Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Real Dr. House

While we’re on the subject of my current pre-occupation, let us consider the question, is there a real Dr. House? Well, of course not, he’s a TV character, only crazy people think he’s real. Yet I daresay, as in the case of any vividly created, charming fictional character, there are plenty of people for whom he seems real.

For that reason I thought it would be interesting to consider the question of the relative reality/unreality of the figments of our imagination whom we hold most dear. TV’s most popular anti-hero seems a fine example to study, and if you’re not into House, just substitute another fictional person you’ve obsessed over at one time or another.

House is a great example for this study because there’s no one like him. Not in fiction, nor in real life either. It’s also very difficult to confuse him with the guy who plays him. Hugh Laurie, in fact, seems like a man who coincidentally looks like Dr. House. Being British, his accent is different. Not being lame, his walk is different. With a background as a comic, he’s not the same in disposition. Big difference. Easy to see.
However, many of us House fans fall into the very natural trap of thinking that there is a Gregory House deep down inside Hugh Laurie...that in certain circumstances or moods, surely he must be the same as House. If that weren’t true, how could he portray him so effectively? This gives us comfort that, in a certain way, Dr. House lives.

Now I’m not an actor, but I am a fiction writer, and therefore I can guarantee you, there is not a Gregory House inhabiting Hugh’s soul. Not the way we all wish, anyway. I have created a hundred-some characters, and while sometimes they do resemble me, when I’m creating someone as quirky and unique as a Dr. House, these characters are derived from stuff quite alien to my own personality. I don’t think, talk, or act like they do, nor would I in any circumstance I can think of. Meanwhile, quite often I fall completely in love with these fictional people, and I assure you I do not have such feelings towards myself or any part of myself, ever.

In my younger days, when crushing on celebrities, I often made the mistake of giving too much credit to their appearance. For example, I fell for Leonard Nimoy’s portrayal of Mr. Spock, and therefore felt that Nimoy in any context would be as thrilling to me as the emotionless alien. I learned a hard lesson when I saw him play Fagin in a live local production of “Oliver!” Fagin left me completely cold, having nothing in common with Spock, except a slightly similar voice.

Likewise, while there’s no denying Hugh Laurie is a handsome man, that will only take you so far. I’ll put it to you this way, House-lovers: If you were to meet Hugh for a date, would you rather he limp or not? Maybe it’s just me, but I feel he’s not House without the limp, and I would miss it, a lot. But really, a gimpy leg is not normally considered an attractive feature. My point is, it’s not really Hugh Laurie’s handsomeness that is winning you over.

Dr. House is a hybrid creation of an actor and the people who write his lines. He wouldn’t exist if not for both these elements, along with a third: your imagination. It’s your imagination that enables you to fill in the gaps in House’s life and history; it’s your imagination that make it possible for you to picture him in circumstances other than what you’ve seen on the show (like making out with you, perhaps, LOL). Whenever you “adopt” a fictional character in a personal, passionate way, the creator(s) of that character eventually become tools for you—providing with the performance more material for you to imagine the character is real. Certainly credit goes to those creators. I thank Jane Austen and Colin Firth for my conception of Mr. Darcy, and Charlotte Bronte and George C. Scott for Mr. Rochester. And my very heart swells with gratitude to Hugh Laurie and his scriptwriters.

Do I then have no love for Dr. House? Is he worthless, having no independent existence?

Well, I’ve said it before (particularly in my book Living Beyond Reality) and I’ll say it again: being “real” isn’t everything. That’s why fictional characters sometimes have as much impact on history, culture, and society than flesh-and-blood people. Would the world be the same without King Arthur, Don Corleone, Dorothy Gale, Romeo and Juliet, Frodo, Dracula, Cinderella, Luke Skywalker, Mr. Scrooge, Superman, Scarlett O’Hara, James Bond, Harry Potter, and Sherlock Holmes, the man who inspired Gregory House?

