Tuesday, December 25, 2012


I tried to watch two movies today. Couldn't stand either one. They had the same problem: Failed to make the audience give a damn.

I think movies and stories are all about caring. The reader or audience has to give two hoots and a holler about the story and the characters, who in turn have to care about something that is hugely important to them.

They have to give enough of a damn about something or someone to take a great, huge, scary emotional or physical risk. Otherwise we don't have a story.

Today's movies took two different approaches. "The Stratosphere Girl," is about a 15-year-old budding cartoonist who has a boring life. She needs to get away, and when I watched it, so did I.

It is very hard to show a character who is bored without boring the audience to tears. I lasted about 10 minutes. I probably didn't get to the good part, if there was one.

The other movie, "Sleepless Night," is a French thriller that plunges us into action right away. Two guys are pulling an armed robbery. Guns. Speed. Chase. Shoot-out. Bang-bang. A knife. Slice, cut, blood. Foot chase. Bag of cocaine.

You get the idea. But who cares? Not me. These two guys don't seem to care about anything except the bag of cocaine, which has no emotional resonance for me. For one thing, it is a big fat cliche. (The filmmakers needed a MacGuffin, and that was easy, I guess.)

Later, they show one of these thugs dealing with his teenage son, whom he loves very much. That is supposed to make us care. But it does not. We have already seen him shooting at people. So I am not going to care about him. It's too late.

I look back at my list of favorite movies and realize they all start with the main characters caring about something very much.

"The Godfather" starts with the wedding scene. The old man grants favors on the day his daughter gets married. He has to. He cares about the Sicilian tradition, and about his daughter, and his god-son, and so on. We see his power, and we also see his sense of honor, and his caring.

"Silence of the Lambs" starts with Clarice Starling working out on the FBI obstacle course. She wants to become an agent in the worst possible way. She cares about her work, and about stopping the killer, "Buffalo Bill." She will take any chance, any risk, to get the job done. Her caring makes us care about her.

When you write a story, show that your characters give a damn about something that is so important to them that they will take a huge risk for it. It can be an emotional or physical risk, or both.

You have to care about it, and so do your characters. Otherwise, we won't give two hoots and a pile of horse dung. If they don't care, we won't care. And there goes your story, and quite possibly your career.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle  

Saturday, December 22, 2012


For years I tried to give my novel writing students, both in private workshops and at various colleges, this advice: Don't seek success by imitating some famous writer you admire.

We already have a Dean Koontz, an Elmore Leonard, a Lee Child, a John Grisham. And in most cases one is enough, sometimes more than enough.

Not that you can't learn from them. You can. But you should also learn from the classics, the great literature of the past. I was talking to my friend Harry today, and he said that too many young writers today have not learned from Sophocles and the ancient Greeks, from Shakespeare, Faulkner, Hemingway, or Melville.

It is true. Learn from the masters, but don't try to become them. They did what they did better than anyone. You are not likely to do it better. We don't need another "Short Life Of Francis Macomber" or another "Hamlet."

But what you can do better than anyone is be yourself. Use your own life and experience as material. Faulkner found enough material in Oxford, Mississippi, to become one of the world's great writers.  

If you want to be successful, dig deeply into your soul and your psyche and your experience, and don't be afraid to make a fool of yourself. I had an actor friend who said that was the most important thing. Be vulnerable. Don't try to be strong and tough and famous like someone you admire.

Here is a great little story about how a writer-director-actor named Mark Duplass and his brother made a mistake trying to make a movie like "Rocky": http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/12/09/mark-duplass-on-why-his-sports-movie-was-a-big-mistake.html

They found success by making a short film about one of them trying to perfect the outgoing message on his cell phone's voice mail. It cost $3 to make and launched their careers.

Trying to imitate John Grisham or Sylvester Stallone, I think, is a way to avoid taking chances, and that is not the way to succeed. You have to strike out on your own, find your own material, your own themes, your own stories, and your own voice. 

Being a new quarterback calling your own plays may scare the hell out of you, but that is OK. Sometimes, you gotta throw the long ball, to continue the football metaphor. Even if you're a rookie.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle  

Saturday, September 29, 2012


A new review, of a book I just tried to read:

THE NERUDA CASE – by Roberto Ampuero 
(2012, Riverhead Books, Penguin Group)


I saw this recommended somewhere and tried to read it. But I found it very confusing. At the same time, I started rereading “Seabiscuit” by Laura Hillenbrand and her writing is a thousand times better, more engaging and clearer.

I can’t read this Ampuero stuff. I can’t tell where we are or what is going on. I found the sentences convoluted and confusing from the get-go.

The beginning: 
“What could be bothering the partners of Almagro, Ruggierio & Associates, who had asked him to appear at their headquarters in such a hurry?”

What? Why not just say they called him and they were on the rag? Even the names are boring. The sentence is long and wordy.

I managed to wade through the first chapter, but then I got lost again. Slow, boring and complicated. Not my kind of stuff.

Where did this guy learn to write, in a law firm?

His purpose seems to be to obfuscate. To bore. To cloud the mind.

He's a typical acadmeic. Required to publish, whether his work is any good or not. You might know he teaches at a university and is Chile’s ambassador to Mexico. This writing is sad.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle


Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I love a good thriller. I can't think of one, off hand, but I do love the idea of one.

When I was young, I read one whole Robert Ludlum book, a mechanistic thriller with lots of twists and turns and gut wrenching action. When I got to the end--I stayed up all night to finish it--I was exhausted, wrung out, sweaty and tired in a moral and emotional sense.

Then I found out that I could get the same effect, from another one of Ludlum's novels, by reading the first chapter, then skipping ahead to read one anywhere in the middle, and then reading the last chapter. And guess what. That took a helluva lot less time.

