Tag Archives: awards

The Versatile Blogger Award!

versatile

Try to picture me now, six foot three inches of hangdog pout, twisting the toes of one foot back and forth on the floor in shame at having let something sit for far too long.  A month or so back I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award, and like a lazy farmer wondering why the crops aren’t doing anything when the seeds haven’t been planted yet, I let this sit, and sit, and recede into the shallows of memory, assuring myself that I would indeed get around to it.  Terrible.  Well, after a few other projects have been swept from the deck, here I am finally, getting around to said thing.  Despite my drag-assedness, I’m deeply grateful to the four stellar talents who were kind enough to nominate this tiny corner of the Internets:  Michelle Gordon, Jessica West, Nillu Stelter and Debbie Vega.  Thank you so very much ladies!  Keep being awesome, and more to the point, keep writing awesomely.  And sorry I’ve taken so long to accept your generous nomination!

The rules for this particular honor are:  thank the person(s) who nominated you (check!), disclose seven interesting factoids about yourself, and nominate fifteen more deserving winners.  As regards the seven interesting facts about myself, well… I’m not really that interesting a person.  I can string words together pretty well on paper and I’m okay at parties until my material runs out, but you’d probably brush past me on the street and not even realize I was there.  I suppose I write fiction to make up for the tame trappings of an average, middle-class upbringing and ongoing life.  But if you’re looking to be regaled by recollections of jaunts through the African savanna or the backstreet jazz clubs of New Orleans or rubbing elbows with the famous and the powerful, you’ve clicked on the wrong link.  It’s why I have to try to captivate you with my words; the rest of me won’t do it.  Regardless, here goes with a few things you might not otherwise know about me.

1.  As noted above, I am six-foot-three, shuffling along in a world designed for the five-foot-six.  This means a chronic case of slouching and a neck somewhat out of alignment from leaning forward to look down.  It also means, for whatever reason, strangers predisposed to think you are athletic.  I am incredibly not.  I marvel at shorter folks who can run marathons – I’m wrecked after a half-walked 5K.  At the risk of sounding a bit Dangerfield-esque about it, I was such a lousy athlete as a child that even the teachers picked me last.  Can’t throw, can’t hit, can’t kick, can’t field.  And to think that a childhood dream (swiftly extinguished by reality) was pitching in major league baseball.  Nope – closest I’ll get is field level seats, and you know what?  I’m totally okay with that.

2.  When I was a teenager, I drew comic books.  This is similar to #1 in that I cannot really draw, either.  My character was an anthropomorphised simian version of James Bond (for the simple reason that monkeys were easier to draw than humans) and I did seven books with him, only four of which were finished.  The last one, that part of me regrets not completing, was a James Bond-Star Trek: The Next Generation crossover, in which Bond fell for Dr. Crusher.  And because I couldn’t draw, the story was a lot of dialogue and character development as opposed to splash pages of pencil-crayoned ass kicking.  Doing these books did teach me a great deal about how to create character beats and arcs, how to plot, and how to sharpen the storytelling edge to finish within the number of pages left in the purloined school exercise book.

3.  I usually wear at least one piece of Disney-related clothing on any given day.  It started a few years ago with one solitary T-shirt; now the wardrobe has expanded considerably through ties, boxers and other apparel, and I’m writing this with a grinning Mickey Mouse displayed proudly on the left breast of my black golf shirt.  We’ve added Olaf to our growing empire of stuffed animals; he’s on a shelf in our living room, enjoying the summer and peering down at the mischievous kittens who are plotting to knock him from his lofty perch.

4.  Speaking of kittens, after we said goodbye to our beloved Muffins, we acquired two new furry friends to carry on her legacy:  siblings Dudley and Daila.  Dudley is an orange tabby while Daila is a tortoiseshell, and while they are both very sweet, Dudley is a master thief!  He has stolen articles of clothing, stress balls, batteries and keys, but his favorite target is pieces of fruit, specifically, bananas.  We have to hide any bananas we buy in the microwave, otherwise we’ll wake up in the morning with a banana in our bed.  Last weekend Dudley figured out how to open the desk drawer in our kitchen, and pilfered a ball of string.  Even though we were proud (and a tad terrified) of his ingenuity, we were somewhat disappointed at his descent into cliche.  It’s all right, he’s young, he’ll grow up and be quoting Proust before you know it.  (A la recherche du souris perdu, anyone?)

