Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Memoirs, Memories and Passings

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

Memoirs and Memories

Finishing the first story in my Mother's memoir has been a fascinating experience as a person and a writer. It's not the tear jerker stuff that got to me. It was all the details that I didn't remember until I really started going back over all the circumstances of one particular vacation my Mother and I took to New Orleans. For instance, when I travel to far away places, I'm not one to have a hotel room for showering and sleeping. I like to have a room that I can enjoy while watching local television. The news in every city is delivered differently – even the packaged styles like Action News or Eyewitness News. New York has the biggest percentage of traffic reports of any city's news I've seen. But the area and traffic density they cover is, frankly, insane. Philadelphia has the longest sports sections where Los Angeles has the shortest (even when they had an NFL team, which they didn't and still don't deserve). Canadian news broadcasts have anchors that reflect the make up of its population. I have seen East Indian reporters and anchors for decades. I'm just beginning to see reporters in the US. I've seen no anchors yet.

In France, the news was really fascinating (and I'm not just talking about the weatherman who was once a general). Just looking at the weather map gave me a whole new perspective on European politics. The map was the same size in area as the ones in the US, but it covers the UK, continental Europe to Russia and the Middle East and North Africa. They are all neighbors like our states are. I can see why troubles in one section of that map would be of concern to the others. We're an ocean away from those conflicts. We also saw things while in France that I'm not so sure were a good plan like The TV version of Der Clown. How the authorities could never find the guy in the rubber clown mask with the tiny clown hat at a rakish angle is beyond me. That show was many times sillier than any given CSI: Miami. The film was being hawked that year at the Cannes Film Market. And then there was the Eurovision Song Contest (the one that brought ABBA to the world). It was often painful, but we found we could not turn away.

These travel habits stem from that trip to New Orleans. We went in July not realizing that the city had deadly mid-day heat and humidity. Philadelphia has very sultry summers, after all. I don't think Jon and I were dry for the whole time we were last there (and that was May). Mom and I figured, how bad could it be. It was Mad Dogs and Englishmen bad. Thus, we took to going out in the early morning, then retiring to our lovely room for TV, reading or naps until the daily thunderstorm ended at somewhere after 2pm. Then we'd venture out into the 'cooler' weather for the rest of our sightseeing. We rationalized at the time that part of a vacation should be resting from everyday work, not running around like crazy people to tick items off a list. When we weren't in our room, we stayed on the hotel's property enjoying the atrium and people watching. To this day, I like to really take my time and enjoy the ambiance of a city I'm visiting. If I'm not in the room soaking up local pop culture, I'm at the local cafe or tavern soaking up local beverages and people watching. The sightseeing list is not etched in stone for me. I had never thought about when or where the habit came from until this past week. I can't wait to find out what other revelations this writing will bring.

Dad vs the Oysters

My adventure with the oysters amused my father to no end. That's a wonderful thing to do on Father's Day. I haven't heard him that tickled in quite some time. For the record, he still is not willing to let me come at him with hot food. He also would prefer that I buy shucked oysters in the future. He got a chill thinking about me jabbing at the shellfish with a sharp knife while holding it in my hand. I was surprised to find out that he is quite the oyster fan and makes soups or stews with them fairly often. That makes sense. He's the parent that is really into anything from the sea. I learned to broil fish and cook live crab from Dad. I knew he loved clams on the half shell. The oyster thing is in the blood. We also seem to have the same view of cheese in cooked food. I really prefer a balance of cheese in a dish. With pizza or with lasagna, I don't like to have so much cheese that it will congeal into a solid mass if not eaten quickly. Six or 58 cheese pizzas are of no interest to me. When it reaches that level, I'd just prefer to eat the cheese on its own with some crusty bread. I get that from my father, I believe. He's currently on a tour of famous southern barbecue joints. That should be fun for him. I think if he'd retired earlier in life, he may have opened one of his own. The need to feed multitudes comes from both sides of my family. I hope he doesn't give the Neelys a hard time. I'm not the only one who watches the Food Network. Dad will no doubt be checking to see if their sauce and fixings are up to snuff. Oh geez.

On Michael Jackson
Again, these are musings on a very personal level. If you think you'll be offended, skip it. But no flames. I flame back.

