Monthly Archives

October 2009

Scariest Book I've Ever Read

Since tomorrow is Halloween, I thought this would be a good time to tell you about the first and last time I ever read Dean Koontz.

I’d been in L.A. for only a few months and about to move into a new apartment with two other people. The lease didn’t begin until first of the month, which was also when phone and electricity would be turned on, but the landlord said we could move in early. My roommies said they’d wait but I thought I’d be a badass and moved in three days early.

I’ve never had trouble being alone for long periods of time as long as I have a book. So, I went to a used bookstore in North Hollywood to look for a cheap paperback I could kill three days with. A copy of Koontz’s Whispers was sitting in the bargain bin. I’d never read him but a friend was always recommending his books (I should’ve considered that my friend loved scary movies with guys named Freddy and Jason in them) and the dollar-price was right. I took it home with me and attacked it that afternoon. What else was I gonna do? Nobody to call and no TV to watch.

I sat on the floor of my new bedroom—I had zero furniture, not even a bed—under a window and read. For hours. And hours. I remember being vaguely aware of shadows passing by the window above me as the day got long and the sun started descending. But I kept reading. Because it was getting really good and scary. I didn’t even stop for lunch.

Suddenly, it was dark. I only noticed it because I could no longer see the words. I went to turn on the light and belatedly remembered there was no electricity. I also realized the temperature in the room had dropped precipitously. With the sun on my back from the window, it had been sufficiently warm in the apartment during the day. But now it was evening in February and my clothes felt too thin.

And I was sitting in the dark, alone, with a creepy-ass book in my lap. I had no cell phone to call anyone (this was early ’90s), nowhere to go. I don’t remember specific details about the book but the plot had something to do with a stalker who shows up at a woman’s house to kill her. A woman who’s alone, exactly like I was that night.

I wanted to go downstairs to get something to eat but looked at the dark chasm that was the winding staircase and thought, Forget it. Did I mention I didn’t own a flashlight? I was sure someone would grab me on the landing and no one would hear me scream.

After cowering in the dark upstairs for another half hour or so, I decided to try and sleep since there wasn’t much else to do. Plus, I needed relief from the escalating Whispers-induced paranoia in my head. I curled up on the floor with my blanket, certain my roommates would show up in a few days and find me as a corpse, cause of death being an actual intruder or heart attack from massive fear.

Don’t remember how I managed to quiet my brain enough to sleep but next thing I knew, I opened my eyes to a bright shiny morning. I’d never been so happy to see sunlight and all my limbs still attached. Went downstairs and ate a sandwich like a lion in the wild on a downed gazelle. Newly energized, I went back upstairs and finished Whispers because I don’t like leaving things unfinished. But after that, I never read Koontz again.

What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read? Happy Halloween!

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Michael Jackson's THIS IS IT

Watching This Is It, I felt like a cave person being exposed to fire, thinking, “Fire. Good,” because I lacked the vocab to adequately describe what I was seeing. This documentary of rehearsal footage for Michael Jackson’s tour-that-never-was gives an idea of how incredible the spectacle would have been. The pyrotechnics, props, and dancing are eye-popping, but the most amazing special effect is MJ himself.

The man was a genius. He was not only able to visualize things most people can’t imagine, he had the talent and means to bring them to life. His passion for entertaining is obvious, the stage truly his home. It was moving to see how kind he was to his crew and how much he inspired them, how they loved him for it, and what a perfectionist he was without being a nightmare. He worked harder than anyone and the few times he disagreed with his musicians or director Kenny Ortega, he was respectful about it and always right.

criminalMy favorite numbers were “Smooth Criminal” and “Thriller,” which incorporated Jackson into filmed segments leading into live performances. For “Criminal,” Jackson inserted himself into that signature scene from Gilda with Rita Hayworth singing “Put the Blame on Mame” and stripping off her gloves (Jackson catches one). For “Thriller,” he was reinventing the video in 3D. After more than 25 years of watching countless others perform that infamous monster dance, it’s quite, well, thrilling to behold the mastermind himself doing it again and see that he’s still got it.

