Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at www.thevertexfighter.blogspot.com.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Last day to have your gift matched





Today is the last day to have your gift matched.
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Dear Tracy,

90% of your donation goes directly to helping children affected by the Syrian crisis.

The Canadian Government extended the deadline to February 29, 2016 to match all donations made for the Syrian crisis. Today is the last day to have your gift matched. Together, we can help ease the suffering and give a chance for a better future for the children affected by this crisis.



Sincerely,
UNICEF Canada
 
 



Friday, February 26, 2016

"A man his mother" book review

Oct. 12, 2015 "A man his mother": I cut out this article by Philip Marchand in the National Post on Dec. 1, 2012.  Here it is:

Richard Russo’s memoir, Elsewhere, primarily concerns his mother, but at the beginning and the end of the narrative, another character holds centre stage, and that is the town of Gloversville. It is a community that has appeared and reappeared under different names — Mohawk, Empire Falls — in various Russo novels, the prototype of his decayed towns in upstate New York or Maine, the once-proud cities whose industries have failed and whose dreams of renewed prosperity border on sheer desperation.

“In its heyday,” Russo writes of Gloversville, “nine out of ten dress gloves in the United States were manufactured there.” In the 1950s, in Russo’s memory, it was still thriving. Crowds jostled each other in the streets of downtown Gloversville. And then, almost overnight, foreign competition destroyed all that. “Crappy, Asian-made gloves showed up in the shops, where a few buttons could be sewn on and the gloves stamped MADE IN GLOVERSVILLE,” Russo writes. His maternal grandfather, a highly skilled glove maker, saw his craft debased not only by these imports but by new procedures such as chrome tanning, which sped up the tanning process and incidentally made the workplace more hazardous.

Russo’s mother, Jean, divorced from a husband who had some bad habits, chiefly gambling, lived with her son in a flat they rented from her parents. She had a good job with the General Electric Company in Schenectady, but was chronically short of money for expenses, such as the ride to and from work, the clothes necessary for her office job, the grocery bills and so on. She was fanatical about contributing money for gas when others drove, and was in all ways resolved to keep up appearances — making sure her son had clean, crisply ironed clothing to wear every day, for example, even if it meant doing laundry until midnight. “She kept the narrative of our lives consistent and intact,” Russo recalls. “We, the two of us, were all we needed. As long as we had each other, we’d be fine.”

Russo shows his own narrative skill in revealing only very gradually the deep distress of the situation. At first, the mother’s determination to assert her independence seems admirable — not always reasonable, but not delusional, either. But from time to time, his mother experiences an attack of “nerves,” then considered an affliction peculiar to the female sex. They are emotional meltdowns. “Whatever was wrong or out of balance would grow slowly until suddenly everything in the world was wrong, and utter panic would ensue,” Russo writes. The morning afterwards, it seems, her equilibrium would return. “Last night, after you went to bed, I gave myself a good talking-to,” she would say — a comment that did not reassure the boy.

The turning point occurs when Russo, newly admitted to the University of Arizona, buys a grey 1960 Ford Galaxie — nicknamed by his friends Gray Death — for the trip to Arizona, with his mother, who has obtained a job at the General Electric plant in Phoenix, in tow. The Gray Death is hardly up for the long ride. “I would own worse cars, but never another in which you could slam the accelerator to the floor and nothing, absolutely nothing would happen,” Russo writes. To make matters worse, Gray Death must pull a U-Haul with his mother’s possessions.

The trip out West is comic and harrowing, with the Gray Death’s motor constantly overheating and the manoeuvring on and off highway ramps nearly creating multiple car crashes. Somehow they manage to complete the trip, however. And then the worst part befalls them. It turns out Jean Russo does not have a job with General Electric — or with any firm. She had merely assumed, from casual compliments made by her colleagues, that her fellow General Electric employees would of course recognize her worth. GE people looked out for one another, is her credo — a belief that any objective historian of that company would regard as a tad overstated. In fact, there is no job for her in Phoenix. Worse, as time goes on, partly because of all the medications she uses, such as phenobarbital, she becomes virtually unemployable. “Who’s going to hire someone who can’t hold her hands still,” Russo’s wife asks. (He had married when he was a graduate student.)

From this point onward, the story of Russo’s mother becomes an unrelieved tale of sorrow. “She needed me, at least emotionally, all the time,” Russo writes. Russo, now an academic with all the responsibilities that entails, and liable to move from one university to another, and working (unsuccessfully) on his fiction as well — “I wrote about crime and cities and women and other things I knew very little about,” he confesses — could hardly fulfill this need.