Sometimes unreal people get very close to coming to life. What exactly these beings are, I can’t tell you. All I know is, the “real” Dr. House always walks with a limp and speaks American.

Friday, September 19, 2008

House, MD: When Cranks Attract

It’s pretty easy to see the appeal in heroic men like I’ve posted about lately: your Mike Holmeses and Chicago Cubses. And most women get why bad boys can be charming—especially when, like Neil Gaiman, underneath the black clothes they are good at heart. But why is it that sometimes the most irresistible men are the cranks? Prickly, grumpy, unpleasant, off-putting...nevertheless these Mr. Rochester/Mr. Darcy types can be inexplicably sexy.

Case in point: everyone’s favorite misanthrope, Gregory House, M.D.

I’m only four years behind the rest of my fellow females in falling for this guy. I always knew I’d love the show, always knew Hugh Laurie was hot, always knew I am a sucker for grumps. But I didn’t have time for another TV show in my life. So occasionally I caught a few minutes here and there, barely preserving myself from catching that most infectious disease, House-ophilia. Unfortunately, a couple weeks ago Davie started watching the House marathons on USA and became addicted. In the spirit of family harmony (our daughters are already fans), I joined in watching the new season.

The inevitable happened: here I am blogging about House.

First of all, I don’t think House would be sexy if he weren’t a genius--specifically the sort of genius that he is. As the medical version of Holmes (Sherlock, not Mike), he seems to have a preternatural ability to know what is going on in your body. This talent is in sharp contrast to his emotional insensitivity, and sets up the recurring situation of your deciding House is deeply perceptive, only to be slapped back to reality by his latest heartless crack. (There’s nothing sexier that a guy who takes you on an emotional rollercoaster ride, right?)

So, he does seem superhuman in a way, and I never tire of watching him intellectually blow others out of the water and outwit his enemies armed with analytical thinking and that rapier (scapel?) wit. It’s easy to end up all starry-eyed like Allison Cameron when House saves otherwise doomed patients week after week.

To make matters worse, Dr. House is vulnerable and arouses female sympathy. He’s got that chronic leg pain that causes his limp, a brilliant plot device that achieves said vulnerability while enabling him to look cool brandishing his cane. His addiction to Vicodin is constant proof of his fallibility. And then there’s the semi-dysfunctional but charming relationship he has with his best/only friend Dr. Wilson. The guy might as well have “Please love me, I’m so alone” stamped on his forehead.

There are few things more tempting to a female than a man who has the ability to appear invincible while clearly needing love, especially when his slightly-cracked armor is wit. I don’t know if the writers who conceived “House” were simply trying to create an interesting lead character, or deliberately set out to invent television’s most irresistible leading man, but they did a bang-up job on both.

And certainly the lion’s share of credit has to go to Hugh Laurie (I can’t even resent that he gets $400,000 an episode). It’s not easy to walk the borderline between crabby and beguiling, misanthropic and heroic, vulnerable and genius, unkempt and handsome, aggravating and loveable. And in an American accent no less. It’s a consistent performance that requires vocal skills, facial expressions, and body language to all be utilized perfectly. The proof of this role’s complexity can be demonstrated if you ask a female House fan why she is attracted to him.

Sometimes it’s the expression he gets while staring at his white board struggling with a diagnosis. Sometimes it’s the particular tone he uses while delivering those zingers. It can be the way he copes with challenges, or the way he so miserably fails to cope. Just watching House limp down a corridor while the soundtrack plays the closing music of an episode, you can be overwhelmed with complex feelings that ultimately boil down to love.

I should have known that keeping away from House was only postponing the inevitable. It’s not going to end up saving me any time having avoided the show for four I just have to watch all the episodes on DVR or DVD. Plus blog about the guy. Plus, I’m sure, write some short story inspired by him.

