Friday, October 30, 2009

Introducing...Broadway Club!!!

I lived in New York for most of the 90s and in all that time I barely ever ventured anywhere near a theater. Which was ironic because I was sharing an apartment with Tommy Tune and Patti Lupone. They used to get on me all the time about experiencing the joys of live theater. Sometimes they'd leave tickets to their newest shows sticking out of the laundry basket. Sometimes they'd post their reviews up on the fridge door. I consistently failed to take the hint. Frustrated, they'd yell at me: "You're missing so much. It's joyous. It's exhilarating! Look at all the nights you waste going to see second-rate Britpop bands and identikit New York rappers. You never enjoy yourself. Why not treat yourself to something different, something amazing?" They definitely had me on the Britpop accusation--did I really go to see Gene, Sleeper AND Echobelly in one lifetime?-- but I had a ready response. "Just the way you're getting all gushy and emotional and over-the-top is the exact reason I will never go to the theater. It's embarrassing. It's obscenely expensive ( I was on the guest list for all those terrible Britpop shows).It makes me uncomfortable. It's not for me."

But now I feel differently. Now, when I leave LA and head back to New York for recreational visits, I try to take in a few Broadway shows. Maybe I've mellowed. Maybe I'm more open-minded. Maybe I like the fact that cheap tickets are so readily available. Whatever the reason, here are my bite-size reviews of the shows I saw when I was in New York last week:

"After Miss Julie"
Patrick Marber, author of `Closer' and co-creator of Alan Partridge updates a Strindberg classic setting it in 1945 Britain. Starring Sienna Miller as the borderline insane posh girl toying with the affections of chauffeur Jonny Lee Miller. I would have liked this if it had been any good. Sienna Miller can be a decent actress but her entire performance was AHAHAHAHAWAABOOHOOO.

"Citizens Band"
I was dragged along to this. It's a monthly cabaret performed at a downtown theater by a bunch of of actors, musicians, models and celebrity relatives. This one featured the likes of Rain Phoenix, Zoe Kravitz, Jack White's wife Karen Elson and Nina Persson from The Cardigans singing songs from the Great Depression. Zoe Kravitz was probably the best of the rich, privileged cast singing about standing in breadlines and dying of consumption.

"Wishful Drinking"
Carrie Fisher's one-woman show about her dysfunctional life starts off like every nightmare I ever had about live theater. She comes down into the audience! She throws glitter over people! She asks them their names! Even though I was safely ensconced back in row K and she was humiliating the ticket holders in the first row, I could still hear my heart thump in my chest such was my fear that I might be singled out and made to participate. That fear aside, this was a funny, enjoyable show. Fisher has amassed enough calamity-- I woke up next to a dead gay Republican cocaine addict! I turned my husband gay! You can buy a life-size Princess Leia sex doll!-- to more than fill a couple of hours apportioning blame to family members, ex-husbands and George Lucas.

"God Of Carnage"
I had a couple of hours to kill before the curtain went up-- see, I'm fluent in Broadway talk!-- so I went to see `Paranormal Activity' in an all-but-empty cinema. After I emerged--brief review: it FUCKED MY SHIT UP!-- I headed towards the theater only to find my pockets were empty. The tickets were gone! Retracing my steps, I went back to the cinema, looked under the seats and found... the receipt for the theatre tickets but NOT the actual tickets! Paranormal activity, indeed!
This was three-quarters of an exciting play. The seats I got were up in a box that cut off most of the far right side of the stage. It would have been nice if the director had arranged for my benefit that James Gandolfini, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Hardin and Jeff Daniels restricted their movements to the left and centre of the stage. But it was not to be. From what I saw, `God Of Carnage' was an exercise in unrelieved misanthropy that reveled in the brutality that occurs when the thin veneer of civilization is ripped away and supposedly respectable people start acting like savage beasts. Plus, Hope Davis projectile vomits across the stage.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

And The Oscar Goes To...

Do you have kids? Are they bored but undemanding? Do you need something to keep them occupied and out of mischief on the weekend of January 15 2010? May I impartially recommend a movie written by myself and the noted literary enigma James Greer( who now has his own blog filled with lol-tastic pix of kittens playing poker and toddlers throwing up on themselves at http://jamesgreerbooks.blogspot.com/)
Very well then. Here it is (don't know why it's so squashed but, honestly, whatever's happening out of frame isn't much more exciting than the stuff you can see):

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Standing Room Only!

