Saturday, November 22, 2014


There's nothing like a movie with a bittersweet ending. Ahh...the irony of it all. How it all comes together when we see everything revealed behind the curtain. Suddenly, now we know. Hmm, well this movie was not quite like that.
Overall, I'll rate this movie a five out of 10 stars, just because I like Kristen Wiig. After all, who can resist that little pug nose of hers and those sad blue eyes? She's like a lost puppy in this movie. Adorable and endearing all at once, and as far as her dramatic acting, nicely done, but a bit too quiet for my taste.

Good effort by the screenwriter, Mark Poirier and director Liza Johnson's interpretation of Alice Munro's short story, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, but no cigar.

If anything, this movie is proof that not all short stories are meant to be turned into meaningful films. Other short stories, such as Annie Proulx's, Brokeback Mountain translate into much deeper films just because of the subject matter. It's not even fair to compare these authors and their very different styles and stories, but there you have it. If you're trying to put your finger on the pulse of filmmaking vs. literature, this is it.

It all comes down to the premise of the story. Brokeback Mountain was truly so much more than a gay love affair between men. It was a study in human sexuality. Bisexuality to be exact, and a good exploration at that. That's deep stuff. By contrast, Munro's story about an adolescent prank gone "right", in Hateship Loveship, well not so much.

Having said that, I think the director's work was good but not good enough. Not deep enough.  The actors in Hateship, all played wonderfully, it just seemed this movie didn't have the tension it needed to make me really give a damn. Again, this is not a reflection on any of the players or even the screenwriter for that matter.  If a director is working with a bland story to begin with, I think it's his or her responsibility to infuse tension where the written story (Munro's short story) may not show it. Easy for me to say. I'm not the one taking apart Munro's story. But let's be clear. Literature and its subtleties is one thing and artistic license (creativity) in filmmaking is another.

Not all films are so true to the stories they interpret and for good reason. Filmmakers should never rely or trust novelists or writers of any sort. Literature is one art form and film is another. Case closed. One art form does not owe the other anything. Just ask Quentin Tarantino. Novelist, Elmore Leonard didn't bitch at him when the filmmaker changed the title of his book (Rum Punch) to Jackie Brown for his film. The author understood the marketing behind it.

This movie, Hateship, had an odd feeling about it. All the bells and whistles were firmly in place but I was never really moved by it. Maybe a few chuckles, here and there, like when Johanna french kisses the mirror, but I didn't feel anything for Johanna or any other character beyond that scene. The only palpable tension was between the teenage girls, but they're part of the sub-plot, so that doesn't count.

The main tension belongs between Johanna and Ken and the best time to show that was when Johanna showed up at Ken's door unannounced and uninvited, but nothing happened. Well, yes, a bit of discord for about a second and then Ken convinced Johanna to stay despite the misunderstanding. Where's the tension in that?

Note to storytellers: Tension is the lifeblood of any story. The only time tension is relieved is at the end of the story, not during. No tension, no conflict, no story. Conflict builds tension, and that's where your story lives and breathes. Write it down folks. This is nothing new but storytellers must remember to build tension in every scene until the end of the story.

Ken should've kicked Johanna out before Johanna realized he didn't email her those love letters. That's not only tension, that's raising the stakes. But instead, they make love.  Wrong move, and if that's how Munro's story reads, change it and make your movie better.Who cares? It's your movie and your reputation on the line, not Munro's.

The Box Office speaks for itself, folks. This movie lost money all the way and serves as nothing more than a calling card for newcomer Wiig and the other fine actors, Nolte notwithstanding. He got last billing. Lest we forget his moving role as football coach in Prince of Tides, or his defiant role as a prosecutor in Cape Fear. Here, Nolte is almost irrelevant but looks good in his role as an over-protective grandfather, and engaging nonetheless.

So here it is folks. The takeaway from the ending of Hateship Loveship, is not so dramatic, not very moving at all. That's a shame because I really wanted to love this movie, but in the end, all I could do was appreciate its production values and its players. The story...well, the jury still out on that, but the takeaway for filmmakers is clear.

Either faithfully adapt a story that already moves audiences, or tweak screenplays so they tug at our emotions at a deeper level. Audiences want to see movies that move and inspire them. Themes must resonate at the end of a film or the movie dies and no one will care.

