Sunday, January 30, 2005

Going Nowhere: I have been stymied lately on the direction of my yet to be born third novel, Misspent Youth, so I decided I would go back to the beginning and start revising in the hopes of catching a rhythm to carry me forward. Bad idea. I decided I hate it. Not the story, just some of the writing. So I sat down tonight to start revising and an hour and a half later, I had gotten through page 4. I am now despairing of ever finishing it. I have to keep in mind that all work on it is progress and that despair and doubt are part of the process of good writing.

I know all this. I have been through it before. I'll make it through. Won't I?

Anyway, a couple of tidbits to share. First, my review of The Whole Wide World is up over at Blogcritics.

Second, I was going through my pictures from my last trip to South Beach and I have come to the conclusion that my camera is incapable of taking decent night shots. Just like the pictures I took in Vegas, every one of the night pictures was too blurry to be of any use. I tried all the different settings and I made efforts to brace myself to keep steady and they are still severely out of focus. It is a situation worth investigating if I ever have the time. For now just let me share the one picture that is worth sharing from that trip to prove I can take a decent picture. It is the view from the rooftop pool of the Bentley Hotel where I stayed. It wasn't that warm, but it sure looks it.
A New Paris Hilton?: Anna Benson, former stripper and wife of New York Mets pitcher Kris Benson, appears to be on the Paris Hilton career track.

She first came to fame through an appearance on Howard Stern wherein she declared that if her husband ever cheated on her, she would proceed to work her way through servicing his entire roster of teammates (no mention of the coaching staff, management or hot dog vendors) as a form of vengeance. The Mets have had some success with free agent signings this year, although the connection is speculative.

She subsequently claimed she was only kidding, stating:
I've been saying that comment for about six years now. We couldn't believe it turned into such a big deal. We laughed it up. There's no way I would touch some of those guys with a 10-foot pole. I don't care what Kris did. Some of them are disgusting.

Way to save the situation, Anna!

In the midst of all this, she has been pitching a reality series based on her home life as the wife a major league ballplayer. It's no Simple Life, but it's a start.

Most recently, she was seen having a diva moment over not being provided VIP status at a Ludacris concert at the Sundance Film Festival. Her tenacity paid off however:

Despite the valiant efforts of the folks at the door to enforce status discipline, Benson ended up in the VIP area anyway, along with Rocco DiSpirito, Carmen Electra and Snoop Dogg's sidekick, Bishop Don Magic Juan [and, presumably, Mohammed, Jugdish, Sidney, and Clayton].

Still, in this case, I'm on Anna's side. She's just trying to get the same deferential respect that any wife of a pitcher with a career 4.28 ERA and a 47-53 record deserves.

What's the next step for Anna? Clearly, a home made porn video. It could be with hubby Kris or one or more of his (non-disgusting) teammates. But I'm hoping she goes for a teammate's wife. Specifically teammate Mike Piazza's wife, ex-playmate and Baywatch babe, Alicia Richter. But that's just me.

So here's wishing Anna the best of luck in her pursuit of fame without demonstrable talent. You reach for that star, girl. And when we see a South Park episode entitled "Not Another Stupid Spoiled Whore", we'll know you made it.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Dead Calm: I don’t seem to be able to get motivated to do much of anything these days. Read, write, travel, troll the web for post fodder -- just can’t find any enthusiasm for it. Instead, I have been cleaning bathrooms and doing laundry and such. Life on the edge.

A group of my friends is trying to get me to start training for a 100 mile bike race (a "century") around Lake Tahoe in June. It's called America's Most Beautiful Ride. It's certainly appealing; I'm sure it would be a lot of fun, but they are all doing it as part of Team-in-Training, a fairly prominent group that collects pledges for Leukemia and Lymphoma research. Apparently the deal is that if you raise $3800 in pledges Team-in-Training covers your hotel room and ships your bike out west and does a few other sorts of things. My problem is that there is no way I could raise $3800. Most of the people I would ask would be the other ones I was training with so that's out. My company has a donation matching policy, but it only covers things educational, community and cultural charities, not diseases (weird). A shame because if they matched it, I would have just paid half myself and been done with it. So I don’t know what to do. The ride is appealing; I could do my own training and make my own arrangements, I suppose, but that doesn't seem like it's in the spirit of the thing.
Johnny Carson, R.I.P.: Johnny Carson died, which you certainly know by now. Personally, I blame Johnny Carson for my utter failure as a morning person. Throughout my early childhood, I remember staying up to see the monologue, so it was near midnight before I went to sleep, even at a very young age. The pattern was set. Not that I completely understood everything. But that was Johnny Carson's special appeal. He really wasn't that funny or thoughtful, apart from a few clever quips now and then. He was somewhat magnetic and utterly genial, like a dependable neighbor. My Mom used to tell me that she thought one of the reasons FDR kept getting re-elected was that he had a most profound, fatherly quality of making it seem like everything was going to be all right. I'm guessing Johnny Carson was similar. He was there every night (at least until the later years), everybody loved him (including all those famous Hollywood types), and despite always playing it safe he never seemed out of touch or square. The golf swing, the "How hot was it?", the Tea-for-Two dance step -- you knew that the day was a day like any other, and you were about to go to sleep and have another one tomorrow.