Let me begin by saying that I was profoundly disturbed at the course of Michael Jackson's life in the last decade or so. I think that only the sleaziness of the parents involved in the incidents that caused him to be under the scrutiny of law enforcement kept him from jail. I was profoundly saddened by the erosion of his talent to his demons. Nor was I happy about the coverage his passing has received. Only complete peace on Earth and the answers to world hunger and the curing of all disease would excuse the extent of coverage on one entertainer's life and death. On a personal note, between his home in Bel Air and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is the bus route Jon and I take home every day (it's the LA Metro route that takes all the help to where the rich folk live). As we listened to the coverage and the helicopters overhead while still at work, I was convinced we'd never get home. That was not the case, but only a level one homeland security emergency or the Big One amongst earthquakes should cause such commotion at a major hospital.

That said, my feelings about the passing of Michael Jackson are complicated. He had been a child my age finding fame amongst the grown-ups. The Jackson 5 inspired my cousin and two of our best friends to form a band and send a tape to Motown. We were invited to come to Detroit for an audition. That notion was vetoed by all of our parents. He comprised a significant part of the soundtrack of my youth and young adulthood. I had my only AP wire service story during the Jacksons Destiny tour. I broke the news that Jermaine had performed with the group for the first time since leaving them. As a young adult, I can remember all the night clubs and dance parties where we danced the nights away to either the Jacksons or Michael's music. Hearing those songs during the endless coverage brought me back to very specific and significant experiences in my life. That's Tracey as Michael and me as LaToya. I think we won a prize at that Haloween party. It's still hazy. The significance of the momories triggered by songs was much the same with sister, Janet Jackson. It was a random Youtube search that had me listening to Nasty. That song prompted the memory that resulted in the first story in my mother's memoir. For me, it was hard to ignore the huge presence this man had in my early life. I had long since drifted from Michael Jackson's music as it became more self absorbed, but I was saddened by his passing. There would be no rehabilitation nor comeback. He joins the going list of passings that put a fine point on my mortality. It was hard enough to hear that Prince needed double hip replacement. I'm waiting for the day he turns up singing Let's Go Crazy while using a walker. Needless to say, I don't consider anyone in their 50s as anywhere near old. That's a new realization for me. Before the conflicted feelings and annoyance set it, all I could say was, Damn. Followed by 'shut UP Craig.' My dear friend remains firmly footed in the more negative view of Mr. Jackson's recent life. I suppose, in the end, I'm not merely sad about Michael Jackson's passing. I'm mourning the passing of my youth.

And no, I'm not wallowing in grief. Nor do I want to be 20 something again unless it was with that body and my current mind. That could be a rip snorting good time.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Amore, Oysters and Updates

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

This will be shorter than the norm. I have a lot on my plate this week and many chores and deadlines for today.

Magic Moments

I wait all week for that one moment of weirdness that makes the beginning of the blog something fun and reflects the strangeness that informs my life. Sitting in a restaurant full of people singing That's Amore while toasting the wait staff certainly qualifies. There were even laminated lyric sheets to encourage singing along. Tracey genuinely looked horrified. Jon never broke stride making some point about money laundering (that really had something to do with the writing we were discussing) and I sang along without needing the lyric sheet. What can I say? I've seen Moonstruck about a billion times and the film opens with that song in its entirety. I was having dinner with Temple Alum and playwrite extraordinaire, Tracey Wilson, in one of my favorite Italian Restaurants in the neighborhood. It's also quite the spot for tourists visiting Venice and Marina del Rey. We hadn't been to the C&O Trattoria in quite a while. We tend to avoid the touristy areas nearby especially on a Friday night. But the restaurant was really good and fairly cheap with these incredible garlic knots steeped in olive oil and dusted with salt and herbs. And of course, Tracey was in town. We hadn't seen her since our last trip to Philadelphia three years ago. She was having all sorts of exciting meetings that we wanted to hear about. And she's always writing something very interesting. I really miss conversations about writing that doesn't involve budgets and funding and packaging. It was just about themes and characters. We were having a deep, esoteric discussion while the restaurant and the servers were singing That's Amore. It was a blast. More on writing later.

