Friday, July 19, 2013

Pixar Easter Eggs–An Interesting (and Geeky) Explanation

Pixar_WallpaperI love Easter eggs! And not just the boiled variety. Wikipedia defines an Easter egg as “an intentional inside joke, hidden message, or feature in a work such as a computer program, movie, book, or crossword.” The Pixar franchise is full of ‘em. I gotta hand it to the folks at Pixar. They have a lot of fun weaving these things into their stories. Case in point, my favorite of what I’ve seen so far:


The first image is a dilapidated abandoned trailer in a Bug’s Life. The second is from Monsters Inc. where Randall, the chameleon-like monster is sent through one of his doors. Note also the vehicle to the left of the trailer. It’s the Pizza Planet delivery truck from Toy Story.

Way cool, huh?

A quick Google search of Pixar Easter eggs brings up a few sites by people dedicated to all things…um…Pixar. Apparently they have nothing better to do. However, look at me reporting on them when I should be writing my next novel!

I have attempted to plant an Easter egg myself. (Which begs the question, does one plant an Easter egg or lay it?)  In my fifth novel, Fine, Feathered Friend, Glenys, my actress heroine, has a best friend, Trista Farentino. Trista was in the movie in which my actor hero in my first novel, Merely Players, starred. When I introduce the hero, Brick, in Merely Players, I do it through a scene of a movie. We find out later that he’s screening the movie in it’s premier. In this scene, Brick’s spy character (a la Bond) jumps into the ocean. Here’s that scene:

“No! No! No!” The woman’s scream came from inside a helicopter as it lifted from the roof of the building. Dan ran to it, grabbing the skid just in time. He dangled over the Pacific Ocean as his black tuxedo jacket flapped in the gust of wind caused by the chopper blades. In two fluid motions, he was inside. His nemesis, the pock-faced Shark Finlay, grinned at him with sharp, crooked teeth, then leered at the woman, tied up in the back of the bubble.

Dan kicked at his enemy in an effort to gain control of the aircraft. Shark snapped at his foot with broad jaws.

“You scuffed my shoe, Sharky. You’ll pay for that.”

“No worries, Mate.” With a gleam in his eye, Shark tipped the helicopter, causing the woman to tumble out the open door.

Dan’s head swiveled from Shark to where the woman had just disappeared. “You’ve left me in a quandary, Sharky. Should I stay and bring you to justice, or save a damsel in distress?” He made a quick decision, grabbed the sides of the door, and placed his feet on the skid. “See you in Sidney.”

After a graceful swan dive, he swam to the woman. With a single swish of the hidden titanium blade in his watch, he released her before she drowned.

She threw her arms around his neck. “Thank you, Agent Danger, you saved my life.”

“You know who I am. Who are you?” They bobbed in the water, a fishing boat already chugging up to them.

“I’m Agent Risk, the rookie.”

With a swarthy raise of his brow, he said, “I wish I knew the Risk before I jumped in.”

The scene faded with a long shot of Australia, and the words:




Wild applause thundered in the auditorium where the premiere of the third movie in the series, Danger on the High Seas, had just played. Brick Connor sulked in his seat and turned to the man who had played the villain, his best friend and mentor, Vince Galloway. He leaned in, speaking for Vince’s ears only, “And for this we get paid the big bucks?”

Skip forward to Fine, Feathered Friend. It’s no secret that I kinda like movies, so it’s natural for me to put actors in my books. (Side note: My son, Joey Kovach, is a stage actor currently preparing for his first cabaret in New York, NY called I Changed the Rules . Chip off the old block!) Enter Glenys who introduces her friend to Tim (the hero in Fine, Feathered Friend.)  Incidentally, Fine, Feathered Friend is about an actress afraid of birds who enlists the help of a bird trainer afraid of actresses. Here is the Easter egg scene:

As he replaced the sheet over the cage, Glenys entered the clinic with a woman in tow. By her expensive-looking gold hoop earrings, leather jacket, and designer jeans, he wondered if she was an investor. “Tim, this is my friend, Trista Farentino. Mandy showed her around yesterday. She’s going to take over my duties.”

Wearing that?

“You look familiar.” He searched his memory.

She tittered and struck a paparazzi pose. “Did you see my latest movie, Love Stinks? It was a romantic comedy.”

Another actress. He shook his head. Lord, what are you doing to me?

She placed a manicured finger on her chin. “Hm. You don’t look like the romantic comedy type. I was also in several adventure movies, including Danger Down Under, the third in that franchise. I played Agent Risk. Did you see that one?”