5.  My wife and I are part of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, and we mentor a young boy we’ve known since he was nine.  It was a year and a half after we met him that we were introduced to the then-11-year-old who would become our adopted son.  So you don’t have to be a major in anything to connect those dots and realize that the experience of mentoring made us realize that we could parent an older child.  A project still lingering on the backburner is a detailed article about being a mentor which I’m hoping to get finished in the next couple of weeks, so watch this space for updates on that.

6.  The infamous novel to which I have alluded from time to time is still working its way through the query trenches, now numbering 11 rejections all told.  I refuse to accept that this is a trend, and I soldier on.  One rather disappointing (yet interesting) tale from this process is having a Twitter pitch for it favorited by one particular agent after she had already rejected the query and sample chapters, which were sent to her because she favorited the same pitch in a prior Twitter contest.  (She was great about it though.)  With that sort of thing, you just have to laugh and keep going.  There was another form rejection I received that was so apologetic I almost felt I should have responded, assuring the agent that I didn’t take it personally and that I wasn’t going to go fledermaus-scheise on her.  Probably a result of too many wannabes doing just that.  As an aside to any literary agent out there who might be reading this, I promise promise PROMISE that I won’t be a jerkwad if you say no to me.  I’m taking a stand against that crap.  I may even develop a variation of the Serenity Prayer for rejected writers, or something more basic, like “I will not break, I will not bend, I will not turn into a raging douche-a-holic.”

7.  And lastly, I have struggled with my hair since as long as I can remember.  The avatar I use for all my social media profiles is one of the rare few pictures in which I find it looks somewhat respectable, instead of like a wildebeest flayed by a helicopter rotor.

Ok then!  Onwards to the third part of this here deal.  Versatility to me suggests, at least by its dictionary definition, individuals with a wide range of skills.  Applied to blogging it would therefore seem to mean people who write well about a lot of different subjects.  This runs contrary to most blogging advice, which posits that in order to build an audience you should focus on one topic you know really well and then just write the bejeezus out of that, rather than trying to be good for all time zones.  I suppose that when you become established as a “voice” that others seek out, you are then freer to weigh in on whatever you want, as opposed to trying to build a niche audience from nothing.  Some blogs I follow are informative writing resources, others are pop culture treasure troves, others still are founts of creativity expressed through wildly imaginative fiction.  What they share, however, are voices I look forward to hearing, and find myself missing when absent.

You’ve been bearing with me for this long, and I want to shake it up and end on something of a twist, so here it is:  rather than list fifteen names and links you won’t click on, I’m going to do Q&A’s with each person I nominate.  I enjoyed hosting Emmie Mears in June and it’s given me the itch to do some more of that there stuff.  I just think you’ll get more of a sense of why I admire these writers, and it’ll give them a chance to talk about what drives them, what scares them, what they’re after and what they want their legacy to be.  None of this fill-in-the-blank, true-or-false quick answer claptrap, we’re going to dive deep down, tug at the heart and probe the soul.  I’m gonna be the Brian Linehan of the blogging world if it kills me.  (I am aware that Brian Linehan is dead, so that could be taken the wrong way.  I meant in the sense of his detailed interviewing style.)  And each will of course be asked for their favorite swear word.

This might take a while so don’t expect all fifteen to show up in the next week, or even the next couple of months – it’ll be an ongoing feature here and I’ll categorize them so they’re easy for you to find.  To my unwitting subjects:  watch your Twitter DM’s and your email inboxes, like so many arrows loosed by an intrepid archer, or darts flung at a perforated cork board by a drunken punter round the pub, my questions will be coming for you.  Mwa ha ha.

