Monday, August 29, 2005

Be Back Soon

As writing/editing/deadline woes mount, I've decided to take a short break and simply...FOCUS. Clearly, as you already know, these things neither write nor do themselves, therefore, it's pedal-to-the-metal, butt-to-the-chair, and any other cliche that seems appropriate in order to get it all done.

And while I'm gone, I'll be doing lots of listening to a fantastic new CD called Amici Defined. Ever heard of an opera "band" ? Well, this is it, and far from being the oxymoron it appears, this is a group of formally trained classical voices that have come together to put forth a "contemporary" sound like no other I've heard. So do give them a listen, and I'm sure you'll be equally as surprised -- as well as glad you did.

Catch up with you again here soon. Peace.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Forbidden Video?

Beth Holloway Twitty talks with
Aruban prime minister Nelson Oduber

An interesting development in the Natalee Holloway case, the Birmingham, Alabama teen who has been missing on the island of Aruba since May 30, and would have started her first semester of college here in the US this past week. According to CNN's Nancy Grace broadcast last night (see: Transcripts), an NBC camera crew was able to gain access inside the Aruban jail and reportedly made verbal contact with 17-year-old Joren Van Der Sloot, who is being held as the prime suspect in the case. As a result of this, an Aruban judge is now threatening the NBC network here in the US with heavy financial sanctions if they air this video, which allegedly shows Van Der Sloot laid back in a carefree pose, feet up, and reading a paperback novel while police are still out hunting for clues in Holloway's disappearance.

And of course, my 3 top questions regarding this unsolved mystery that has been going on for seemingly FAR too long are:

1. Can this judge actually impose such sanctions against NBC or any other US TV network for showing whatever the HELL they like regarding this case, that has obviously been botched by the Aruban authorities since Day 1?

2. What could possibly be on this video that Van Der Sloot or those connected with him -- have to hide?

3. As much as I loved the island of Aruba when I visited there back in the 90s, when are we as Americans going to stop our flow of "tourism" dollars from going there -- until this unfortunate mystery is solved?

I'm sure that Beth Holloway Twitty, the mother of this young woman who disappeared without a trace almost 3 months ago, as well as the rest of the Holloway family would LOVE to know the answer to the latter.

Have a safe weekend, all. And while we're at it -- let's not forget to hug our children, both big and small.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Quills

WNBC's Jane Hanson

The nominees are in for the new Quill Awards, which celebrates excellence in literature in categories such as Book Of The Year to Best Debut Author. The reading public also gets to cast their vote for these awards that will be broadcast on NBC on October 22, 2005 (check local listings for exact times).

You can also catch the interview in which Gerry Byrne, the founder and chairman of The Quill Awards discusses its origins with news anchor Jane Hanson of WNBC in New York.

My personal pick for this year? The Mermaid's Chair by Sue Monk Kidd.

In any case, good luck to all the nominees, and a big thanks to the Quills and those behind it, who have made celebrating the "written word" an event.

Good Thursday, all. Peace.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Listening Skills

Okay, just when we thought we'd heard it all when it came to the whole, "Men are from Mars, women are from..."

Anyway, as to the age-old question we ladies sometimes ask when we sit across the dinner table at night from our beloveds, chattering away about how our day was, who got on our last nerves at work, perhaps we need new carpeting, did he think that outfit we wore to that wedding last week made us look fat, blabba, blabba, blabba (which I'm told the latter is actually how it sounds to our "hims" at times), and wondering whether or not he's actually listening -- the answer is yes. Well, er...let's just say, "partially" according to this recently reprinted article from WebMD: Why Men Don't Listen...Or, With Half A Brain... Sorta

And yes, I mentioned this article to my "him" this morning -- who told me up front that he really wasn't interested and therefore: "didn't want to hear it."

Hey, at least he was honest about it -- in a full-brained sort of way. :)

Make it a good Tuesday, all. Peace.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A Sad Ending

No doubt, in addition to the family of 24-year-old La Toyia Figueroa, the pregnant West Philadelphia mother missing since last month whose remains were recovered there in a vacant lot on Saturday, many others will be watching the developments of this unfortunate discovery by police as well.

