TAKING A TRIP AS YOUR CHARACTER

Good afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here to introduce my novelist once again. This has been a glorious week as Monday was the release of the third book in my novelist’s Musicology book series Musicology: Volume Three, Twist! One of my favorite and funniest scenes in this comedic series occurs in this volume which deals with a rock and roll fellow named Robbie Sexton and his strange but amusing proclivities. I for one roared.

I did too! I am Tucker and I am a Maltese.

Firstly, you cannot read. And secondly, I am still livid over that vile picture of yours you decided to photobomb my novelist’s post with. Shame on you, filthy cur!

I thought I looked cute.

No one thought you were cute. They were looking at my pictures and thought I was majestic.

I am cute.

Whatever. Without further ado here is my novelist.

One thing I found eye opening and useful as a writer was to travel somewhere through the eyes of a couple of my characters. Right now, of course, travel is sketchy. But I thought I would talk about this experience I went through that I thought was a whole lot of fun and useful when I was writing my book series Musicology.

Musicology takes place primarily in Burbank, California. The first part of the story where Max and Ruby are traveling around to find contestants takes place in different parts of the country. But the bulk of the story is in Burbank. However, there is an important and sizable chunk in the latter part of the series which takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Living in the Northwest, Las Vegas is a relatively easy and frugal vacation. And Las Vegas is fun because it has something for everyone. Although I did have a dentist once who abhorred it. I, however, enjoy its imagination and even its garishness and as I was writing my books I thought, I have a chance to go there so I will experience my trip through the eyes of my characters.

While I was in Las Vegas, I took a lot of pictures of things one does not normally think of taking pictures of on vacation like the pattern of the carpet, garbage cans, long hallways, sconces, ceilings, shuttles, bedspreads, artwork in the room, etc.  I wanted to see the world through the eyes of my characters and have a vivid memory of the little things they saw.

In addition, I tried to experience Las Vegas in the way my characters would instead of the way I would. What do they eat and what do they think about what they eat? Are they concerned or not concerned about the price? What are things they might purchase or not purchase? What types of shows would interest them? Could they afford to go or not? How do they view the strip as they walk down it? What catches their eye? What repels them? What entices them? What does it lend to their ideas and ambitions?

I am not advocating to go out of your way and pay a lot of money to go on a trip and certainly not during Covid19. But if you do have an opportunity in the future to visit where your characters live or travel to, whether it be your own back yard or a destination location you happen to be going to I very much encourage doing so in the mindset of your character. You might think of it as method acting for writers. I found it to be one of my most enjoyable vacations.

My Books

You can check out my books Chicane and the first two books in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!, Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!, and Musicology Volume Three, Twist! on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will will Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: ELECTION (1999)-Prime Video

As many of you know, sadly and shockingly the actress Jessica Campbell died recently at the age of 38 at her home in Portland, Oregon. She had stopped acting and became a homeopathic physician. She was known for her role as Amy Andrews in the television show Freaks and Geeks. But she was most notable in her role as Paul Metzler’s angst-ridden sister Tammy Metzler who throws a wrench into things in the fantastic Indi film Election. When election first came out, I was fortunate enough to go to a question-and-answer session with Jim Taylor who co-wrote the screenplay with Alexander Payne (who also directed) and Tom Perrotta who wrote the original novel Election. He was fantastic to listen to. During the session we got to see the alternate ending of the film which is closer to the novel and would have been my choice over the original hands down. I will not tell you what it is and spoil things. But if you do watch the movie and would like to see the alternate ending here is the link. Election is a terrific satire with a terrific premise which is “So, is this a moral situation or an ethical situation? What’s the difference between morals and ethics anyway?” And it’s all played out in a high school during a student body president election. Attractive and ambitious Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is determined to become the student body president. But her teacher Jim McCallister (Matthew Broderick) detests her…or does he? Mr. McCallister sets out to find the perfect opposing candidate in likeable, popular, clueless Paul Metzler (Chris Klein). But when both Paul and Mr. McCallister manage to tick off Paul’s sister Tammy, all-out war ensues.

SMART MOVIES FOR SMART KIDS: WALT DISNEY’S ANIMATION STUDIOS SHORT FILM COLLECTION (2015)-Netflix

This really is a must see. A collection of twelve fantastic and different animated shorts from Walt Disney Studios. Some are Oscar winners like Paperman and Feast, some are poignant like The Little Match Girl and some are technically innovative like Get a Horse! All of them are worth watching for both kids and adults alike.

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MUSICOLOGY: VOLUME THREE, TWIST! IS ALIVE AND KICKING ON AMAZON!

GET MUSICOLOGY: VOLUME THREE, TWIST! TODAY!

THE THIRD BOOK IN THE MUSICOLOGY BOOK SERIES!

HERE IS THE BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Who is Donnie Trojan? The Circle of Seven have been revealed and the pressure is on. The resident diva exhibits her conniving zenith as she continues making carnage of the other contestants’ careers. But Ruby Diamonds is on to her and enlists the help of an old friend and an unlikely budding romance to set things right. Amidst the drama Devon embraces the unexpected rising ratings and Max scrambles to figure out who “The Kid” is before the show takes another damaging turn and obliterates his career. 

MUSICOLOGY: VOLUME THREE, TWIST! RELEASES MONDAY, JANUARY 11TH!!!!

