Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas with the Pickle

Digging into his stocking first thing Christmas morning.

My family came out to our house.

Tiff's parents gave him this cool new toy.


My sister Mary found this cool school bus.

A Health Camp burger on the way to Dallas.

Uncle Chris and cousin Christopher.

Another--smaller--school bus!

Breakfast with cousin Fenway.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Merry Xmas at the Austin Chronicle

Marjorie Baumgarten and Michael Ventura at the Chron Xmas party.

Tiffany and I took Nicholas to the Austin Chronicle's Christmas party last night, which is always the biggest, most lavish event the Chronicle puts on each year. The assortment of food is eye-popping, as is the long, long table laden with pies of many flavors (peanut butter!).

Nicholas had a great time, and danced with me some by the kareoke setup. The surprise was to briefly meet the very fine writer Michael Ventura.

I've been writing a column about the Texas film industry for the Chronicle for four years now (four years at the Austin American-Statesman before that), and I appreciate the many fine folks who make it what it is--one of the treasures of Austin. Happy holidays to you all.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

EVACUATION PLAN premieres on Kindle!

I have never met anyone who owns a Kindle, but those of you who do can now read my novel-in-stories EVACUATION PLAN on yours, and it's already ranked an amazing 29,236 on I'm pleased if the print edition gets above 100,000 on Amazon. But could it be there just aren't that many Kindle books to compete with? Anyone own a Kindle? Let me know how you like it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Burning down the Ags: it's never enough

This is the first few paragraphs of my Austin Chronicle blog about going to the Texas Longhorns football game last night. You can read the full post here. I should make it clear that I am a major UT football fan, and this shouldn't be taken as a slam of them. I've been thinking a lot of what New Yorker writer Susan Orlean does in writing about cultures, and this is what came out...

Reveille dangles limply from a string attached to a long stick as a Longhorn fan tries repeatedly to ignite the sad dog. Finally the spark takes, and the Texas A&M mascot turns into pure flame lifted aloft as an offering to the gods of football.

This is tailgating taken to the monied extremes. Like fajitas once were the meat that only poor people ate (and fajitas were never chicken), like punk rock was once rebellious, the University of Texas tailgate—some outdoor grilling you did to while the time with family and friends after assuring yourself of an early and reliable parking spot—has gone corporate. State employee lots that once were seen as prime game-day parking are now Austin’s Disneyland complete with corporate sponsors. It works like this: put up the banner of Bland Light and get 25 cases of tasteless corporate beer to hand out to your friends and coworkers. Entire areas are roped off for a jumbo party that spills, beer can in hand, to near the refurbished, expanded, corporate-box-added stadium where Sports Illustrated has its tent offering free copies of the latest special issue.

Power, fun, safety and belonging. Those are the four basic human emotional needs, and all are for sale here today, Longhorn Inc. says. Wear our team colors, drink some more Boring Light. Come to the stadium food court (now open during the school week!) for a $6.50 chopped barbecue sandwich or two chicken tenders for $10. Yell from your seats at the idiots from College Station. Revel in how much better your team is. They are fools and losers. Today is Thanksgiving. We give thanks that we are not you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A favorite photo of my mother

I've always liked this photo. That's me at about age 5 with the missing front teeth and my sister Clare.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Saying goodbye to my mother

Mother with baby Nicholas.

My mother passed away Sunday morning after a long and interesting life. A few years back she asked me to interview her about her life. I turned to that to write her obituary. I left out some of the wilder details. Her grandfather, who was a doctor, is believed to have killed her grandmother in order to be with his nurse, whom he later married. My mother's father carried this around with him and it made him into a mean, scary drunk who, when my mother was two years old, beat her black and blue. She didn't see him again until she was 15. And her mother, a real party girl would leave her young daughter at home alone while she went out partying. It's amazing the life my mother forged with this sort of beginning.

Wylma Louise “Cassie” Castleberry O’Connell Ruelke died Sunday, Nov. 16, peacefully at her Austin home. She was born April 10, 1927, in Oak Grove, Louisiana, the only child of Lucille Agnes Scarborough and William Thomas Castleberry, a pair of restless school dropouts who accounted for a combined dozen marriages in their lifetimes. Cassie was raised primarily in Houston, but also lived in Florida, Ohio and different parts of Texas as her mother and a string of stepfathers sought work.

