one of the young adult librarians and the head judge, was nice enough to give me an honorable mention. Thanks, Dora!

But had we gotten there earlier, I’m sure my cupcakes definitely would have made at least 2nd place, probably 1st if they tasted them too! I’m sorry, but some of those deserts were seriously lacking, although the first and third place entries were pretty cool looking.

First place cupcakes @ the LAPL Halloween Party!

The 3-D first place cupcakes are shown above, but the real gross-out star of the contest was the kitty litter cake (served with a litter scoop from an actual litter box, below) which took third place.

Yuck, I don’t know how anyone could eat that!

Second place kitty litter cake @ LAPL Halloween Party!

My cupcakes proved pretty popular though and I was happy to notice that they were the only one’s completely gone at the end of the night. So, yeah!


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Porter Wagoner (1927-2007)

After a long battle with lung cancer, pioneering country music legend and Nudie-suit-rocking bad ass, Porter Wagoner died Sunday in Nashville, TN at the age of 80. Recently celebrating his 50th year with the Grand Ole Opry, Wagoner kept a pretty full performing schedule right up till the end.

Porter Wagoner onstage!

This past summer alone he performed dozens of times at the Opry — we’re still kicking ourselves for having missed him onstage with Loretta Lynn the day before we arrived in Nashville, urgh! — played to a sold-out crowd at Silverlake’s swinging Safari Sam’s (where we managed to miss him AGAIN!) and even opened for his longtime fans, the White Stripes, at Madison Sqaure Garden! Wow! Not bad for a sick old dude.

But Wagoner’s flashy tenacity is what made him who he was. Never one to stay down for long, he recovered from some pretty dark times — the devastating artistic split with his protege, Dolly Parton, the loss of his show, bankruptcy, and near total Nashville obscurity in the late-1980’s — with a gritty, old-school country style that was all his own.

Like Johnny Cash before him, Porter Wagoner didn’t bitch and moan when things got rough, he simply wrote a cool, bleak-ass song about it. Yee-haw!

We discovered Wagoner’s music when we got really into Dolly (her classic “I Will Always Love You” was written for him after their bitter split in the 1970’s) and have remained fans ever since.

Porter, Mel Tillis & Dolly on the set of The Porter Wagoner Show!

Speaking of Dolly, she and Porter reconciled their differences — she felt he used her songwriting talents to further his own career and kept her from pursuing one of her own while on his show, which, he probably did — years ago, and have remained good friends. According to several sources, she visited him just a few days ago in the hospital to say goodbye. Very sweet.

I could go on and on, but probably the best way to truly appreciate the genius of Porter Wagoner is to listen to his music for yourself. His final CD, this year’s Marty-Stuart-produced masterpiece, “Wagonmaster” is fantastic and a fitting final tribute to Wagoner’s true grit brand of country.

And though all of his many duets with Dolly are amazing, our favorite is the twangy, banjo-strumming classic, “Please, don’t stop loving me”. Trust me, even non-country fans will dig this song!

A young Porter Wagoner in Nashville!

To read more about the life and legend of Porter Wagoner, check out the LA Times obituary at: “Porter Wagoner, 80; Star of Grand Ole Opry” or the rocking video clips posted on the Grand Ole Opry’s website at: Opry News.

Say howdy to the rest of the folks up in “Hillbilly Heaven” for us, Porter. We’ll miss ya.

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Halloween on Dagobah!

Saturday night, Christine and I attended a massive LAPL (Los Angeles Public Library) Halloween party at the Central Library in downtown L.A..

Although technically not city employees, Christine and her staff (who work for the Library Foundation) usually crash these shindigs since her store is located inside the Central Branch.

Christine as Master Yoda!

And what a party it was! Not nearly as crowded as the LAPL’s annual Christmas bash, the turnout of costumed Library staffers (from every branch in L.A. county!) was still pretty damn spectacular. But most impressive of all was Christine’s hand-made Master Yoda costume!

Working without a pattern (s0mething she hates!) Christine crafted her headpiece and ears from one of my old Yoda-colored sweatshirts.

Christine in full-on Yoda mode!

Using pipe cleaners and batting to fill the ears, she then knit them onto a simple white headband ($3.99 @ Target!) tucked under the headpiece and pulled the ears through two small slits in the fabric.

Aside from the make-up (two shades of green for $4.99 a piece @ the rocking Cinema Secrets nearby) and the dark cloak underneath (which is a monk costume we bought at Party America for $14.99) everything else Christine wore was handmade, including her awesome, full-length Jedi cloak!

Yoda waits for no man!

It took kind of a YEAR to make, but as you can see, the results are, in the words of Lord Vadar himself: “Most impressive.”

In keeping with the “Star Wars” theme, I wore the super styling Anakin Skywalker costume Christine made me (once again, from scratch!) for Halloween 2005.

Yoda & Anakin!

Sadly, we didn’t win any awards in the costume contest — a Simpsons family in cheesy store-bought masks won first place! Huh? — we were pretty stoked with the way our handmade duds turned out and had a Jedi-tastic time at the party.

And though our filmic counterparts never actually battled one another onscreen, our Yoda and Anakin did manage to squeeze in a kick-ass “Duel of the Fates” on the steps outside the Getty Gallery.

Yoda & Anakin duel to the death!

But the best part of all was when Christine started quoting Yoda (accurately and in Yoda-speak!) on the car ride home, wow, what can I say…I never loved that little green-faced woman more!

The Force will be with her…always.


