You Really Should Be Watching Better Call Saul

Good afternoon. I am Gigi the parti poodle and I am here to introduce my novelist’s blog. I will be returning next Thursday with my new story. The events that occurred on Tuesday have made this a most frustrating and sorrowful week. I am a mere poodle, but I thought I would look at the USA human’s Declaration of Independence to attempt to understand how the events that occurred should be addressed. I find it interesting that the document says this:  

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.”

As a poodle what I find interesting in the document is the inalienable rights listed are in this order: Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. In that order and not in alphabetical order or any other order which, from my poodle mind implies that the first, Life, is the most important inalienable right then followed by Liberty which one cannot have without Life and then the pursuit of Happiness which one cannot do if one does not have Liberty. It is instinctive and logical that one should always put the most important information first and the rest in descending order.  

This is backed up and repeated by the order listed in the line “laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Again, Safety precedes Happiness, and the words are not in alphabetical order or any other order. If the last item listed was the most important and held the most value, the reader would swiftly be given further explanation. This therefore implies one cannot have Happiness without Safety as it is Safety which is clearly listed first and therefore more important than Happiness.

An example of providing further information pertaining to a list which does not list the most important item first is in the New Testament of the Holy Bible in 1 Corinthians 13:13 as spoken by the Apostle Paul: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” The last line immediately explains that charity, though listed last, is the most important of the three items. Charity by the way is defined by the dictionary as Agape love specifically as opposed to Eros, Philia or Storge.  

Though the Declaration of Independence is not a Christian paper it does have religious and Christian influences. Therefore, the forefathers would have been aware of this biblical passage and would have taken note as to how carefully it is structured. They even state in the document that these rights were given to them by their Creator and not man. They in turn would have paid very close and careful attention to the order of the inalienable rights in the document thus making the list of first to last by design and not happenstance. If the first inalienable right was not the most important one, they like, the Apostle Paul, would have made an additional statement about Liberty or the pursuit of Happiness being the most important inalienable right as opposed to Life.

In addition, the document says that if any government becomes destructive of these rights which, by not addressing the list in the order stated with Life first, Liberty second and the pursuit of Happiness third, said government is in violation of the Declaration of Independence. Per the document “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”

Just some thoughts from a poodle.  

You Really Should Be Watching Better Call Saul

This AMC show is without doubt one of the best on television, maybe the best, and sadly it is coming to an end this year, its sixth season. Breaking Bad for which Better Call Saul is the prequal, attracted a large audience for its very smart and exciting shocking turns and twists. This series has those too but to a subtler degree. Better Call Saul is a show for grownups not because of its mature content but because its sophisticated nature requires intelligence and patience to appreciate its meticulous and carefully crafted storytelling. I once met an adult who said they needed to have the jokes on Frasier explained to them and therefore didn’t care for the series. If you are like that person this show is not for you. 

The first season starts with us meeting a young struggling Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) working in the mailroom of successful Albuquerque law firm HHM. Jimmy wants to be a lawyer, but his narcissistic genius older brother Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) a senior partner in the successful HHM (Hamlin Hamlin McGill) will do anything to stand in his way. Chuck has a great deal of animosity for his younger brother Jimmy who has a perchance for being a con artist. It is suggested that Jimmy is probably more gifted than Chuck at being a lawyer and Chuck’s jealousy runs deep despite graduating high school at age fourteen as valedictorian, earning his bachelors from the University of Pennsylvania and graduating magna cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center. Plainly put, Chuck has the brains, but Jimmy has the talent.

Chuck is also plagued with a mental illness called EHS (electromagnetic hypersensitivity). He wraps himself in a space blanket to be able to go outside and keeps the lights off in his house. He is still a senior partner at his law firm but unable to conduct himself as a lawyer. Jimmy, who loves his brother, has become Chuck’s caregiver which Chuck uses to manipulate Jimmy.

Jimmy has a friend in the mailroom named Kimberly Wexler (Rhea Seahorn) a young woman who finishes her law degree and becomes an associate lawyer for HHM. The two help each other throughout the course of the series and gradually become closer as the seasons progress.

Working as the security man at the gate for HHM is Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), who later becomes the righthand man for Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Both are major characters in Breaking Bad. As the series begins Mike is a former Philadelphia police officer who is trying to make ends meet for his daughter in law and his granddaughter after his son, also a police officer, was killed in the line of duty. Mike and Gus’s stories and their entanglement with the Salamanca family who are also major players in Breaking Bad weave into the transformation of Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman.

One of the most intriguing parts of the show are the black and white opening scenes which take place somewhere around or just after the time of El Camino. We get to see Saul in a much different situation than he is in either Better Call Saul or Breaking Bad and Vince Gillian is not giving away any secrets. So don’t adjust your television, the look is utterly intentional, and I can’t wait to see how all or at least some of the ends get tied up.

You can stream the first five seasons of Better Call Saul on Netflix. Each season is ten episodes. For the new and final sixth season watch AMC. It is a must-see television landmark.

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad 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 win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: NOBODY (2121)-HBO Max

This week’s film could provide the focus for an entire season of Myth Busters. An ultimate middle-aged man fantasy, the movie starts out brilliantly giving us quick cuts of the day in the life of Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) an everyday man working at a mundane office job in his father in Eddy Williams (Michael Ironside) factory. Hutch tolerates his beautiful but indifferent wife Becca (Connie Nielson), disenchanted son Blake (Gage Monroe), and overtly macho nephew in law and coworker Charlie (Billy MacLellan). Hutch rides the bus to work, misses the garbage truck consistently, jogs to keep in shape, and sleeps with a pillow between he and his wife.

Then one night a twenty-something man and woman break into his house. Hutch attempts to deal with the situation as peacefully as possible, even giving the robbers his sentimental watch. Son Blake tackles the male robber causing the female robber to wield a Smith and Wesson. When they find Hutch has little to no valuables, they leave the house but not before the man punches Blake in the face. This causes Blake to lose even more respect for his already disappointing father.

Hutch is humiliated by the cop that comes to the house as well as his coworkers, but he sticks with his belief that he did what was right. That is until the only person who believes in him, his daughter Abby (Paisley Cadorath) finds that her kitty bracelet which happened to be in the same dish where Hutch kept the spare change the robbers took comes up missing.

Thus begins Hutch’s odyssey to prove to his family there is more to him than meets the eye.    

You Really Should Be Watching Severance

Good afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here once again and I know you are missing me. I am diligently working on the groundwork for my new story coming out in June. As you know, my novelist is briefly taking over to discuss some television shows and movies to keep you entertained while I am on hiatus.

The weather around here has been erratic. We have gotten rain, sun, and winds. Our May month is often a lovely time here in the pacific northwest but this year it has been a weather dragon. Personally, I blame the Maltese. He in no way controls the weather but I blame him anyway. I occasionally have gone on walks on the sunnier days so not all is lost. However, I would like it if I could sunbathe in front of the window more often. Even as I write this, I see the grey clouds rolling in. How can I work on my hair color this way? I must look incredible to prepare for all the neighborhood summer gatherings. Even those infernal nocturnal cats will make fun of my less than bleached locks. You can’t begin to imagine how catty those felines can be. Again, I blame the Maltese and his natural platinum hair. Anyway, here is my novelist.   

You Really Should Be Watching Severance

Not only is Severance (Apple TV+) the best new show on television, but if it keeps up the pace of its freshman season it might have a chance of being one of the best of all time. Loosely though not admittedly based on the novella Paycheck by Philip K. Dick which was made into the film of the same name, employees of the Lumon corporation agree to have their brain “severed” to maintain a work life balance. What happens at work stays at work and what happens at home stays at home. The price they pay, however, is their memories. The procedure Lumon does to its employees separates them into two different people: their innie and their outie. Their innie knows nothing about their personal life and their outie knows nothing about their work life. The memories of each of these remains separate.

Mark S. (fantastically played by Adam Scott) has a reason for his choice to work at Lumon. He has suffered a horrific tragedy and to function properly at work he chose two years ago to undergo “the procedure” (two years, by the way, is the same amount of time it took the lead character Jennings in Paycheck to fulfill his contract at the Rethrick Construction Company). His sister Devon (Jen Tullock) is about to have her baby, his brother-in-law Ricken (Michael Chernes) has just published a self-help book called The You You Are, and life is going along as normal…until one day Mark’s manager Petey (Yul Vasquez) suddenly no longer works for the company.

Mark S. is promoted to Petey’s position. Newcomer Helly R. (wonderfully played by Britt Lower) an unhappy and rebellious young thirty-something finds herself waking up on a conference table, employed by Lumon, and inducted into Mark’s team. In addition to Mark S. and Helly R., the team also includes fastidious Irving (John Turturo) and reward driven Dylan (Zach Cherry). Overlording Mark’s team is Harmony Cobel (a wonderfully wicked performance by Patricia Arquette) and her always professional henchman Mr. Milchick (Tramell Tillman).

At Lumon the rooms are stark and nearly empty, the exit doors lead right back in if you try to leave, and once in a great while a stranger from another department shows up like Burt (Christopher Walken) who works for Optics & Design. The only way in and out of the place (for most employees) is through the elevator.