Good afternoon. Gigi the parti poodle here and I must say this has been a most momentous week. Firstly, because my novelist is releasing her third book in her Musicology series, Musicology: Volume Three, Twist! but more importantly because I received my first professional haircut since the dawn of Covid19. I must admit I am terrible at allowing people to style my hair. I am a feisty poodle after all. And so, my novelist and I went round after round for months with her trying to use the Wahl clippers and scissors on me to disastrous results. Therefore, I was escorted off at 10:30 on Tuesday morning to have my locks sheared. My novelist took me to my usual groomers who have extremely strict Covid19 regulations. My novelist was not allowed inside the shop. No one who was not a dog or professional groomer employed by the shop was allowed entrance which of course delighted my hypochondriac novelist. I was whisked inside where I was bathed and trimmed and of course had my nails done. One must always have one’s nails done. Being it winter in the northwest I am quite chilly now but exquisite to look at as is illustrated in my before and after photos below. As anyone can clearly see I am a fine specimen of the Canis Lupus Familiaris variety. I will now allow you some time to gaze upon my beauty as one does a famous painting and contemplate the extraordinary art of my being. And without further ado, here is my novelist.

On Monday, January 11th, my third novel in my book series Musicology series releases! To kick things off here is the description:

Who is Donnie Trojan?

WHO IS DONNIE TROJAN?

The Circle of Seven have been revealed and the pressure is on. The resident diva exhibits her conniving zenith as she continues making carnage of the other contestants’ careers. But Ruby Diamonds is on to her and enlists the help of an old friend and an unlikely budding romance to set things right. Amidst the drama Devon embraces the unexpected rising ratings and Max scrambles to figure out who “The Kid” is before the show takes another damaging turn and obliterates his career.

My Books

You can check out my books Chicane and the first two books in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby! and Musicology: Volume Two, Kid! on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. Musicology Volume Three, Twist! will release this Monday, January 11, 2021. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will will Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: BEST IN SHOW (2000)-Showtime

Christopher Guest makes very funny films. His most notable is This is Spinal Tap which essentially put the mocumentary on the map. Best in Show is in my opinion his second-best work. Set in the world of televised dog shows the movie depicts and spoofs different wacky characters all vying for the coveted blue ribbon at the Mayflower Kennel Club competition. Among the dogs are a standard poodle, a bloodhound, a distempered Weimaraner, a pampered Shih Tzu and a Norwitch terrier. One of the standouts in the movie is Fred Willard as Buck Laughlin a dysfunctional announcerwho makes varying bizarre and hilarious comments about the dogs and their owners.

SMART MOVIES FOR SMART KIDS: PUSS IN BOOTS-Netflix

A lot of folks like Shrek but for me Puss in Boots albeit a spin-off is the smarter better film. This wonderfully droll tale explores the formative years of the would-be notorious feline Puss (Antonio Banderas) and his childhood friend Humpty Dumpty (Zack Galifianakis) who may or may not have deserved to fall off that wall. The villainous Jack and Jill add chaos and spunk as outlaws who have gotten their hands-on Jack’s magic beans. The film also introduces Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) who is just as smart and engaging as our anti-hero. Their dance-off in the milk bar is a whole lot of fun.   

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PHOTOBOMB!!!

MUSICOLOGY: VOLUME THREE, TWIST! IS COMING!

Good Evening. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here to wish you a most jubilant New Year’s Eve and a Gott Nytt År. It has been a most stressful week. My novelist had one book to finish on her 10 to Try reading challenge she does at the library each year. This is year three. I lay dutifully by her side as she read most of yesterday and midmorning today. Finally, at eleven fifteen AM she finished the book. There was much dancing and merriment, and I was exhausted. She galivanted off and retrieved her pinback button and added it to her cherished collection. Tomorrow she starts book one. Terrifying!

I am Tucker and I am a Maltese and I love to say Happy New Year! Happy New Year! Happy New Year! Happy…!

Almost like having a streaker from the seventies run through is it not? Without further ado here is my novelist.

Greetings! I hope you are having a happy holiday season. Monday, January 11th I am releasing my third book in the Musicology book series, Musicology, Volume Three, Twist! The novel has a couple of intriguing twists in it which help introduce an important character into the story prompting the question who is Donnie Trojan?

Writers are often told to introduce all their characters early in their story. I hate this idea. Sometimes characters are better introduced later in the story. One way to get around this is to not introduce the character in the flesh but rather to introduce the character early on through their reputation. However, I have no problem with a character whom I’ve never met and know nothing about showing up part way through a story if the character is there for a reason and pushes the tale forwards. In fact, I wouldn’t mind seeing this happen more often. It would be a lot fresher than having the first scene be at the top of the third act and then the writer takes us back to the beginning.

If you are not familiar with my book series, Musicology is a comical satire about reality performance television. It is a bit raunchy and hopefully shocking at times. I will be doing a few promotions along side the release and will keep you posted on when those are going to happen.

My Books

You can check out my booksChicane and the first two books in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby! and Musicology: Volume Two, Kid! on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. Musicology Volume Three, Twist!will release this January 2021. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will will Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (1997)-Amazon Prime

One of the funniest movies ever made and it’s leaving Prime today. If you watch it, please leave your political correctness and the large stick you carry up your ass at the door. Humor isn’t humor if it doesn’t ruffle feathers and this thing could ruffle all the feathers at Foster Farms. For those of you who think this film is “gross”, “stupid”, “vulgar”, “violent”, “shallow”, “outdated”, “dreadful”, “rubbish”, “disgusting”, “juvenile”, “crude”, “dumb”, “problematic”, “weird”, “crass”, “insensitive”, “shallow,” “obscene,” “simplistic”, “pointless”, “unoriginal”, “horrible”, “corny”, “overrated”, “graphic”, “unsympathetic”, “toilet humor”, “rubbish”, “junk”, “uncomfortable,” “childish”, “tasteless”, “creepy”, “insulting”, “sad”, “limp”, “saggy”, “camp fare”, “silly”, “superficial” and “obnoxious” I invite you to read my Musicology series which is all these things and much more scaring. The plot: high school age everyman Ted (Ben Stiller) falls for the brilliant and lovely Mary (Cameron Diez) and gets up the courage to ask her to the prom. But when a horrible accident occurs on the night of the big dance, they lose touch. Realizing he’s still in love with her a decade later he enlists the help of his best friend Dom (Chris Elliott) who in turn hooks him up with sleazy undercover detective Pat Healy (Matt Dillon) to find her.

