Monday, March 22, 2010

TJ on Twitter

Thos_Jefferson: No, I dare say he's not. RT @TylerFlorence Sure its great to have the government so involved in my life . Thomas Jefferson is weeping today.
Thos_Jefferson: Fake Thomas Jefferson quotes are filling up the Twitterverse today. Check those about which you're unsure at
CmdrSue: @Thos_Jefferson you tell him, TJ! Need me to bite any of them? (Yes, I am your lapdog.)
Thos_Jefferson: @cmdrsue I prefer to consider you, my friend, not as a lapdog but a fellow warrior in the twilight struggle to defend the spirit of '76.
Thos_Jefferson: @cmdrsue That being said, the answer is yes. And you can start by taking a snap @glennbeck. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fresh Voices: Interview with Quinn Katherman

"we do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit." - E.E. Cummings

Welcome to the fifth edition of Fresh Voices. We are delighted to share with you the spunky voice of Quinn Katherman.

1. What is your ultimate writing goal?

Whenever I hear the word “goal” I think of soccer. I hate soccer, all that running up and down the field while kicking a ball—what’s the point? To get the ball past the goalie and score? Stupid.

I don’t like keeping score when it comes to my writing.

My only goal is to write. Write and write and write some more. Every day.

2. Why do you write?

Well since my modeling career never took off, American Idol rejected me, and then Steve Jobs beat me to the punch on the innovative technology front, I just decided it was time to settle for something that would put food on the table. Let’s just say if wealth were measured in Ramen Noodles, I’d be rich.

Writing is an escape for me, I write to be free from the claustrophobia of daily routines. My passion for writing comes from knowing what it feels like to read a book or story and find bits of yourself on every page, as if the author wrote the book for you. I like making people laugh and that’s what I try to focus on in my writing because I want to break the perception that female writers aren’t funny by encouraging other women to exercise their funny bones.

3. Your writing is quirky and fun. Have you worked to achieve that voice or is it just a natural style for you?

Oh, stop! I’m blushing! But yes, it’s true, I am naturally this hilarious and amazing, or “quirky and fun”—whatever you want to call it. (Good thing I’m also humble.)

As a greeting card writer, I spend most of my days writing fart jokes and birthday puns, which inevitably contribute to my voice. I also come from a crazy family that I love, but things haven’t always been easy. I have found that humor fills emotional voids like concrete, whereas ice cream tends to melt (of course, ice cream is still my food of choice whenever I decide to eat my feelings rather than write them).

I’m still developing my voice; I like to think of it as being in the training bra phase. Good writing requires a debilitating amount of honesty and a level of self-awareness you can’t escape. These things take a lifetime to develop and I think the most powerful voices out there are the ones that never stop evolving.

4. Who are your favorite authors and why do you like them?

I like sentence writers. As you read their work each sentence makes you pause and marvel at the sheer genius of the composition, the artistic combination of words that couldn’t be placed in any other order and retain the same meaning. I had a teacher who called it “pondering the physicality of words,” which makes it sound like word porn and I’m totally into that.

Listing all of my favorite authors is nearly impossible, so I will narrow it down for the sake of my attention span, or lack thereof: Sam Lipsyte, Gary Lutz, Virginia Woolf, George Saunders, Sylvia Plath, Amy Hempel, Deb Olin Unferth.

5. What most attracts you to the life of a writer?

Absolutely nothing. Do you think I’m a sadist? There’s nothing attractive about the life of a writer, unless you excel at self-loathing, lying and already hate almost everything, which I do. I think the best part about being a writer is knowing that as long as you have a pen and paper, you can survive. It’s tangible, portable, physical and emotional.

6. If you couldn't be a writer but knew you were guaranteed success at a different career, what would you choose?

A ninja.

No, wait—a unicorn!

NO! A gourmet chef…

Ugh, never mind. Do you have one of those career aptitude tests I can take?

7. If you had to describe your writing in one word, what would that word be?

I’m going to oversell myself here and call it “trenchant.”