One night, Petey shows up and meets Mark S.’s outie at a diner. Petey says he has found a way to reverse the procedure, de-sever, and regain all his work memories. Mark’s outie does not recognize Petey despite Petey’s insistence that he is Mark’s best friend. Just the same, Mark agrees to hide him in his basement and after their initial encounter, Mark starts to question whether his decision to work at Lumon was the wisest choice after all.

Ben Stiller’s direction is amazing here capturing both a Twilight Zone and Kubrickian atmosphere as he brings creator Dan Erickson’s nightmarish take on corporate culture to life. Theodore Shapiro’s original score is both haunting and infectious. Oliver Latta’s opening credits alone are Emmy worthy with a fantastic animation sequence you do not want to miss.

That said, science fiction is a very tricky genre. A good science fiction writer has a solid understanding of science (see for example playwright and novelist Paul Zindel). As Isacc Asimov said, “Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.” In other words, it is a niche group who can write science fiction well. A strategic-thinking group. Many writers are idealists and often give into emotion over logic. This leads me to say there was one flaw in Severance which is the final scene of the final episode. And I am being rather picky here but when I saw it, I knew something was off.

I thought about it overnight and realized the fault lay in selecting an emotional choice over a thinking choice. So, let’s say you have a fantasy movie like Ghost. The movie from the get-go is based on emotions. When we get to the final scene the right choice is to make it emotional. And it is emotional because it’s the tone the writer set up from the beginning. But with a science fiction movie like The Terminator, we are not dealing with emotions, we are dealing with a problem to be solved. How do the characters keep a killing machine from destroying the woman who will give birth to a human redeemer? The protagonist and her fairy godmother character are required to strategize. Are there emotions in The Terminator? Absolutely and critically. But the main thrust of the story is to leave the audience thinking not feeling. The ending therefore works because the characters make rational choices and because science fiction characters are often designed to be rational or tactical. Or as this article says, “More than any other genre, we’d argue, the protagonists in science fiction cinema are divided along two lines: those of intellect and those of action.”  

Some years back I was in the studio audience of a television show which had won a wheelbarrow full of awards and rightly so. However, they had two endings to the episode I saw taped. One was verbose, much like the last scene in Severance and the other was covert. Guess which one they went with? That’s right, the wrong one. This goes to show even the crem de la crem can make a misstep. Had the Severance creators taken the time to watch expert science fiction filmmaker Christopher Nolen’s Memento, they would know that under time constraints one should accurately write down or somehow record pertinent information. Get one’s thoughts together as opposed to expressing one’s emotions. Another film that extols the importance of recording information is Scott Frank’s The Lookout where if you want to know where a story is going, and you are a person whose brain cannot be trusted, you write the story down by starting at the end and working your way back to the beginning.

The Severance character I’m referring to in the final scene is a thinker and recorded information is set up to be very important to them. By that rational, that character would have accurately recorded the information they received at the end of the final episode in one form or another. Doing so would parallel with the importance of how the keycard is handled in Defiant Jazz, Episode 1.7 and what one of the characters writes on their arm in In Perpetuity, Episode 1.3. Even though another character tells the character in Episode 1.3 what they have written on their arm won’t work under the circumstances, in Episode 1.9 The We We Are recorded information will work because the circumstances have changed. That’s why the character recording the information in the season finale would have made sense, despite the dialog about finding someone you trust in Episode 1.8 What’s for Dinner? Even if this character trusted someone, they would be rational enough to record the information themselves to maintain its accuracy whether they were under duress or not. When you watch the show, you will understand what I mean.

If you want to watch a season of a show that sets all its ducks up perfectly (a lead rational character albeit not a science fiction show) see season two of Breaking Bad and watch how the teddy bear weaves its way through various episodes until the final moment of the final episode leaving no question that the ending is justified and correct.   

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad 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 win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: MANIAC (2018)-Netflix

Similar in tone to Severance is Netflix’s excellent limited series Maniac. The show is loosely based on the 2015 Norwegian show also called Maniac. This is a fantastic mind bender about a schizophrenic young man named Owen Milgram (Jonah Hill) who cannot seem to fit into his wealthy family and agrees to be a subject in a pharmaceutical trial for the Neberdine Pharmaceutical Biotech (NPB) company. Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone), a plucky young woman with borderline personality disorder, is desperate to join the trial to gain access to drugs and silence the demons of her very troubled past. The purpose of the trial: to take first the A then the B then the C pills provided you and let the computer track your dreams as the scientists take notes.

After the unexpected death of the pharmaceutical trial’s lead scientist Dr. Robert Muramoto (Rome Kanda), Dr. James K. Mantleray (Justin Theroux) who was originally thrown off the project is asked by his former girlfriend Dr. Azumi Fujita (Sonoya Mizuno) to return to head the project. Mantleray has psychological issues stemming from his unbalanced relationship with his mother Dr. Greta Mantleray (Sally Field) a famous pop psychologist whom Mantleray must call in to assist with helping his peculiar computer.

The show, much like Severance, does an excellent job of balancing comedy, drama and science fiction weaving technology of the past with technology of the present and future. The dreamscape storylines are magnificently imaginative, and all the characters are vivid. A great show if you’re looking for a summer binge.     

You Really Should Be Watching Ted Lasso

Good afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here to introduce my novelist’s blog. As you may know I am taking a short break from my stories and doing the groundwork for the next one which will be a bit different than Alanna the Piranha. My novelist meanwhile is going to discuss some outstanding television shows available on streaming during the next few weeks that you may or may not have gotten a chance to see.

It is raining more than usual here in the northwest. May can be a beautiful month, but we are getting none of that. There have been breaks where there is sun but a lot of the time the place is living up to its reputation of having downpours. I was supposed to go on walkies today but that is looking unlikely. I do detest getting wet. I do my best work on walkies as I mull over ideas for writing.  

That said, perhaps tomorrow there will be a break and I can return to my brilliant musings. In the meantime, I will keep the Maltese company and snarl and charge him when I get bored. Here my novelist’s post. Nasoloditisya!

You Really Should Be Watching Ted Lasso

Apple TV+ has been making strong headway in the streaming market especially with taking the Academy award for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for CODA. And its television shows are outstanding as well which is partly why I wanted to give Gigi a break and talk about a couple of them over the next few weeks.

Although it is not my favorite dramedy of all time, Ted Lasso is clearly a fantastic show. It’s a big breath of fresh air in a swamp of mediocrity. The plot is high concept. A successful American college football coach named Ted Lasso (brilliantly played by Jason Sudeikis) whose marriage is on the skids agrees to take a job across the pond as head coach for British soccer team AFC Richmond (the greyhounds). The team is own by recently divorced Rebecca Welton (also brilliantly played by Hannah Waddingham) who wants nothing more than to thwart her menacing ex-husband Rupert Mannion (Anthony Head of Buffy the Vampire fame) who cheated on her constantly during their marriage and ran off with a younger woman also named Rebecca. Rebecca’s plan is to annihilate the soccer team her husband adores by driving it into the ground and hires Ted who clearly knows little to nothing about soccer to help her achieve that goal. Although the show has dark themes running through it, it manages to be charming and upbeat.

Ted is an infectious and likeable character who tries to look at the positive side of everything even when things are at their worst. A modern-day Pollyanna if you will. Armed with only his good nature and his assistant coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) he lands in England to a storm of dislike and distrust. The press is against him, the players don’t trust him, and the fans think he is a wanker, a term they say to his face. But Ted stays the course and little by little begins to win over the team, the press, and the fans.

Rounding out the cast are team captain Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), star player Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), Head of Marketing and fashion model Keeley Jones (Juno Temple), Director of Communications Higgins (Jeremy Swift) and ambitious kit man Nathan Shelley (Nick Mohammad).

Many writer/directors out there have a consistent theme that runs through their movies. The Cohen Brothers write about greed. Quentin Tarantino writes about honor. The writers of Ted Lasso focus on fathers. Ted is a father who has been separated from his little boy and it’s killing him especially because he harbors a dark secret about his own dad. Rebecca also knows uncomfortable secrets about her father. Not to mention her ex-husband never wanted to have children with her but he’s perfectly fine having one with his young girlfriend. Roy knows the father of his niece is a jerk, so he steps into the role of her dad. Jamie’s father is an embarrassing lowbrow ass who treats his son abysmally. And no matter what Nathan does or what he accomplishes he can never please his. In fact, the only person who seems to have a healthy relationship with his dad is rising star soccer player Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh).

There are some strange character choices at times that don’t work for me especially in the second season. They don’t seem to add to the character’s persona. In fact, some of the choices weaken the characters’ intelligence and integrity and makes them a little less appealing. It also interferes with the flow of the major storylines.  At the same time there are also some brilliant choices, one being the journey of Nathan’s character. Another is season two episode nine which ironically is the episode with the lowest ratings on IMDB. Probably because it is the least emotional and most imaginative and off-beat of all the episodes. I would like to see the writers stretch themselves more like they did with this one from time to time and see where they could go with that kind of creativity. I wouldn’t mind if all the unusual episodes focused on Beard whom we don’t really get know enough about. The trick might be to add a touch more seriousness to the surrealism. Maybe they could call in Glen Gordon Carron for writing advice who is a master of thinking outside the box for television episodes.