SMART MOVIES FOR SMART KIDS-PAUL BLART: MALL COP (2009)-Netflix

Kid’s shouldn’t carry sticks up their asses either. And that is why I am recommending this fun fare for older kids. I have watched this film three or four times now and I still don’t understand why it gets bad ratings. It’s funny, lighthearted, and vaguely crude. Paul Blart (Kevin James) has one dream and that is to be a cop. But he’s hypoglycemic and tends to fall asleep at inopportune times. However, he has a big heart and takes his work seriously working as a security guard at the local mall where he falls for new kiosk worker Amy (Jayma Mays). Paul’s life takes an unexpected turn when a young new security guard named Vek (Keir O’Donnell) begins to shadow him.      

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The Call of the Queen

Good Afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here to introduce my novelist and wish you all Joyeux Noel and happy holidays. In the spirit of Christmas and out of the goodness of my heart I am going to allow the Maltese to say a few words:

Hello! I am Tucker and I am a Maltese. I have been sniffing all the presents under the tree and I am excited! I am looking forward to dinner as well! I cannot wait to taste…

Alright that’s enough. One can only be so good. As for myself I am looking forward to the cupcakes my novelist will be baking later today. She is a fair baker at best which is why alas she is making cupcakes instead of say Christmas Pudding or a Buche de Noel. But she has promised to make cookies before New Years so there is that. I am hoping Santa put a new Coach dog leash under the tree as I feel my Harley Davidson one is showing wear. Again I…

We!

We wish you Buon Natale and hope you are having a wonderful holiday season!

Happy Holidays! And thank you to everyone who downloaded my novel Chicane this past week! Just as a reminder Musicology Volume Three, Twist! releases this January and I will update you on the exact date in the next week or so.

This week I thought for fun I’d give my take on The Queen’s Gambit. This is an excellent Netflix miniseries which I put on my list last week of ten dramas to stream. One of my favorite things about this story is it features an introverted intuitive thinking female (the female version of Walter White as an example). Introverted intuitive thinking females are exceedingly rare and this may be part of what makes some people so intrigued with and in some cases repelled by Beth Harmon. Female INTPs and INTJs combined make up 3% of the population as you can see from the visuals below:

This is precisely why Beth is so out of place around other females at her high school especially in one of the scenes where she visits her classmate’s house. And the depiction of Beth’s contrast from her host and the other teenage female guests is spot on. Not to mention the only reason Beth was invited is because her success in chess tournaments started to make her famous locally. Think of an introverted intuitive thinking female as being too masculine to hang with the girls and too feminine to hang with the boys. But where they are uninterested and even remedial in basic social mores, they are exceedingly focused and driven to excel in whatever interests them. And in Beth’s case it is chess.

I had watched a few episodes of the series before I discovered or stumbled upon what I think might be the key or the secret to how this remarkable storyline works. Walter Tevis had astute knowledge of literature. He was in fact an English professor by trade and taught at Ohio University in Athens Ohio and was also a member of the Authors Guild. His first novel The Hustler is a classic and was made into the landmark film of the same name. His inspiration for the novel came from his best friend from high school having purchased a pool hall where he often hung out.

Tevis noticed when he was teaching that the literacy rate amongst students was on a sharp decline and was inspired to write a novel in 1980 called Mockingbird which was a science fiction book set in the 25th century about a bleak and deteriorating New York.

So, with all that in mind what suddenly struck me about The Queen’s Gambit which was published in 1983 was its stunning resemblance to Jack London’s classic, The Call of the Wild. Is it possible that Beth is in a sense Buck the remarkable St Bernard Scotch-Collie dog who was taken from its original master? Buck’s life then becomes a journey of going from owner to owner to owner. Buck like Beth is always excelling in his abilities but no one person for one reason or another can seem to stay with him…until he realizes what he needs is to be with his own pack. It is essentially what Beth does throughout the course of the story. She loses her mother in a car accident when she is nine and goes from “owner” to “owner” to “owner” strengthening her skills more and more with each one. Was Walter Tevis on some level writing a reimagination of the classic or at least borrowing its structure to introduce students to a modern take on a great work of literature? If The Hustler is a Greek Tragedy played out in pool halls could not The Queen’s Gambit be The Call of the Wild played out in chess tournaments?

Also, there is the question of is there a human whom Beth is modeled after? Who is Beth in Tevis’s mind? Most likely she is inspired by his daughter Julie, a bright early-on feminist. Tevis said of his novel it was “a tribute to brainy women” like Julie. He may have realized early on his daughter was a smart precocious child who may not have fit in with the other girls and may have been rejected to a certain degree by boys. Tevis himself was socially awkward and infused some of his own personality into Beth. His son William has said in interview when his father was young, he was once tied to a telephone pole by other children who removed his pants and abandoned him. This incident left a permanent scar on Tevis’s psyche. Tevis continued in middle and high school to be isolated and incongruous. His clothes were often mocked by other students and he was ignored by his wealthy peers.