8. What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?

The one phrase that always comes to mind first is, “writers write.” It seems obvious, until you’re a writer that’s not writing.

I had another professor who was also an accomplished writer, and after class he used to say, “Well, it’s time for me to get back to my people,” referring to his characters in a story he was working on. Now when I write fiction, I strive to create the kind of characters that I want to come back to, characters that need me to finish their story so badly that leaving them alone for too long makes me feel guilty—I want my characters to be strong enough to make me miss them.

Quinn Katherman is a greeting card writer for American Greetings and lives in Kansas City. She is from Richmond, Virginia and attended The University of Kansas where she received a BA in Creative Writing and a BA in Communication Studies. Quinn has a blog, which you can find here, or you can get the condensed version by following her on Twitter or subscribing to her feed. Writing in third person makes Quinn uncomfortable, but she generally likes anything that makes her sound important. Quinn also likes unicorns, eating other people’s food (especially if it comes with a note that says “Do Not Eat”), the smell of new office supplies and drinking beer outside because that makes her feel outdoorsy.
Thank you for reading this edition of Fresh Voices. Feel free to follow the Fresh Voices list on Twitter or nominate yourself or another author as a Fresh Voice

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Introducing The Two O'Clock Zone

A big thanks to Jeph Jacques, who went from good to great and demonstrated that there's nothing to it but to do it. Hopefully it means that if I keep at it I will begin to Suck Less.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fresh Voices: Interview with Kristy Colley

"we do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit." - E.E. Cummings

Welcome to the fourth edition of Fresh Voices. We are delighted to share with you the vibrant voice of Kristy Colley.
1. What is your ultimate writing goal?
    I’ve always had this picture of Future Kristy (she’s cuter, by the way), sitting in her writing room, looking out the large glass windows into the forest, and spending day after day creating stories. I make small goals to help me achieve this vision (such as promising the Universe I’ll dye a strip of hair purple in July if I get an agent), but I wouldn’t say there is one Holy Grail of writing I’d like to find. I want that room, that freedom, those floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.
   Simple put? I want to write novels full time. I think it’s safe to say that becoming a published author is in that mix somewhere.
   I read Laurie Halse Anderson’s blog often, follow her Twitter and Facebook feeds, and think, “I want to be the mad woman in the forest!” I want to get excited about Skyping with a class in Ohio or Tennessee or New Mexico about my book. I want to know I am opening imaginations, letting people ask questions, and letting them feel things they haven’t before. So, apparently, I want to be Laurie Halse Anderson. Who knew?

2. Why do you write?
   As much as I always loved to read, writing makes sense as a hobby and profession for me. I love books, but I never confined myself to stories already told. In addition, I find myself like many writers: hearing voices in my head. (Good thing my husband is experienced working with mentally ill adults…) I think much like an artist feels compulsion to decorate a blank canvas, I have the compulsion to fill an empty page.
   I’ve always been “inside my head.” I spend a lot of time there. While I’m okay in crowds, a good public speaker, etc., I’m introverted by nature. And because I spend so much time up there (er, in my head, I mean, not the clouds), stories matriculate naturally. Some people might walk past something mundane and never think of it again. I find it fun to create entire stories and probabilities around them. In fact, I once wrote an entire story about a door. And you know what? It was pretty awesome! And I’m a fan of awesome.

3. Your writing is very witty. Have you worked to achieve that voice or is it just a natural style for you?
   I think it’s funny you use the word ‘witty’. It’s almost been my trademark. Most of my stories probably aren’t so different, they’re only told differently. By nature, I use humor as a shield. If you met my dad you would understand. (Although my mom is a bit of a question mark, too).
   I think when I first began writing, I wanted to be taken seriously, and that certainly translated into my writing. It was too stiff. Once I gave myself permission to have more fun, the writing wasn’t as stilted, and the characters blossomed in my mind. I don’t believe it was something I had to work toward so much as something I have to remember to allow.

