Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Shame

Yes, I confess, I did it! I did it! I don't know what came over me, but I couldn't help myself until... it was too late.

Yes, I used a box mix to make my child's Halloween cupcakes.

Not just a box mix like Duncan Hines or something comfortably good-tasting. No, I was beguiled by boxes at World Market. Ones that promised "spooky brain cupcakes" and "zombie cupcakes-with zombie parts!" I thought they would be fun and easy to make. They have paper sleeves for the cupcakes! And bone sprinkles! How bad could they be?

As soon as I opened the packet labeled "cupcake mix" I knew we were in trouble. It smelled like I was making up a batch of plastic. Blech. How could this be good? And how old were these ingredients? The frosting was worse--it had the texture and odor of that foam they shoot out of a hose when your house is burning down. I can still smell it on my fingers as I type. As I was lading the brain frosting into my plastic piping bag I kept thinking of how much better I could have made them from scratch. Some raspberry purée for coloring, maybe a velvet chocolate cake, oh, it would have been so much better. Shame shame shame.

Perhaps the children will love my Chernobyl cupcakes, but they will haunt me all Halloween. Nevermore!

Update: Luckily, not children were harmed in the making of the cupcakes. Turns out only TWO of the two dozen were eaten, and a parent ate one. Turns out I was trumped by a mom who made cupcakes that had edible skeletons dangling on them—and they were homemade. Sigh...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The SCARIEST Book You Will Ever Read

Holy Merde, it's Halloween again. Time for dragging out the styrofoam grim reapers and gravestones, setting up all those fake cobwebs and carving out those soon-to-be black & rotting pumpkins. Looking for a good spooky book?  Something chilling to read aloud with a flashlight under your chin? I've got the book you MUST buy today. A narrative that is totally terrifying. Forget  Edgar Allen Poe and Lovecraft and King. They've got nothing on this. Remember how you felt when you read "Salem's Lot" or "The Excorcist"? Even worse. This book may well haunt you FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

Here it is:

Wait, wait! you say. I know this book! It can't be the acclaimed, best-selling children's book that's been passed down for decades, can it? Yes, it can. This ode to co-dependency has been around since 1986, and it has sold more than 8 million copies (I found six copies of it in our school library alone). People think it's so sweet, so touching. It's still given out, with a wistful frown-smile and a teary eye, at many a baby shower. Maria Shriver Herself recommends it.You probably love it! You think my heart is baked in a kiln!

That's part of the horror. People refuse to see the evil between the pages. It's the book that cannot be killed! It's like Damien in the first Omen movie, cherub-cheeked and innocent. How can HE be Satan's spawn? Well, I'm here to tell you, before I get decapitated by a plate glass window, that it's true. This book is evil. EVIL!

First off, its theme is Mother Love— and if that doesn't send a chill down your spine, well, come spend a weekend at my house for Thanksgiving.

"Love You Forever" is about a mother and the intense love she has for her son, all through the years. Throughout the different stages of his life, she can be seen rocking him and singing a little lullaby. Sweet? Imagine the following haunting refrain sung in a sing-song voice with echo-effect, scored by  John Carpenter synthesizer music)
I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be. 

She Won't. Let. Go. She's the Terminator of mothers. Still doubt me? Let's take a look at some of the illustrations, shall we? Here we go:

Mama's creeping in to check in on her little baby boy. This is relatively benign. Notice the hunger in her eyes. What is she going to do, eat him? (Bonus: a friend pointed out that the cat looks dead in almost every picture)

The boy's has reached adolescence, but still the mother's creeping around while he's asleep.  What's with the laboratory glasses? And doesn't she look like she's wearing gloves? What's she's going to be doing to him? Stop her, somebody!

Here, the boy's a man, who has moved away from home, but does that stop Mama? NOOOOO! She drives across town, GETS A LADDER and climbs in the window when he's asleep. I bet she drugged him, too. There's no escape! "As long as you're living, my baby you'll be..." cue tilty camera and crazy clown music.

Here he is, all grown up. Egads! Look at that hair, that sweater, that impervious stare: he's become a serial killer!  Who can blame him? Someone call Dexter!

And now,  it's his turn. Mama's old and ill, so he's gonna catch her up and rock her and rock her and rock her and rock her... and eventually embalm her so she can be in that chair rocking FOREVER. And then he'll put on that nightdress. Guaranteed!

The penultimate illustration:I won't spoil the end for you, but just look at the composition: the overhead angle, the light coming through the door. All it needs is a bolt of lightning. THE CYCLE REPEATS ITSELF. Chilling...

The background of the author and the inception of the book has its own... peculiarities, which makes it all the more disturbing. You can find out about them here: You must buy this book, before the trick-or-treaters arrive. Still not convinced? All right, I'll let the author read it to you in his own voice:

Did that do it for you? Or do you think I'm just a hater? Let me know what you think about the book. All I know is: this is what happens when you read "Love You Forever" to your son at bedtime:



Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Real Steal Was My $12 Ticket

All right, I know right off that I'm in the minority here. I mean, the kids I were with loved it. The audience actually cheered and booed in the appropriate places. And when I saunter over to "Rotten Tomatoes," I see a slim majority of bone fide critics actually liked this movie. That said— YE GODS! I haven't seen a more manipulative, coldly-calculated movie than "Real Steel" in a long time. And by that I mean, I didn't see the last two Transformers movies.