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A best guess approach to picking the lesser known 2014 Oscar winners

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Remember when movies were cheap?  Like, not-bank-breaking-to-see-one-a-week cheap?  It wasn’t that long ago that you could wander into your local multiplex without having to fork over the proverbial arm and leg for your ticket and bag of popcorn, or slice of pizza.  My friends and I used to try to venture out weekly, which was occasionally rough going during those dry months when the studios were dumping their guaranteed flops into the rolling-tumbleweed timeslots said dreck was similarly guaranteed to disappear quietly within, while doing the least damage to their reputations as producers of quality entertainment.  But it also meant you had a better than average shot of seeing all the movies that were up for awards contention.

Having said that, seeing the movies didn’t mean you were in any better position to judge whether or not they would win awards.  There are distinct, often inexplicable differences between the mind of the critic, the average viewer, and the award voter.  And what wins is a matter not necessarily of quality, but of an unfathomable brew of popularity, body of work, perceived merit and good old fashioned ad campaigns.  In the end the whole affair is about money anyway – someone did a calculation once where they figured out the percentage by which an Oscar win would boost a movie’s box office revenue or an actor’s asking price, with the typical caveat that in Hollywood, there is no such thing as an absolute:  F. Murray Abraham certainly isn’t pulling in $20 million a picture.

So if you’re trying to win your office Oscar pool, what do you do?  You read umpteen columns like this one, both professional and amateur, try to get a general sense of the trends, and toss your darts accordingly.  I’ll go through each category in brief and offer my own uninformed thoughts and guidelines.  You’ll note that as per the title of the post I’m staying away from the big ones like Actor, Actress and Picture, and focusing instead on the technical and “minor” categories, because a) I’m curmudgeonly that way and b) everyone else is doing posts about the big ones, so I’m standing up for the little guy.  You know, like Rob Ford says he does.

Animated Feature Film

Nominees:  The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest & Celestine, Frozen, The Wind Rises

Frozen is rightly being celebrated as Disney’s return to the form of its Renaissance era after years struggling in the shadow of Pixar, and it deserves every accolade it gets.  It doesn’t matter how highly regarded The Wind Rises’ director Hayao Miyazaki may be, nor even that he announced it would be his final film – the Academy will not stand idly by and let the wild success of Frozen go unacknowledged.  The other three contenders may have their own individual merits, but they had the misfortune of being nominated in Frozen‘s year.

Cinematography

Nominees:  The Grandmaster, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Prisoners

There are two schools of thinking here.  The Academy tends to prefer movies that are shot outside as nature is harder to light than a soundstage.  They also like slow-paced films where the shots look like paintings.  However, they bend the rule when it comes to mind-blowing images that have never been seen before, which is why Inception won this award in 2010.  One thing mentioned universally in reviews of Gravity was that it made you feel like you really were in space.  The cinematography was one of the biggest components of that so this one would be my pick.

Costume Design

Nominees:  American Hustle, The Grandmaster, The Great Gatsby, The Invisible Woman, 12 Years a Slave

Anyone who remembers Priscilla, Queen of the Desert‘s designer Lizzie Gardner picking up her award in a dress made of AmEx Gold Cards will note that award-winning costume design is all about flash over substance, so the sequins and dazzle of The Great Gatsby are the odds-on favorite over the drab outfits of 12 Years a Slave or the coked-out American Hustle suits.

Documentary Feature

Nominees:  The Act of Killing, Cutie and the Boxer, Dirty Wars, The Square, 20 Feet from Stardom

The rule for documentaries has always been, “pick the one about the Holocaust.”  Absent that, any documentary about war, death or the general inhumanity of man is the strongest contender, although the Academy does have a soft spot for movies about entertainers or the entertainment industry in general.  20 Feet from Stardom could be the dark horse, as it’s about backup singers.  However, you have The Act of Killing about mass murder in Indonesia, Dirty Wars about America’s dark foreign policy or The Square about the Egyptian uprising of 2011.  Go with The Act of Killing.

Documentary Short Subject

Nominees:  CaveDigger, Facing Fear, Karama Has No Walls, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall

Otherwise known as the “your guess is as good as mine” category.  The latter is about a man in his 80’s dying in a prison, so given the goodwill shown towards hopeful prison movies like The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption in the past, I’d lean towards it.