Life is a Bitchship. A Hardship. Deal with it folks. Deal with it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

IMUS IN THE MORNING - Same Tune, Different Melody

Don't expect a glowing, brown-nosing review of the Imus in The Morning Program. There's plenty not to like about it, but compared to most morning shows, Imus and his crew of misfits are pretty funny.

And I suppose the best thing this show has going for it is that Imus is still Imus. You know, the shock jock from the 70's and 80's, but even better now with a bit more profound wit infusing his deadpan comments. Which, speaking of deadpan, the stiffest part of the show is Imus himself. (here it comes)

He sits at his mic, looking down with that intense stare, like a pissed-off eagle, and barely moves his mouth when he talks. C'mon, Imus, how much pain are you in? Loosen up, man. Life has been good to you, so why not show it once in a while. I mean, we don't expect you to act like a cartoon character, but for the love of God, I often watch and think someone needs to hold a mirror under his nose.

Not unlike the Crypt Keeper, or an embalmed animatronic version of the real Imus. It's weird, man. I'm tripping over that shit, bro. (Just taking things way back, folks.)

What's up with all that?

Okay, that being said, Imus does look quite dapper in his usual dark blue blazer, starched white shirt, and big, messy hair. Thank goodness he doesn't wear a tie. He'd most likely choke to death. He seems to come alive only when his lovely wife ( Deirdre) comes on the air.

Can't blame him there, she's awfully cute, and she admits to Imus that she farts, when he presses her for an answer, because he's never heard her fart before. (Howard Stern would be proud.) Imus does throw his right hand up, gesturing with a "let's go" twitch of his thumb when he goes to commercial. Other than that, Imus doesn't move around much. Although, he thankfully does light up when he covers a John Stewart segment, going from Totem Pole, to human being in the blink of an eye.

He reads some of the sponsor ads in a monotonous tone, repeating their phone number several times, sticking to his tried and true advertising formula. Not very watchable, or funny, but I'm sure his sponsors are happy with the results.

So, lets break it down on a good note.

Like all morning shows, it's live. Imus' program is especially raw but with stylized graphics featuring some of the I-Man's favorite music (Imagine Dragons, Temptations, etc.) during intermissions with views midtown New York City streets from the studio. Nice touch.

If you've never seen the show before, you might be thrown a bit as Imus sometimes hosts the show from his Ranch (Cancer Kids) in New Mexico. I think there's better interaction among the cast when Imus hosts from his New York City studio, for obvious reasons.

At any rate, the program includes a large crew of misfit reporters, comics, news hounds, and an assortment of funny bits mixed with top headlines, a variety of interesting guests, and an annoying stock ticker, catering to the show's affluent demographic, no doubt.

Some of the cast includes, Bernie McGuirk, his equally stiff producer, who's obviously been coached to appear more animated (It's not working). Tony Powell, the token black comic who never says much, Rob Bartlett, whose bit seems to be that he's embarrassingly unfunny, plus he's a dead ringer for Rush Limbaugh, odd stuff. The loud, Warner Wolf on sports, The lovely, sometimes pretentious, sometimes funny, Dagen McDowell as business reporter, to name a few.

In a recent program, Imus voiced his disdain for Santa Fe and Dagen commented that all Santa Fe had going for it was wannabe 'Okeefe artisans making sculptures in the shape of vaginas.' Touche.

Turns out, Imus in the Morning is the perfect blend of world news, politics, sports, and a good bit of laughter to lighten up all that hardcore stuff. Fun to watch, not exactly a laugh a minute, but close. Worth watching just to see Imus' irreverent take on just about everything.
He knows what's funny and how to deliver it without being obviously transparent about it. His pull-no-punches approach has served him well over the years, so why mess with it.

Great program, folks. If you're tired of all the canned, horribly scripted morning shows out there, check out Imus in the Morning, he's for real.

Overall ... good beats.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Elmore Leonard - Where Have You Been All My Life?

3:10 to Yuma
E.L. - Now One Of The Literary Gods

Talk about shameful, this is way beyond that. Who hasn't heard of Elmore Leonard? The Father of Crime Fiction? Whaaat? Wasn't Micky Spillane, the great Crime Noir author of all time? WTF? They both hail from the same era, the 50's, after all.