Still, his mother stayed close, following his trail. “She’d never really considered us two separate people but rather one entity, oddly cleaved by time and gender, like fraternal twins somehow born 25 years apart,” Russo comments. Labouring under this misconception, his mother moves from one apartment to another, sometimes in order to be physically closer to her son, sometimes because she finds something intolerably wrong with the one she currently occupies. Sometimes, she longs for the comforts of her childhood home, the idyllic security of her parents’ house — but the moment she moves back to Gloversville, she finds it a cage, a prison, a backwater, and demands to be set free.

Whether in Pennsylvania or Illinois or Maine — wherever her son happens to be and wherever she moves to be close to him — her cry is the same. “It’s you I need,” goes that cry. “It’s terrible here.”

After her death, a doctor informs Russo that his late mother suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder, a diagnosis that explains her bizarre behaviours such as a hatred for the colour yellow. It is obviously a great relief for him to know, when one of his two adult daughters comes down with the same symptoms, that treatment is now available.

But questions remain. Is it true, as Russo claims, that he inherited much of his mother’s obsessiveness, but that he was able to harness it to his writing and turn a negative, as it were, into a positive? “The evidence was everywhere,” Russo declares, citing two periods of his life when he surrendered his life to a pinball machine and to dog track racing. But he managed to parlay what he considered to be genetic traits inherited from his mother — “stubbornness, defiance, an inclination to obsess, an excess of will, a potentially dangerous need to see things my own way” — into a “rich and fruitful career.”

Some of these traits, such as stubbornness, can certainly be useful, as long as they are not totally closed to reason. Others, such as an inclination to obsess, are unmitigated liabilities. What saved Russo was not so much some combination of these traits as simply his large endowment of imagination and storytelling ability — qualities that open up the mind where obsession narrows it. Had he less imagination and storytelling ability, he would likely have been doomed regardless of the potential for good use of certain of his genetic traits.

What his mother certainly did bequeath him was a love of reading, a love that stood him in good stead despite his mother’s taste for authors such as Daphne du Maurier and Mary Stewart, the kind of writers often regarded as “lady trash.” Russo comments: “Though I’d outgrown her books, they had a hand in shaping the kind of writer I’d eventually become — one who, unlike many university-trained writers, didn’t consider plot a dirty word, who paid attention to audience and pacing, who had little tolerance for literary pretension.”

Russo also possesses another authorial trait unusual in literary circles — what he calls his “hard-won optimism.” How he managed to acquire that, the reader can only guess.

One question Russo does not raise is the question of whether the industrial misery of Gloversville tanning mills — a misery vividly evoked toward the end of the memoir — did not possibly aggravate people’s cases of “nerves.” Although his mother was not directly affected by the more gruesome aspects of life in Gloversville tanneries, she might nevertheless have been susceptible to all the toxins — chemical and psychological — spewed around by the tanning mills. Those mills fostered a way of life that could easily drive people insane.


"Northern light" book review

Oct. 12, 2015 "Northern light": I cut out this article by Medeine Tribinevicius in the National Post on Dec. 1, 2012. 

A word that stood out to me was theosophist.  On dictionary.com:

 "-any of various forms of philosophical or religious thought based on a mystical insight into the divine nature."

Here's the whole article:

Inward Journey: The Life of Lawren HarrisBy James King
Thomas Allen Publishers
357 pp; $44.95

Some of our most recognizably “Canadian” imagery draws from the works of the Group of Seven, whose stylized depictions of the Canadian landscape (coast to coast) seem to be well-suited for posters, stamps, book covers and the like. However, in this mass reproduction, something of the urgency in the original works is lost. In Inward Journey: The Life of Lawren Harris, biographer James King draws a compelling portrait of one of the leaders of this national artistic movement as he and his fellow artists worked to break from European influence and forge a different kind of Canadian art.

King’s approach is meticulously chronological. He starts with the artist as a young boy, growing up in a wealthy, religious family in Brantford, Ont. Lawren’s grandfather, Alanson Harris, was a devout Baptist and founder of the farm implement company that eventually comprised half of Massey-Harris; Lawren’s father, Tom, was a secretary for the family business. Lawren’s mother, Annie Stewart, was the daughter of a Baptist minister turned social reformer. His religious upbringing would have deep impact on his art. King describes Lawren’s early life as marked by frail health and tragedy — when Lawren was only nine years old, his father died suddenly, and the family moved to Toronto to be closer to his Annie’s family.