I'm guessing his appeal was part and parcel with his personality, which manifested itself in him simply calling it quits and never reappearing. No matter how rich and famous he got, he was really still the dependable neighbor. So when he stopped doing his show, he just stopped being famous. Probably his greatest quality was understanding that fame is the most empty of achievements. Show me another celebrity who understands that.

As for me, I still stay up later than I should, but now it's to watch Family Guy reruns on Adult Swim. Sidesplitting.
Chow Down: Despite my malaise I did manage to visit a couple of new(ish) Ann Arbor eateries lately. So here are a couple of recommendations for the homeys.

First, for the best Italian sub in town you must go to Dibella's. This is a New York outfit that recently expanded here. You won’t find the variety or pseudo-healthy options that you will at Subway or Quizno's, but the spiced up olive oil and marinated sweet peppers make up for that. Great bread too. Treat yourself once in a while. On the corner of Eisenhower and Ann Arbor-Saline in the shopping center where Pier One is.

Second, for fine dining, you should give Eve a try. Very innovative food and drink -- espresso martini, nachos based on fried wontons, amazing chocolate desserts. It's very stylish and somewhat on the small side, so you may want to think about reservations. Downside: the service is friendly, but not the fastest, and the prices are on the upper end. Still I would not hesitate to visit again. They serve a fine, refreshing Mojito (a drink I came to like last time I was in Miami Beach), and on Thursday the set out free appetizers after 9 at the bar. Located in Kerrytown -- where the Kerrytown Bistro used to be -- it's a good option to the usual suspects down around Main Street.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Status Memo: I have finally shaken my illness (hoping not to jinx myself by writing this). And there was a loud Hosannah!

Carnivale has started its new season on HBO and it's not looking particularly appealing yet. Iron Chef America also stared on the Food Network, but while it made me very hungry (Bobby Flay makes some crimainally tasty looking stuff), it was a bit low on campy fun compared to its Japanese counterpart. Basically, the most compelling thing on TV is the reruns of Deadwood, leading up the 2nd season premier in March. The dialog still mesmerizes me, profanity and all.

So with no TV to distract me, you would think I would have had one of the most productive times of my life, but no. Between my decidedly unproductive holiday season and my need to sleep 13 hours a day, when not coughing up lung fragments, I find myself approximately right where I was in late December. A lost month. What the hell happened? Annoying, because I have so much to do. Depressing, because I just don’t have an unlimited supply of months left.
Readings and Writings: I am near to finishing my review of The Whole Wide World by Yvonne Castaneda, which I was supposed to finish over the holidays.

My next project was supposed to be a film/book comparison for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. I think I previously mentioned that I found the movie to be a remarkable piece of drama, especially in the manner in which it covered so much ground in so short a time without short changing anything important. My plan was to barrel through two books in the Patrick O'Brian series -- Master and Commander the first book, for a solid grounding in the characters, then The Far Side of the World, which was much further on in the series. Following that I would then provide brilliant analysis and insights about how the written stories were converted to film.

Two problems. 1) These are not books you "barrel through". They are not difficult reads, but they are exacting in sentence form and strucutre; well steeped in early 19th century vocabulary and sailing terms. Impressively, they are not boring or tedious about their topic. They are very character driven which is a saving grace. And 2) I have come to learn the books and movie hold virtually no relationship in plot, only characters. That pretty much sinks my plans. I'll finish at least the first book, and I suppose I could review both the movie and the book separately. But I'm not sure I'd have anything new to say about them, so what's the point?
On the Strip: Fun (and funny) stuff going on in Vegas. First, I may have mentioned before that Hooters is opening a theme hotel in the location of the old, and not likely to be missed, San Remo. It makes me giggle every time I think of it. Imagine the housekeeping uniforms.

Second, it's interesting to see that Planet Hollywood is taking over the Aladdin hotel and remaking it in its image. It's a joint venture with Sheraton, so at least they'll have some folks around who know the hotel biz. (Didn’t Planet Hollywood go bankrupt a couple of years ago?) No doubt this has potential to be a hit in the Hard Rock vein. I'd give it a try.