It's Detroit vs. New York folks. Who's the winner? Hmm, forget that, I won't turn this into a popularity competition. I love Spillane and in my mind he is the best crime novelist of all time because that's all he ever wrote. Leonard really comes across as a Western writer for the most part, not counting Get Shorty, or the TV series, Justified, of course.

Several of Elmore Leonard's best hits, like, Killshot, 3:10 To Yuma, and lately, the TV series Justified, which is based on Raylan's character, all come to mind. I'm not a huge fan of crime fiction, (because I'm a snob) but I am a huge fan of great (literary) writing, and both these writers were great in their own way.

And what better literary author to be inspired by than Ernest Hemingway, whom Leonard studied and practically idolized, with reservations about Hemingway's serious side, mind you. I know what he means. Hemingway was not exactly a comedian. At least not in his novels, but his autobiographical, A Movable Feast, does show Hemingway's lighter side.

Right now, though, it's all about Elmore Leonard, who passed away due to a stroke, August of 2013. He was 87 and still writing. That in itself is inspirational. But, when you're on a roll, why stop? And what a roll it was. It all started with "Trail of The Apaches," in the 50's and Leonard never let up since, right up to his last novel, Raylan, and his last short story, Ice Man. Read it here.

Absolute gems, folks. What else can anyone say? Writing like this doesn't come by that often. This kind of writing is not something you can learn, but I believe, you must be born with this kind of instinct. And yes, Elmore Leonard was born to write these kind of stories. That's why we're still talking about him and his amazing work.


His writing techniques are all but missing. He seems to break plenty of "writing rules" but somehow manages to pull off the stories either way. This suggests an innate ability that many writers just don't have. He's a natural who makes up his own rules, and to great advantage. Proof enough that writing techniques are just guidelines, and not the Holy Grail, which, brings to mind Elmore Leonard's own 10 rules for good writing.
  1. Never open a book with weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control. Two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
  6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
  10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
These are the rules Leonard admonished, although, he always said that if you only follow number 10, you'll be ahead of the game.

"If it sounds like writing, I re-write it."

The surprising thing about this top 10 list, is that all these rules are quite in line with literary standards, which many writers (myself included) abide by. (I'm a writer? Who knew? Okay, I'll have to live to 87 to prove it. I have about 35 years to go. Just preaching to the choir, folks.)

So, as we can see, even when we follow all these tried and true rules, we're nowhere near the level of writing that Elmore Leonard was. Don't know about you, but I'm not there yet. My early onset of Alzheimer's gets in the way a lot more than I'd like to think. Then again, maybe I'm just plain dense. I think that's the real answer. Unfortunately, God did not bestow me with any gifts. None whatsoever. A few minor talents, but nothing in the literature and writing department.


Remember the movie, Amadeus? I'm the hopeless Italian composer. Don't get the reference? Look it up, young guns, this is a good one, especially if you're a fan of music, specifically, Beethoven. Also, The Verve Pipe's, Bitter Sweet Symphony. Another classic gem. Forgive me, I just can't help myself.

Okay, back to my new hero, Elmore Leonard.

Don't you just love it when you discover a writer like this? I mean, I've read him before, but never really immersed myself in his work. If you're a literary snob like me, give Leonard a chance and check out his work, because he's not the hack you might think he is. Quite to the contrary, E.L., as I've already mentioned, has literary roots running through his veins. He's no Mickey Spillane, folks. And that's not a jab at Leonard. I'm just trying to make a distinction in my own ridiculous way.

Elmore Leonard is in a league of his own. There. That's more like it. Leonard, by all counts is a pioneer of literature, and he has the classic stories to prove it. Period.

Check out the links here and get some of his books and enjoy them. Everyone, especially Hollywood, has been doing just that for 60 years. He's had to be doing something right, and yes, I know what it is.

Aren't you glad you stuck around for the end of this Post? (Whatever.)

Here it is folks. Here's the takeaway.


If there's one thing and one thing only, consistent about Leonard's writing, it's that he works with very conceptual ideas. What does that mean? It means that without a winning concept, there is no story. Because the kernel of any idea, is its concept. And concept means, the reason you read a story. The reason a story exists to begin with. The What if factor.