It was another LAYA triumph as Teen Read Week attracted an unprecedented eleven people to Northridge Library. Actually, it was eight people if you take away Alexa Young, Eileen Rosenbloom and myself which, as visiting authors, you'd probably have to. And Alexa's entourage of husband and young son don't really count either. Neither did the pastor-slash- filing clerk( not quite sure if I got his official designation right). Or Ania the effusive Young Adult librarian. So, four people showed up. And two of them were twins. On the plus side, that meant everyone won the raffle. On the minus side...well, why dwell on the minus side?

The undoubted highlight of the event: my attempt to describe Hottie for the attending youngsters. I usually sum it up with a terse `funny superhero book' but this time I was called upon to delve deeper. As I stumbled through the plot and the characters, I got increasingly inarticulate and increasingly Scottish. A sustained silence greeted my closing statement which gave Alexa Young the perfect opportunity to say "And now, let me translate..."

The Sound Of Silence

I can be something of an asshole when I come into contact with people who still purchase CDs. "Where did you park your unicycle?" I'm wont to inquire. "Oh, so they've got electricity where you live now?" is another winner. I crack myself up. But the mocking laughter stopped dead last week when the battery expired on my old iPod. 11,000 songs. Expired. Vanished into the air. A matter of days later, my newer iPod became afflicted with a hardware problem. The guy at the Genius Bar reset it. It's as good as new. New as in empty, as in lacking the 12, 225 songs it once housed and which popped like bubbles and disappear like they'd never existed.

I'm being pretty zen about the whole affair. By which I mean I'm shaking a fist at the sky and howling "ZENNNNN! Why did you do this to me, you heartless bastard!" Which makes absolutely no sense. So I'm starting over. No hardcore obsessive day-long downloading sessions. A little Scritti Politti here. Some Kraftwerk there. At the rate I'm going I figure I'll have reloaded the bulk of the missing material by......NEVER!

Enjoy your ugly, rapidly-degenerating CDs, you ethical suckers!

Friday, October 16, 2009

TV Club: Part Deux!

Once again, Cherry Cheva and I watch TV

Saturday Night Live

JB: How did we end up with Obama? He's useless. He brings nothing to the job. There's no way he deserves a second term. Armisen's Obama, I mean. Not the other one.
CC: I'm sorry, but during that last sketch I totally freaked out for half a second because the spine of one of the books (it was actually a whole bunch of 'em in a row) behind Drew Barrymore's head totally looked like the spine of my book She's So Money (yellow with slanty purple title). Upon closer inspection, it was not She's So Money. Upon CLOSER inspection + minor research it appeared to be a book that doesn't exist. Also, one of the other books looked like North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley, but then it wasn't. WHAT'S UP WITH THIS? Were those real books? Were they fake books that the prop guys just made to look like real books? I wasn't looking for it, I swear, but you just get attuned to your own books, or books you know, like you get attuned to hearing your own name out of background noise. I'm pretty sure I saw a bizarro Twilight in there. Jonathan, did you see Hottie? OK, I'm gonna stop talking about this. :)

Mad Men

JB: First Joan, now Sal! Who's next to wind up trapped in their own personal hell? Could well be Don. Brunettes are kryptonite to Don Draper and this new one is right there in his own neighborhood. Once he tries to kick her to the curb, she's going to bring the pain straight to Betty's front door.
CC: This is my first season watching and I progressed VERY quickly to the yelling-at-the-screen phase of viewership. Which is good.

Curb Your Enthusiasm

JB: First dud of the season. Larry Vs The World always works better than Asshole Larry and this was all Asshole Larry. Here's what rubbed me the wrong way: Asshole Larry picking a fight with his shorts-wearing neighbor in First Class. That's a rich man's problem, LD. The rest of us pack light and wear as little as we can so we can get through security in under an hour.

Rachel Zoe

JB: How did I end up so fixated on Assistant Taylor? She's sullen, selfish, unpleasant, moody, insensitive to the feelings of others, unable to take even the mildest of jokes against herself, socially awkward, desperate for recognition of her own talents, self-absorbed and contemptuous of all those around her. I hate people like that....I'M EXACTLY LIKE THAT! I die for a spin-off.
CC: I have nothing to add, because you just killed it. You shut it down.
JB: Am I the only one who thinks this is probably the first time Rodger has had his hands anywhere near his wife's business. If you know what I'm saying...
CC: I love Brad.


