Friday, September 19, 2014

Review: Red Band Society Pilot

I get that I'm, what, three days late with this one and you've probably read every review you were gonna read on this show anyway, but now that I've watched the thing a bunch of times (....yes, like four times now. Shut up.), I feel like I still have things to say, naggy things that won't leave me alone.

And let me just say that I like it before I get into the nit-picking. There aren't enough disabled characters that are nuanced and not just there to make the main character feel better about himself. And although I'm a little upset that actual actors with disabilities are not playing these characters, (representation matters!) I'm happy that a story about kids like this is being made at all. And the afflictions really run the gambit. It's not just a "kids with cancer" story. Which it shouldn't be. 

And there really is crack casting all the way through this sucker. Yes, Yes, blah-blah-blah-Octavia Spencer kicking but and taking names-cakes. She is as advertised and she is a perfect composite of hard-assed nurse with a heart of gold that I have ever met, and I've met several. And can I just say how happy I am that Griffin Dunne is slowly morphing into Harry Dean Stanton. Maybe every generation will have a person that slowly morphs into him so that we'll have a Harry Dean Stanton forever. Because he's a national treasure and we need him to live on for the generations (Okay, I have no idea where that came from).

But there were two pieces of casting that made my girl-of-the-90s heart sing. For starters, Thomas Ian Nicholas.The second I saw him I suddenly reverted to the version of me that saw Rookie of the Year for the first time and swooned, just a little. Although You do not know how hard I laughed when Thomas Ian Nicholas was the guy who bought them all beer. I don't know if it was meant to be some American Pie call-back but I took as such. I also can't wait to see how his role will develop.

But the absolute best casting was Wilson Cruz. I did not know how much I missed him on my TV until he came back. He is my everything and I will be returning to this show just to make sure he has a job. And yes, I could count the number of lines he had in this episode on both my hands. But with Wilson Cruz even small amounts is awesome Wilson Cruz.

But there's a lot of incongruities that just didn't track for me in the pilot. And I'm not saying a TV show is going to get every beat right when it comes to hospital life, but there's so much that it got wrong that it just bugged. There's so much that bugged that I'm not even sure where to start. I could go with Leo's eyebrows and how disconcerting it is that a kid on active chemo who lost all his hair could still have bushy eyebrows that are subscribing to some sort of 'Peter Gallagher Eyebrows of awesomess' regimen for some reason. Why couldn't they just go all the way with it? Cancer patients lose or thin out their eyebrows too. Why can't you show that?

And the sped up timeline with which everything took place bugged me too. Are you telling me that within the course, of what, a few hours Kara would just get a room? And by the end of the same day they have a diagnosis for her? Just like that? "Oh did the EKG, MRI, ultrasound and nuclear test all in the same day and we got these results. Wow, we're efficient." Yeah, like that happens. Honestly, I would've loved to seen her driven crazy by the the hurry-up and wait of the ER. She would've tried to eviscerate someone there. And the other thing about Kara is that the doctor and parents just talked about Kara's condition in the middle of the foyer so that she could overhear. Blah-blah-blah-HPAA-privacy-regulations-blah, more blah-blah-blah about Every hospital's patient's bill of rights is different but there is generally a clause that the patient has a right to know everything about their diagnosis and treatment. And I know these sort of hallway conversations do happen all the time, but it just felt like a plot point and not what would really happen.

And the less said about Jordi being admitted to the hospital and going into surgery the next day. Are you actually telling me that he didn't have to go through a bevy of scans and tests before he gets the magic surgery of life-savingness? Yeah, no can't buy it.

And, okay last bitch session, so what Leo had one class in the morning but somehow had the rest of the day to find out he was getting a new roommate, get in a lunch with a hypochondriac and take a plastic surgeon's car for a joy ride? Last I checked, classes at a hospital are still pretty regimented and longer-ish? Every high schooler now all the sudden wants to live in a hospital so that they only have to read Henry the V for an hour and can spend the rest of the day doing whatever the hell they want.

And I know I should shut up and stop bitching about it not hitting every note of real life hospital stays. So I'm gonna stop and say that I co-sign this show because the coma boy used farts as revenge and Dash fakes a wheezing episode and I laughed my ass off at that. It won me over despite it's obvious misrepresentations into parts of hospital life. I'm willing to give this show a solid shot. Grade: A solid B.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My Birthday Wish

Another Day, another year older. Oh what joys! Instead of waxing philosophic on another year, I'm just going to reblog the post I did for last year's birthday.

