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, February 21, 2010

Woes and Joes and Julia and Cassadines

Wednesday's Child
Oh, woe was me this past Wednesday. The day began beautifully. The weather was really great – it was sunny and not too warm. I got out of the house and stretched my legs by taking a trip to the library to get a card. I hadn't had one in years, because I would just order everything from Amazon. But we don't have the space for tons of books in the apartment, and giving them away is a hassle with our schedules. I got a card then had lunch at Taco Bell (I know, bad girl eating food like that in your condition). But I hadn't had food from there in a very long time, and I'm still under doctor's orders to gain weight. After lunch, I explored a part of our neighborhood I seldom see. There, I found a shop called the Curious Palette. It's essentially a deli with a small gourmet grocery area that boasted French-style jam made on the premises. They also had Tapenade. I'm planning on sampling their wares and writing about it for my foodie sites. This was a great find. I also discovered that there is a weekly farmer's market, Mar Vista Farmer's Market, that I knew nothing about. This was detailed in a quarterly neighborhood newsletter I'd never seen before. The writers even had intriguing recipes in the newsletter that used products sold at the farmer's market. I plan on sampling the wares there as well. Finally, I stopped by Mitsuwa Marketplace for some pantry items. I managed to do all of this and catch a bus back without a long wait. I was very happy.

The woe began with a call from my surgeon. I had called her the day before to report some symptoms she'd told me to look out for. Her call scared me enough to immediately contact my Oncology Docs to see if my appointment for chemo had been set up. It hadn't. I was caught in a bureaucratic nightmare at a monolithic health care facility overloaded with requests for free treatment. A note on why I need free treatment. I am one of those Americans sans health insurance, because the plan offered by my employer was really expensive (it nearly rivaled the cost of our rent) but didn't cover very much. It was, in fact, fortunate that I didn't have any insurance when I was diagnosed. That status made me eligible for aid that would cover everything instead of the catastrophic debt we would incur trying to cover bills our insurance wouldn't cover. The trade off for this aid is steering through a massive county and state bureaucracy. One of the two things that made getting an appointment 4 weeks instead of 8 to 10 was the rarity of my cancer (it is very rare though it has a high survival rate). This makes me very attractive to a teaching hospital. The second was I found some super nice and empathetic office workers at that hospital. They really went above and beyond for me. I have so many thank you cookies to make.

The woe in waiting even 4 weeks is that the surgery didn't get every bit of the tumor out. There are tiny ones that aren't visible to the naked eye growing again. These cause the symptoms I'd been told to look out for. Thus, I found myself in General Hospital in a 17 hour long queue waiting for treatment. I'm serious, that building is the building used in ABC's long running soap opera, General Hospital. I didn't see Luke or Laura or find any Cassadines or their weather machine. All we had was a cavernous waiting room with naught to entertain us but the craziest LA denizens and dreadful programs on the CW Television Network. Sorry fans of Supernatural and the Vampire Diaries. This stuff was truly abysmal. And the leading men all looked the same. Jon thinks they were all the same tall, dark haired, dead-eyed guy cloned over and over. I'm not sure about that. All I know for sure is those scripts were just dreadful, and for some reason Chad Everett had bangs.

My woes ended Friday afternoon when I was released from the ER. I was determined not to be stuck in the hospital again just after Tiger Woods came back into the endless news cycles. Though I found that beyond the endless wait, County-USC boasted state of the art facilities and a knowledgeable, caring staff that were pleasant to interact with, I wasn't into a prolonged visit. I had spent all of December trying to avoid that coverage in the hospital. But since I wasn't in any immediate danger, and I was seeing the oncologist early this week anyway, they let me leave. The upside of the ordeal was finding out that I wasn't in any immediate danger, and I got some tests done that gets me closer to starting chemo. That was worth the woes.

What's Cookin'
This week's soup was split pea with ham. It was a first time recipe for me and born of a sale on whole hams at my favorite market last week. Aside from lots of lovely meat, there was a dandy bone from which to make tasty stock. I made the stock on Mardi Gras and the soup on Ash Wednesday. That was a naughty no-no as I had to taste something meat based on a day I was to have no meat. I only had a teaspoon full, I promise. My bigger sin involving the soup was on Friday. I tend to do the meatless Friday thing during Lent, but I was coming home after the never ending ER experience. The only thing that would fix that experience was really good meat and lots of it. I plan to repent later. The other recipe of the week was Sole Meunière a la Julia Child. There was Dover sole on sale at the market last week, so the choice of fish for Ash Wednesday was easy. I didn't take photos because the dish itself was not pretty in its platting. The sole fillets were thin and broke on me, but the meal was very tasty. The delicacy of the fish married well with the rich brown butter sauce and lemon. Even Jon enjoyed it. I will certainly make it again, and then there will be pictures. This week, my goal is Mediterranean Fish soup. I failed at it in spectacular fashion last year, but I have a far simpler recipe this time and more experience with seafood stock. I'll have photos of that as well (hopefully).

Moving and Shaking
I am cleared for exercise now. I'm starting with walking at least a half an hour as briskly as I can manage. For toning my thin but wiggly arms and to shore up the parts that have fallen down with the sudden weight loss, I have chosen the Bollywood Dance Workout with Hemalayaa. The series runs on one of my many cable channels sometime after the informercials. I've watched several in a supine position and now feel that I may have to actually do something the next time they air. I'd really love to have the outfit to go with the routines, but I shall muddle through nonetheless. There will be no photos of that, but here is a video of Hemalayaa in action.

