Tuesday, June 26, 2007

beep

You have reached the blog of Greg. I will be out of town beginning Wednesday, June 27 and will return...sometime during the weekend. Unfortunately, I will have limited access to the internet but will try to update the blog if I can between meetings and training sessions. Please leave your user name and comment after the beep, and I will respond as soon as I return.

Have a nice day.

Beeeeep!

Monday, June 25, 2007

"Film lovers are sick people." -- François Truffaut

Friday night, instead of meeting friends at Downtown Disney or the quick-change of plans to meet for dinner and a movie near home, I spent 2 hours on the freeway, dehydrating in stifling heat, inching forward as slowly as possible. I was in no mood for dinner with friends after that torture so TB and I ordered a pizza and watched a DVD.
In The History Boys, a class of young boys are prepping for entrance exams to Cambridge and Oxford, with the help of Mrs. Lintott in History (portrayed by Frances de la Tour) and Hector in General Studies (a wonderful performance by Richard Griffiths). But the Headmaster feels they aren't properly prepared so he brings on a contract teacher, Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore), to show them how to wow and to impress their interviewers. Irwin teaches that everyone knows the facts and will re-state them to the committees, who will be tired of reading the same things over and over. They need to take a different approach, perhaps enhance the truth just a bit. On the flip side, these are teenage boys so thoughts do run toward sex: Posner's infatuated with Dakin who is straight until he falls for the new teacher Irwin. And not to forget professor Hector's enjoyment of groping the young boys as he gives them a ride on his motorbike -- all the young boys know this and go along with it.

Not an entirely bad film -- the use of language and the way history can teach about the present were wonderfully presented -- and I enjoyed the witty and intelligent performances of de la Tour and Griffiths. But when Hector dies in a motorbiking accident near the end of the film, I immediately said to TB that of course, they killed the main gay character. "I wonder if it was punishment for his groping of the boys?" But he'd just been re-instated to his teaching position. Plus, none of the boys ever complained to the Headmaster. I failed to see the justification for his death. And that tainted my view of everything we had seen beforehand. Also, during a mock committee interview, Professor Lintott gives an angry speech about the role of women in history. The speech didn't surprise us as we had been expecting this clichéd moment, but it seemed more like an afterthought to give the main female character something "important" to do instead of allowing her that role during the previous hour of the film. A bit of a let down, as this began as a very promising film.

Saturday, we finished errands sooner than expected and decided to take in an early showing of Knocked Up. We had hoped to make it to a matinée showing, but times have changed: matinée pricing ended at 2pm while the film started at 2:20pm. (I remember when you could wait until just about 5pm before the prices switched back to regular.) I guess it didn't matter too much as I had a coupon from my handy-dandy Entertainment book so we only paid $6 each.
Seth Rogen stars as Ben Stone, somewhat of a Web designer who spends his time between watching movies for the nude scenes to use on his upcoming website and partying with his roommates. He and his friends wind up at a bar on the same night as Alison Scott, wonderfully played by Katherine Heigl, who is celebrating her recent promotion at E!. Alison and Ben meet, get drunk, go to her place and then don't see each other for 8 weeks. Until she throws up during an interview with James Franco when she realizes that she's pregnant. Reluctantly, she calls Ben so she can break the news to him. What follows is a funny romantic comedy about two completely different people trying to get to know each other under unexpected circumstances, and had TB and I laughing the entire time. Judd Apatow's script and direction are filled with natural comedy and make the most of his excellent cast: Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl; Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd as Alison's sister Debbie and her husband Peter; Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill and Martin Starr as Ben's roommates Jason, Jay, Jonah and Martin; Ken Jeong as Dr. Kuni; Alan Tudyk and Kristen Wiig as Jack and Jill, her supervisors at E!; Harold Ramis as Ben's Dad and Joanna Kerns as Alison's Mom. Ryan Seacrest, James Franco and Steve Carell provide funny cameos, as well. Definitely a bright spot in the tidal wave of cgi-enriched blockbusters coming our way.

I checked my emails after we returned home and discovered an anonymous comment on one of my posts. The comment ran on and on, describing in detail why no races are better than the white race, why women are inferior and why homosexuals deserve to be persecuted. I was pissed of not only about the comment but also by the fact that it had been on the blog since Friday evening. And promised a part two to the already-too-long diatribe. I enabled the comment moderation feature just in time as the wacko tried to post part two.