Though bright, Lawren was not particularly studious. After he finished high school, he enrolled at the University of Toronto, where it quickly became clear that his mind was elsewhere — his notebooks were full of sketches. On the advice of his professors, his mother decided he should study in Europe. Though Paris was the traditional training ground for artists in the early 20th century, Harris ended up in Berlin where his uncle and aunt were living.

Berlin at the turn of the last century was an overcrowded, poverty-ridden city, a change from provincial, uptight Toronto. Harris devoted himself to his studies, learning the mechanics of his art and gaining technical skills in drawing and painting. With the German Secessionists coming to the fore, Harris was certainly influenced by the social messages imbued in their works, but was also exposed to a variety of other artists ­­— Caspar David Friedrich, Munch, Van Gogh and Gauguin are just a few that King cites as influential. At the same time, Harris was experiencing a spiritual shift, drifting away from his religious roots. When in Berlin, he discovered the writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was to become a lifelong influence. While abroad, Harris also became acquainted with theosophy, and officially joined the Toronto Theosophical Society in 1923; theosophical ideas had deep impact on his artistic practice as he sought to infuse his landscapes with spiritual resonance.

Perhaps more importantly in the context of Canadian iconography, it was in Germany that Harris came to view the creation of national art as a vital project; Harris returned to Canada full of self-confidence and his decision to focus on landscape stemmed from this interest in a national art. Canada was his “native land,” sure, but as King points out: “[L]andscape was the genre in which to make one’s mark. As a calling, this was a demonstration of oneness with the spirit of the entire land. There was a crucial patriotic dimension: to be a proper country, a nation needed to have its own distinct landscape, and it required painters to enshrine it.”

He settled in Toronto, rented a studio and got married. His wife, Beatrice (Trixie) Phillips, was the daughter of a self-made millionaire. King describes her as a conventional woman, and then speculates that “at the time of his marriage, Harris felt he could somehow blend the life of the socialist with the life of the artist.” (On a side note, this type of speculation, while often a necessity in a biography, is presented here in italicized recreations of Harris’s inner life; instead of allowing access into the inner workings of the subject, these asides pull the reader out of what is a subtle and comprehensive biographical account.) Harris began working in earnest in Toronto, showing his paintings at Ontario Artists Society exhibitions, and soon became part of a group of similarly minded painters. When the Group of Seven formed in 1920, Harris assumed the role of spokesman.

Throughout his biography, King parallels Harris’s artistic growth — from moody urban streetscapes to stylized landscapes to colourful abstraction — to changes in his personal life. Throughout his life, the struggle to balance the visible and invisible elements of life, be it in the relationship between visual representation and spiritualism in his landscapes, or his ongoing social struggles, especially in his marriage. In 1934, Lawren and Trixie divorced — a radical step for someone in Harris’s social class. He subsequently took up with (and then married) Bess Housser, a fellow painter, theosophist and a close friend. This change marks a freeing of Harris’s artistic vision. The newlyweds moved south of the border, first to New Hampshire, and then to Santa Fe, N.M., where they lived and painted, and it was during this period that Harris began to experiment with abstraction.

The outbreak of the Second World War put an end to their time in the United States. In 1940, they moved to Vancouver to be close to Lawren’s beloved mother. The couple easily settled into life on the West Coast, and Harris resumed his cultural advocacy, becoming the British Columbia representative for the Federation of Canadian Artists (founded 1941) and, in 1944, president. Highly active in the Vancouver arts scene, his home was decorated with works by local artists, and he often acted as a dealer, selling the pieces off his walls to budding collectors. Harris lived out his days in Vancouver and died in 1970.

Whenever I set foot in the Art Gallery of Ontario, in the spirit of secular pilgrimage, I find a moment for the delicate colouring and bold symmetry of Lawren Harris’s Figure With Rays of Light (1928). Though it rates only a brief mention in Inward Journey, the work is considered one of Harris’s most important, revealing the bridge between the representational paintings of the first half of his career, and the abstract, metaphysical works to come. The work had disappeared for more than 60 years, evidently in storage in a basement in Scarborough, before it was purchased by Kenneth Thomson at auction in 2006 for just over $1-million. The subsequent donation to the AGO revealed a previously unknown part of Harris’s artistic vision and it is in the same spirit that King’s biography sheds a ray of light on the life of one of Canada’s most well known, but unknown, artists.


