product placement

Another MCU? Really?

As you may have heard, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, which was released a week ago, has already grossed more than half a billion dollars. Over breakfast, my wife remarked that Hollywood executives should take the hint and start making more smart, original movies aimed at women. But a couple hours later, she sent me a link to this Variety article suggesting the execs are going with a very different takeaway:

In 2018, after a tumultuous period of declining toy sales, Mattel brought in a new CEO, businessman Ynon Kreiz, who had a vision to turn the storied toy company into an IP-driven machine, essentially creating a Mattel cinematic universe. Now, with the immense success of “Barbie,” the path is clear for Mattel to make whatever they want… With dozens of children’s toys on their film slate, 14 Mattel properties are in active development, including “Barney,” “Polly Pocket,” “Thomas and Friends” and “American Girl.”

If you’re familiar with the origin stories of any of my novels, you know I’m a big fan of the creative non sequitur. But even by my standards, “Barbie‘s success means there’s a market for an UNO movie” seems like a stretch.

Lisa and I did have fun going through the list of toy-related projects and speculating about which, if any, might actually make good films. If I were forced to bet, I’d put my money on Polly Pocket, not because it’s another doll movie but because Lena Dunham is attached as both writer and director, and she knows how to tell a story. J.J. Abrams’ Hot Wheels will no doubt look great and have plenty of lens flares, but without knowing the screenwriter’s name I can’t make a better prediction. Magic 8 Ball might work as a Blumhouse microbudget horror flick, but I doubt Mattel would sign off on that. As for the UNO movie, that would be my pick for least promising idea if the list didn’t also include View-Master.

That said, I do love a challenge, and I have a knack for making oddball story concepts work. So once the WGA strike is settled, if Mattel wants to hire me to write a treatment for a Scrabble trilogy, I’d be happy to take the call.

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What to buy with all that money you’ll be saving on healthcare now

It’s called the JetLev. It’s a water jetpack — the thruster unit is connect to a trailing “boat unit” that sucks up water and pumps it through a flexible hose (which doubles as a tether to keep you from flying too high):

Price tag: Between 115,000 and 129,000 Euros. Top speed: 22 mph. It’s got a roughly 30-mile range, looks like, so despite the manufacturer’s statement that “jetpacks are not practical for commuting,” seems like it’d be perfect for round trips between Seattle and Bellevue or one of the islands in the Sound. All you need is a drip-dry suit. [Via James Fallows.]

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I think we want one. Lisa and I are still discussing whether the extra cost of the 3G would be worth it, since 95% of the time we’d be using it in the house, and if we did bring it along on a trip it’d most likely be to use it as a preloaded reading device.

About the name, I’ve heard the iTampon jokes (my favorite so far is the one about the iPad with wings), but honestly it seems fine to me. Of the two most obvious alternatives, iSlate sounds too much like “Isolate,” and iTablet feels clunky, a break with the naming convention of using “i” plus a single-syllable noun.

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Saving the newspaper industry, one bottle at a time

Expanding on its strategy to raise extra cash by selling granite drink coasters etched with crossword puzzles, the New York Times is starting a wine club for subscribers:

The new venture, called The New York Times Wine Club, will offer members a selection of wines at two price levels, $90 or $180 per six-bottle shipment, and customers can choose to have wine delivered every one, two or three months.

The club, an unusual brand extension for the paper, is one of several such ventures the company is considering, said Thomas K. Carley, the senior vice president of strategic planning for the Times Company.

“The Times is looking at a lot of different ideas for engaging our audience,” he said, “to make statements about what are our strengths, what are the ways that we can delve further into our audience and bring them products and services that basically enhance the bond with The New York Times.”

They’re not the only paper doing it, either. Our copy of this morning’s Times contained a full-color ad insert for the Wall Street Journal wine club ($189.99 value for just $69.99! — “includes full tasting notes on each wine and a FREE binder to keep them in”).

If only the Seattle P-I had thought to try this.

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“She knows what my Kryptonite is”

The subject line is my contribution to Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak, out from Harper Perennial in time for Valentine’s Day.