Ms. Figueroa's unborn child who died along with her, and the now motherless little 7-year-old daughter she leaves behind here on earth certainly deserve this much. So hopefully, the news coverage in the aftermath of this tragedy, which finds her boyfriend and father of her unborn child now in police custody, will be as accessible in this case as it is in many others of its kind, and justice, whatever it happens to be in this particular story, will once again –- be served.

My sincerest condolences to the Figueroa family in this awful time of grief.

Indeed, sometimes the ones we love just leave us FAR too young.

Good Monday, all. Peace.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Gas Relief

After pulling up at a local gas pump this morning and filling my tank at $2.79 for regular gasoline, needless to say, it does *not* make me a happy camper to hear that the same regular gasoline in Iraq sets drivers back an average of...five cents. No, that's right, I didn't say five dollars, I said, five CENTS.

This, while regular gas prices remains in the high two dollar figures here in the US, and in some areas now even upwards of three dollars. And of course, across the pond the Brits are also certainly feeling the pinch at approximately $6.24. According to various reports, Iraqis also pay much less for a gallon of regular gasoline than in nearby countries such as Iran (38 cents), Jordan ($1.89) and Syria ($1.74). And, no doubt, to the extent where some Iraquis are now selling their cheaper gas to their Middle Eastern neighbors on the black market. But, er...that would be yet another story, wouldn't it?

Anyway, switching gears on the home front, I'm very proud to share the recent press releases of two of my good friends in the writing life.

Michelle Miles is a thoughtful and talented author at Keep It Coming, an online venue dedicated to serialized fiction. She's clearly a name to remember, as I do believe you'll be hearing her name in the book world in the very near future. She certainly possesses the talent to make it a strong possibility.

Devon Ellington is another Keep It Coming author, the author of a new novella titled, Elusive Prayers -- and a one-woman "writing marvel." She has, and still continues, to churn out NUMEROUS writing projects, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as being a champion for writing as exemplified by her continued efforts in "networking" with others. Trust me, Devon, or the "Devster" as I sometimes call her, will never hesitate in shooting another writer an email to say, "Hey, I just saw that there's a call for this kind of writing at this particular magazine...and I immediately thought about you." And, you can also catch Devon's keen perspectives on the subjects of horse racing (this woman KNOWS her horses!) and hockey at Femmefan, one of my favorite sites for the "female sports junkie."

So congrats to both Michelle and Devon on their accomplishments, and do keep it coming, girlfriends!

Okay, that's it and I'm out. Have a great weekend, all. Peace.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Rotten Apples

Think $50 for a used Apple ibook laptop sounds like a bargain? Well, not according to some folks in Richmond, Virginia who literally camped out for this alleged hot deal being offered by the Henrico County school system. Many showed up with folding chairs for the camp out, which subsequently turned into a screaming melee where they were stomped, kicked, punched, and assaulted with the folding chairs of other bargain hunters waiting in line, some having to be taken to local hospital emergency.

My God, these laptops were FOUR years old, and seemingly, hardly worth the "bodily injuries" that have now been sustained. After all...what else would you be getting at a near giveaway price of $50??

"I took my chair here and I threw it over my shoulder and I went, 'Bam,'" a 20-year-old said nonchalantly. "They were getting in front of me and I was there a lot earlier than them, so I thought that it was just."

My take? Sometimes, paying full price -- just makes far more sense.


Good Wednesday, all. Peace.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Claire Loses It...and Nails It

Lauren Ambrose

Clearly, after opening every door possible to stretch this series to its broadest potential as stated in an interview by the show's producer, HBO's Six Feet Under will be saying so long next week in a 75-minute finale, after its successful 4-year run. And truly, after this, I'm sure several of its talented cast members will be going on to even greater heights, and one of them has got to be Lauren Ambrose, who played the role of Claire Fisher.