And that’s the thing—at 50, Jackson still had It, the ability to wow me and turn me into a little kid again. I can’t think of many entertainers from my childhood who can still impress my more cynical adult self. The sense of loss is slightly mitigated by the realization that Jackson will probably be with us for a long time, like Elvis and Marilyn. People will continue to organize “Thriller” dance-a-thons and new generations will attempt the moonwalk. The documentary’s title notwithstanding, I don’t think this is it for Michael Jackson.

this is it

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OD'd on PC

This past weekend, I wore my nerd badge proudly and indulged my reading, TV- and DVD-watching, M&M-eating, CD-listening, pop culture-loving tendencies. Here’s what I covered.

DVD — Chéri

Michelle Pfeiffer stars as Lea de Lonval, an early 20th-century Parisian courtesan who takes Chéri (Rupert Friend), the teenage son of a former rival, under her wing to teach him the ways of the world. A weekend turns into a six-year affair which ends when the boy’s mother (Kathy Bates) arranges for him to marry a girl closer to his age. Lea and Chéri pretend they’re okay with moving on until they realize they can’t.

Pfeiffer is as radiant as ever, showing the vulnerability beneath the proud and elegant facade. Friend’s titular character, however, comes across as a spoiled rich brat and borderline stalker. I didn’t get a sense of true love from these two; it’s more like Lea just doesn’t want to grow old alone and Chéri only wants what he can’t have.

Lea’s gowns are resplendent and Alexandre Desplat’s score is melodious as always, but I expected more from director Stephen Frears and screenwriter Christopher Hampton (adapting stories by Colette), both of whom had worked with Pfeiffer on the superior Dangerous Liaisons. Nerd verdict: Respectable in parts but not that endearing.

CD — Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson’s Break Up

yorn & scarlettLast month, my friend Tomas made me aware of this album over at his blog, make.see.eat.do, and I finally had a chance to listen to the whole thing. If you were envious of Johansson before because of her bodacious looks and acting skills, you’ll positively want to push her down the stairs after hearing her sing. Because she can, quite impressively. Her retro smoky tones blend well with Yorn’s emo voice on this album of mostly catchy, toe-tapping, folk-rock tunes. This isn’t some misguided star trip a la Don Johnson or Bruce Willis; Johansson (who was asked by Yorn to collaborate) is better than some “singers” out there and should do more albums.

Don’t believe me? Watch the video below for the first single “Relator” (you’ll need surgery to get it out of your head afterward), then go to www.lala.com and register to listen to the entire album for free by entering the actress’s name in the search window. (This only works for U.S. visitors. If you’re overseas, search YouTube for other videos like this one.) Nerd verdict: A recommended Break Up.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRtydnIycCY]

TV — White Collar & Grey’s Anatomy

whitecollarWhite Collar, USA’s latest original series, stars Matthew Bomer as Neal Caffrey, a convict who excels in the kind of crimes for which the show is named. In order to stay out of jail, he makes a deal with the FBI agent who finally nabs him to let him help solve cases, using his expert criminal mind. Bomer is handsome with his piercing blue eyes and does a capable job, but he lacks the extra oomph that makes an actor a breakout star. Tim DeKay is solid as Agent Stokes, the straight-up guy who’s frustrated by and a little envious of Caffrey’s lifestyle. The show doesn’t offer anything new but I might tune in again if I’m home on a Friday night and there’s nothing better to watch. Nerd verdict: Lightweight criminal.

Over on ABC, this week’s Grey’s Anatomy episode had the kind of action-packed, pulse-quickening drama that called to mind the show’s best episodes from seasons past (i.e. the “Into You Like a Train” crash ep in which two people were impaled on the same pole and the doctors could only save one). A patient dies amidst the chaos in the ER after a nearby fire and Chief Webber interviews the doctors to determine who’s responsible. The camera swirls like a Tasmanian devil through the scenes, throwing the viewer into the confusion and leaving no time for the kind of angsty stuff that can drag the show down. The Rashomonian element of the doctors telling conflicting stories about the same events made it fun to try and figure out who made the fatal mistake. It also made me hope that Izzie never returns. I didn’t miss her at all and found Alex’s repeated phone calls to her super annoying. Nerd verdict: Heart-poundingly good.