Beth is suspected by some to be Bobby Fischer although Tevis’s Authors Note at the beginning of the novel lists not only Robert Fischer but Boris Spasky and Anatoly Karpov as well. It is quite possible Walter Tevis did borrow from Fischer’s life and talent as he was a chess player himself and fascinated by Fischer. Bobby Fischer was raised by a single mother. He had an older sister named Joan which may be who Beth’s friend Jolene is based on or possibly even who the janitor Mr. Shaibel is based on because it was Joan who purchased Bobby’s first chess set at a candy store and was his original opponent. And Fisher was a socially awkward introverted intuitive thinker. Also, Fischer learned to play chess at the age of 6. Perhaps Tevis thought it amusing to flip the 6 and make it a 9 which is the age Beth learns to play. Perhaps it was a little wink and nod to flipping the male into a female protagonist.

When he was a child, Tevis had a rheumatic heart condition and was given heavy doses of the barbiturate phenobarbital and it is where he got the idea for the pills Beth is given in the orphanage. He was also an alcoholic which Beth is as well, other elements of Tevis weaving his own experiences into the story.  

The epigraph of the novel is Long Legged Fly a poem by William Butler Yeats. The poem is essentially about genius and its requirement of peacefulness and solitude examined through three characters Julius Ceasar (military genius), Helen of Troy (genius of beauty and poise) and Michael Angelo (artistic genius). This of course is a nod to Beth’s introversion which she requires to intricately study her chess moves shown brilliantly in the miniseries by her envisioning a board and pieces on her ceiling at night especially after taking the pills which Jolene tells her to save for bedtime. It also relates to three elements of Beth Harmon: strategic genius, beauty and poise, and artistic genius.

Finally, I’d just like to point out “The Queen’s Gambit” refers to an opening move in chess designed to control the center of the board where white strikes black’s pawn from the side leaving it’s c4 pawn vulnerable. What is interesting about this move is it is debated as to whether it is a real gambit because it puts white on the defensive. Or in other words Beth’s character appears vulnerable but she is in control of the center of the board or rather the center of the chess world and the men she plays. Also, I found Beth’s name fascinating and wondered if one looked at it does it translate to Beth harm men? Tevis seems to like to play with his characters names such as Fast Eddy Felson (Felson= Fallen son?).

My Books

You can check out my books Chicane and the first two books in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby! and Musicology: Volume Two, Kid! on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. Musicology Volume Three, Twist! will release this January 2021. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will will Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: THE GAME (1993)-HBO MAX

Michael Douglas has been in some hugely entertaining films and this incredible thriller is one of his best. Directed by David Fincher, it’s the story of investment banker Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) who is turning forty-eight, the same age his father was when he saw him commit suicide. Nicholas is profoundly serious, extraordinarily rich, and very alone divorcé. He lives in his mansion in San Francisco. Except for his cook Ilsa (Carroll Baker) Nicholas has no interaction with other human beings outside of his work. While berating his office workers one day, he gets a call from Seymore Butts, who is in fact his younger brother Conrad (Sean Penn) who asks him to lunch. Nicholas agrees but somewhat reluctantly as his brother has led a less than respectable life and it’s been a couple of years since they’ve been in touch. Conrad hands his brother an envelope as a gift. Inside is a voucher for a game created by CRS (Consumer Recreation Services). Suspicious but intrigued, Nicholas agrees to accept the gift…but at what risk?

SMART MOVIES FOR SMART KIDS-SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER (1993)-Netflix

This is a tremendously good film for kids and adults alike, easily one of the best of the 1990’s decade. Based on real life chess prodigy Joshua Waizkin, it is a story about balance and nurturing a child’s gift. Joshua first becomes fascinated with the game watching speed chess played in Washington Square Park primarily by hustler Vinny Livermore. Discovering seven-year-old Joshua is more than a little proficient at the game his parents enlist the talents of chess coach Bruce Pandolfini to teach Josh how to play. Torn between Livermore’s more laid-back speed chess style and Pandolfini’s ultra-strict teaching style, Joshua struggles to figure out what kind of chess player he is and what kind of person he wants to become.   

STREAM FOR CHRISTMAS: JOYEUX NOEL (2005)-CRACKLE

If you have never seen this French film, you really should. Based on the book Batailles de Flandres et d’Artois 1914-1919 by Yves Buffetaut, in 1914 during WWI a miracle happened. Sections of the Western Front called an unauthorized truce…for Christmas. And though fierce enemies, French, Scottish and German soldiers came out of the trenches and celebrated it together. The Scottish played Christmas carols on bagpipes and the soldiers exchanged chocolate and champagne. Unfortunately, the film also reminds us that all good things come at a price. It was nominated for the 2006 Oscar for Best Foreign Film (France) and is well worth the watch.  

FREE KINDLE BOOK CHICANE LAST DAY!!!

Happy Holidays!!! Chicane is free on Kindle for the last day today Sunday, December 20th!!! This is my first novel that I published and since it is a story which takes place during the holiday season I have put it up FREE on Amazon! This is a short book and a quick read. Here is the synopsis:

A quirky life or death race against time through a blizzard. When recently retired race car driver Cody Diesel decides to sell his remote cabin in the Rockies all he wants to do is spend one last weekend with his ski buddies. After picking up four beautiful women in a bar everything goes as planned.…until the accident happens…the storm hits…and the unexpected visitor shows up. Now Cody’s driving skills are pushed to the limits as he is forced to face his volatile past as he speeds against time through a brutal Colorado blizzard.