I find most "thrillers" unbearably boring. Lee Child, Dean Koontz, James Patterson, etcetera, etcetera. Most are a big fat snore, to me. 

Here are my notes about Lee Child's novel "Persuader," published in 2003.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The first chapter isn’t bad, a fairly exciting action scene, although it doesn’t make complete sense. The last line of Chapter One is startling and turns the story on its head. It’s great, in a way. The second chapter explains why Jack Reacher was there, and then it gets way too complicated and repetitious for me. A paragraph or two of back-story would suffice. The narrative breaks two of the rules I tell my students: Don’t repeat, and don’t explain. The worst thing you can do is go through the planning of an action with the reader and then go through the action itself. The only time that works is when the action goes horribly wrong.

Here, the novel goes through the action and then through an endless explanation in flashback. It is so very, very boring.

I don’t care about any of this, not the characters, not the story, not the set-up, not the crime family, not the long-lost dead guy. Jack Reacher is a big fat cliché: ex-Army, highly trained with guns, other weapons, blah-blah-blah. Who cares? I ran out of gas on Page 38. I don’t know why anyone would read any farther.

 I tried to go back and finish Ch. 2. I sped-read it and when I finally staggered to the end of the chapter I was exhausted. Done. No more for me. I just didn’t care.

The writer’s main job is to make the reader care about what is going on, about the characters and the story.

The only person I could come close to caring about in this novel was the kid who was “kidnapped” and he was barely there. Just a few sentences, as I recall.

I have this friend Jack, who is a Renaissance man: engineer, avid reader, a graduate of CalTech. A man of many moving parts. I often use him as a literary scout and often read whatever he recommends.
So I called him on the phone to talk about Lee Child and the tough-guy hero Jack Reacher. My question: Why would anyone enjoy this crap?

JACK: It's all psychological. Some people need to feel powerful and even omnipotent, and these narratives feed that need. Like James Bond.

        RA: The second chapter does show that the idiot Jack Reacher is in control. But that does not interest me. I’m more interested in what happens when you let go, when you lose control.
Back to my own notes:

        Another insight: Mediocre writers attract mediocre readers.

        Escapist readers just want to get away from their humdrum lives. That explains why mediocre writers, like Lee Child, attract a lot of readers, who must have boring jobs and boring families and live boring lives. They are probably grinding along in their routines and feel just barely alive. Jack Reacher and his "adventures" must bring them to life. Sort of.

        Child writes in a familiar genre: macho-psycho-stupid fantasy fiction. I don’t care about all that shoot-em-up stuff. Boom-boom, bang-bang, you’re all dead. Who the hell cares?

       But a lot of people do care. I don't begrudge them their escape. But I do wish they liked more depth, more character development, and better writing. Then they might like my stuff. At least that's what I tell myself.

-- Roger
Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle


Monday, September 3, 2012


I've been trying to lose weight, and winning the battle of the bulge. As you know if you've been following this blog.

I started out at 174 lbs on March 28. Today I cracked 160. Am at 159 1/2. So far, so good. Started with a 44-inch waist and am at 40" today, around the middle, the largest part.

The secret is simple: calories. It doesn't matter what you eat, it's how many calories. Twice in the last week, I've had ice cream, probably the most caloric food you can eat. I drink an occasional beer. I had two cookies the other day.

But I don't eat huge plates of food that I don't need. I don't eat ten cookies in one day or eat a quart of ice cream in one sitting.

I try to stay under my baseline, which is 2,000 calories a day. (See my earlier posts.) And I stay active, working out every other day, most of the time -- 30 minutes cardio plus lifting weights. Moderately.

I don't kill myself at working out, and I don't starve myself.

But it's really simple. I didn't read any books, and I didn't join any support groups. I counted calories for a few days and learned how to eat, and how not to eat.

I try to eat foods that are low in fat and low in calories. I cut way down on the olive oil. I almost never eat butter. I eat Go Lean cereal with non-fat milk. I boil my eggs rather than fry them. I eat lean meat, soups, dry toast.

I find all this very satisfying. I often skip the ice cream or other desert. It's more important to me to lose weight. I eat as much as I need, not as much as I want.

Maybe this wouldn't work for everyone, but it sure is working for me.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Friday, August 10, 2012


I saw the new Jason Bourne movie, "The Bourne Legacy,"  on its opening day, Friday, Aug. 10, and I was sorry. 

What a load of hokum. All razzle-dazzle with no real story, no character development, no real movie. It's as if they spliced a lot of action sequences together with transition scenes that don't make any sense.

Some of the action sequences seem great until you think about them. I kept thinking to myself, over and over, Why are the characters doing this? What does this mean? And, most often, Huh?

Why is our hero in the Alaska wilderness? It's a training area. Is this a training exercise? No, that would make too much sense. Wait, he's not supposed to be there. But then why is he there? 

The black ops agency is killing its own people? Why is that? It makes absolutely no sense.

How does our hero find the hot scientist babe? If the bad guys are there to kill her, why don't they just go ahead and kill her? Why try to fool her first? Or are they really trying to fool the audience? Ya think?

Our hero and the hot babe are on the run--a mad, scrambling, crazy run--away from the government bad guys (the government is always the enemy in these movies, for some reason) and they just happen to have a laptop computer with them? Huh? WTF? How did that happen?

(This movie treats the audience like morons, in the same way the black ops agency treats its field agents like morons.)

Wait, our hero had a low IQ, and now he's brilliant? How in hell does that work? Where do we get that pill?

What is all this hokum about a virus and, I guess, genetic engineering? The movie has some 'splainin' to do.

Most of it is confusing, silly and pointless. I did like a few scenes, and I do like going to the movies. But Lord, this is a load of crap.

Check your brain at the door. And don't ask too many questions.

These Bourne movies have gotten worse each time. The first one is pretty good, one of my favorite action films. Then they go downhill. Why is that? I think these movies are made to be stupid, for a younger and dumber audience. For an audience that is incapable of critical thinking. 