Deb vs The Oysters

We were off on Friday, so I finally had made the purchases for the seafood extravaganza. Fortunately, Alton Brown had an episode of Good Eats on oysters the night before. I figured out that I needed to buy small oysters that were sweeter and easier to handle. That was good to know, because I knew nothing. I found myself really nervous about this whole situation. I am a hedonist, and my creds were on the line here. But as I looked at these things that seem to be exotic rocks, I couldn't help but wonder why anyone would ever get the idea of cracking that open and having a swallow. Primitive man probably saw primitive birds smashing these things on rocks and feasting on the innards. But what else did primitive man have to eat? I was dubious. With that in mind, I also bought some lovely lump crab meat along with the oysters at the fabulous Santa Monica Seafood and some shrimp and crab legs (they were on sale at my regular market). Since the oyster prep was very simple, I decided to finally tackle the elusive shrimp bisque recipe and make some crab cakes. If I hated the oysters, I could still enjoy some seafood. Next, came trying to opening the tightly closed rock. I am not the most graceful person I know. As far as I know, my father is still leery of me coming at him with hot food. You trip once going across a diningroom and no one forgets. Shucking these things involves holding the oyster in the palm of the hand while leveraging a sharp implement pointed toward my hand and shoving it into this rock. As I was doing that for the first time, I realized that we could be mere centimeters from a visit to the ER. However, that didn't happen. I opened them. It was inelegant, but I shucked a half dozen without losing any of the liquor. I had three on the half shell with a squirt of lemon and three with a Mignonette sauce. They are delicious. It was clean and sweet and a little salty. I got the attraction. I will definitely have them again. My hedonist creds remain in tact. The bisque and crab cakes were great as well. My Month of Fun is complete!

Writing and Other Updates

I'm making slow progress on all fronts in my writings. This week really wiped me out physically. The slight shift in schedule made for commuting anomalies that were frustrating and draining more often than not. I just had nothing left by the end of the day. Thus, all of my work saw only incremental progress. I'm hoping for more today, but I also have a lot of getting ready for the week chores to get through. Mind you, I'm juggling three major pieces from the same number of genres and a cookbook. They are all making progress. It's just slow going. Talking with Tracey and then then with one of my other favorite writer chicks, Sarah always lights a fire under me. I'll likely get many more pages done this week than last. That's a good thing.

On the film front, the count down to pre-production is winding down toward the mid-August. We've been doing a little prep in advance of that but not very much. We've contacted most of the actors we've talked to and making sure they still want to work the shows. We've touched base with the location mangers to make sure rates hadn't changed. Everyone is eager for work, so that's good news. The pre-production mayhem should be limited to the normal disasters.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hooky, the Hays Code and Naughty Noir

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

This was a really weird week in the day job part of my life. There were some air conditioning problems at the Archive. Since the building is hermetically sealed, that became a problem for the equipment and the personnel. On Monday, we were given the option of leaving early. And we were offered the option of skipping Tuesday entirely while the problem was being fixed. Strangely, this has become a tradition at this job. Every spring, there seems to be an equipment problem that ends the shift. When this happened in past years, Jon and I would go to the movies. The first year, we went to see Ratatouille. The second year, we went to see Speed Racer. This year, we went to see UP. And for those writing me about seeing the new Star Trek film, you haven't been reading my blog, you naughty people. My position on all things Trek has not changed. I'll see it when it's on Netflix. Maybe.

Back to UP. Young or old, this story is an amazing experience. It is hysterically funny, especially whenever the dogs are on screen. It is incredibly touching without being treacly and the characters all ring true. UP is an incredible achievement in American animation. I'm used to Japanese anime being brutally unflinching and honest and wildly funny in turns, but only recently have I seen that same complexity in American animated films. UP is in the same realm as Miyazaki's Spirited Away for its stunning storytelling. Run out the door now and see that film in 3-D. The blog will be here when you get back. The free day off was made complete by a lovely breakfast at our favorite French bakery cafe. That was a good day.