So far, if there ever has been an Emmy award-winning performance for this 2005 television season, I think Ambrose totally captured it last night in her performance as drunk and out of control in the aftermath of her brother Nate's death. Hands down, it was an outstanding display of character "realistics" by this young, red-haired fireball of an actress with no other words to describe it. I'll also give props once again to the stellar writing staff of this show, for the unexpected dream sequence that flirted heavily with the subject of incest between a very pregnant Brenda, played by Rachel Griffiths and her brother, Billy, played excellently by Jeremy Sisto.

For me, after opening these various and numerous "doors" within the past four seasons, Six Feet remains as one of those neatly prepared series packages that have tucked and tied all its loose ends beforehand -- and never once failed to bring to its audience a highly polished presentation. Talk about writers constantly pushing envelopes and taking risks? This show's writers have done it repeatedly in the past four years -- and never ceased to be the clear models for how it should be done.

After this coming Sunday's final episode, you will all be missed.

Well, it's Monday again, gang. And with some heavy-hitting yesterday by "A Rod," Alex Rodriguez, steering the New York Yankees toward a healthy win over the Texas Rangers (final score 10 – 3) this Big Apple week is off to a fairly good start, I'd say. So let's make it a good Monday and an even better week, all. Peace.

Friday, August 12, 2005

As The World Watches

Cindy Sheehan

With rising sentiments now leaning toward a pullout of U.S. troops in Iraq, certainly Cindy Sheehan, the California mother of Cpl. Casey Sheehan has the world's media at her feet regarding her continued protest vigil outside President George W. Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch. Ms. Sheehan, 48, didn't get to see Bush, but did talk about 45 minutes with national security adviser Steve Hadley and deputy White House chief of staff Joe Hagin, who went out to hear her concerns. Appreciative of their attention, yet undaunted, Sheehan said she planned to continue her roadside vigil, except for a few breaks, until she gets to talk to Bush. Her son, Casey, was killed in Sadr City, Iraq, on April 4, 2004. He was an army specialist, a Humvee mechanic. And, with more and more military families arriving at the president's vacation retreat in Crawford (those both for and against Sheehan's protest), while the president himself issued a statement yesterday in which he sympathizes with the families of troops killed in Iraq, but feels a pullout at this time would not be prudent, this will continue to be an *interesting* development to watch.

Well, the weekend is here again, gang. Which for me, translates into lots of writing, editing, and the usual that will pretty much keep my rear attached to the chair and my fingers on the keyboard in order to get it all done. But then again, when writing is what you do, then, uh…well...I'm sure you get the picture.

Have a great late summer weekend at whatever it is you'll be doing in your own neck of the woods. Peace.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

She's The Real Deal

Food Network's Rachael Ray

When you tune in to the Food Network Channel you can see her several times a day, perhaps on her 30-Minute Meals program where she'll instruct you on how to make a full-course dinner and a dessert in a half hour or less. Then later on, you can watch her as she travels to some of the world's most exciting vacation spots on a food budget of under $40 A Day. She's perky, she's funny, she's adorable…and she praises her own cooking, for which she has every right to do so. Her recipes are easy to follow, using ingredients that simply take only one or two syllables to pronounce. In short, Rachael Ray is one of the most down-to-earth and easily likeable chefs (that's right…she most certainly IS a chef) on television today. So why is it, that some other chefs feel that she should be shot for her approaches to showcasing her craft, and others just simply seem to hate her, devoting entire blogs to the effect as pointed out in this Slate Online article back in July?

A person of "experience" when it comes to food, you ask? You better believe Rachael Ray is. She was born into a family of restaurant owners, one of them located in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with her earliest memories being the ones of watching her busy mother at work in the kitchen. Years later, when it was time for her to branch out into her own career, she started at Macy's Marketplace in New York City, first at the candy counter and then as the manager of the fresh foods department. After Macy's, Ray helped to open Agata & Valentina, the prestigious New York gourmet marketplace, where she was the store manager and buyer. Leaving NYC, Rachel moved to the Adirondacks in upstate New York, where she managed pubs and restaurants at the famed Sagamore resort on Lake George, and was then recruited by Cowan & Lobel, a large gourmet market in Albany, to be its food buyer. She turned the job into dual positions as food buyer and chef. As a way to increase grocery sales during the holidays, Rachael began a series of cooking classes.