So my birthday's coming up in a week or so (August 27th) and I really don't have a lot of expectations. Dinner out with Fighting Nun, a good day out with  the whole family, my mom sending me homemade cookies, one or two small things, nothing big.  And that's the way I like it. A fuss being made over my birthday is old hat and I'm over it.

But there's something I'd like you all to do for my birthday if you've read my blog, or my tweets at all. I think you can probably guess what that is. George Mark House looms and will always loom large in my mind.  It's like an old friend who I forget about for big chunks of time but when I get back in touch, I fall right into my same rhythms with it.

I've done fundraisers and little things for them in the past with varying results and because I haven't had much time to organize myself, this one will be small and will probably have the same results. But I'd like to try and send them as much love (and money) as possible. I still have a small bevy of bracelets I made for the last fundraiser. On a first come first serve basis, I'll give those bracelets to the first five people who donate to George Mark House between now and my birthday. As always, if you've been saving up loose change for a rainy day, cash it in and send it. And if you do, let me know and I will parade you with as much gratitude as I have.

Just donate to George Mark House using their page, send me an email receipt ( tyliagardner @ hotmail (dot) com )  and where you'd like the bracelet sent to or or DM me on twitter with the information and boom, we're in business. Don't feel like donating, especially if you're not one of the first five, but you'd still like to donate?  No problem. Just tweet, or social media a link to George Mark House and you can have my blog for a full day. Want to promote your book , your blog, want to force my blog to post silly cat videos for a whole day? I will hand you the keys to castle if you give George Mark some love between now and my birthday. Seriously, any bit of love you can provide to George Mark house is enough and will garner you my love and and respect for the end of days. It's not only appreciated by me but George Mark House as well. Not enough people know what they do and how important they are to special needs and bereaved parents like myself.

They just recently had to stop their bereaved parent meetings, much to the chagrin of myself and parents like me. Tell them that their services and their support of my family and families like me is appreciated by throwing them a bone and some love, however small.

[Ed. Note: I've decided to extend my Birthday Challenge until the end of August, you have until 12:00AM August 31st to win loot or space on my blog!]

 I'm not doing a fundraiser this year. I 'd like to save that for Ukiah's birthday, but If you do chose to donate  a little bit of money to George Mark House between now and their annual gala and tell me about it, I still have some bracelets and some jewelry lying around that I'll gladly send you or I'll make you something special! But mostly I want their message and what they do spread out to the world. If you can,  tweet about it, put a link and their banner on your own blog, put it on tumblr. I don't care, just get the message out. I won't hand over the keys to my blog this time, but I will keep the karma rolling and tweet anything you want out to the world. On my birthday all I want is for George Mark House to shine and the message of what they do to reach as many people as possible. Thank you. 

Friday, August 08, 2014

My #PitchWars Bio

What should I say about me that hasn’t been said already?  I’m a bad picture taker (you knew that). I frequently ramble about nonsensical and pop-culture things (you knew that too, just check my archives). I’m frequently sleep deprived and someone is ALWAYS interrupting my dreams (I still haven’t reached the exciting conclusion to my Logan Marshall Green Vs. a Viking dream. Come back dream, come back!)

A thing that you probably don’t know about me. I wrote a book that I’d really (really, really) like to get published, which is why I’m trying this #PitchWars thing out. A thing you should know about me is what inspired the story and what my going motivation is for getting it published and out into the world.

Well, there are two motivations really. The first is my son. He was born on April 15th, 2008. He died, in our arms, at home April 5th, 2010. He’s the inspiration behind the story. I saw him and so many kids like him in the NICU just like him fight invisible monsters on a continual basis. I saw all these incredible little differences in all these incredible babies and they changed me.

I’m not just a mom, I’m a full-fledged momma bear with the world’s sharpest claws and the fiercest love. I’m not just a momma bear to my two kids but to all the kids. And I mean all of the kids. I don’t care if you’re a grown-ass adult with your own mortgage and your own kids. If you want a mother to utter the words “I love you” just so you feel some motherly love in your life, well I’m the person for the job. Need some right now? Fine. I love you! Need a little more? Okay. I love you. Done. My son taught me that we all have an infinite bottomless well of love to give. I not tap into mine and give out freely.

I’m also a mom that loves freely and openly and most importantly, happily. I know how to laugh and enjoy things things with an open heart in ways I could have never imagined. My daughter taught me how to do that because she is not afraid to be who she is. That’s a hard lesson I’m trying to learn.