Book — Daniel Judson’s The Violet Hour

judson's coverThis noirish thriller, set in the Hamptons, unfolds over three days as auto mechanic Cal tries to hide his pregnant former boss from her abusive husband while searching for his friend, Lebell, who has gone missing after leaving a trail of blood in his apartment. Cal wants nothing but an orderly life to prove he didn’t inherit criminal tendencies from his father and brother, but as he gets more involved in his friends’ crises, he wonders how far he’s willing to go to keep them out of trouble and even save their lives.

Hour grabbed me from the first minute with its mysterious opening paragraphs about a deadly female assassin. The pace is non-stop, the language rat-tat-tatting through one plot development after another. This book reminded me a little of Charlie Huston’s debut, Caught Stealing, another crime noir with a lean style in which an innocent bystander is driven to violence after inadvertently crossing paths with bad guys.

The novel isn’t perfect; it’s a little too coincidental that all the bad stuff happens to different friends of Cal’s on the same weekend. Judson also has a tendency to overuse commas by inserting adverbs and prepositional/adverbial phrases in awkward places, disrupting the flow of his sentences. Witness:

Closing her eyes, she held still for a moment, or tried to, ended up, despite her efforts, wavering a little.

And:

It took a moment for her eyes to adjust, and when they did, she saw, beside the house, in its shadow, both the motorcycle and the Lexus.

But Judson’s characters are dynamic and his plot riveting enough that I was willing to overlook this quirk. Not only that, I now want to read Judson’s other novels, too. Nerd verdict: Hour goes by fast and is time well spent.

What did you read/see/hear this weekend?

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Winners of Michael Connelly's 9 DRAGONS & BRASS VERDICT

Thanks to Random.org, the following 5 winners were selected:

  1. Ybnorml
  2. Jonnie H
  3. Carol M.
  4. Eddy
  5. Beth C

brass_verdictEach person will receive one hardcover copy of 9 Dragons and one paperback of The Brass Verdict. Click on “contact” in the top right corner and send me your snail mail info. Please do this even if you’ve won something from me in the past because I don’t keep your addresses on file (I just sell them to spammers—kidding!). Hachette Book Group will ship the books to you directly.

Thanks to all for participating. If you didn’t win this time, don’t fret. Stay tuned for other giveaways coming up soon!

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Bouchercon Daydreams

All week, I’ve been reading reports about Bouchercon 2009, which took place last week in Indianapolis. (To my international readers: It’s an annual mystery convention held in a different U.S. city every year where fans can hobnob with writers.) The festivities sound like a blast (check out blogger Jen Forbus‘s recap), making me really eager for next year’s B’con in San Francisco, which I plan on attending.

I was so excited, I even came up with some panels and authors I’d love to see at the 2010 convention:

  • Lee Child discussing “Maximizing the Hurt in Your Fight Sequences”
  • Sophie Littlefield on “How to Write 50,000 Words a Day and Get Buff Arms While Doing It”
  • Charlie Huston on “Who Needs Quotation Marks?”
  • Harlan Coben on “Deadly Sidekicks Can Wear Pink”
  • Sue Grafton speaking about her next challenge, “Tackling the Chinese Alphabet”
  • Gregg Hurwitz on “Writing Your First Novel at Age 12, Getting Published at 12.5”
  • James Patterson on “Whittling Down Your Chapters to Just One Comma”
  • Robert Crais and Michael Connelly demonstrating “Effective Greco-Roman Wrestling Moves to Subdue Bad Guys” (This panel will cost extra)

If you’re planning on going, which authors and panels would you like to see?

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No Disclosure Necessary

Hey, check it out. After all the recent hoopla about the FTC’s revised guidelines affecting bloggers who write reviews, PublishersWeekly.com ran this article stating that an FTC attorney, Mary Engle,

said Saturday someone with a “personal blog, writing a genuine or organic review,” did not need to disclose how they got the book or assign it a value.