Ten Dramas to Binge Watch Over the Holidays

Good afternoon. Gigi the parti poodle here to introduce my novelist again and let me tell you the tables of turned. That smug little Maltese got his comeuppance this past week when he did something unspeakable to my novelist’s grocery bag. Dreadful. And he had the nerve last week to embarrass me by telling all of you how I put him in his place. Now things are set right, and I am once again in charge of introducing this blog as I should be. I must mention my novelist has her first novel Chicane for free on Amazon right now which is fitting as the story takes place during the holiday season. And let me tell you I enjoyed this wild winter’s tale immensely. It is explicit in parts but that only makes it more fun. We hope you enjoy it.

Hello. I am Tucker the Maltese. May I say something…?

Absolutely not. Without further ado here is my novelist.   

CHICANE IS FREE ON AMAZON!!!

The Kindle version of my first novel Chicane is FREE to download from Amazon right now until Sunday, December 20th. This is a fast-paced short novel about a racecar driver who is forced to face his demons when he must drive a desperate passenger from a remote cabin outside Nederland to Bolder, Colorado through a harrowing December blizzard.

Also, Musicology: Volume Three, Twist! is coming out in January 2021. This is the third installment in the Musicology book series. I will update you soon on the release date.

This week as promised I have a list of Ten Drama Series that are fantastic to stream over the holiday break. I am going to assume you have already binge watched all of Breaking Bad. If you have not watched all five seasons you need to do that first. Afterwards you can partake of the following holiday binging Smorgasbord. Here they are:

HOMECOMING (Amazon Prime)- If you have not gotten a chance to watch the first season of this riveting show check it out. Heidi Bergman (Julia Roberts) is a psychiatrist for soldiers returning from the war who stay at the Homecoming facility run by her slick supervisor Colin Belfast (Bobby Cannavale). The facility is designed to help soldiers figure out how to reacclimate to civilian life before they return home…or is it? Heidi is especially focused on Walter Cruz (Stephan James), a young man who believes he is being held at Homecoming against his will.

SUCESSION (HBO)-This dark (and I do mean dark) comedy won the Emmy this year for best drama and best leading actor (Jeremy Strong). It is the cautionary tale of what happens when you have no heroes whatsoever. Centered around the ultra-wealthy Roy family who own and run Waystar Royco a global media empire, dear old dad, and lead viper Logan Roy (Brian Cox) has a stroke and his adult children son Kendall (Jeremy Strong), daughter Siobhan (Shiv) (Sarah Snook), youngest son Romulus (Roman) (Kieran Culkin) and son from a prior marriage Connor (Alan Ruck) begin a war for the coveted CEO spot all in their own way…if they can convince dad to let go of the throne. And let me tell you this family of narcissists take self-centered scum to a whole new level. Don’t let the first episode fool you. This tale just gets more and more twisted as it goes along, and you won’t be able to take your eyes off it till its remarkable season finale is over. 

BETTER CALL SAUL (AMC but you can stream it on Netflix)-Bob Odenkirk reprises his iconic character in this fantastic prequel to what is probably the best television drama series ever made, Breaking Bad. Bouncing between the epilogue of Breaking Bad shot in black and white and the living color pre-Heisenberg era when Saul was a young pre-attorney and then ambulance chasing lawyer it is the humorous and harrowing evolution of how young Jimmy McGill became Saul Goodman. Along the way we see the development of his relationship with Mike (Jonathan Banks), his tender romance with fellow attorney Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) and his tumultuous connection to his brilliant but mentally ill older brother Chuck McGill. This is probably the most underrated show on television. An absolute must see.  

MANIAC (2018 American version Netflix)-Quirky and irreverent this remarkable miniseries is a off-beat blend of present day and science fiction. Owen Milgrim (Jonnah Hill) the quiet somewhat unstable son of the upper class Miligrim family has foraged out and is trying to make it on his own. He decides to participate take a paying gig as a gunnie pig for a drug experiment by the Neberdine Pharmaceutical Biotech company where he meets the troubled and sarcastic Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone) who has more than a few problems of her own. During the mind-bending trial, the two of participants start having dreams where each of them crosses into the other’s vision. 

THE CROWN (Netflix)This sumptuous period piece biopic is fantastically well done, and an absolute must see. Starting out with a young Elizabeth (Clair Foy) who is more than smitten with Philip (Matt Smith) the Duke of Edenborough and the two have plans to wed. Elizabeth’s father King George VI is a consummate smoker who at the age of 56 died from a cancer related heart attack. Elizabeth at the age of 25 then becomes Queen a roll which she both does not want and takes very seriously. She is assisted by Winston Churchill (wonderfully played by John Lithgow) who helps navigate her through the brutal territory of British politics. As Elizabeth continues learning and growing from obstacle after obstacle including the deep-seated jealousies of her husband.

OZARK (Netflix)-A dark and gritty crime series this one is set primarily in the Ozarks, but it starts with a blood fest in Chicago. White-collar money launder financial adviser Martin “Marty” Byrde (Jason Bateman) is distracted by the fact that his wife Wendy Bird (Laura Linney), a public relations worker for political campaigns is having an affair with a douche. He quickly comes out of his stupor when he finds out that he and his business partner are in extremely hot water with a Mexican cartel. On his knees and begging for his and his family’s life Marty cuts a deal to launder a huge sum of money in a short amount of time after he gathers his wife and children, bratty teenage daughter Charlotte (Sophia Hublitz) and psychopath wannabe son Jonnah (Skylar Gaertner) and runs as fast as he can to the Ozarks where he meets Rachel Garrison (Jordanna Spiro) whose establishment the Blue Cat hotel and bar Marty purchases as one of his laundering projects. He also builds an unusual relationship with a young woman named Ruth Langmore (two-time Emmy winner Julia Garner) who will do anything she has to in the name of enterprise and survival.  