Dancing With The Stars

JB: Uh, wasn't Mya a dancer long before her mediocre r&b career? Wasn't she on Broadway. Isn't she in the movie version of Chicago? Doesn't she have years more experience than Dmitry? Stop lying to me, TV!
CC: Seriously. Mya FTW already. This show, more than any other, you can call in the first week. LOVE YOU DMITRY! Also, Shakira, please gain the weight back. I prefer hearing about your hips that do not lie when you actually have hips.
JB: Yeah, why doesn't SHE WOLF down some tasty fried plantains? Ha ha! (I'll get my coat...)

X Factor

JB: Simon Cowell's British show is better than American Idol in almost every way. Higher production values, smarter format, far more brutal inter-judge bitching. There's just one area where it falls a little bit short:


That's right. The singers are all shit.

CC: Oh my god. I stopped watching that youtube after four seconds.
JB: No wonder Leona Lewis got punched in the head. Which I found reprehensible and didn't laugh at. Not even for a minute. Okay, maybe just a minute

Top Model
CC: This is cycle, like, 300, so I really have NO IDEA why by now, the girls don't realize that getting back from go-sees on time matters way more than how many you go to. You might as well just do one and then go back, because if you come back late, you get CREDIT FOR ZERO. Jesus.
JB: Wongdoody!

Top Chef
CC: Voltaggios. Blond chick. Top three. The end.

SYTYCD
CC: If Boston krump guy doesn't make it to the top 20, I will shoot someone in the face. By the way, is it me or did he fully say he DID have training during the audition rounds, and tonight he said he didn't? Weird edit? Are they giving him the Joshua "oh I'm so untrained even though I just did a double pirouette as my happy dance" edit? Whatever. He's still my fave so far, no matter what kind of retcon training shenanigans they are trying to pull.
JB: Totally the Boys Don't Cry edition. Shankman gets verklempt in a Don't-look-at-me-I'm-a-mess-no-keep-looking-at-me way. Legacy responded to my one-trick B-boy accusation with a red-eyed epiphany about wanting to live forever and learn how to fly. A cut guy turns into a slobbering mess and Nigel goes Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever THERE'S NO CRYING IN DANCE SISSY BOY WHY ARE YOU CRYING WHY ARE YOU CRYING WHY ARE YOU HITTING YOURSELF?

Monday, October 12, 2009

In The Flesh!

Do you like books? Do you like to hear authors talk about their books? Do you like libraries? Do you like Jews? If you answered yes to all four questions, Tuesday October 20th is your lucky day. As part of Teen Read Week, young adult authors will be popping up all over the bankrupt Southland to talk about their favorite subjects: 1) themselves 2) their books.

You can catch me and my colleagues Alexa Young and Eileen Rosenblum at 4pm at Northridge Library. It'll be a festive occasion. There will a raffle with a chance to win an unopened Guitar Hero and signed copies of the author's books. There will be food and drink of some sort.

The address: Northridge Branch Library
9051 Darby Avenue
Northridge 91325.

No, I have zero idea where that is, either. But if I start walking now, I'll probably make it by next week.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

TV Club: Work In Progress

I have a few things in common with my literary colleague, Cherry Cheva. We're both members of the Los Angeles Young Authors anarcho-syndicalist collective. Surprisingly, we're both Los Angeles-based authors of books aimed at young adults. She has the acclaimed novels, She's So Money and Replikate to her name. I'm responsible for Hottie and it's forthcoming sequel, Burning Ambition. We're both `represented' by the same agency. As a writer/producer on the Emmy-nominated Family Guy, she makes America laugh on a weekly basis. As co-author of such movies filmed with cameras as Max Keeble's Big Move and Larry The Cable Guy: Health Inspector, I...well that's where our paths separate. But then they join up again because it turns out we're both selective TV viewers. And so, in what might become an exciting recurring feature, or end up being something we try once and immediately abandon, we're going to attempt to comment on the shows we've consumed.

This innovation might be called TV Club. Or Cherry And Jonathan's TV Club. Or Jonathan And Cherry's TV Club. Or JONATHAN'S TV CLUB!!! (with cherry). I like that one best. Here's the first, and possibly last, one, which will also run, at some point, on Cherry's blog http://blogs.myspace.com/cherrycheva

So You Think You Can Dance

CC:LOVE Boston krump guy
JB: Like: Iveta the Lithuanian Bond villainess. Fear: Legacy's going to be Philip 2.0 : one-note b-boy floundering through other styles but kept afloat by giant wave of popularity.


Top Chef

CC: HATE Padma Lakshmi's green onesie pantsuit thing.
JB: Toby Young. Never funny. Never ever.
CC: I agree. Get rid of him. He is a pox on reality show judging. I don't even know if I used that term right but the point is he sucks.