4. Who are your favorite authors and why do you like them?
   I love talking about other authors!
   As I stated before, I’m a huge proponent of Laurie Halse Anderson. I have honestly had dreams about meeting this woman. In one dream, she was even my mother. (Think that’s weird? Tip of the iceberg…) Not only do I admire her beautiful writing, but I admire her as a person. I love that she tackles these big issues in her books. They are relatable, touching, and stick with you days after. They’re the kind of books you have to run around asking if anyone else has read them because you must discuss! And as I said before, if you read her blog, you feel as though you get to know her. She’s always kind, even on politics and the multiple attacks against her books in schools, and very fair-minded. I respect her more than any author I’ve read or personally know
   The first book of Maureen Johnson’s I ever read was Devilish. Now, if you’ve read it, you know the MC, Jane, is a fantastic protagonist. I think reading her was the first thing that made me realize that it’s okay to give more humor to my writing. That it was often more fun to have a witty MC than to have a respected one. And they even sometimes go together.
   In addition to this, I love many YA authors – Carrie Ryan, whose prose is so elegant it’s easy to forget she’s writing about zombies, or Suzanne Collins, who is so alluring and chilling, even in the same passage. But I can’t forget Jane Austen. Is that cliché? Oh well, cast me in with the lot of them. I’m an Austen fan. Persuasion makes me swoon, and Pride and Prejudice feeds my need to read. (Clearly I’m not a poet. You can thank me later.)

5. What most attracts you to the life of a writer?
   I know many authors don’t like the business side of things, but I’m the opposite. In fact, sometimes I daydream about being an agent. *GASP* I’m also a masochist.
   Not only do I love creating these worlds and people and problems and solutions, falalala, but I love making it more than flowery words and daydreams of cupcakes. I want to make my stories the best they can be, sleepless nights and all. And again, I want that room with the glass windows. I’m not afraid of hard work, but I sure do hope it makes me happy when I do it.

6. If you couldn't be a writer but knew you were guaranteed success at a different career, what would you choose?
   I’d keep it all in the family. I’d still make my way in the world of literature. If I couldn’t be a writer, I think I’d want to make that dream come true for others. As I’ve always loved the editing side of things, I could see myself hopping on one of two trains (both fast moving): The Agent Train, or The Editor Train. The real question is: If Agent Train leaves Submissions platform and 8:03 going 49 mph and…okay never mind. I don’t like math.

7. If you had to describe your writing in one word, what would that word be?
   Yowza. No, that’s not my word. Just…an exclamation of having to make this decision. 
   Perhaps that word would be Honest. No matter what I’m writing, I want it to be authentic. I want those secondary characters to pop in your mind like you’ve seen them before, you just know it. I want that protagonist to have a face and motive so clear, you’d think she was stalking you while you read. I want my villain to be so possible in real life that it gives you shivers down your legs. Most importantly, I want the message to feel real. There’s nothing worse than having a great story, great premise, and destroying it with dialogue and relationships and emotions that just don’t fit. I don’t want anyone to fault me for writing an unbelievable character. Even if what I’m writing is crap, at least it’ll be really honest crap.

8. What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?
   I’ve received so much writing advice that I think I hear the little synapses of my brain screaming at me to stop. Much of it’s helpful, but they’re just weaves in a tapestry. There are volumes out there filled with excellent writing advice, and much of it is good.
   Not to sound arrogant (although I’m sure I will), but what helps me most is myself. If something isn’t working, doesn’t feel right, sound right, or is plain confusing…I give it time. I try to trust myself. There are days when I want to throw in the towel and say to my manuscript, “Forget it! I’m the only one committed to this relationship!” There are days when I lust after other manuscripts and wonder why mine isn’t as awesome as that. The fact is that I let myself experience these things. If you try to push away the natural feelings that come with writing, they will get worse. This isn’t to say that I don’t wallow or complain. Ask Jen Stayrook. She’s one of my best friends and a critique partner, so there’s a whole lot of honesty going on there. But the fears and insecurities and worries will pass. Trust yourself as a writer. I try to let myself experiment, fail, and succeed in my writing. It’s okay to take risks and come out with a piece of junk. It gets better. If you keep at it.