Engle also says clearly that the guidelines, “which don’t have the force of law” behind them, are aimed at advertisers and paid endorsers, and that the FTC has no desire to police the blogosphere or individual bloggers.

To this, I say, Yippee! Not that I was concerned before about getting fined up to $11,000 (seriously?) if I didn’t post a disclosure. The whole thing sounded ridiculous and that’s why I ran this fake statement instead. But I was annoyed by the previous news and here’s why.

I didn’t want to see people forced to make disclosures that basically say, “I’m a really honest person with loads of integrity. I’m not a greedy bastard who accepted a gym bag full of cash just to get you to buy something that sucks more than a colonoscopy. If you were on the fence before about whether or not to trust me, this statement should erase all doubts, right?”

C’mon. I trust we all have the sense to recognize when a review sounds “organic” and credible as opposed to coming from a paid hawker. (Hint: If someone wants you to send 3 installments of $9.99 to a P.O. Box in Richmond, VA for a teeth-whitening product that changed their lives, that’s probably an advertisement.) If you find me or anyone else suspect, you can just stop reading our reviews. We shouldn’t have to put up statements trying to persuade you to trust us. I am not a used-car salesman.

So, in light of this clarification (but more because I’m lazy), I won’t be posting a disclosure statement with each review. I’ll let you determine how credible I am.

Before you decide that, though, can I interest you in a gently used 1982 Fiat with a refurbished cassette deck and window cranks?

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Movie Review: AMELIA with Hilary Swank

Having seen the gorgeous trailer, I attended a screening of this movie expecting to be uplifted and inspired and all those other positive adjectives. Alas, it didn’t quite happen. Though this is not a bad movie by any means, it lacks some of the passion I imagine Amelia Earthart had for flying.

If you’re looking for insight into how she got that passion, you won’t find it here. We’re simply told that Earhart wants to fly so she can be free. From her alcoholic father? A miserable childhood? I don’t know because the film doesn’t address that part of her life, and I haven’t read the books—Susan Butler’s East to the Dawn and Mary S. Lovell’s The Sounds of Wings—on which Amelia is based. But fly Earhart does, in many spectacularly shot sequences that almost made me run out and sign up for flying lessons, forgetting for a moment I have acute acrophobia.

2009_amelia_014The movie does cover her rise to celebrity status and romances with both G.P. Putnam (Richard Gere) and Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor), though they’re depicted quite chastely (the Vidal affair was extramarital), as if to say Earhart’s true love was in the skies, not with any man.

Hilary Swank turns in a respectable performance but she’s hampered by Earhart’s mannerisms and cadences. I’m a huge fan of the actress’s spunky, forthright acting style when she’s playing scrappy characters. Here, portraying an iconic real person from the 2009_amelia_005-11930s, she’s forced to stay within certain boundaries and therefore doesn’t get to unleash her usual fire. McGregor, on the other hand, is sexier and more handsome than I’ve ever seen him (though his screen time is limited), while Gere does his usual squinty-eyed thing. Christopher Eccleston offers prickly but stouthearted support as Earhart’s navigator, Fred Noonan.

The thing I recommend most about this movie is its cinematography by Stuart Dryburgh. The scenes with Swank soaring through clouds, over luscious green hills and blue oceans, put viewers right in the cockpit and clearly illustrate why Earhart loved to fly. There’s a sense of wonder and elation about those moments I wish the rest of Amelia has. The sequence showing her final flight contains some suspense, but the movie about a woman who took risks and broke barriers mostly plays it safe and ends up breaking no new ground at all.

Nerd verdict: Amelia doesn’t soar as high as it could have

All photos by Ken Woroner/Fox Searchlight

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WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE from Kids’ Point of View

I’m happy to have my junior reporters, Aline and Mena Dolinh (11 and 8, respectively) back with their takes on Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are. I’d published an earlier review by contributing writer, Eric Edwards, who felt the film might be too disturbing for children. Here, Aline and Mena offer counterpoints.—PCN

Mena’s Thoughts

Courtesy Warner Bros.