The rest of the week was odd because of a shift in the schedule at the Archive I mentioned last week. Our days are a little longer to give us every other Friday off. In July, we have all the weekends off because of a fluke with where the 4th of July falls. The days off are great for us, because of the work we're doing for our friend as she gets ready to launch her new business and the work we still have on Blood Oath. We aren't under any pressure yet in the countdown to pre-production on the films. We've done all we possibly can on those short of having the funding. Thus, we have about a month and a half before the really running around being crazy starts (and the whining and some times, crying).

Thus far, the longer days haven't been a problem. Surprisingly, the commute home is shorter in time. We seem to have missed the worst of the street traffic be departing an hour later in the afternoon. That's kind of strange as rush hour itself lasts until after 7pm on the freeways. I'm not arguing with it. Long, slow commutes make for one cranky Deb.

Busting Writer's Block

Longtime readers of the blog know that the way I get past writers block is to write something wholly unrelated to whatever is being blocked. It was a tip offered by one of our landlords, the late Stanley Ralph Ross. This advice has proven quite useful to me over the years. It has also produced some very strange fiction. This includes most of the fanfiction I've written as NovaD. Fanfiction is a good diversion from writer's block. I'll never have it published save for maybe on NovaD.org, so there is less pressure about polish. The writing is an exercise to help me work out problems with another piece of prose.

It's Jon's fault that I chose this subject for a writing exercise. He's been watching everything available (three series and four movies) on Space Battleship Yamato. In the US, the first series ran under the name Star Blazers. I watched Star Blazers (see Youtube intro) when I was an undergrad in college. It was the first cartoon series I'd ever seen that was a serial and it ended each episode with a countdown to when the Earth would be destroyed. Of course, my Hubs, anime boy, has seen everything Yamato and owns quite a bit of stuff on it as well. Anyway, he's watching all of this with new English translations to answer some questions he'd long had about some of the fan translated scripts he'd read over the years. The revelations he made have caused a week long e-mail argument between him and one of his anime friends. I have mentioned in the past that this is a house of uber-geeks, right?

Anyway, Jon's watching a little bit each night after he done with editing. I wasn't really paying attention until the films and series I hadn't were running. Then, I noticed something curious and intriguing. The villain and the young hero from the first series had become allies. In fact, there seemed to be something intense between them. Even Jon was startled by what the new translations revealed. This development was particularly obvious in the last film It is thought that the former arch villain has finally met his end in a surprise attack on his home world. The young hero is devastated. He leaves a bouquet of bouquet of white roses and vows never to forget the man. At the end of the movie, our young hero is about to be destroyed by the enemy. There is no escape until the former villain appears to save him. He is all put purring the young man's name while sniffing one of those roses. Jon knew where I was running with that. Of course, I have to layer in layers including survivor guilt and a flirtation with Stockholm Syndrome in conjuring a situation that is realistic to the series in which the young hero could be seduced by his former enemy. It's been fascinating if strange. The story will only see the light of day on NovaD.org.

The exercise became quite involved. It is now a four part arc. Well, somewhere in the middle of the first part, I figured out why I hadn't gotten very far writing the first story in the memoir about my mother, Adventures with Miss Patty. Dancing with the German at Happy Hour in New Orleans was two paragraphs long until this morning. Now, it's six pages with the end clearly in sight. I had been having trouble with the frame for the story. I suddenly realized that it should be very much like the blog – conversational with all the segues that I use every week in giving all the details of a particular incident. The pages began to flow. It was very satisfying, especially after the story had stagnated for so long. For some reason that I can't really explain, the conversational style also keeps me from crying over the details. Weird, huh?
Noir and Naughty

The other indulgence that has preoccupied me in the cause of my writing is film noir. I'm writing a most naughty romance (and I mean really, really naughty), and I need to remind myself of how to write naughty and snappy dialogue without being the least bit explicit. I just watched the initial scene between Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity that was amazingly sexy and naughty but classy and snappy. I watched Mildred Pierce on Tuesday. It's one of my very favorite films. The plot was tight. The dialogue was razor sharp, and the acting was impeccable. The Hays Code certainly kept writers, directors and actors on their toes. I plan to avail myself of the liberalities of these modern times and have my characters do the most unseemly things that I can imagine. But their dialogue will always be clean and classy.