As a child, she was told by a handwriting analyst that she was most likely to see life’s glass as half full, and this optimistic philosophy steered her through a dirt-poor and often abusive childhood toward a life that might have seemed beyond her reach. She never dated in high school and never entered a restaurant until she was in her 20s.

Three things changed her life: the opening of a public library branch in the basement of her Houston elementary school that introduced her to a love of novels, in particular a series of mysteries involving a globetrotting archeologist; her friendship with elementary school classmates Barbara Tierney and Shirley Jones who convinced her to join them in a pact to one day become nurses; and a high school job at the Piggly Wiggly deli counter that introduced her to such exotic fare as camembert cheese and herring roll mops.

Despite her mother’s best efforts to stop her, including bribing her with promises of an automobile, Cassie went to nursing school to earn her associates degree, working at Hermann Hospital and in Galveston, where she aided the injured during the 1947 Texas City disaster that killed 581 people and so strained hospital resources that the Hotel Galvez had to send over its beds that soon filled the hospital hallways. It was later in the lobby of the Hotel Galvez that she would meet her first husband, William Robert O’Connell, who was in town for an architecture convention. Cassie was on a date with another architect, but was soon joining O’Connell for dinner in the swanky Balinese Room. After she moved to Austin to complete her R.N. degree at the University of Texas, they married in 1952 (on a date scheduled around Texas Longhorn football games), but not before she extracted the promise that they have a dozen children. He reneged on the promise after six kids.

They divorced in 1966 and she subsequently moved her children to Colorado and married Hans Ruelke, who died two years later in a car crash. The family moved back to Austin, where she raised her kids, earned a master’s degree at the University of Texas and served as administrator of the Austin State Hospital’s Deaf Unit.

A deep spiritual longing was alive in her from a young age. She thought she might drown when at age 11 she was dunked three times in water and became a Baptist. In her 20s she converted to Catholicism. While in graduate school, she took philosophy classes from famed Indian novelist Raja Rao, which led her to travel to India in search of truth. For more than two decades she split her time between India and with her family in Austin.

Survivors include sons William Robert O’Connell II of North Carolina, Daniel Pius O’Connell and wife Tarla, Casey John O’Connell and wife Magali, and Joseph Matthew O’Connell and wife Tiffany of Taylor; daughters Mary Ann O’Connell Harvey and Ann Clare O’Connell, both of Austin; and grandchildren Russell Tipp Harvey, William Wesley Harvey, Shanthi O’Connell and Nicholas Drake O’Connell.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Sri Atmananda Memorial School of Austin. Cassie’s ashes will be scattered in India’s Pampa River. An Austin celebration of her life is being planned by her family.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

5 Things you probably don't know about me

This is response to all of those memes I've ignored!

1. I was once (heavy on the once) a fencer in college. I competed in one tournament in the foil and beat one guy, an Aggie.

2. I lived in India for three months when I was 14. Two of brothers still live there.

3. In high school I was in a work program for potential dropouts.

4. In college I was kinda, sorta, maybe student body vice president.

5. I start every day by drinking skunk juice: a mix of garlic, green super foods, apple cider vinegar and fruit juice. That explains my breath!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Denmark invades Texas

For the second year I'm teaching students from Denmark about Texas literature at Austin Community College, including my own novel EVACUATION PLAN. This past Friday they came out to my house and then we brought them first to the SPJST Hall down the road and then to the Thrall-Thorndale high school football game. The author Carolyn Osborn came to speak to them this week.

The students with famed Texas short story writer Carolyn Osborn.

Jennifer with the Thrall Tiger!

Talking with a real Texan.

Eating a burger at the SPJST with a knife and a fork?

Hook 'em!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A day in the life of a Pickle

Tiffany went to visit her sister this past weekend, so Nicholas and I got to spend some quality time together. Here are a few of the stellar moments.

Let me out!

Warming up after a swim in the kiddie pool.

Preparing for filming of Halloween: The Toddler Attacks.

He's not messy; he's an artist.

Did you order water?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The End of a Pickle Summer

Nicholas and Spike shared a moment in the kiddie pool as the summer drew to a close and the heat waned.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Here's a beer for James Crumley

I woke up today to the news that James Crumley has died. If you don't know the name, you're missing out. Crumley was the finest mystery writer to ever come out of Texas, though he lived most often in Montana.