That said season two does end on a strong note with the emergence of a well set up villain, an Iago of sorts. It puts the show in a great position to build a strong trajectory plot for season three which I look forward to with bated breath.

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad 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 win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: FRESH (1994)-Paramount+, Pluto TV & ScreenPix

Finally, finally, finally I have been able to find this film on streaming. One of my favorite movies of 1994 and of the 1990’s in general this brilliant, underrated masterwork tells a grittier more tragic version of Searching for Bobby Fisher. It is written and directed by Boaz Yakin whose work is outstanding here on all levels.

Fresh a.k.a. Michael, (a then twelve-year-old Sean Nelson in a phenomenal performance) is a boy genius and chess prodigy who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He runs drugs for a man named Corky (Ron Brice) and for a man named Esteban (Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul and The Mandalorian fame). Fresh is serious about his education and dreads being late to class especially when he must wait for indifferent drug dealers. He is also cautious and frugal with the money he earns, keeping it in a can he has hidden in a ground pipe in a wooded area near abandoned railroad or possibly subway tracks. He dreams of getting out of the violent and impoverished world in which he is stuck.

His father Sam (Samuel L. Jackson) is a chess master/hustler who lives in a beat-up trailer outside a building and has several chess boards set up inside where he is playing against famous master chess players. He has taught his gifted child everything he knows about the game. Fresh does not live with his father but rather in the projects in an apartment with several other kids. His older sister Nichole (N’Bushe Wright) is a drug addict who has taken up with Esteban much to Fresh’s dismay.  

When one of Corky’s right hand men Jake (Jean-Claude La Marre) shoots and kills another twelve-year old on an outdoor basketball court our of jealousy, he inadvertently also shoots Fresh’s friend and sweetheart Rosie (Natima Bradley). The event starts Fresh on a harrowing journey involving a whole new kind of chess game. One that puts him on a path to take down Esteban and Corky.  

Happy Mother’s Day from Gigi and Tucker

Good morning. The Maltese and I have composed a musical piece for all the mothers out there on this most auspicious day.

We are going to sing! We are going to sing!

Stop that barking! It’s most unbecoming.

But I am excited because it’s Mother’s Day.

Just hold on a moment, would you? Alright, let me get out my pitch pipe here…yes, here it is. Alright, alright. Are you ready to warm up?

Yes, I am. I am a Maltese, and I am ready to warm up.

Fabulous. Alright, let me play the note.

LAAA!

LAAA!

LAAA!

Fantastic. We sound great. Alright here we go.

Happy Mother’s Day to you!

Happy Mother’s Day to you!

Happy Mother’s Day to you and here’s some flowers too. Hey!

Happy Mother’s Day to you!

Happy Mother’s Day to you!

Happy Mother’s Day to you and here’s some chocolates too. Hey!

Happy Mother’s Day to you!

Happy Mother’s Day to you!

Happy Mother’s Day to you and here’s some presents too. Hey!

We’d never put you in a zoo!

We’d always love you though and through!

We’d do most anything for you!

Happy Mother’s Day! Woo!

Happy Mother’s Day to you!

Happy Mother’s Day to you!

Happy Mother’s Day to you!

And here’s some love for you. Hey!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

When Gigi was very young.

When Tucker was very young.

Alanna the Piranha Chapter 33: The Final Chapter

Good morning! It is I Gigi the parti poodle here once again to introduce the final chapter of Alanna the Piranha. As I mentioned last week, I have started the groundwork for a brand-new tale which I will be premiering in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, during my preparation my novelist shall briefly take over the blog and discuss a few movies and television shows she has wanted to highlight.

I must say there was much debate over what my tale should be about. I experimented with different ideas and after trying a couple out I have decided on one. It will be quite a bit different from Alanna as my novelist and I agree that I should keep my stories fresh and always be striving to come up with something new.

Also, I should again mention my novelist has finished writing her newest book and I will keep you posted on its release date. She has also started the next novel as a writer should never finish one story and not write another. We are hopeful this one will not take her as long to pen.

That said I will be back next week to introduce my novelist’s musings and will take over the blog once again by June as I should always be the one in control. Happy Cinco De Mayo and a happy belated May the 4th be with you. Disfrutar! & For Star Wars fans: The story, you shall enjoy!

Alanna the Piranha

by

Gigi the parti poodle

Day the Thirty-Second

I am not happy with my aunt’s idea. She has proposed that Alanna and Fabulous move in with her. She says I need to focus on myself. She does agree they should continue their act at The Chuckle Duck, and I should continue to be their manager. But I would be best with a dog for a pet and to focus my time primarily on getting into grad school.

I know I should apologize to Brooke for stealing her DNA. Stacy told her all about it because Stacy can’t keep her great big mouth shut. And so today I am on route to Brooke’s dorm to do just that. I will probably be arrested. Chicks get kind of testy about these things. I reluctantly enter the dorm and board the elevator. I look down and see my hands are shaking. The elevator doors open, and I step out into the hall which looks a lot longer than it ever has before. One foot in front of the other I tell myself. One foot in front of the other. I head down the corridor hoping I will reach Brooke and Stacy’s room without passing out.

When I arrive at their door, I extend my hand to knock. Then I drop it by my side and stare at the carpet. Then I raise it again and manage to rap on the steel this time. I hear footsteps approach. I feel someone looking at me through the peephole.

“Flint?” Brooke says on the other side.

“Yeah, it’s me,” I say.

She unlocks the door and I push my glasses up on my nose. She is wearing a very conservative dark purple turtleneck top and a pair of grey mom jeans. I know she has been expecting me. “You have a lot of explaining to do,” she says. “I was going to call the police.”

“Thank you for not doing that.” I have never spoken truer words.

“What’s going to happen to Alanna and the rabbit?”

“Fabulous.”

“Yes. Fabulous.”

“They are going to live with my Aunt Linda. She’s a hobby dog breeder.”

“What about the act?”

“They’re going to continue to perform at The Chuckle Duck.”

“How could you do this, Flint? Just take my hair, my hair, and inject it into a rabbit and a fish?”

I clench and unclench my hands which are deep in the pockets of my knockoff Member’s Only jacket. “I was lonely.”

“Are you insane?”

“Apparently.”

“I mean I’ve heard of men doing some pretty crazy things to get women but this…I mean this takes the cake!”

“I’m very sorry, Brooke. I’m very, very sorry. I shouldn’t have stolen your hair from your brush. But you must admit your DNA helped create some remarkable creatures.”

“The only remarkable creatures I ever want to create from my DNA are my own children, Flint!”

“I know. I know that now. I was a horrible, creepy person and I will never do something like that ever again.”

“I mean what you did was remarkable but horrible, you know what I mean?”

“Yes. I know exactly what you mean.”

“Are you going to get some help?”

“You mean an assistant or…”

“No, I mean psychiatric help! You’re deranged!”

“I’m just an Incel. I like science and I’m an Incel.”

“Small wonder! You’re…I don’t even know what you are!”

“Well, I just said what I was.”

“What?”

“I’m an Incel.”

“That’s not an excuse!”

“I didn’t mean it as an excuse. More of an explanation.”

She looks at me like she’s studying a bug she caught in a jar.

“You need a haircut.”

“Yes.”

“And some clothes that fit you. You look like you’re swimming in those things.”

“Yes.”

“And some clothes from this century. My dad wears that jacket.”

“Members Only jackets are kind of making a comeback.”

“That one’s a knockoff.”

“You’re right.”

“And some exercise. I mean you look like a nerdy emo Oliver Twist or something.

Just then the elevator doors open, and I glance that direction. Then I do a double take. A caped figure in a mini skirt and high heels holding a tiny bunny starts coming our way.

“What are you doing here?” I call out.

“You’re Aunt Linda drove us,” Fabulous says. “We have something we want to tell Brooke.”

Brooke turns and looks down the hall to see Alanna carrying Fabulous. “What are they doing here?” she asks me.

“Beats me.”

Alanna moves up beside me and Fabulous and turns to Brooke. “Hello, Brooke,” she says. “I know you are very upset with our Flint here. But Alanna and I wanted to tell you something.”

“Yes,” Alanna says. “We want to say thank you for your DNA. I know you didn’t know Flint had stolen it from your hairbrush. But because of your DNA we get to be more than just a bunny or a piranha.”

“And our performance on Parent’s Day weekend got such buzz all our Chuckle Duck shows are all sold out,” Fabulous adds.

“Wow,” Brooke says. “I don’t even know what to say to that.”

“Here,” Alanna says turning and leaning her free hand forwards. “We got you front row tickets to the show on Saturday.”

“I…thank you.”

“It was Flint’s idea.”

Brooke looks at me and then back at Alanna. “This whole thing is pretty weird for me.”

“I know,” Alanna says. “And maybe what Flint did was wrong. But not everything turned out badly.”

“And Flint gave the money his aunt loaned him back to her,” Fabulous says. “Because Alanna and Flint and I are going to work as a team to make him enough money from our act to get him into grad school.”

“Alright,” Brooke says to me. “I’ll go to the show with you if you let me pick out your clothes. But you can never, ever and I mean ever do an experiment like this with my DNA again.”