About Kristy:

I grew up in a tiny town in rural Missouri, and I think I’ll probably always be that Midwest girl deep down. I’ll always want to dig my feet in the mud and walk around barefoot and pick apples in September. I’ve lived in Utah for about six years with a short stint in England. Oh, my husband is one of those Hot British Men that Stephanie Perkins is always talking about.

As stated earlier, I’m a huge fan of anything awesome, and Sue London is certainly in that category. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, or on my blog. At my blog, I aim to please, so if I’m not on target, please adjust your target. (I also have a wonky sense of humor).

Feel free to check out my current work in progress, a YA high fantasy called SINNERS. A rough Chapter One is posted, along with a description, and links to other novels in, around, or under my belt.
Thank you for reading this edition of Fresh Voices. Feel free to follow the Fresh Voices list on Twitter or nominate yourself or another author as a Fresh Voice

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fresh Voices: Interview with Jen "The Amazing" Stayrook

"we do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit." - E.E. Cummings

Welcome to the third edition of Fresh Voices. We are delighted to share with you the passionate voice of Jen Stayrook.
1. What is your ultimate writing goal?

I'd love to respond with something profound and say that I enjoy the feel of writing, I write because I can and I don't care if I never get published, blah blah something intellectual blah blah world peace...but I can't. That's not me.

Don't get me wrong, I love writing, but when I first started writing I thought if I said I wanted to get published, it made me seem like less of a writer. I thought it meant I wasn't in it for the act of writing and I only wanted to be famous or make money. (Which less face it, that's not true.) But if I'm being honest with myself, I DO want to be published, despite all those negative feelings I harbored for the thought. I shouldn't be ashamed to want to be published. No writer should. I want to see my name in print. I want people to read my work and enjoy it. I want to write everyday for the rest of my life and then write some more, from the grave. (If that doesn't hit the bestseller lists, I don't know what will!)

It's hard to say what my goals may be in the future as they change so often for me. Right now, my goal is finish my novel. Getting published would be the best thing, but I'm sure later on down the line I would want to win awards and sell so many books, etc etc. But for right now, I'll settle on my ultimate writing goal as finishing and publishing 5 books. That's a nice lofty goal.

2. Why do you write?

Writing has been the only constant in my life, but we have a Ross and Rachel kind of relationship. I even cheated on writing several times while we were on a break. But when I shunned my writing, cast it aside because I thought it wasn't good enough, it was still there when I came back 4 years later. Then I got knocked up with my writing love novel. (These Friends references doing anything for you?)

I thought I couldn't have a future with writing, but now I realize that isn't the least bit true.

I write now because if I didn't I think I would go clinically insane. But I suppose writers are part of the insane, aren't we? We hear voices of "characters" in our heads. We listen to them, write them down. Sometimes we give into their whims and other times we fight back with the argument that it is best for the story. We love our characters and our stories like they are our children. I think that has a hint of crazy to it. If I didn't write, the characters in my head would literally drive me to insanity. It's an urge, an instinct for me to write. I have to have some sort of creative outlet for my brain, be it writing, drawing, playing the piano, anything, and if I don't I'm absolutely miserable mentally. If I don't write, it really starts to affect my health. True story.

I write because of the way I feel when I read a really good book. And that's what I want to give someone with my writing. Books have changed my life and if I can write something that really touches a person, that really relates to the core of who they are, then I think I'm pretty damn satisfied with myself.

3. Your writing is what I would describe as "brainy and passionate." Have you worked to achieve that voice or is it just a natural style for you?

I'm not quite sure anyone has used those two words in the context of my writing before, but thank you! I'm an incredibly romantic person, but I can't say that I have really worked to achieve this voice. It's just who I am. Despite the funny exterior, those who know me really well, know that I am much more quiet and gentle than I let on. I try to see the beauty in everything. My writing is just a byproduct of that outlook on life.