Dancing With The Stars

CC: Jabbawockeez!


Top Model:

CC: Jabbawockeez!
JB: 1) Backwoods Bundchen FTW
2) Erin's got kind of a Jennifer Jason Leigh in Last Exit To Brooklyn thing going on.
3) What's up with no My Life As A Cover Girl for last cycle's winner?

Real Housewives

CC: She by Sheree, you've been served. I'm hereby starting Che by Cherree, a clothing line devoted entirely to flannel, Star Wars t-shirts, and other extremely fashionable items I wear to work. Call me if you wanna be in the promotional video and say the word "slovenly".
JB: Two reality show murders in the same month. The dude from Megan Wants A Millionaire and now Kandi's ex. Three makes it a trend. (I'm looking at you Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Ruins)

Project Runway

JB: Oktoberfest must have been a dark dark time for Heidi from the way she she aufwieder'd Epperson
CC: Can we talk about Tamara Mellon's botox? Okay, we just did.


Dollhouse

CC: Hmmm. Serial killer. Cool. Victor as serial killer. Super cool. Echo as a schoolgirl. Eh. Echo as a slutty schoolgirl. Eh again. More serial killer stuff, more coolness. Oh, now Echo's the serial killer, I guess that's kind of--HOLY SHIT VICTOR AS A SCHOOLGIRL DANCING VICTOR IS DANCING VICTOR IS DANCING VICTOR BEAT UP SOME GUY AND NOW HE IS HUGGING BALLARD THIS IS HEREBY ALMOST AS GOOD AS THE ANGEL WHERE ANGEL TURNED INTO A MUPPET THE END
JB: I would rather have seen Jesus Christ resurrected than this show. It fails on every conceivable level. Doesn't work as a paranoid thriller. No tension. Not funny. No interesting characters. Except for Dr. Saunders who is now gone. Really? Okay, but if it doesn't improve after that, I'm officially done with it.

The Mo'Nique Show

JB: Slice open Oprah, shove Tyra and Wendy Willams inside and that's how voluble and unembarrassable future Academy award nominee Mo'Nique is. This, verbatim, is the opening monologue of her first late-night BET talk show: Aaaaah...AaaaaaHHH...AaaaaAAAAHHHHH...AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH. Then she cried.
CC: I have never seen this program and realize now that this was a life mistake on my part. *goes to set DVR*



Overlooked, Three!

Drew Barrymore should be pissed. Because this little-seen film of hers = enjoyment x 10.

Monday, October 5, 2009

One Two...One Two...Is This Thing On?



More pictures from the West Hollywood Book Fair. First, me rocking the mic to an appreciative audience at the Teen Stage. Second, myself, Cherry Cheva and Amy Goldman Koss holding back the seething masses at the LAYAs booth handily situated between the Mimes, Puppeteers And Raging Feminist Poets Stage and the long line desperate to get Cindy Brady's autograph. Thirdly, the author who took over the Barnes & Noble booth once our signing session was over. The photo isn't blurry and out-of-focus. Carol Channing actually looks like that!

I Get Paid To Watch TV!

This month's Guardian TV column: http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2009/oct/03/americantv-kanyewest-jayleno

Jay Leno, a confusingly edited Glee review and Flash Forward

Hottie LIVE At West Hollywood Book Fair

Somebody connected with the Los Angeles Young Authors group of which I am an occasional and rarely participating member, had a brilliant idea. What if, along with having a booth at the West Hollywood Book Fair, we also roped in a bunch of actual teens to perform passages from our books!

The majority of my colleagues were smart about adapting their books, going to great pains to ensure that they chose excerpts filled with dialogue that showcased all their characters, I went with an action-and-description-packed chapter. This meant that the young lady on the far left--her name is Kendall Toole, she has the kind of comic timing that bodes well for a successful acting career-- spoke almost interrupted for five minutes-- and the other three readers had a combined total of six syllables.

Nevertheless, I thank them all for their participation. I'm also indebted to everyone who showed up at the Barnes & Noble signing session, even the girls who wanted their Harley Jane Kozack mystery novels signed for extra credit. And the guy who wanted to know if we stocked anything by David Sedaris. And especially fellow authors Carol Snow and Michael Reisman who were classy enough to buy our books and get us to sign them. Had I an iota of their innate decency, I would have stuck around for their signing session and returned the favor. But I didn't. What's worse, I didn't because I snuck off to see The Invention Of Lying. I don't know who I feel worse for. Me for sitting through it or Jennifer Garner for appearing in it. Me.