Wednesday, February 26, 2014

For Jose (Joey) Valdez

A boy died last week.

A 15 year-old boy died needlessly and now his parents are tormented with nightmares and what-if scenarios.

A boy died because people in his life, at his school, told him mean horrible things, bullied and harassed him endlessly.

A boy died because depression lied to him, told him he wasn't good enough, that he wasn't worth it. And he listened.

A boy died because..... God knows why.

That boy was Jose Valdez (Joey). This boy was a very good friend's God son. I'd met him a handful of times, saw his smiling face at birthday parties and barbeques. While I didn't know much about him, I'm heartbroken by his loss. His family and all of those people that loved him are left wondering why. And sadly there's no real answer. For whatever reason, he felt he he should take it upon himself not to be here anymore.

Way back when, I wrote a post about Amanda Todd, a girl I never knew who took her own life because the bullying was so bad she felt like escape was the only thing. But then I didn't do anything. Back in September at the start of the school year, Robbie Cox and bevy of other bloggers and authors did a Bloggers Against Bullies blog campaign and while I wanted to participate, I decided against it. I could give you several excuses, but none of them are worth listening to. But when that campaign rolls around next year, you can bet I will be participating, for Joey. For all of the upset, depressed kids who we've lost before or are on the verge of losing.

This can be prevented, and should. It starts with talking to your child, talking to every child about the very real harm that can be done by just a few snickering jokes, planned pranks, tiny shoves. It starts with listening to the harm being done, even if that child won't talk. We have to coax it out of them so they can get the help they need.

Sadly it's too late for Joey. But it's not too late to do something real and significant to help his family and friends. His friends (especially his God-mother and dear friend Maria Lizeth Martinez) are trying to raise money for the funeral costs. Got a few dollars to spare? Please go to Joey's GofundMe page and contribute.Want a t-shirt so people see the face and remember the name and know how much more work their is to be done to save kids like Joey?  Buy a T-shirt. In Northern California? Well there's several fundraisers you can attend. Just check Maria's facebook page for details.

Can't contribute monetarily? Signal boost. Post it on your facebook walls, post it on twitter, hit all the social media websites. Get people to listen. Make them understand. Take it to our school boards and see if we can't shore up anti-bullying policies and education. Take it to our local and state government, let's go national. It has to stop. Wouldn't it be an incredible legacy if somehow we made it stop with Joey?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Casting the Movie Compare and Contrast: The Devil and Preston Black and Hellbender

After I casted the movie Hellbender, Jason Jack Miller showed me a blog post where he had done the exact same thing for Hellbender, and then digging around on the exact same site, I found he'd also cast The Devil and Preston Black. So I've decided to do a little compare and contrast.

First up Hellbender:

Henry  Collins
Who Jason chose: Jake Gyllenhaal
Who I chose: Garrett Hedlund

Jason, I'm sorry, but I just don't see it. I love Jake, but he's too much of a puppy dog to fill the part. Garrett has the ruggedness, and the earthiness that I read into the role. I think Garrett can fill the well worn flannels and the trucker caps better than Jake.

Alex Ramsey
Who Jason chose: Miley Cyrus (pre-twerk)
Who I chose: AnnaSophia Robb or Katie Cassidy

You know I have to say I get Jason's choice. She has that softness and the touch of country the part of Alex needs. She'd look great in a pair of cowboy boots, I have to say, but I'm still not completely sold. She's better than my two choices, but she's still not the one. I feel like if Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood could still portray college aged girls, they might be better fits, but the right Alex is still out there, waiting to be found.

Ben Collins
Who Jason chose: Paul Walker (Sniff!)
Who I chose: Ben Foster

Paul would've been great in the role, thinking on it, but even if he was still around, I still would've chosen Ben Foster. Let's be honest, Who is just as much of a loose cannon as Ben Collins? Ben Foster is who. Who can show you all the layers that lie just beneath the surface and tell the immensity of the character's story without hardly uttering a word? Ben Foster is who.

Jamie Collins
Who Jason chose: David Straithern
Who I chose: NA
Who i would choose: David Straithern

I hadn't actually cast Jamie when I read Hellbender partly because I didn't have a feel for him and partly because he was just background big chunks of the time. While reading The Devil and Preston Black, I tried figure out an actor that was just the right amount of down home intelligence and fatherly instincts. Nothing came to mind, then I saw Jason's pick and knew it was the right one. Perfect!

Katy Stefanic
Who Jason chose: Katie Holmes
Who I chose: A half-hearted vote for Lucy Hale

I get Jason's logic on this one. Katie Holmes has a lot of soft edges the way Katie does. She embues a certain down-home vibe that Katie Stefanic has in spades. My only concern is that the ages are off. I wanted somebody younger and fresh-faced to fit the bill and Lucy Hale was the only one that came to mind. She has a lot of sharp edges on Pretty Little liars, which is why I didn't love her as Katie, but she just released a country album, so maybe she knows how to get a little backwoodsy. Plus the music correlation makes a lot of sense because Katie's pretty versed with a fiddle. Is she the type of girl that "When she's on, she can make you cry?" Don't know. Could work.