BIG LITTLE LIES (HBO)-Based on the book by Liane Moriarty. This absolutely riveting story is centered around a group of upper-class women and the intricate way their stories connect via their children at an elementary school in Monterey, California. Madeline Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon) was blessed with amazing management skills and brilliantly arranges whatever needs to get done. She is married to her second husband Ed (Adam Scott) a likable dependable computer programmer with whom she has a young daughter named Chloe (Darby Camp). She also has an angst-ridden elder daughter Abigale (Kathryn Newton) sired by her first husband beach bum Nathan (James Tupper). Nathan is remarried to yoga instructor Bonnie (ZoëKravitz) and they have a daughter named Skye (Chloe Coleman). Madeline’s best friend is beautiful Celeste Wright (Nichole Kidman) a retired lawyer married to a younger man named Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgård). They have twin sons Josh and Max (Cameron Crovetti & Nicholas Crovetti). Madeline’s nemesis is Renata Klein (Laura Dern) a spoiled accusatory woman married to Gordon (Jeffrey Nordling) with whom she has a daughter named Amabella. Into the picture arrives young, less affluent single mother Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley) and her young son Ziggy (Iain Armitage) whom Renata accuses of choking Amabella. One of these characters is dead. And as the series unfolds through backstory it is up to the audience to figure out which one, why and how.  

THIRTEEN REASONS WHY (Netflix)-Based on the book by Jay Asher whose story was inspired by a female family member’s suicide attempt in high school which she survived; the first season of this tragedy is one of the finest shows about teenagers I have ever seen. Unfortunately, the second season is pure dreck. But I am strongly recommending Season One. Be aware, however, this powerful and moving story is graphic and not for the faint of heart. Set in fictional ordinary Liberty High School the series is about a boy named Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) and his grief over Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) the girl he loved who committed suicide. Shortly after Hannah has been buried Clay receives a strange package in the mail. When he opens it, he finds it is filled with seven cassette tapes. Each side of each tape has a number making thirteen sides in all. On each side Hannah narrates the story of a person in her life and how that person contributed to her suicide.

MINDHUNTER (Netflix)-Based on FBI agent John E. Douglas’s memoir, this series set in the early 1970’s delves into law enforcement’s first innovative steps towards understanding the minds of psychopaths and serial killers through criminal psychology and criminal profiling. The author’s character is renamed Holden Ford (Jonathon Groff) a young FBI agent who after a bungled attempt to stop a psychotic from shooting himself and others, teams up with the older more seasoned Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and female psychologist Dr. Wendy Carr to interview imprisoned psychopaths and create a method with which to hunt and capture them. Their first interview is with the Coed Killer brilliant but deranged Ed Kemper who is serving time for a handful of murders. Kemper is delighted to be interviewed and gives the two agents and psychologist their first glimpse into the new and terrifying criminal mind. 

THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT (Netflix)-If you watch no other show this year (except Breaking Bad of course), watch this miniseries. Based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel of the same name, Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy in a landmark performance) is an INTJ chess prodigy. The only problem is her brilliant and troubled mother tried to commit vehicular homicide/suicide with nine-year-old Beth in the car. Mom succeeds in the suicide, but Beth escapes unharmed and her odyssey begins. She is carted off to an orphanage where she befriends fellow orphan Jolene (Moses Ingram) and convinces the introverted custodian Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp) to teach her how to play chess. Impressed with her extraordinary talent and spatial intelligence, Mr. Shaibel introduces Beth to Mr. Ganz a high school chess teacher who ushers her into the world of competition, but not before Beth is introduced to addictive tranquilizers which the orphanage issues to the girls daily.

My Books

You can check out my books Chicane (which is FREE on Kindle from Wednesday, December 16th until Sunday December 20th) and the first two books in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby! and Musicology: Volume Two, Kid! on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. Musicology Volume Three, Twist! will release this January 2021. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will will Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940)-HBO Max

This is a tremendous movie to watch during the holiday season and one I think might get overlooked. The critics at Rotten Tomatoes rightfully give it 100 percent. In Budapest, Hungary in 1940 is an upscale shop owned by mildly gruff but likable businessman Hugo Matuschek (The Wizard of Oz himself Frank Morgan) who has an eclectic staff including his favorite and longest tenured and most trusted employee Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) who has been with Matuschek and Company for nine years. However, there seems to be something amiss between the two men which starts out with Alfred acquiring a female pen pal. The two letter writers have decided to remain anonymous even as the correspondence becomes more serious. Other salespeople in the store include family man Pirovitch (Felix Bressart), salesman and dandy Ferencz Vadas (Joseph Shildkraut), saleswoman Ilona Novotny (Inez Courtney), clerk Flora Kaczek (Sarah Haden), new young ambitious saleswoman Klara Novak (Margret Sullivan), and young plucky delivery boy Pepe Katona (William Tracy). The film is based on the 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklós László. The play was also made into the films You’ve Got Mail, In the Good Old Summertime, and the Broadway musical She Loves Me. The Shop Around the Corner is by far the best of these adaptations.  

SMART MOVIES FOR SMART KIDS: KLAUS (2019)-Netflix

A good movie for both younger and older kids and adults for that matter. Jesper Johansson, son of the Royal Postmaster General is a spoiled young adult. He is so lazy he gets kicked out of the postman academy…and his father is not happy about it. Fed up with his attitude, dear old dad sends Jesper to the little remote ice-cold town of Smeerensburg where if he doesn’t deliver 6,000 letters within one years’ time, he will be cut off from his family’s fortune. But it is not easy to deliver that much mail in this small rough and tumble town…that is until he meets a reclusive toymaker who lives in the woods.     