Friday, June 22, 2007

First Line Friday

The answer to last week's:

Sugar Daddy by the Jackson 5; words/music by "The Corporation": Berry Gordy, Jr., Alphonzo Mizell, Deke Richards and Freddie Perren


This hit song was released in 1971 and reached #3 on the US R&B charts and #10 on the US Pop chart and was the only new song on their Greatest Hits album.

I will be away from my computer from Wednesday through Saturday of next week so you get two whole weeks to figure out this next First Line. (I can hear the squeals of excitement from here.)

In the light of the sun
Is there anyone
Oh it has begun
Oh dear you look so lost


This song from Augustana also reveals where I will be next week!!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Interview

“Are you sure about this? I mean, this is kinda weird.”

Stan the Production Assistant re-adjusted the mic clipped to my shirt, making sure it wouldn’t pop off during the interview. “I know it’s weird. Probably one of the strangest things the network’s done. But this network is number one. They pay me good money for all the crap they make me do. They pay you well, too.” He handed me the question cards. “Just ask the questions, alright?”

I sighed. Stan stepped away, staring at the guest as he made a wide arc to avoid him. I riffled through the questions, sorting them into some kind of order, trying to keep my eyes occupied with anything but the guest.

Music piped up on the speakers, giving us the heads up that the commercial break was almost over. I glanced up at the booth where Stan gave me the thumb’s up. One of the Suits next to him, arms folded, legs set firmly onto the floor, chewed a toothpick and deigned to glare down at those of us on the set, me in particular.

“Okay, folks,” Andy called to everyone. “We’re on in five, four….” His fingers finished the count.

“Welcome back. Our special guest is author of numerous screenplays and books, including the controversial In Cold Blood: Truman Capote.” Canned applause. “Thank you for joining us, Mr. Capote. The murder of a wealthy farmer and three members of his family is quite a departure from your other works. Why tackle such a difficult and true subject?”

Silence. I kept my eyes focused on the guest with some effort, not sure how long I should let the quiet hang until continuing. A quick glance to the booth, where Stan rolled his hands. I cleared my throat, switched to the next card.

“One of the more interesting aspects surrounding In Cold Blood was the disagreement between yourself and critic Kenneth Tynan.” I paused. Did the network seriously want this interview? Sitting across from “Truman Capote”. I shivered slightly, hoping no one would see the discomfort. Andy flinched beside the camera, and I could hear the shout coming from the booth. He signaled for me to continue. I swallowed hard. “He claimed that you wanted an execution for Perry Smith and Dick Hickock – the two men convicted of killing the Clutter family – so that you could have an effective ending to your non-fiction novel. Any truth in that statement?”

Silence again. I shifted in my seat as a faint odor mixed with the cold air swirling around the studio. The bile slowly started to rise in my throat as the odor strengthened. One of the cameramen clamped a hand over his mouth and ran toward the Exit door. I dared to look at the booth. The Suit remained calm as those about him answered phones, screamed back and forth at one another, pounded fists against the control panel. He nodded for me to continue.

“Um…. What was your relationship with Perry Smith? Rumors and conjecture about your infatuation –“ I couldn’t hold it any longer, leaned over the back of my chair and threw up on camera.

The corpse remained silent.

a work of fiction, © G.A. Carter, 2007 (528 words based upon the prompt: You've secured the assignment to interview a famous figure. Who is the figure? What are the questions (at least three)? And what are their replies? Read another response to this prompt here.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

W-E-E-K-E-N-D

Friday night started with something a little out of the ordinary for us: an organ recital at the First Congregational Church of Long Beach. CS had invited us earlier in the week to join him, his friends Gil and Chan, and RG along with a guest. We met them for dinner beforehand at the Park Pantry; I was running a bit late as it took me an hour and a half of sitting in the parking lot that is the 405 freeway before I made it to the apartment so we had to scarf down our food without really tasting it. Possibly a good thing. We arrived in front of the church with about 5 minutes to spare.

