Friday, April 27, 2007

Donald Capone...

is having his novel Like I've Never Been Born serialized online by Rebel Press. Currently on Chapter 15, but you can catch up on past chapters.

Jim Ruland...

is in the new Salt Flats Annual. (ruland is the shit.)

Myfanwy Collins...

has a flash up at the new issue of Monkeybicycle.

Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz...

has a story in the new issue of GHOTI.

Jason Shaffner...

is spotlighted this week at Kelly Spitzer's Writer Profile Project.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cheeze for Charity

It's a shame that last night's very special mini-telethon put on by Idol wasn't intended to benefit those afflicted with a severe calcium deficiency, because the volume of processed cheese oozing over the airwaves could've strengthened the bone density of of every inhabitant of North America with plenty of goo left over to cover enough nachos to feed China.

We knew it was an important (self-congratulatory, assuaging white-guilt) night when we saw Seacrest insist on a second take after he stumbled over his opening line, and then caught a glimpse of Cowell all fancied up and squished into a suit jacket, because you just can't save the world without proper attire and unflubbed opening lines.

Much to the dismay of the majority of the audience, when Ryan later fell upon a small technical glitch, so eloquently and subtly pointed out to him by the stage manager shrieking "NOT YET THERE'S A PROBLEM," -- twice -- he then tried to ad lib his way through it by asking the sartorially fluffed Cowell how much he'd personally given tonight. Wisely, though, Simon refused to answer and was quickly rescued as Ellen (I pledged $100,000) DeGeneres came back onscreen at a separate location to introduce another act. I know the cynics were salivating like Pavlov's dog to know the exact number from Simon, but, honestly, him answering that would be as futile as a woman telling her fiance her number of past bedmates. There just isn't a right answer. Any number would drive the pack into a rabid frenzy both ways. Half the people would find the amount condescendingly, tightwad low, and the other half would deem the number to be egotistically, show-offy high. That's just the price of charity in our society.

What Simon did do is make the trip to Africa to film some scenes, while Paula staggered around the corner to visit the local Boys & Girls Club. I can't fault Paula for not making the trip, though. After all, the latest federal aviation regulations don't allow liquid carry-on items of greater than three ounces. So how would a sentient, five foot bottle of vodka make it through security anyhow?

Besides, the biggest laugh of the night was compliments of Lisa Simpson's Paula impersonation. While the cartoon of Cowell singing the Pussycat Dolls "Donchya" should've been giggle-worthy enough, Lisa's flamboyant and dead-on portrayal of Paula quite nearly redeemed the evening.

But that Simpsons skit was intentionally funny. Paula also stole the evening with unintentional laughs as she defined irony when she did a voice-over, script read -- complete with stilted, halted phrasing and over-enunciation -- about illiteracy! For crying out loud, do the producers enjoy making her sound stupid or did they condescendingly think that her "focused" delivery was the proper delivery (as compared to normal, meandering blatherings) to convey the gravity of the situation of Appalachia Kentucky?

But the judges weren't the only Idol crew to make asses of themselves. Carrie Underwood delivered a charming Jesus-take-the-lip-synch version of "I'll Stand By You." And, admittedly, Kelly Clarkson did steal the show and prove why she was the first Idol when she sang a mostly restrained number with Jeff Beck accompanying her. Though she looked like Valerie Bertinelli and did regress to Yelly Clarkson for a short interlude, overall she was the classy fromage in this dairy-fest celebration.

Not faring quite as well? Earth, Wind and Fire did a medley. A medley! I thought those went out of style with Barry Manilow. But the best part is that this section was the first foray into Scientologic overtures, with their bass player being a damn near dead ringer for Travolta's psychlo in "Battlefield Earth." He was only lacking the codpiece.

Plenty of stars made an appearance, either by phoning in pre-taped messages or participating in the humiliating train wreck montage set to "Stayin' Alive." I thought for sure that this fucking laughable disaster was going to be the zenith of the night's bad entertainment, with Keira Knightley wiggling and Hugh Grant blushing with embarrassment and Terri Hatcher having to do the payback promotion to Idol from last year's media frenzy over her "kiss" with Seacrest as they all grooved silly to the Bee Gees.

There was something vaguely amusing about Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell when they'd bump heads to "What is Love" ten years ago, but even Kattan hanging on the sidelines couldn't make this skit intentionally funny. Which is exactly what makes it cringe-worthy hilarious.

But even better? Simon Cowell's brainchild Il Divo was finally unleashed to the Idol audience. Just when we thought nothing could make this year's crop of contestants look good by comparison, this went and did it. Holy. Fuckin. Shit. Obviously trying to merge 'N Sync with Andrea Bocelli, Cowell has created this pop-horror to cross capitalize on their worldwide appeal. As a proud Italian, this shit almost made me weep. Are you telling me this mutant music disaster actually MAKES money? Who the hell is listening to them? Who's enjoying them? I mean it, I really want to know. Because those dumb, listening-challenged idiots should be forced to donate double to last night's charitable causes just for making the rest of us sit through that. Out-fucking-landishly bad. And suddenly, every word that comes out of Simon's mouth henceforth in a critique is tainted with the psuedo-operatic stylings of these bozos.

We also got treated to several "stars" making an appearance and taking the easy Sanjaya jokes. The Hair Himself was in the audience, laughing louder than anyone at the jokes, but it remains to be seen if he's really a great sport (probably) or just loving every last bit of being in the limelight, happily being a mockery because it makes him famous (also likely.)

One such person involved in some Sanjaya flack was Jack Black. This was a little sad, because it means Jack Black has already become that guy. You know, a guy who was cool with his Tenacious D and zany antics but is now just mass-market Velveeta. Sadly though, he had the opposite effect of Il Divo. Though his "performance" was played for laughs, it was still far better than anything we've seen the contestants put out on the stage this year.

Then the script flipped back to serious, and we knew this because Tom Cruise in all his heterosexual, Thetan, movie-star glory popped onscreen and glared through his preternaturally perfect face for a brief moment to -- I think -- give a number of how many funerals he's attended. And the number was one that shouldn't have been given, because of his Scientological leanings, because much like a charity number or sleep-with number, there's no correct one. It was an average number, I suppose, but I was also under the impression that Thetans didn't get sick or fuck the same sex or take drugs or die once they eradicated their engrams and they just devolved back into clams or jump in a volcano or fight psychlos with Xenu or wear mock naval uniforms some other happy, unenturbulating horseshit as they ascend to Commodore, level ten status.