Third, the most hyped and anticipated property on in the history of the strip, Wynn Las Vegas, is scheduled to open in May and is already 100% booked for a full year. Wynn is the brainchild of Steve Wynn, who years ago, ushered out the Rat Pack and ushered in the new mega-resort Vegas with the opening of the Mirage, then set the bar higher with the opening of the Bellagio, both of which now belong to the MGM Group. The genius of Wynn Las Vegas is the attached golf course, the only one on the strip, thus making it attractive to both inveterate gamblers and inveterate golfers. Brilliant. I don’t golf, but I would give the tip of my left pinkie to be staying there for the opening.

Speaking of MGM, their latest plan for one-ups-manship is Project City Center which "will include the development of 18 million square feet of space consisting of a 4,000-room hotel/casino, three 400-room boutique hotels to be operated by world-famous hoteliers not currently represented in Las Vegas, approximately 550,000 square feet of retail shops, dining and entertainment venues, and 1,650 units of luxury condominium, hotel/condominium and private residence clubs." Sheesh.

In a weird way, the most interesting development is that Vivid Entertainment is opening a nightclub in the Venetian. You probably don’t know this, and don’t ask how I know, but Vivid Entertainment is one of the largest purveyors of pornography in the world. What's strange about this is that The Venetian is really one of the classiest places in Vegas. It's a little hokey with the gondoliers and such, but it's more over to the Disney side of the spectrum -- no topless revues, relatively modest costumes of the waitresses. The Venetian is where you find the Guggenheim, and Canyon Ranch for Pete's sake. I'm going to be interested to see if this is an attempt by the Venetian to spice things up, or an attempt by the porn merchants to go legit. (Let's face it, had they opened their club in Hooter's Hotel they would get no legitimacy points.)

It's estimated that 5000 to 6000 people move the Las Vegas every month. That's like the entire population of my hometown of Dexter. Every month! What an amazing, fascinating place.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Stranger: I am just now emerging from a bacterial haze. It'll still be a couple of days before I'm 100%. This has been a killer.
Hotels With A Jaundiced Eye: In spite of my dire illness, I managed to get a quick review done of the hotel I stayed at in South Beach, along with it's somewhat more rowdy neighbor, posted over at Hotel Chatter -- a truly fun site for the frequent traveler. Sadly, they mangled the formatting somewhat, but you'll get the idea. I plan to do more of this.
Speak the Truth: Tom Wolfe has been going around telling everyone his I am Charlotte Simmons is the first attempt to novelize the contemporary undergraduate experience. I love Tom Wolfe, but let me just say: ALL LIES!!! We know better than that, don’t we? I gotta find a way to ride these coattails.
Stupid Spoiled Whore: Sorry about that. Hope it didn’t trigger your company's profanity filter, but I couldn’t help but think of the recent South Park episode when I came across Paris Hilton's IMDB entry. Check it out. She has a new movie from coming out entitled National Lampoon's Pledge This which, in addition to "acting" in she is also Executive Producer. Can you not hear the voice over: "From the makers of Animal House and Executive Producer Paris Hilton..."

Also, please notice the Cinematographer credit, 1 Night in Paris. Strangely she is not given an acting credit for that, but her camerawork must have impressive.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Sick, Tired and Back: I spent the holidays in Florida. Five nights in South Beach followed by three more in Naples with a side trip to Key West. I'm probably not going to write about it because there were only two sunny and warm days -- the rest were windy and rainy -- and I did little that I haven’t done before. The beach in Naples is still about perfect. Duvall Street is still fun and sleazy tourist cheese. South Beach is still painfully hipper than thou.

In South Beach I stayed at The Bentley, a good quality small hotel with a pretty nice rooftop pool and sundeck that provided perfect views of the beach. The Bentley is more boutique than luxurious, no restaurant, lounge, business center, gym or anything like that on the property. It did have a certain charm and the staff was attentive and friendly, but not much else going for it. I'm officially off the boutique hotel kick, it's sprawling full service mega-properties for me from now on.

Miss Kate and HRH Miss Anna joined me in Naples at a smashingly good beach resort called LaPlaya from whence we took a New Year's Day ferry to Key West. Sadly, HRH was fighting s horrible cold and/or flu which I have inherited from her. So I spent my final day in Florida and my trip home in alternating chills and fever, basically drenching anything coming in contact with me in cold sweat. Did you know that if you shiver and sweat and give voice to a rasping hack, the people next to you on the plane will take especial notice; I do now. Around Noon today the fever finally broke and I think I should be back to normal in a couple of days.

I feel like I've spent a good part of the last six months sweaty and congested. You're supposed to be less susceptible to colds the older you get but it appears to be working opposite for me. This one was weird too. Colds, for me, follow a pretty set path -- a few days in my head, a few days in my chest, with a bit of sore throat all the way through; almost never a fever. This one was insane -- it was moving back and forth from head to chest every few minutes. Truly strange, there were a couple of moments where I entertained finding a doctor because it was so atypical.

This must be very entertaining for you, reading about my phlegm generating capabilities. I'll shut up and get some sleep. I'll try to get back to posting this weekend.