Monday, April 27, 2009 making me wait

I have heard time and time again that writers should not talk about their projects while they're in progress. I haven't heard anything about blogging about projects, sooooo...

I am almost finished with a non-fiction book. I gave myself an April 30 deadline for it to be finished and ready to submit. It's 27 pages long. That is all I'm willing to share (here) at this time.

Last night, I Googled the term "midnight movies" for a section in my book about movie theaters. That got me thinking about Beatles movies. As a teen, I attended several Beatles film festivals at independent theaters like the Nuart in Los Angeles and the (late, lamented) Fox in Venice, CA. I saw films such as "The Beatles at Shea Stadium", "Magical Mystery Tour", concerts at Washington, D.C. and the Budokan in Japan, and all sorts of fab clips. This wasn't like going to a typical, narrative fictional film; I didn't know what I would see next, and that was a thrill. (I also thrilled to the trailers of films like "Eraserhead" and "Pink Flamingos" (two films I haven't had the courage to watch yet), and ads for rock stations like K-WEST (which is now Power 106, a hip-hop station).

Anyway, thinking of Beatles films got me thinking about the stage production "Beatlemania" (you remember..."Not the Beatles, but an incredible simulation"), and so I started looking up that, and I, um, kind of forgot about both the original research and my manuscript.

I was angry at myself for my failure to respect time. The manuscript needs to be finished, and ready for editors' eyes, in three days. What is wrong with me? How much do I really care about my writing or my project?

It's sad, but true: we talk to ourselves more harshly than we would a friend, or even a stranger.

At least I know I am not alone, thanks to this comforting Los Angeles Times "Jacket Copy" blog post. Some writers -- published, acclaimed authours -- even procrastinate with, ahem, Perez Hilton.

But, really, really, I need to do some book writing tonight. The rest of you can enjoy this clip of "Beatlemania":

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What's your NPR name?

One of the joys of blogging is to read other people's blogs and see what they do right. (I've found so many bloggers doing it right!) I found this gem here (scroll down to April 13).

I deduced that my NPR name is Jesnnie Tijuana. (That's not something to be proud of, Tijuana being the smallest and only foreign city I've visited so far. Why can't it be the most desolate road? I like the sound of Jesnnie Zyzzx better.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What Do You See When You Look at a Cross?

This is a cross necklace which Two Dogs gave me for my birthday in 2007. I am wearing it today, Easter Sunday. I wear it even though I am an atheist who does not think that the individual most people know as Jesus Christ (his Hebrew name was Yeshua bar Yosef) was a divine being.

The Christian cross (also known as the Latin cross) is an aesthetically pleasing and balanced piece of geometry. It is also an abstraction of a ghastly execution device. On television, we see crosses made of crystal with a tiny Lord’s Prayer engraved in the center (in adult and child sizes). At Easter, we see crosses made of white and milk chocolate. In California, we see white crosses standing tall upon brushy hills. A cross that shows Yeshua pinned to it – a true crucifix -- is much harder to find, except in the Catholic Church.

What if Yeshua had been born in the last 100 years? Can you imagine wearing a crystal pendant in the shape of an electric chair, or giving a chocolate gas chamber to your children?

It’s easy to understand why crucifixion is a subject few of us, even the most devout Christian, want to dwell on. But no matter what your belief, never forget that the cross has its roots in the bloody, agonizing death of a human being in a brutal time. It's a sobering reminder of our capacity for cruelty, and an admonition to leave such cruelty behind.

Read Weeds

Last night, I finished an extraordinary novel called Weeds by Edith Summers Kelley. It was first published in 1923 and reprinted in 1996 by the Feminist Press. This was one of my "acorn" books -- I bought it from Bas Bleu a few years ago and just now got around to reading it. It's good that books never go stale.

Weeds is the story of Judith Pippinger Blackford, who grows up in Kentucky tobacco country at the turn of the 20th century. Hope falls like a star as Judith transforms from happy, oblivious child (with a gift for drawing comical pictures) to tenant farmer's wife beaten down by motherhood, house and farm work, and the knowledge that this is all she will have for the rest of her life. The tenant farmers in Judith's community live a never-ending cycle of planting and cultivating tobacco; their enemies are those which they have no weapons against: weather and the caprices of tobacco buyers. They grasp at joy with the occasional ride to town to trade horses, a stolen ewe in the hungry days of weather, whiskey (for the men) and pictures torn from newspapers and sentimental farm wives' magazines (for the women).

Kelley, who had experienced Kentucky farm life firsthand, describes the land, the customs and the people with unstinting detail, making textual detours which today's writing advice frowns upon.