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“Twin Peaks”/”My So-Called Life”

After more than a decade of cruel indifference, the DVD Gods have finally answered our prayers with the complete-series release Tuesday of not one, but two of our favorite TV shows of all time: “Twin Peaks” and “My So-Called Life”!

These ABC classics weren’t just super cool, award-winning shows with some of the finest writing and acting ever to grace a small screen, but for many of us, these shows totally defined our viewing habits for huge chunks of the 1990’s. Well, actually just three seasons…combined, but it felt like longer.

Laura Palmer “Wrapped in plastic!”

In our pre-Tivo college days, we would actually plan our Saturday night partying around “Twin Peaks”. Seriously, I remember more than one drunken brawl coming to a crashing halt at 10 o’clock so we would all sit and watch TV for an hour. Geeky? Sure. But trust me, even the non-fans watched the show with us in stunned silence. Yes, it was that good.

Then, midway through the second season, “Twin Peaks” well, peaked, with one of the darkest, scariest scenes in network TV history, the murder of Laura Palmer’s look-alike cousin, Maddie. Graphic, profoundly disturbing and truly shattering in it’s implications for everyone in town, the murder also revealed once and for all the identity of Laura Palmer’s killer.

For the one or two of you out there who didn’t watch, I won’t spoil it for you by giving away the name of the killer, but needless to say, that episode remains one of the finest things David Lynch has ever directed. And being hard-core Lynch fans from way back, that’s saying a lot in our book!

Unfortunately, the subsequent episodes in season two took a turn for the worse, quickly nose-diving into sad self-parody, (you hear that “Heroes”?) and the show died a couple months later at the bottom of the ratings heap.

The DVD has tons of cool extras and also includes — for the first time on these shores — the racier foreign version of the two-hour pilot. So, I say buy it for the first season and a half, devour all the extras, then skip past the Diane-Keaton-directed (I know…’nuff said!) second half of season two to re-watch that creepy-ass series finale with Heather Graham and that spooky giant: “Where’s Annie? Where’s Annie?’ Yikes, that still scares me!

“My So-Called Life” DVD set!

Capturing the tail end of the waning grunge movement, “My So-Called Life” had a much shorter run and never really hit it as big (ratings-wise) as “Twin Peaks” but nevertheless remains one of the best, most heartfelt TV shows of all time.

Beautifully written by co-creator Winnie Holzman — who I have met and totally embarrassed myself in front of with my lavish praise of her “wordsmithery”, at least twice — the show is painfully honest in it’s depictions of teen angst.

But our favorite episodes were those where the problems that Angela (Claire Danes, who should have stayed on TV since her movies suck ass) and her friends faced at school mirrored those of her parents (a superb Tom Irwin and Bess Armstrong). Subtle, honest and truly nuanced stuff. Amazing!

Unlike the shabby, extra-free DVD release a few years back (sorry James!), this set comes loaded with commentaries, new interviews with the cast and creators, and a booklet whose contents reduced one L.A. Times reviewer to tears. Wow! I can’t wait to read that!

But weepy extras or not, the heart of the show remains that incredible voice over. Claire Danes didn’t just read those lines, she WAS Angela Chase and for one brief, shiny season, so were we…


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Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker!

Earlier this year we dog-sat one weekend for our vacationing friends, fellow Burbank-dwellers Nic and Dan. And even though the unfettered access to their washer and dryer and premium cable channels — we caught up on “Entourage”,”Big Love” and finally watched the May-December soft-core classic “White Palace” in its entirety! — was payment enough, they recently gave us another, even cooler gift…the Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker!

Our new Red Hot Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker!

Available exclusively in the U.K. and Ireland “at all good cookshops, department stores and variety stores”, the Flavour Shaker is the patented invention of our favorite MALE English chef, Jamie Oliver. Since Nic is English, she had her mum (thanks, mum!) pick one up for us at Sainsbury’s (which sounds kind of like the Whole Foods of England).

Since we’ve hungrily eyed the Flavour Shaker at Amazon UK a few times over the years, you can imagine our excitement when Nic presented Christine with the super cool red (it’s called “Red Hot”) Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker. Nic joked that we are probably the first people in America to have one. I don’t know if that’s true, but I’d bet money we’re the only folks in Burbank with a Red Hot Flavour Shaker! Who-hoo!

And as you can see from the picture below, even our new kitty Nigella — named for Jamie’s uptown rival, our favorite FEMALE English chef, Nigella Lawson — appreciates Jamie’s Flavour Shaker. Wow!

Even Nigella likes Jamie’s Flavour Shaker!

Though we haven’t actually used it yet, the directions are quite simple. Plop in your whole and hard ingredients (cloves, seeds, garlic, etc.) and drop in the included ceramic ball. Screw the two halves of the shaker together and shake it vigorously or as Jamie would say “give it a right good bashing”. Once everything is ground to your liking, add the dry ingredients (cumin, paprika, tumeric, etc.) and give it another shake.

The last step is to add any liquid ingredients (oils, creams, whatever) shake it hard and then scoop out the mixture with the trademarked Flavour Shaker Spoon (also included). Wow, not only is it really cool looking, but it’s also a breeze to use or, as Mr. Oliver would say: “Easy peasy!”