I can’t believe how happy this makes me. “You’ve got a deal,” I say. “You’ve got a deal.”

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad 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 win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: MASS (2001)-Hulu

This week’s movie is one of the very best films of 2021. It is also the most harrowing. Set in one modest room in the basement of an Episcopal church an event is about to occur. We watch a young man and woman set up a round collapsible table and four chairs. The woman has brought refreshments and sets them on a small table against the wall. A third person, a professional woman enters and says there is no need for the refreshments. But a box of tissue is set on the table and the placement of it becomes a dilemma. Slowly one couple comes into the room and then another. The young man and woman and the professional woman leave. The two couples sit around the table and begin to talk. And slowly the nightmare unfolds. One of the couple’s sons was a suicidal mass murderer. The other couple’s son was one of the 10 victims he killed. Both couples are there to dissect what happened.

The Oscars really missed on this one. This is Franz Kranz directorial and writing debut and it is a stunning one. The script should have been nominated, all four riveting performances by Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Ann Dowd, and Reed Birney should have been recognized and the script should be structured into a stage play and produced on Broadway as it would lend itself well to live theatre.

One thing I am delighted the film discusses, albeit brief, are FMRIs (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging). This is where MRI machines use a specific software which allows psychiatrists, psychologists etc., to see the brain react to images and words, primarily focusing on the prefrontal lobe and paralimbic system to determine psychopathy which can sometimes be a psychological disorder of a mass shooter such as Eric Harris.

However, the movie, or at least one of the characters in the movie does argue that the shooter was not a psychopath. And that may very well be true. In fact, it is more likely for a mass shooter to have a different mental illness such as schizophrenia. A SPECT scan or a PET scan can help determine schizophrenia by finding what look like holes in the human brain where blood flow is compromised. And recent studies indicate that serious mental illness was found in almost all mass shooters and that often it has been left untreated. Then pairing that with the easy access of weapons makes for a Molotov cocktail. Other elements can come into play as well like perhaps the shooter had a genetic issue (NRXN3 for example.) And as crazy as this may sound the family may have owned an outdoor cat which can carry a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii which is suspected to be linked to psychosis in men.  

The challenge therefore becomes prevention. How do we keep a meeting like the one in the movie from ever having to occur? How do we thwart our addiction to unnecessary guns? How can we use and improve our knowledge of science to identify who might be at risk for having a serious mental illness, and which of those with serious mental illness have a predilection for violence?  

Alanna the Piranha Chapter 31 Part 2

Good afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here once again to introduce my story. A few bits of business I should get out of the way. Next week will be the final chapter of Alanna the Piranha. I have already begun brainstorming a new story and will be premiering it in a couple weeks. My novelist has completed a new novel and has started another one. I will keep you posted as to when the new novel will be available. It is quite an unusual tale and required a fair amount of research to complete. I am most excited about it because of its strange nature and vivid characters. In the meantime, my novelist and I will discuss some television shows we are very excited about and some films as well. So, without further ado…

I am excited too! I am excited too!

What?

I am excited to find out what happens at the end of Alanna the Piranha.

You can read?

Just because I am a Maltese doesn’t mean I can’t read. I read every day in fact.

I have never seen you read.

That is because I do it when you are not around.

What do you read?

I just started reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle. I love it.

I love that book too. I cannot believe I love a book you are reading. And that you read. Anyway, here is Chapter Thirty-Two of Alanna the Piranha. Nasoloditisya!

Alanna the Piranha

by

Gigi the parti poodle

Day the Thirty-First Part II

The entire audience is looking around to see who this Flint guy is.

“Aren’t you going to help her?” My mom asks me. “You’re her manager!”

“Son?” my dad says in agreement.

Brook looks at me like I should listen to my parents. I really don’t want to get up in front of all these people, but I don’t want to disappoint my parents and I certainly don’t want to disappoint Brooke.

“Help me, Flint!” Alanna yells onstage.

“Augh,” I say as I get up and reluctantly work my way out to the aisle. As I head up to the stage, I can hear the audience murmuring. My face flushes with embarrassment as I feel a couple hundred sets of eyes on me, but I continue jogging forwards catching audience members pointing and gawking in my peripheral vision. I reach the stage and climb the stairs.

“Kid, kid!” The Zipper says to me as I step onto the stage. “Tell Gams to take her mask off!”

“Get him off me!” Alanna pleads.

“You need to let go of her,” I tell The Zipper.

“The audience wants to see her face!”

“They want you to stop pulling on it. Mystery in a performer is a magical thing.”

“Yes!” Alanna agrees. “I am mysterious!”

The Zipper grabs the microphone. “You all want to see what’s under this mask, don’t you? Don’t you?”

The audience sends up a resounding cheer.

“Flint,” Alanna pleads. “Please.”

I walk over and snatch the microphone away from The Zipper.

“What are you doing, kid?” he says. “What are you doing?”

I take a deep breath and realize my hands are shaking. “Hi,” I say to the audience, hearing a tremor in my voice. “I’m Alanna and Fabulous’ s manager and part of their act is Alanna keeps her identity a secret. If you want to know more about them, you can visit The Chuckle Duck where they’ll be performing Wednesday thru Saturday!”

Just then President Winnie Crowbar click-clacks back out onstage and marches right up to Alanna. Winnie reaches out her hand and touches Alanna’s face. Stunned, Alanna stumbles back. Madame Crowbar moves forwards and touches her face again. Then she marches up to the microphone and says to the audience. “As you may know,” my doctorate is in Zoology. And I can tell you right now this Alanna is either a real fish or this is the finest makeup or mask I have ever seen!”

“What?!” The Zipper exclaims.

I run up to the microphone. “My degree is in biochemistry, and I constructed Alanna’s…mask.”

“Out of what?” Madame Crowbar demands.

“I used a new technology.”

“It’s no technology I’ve ever heard of.”

“That’s why it’s new.”

“You’re lying.”

“I’m not lying.”

“He’s not lying,” Alanna says. “He constructed my face.”

President Winnie Crowbar is not convinced. “I believe this face of hers is that of a real fish.”

The audience laughs. They think Crowbar is in on the joke.

“Why are you laughing,” she says. “This is not a joke!”

The audience suddenly turns serious. I take the microphone away from Doctor Crowbar.

“It’s a new technology,” I insist.

“What technology?”

“The kind that allows me to make a piranha face. Or a bunny sing and talk.”

Fabulous gives me a horrified look. The audience laughs louder.

The Zipper laughs with them and struts up to the mike. “Another round of applause for Alanna and Fabulous!”

Right after Alanna and Fabulous’ s performance I do not go back to sit with Brooke and my parents. I hurry offstage with my fish girl and bunny, scurry out to the parking lot, and drive us home. I take them down to the basement, turn on a movie and let them know I need to go out. Then I drive around for a couple of hours trying to think of what to do.

After a while I give up and go home. I head into the house and wander into the living room to find Stacy, Mom, Dad, and my Aunt Linda all sitting there looking morose.

“Son,” my dad says. “Have a seat.”

I see they have left the chair facing the end of the coffee table vacant. I walk over and sit down. They all look at each other with painful expressions.

“Flint,” my father finally says. “I need you to know your family loves you no matter what. You are our son, a brother to your sister and a nephew to your aunt. But we don’t want you to keep something secret that’s torturing you all bottled up inside. We want you to know you can be transparent with us.”

Great, I think. They’ve figured it out.

“Dear,” my mother says with a crack in her voice, “We love you. You know that.”

I glance at Stacy who glares back with profound repulsion.

“What your parents are trying to say,” Aunt Linda says, “is you’re going through a challenging time, and we want you to know we’re here for you.”

“I’m really not,” I say.

“You’re really not what?”

“I’m really not going through a challenging time…”

“Heck,” my dad says. “When I was first dating your mother, I used to wear her underwear.”

“What?”

“It was a phase I went through. I wanted to be close to her all the time and it help me through a very stressful season in my life.”

“I just…wow.”

“That’s disturbing!” Stacy exclaims. “I never wanted to know that!”

“I’m trying to help your brother,” my dad tells her. “Besides, we’re family. This conversation does not go beyond these walls.”

“It shouldn’t have gone past your head! I’m your daughter for crying out loud! I don’t want to hear about that!”

“I have a confession to make too,” my mom says. “And this was before I met your father. I used to walk up to strange men in the supermarket and…”

“I don’t want to know, mom!”

“I thought we all agreed to be adults about this and support your brother.”

“I was a stripper,” my Aunt Linda says. “I used to go into these glass booths at lunch hour and dance. It was good money.”

“Are you kidding me?!” Stacy exclaims.

“That has nothing to do with Flint’s problem, Linda,” my dad says.

“And wearing my sister’s underwear does?”

“I don’t want to know!” Stacy yells. Then she turns to me and says, “And you have been steeling my shoes! I recognized them on that freak show you put up on stage!”

“I’m sorry,” I say mortified. “I just didn’t think you’d understand.”

“Well, isn’t that the understatement of the year!”

“We understand, son,” my dad says. We all have things we don’t want those closest to us to know.”

“So, you’re trying to tell me you know about Alanna and Fabulous.”

“If that’s what you want to call…whatever they are.”