When I was studying creative writing in grad school, the two coolest people I got to meet were Andre Dubus and Crumley (both Iowa Writers Workshop grads). The latter influenced me to write mystery novels. He was hard-edged, hangdog and a hell of writer. I met him twice more but heard a lot of stories of his drunken excesses. Five wifes, too...

Austin author Jesse Sublett has talked doing some sort of tribute to Crumley. I hope it happens.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Violet Crown Book Award finalist!

I just got word that my novel-in-stories EVACUATION PLAN is a finalist for the Violet Crown Book Award in Fiction given out annually by the Writers League of Texas. Very nice prize--$1,000 for the winner, which is announced Nov. 1 at the Texas Book Festival!

The six finalists are in the hands of some unnamed judge at this point. I know what that's like. I was the final judge for this contest two years ago. It was a tough job, but I was blown away by one book. I'm sure this year's judge will feel the same, but there's not telling which book that will be. I truly am just flattered to be a finalist.

Cyndi Hughes of the WLT sent a letter telling us finalist folk about it. I came home yesterday after a very long day. We'd been at a wedding in Temple then a surprise birthday party in the big city of Hutto. We got the mail as we were driving in with a very overtired Nicholas. Tiffany handed me the letter, and I at first thought it was junk mail. You rock, Writers League!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Joe's personal film festival

I was tagged by Kat Candler who was tagged by Lazy Eye Theatre on the following fun assignment: the 12 Movie Meme. Program a weeks worth of films at a local theater in your town.

Here are the rules:
1) Choose 12 Films to be featured. They could be random selections or part of a greater theme. Whatever you want.
2) Explain why you chose the films.
3) Link back to Lazy Eye Theatre so I can have hundreds of links and I can take those links and spread them all out on the bed and then roll around in them.
4) The people selected then have to turn around and select 5 more people.

Monday: Aussie teen night

I have a thing about high school movies, and two of the best are by John Dungan:

The Year My Voice Broke (1987). The first part of what was said to be a coming-of-age trilogy starring Noah Taylor. The third part was never made.

Flirting (1991) Duigan’s followup has a young and very hot Nicole Kidman as the bitchy girl at an isolated boarding school.

Neither of these films has been released on DVD, but apparently something is in the works.

Tuesday: Not gangster night

When I was 18 I got seriously addicted to gangster movies, which are really, really out of vogue now. You all need more vintage gangsta in your diet. Here are a few on the edges of the genre that you’ve probably never seen that I wish Austin’s Paramount Theatre would program one summer.

Brother Orchid (1940) is a gangster film for people who don’t like gangster films. It’s stars Edward G. Robinson, my favorite gangster next to Bogart, as a mug who hides out in a monestary. Yes, it’s a sweet little film, and the only one featuring both Robinson and Bogart where neither is killed!

They Drive By Night ( 1940) Humphrey Bogart and George Raft are long-haul truckers aiming to succeed in a crooked business. Tragedy and murder ensues. And it has Ida Lupino in it!

Wednesday: American teen night

Like I said, I love the teen film, and these two particularly do it for me.

The Last American Virgin (1982) is an odd remake of Boaz Davidson’s autobiographical Lemon Popsicle about growing up in Israel. Only he moves it to California and adds a great New Wave soundtrack. What’s even more interesting is the sharp turn the film takes. A goofy comedy at the beginning, it turns deadly serious and the ending is earned but surprising.

Foxes (1980). Jody Foster and Cherie Currie (of the all-girl band The Runaways) star in this very realistic film of growing up amid drugs, sex and all the rest in an era that was a whole lot more permissive than today. Totally high Currie staggering down the middle of a freeway is spot on perfect.

Thursday: Peter Sellers night

Being There (1979) says more about U.S. politics than any other film. Period. It also speaks volumes about class and illusion. I like that the original story came from foreigner Jerzy Kosinski, who puts a laser beam on our screwed up values. Peter Sellers fought to do this role and then died shortly after making it.

The Party (1968) displays Sellers’ comedic genius. The film is said to have had no more than an outline for a script. Sellers fills in the blanks with incredible physical comedy. The target of humor this time is the movie industry itself at a big party that quickly turns to chaos.