Thanks again to Nic and Dan for the awesome gift. Can’t wait to use it! For more information (including a funny “how to” video) or to purchase a Flavour Shaker of your very own, check out Jamie’s super cool Flavour Shaker site at:


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WGA Strike Authorization Vote

Late Friday night, the Writers Guild of America voted overwhelmingly to approve a strike authorization vote. In a stunning blow to the AMPTP (the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers — basically the major studios and networks) a whopping 90.3% of the 5, 507 WGA votes cast (in a record turnout, by the way!) were in favor of authorizing a strike. By any standard, that is a pretty major majority!

WGA Unity Rally, September 2006

Now, despite the doom and gloom headlines that have been bouncing around the internet and newspapers all week long, this does NOT mean that the WGA will go on strike. It simply means that we (the members of the WGA) have authorized our leaders to strike when and if they deem it necessary anytime after our contract with the AMPTP expires on October 31st.

But more importantly, what this vote does is it tells the AMPTP that we are totally unified in our support not only for our leaders (led by our recently-re-elected president, Patric Verrone — a writer for “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” and a total bad-ass negotiator!) but for the very reasonable demands we are making from the multi-national conglomerates that basically run the industry nowadays. It’s simple really, pay us a decent wage for the reuse of our work in every format and platform available (webisodes, cell phone ringtones, whatever) or we’ll walk.

The way it usually works is that every three years the WGA and the AMPTP hammer out an agreement called the MBA: Minimum Basic Agreement. The MBA sets up minimum pay schedules for every kind of writing you can imagine (news, radio, TV, film) and generally the minimums go up a little bit each time we negotiate. But this time the negotiations are totally different, and a big reason for that is the internet.

The total explosion of internet broadcasting and the subsequent re-playing (for free!) of WGA written material online since the last MBA was ratified has been almost startling, so the WGA in partnership with our brothers and sisters at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Directors Guild (DGA) have decided that now is the time to address the issue of actually getting paid when our shows run (or re-run) on the internet.

WGA Unity Rally for “America’s Next Top Model”, September 2006

We’re not asking for zillions of dollars here, just a simple pay schedule that we can all agree to — similar, but hopefully better, than the one’s already in place for DVD and cable — that will pay us residuals (and contribute to our health and benefits plan) any time our work is rebroadcast on the internet. The AMPTP, however, refuses to even discuss the issue and is urging all three guilds to allow them to study the issue of internet profitability for the next three years and revisit the issue at the next MBA discussions in 2010.

Yes, you heard me right, the networks and studios want to study the issue of internet profitability. The studios claim that they don’t make any money off the internet yet. Well, excuse my French, but what a load of crap!

Anyone who’s ever viewed an episode of “Alias” or “Lost” (or whatever show you dig) online knows that you cannot fast forward through the ads embedded in the online version of the show. Yes, ads. And unless the network is running those ads for Sprint (or whoever) for free, then, by golly, they’re making some money off the internet. To paraphrase Edward G. Robinson: “Where’s your Moses now, AMPTP?” I mean, come on, for them to cry poor to us about the internet (while touting it as their highest growth sector to their investors!) is just plain shitty.

The main reason the WGA is so pissed off is that back in the mid-80’s when home video was just starting out, the AMPTP asked us to give them a break on residuals. They claimed they didn’t know where this new format was going (and in reality, who did back then?) and that if we took a greatly reduced rate of pay for home video residuals, they would revisit the issue once this whole VCR thing took off. So, we agreed to take four cents a tape. Four cents! And then, guess what happened, VCRs and movies on tape (and later, DVD) exploded and the AMPTP said that since we already had a deal in place, they would not revisit the issue again. Hello, lie much?

So, basically, the WGA got screwed big time back in the day and swore that if something like that ever came up again, they’d fight harder for a fair deal — something we wouldn’t end up regretting 20 years down the road — and now, that time is here…

WGA Unity Rally @ The Grove, September 2006

The internet is changing every second so even if you did a three year study now, by the time it was completed, it would be totally outdated. I mean, come on, play fair here guys. I think the most galling thing I heard at a recent WGA pre-vote meeting is that the guys who make the plastic for DVD boxes get nine cents a disc. More than twice what we get, and without us they wouldn’t need to make the damn box to begin with! Crazy!

Anyway, there are a number of other issues (increasing the payment for cable and “netlets” like the CW, WGA health and benefits coverage for animation and reality show writers, etc.) on the table as well, but for me, the most pressing of them all is the internet. And if the AMPTP can’t suck it up and offer us a better deal, then I have a very strong feeling I’m gonna be hitting the streets with mis hermanos come November 1st. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want a strike, no one does, but if it comes to that, I really think — and judging by the outcome of the strike authorization vote, I am not alone — that this is the right time and the right reason to take a stand.

I know I probably sound like Norma Rae standing on a chair with a “Union” sign, but I just wanted to fill you in on what’s happening down here before the streets of Burbank start running red with the blood of the AMPTP infidels!

Of course, that would be movie blood…not real blood. Unless I get like, a paper cut from one of the picket signs or something. Anyway, que viva la WGA!


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Requiem for a table…

This week marks the passing of a very dear and beloved member of our family, as the kitchen table and chairs that Christine and I have owned for the last sixteen years have finally passed into immortality.

The first pieces of furniture I didn’t inherit from my friends or parents and actually bought with my own money, that table has seen it all…sixteen Oscar parties, dozens of Thanksgiving dinners, more Christmas enchilada spills than you can shake a churro at, and years and years of shaggy cat loving.

Our old friend bites the dust!

Already well-used when I bought it in the fall of 1991 from my SFSU film school bud Robert Anderson, the table was a steal at the low, low price of $30.00. That’s right, five chairs and a table for thirty bucks! Top that, Ikea!

