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Buy my friends' books, plz. Kthx.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Quick plug for two friends who just released new books. Buy them! Trust me! I went to a book signing at Haslam's in St. Pete yesterday and got my autographed copies from both fellas.


Pulitzer Prize winner Tom French presents the masterful Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives. The book, based on years of reporting inside Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, wrestles with uncomfortable questions of freedom, of whether or not animals are better off in captivity. I had the pleasure of helping to proofread it before it came out, which, for this nerd, was so exciting. Zoo Story is heartbreaking and honest and funny and suspenseful. It features a tiger who loves Obsession perfume and a chimp who flirts with blonds in tank tops. What else do you need? I mean, COME ON.

Here's a USA Today review. And here's Tom on the Colbert Report last week!


Tom's BFF Roy Peter Clark just released The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English. Roy got a friggin' great review in the New York Times last week. Roy is a renowned writing coach, but his books don't make you want to claw your eyes out and jump off a roof to your bloody death. They're really entertaining and bright.

I'm also geeked out to report that I made the pages! At a Jennifer Weiner appearance last year at the Poynter Institute, Roy told me about his book and how he planned to use an item I wrote about... KELLIE PICKLER'S HAIR. Hur?

This narrative masterwork is basically me imagining Kellie getting caught in wind tunnel and doused with maple syrup. Hardly high-brow writing guide fodder. So I laughed at Roy and finished my wine and figured I'd believe it when I see it.

But I'll be damned. Page 207.  

Step Up 3D can teach us so much... if we only let it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

You guys, I just saw Step Up 3D.

I TOTALLY DID. I can't even lie. I got invited, so I went. Who am I to turn down anything with the potential to be So-Bad-It's-Good (SBIG)? I'm also a sicko fan of So You Think You Can Dance, and this flick was all about the SYTYCD cameo. Joshua! Twitch! Legacy! That one girl who wore the bowler hats! I'm so happy they're getting work that's not, you know, making scantily-clad appearances at nightclubs for money and bottle service, or whathaveyou.

Anyway, SU3D was totally SBIG (not to be confused with SYTYCD, OK? 10-4? U2? LOL?). The 3D element was gratuitous. Bubbles? Splashing red cherry slushie drink? Jagged arm extensions in yo' face? There's more inventive use of the third dimension in that Muppets attraction at Disney.

Mostly, the movie reminded me of the daily struggle to avoid writing cliches. It's hard, so hard, and we all come up short (like when we write "come up short"). But like a magical Nike high-top to a lonely B-boy, it matters.

Say, for example, your main character is sitting on a ledge in New York City, gazing at the sunrise over the maybe-geographically-implausibly-placed famous bridge, and he sighs and says he comes up here to think because the traffic "makes me feel like I'm a part of something bigger." Well...

You lost me. I'm so done. I'm gonna sit there and enjoy my Diet Coke, and admire the enviable abdominals on screen, and decide I might download the soundtrack, and wish I'd stayed in dance class as a kid instead of switching nervously between Taekwondo and piano lessons, but... I'm not buying one more word the characters say. BECAUSE NO ONE IN REAL LIFE SAYS STUFF LIKE THAT. Traffic pisses people off! It makes them late to Yogalates! It makes them miss the last office donut except the coconut maple one nobody will touch! And I don't know many people who find their inner chi-zen-purpose by listening to horns and f-bombs and blown tires.

Cliches kill reality.

Other lines from Step Up 3D we must all band together and never repeat (somewhat paraphrased, since I don't have a script in front of me, dagnabit):

1. "He threw a battle... for a bet?"
2. "We can go anywhere. California, even!"
3. "It started as a lie... but what I felt for you was real!"
4. "Dancing is like breathing!"
5. Brother: "What about FAMILY?" Embattled sister, to ragtag dance troupe: "THIS is my FAMILY now!"

I'll leave you with this to think about.