A contemporary writer might also be tempted to turn Judith's husband, Jerry, into an abusive lout. Kelley lived in a time when feminism did not mean war on the opposite sex, and thus Jerry is a decent man doing the best he can, every bit a victim of circumstances as is Judith.

Weeds has been more than another great read for me. It has pushed me to keep working on my creative projects, such as my CafePress T-shirt business (which thanks to advice from the board is now at least five separate websites -- more on that later). We women who are creative must remember the Judith Pippingers who never had a chance to have their art truly come to life. The world needs our versions of beauty and truth.

Friday, April 10, 2009

How to Keep White Chocolate Special

Take a ride in the time machine with me:

Do you remember when the only time you ever saw white chocolate was in this shape?

Remember when white chocolate (which isn’t really chocolate, but let's not split hairs) tasted better...because you knew you could only have it at Easter? Not for your birthday. Not for Christmas. Easter only, in a shape of a bunny. White chocolate was a seasonal thing.

Today, white chocolate is available 24/7/365. You can pick it up in bar form in the candy aisle, buy white chocolate chips for your cookies, and see Lindt white chocolate truffles staring up at you while you pay for your books at Borders. White chocolate still tastes the same as it did as an Easter bunny. But it no longer tastes special.

What else is no longer special today?

The movie The Wizard of Oz -- once aired once and only once a year on one of the networks, now you can watch it every day on DVD.

Movies in general – how can something that you can do in your living room be called an “event”?

Going out to eat – some of us think we can’t cook and therefore stop and pick up fast food or do takeout every day. (I see an inverse relationship between the quantity of the restaurants and the specialness of the food – a dinner at Pina’s Bistro in Tustin, of which there is only one, is far better for the soul than a dinner at, say, McDonald’s.)

How can we make these things special again?

It would be impractical, not to mention annoying, to return specialness to these things by means of law. Imagine a law which forbade the sale of white chocolate except in the month before Easter.

What we can do to return specialness is
a.) not overconsuming, and
b.) remembering to be grateful.

The last time I saw The Wizard of Oz was in a real theater – the Bay Theater in Seal Beach, some years ago. (If you're in the area, go to the Bay. Please go. Classic single-screen theaters need all the support they can get!) I eat any sort of chocolate in small doses, no more than about an inch square at a time. Two Dogs and I enjoy every moment when we get the chance to eat out, and we pick our restaurants with care. Quality of food, not mere convenience, earns our respect and business.

Come to think of it, life itself is pretty darn special anyways, isn't it?

Monday, April 6, 2009

An Evening at Felix Continental Cafe

If you meander to the Old Towne area of Orange, California, and find yourself hungry, I vigorously recommend Felix Continental Café on the southwest side of the traffic circle. It serves traditional dishes from Cuba and the Caribbean, in generous but not overwhelming portions and prices that are easy on the budget. Two Dogs and I were there not too long ago.

Here is our appetizer – white bread with a layer of butter and a sprinkling of salt. I saw Two Dogs sprinkle salt on his buttered bread at Felix. Mmmmm. This is such a treat that it inspired a T-shirt design.

For those of gentle palate, like myself, Felix can accommodate you with this grilled shrimp and white rice dish. You can request maduros (fried slices of a banana-like fruit) or, since it’s spring, asparagus (as shown below).

Here’s the dish with some white rice left over, which the nutrition police would have me leave on my plate (but I didn’t).

Felix also has a selection of domestic and imported wines and beers. Two Dogs favors Alhambra Negra, a rich dark brew. We also enjoy the Marques de Riscal Rioja and the Martin Codax Tempranillo Rioja. This evening, we shared a bottle of Martin Codax Albariño, a citrusy white which complimented the shrimp.

Come to Felix with an appetite, curiosity, and some good friends. You might even find new friends – or much more. I met Two Dogs here at breakfast one Sunday morning. I had simply decided to eat breakfast out that day. I can’t say exactly why I made that instantaneous decision. Maybe it was because it was the day of the Oscars, and I wanted to read my Sunday Los Angeles Times in a pleasant place. Maybe it was because it was a sunny day, and sunshine has a special magnetism for this mouse. Maybe the universe was nudging me towards a whole new world of music and cuddling and adventure and luvvy-luv.

The sophisticated magic of Felix brought us together, and it brings us back time and time again.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Romance Novel Update

I didn't finish "The Rogue and the Rival". It's not Ms. Rodale's fault; I have lost my ability to get into the traditional romance novel. I want to read stories in which I can't see everything that is coming next, in which I don't feel deja vus stacked up on top of each other like the turtles in Dr. Seuss's "Yertle the Turtle."

I did finish "Soulful Sex: The Dark Side", where I couldn't see everything that was coming next. I think you would enjoy it too, but you can't borrow my copy. Go buy your own.