Fall 2015 TV season (part 2)/ Mid-season 2016

Dec. 26, 2015 Fall 2015 TV season (part 2): Here are some more TV shows I watched and here are my reviews:

The Grinder:

Pros:

1. It does have big actors like Rob Lowe (Parks and Recreation) and Fred Savage (The Wonder Years.)

2. The premise does sound kind of interesting:

"Television lawyer Dean Sanderson moves back to his small home town after a stint in Hollywood thinking his time on TV qualifies him to run his family's law firm."


Jan. 13, 2016:

3. The ethnic diversity.  There is a Latino couple that Stewart (Fred Savage) has to go to court for.  There is an East Indian guy lawyer and a Latino woman judge.

My opinion: I'm not a fan of sitcoms, so after I watched the pilot, I never watched it again.  This sitcom is average.  If you like sitcoms and the actors, then watch the pilot to see if you like it.

Supergirl: I watched the pilot.  I knew there was a high chance I was going to watch the pilot and not watch it again.  That's what happened.  I really wanted to see what the show was like.  On imdb.com:

"The adventures of Superman's cousin in her own superhero career."


Jan. 15, 2016:

Pros:

1. The cast: The actress Melissa Benoist is alright as the lead Kara, pronounced Kar- a.  If you like Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal) as her boss.

I will give points for casting Jimmy Olson with a black actor Mehcad Brooks.  (He was on Desperate Housewives season 2.  Remember of a single black woman with her son.  Then it turns out they have a man chained in their basement?) 

I haven't seen creative casting since Lucy Lui, a woman to play Joan Watson on the Sherlock Holmes TV show Elementary.

Also Owain Yeoman (from The Mentalist) plays a bad guy for this one ep.

The characters are likable.

2. I do like the origin of Supergirl on how she was supposed to protect Superman.  However, he already got to Earth and grew up without her.  Now she can go on her own.

Cons:

I didn't really find it interesting to me.

The Romeo Section: This is on CBC.  Here's the imdb.com:

"Lies, corruption, murder - welcome to the world of The Romeo Section where spies are recruited to seduce for secrets."


I watched it because I thought it might be like Alias.  It is not.

Pros:

1. It did kind of remind me of the mini-series Dragon Boys.


2. It was well-shot.

Cons:

1. There is a lot of profanity, sexuality, nudity.  There is too much smoking.  It was too dark for me.

My opinion: It didn't really interest me and I never watched it again.

Fall 2014 TV season: Right now it's mid- season for TV.  I need to mitigate my excitement by writing about some other TV shows.  I didn't write about the following TV shows because I busy with work and taking 2 college classes in the fall.

How to Get Away with Murder: I saw the pilot and then I never watched it again.  The title sounded really interesting. 

"A group of ambitious law students and their brilliant criminal defense professor become involved in a twisted murder plot that promises to change the course of their lives."


Pros:

1. The only character I liked was Wes (Alfred Enoch).  The only law student of the bunch.  The others were kind of "eh" as in I felt indifferent about them.

2. There is good ethnic diversity of African-Americans and I saw an Asian man.

3. There is good writing and how things were slowly revealed.

4. There is a good mystery of: Whose body are they burying?  How did they get to this situation?  Who killed this missing girl?

5. I did like this one part where the professor Annalise is asking Wes a question.  He paused.  Laurel (Karla Souza) then tells the answer.

Annalise: You should never take a chance away from someone to learn something just so you can show off how smart you are.

My opinion: Yeah.

I wrote about this before, but it reminded me of The Simpsons where Bart is struggling to read a big word on the chalkboard.  Martin has his hand raised and is anxiously hoping to be called on.

I was in like gr. 3 when I was watching it and I didn't know how to read the word.  My sister was in gr. 5 and says: "It's photosynthesis."

Cut back to the show:

Finally Martin says the answer.

Martin: It's photosynthesis!

Cut back to my basement.  I thought: "S got that one right."

I had questions after watching the Murder pilot, but I wasn't intrigued enough to watch it to get my questions answered.

Gracepoint: This was a mini-series of 10 episodes.

"When a young boy is found dead on an idyllic beach, a major police investigation gets underway in the small California seaside town where the tragedy occurred. Soon deemed a homicide, the case sparks a media frenzy, which throws the boy's family into further turmoil and upends the lives of all of the town's residents."


Pros:

1. The cast: It has big actors like David Tennant (Broadchurch, the original British show that Gracepoint bases this show on) and Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad).  Kevin Zegers (Gossip Girl) and Jessica Lucas (the Melrose Place reboot).

There is good acting from the actors as they find out about the death.