And that was all eventually proven out, as the husband and father to a couple of raging Scientologists then proceeded to reanimate and take the stage and sing his show-stopping '68 comeback finale number, "If I Can Dream." That's right, Elvis was back in the house. And he was doing a duet with Celine Dion. Remember when Natalie Cole did that "Unforgettable" duet with her dad? She at least had the sense to keep him onscreen and it kind of worked. Now, remember back to the second season of The Sopranos, after Nancy Marchand had died, but they still needed Livia Soprano for some scenes? So they kind of diced and spliced and used sit-ins and worked Livia into the script? Remember how god-forsaken creepy that was? TRIPLE IT.

This was, without question, one of the worst ideas Idol has ever hatched. Not only do they create a hologram of The King, they pair him up and make him duet with the queen of overblown, oversung, heartsappy Cheeze Whiz, Celine. And I swear to you, there were times when she looked over at the impersonator-stand-in-hologram and seemed pissed as though the corpse was upstaging her.

Robert Rodriguez couldn't have come up with a more bizarre, bad-taste scene than this. Which is exactly why it earns the prestigious award that I've heretofore been unable to hand out this year: The AJ Dance of Approval.

Oh yeah, and then Madge stopped by and reassured us that she's still banging Guy Ritchie because she gave a really "sincere" plea for help with her fake British accent.

And then they closed the show by having Bono mentor the kids.

Because, you know, he's just about the last credible rock superstar with relevance left in the world and he's equally known for his philanthropy and he took the time to work with the kids but as he still looks fairly normal and speaks coherently, it just wouldn't have meshed with the rest of the evening so just give him a whopping minute and a half at the end of the show. It was one last dollop of tacky shredded cheddar to put the final artery-arresting, cholesterol overloaded extravaganza of giving for the children into the Wisconsin hall of fame.

So that was it. Dead men singing. Yelly Clarkson making her comeback. Stupid montages. And no one getting kicked off, because it was a night of charity.

It was overhyped, overblown, and overproduced. In other words, it was everything that's good and pure and sane about American Idol.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Inspirational Night

Ryan Seacrest and News Corp are going to save the world as long as we apathetic viewers get off our asses and dialdialdial for our favorite contestant on American Idol. It's nice. It really is. The company that profits over one billion dollars per season from Idol is going to donate 5 million (a half a percent of their commercial profits from the show) to starving kids.

It is quite nice, and quite lovely to see Simon Cowell tell volunteers that they're nice and give them a hug. In a dashing bit of British hyperbole, he also tells the volunteers that he's "never met anyone nice before." And back in the studio, Paula bristles at that comment.

What's utterly non-shocking about the films of the judges out on patrol about the poor sections of the world is how closely their demeanor matches their television personas. Paula showed up to a few places and looked clueless and disoriented. Randy showed up and told people it would all be alright, same as he tells crappy contestants that he'd produce their record. And Simon walks around saying it's all a disgrace. And the only one who can really talk to anyone and connect with them is Seacrest, which is precisely why he makes such a good TV host. He's not an obvious gasbag and even without a microphone he doesn't mind getting handsy and off his ass to walk around a bit and hand out plates of food.

The only troubling part about the whole shindig last night is that interspersed between shots of hell on earth and the most adorable starving child you'll ever see is that they then expected the contestants to rise to the challenge and entertain us and move us to chip in 10 lousy cents just by voting on a toll free number.

I'm not even inspired to give it a proper write up. So here's the lowdown if you missed the performances.

Chris Richardson did a tinny, bobby, bad-sounding, Timberlited version of Eric Clapton's "Change the World." I thought he blew and expected Simon to go off like Alec Baldwin disciplining a teenager, but he slobbered all over him, which made later proceedings all the more transparent.

Melinda was great as usual. Still no neck. She doesn't look surprised anymore, though. I have her earmarked for the shocking boot next week.

Blake sang John Lennon's "Imagine." It was lispy and wispy and though mostly on-key they salivated over him by saying it was "sincere."

LaKisha decided to sing yet another song by a former Idol winner. This time it was Fantasia's "I Believe." You know, one of the songs about rainbows and pots of gold and all that shit that makes everyone laugh so hard at the "winner" of AI every year for getting saddled with such an incredibly ridiculous schmaltzy song which most people would be embarrassed to death if they had to sing in public, and it's so bad that even the producers acknowledge the suckitude of the past songs so they've instituted the "write a song" contest for this year in hopes of finding something slightly better from the mass of American viewers as opposed to the "professionals" they usually rely on.

Anyhow, LaKisha was loud again, but it's now been decided that LaKisha loud is NOT the new good. So the judges ripped her and called her "shouty" and pretty much dismissed her. It's very clear they want her gone, going to such lengths to flatter Chris and diss her in unreasonable measure. It makes me sad. It makes me sad because LaKisha was my last hope for someone to unleash an inner-bitch as we were winding down here, but I guess she'll be booted before that can happen. Though it does remain a matter of some debate whether or not they'll dare kick someone off tonight to cap off their week of inspiration and hope.

So then Phil sang, and I got up and had a smoke! For real. Yeah yeah, he's got a nice a voice and he's a nice a guy and whatever. I'm not a Philphile though and to me he's just fucking creepy looking and canned and too theatrical and I don't care enough to even watch him. But I think he got a nice circle jerk in the reviews, too.

And then Jordin closed the show as the precious chosen one. And she was good and loud but her loud wasn't shouty, which means she's much more beautiful and likable and marketable than LaKisha. Granted, she was good. But the profuse gushing her performance garnered was nowhere close to realistic and the heavy hands of Nigel and Ken were clearly steering the reviews and commentary.

The whole affair didn't inspire me so much as guilt me into picking up the phone to vote. So I chipped in my 30 cents, and was really sorry all this didn't happen last year when I'd dialed my fingers bloody to save my cupcake and get Daughtry DKed. I could've saved a small village in Siera Leone singlehandedly. Fuck DeBeers! My Elliott love could've done it! But am I really supposed to phone frantically to save Blake? Pfft. I was mostly inspired to change the channel and see who got booted off DWTS. (the golddigger is gone!)

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Pinnacle

It's the second anniversary of the greatest moment in American Idol history. So we're going to relive it.

