Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Mexico in November?

I got e-mail from the Obama campaign yesterday asking me to be one of their lawyers on the ground in New Mexico for the election.  I've got a place to stay, and my friend Melinda has even offered me the use of her car as well as her guest room.  

I'm thinking about taking the train.  I like the idea of 18 hours of solitude.  Of course, the train is no longer a way to be out of contact.  Cell phones have changed all of that.  The train is cheaper than driving, but I haven't checked airfares yet.  It's a bit more than a two hour flight, which is obviously increased by the amount of time you've got to spend in security theatre.

The other thing I've got to do is make arrangements for an absentee ballot.  I've never done that before.

Len's a bit disappointed that I won't be home because he wanted to have an election return party.  I suggested he'd be just as happy if he went to someone else's party for the company.  Of course, we'd like different results than we saw the last time around.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tina Fey Strikes Again

Tina Fey's Saturday Night Live turn as Sarah Palin in the interview with Katie Couric was hysterical and frightening. Hysterical because it was spot on. Frightening because most of it was verbatim from the actual interview. Just how scary is that?

I see a guest star Emmy in Tina Fey's future.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Weekend Plans and Television

My spousal unit Len Wein is being interviewed at noon at the West Hollywood Book Fair on Sunday. It should be a fun day. It sounds like a smaller version of the L.A. Times Festival of Books which is held in the spring. He'll be on stage at the Comics, Sci-Fi, and Beyond Pavillion from 12-1 ("Watching Len Wein: In Conversation with the Book Editor and Video Game Writer of Watchmen"), and then at the Golden Apple Comics booth for an autographing session. He'll be followed on stage by Ray Bradbury. There seems to be a fair number of celebrities in attendance, among them Adrienne Barbeau, Robert Wagner, Heather Thomas, Ed Begley, Jr., and Laraine Newman. Len's connection with Adrienne Barbeau and Heather Thomas? Both actresses have been in Swamp Thing productions, Barbeau in film, Thomas on the television series.

I'm going with my camera and audio recorder.

Sunday night, the Amazing Race returns to television, so we'll be gathering up the usual gang to have dinner and cheer. Rumor has it that at least one of the teams may have someone from the science fiction or comic book fan community.

The season premier of Big Bang Theory did not disappoint. We were particularly delighted when Sheldon started listing his favorite X-men in order, starting with Wolverine, who then got shifted to second place by Professor X and then to third place by Nightcrawler coming in second. Since Len created both Wolverine and Nightcrawler, we considered it a winning night. Sheldon had also called Hallie Barry his fifth favorite Catwoman, putting her behind every other actess who has played Catwoman on television or screen: Julie Newmar, Michelle Pfiffer, Ertha Kitt and Lee Merriweather. There was also a wonderful riff early on where Sheldon explains that he couldn't ever be Green Lantern, but with enough money (it was put much more creatively), he could be the Batman. When Leonard questioned that, Sheldon did a scary impersonation of Christian Bale's "I'm Batman." We love this show.

Monday, September 22, 2008

No Wonder I Can't Get the Taxes Done

The accountant called again. I'm sure I can get the 2007 taxes done if we'd just clear two full days to finish with Len's receipts.

It was a pretty packed weekend. We went to the County Fair on Saturday (my legs still hurt), signed Dexter's adoption papers on Sunday afternoon (picture to appear on the rescue website soon), went to see Janis Ian in concert at McCabe's Sunday night, and stayed up to watch the Emmy(R) Awards when we got home (much better on TiVo when you can zip past commercials and the gags laying eggs.) Tucked in were two riding lessons (one where I stayed glued to the saddle when Ace dropped his rear end about a foot to spin and spook) and communication with my farrier, who managed to do Ace's feet when I couldn't be at the barn. It may be the very first time I haven't been present when my boy got his pedicure. He was just fine without me, I hear.

Janis' concert was just great. She's telling stories from the autobiography between songs, which means she's doing a lot more talking than I've seen her do in the past, but it makes for a most intimate evening. McCabe's is a very small venue--it seats about 150 people in packed quarters. Two hours before show time, it was a display room for instruments. I think they've got a magic closet somewhere to store the guitars while chairs take their places. We arrived early to pick up our tickets, give Janis hugs, and go to eat dinner. Janis suggested Lares, a Mexican place about two blocks closer to the ocean than McCabes.