SCREENWRITINGU FREE CLASS FRIDAY: 5 Master Rewriting Processes

This week’s class is 5 Master Rewriting Processes. You can sign up for the class here. ScreenwritingU Free Friday Classes are teleconferences unless otherwise specified.

CHICANE IS FREE ON KINDLE!!!

CHICANE IS FREE ON KINDLE!!!

Happy Holidays!!! Chicane is free on Kindle today, Wednesday, December 16th until Sunday December 20th!!! This is my first novel that I published and since it is a story which takes place during the holiday season I have put it up FREE on Amazon! This is a short book and a quick read. Here is the synopsis:

A quirky life or death race against time through a blizzard. When recently retired race car driver Cody Diesel decides to sell his remote cabin in the Rockies all he wants to do is spend one last weekend with his ski buddies. After picking up four beautiful women in a bar everything goes as planned.…until the accident happens…the storm hits…and the unexpected visitor shows up. Now Cody’s driving skills are pushed to the limits as he is forced to face his volatile past as he speeds against time through a brutal Colorado blizzard.

Ten Comedies To Binge Watch Over The Holidays

Hello! I am Tucker and I am a Maltese. Gigi was a naughty, naughty poodle this week and I get to do the intro because she was bad. I will tell you what she did. Our novelist was harnessing us up to go for a walk when Gigi attacked me for no good reason. Our novelist hurried to pull her off me. She squatted down and lost her balance, and her head went into the door and she pulled some muscles in her neck. She got very mad at Gigi and scolded her and told her she would not be going on a walk that day. So, I got to go on a walk with our novelist without Gigi. It was a lot of fun. Also…

Gigi the parti poodle here to introduce my…

No, no, no! You were naughty.

Yes, well…I might have had a momentary lapse of reason but…

No, you were naughty! You attacked me and you hurt our novelist!

And for that I am truly ashamed, but it was an accident…

Also, it was our novelist’s birthday this week!

I was supposed to say that! That was my line!

You were naughty. Here is our novelist!

Firstly, I’d like to remind you to celebrate the holidays my novel Chicane about a race car driver forced to speed through a Colorado blizzard will be FREE on Kindle from Thursday, December 16th until Sunday December 20th.  It is a short winter novel written with a fast pace and I hope you get a chance to enjoy it!

Secondly, this week I thought it would be fun to write down a list of ten outstanding television comedies to binge watch over the holidays and where they’re streaming. Next week I’ll do a list of ten dramas. Here we go:

FLEABAG (Amazon Prime)-Based on Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s play this show won every award out there and for good reason. A savvy young woman known only as Fleabag hilariously attempts to navigate through her thoroughly screwed up life in modern day London in her ill-fated attempts to run a small restaurant, tolerate her nut-ball family and find a man…or many men. Both seasons are outstanding but let me advise you this is an exceptionally explicit and very dark comedy. You have been warned.

THE END OF THE FxxxING WORLD (Netflix)-Based on the graphic novel by Charles Forseman both seasons of this British dark comedy are superb. Introverted teenager James (Alex Lawther) thinks he is a psychopath and sets out to murder annoying fellow classmate Alyssa (Jessica Barden). But to his dismay he falls in love with the straight shooting sardonic young lass instead. With his mother dead and his father an unbearable ass James and Alyssa decide to run away together but they find that independence can become extremely dangerous amazingly fast when they break into a college professor’s house to spend the night. 

THE IT CROWD (Netflix)-Why this wildly funny show never made it on air as an American comedy is beyond all comprehension. Young computer illiterate Jen Barber (Katherine Parkinson) lands a management job at Reynholm Industries where she thinks she is at the beginning of a beautiful career. But instead, she is sent to the basement by CEO Denholm Reynholm (Chris Morris) to oversee the Information Technology department comprised of computer techs Roy Tenneman (Chris O’Dowd) Maurice Moss (Richard Ayoade) and goth obsessed Richmond Avenal (Noel Fielding). As the techs teach Jen to become more computer savvy Jen in turn assists them in learning how to become human beings. Matt Berry joins the show in later seasons as Denholm’s whack job son Douglas. 

SILICON VALLEY (HBO)-This spot-on comedy about the tech world by Bevis and Butthead and Office Space creator Mike Judge is a well-cast comedy that revolves around a handful of talented programmers trying to develop the next big computer company. Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middlemarch) is a shy nerdy klutz who happens to be a genius. He works for the big Hoolie tech corporation run by megalomaniac Gavin Belson (Matt Ross). When he creates an algorithm with an extraordinary ability for compressing computer files Richard establishes his own start-up called Pied Piper. With the help of loud-mouthed drug addled former whiz kid Erlich Bachman (TJ Miller) Richard joins Bachman’s incubator to nurture the project with fellow techs Bertram Gilfoyle (Martin Star) and Dinesh Chugtai (Kumail Nanjiani).

FRASIER (Peacock)-A lot of people are fans of binging older NBC shows like Friends and The Office. But for me Frasier is the real standout. One of the finest classiest spinoff series of all time the story circles around astute psychiatrist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammar) from the show Cheers. After his divorce from the stoic Lilith, Frasier leaves his ex-wife and young son Fredrick behind and returns to Seattle, Washington to start a new life as a dial in psychiatrist for a radio show produced by the sardonic Roz Doyle (Peri Gilpin). But his younger and more fastidious brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) puts a wrench in Frasier’s plans when he dumps their widowed wounded ex-cop father into his hands to take care of. Reluctantly, Frasier moves his grumpy earthy father in with him and hires a beautiful physical therapist Daphnie Moon (Jane Leeves) whom Niles becomes hopelessly smitten with. All eleven seasons are well worth the watch.