A Tale of Two Women
Julie & Julia was an interesting experience for me in that I was actually interested in the Julie Powell part of the film at all, and that I found the women had a lot more in common than cooking. There were so many wonderful things in the film for me that I find it hard to pick a place to begin. Why did I find the terrifying? Was it the lobster trying to escape its fate? No, lobsters don't move fast enough to terrify me. My father and I have been chased around a kitchen by Maryland blue crabs. Now, that was exciting and kind of funny, actually. The cat was chasing the crab which was chasing us. It was all very silly, but it ended deliciously. Serendipity made Julie and Julia terrifying for me. SPOILER ALERT for the books and the film.

Julia Child spent many years working on Mastering the Art of French Cooking endlessly testing and improving the recipes and the verbiage. Yet the book only saw the light of day because of a few random acts like writing a fan letter about knives resulting in a connection with an American editor who was obsessed with Paris after a series of unlikely events. Any wrong move during those years could have easily resulted in Julia's book never seeing the light of day. Likewise, Julie Powell had spent many years studying and toiling to become a published writer. Yet it was making an exercise in personal growth public that gave her the path to realizing her creative aspirations. A random decision made on a whim and boom, there's your career. Write a fan letter on a whim and that leads to becoming a legend. Planning be damned. That is terrifying to me.

The only thing that either woman had any control over was their on perseverance. Had they not done the work diligently, there would have been nothing to show when an opportunity presented itself. Though terrifying, Julie and Julia was a reminder that we always have to be ready to explore any avenue toward our goals. Reading My Life in France reminded me of that last month. Thus, I got my act together and submitted that memoir into competition. Seeing Julie and Julia reminded Jon and I not to pass up any opportunity – no matter how remote. So when Ralph calls and says that there is an A-List actor that we can get a script to directly, I pushed past my initial reaction of 'there is nothing we have that he has ever played before' and sent something that is an interesting part even though it's a long shot. Who knows? We may catch him on a day that he wants to go into a different direction. Or he may know another actor who has always wanted to play this sort of part. Or he may like our writing enough to hire us to create something else. It costs us nothing to respond, and it's a potential connection we certainly can't ignore. It's hard to keep up the energy necessary to act on opportunities. Each one needs to be embraced and sent out with enthusiasm and confidence. After all, if you don't feel that way about the material, who will?

But beyond the terrifying serendipity, Julie and Julia was about the two women, their aspirations and their relationships with their husbands. Now, I'm a big believer in girl power, and I'd like to think that these women would have found a way to press on with their writing on their own. However, I know how hard it is to keep motivated in the face of setbacks and everyday adversities. Even with having a supportive husband who is a creative partner, I find myself reaching out to friends and occasionally relatives and in really dire situations, perfect strangers, for validation. I am very fortunate to have a circle of friends that I can lean on for encouragement. Julie Powell and Julia Child found success in large part because they had wonderfully supportive husbands and great firends. Watching these relationships – particularly the Childs' – made the movie a delightful. Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci were marvelous protraying a couple that was lusty and fun. As a film fan, I thought Julie and Julia is well worth watching. As a writer, I found the film to be an inspiration.

Go Joe!
This will sound strange, but Julie and Julia had something in common with GI: Joe The Rise of Cobra (TROC), the other film Jon and I watched last weekend. Both are film adaptations of well established published materials. In the case of GI:Joe, there was also a popular cartoon series to live up to or get around, depending on your opinion of said series. I thought the series was a lot of dopey fun. That's somewhat inexplicable for a fan of Anime which was working at a far more cophisticated level of story tellling (even in shows that were based on toy lines). Thus, I was not disappointed by this film. It was certainly dopey, but it was a whole lot of fun. The script managed to work in phrases like 'A real American Hero' and 'Go JOE!' without making it look like they were squeezed in with a crow bar. The 'Go JOE' line went to Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje whom I adore as Simon Adebisi from OZ. At any rate, the only element missing from the film that was a regular part of the series were the moral lessons tacked on at the end of each episode. These PSAs were common in cartoons from the 1980s to make up for the fact that many of these shows were sponsored by and made for toy companies. There are many parodies of these PSAs on Youtube.com. I chose this parody because it captured the spirit of the others without being obscene. Hasbro Toys was listed as one of the production companies behind GI: Joe TROC. I think a feature version of one of those PSAs would have been awesome.

That nit pick aside, GI: Joe TROC offered some surprises along with the exploding mayhem it so generously served up every few scenes. As I mentioned in the last blog, this film managed to degayify (I still say it's a word) this film. Oh, there were still lots of well-built guys hanging out together and working out together. But there was a lot less shirtlessness and a lot more females hanging out as well. I think the reason this film seemed less homoerotic is that the female characters were credible hanging out with the guys. I think this speaks well for female action characters in general. Film and TV have come a long way from female characters of yore. They weren't dreamy-eyed girls with crushes on the leading slab of man. They are real partners who can really kick ass. They can watch the lead's back as well as any dude. And they can usually rescue themselves. As fellow soldiers, the action chick gets to hear all of the secrets and builds that bond that brothers at arms have for millennia. GI: Joe had two action chicks – one was a hero (Scarlett) the other was a villain (The Baroness ). Both were credible partners to their counterparts while being hot females. Their presence really cut down on the manly men who like hanging out with manly men thing the cartoon had. GI: JOE TROC had a great sense of humor that was not dependent on Marlon Wayans' Ripcord. I found myself laughing out loud at appropriate points in the movie. Overall, I found the film to be a fun, popcorn eating treat.

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