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!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pains & Gains, Irish Butter and Updates

My reward for taking a long walk to and from the Mar Vista Farmer's Market was an astonishing hunk of fresh baguette with a light, light smear of Irish butter. The crust is perfectly crunchy and the inside is remarkably tender. The butter was sweet and somehow not greasy. Paired together, it was a most delightful snack. The market was a treat on its own. Though I was too late for the squash blossoms again, I found amazing produce like a fat leek with over a foot of white or light leaves. And then there were the huge shallots and big, beautiful tomatoes. Oh, and there was the baguette. All of this was on top of a really beautiful day. Or it was by the time we started walking home. It had been raining mightily earlier and there were still big, dark clouds lurking about when we started out.

The weekend has been wonderful, food and beverage wise. My walk yesterday centered around a trip to Beverage Warehouse, a liquor, wine and beer outlet store in the neighborhood. Friend and former Boders Books colleague, Adam, recommended some wines on his website, PinotNow.com . I found two of the five mentioned in recent blogs on the site. Both wines, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Carmenère were only $7.99. I've only tried the d'Abruzzo so far. It was just wonderful. I can't wait to try the Carmenère. I also found a Spanish sparkling wine, Cristalino Brut Cava for the same price. It has excellent reviews. I look forward to trying that as well. Adam is going to walk me through the place at sometime soon to point out the other deals. I'm very pleased and excited with what I've already found.

Gains and Pains

As it is with the ying and yang of life, there are setbacks with progress. I managed to hurt one knee while simply moving around the apartment. The pain from that is enough to put me back on the sofa. When looking at the grand scheme of things, it isn't a terrible set back. Some ice on the knee along with an analgesic and some rest will set it right. I will likely have to push back some of my errands this week, but that won't hurt any of the projects. All of this is reasonable, but I'm usually not reasonable right away. I have a tendency to initially freak out then work my way back to reasonable. Craig (who advised me about the ice) already fussed at me about wanting to do too much to soon. He said I should be eating bon bons on the sofa or be fanned by a Nubian. I was watching Cleopatra at the time. Jon doesn't fuss at me. He knows that I'll get back to sane eventually. However, he does keep me from getting up too much. I'll take it easy tomorrow, but I won't postpone anything yet.

More Palate Perils

After last week's blog, friends pointed out that I've been exposed to other expensive foods with varying impacts on my finances. The most recent is imported Irish butter. I hadn't planned on trying it. It's expensive compared to full price supermarket butter. I pooh poohed the notion of baking cookies with it as suggested by some of my Food Network chefs. I still do pooh pooh that notion. With all the spices and ingredients like chocolate chips, I think it is impossible to taste the difference between regular, domestic butter and Irish butter. So how did I end up spreading it on my baguette? I noticed that it was only a dollar more than the regular butter I buy at Costco for almost the same number of pounds. We tried it as part of our St. Patrick's Day meal. I must say, it is creamier and tastier than regular butter on bread or in mashed potatoes. It's amazing on mashed potatoes. I wouldn't but it every time I shop for butter, but as a once in a while treat, it's definitely worth the money.

The most extravagant palate peril I've had anywhere was Latvian Ossetra Caviar. Our former roommate's family was from Latvia. They visited almost every summer and brought back a lot of gifts. On at least three occasions, one of the gifts was this honking large tin of Ossetra Caviar. I had had it before at the odd New Year's Eve party, but nothing that good. We had it often enough and in such quantities that I considered purchasing a mother of pearl spoon to scoop it with. Alas, the sturgeon population became stressed after a while. These gifts got way too expensive – even for someone buying it in Latvia. We stopped receiving them. There was never an impact to my wallet, because I just never felt a driving need to pay almost $100 an ounce for anything. Nope. Not happening. I will, however, gladly accept gifts.

Updates or Craig vs The Film Industry

Craig has just interrupted me in taking up the blog this Monday morning with a rant about the Jheri Curl. I'm not sure what prompted the rant or where it was headed. I'm still waking up from the affects of pain meds, so not much is making sense. Still, we must press on!

Craig's problems with the film industry have nothing to do with really bad films like Eegah [look, I found the trailer for Eegah ] or Battle LA. Writer's note: These are not my opinion of either film as I have not seen them. These are Craig's strongly held views. Mind, he voluntarily watched both films, so I don't feel sorry for him. At any rate, his latest battle with the film industry goes far beyond yelling at JJ Abrams for begin a hack (he was in Craig's neighborhood quite often for some reason). Craig helped a good buddy of his actively wage war against Film LA over allowing a disruptive number of shoots in his friend's neighborhood. I'm not sure of the details of the battle as it was occurring at about the time I was really getting sick, but I do remember seeing one of the neighborhood meetings on the local news. It was contentious. And I've noticed the results when recently dealing with Film LA. There is a lot of advice offered – no insisted upon – about the community outreach necessary before shooting in a residential neighborhood.