I like Where the Wild Things Are very much. I think the monsters are very funny in the film. I like how they jump up and down and make noise and throw a lot of stuff around. But in the book, Max went to his room and the forest grew all around him. In the movie, he ran out in the street. I think it’s harder for you to go home when you run out in the street. If you just go off in your own room, you can always come back out when you want to, and it’s also easier for someone to find you if they’re worried about you.

My favorite phrase in the movie is at the beginning, in the scene when Max looks at the globe in his room and there is a sign at the bottom from his dad: To Max, the Owner of this World. The monster named Carol says the same phrase later when he shows Max his kingdom. I like Carol and I don’t think he’s scary. He’s a little like me. I think he’s sensitive because whenever he’s sad or mad, he destroys everything.

from Maurice Sendak's book

from Maurice Sendak's book

I like the sunny days that Max spent with the monsters. I know that Max will have to leave after awhile. The filmmakers did a good job copying the pictures of the monsters from the book, because after the movie I went back home and looked at the pictures in the book by Maurice Sendak again. I could pick out the monsters by name when I looked at the book, except in the book they’re just monsters with no names, and in the movie they have names. Although, there’s a bull with people’s feet on the book’s cover that has no name in the book and also doesn’t have a name in the movie. It’s so random that the monsters have generic names, except for Judith and Ira because I don’t know anyone with those names.

The fort in Max’s room at the beginning of the book, and the part with Max running downstairs with a fork after his dog, are right at the beginning of the movie. It doesn’t scare me to see the scene in the movie. I feel like I’m Max running down the stairs chasing his black dog (but in the book he’s a white dog) because the camera was jumping around really fast.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

I can’t explain everything in the movie, like the scene with a giant sheep dog suddenly appearing and running away on the sand when Max is taking a walk with Carol to see his kingdom. Why Alexander played with a cute kitten also doesn’t make sense to me. It’s so random because on that island, you would think there are only monsters and not normal animals. But overall, I thought the movie was funny and I enjoyed it.

Aline’s Take

Courtesy Warner Bros.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

Where the Wild Things Are was an enjoyable romp for me. It’s a good family movie laced with the positive, untarnished themes of family, imagination, and good adventure. Despite some early scenes featuring the sensitive Max (Max Records) acting up, destroying parts of his sister’s room in a fit of rage, and running away from home when his mother doesn’t pay attention to him, most kids probably won’t be impacted by it at all.

All kids cry when they’re neglected or their fort is wrecked. They blow up at their family when they’re fed up with being ignored. Running away from home is exaggerated, but even if the original book didn’t include this plot device, it’s a common theme in children’s books. It isn’t something that will be planted into children’s mind and trouble them.

courtesy Warner Bros.

courtesy Warner Bros.

Max’s little boat sails day and night to the land of the Wild Things—a group of whimsical creatures that seem like a dysfunctional family. One of them, K.W., has apparently run away with her friends Bob and Terry, much to the disappointment of their leader, Carol, who appears lonely, misunderstood, and sad at first as he smashes their huts. Naturally, Carol is intrigued by the small newcomer. The rest of the film is basically lighthearted scenes of Max—King of the Wild Things—and his subjects jumping around to the music of Karen O, interlaced with emotional moments of Max finding out more about his new friends.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

Finally, when a planned dirt-clod fight backfires, Max and his subjects drift apart. Carol has a few mood swings, Max decides he wants to go home and makes an implied reconciliation with the others (they didn’t want to accept him as king earlier, but apparently respect him enough to join in the goodbye cries when he sets off for home). This part of the ending left me with many questions, such as, “Are the Wild Things back on good terms with each other?” “How has Carol’s character changed from meeting Max?” “Do all of them understand why Max had to leave?”

When Max gets home and hugs his mother, their reunion seems pretty resolved, but our last sight of the monsters is slightly confusing because Max’s relationship with them is somewhat unevenly treated by the director. While the characters have been expanded from the book, they aren’t played to their full potential. Carol’s sensitivity and source of frustration is never explained, Ira and Judith’s unusual romance isn’t shown much, and we never do find out what caused K.W. to leave or why she seems to be the most understanding of Max.