After investing another $50.00 in paint and upholstery fabric, Christine, our friends James and Marcie, and myself spent one long weekend fixing that baby up. We were such nerds we actually wrote our names and the date underneath the chairs and legs we worked on (pictured below).

But what a payoff! That big ass table was the hub of our rambling Fell Street flat for years. We ate there, we fought there, we danced on those chairs like drunken fools…literally. I still have the head wound to show for it.

Tom & Marci’s legs!

And when we packed up and moved from San Francisco to Burbank with James and our friend Melissa, that table came with. Big as it was (and with a built-in, expandable leaf, it got even bigger!) that table came with Christine and I every time we’ve moved since then.

But despite another major renovation of the chairs, paint job and upholstery in 1997, our old friend began to show its age in the last few years. So, a few weeks back we socked the table and chairs away in the garage and replaced them with a smaller, newer and dare I say, cooler, dining table and chairs from Ikea.

When we finally cleaned out our garage last weekend, the table emerged once more into the daylight and made its last lonely trip down the driveway to the curb. I swear, if you listened hard enough you could hear someone calling out: “Dead man walking!”

Our table in happier days!

And that night, as our table and chairs waited on the curb for Burbank’s bulky item pick-up to whisk it away, a miracle happened! Someone took the legs and all the chairs! Yeah! Spared from the brink of death yet again, our chairs and table legs were about to reinvent themselves in a new home! Hooray!

The table top itself didn’t make the cut and was left behind. But later that day, the table did get a super cool send off when some skater dudes propped it up against a milk crate and used it as a skateboarding ramp. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I would not have believed it. What a way to go, used and loved till the very end!

They finally picked up the table top on Monday and though neither of us could bear to peak out the window as it disappeared into the garbage truck forever, we slept well knowing that our table and chairs had a nice, long life both here and in San Francisco.

Thanks guys, we’ll miss you!


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“Passions” world-record!

As you may or may not know, one of our favorite shows, the twisted, supernatural sudser “Passions”, left the NBC schedule (after a bewitching 8.5 years on the air!) in September and moved to Direct TV’s subscription-only channel “The 101”.

Heidi Mueller (Kay Bennett) & Juliet Mills (Tabitha Lennox) @ PASSIONS event!

Since we don’t have Direct TV and have watched “Passions” daily since it’s inception in the summer of 1999 — come on, who wouldn’t watch a show with a talking doll and a witch? — the news of the move was kind of like the end of era, not just for us, but for our poor overworked Tivo, Snape, as well.

But just because we can’t watch “Passions” anymore, doesn’t mean that the trials and tribulations of the residents of Harmony have ended. Not by a long shot!

Emily Harper (Fancy) & Erin Cadillo (Esme) from PASSIONS

So, we were delighted to hear from a friend of mine at NBC that the bulk of the “Passions” cast was appearing at a fan event celebrating the character Tabitha’s 300th birthday (she’s one of three witches on the show) at Universal’s CityWalk.

Cast of PASSIONS @ Universal CityWalk!

Andrea Evans (Rebecca) & Kim Johnson Ulrich (Ivy) @ PASSIONS event!

Gathering as many costumed fans as they could, the producers were hoping to break a world record for most people dressed in costumes in one place. And though the crowd hardly looked big enough to break any records, the annoying dude with the mic (not a “Passions” cast member!) assured us they did.

But world records or not, the main draw for us was a chance to see all our old “Passions” favorites in person.

Cast of PASSIONS onstage @ CityWalk!

Christopher Maleki (Spike), Phillip Jeanmarie (Vincent) & McKenzie Westmore (Sheridan) from PASSIONS!

And talk about access! Security was so lax — guess they didn’t expect much of a turnout for a show that now airs exclusively on Direct TV! — that we had the rare chance to meet and greet almost all of our favorite actors from the show. Yeah!

Everyone was crazy-friendly and totally approachable, even when I called them by their character names. Yikes, stalker much? Sorry, guys.

Nicole Cox (Endora Lennox) @ PASSIONS event!

And since they were all dressed in Halloween costumes, it made the event kind of coolly seasonal too, so needless to say, we had a blast!

Below is a picture of Christine posing with her favorite villain on the show, the murderous hermaphrodite Vincent Crane, played by actor Phillip Jeanmarie. Yes, I said murderous hermaphrodite. Harmony’s full of them.

Phillip Jeanmarie (Vincent the hermaphrodite) & Christine @ PASSIONS event!

And I managed to pose not just with the super chill Justin Hartley — who originated the role of Fox Crane and has since appeared on “Smallville” and in the short-lived-cult-favorite “Aquaman” on the WB — but also with the Golden Globe award-winning actress (daughter of Oscar-winner Sir John Mills, sister of Hayley) and witch of the hour, Juliet Mills (Tabitha Lennox).

Wow…all that was missing was a pitcher of Martimmies! So cool!

Me & Justin Hartley (the original and best Fox Crane) @ PASSIONS event!

Juliet Mills (Tabitha) & Me @ PASSIONS event!

Although we couldn’t stay for the autograph signing afterwards, we did get to see the Guinness folks take a group photo for the record books and got so many great pics of our own, that it hardly mattered.

All in all, a great send off to one of our favorite shows! Vaya con dios, “Passions”!

Marianne Muellerleile (Crazy Norma) from PASSIONS!


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The Hollywood Reporter!