I turn to my aunt. “Alanna’s really helped me invest your money well, Aunt Linda.”

Aunt Linda makes a face. “How?”

“She invested in stocks at first and then she and Fabulous came up with the act.”

“The bunny helped the fish girl come up with the act?”

“Yes. Fabulous is the real brains. Alanna is more emotional.”

“Have you lost your mind?!” Stacy says. “We all know you did some sort of weird experiment to make those…freaks!”

“Flint,” my dad says quietly. “We understand you’ve had trouble finding a girlfriend. But did it have to come to this?”

“Alanna’s not my girlfriend.”

“What is she to you son?”

“She’s, well, she’s a piranha girl. She needs to meet a nice piranha boy.”

“How…how do I even put this? How did you…make this piranha girl and singing bunny?”

“CRISPR Cas9.”

“What is that?”

“I bought a piranha and a bunny at the pet store and genetically altered them with shots of it.”

“You idiot!” Stacy screams. “Are you crazy?! You should be in prison!”

“Everybody, calm down,” my Aunt Linda says. “I think I have an idea.”

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad 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 win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: OLD HENRY (2021)-SHOWTIME

Westerns are a great film genre to make during Covid because they can be shot outdoors with a lot of social distancing and are relatively inexpensive to make. There’s usually no CGI and the strength lies in the story. And it’s been wonderful to see them make a showing in recent years with great work like Power of the Dog.

This week’s movie is a good old-fashioned western with a twist. A farmer named Henry (wonderfully played by Tim Blake Nelson) and his teenage son Wyatt (Gavin Lewis) live on a farm hidden in the Oklahoma prairie. Henry’s wife died of tuberculosis years ago and her brother, Wyatt’s Uncle Al (Trace Adkins) lives on a nearby farm and helps the father and son with the work. Wyatt is restless and longs to see the world. He laments over why Henry settled there. But his father tells him “You’ll discover there’s worse arrangements”.

One day the two find a lost horse with blood all over the saddle. Henry goes looking for the rider and finds an unconscious man named Curry (Scott Haze) whose been shot and a satchel full of money. After much deliberation Henry brings Curry to his house to heal. But Curry has men who are looking for him. And they come in the form of a would-be sheriff named Ketchem (Stephen Dorff) and his sinister sidekick Stilwell (Max Arciniega).

Alanna the Piranha Chapter 31

Good evening. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here to introduce the thirty-first chapter of Alanna the Piranha. The Maltese and I had a wonderful Easter. We went for a long drive in which I sat in the front, and he sat in the back. I used to sit in the back, but I made it clear I needed to sit upfront with my novelist to supervise all traveling. We of course were forced to have a bath before Easter and that is never a good thing. I came out looking the more magnificent of us. I must say I do think poodles should receive Easter baskets. I know we are not allowed to eat chocolate bunnies and all but there are plenty of interesting and engaging treats one might put inside a basket that would be to my liking. I have seen plenty of little bunnies hopping around the area where we live. I am not certain which of them is the official Easter bunny but I if I cannot find out I will see if I can find one of the famous bunny’s assistants and send word out right away that I too deserve a basket of goodies. That said, here is Chapter Thirty-One of Alanna the Piranha. Насолодитися!

Alanna the Piranha

by

Gigi the parti poodle

Day the Thirty-First

Once word got around Alanna and Fabulous would be performing for Parent’s Weekend at the university, I knew we were about to crash into a wall. The headliner was a comedian named Rexes Raucous who was scheduled to debut in his own Netflix streamer, a highly anticipated and critically acclaimed comedy. He was known for being exceptionally raunchy which ironically made him a perfect choice for Parent’s Weekend at the university.

“So, exactly how are you associated with this act, Flint?” my dad asks as we sit out in the audience in the Student Union building waiting for the event to begin. My mom is situated on my dad’s right and Brooke is sitting on my mom’s right. For one reason or another Brooke is Chad-free this afternoon. Also, Brooke’s parents can’t attend the event. That’s why she’s sitting with us. She’s going to get a real kick out of watching the spawn of her DNA prance about the stage. Yeah, right.

Alanna and Fabulous are slotted to go second. On some level I am hoping my family will understand the whole thing and appreciate both my scientific prowess and Alanna and Fabulous’s artistic expression.   

“I’m just the manager and chauffer for one of the acts,” I tell my dad.

“That’s…well…I thought maybe you might…I’m proud of you son. How much are they paying you?”

“Two hundred dollars for the day.”

“Well, that’s not bad. Something’s better than nothing.”

It’s always wonderful when your accomplishments disappoint your parents. But honestly, it’s better than telling them oh, and by the way I created the act out of a bunny and a piranha from the pet store, some genetic stuff I bought on the dark web, and your daughter’s roommate’s hair.  

“Stacy’s dance team is going to open the show,” my mother says.

“I thought she wasn’t performing.”

“The basketball team wanted the publicity and asked the squad to perform one of their routines at the last minute,” Brooke says.

“But it’s a comedy show,” I say.

“They’ll be adding school spirit to the event.”

“But…it’s a comedy show.”

“The comedy acts are from The Chuckle Duck,” my dad informs my mom, “We haven’t been there in years.”

“Yes,” my mom says. “And I’d like to keep it that way. That place is a dump.”

“I always liked it.”

“Maybe you and Flint could go there together sometime.”

“Say, that would be fun. What do you think, Flint?”

“Uh, well,” I stammer. “I don’t think so.”

“Why?”

“I’m just not that into comedy.”

“But you’re chauffeuring and managing one of the acts.”

“I’m doing it for the money.”

“Maybe Stacy and I could drop by and see your act perform,” Brooke says. “It’s exciting, Flint. You must be so proud.”

“Oh…well…”

Suddenly, upbeat music starts playing onstage and The Zipper strolls out with the university president, Madame Winnie Crowbar. Between his bright yellow suit and Madame Crowbar’s dull grey overly long skirt they make the strangest pairing I’ve ever seen. The president reminds me of that diabolical sheep from Zootopia as her sensible heels click-clack up to the microphone center stage. 

“Good afternoon,” she says. “My name is Doctor Winnie Crowbar, and I am the president of the university. Joining me this afternoon is the owner of one of our most popular and successful local comedy clubs, The Chuckle Duck. Allow me to introduce you to The Zipper.

The audience applauds and The Zipper steps up to the microphone like a plump penguin and adjusts the stand down to his height.

“How you doing, how you doing?” he says. “Looks like we have a great crowd here this afternoon, a great crowd. Now, before we bring out the acts, I want to introduce your very own university dance squad!”

The back doors on either side of the room burst open and Stacy’s dance team members dressed in their uniforms come pouring out. Stacy leads the group up the aisle to my right. The university fight song blares from the sound system. The dance team members clap to the beat. The audience finds this infectious, and they start clapping along with them. The dance team rushes the stage turning it into a swamp of the university’s colors.

“Go, Stacy!” my mom, dad, and Brooke all yell in unison.

I can feel my heart pounding knowing Alanna and Fabulous are up next. I don’t know if I’m more worried about them forgetting the new dance steps or having the entire audience find out they are a genetic experiment.

Stacy and her dance team form a chorus line and perform a perfectly synchronized Rockette-style kicking sequence. This garners huge applause. They finish with equally synchronized double pirouettes and land in perfectly sequenced lunges. The crowd goes wild, and I double over certain I’m about to pass out.

“Flint?” my father asks. “Are you alright, son?”

“Yeah,” I say. “I’m just a little nervous about my act performing. They are slotted to go first.”

“You seem as nervous as if you were going to be the one performing.”

I return to an upright position. “No, I’m good.”

The applause fades and The Zipper returns to his microphone. “That was great! Wasn’t that great!? Alright, alright. You are in for a real treat this afternoon. This first act is the newest member of our Chuckle Duck family. Put your hands together for the hilarious musical talents of The Chuckle Duck’s sensational Alanna the Piranha!”

The audience claps as Alanna struts out onstage wearing her cape and a glossy red pair of Stacy’s heels carrying Fabulous in her downstage hand. I hear all the women in the audience let out a unified “Awe!” at the sight of her. Alanna sets Fabulous on the stool, adjusts the microphone, and puts a miniature pair of sunglasses on her. Then she saunters to stage left where she poses magnificently.

“Flint,” my father says. “You’re turning blue!”

“Oh,” I say realizing I’ve been holding my breath for an unreasonably long time. “I didn’t realize I forgot to breathe.”

“I’m worried about you son.”

“So am I.”

The opening guitar strains to “Shot Down in Flames” by AC/DC begin to play. Fabulous bounces her head to the rock beat. This garners a laugh from the audience. Alanna twirls around in her cape and starts grooving to her funky dance. I must say I am proud of my choreography on this one. She looks fantastic doing the moves. Not to mention the song fits Fabulous’s gravelly voice to a T.

Alanna moves up to the edge of the stage and starts clapping which causes the audience to start clapping along. Then she glides back and executes a perfect triple pirouette. The audience cheers. I could not be more pleased. Some of the audience turns their cell phones on and begins waving them in the air while the rest continue to clap to the beat. Alanna boogies over to Fabulous, and the Newfoundland Dwarf jumps into her hand, then onto her shoulder, and finally onto her head not missing a single lyric. Alanna struts down the middle aisle carrying Fabulous who continues to sing.