In all honesty, I haven't set foot in a church for many years. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't burst into flames once I passed through the door. We took our seats in the third pew and sat back to take in the dark wood and stained glass surrounding us. Centered on each of three walls were large, circular stained glass windows, sectioned into sixteen teardrops around a circle with a cross at the center. Beneath these stretched the balcony, also covering the same three walls, and then the main pews. At the front of the church rose a large platform with choir risers along the back wall bookended with a pulpit stage left and a walled corridor stage right. The massive organ sat in the center, rows of keys, light wooden pedals, and dozens of white knobs or buttons set in panels on either side. The pipes appeared in an alcove above the risers, the tall, golden ones along the back, shorter ones in "balcony seating" along the sides and polished silver trumpet-shaped pipes pointed toward the pews.

The bespectacled organist walked out, took a brief bow and slid onto the wooden bench as his mother/page-turner organized his music. He pulled a few stops, pressed a few keys then launched into Torah Song by Craig Phillips, a kind of cacophony without a recognizable tune. His feet danced along the foot pedals while fingers flew first on the lower keys, then the second from the top then the upper and back. By the third song, a Fantasia and Fugue in C Minor by J.S. Bach (not the one I was thinking of when I first saw the Bach name), I realized that the music sounded better when I closed my eyes. I remained that way for the remainder of the concert, allowing the notes, the murmur of air rushing through the pipes, to create patterns in my ears. Organ music is not my favorite, and this reinforced my belief that it should only accompany a choral group or a silent film.

We headed for Gil and Chan's in Signal Hill after the recital for a bit of dessert, after-dinner conversation and to take a peek at Chan's enormous fire fighting memorabilia collection. They converted their garage into almost a museum, with large display cases filled with old tin toys and plastic hook-and-ladder trucks and figurines. Wooden shelves around the edges of the room proudly held almost 200 firefighting helmets and hats, the oldest of which dated back to the 1830s. Fire call boxes, hydrant heads, nozzles, bits and pieces of uniforms -- we felt as though we had stepped into a museum. And that was just the beginning. Upstairs, the collection continued with photographs, including one of the first segregated fire company in Los Angeles; movie posters and lobby cards; ads from newspapers; novels and training manuals; and albums filled with postcards and magazine articles. While Chan beamed over his collection, Gil brewed the coffee and set out plates of cookies which awaited us at the dining room table. The seven of us chatted, listened to stories of Gil and Chan's 30+ years together, laughed and got to know each other a little better.

The next day, TB and I ran a few errands before heading to Brentwood for a dinner and the theater. We ate at Jerry's Deli near the UCLA campus and suffered through slow service and adequate food. The waitress forgot we were seated at her table -- way in the back, behind the water station where no one would be able to see us. What should have lasted perhaps an hour wound up almost an hour and forty-five minutes so we rushed from the restaurant to the Wadsworth Theater.
I'd purchased tickets over a month ago through Ticketmaster for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee -- with the original Broadway cast -- as a birthday present for TB. Perhaps I should have waited as they showed up at a discounted rate on Goldstar Events a few weeks later. Not to mention the fact that Ticketmaster mailed the tickets well before they were supposed to and that they never arrived at either my old address or my new one. But things worked out in the end, and we had great orchestra seats near the back with a clear view of the stage. (The fact that Haley Joel Osment sat behind us didn't hurt, either.) On stage sat a short riser, a desk, piano, and a backdrop made to resemble a school gymnasium, and large school penants touting the Putnam Piranhas expertise is luge and the caber toss hung from the sides over the audience. The lights barely dimmed as the emcee of the bee, Rona Lisa Peretti, walked down the left aisle, a large trophy in hand, welcoming everyone to the bee and explaining the rules and her past reign as champion. The students filed in one by one, from last year's champion Chip Tolentino decked out in his Boy Scout finery, Leaf Coneybear, William Barfee (complete with nasal problems), Logianne Schwartzandgrubinierre (the last names of her gay dads), Marcy Park and latecomer Olive Ostrovsky. Once they took their seats on the riser, Miss Piretti called for the last four entrants -- four people from the audience. Amid much dancing and singing, telling each of the quirky children's stories, and ultimately spelling. The words themselves along with the example sentences had the entire audience in stitches. One of the best parts of the show was Dan Fogler's reprisal of his Tony-winning performance as William Barfee. He performed a small dance called the Magic Foot each time before spelling a word, and that, coupled with his smarter-than-thou attitude and nasal congestion, proved why he earned that Tony. The other hysterical scene: purposely giving the eight-year-old girl from the audience a difficult word just to eliminate her so they could continue the show, and she spelled the word much to the ensemble's shock. The word was "caterjoons" and had something to do with 18th century shipping vessels. The cast admirably withheld their laughter as they quickly made up another, more difficult word.