And for those wanting to savor each moment, here it is in all its glory. (thanks to roadblocker from SS)

The Drama this season has the momentum of a Turtle

Entourage is back, filling out HBO's Sunday night and lightening the mood after The Sopranos. I thought it was a strange pairing, because the shows are so distinct. Entourage is the very essence of a summer show, a guilty pleasure of frivolous fun to enjoy after a lazy day in the sun.

It's not that we can't use some light giggles after an ep of The Sopranos, but Larry David's twisted and outlandish humor seems a much better complement. Whereas Entourage, though it's so clearly the male equivalent of a fairy tale, tries to play it straight and realistic, so the juxtaposition of the two shows is a little jarring.

They're calling this part 2 of season 3, which makes me wonder if the writers and crew were maybe rushed to get these episodes out so that they had a winner to back up The Sopranos. What makes me wonder this even more is the utter lack of plot going on so far.

A key moment of last night's episode was when the guys were sitting poolside, supposedly reading a script. Instead, in their oh-so-smarmy-charming-carefree existence, they chucked the scripts aside and then jumped in the pool. And then took a nap. Yeah. That was the glamorous episode. Napping.

When Entourage started, they were on dangerous, shaky ground, because the show was basically a gender reversal of Sex and the City. But while Sex got away with its antics because there was a titillation factor of watching the women fuck around, that's pretty old news for men. And it's just not so endearing to watch guys -- hanger-on, talentless, fairly obnoxious guys with little charm and even less good looks -- get laid in Hollywood in stunning mansions while we sit at home with our dorky, worn-out, unstylish ottomans under our feet while we're obviously not getting laid because we're passing our precious off-work time by watching this show about jolly jack-offs.

But, Entourage really did break out of that off-putting mode quickly when they actually started having plots. They found the soul of the show in Jeremy Piven's Ari Gold -- a snarling, sell-his-grandmother-to-make-a-deal, self-important, scenery-chewing, succubus of an agent to Adrian Grenier's Vincent Chase. He was comedy gold.

Vince's character has grown and arced quite a bit over the couple of seasons. He was at first the calm eye in the center of chaos, the one who didn't react -- never wanted to have to react to anything -- because he could simply sit back, smirk, and have everyone do everything for him. But Vince has since had his heart broken and had to fight for (and lose) projects that he considered artistically worthy. Time and again, he's turned out to not be a spoiled brat but a guy with principles and it gets more fun to root for him.

His brother Drama and Turtle provided the outlandish buddy-comedy along the way and eat ample amounts of shit to hurtle their presence in Vince's life way over the boundary of acceptable into downright preferable.

Which leaves only Kevin Connolly's Eric, who remains a problem in the otherwise likable cast. Clearly, when this show was imagined, pitched, and initially set up, Eric was supposed to be the main character; the everyman tossed into this glamorous situation afforded to him because of his friendship with Vince. I imagine the producers imagined showing his immersion and rise into the power-plays of the Hollywood scene, centered around Vince. And that is largely what the first season was about, and largely why the first season was flat. Because, frankly, Eric sucks. I have yet to find anything likable or redeemable about this toad. When Vince wanted him to stand up to Ari, it did give us some great Ari rants and Ari frustration -- but the enjoyment in the situations and scenes was due to Ari, not Eric.

Ari learned to tolerate Eric, and as a viewer, I have, too. But I've never warmed to him. And while Turtle and Drama hunt for women, it's their ineptitude and desperation that endear them. Whereas Eric gets the hot chicks thrown his way even though there's nothing remarkable about him, which makes him the ultimate leach. Kevin Connolly plays the role as a straight man -- there are no affectations or over-reaching, which should be refreshing. But that whiny voice and elfin appearance just piss me off after a while, and he disappears next to Piven.

Worse, over the past couple of seasons, as the dynamics have shifted and Vince has grown into a man and started taking care of business for himself, it makes me wonder even more exactly what the fuck Eric is around for. He's become relegated to the role of a yes-man.

Unlike Ari's counterpoint, the delightfully masochistic Lloyd, who pulls Ari back into the atmosphere inhabitable by humans, Eric neither elevates nor deflates Vince. For a show that was supposed to be about a guy who was earning his worth and changing our expectations about shallow clingers, Eric has come to represent the very essence of Hollywood excess run-off.

But he's still not the main problem this season. The main problem is that while Ari's shining brighter than ever with his manic heartbreak over losing Vince, the rest of the guys have nothing to do. And it's obvious that the writers are having trouble filling the time, as the latest episode clocked in at a whopping 21 minutes long. The fuck?

A key component to Entourage's success has been softening the edges of the guys. And while it's hilarious to watch Ari get struck with a wayward flash of conscience and play white knight for Lloyd, it's also twice as rewarding to watch him fume and fester about his pansy-ass feelings after the fact, and to then get his evil back on and go on a good-natured rage rampage.

But Turtle refusing to bang a broad because she talks shit about his dog? We know Vince has principles, and yes, Turtle, we know you do, too. But bang the broad! And worse, Drama being the consummate best-bud and not banging HIS broad because Turtle's turning down the play? The fuck? Who would ever do that? Would you? I wouldn't. Fuck that. If I bother to take my feet off my unstylish and beat-up ottoman and turn off the TV and go out and hunt guys for an entire day, consider the deal closed as arduously as Ari Gold would close it.

Meanwhile, Vince is still holding out hopes for "Medillin" and screwing his new agent and Eric is doing fuck-all who cares what. But there's no tension and no forward momentum for the foursome. Although it may be realistic, being trapped in a state of stasis between projects, there had always been an urgency to get Vince back to work or to work on something particular before. But now, there's no one standing in his way, but they're all just standing around. And, if you take away the hot chicks and expensive ottomans, that makes them pretty much just like us. And who the fuck wants to watch us? We're boring. We don't have shit going on in our lives, either. That's why we're watching YOU assholes on TV.

We tune in to Entourage for a vicarious thrill. That was the initial appeal. We don't want to vicariously live our own static, going-nowhere, clinging to shallow hopes of something better, not-getting-laid, fundamentally useless existence through four fucktards in Beverly Hills. It doesn't matter if the cars are better and the house is nicer, it's still boring.

It's like the producers and writers have decided they've got a winning cast and setting, so they've just chucked the scripts aside and took a long nap and let Grenier mug for the camera for ten minutes. Stop it. Most of these guys have mustered more charm than I thought possible out of their characters, and the tension the past two seasons had been hotter than the valley during a heat wave. But Ari can't carry the show alone now. For fuck's sake -- do something, guys.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Web Reads

I found this cool little thingamajig from Jason Shaffner's blog:
Go to
Type in "New York, NY"
Choose Directions "From Here"
Enter "Paris, France"
Check out Step 24

While at Jason's blog, do check out his recap of the Stone Sour show he just attended, complete with a pie chart!