And to propel his concepts, add plenty of crisp dialog to the formula, and you have a winning combo. (Wow, this is even better than D.Q.'s burger combo.)

Transporting a prisoner to Yuma Territorial Prison on the 3:10 train, is a high concept with never-ending possibilities, plus theme, built right in. Hence: 3:10 to Yuma. (Yes, I know you'd surmised that already.) One of my favorite Westerns of all time. Originally a short story, published in 1953, by Dime Western. First filmed in 1957, starring Glen Ford, and then filmed again in 2007, starring, Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. One damn good story, two great movies. And if Leonard's University of Detroit studies in English and Philosophy ever shined, they were certainly exemplified in 3:10 to Yuma. His flair for great concepts? That's a secret we might never know. (I'll get back to you about that.)

But how's Jackie Brown, for high concept? A flight attendant who smuggles drugs from Mexico to an LA guns runner who's under the close watch of the A.T.F. A classic Quentin Tarantino film, originally published as a novel, Rum Punch, by Leonard. And yes, Tarantino took many liberties with Rum Punch, including changing its protagonist from White to Black (The wonderful, Pam Grier) and its title, but Leonard said it was one of "Hollywood's" best adaptations of any of his books and highly praised the film.

And we all know that means that Leonard thought Jackie Brown was as good, or even better than Rum Punch. Better than the book, only because cinema, when done right, adds another dimension to the written word. Hurray for Tarantino! (That'll be my only exclamation point in this article. Thank you E.L.) C'mon... Elmore Leonard and Quentin Tarantino, truly a match made in literary/cinematic heaven. This is the best three-way marriage among Crime Noir, Blaxploitation, and Neo Noir films ever.

Now, there's a gift you can't deny. Thank you, literary gods. At least I've lived long enough to enjoy this gift given to others. (Really?) That's a blessing, folks. Don't kid yourself. Even Norman Maclean  was still writing in his later years when he penned the wonderful A River Runs Through It. Another undeniable classic, wonderfully brought to life on screen by Robert Redford.

How lucky are we? Lucky enough to have experienced great writers and filmmakers, and amazing human beings such as Hemingway, Maclean, and yes, especially Elmore Frank Leonard.

Thank you, Elmore Leonard. Your legacy will always and forever live on.

Cue, sentimental music, that's a wrap, folks.


Check out this list of classic stories and Pulp Western Fiction book covers:

Monday, June 23, 2014

TreeBooks-One More Reason to Cock It and Pull It

The fucking future of eBooks!You know the shtick. This blog is all about the dark side of life and my suicidal POV. (In case my blog title hasn't already given that away.)

And with that in mind, I'm going to deliver one of the most annoying and most pessimistic views about eBook readers you've ever read.

Grab your guns and come with me. This is going to hurt.

Ready? Put your gun to your head. Cock the trigger. Close your eyes.

Okay, you can open your eyes a minute. You do have to read, you know, unless you have TTS enabled, then you can listen. But keep your gun pointed at your temple, though. This will go by sooner than you think.

Here goes.

I was minding my damn business on the internet, searching for something that would add meaning to my life, (or good porn) just like everyone else, when along came this ad about eBook Technology. WTF? That was my first thought. (BTW, this kind of technology (c'mon, software) is nothing new. It's been around for some time, used as story and name generators, etc.) And now, MMG (Medallion Media Group) has ramped it up a few notches and turned it into an amazing iPad APP for eBooks.) Whatever.

WTF, don't we have enough to do? Don't we already have a zillion choices we can't keep up with? Isn't the godforsaken internet already responsible for all my anxiety? Throwing my damn heart palpitations out of control with way too much exciting information. Prolonging my shortness of breath. My hands are shaking! Okay, deep cleasnsing breath. Calm down son. Someone, anyone, pass me the Xanax, please. And a tall glass of water--these fucking pills are hard to swallow.

For the love of God and all that is good in this world. Do we really need any more anxiety? Seriously. Does the world need another reason to lose sleep over the next goddamn story? I doubt it, but what I think doesn't amount to squat. Does it? No. C'mon shake your head. Just play along, we're almost there.