Hands down, this turned out to be one of the most enjoyable shows I've seen. Thank goodness I'm a theater whore, or all these shows would be pretty tiring.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Boy/Girl

What an unusual Fathers Day.

I trekked to Laguna Niguel for lunch with my parents while TB drove to a barbecue at his folks' in Pico Rivera. My Mom decided to make lunch instead of the usual "trying in vain to find a table at a restaurant because everyone and their Fathers would be doing the same thing" so we enjoyed roast beef, corn on the cob, red potatoes, garlic bread and homemade pumpkin pie with a dollop of Cool Whip. (I'm supposed to be on a diet, but I don't eat my Mom's cooking to often. So I indulged.) Afterwards, Mom and Dad sat in their recliners and I on the couch to watch the golf course kick some ass at this year's U.S. Open. I left a little after two and made it home in record time.

Just after settling down from the drive, the phone rang. MM sounded a bit loopy, wondering where TB was because she couldn't seem to get ahold of him and she was in the hospital because of contractions. I found out which hospital, called TB and left a voicemail. He called back quickly, said that he just listened to the voicemails and was heading to the hospital. I asked if I should come -- because I've known MM for only a short time and didn't want to intrude. TB assured me that I would be welcomed so he headed to the Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Anaheim from Pico Rivera after giving me directions from Long Beach. I don't think either of us realized just how far away that hospital was; after an hour, I still sped along the 91 East trying to find the exit. TB called again to say that he had just arrived and told me where exactly to find the hospital. After the 30-mile trip, I finally paked while TB came out to show me to her room.

The nurse had just given her some pain medication in a huge needle, trying to quell the contractions. She was at 32 weeks, which is what the doctors hoped for with twins, but MM set a goal for 36 weeks to hopefully give the babies a bit more time to mature and to develop. The twins, however, had different plans. While sucking on a lemon-flavored glycerin pop, she told us that during lunch at Hof's Hutt, she felt a little discomfort that steadily grew stronger, finally convincing LH, her fiancée, to get her to the hospital. He managed that, but had to return to Long Beach to take his kids from his first marriage back to their Mother. He would return as soon as he could. She called the house at 3pm, with some strong contractions, and we hurried over as soon as we could make it.

She looked good through the four or five tubes and monitor cables attached to and poking into her. She smiled, laughed, chatted with us and the doctor. Then, her mother arrived followed shortly by the fiancée. We didn't want to aggravate her condition so while the nurse administered more Magnesium and the contractions subsided, we headed across the street for a bite to eat.

The Steer Inn offered some of the most uncomfortable dining I've experienced. Not that the food wasn't good; it was decent for the price. But you know how when you walk into some places, something just doesn't feel right? The host sat us at a table near the front, where we could see all the families treating their Dads to a good meal. And where they could stare at us. And we definitely felt them staring -- two guys waling into a restaurant and being seated together. We didn't kiss or hold hands or do anything to make ourselves stand out, but this unspoken tension seemed to hang in the air. Maybe it's because we weren't wearing shorts, sneakers and t-shirts with big-bosomed women on the front like half the other men in there. The service was decidely slow: the waiter didn't acknowledge our table for about 15 minutes, then took his time bringing the drinks, the food, the bill. Large groups arrived after us, were seated and had their food well before we did. When the bill eventually came, we left the money on the table and heaved sighs of relief as the door closed behind us.

Back at the hospital, the nurses wouldn't allow us into MM's room because they were giving her an epidural as her water broke while we dined on burgers and French fries. Shortly before 8pm, the nurse wheeled her down the hall to the OR, and we didn't see or hear anything until roughly 9:15pm, when she returned, exhausted and smiling. Riley Scott was born at 8:03PM; his sister Jacqueline Darby arrived a few minutes later at 8:15pm. Healthy, with full heads of black hair and breathing on their own. Natural childbirth, no C-section and no tears or stitches necessary. LH was on his cell calling his family to spread the good news wile MM's Mother did the same.

Happy Fathers Day indeed!