In Hollywood, big dollars don't go with high IQs. The big studios, which have big bucks to invest in a blockbuster movie, don't care about intelligence or quality. They care about one thing: money.

So the movies get bigger and dumber. And so do the audiences. Hooray.

Welcome to the Big Brainless Blockbuster.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I'm about three quarters of the way through James Lee Burke's well written and mostly entertaining novel "Purple Cane Road." But on Page 288, it's losing me.

It has gotten too complicated, and it's focusing on things I no longer care about. It's hard to spend so much time with low-lifes--criminals, psychopaths, pimps, hookers, hit-men, corrupt cops. 

The main character, Dave Robicheaux, is focused too much on the past. I don't care who killed his mother. Burke has not managed to interest me in that through-line.

Dave feels sorry for himself. Oh, poor me, my mother was a cleaning woman for hookers, and my father was a drunk who liked to fight in bars. OK, so Dave was born poor white trash. We all have our problems, get over it.

As the famous hard-boiled novelist Mickey Spillane said, "No one ever read a novel to get to the middle." But what pulls you along, usually, are dramatic questions (Did Hamlet's uncle kill his father? What is Hamlet going to do about it?) and concern for the fate of the character. (How will this affect Hamlet's life?)

In "Purple Cane Road," the dramatic questions I see are four: Will Letty Labiche be executed by the state for killing her molester? Will Dave find out who killed his mother and why? Is the sexy female attorney general corrupt? Will Dave's wife's past destroy their marriage?

Frankly, at this point, I don't care about any of that. Maybe I should, but I don't.

Maybe there are too many story questions. Maybe these story questions are not momentous enough. Maybe they are not matters of life and death. Maybe not vital to Dave's future. I don't know. Anyway, I am giving up, at least for now. Still, the writing is great.  

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


I have been re-reading James Lee Burke's novel "Purple Cane Road" and I do love it. My buddy Adam asked me why I like it so much. Here is my answer:

I love "Purple Cane Road" for everything: mostly the incredible richness and complexity of it. It would take me years to write a novel like that, with several through-lines (which seem obscure at times); with so many weird, quirky, unforgettable characters; with a single narrative voice, but with multiple points of view, including first, third and omniscient, all in one unified story; lush descriptions of a fascinating place; wild, driven, original action scenes; ambiguous concepts of good and evil.

Whew. It is a big mother of a crime novel. If you like to get lost in a novel and live in that world, this will do it, at least for me.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Monday, July 30, 2012


I watched "Blade Runner" again last night, for the four-hundredth time.

I love this movie; it’s on my list of all-time greats. I always get completely caught up in the experience of it, the look, the feel, the music, the story, the unforgettable characters. It transports me completely.

I love the ‘40s film noir atmosphere combined with the futuristic man-has-spoiled-the-planet setting; the way the story proceeds from clue to clue; the way the replicants’ actions mirror the humans’ actions (the replicants follow clues, too; when Deckard has trouble with his right hand, so does Roy the replicant); and the theme, that the humanoid machines are “more human than human.” They are more human than many of the humans in the movie. And many in real life.

I love this movie partly because it is about something. Not having a theme is the great failing of most mystery/thrillers, whether movies or books. For example, the latest Oliver Stone movie "Savages" ultimately fails as a story because it is not about anything. It's only purpose is to keep jacking up the audience until the final credits roll.

The classic mainstream thrillers "Presumed Innocent" and "Gorky Park" are unsatisfying because they lack themes. So are most mysteries and thrillers. Weirdly enough, the Stieg Larsson thrillers are about something: neo-Nazis and the denigration of women.

"Blade Runner" is from a novel by Philip K. Dick, "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep." So it is a well-worked-out story and not just a quickie script hacked out in Hollywood. Philip K. Dick had literary and artistic ambitions and sensibilities, which usually produce better stories than those with merely commercial intentions.

Last night, I watched the theatrical version, which I prefer to all the other cuts. I will watch the so-called director's cut and the final cut again and again, no doubt. (I bought them all, in a boxed set through Amazon, on sale, a good deal.)

Here are ten (or eleven) more movies that I love: 

  5. ALIEN
  10. THE TERMINATOR (1 & 2)
I love these movies. They are almost as much fun as movies were when I was a kid. I'm always looking to get back to that experience of being transported to a world that is more exciting and more satisfying than than the one in which we all live.

-- Roger
Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Sunday, July 29, 2012


I'm reading the very long profile of Bruce Stringbean in The New Yorker. Ooops. Er, Bruce Springsteen.

I have no clue as to why Bruce is so popular. He seems like an overgrown Jersey street kid, and his music seems a bit brainless to me. I'm suspicious of anyone who is that popular. Like most bestsellers, most pop music is disposable junk, it seems to me.

"Born In The USA" makes me sing "Bored in the USA." Sure, the lyrics are the opposite of a cheer for the USA. I find that mildly interesting. A lot of his music has a driving beat that is enough to give you a headache, and the sound seems thin and tinny to me. I find it hard to like.

Not being all that familiar with his music, today I watched a video on YouTube:

I still don't get his popularity. Bruce seems like the kind of guy you'd meet in a bar on Saturday night, and he'd try to steal your girl and want to get in a fight.

I like a lot of people better: Fiona Apple, Bob Marley, Leonard Cohen, Irma Thomas, Eminem, The Eagles, Amy Winehouse, Guns N Roses, Nina Simone, Roy Orbison. I could go on.

Am I missing something here? If so, what? Why is Bruce a big deal?

Maybe it is all a matter of taste. And as the old saying goes, there is no arguing with taste.

-- Roger
Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Saturday, July 28, 2012


I tried to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics on Friday, July 27, 2012. 