I didn't have the best upbringing, so when I was free to do as I pleased, I felt like I needed to make the best of things. Why hold back? That same thought process is used for my writing. Why hide the things we really feel, especially if we know it's how others must be feeling as well? The best writing, I think, is the kind that speaks to a reader's heart.

I know this is all a very roundabout way to answer the question. I haven't tried to perfect the voice. I let it come to me. Oddly enough, I think I find my influence not in writing but in other arts, mostly music. I think that music can create such emotions in a person that you have no choice but to act as it dictates to you. When I want to write a particularly emotional scene, I choose my music accordingly. The same goes for dark scenes, scary scenes, happy scenes, etc.

But more importantly, when it comes to finding a voice, I think it's best to write what you want to read. Don't worry about what is popular, or what other writers are doing. Do what comes natural.

4. Who are your favorite authors and why do you like them?

I don't really like the term "favorite" because I have so many authors that I like to read. "I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the heavens." Instead I think I'll list off a few of the more influential authors and what qualities make me enjoy them as a reader.

Jane Austen is a classic for me and I always have to use her as an influence for my writing. I mean come on, the woman who brought Darcy and Elizabeth to life deserves a big shout out in my book. But if I'm being honest, it was Pearl S. Buck that got me into reading. The Good Earth truly changed my perspective on what a good book could be, what it could do for a person. I admire JK Rowling for the ease of her writing. It's natural and real. The same goes for Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games trilogy. There's a beauty in the darkness of her writing. She's not afraid to show all. Even if it makes you cringe. Susan Kay, author of Phantom, wrote the first book I literally could not put down. It was the first time I finished a 500 page book in under 12 hours. If I had to pick an author to imitate, she would be it. Even Shakespeare has given me a taste for the romantic and dramatic side of things. Gregory Maguire has a fantastic mind. He can shape well-known stories and fairy tales and warp them into something more real. Well, that and he gave the world Wicked the musical.

I think everything that I have read comes into play for me as a writer. For all writers really. Even if it's a book I hated, it has still influenced how I write. It teaches me to recognize certain styles that maybe aren't as effective for what I need to best present my story.

I also like authors who can create memorable minor characters. I think the plot is driven by the characters with the cameos and if an author is great at incorporating them into the story, it makes the book significantly better, more well-rounded.

I love writers who are able to make me believe what I am reading; writers with conviction. Paulo Coehlo is an incredibly simple writer, but it's so beautiful that it's hard not to fall in love with every word. The Alchemist was actually book that changed my outlook on writing. I attribute reading it to my change in heart about writing novels. When I put the book down, an easy two days after I started reading it, I decided at that moment, I wanted to pursue being a writer.

5. What most attracts you to the life of a writer?

Changing people. Helping people. Building characters that you can see with your eyes and worlds that are full of magic and truth. I love it all. Really great books leave impressions on you that last a lifetime. Sometimes they can dictate how you feel about things, how you act, even if you don't know it. The chances of becoming a successful writer are slim. Despite my romantic ideals, I am realistic enough to know how tough the industry can be. But I'm okay with that. I'm okay with struggling to get by as long as I know I'm doing something I love. That's what pulls me in. I'm sure that with my educational background I could have a decent career and not have to worry about money. But of the options available to me, I would prefer to do the thing I love.

A year into my MA program, I sat down and tried to decide what I wanted to do with my life. I tried to imagine what I would be doing in 10 years. None of the jobs I envisioned would have made me happy. Writing is the only thing I can see myself doing for the rest of my life and because of that, it was really the only choice.

Being able to do something you love is a gift, so that is what attracts me to writing. It's not easy. Actually, I don't mind the writing process at all. It's time consuming. It's mentally exhausting. And sure, editing my novel right now isn't the most fun I've ever had with a red pen, but that pales in comparison to the horrified looks I get from people when I tell them I want to be a writer. But I just use that as motivation for writing more, writing better.