2. A good mystery of: Who killed the boy Danny and why?

Does it have anything to do with Danny's 11 yr old friend Tom (Jack Irvine)?  He deleted messages off cellphone and computer after he heard Danny died.

My opinion: The show was good and all, but I didn't really connect with the characters.  I wasn't intrigued enough to solve the mystery and get my questions answered.

There are only 10 episodes, so if you watch the pilot, you can decided to watch the rest of it.  It won't take too much time.  I watched the pilot and never watched it again.


Constantine: I have seen the 2005 movie with Keanu Reeves.  It was a good supernatural movie.  I would have to rate it as average.


Now here is the TV show:

"A man struggling with his faith is haunted by the sins of his past but is suddenly thrust into the role of defending humanity from the gathering forces of darkness."


Pros:

1. The actor Matt Ryan playing the lead.  He was on Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior.  He is a good actor.  After Constantine got cancelled after 1 season, his character went on to the TV show Arrow for one episode.

2. There is good action and special effects.

My opinion: The show was good and all, but I didn't connect with the characters.

Stalker: It's from CBS and it seems like Criminal Minds from the promos.  I had to check it out:

"A team of detectives investigates stalkers in Los Angeles."


Pros:

1. The actors: You got big names like Maggie Q (star of the TV show Nikita) and Dylan McDermott (from the show Hostages).

It had a good opening with Torrey DeVitto (Dr. Meredith on The Vampire Diaries) with her being attacked.  There is a subplot with the actor Darren Kagasoff from the bad TV show Secret Life of the American Teenager.  He is a good actor.

2. Good writing: The opening scene was really scary as Kate is stuck in her car and she is forced to roll her car down a hill.  It rolls and blows up.

There is another scene where a woman is being attacked in an elevator.

I jumped when there was an attack at the home.

3. The stats: 6 million people are stalked.  1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men.  Celebrity stalking is 10% of all cases.

4. Kind of funny where McDermott's character Jack says: "I watched all stalker movies like Fatal Attraction and Swimfan."

5. I have to give them points because Jack is examining a house: "There's bad feng shui here.  She puts her bed to look at the door in time."  He mentioned feng shui and I'm interested in that.  I'm sure some of you guys are laughing at this part.

6. Good characters like Beth and how she is a strong woman and a good detective.  Jack is stalking his ex-wife and how he was with the Deputy Chief's wife.


My opinion: It was good and all, but I didn't really connect with it.  It only lasted 1 season.

Feb. 26 Mid-season 2016:

Shades of Blue: I saw the pilot and I liked it.  I then recorded all the following episodes to watch it later.  This is a crime- drama.

"The series stars Jennifer Lopez as the main character Harlee Santos, a single-mother NYPD officer, who is forced to work in the FBI's anti-corruption task force, whilst dealing with her own financial problems."


Second Chance: I saw the pilot and I liked it.  I then recorded all the following episodes to watch it later.  This is more of a crime-drama, but with a sci-fi twist to it.

"A billionaire and a bioengineer bring a dead police officer back to life."


Lucifer: I saw the pilot and then I never watched it again.  It's the usual pair -up like Castle.  A unconventional guy teams up with a straight-laced woman cop to solve crime.
 
"Satan takes up residence in Los Angeles."


The X-Files: I saw the reboot of this show.  It's really season 10.  The show came out when I was in elementary school so I was too young for it.  Then when I was 14 yrs old, I saw a few episodes during the summer.  It was average.

I watched the reboot of the show because I am old enough to enjoy it.  There are only 6 episodes too.


The Magicians: I got a free preview of Showcase in Jan.  So I saw the first 2 episodes of this show.  It's good and unpredictable.  I didn't watch it after the 2 eps.  You can go on showcase.ca to watch it.  If you like fantasy and Harry Potter, you'll like this.

"After being recruited to a secretive academy, a group of students discover that the magic they read about as children is very real-and more dangerous than they ever imagined."


DC Legends of Tomorrow: I watched the 2- part pilot.  I knew there was a high chance I was going to watch the pilot and never watch it again.  I was right.  It had all these characters from Arrow and The Flash put together.

"Focuses on time-traveling rogue Rip Hunter, who has to recruit a rag-tag team of heroes and villains to help prevent an apocalypse that could impact not only Earth, but all of time."



The Family: Yesterday I was watching my recorded show Arrow.  There was this promo and I thought it was an ep for Criminal Minds.  Then it turns out it's for this new show on CTV on Wed.:

"A community is rattled when a politician's son, who was presumed murdered years ago, returns home."

I have to watch the pilot.