Friday: Bud Cort night

The perfect odd bug of a boy, Bud Cort made two films that are gems.

Harold and Maude (1971) is a sweet film about death. So what if the filmmakers chickened out on an actual love scene (they found the biggest damn bed I've ever seen and put them at opposite ends of it!) between a young man and an old woman? It's funny, quirky and stands the test of time.

Brewster McCloud (1970) features Cort flying around the Astrodome wearing giant wings. It's directed by Robert Altman, weirdly moody and thoroughly fascinating.

Saturday: Two from Texas

Sure, you know the legendary Texas films like Giant and The Last Picture Show, but these are odd little films that you may have missed.

The Hot Spot (1990) is one of the underrated and forgetten Texas-shot films. Directed by Dennis Hopper, it's a modern noir with a very interesting storyline and a very young Jennifer Connelly exposing her assets. Ah, the intrigue of used car lots. And it was filmed down the road from me in Taylor!

Roadie (1980). It's not a masterpiece, but Meatloaf stars as a stumbling, bumbling Roadie and we Roy Orbison singing "The Eyes of Texas," Blondie singing "Ring of Fire," plus Austin new wave legends Standing Waves and swinging Asleep at the Wheel just singing. The most truly Austin of any film ever. Was cowritten by Big Boy Medlin and Michael Ventura.

OK, now to pass on the favor, I tag Ms. Pierson, Mr. Egerton, Ms. Schoolfield, Ms. Marsh and Mr. Kent.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

How to survive a high school reunion

Joe at 15 in his KOKE-FM Super Roper Radio T-shirt.

I'm going to my high school reunion this weekend, so I thought it was time to pull this moldy essay out. I wrote it TEN years ago when I was doing a lot of goofy essays for the Austin American-Statesman's XL tabloid. This is the only one my editor ever turned down. Seriously. She hated it.


Caught in the high school reunion shadows

by Joe O'Connell

I missed my Austin High School reunion. Again. They forgot to invite me. Again.

I know what you're saying: you should have been proactive. After all, these are people whom, for the most part, you haven't spoken to in years. They're surely scattered around the nation by now. Get on the phone, make calls. Do something.

Well, I watched the school district's cable television channel diligently for weeks and spotted notices about reunions at every local school except mine. I finally broke down and called the high school. The receptionist wasn't encouraging. "I have a contact number, but I don't really know if it's any good…" I called the number Saturday afternoon and left a message, then went out shopping with my model-thin wife. We returned to a blinking answering machine light.

"Yes, there is a reunion," the message began. Good news for me! "But it was this weekend. There is one event left. It starts in an hour…"

One hour to prepare to confront 20-year-old psychological baggage with deep roots in dodgeball and disco? No thanks. But if I had mustered the courage, I'm certain it would have gone something like this:

Enter stage left with my blonde and very intelligent wife on my arm. Donna Summer is singing in the background about "hot stuff." A card table is visible. In front of it filling out name tags are a perky woman in a cheerleader outfit and a large, bald guy in Dockers.

"Welcome!" the woman squeals and shakes her tightly coiled hair, its patch of gray shining. "And you are?"

"Joe," I say. "I sat behind you in home room for four years."

"Doesn't ring a bell…"

"Sure, you remember him," the bald man chimes in and offers me a firm handshake. "Joe Dingleberry! It's me, Fred "Nutty" Brown! How the heck you doing, Joe? Hardly recognized you out of the football uniform. Go Maroons! Fight! Shoot, Candi, you remember Joe. He was the back-up punter! Transfer from Peru, right?"

"Wrong Joe," I say.

"Oh, darn," he says and slaps his bald head. "That's right. Dingleberry died in that grizzly kicking tee accident. You're Joe Buck!

"That's the male prostitute in Midnight Cowboy."

"Give us a teensy hint," the woman says in baby talk and applies another coat of lipstick.

"Well, I dated your younger sister for two years. Until the pregnancy and her subsequent conversion to Zoroastrianism. And I spent junior year sleeping on a cot at the foot of Fred's bed after my parent's house mysteriously burned to the ground."

"Maybe you could just spell that last name," she asked.

Police have a term for people who, if they vanished overnight, would never be missed. They're called Shadow People. When it comes to high school and reunions, I can relate.