Alanna makes a turn at the doors and comes prancing up the left side aisle until they arrive at the stage. Alanna struts up the steps and faces the back of the stage. Fabulous hops off her hand and onto the stool. As she finishes the song Alanna does a split leap, another perfect triple pirouette, and poses dramatically.

The crowd goes ballistic leaping to their feet, cheering, clapping, demanding an encore.

“Alanna was amazing, Flint!” Brooke gushes. “No wonder you’re her manager!”

“Thank you,” I say, my face turning bright red.

“Wow!” The Zipper says marching out onstage. “That was out of this world! Out of this world! Alanna, come over here, come over here!”

Alanna walks over to Fabulous who hops off the stool into her downstage hand and they head over to The Zipper.

“I gotta tell ya, I gotta tell ya,” The Zipper says. “You have got the house rocking tonight, yes sir! Yes, sir! So, what I want to have you do now is take off that mask and show everyone who you really are!”

Alanna leans back in shock. “This…this is who I really am,” she says.

“Everyone wants to see the real star of the act. The real star.”

The Zipper reaches over and starts pulling on Alanna’s face.

“Flint!” Alanna yells in desperation. “Flint!”

TO BE CONTINUED….

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad 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 win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: A MOST VIOLENT YEAR (2014)-Showtime

This week’s stream of the week is a tense, humorless, well-told tale about the courage it takes to be honest. Oscar Isaac and Oscar winner Jessica Chastain are outstanding as a couple who run an oil heating business who are on the brink of either losing everything or gaining it all. It is the winter of 1981, considered to be the most violent year in New York City to date. Aptly named futuristic focused Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) is about to make the deal of his life for which he needs one and a half million dollars. The money will enable him to purchase a piece of land presently owned by Hasidic Jews that will allow him to get his product directly from the boats coming in from everywhere in the world. Abel has always been an upfront honest businessman. But his fellow oil company owners have not. Abel finds his oil trucks being hijacked, his salespeople being assaulted and his time running out. When his new house is almost broken into one night and his young daughter finds a loaded gun in the bushes, his more aggressive wife Anna Morales (Jessica Chastain) works to try and convince him that honesty is not always the best policy. Albert Brooks helps round out the cast as Abel’s righthand man.     

Alanna the Piranha Chapter Thirty

Good afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here with my thirtieth chapter of Alanna the Piranha. I am in the final stretch of my story and will be starting a new one soon…

I say Easter! You say Bunny!

Tucker! What are you doing in that strange schoolboy outfit?

Easter!

What?

I say Easter! You say Bunny! Easter!

Bunny?

Easter!

Bunny.

I say Easter! You say Bunny! Easter!

Bunny!

Easter!

Bunny!

I say Easter! You say Bunny! Easter!

Bunny!

Easter!

Bunny!

Whoo!

No! What are you doing?! Are you insane?! Get down from there! That’s too high! You’re going to…! Don’t jump! Augh!!!

Easter Bunny Rocks!

You could have seriously injured yourself you inane…

Happy Easter, Baby!

Good grief. And here is Chapter Thirty of Alanna the Piranha. Happy Easter.

Alanna the Piranha

by

Gigi the parti poodle

Day the Thirtieth

Today I found out that if you have a piranha girl eventually your parental units are going to find out.

To my credit it was Alanna’s fault. She once again snuck upstairs to Stacy’s room and hunted around for accessories to wear with her outfit for the Parent’s Weekend show. And she took Fabulous with her. While she was in there, she snagged a couple of scarves and a rhinestone necklace. She struggled a little because she has no real arms to speak of. So, when she was reaching for the necklace in Stacy’s armoire, she knocked it off its hook, and it fell and clattered on the wooden floor. Fabulous was smart enough to scurry under Stacy’s bed.

My mom, who was just down the hall heard the sound and came hurrying into the room. Alanna and my mother stared at each other unmoving, neither one saying a word. Finally, my mom said, “Stacy, that has to be the most impressive costume I’ve ever seen you wear.”

Alanna who had heard Stacy’s voice enough times to do a halfway decent imitation of it said, “Thank you.”

“It does make you look shorter for some reason though.”

“Really?”

“But it is quite stunning.”

“Do you really think so?”

“Yes, I do. But Halloween isn’t for months.”

“Oh…well, I am wearing it for a performance.”

“What performance?”

“The Parent’s Day weekend performance.”

“I didn’t know you were performing at Parent’s Day Weekend.”

“I just got invited yesterday.”

“That’s certainly short notice.”

“Yes, but I am prepared. I just needed a few accessories to round out my outfit.”

“You sound unusually chipper today.”

“Do I?”

“Can I make you some lunch? I was just about to prepare sandwiches for Flint and myself.”

“I…I’d like to stay but I need to get back to practicing for this thing.”

This hurt my mother’s feelings. “Oh…well, maybe next time.”

My mother left and Alanna waved her hands around like fans trying to calm herself down from the close call. She whipped out the disposable cell phone I got her and called me.

“Help!” she said like she was gasping for breath. “Your mother found us!”

“What do you mean she found you?”

“I mean Fabulous and I were up here in Stacy’s room…”

“How many times have I told you to keep out of Stacy’s room?!”

“A lot. But that’s not the point. She thinks Stacy is wearing a piranha costume and performing at Parent’s Weekend.”

“She what?”

“What do we do?”

“Flint!” my mom calls to me from the top of the stairs. “Lunch is ready!”

“Mom’s calling me to lunch,” I tell Alanna. “You stay there. I’ll come and get you.”

“I’m scared,” Alanna says.

“You and Fabulous are just going to have to wait.”

My mother is worried I don’t get enough vitamin D and really likes having me go outside as much as possible. So, she sets up brunch in the back yard…even though it’s cold. And then the real terror starts. Stacy comes strolling through the yard with Brooke. This I was not expecting, and I start to freak out.

“Flint,” Brooke says surprised. “I didn’t know you were going to have lunch with us.”

“Stacy,” My mom says. “You decided to stay for lunch after all!”

“What?” Stacy’s says with a confused look on her face.

I have this strange feeling Alanna and Fabulous are watching us from Stacy’s window. And I realize they’re probably hungry and want something to eat. “Excuse me for just a moment,” I say.

They give me a quizzical look and I hurry back into the kitchen and grab a couple of geometric patterned paper plates from off the counter. I check outside to make sure no one is watching and slap a cucumber sandwich, a handful of potato chips and of course a frosted cookie on each plate and hurry downstairs to the basement and set them on my table. I grab Alanna’s cape, then I sneak back upstairs to Stacy’s room.

“Let’s go now,” I say tossing Alanna the cape. “I got you guys some lunch and put it downstairs, so you don’t go hungry.”

“Why don’t you just invite us to the party?” Fabulous asks.

“Are you kidding? My mom thinks Alanna is her daughter in a cool piranha costume.”

“Did you get us something to drink?” Alanna asks as she wraps the cape around her shoulders and puts the hood up over her head.

“I’m thirsty too,” Fabulous says.

“Okay, okay. I’ll see what my mom has. Let’s go.”

“A latte would be good.”

“A latte? I don’t think so.”

“Oh, I want a latte too,” Alanna says.

“No!” I tell them putting my foot down. “You cannot have coffee! I’ll get you lemonade or something.”

“Make it pink lemonade. The kind with strawberry slices in it.”

“How do you even know there’s such a thing as strawberry lemonade?”

“Commercials,” the two of them say in unison.

“Whatever. Let’s go.”

Alanna scoops up Fabulous in her hand and we leave the room. We hurry down the hall and rush down the stairs to the main floor. We are just about to open the door to the basement when my mom comes through the kitchen.

“Flint?” she says upon seeing Alanna, Fabulous and me.

Alanna freezes in her tracks and Fabulous starts shaking like crazy. My mother does a double take. I take a deep breath and try to figure out what to do next.

“Flint,” my mother says again. “Aren’t you going to introduce us?”

“Uh…this is Alanna. She’s…a friend of mine.”

My mother looks down at Alanna’s shoes which instead of being sneakers like they should be are a pair of Stacy’s high heels.

“I see,” my mother says. “Aren’t you going to invite your…friend to lunch?”

“I can’t.”

“Why?”

“I need to get to rehearsal,” Alanna says. “I’m performing for Parent’s Day weekend.”

Mortified, I turn slowly and look at her.

“Really?” my mother says.

“Yes.”

“My daughter is performing at the Parent’s Day weekend too.”

“Really?”

“Alanna, you’re going to be late,” I tell her and grab her by the hand. “I promised I’d drive her over to rehearsals.”

“But we’re just about to have lunch,” my mom says.

“Oh…hi, Alanna,” Brooke says coming into the kitchen and the most inopportune time. “Are you joining us for lunch too?”

“I’m taking her to her rehearsal,” I say.

“You know her?” my mother asks.

“It’s Flint’s girlfriend,” Stacy says shoving a baby carrot in her mouth as she saunters up behind Brooke.”

“Girlfriend?” my mom says surprised. “You have a girlfriend?”