OK, totally knock on wood…but eight crazy years after my co-writer Dror and I began writing our screenplay “Not Forgotten”, we are finally — at long, long last — in the home stretch.

We have the financing in place, we recently snared a really cool lead actor: “The Devil Wears Prada’s” baddie Simon Baker, and production is set to begin just after New Years in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Yeah!

Reporter story (online version)

Featured above is a screenshot of an article that appears in today’s Hollywood Reporter announcing the casting of Mr. Baker as our lead.

The Reporter got a few of the major plot details wrong — Simon’s daughter is kidnapped in the movie, NOT dead — but overall, it’s a pretty cool write-up. And at the end of the day, who cares what they write as long as this movie gets made?!

After eight years and far too many rewrites to count, you’d think I’d be dancing around a giant sombrero on the floor right about now — the movie is set partially in Mexico, I’m not just randomly hating on dancing Mexicans — but honestly, I’m still kind of in shock that this is finally happening.

Hmm…guess I’ll have to save the drunken Mexican hat dancing for Santa Fe.

You can read the entire Reporter write-up at: “”
Or check out the shorter Reuter’s blurb at: “”


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Go Gore!

Make room on the mantle, Tipper, because Daddy just bagged some more gold!

Coming off a white-hot year where his movie “An Inconvenient Truth” has been honored with two Oscars, an Emmy and even a Grammy nomination for Melissa Etheridge’s rocking theme song, the man who would be president in 2000, former Vice President Al Gore, has now won his most prestigious award of all…the Nobel Peace Prize!

NY Times “DRAFT GORE” ad!

Honored for his work on climate control issues “President” Gore shares the award with the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and has already vowed to donate his share of the prize money — half of a whopping $1.5 million — to the bi-partisan, non-profit Alliance For Climate Protection.

Go on with your bad self, Mr. Greenjeans!

So, in honor of “President” Gore’s big day, we thought we’d run a picture we took of him at a book signing last year at the now-defunct Dutton’s in Beverly Hills. Mr. Gore signed two copies of his beautiful, recycled-paper book version of “An Inconvenient Truth” for us that day (one for Christine and I, and one for our friend James).

“President” Gore signing books @ Dutton’s!

Super friendly, Mr. Gore even answered my query about whether or not he had been to Dollywood (I mean, hello, he is from Tennessee…) with a surprised chuckle and an easy smile.

“Well, yes, I have. Have you?” he replied. I answered that I had indeed been and found Dollywood to be “totally awesome.” He laughed again then had me promptly muzzled and dragged from the building by security (not really).

Anyway, congrats on your Nobel Prize, Señor Presidente and here’s hoping you take the advice of our friends at (that’s a sampling of their recent full-page ad in the NY Times pictured above) and make another run for the big house in ’08.

If ever there was a reason to bring back the draft, this is it, dude. Go, Gore!


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Sublime Stem Stitching!

Yeah! The moment you’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived with the world premiere of our first official post under the “make” heading!

Not that we haven’t been making stuff all along, but Christine (the primary “maker” in our home) wanted the first thing up to be something really symbolic. So, pictured below is a tea towel she hand-embroidered from a pattern by stitching guru/author Jenny Hart (“Sublime Stitching: Hundreds of Hip Stitching Patterns and How-To”, “Stitch-It Kit”, etc.).

Tea Towel party, with apples!

Since Christine loves knitting like I love “Star Wars” the slogan is pretty self-explanatory, but the coolest thing about this tea towel is that Christine made it for herself! Of course, since I usually do the dishes, I’m thinking maybe this towel is really for me…hmm.

In any case, one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard — not just from Christine but from her cabal of crafty friends — is that you spend so much time making things for other people (birthdays, Christmas, baby showers, you name it) that you rarely, if ever, devote the time to making something for yourself.

And after embroidering a couple of these swinging “Purl Girl” tea towels for friends, Christine finally decided to make one for herself/us. If you look closely, you’ll notice the stitch is a bit more intricate than normal, that’s because she embroidered the towel with a stem stitch.

Tea Towel (Detail)

What’s a stem stitch you ask? Good question! I had to look it up to get it right, but traditionally a stem stitch was used to embroider the borders on classic, vintage linens and also happened to look really cool when outlining embroidered stems and leaves, hence the name. Not only is the texture bumpier, but it feels really good in your hand too and hey, anything that feels good when you’re drying dishes is a huge bonus in my book.

If you’re interested in trying out some hipster embroidery for yourself you gotta check out the kick-ass selection of patterns and products at Jenny Hart’s website:

After her last pattern spending spree, Christine has been banned from shopping the site (Ha, I wish!) but you should totally check it out. Enjoy!


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Radiohead: “In Rainbows”

Avid Radiohead fans rejoice! For today, October 10th, marks the release of the band’s new package-free download-only album, “In Rainbows”.

Their first album — not including Thom Yorke’s 2006 solo outing “The Eraser” — since 2003’s incendiary “Hail To The Thief”, “Rainbows” marks a turning point in the band’s career and the music business in general, as it has no set retail price.

That’s right, go the album’s website: create an account with an active e-mail address and then pay whatever price you like for the download. Could be $10.00, could be $0.00. Pay what you think is fair and the album is yours to download. Crazy, huh? Or brilliant?!

Radiohead Discbox!

Bypassing the major labels and the superstore chains altogether, the band is betting that their true fans will pay for the album, which judging by their hip, generally older-skewing demo is probably true. Christine and I ordered the album last weekend and paid somewhere around $11.00. The price is a little murky as it is listed on the website in pounds, but seems fair considering the price of CD’s these days.