My senior yearbook contains not one picture of me, not one bit of proof that I did indeed exist. I forgot to bring a coat and tie for picture day and blew it off, figuring there'd certainly be a day for retakes. Nope.

I was involved in a smattering of minor organizations, but somehow missed getting in their yearbook photos as well. My main high-school honor was being the first person ever kicked out of In-School Suspension for liking it too much ("Next time we'll kick you out of school!"), but that didn't rate the yearbook either.

"Relax," my very young and extremely attractive wife said as I whined about missing the reunion. "This way you're just in a bad mood for a day. If you went, you'd have been in a funk for weeks."

Ask anyone; high school scars people for life. You are required to move like cattle en masse at the ting of a bell, life is a series of deadlines and tests, and 95 percent of the student body KNOW they aren't cool. Fortunately, of the remaining five percent, four percent peak at graduation and can expect 60-70 years of tedium mixed with occasional bouts of fear and agony. The other one percent go into real estate and nude modeling.

Who hasn't had that high school dream? You're naked and late for a test and your mother is waiting for you in a vat of chocolate pudding… Uh, wait, wrong dream. Erase that.

I recently met a woman in her 50s who told me of sneaking into her old high school at night. When she got to the door of her former algebra classroom, she froze up in terror and had to be dragged away mumbling something about logarithms. Her 75-year-old mother grounded her for a week.

At least her mom recognized her. My Pulitzer- and Nobel-prize winning wife was driving and I was in the passenger seat admiring her creative charms the other day. When we stopped for a traffic light, an old high school chum pulled up in the car next to us. He motioned to me to roll down the window.

"Got the time?" he asked.

"Sure, it's 1:30 p.m.," I said. "How the hell you doing?"

He looked at me quizzically and drove off without another word.

"But," my always charming and funny wife said, "people only go to high school reunions for two reasons anyway: to show up the "cool" people by wearing a skin-tight leather and lighting cigars with $100 bills, or to pal around with old buddies and relive the memories. Why bother if they don't remember you anyway?"

Good point. The truth is I did once dream of attending my reunion and bowling them over with my success as a best-selling writer, but fellow Austin High grad (who I might add is much, much older than me) Kinky Friedman beat me too it. And now that doesn't seem so important. I'd rather chat with other would-be Shadow People. A few come to mind:

--Alan, the short, afro-headed, white guy who let me cheat off his test in chemistry class. It took me this long to realize he had one of the best senses of humor around.

--The guy in In-School Suspension who described stabbing someone as like sticking a knife in wet wood. I hear he's a Republican strategist now.

--Jessica, the proud cheerleader who got married senior year and missed finals while having her first child. You were one of my favorite people even though you had this horrible blemish on your high school record (yikes! a cheerleader!).

--Noel, my favorite hippie chick from the designated smoking area. You were too smart and creative to fit in. Congratulations!

--The effeminate guy I started a fight with freshman year because I was too young, stupid, and homophobic to realize he was bigger than me. Have you met my snappily dressed wife?

And, of course, I'd greet all other Shadow People, who shall remain nameless. I have no idea who you are, but I'd be happy to pretend. In fact, I can't wait to chat with you at the next reunion. And introduce you to my wife. Did I mention she's beautiful?


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Newspaper suicide; book "souvenirs"

I got an email from Jenny yesterday. We had been having an email exchange recently about how newspapers are committing suicide in anticipation of their own demises in the transition to an electronic world. Our discussion began when news was released of the cutting of 150 editorial department positions at the Los Angeles Times where she and her husband both work. She wrote me yesterday to tell me that her husband is among the 150.

What do I mean by suicide? Newspapers are largely run by corporations these days that are not satisfied with the small profit margin that newspapers have traditionally offered. So they cut in the only place that really saves money: staff. It's so far centered on incentives for early retirement, but also includes forced retirements and layoffs. Who goes? In most cases it's the names you'd recognize--the longterm book critic or film reviewer, the editorial cartoonist, the guy who writes about television or sports. These, of course, are the names your dwindling readership identifies with. Once you've set those big names adrift, your readers increasingly lose loyalty and feel fine dropping that subscription.