Film Editing

Nominees:  American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave

Editing is always a tricky category to gauge in that the best editing is the kind you don’t notice, however, if the film is edited in a particularly audacious and in-your-face manner, it may get awarded simply for calling attention to itself.  Absent that whatever wins Best Picture wins Best Editing, so this one would be between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity.  I would favor Gravity again because even in the trailers and clips that you’ve seen, editing is up front.

Foreign Language Film

Nominees:  The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium), The Great Beauty (Italy), The Hunt (Denmark), The Missing Picture (Cambodia), Omar (Palestine)

This is the category where the winner always gets played off in the middle of his speech while he’s trying to make a point about important issues in his homeland.  And there wasn’t a foreign language film this year that crossed over into the mainstream, the way previous winners Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Life is Beautiful did.  So you guessed it – dartboard approach again.  As a general rule, Somber beats Laugh Riot, Stately beats Fast-Paced.  It would be interesting to see Omar take the trophy as a Palestinian film, to my recollection, has never won before.

Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees:  Dallas Buyers Club, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, The Lone Ranger

This one is pretty easy to figure.  The latter two are Johnny Knoxville in latex as an old man in a gross-out comedy or Johnny Depp with a dead crow on his head in a universally disliked big budget remake of an old 50’s radio show.  The former is likely to see two acting winners on Oscar night.  As they all say, you do the math.

Original Score

Nominees:  The Book Thief, Gravity, Her, Philomena, Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks was composed by perennial also-ran Thomas Newman, who was nominated and lost for Skyfall last year, so cross him off straight away.  The score for All Is Lost, which won the Golden Globe, wasn’t nominated, and The Book Thief is by John Williams who already has a pile of Oscars.  Can you hum the score from Her or Philomena?  So that really leaves Gravity – unless the Academy decides to be charitable and end Newman’s Lucci-esque losing streak.

Original Song

Nominees:  “Happy” from Despicable Me 2, “Let it Go” from Frozen, “The Moon Song” from Her, “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom

Again, I am biased here, but “Let it Go” is the front runner, with one Ireland-sized caveat:  “Ordinary Love” is by U2, and the Academy gets giggly about the possibility of giving out song Oscars to famous singers – improves the TV ratings, dontcha know; plus Bono gives infamous acceptance speeches.  However, you’re not exactly seeing masses of folks post YouTube covers or parodies of “Ordinary Love,” and it is miles removed from the realm of U2’s best work.  The lyrics are so vague that you’d never guess it was from a movie about Nelson Mandela, and it will be forgotten as soon as the Oscar show ends.  Whereas “Let it Go,” like the movie it’s from, is a cultural phenomenon.

Production Design

Nominees:  American Hustle, Gravity, The Great Gatsby, Her, 12 Years a Slave

Pick period here, every time.  That kiboshes Gravity and Her right out of the gate.  And like costume design, the flashier the better.  I would hazard that 20’s glam Gatsby will outperform the bleaker 70’s and 19th Century.

Animated Short Film

Nominees:  Feral, Get a Horse!, Mr. Hublot, Possessions, Room on the Broom

You saw Get a Horse! if you saw Frozen, and its fourth-wall-breaking inventiveness, homage to classic animated shorts and of course, popularity, will help it triumph over the four titles nobody’s ever heard of without breaking a sweat.

Live Action Short Film

Nominees:  Outside of their immediate families, does it matter?

Sorry to be blunt and cynical, and it is a real shame that more audiences don’t get to see these (a fact pointed out in every acceptance speech made by every winner of this category every single year), but nobody knows the movies, nobody knows the people who made them, and thus nobody knows how to pick the winner.  Eeny, meeny, miney mo is probably the best method.  Good luck!

Sound Editing

Nominees:  All is Lost, Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Lone Survivor

It’s interesting to see The Hobbit get one of its only three nominations here when you consider what an Oscar powerhouse the original Lord of the Rings trilogy was.  Perhaps the attitude towards it is a little on the “been there, done that” side.  No matter, it’s not likely to win anyway.  Sound Editing concerns created sound effects, and the most popular movie always wins, so go with Gravity again.