After three sleepless nights of waiting, the link to the download page arrived in my inbox this morning and aside from a few technical difficulties (which they promptly addressed via email from London!) the album has been playing on my Macbook ever since. And all I can say is…wow. Totally worth the four year wait!

Hauntingly beautiful and surprisingly accessible, the album positively shimmers. So far my favorite track is a thumping, ethereal number called “Reckoner” but really, the whole album rocks. It is definitely worth 5.4o pounds or whatever other price you chose to pay for it.

And for die-hard fans with deep pockets there is a larger packaged version of the album (pictured above) due out in December. Called the Discbox, this version includes a hardback book, a couple of vinyl records, a slew of extra songs and a price tag of roughly $80.00. A bit steep for my blood at the moment, but hey, Christmas does fall in December, so you never know…

Anyway, check out the album, pay what you can and most importantly enjoy the supersonic splendor that is Radiohead!

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“They Live By Night”

OK, I don’t plan on writing movie reviews of EVERY movie we see, but I just finally watched Nicolas Ray’s classic directorial debut, “They Live By Night” (1948) on TCM and knew I had to write about it.

Granger & O’Donnell in THEY LIVE BY NIGHT

I use the word finally because I’ve been looking for this movie on DVD or video (it was finally released this summer as a “Film Noir Double Feature” with “Side Street”) ever since I first heard about it in a Noir class at SFSU. So, you can imagine how happy I was to find it show up on my Tivo Wishlist last week. Yeah!

Based on the book “Theives Like Us” (which itself was adapted into another film by Robert Altman in the 1970’s) “Night” is one of the first filmed versions of the “Bonnie & Clyde” story. Which, I have to admit, I am a total sucker for.

“Badlands”, “Bonnie & Clyde”, hell, I even like “Kalifornia”. I’m serious, give me a doomed, murderous couple on the run and I’m there!

Farley Granger in THEY LIVE BY NIGHT

“Night” isn’t perfect (some of the supporting cast is a bit stiff) but the movie is so hip and stylish that you hardly care. The aerial tracking shots of the get-away car are shockingly-modern and so cool that they’ll leave you positively breathless!

And the pre-credit sequence of the doomed couple kissing while the words: “This boy and this girl were never properly introduced in the world we live in” scroll by beneath them, is truly revolutionary for a Hollywood film at that time. Wow, you can see here why Ray was the total darling of the French New Wave directors. This movie has style to burn!

“Night” features a crazy young Farley Granger (“Rope”, “Strangers On A Train”) and Cathy O’Donnell (“Side Street”) as the star-crossed lovers on the lam, and the movie handles their budding relationship with a sensitivity and subtly that is almost neo-realistic in it’s simplicity. Seriously, you really love these crazy kids.

Cathy O’Donnell in THEY LIVE BY NIGHT

Wearing virtually no make-up the entire first half of the movie, O’Donnell brings to mind the naive “jailbait” character played so memorably by Sissy Spacek in “Badlands”. She’s fantastic, but Granger is out of this world. Usually kind of a wooden pretty boy, he is so earnest and tortured here that he could give James Dean a run for his money.

The story plays out pretty much as they all do (complete with the usual tragic ending) but the scenes of the couple at a low-rent wedding chapel and later at a cabin hide-out where they try to find some semblance of normalcy by playing house are downright heartbreaking.

I defy you not to get a little weepy when Granger gives O’Donnell an expensive watch as a courting gift near the beginning. Beautiful!

Farley Granger & gun in THEY LIVE BY NIGHT

While I can’t say it’s my favorite of the couple on the run genre, this movie is a total must-see for film geeks and the random Nicolas Ray completist out there. So, check it out!


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“The Darjeeling Limited”

On Tuesday night Christine and I attended a WGA screening of Wes Anderson’s latest movie, “The Darjeeling Limited” (opening today in limited release) at the cool, ultra-cushy Arclight Theatre in Hollywood.

Anderson and one of his co-writer’s, Roman Coppola spoke afterwards as well, so it was crazy crowded and we arrived so late (I know, shocking) that I actually ended up sitting on the floor a few rows behind Christine. And let me tell ya, even the floor at the Arclight is cushy.

But the luxurious Arclight carpeting was nothing compared to the movie!

The amazing DARJEELING cast!

Without giving away too much of the plot, the story revolves around three brothers — superbly played by Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and freakishly-tall-Oscar-winner, Adrian Brody (shown above) — setting off on a mystical and often hilarious train ride through India.

Co-written by Anderson, Coppola and Schwartzman, the movie is beautifully shot and loaded with tons of classic film scores from the movies of Ismail Merchant, James Ivory and acclaimed Indian director, Satyajit Ray. Really great movie music re-purposed here to sometimes stunning effect.

And while the movie is chock full of Anderson’s typically cool, idiosyncratic details — the train itself is so artfully designed, it’s almost like another character — the biggest surprise was how deep, heartfelt and truly emotional the movie is. Hands down Anderson’s best movie since “Rushmore” (my favorite of his films) “Darjeeling” has an earthiness and authenticity to it that sets it apart from anything else he’s made.

This might be the influence of Anderson’s new co-writers, or it could stem from the fact that they wrote most of the script while traveling together — like their characters — on a train in India, but no matter what the reason for this newfound depth is, the results are amazing.

Anderson (in truck), Coppola (on foot) and cast @ work!