By the way, I'm also a psychic, that's how I know these things about the future and magic...

6. If you couldn't be a writer but knew you were guaranteed success at a different career, what would you choose?

This is actually a really tough question for me because as many of my friends can tell you, my interests are extremely varied. Part of me wants to choose music as an option because I adore playing the piano and if I knew I'd be good at it, I'd love to play a piece of music that gives a listener chills. You know, playing one of those fantastic key changes that Hans Zimmer does so well. Actually, despite my earlier bit about varied interests, I think I'm just going to choose playing the piano professionally. I thought about rambling on about art and graphic design but I've changed my mind, playing piano it is. Quick! Someone call James Horner and see if he needs a piano player for his next soundtrack!

7. If you had to describe your writing in one word, what would that word be?

I think you've already chosen the word I would have used: Passionate. I write with my heart. There's really no other way for me.

8. What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?

While I do agree that "write what you know" is probably the best advice ever given for writing (and "write what you want to read" is up there as well), there's another piece of advice that MADE me write.

"If you wake up in the morning, and you can't think anything but writing, then you should be a writer."

Okay okay, I think the real quote is from Sister Act 2 and it refers to singing, but still! It's a good piece of advice. It's how I knew I wanted to be writer. How I knew I COULD be a writer. I still wake up each morning with two thoughts in my head: "What can I write about today?" and "I need coffee."

Push all those rules aside about writing and just write. If you want to be a writer, then be a damn writer. Don't let anyone's pessimism get in your way.

About Jen:
I'm in my final year of graduate school, getting my MA in Art History at American University. I currently reside in Washington, DC and loathe traveling around the city. I'm a professional daydreamer and lover of all things chocolate. I enjoy violent video games in the wee hours of the night and cuddling on the couch with my husband and dog while watching sappy movies.

You can check out my blog at Feel free to also follow me on Twitter: @JentheAmazing. For a sample of my writing you can read a scene from Spring of Innocents here:
Thank you for reading this edition of Fresh Voices. Feel free to follow the Fresh Voices list on Twitter or nominate yourself or another author as a Fresh Voice.  

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Golden Spiral by Lisa Mangum

To turn about the Dorothy Parker quote: There are some sequels that are not to be looked forward to, but to be yearned with great force. For me, that's the kind of yearning that has accompanied waiting for Lisa Mangum's new book The Golden Spiral (hitting the shelves May 10). Lisa is a member of what I call the New YA-YA Sisterhood, the league of young adult (YA) writers that have flooded the market since Stephenie Meyer's success.

As with all things, the results of the New YA-YA Sisterhood are mixed: some are good and some are bad. But in my book Lisa is excellent. If you haven't read her first book, The Hourglass Door, then get to it. You can read Chapter One online here. Scooper did a good review of The Hourglass Door last March and points out that the start may seem a little slow but that all of the information is important for the story. (However, if you're like me and read works from all centuries then the easy rhythm of the opening won't bother you.)

It's hard to talk about The Hourglass Door without giving away something that it is more fun to discover for yourself when reading it, so I won't go into the details. In some ways it's the typical teen story: girl is angsty, girl meets boy, boy has issues, girl and boy grow closer together while facing the challenges of the story. Oh, and there's a band, like at the Brass on Buffy. But the characters are engaging and there are enough unique plot twists to keep you on the edge of your seat.

It doesn't look like Lisa has been updating her websites lately other than Facebook (deadlines??) but when she gets back to them you can see her at:

Irish American Heritage Center

It's time to continue the celebration of March being Irish-American Heritage/History Month! Even though I grew up in the Deep South people have often told me that I sound like I'm from Chicago and I've found that one of the cool things about Chicago is that they have the Irish American Heritage Center.
The Center boasts a 658-seat theatre, library, museum, art gallery, authentic Irish pub, dance practice studios, meeting rooms and banquet rooms for parties. The building is wheelchair-accessible.  We provide a broad selection of quality educational programs in traditional Irish music, dance, theatre, film, literature, language, Irish customs and more.
 So the next time you are in the Windy City go by the Center and raise a pint down at the pub, dance a few jigs, and generally have a grand old time celebrating the Irish-American heritage for me.