I should have known...cranks get me every time.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mulder and Scully, Open a File

Even if my ravings about my Neil Gaiman obsession bore you to tears, I recommend you read this post if you enjoy "The X-Files" or "The Twilight Zone." My life is turning into an episode of some paranormal prime time drama.

[NOTE TO THE READER: If you'd rather just cut to the intensely dramatic, amazing part, please feel free to skip the non-dramatic, milding amazing next five paragraphs.]

You guys know me, I'm eccentric but also very practical (like INTJ type people often are). I'm a fan of the scientific method and like to operate on facts, not feelings. That said, when I see wacko coincidences going on left and right, I still think they are worthy of note. So, Agents Mulder and Scully, get out your dictaphones and notebooks and get a load of this.

First, let's flash back to weird Neil synchronicity #1, from my March 19, 2008 entry, Notes on the Gaiman Crush, Part 2: While watching an interview with Neil on YouTube, I guessed what he was about to say concerning awesome Jungian author Joseph Campbell. No biggie there; could be explained by the simple fact that both Gaiman and I are authors, and rather Jungian in persuasion.

In our next episode, on May 20 I posted about Neil synchronicities #2 and #3, in I Need You to Help Me Figure Out My Brain. On these occasions I anticipated, with nearly inexplicable accuracy, what two of his stories were going to do. Spooky, yeah...but I figured these were just a couple instances of us thinking alike and having read the same books. Note, I said nearly inexplicable...but not unfathomable. But read the was still damn weird and I have yet to meet anyone who guessed either one in advance.

Fast forward to August 17's episode aka Neil synchronicity #4: My Neil Gaiman Birthday and Other Musings. This particular evening my brain invited me to dig out an old unpublished novel of mine, and I found several coincidences between the first couple chapters and my evening's readings in Neil's The Sandman. Again, the skeptic in me will say, you can find some common ground between any two books, really, can't you? And that could well be all it was, indeed.

However...what I didn't post about in that entry was one more odd parallel I discovered that evening. (I just didn't want to go on and on like a crazy person, kind of like I am in this post.) I also read Neil's Coraline that night, and both Coraline and my Looking on Darkness feature a snow globe as a key object. Yeah, yeah, just a coincidence. People write about snow globes all the time.


I have lately been reading Neil's and Terry Pratchett's hilarious book Good Omens (subtitle: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch). I borrowed it from our dear friends Cherie and Andy. (Cherie...I bet you guys mentioned the cool thing about this copy of the book once, but I'd forgotten!) Well, while reading the first half of the book, I used the front dust jacket flap as a bookmark. I passed the halfway point the other night and switched to the back flap, thus liberating the front part of the book.

Well, I got tired and decided to go to bed, and I was checking out the dust jacket for something when the book fell open to the bookplate, to reveal...wait for it...this copy of Good Omens was autographed by Neil Gaiman! It said:

Neil Gaiman
Apply holy match here -->

Very cool, very hilarious, I was charmed. Nice, Neil! But now comes the spooky part, peeps...

I closed the book. I found myself overwhelmed with the urge to read one more chapter. An urge so intense I questioned it. And I thought to myself, what if I'm getting this urge because this next chapter includes something that ties in with the autograph? So I read on.

Please understand, in Good Omens there is an important book called, of course, The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. And in the next chapter, only four pages further on, that book catches on fire. I absolutely had no way to see this coming. It was crazy to me.

I quit reading and went to bed.

Yeah, yeah, I know...just another crazy coincidence. But I just had to share. Excuse me now, I have to take this call from the FBI, or is it Rod Serling beyond the grave?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sometimes It’s Just Physical

I was one of those little kids who loved frosting. I’d take the corner piece of cake anytime, to get that extra butter and sugar. In fact, I’d even try to get the piece covered with frosting roses. As I got older, however, I learned to prefer the cake. Nowadays there are some cakes I adore (like my rum cake) that have no frosting whatsoever.