While perusing Jordan E. Rosenfeld's blog I discovered that we both like having choices, but not too many of them lest we get frozen by the overwhelming decisions. (Is this common?) And I also found a link to this cool blog, The Nervous Breakdown which is really cool and features a large group of writers posting, including the very accomplished Jordan and the always cool Roy Kesey.

Myfanwy Collins is featured in the new issue of FRiGG with Three Stories. FRiGG is an exceptional journal with fiction, poetry, and insane artwork. And she's also got a fantastic story, "Cowless, Rainbowless", in the inaugural issue of Quay.

And if you're into meeting some new writers, do stop by The Writer Profile Project by Kelly Spitzer. You'll find some great interview over there with editors and writers. (including some of my faves like Alicia Gifford, Kathy Fish, and Dave Clapper of Smokelong Quarterly.)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bah-bye-ah Sanjaya

So Sanjaya bit the dust last night. I wish I could say it was gleeful, but it wasn't. Simon was so smug he was nearly giddy about it.

LaKisha hit the bottom two. The only thing that bothers me about that is that it'll rally people to vote for her and save her for the next couple weeks.

And Chris R got away with his backtalk about nasally singing -- for this week. I fully expect him to be the next one to go, though.

Bucky was in the audience. That was fun.

And they pimped the "Idol Gives Back" show for next week really hard. There was a brief intro to it where Seacrest sounded so serious (The Most Important Thing Idol Has Ever Done!) about it all I thought he'd been taking broadcasting lessons in hyperbole from Bob Costas for a minute. (Seriously, have you ever listened to Costas announce the opening of the NLCS or World Series or something? It's like he's doing a play-by-play on WWII and the Cards are trapped in the Ardennes.)

So my question is this: Do we care about this show next week? You tell me. If, because it's for charity, I have to sit back and politely clap and mewl about how lovely it all is, I'll sit through the thing but I won't be happy about it. But if we're all on board for full-out mocking, I think the show holds an awful lot of promise.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Here was the most delightful part of Idol last night:

That's right. Some of the alumni, like Constantine, just never really go away. He was there to remind us how good old-fashioned camera fucking should look.

The least delightful part of Idol last night was everything else. While heavily scathing Chris Richardson for his performance, Simon said it was "completely and utterly insignificant." Which pretty much sums up this entire season, now doesn't it? Though it was funny that Simon told Chris his singing was nasally and Richardson had the unmitigated stupidity to respond that "nasally is a form of singing." Uh huh. And mimes are a form of entertainment. It doesn't mean they're particularly good or accepted. Though at this point, Chris probably would be more appealing as a mime. Because let's face it -- as bad as Sanjaya was/is/shall be, his voice isn't obnoxiously grating like Chris's is.

As for Sanjaya, he did his thing in a 'do rag and sang and Simon got his hackles up and really tore into him. I suspect the ire he showed last night wasn't a form of manipulation but his honest annoyance creeping through. Because although he should be smart enough to not really care about the outcome as long as he's making money at it, I think he's also got a wicked ego streak. I think he tried to brush off the Sanjaya-Stern thing for several weeks and act as though it didn't faze him but that it is eating away at him. I think there's a part of him that does take this whole show seriously and that he likes to feel self-important about it so he felt obliged to lecture not only Sanjaya, but also the audience, reminding them that this show is ultimately about picking the best.

I haven't checked the VFTW boards, but that sort of "I'm so disappointed in you all" speech probably sent them all into cackling fits of glee and made everyone dial even harder and longer. I know it nearly motivated me to pick up the phone and call, but by the time the show was over all glee and energy had been successfully drained from me.

What else? I didn't see Phil perform because I was busy doing something else, probably equally lame, but that just goes to show you were I am with this whole thing.

I admit I'm not a country fan, and what little "country" I listen to is Patsy Cline or Johnny Cash or Ray Charles. And country night generally blows anyhow, and I've rarely heard any of the songs before. Last night, I hadn't heard any of them. So I had no comparison for Jordin's version of "A Broken Wing," but she gave it plenty of welly. (<-- too much Dancing WTS influence.) And, clearly, they're now pimping her hard to be the winner, and that seems about right.

LaKisha was a suckfest singing what I guess is Carrie Underwood's song. Melinda was alright doing some "sassy" song about a woman being trouble when she wants to get laid. But the noteworthy part of her performance was her strange outfit that made her already formidable boobs look absolutely fucking enormous. And Simon's heard enough of the backlash about her "surprised" face that he's now actually told her to drop that routine. Good move.

Blake went last and yeah he can sing and yeah it was alright because it wasn't country at all and he did his thing, dawg. He certainly does have his niche. Everything he sings sounds just like it would've been featured at a late '80s prom or in an Adam Sandler movie.

Thanks to Ellen Meister, I paid attention to who was standing next to Ryan as the show closed, because she astutely pointed out that when there are a few people in jeopardy, the one who ends up close to Ryan at the end of the show inevitably stays. Well, Chris Richardson was cuddled close, so I'd assume it's time for Phil to go.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Terribly Beautiful

The Sopranos is clawing inexorably toward its last shot, and the finality of the series permeates nearly every scene. Last night's episode was one of its finest ever, seamlessly meshing the dry wit, outrageous jollies, dark danger, and grim mortality that've marked it since the beginning.

And in many ways, it was almost a return to the beginning. Johnny Sack got his trip ticket punched last night, not by a bullet in the brain, but succumbing to cancer. It was highly reminiscent of the first season, when Jackie Aprile was on his death bed and the question of who his replacement would be loomed large. But back in that first season, Tony Soprano lusted for the job of boss. Now? No one wants the fucking job. And the few who do don't have a chance.

Just like the first season, the tension between Tony and Christophah has reached a fever pitch. But this time it's not so much business as personal. Before, Chrissy pushed Tony's buttons when he'd screw off on the job. Now, Chris has his shit together, but it's his personal opinion of Tony that's like a dagger in the heart.

The Sopranos always been about family -- both of them. And Christopher most represents that duality to Tony. He's his business protege, but he's also blood.