Some other good ones I spotted while flipping through the book:

“He still needs me at sixty-four.” — Armistead Maupin

“Married by Elvis, divorced by Friday.” — G.M. Rouse

“Thought Yiddish. Married British. Oy! Oi!” — Rachel Pine

“Inevitably, his obituary didn’t mention me.” — R. Sue Dodea

And my favorite so far:

“My book title makes dating awkward.” — V. V. Ganeshananthan, author of Love Marriage

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In good company

This week I learned that Aimee Bender will be joining me on stage at the Richard Hugo House Literary Series event on October 24th. As you already know if you’ve read my notes on being a judge for the 2005 Tiptree Award, I am in awe of Ms. Bender’s short-story writing prowess, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what she comes up with for the Hugo House reading.

And speaking of awesome short-story writers, yesterday’s mail brought my complimentary copy of Nisi Shawl’s Filter House. In addition to a blurb by yours truly (“A traveling story-bazaar, offering treasures and curios from diverse lands of wonder’), the back cover offers words of praise from Tobias Buckell, Eileen Gunn, Karen Joy Fowler, and Ursula K. Le Guin. With a list of recommendations like that, how can you not run out and buy it right now?

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A change of venue

While I was away in France and Germany, our landlady called to say she was planning to sell the house, so since I got back Lisa and I have been busy relocating.

We’d hoped to stay on Queen Anne, but rents have really shot up over the past five years, and given what we need—room for two home offices, plus wall space for more than a dozen 7-foot-high bookcases—it didn’t make financial sense. So we expanded our search horizon to include Ballard, Phinney Ridge, Green Lake, and Wallingford, at which point our housing karma kicked in and we found a great place.

It’s definitely a change, which in a way makes the transition easier. The Queen Anne house was a brick Tudor built in the 1920s. The new rental is modern construction, less than a decade old, but what we give up in cove ceilings we get back in sunlight and amazing views—you can see the Olympic Mountains from the living room, without standing on tiptoe. And we’re near a major bus route, so even though we’re farther out from downtown it doesn’t take much longer to get there.

The move was time-consuming but relatively painless. Lisa’s parents flew in to help out, and for the heavy lifting we hired Hansen Brothers (we’d used them for our previous move, and they remembered us—maneuvering large objects down a spiral staircase tends to make an impression). Rent-a-Yenta and Stanley Steamer did a nice job cleaning up the old place after our stuff was out.

The one major hassle involved AT&T Broadband, our DSL provider. With all of our other utilities, we were able to switch addresses online, or with a single phone call. To move the DSL, though, we first had to cancel it at our old address, wait for the cancellation to be finalized (the DSL stops working immediately, but the paperwork, or whatever, doesn’t go through until the end of the current billing cycle), and then reorder it at the new address. It took about ten phone calls to straighten all of this out, and meanwhile we were without Internet access for three weeks. Hence my lack of recent blog posts.

Anyway, we’re pretty much unpacked at this point, so once I catch up on email, and get over the novelty of being able to watch YouTube again, it’ll be time to get back to work on The Mirage.

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Market Optical

My main pair of glasses are these cool, expensive rimless jobbies in which the nose bridge and temples are attached via holes drilled through the lenses. This morning I went to take them off and they broke in half—which is to say, one of the lenses broke, popping out a chip of polycarbonate. There’s no way to patch this—it needs a new lens.

Now, this is lousy timing given that I’ve got a reading in Leavenworth this weekend, but fortunately my spare pair of glasses is still close enough to my current prescription that I can see (my depth perception’s a little wonky, but I can manage). My real worry was that it was going to cost an arm and a leg to get the broken lens replaced (did I mention that these were expensive glasses)? But when I got to Market Optical down at Pike Place Market, they told me there was no problem—the special UV coating on the lenses is warrantied against “scratching,” a term that apparently includes the fracturing of the lens, as long as you weren’t sitting on it when it happened. So, no charge, and I’ll have the replacement within a week or two.

Sometimes you really do get what you pay for.

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