That also applies quite a bit to my history with men. When I was younger, it was the fancy exterior that got me drooling. Nowadays, I am often drawn to frosting-less men who are wonderful inside. That definitely applies to my Edward J. Olmos thing of ‘06-’07. It was sort of a similar story with Les Stroud, whom I didn’t find overly handsome until I learned to love his personality. Neil Gaiman? Well, yeah, there’s some fine chocolate frosting on that man, but it’s his cake that really won my heart.

But occasionally still, it’s all about the frosting.

Last night Davie and I watched the premiere of ABC’s “Fringe.” I was very excited about this show, and not only because J.J. Abrams is brilliant and I love paranormal stories. No, mostly I was anticipating seeing Joshua Jackson every week. He was mighty nice back in his days as Pacey “on the Creek,” and age has only improved him. There are not a lot of actors these days that make my pulse run rampant whenever they are on screen, but he is one of them.

As Peter Bishop, genius ne’er-do-well son of a mad scientist (there’s a nice bio), Josh has a very entertaining, sexy role to play. But to me, the cool role is just icing on At one point mid-show, Davie asked me, “So...what exactly about this guy that you like so much?” All I could say was, “Everything.” Could I be any more specific? I’ll really try, because I care about you guys! Well, he does have that whiskery-thin-lipped Les Stroud/Kenneth Branagh thing going on that so sends me. Swoon. And gorgeous eyes and amazing brows. Nice physique, too. He looks really, really good when brooding. Or when cracking jokes in a cranky way.

Am I not ashamed of being shallow? Wait, it gets worse.

Let’s talk about pure-butter-and-sugar-and-not-a-cake-crumb-to-be-seen. Meet: the Kohl’s guy.

I don’t know his name although I think my daughter Amanda could find out; she works for Kohl’s ecommerce department. In fact, among her co-workers, this model is known as “the guy Amanda’s mom likes.” I gotta admit, I love that.

Anyway, I have been lusting for this guy for years every Sunday when he appears in the Kohl’s newspaper circular. You know me and blond beards. I just think he is startlingly dreamy and if I ever met him (which is a tiny potentiality because I guess the circulars are actually shot here in Milwaukee) I would be speechless.

Obviously I have no idea what this guy is like. He dresses nicely, of course. LOL And looking at him, I can imagine he’s intelligent, sincere, heterosexual, and has a dry and slightly dark sense of humor. Can’t you? Of course! And isn’t he just irresistible?

I guess not, actually! I found a discussion about my guy on the LafayetteMoms forum, and most of them beg to differ with me! Read on:

Kohl’s male model; Hot or Not?

Sorry to bring down the level of discourse but I was curious to know what other people think. Kohl’s uses this blond male model in their ads for their Chaps line of clothes. He is on the cover of today’s ad. Every time I see him I think he looks more likely to be arrested for petty theft than to sell designer clothes. Do you think he’s handsome?

--I like dark hair and eyes myself, but I think he’s pretty handsome -- could probably stand to shave, though!

--I think he looks kinda ker-blah, not really anything special. I also enjoy dark hair and eyes. The look on the model’s face isn’t really too pleasant, he looks very cocky and not friendly. Advertising with him for Father’s Day isn’t too smart on Kohl’s part. I want (and have) a nice kind "daddy" type guy.

--He’s got all the right features to be attractive, but he is not what WOWS me either. I think it is the scruff that makes him look more ‘wanted’ the authorities, not women, that is! lol- totally just joking!! I am sure there are plenty of women who do find him attractive, or he wouldn’t have made it into modeling!

--Not a hottie to me........

--I agree - I don’t care for the scruffy look. Now, the guys on page 18-19 in the same ad are more my idea of hot.
Crazy women! I suppose next someone is going to tell me Joshua Jackson leaves them cold.

Fine, leave me to my plate of frosting, I don’t care! ;-)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Home Improvement Hottie Named Holmes

I’ve blogged before about some of my heroes on HGTV and TLC, and everyone knows that there are few things sexier than a good-looking man in a tool belt. Well, it’s high time I posted here about a shining light in the world of hot contractors: Mike Holmes.