The deliberateness of the writing in this episode (by Terence Winter) was astounding and bold. They dared to recall the landmark christening scene of the original Godfather! Certainly, it's not the first time the show has been so bold as to do so. Remember back in season one when Tony got shot out on the street and his bottle of orange juice shattered? It was a heavy scene, but that was a sly and coy homage worked into it. Whereas there was nothing coy about how this scene played out as Tony hugged Chris at the altar: Tony's eyes crinkled with a heartbroken yet steely smile and Chris's expression was ultimately unfathomable because it held entirely too many conflicting emotions.

It was terribly beautiful scene, because it's already haunting even though we don't know with certainty how things will end.

The show is feeling its own shocks of mortality by having all the characters feel them. Tony is way beyond mid-life crisis mode with his moody ruminations on a successor and his own legacy. But Tony was always prone to bouts of dark introspection. But as the Feds circle closer and the bodies pile up and the illnesses intensify with age, everyone else around him is marinating in grudges and fermenting in their own failures, everyone echoing the same question: For what?

Though their business dealings were more often than not rife with tension, Tony and Johnny Sack has a friendship and respect for each other, much as Tony had with Jackie Aprile. But even after his death, Aprile's son ended up dead. But as he faces death, Johnny Sack takes no comfort in his legacy in the things that made him noble and a laughing stock: his love of his family.

Meanwhile Tony questions what his years of loving Chris have gotten him, and across the bridge in New York, Phil Leotardo questions why he trashed family in favor of manning up and doing twenty years inside for his business family. And yet, forebodingly, he still can't let go of his brother's murder at the hands of Tony's cousin.

The existential angst is palpable and nearly unbearable, with the once gung-ho Carmine Lupertazzi, Jr. turning into a reluctant dragon and summing it up simply for Tony: It's about happiness.

And that happiness comes for viewers in the most bizarre and nastily delightful turns. Rosalee Aprile turning around and giving a knowing nod to Carmela during the premier of Christopher's film as they see Tony's screen alter-ego cheating it up. The indignities hurled upon writer Tim Daly throughout the film's process. (or are those touches only funny to other writers?) I still can't figure out what makes it funny when Chris beats up on Daly. I like Tim Daly, and his character certainly doesn't deserve the shit he eats. And yet, somehow, the writers figured out that there's just something indescribably funny about seeing him get a black eye. And then there was Phil Leotardo's rant about how the madigans at Ellis Island changed their family name from one honoring one of the greatest Italians ever into a name for ballet costumes.

There has always been a terrible beauty about the Soprano family. Over the years, Meadow's crises of conscience and bouts of infernal anger have melted away and returned her back to what she always was -- daddy's little girl. She's now one of her father's most fierce defenders, taking her place right alongside Carmela. Carmela, who directed her anger over Tony's infidelities onto Christopher, blaming him for creating that sort of portrayal of her husband. Blaming Christopher for Adriana's disappearance -- aloud. How long can the willful ignorance continue for her, or, more accurately, how long can she tolerate to sublimate what she already knows? Because it is already there, deep in her subconscious.

And like the often uneducated but never stupid Tony says to Melfi, "I've been coming here too long. I know too much about the subconscious."

I'm not sure a finale has ever been more eagerly anticipated by fans. We want to know. We have to know what happens. Even though deep down, we already know. This final act, it will be beautiful. But since it's all ultimately about happiness, it will also be terrible.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sanjaya Poem

The irreplaceable Dennis Mahagin has a lovely poem about Sanjaya on his blog. Funny! Copertone Jacko!

A double portion of ugly seasoned with marginal talent, please

So Haley's gone. It's cool. Maybe she'll get some work from LadyBic or ZZ Top if they ever have a comeback tour.

I did like the edited little skit they put together with Tony Bennett. He's a good sport. Now if they wanted to be truly funny, they'd get Alec Baldwin auditioning pretending to be Tony Bennett and sticking it to him.

What else? Simon was a good sport with African girls, allowing them to poke fun at his man-boobies. I still don't get the whole appeal with trying to get him to sing. Every time he's harsh on a contestant, Ryan stands up for the contestant by throwing a barb at Simon saying some variation of "You couldn't do better!" Like all good critics/reviewers have to be adept at what they're reviewing. Pfft. I mean, I get the logic, in a way. And I like Ryan and appreciate the counterpoint he lends to the show. But saying he should be more generous with his comments unless he can sing well is a bit like saying Pauline Kael wasn't qualified to review movies because she never won an Oscar.

Jennifer Lopez performed. Smoke and fire and a flowing dress with plenty of exposed cleavage. It would've been magnificent if it wasn't for the awful music. But she's still alright.

Sanjaya was safe. So the boys now outnumber the girls. Who'd have thunk? With Haley gone, the ugly ratio certainly does leap higher. Even if the cameraman would permanently afix the Cybill Shepherd filter lens, it wouldn't help the atrocity at this point. Fuck man. Smear the lens with an inch of Vaseline and the ugly would still come beaming through.

It's funny, because it's at once a victory and defeat for ugly people: They're kicking pretty's ass, sort of proving that looks aren't everything. And yet, everyone's just going to talk about how fucking ugly it all is and end up tuning out, especially because there's really not all that much talent to be crowing about. Talent trumps pretty, sure. But what the hell is happening on this show this year? And don't even send me letters defending your favorite and telling me he's cute. He's not. He may be likable to you and others, but he's not good looking. Not a one of them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How do you Vote For the Worst when they all kinda suck?

It was Latin night on Idol, with Jennifer Lopez as the coach. So, naturally, most of the girls decided to sing Gloria Estefan songs.

Poor J Lo. Here comes my disgusting admission for the week: I like Jennifer Lopez. I can't help it. Even when we were in the height of Bennifer hysteria, I still sort of liked her. I think she's got a charming presence and is a good comedic actress. I loved her in "Out of Sight" and ever since have wished she'd find roles that are up to her. Instead she gets stuck making an entire movie that's about her wearing a white coat and then lands a script that wastes an hour and a half of nastiness between her and Jane Fonda.

But as for her singing? Fuuuuck, man. It's pretty bad. It's so bad that it's appropriate she's a coach on this season of Idol. But that said, she was a hell of a lot more palatable in her interactions with the contestants than Stefani was. (I'll let it pass that she sat on a stool and made them grab wood on the floor when they first met.)