You see what I mean?

Of course you do. Now, for those of you who didn't pull the trigger. For those who didn't have the cojones to splatter your brains all over the white walls. Or how about white cotton balls in the fields, yes, in slow motion. (Thank you Tarantino). (Hmm, I think I'll work on a Django review.)

Go here and knock yourself out with the endless stream of information about the goddamn future of eBook readers. That's right. I'm not going to say another word about it. I'll defer to the so-called experts. They've done all the heavy lifting. Why should I break a sweat?

Besides, I don't even own an iPad, or a fucking Kindle any more. I just couldn't take it. I just couldn't find the time to immerse myself in another goddamned enhanced, mother fucking reading experience.

Patches is meowing for fucking food, goddamn it!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Love In The Time of Cholera - Literary Inspiration from Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Paperback Cover
If you're short on inspiration, hope, or maybe even hopelessly depressed, take a deep cleansing breath and start reading this book. You just might forget your own troubles and commiserate with the victim in this story's opening paragraph, or you might try to identify with its main character, Dr. Urbino, and find your own romantic truth along the way. Even better, you might be inspired to write a great romance story of your own.

Love in the Time of Cholera inspired this blogger to continue writing. But readers of romantic novels, beware. This is not your ordinary love story, which neatly fits into the prolific genre of romance novels depicting a myriad of superficial happenings. It is first and foremost a literary masterpiece whose 1982 Nobel Literature Prize winning author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, published in 1985 to great acclaim.
If you like Kafka, Faulkner, or even Tolstoy, you'll enjoy Marquez because these are the authors who inspired him to become a novelist, and their influence is quite apparent throughout Marquez's work, albeit with his Spanish heritage, flair and journalistic sensibilities firmly in place. An astonishing, eclectic literary mix indeed.
One look at the Paperback book cover (above) says it all. Two hearts coming together as one, an annoying parrot, and someone peeking from a garden. All graphic elements within this story that subconsciously suggest the rumors, love affairs, and deceptions that lie ahead. Its opening paragraph is also just as revealing as it is enigmatic.

IT WAS INEVITABLE: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. Dr. Juvenal Urbino noticed it as soon as he entered the still darkened house where he had hurried on an urgent call to attend a case that for him had lost all urgency many years before. The Antillean refugee Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, disabled war veteran, photographer of children, and his most sympathetic opponent in chess, had escaped the torments of memory with the aromatic fumes of gold cyanide.
As a fan of great opening lines, this has to be my all-time favorite, as Marquez deftly encapsulates the theme of this novel in one astounding sentence.  How can you not continue reading after an opening like this? What's even more miraculous is that almost every other sentence is just as intriguing. How does he do it? This is simply a book you cannot put down and therefore the perfect study for any student of literature at any level.

So much has been said about this story and about Marquez's writing, that it's almost futile to try to add anything else. Aside from Flannery O'Connor, I can't think of another writer who is as accessible to read and enjoy on so many levels as G.G. Marquez.

If you're an avid reader but have managed to miss this story, this author, for whatever reason, (perhaps the unfamiliar foreign name) you must give this story a chance. I'll admit, not unlike Toni Morrison, you'll have to be very diligent while reading Marquez's work, although his humor will quickly offset any misgivings I can promise you that much. He is Spanish after all and hails from the great tradition of the Don Quixote style of literature.

You can expect Marquez's work, this story in particular to be complex, intriguing, thought provoking, absorbing, and a multitude of other adjectives we can use to describe it, but above all, it is utterly amusing.

Enjoy it for all it's worth.

Hasta luego, Gabo, que descanses en paz, mi amigo.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Stephen King's Joyland - It's No Shutter Island

Okay folks it's been, let's see, almost a year since my original Joyland Post, shameful.

Hey, this is not Salon folks. I know where I stand with my limited audience who've long taken a hike. It's ok, the only point of this Blog is self-serving, to get things off my chest. Or, to delay my impending doom with one last reason to live before I put a gun in my mouth and pull the trigger at least twice. Heck, if readers want real entertainment they'll go to real blogs and sites like the aforementioned Salon, or who knows where.