It turned out I had actually been in Lares once before: Alexa Price-Whelan, daughter of the great science fiction illustrator Michael Whelan and his wife Audrey Price, wanted to throw a surprise 25th wedding anniversary for her parents a few years back and we spent a day checking out potential locations. Lares was one of them. I can report the food was fantastic.

I picked up copies of both the autobiography and the double CD to give as Christmas or birthday presents for friends and Janis personalized them all for me. It's nice to get my shopping done early.

I did not intend to watch the Emmy Awards, but I got sucked in by the train wreck that was the opening and Jeremy Piven's dig at it when he picked up his award for supporting actor in Entourage, a show that plays quite well out here but I can't imagine where the audience is outside of L.A. With HBO or Showtime, it might not matter. I loved every one of Tina Fey's acceptance speeches for 30 Rock. She's an amazing writer. It was great to see Martin Sheen's pitch to get out the vote and Tommy Smother's speech upon receiving an Emmy he should have gotten 40 years ago. How far we've come and how little we've advanced in so many ways.

It really pissed me off when Kirk Ellis, the scriptor for John Adams, was cut off during his acceptance speech for best writer of a miniseries. I guess if you aren't also an actor, what you say doesn't matter. Tina Fey's line about how saying you're a writer is a great way of getting rid of people at a party may work in many places, but not at one of our soirees. In our house, writers are stars.

This weekend reminded me of what a great life I've got--pretty much what I would have dreamed of living when I was one of the "ugly duckling girls" that Janis' At Seventeen refers to. I've been lucky enough to meet, and sometimes become friends with, people whose books I would read or whom I would watch on television while I was growing up. The first time I watched the Emmy Awards and saw someone I knew on the show was around 20 years ago when my friend George R.R. Martin was working on Beauty and the Beast. Over the years, the show has become more like a visit to a book store: know her, photographed him, had her to dinner on Thanksgiving, saw him at a party. Last night, we saw Gary Owens sitting near the front of the stage before he did his reprieve of his announcer role from Laugh In. I remember the night Gary had to convince my then 9 year old son that he really was "Powered Toast Man" at a party at Larry Niven's house and the night that Gary had dinner with Len and I at a CSU Northridge event at the Radford Studios Lot. Watching Sally Field reminded me of the time I photographed her and got 3/5 of the top half of the Washington Post Style Section to the writer's one column. A print hangs in my office. Alan Alda was only there in clips, but his photograph is also over my desk from another shoot for the Post. There's a letter from Tom Hanks in my filing cabinet, graciously declining my invitation to be the keynote speaker at the 2001 Nebula Awards, but with a message to be delivered to the assembled audience. Tom Bergeron turned out to be a fan of Len's work when I photographed him at What's My Line Live on Stage a couple of years ago--we've been fans of his since he did a morning television show back in the 1990s and during his stint on Hollywood Squares. The Mary Tyler Moore Show clip referred to Lou Grant, but I had a wonderful night once at Harlan Ellison's house watching Ed Asner and Harlan trying to outdo each other with insults. It would have made Don Rickles proud.

Len is a voting memeber of the TV Academy. I hope that one of these days we'll get to go to the party, but only if Ellen Degeneris or someone genuinely funny and sharp is the host. Last year should have told them that "reality show hosts" is a bad idea. Last night should have put to rest the idea that what they say on their own shows isn't scripted by a writer. It was pretty embarassing all round. Jeff Probst's dimples get him through a lot, but Heidi Klum? Give me a break.

Maybe if they didn't waste time with these multiple "hosts," writers would be able to give their acceptance speeches in full. For those of you who missed it, Kirk Ellis praised the Age of Adams as a "period in our history when articulate men articulated complex thoughts in complete sentences." Bravo.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I Need a Commission

Alex Ross is one of the great comic book artists. His paintings for covers and pin ups are spectacular. He's done some wonderful Superman art. He worked with my friend Kurt Busiek on Marvels and Astro City. He even did the art for the Oscars(R) several years ago. The hot item for all of us liberals at Comicon International this year was a tee shirt with art called "Obama for Change." Connie Willis, Melinda Snodgrass, and I all went home with them.

We've got some peculiar rules at work, so I've been reluctant to wear it, but I wanted to show it to two of my co-workers. Since it's so cold in the office, I figured I could keep it covered up with my shawl, which I did. I had to come up with the contact information for Graphitti Designs when I showed my colleagues the shirt and Graphitti got several orders today. Here's the artwork:I admire the fact that Alex refused to do John McCain as a superhero, although I hear that IDW Publishing is doing superhero books of both Obama and McCain this fall.