Cue the Commander in Chief Music

You Are President of the US

You are a determined, strong person. You want to lead the whole country in the right direction.

You reach for the top and never look back. You believe that you were born to achieve great things.

Unlike most people, you are rarely plagued by self doubt. You know what needs to be done, and you like to make tough decisions.

You feel like someone needs to step up and take responsibility. And it may as well be you!


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hello? Is This Bob Newhart?

"The only difference between Bob Newhart on stage and Bob Newhart offstage – is that there is no stage." ~ David Hyde Pierce

To continue the "March is Irish American History Month" theme we looked up the Wiki page of Irish-American comedians figuring there would be more than a few of the silver-tongued devils to feature here. The one that immediately leapt off the page was 1961 Grammy-award winner for Best Comedy Performance, Best New Artist, and Album of the Year: Bob Newhart.

In case the title to this post didn't strike you as funny we'll do a little history on Bob's humor. (You don't mind if we call you Bob, do you Mr. Newhart? No, no we didn't think so.) He has built a fifty year career on being a straight man... even when there was no one else there for him to be the foil against. They always say that it's really the straight man of the two who is actually the funnier one ("they" includes people like Jerry Lewis talking about Dean Martin). That being said, Bob Newhart is apparently SO funny that the other half of his comedy team is just the absurdity of the world at large. In his early work he played out this "solo straight man" by using the simple prop of a telephone where he would carry on one-sided conversations. You may remember that this style worked its way into both The Bob Newhart Show (1972-78, Emmy-nominated)  and Newhart (1982-90, Emmy-nominated), but wasn't as out of context on sitcoms as watching one-sided phone calls being performed by a comedian on a stage.

So what's Bob been up to lately? You might have noticed that he played Will Farrell's adoptive elf father in Elf (2003) and that he's also playing Judson in the Librarian series of TV movies (2004-). Check out the Bob Newhart page at Stuff That Gets Stuck in Our Store.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Back in Time Reviews: Thunderheart (1992)

Certainly you have some movies in your life that are "those movies." You know, the ones that you return to time and again because they hit the sweet spot where they both resonate with you as well as being identified with a particular time in your life. For us Thunderheart is on that list.

Set against a sweeping background of the South Dakota badlands and the questionable federal involvement in Native American communities, the story is really about FBI Agent Ray Levoi (Val Kilmer) coming to terms with himself. He just happens to do it in the middle of a very complex mystery where death is on the line and with Native officer Crow Horse (Graham Greene) snapping at his heels while providing snarky commentary. Although the writer John Fusco doesn't have the Native cred of, say, Sherman Alexie (Smoke Signals) he does an honest day's work of researching and writing about a controversial subject. (And technically with his Italian heritage Fusco is at least as Native American as the "Keep America Beautiful" actor.)

The Commander's Rating: Four out of five Vulcan salutes.
Pros: Graham Greene, Sheila Tousey, and the good-looking version of Val Kilmer. Sam Shepard does a great job, too.
Cons: The plot does some harsh things to likable characters. And you'll spend the rest of your life wondering why the talented Sheila Tousey (Maggie Eagle Bear) didn't get more leading roles.
Recommendation: A great flick for a casual evening at home with loved ones and a bowl of popcorn. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll wonder about the truth of the underlying plot. (AFTER you watch the movie come back and check out the guy who plays Jimmy Looks-Twice, the real ARM, and what happened in South Dakota.)

March is Irish-American Heritage Month!

Wash up the taters and steam up the cabbage, March is Irish-American Heritage Month! And if you don't know how proud Sue London is of her Irish Heritage that you just haven't been paying attention.

The family story goes that five Irish brothers landed in New York. There was a bar fight and two of the brothers were put on a train going West by the authorities. My family sprouts from one of those brothers.

Tell us your Irish-American story in the comments!