Sound Mixing

Nominees:  Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lone Survivor

Sound mixing is more about the overall tonal quality, or sonic atmosphere, of a movie as opposed to explosions, footsteps and gunshots.  It’s also rare that a movie will win both sound awards, so I would suggest avoiding Gravity.  Instead I’ll go with an ostensibly oddball pick, Inside Llewyn Davis, and that’s chiefly because the movie is about music.

Visual Effects

Nominees:  Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger, Star Trek Into Darkness

Remember that Forrest Gump won this category in 1994?  (You’re saying “huh?  I don’t remember any effects in that movie.”)  But it did, both for making audiences think Gary Sinise was a double amputee and letting Tom Hanks have conversations with dead Presidents.  Visual effects applied to realistic, non-fantasy films are always preferred over flights of wild imagination.  The dragon was cool as was the starship rising from the ocean, but here it’s gonna be  Gravity, Gravity, Gravity.

Adapted Screenplay

Nominees:  Before Midnight, Captain Phillips, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street

Yay, the writing awards!  The first of the two categories is generally the more boring, and easier to predict.  It only gets shaken up when a celebrity writer is nominated, like Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network in 2010, or someone who’s famous for something else gets a nod for “aw, look, they can write too!”, i.e. Emma Thompson for Sense and Sensibility in 1995.  Absent that, look for 12 Years a Slave to come up trumps here, because movies favored for Best Picture are also the best written, correct?  You’d think so.

Original Screenplay

Nominees:  American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska

The winner here is always the movie that lives and dies by its concept.  Stories that hinge on absurd premises, mind-bending twists or brilliant, quotable dialogue are the way to go.  The race here is between American Hustle and Her, and I give the edge to Her because the idea of a man who falls in love with Siri is more out-there than the misadventures of con artists in the 70’s, and also because it’s the only award it’s likely to win on Sunday night.

So there you have it – absolutely, positively, 100% not guaranteed to help you triumph over your cinephile friends, because every year we do these lists and every year the Academy throws us a curve (or several).  About the only thing you can ever reliably predict about the Oscars is that they will be long and that the host will make a joke (or several) about how long they are.  But we’ll all stick it out for the Best Picture award, of course, and the winning producer’s claim that the movie’s victory will be a watershed moment in the human struggle with whatever the movie was about.  Which of course, it won’t be.

Happy viewing!

The WordPress (Non-Dysfunctional) Family Award

family

Happy 2014 everyone!  And what better way to start it off than being recognized by an incredibly talented peer?  The lovely Nillu Stelter nominated me for the WordPress Family Award.  So many people to thank:  my agent, my lawyer, my manager, my agent’s lawyer, my lawyer’s agent, my manager’s lawyer, my lawyer’s manager, the incredible electrical crews and the guy who gets me my blueberry danish every morning.  Free Tibet!  Okay, on a serious note, I am deeply grateful, and it reinforces the truth that when you put goodwill out into the world, it comes rushing back to you in a wave.  I admire Nillu’s talent for being able to pack a novel’s worth of emotion and imagery into her short pieces, and you should absolutely check them out instead of wasting your time here listening to me pontificate on whatever bee crawled into my bonnet this morning.

Accepting the award mandates that you nominate six other bloggers you feel are deserving of the honor – people who have been welcoming and encouraging in your blogging efforts.  Ironically, Nillu herself nominated several of the folks that I would have included on my list.  Rather than re-nominating them, I’ll bestow upon them honorable mentions instead:  Rachael Spellman, Drew Chial, Jessica West and Amira Makansi, and defer to Nillu’s excellent encapsulations.  I also want to give shoutouts to two bloggers whose work and whose virtual friendships I treasure but who aren’t on WordPress so they technically don’t qualify:  Ksenia Anske and Heather Archuletta.  Heather’s site is a bit different from the rest as she writes about all things NASA and space exploration, and about her experiences as a “pillownaut,” i.e. a participant in NASA’s bed rest studies, which simulate the effects of low gravity on the human body over long periods of time.  It’s a whole area of space science I knew nothing about until I met her on Twitter, and it’s quite fascinating.  And she’s a fan of all things Star Trek as well, so, well worth your while.  Ksenia you probably know about already, so no sense retreading the obvious, other than letting you know that she just began writing her literary novel Irkadura two days ago and banged out an incredible four and a half chapters in a single sitting.  Something to think about the next time you’re lacking motivation.