Naturally, LaKisha didn't want any singing tips from her, because as I've now realized, Kiki doesn't want singing tips from anyone. She knows she has talent. I now realize that LaKisha's calm and solemn expressions and demeanor aren't, as I'd previously thought, a liability to her personality. She's like a poker player who holds their cards very close, and that's a damn good thing, because I think she's overestimated the strength of her hand. The few little glimpses we see of her speaking candidly reveal a growing arrogance.

So all she wanted from J Lo was tips on how to move, so Jennifer obliged. Didn't help much, because KiKi sang "Conga" and she couldn't get really loud because all that movement knocked the wind out of her so it sort of sucked. Continuing in the Estefan love-fest was Jordin, who sang "The Rhythm is Gonna Get You" and it was highly mediocre. And Haley sang "Turn the Beat Around," and it was also blahish.

But what set Haley apart is that she again got the roughest criticism of the night. Simon told her she had a good tactic by wearing as little clothing as possible, because she has nothing else to offer. Now, listen. I'm not denying that she's addicted to showing off her legs.

But does she really deserve the intense nastiness she's been drawing from these judges? There has to be something going on behind the scenes that I'm not aware of. Because she doesn't come off like a bitch, and yet the judges's comments are now really getting out of whack with her performances. You want proof? Did you happen to miss their facial expressions when they were looking at her? I swear, I didn't have to search and freeze to capture this, because it was about a two second reaction shot from them when she said she appreciates all the judges:

They couldn't be collectively dripping more disdain if they'd just climbed out of a whirlpool filled with it. And yet here we are, smack in the middle of a season where it's obvious to even Marlee Matlin that most of the people up on stage simply can't sing very well, and yet these judges see fit to take all the aggravation for the slipping ratings out on Haley.

Frankly, at this point, it's a little bit of bullshit. They verbally felated Chris Richardson after he outright vocally abused "Smooth" and gave Blake high props for flattening the last drop of Latin out of "I Need to Know." Blake, he sounded alright, and his performance wasn't embarrassing, but was it really all that good? Fuck no! If it'd been any more white it would've been clear. That one-note, emotionless, dance-floor repetition of the title line sucked all the energy out of it. Sure, it's perfectly suited for mind-wrecked tweakers grinding it out at a club. But Blake does this to a lot of songs, and it's really not all that hip anymore. Don't get me wrong, I like Blake, because I think he's one of only two contestants this year who has any actual musicality and he is talented. But he hasn't been all that for a couple weeks now. Also, what am I supposed to say about that hat he was wearing? At this point in the competition, even Stevie Wonder knows that Blake dresses for shit.

What else? Oh yeah. Sanjaya got a haircut and got the coveted pimp spot. He'll be back next week. He sang "Besame Mucho." He gave an eyefuck to the camera that was so potent I wouldn't be shocked if my Tivo got knocked up from it.

And Melinda sang. She started off the show for Latin night coming out dressed like a 65 year old diva doing her grand comeback revival at Carnegie. J Lo told her to be sexy, which is sort of like telling a McDonald's hamburger to taste like kobi beef. She sang "Sway," and it was vocally competent, but was enough of a letdown that Simon was finally able to insult it, telling her that it was old and wooden. Melinda took it extremely well, but we now have a definitive bookmark for when the tides turned this season and Simon decided he'd better start lavishing the love on someone who can market more than Geritol.

I realize now that I've forgotten to talk about Phil. Just as well.

I know we're not due for the "shocking elimination" for a couple weeks yet, but I really hope it happens this week, because I'm just too bored.


Remember in a previous post where I mentioned that "Dancing with the Stars" was better than Idol this year? I take it back. Other than Joey Fatone, these people all suck, too. And I really resent a show that makes me simultaneously feel bad for and respect Billy Ray Cyrus. He sucks at dancing, but his cunty partner is so down about it alternately bitchy and morose to him that it's almost unbearable. Meanwhile he apologizes and tries even harder and it's all just something I never wanted to deal with.


In other Tuesday night TV news, if you're an ANTM fan, you should definitely check out this blog.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


I went to see Grindhouse this weekend. It's the new double feature by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Loved it! Loved it. I can't recall the last time I had so much fun in a movie. And considering that it clocks in at over 3 hours, it's no small feat to get me to sit still that long, let alone not get antsy and annoyed. But I never did. The fake trailers between the flicks were pretty cool in their own right, even if the one called "Thanksgiving" flashed a few visuals about poultry violation that make Nine Inch Nails videos seem downright sane by comparison. (I want to know -- did they get the idea from the Studio 60 joke about Quentin Tarantino's Thanksgiving sketch? If so, they took it to a whole new, disgusting level.)

Anyhow, I'm sure you can read full reviews all over the place, so I won't bother with a full wrap-up. But I will say that I walked out of the theater SHOCKED after reading some (very positive) reviews. Most reviewers are touting Rodriguez's movie, "Planet Terror" and saying that Tarantino's "Death Proof" is more of a send-up of the grindhouse format. Now, don't get me wrong, I liked Rodriguez's movie, and it echoed back to his "From Dusk Till Dawn" monster days. He managed to mine the brotherly love angle again, only more successfully with this film, and even tossed in a nice romantic angle. And it was, without question, the more "grindhousey" of the two.

But, uh, is that really a compliment?

Tarantino's "Death Proof" is exactly what Tarantino does best. Not "send up" a genre, but take the very best elements of it and elevate them and turn it inside out. It's got all his token touches with quirky dialogue, an excellent cast, and violence that comes in jarring punches. I read a couple of reviews that claimed he was indulgent with the dialogue in this one and even though they know that he's a very deliberate filmmaker, they couldn't figure out why he included some of it. And by the time it was over, I thought those reviewers were flat out morons. I know teenagers don't really dig Tarantino (or Scorsese) because it's too much talky and not enough shooty. And it makes me sad that we've created an entire generation that thinks Tarantino and Scorsese flicks aren't violent or action-packed enough.

That said, there is a lot of dialogue, but it all pays dividends. And the action? I don't think it's spoiling the flick to say it's a driving movie, and it includes what is without question the greatest chase scene ever filmed. It knows its roots, from "Vanishing Point" and "Bullitt" and "Duel" and plenty of others. One of the most amazing things about the flick is that there's no CGI used. YAY! There's never really been all that adrenaline-inducing to me about watching pixels get blown up or chased around. There's no real risk involved.

And the risk in this movie is bitch-slapped by Zoe Bell.