The movie was created on a white board. "Transformers" + "The Champ"÷ "Rocky"! Down-on-his-luck ne'er do well ex-boxer (Hugh Jackman) becomes reacquainted with his abandoned son, learns how to be a better mech-handler, and, yes, a better father. Plus robots punching each other out! What's not to like? It hits all demographics, except perhaps those with a working memory of any father-son movie in the last twenty years.

Like the fighting robot the little boy salvages, everything in this movie is made up of old, used parts. The robot looks like "The Iron Giant." The bad guys, the better to inspire jingoistic hoots and hollers, are from Russian AND Japan. (Hisss! Boo!) They've even got a little boy (Dakota Goyo) who's genetically designed to engender maximum weeping. I didn't believe he was Jackman's son for a second, but that's not why he was cast. Tow-headed, limpid-eyed, snub-nosed, he's the amalgamation of Ricky Schroder (a boy trying to bond with his father like in "The Champ"—who cries!) and Justin Henry (a boy without his mother like in "Kramer vs Kramer"— who cries!) with the hair and dance moves of Justin Bieber. It was very odd— all the boy's lines seemed like they belonged to someone older and tougher. Maybe Hilary Swank. Perhaps a previous incarnation of the script involved an older man and a scrappy, feisty gal with a robot. But that would have been too original.


I don't know why I was expecting more. I was beguiled by reviews and PR into thinking it was going to be a better movie than it was. Or maybe it was the promise of Hugh Jackman's torso that did me in. Yes, Wolverine's pectorals deserve a special effects award all to themselves—but even those mighty man-pillows can't sustain an entire movie (well, maybe if the movie involved them flexing in a hot tub one crazy night with Ryan Gosling ... but that's an entirely different kind of entertainment altogether. Jackman actually flashes them only once, in a totally gratuitous scene early on, stripping off his shirt as if to say, "All right, you wankers in the audience who have only come for my muscles, here they are. Shut up and dream about these for the rest of the movie.")
Yes, I am contractually obligated
 to flash these...
Before one of the big robot smash-ups, Jackman tells his son, "This ain't no video game, this is for real!" Sorry, Hugh, but I beg to differ. Aside from being one long commercial for Dr. Pepper, Sprint (the Now Network!) and especially Hewlett-Packard, the movie plays like the best preview ever of a video game coming soon to a console near you.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Conversational Hedgehog

Where the hell have I been? Yes, you poor, poor faithful Readers, the Forsaken wandering in the blogospheric wilderness, crying out for my literary manna. Wondering: what exactly is going on in my fast-paced, constantly-evolving, ever-fascinating life? What's fabulous events have transpired, what earth-shattering, cataclysmic revelations have yielded themselves up in my world? What's been up with me?

Oh, nothing much. How about you?

This is highly problematic for me, the recitation of the minutae of one's life. Especially in actual conversation. Some people do it effortlessly, spilling forth each day's events, complete with witty anecdotes and harrowing twists, and always their internal navigation system firmly fixing them in the middle of their narrative. It serves them well at cocktail parties and casting sessions. Me, I usually operate in Stealth Move, absorbing and then refracting questions away from myself, bouncing the attention back to the observer and rendering myself invisible. Whether this is due to insecurity or  self-preservation I'm not sure, but over the years it's become reflexive. I'm the conversational hedgehog, repelling all attempts to gain entry.This is perhaps not the best trait to have when you're in the entertainment industry. Or blogging.

But enough about me. What's going on with you?

No, no, no, things have been happening. Two weeks of dealing with a rather harrowing personal crisis (another's, not mine) and the fallout from that. A sudden influx of home voiceover auditions (my home recording studio finally coming to the fore) and a couple jobs for computer games—dying in all manner of gruesome and violent ways, three takes each, please. I've been trying to develop a Demon's voice for an audition but unable to make it sound like anything else but Harvey Fierstein with a head cold. Back to school juggling and Benjamin's big 1-0 birthday week celebration. Oh! And a 21st anniversary wedged in there somewhere.

Last weekend I took a trip back to the family manse. My sister Michelle is the head of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, a not-for-profit organization focused on advocacy and medical advances for 
those with Trisomy 21, or Down Syndrome, created by my parents in honor of my beautiful niece Sophia. Every year they have a big benefit called Be Beautiful, Be Yourself, a dinner and auction culminating in a  fashion show, complete with some of the DS kids doing their own unique struts down the runway. It's all quite informative, and inspirational. This year featured many Denver sports luminaries (none of which I had ever heard of, unsurprisingly), a bevy of flat-abbed cheerleaders, Quincy Jones and the very eloquent John McGinley, who gave a rousing, heart-felt speech about his son. Colorado Guv Hickenlooper stopped by to introduce my father. The event ended with Jamie Foxx singing to his sister Deondra and challenging her to a dance-off. She won. It was a towering event, and while my introverted nature usually makes me assume the fetal position in the face of public outings such as this (Crowds? Ties? Chit-chat?) it was good to see my sister's handiwork (two margaritas and the constant circling of auction tables also helps). Michelle, who obviously does not suffer from my social dysfunctions, must have the blood of Valkyries coursing through her veins to be able to pull off such a gargantuan evening. Kudos to her.

On the writing front, I'm still plugging away, looking for representation for my novel. I've had some further enquiries from a few discriminating agents. Best news? After a somewhat worrisome drought, I've plunged into writing again. Well, perhaps not plunging, but I'm wading in resolutely anyway. From having no ideas for a follow-up to This is How It Begins, I've now got visions of three new projects, two of them involving canines, for some reason. We'll see how it goes.

That's enough, isn't it? May I curl into a ball now? Thanks.