Thursday, July 29, 2010

Actually: Angry Ibex

Saw this on a DVRd Soup episode tonight and fell in love!  Spent a couple seconds on YouTube and now I'm doing what therapists call "sharing."  Good for me.  Baby steps, baby steps...

Get ready to bend over and put your socks back on!  [Because the video is going to...ugh.  Nevermind] :

What makes me really happy, and strangely proud, is that I think the Ibex is convinced he's having an actual conversation. After careful observation and study, mostly late nights spent watching Bravo's randomly situated and totally real housewives, this is what he's come up with. I'm impressed! You know the other animals are like "look! He's totally doing it! Things are going to be so much better now! We're going to get chocolate and ascots!  Talking to Marky Mark got us nowhere!  It's a whole new world!  Don't you dare close your eyes!"  Etc.

Honestly: I totally like the Ibex better than that sleeveless jackwagon. [Thanks for the awesome addition to my pop-culture lexicon, R. Lee Ermey!] I've seriously never wished harder for a fence-malfunction-leads-to-shockingly-violent-yet-absolutely-deserved-and-Blogger-endorsed-Ibex-horn-enema video to be posted. My fingers and toes are totally crossed.  I might actually pray for it...though I'm going to stick with the crossed-fingers thing for a know, give it a chance to work and all.


Best irrelevant "relevant picture" suggested by Zemanta for this post: a lovely image of the South China Sea.

South China SeaImage by angela7dreams via Flickr

Thanks, Zemanta!
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Monday, July 26, 2010

There Will Be Blood Again Soon...

Not a good idea to watch if you didn't see how season 4 ended, but if you did: get ready. I can't wait...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Flashback Video: Deconstruction-LA Song

I love this album, this song in particular. Post-Jane's Addiction music from Eric Avery and Dave Navarro. Is it odd that I rack this after posting Wolfgang Press? Nope. Not at all.

"Blue screen water, it's not an ocean anymore, it's just a backdrop, now come on..."

Flashback Video: Wolfgang Press-Cut the Tree

One of my all-time favorite songs. Thanks to Master Chef A for putting it in my mind tonight. From the excellent 4AD collection "Lonely is an Eyesore ."

"I've seen the man I want to be, his name is purity. He's walking free, he's walking free."

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Nerd Alert

I'm not 100% sold on the costume, but: I can't wait to see this ...

And this , as I can't wait to see what Kenneth Branagh does with the mythological aspects that could read in a very Shakespearian way:

King Arthur, McGyver & The Knight of the Oval Table Present: Case #0-The Tiny Pie Affair

I love cookbooks, always have.  The accumulated images of potential meals and treats is like the best kind of porn.  Not THE best, but pretty close.  I'm definitely not the first to make that connection, but the link is on my mind presently, so I decided to work through it a bit.

The way I see it, the cookbook-to-porn connection seems obviously linked to the concept of desire, with the most basic response closely akin to jealousy.  There's an immediate sensory response to a desirable image that is begging for some relevant Roland Barthes quote that I'm unwilling to dig up at the moment, regardless of his personal hero status, because then this post becomes more about the Barthesian porn response than the food-linked desire that I'm mulling over.  So:

[The Zemanta Assistant widget for Blogger suggested this image for me, as it's clearly topical, so I'll post it.  I can only hope it's sufficiently confusing the next time Sophie Barthes Googles herself :)]

Again: I love cookbooks, the salacious and unrepentant photos of food kind.

Sadly: I hate to follow recipes.

When it comes to cooking, this is ok, as, to quote Captain Barbosa, "they're more guidelines really."  Deviation is not only acceptable, it's expected.  Much like a referential academic quote, you find the recipe, you insert the idea of it into the book that is your epicurean life, cite it if you like, qualify it and then make it your own in order to escape the specter of plagiarism.  At least that's how it is for me.  When I find a recipe, I look over the ingredients and immediately insert the substitutions and measurements that relate more to me and my palate.   As far as cooking goes, this works well.

Baking, well, that's different.  Baking involves a strict adherence to to the minutia, the need for numbered steps to be followed exactly and, at least for me, a total loss of the McGyver -esque confidence that I normally feel in the kitchen and a constant questioning of my short-term memory that makes me walk back to the cookbook convinced that I'm about to use the wrong cup/spoon.