Zoe was a stuntwoman on "Kill Bill" and she ended up breaking several bones in her back while filming a scene, but finished the last week of filming anyhow before getting surgery. Tarantino invests in her badass appeal by casting her as herself in "Death Proof" and holy shit does it pay dividends. Not only is she completely charming and unaffected as an actress, but she'll make you clutch your Diet Coke a whole lot harder when she's doing her thing.

Remember how much everyone loved Travolta after his "Pulp Fiction" turn? "Death Proof" gives us Kurt Russell. He's at once undeniably charming, deviously menacing -- and then, something else entirely that'd wreck the flick if I told you about it. But believe it -- he had the whole theater cracking up while simultaneously squirming.

No one does uncomfortable humor like Quentin. And I know "Kill Bill" brought on an onslaught of misogynist charges against him. I admit it, I didn't get it. I know the scene they're talking about, but did people see the whole movie? This time around, in "Grindhouse," it's Rodriguez's turn to enter a gross-out scene with questionable, misogynistic slantings -- but it's Quentin starring in the scene causing the discomfort. To people who actually interpret the scene that way though? Lighten up, Francis. And, grow a fucking brain, because you really don't get it.

Grindhouse movies routinely exploited women. And these two flicks are rife with all the grindhouse stereotypes -- and yet they're reinvented. Not subverted, but outright reversed. Some dumb clucks might question the abundance of dialogue and miss the meanings of it, but I don't think anyone can walk out denying that the women in these flicks kicked serious ass, and it was a whole, glorious mess of real, fast, fun watching them do it.

Double applause to Rodriguez and Tarantino.

Rockaway Literary Arts Festival on Sunday, April 22

Events go from 10am - 5 pm, so it's a full day of opportunities to meet authors, filmmakers, agents, editors and readers. Ellen Meister be featured on the Women's Fiction Panel from 10:30-11:30, along with Carol Hoenig (Without Grace), Debra Borden (Lucky Me and A Little Bit Married), Ellen Shanman (Right Before Your Eyes), Bibi Wein (The Way Home).

Other panels include:

Eating Our Words (the art of the cookbook with noted radio personality/food maven Arthur Schwartz and many others)

Writing on the Edge (genres include horror, thriller and espionage novels)

Writing for the Ages (historical fiction)

New Paradigms in Publishing (with top NY editors, agents and booksellers)

Children's Literature (authors Julie Markes, Amalia Hoffman, J.T. Petty, Stephen S. Yaeger, Bonnie Timmermann)

All of this happens in the Fort Tilden section of Rockaway, Queens. Here are directions ...

By Car From Belt Parkway, Exit 11S, go straight across Marine Parkway Bridge, stay right, follow sign to Breezy Point off bridge. Make left into park at first traffic light. From Woodhaven Blvd. to Crossbay Blvd. Go over Crossbay Bridge, go west on Beach Channel Drive. Follow sign to Breezy Point (bear right). Make left into park after first traffic light (Just past the entrance to the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge).

By Public Transportation
From the Flatbush Ave/Brooklyn College subway stop (2 and 5 subway lines) take the Q35 to Fort Tilden. From Beach 116th Street, take the Q35 or Q22 to Fort Tilden.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

American Cool from Rebel Press -- Pick My Book Cover!

Rebel Press is going to release a collection of my short stories! I'm totally amped about this, because I really like the stories, and Rebel Press is really cool. Taken as a whole, the stories are kind of chick lit, with a rough edge. There's some sex and some violence and plenty of cursing and drinking with a twist of gambling and a little shake of baseball thrown in. It'll be called American Cool.

Speaking of cool, I get to pick my own book cover. (yay!)

Don Capone has agreed to design the cover for me, which makes me a truly lucky girl. He's already done some mock ups, and I'd love some feedback about which one you find most appealing. If you leave me your vote in the comments section or by e-mail, I'll keep track of everyone and when the book is out I'll select one of the voters and send them a free copy of the book. Cool? Here are the choices:

UPDATE -- pics removed for now. When it's finalized, I'll post the cover here (and there, and everywhere) and contact one of you teenagers who voted. Thank you!

American Idol Makes Tony Bennett Sick


I know the feeling, T.

Tony got the flu and didn't perform. Michael Buble did. And then Gina got the boot. I laughed a little at that. I'm rooting for a Sanjaya - Haley final two now. If nothing else, people on the show will at least start remembering Haley's name if she keeps making to the stage and surviving.

Next week is J. Lo. Her giving singing tips is kind of like Sandra Lee giving cooking tips. And yet, both things happen on American television.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Two Half-Assed Greats

Simon says: "We like being mean to people occasionally."

That's about as revelatory as the Pope declaring that he's Catholic.

It was standards night on Idol, which generally brings out the best voice and performance in everyone. Last night was no exception, but the bar is considerably lower this year. You know you're in deep shit when the biggest compliment Tony Bennett can muster about your group is that you're "competent."

That's right. We got several declarations of "good" from Tony, but most of the time even those were parsed with the disclaimer that the performance "could be good." Only a disgustingly low TWO greats were handed out. One was for Melinda, and one was for the song "Smile." Please note, the great in no way was to be interpreted as an endorsement of Gina's rendition of "Smile." It was simply an observation about the quality of the song. Meanwhile, fucking Sanjaya raked in the most lavish compliment, as Tony declared him "terrific." And that's exactly why Bennett has survived in these wacky modern times -- because he's able to ferret out the pulse of the young and popular and capture enough of the reflected glare of that spotlight. MTV's "Unplugged" revived his career, and he's since teamed with k.d. lang and Xtina.

I don't begrudge Tony one bit. I think he deserves all the listeners he can get. That said, there are a few rules of the deep, Italian code that should be obeyed at all costs. Rule number one of Tony Bennett night: Don't talk about Tony's rug.

Rule number two: Never take sides against the family. But with all due respect, Mr. Benedetto, when it comes to Sanjaya, you, Sir, are full of horseshit.

At this point, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that enigmatic Sanjaya sticks around in this competition, because at least he's entertainment. You know what it's like? It's like when you brush your teeth and then realize that you forgot to drink your orange juice. So you drink your orange juice. Yeah. Watching Sanjaya perform is the aural equivalent of that. But he whispers his way through "Cheek to Cheek" and has the stones to get Pauler up and dancing with him, and Simon tries reverse psychology by declaring it all "incredible!" Good luck, Simon.