But now that I mention it, I stopped logging on to Salon because their pages load up too slow. Hmm, is it their site or just my old Remington, I mean Gateway acting up? (I wish this was a joke).

Don't ask, but yes, I'm still using an old Gateway laptop from the 90's. Hey, it matches my 1991 Chevy Blazer. I just can't part with either of them. (Really?)

Okay, enough nonsense. Let's get to the juicy review I've put off for almost a year. As my dear mom used to say: "If you've got nothing good to say, don't say anything at all." Hmm, come to think of it, that might have been Confucious. I always get them mixed up. (I love you mom.)

All right, let's face it, the only reason I'm posting here is because my life is about to end, once again. At least it feels that way. Suicidal meditations always inspire me to write. I have no where else to turn. How else can I say farewell to this cruel world? I mean, how many times have I picked up that gun?

Here's a tip for the youngsters out there (not that any of them are reading this). Lord forbid they look away from their video games for two minutes. They seriously must know something I don't. My boys are beyond hooked, with no hope in sight.

Youngster tip of the week:
"You'll start to take life seriously only when you're free-falling off a cliff."

That's a gem. Write it down and don't ever forget it.

Again, I digress. Can you blame me? I've got too many issues to deal with and they all seem to take center stage at the worst times. I'm not sure I even want to talk about Joyland anymore. I've got far more interesting things going on.

But let's get to it shall we? It's not even a real review folks. It's a bit of criticism, but first, let me say that I loved Joyland. Especially the first half, despite the odd opening. For the life of me, I still don't know why Stephen King would open a novel this way when he had so many opportunities to really make it more interesting. Oh... almost forgot. He's Stephen King. He can open a novel any way he wants and get away with it.

No worries, Mr.King, I forgive you. In fact,  I re-wrote your opening to Joyland at least three different ways (in my own mind) just to prove to myself I know a little about writing and how to open a story that hooks readers from page one. I kept referring to Les Edgerton's Hooked, over and over just to make sure too. I'm so proud of myself. But don't worry Mr. King, I won't reveal my clever and poignant opening to anyone. I wouldn't want to embarrasss you.

Besides, my own legion of readers would lambaste me for even trying to mess with a master storyteller like Stephen King. I'm sure there's a method there somewhere.

Okay, I loved Joyland right? I sure did and I want to say that up front because I wasn't thrilled with the ending. Aside from the meandering opening, the beginning of this story is quite masterful, as I recall. The funny carny jargon, the spot-on characters. The main character's quirky POV and interesting backstory. Loved all of that. Enjoyed the setting and how all the characters played off each other, and so on. Great first half of the story until the middle started to drag and become predictable. And then... the ending came.

Suspenseful glissen tone here.

I don't know about you, but for me, endings are what I live for. (Thank you Mr. King for nudging me just a little closer to grabbing that gun once again.) Right. After an ending like this, I was not only dissapointed, but depressed beyond all reason. I quickly tried finding another reason to live. That's why this review took so long. I've literally been depressed and ever so close to my breaking point after reading the ending to Joyland that the trauma has taken me many months to recover.

Oh, the horror of it all folks. I'm always trying to find one good ending. One brilliant ending that will put my life in perspective and make life worth living, if only for one more day, or until the next great ending. Stephen King, what have you done to me?!!

Are you kidding me? Joyland ended with a wimper. I hate when stories end that way. You know what I mean? They just end, as in, there's no more to read and you're waiting for that big moment to hit you like a, well, a ton of bricks? (nice cliche) But it never does because you see the bad ending approaching from miles away.

It's almost as if King ran out of good ideas and decided to finish this story in textbook style. No real surprises here. Just a run of the mill formulaic ending. A well-written ending, but not an eye-opening, jaw-dropping, head-spinning moment where you say: "Fucking A, what a twist." That's what I say when a story ends like Dennis Lehane's, Shutter Island.

I know, I know, it's rude to compare authors this way. It's not even fair, but what can you expect? I'll never be the same after Shutter Island. From now on, I expect all good mysteries to end like this. I'm spoiled. Dennis Lehane has ruined my reading life! And I'm not even crazy about Lehane's stories, mind you. And I know he's written a lot of books, but Shutter Island is the only one I know, or I can remember.