Animal Rescue in a Depressed Economy

If anyone in my part of Southern California is working with a horse or dog rescue program, I'd love to have you get in touch. I'm supposed to be doing an audio slide show due on October 7 for the multimedia storytelling class I'm taking and I've decided to do a piece on how the economy is having an adverse effect on our animals. I intend to get in touch with the shelter up in Santa Clarita which had to take in the horses from the rescue place that wasn't feeding or watering them and the people at the Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue have told me that they are getting animals in more quickly than they can get them adopted because of the economy. I'd also like to talk to someone who runs a boarding facility where people have just walked away from their horses, which I hear is going on a lot. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Party Planning

It's official: Janis Ian will be my Toastmistress for the 2009 Nebula Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles on April 25. SFWA sent out a press release this week. She was the first person I contacted when I was put in charge of next year's awards, and she agreed to it immediately. She loves science fiction and it is as big a thrill for her to do it as it is for us to have her.

Janis is in L.A. for a few days, appearing at the Studio City branch of the L.A. Public Library tonight at 7 p.m. as part of their Distinguished Speakers series. It's free, but space is limited. She's signing her autobiography at Book Soup in West Hollywood at 2 on Saturday and is doing a concert at McCabe's in West Los Angeles on Sunday evening (which is sold out.) Her tour schedule can be seen here. She'll be on the road for a while longer this year promoting the book and singing.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Political Fun-draiser

I have an invitation to go to a fundraiser for Al Franken and watch the first Presidential Debates next Friday. I'm really tempted. It's only $100. Only a tank of gas for many people.

Franken is running against a-long-haired-hippie-freak-rabble-rouser-anti-war-protester-turned-Republican-for-political-expediency with whom I was in college named Norman Coleman, the junior Senator from Minnesota. I asked a friend if she wanted to go with me (she actually worked with Normy on anti-war stuff back in the day) and she expressed concern that another Democrat in the Senate was less important than a Democrat in the White House, and she needed to send as much money as possible to the Obama campaign. She has a good point, but I can't help but think it would be a fun evening with people I ordinarily would not meet.

After I posted the two paragraphs above, I got a request to post the information about the event, so here it is:

The First Presidential Debate

Watch it Live with
Al Franken
Democratic Candidate for U.S. Senate

Please Join Hosts: Marylin Bitner, Nancy Harkness, Owen Husney, Lynda Keeler & Bob Merlis, Noah Mamet, Carla Olson & Saul Davis, Carole Shammas & Darryl Holter, Julia Sweeney

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Home of Carole Shammas & Darryl Holter
440 S. Mccadden Place
Los Angeles, CA 90020
[ View Map ]

Fan: $100/person ~ Promoter: $2300 (Co-Host Give/Raise)

Contribute online at www.alfranken.com/debate
or for more information or to RSVP, contact Jordan Markwith at
jordan@alfranken.com or (952) 548-6041.

Primary donations up to $2300 must be given by September 9th.

Thank you for your support of Al Franken's campaign and your generous
commitment to help increase our Democratic majority in the Senate!

If you can't make it to this event, and thus don't want a ticket
but would still like to contribute to Al's campaign, click here to do so.

Paid for and authorized by Al Franken for Senate

Monday, September 15, 2008

Some Happy News

After months of missing out on adoptable Golden Retrievers, we got a call about a three year old dog before he his picture was posted on the Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue website. We drove out to Rancho Cucamonga to meet him--and we brought him home. I'll have pictures after his bad haircut grows out and a professional groomer gets to him. Apparently, he was neglected and terribly matted, and the kind person who cleaned him up cut off most of his feathers.

Our two old girls (Sheba will be 14 in December, Muffin will be 14 in February) are dealing with the new kid by requesting more attention (Sheba) or ignoring him (Muffin.) There's been no growling, barking, or blood, so things are settling in.

He does like to play. He'll catch a ball for as long as you will throw it. He leaps straight up into the air to catch. He's very good at tug of war. I see Frisbee and agility training in his future.

He pulls on a lead, but he knows his own name and stops on a dime if he's called. And he's house trained. All important points.

Len let him on the bed with us last night. It's been four or five years since either of the girls could get up on the bed. I woke up to find him under the covers. He's quite a bed warmer, which will be more appreciated in January than in September.