What a snore.

What were they thinking? Phony green hills covered with sod. Hundreds of people milling around. Stupid dialogue. What was the point?

The show seemed to depict the history of the British Isles. I quit during the Industrial Revolution. Giant chimneys spouting what appeared to be life-killing smoke. The show had nothing to do with athletics or competition.

It was the least creative, most boring spectacle I have ever seen.

An Olympic snore.

If their goal was to put people to sleep and get people to tune out, it worked. I switched to baseball and then watched a movie and then went to sleep.

-- Roger

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I went to a theater last Saturday to see the new Oliver Stone movie "Savages." God knows why. I had a free ticket and a buddy wanted to go. And I got caught up in the hype and it sounded like fun. 

I hadn't been to a theater in a long time, maybe two years. It was a pleasure to see the big screen.

But the sole purpose of the movie seemed to be to jack up the audience and keep us on the edge of our seats. The young people in the audience laughed and cheered in all the right places. Oliver Stone seems to know these people.

But as they were cheering, I was thinking, what a load of crap. To me, any piece of writing or film making--any storytelling--should be after some kind of truth about life or the world or some insight into the human condition. "Savages" doesn't give a damn about truth or the human condition.

Here are my notes, written after I got home:

"SAVAGES" -- July 07, 2012  

Razzle-dazzle BS. Looks good, but shallow and superficial. I didn't believe most of the characters. I sure didn't believe the blonde girl. Sure, she loves both these guys. Yeah, right. Taylor Kitsch is excellent, in spite of his schmaltzy name. The story seems designed to jack up the audience rather than to reveal anything about human nature. No insight here. Cheap storytelling. Nice setting. Overall: C plus.

## (More notes written later:)

Obviously from a really crappy novel. It is too bad that this is what the culture rewards. As Ezra Pound once wrote, “In the end the age was handed / the sort of shit that it demanded.” 

This movie has way more dazzle than depth.

When they do go for depth, it’s cheap pop psychology: These guys love each other more than they love you, that’s why they can share you. Yeah, right.

People judge these movies on how well they jack up the audience, not on whether they jack up the audience.

The blonde is screwing both guys, right, but why? To excite the audience, not because it’s something the character would do. She’s a poor little rich girl who is financially spoiled and emotionally deprived, so her natural inclination is to place herself in an even more insecure emotional situation? Right. Sure. What a load of crap.

And her name is ”O,” like orgasm, which stands for Ophelia. What crap. Again, just to jack up the audience.

The opening scene is “O” screwing the tough guy. Yeah, right. Then the other guy comes home and she does him, too, right? Oh, isn’t that the way we all want to live, or fantasize that other people live? No, we don’t. I don't. Looks like emotional chaos to me.

This is typical of a certain kind of mystery/thriller, where the object is to goose the audience till they are silly. This crap makes a lot of money, so there are dozens, even hundreds, of cheap writers competing with each other, not to see who can write the best novel, but to see who can jack up the audience with more cheap thrills.

These novels don’t mean a thing. It’s like Flannery O'Connor said, “There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”

This one should have been prevented.  

However, there is lots of good acting here. Benicia del Toro is great, as usual. Too bad all that talent is used just to jack up the audience.

I didn’t believe most of the characters, including Salma Hayek, although her acting is good. There is just not much character there. Nor did I believe John Travolta. Such shallow, clichéd characters are not engaging.

I am so-o-o-o-o tired of former Navy SEALs as tough guys. They are the standard macho muscle heads now, in schlock movies and pulp novels. Or some other special ops. Yargh. Please, God, no more Navy SEALs.

-- Roger
Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Thursday, June 14, 2012


As you may know, I am a writer, and for many years I tried to make a living writing novels. Came close, but no cigar. Oh, well.

My theory was that if you wrote well enough, and put out engaging and meaningful stories, you might have a chance.

But now I see a society overwhelmed with stories, a popular culture that has a glut of narrative.

Today, the LA Times has a section called "The Envelope" which is full of stories and ads about TV dramas. Lordy, there are a million of them, or so it seems. I counted ads for 24 dramatic TV series. And that doesn't count the 300-400 movies that come out every year, plus thousands of novels and nonfiction books. Some 180,000 books are published in the USA annually, according to some estimates.

How does a writer compete in this environment? It's like prescribing drugs to a society that is already over-medicated.

Here, folks, is yet another story. Why should anyone care? Because mine has more depth and better writing? Do people honestly give a big hairy rat's derriere?

I wonder. I used to believe that if you wrote well enough, you could float the pages out the window, and they would find an audience.

Ha! It is a lot more complicated than that. It involves agents and editors and corporate conglomerates. Most of what is published, at least in fiction, seems less than stellar. How do you compete against bestselling literary junk food?

I don't know, but I will keep at it--because this is what I seem wired to do, and this is what I want to do--and we shall see what happens.

My philosophy has always been simple: Go after what you want in life. If you don't, you know you aren't going to get it. If you do, at least you have a fighting chance.

Wish me luck. I will surely need it. Big time.

Meanwhile, I have to say I do love it. Win or lose.

- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I was appalled the other day to read this opening line of an article in the June 3, 2012, issue of Los Angeles Times Magazine:

"The world is obsessed with Blake Lively."

Really? Who the hell is Blake Lively? I never heard of it or him or her.

The article's headline is "Blake Lively." Then the teaser lines say she is "at the center of Oliver Stone's crime thriller Savages." I never heard of it either.

I hate this kind of journalistic crap.

How are we supposed to believe anything in this article? Why would anyone read further? I didn't, and I won't.

I tried to find an e-mail address for the bylined writer, Leslie Gornstein, but couldn't find one. I was going to gently and politely point out that she is a purveyor of journalistic bullsh**. Of course, it could be that her editor added that stupid line. Such things happen.