Stephen King's Redemption
Not so with Stephen King novels folks. Let's rattle them off: Carrie, his first and most brilliant. Uh, The Green Mile, another masterpiece. How about Misery? One of my favorites! Cujo, Duma Key. C'mon folks, you gotta love Stephen King novels. The list is endless. He's not the King of Mystery for no reason. Or is it the Master of Mystery? I could never keep those straight. I'll have a talk with his publicist.

Okay, okay, this is not a kiss Stephen King's ass discourse. He has enough fame and fortune and doesn't need any help from me. I just hate writing bad reviews. Not that this is a bad review of Joyland. Far from it. It's a mixed review, for sure, but mostly positive, as it should be because like many of King's other novels, Joyland is still a classic. At least half a classic, that is. Or a full-fledged classic with reservations. Hmm, that's not working.

Let's just call it a somewhat classic work, with the hope that Stephen King might someday re-write a satisfying ending to Joyland "a la" Shutter Island, and re-release it. Is that even allowed?

I don't think so.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hellman-Chang: Stand Back, Shut Up And Listen

I can't think of anything else these two friends from Brooklyn could possibly be thinking in front of an audience of would-be entrepreneurs. These guys, (C'mon, they're from Brooklyn) Daniel Hellman and Eric Chang, a.k.a., h/c, (yes in lower case) mind you, must have a pair of solid walnut balls hanging over the entrance of their Brooklyn workshop. If not, it's probably a safe idea to go for it now guys. Hang away my friends, you deserve it.

Let's face it, it's rarely the time you see a couple of old friends from "the good hood," Bushwick Brooklyn, that is, literally make a name for themselves with as much pinache as Hellman and Chang have. But what should we expect? It's 2014 after all. This is the new age, at least according to Imagine Dragons it is. The days of the Old Yankee Workshop have come and gone. Forget plywood, MDF, and veneers, these guys are from the Owen Wilson school of woodworking. As in, Meet The Parents, that is. We're talking solid wood here. Hand sculpted wood, no less.

Truth be told, I snatched one of their full page ads (this is a cow town, nobody can afford this kind of stuff here anyway.) from a design magazine at the doctor's office. (Excuse me but I forgot to charge my phone.) Tore it right out of the magazine and tucked it into my jacket. Forgive my disbelief, but I just had to see if these guys were any good. I mean, who markets a furniture line covered in sawdust dressed in fancy Canali business suits?

Umm, Hellman and Chang, of course. Who else would have the wooden cojones to do such a thing? Absolutely brilliant. Again, what would you expect from a couple of Northwestern and NYU grads? Take note business majors, these guys have h/c furniture showrooms in dozens of countries. No, they're not your typical week-end woodshop warriors, like some writers I know. Let's face it, my best work is still on paper. Too bad, I'm a tinkerer at heart.

But these guys, they actually have a business plan. They design and make exquisite high-end furniture and market it to celebrities and other rich folk. Of course. Think about it, even cheap furniture is expensive, so make it much better, price it accordingly, and they will come. No problem. It's not rocket science folks, it's just good business.

If nothing else, h/c serves as a great example on how to start-up and launch a luxury furniture line with amazing success. The secret? Quality workmanship, good marketing, and even better publicity. That's the advertising trifecta folks. It works every time, plus it doesn't hurt to be handsome and stylish.

Now ultra modern furniture is not my cup of tea, I'm a shabby chic kind of guy, but I can appreciate great design when I see it, and h/c furniture is inspiring. But let's put things in perspective. This kind of success doesn't happen over night. In fact, this kind of success doesn't happen at all, unless you decide to make it happen. Then again, most folks are not ready for anything like this, in more ways than one. But for those of you who are, take the leap of faith. You just might surprise yourself.

It's apparent that Hellman and Chang have taken that leap, and they've finally arrived. Now staying on top is the hard part, but I'm sure they'll do fine as long as they diversify and keep expanding. In other words, never stop designing, because as you already know, endless selections are the lifeblood of any business. And, as long as you keep your heart and soul in it, you can't go wrong.

C'mon guys, you still gotta love the smell of western cedar in the morning. So roll up those sleeves and keep on cutting.

I really think they're on to something folks. Or, as Donnie Brasco would say: Forget about it.