Friday, June 15, 2007

First Line Friday

Congratulations to Matt for correctly guessing last week's song:

Don't Cry, Daddy performed by Elvis Presley; words and music by Mac Davis



From Elvis on CD:
"This song was written by Mac Davis, inspired his son Scotty. The single was released with "Rubberneckin'" as its flipside in November 1969. It reached #13 on the U.S. country chart spending in a 12-week run and #6 on the U.S. pop chart in a 13-week run. In the U.K. it reached #8 in an 11-week run. On the 20th anniversary of Elvis's death, as part of a commemorative concert event in Memphis, his daughter Lisa screened a special video of herself in a newly created duet of this song with her father. This was the first time Elvis fans got to hear Lisa's singing voice. There was not an official release of the duet recording or video as it was a one-time presentation in tribute to her father an in thanks to his fans who attended the event. Lisa Marie Presley has since gone on to her own successful career as a songwriter and recording artist. "

And in keeping with the "Father" theme because Sunday is Fathers Day, what's this 1971 classic from The Jackson 5?

Ooo, brand new boots I bought you
Fine, fine blew your mind
Finally thought I caught you
And your love was mine all mine

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Extremes

Jake stood at the center of the room, breathing heavily as drops of sweat trickled and dripped down his forehead, off his nose, across his cheeks. Corners of ripped posters still stuck in the walls waved like war-torn flags in the warm breeze from the window. Fist and shoe holes punctured the walls. The two chairs and the television that had fallen victim to the swings of his now-broken bat rested in pieces around his ankles. The toppled couch, bits of feathers and other stuffing still gently floating through the air, blocked the exit through the hallway.

He grasped an old can of Aqua Net white-knuckle tight in his right hand while a Zippo gleamed from his left, the cover flicking open shut open shut as he darted his eyes about the room. A quick flutter to his left. He turned quickly and stared eyeball to antennae with that damned moth. It hung before his eyes, flapping its wings and treading air as if to taunt him. See what I’ve already made you do? And you haven’t even touched me. Ha!

A gust of air chilled the side of his face. He shifted his eyes toward the curtains swaying in the breeze. Eyes back to the moth. He smirked, knowing that was the only possible way for that fucking moth to get out. He slowly shifted his index finger to the nozzle of the spray can, waiting.

Before he could blink, the moth flew into his face, beating wings against eyes then fluttered toward the window. Jake gave the can a few quick shakes, depressed the nozzle as a fine mist sprayed from the tiny hole. The moth dropped in the air a few inches as bits of the sticky liquid reached its mark, but the wings continued flapping. Jake raised the Zippo and with a quick flick of the wrist, the spray was aflame.

The quick flash of heat and light disappeared, and Jake watched the charred moth slowly spiral to the ground in a trail of smoke.

a work of fiction, © G.A. Carter, 2007 (338 words based on the prompt: a moth flaps around the room. View another response to this prompt here.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Lunch à la Cell Phone

While placing my food order at the Japanese place in the food court, a young woman browsing the menu and detailing the items into her cell phone interrupted.

"Excuse me, Miss? Do you have chow mein?"

Confused, the woman behind the register replied, "No, we have yakisoba." She pointed to the picture on the menu board. "It's very much like chow mein."

The disappointed woman said into her cell phone, "Sorry. This is a weird Chinese place. They don't even have chow mein." She turned away, still chatting on the phone and headed for the Italian food next door.

The cashier and I just looked at each other.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

15 Favorite: Books

Christian over at Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering? is posting lists. Everything in sets of 15 from books to movies to people to randomness. To borrow from one of his lists, I decided to post my 15 Favorite Books. Just because I can.

15. No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre
14. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
13. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
12. Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzenitsyn
11. Roughing It by Mark Twain
10. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
9. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
8. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
7. Blindness by José Saramago
6. Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas
5. The Shining by Stephen King
4. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
3. Like People in History by Felice Picano
2. The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima
1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Monday, June 11, 2007

Theatrical Weekend

I met my Dad in Huntington Beach on Saturday for our trip to the OC Performing Arts Center. But first, he wanted to take a drive downtown to take a look at Main St. and the Pier. Too many cars parked or waiting to make a turn onto Main St. changed the short drive into a 15-minute trek, ending with a Pier hidden beneath an ocean of people. They crammed the sidewalks, as well, filling every vacant seat at the curbside restaurants and milling about the shops. We left as fast as traffic would allow and made our way back inland toward the theater.