BBC’S THE OFFICE (Amazon Prime)-The one that started it all. Darker and more profound than its American counterpart (which is also excellent) this original mockumentary gem brilliantly written by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant is about an embarrassingly inept but lovable boss named David Brent (Ricky Gervais) and the fascinating ordinary people he oversees at a boring paper merchant in the heart of middle England. His workers include the odd and childish Gareth Keenen (Mackenzie Crook), the pretty and complex receptionist Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis) and likeable everyman Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman). At times shockingly hilarious and at others brutally poignant it is a wonderful look at everyday office life in the modern day. Make certain you do not miss the two-part Christmas show finale at the end of the second season. It is a classic.

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (Netflix)-Originally on Fox this wacky show about the bizarrely dysfunctional Bluth clan is laugh out loud funny. Scumbag real estate developer George Sr. Bluth (Jeffrey Tambor) has landed himself in prison and it is up to the only sane person in the family, son Michael (Jason Bateman) to deal with the shambles of the estate. Michael must manage not only dad’s dwindling finances but his eccentric family members including his manipulative miscreant mother Lucille (Jessica Walter), con-artist and magician wannabe older brother George Oscar Bluth II (Will Arnett), his spoiled promiscuous twin sister Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) and over educated mama’s boy younger brother Byron “Buster” (Tony Hale) as well who can’t seem to realize they are now broke. At the same time Michael struggles to be a father to his only son, teenager George Michael (Michael Cera) who constantly lusts over Lindsay’s daughter, his first cousin the sardonic and resourceful Maybe (Alia Shawkat). 

AMERICAN VANDAL (Netflix)- A mocumentary comedy/mystery set in a high school, known prankster Dylan Maxwell (Jimmy Tatro) is expelled for spray painting a parking lot full of faculty cars with phallic images…but did he do it? Sophomore Peter Maldonato wants to know and proceeds to film the story interviewing different students and faculty members to get to the truth with side-splitting hilarity and unexpected twists and turns. In all good conscience I cannot recommend the second season of this show. But if you have never seen the first season you absolutely must.

COBRA KAI (Netflix)A while back I dedicated a whole post to this show which started out as a YouTube Original and I’m going to pimp it again because this thing is pure television crack and I dare you to watch just one episode. Thirty-four years after losing the All-Valley Karate championship to Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid, Cobra Kai phenom Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) is down and out living in a cheap apartment, working as a handyman and drinking a whole lot of Coors Banquet beer. But when a high school kid named Miguel Diez (Xolo Maridueña) moves into the apartment across the way and witnesses Johnny lay out three jerks from his class, he wants to learn the way of the fist enticing Johnny to reopen the Cobra Kai dojo. To complicate things, Miguel meets and falls for LaRusso’s teenage daughter Samantha (Mary Mouser) and Samantha in turn strikes up a friendship with Johnny’s estranged teenage son plucky Robby Keene. Season three comes out in January on Netflix.

CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND (Netflix)-Originally on The CW this is the one you’ve got to see to believe. I have no idea how they pulled this off. A comedy/musical/satire about a brilliant but certifiably insane young female lawyer named Rebecca Bunch (the remarkably talented Rachel Bloom who created the show) is still madly in love with some random guy named Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III) she met and had a micro fling with at a camp when she was in high school. On the verge of bagging the job of a lifetime at a major law firm in New York City she chucks it all away and moves cross country to West Covina, California where Josh lives and hunts him like Elmer Fudd tracking Buggs Bunny only to meet a likeable but shy underachieving bartender named Greg Serrano (Santino Fontana) who becomes smitten with the misguided loon.  

My Books

You can check out my books Chicane (which is FREE on Kindle from Wednesday, December 16th until Sunday December 20th) and the first two books in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby! and Musicology: Volume Two, Kid! on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. Musicology Volume Three, Twist! will release this January 2021. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will will Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK-FARGO-Amazon Prime & Netflix

In January of 1996, a little film about a pregnant police officer who finds herself working on a case involving a couple found shot dead in their car along the roadside came to theatres. The film went on to be considered one of the best movies of all time. Set in 1987 car dealer Jerry Lundeguaard (William H. Macey who is outstanding) finds himself in a boring loveless marriage to a woman whose father is a wealthy ass. Jerry goes to the father with a business proposition but is shot down in short order. Determined to make his dream come true Jerry hires a couple of thugs, Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and psychopath Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Sormare), to kidnap his wife and demand a ransom from his father-in-law. Things spin quickly and violently out of control as whip smart Police Chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand in her fantastic first Oscar winning performance) works to put the pieces together and stop the madness surrounding a little bit of money.

SMART MOVIES FOR SMART KIDS: GARFIELD SPECIALS (1991)-Amazon Prime

This collection of nine of the Garfield specials that aired in the mid 1980’s thru 1990 is a lot of fun. The Halloween Special is for some reason not included but the Thanksgiving one where Jon invites Liz over for dinner and the Christmas one where Jon, Odie and Garfield all visit his parents’ farm are as well as the off-beat Garfield’s 9 Lives and Garfield’s Feline Fantasies. Terrific for both younger and older kids as well as nostalgic adults.  

SCREENWRITINGU FREE CLASS FRIDAY: The Layers of DEAD TO ME

You can sign up for the class here which is on Friday, December 11th at 12:00 noon PST. This is a teleconference on your phone.