You can see why some people have lost respect for newspapers and magazines.

I have to point out that the news pages of the LA Times are enormously more respectable than those of this cheesy magazine. And there are still great newspapers and magazines out there. I rely on The New Yorker and The New York Times. The latter's weekly magazine is good, I think.

The problem is that a lot of people have no quick and easy guide to what is junk journalism and what is reliable.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Good article about mediocrity, which is everywhere in the good old USA:


People are afraid to be too creative, too original, too inventive, at least in culture and the arts. It's OK to be bad, if you are bad like everyone else.

The same thing is true in popular and not-so-popular literature. Most fiction in the USA today is unbearable crap. But few venture outside the norms.

This is true of all kinds of fiction, from so-called literary fiction, which is not usually very literary at all, to the most blatant of genres, mystery fiction.

The famous mystery writer Raymond Chandler said, toward the end of his career, “As I look back on my own stories it would be absurd if I did not wish they had been better. But if they had been much better they would not have been published.”

Maybe this also accounts for the preponderance of crap in the art world.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I was thinking today about the worst boss I ever had. He was controlling, no trust, no confidence in anyone but himself. No respect for anyone. He was the opposite of a good manager.

The famous manager and management guru Jack Welch famously said that being a manager is like being a gardener. Your job is to water the flowers and get rid of the weeds.

My old boss, Brian, was just the opposite. He treated everyone like weeds. He treated everyone like dirt. He didn't trust anyone. Everyone who worked there was physically sick. All 15 people separately and individually woke up at 4:00 in the morning with diarrhea. When it started to happen to me, I quit. Told him to go make whoopee with himself, only not in those words.

A terrible gardener. A black thumb. I hope he is broke and poor and miserable somewhere. Maybe even in jail. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.  

I don't know if other people wish their bad bosses would burn in hell. I sure do.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Blew it today. Caught out running errands and got way, way, way too hungry, all of a sudden, like I do.

So I ate a two Nature Valley granola bars. Big mistake. They only hold me about 20 minutes. Too high in carbohydrates and low in protein. And those little bucker-muckers loaded me up with 380 calories!

So then, cuz I had to have more protein, I drank a Bolthouse Farms protein shake. Wow, that was great, tasty and filling, and I am still full, two and a half hours later. Yes! That's what I'm talkin' about.

So it makes a big diff what you slug down yo mouth, children.

So far, I've gobbled up 1840 calories, and it's only 5:30 p.m. (or 1730 hrs), but that total would be 1460 calories without those stupid granola bars.

Let that be a lesson to you, Lard Belly. Yessir. (I salute.)

Now there is almost no way to lose weight today. I will need to chomp something around 7:00 p.m. Oh, well.

The struggle goes on. Maybe I'll have a beer. Hump it.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle


Some foods make me hungry.

Carbs, for example. If I eat a whole-wheat flour tortilla, with hummus and hot sauce--I scarfed up two last night--in about half an hour I get hungry for another one. Carbs beget carbs. If I wait a little bit longer, I go starving crazy out of my mind.

Hell, that's 250 calories. I want it to last two and a half hours. But it doesn't. Why is that? Who the hell knows? Has something to do with food chemistry, I think.

Same thing is true of sweets. If I start eating chocolate covered almonds, pretty soon I am in there on my hands and knees, like a beggar or a supplicant, grubbing away, like a man in love. It's embarrassing.

But this morning at 6:00 a.m. (0600) I ate one tomato, about 35 calories, and I did not get hungry for an hour and a half. That is a good ratio of time to calories consumed. At that rate, I can win this battle of the bulge.

When I got hungry, about 7:30 a.m. (0730, if you prefer), I decided to splurge on calories and eat a banana with peanut butter. Yum. But oh is that fat city, in both ways: 300 calories.

(I estimate calories, using a book or counter. Here is one:
There are lots of these on the Web.)

It is now 8:45 or 0845, and I've gobbled up 350 calories or so. That is probably a little higher than I want, so I'll see if I can slow down the calorie intake. Am drinking green tea with no sugar, and it tastes great, thank the Lard (sic). So that is workin' for me.

Let's see how the day goes. Worked out yesterday, 40 minutes, level "B." Pretty vigorous, but not exhaustive. Will try to move around a lot today, keep the flab moving. Flab in motion tends to stay in motion. Ha!

Am thinking about buying a get-skinny book. Never done that before. I'll let you know. "The Mayo Clinic Diet" looks good online. Hmmm. Maybe. (Mayo does not stand for Mayonnaise, BTW.)

When I started this, on March 28, I weighed 174 at my doctors office. Lost five tons ... ooops, sorry, five pounds ... in ten days, but now am holding at 170. Not so good. My goal: 155.

More later, as the saga of the sag continues. Wish me luck.

-- Fat Roger, a.k.a. Lard Belly

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Monday, May 28, 2012


The most popular books in the USA are two kinds: cook books and weight-loss books.

Ironic, huh? We fatten up and then try to slim down.

Turns out that losing weight is the simplest thing in the world. Calories. That is all it is.

My baseline is 2,000 calories a day. If I consume less, I lose weight. If I consume more, I get fat.

Simple. Here is a good way to figure yours:

I can break it down by the hour. If I eat 100 calories an hour, for 16 waking hours, I lose weight. If I eat 200 calories an hour, for ten hours, I maintain my current weight. If I consume 3,000 calories a day, as I used to, I go chow-chow, baby, chub-chub, and become a bigger lard-belly.

For me, the best thing is to aim for about 150 calories an hour, for 12 hours. I tend not to get so hungry at night.

I need to keep something in my belly, otherwise I get too hungry and overeat. Some foods are higher in fiber, protein and healthy fat than others. Those work the best: Try Kashi Go Lean cereal with non-fat milk. Low-fat cheese. Whole wheat bread and tortillas. Tacos not burritos. Salads of course, with non-fat dressing. Fruits and veggies. Lean meat: chicken, fish, low-fat beef.