While we U.S.-type Americans are only beginning to catch on, our neighbors to the north have been idolizing Mike for some time now. His show “Holmes on Homes” is HGTV Canada’s number one hit, and one of my Canuck friends tells me he’s something of a household word up there.

So what’s the deal with this guy, eh? (Sorry, had to do that.) Well, on the surface he’s a big, burly, blond Canadian guy who typically sports a wife-beater under overalls. He’s got the rugged good looks going on, but he’s not exactly Carter Oosterhouse. Nevertheless, tune in to a couple episodes of the show and you too will love this guy.

Mike Holmes’ shtick is rescuing homeowners from construction disasters. These people trusted a contractor, paid him good money, and ended up literally living in a nightmare. Their foundations are failing, their heat isn’t working, their wiring and plumbing is screwed up and dangerous, that sort of thing.

Mike and his able crew to the rescue.

The first step is uncovering just what’s wrong. That invariably means a lot of drywall being ripped out and plenty of very bad news. It’s really fun. Why? Well, first of all, you get to see Mike punch holes in walls with his bare hands. Secondly, you get to watch him become infuriated and rave about the shoddy workmanship. And third, you know no matter how bad it gets, in the end everything will be made right.

That’s Mike’s trademarked motto: “Make it right.” He’s so good at undoing bad things, you wish he could go back to Eden, kick out the serpent with his steel-toed boot, and nail the apple back on the tree. In lieu of that, this anal-retentive perfectionist and his cohorts make snarled and deadly wiring look like it would make Martha Stewart smile. They seal foundations, they eradicate mold, they take kitchens with crooked cabinets and turn them House Beautiful.

Indeed, the results of their meticulous plastering, nailing, sealing, leveling, and always spray-foam-insulating (this is Canada after all) are more than perfect, they are picture-perfect. The final woodwork, painting, and decorating—typically all you get on a home improvement show—is the frosting on the cake.

Homeowners whose faces formerly were agonized and tearful, are now weeping with joy and relief. I think it’s not an exaggeration to say that Mike has kept a few people from going homeless or getting divorced, simply by extricating them from the dire situations inflicted by unscrupulous and/or shoddy contractors.

Maybe now you see why Mike Holmes has started looking so damn good to me. He’s a white knight for the 21st Century, slaying not dragons but crappy living situations, rescuing not damsels but families.

He’s also founded the Holmes Foundation, an organization that encourages and sponsors young people in the construction fields. His inspiration AND his money should go a long way to create more mini-Mikes that will make living in Canada safer and happier.

The only thing “Holmes on Homes” lacks is the satisfaction of bringing back the perpetrators to face wuppings from the intimidating big guy in the overalls. But as Mike said on a show we saw recently, better to let the past go and focus on improving the future. That’s pretty inspiring too.

So, my hard hat’s off to you, Mike Holmes! I am happy to move you to the head of the Erotica-with-Soul-endorsed home improvement hotties. You can make it right in my world anytime!

Monday, September 01, 2008

The World's First "Graphic Excerpt" is Done!

Well, I can't say that for certain...but anyway I'm not aware of any other promotional book excerpts out there that were done in graphic novel format! Anyhoo, it's done: the two-page mini-comic excerpt from my story "As Commonplace as Rain," illustrated by the amazingly talented CC Rogers. Just take a look at it (via my website) and I'm sure you'll be astonished to know that this is CC's first shot at a comic. Seems to me she's a natural for this medium!

This thing turned out even more fabulous that I hoped and dreamed it would. I'm on Cloud Nine. Just finished linking to it on my website, the publisher's site, my "READ FREE" page, and even my September column for

Thanks from the bottom of my heart, CC--you're amazing!

If you have comments or feedback on the graphic excerpt, please comment! Like I said, this is a brand new thing, and we are so curious what people will think of it.