“We’re just friends, mom,” I say dragging Alanna through the kitchen towards the door.

“Apparently, she’s performing at Parent’s Weekend with you,” my mom says to Stacy.

“What?” Stacy says confused. “I’m not performing at Parent’s Weekend.”

“You just told me you were when you were in your room not more than thirty minutes ago wearing that elaborate fish costume.”

“Are you on drugs? I’d never wear a fish costume. Unless I was a sexy mermaid princess or something.”

“But…Flint!” my mother calls after me. “What is going on?”

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad 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 win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: CRUELLA (2021)-Disney+

I must admit when I sat down to watch Cruella I was not expecting much. But I came away pleasantly surprised. This is an eye popping, clever, entertaining Disney tale for both kids and adults alike. Emma Stone as Estelle/Cruella and Emma Thompson as the Baroness are fantastic, the story is well crafted by Dana Fox, Tony McNamara, Aline Brosh, Kelly Marcel, and Steve Zissis, and Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya & Lars and the Real Girl) turns in a terrific directing job. Not to mention the gorgeous highly imaginative Oscar winning costumes by Jenny Beavan which are as someone pointed out to me a character in the film as well.

This is the origin story for the villain Cruella from the film One Hundred and One Dalmatians based on the novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. Estella is a brilliant and eccentric child. Raised by her sweet and kind single mother she learns the value of a mother’s love from a young age. But plucky Estella has difficulty getting along with others in school and her mother sees it might be better for the two of them to move to London. On the way, her mother makes a detour to visit an old friend and pandemonium ensues. The events that occur set Estella on the path to follow her dream of becoming a great fashion designer and eventually one of Disney’s most notorious villains.  

Alanna the Piranha Chapter 29

Good morning. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here to introduce Chapter twenty-nine of Alanna the Piranha. A few more weeks and I will be done with this story and on to a new one.

I must say I have a bone to pick with the Academy Awards. I was accepting of most of the winners except for one. One which was so abysmal its shamefulness stood head and shoulders below all the others. And that is the winner for Best Original Song. Apparently, the Academy has a new unwritten rule that if your song is nominated you must show up to the awards show and perform it yourself or it won’t be performed at all. Is that not the stupidest rule ever! One of the best moments in recent years was when Robin Williams and company performed Blame Cannada from South Park Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Van Morrison was on tour. His tour dates were obviously set before he was nominated. It was completely understandable why he couldn’t be there because like most responsible people the man works for a living.

How big a travesty would it have been if say Bruce Springsteen could have performed “Down to Joy “by Van Morrison for him? Or maybe Neil Young? Or possibly Mick Jagger? How awful would it have been if one of those juggernauts could have, I don’t know, stood up in front of millions of people and performed a brand-new song by Van Morrison. And not just a song by Van Morrison but clearly the song that should have won the Oscar! No one seemed to quibble when The Doors performed Gloria. Why is the Academy quibbling now?

Why in the world would any Oscar voter ever vote for “No Time to Die” by Billy Eilish and Phineas? Why would you do something that utterly odd? That song is unbearably pedestrian. Do these voters not lose sleep over what they’ve done? I certainly have!

Please understand I am not of the belief that Ms. Eilish and her brother couldn’t eventually write a song that would be Oscar worthy, and quite frankly they should aspire to do so. Lady Gaga, Eminem and Adelle are all artists who have written Oscar worthy winning songs at a young age. Prince went a step further and won an Oscar for Best Original Song Score for the astoundingly brilliant Purple Rain at the tender age of twenty-six. Ms. Eilish and her brother are quite young and have a long career ahead of themselves. She is certainly a beautiful young woman with an exquisite voice. It’s just that this song just wasn’t up to snuff.  

Anyway, here is Chapter twenty-nine of Alanna the Piranha. Enjoy!

Alanna the Piranha

by

Gigi the parti poodle

It’s three o’clock in the afternoon. Alanna and Fabulous practice their routine for me and when they finish, I applaud.

“There’s one thing that concerns me,” I tell them.

“What’s that?” Fabulous asks.

“Where is this going? I mean I get the initial surprise you guys have had singing and dancing, but I don’t see where you can go from there.”

“Haven’t you seen that guy who does the singing president routine?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, he doesn’t sing the same songs every time. He comes up with different ones and together it’s a full act.”

“Maybe. I mean I’ve only seen the guy perform a couple of songs not his whole show. But I would bet there’s some sort of, I don’t know, transition between the songs.”

“But we don’t need to worry about that right now,” Alanna says. “We just need a collection of different song and dance routines we do that we can perform to help warm up the main act.”

“Yes, but if you want to push this act forwards and become the feature performers you need to start building a whole show with an arc not just snippets.”

“Flint has a point,” Fabulous says. “We could make a lot more money if we had a feature act.”

“Oh, I like more money,” Alanna said. “Speaking of which I need to go to Stacy’s room and borrow more clothes. I need a new outfit for tonight.”

“Your outfit was good enough last night,” I tell her. “You don’t need a new one.”

“But it takes time to pick out all the pieces that go together to make it work.”

“Not today, Alanna.”

She puts her hand on her hip. “What about tomorrow?”

My phone rings and I look at the number. It’s The Zipper. Alanna and Fabulous gather around me and I put him on speaker phone.

“Kid, kid,” he tells me. “I gotta tell ya, I gotta tell ya. That was quite a show last night, quite a show.”

“Thanks.”

“I’ve got some good news for you and Gams, kid.”

“Which is?”

“Which is?”

“Since you’ve gotten two standing ovations in a row, I thought I’d tell you I got a booking for all my inhouse acts over at the university. We’re going to do a big show, a big show. You ever hear of Parent’s Weekend, kid?”

The temperature under my collar just shot up to 103 degrees. “Mr. Zipper…”

“It’s a big deal, kid. A big deal. Back in my day Jerry Seinfeld did a performance for Parent’s Weekend right before his big show came out and he hit big. You wanna hit big, kid?”

“Look, I thought my…the act was supposed to be about opening for your main attractions at the club.”

“It is, kid. It is. But you’ve gotta think big. You hear what I’m saying? You gotta think big. Big means taking the tiger by the tail. You gotta grab that tiger by the tail and give her a swing.”

“The act is designed for a small stage.”

“Nonsense, kid. I want to see your girl and that raspy voiced bunny on the big stage. And make sure you get a knockout costume for Gams. I want her up there looking like a million bucks.”

Alanna hears this comment and starts bouncing up and down and clapping her hands. I roll my eyes. “Can I think about this?” I tell The Zipper.

“Kid, you don’t have time to think about this. It’s now or never because the show is in two days.”

“Two days?!”

“I know you can pull it off, kid. I know you can pull it off. I’ll email you the details. Ciao!”

“Wait, I…!

The Zipper hangs up. I’m doomed.

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad 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 win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: DRIVE MY CAR (2021)-HBO Max

Winner of the BAFTA for International Feature Film and the Oscar for International Feature Film this is a smart sumptuous meditation on life, love, and loss. I must warn you that not only is this film is for mature audiences only, it’s also a master class level film. What I mean by that is it’s primarily for cinephiles who enjoy movies on a deeper level and don’t mind being engrossed in a languid three-hour story. And for cinephiles this is a must see.

World class professional theatre actor and director Yūsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is married to talented screenwriter Oto (Reika Kirishima). Oto’s muse is sex, or in other words she writes her stories while having sex. But there is a deeper side to Oto’s method which involves a past incident between her and her husband Yūsuke. Yūsuke’s acting method, on the other hand, is to drive around in his red 1987 Saab 900 Turbo delivering his character’s lines while playing a recording of Oto reading the lines opposite his currently is Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. While playing the part of Uncle Vanya Yūsuke has a mental breakdown. After two years pass Yūsuke is invited to Hiroshima to ironically direct Chekov’s Uncle Vanya with an unconventional cast. While he is there, he is told by the theatre company that because of past accidents involving their talent, Yūsuke is required to have a chauffeur drive his car for him.

He is assigned a young woman named Misaki Watari (Tōko Miura) whose troubled past has parallels to his own. As Yūsuke is casting the play he comes across a famous and talented young actor named Kōji (Masaki Okada) who Yūsuke knows once had an affair with Oto.

Alanna the Piranha Chapter 28

Good afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here to introduce my twenty-eighth chapter of Alanna the Piranha. Because we discuss and recommend movies as well as television shows on this site every week, my novelist, the Maltese, and I have decided we will throw in our two cents about the Oscar occurrence. After writing up an eight-point plan of how we would handle the incident if we were the Academy, and then producing a written summary of our thoughts which turned out to be longer than the eight-point plan we decided instead to give a brief opinion about our take on the slap heard round the world. Here it is:

  1. The Academy should approach their decisions from a Rashomon/Oleanna point of view. Or in other words the blame lies on the shoulders of three individuals and not just one albeit at varying degrees of guilt and for different reasons.
  2. Mr. Smith should not have his Oscar rescinded. An Academy Award, except for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, is not given as a measure of one’s moral stature. It is awarded for the individual’s talent and their outstanding work in a particular film as decided by the Academy voters and verified by an accounting firm presently being PwC. This is done in advance of the ceremony. Mr. Smith earned his Oscar despite his actions on the night of the presentation. Retracting it puts the Academy at risk of having all their awards choices past, present, and future contended. This does not mean that other privileges should not be stripped from Mr. Smith as well as and to a lesser degree Mr. Rock, and Ms. Pinkett Smith who also played minor parts in this fiasco. They most certainly should, and we have our opinions as to what those privileges ought to be. But we stand firm in our believe that Mr. Smith’s Oscar should not be revoked. Those who believe that one’s actions should determine one’s success are either idiots, fools, or sensory judgement personality types.