Foods to avoid: Ice cream is the worst. It never fills you up and it makes you want more and more. Caloric? Don't ask. Chips are bad. So are whole milk and cheese.

A little beer is OK. It's non-fat. No, really. It ranges from 150 to 200 calories per 12 oz. That isn't bad, if you don't eat cheeseburgers and fries along with it.

Good luck. People like Dr. Horse's Butt Phil on TV make millions by suckering people into buying their weight-loss books. Don't do it. Just count those calories. Keep it simple. And low-cal. You will lose weight. I guarantee it. It's up to you, not Dr. Phil.

Of course, if you exercise at all, you are ahead of the game.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I noticed in the L.A. Times today --
 -- a rock star who calls himself Slash.

Really? Slash? 

So, in honor of that, I am going to add another name to my roster.

What  shall I call myself? Dash? Crash? Flash? Splash? How about Flush? As in Royal Flush?

OK, from now on, just call me Flush.

Just don't push the handle.

-- Roger

a.k.a. Flush, a.k.a. Royal Flush, a.k.a. Eternal Zen Master

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I'm rewriting an old unfinished novel called THE PAINTED SUN.

What I usually do, when I start a novel, is begin with the voice of a narrator in my head, or an image, or a character, without knowing where I am going. It's a matter of exploration, following the characters, letting the voice lead the way. But sometimes, too often, no story emerges.

With "The Painted Sun," I started with a man in real life, a guy who lived across the way in back, on the next street. I could see him from my deck, over the tops of two garages. He looked about 60, and was lean and muscular, unusually fit for a man his age. No fat on him.

Gray hair, a thick mat of curly hair on his chest. He would come out onto his second-floor balcony and look around, shirt off, like a man who was under house arrest, or waiting for something, or someone. He wore well-cut gray slacks. Not a bum.

He never seemed to go anywhere, and I never saw anyone come to visit him. So of course my fantasy was that he was a retired hit-man waiting for his next job.

I didn't want to meet him, didn't want to know anything about his real life. It would spoil my fantasy.

So anyway, as novels do, this character evolved into an old horse trainer from Kansas, who was looking for his daughter who had run away ten years ago, when she was 16.

I followed the character and I guess you could say he led me astray. He comes to L.A. and meets a young woman who moves in next door. Her boyfriend beats her up and my guy rescues her and leaves the boyfriend with a broken arm.

What did this have to do with the daughter? Well, nothing. An interesting beginning, but leading nowhere. There was no story. He finds out the daughter went to Mexico with a rich racehorse owner who lives on a big ranch. Here I used a true story, told me by a friend, about an American girl who lives a racy and risky life on a big rancho.

But this novel of mine wasn't working. I wrote about 200 pages and found myself down a dead-end street with no action in sight. No consequences. No causal chain. No theme. What was this novel about? Who the hell knew?

I still like the main characters, so I'm trying to stir up a new pot of stew and see if I can create a situation or story problem or dilemma that will come alive again and lead me somewhere interesting.

I have some ideas, and I have the feeling these characters are out there somewhere, and they are breathing, and waiting, chomping at the bit, waiting for the story to come along and sweep them away. Waiting for their next job.

Kind of like that old man on the balcony.

Wish me luck.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


One of my favorite quotes:


“Somewhere there is a samurai warrior who is young and smart and strong. He trains every day. He gets up early, he eats right, he works on his technique, and he cuts bamboo trees with his sword until he can slice pieces in mid-air. One day, you will meet him in battle. Do you really want to be unprepared?” -- Unknown

That touches my heart, for some reason, I don't know why. Perhaps it has something to do with a person's attitude toward life. In my experience, you are either up and at 'em, or you are dead inside, and might as well be dead outside, too.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I recently finished reading Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian" for the third or fourth time, and it was completely different this time.

I had always assumed that it was totally fiction, a fantasy of violence, bloodshed and depravity that showed what lies deeply buried in our psyche, in our unconscious mind.

It never occurred to me that it might be true, heaven forbid, but it is. As I read through the book itself, I also read "Notes On 'Blood Meridian'."

My God. Glanton and his gang really did most of these horrible things. Endless depravity and cruelty for no reason. In one scene, to take a small example, a man is trying to sell two puppies, and the Judge buys them, then throws into a violent, swirling river.

As the puppies surface in a calm pool below a dam, another member of Glanton's gang pulls out his pistol and shoots them, for no other reason than sport.

Children get murdered, for no reason. The buffalo get slaughtered, by the millions, and the meat left to rot on the plains.

How inhuman it all is. Disgusting.

It's one thing to assume this is all fantasy, and another to realize that most of this stuff really happened.

There is a grim kind of gallows humor to much of it, but finally it sinks into a cauldron of bloodshed.

I don't think I'll ever be able to read it again.

And I take back my recommendation.

Don't read it, unless you have a very strong stomach.

Or read it as a fantasy. I wish it wasn't true.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I am reading Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian" again, for the third or fourth time. It is an amazing experience.

On one level, the novel is a wild hairy adventure story like no other. I reminds me of "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville, in scope, in effect, and in its multiple layers.

On another level, it is a journey into the unconscious, and it reminds me of paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, the German painter. "Blood Meridian" is a phantasmagoria of violence. I doubt if anyone has nightmares as vivid or as horrific.

At one point, one of the characters describes this band of killers as men of good heart. My God, how bloodthirsty they are. How could they be of good heart?

Their leader, John Glanton, is a brave man, a decisive and competent leader, admirable in some ways. Yet you've never met a more enthusiastic butcher of men. And women. In some ways, he is heroic, in others a devil revelling in hell.