Taking my parents to the theater has slowly turned into a tradition for me. For the past few years, I've treated my Mom to The Lion King, Grease, The Light in the Piazza and many others as part of my Mothers Day gift. My Dad felt a bit left out so two years ago, I arranged to take him to the theater, selecting Saturday Night Fever. He enjoyed it so much that I made it an annual tradition with him, as well. Last year, we saw Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and this past Saturday, we enjoyed he Elvis-enfused All Shook Up.
>After being released from jail, Chad, a handsome young roustabout with a decidedly Elvis-like snarl, motors into a sleepy little town and shakes the townsfolk out of their stupor by igniting the desires of Natalie, the mechanic's daughter who falls in love at first site (cue the spotlight with her singing "One night with you....") though Chad only sees her as a greasemonkey. This pitts him against Mayor Matilda and her morality code but also sparks the rest of town to follow their dreams and to go after what they truly desire. Along the way, Chad falls for Miss Sandra (cue the spotlight with him singing "One night with you...."), a tall, gorgeous blonde who wants nothing to do with him. In the meantime, Natalie tries to win Chad over by becoming "one of the guys", and through a series of mistaken identities akin to Twelfth Night, true love manages to win the day and to win over Mayor Matilda. Great music and sets -- loved the chase between the bus and the bicycle -- and fine performances by the entire cast, especially Jenny Fuller as Natalie (pictured above in the coveralls), Jannie Jones as Sylvia, Wally Dunn as Jim, Dennis Moench as Dennis, Susan Anton as Miss Sandra and Joe Mandragona as Chad (pictured above with the guitar). My Dad and I were in stitches during the entire second act, which has to be one of the funniest I've seen in a long time.

We ate at Red Robin after the show, him choosing a gourmet cheeseburger and me trying to be good by subsituting a Boca patty for the beef. But those damned bottomless French fries get me every time!!!
Sunday, TB and I relaxed with a little bit of shopping and a movie in the early afternoon. We caught a screening of Waitress, the last film by late writer/director/actress Adrienne Shelly. Keri Russell plays Jenna a waitress and expert piemaker whose life changes when she learns that she's pregnant by her immature husband Earl (played by Jeremy Sisto). She's determined to leave Earl before he even learns of the baby, but life becomes complicated when she starts an affair with Dr. Pommater, played by Nathan Fillion. By far, this is one of the funniest, most charming films of the year. Shelly's script is witty and full of marvelous characters, expertly played by each actor: Andy Griffith's wise curmudgeon Old Joe; Adrienne Shelly's lovelorn Dawn; Cheryl Hines' Becky who's married to an invalid and believes her boobs are off-kilter; Eddie Jemison's quirky Ogie who's in love with Dawn and will stop at nothing to win her heart; Jeremy Sisto as the immature Earl; Nathan Fillion as the married-but-lovestruck Dr. Pommater; and Keri Russell, charming and funny and warmhearted as Jenna. We left the movie feeling good, smiles on our faces, still talking about what scenes made us laugh the most. Sometimes you don't need a big budget and tons of special effecs to make a good movie.

Friday, June 08, 2007

First Line Friday

Congratulations to Mike for being the first to correctly name last week's First Line:


I Write the Songs performed by Barry Manilow; music/lyrics by Bruce Johnston




Released as Barry's first single from his debut album Tryin' to Get the Feeling, it reached #1 in January of 1976. I found it surprising that he did not write the song himself as it has become such a signature song for him. But it was originally recorded and released in 1975 by David Cassidy in the U.K. where it peaked at #11.

Tomorrow, I'm taking my Father to see All Shook Up as part of his Fathers Day present. So the next First Line is a song made famous by The King himself: Elvis Presley.

Today I stumbled from my bed
With thunder crashing in my head
My pillow still wet


A classic from the '70s, this song was certified Platinum.

Also, I want to know what you think of First Line Fridays. Should I continue, or has this run its course?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Slob

Charlie stared at the answering machine, not quite understanding what he had just heard. He pressed the replay button.

Message #1: Good morning, Charlie. It’s your mother. I know you’re at work and how you hate it when your father or I bug you at the office so I’ll leave the reminder here. Don’t forget about your father’s surprise party this Saturday. Love you!”