Billy Lewis
Who Jason chose: Patrick Fugit
Who I chose: --
Who I would choose: Patrick Fugit

Patrick needs to be in all the things. I love him and have loved him ever since Almost Famous. He's got the same live-wire, can show you multitudes in just a look presence that Ben Foster does and I think Billy Lewis needs that. He doesn't get much time in the book, but he's really interesting.

Darren Lewis
Who Jason chose: Jeremy Davies
Who I chose: --
Who I would choose: Jeremy Davies

No, I'm not intentionally piggy-backing on the choices Jason made. But he made such great, shrewd choices that I have to bow down to the master and give credit where credit is due. Jeremy Davies is yet another awesome live-wire who needs to be in all the things and even though Darren doesn't have a big part, Jeremy Davies could sell the crazy better than anyone. Co-signed.

Charlie Lewis:
Who Jason Chose: Charles Durning
Who I chose: Clancy Brown

I'd say who you choose depends on how you read the part of Charlie Lewis; Craggy old grandpa with a hint of menace, or pants-shittingly scary with a hint of ferocity with regards to protecting his family. If it's the former, Charles, and if it's latter, Clancy. Charlie Lewis put the fear of God into me, so I'm going with Clancy.

Now, onto The Devil and Preston Black:

Preston Black
Who Jason Chose: Joseph Gordon Levitt
Who I Chose: Ethan Peck

Why am I always casting Joseph Gordon Levitt out of stuff for these imaginary movies? I did the same with him when I cast Joe Vampire. Authors keep seeing him as their every man and I keep seeing him as anything but. I mean, you know I love me some Joseph Gordon Levitt, but he's not who I'd envisioned for this part at all. When I'd originally casted Ethan Peck in Hellbender as Preston, it's because the character read as tall, dark and haunted and I've been dying to see Ethan Peck get something like that. When I read The Devil and Preston Black, he's all I could see. His deep voice and physical presence seem to be exactly what Preston needs. And, okay, this might be an overshare, when the sex scenes start happening, he'd have my full attention.

Danicka Prochazka
Who Jason Chose: Mila Kunis
Who I Chose: Ivana Melicevic

Don't ask me to explain my choice because Jason's is clearly better, but either would work i think.

Pauly Pallini
Who Jason Chose: James Franco
Who I chose: I got nothin'

I could never get a read on Pauly, there wasn't much of a physical description. The only thing I knew about him was the he was a recovering alcoholic and he was taking whatever work he but I think Franco would work.  

Dino 'Mick' Micheleno 
Who Jason Chose: Robert Forester
Who I Chose: Iggy Pop

 The part read less wisened father figure and more aging rockstar holding onto the glory days to me. I love me some Robert Forester but no.

Stu Croe
Who Jason Chose: Channing Tatum
Who I Chose: I got nothin'

This character was another blank slate for me. I couldn't quite see who could play him. And I look forward to seeing Channing in anything and everything. This would work. Cut print send. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book Review: The Devil and Preston Black

My childhood home was pretty deceptive looking. On the outside it looked like a mobile home, but it had an addition built on to it, a massive den the size of the two bedrooms combined. This was everyone's sanctuary, with mom's sewing table in a corner, dad's massive pile of books in another and a card table that served as my arts and crafts table in later years but served as a gaming or puzzle table pretty much all the time.

At the far wall was the big built-in entertainment center, The TV sat high center, with all of the electronics on a shelf above it. On the shelf below the TV sat all the musical equipment, a reciever, a tape deck, in later years, a CD player and on top of all that, the record player. On either end were massive shelves filled to the brim with vinyl. I spent a good chunk listening to it, all of it. I had my favorites of course, guilty pleasures too, but I tried to take it all in. In the intervening years I'm still not sure I scratched the surface (Ha, see what I did there!) of the collection. But I loved all of it and am suddenly sad I didn't spend more time at the alter of the player. I probably would have had I not damaged the needle when I was eleven, which took my parents entirely too long to get fixed.

The Devil and Preston Black  is exactly what the title says it is. It's a book about Preston Black, a down-on-his-luck musician just trying to find his way and having to fight the devil to do it. It's about wayward rock idols, old music, ways of life on the verge of extinction and the character trying to figure out who he is when his entire history was a blank page. It's about music giving a life meaning when that life can't find the meaning on his own.

If Hellbender was my childhood diner, then  The Devil and Preston Black is the den of my childhood home, filled with scratched vinyl  and tuneful music both new and old. I haven't been this at home in a book in a long time, if you consider a place where the main character has very philosophical text conversations with Joe Strummer, argues with John Lennon and where Jerry Garcia's death bed felt quaint home, which I do.

But the book isn't just filled with musicians no longer with us, it's filled to the brim with music, so lively and fluid it came right off the page. I got into a twitter discussion with Jason Jack Miller where he mentioned that he was worried that the sections in which he described the music being played were too tedious, but to me they were some of the best parts because I was transported into the music. I haven't been able to read sheet music since around ninth grade and the talking about chord progressions wasn't something  I understood, but it's something I felt. I could feel how the music was taking place around him, how it progressed and shifted and was shaped while the characters were playing it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I'm probably gonna run right out and by The Revelations of Preston Black just to be a completist (Sshhhh! Don't tell my husband). I'm giving this one an A+. It invoked my parents record collection for crying out loud. Any book that can do that gets an A+.