The problem we usually have with Anderson is that sometimes his movies are too droll and detached for their own good, which totally kills any sense of humanity or emotion, and what you end up with are these stunningly beautiful — but ultimately cold — little shadow box movies. This trend started with “The Royal Tennebaums” (which I still love, despite its generally frosty tone) and reached its disastrous zenith with Anderson’s last movie, the virtually unwatchable “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou”. Yikes, that movie just plain sucked!

More than a return to form for Anderson, “Darjeeling” is a giant, thrilling step in a whole new direction. Like P.T. Anderson (no relation) with “Punch Drunk Love” or Woody Allen with “Match Point”, Wes Anderson really shakes up his cool, ironic MO with this movie and man, I couldn’t be more impressed!

Oh yeah, and the post-screening Q&A was awesome! Anderson and Coppola had a really nice, chill vibe about them and were both very funny and totally self-deprecating…especially when Coppola’s iPhone rang (twice!) in the middle of the discussion. And best of all, I found a real seat next to Christine when someone left before the discussion. Yeah!


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New Fall Shows!

Sorry for not writing in a bit, but with the fall TV season in full swing, what little free time Christine and I have has been spent clearing shows off our new 80-hour Tivo, Snape. Yes, we name everything and since Elvis was taken, Snape it was!

Christine unpacking our new Tivo, “Snape”!

When we first took up Tivo’s offer to upgrade — they let us transfer our no-mothly-payment/lifetime membership plan to the new machine for a one-time fee…cool, huh? — 80 hours seemed kinda excessive, but with Ken Burn’s “The War” on PBS clocking in at 20-something hours alone, we’ll definitely need the space!

At least until the networks start axing some of their shows, like Fox has already done with their super-fake crapfest “Nashville” (We watched it once and yikes, terrible!). But for now, we’ve been sampling a little bit of everything, and except for a few scorching hot bright spots, most of the new shows are kind of a snooze.

I’ll get to our favorites in a second, but first, the worst of the worst.


BIONIC WOMAN (NBC, Wednesdays @ 9pm)

Sadly, the show we were most excited about turned out to be the worst. With production values and acting that makes “Heroes” look like Shakespeare in the round, this show is just plain boring. And with such rich source material — in the form of the classic and far-superior original show — that is just a crime against TV. From it’s totally-NOT-San-Francisco-locales (hello, Vancouver much?) to it’s strangely lethargic fight scenes and B-grade Sci Fi channel-ish cast, everything about this sloppy, badly acted show screams low-budget.

“Bionic Woman” should have been way, way better. Nerds everywhere deserve it. And the worst thing of all, they totally ditched the super cool bionic sounds — you know: “chh-chh-chh-chh-chh-chh” — from the original. Why bother remaking this show without those sounds? I mean, seriously…


JOURNEYMAN (NBC, Mondays @ 10pm)

This needlessly complicated time-travel romance/drama feels cobbled together from a bunch of other (and better!) shows and again, is stuffed to the gills with boring, no-name actors.

The main dude is from HBO’s “Rome”, which I hear was good, but as far as time-traveling heroes go, he’s no Scott Bakula and as far as being the next “Quantum Leap”? “Quantum Sleep” is more like it. Seriously boring stuff, if this show doesn’t put you to sleep, the next one will for sure…


MOONLIGHT (CBS, Fridays @ 9pm)

I liked this show better the first time I saw it when it was called “Angel”! A totally cheesy rip off of Joss Whedon’s classic “Buffy” offshoot, this show doesn’t have an original bone in it’s pasty white body and though it’s sly “Veronica Mars” references are amusing (as is the brief appearance of “Mars” regular Jason Dohring) the lead character’s noir-lite voice over is so laughable it makes the narration on “The Wonder Years” look positively “street” by comparison.

If you’re looking for cool vampire action, steer clear of this lame-o copycat and rent yourself some “Buffy” and “Angel” on DVD. Way cooler shows!

And speaking of cooler shows, here begins the list of the mid-level shows. Not the worst things you could watch, but not necessarily Tivo-worthy either.

CANE promo

CANE (CBS, Tuesdays @ 10pm)

A tad overseasoned for my taste, this super Cuban version of “The Godfather” is beautifully shot — and the picante cast of over-sexed, pseudo-Cubanos isn’t exactly hard on the eyes — but the waves of Latino platitudes wear on you after a while. Seriously, if I heard Jimmy Smits or Hector Elizondo (who were both great, by the way) proclaim how much they loved this country one more time…ay, carumba!

As they say in Oaxaca: “a little mole goes a long way” and the same can be said for this show. Though I’m not saying I won’t watch it again, I seriously doubt “Cane” will ever make it’s way onto our “Season Pass” list. Lo siento, hermanos.


BIG BANG THEORY (CBS, Mondays @ 8:30pm)

You know that geek-chic has officially run it’s course when the oldie olsen “Tiffany” network makes a show about it. So cynical you can almost hear the Network suits slapping this thing together “Hey, kids like those Mac vs. PC commercials, maybe they’ll dig this!” That said, the show is surprisingly funny at times and the cast is not nearly as annoying as you’d expect from the near-constant promos.

This is probably due to the presence of exec-producer Chuck Lorre, who also created the similarly one-note, funny-for-one-season “Dharma & Greg”. So, if Mr. Lorre’s past is any indication, this show will be funny for one year and then totally suck for two and a half more. Not bad for CBS!