There's nothing more fun than a house full of Golden Retrievers, if you can live with the hair.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tragedy in Chatsworth

Just as I got to Chatsworth this afternoon, the news came over the radio that a Metrolink commuter train had collided with a freight train within walking distance of where I keep Ace. Helicopters were flying low and fire engines and emergency vehicles were racing down the streets. In the photograph below, you can see the railroad tracks just south of where the accident took place. The helicopter was one of eight I counted in the sky. I was standing on the ranch on Chatsworth Street where my trainer, Gayle, keeps many of the horses she trains when I took these photographs. The commuter train had just passed this area moments before the crash occurred. If you look at the map here, you can see the railroad tracks as it curves near Stoney Point Park, the actual location of the crash (you may have to adjust the size of the map to see this.)

Right now, the death count is 10 of the 350-400 passengers on the train. It is expected to go much higher.

Despite the noise, all of the horses seemed to be doing just fine. Ace's barn is about two blocks from the railroad tracks, but fire engines and emergency vehicles were lining Chatsworth street and Canoga Avenue. There were policemen forming a barracade to prevent people from getting close to the crash location--even residents of the area couldn't get their cars through.

When I got to Ace's barn (on Chatsworth Street, between Variel and Canoga), after having to go a few blocks out of my way, I was told that the folks there heard and felt the impact. When I left the barn to come home, the street was being blocked off at Variel, so I may actually have trouble getting back tomorrow morning for my lesson.

It was not the afternoon I expected. As John Lennon sang "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

How I Remember 9/11

The phone rang when I was in the shower, preparing to go to Library Tower for a deposition. I heard Len say "Harlan, it's too early for this." Then I heard him say "Hold on, I've got another call....Yes? Mom? Wait a minute..." and the television went on.

Len called to me to tell me Harlan Ellison was on the phone and my mother had called from the East Coast to say that the World Trade Center had been attacked. Harlan didn't want to go down town for the deposition. Library Tower is the tallest building in Los Angeles. It may be the tallest building west of the Mississippi. He thought it could be another target. (He was probably right. I've been told that the military was scrambled to keep an eye out on all such landmarks.)

I assured Harlan I'd see if we could postpone the deposition, but one lawyer had flown in from D.C. for it. I began trying to reach opposing counsel and the law firm where the depo was supposed to take place. I finally reached the firm and the receptionist said they were being evacuated from the building. She called one of the lawyers who got in touch with me. We agreed to reschedule as soon as we could located the lawyer from D.C. and figure out what was going on.

That was a relief. I didn't want to be away from home either.

I finally tracked down the lawyer from D.C. He had flown in the night before and gone for an early morning run. When he got back to his room and turned on the television, he thought he was dreaming. He couldn't reach his wife in Northern Virginia. He had four relatives who worked in the World Trade Center complex. One of them worked for Cantor Fitzgerald.

I tried to reach both of my nieces, without success. They had moved into Manhattan the week before, over Labor Day Weekend. One lived in the East 50s in an dormatory appartment with a south-facing view. The other lived on West 15th Street. Their cell phones weren't working. Their mother was in Des Moines in a panic.

We spent the day with an eye on the televison, while we tried to contact family and friends by phone and by e-mail. A friend, another lawyer who lived around the block, came to sit with us. She didn't want to be alone. Her brother was in the Air Force and she was concerned about what he might be doing.

Nobody wanted to be alone. Calls went out for people to get together for dinner. So many of us are transplanted New Yorkers, from the City, the Island, or Upstate. We needed the opportunity to talk about what was going on.

We had plenty of people to worry about, who live in or commute to the City, but one by one folks checked in by phone or e-mail or onto list servs to let us know they were safe. We were lucky:
the lawyer from D.C., my sister-in-law, and a friend from the barn lost cousins. A number of people I know lost friends or colleagues.

My middle brother was on a business trip to the midwest and had to rent a car to drive back east because all flights were cancelled. He travelled with a co-worker, whose friend from high school was on the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. They had heard in detail about the cell calls home to family from that flight.

I met a member of the Air Force a year or two later who described watching the plane hit the Pentagon as he walked to his car.

While we watched the towers fall on television, my friend Ginjer watched from her office window a few blocks away. As she stepped out of the subway that morning, she saw a fire engine go around a corner so fast, the tires on one side were off the ground. She looked up, saw the smoke, and called her husband to tell him that the WTC had been attacked again. He told her what had actually happened.