In all fairness to Tony, he did also declare Jordin "terrific." And I do think Jordin is poised to be the shocking spoiler this year and has potential to win it all. She's young, she's beautiful, and she can sing. Her "On a Clear Day" was vocally lovely and she was charming, even if Simon was right and it was a touch old-fashioned. But she did get Paula to babble a little about how she's a magnet of joy, which gave Simon the giggles.
(I wanted to put a picture of his giggling fit here, but my dvd player conked out at this juncture. oops)

Surprisingly, Chris Richardson stole Blake's thunder this week. His vocals are still about as strong as Charlie Manson's odds of parole. But he picked arguably the best song with "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," and he didn't fuck with it too much, and yet it seemed comfortably contemporary.

Blake? He murdered the shit out of "Mack the Knife." For real. Bobby Darin would've been pissed. Kevin Spacey probably seethed. (you KNOW Spacey is a closet Idol fan. he's got enough in the closet, why not toss in a silly tv obsession, too.) During this performance, as Blake tritted across the stage and exsanguinated the last drop of machismo from a song about a gangster, somewhere in a dark bedroom with only the bluish light of the TV flickering against his boyish face, Clay Aiken said, "Now that's gay."

Phil stuck with his stalker song catalog by dusting off the Cole Porter classic "Night and Day" and making it immanently more creepy than I ever imagined. But he also got Paula to babble another laugh-out-loud atrocity when she said he has a Frank Sinatra vibe. It's a tight race between that comment and Tony's about Sanjaya being terrific, both vying for most absurd language of the night. But I still have to give the win to Tony's terrific and place Paula's Frank comment.

Haley did a really cheesecakey version of "Ain't Misbehavin'." Honestly? When she doesn't try to get loud, I think Haley has a passable songbird-sweet kind of voice. I still can't imagine who in their normal state of mind is inspired enough to pick up the phone and place a vote for this girl, though.

We did get a lovely glimpse into human psychology though when she sat with Ryan before the performance and talked about how much she both fears Simon's comments and adores any praise he hands her. Simon looked truly disgusted as she spoke. The funny part of breaking this down? I think he was pissed because he thought she was trying to manipulate/lubricate his future comments by preying on his decency and making herself seem vulnerable. But here's the thing about people who occasionally enjoy being mean to people -- and I can speak as an authority on this matter, because I'm one of those people -- this form of manipulation won't work. It'll only bring out their ugly side and make them want to be even nastier to you. When someone pleads for clemency from my words? I want to verbally kick them in the fucking face. I know they're manipulating, and it pisses me off. The irony here? I don't think Haley was manipulating! I think she was just cluelessly being honest without thinking of the repercussions and how it'd make him feel.

Also? She managed to alienate Randy and Paula, who both declined to comment, saying that she wants to hear what Simon says. So Simon gave her the backhanded compliment of saying, "You've got great legs." And here was yet another funny little study in psychology and a modern twist in our society. Several times this season, we've seen the "pretty" girls get pissed when their looks were complimented. They knew that was a way of insulting their performance. We value looks in our superficial little world, but we can also use them against someone when we like to pretend that something more important than surface exists.

But only a few minutes later in the show, the nontraditionally beautiful LaKisha gets her looks complimented, and she basks in the comment. She doesn't look for an underbelly (though true, there wasn't one) or ulterior motive. She's just glad to hear she looks beautiful.

And now that the single most boring contestant this year has dominated so many words of this post, let's move on and actually talk about LaKisha's performance of "Stormy Weather." Once again, it was loud. 'Nuff said.

So that leaves Melinda. She pulled the single, elusive "great" from Tony when she rehearsed "I've got Rhythm." And she was great. She can sing, she can perform. But -- seriously. Seriously? She's our Idol? Here's two words for you: Taylor WHO? You think Taylor was ultimately unmarketable? Hello Melinda. Who the fuck is she going to sell records to? I think she could be a huge star -- if this were 1973. As it is now, her best shot at post-Idol success is to get a cameo in a Tarantino flick where he wants to place the scene in modern day but give it a '70s vibe. (Oh yeah, I'm all jazzed up for Grindhouse this weekend!) But back to Melinda and her winning Idol. I know that the voting isn't supposed to be based on post-show success. It's based on who entertains us the best and most while they're on the show. And that's Melinda. But her and that shy-surprised-gratified look is getting old. Way old. It was played by the time the semis were over, and now that she continues with it, I'm really doubting the sincerity. Also, where the fuck is her neck? I'm sick of it. Looking like a goddamn box turtle all the time. Or an uncircumcised penis. Or a moisturizer bottle when it's screwed down.

Yeah, overall, she's very, very good. Most of the time, her performances are great. But is she a star? Not really. She stands out in this crowd. And the neck barbs were low. But you know, occasionally, I like being mean to people. Simon didn't feel up to the task, so someone had to jump in and take a few shots.

As for our "great, really really great" contest? What a gyp. I guess it's a damn good thing I didn't make the "whoever comes closest without going over" rule, or else everyone would be shit out of luck. So as it stands, the lowball number guessed was 13, by Don Capone! Poor Don, who's already had to endure reading more of my crap than any human deserves.

Save your Soul, Read some Stuff

After last night's "Dancing with the Stars," where I witnessed such pop culture landmarks (tragedies? profundities? absurdities?) as seeing Billy Ray Cyrus tango to "Rock the Casbah" and a gum commercial featuring Steve-O and Chris Pontius, I realized I needed to step back and reevaluate exactly what the fuck I'm allowing to happen to my brain.

So, in the interest of entertainment that has some substance, and I found these gems, conveniently available on the web.

The new issue of Smokelong Quarterly is live. Smokelong is always visually vibrant and the content is superb. This edition was guest edited by the sublime Alicia Gifford, and features stories from Tom Saunders and my pal, Myfanwy Collins.

(plenty of these good links I owe to Myfanwy's blog, which is a great source for staying updated on the best reading on the web.)

The new issue of Insolent Rudder features work by Kat Denza and Dennis Mahagin.

My pal William Reese Hamilton has some great new stories online right now. Take a trip up the Amazon with him in "Flechado", which is live in the new issue of Eclectica. And his "Places from my Tropic Dreams" is a beautiful, poetic and dreamy piece.

Edward Moore's "Health Problems" is a great read.

And the always fabulous Ellen Meister is dead on (and funny) in this post.

And, if you love something you've read online, please do consider dropping by storySouth to nominate the story for the 2007 Million Writer's Award, sponsored by Edit Red.

I love my greazy cheezeburgers, but it was pure pleasure to enjoy some of these filet mignon entrees for a change.