Michael Herr, in a cover blurb, says the novel is about "regeneration through violence." I don't know if I'd put it that way. But there is a sense of redemption about all this, and I don't quite know why or how that works.

The novel is Biblical in scope, in tone, and in its use of language. It is a hot steamy cauldron of meaning and image and language, horrid and profound and wonderful.

Its technique is almost all narrative. That is, we are told the story, and the events are related mostly rather than rendered. It is an unusual mode. But it works well. We are lulled to sleep in this dream. It won't remind you of any crappy bestseller I have ever tried to read.

There is tremendous energy and invention in the language and seemingly in the events, although "Notes On 'Blood Meridian'" by John Sepich claims that "Blood Meridian" is an historical novel, taken largely from "My Confessions" by the decorated Union Army General Samuel Chamberlain, and from other historical sources.

Sepich says that the exploits of Glanton and his band are presented "with remarkable fidelity." In other words, Cormac McCarthy seems to have used history as a template or an outline, a basis for his creation. Perhaps in much the same way Melville used his experiences on whaling ships as a basis for his novel.

"Blood Meridian" is, in my opinion and that of others, the greatest American novel written by a living writer. It ranks right up there with Faulkner and Melville. Perhaps even Shakespeare.

I recommend it highly.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Monday, March 19, 2012


I made a big deal in December about not finding motivation for my work.

Well, that is over now. Recently, I have been not only highly motivated but almost obsessed. That is how you have to be to get any real writing done, at least for me.

I've been working like a fiend on my current novel, "The Prince of Newport," and on a long short story, "Alien Love," and on a memoir, which I am writing under a pen name, for legal reasons. More on all those later. I have five current projects and almost a dozen others in the works. Wish me luck.

Anyway, I made a big stink about not wanting to do it. Now I don't want to do anything else.

And that, for a writer, is a good problem to have.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle


The other day, I had a hankering to read some intelligent literary criticism. Maybe gain some insight into my favorite writers, to enhance the quality of my favorite pastime, reading.

So I got from the L.A. Public Library a book by the noted and widely published critic Harold Bloom: "How To Read And Why." OK, sounds instructive. Perhaps a bit arrogant. But we can forgive that, can't we?

So I waded through as much of it as I could. Turns out, it's mostly bloviating, the over-done expansion of one's own opinions.

Let me give you one example: He says that "Crime And Punishment" by Dostoevsky, "remains the best of all murder stories...."

Yeah, right. That might be true if it wasn't so damn BORING.

I got about 90 pages into this famous Russian novel, as I recall from many years ago, and, after the killing of the old lady, a distant cousin of Raskolnikov comes riding into town on a train. What possible relevance could this have? None that I could see. The story comes to a screeching halt.

The book is a chore and a snooze, in my opinion. Reminds me of "Lolita," the book that made Vladimir Nabokov famous and rich, not a bad thing for a writer. Trouble is, most of it is boring, too. There is a long travelog that is soporific at best. And the seduction scene has the wind taken out of it by the way the girl actually seduces the old lecher. He wants her and he wants her, and she was easy all along. What a let-down.

Oh, but far be it from me to even have opinions here, since I am not a famous literary critic. Of course, my lowly status means nothing to me, as it probably means little or nothing to others who feel they have a right to their own opinions.

I do agree with Harold Bloom that "As I Lay Dying" is Faulkner's greatest novel and that "Blood Meridian," by Cormac McCarthy, is the best novel published in America since WWII.

I also agree with him that the main characteristic of great literature is originality. That is what is so bad about modern thriller and mystery novels: There are two or three hundred talentless hacks writing and rewriting the same two or three books, over and over again, ad nauseam.

At least the big Bloomer and I have some agreements. But I have to keep looking to find a literary critic to enjoy. Next on my list: Philip Stevick, with whom I used to correspond. I loved his work and found it enriching. We'll see how he holds up after all these years. More on that TK (to come, in news jargon). Note: Well, I did find a couple of his books at the library, and they were a snooze, too, sorry to say. Too academic for me.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Friday, February 17, 2012


Today, I had the most amazing experience. I tried to appreciate a widely praised writer whose work I thought was boring, tedious and a waste of time.

Of course, this is not the first time this has happened.

The writer's name is Nathan Englander. He is widely praised in the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/books/review/nathan-englanders-new-collection.html?nl=books&emc=booksupdateema2

And he has his own page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_tc_2_0?rh=i%3Astripbooks%2Ck%3ANathan+Englander&keywords=Nathan+Englander&ie=UTF8&qid=1329527210&sr=1-2-ent&field-contributor_id=B001IGFL5O

I managed to struggle through one story, "The Twenty-seventh Man," the first one in a collection called "For the Relief of Unbearable Urges."

This story is about 27 Jewish writers who are rounded up by Stalin in the 1940s and taken to a prison to be held overnight and then shot to death the next morning. The story is tedious and long and predictable and drawn out and boring. Basically, it's a shaggy-dog story. There are no suprises here, no insights into human nature.

The only thing I can figure out is that those critics who rave about Englander's work are responding to the theme, the message, rather than the experience of reading. They are applauding a sermon.

Yes, it is terrible that these Jews are rounded up to be killed. But we know this already. We know there have been atrocities against the Jews, among many other peoples, over the centuries. We don't have to be told, again, that these atrocities are bad.

There is an old rule about writing: Tell them something new, that they don't already know, or tell them something old in a new way.

This story is neither one. It's something old, that we already know, told in an old way.

I don't think this is a matter of taste. I think it's a matter of applauding the sermon. But a work of art should be more than a sermon. It should be better than that. It should be more complex, more aesthetic in nature, more ambiguous, not just a message. It should have elements of poetry, meanings that are not easy to define.

This story is overwhelmed by its meaning. The message outweighs the art. It is too ponderous and heavy and dull to be a work of art.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Monday, February 6, 2012


I saw that Ron Artest, a rough-and-tumble professional basketball player, has changed his name to Metta World Peace.