ALIENS IN AMERICA (CW, Mondays @ 8:30pm)

A zippy premise (high school outcast becomes even bigger outcast when his family sponsors a Muslim exchange student from Pakistan) a charming cast of fresh faces (emphasis on the fresh, as is not that great acting-wise yet, but cute!) and hands down the best use of 80’s music in a pilot, this show has the potential to develop into something kinda cool.

But those “Veronica Mars” and “Everwood”-killers at the CW have squandered the potential of far-greater shows in the past, so you never know. Not sure if we’ll watch next week or not, but I would say it’s worth a look if you’re in the mood. And we did laugh out loud more than a few times which is always a good sign!


GOSSIP GIRL (CW, Tuesdays @ 9pm)

A slick, juicy prep school sudser in the vein of “Cruel Intentions”, this show has a lot of interesting things going on and could be cool, or, more likely, could beat a pretty hasty retreat into “One Tree Hill” and “Dawson’s Creek” territory.

The acting on the male side — with the notable exception of the main “poor” dude, Penn Badgley — is uniformly horrendous. Totals models making pretty faces in pretty clothes. But the girls are far more nuanced, most especially the youngest daughter (Taylor Momsen) and the smoking-hot lead blonde (Blake Lively) who was even better in “The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants” as, you guessed it, the smoking-hot soccer chick.

The only real problem we had with this glammed-out NYC-set show is that the actors playing the parents are way, way too young to have sired these kids. They look like siblings at best, but hey, it’s the CW, and if you’re looking for cheesy fun with a cool soundtrack, you’ve come to the right place!


BACK TO YOU (Fox, Wednesdays @ 8pm)

OK, we totally wanted to hate this show, but the one episode we watched was actually VERY funny. It might be the cast, it might be the concept, or it might be the setting (which is ripe for classic “Mary Tyler Moore”-ish tomfoolery) but I think the main reason we liked this show so much was that it felt so familiar. Like that warm blanket of bad-TV “Suddenly Susan” this show just felt comfortable, safe and totally watchable. I’m not saying they’re breaking any new ground with this most sitcomy of sitcoms, but sometimes old ground is just fine.

Check it out, but if you’re watching it live, make sure and change the channel as soon as it ends or I swear to God, that shit-tastic Brad Garrett show will scorch your corneas. Yikes!

And now, our pics for the top three new shows of the fall season. Yeah!


DIRTY SEXY MONEY (ABC, Wednesdays @ 10pm)

Now, this show is teetering on the edge right now, but we have committed to watching a second episode, so, unless it really starts going downhill, we’ll stick with it. The pilot flew by, the writing was first-rate and the cast was amazing: Donald Sutherland, Peter Krause, Jill Clayburgh, Billy Baldwin and, surprisingly, one of our favorite “Passions” graduates, Natalie Zea!

But the most exciting thing about the show — aside from the fact that “Everwood” creator Greg Berlanti is one of the producers and writers — is that it feels hip, fresh and original. For example, Billy Baldwin’s senatorial candidate character is having an affair with a Transexual! I know that might be old hat on “Nip/Tuck” but that is pretty radical fare for ABC prime time.

The mystery at the core of the show is kind of cool too and hey, even if it totally falls apart, we’ll just drown our sorrows in “Lost” when it starts up again in January. Yeah!

CHUCK promo

CHUCK (NBC, Mondays @ 8pm)

OK, forget what I said above about the cynical commodifaction of nerds. This show — about how a CIA supercomputer’s data is accidentally implanted into the brain of a geeky IT expert (“Less Than Perfects” Zachary Levi) working at the Best Buy-ish Nerd Herd station — is absolutely hilarious! Funny, exciting, and full of goofy car chases and kung fu fights with plastic forks and flying harddrives, the show has a great sense of humor and feels totally original.

Produced by Josh Schwartz (“The OC”, “Gossip Girl”) and McG of “Charlie’s Angels” and “Fastlane” fame, the show flies along at an awesome clip and is so packed with gravity-defying physical comedy and awesome one-liners that your rewind finger will be hurting for days afterwards.

Having already secured a cushy spot on our Tivo’s “Season Pass” listing this show is so entertaining that if you don’t watch it, we’ll save them up and force you to watch it when you come over. Yep, it’s that good!

So, whatever you do, don’t miss “Chuck”!

REAPER promo

REAPER (CW, Tuesdays @ 9pm)

Feeling more like a great cable show than something that would air after the totally played-out “Beauty & The Geek” (Yes, it’s STILL on!) on Tuesday nights CW line-up, “Reaper” is appropriately enough, funny as Hell, and hands down our favorite new show of the season.

The show was co-created by writing partners (and super cool former Peet’s customers of mine!) Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas, and from the opening scenes in the pilot (directed with slacker flair by Kevin Smith) you know you’re watching something truly unique.

I won’t give away too much for those of you who have “Reaper” stored up somewhere on your own Tivo, but suffice to say, the show revolves around the misadventures of a wayward slacker (Bret Harrison) who is recruited by Satan (a fantastic Ray “Laura Palmer’s Dad” Wise) to hunt down escapees from Hell.

Helped by his motely crew of co-workers at a Home Depot-ish superstore, our reluctant hero’s shaggy dog adventures seem ripped from the pages of the coolest, funniest comic book you’ve ever read. But they’re not. This show is wholly original and it shows in every witty, kick-ass line the characters utter. Really, truly inspired hilarity! You gotta watch it at least once!

That said, I’ll call it a night for now and return to hour five of “The War” (which is amazing if you have the time to slog through it!) already in progress. Man, are my eyes tired…



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