Baking scares me.

I find this to be suddenly unacceptable.

So: rather than flip longingly through the pages of books long enough to drool onto pictures of cakes and pies and assorted pastries, and then replace the volumes back on the shelf, frustrated, I've decided that I will conquer this response.

This aging dog is going to learn some new tricks.

For some reason, the first thoughts I had in this regard were pie-related.  I love pie.  I've made only one in my life, blueberry/peach using frozen crust, and it turned out ok, good, in fact.  But that has been my one and only attempt, and it was only a half-attempt, as the crust was generic.  Last week (these initial posts are reflections on recently past events, deal) I decided to make some little pies to take along to a friend's birthday party.  I have a 24 well muffin pan and thought I should use that instead of making a normal-sized pie, so I broke out a cookbook and started looking up dough recipes, chock full of fire and conviction.

Then I chickened out and thawed out a some frozen pie crust I'd bought to make some quiches (which I may post about later).

The concept of making pie crust was just too daunting, but the idea of slapping the thawed doughs together and rolling them out like I'd made it myself seemed like the right sort of baby step I needed to get some momentum going, so that's what I did.  [Hence the reference to Case #0, as it's really just the preface to my adventures with homemade/from scratch recipes.]  I rolled out the dough, used a biscuit cutter to get the perfect little shapes and baked one to see how it went.  It went fine, except that it stuck to the well, so I used some parchment paper to pop them out easily, which made me feel all McGyvery.

I winged the filling using frozen blueberries, juice from some jarred peaches and pears, some cinnamon, vanilla sugar & flour to thicken it a bit [all things that were in the pantry/fridge].

I made the little tops using a smaller biscuit cutter and fork-crimped, triple-slit then egg-white washed them and popped them into the oven.

And then they were done!  And I was suddenly confronted with a problem I hadn't considered: how was I going to transport 24 little pies.  [If I had a nickel for every time I've asked myself this question, I'd have 5 cents.]

Answer: utilize the to-go container that I'd taken from our last dinner out (Mexican, seafood burrito, yum) and taken home without putting food in it, certain that I could use it for something.  My old scout master would be proud of my preparedness.

Surprisingly, they tasted pretty good!  I was expecting a horrible disaster, but instead felt inspired, and relatively effective.  It was nice.  Momentum achieved.  They seemed to go over well with people, so all in all, as prefaces go, I can't complain.

So, feeling empowered, I broke out the one book that scares me the most, a tome I'd bought as a present for SZ a couple years ago: The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion .  620 pages.  A tiny section of clumped pictures, but otherwise porn-less.  My nightmare.

This is the book that I will conquer, my new bible.  Hence the post name.  [Our table is more oval than round, so, you know...]

I'm terrified, but determined.  It feels kind of awesome.

Coming Soon: Case #1: White Bread 101.
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Monday, July 19, 2010

I love lists. Always have. I especially love lists full of writerly advice, as they mostly consist of the same well-worn words of wisdom. They appear and disappear often, making little impact during that one shining moment when you're consciously trying to intertwine the text into your future plans. Still: I love to find them, as though a new list of obvious criteria for success will better motivate me to do that which I know I need to do, but don't, and, instead, spend my time searching for motivational prompts. All the while ignoring the most sage advice of all: "Just Do It." Thanks, Nike. High five. Ewwww---sweaty. Gross.

Anyway: I saw this posted on Jonathan Carroll's blog, and thought I'd post it here. He's one of my favorite writers, and needs no help in this regard---neither does Janet Fitch, so I consider the source(s) credible. Is it obvious? Sure---but well-written, and worth a read. At least it is to me...

"CarrollBlog 7.15

Would be writers-- here's a really good list of things to look out for from Janet Fitch, author of WHITE OLEANDER & PAINT IT BLACK from an article in the Los Angeles Times:

1. Write the sentence, not just the story
Long ago I got a rejection from the editor of the Santa Monica Review, Jim Krusoe. It said: “Good enough story, but what’s unique about your sentences?” That was the best advice I ever got. Learn to look at your sentences, play with them, make sure there’s music, lots of edges and corners to the sounds. Read your work aloud. Read poetry aloud and try to heighten in every way your sensitivity to the sound and rhythm and shape of sentences. The music of words. I like Dylan Thomas best for this–the Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait. I also like Sexton, Eliot, and Brodsky for the poets and Durrell and Les Plesko for prose. A terrific exercise is to take a paragraph of someone’s writing who has a really strong style, and using their structure, substitute your own words for theirs, and see how they achieved their effects.