I guess you could say I was disappointed by how it turned out, but I suppose I shouldn’t have expected a full hug-and-make-up sequence between Max, Carol, and the rest of the monsters. Maybe such a tidy ending would have made it seem like Spike Jonze had underestimated the minds of his intended audience by giving them a family-friendly, watered-down, happy-mushy ending. Maybe from the director’s viewpoint, the ending was subtle and well handled.

Every good work of art, as they say, can be viewed a number of ways, and the bottom line is that Where the Wild Things Are is a good movie for young kids and art-house snobs alike. It doesn’t underestimate its audience like a squeaky-clean Disney film would, and manages to be fun and childish yet intelligent and dark at the same time.

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My Fantasy Fellow Jurors

Yesterday, I had jury duty and found Rumer Willis in my jury pool. This got me fantasizing about being on a jury panel full of famous people. Who would I want on there?

After some deliberating (I had a lot of time to kill), I came up with this list of 11 people I’d like to serve with and why:

  1. Chuck Norris, because if anybody tried to bullshit him, he’d roundhouse them in the head.
  2. Simon Baker, because he can read minds like he does on The Mentalist and tell when someone’s lying. OK, that’s reaching but c’ mon, it’s Simon Baker. Do I need to explain why I want to be sequestered with him?
  3. Bono, because he seems to have a strong desire to do the right thing. Plus, he can lend me his shades so I can sleep through boring testimony.
  4. feyTina Fey, because she’s smart and sharp-witted so she’d make deliberations fun.
  5. Jesus, because who would lie to Jesus?
  6. J.K. Rowling, because she knows about good vs. evil. Also, she might write the plot of her next book on lunch napkins and leave them lying around.
  7. Speaking of lunch, I’d want Wolfgang Puck, because he’d take the crappy food in the courthouse cafeteria and turn it into something edible. Yesterday, my beef stew looked like it had floating chunks of…never mind.
  8. cateCate Blanchett, because I just want to sit next to her amazingness.
  9. Ann Coulter, because if deliberations go long and I get cranky, I want someone around I can slap without remorse.
  10. clooney as claytonGeorge Clooney, because I want to dare him into placing a whoopee cushion on the judge’s chair.
  11. Bruce Springsteen, because he’s the Boss and can serve as foreman.

Who would be on your fantasy jury panel and why?

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Video Interview with Michael Connelly & Giveaway

Yesterday was pub date for Michael Connelly‘s Nine Dragons and the beginning of his tour (complete schedule here). Despite having just gotten off the plane, in the rain, Connelly graciously sat with me for an interview before reading to an SRO crowd at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, CA.

He already has an informative Q & A about Dragons on his website in which he explains the name and inspiration for the book, as well as his research in Hong Kong. So, I asked about other things like Matthew McConaughey and mystery authors playing strip poker. Well, there were serious questions, too. Just watch the video below.

Afterwards, I know you’ll want to get your hands on this book, so how about I give you some? Thanks to Miriam from Hachette Book Group, I can give away 5 copies of 9 Dragons AND each winner will get a paperback of The Brass Verdict thrown in, too! Details below the video.

Eligibility requirements for the giveaway:

  • be U.S. or Canada resident
  • no P.O. boxes

To enter, leave a comment with a 9-word sentence telling me why you’d like to win these books. (Connelly recently ran a contest asking people to describe Harry Bosch in 9 words; see winners here.)

I’ll take entries until October 22, 5 p.m. PST. Winners will be chosen by Random.org, announced here and on Twitter only, and have 48 hours to claim prizes before I pick alternate winner(s). Good luck!

Full disclosure: I stayed up until 3 stinkin’ 30 in the morning to edit this even though I had to report for jury duty at 7 a.m. And I didn’t receive one red cent for it, okay, FTC? I did it because I think Connelly is cool. The end.