The "30 Minute Meals" classes became so popular that the local media sent a feature reporter to cover the phenomenon, and the following week, an Albany TV station asked Rachael to do a weekly "30 Minute Meals" segment for the evening news. Nominated for two regional Emmys, the show was a major success: A companion cookbook sold 10,000 copies locally. Rachael's TV work grew to include a series of travel segments following the same theme of living a rich life without having to be wealthy. And of course, today Rachel continues this -- on Food Network's 30 Minute Meals and $40 a Day programs.

So no, Rachael Ray is not some little cutesy bimbetta who just happened to wake up one day and decided to go down to the Food Network Channel and say, "Hey, I wanna do one of those cooking shows, so like, um...can you guys hook me up, or what?" And yes, here again comes the age-old truism which states: Those who can do, will certainly do—while those who can't will certainly do nothing more than criticize.

Think it's that easy to have two cooking showcases (or even one) on the Food Network Channel? I say go and try it. A few months back when the competition for The Next Food Network Star was broadcast, I think we all got a chance to see -- that it's not.

Good Thursday, all. Peace.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The New Rule Book

It's on bookstore shelves now by Bill Maher, one of the hottest intellectually correct comedians and thinkers in our world today, despite the "politically incorrectness" (and previous talk show of the same name) that will probably follow him around for a while (and hopefully -- on his frequent trips these days to the bank). His latest book titled, New Rules: Polite Musings of a Timid Observer being one that I definitely could not put down the entire time I was reading it. No doubt, this one is classic Maher, and at the very top of his game.

In his hit HBO series, Real Time with Bill Maher -- New Rules is the part of the show during which Maher takes serious aim, bringing all of his incisiveness, wit, and signature exasperation into focus on topics ranging from cell phones : "I don't need my cell phone to take pictures or access the Internet. I just need it to make a phone call. From everywhere! Not just the places it likes!" to fast food: "No McDonald's in hospitals. I'm not kidding!" to the conservative agenda: "Stop claiming it's an agenda. It's not an agenda. It's a random collection of laws that your corporate donors paid you to pass."

New Rules: Polite Musings is his latest book since his last NYTimes bestseller, When You Ride ALONE You Ride With Bin Laden, and Maher's astute (and sometimes semi-caustic) humor is ever-present and just as on-target and well-timed as always. And before I go, here's yet another sampling:

New Rule: Someone must stop the Cirque du Soleil. If we hate the French so much, how come we gave them Las Vegas? There are now six Cirque du Soleil-related shows on The Strip. Six! Who wants to spend two hours watching a bunch of French chicks fold themselves in half? You know what? Scratch that. New Rule: We need more Cirque du Soleil!

Spoken as only Bill Maher can say it, America. So do have a look at his new literary offering (and social takes on the changing world around us) if you can. Go Here

More sad news on the journalistic front involving Steven Vincent, the author and reporter assassinated in Iraq last week. Vincent was killed in the line of duty while researching a book about Basra for independent Texas publishing company, Spence Publishing, who had signed with him this spring. The idea was for a book that would examine the history and contemporary chaos in Basra, the Iraqi port town that's become an insurgency flashpoint. It was scheduled for sometime next year, with the manuscript due in their hands by December.

To all who knew him, Steven Vincent was an impassioned and idealistic freelancer who often wrote for conservative publications. He was also well known for his many postings on National Review Online. Spence published Vincent's first book, The Red Zone
a collection of reports from war-torn Iraq (some of which also appeared on the author's blog) last fall, 2004. Spence's editor-in-chief, Mitchell Muncy, said in an interview last week that Vincent was still in the research stages when he was killed and most likely would not have committed enough work to paper. Therefore, the only hope is that the author may have had some notes -- and that they were well stashed away. In any event, I certainly hope so, and my thoughts are with his family at the time of this very tragic loss.