“No. I don’t have time to go to the movies.” Two actresses. Two thorns in his side. Suddenly remembering where he saw her, he snapped his fingers. “You were on the news last night.”

These books were published four years apart. Did I get a bunch of fan mail telling me how clever I was? Um…no. But that’s not why I did it. It was simply fun to revisit my first story and give a little nod to the book that helped me realize the desire of my heart.

Back to Pixar. Follow this link to see an article on 50 Best Pixar Easter Eggs. But the title of my blog article, “Pixar Easter Eggs–An Interesting (and Geeky) Explanation,”  actually alludes to the blog article by Jon Negroni at this link. Talk about too much time on your hands! Negroni strings together an amazing conspiracy theory on how Pixar animals can talk, how time travel is possible, and how machines are taking over the world. It’s a fun tribute and not meant to be taken seriously, but really, I wish this guy was investigating our government. Wow! The article is longish, but well worth it if you love Pixar as much as I do.


You can find Fine, Feathered Friend on my Amazon page. It has also been bundled into Oregon Weddings, which includes two more fun stories. Or click on the image to be taken directly to the order page.

Fine Feathered Friend


Merely Players is now available on Kindle on Amazon.

Merely Players

Friday, July 12, 2013

Dustin Hoffman Rejects “Suspension of Disbelief” (Tootsie)


There’s a video going viral. It was first published on December 17, 2012 and is a clip from the American Film Institute (AFI) archives. You can see the three minute interview on YouTube. Dustin Hoffman accounts his discussion with the producers of Tootsie. Regarding his character, Dorothy Michaels, if he was going to make the movie he’d have to be the best woman he could be. He would not want to suspend the audience’s believability (in the writer’s vernacular, suspension of disbelief,) and he would have to know that if he walked down the street, no one would say, “Look at that guy in drag.”

I love that dedication. We, as authors, too often want to take the easy way and employ the plot trick “suspension of disbelief.” Sometimes it’s called for, such as when aliens attacked cowboys in the Harrison Ford Sci-Fi Cowboys & Aliens. Or anything having to do with zombies or other-worldly characters. I get that. But at times, we would rather manipulate our research to fit our story than to go the extra mile and make it as true as we possibly can. This, in a sense, is what Hoffman was wanting to avoid.

A well-known editor once told a group of us in her workshop that she had to reject a story because the author had put a “winding and treacherous highway” between Denver and Colorado Springs. Um…they were talking about Interstate 25, and it’s no more winding and treacherous than my driveway. However, they “needed” a winding and treacherous road to fit their story. Anyone living in Colorado or who has visited that area would have been completely thrown out of the story. I, for one, would have lost all respect for that author.smaller

Having said that, (yes, here comes my disclaimer,) when I wrote Fine, Feathered Friend, which is one of three books included in Oregon Weddings, I wanted to set my story in the Crater Lake area. The major setting was a Raptor Rescue Center. There is no such place in the Crater Lake area. I had to use the one in Eugene, Oregon as my template and move it to where I needed it. This, to me, is similar to watching Dustin Hoffman put on the character of Dorothy Michaels. I knew he was a man. The writers never wanted the audience to believe otherwise. But everyone in the story (aside from his friend and sidekick, Bill Murray,) believed he was a woman. I made sure I mentioned in my acknowledgements that it was the Cascades Raptor Center in Eugene that I used as research so my readers wouldn’t go flocking (sorry for the pun) to Crater Lake to visit the center. Since I never received hate mail, I believe thisCLEAREST pic worked.

So, basically, know when it’s okay to break the rules, but don’t cheat your reader. Or your editor, because if it doesn’t get past her, it won’t even make it to a reader.

But the above lesson isn’t why the video is going viral. If you haven’t seen it yet, please take the time. Hoffman becomes emotional as he explains how becoming a less desirable woman affected him, and females around the Webiverse are rejoicing. I hope they show it to the men in their lives, as well.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Despicable Me 2–A Review

Despicable Me 2I found Despicable Me 2 a fun nod to my favorite spy movies with a twist of single parenthood. Imagine, if you will, James Bond with kids. . .and minions. Well, it wasn’t quite as intense as a James Bond movie, but really, the fact that Gru is a reformed villain recruited to save the world is only a secondary plot.

There are three things going on, and Pixar weaves them beautifully. First, the afore-mentioned spy plot. Second, Gru’s attempt to run a home-based business while raising. . .

To read full review:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Monsters University–A Review

Monster University

Went to see Monsters University with the grandkiddos the other day. It held everyone’s attention except the three-year-old. However, that was mostly in the slower moments when she wanted to practice her gymnastics on the bar in front of us. We sat in the first row of the raised seats. Apologies to the family behind us. . .

To see the full review, please visit Theater Popcorn in my Teeth.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Boldly Go. . .

Star Trek tv. . .and check out the article written by Thomas Smith at the Writer’s Digest website. 4 THINGS STAR TREK CAN TEACH US ABOUT WRITING

This is one of those articles I wish I had written. Not only is the advice great, but the author’s writing style made me giggle. And we all know how much I love to giggle.

I may be a junior officer, but I’d like to add to Captain Thomas Smith’s advice.

Lesson 5: The Trouble with Tribbles
In my vernacular, Weasel Words. These are words that weasel their way into our writing. They are weak, passive words that lend nothing to the meaning of the sentence. The standards among many are: that, just, really, very, suddenly, actually, extremely, literally. You get the point. They can also be your favorite phrases. Mine could vary from book to book. My critique partners are always quick to point out when my characters have “forked” their dinner too many times. Or when they “laugh/smile/blink/nod” too much. Don’t get me wrong, the tribble episode was my favorite, but when those cuddly chirping fur balls created havoc as they showed up in the Enterprise’s mechanical system, even I could see why they had to go. 
Three excellent articles on Weasel Words:

Lesson 6: The Vulcan Mind-Meld
I could do an entire lesson on the Vulcan himself. From when and when not to show emotion to when it’s okay to break the rules. Those Vulcans! So disciplined! On to the Mind-Meld. Wikipedia defines it as, “a technique for sharing thoughts, experiences, memories, and knowledge with another individual, essentially a limited form of telepathy.” Okay. This is a personal problem for me. Mind-melds can only be done person to person/alien/whale. I am sometimes so intent on figuring out what my characters are thinking that I fail to share what I learn with the rest of the reading audience. Cue the critique partners. “But what is she thinking, Kathy?” My answer: “Isn’t it obvious?” The looks on their faces: Um, no. Fine. I rewrite to show a vein in my character’s jawline darken, or to show his shoulder blades turn to concrete blocks upon mention of his mother. Note, during the mind-meld process there is no explaining. Spock: “I’m going to do this weird thing to your face and then you’re going to tell me how you feel.” No, it’s all done without words. Telepathy, if you will, but I and my Christian community will ignore that idea. My point is, don’t expect your readers to know what your character is feeling. You must show us.

Lesson 7: Take Command of the Situation
Every commander in the Star Trek fleet over the years have had the unique ability to command under pressure. Even in the parody, Galaxy Quest, Commander Jason Nesmith was able to lead his rag-tag team of actors to defeat the evil grasshopper/locust/katydid alien Sarris. If any crew member refused to do their job and stomp off set…er, I mean command deck, the captain would simply order him to the brig and replace him, or do the job himself. Sometimes, our characters want to take over. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a new writer say, “I don’t know what to do with Emmie May. She wants all the attention. Now I don’t know who my main character is.” My advice? I wouldn’t order Emmie to the brig, but I would give her a stern talking to. In my first published book, Merely Players, my heroine’s best friend was so fun she kept stealing all of the scenes. I had to bring her down a notch. Yes, I had to cut some fun stuff, but none of that was lending to the development of my main character. And that is, ladies and gentlemen, the point of the story. Yes, we want to get know Emmie. She’s a great gal who lets us see how even greater our protagonist is. And who knows, if you plan it right, Emmie May could have her own story some day.

Lesson 8: He’s Dead, Jim
No, I’m not talking about killing off your characters, although some may deserve to die. I want to address those favorite scenes that have no place in your story. William Faulkner called it, “Killing off your darlings.” They may be funny, dramatic, or pithy. (I’ve been waiting throughout this entire article to say pithy.) But they don’t carry the story forward. Remember, your job as an author is to move the plot forward. If you find a scene in your political thriller that takes place in a trailer park in Hoboken, New Jersey, it had better be where the terrorist is hanging out. If it’s about the bum on the street who got shot in the crossfire and has now gone back to his family to tell them about the million dollar settlement he just received, well, it has to go.

I started out with this blog post to simply share a cool link on things Star Trek can teach us in writing, but it looked so fun I had to try it myself. Now, I have to come up out of the blogosphere to deal with the real world of writing, namely, preparing for a workshop and writing my own novel. So, in the iconic words of Captain Kirk:

“Beam me up, Scotty.”