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My Fake FTC Disclosure

You may have heard by now that the Federal Trade Commission has revised their guides about full disclosure of “material connections” between advertisers and endorsers. Many blah blah blahs aside, this means that starting December 1, bloggers will have to reveal if they received a free product for review. Even if they received no money, the product itself is considered material goods.

I get it—this is to protect consumers from the biased testimony of paid endorsers. But when I (and most bloggers I know) receive a book or CD for review, we’re never told what to say or how to say it or even to say anything at all. Most publicists just say they hope we’ll consider the product for coverage, whatever kind that may be. When I don’t have time for a book, can’t finish it, or if it’s just not right for my blog, I don’t write anything.

Some people have written very intelligent replies to the FTC’s actions, like this article in the Wall Street Journal, but my first reaction was wanting to write a really inappropriate disclosure statement instead. (That, and wondering how long Oprah’s disclosures will be every time she talks about her favorite things.) I guess this comes from the part of me that doesn’t like to be told I have to do something.

Here’s the rough draft I’m considering:

My Review Policies

I won’t even consider reviewing your book/CD/DVD unless you send me $5,000 in $2 bills, a year’s supply of goat cheese, and a personal Mariachi band comprised of hot Latin men who will perform with no shirts on. Shoes are acceptable.

If your product is a giant turd (i.e. something starring Vin Diesel) but you want a rave review from me, that’s going to cost you a house in Malibu, preferably next to Pierce Brosnan but I will accept Suzanne Somers. Speaking of Somers, throw in a couple Thighmasters and Buttmasters, too.

When I do my review, I will use simple, monosyllable words to appeal to the lowest common denominator. If you prefer an intelligent write-up using a more advanced vocabulary, please send a bucket of chicken for every word I use containing more than 3 letters. I also need a back scratcher for itches in places I can’t reach that drive me crazy at night. Oh, and several packets of only left-footed socks (some must be toe socks) to replace all the ones the dryer monster has stolen from me.

If you don’t follow these policies to the letter, I will not only trash your product but punch you in the liver. If you adhere to these guidelines, we can have a long, meaningful relationship that can start tonight with drinks at the Polo Lounge. Anything more than that, my rate is $69 a night.

So, do you think that’s clear enough? Any questions about my intentions as a reviewer? If you’re also a blogger, what demands would you make from providers?

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More TV Flippin'

The DVR was about to explode this weekend so I chained myself down with popcorn and cake for some marathon TV viewing. Some quick impressions:

Three Rivers. Warning: This soporific show might induce a coma. Though the actors—including Alex O’Loughlin (Moonlight), Daniel Henney (Agent Zero in X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Katherine Moennig (The L Word), and Alfre Woodard—are pretty, their characters are dull and saddled by storylines that are neither compelling nor groundbreaking. It’s all been done better on the myriad of medical shows that have gone before. Nerd verdict: Needs life support.

nursesMercy. For a better new hospital show, try this NBC series instead. It focuses on three nurses working at Mercy Hospital in Jersey, with stories revolving more around their lives than medical mysteries. The lead, Taylor Schilling, is a TV newcomer but she comes across like an old pro, playing her Iraq veteran character, Veronica, with intelligence, forthrightness and sly sexiness. Jaime Lee Kirchner injects sass into her role while Michelle Trachtenberg is a little annoying as the green, earnest nurse (more how the character is written than the actress’s fault), but she has less screen time than the other two so I’m okay with her for now. Nerd verdict: Check into Mercy.

115783_GROUP5FlashForward. Three eps in and it’s growing on me. At first, I thought it was too much a Lost rip-off, with references to Oceanic Airlines and Australia in the pilot, plus Lost‘s Penny, Sonya Walger, as a series regular (additional Losties include Kim Dickens guesting in ep 3 and Dominic Monaghan joining the show in episode 6). But I’m now caught up in the Mosaic and the visions and mystery without being pissed off—yet—by the obliqueness of it all. Nerd verdict: I see it being around six months from now.

Are you hooked on anything yet this season? What started out strong but has already lost you?

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