Let's make it a good Tuesday, all, and remember to celebrate life. Peace.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Kid Culture

Rossini's Il Viaggio à Reims at Lincoln Center

Taking preschoolers to a full-length opera, in Italian no less, is an assumed recipe for disaster —- but according to Cyndie Bellen-Berthézène, the young ones can learn the music and story beforehand in a playful environment. And season after season for the past eight years, she’s been proving her theory through a program called, Hi Art!, a series of classes that combine classical music, movement, and fine art, ending in a live, professional performance, often at Lincoln Center. The month of August has already kicked off the series beginning with a little-known Rossini opera, Il Viaggio à Reims, the story of a comical grouping of international guests on their way to a king’s coronation. Kids ages 2 to 12 will spend the morning listening to small doses of the opera and create their own interpretations. Field trips to art galleries are included in the program. When the preschoolers leave at noon, the big kids at Hi Art!’s Chelsea studio embark on a large-scale project related to the opera, be it a giant sculpture, building model stage sets, or designing period costumes. (For inspiration, Bellen-Berthézène lines the white walls of the studio with the works of grown-up artists in need of exposure.) Come September, participants will go to a matinee of Il Viaggio at the New York City Opera, where they’ll also get a backstage tour. “Nothing is dumbed down here,” she says. “We don’t abridge, we don’t make baby versions of things at all.” But is this pushing kids into something they really aren’t ready for? “We are simply allowing kids to do something of a very high quality with the pleasure that they would learn to do everything else. There’s no pressure to become an expert in opera. But after this, you can certainly take your 2-year-old to an opera.”

Hi Art!, is at 601 W. 26th St., near. Eleventh Ave., Studio 1425I, 212-362-8190 or; prices vary depending on class. Sessions begin 8/1, 8/15, and 8/29.

My heartfelt condolences to the family of esteemed ABC News anchorman, Peter Jennings, who yesterday succumbed to his battles with lung cancer. Clearly, and after so many pokes and jabs this talented Canadian-born journalist and host of ABC's World News Tonight has taken over the years due to the fact that he never attended college, in my view he certainly outshined many news anchors and journalists over the years -- who supposedly did.
He will surely be missed.

Peter Jennings

Let's make it a good Monday, all. Peace.

Friday, August 05, 2005

New Security Measures Apparently Not Everyone's Bag

Amtrak police (with bomb-sniffing dog in tow)
at New York's Penn Station

It has been barely two weeks since the newly instituted random bag searches for NYC subways riders and already a few civil liberties hackles have been raised, as was pretty much expected. And certainly, with policies such as this, and racial targeting an extremely tender topic that dates back to the infamous New Jersey Turnpike traffic pullovers in the 1990s for DWB, more commonly known as Driving While Black (yes, it WAS true—and yes, it DID happen), things will certainly continue to go a bit awry along the lines of ethnic "profiling." However, again regarding this new price we've all been unfortunately made to pay for living in the overall free society that we live in, the simplest recourse would be to adopt an "all bags searched" policy such as those at airports and state and federal court buildings, where everyone's belongings are subject to be searched--no matter who you are. Sound good? Okay. But that would undoubtedly also mean that we ALL would then have to roll our little keisters out of bed at least an hour earlier each morning to beat the inevitable morning backup of the "everybody gets their bag searched no matter who you are" rush to get to work.

Still sound good? No? Those extra few precious moments of sleep mean more to you, do they? Okay, then how about this: The safety measure of random bag checking presently in force here in NYC, which unfortunately targets only a few (but many times those of a wide range of skin colors because I've seen this for myself)--is ultimately for the safety of us ALL. Besides which, if you've nothing to hide anyway, what's the real problem with this, as opposed to running the risk of coming face to face in a crowded subway car with an exploding backpack or JC Penney's tote bag? A backpack or tote bag being carried by someone who *also* bitterly complained that his or her civil liberties were being infringed upon through this kind of a security rule. Clearly, to make things a bit easier--just individually picture yourself serving jury duty here in NY, and that should help, i.e, metal detector, bag search, in some cases even a pat-down, etc., etc. It happens everyday.