2. Pick a better verb
Most people use twenty verbs to describe everything from a run in their stocking to the explosion of an atomic bomb. You know the ones: Was, did, had, made, went, looked… One-size-fits-all looks like crap on anyone. Sew yourself a custom made suit. Pick a better verb. Challenge all those verbs to really lift some weight for you.

3. Kill the cliché.
When you’re writing, anything you’ve ever heard or read before is a cliché. They can be combinations of words: Cold sweat. Fire-engine red, or phrases: on the same page, level playing field, or metaphors: big as a house. So quiet you could hear a pin drop. Sometimes things themselves are cliches: fuzzy dice, pink flamingo lawn ornaments, long blonde hair. Just keep asking yourself, “Honestly, have I ever seen this before?” Even if Shakespeare wrote it, or Virginia Woolf, it’s a cliché. You’re a writer and you have to invent it from scratch, all by yourself. That’s why writing is a lot of work, and demands unflinching honesty.

4. Variety is the key.
Most people write the same sentence over and over again. The same number of words–say, 8-10, or 10-12. The same sentence structure. Try to become stretchy–if you generally write 8 words, throw a 20 word sentence in there, and a few three-word shorties. If you’re generally a 20 word writer, make sure you throw in some threes, fivers and sevens, just to keep the reader from going crosseyed.

5. Explore sentences using dependent clauses.
A dependent clause (a sentence fragment set off by commas, dontcha know) helps you explore your story by moving you deeper into the sentence. It allows you to stop and think harder about what you’ve already written. Often the story you’re looking for is inside the sentence. The dependent clause helps you uncover it.

6. Use the landscape.
Always tell us where we are. And don’t just tell us where something is, make it pay off. Use description of landscape to help you establish the emotional tone of the scene. Keep notes of how other authors establish mood and foreshadow events by describing the world around the character. Look at the openings of Fitzgerald stories, and Graham Greene, they’re great at this.

7. Smarten up your protagonist.
Your protagonist is your reader’s portal into the story. The more observant he or she can be, the more vivid will be the world you’re creating. They don’t have to be super-educated, they just have to be mentally active. Keep them looking, thinking, wondering, remembering.

8. Learn to write dialogue.
This involves more than I can discuss here, but do it. Read the writers of great prose dialogue–people like Robert Stone and Joan Didion. Compression, saying as little as possible, making everything carry much more than is actually said. Conflict. Dialogue as part of an ongoing world, not just voices in a dark room. Never say the obvious. Skip the meet and greet.

9. Write in scenes.
What is a scene? a) A scene starts and ends in one place at one time (the Aristotelian unities of time and place–this stuff goes waaaayyyy back). b) A scene starts in one place emotionally and ends in another place emotionally. Starts angry, ends embarrassed. Starts lovestruck, ends disgusted. c) Something happens in a scene, whereby the character cannot go back to the way things were before. Make sure to finish a scene before you go on to the next. Make something happen.

10. Torture your protagonist.
The writer is both a sadist and a masochist. We create people we love, and then we torture them. The more we love them, and the more cleverly we torture them along the lines of their greatest vulnerability and fear, the better the story. Sometimes we try to protect them from getting booboos that are too big. Don’t. This is your protagonist, not your kid."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Art of Getting One's Feet Wet

I'm just one of those people that sees the connective tissues, and thinks "hey, look at that."

I see webs instead of perpendicular lines.

These observations bounce around in my head without release, and the reality is: sometimes, I need to get them out :)

That's what this page is for. It's an effort to reclaim parts of my head I feel I'll need in the future, and to develop thoughts and ideas in a format that doesn't simply induce migraines.

I can't promise it will be interesting, but I remain hopeful, nonetheless.

The hardest part is the first step, I think. I'm glad it's now out of the way...