Yes, I'm still working on the comic art work for Blood Oath. And the cookbook. I'm really good at multi-tasking, and I don't sleep much. Fortunately, I have a shorter work week for a while.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Good Vibrations, Cake and Updates

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

I feel much better this weekend (thank you for all who asked), I'm behind schedule today. Friday and Saturday involved some necessary meetings that pushed us way out of our routine. Thus, I'm just starting this blog at a point in the day when I should be posting it. I have a lot of news though, so I must press forward though this one will be a short one.

Power of the Positive

We've teamed up with our partner to help a friend of Dragoncor Productions strike out in her own entertainment related business. She's been a staunch friend of the company , and she's just gosh darned nice. So it was worth giving up most of my Saturday to attend a Small Business Expo to help her canvass for financing and other resources. Unlike the many meetings we've had for financing over the years, this was very straight forward. The business is a vendor to film makers and thus it was easier for the money sources to understand what she does and how the money is made. Meanwhile, the City of Los Angeles had pulled out all the stops to make sure business owners knew the vast range of assistance available to them from the city. They want small businesses to open in LA. It was amazing to be in a room that was vying for attention to help out. Beyond that, there was such a positive vibe from the business owners. Despite these precarious financial times, they were hopeful and optimistic about seizing an opportunity and succeeding. And there was a lovely slice of fudgey chocolate cake at the end of a nice ravioli lunch. We left the building feeling we could take on the world.

Finally, Updates
Perhaps it was the positive vibes and chocolate cake fueled euphoria permeating the ether. Perhaps, all sorts of money has decided it's time to stop hesitating. I don't know. All I know is that during the commute to the meeting, we got a call from a long silent investor. It was happy news. It looks like we will be in pre-production in mid- to late August for 'The Gunslinger' with the other two films lining up after that. It would mean shooting the Western in late September. So we're keeping our thoughts upbeat, our fingers crossed and making plans for swamp coolers and mosquito nets and vats of sunscreen.

On the Blood Oath front (again, thanks to those who've asked), Jon is almost at a picture lock. That means, that the editing sequence and timing is largely finished. He'll send it back to the composer to make sure the music cues are long or short enough. We'll soon know how many manga panels will be needed and what will be on them. I'm hoping to put up some of the final character drawings up this week. We'll preview a few of the manga panels as the short nears its release date. I'm refining the pilot script and first episode and writing treatments for five other episodes. And I'm working on the cookbook with more diligence. We're a little busy.

Summer Fun

We had a fortunate turn of events that helps us with the pressed schedule. The Archive is going to a four day schedule through the summer. We'll be working slightly longer shifts for a three day weekend. Sweet! This will help with our projects and with the severe sleep debt we've amassed. Maybe we'll even get to see a movie! So exciting.

Needless to say, the meetings this weekend kept me from the Seafood Feast yet again. It was not meant to be this weekend. However, I discovered the seafood market that I like to use for special feasts moved to a much more convenient location that we pass fairly frequently. Thus at some point this week or maybe next week on our first free Friday (that's hard to say), I'll finally get those danged oysters and the other seafood treats I've been craving. The Fridays off may mean more grilling in my future. We'd have the courtyard to ourselves during the day on Fridays. Even when school is out, the kids here are in activities that keep them from home until late afternoon. I want to try grilling vegetables and summer fruits.

Conversations with Craig
Warning! Spoilers and extreme derision for Terminator: Salvation

The following is from a Post-it note Craig left on my workstation and a lengthy conversation that followed:

A Stone-aged tribe, unfamiliar with modern ways and technology of any kind, could have a camcorder dropped in their midst and come up with a more satisfying and comprehensible 'Terminator' movie.Not since the heyday of Tijuana donkey shows have audiences witnessed such acting prowess. Many scenes appear to have been filmed in christian Bale's backyard shed. Bale seems to be drunk and unaware that he's being filmed.'Terminator: Salvation raises so many howling questions in my mind that weren't closed to being answered by the end of the film. Questions like, 'How can a human man get hit in the chest with a steel girder and continue spewing dialogue?' Or 'How does the rag tag band of rebels know how to put a robot heart into a human?' But the most vexing question left unanswered was 'why do the robots in the robot factory need workstations with chairs???'