Message #2: Charlie, it’s your mother again. Don’t forget to get him a gift this time, either! Love you!”

Message #3: We gave you plenty of time, Charlie. We can’t take it any more. You’ve left us no choice.

Click.

The voice seemed familiar. A bit distorted and stilted, but he should know it. As he reached for the replay button again –

“Charlie.”

Charlie spun around, looked about the room, past the stack of pizza boxes, the scattered Coke and Dr. Pepper cans on the floor around the coffee table, the mess of newspaper leaves scattered by the breeze each time he walked by. “Hello?” He tiptoed between where his mailed dripped from the small table onto the floor and his pile of tossed shoes by the front door. He peeked around the dead rubber plant into the kitchen. “Hello? Who’s there?”

Click-click. He almost tripped over himself heading back to the living room, toward what he thought sounded like the front door. He grabbed the knob, twisted. He didn’t remember locking it.

“Charlie.” The voice came from behind him. “We’ve been waiting for you, Charlie.” He turned slowly, mouth quietly moving in prayer. No one waited to pounce. No one held a gun to his head. The light on the answering machine blinked. “Charlie."

Unmistakable. The voice came from the answering machine. He tentatively pointed a finger to press the replay button.

“Don’t do that, Charlie,” spoke the machine.

He retracted his hand quickly as if touched by a flame. “Who are you?” he asked.

“We’ve been waiting for you.”

“We?” He glanced about the room.

“This has gone on long enough. The empty pizza boxes. The two-week-old stack of plates in the sink. It’s time, Charlie.”

“Time? Time for what?”

“Time for a change.” A light slowly brightened in his mind. Why did the voice sound familiar? It was his own. “We talked about it. Because you won’t do anything on your own, we’re going to make you do it.”

“We? Who the Hell is this ‘we’? You’re an answering machine.”

“Why, the apartment, Charlie. We’re tired of this mess you’ve created for us. The smell, the roaches, the filth. You’re going to clean us.”

He stumbled over the pile of shoes as he grabbed for and missed the machine’s plug.

“And we won’t let you out of here until we’re spotless.”

From the kitchen he heard the squeaking of a door opening, the clamor and crash of wood striking the floor. He crawled into the kitchen, spotted the broom and a mop on the floor. “No way.” He stood and ran to the kitchen window, tried to unhook the latch, to break the glass with his fists. Nothing.

“You’d better get started, Charlie.”

The cabinet doors beneath the sink opened, a bottle of Pine-Sol tumbling between his feet.

a work of fiction, © G.A. Carter, 2007 (535 words based upon the prompt: You're checking your phone messages. You get to the third message and freeze. See more responses here and here.)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Topic of Conversation

"The thing is," LH said as we sped north on PCH, "the Church isn't the only place you can marry."

We finally convinced LH to help me move my bed and box springs -- the last of the furniture -- from the old house to Long Beach. After strapping them to the roof of his truck and assuring me that not even a hurricane could move them, we bumped along the streets of Huntington, finally turning onto PCH. The conversation during the drive started innocently enough: how secure is the mattress, new job for LH, his tutoring and mentoring with "No Child Left Behind," his marriage proposal to his girlfriend. And that was the turning point.

"True," I replied. "You could go to the County Courthouse and sign your license in front of a Justice of the Peace."

"Marriage in a Church is just a ceremony and a symbol of the joining of two people's lives. What really counts is that little piece of paper, issued by the government, the marriage license, stating that you're happily man and wife. Only with that can you file joint taxes and receive the perks and benies."

"And like any other license, shouldn't it follow the same guidelines as others?"

"You mean, like renewal fees?" TB slipped in.

"Why not?" said LH. "Give the license a limit, like a driver or fishing license. You pay the fee, you're a certified couple for a period of time, but then it's up for renewal. Do you two want to continue as a couple? Pay the renewal fee, and everything's set for the next period of, say, 5 years. You hate each other? Don't pay the fee. The marriage is over. No messy divorce. Just over and done with."

"And if you or your partner gets caught cheating, you're in violation of the terms of the license, automatically negating it. Refund to the innocent party, and that's that."

"Hey, I kinda like that." LH eased the car to a stop at the light. "Every license comes with a certain set of rules to follow. You break 'em, you have to follow the guidelines regardless because you agreed to them. That would be the law."