It means I have to not be afraid to be who I am and go after the things I want, and that’s to be writer and to share my son’s story and the journey he took us all on and sharing how he continues to affect my life.

So, enough about me. What about the book? The book is called The Broken and I've been known to say that it's part sci-fi (although paranormal or magical realism might be more apt), part auto-biography. It's YA because  I'm targeting kids who were in my son's same position. All of my son's victories and a lot of his defeats are in the pages of this book. It's about growing up to find out you are a lot stronger than you think you are, that you're not just a diagnosis or a disability or all of the unkind things the people around you say that you are. It's about finding a voice and finding out that its strong.

I look forward to meeting all the mentors and fellow writers and everyone whose embarking on this year’s #PitchWars journey.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

An Obligatory Pictures Post

Pictures came up in conversation the other day with some of my twitter friends (Laura Zera and Lorna Suzuki to be exact) and I mentioned I haven't tried to take a selfie yet because I take horrible enough pictures WITHOUT being my own photographer. I'd just make it worse by being the photographer. They'd be horrible. They'd be so bad they'd rend a whole in the fabric of space time.

Well Lorna doesn't believe me, so I thought I'd provide proof.

I don't take good pictures. And I mean that in every sense of the phrase. I suck at being a photographer. When I'm taking pictures of my daughter for any given length of time,  I always find I delete about half of them for blurriness or she looked down too fast or any number of reasons. It's not a skill with which I am very adept.

I also suck at getting my picture taken. Like really suck at it. Like I've had my husband almost turn to drugs and alcohol in order to get through a picture taking section. It's not good. 

Here's what happens on any particular picture taking escapade. When I'm asked to smile, I immediately start to over-compensate and I unhinge my jaw like I'm a boa constrictor about to devour an entire bird. My husband calls this phenomena Pterodactyl-ing it, and it happens, oh about every third picture I take. So then I over-compensate for THAT by barely smiling with my mouth and then trying to smize (Smiling with my eyes. Thanks Tyra Banks.) but I always take that too far and going into to what I call Manson-lamps territory. My eyes are big and they are scary. The third picture I usually get distracted by my daughter or something out of range and I'm not even looking at the camera at all. Wash, rinse, repeat.

That happens just about every time I try to take a picture. It's not a full ten on the pterodactyl scale. Probably a six, but it still ain't good. This includes bonus 'baby ain't look at the camera action' as well as 'welcome to fly-away city population pterodactyl. I mean, what was my hair doing. "Alright she's distracted. A strand of us will make a break for it. We'll call you from the outside. Godspeed." Both of those things only add to the picture-take problems. We've only on the rarest of occasions both been facing a camera with decent looks on our faces with my hair deciding to play nice. It's just not good.

And then you have the terror that is the Manson-lamps phenomena which makes my pterodactyl face look like an exercise in restraint. The very next picture that got snapped was this one. See what I mean?  I brought the teeth down but all the manic energy residing in my mouth agape smile when straight to my eyes.  I look like one of the creepy men from that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where nobody can talk and those guys come at you all eyes and smiles, very happy to perpetrate the horrors they are about to administer on your bodily person.  Even my daughter was giving the camera a 'I don't know about this person' look.

But the bunny ears were adorable.

That's not to say that taking a good picture is not a quality which I possess. Once in  blue moon I'm capable of not unhinging my jaw, not giving off manson-lamps and looking at the camera in one foul swoop. I mean, look at this picture. I look normal! Put together even. It's miraculous when it happens, let me tell you. The sun rays peak out from the clouds and the gates of heaven open. It's an awesome thing. But these pictures are few and far between. I mean this picture? Taken last year, by a professional photographer who had to coax that smile out of me slowly. It's a process to get me to take a good picture is what I'm saying, a long drawn out process requiring copious amounts of patience, or barring that, copious amounts of alcohol.

9 times out of ten I look constipated or surprised. Sometimes it's a combination of the two. (Actually, in this photo I'd say it's more of a combination of scared and constipated, or scared I'm not going to be constipated for much longer. I'll let you be the judge. )

Now I could delve deeper in the horrors that is my personal photo collection. But I think you should just take my word for it here on out, and if you ever do take my picture, brace yourself for the horrors that await you on the other side.