I'm an Austin native and I've worked for the Austin American-Statesman three times, first as a general copy editor for news, features and (now defunct) neighborhood sections, then as an assistant entertainment editor and last as a free-lance film industry columnist. Oh, my actual first job there was as a paperboy way back when. Recently I cut my subscription to weekends only. Why? To save money, and because I, a guy who writes for two newspapers, get more and more of my news online. I also figure to check out the newspaper at work on someone else's dime.

The Statesman is luckier than most major metropolitan newspapers. The Dallas Morning News, where I'm a free-lance film industry columnist, announced a third wave of staff reductions recently. Over at the Poynter Institute, Romenesko's regular column reads like an obituary: staff cuts, cuts cuts. The Lexington Dispatch is going so far as to chop off its own toes by deleting its entire Monday newspaper.

The Statesman's Cox chain has yet to slash into its staff, but just you wait. The signs of decay are already there. Show World, the weekly listing of television shows was dropped. I guess it was assumed only old people kept it near their rabbit-eared televisions as a guide to programming. The rest of us watch the guide channels offered by cable and satellite providers. The classified ads, once considered a reliable indicator of the state of the economy, are another goner. Craig's List stole it all. Another buggy whip for the museums. Like the phone books that keep piling up at my house untouched when the Internet is so much easier.

Why all the melancholy navel-gazing? Part of it is that email from Jenny. Another part comes from reading this article about the future of the printed word, primarily books. One person interviewed in the article suggests books will become souvenirs given out for free when authors talk. That's not too far fetched. Will all our reading soon be multimedia? Maybe so. I know I'm not ready to give up on newspapers just yet. And I'll keep on writing novels with paper and ink in mind, thank you very much. I just hope the publishers are not giving up on themselves too soon.

The Pickle vs. the Corn Popper!

Tiffany had this Corn Popper toy by Fisher Price when she was a little girl. Her parents recently pulled it out of storage for Nicholas. He is clearly born to pop.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Nicholas' day at the hospital

Today was the big day. Nicholas' call time was 8 a.m. They wheeled him back to surgery in this little wagon. It was scary to let him go, but he was back an hour later and very cranky as the anesthetic wore off. The doctor installed a sling to allow his eyebrow to pull up his droopy eyelid (ptosis for those of you finding this message by Googling).

His eye is swollen and we have to keep ointment on it because it won't completely shut for a while, but he's mainly been in great spirits all day before crashing for naps. We've been offering him multiple showings of Elmo's World from the Tivo, but he'd prefer to play. What a tough guy...

In the bottom photo in the recovery room, you can see the dinosaur-patterned splints on his arms to keep him from messing with his eyes. We take him back tomorrow morning for a brief exam with the surgeon.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Surgery in the morning

Nicholas amd Tiffany read a lot of books today, and he was full of energy as we counted down the hours to his surgery Friday morning. He shows up at 8 a.m. at Scott and White for the procedure to correct his ptosis (droopy eyelid). The procedure is supposed to take less than an hour and involves installing a sling that has his eyebrow raising the droopy lid. It's all designed to avoid any vision loss and stave off lazy eye.

They say it's a common procedure, but that doesn't keep us from getting nervous about it. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Pickle in motion

A few videos of the Pickle. This week he has learned to both kick a ball and slide down off a stool. And his walking is getting closer to a trot.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cowboy Pickle, Part II

Nicholas fell in love with this black cowboy hat on first sight, providing further evidence that he is a country boy (he has a major thing for trucks).

He'll be getting surgery at the end of the month to correct the ptosis that makes one of his eyelids droopy. Updates as this gets closer. I know a lot of people end up here after googling about ptosis, which is essentially a weak muscle that lifts the lid. The procedure is supposed to be very simple, but that doesn't keep us from being anxious about it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I didn't write this

OK, I'm late to notice that Ramiro Burr, a longtime San Antonio Express-News music writer resigned after allegations that he had someone else ghostwrite a lot of his columns. Sounds like a great plan. Isn't that what at least one famous painter did? And then there's V.C. Andrews, in my mind one of the worst ever American writers, who continues to write long after her death.

If anyone wants to purchase the Joe O'Connell brand for your own crappy writing, please inquire within.

The Robert Rodriguez-Rose McGowan soap opera

Usually I try to stay out of the personal lives of film industry folk. It bores me and seems a tad sleazy. But sometimes, such as with the media frenzy over Robert Rodriguez's relationship with Rose McGowan, it becomes business.