"But what about child support?" I had to ask, reminded that LH's fiancée was pregnant with twins. "I wonder if pay requirements could be set ahead of time, that everyone would have to follow. The first child would be a percentage of the combined salaries or incomes or net worths of both husband and wife, with a graduated scale should more children be involved."

"I think you've got something there," LH said. "Each party would know going into the marriage what would happen. Child support. A standard for the division of property, if necessary. No need for pre-nups."

We sat silent for a moment, each letting the idea work its way into our heads.

"No one would go for it."

"Nah."

"Never."

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Pride Month

Kelly posted this challenge to his site, much like he did last year: post this pride rainbow picture on as many websites, blogs, MySpace pages, etc. I posted last year; I'm posting again this year. Cheers!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Disappointments: Part 3

We've fallen behind on our movie-going experiences, thanks in large part to our move and to moving my friend RG fromLake Elsinore to Huntington Beach this past weekend. However, we did manage to sneak in two big blockbusters during what little downtime we had. (Be forewarned: possible spoilers ahead, mateys.)
TB and I decided to forego the crowds and caught a screening of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End over the Memorial Day weekend. After the first two films dazzled and amazed with their special effects, action sequences and great performances, we held high expectations for the end of the trilogy. Perhaps we should have lowered them just a little. While this was a good film, it wasn't great, definitely not when considered alongside the first two. Parts dragged, many actors were underutilized (especially Chow Yun Fat and the rest of the Brethren), the storylines seemed weak. For my part, I expected much more from Calypso's release; she was filled with so much rage and anger, but it went nowhere, and her reasons behind wanting to be released and Barbosa's desire to set her free, were never made clear. The special effects saved this from becoming a completely horrible film. The battle sequence between the Flying Dutchman and the Black Pearl, swirling in a gigantic whirlpool, was packed with adventure and great effects. The design of the town of Shipwreck amazed us both (and we were pleasantly surprised by Keith Richards). Lord Beckett's demise, to me, was probably the best scene of the entire film. Some very good acting by Keira Knightly, Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush. It turned out to be fun, if not great film. (If you go see it, sit through the credits for the tag ending.)
Yesterday, we finally saw Spider-Man 3. To quote TB: "disappointing." And I definitely agree. Too many storylines, actors who seemed bored with their characters, and quite a few pointless scenes -- all acted together making this 2-hour, 20-minute movie feel more like 4 hours. The plot surrounding The Sandman felt like an afterthought, bulking the movie so the special effecs team could say "Look what we can do!" I found it pointless and boring. Even moreso when Peter forgives him at the end and he disperses into the wind. This film also provided one of the only times I've ever felt embarrassed for an actor on the screen. Poor Tobey Maguire, being forced to dance down the street, strutting and hip-shaking as if he were Tony Manero, fingers frozen in a disco pose and pointing at all the women on the sidewalk. (All of whom happened to be tall, slender models because overweight stocky people don't live in New York.) The special effects were decent, and I laughed hard enough to cry during Bruce Campbell's cameo. This movie as a whole, though, seemed more like a collection of afterthoughts because they had to end the film series. Wait for the DVD unless you feel compelled to see this on the big screen.

Friday, June 01, 2007

First Line Friday

The answer to last week's:


Working for the Weekend by Loverboy; music/lyrics by Mike Reno and Paul Dean (I think. I've been scouring the web trying to find the writers to give proper credit so if anyone knows....)

Congratulations to Jef for knowing this one. The song was release in 1981, coming from Loverboy's second album, Get Lucky. It peaked at #29 on the U.S. charts and was featured in a Saturday Night Live skit with Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley as dueling Chippendales dancers.

This week's song has a little something to do with my Thursday posts. Along with fellow bloggers Christian and Joel, we're getting our creative juices flowing by coming up with a topic Thursday morning with the idea of posting about it -- either fiction or non-fiction -- by 8pm that evening. The short pieces are called "Sudden Fiction" and are between 250 - 500 words. In that short amount of space, the idea is to create not simply a scene but characters, a climax and a resolution. I'm enjoying this on-the-fly creativity, and it's getting me back into the writing mode where I want to finish a story for submission to magazines or quarterlies.

So without further ado, here is this week's writing-related First Line:

I've been alive forever
And I wrote the very first song
I put the words and the melodies together


Hint: a #1 song for Barry Manilow back in the '70s.