And would you believe just about a month or so ago, the polls were indicating that not enough was being done to protect the public against terrorism here in NYC? Wow.

Anyway, before I leave, I promised to mention fellow writer, Marianne Mancusi, author of the novel, A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur's Court. Unfortunately, Marianne just lost her house and all her possessions to a freak lightning strike. The blogging/writing community-at-large, is therefore gearing up to help her out.

You can donate books to Marianne's library (a writer's library is very vital) but even more importantly, a gift certificate to someplace like Target would be very much appreciated as well. Bearing in mind, of course, that she has lost EVERYTHING with her house completely burned to the ground. There's also an online auction going on to help raise some funds for her. So go to Literary Chicks to find out more. In addition, there will be critiques from industry professionals such as Chris Keesler, of the Deidre Knight Agency, Beth de Guzman, Stephanie Kip Rostan, Steve Axelrod, and more. Authors critiquing include Jennifer Crusie, Allison Rushby, Bev Katz Rosenbaum, Dianna Love Snell, Wendy Roberts, all three Literary Chicks and more. There are also loads of signed books, plus a tremendous basket full of books and goodies donated by up and coming Warner Forever author Kelley St. John. So do keep all of those good things coming on Marianne's behalf.

Well, it's August and summer's just about gone. Sadly (or not) I no longer have a bored child at home climbing the walls around this time of year, who I cannot wait for the school doors to open and suck him right back into the arms of primary academia. So all I'll say is enjoy what's left of the summer as much as you can--and especially your weekends. Make 'em safe, make 'em fun. Have a good one, all. Peace.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Natalee Holloway: A Case Yet Unsolved

Natalee Holloway

The search for any clues or possible shreds of information regarding the disappearance of 18-year-old Birmingham, Alabama teen, Natalee Holloway on the island of Aruba continues, with 17-year-old Joran Van Der Sloot, the son of an Aruban judge, the only prime suspect remaining in custody. And now, the Managing Editor of Dario, an Aruban newspaper, weighs in with some interesting thoughts and insights on the case, as well as Van Der Sloot's rather disturbing alleged link to Natalee's disappearance on May 30 during his interview with Fox News reporter and noted journalist, Greta Van Susteren. Interesting stuff indeed.

And of course all good wishes for a safe return go out to the family and loved ones of 24-year-old Latoyia Figueroa, the pregnant Philadelphia woman and mother who was last seen on July 18.

Anyone with information about Latoyia Figueroa is asked to call Philadelphia police at 215-686-3183.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The "Lost" Weekend

Well, okay...maybe not exactly the kind Ray Milland once had in a movie of the same name many years ago. But for me, it was definitely one of those weekends where the "best lain out plans" never seemed to pan out. Meaning, of course, that I didn't get one thing done that I had planned on getting done, and so it goes.

But then again, just when I thought that overall, this past weekend was a more or less uneventful one, i.e., a total bust by all accounts...the inimitable writers of HBO's hit series Six Feet Under go and kill off the character of Nate Fisher, a role that has been expertly played for the past four seasons by actor Peter Krause. (Shock, horror of horrors... had no idea whatsoever it was coming!) In any event though, I'll forgive the producers of this great series (which in my opinion ranks way up there as one of the best dark and sometimes ironically funny series dramas on television today)for not sending me the memo on this one. And no doubt, I'm now "dying" to see where the story leads from here, i.e., the aftermath of losing this very key character, the fate of his wife Brenda (pregnant and played beautifully by Australian actress Rachel Griffiths), etc., etc. Interesting stuff indeed nonetheless -- as well as capping off an otherwise dormant two-day period.

And as such, it's off now to see what the week holds in store. As always, lets's make it a good one, all. Peace.