In case you don't know the story, Robert Rodriguez's marriage of many years ended during the filming of Grindhouse when the director of Spy Kids ran off with McGowan. Late last year Rodriguez and McGowan were said to be engaged. Now comes word that they are breaking up. Or not.

What makes this interesting is, one, Robert Rodriguez is, next to fellow Austinite Terrence Malick, one of the most secretive filmmakers around. Come near his set and you'll be signing a confidentiality agreement. Note that all of the latest comments seem to funnel through McGowan's press machine. Rodriguez must be seriously cringing about now.

Two, McGowan is said to be on tap to star in three upcoming Rodriguez films: Barbarella, Women in Chains and Red Sonja. If you want to read between the lines, note that Red Sonja is now officially set to film in Michigan this fall with McGowan starring and Rodriguez PRODUCING. His longtime assistant director (dating back to The Faculty)Douglas Aarniokoski is set to helm this one. Michigan, along with having overly lavish filming incentives is very, very far from Austin. Get the picture?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Alert! Alert! Waterloo Video sells off inventory!

No, this doesn't affect the music store. Hustle on down to Waterloo and buy your fill of DVDS before this news goes public. You have been warned.

Austin screenwriter sells soul on eBay

Screenwriter Carrie Crain knows how to promote her work. The Austin scribe recently finished her screenplay Souled about a woman who sells her soul on eBay. Naturally, Crain is now selling her own soul on eBay, and the publicity stunt seems to be working. Yesterday it quickly shot onto CNN's radar.

But, alas, the listing was quickly squashed by the eBay police, even though the starting bid was a mere $1,000. And there is precedent, with similar soul sales taking place on eBay at least twice according to what I found on a Google search. The previous souls weren't as expensive, starting at a bargain basement 99 cents. Crain promised the winner of her item a spiritual certificate of authenticity, something we all could use.

UPDATE: Crain's listing is back in a form perhaps more agreeable to eBay. Check it out here. She already has her first bid.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Pickle on vacation

We went to Weatherford this past weekend where I was on a radio show talking about my novel EVACUATION PLAN and then did a signing at The Bookcase. It was a lot of fun, but while we were off in North Texas, Nicholas got to vacation with his grandparents in Temple. He was clearly miserable the entire time, given this photo evidence. I'm just hoping his new job as a mailman comes with a lot of benefits--including Popsicles.

Monday, June 23, 2008

If I die this week, here's the culprit

Ah, the email scams are upping the ante, and I haven't been "speared." I got the following this weekend:


I felt very sorry and bad for you, that your life is going to end like this if you don't comply, i was paid to eliminate you and I have to do it within 10 days.

Someone you call your friend wants you dead by all means, and the person have spent a lot of money on this, the person came to us and told us that he wants you dead and he provided us your names, photograph and other necessary information we needed about you. If you are in doubt with this I will send you your name and where you are residing in my next mail.

Meanwhile, I have sent my boys to track you down and they have carried out the necessary investigation needed for the operation, but I ordered them to stop for a while and not to strike immediately because I just felt something good and sympathetic about you. I decided to contact you first and know why somebody will want you dead by all means. Right now my men are monitoring you, their eyes are on you, and even the place you think is safer for you to hide might not be.

Now do you want to LIVE OR DIE? It is up to you. Get back to me now if you are ready to enter deal with me, I mean life trade, who knows, and I might just spear your life, $8,000 is all you need to spend. You will first of all pay $3,000 then I will send the tape of the person that want you dead to you and when the tape gets to you, you will pay the remaining $5,000. If you are not ready for my help, then I will have no choice but to carry on the assignment after all I have already being paid before now.

Warning: do not think of contacting the police or even tell anyone because I will extend it to any member of your family since you are aware that somebody want you dead, and the person knows some members of your family as well.

For your own good I will advise you not to go out once is 7pm until I make out time to see you and give you the tape of my discussion with the person who want you dead then you can use it to take any legal action. Good luck as I await your reply to this e-mail contact: (Some people are signing this email address up for gay porn sites, but I'd never suggest such a thing...)


William yahman.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Haircut #2

It didn't go as easily as the first one (note Nicholas' hand running interference), but the results were great.