..... I'm sorry.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Random Conversations about our Daughter's Television Programming

Bloody Munchkin: The thing I don't get about the Jake and the Neverland Pirates besides 'Jake where are your parents!?!?!' is that the help out Captain Hook sometimes even though Captain Hook is evil kinda? And he sometimes comes up with crazy schemes to try and get treasure but then these kids are collecting gold doubloons for their treasure, which how does Captain Hook not see that these kids are picking gold out of the air first off. And second off if he's so damned treasure happy why doesn't he just follow the kids back to their secret island and steal their treasure and get on with his damn life? I don't understand.

Fighting Nun [waits a beat]: I think you are over-thinking a kid's show.

Bloody Munchkin: Says the guy who basically crafted fan-fiction regarding the crab with the wooden pincer on Tumble Leaf on this entire crab's back-story regarding how he lost the limb and then regained the mechanical one, which if memory serves involved combat and a lost love.

Fighting Nun: But that was awesome and dark and compelling!

This conversation has been brought to you by our daughter's programming and the fact that we have no life.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Book Review: Shaken

I’ve been wracking my brain as to what to say about Susan Hatler’s Shaken: Book One in the Mind Reader Series. There’s so much I can say, want to say that it’s hard to know where to start. Let me start with the fact that it’s a perfect YA book. I’d also like to say that I love this book so much, I’m jealous I didn’t write it. It’s a fun thrill ride that I couldn’t put down and was so good that I had to run to Amazon to see what else in the series I could buy (nothing right now, as it turns out, which Boo! Dear Susan Hatler; Please write faster. If you ever show up to my Starbuck’s again to write a few chapters regarding this series, I’ll happily cheer you on and encourage you to write like the wind.).

Kylie Bates is a smart, driven 16 year-old who is great at school and horribly sarcastic and snarky with boys she likes. Her daily routine consists of journaling her dead mother, making sure her 4.0 GPA doesn’t dip and trying desperately to not be a spaz around her current crush. Until she finds out she can read minds. Things take a turn for the weird when she realizes she can see people’s thoughts by touching their hands. Things take a turn for the dangerous when her father asks her to use her new abilities to help find a missing girl. The very same people who kidnapped the girl may be the ones looking for her.

With the help of Trip, a determined 17 year-old from her school who wants to become a detective, they try to unravel the mystery of who took the girl and what they want and what the girl’s abduction has to do with her.

This book is a thrill ride that explores the tricky territory of telepathy, telekinesis and the even trickier territory of navigating high school, the crushes, the friendships, the family relationships, the classes.

Let me just say that not since, I dunno, Mr. Rochester have I had such a strong crush on a literary character. Trip is like Cliff Pantone mixed with Christian Slater’s character from Gleaming the Cube.  He’s layered and complex for a 17 year-old and determined in ways most love interests just aren’t. The sixteen year girl in me just completely fell for him. 

This is a really fun book and well worth a pick up. A+

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Book Review: Love at First Date

I’m not sure this actually counts as a book review since Love at First Date feels more novella length than anything and it was such a breezy read, but since I’m still on the hook for my May book review, here goes. 

Love at First Date follows Ellen, a customer support representative trying to find love in Sacramento but in the most regimented of ways, using a detailed dating service. It’s not until she starts finally going out on dates with the people she’s met through her profile that she meets her real match blindly through some twist of luck (or if you’d rather, a dog she’s watching and a clogged hair brush).

Henry, the man who helps save her best friend’s dog and whose eyes she can’t stop looking into is all she can think about. Although she wishes she could stop. She tries busying herself with men she’s met from her dating profile because she’s convinced they meet her compatibility markers and if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother, it’s that marriages don’t work without finding common ground.

Love at First Date is an enjoyable bit of fluff and a very quick read, but it isn’t all fluff. This book has a lot on its mind, or rather, the protagonist has a lot on hers, like how she’s supposed to make it work with a man when her mother, who was married twice before and couldn’t even make it work with Ellen’s birth father long enough to get married. Can she really find what and who she wants when she sees all of her mother’s old mistakes?

 There’s a lot of interpersonal relationships at play here too. Can she find love, be allowed to find it, when her friends have interpersonal lives falling apart? Will there meddling help or hurt? And can Ellen finally get out of her own way to see what’s in front of her?

I not only enjoyed reading how all those questions got answered, but how they were posed in the first place. Susan Hatler does a great job of really getting you right in the character’s head, showing you exactly what makes her tick and just what kind of neuroses are really at play.

 Love At First Date is an enjoyable fast-paced read and well worth your time. It’s an A.