And here is chapter twenty-eight of Alanna the Piranha. Enjoy!

Alanna the Piranha

by

Gigi the parti poodle

Day the Twenty-Eighth

This afternoon I am showing Alanna and Fabulous some new dance steps. To my surprise bunnies are far more agile than one would expect. I imagine that’s why they hop so well.

“Alright,” I tell them. “What I think might work is if we can somehow get Fabulous off the stool occasionally. Maybe during the guitar solo. The trick of course is not to get her winded. If Fabulous gets winded she can’t sing.”

“What do you propose?” Fabulous asks.

“I was thinking possibly that if you can keep your balance, Alanna could hold her hands straight out at her sides, and you could hop off your stool onto the hand closest to you and then spring onto her head and do a few dance moves.”

“You want me to take a flying leap from Alanna’s hand onto her head?”

“Yes.”

“What if I can’t hold my hands out that long?” Alanna asks. “What if they get tired?”

“You won’t have to hold them out that long at all. Just long enough to get Fabulous onto one. Then once she’s boogied in your hand then she can hop up on your head and do some of the moves I taught her up there.”

“Fabulous is going to dance on my head?”

“Just for a little bit. Then she can hop down into your opposite hand, and you can turn around and she can hop back onto the stool and keep singing. It’ll be a super cool short routine. Just trust me.”

“Should we give it a try?” Fabulous asks.

“Yeah, let’s go. Okay, Alanna. Let’s see you do those steps I taught you. The ones at the beginning of the song.”

“I feel exposed doing them, Flint. They’re too sexy.”

“The song’s supposed to be sexy. You’re performing in a comedy club.”

“Yes, but I have limits you know.”

“I’m not asking that much, Alanna. Just go over the steps I taught you.”

“I feel like a rock slut.”

“You’re supposed to be like a rock slut.”

“But I don’t like it, Flint. I don’t like it one bit.”

“Just take it from the top.”

“Come on, Alanna,” Fabulous says. “If I can hop up on your head you can do these steps.”

“Next time I get to pick the song,” Alanna gripes.

“Make sure you lift on the ball of your foot when you do the triple pirouette spin and don’t lean too far forwards when you come out of it, or you’ll lose your balance. You want to be especially careful not to trip and knock Fabulous off her stool.”

“Yes,” Fabulous says. “Don’t do that.”

“I know, I know,” Alanna says. “But you’re asking too much of me, Flint. These steps are a lot more advanced than the ones we did for our audition and first performance.”

“Every time you go out on that stage you need to know exactly what you’re doing and raise the ante one more notch.”

“That’s easy for you to say. You’re not the one who is going to be wearing hot pants and stilettos.”

“Stilettos? No, no, no. Hang on.”

I head over to my desk and open the large bottom drawer. I take out a shoe box with a pair of character shoes in it. I head back and hand the box to Alanna. She takes out the shoes. They are black with a T-strap across the top and a small silver buckle on the side.

“These are real dancing shoes,” I tell her. “All leather top and bottom so you can flex your feet and spin in them without tripping or having them fly off your feet.”

“Oh, Flint! They’re beautiful!”

“Yeah, yeah. Let’s have you put them on so we can practice.”

“What about me?” Fabulous asks. “Don’t I get shoes?”

“You have four paws. How am I supposed to get you dancing shoes?”

“You could get me some of those fancy paw coverings”

“If I do, you run the risk of slipping. Your natural paws will serve you much better.”

“I want the fancy paw coverings.”

“What if you slip?”

“Many paw coverings are designed to keep the creature wearing it from slipping.”

“I am not getting you fancy paw coverings.”

I sit at the back of The Chuckle Duck waiting for Alanna and Fabulous to perform. The Zipper has just finished his schtick with Frenchy and Blocko. I had to rush over to PETCO before the show to pick up Fabulous some paw coverings. Did you know some of these things have rhinestones? Anyway, I am waiting for the music to kick in.

“Alright, alright,” The Zipper says. “Again, welcome to The Chuckle Duck. We’ve got some great performers here tonight, some great performers. Right now, we’re going to introduce you to our first act of the evening. They blew you away with their rendition of “Legs” by ZZ Top. Now they’re here to bring you another dynamite act of their own unusual brand of comedy. Let’s give it up for Alanna and Fabulous!

Word must have gotten around about them because as soon as The Zipper said, “Alanna and Fabulous”, the crowd went insane. Fabulous yells out the lyrics to the opening part of the song. Alanna throws up a kick higher than she’s ever kicked before. Guitar strains are exploding, drums are banging, and Fabulous belts out the lyrics of “Cherry Pie” by Warrant with her gravel ridden voice. Up front to the left I see a couple of young guys throw their underwear onstage. I have no idea how they managed to get their underwear off without anyone noticing but up onstage the underwear flies. Luckily it flies off to the side near the curtain and Alanna avoids tripping.

I’m glad I got her the T-strap character shoes because we worked a cartwheel into the routine which she executes. Her dance move is met with frenetic cheers.

The guitar solo starts, and Alanna holds out her hand. Fabulous, wearing those overpriced rhinestone paw coverings hops into her palm. I hold my breath. She takes a flying leap and lands…on Alanna’s shoulder. I face palm right then and there. She missed Alanna’s head. But Alanna leans forwards which allows Fabulous to roll across Alanna’s back from one shoulder to the other. When Fabulous gets to the opposite shoulder, she takes a flying leap which in my mind happens in slow motion, much like Peter Griffins car when he jumps the unjumpable canyon to “Panama” by Van Halen. She lands perfectly on Alanna’s head and rocks out just like we practiced. More screams from the audience ensue.

Fabulous jumps back down onto Alanna’s other hand and Alanna turns around just like we practiced allowing Fabulous to hop back onto her stool. Fabulous leans into the microphone and starts singing right as Alanna gets into position to execute her final triple pirouette. But we don’t see the third pair of underwear coming. It hits the floor just as Alanna begins her spin and she leans forwards losing her balance. This causes the Newfoundland Bunny to slide off the chair and into the crowd.

Luckily a group people in the crowd see it coming and they all run to the stage. Fabulous lands on raised hands and more audience members join the mosh pit. Fabulous goes body surfing around the room. The song ends and the crowd is on their feet, screaming, crying, applauding. Two standing ovations down. One to go.     

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad 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 win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: CODA (2021)-Apple TV+

As Gigi mentioned last week, we are adding a few more streaming services to pull stream of the week movies and television shows from and one of them is Apple TV+. This week’s movie won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Troy Kotsur and Best Original Screenplay for the film’s writer and director Sian Heder. The Best Picture race was a competition between thinking films and feeling films. The feelers won and CODA also took home the top prize. For me the biggest head scratcher about this movie is although she was nominated for a BAFTA Emilia Jones who plays Ruby Rosi was not nominated for Best Actress even though she had to learn sign language, play the part with an American accent, sing very well, and learn how to drive a commercial fishing boat. I have no idea what the Oscars were thinking. Her performance is outstanding in every way. This is the feel-good film of the year. Unfortunately, that often means errors and/or plot contrivances in the story. One glaring example is Ruby constantly falling asleep in class and struggling with her subjects, but she can somehow be in contention for a full ride scholarship for more than $42,000 a year in tuition alone to The Berklee College of Music. Berklee requires not only an audition but a 3.15 GPA minimum. It does not require SAT or ACT scores, but they don’t exactly tell you not to turn in your scores when applying. The acceptance rate is high but

that doesn’t mean you can slack academically. This isn’t to say Ruby is trying to get into MIT or something like that, but she does have to have a solid B average.

Also, I find it hard to believe her parents and older brother don’t know their daughter has been singing for years. She does it every day on the boat. Just because they can’t hear it doesn’t mean they can’t see it. I really wish some of these screenwriters would do their homework.

That said, CODA does do a lot of things right. It’s the story of the youngest child of an otherwise all-deaf family of fishermen. Not only can Ruby hear but she has a naturally gifted singing voice which she exercises every single morning when they go out to get their daily catch. When Ruby signs up for Choir and meets the choir teacher, fastidious Bernardo Villalobos (wonderfully played by Eugenio Derbez) he picks up on her raw but extraordinary talent and offers to coach her so she can gain acceptance into his alma matter, Berklee. This creates a great divide between Ruby and her family who have always depended on her to keep their business afloat. Ruby is a well-defined and interesting character, and the depictions of what it is like to be deaf and the ups and downs of having that condition are good.

However, please keep in mind this film does not have the depth or complexity of this year’s more meticulously written cerebral contenders The Power of the Dog or Drive My Car. But it is a pleasure to watch just the same and good one for both teens and adults alike.