Len and I returned from a 10-day trip to Philadelphia and New York City on September 7, 2001. We flew out of Newark Airport. Airport security stopped me because the underwiring in my bra set off the metal detector. How ironic is that? I haven't flown since.

I was in the WTC only once, when a friend of mine was an executive at Dean Witter. The view was great--especially when the space shuttle Enterprise made a circle of Manhattan which we watched with amazement. We had both missed the news that it was happening. John passed away almost 20 years ago, so I wasn't worried about him while I watched the towers fall. In a way, the WTC never played an important part in my visualization of the New York skyline. I tend to think of mid-town, with the Empire State Building and the Chrystler Building and the much more elegant Art Deco designs than the cold, straight WTC towers interrupting Manhattan's graceful slope south. But on that trip to New York, we had been within a few blocks of the towers at night. They were more imposing at night than during the day, and the memory of their mass that night is what I have to judge just how much devestation was caused by the collapse.

On the evening before we flew back, I had dinner with my niece Kristina. We were walking through Times Square and an emergency vehicle went by. Kristina said to me that she worried about how fire engines and ambulances could get through traffic for a big emergency. Five days later, she had her answer.

In many way the terrorists won, because they played into the hands of the appointed puppet and his keepers, who have used the spector of 9/11 as a boogie man which is shaken in front of the populace whenever it looks like they might emerge from the dark ages of the past seven years. Our constitution has been raped by the party whose nominee "knows how to find Bin Laden" but won't reveal the secret until he's elected.

I've heard things like that before. Richard Nixon had his secret plan to end the war in Vietnam. He got elected and the war went on until after he was forced from office. John McCain's words just show that he's the king of the "me first" politicians, putting self before the good of the country and its citizens. He should be ashamed.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Filling in My Spare Time

Ace seems to have worked out the last of his tweaks when he went on a trail ride with my trainer Thursday. I'm still having problems when I go to the chiropractor because the adjustments aren't taking, but at least I didn't have pain radiating from my lower back when I trotted Ace during our lesson last night. The horsie chiropractor will finally come by to do an adjustment on him this week (it got postponed) and I'm going to have a massage before my adjustment on Wednesday, which may help things.

I've decided to take a class in multimedia storytelling at my college this term. It's six hours of credit, which means it will be a lot of work (but pretty cheap at community college rates of about $20/credit.) It also meets from 7-10 p.m. on Tuesdays, making for a very long day. I'll be able to run up to the barn to make sure Ace is o.k. when work ends at 4:30, but things were a whole lot easier when he was 1/4 mile down the street and not 7 miles north of here.

The main reason I want to take it is to learn how to use Final Cut to edit video footage, but it will also help me get into a good place to design a full-fledged website for Len and maybe one for me as well. We own the domain names. It's finally time to use them.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Where Do They Find These People?

The first thing that raised my ire this morning was a headline from the on-line version of The Washington Post stating "McCain Strategist: 'It's Not About The Issues'." Then I saw this faux bumper sticker, but it seems to be missing Wife #1.

I feel like I'm watching a train wreck as the Republicans fall in line to get two more unqualified people into the White House.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Hitch in Our Giddiup

Both the Arabian Prince and I have been dealing with tweaks in our backs for the past two weeks.

Mine started when I went off to the barn after one of those days at work where someone had messed with my supposedly ergonomic chair and I couldn't get it back to where it worked for me. I had a huge muscle knot in my lower left pelvic area, that sent twinges when I walked. I was in a lesson, and started to trot, and suddenly, pain was radiating from my spine. I could barely work at the walk.

I went off to the chiropractor who said my tailbone was out of alignment. I haven't been back on Ace since. The adjustments aren't taking, because every time I go in to see the chiropractor is after an 8 hour day in the chair of torture and I can't figure out the correct adjustment.

The day after my back started to hurt, I got a call from Gayle telling me Ace's right back leg was swollen and badly scraped up and he was moving gingerly. We think he cast himself, but we can't figure out where. While I was out of town, we had the bio lights technician come on by and, while it helped, Gayle could still feel a problem when she rode him even when she couldn't see anything at the trot. The chiropractor is coming on Thursday, which should take care of the problem.

I saw him roll for the first time since this happened a couple of days ago. That was a relief. Before that, he kept walking with with his nose hanging low while he pawed at the sand in the arena looking for that special spot and not being able to bring himself to actually go down. It was pitiful. He is moving quite well without a rider on his back and did a good deal of bucking and galloping on Sunday, so, clearly, he's improving.

I despair that I won't.