A year or two ago, Ron Artest got into a hell of fight during a game and the fight went up into the stands. It was something to see:

Now he has a new name, Metta World Peace. And that is--if you can believe this--what the announcers call him on TV these days (he plays for the Lakers): "Metta World Peace takes the rebound ... Metta World Peace makes the shot ... Metta World Peace sets the pick ..." Etc., etc.

OK, OK, OK. I don't know if Ron Artest is trying to change his image or his nature. Or both. I guess he is trying not to be a thug any more. Change your name and your image. Why not?

I think I will change my name to Eternal Zen Master. That is on top of numerous joke aliases I have with my friends.

From now on, just call me Zen for short. Peace be with you, ya'll.

-- Roger, Eternal Zen Master

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Sunday, February 5, 2012


I watched the Super Bowl today -- the whole game -- and it was a blast.

I take back all the bad things I said about it being boring.

And my team won. Hurray! I ended up rooting for the Giants, and it was a real cliffhanger.

It is weird how the game usually comes down to a few key plays. A dropped pass, a near-interception. I guess that is what makes it so exciting. You never know what is going to happen.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


The most boring football game of the season is coming, the Stupor Bowl.

Ooops. The Super Bowl. Sorry. ;-)

I don't know why the last game of the season is often so dull. Maybe I'm just footballed out. Maybe the players work so hard to get there that the game itself is a letdown. Maybe they have nothing more to prove. Maybe the pre-game hype wears me out.

A friend of mine, KN, thinks it is the biggest game of the season. Of course, he doesn't start watching till the playoffs.

I disagree. I think the best games are early in the season, when the guys are fresh, not so beat up, and new guys are trying to make the teams.

It has been exciting to see new players come into the NFL and establish themselves. Players like Victor Cruz and Jimmy Graham.

Watching them reach their potential is a blast.

Some of the best teams are out by now. New Orleans. The Forty-Niners. I used to be a huge Niners fan back in the days of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. I even had a game I taped, and I would watch it over and over again in the summer.

It is great to see the Niners back. I had hoped the two Harbaugh brothers would be facing each other in the Super Bowl. That would have been fun.

But oh, well. I'll watch the Stupor Bowl. It may be a good game, although I doubt it. You never know.

I look forward to next season. Maybe I'll go watch some of the teams in summer camp. That would be fun. I saw the 49ers one summer, years ago. That was a blast. Jerry Rice seemed to be made out of steel springs.

Usually, the Super Bowl is anticlimactic. But I hope it proves me wrong. Go, Niners. Oooops.

Do I care who wins? Not really. I like Tom Brady and the Patriots. But I also like those Manning brothers. Now Eli is carrying the family torch. So I could root for the Giants. We'll see. I just hope the game isn't boring.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle


I have found a new way to enjoy "Hawaii Five-O." I have finally realized that it is a comic book, a live cartoon. It's a lot more fun if you realize it isn't realistic.

Trouble is, sometimes it is realistic. It's a mix of silliness and believable cop drama. Oh, well. I have decided to just enjoy it as a cartoon.

So what if Steve doesn't know how to rappel or how to climb a rope and Danny doesn't know how to belay?

So what if the plots are full of holes?

So what if the whole Wo Fat story-line is way too far over the top?

So what if a bad guy parachutes out of an airplane for no good reason?

So what if another bad guy steals the cops' hot Camaro, making our heroes look like fools?

Who cares? Don't think too much, just have fun. Enjoy the surf and sea and sand and hot cars and hot babes and sometimes mindless action. That's my new motto.

So far, so good. We'll see how long that lasts.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Saturday, January 28, 2012


I hate to admit it, but I am a big fan of pop culture. Pop fiction. Pop movies. Pop TV shows. When they make sense. When they have a brain. The trouble with most of them is that they are mixed bags. Partly fun and partly dumb.

I recently watched the entire first season of Hawaii Five-O, and it gets progressively more stupid and less believable as it goes on. Who is this series for? I can't figure out their demographic, i.e., their target audience.


At the end of Season One, Steve McGarrett, our ex-Navy SEAL hero -- Can anyone be more heroic than that? Especially now? -- suspects that the governor, who hired him and set him up to lead Five-O, has had her assistant killed, and that the assistant, a lovely woman who likes one of his cops, was sending Steve evidence from his late father's case, evidence that could lead Steve to his father's killer.

Yes, it is very convoluted and not very believable. I presume the point is to keep us jacked up, to keep us in suspense. But it doesn't work that way for me. I start laughing when it gets too ridiculous.

How does Wo Fat (the big bad guy) know McGarrett is there? What is Wo Fat doing in the governor's mansion? Does he live there? It doesn't make any sense. He just shows up, out of the blue, or out of the night, and zaps Steve with a taser, knocks him him, picks up his gun and shoots the governor, then puts the gun in Steve's hand, presumably so Steve's fingerprints will be on the gun.

But wait. Isn't Steve wearing gloves? How is it that Steve doesn't hear Wo Fat come in or sense his presence? Isn't Steve highly trained? The scene has McGarrett stupid and vulnerable for the sake of the plot.

So the story doesn't work on its own terms. I don't know if I can keep watching. It is so hard to find movies and TV shows that are not idiotic. Maybe I'll keep watching. If I can.

Today, I'm trying to watch the next episode, where Steve is in prison, and the guards conspire to let in his father's killer, who tries to kill Steve.

Wait! Say what? How the hell did that happen?

I wouldn't say the show is stupid, but it does assume that the audience is not going to question its credibility, that the audience is going to be exceptionally gullible.

I think I'm going to call it "GULLIBLE'S TRAVELS." 

For me, the lack of believability takes the fun out of it.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle