Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hell's Game is free to download from October 27, 2014 to October 31, 2014


Just in time for Halloween! My bestselling young adult novel, Hell's Game  will be free for a limited time! From Monday October 27, 2014 to Halloween 2014, download Hell's Game on Amazon to your Kindle, mobile phone, or computer. It's a $7.99 value. What are you waiting for?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Review: Britney Spears' "Piece of Me" at Planet Hollywood

On Wednesday, October 15, Britney Spears performed her show "Piece of Me" at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas; and I was fortunate enough to be in attendance. Britney began her show with an introductory video followed by her performing "Work Bitch" with dancers wearing silver futuristic costumes. She followed that musical number with over twenty of her hits from the past sixteen years. These songs included "…Baby One More Time," "Toxic," "Perfume," and "Lucky;" and almost every upbeat performance brought the mostly late 20s to early 40s crowd to its feet.
Britney performs "Circus." Photo by Rebecca Lo

Although Britney never once sang live and her songs did not seem to deviate at all from the versions on her CDs,  everyone loved her dancing, costume changes, and special effects. The only real disappointment of her nearly hour and a half set was that there were no screens set up to view close-ups of her face, which was more than likely due to the fact that Britney lip syncs and somebody thought the audience shouldn't see that. But, that's the thing. EVERYONE KNOWS BRITNEY DOESN'T SING LIVE.

But who cares? No one gives a shit. When Britney had her mental breakdown, we, her fans, supported her. When she had a rough performance at the VMAs in 2007, we reasoned that it was a warm up until she got back on her game. When people try to criticize her, we attack. Britney has been a standard in many people's lives since their youth, and seeing her entertain is a reminder of those days. Although Britney may not have the ability to belt out songs while dancing, she is still an incredibly charismatic performer who delivers nostalgia and a fun time.

Lucky for fans, she'll be rocking at Planet Hollywood until 2017, according to Daily Mail.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Superstar legal author John Grisham backpedals on his child pornography statements

Today John Grisham issued an apology on his Facebook for statements he made in regards to child pornography punishments. In case you missed it, Grisham said the following during an interview to promote his new book Gray Mountain:
"We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who've never harmed anybody, would never touch a child," Grisham said to The Telegraph. "But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn."
Um, I've been drunk numerous times in my life, but I have never "accidentally" just wandered on to a child pornography site. In fact, if someone wants to view that type of illegal material, they have to go on a perverted fishing expedition; one that doesn't just happen by pushing "the wrong buttons." In Grisham's The Telegraph interview, he then shares a story of a friend who was caught in a child porn sting to illustrate how absurdly excessive punishments are for people who watch child pornography:
"His [Grisham's friend's] drinking was out of control, and he went to a website. It was labelled 'sixteen year old wannabee hookers or something like that'. And it said '16-year-old girls'. So he went there. Downloaded some stuff - it was 16 year old girls who looked 30. He shouldn't ’a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn't 10-year-old boys. He didn't touch anything. And God, a week later there was a knock on the door: ‘FBI!’ and it was sting set up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to catch people - sex offenders - and he went to prison for three years."
Uh…Does Grisham think it's okay that his drunk friend wanted to get with teenage hookers? How can he condone the behavior of this friend, and how can he sympathize with viewers of child pornography? Those viewers are the reasons that the industry that exploits and abuses children exists because if there was no audience, there would be no demand. Therefore, viewing child pornography is not a victimless crime; and Grisham thinking that just because his friend didn't "touch anything" meant he wasn't participating in an exploitive endeavor truly baffles and grosses me out. 

See Grisham's apology below. Although he appears to want to wash away his previous statements, I doubt anyone will ever forget them. I never will. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I'm revisiting my old Examiner dating articles and posting them on The Daily T.Lo

Old me used to give bad dating advice. Me and Paige 2011
I used to have a dating column on Examiner in 2011, and at the time, I was considered by an audience of 1,000 readers to be an expert in navigating the weird world of online dating, which at the time was viewed to be a slightly embarrassing way to meet someone new. Flash forward a few years, and not only does it seem as if everyone is using online sites to date or hook up, but now online dating is a trendy topic amongst singles. What singleton today HASN'T tried Tinder, Grinder, Coffee Meets Bagel, Okcupid, EHarmony, Match, Hinge, the list goes on.  It's as much of a part of the millennial culture as texting or switching jobs every couple of years.

It's funny to me that I will sometimes reread my old Examiner advice, and I'll laugh at how wrong my ideas seem to me now. For instance, I used to advocate that all first dates with someone you meet online should take place in a coffee shop because the dates are inexpensive, casual, and provide an easy exit strategy. I'm now horrified that I championed that. Coffee? On a first date? That's not romantic at all, and a coffee date is basically a meeting, which is not going to lead to any romantic feelings. The beginning of a relationship should be when two people put their best foot forward, not a casual hour in one's schedule. That means the guy should plan a date and pick a location convenient to the girl; and the location should be dimly lit, nicer than a usual spot, and most of all not cheap. This doesn't mean he should be spending a fortune, but he also must send a signal to his date that he cares to make a good first impression, just as a job seeker would dress their best for an interview. Yeah, it all sounds old-fashioned; but quite frankly, there's just certain social interactions that  work with people and have been working since the beginning of time *hyperbole, deal with it.*

Hoping to redeem myself as a dating expert, I'm revising some of my dating columns, and I'm publishing them on The Daily T.Lo. If you have any tips or story ideas, please email me at tloclub @ gmail.com.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Attention all screenwriters! Universal Pictures accepting applications for writing fellowship

Taken from the Universal Pictures' Emerging Writers Website:

"Universal Pictures’ will accept applications for the fellowship beginning on October 21, 2014.  Interested applicants should submit an original screenplay as well as additional application materials (listed below) in order to be considered.  All semi-finalists will then be asked to submit a second screenplay and complete a phone interview with members of the admission committee.  Ten finalists will be selected and interviewed in Los Angeles.  Up to five fellows will be chosen to participate in the program."

To apply, click here. Good luck!

Just give the racist lesbians their money and send their biracial baby to a loving home!

I'm going to admit something very embarrassing. When my friend posted the Buzzfeed article "White Couple Sues Sperm Bank After They Were Given Sample From Black Donor" on her Facebook wall, I assumed that the comments that the lesbian couple were bigots and undeserving of their biracial child was because the sensational title intentionally misled readers from what was probably a malpractice suit. I had heard about the story of the sperm bank making a mistake, and I thought that the title was just click bait, something we're all used to seeing plaguing our Facebook news feeds. No way would a white couple put on paper that they were seeking damages because their child was half-black, especially when the sperm bank being careless was so obviously the real injustice of the case. The racial angle of their lawsuit just didn't make any sense to me.
Sadly, I was so wrong, and I gave the couple too much credit.

Jennifer Cramblett, 36, filed a lawsuit against Midwest Sperm Bank for wrongful birth and breach of warranty. According to Cramblett, she and her partner Amanda Zinkon had selected sperm from donor 380, a blonde, but the clinic had accidentally given her sperm from donor, 330, a black man. This was the gist I had heard about previously, and it was such a clear case of malpractice that I didn't know why people were so angry at the couple and their lawsuit.

Then I learned more of Cramblett's story on The Huffington Post where she talks about how hard it is to have a biracial child in their all-white community in Ohio, and how the emotional distress cited in their lawsuit actually did stem from their daughter's race. In her TV interview, Cramblett adamantly denies being a racist, but in her allegations of distress, she seems very uncomfortable having a family member that doesn't look like her. It's a shame that her daughter has to grow up in an environment where her parents don't appreciate who she is and instead are nervous about how she looks.

I don't know what else I can say about this story besides WTF. This couple would have already won their lawsuit without the argument that should have never been written, let alone ever been thought. Maybe the couple should just take their lawsuit money for themselves and then give their daughter up for adoption. That way Crambett and Zinkon are compensated for their loss and distress, and their daughter does not have to live in an environment where she's treated like some huge burden.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The 5 Most WTF Moments of @NYTimes TV Critic Alessandra Stanley's Career

Stanley photo courtesy of Gawker
As many of you all probably know, New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley wrote a bizarrely racist and condescending article this week about Shonda Rhimes, who I have praised previously for her devotion to diversifying the television landscape with her dramas: Scandal, Grey's Anatomy, and Private Practice. In the article, Stanley calls Rhimes an "angry black woman" before proceeding to give her what is essentially a giant backhanded compliment. Stanley defended her work to Buzzfeed by saying, "“The whole point of the piece — once you read past the first 140 characters — is to praise Shonda Rhimes for pushing back so successfully on a tiresome but insidious stereotype." However, Stanley's piece centered around a racist trope, exposing more about her own outdated views than providing any type of relevant commentary about Rhimes. I will not link to the NYTimes piece, because I do not want to give them traffic, but here is a critique from Vulture that sums up what happened in case you missed it.


Numerous media outlets have already broken down how offensive and out of touch the article was, so I'm not going to go there. But what I want to talk about is how baffling it is that Alessandra Stanley is still employed at New York Times, a supposedly prestigious publication. After this Shonda Rhimes article, there is no doubt that its prestige is being questioned. After all, how can readers respect an entity that would publish an article based on an old racist stereotype and that keeps on payroll a writer who is referred to as "America's Wrongest Critic" by Gawker because of her inability to fact check. It appears that New York Times was just trolling, but did they really need to degrade themselves just for clickbait? It's annoying when people criticize publications such as TMZ for their salacious content, but TMZ does not posture like the New York Times does, nor does it tolerate factual inaccuracies.

Many may have not been aware of Stanley before the Rhimes article put her into the spotlight, but Stanley has a long history of being terrible at her job. In 2009, her appraisal of Walter Cronkite was riddled with so many glaring errors that Public Editor of the New York Times, Clark Hoyt, had to issue an explanation about what went wrong. Amazingly, Stanley was allowed to keep her job even though Hoyt said, "The short answer (to "how did this happen?") is that a television critic with a history of errors wrote hastily and failed to double-check her work, and editors who should have been vigilant were not."

Although Stanley is covering entertainment, it is amazing that New York Times has not fired her for her lack of professionalism as a journalist. Misspellings and mistakes happen, but her mistakes are ones that could have easily been avoided and the number of her errors are large. The blog, NYTPicker , which is written by journalism insiders, speculated in 2009 why the incompetent Stanley was able to keep her job, "Hoyt also neglects to mention Stanley's longstanding close ties to the NYT's power structure, especially her membership in a close-knit group of friends that includes managing editor Jill Abramson, columnist Maureen Dowd, and book critic Michiko Kakutani. Last winter, Dowd -- whose own recent plagiarism troubles were whitewashed by Hoyt and NYT management -- wrote a travel piece about a spa vacation in Florida she took with Stanley. Do those relationships contribute to Stanley's job security? They can't hurt." Who knows if NYTPicker's speculation is true. All I know is that I wish I could keep publicly fucking up on my job and never getting fired. Her ability to stay employed is actually quite remarkable.

Below are some of Stanley's most high-profile gaffes in chronological order:

 
In 2005, Stanley falsely stated that Geraldo Rivera pushed a rescue worker out of the way to get a good camera shot during Hurricane Katrina coverage.
The New York Times published in 2008 an Alessandra Stanley entertainment article that incorrectly stated the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2002, not 2003.

Alessandra Stanley's 2009 piece about Walter Cronkite had factual errors which included the wrong dates for the day Martin Luther King Jr. was killed and the day Neil Armstrong landed on the moon.
In 2012, Stanley was called out for her critique of the episode of Ann Curry's last day on NBC "Today" show. She was forced to admit that she saw the episode but didn't record it so she ended up just watching a highlight reel online.
In September 2014, readers were shocked that the racist micro-aggression passed off as an article "Wrought in Their Creator’s Image: Viola Davis Plays Shonda Rhimes’s Latest Tough Heroine" was not only published but based off the error that Shonda Rhimes created the TV show "How To Get Away with Murder."


Sources for this article include:

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Alessandra Stanley’s troubling history of error
- See more at: http://www.cjr.org/behind_the_news/wrong_wrong_wrong_wrong_wrong.php?page=all#sthash.pfwQVEMm.dpuf

Friday, September 19, 2014

Off-duty cop kills neighborhood dog, gets released; owners are ticketed for "animal at large"

It seemed like a normal Thursday evening on the 6900 block of East 18th Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a neighborhood full of families and young working adults. Parents played with their children in their yards, and other people relaxed outside, enjoying the hot end days of summer.

However, September 11, 2014 was not like any other day. On this early evening, the sound of two gun shots burst through the air, causing parents to grab their terrified children and hurry inside.

According to eyewitness Amber Hobbs, a man and woman were walking their dog when a 75 pound pit pull terrier mix named Titus came up to greet them. What happened next shocked her.  "No threat was present when the man pulled his gun out and shot the other dog!" Hobbs said. "Then he leaned over the dog and shot it in the head! Children were all out in the neighborhood, including my niece and nephew. The owners of (Titus) came out to call their dog and saw him dead. All the shooter said was, "That's your dog?" The owners were of course hysterical."

The owner of Titus was Nicholas "Nick" Blazek, a young man with big brown eyes who works as a machinist. He had loved his faithful companion since Titus was a puppy. Blazek lived with his girlfriend, Sarah Slane, a pretty woman in her twenties with long red hair and an infectious smile. In an interview with Tulsa World, Blazek recalled Titus as a "friendly dog who would sleep in bed with them." As they stared in horror at their dead dog on the street, it was clear to neighbors that they had lost a family member.
Slane and Blazek (photo courtesy of Facebook)
Titus with a family friend. (photo courtesy of Slane's Facebook)


Titus was gunned down by an off-duty police officer who Slane states she had not seen in the neighborhood prior to the shooting. On Slane's Facebook, she states that the officer's name is Adam Lovell, but the Tulsa Police Department ("TPD") has not confirmed this. Because the name of the shooter was not released publicly, I was unable to locate him to obtain his statement.

Although owners Blazek and Slane did not see the shooting, another eyewitness came forward to share a story similar to Hobb's. Grant Holm, told Tulsa World  that he saw Titus run towards the off-duty police officer with "his tail wagging." Holm said to Tulsa World, "Titus went to the (officer's) large dog and appeared to be greeting the other animal from a submissive posture with its head down. The officer pulled on his dog’s leash, rearing the animal up onto its hind legs. Titus then moved to fill the void created by the officer pulling on the leash. The man, as smooth as you please, reached behind him, pointed (a handgun), put it up to the dog and shot it in the head or neck area, and Titus immediately went down. As Titus lay in the grass, moving his legs and yelping, he (the officer) bent down, aimed at it and shot it in the head with everybody in shock." Like Hobbs, Holm said that the shooting frightened the neighbors and that the officer didn't ask any questions before pulling out his gun.

The alleged shooter (photo courtesy of Slane's FB)
According to news sources, when the police arrived on the scene to investigate, the off-duty police officer stated that he felt threatened by the dog so he acted in self-defense. He was then let go. Slane took a photo of the alleged shooter (see right), and behind him is his female friend and his dog, an adult German Shepherd. Based on the size of the German Shepherd, one had to wonder why the shooter did not allow his own dog to protect him from Titus if Titus really was posing a threat.

After the off-duty police officer was let go, Blazek and Slane on the other hand were issued a citation for animal at large. The reason being that Titus had escaped their yard. Slane said, "The off-duty officer said absolutely nothing to us. He wouldn't give us his name or any info. There were no apologies or a flicker of emotion. The officers that showed up on the scene were rude and automatically on his side. They didn't want to listen to us or our witnesses, but when it came to hearing him they all surrounded him and gave him time to explain."

Blazek and Slane were devastated by the loss of Titus, and the next day, Friday, September 12, they filed a complaint with the police department's internal affairs. "This is a Tulsa Police Department problem," Slane said. "He is a crazy, trigger happy officer. If he wasn't being looked at as an officer, but as a civilian, then why wasn't he arrested or charged with unlawful use of his weapon as city ordinance states? We hope that they (the Tulsa Police Department) do their job properly and follow through with criminal charges, remove him from the police department, and that he is not able to bare arms again. We plan to file a civil suit if internal affairs doesn't follow through with justice."

Although it is not being implied that a life of an animal is equivalent to a life of a human being, this story eerily echoes the stories of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri and Trayvon Martin of Sanford, Florida. In all three cases, men shot and killed because of perceived threats in situations that witnesses state did not warrant gun fire. The Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin cases were divisive in America because of their racial nature, and some chose to see Brown or Martin not as unarmed victims but as "thugs" who appeared dangerous. Like Titus, these victims were guilty of nothing but looking a certain way and coming across the wrong person; and like Titus, despite witness accounts, the law tended to favor the word of the shooter instead of the voices of the witnesses. 

Overall, these shooting show how fear can spring from anything and that no person is truly safe because unnecessary fear in the hands of those with guns can lead to unnecessary violence. And the scary thing about these three situations is that the three shooters supposedly were devoted to "serve and protect," but if they are so quick with their guns, who will protect the citizens from them?

Before the incident, Slane respected the police, but now she views them with suspicion. "I have always stood up for the police, gave them respect, and felt they were here to serve us; but that is no longer how I feel," she said. "We are in fear they have doctored all they can to protect their own, we are in fear of "unexplained harassment," and we are always looking over our shoulder now; and it's a shame to fear the ones we should fear the least."

Officer Leland Ashley, a media representative of the Tulsa Police Department (TPD), stated on Monday September 15 that the off-duty police officer was not put on administrative leave because of this incident and that the case is not being investigated further. "The officer was off duty (a citizen) who stated he felt threatened when he shot the dog. His actions were not  TPD related," Ashley said. 

So it appears that Blazek and Slane will not see justice for Titus, at least not from the police department. While NFL players like Ray Rice, who commit domestic violence, can be removed from their positions because of their actions in their personal life; apparently that is not the case for a police officer that has such a fearful temperament that he would open fire in a neighborhood full of children to protect himself from a happy-go-lucky dog. Regardless of being on or off duty, the police department should investigate his gun use.  

Because the officer has not been identified, the community in Tulsa will just have to wait and hope that the shooter will not "feel threatened" again. But the main question here is: when will he finally be held accountable? If video emerges of the Titus incident? If he takes the life of a human being? Or if concerned citizens contact Tulsa Police Department's Internal Affairs themselves, asking for them to consider the danger of allowing an officer with poor judgment to wear a badge? If you are one of those concerned citizens and want to act now, please click here and let TPD know that you want justice for Titus and that you want Tulsa to be a safer place.
The ticket issued to Blazek courtesy of Blazek's Facebook