Introductions out of the way, let’s move on to my list:

East Bay Writer – EBW merits a special place as she was the first WordPress blogger I really “connected” with when I started doing this back in 2011.  Absent the magical “Freshly Pressed” designation that points a massive spotlight on you out of the gate, you really do have to do the work and crawl your way out of the anonymous cellar in what is essentially complete darkness, fumbling for a grip and swinging wildly until you catch hold.  I’ll always be grateful to EBW for extending her hand and letting me know someone out there in the wilderness gave a damn.

Tania Monaco – tania2atee – I first met Tania in 1999 when we both enrolled in the “Crafting a Novel” class taught by the next person down on my list, and we were part of a critique group that grew out of that class and continued for several years.  Her feedback helped to shape the novel I tinkered with for way too long before finally growing the spine needed to submit it to agents (ongoing as we type), and I’ll never forget one comment in particular she made that was manna for a man trying to write a book from a woman’s perspective:  “How do you know what we’re thinking?”  Tania blogs about parenting her two young children and her posts about favorite songs are always a treat.

Lynda Simmons – I Love a Parade – My first creative writing teacher (at least, the first who wasn’t also trying to teach me to write essays about long-dead English novelists), a family friend from way back, and a by turns witty and poignant novelist whose book Island Girl is a rending story about a woman struggling to put her family back together before the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease claim her memory and indeed her very soul.  The woman who told me to my chagrin to ditch the 400,000-words-and-counting pile of rambles that wasn’t going anywhere and start something fresh and new.  Everything that followed is essentially her fault, so address your angry comments to the address in the link.  Just kidding.  Thank you Lynda, for so much.

Andrea Montgomery – My Simple Desires – Andrea doesn’t blog nearly enough, so my ulterior motive in nominating her is to try and give her a little nudge of inspiration.  She again is someone I have the fortune to know personally, and to envy from time to time since writing is her day job, as a communications professional.  There is a joyful touch to her blog posts which I’m finding myself missing, so, here’s hoping she gets back to it soon.

Tele Aadsen – Hooked – One woman at sea, trolling for truth, and what a beautiful journey it is.  Like EBW, Tele was one of my first “blog friends” on WordPress and it has been a privilege to read this amazing woman’s words these past years.  Taking a sabbatical from her career in fishing off the Alaskan coast, she is currently in a writer’s residency at the North Cascades Institute in Washington and working on her memoir, also entitled Hooked, to be published by Riverhead Books.  Cannot wait to hold a signed copy of that in my hands.  Reading Tele’s posts or seeing her comments on my own site are like a chat with an old friend, the kind with whom you can pick up like it’s only been a day even though months and months have passed.

And finally, the sixth blog on my list:  yours.  Yes, yours.  You, reading this right now – not the person next to you, you there.  Maybe I’ve stopped by yours in the past, maybe I haven’t.  But the fact that you’re doing it makes you a part of a family you may not even know you had.  You’re part of a tradition dating back to the first scratches on cave walls and extending far beyond the limits of our mortal shells.  We’re the reason our species has a history to remember, and dreams of the future to pursue.  We are writers, and whether we are read by millions or only a select few, we are each leaving our imprint upon a complex universe that is often difficult to understand.  Each book, each article, each post, even each thoughtful Twitter musing is a small step towards solving the greatest puzzle of all.  What does it mean to be us?  Choosing to enter into that conversation earns you a place at the table.  Welcome, friend; pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink and tell me a story.  Tell me what you think of mine.  And let’s create a new one together – as a family.

Paying it forward

For all my pontificating yesterday about our collective duty to be vigilant and responsible in our cultivation of the culture of free speech, I have to confess at being somewhat negligent in another area.  Cecile’s Writers, a wonderful blog I follow and which has been very supportive of my writing, was kind enough to nominate me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  Thank you so much!  As I’ve said before, what I believe a writer wants more than anything is simply to reach people, and it’s wonderful to see it happening.  As I understand it the requirements of this award stipulate that you nominate an additional seven blogs and include an equal number of heretofore unknown pieces of trivia about yourself.  Recognizing that one of those is going to be tremendously more interesting than the other, I’ll start with the good stuff, in no particular order:

Nominees I Consider Deserving of the Award:

1.  East Bay Writer

Her blog is subtitled “me and my battle with words,” but she’s winning it hands down.  In addition to her own clever workplace tales and anecdotes about the peculiarities of life, EBW regularly promotes other bloggers and published authors with a selfless enthusiasm and a genuine love of all things written.

2.  Hooked

Lower 48 liberals whose opinions of Alaska have been formed largely by its former governor-turned-reality-TV-and-Fox-News-annoyance need to read Hooked.  Tele opens up a vast, fascinating frontier utterly foreign to lifelong urbanites and reminds us that truth can be found in the farthest reaches of both the seas and the soul.

3.  The Bunny Adventures

I have always had a soft spot – pardon the pun – for both rabbits and stuffed animals, and this photo blog depicting the cross-country wanderings of a tiny toy bunny is sweet, endearing and an infallible cure for a bad mood.  You never know what Bunny will be up to next!

4.  Simply Stephanie

A recent discovery after she liked a couple of my posts, but as I tend to gravitate towards writing that is positive and upbeat, I’ve become quite taken with the way she’s decided to jump into all that is life and give it a huge bear hug.  Her love of Disney certainly strikes a chord with me as well!

5.  Good Evaning

I may be somewhat biased because the author is a real-life friend, but his blog is by turns funny, self-deprecating, insightful and thought-provoking.  One of his most recent pieces is a surprisingly forthright confession of conflicted feelings about his collaboration on a stage show.  It’s not often you find such honesty in an artist’s appraisal of his own work.  Evan brings this kind of integrity to everything he pens.

6.  PMMCC

Again, I’ve known the author personally for over twenty years, but he’s always impressed me with the depth of his intellect and his willingness to expose the sometimes ugly veins coursing beneath the veneer of what we like to call free and open societies.  Really, though, how can you not be a fan of erudite turns of phrase like this:  “The challenge with this formula is that the expectation for [CBC blowhard bloviator Kevin] O’Leary to be controversial appears to trump in this instance the duty to be intelligent.”

7.  Everyone I didn’t pick in 1 through 6

There are so many amazing blogs out there it’s difficult to winnow the list down.  I reserve the final slot for every person with the guts to put their words out there for the world to see.  Writing is one of the most revealing ways in which human beings can choose to be vulnerable – to put part of their soul on display in the hope of making a connection, however tenuous and temporary.  Here’s to you, fellow WordPressers, for taking that bold step in the grand tradition of communication, and sharing with us your most precious resource – your ideas.  You all inspire me.

Okay, now that’s done, here are seven things about me.  Sorry, they are far too boring to be used for purposes of blackmail.

1.  My drink is Bailey’s rocks, or a Vesper martini (three measures of Gordon’s gin, one of vodka, half a measure of Lillet Blanc, shaken over ice with a thin slice of lemon peel, and yes, that’s James Bond’s recipe)

2.  I won an equestrian show-jumping competition when I was nine, largely by being able to wrangle control of a bucking horse four times my size.  Perhaps I was always fated to become a brony in later life.

3.  I have performed raps by Pitbull and B.o.B. in a concert venue setting.  It was to 200 colleagues and their significant others in a local union hall, but I definitely brought the funk.

4.  I once stood closer to Johnny Depp than you are to this screen.  He smelled nice.

5.  Spoiler Alert!  The last word of my long-gestating novel is “be.”  Sorry if that ruined it for you, or if those of you expecting something else now hate me with a George-Lucas-raped-my-childhood-like fury.

6.  My unabashed fanboy love for his work to the contrary, I have never seen a single episode of Aaron Sorkin’s Sports Night.

7.  I believe that the words matter more than the minutiae about the man.

Thank you again to Samir and Cecile’s Writers for the nomination.  As a signoff, there’s a speech Bono gave when accepting a Grammy back in 1993 that got him in trouble with the TV censors, and it captures my thoughts very well.  To wit:  “I’d like to send a message to the young people of America.  We shall continue to abuse our position and f*** up the mainstream.”  Yeah, baby.