Despite all of this, Craig is very handy to have during pre-production and on a shoot. Since I'm stuck on a sofa, he's been helping me with things like finding production insurance and locations. The latest locale I've been after is a Victorian house. There are quite a number of them near USC and near Downtown LA. Since he's lived all over the city, I knew Craig would know where to find them. Alas, the ones he knew of are, according to him, filled with surfers and dirtbags. He suggested that they would be great extras in a zombie film. No make-up would be necessary. Unfortunately, I needed a non-zombie scene set in the Victorian era. He did give me some good leads though. Craig has also agreed to work with me during the horror film shoot and the Demon Under Glass web series. He's very good at keeping me sane and happy during a shoot. I suspect his goal during these shoots is to keep me from doing too much running around. In exchange for his presence, we've agreed to give him his usual nine seconds of screen time as we did in Demon Under Glass. Thus, on the web series, I have almost all of my location, costume and prop issues resolved. I am now turning my attention to the bureaucracy of a shoot (insurance, guilds, blah blah, blah). Still, it looks like we'll be doing the horror feature first. The first draft of that is nearly finished. We're having a lot of fun with that now, and I'm relieved. It's been far easier to write since we took a more twisted view on the material.

The novels haven't been completely put on the back burner. I've found time to keep both moving usually late, late at night (or actually early morning) when Jon has gone to bed and no more work is being done on the script. There may even be an excerpt coming.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Exercise, Palate Perils and Updates

I haven't started really celebrating my clean bill of health in earnest yet. I was treated to a lovely lunch and wonderful conversation that included a toast or two with some dear friends. That is one of my favorite ways of spending time, and I truly and deeply enjoyed it. There were even presents (I'll get into that later). But I haven't begun to go really nuts yet. I am making plans though...lots and lots of plans. I'm looking forward to traveling back east and to shooting one of the web series and even a feature. Then, there are all the cookbooks I'm working through. I had been reluctant to really make plans for so long. I had been afraid of setting myself up for disappointment. Now, I am thinking of absolutely everything I would like to do and see and accomplish. It's all so exciting that I just don't know where to begin.

Work That Body

For now and the immediate future, my primary job is getting back in shape and mitigating the sometimes considerable impact of the chemo side effects until they completely disappear (2 to 6 months). That seems to mean exercise. I've been doing some exercise since I recovered from the first surgery. The exercise then was in the form of leisurely walking for at best a half an hour. Now, the Docs are talking about more vigorous walking and some training with light weights. They want me to do something everyday, but that isn't working for me yet. I find I'm really tired and sometimes sore between bouts of exercise, so I've been doing something every other day.

On Friday, I was mall walking while Jon was having an interview nearby. Now, I know that proponents of mall walking suggest doing it early in the day when most of the stores are closed and the mall is almost empty. People in my way wasn't a problem during my laps around the place. It was all of the portable food that was making me nuts. There was a million milk shake stand and a Baskin Robins stand and a soft pretzel stand and a popcorn stand. Now, after the first surgery and certainly during chemo, I was encouraged to eat whatever I wanted and as much as I wanted. But that was when I had no appetite and was steadily losing weight. Neither of those is a problem right now. Thus, as much as I am pleased to be able to eat ice cream again, I must show some restraint. I'd like to keep the slimness I've had and perhaps even make it down to the weight my primary care Doc wanted me at before everything went haywire. Thus, I kept to one end of the gigantic mall where there was less temptation. I managed quite a few laps with a backpack of groceries on my back. It's a beginning. I plan to start walking along the beach and logging some actual miles soon. It's a year to go to the next LA Marathon. Who knows? Maybe I'll have a whack at walking it. Though if the weather then is as it is now, I'll be swimming it.

Perils of the Palate

There was a time when my taste in wine ran toward the sickly sweet. I can't remember the labels now. I think I blocked them from my brain in shame for ever putting those substances past my lips. At any rate, I was blissfully happy in my ignorance until I began working in New York City. In another life, in the 1980s, I worked on Park Avenue for an advertising firm. Yep, I had power suits, dresses, and I do believe pajamas that had those big should pads. My hair was really big as well. For my 20 something readers – look it up! Sorry, aging sometimes makes me cranky. Where was I? Right.

The company I worked for only had 8 employees and that included the Vice President of the division. So we had our Christmas party at a very fancy restaurant where the servers were there to pull your chair out or help you back every time you got up. It was the kind of meal that had a wine with each course. My first experience with port was at the end of that amazing meal. The wines during the meal were astonishing to me. I remember telling the VP that I really wished I didn't know what good wines were as I would never be the same again. I wasn't. My life got very expensive. The same thing happened when I worked for Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino as a bartender. I worked room service for the high rollers primarily. I also worked the last hour of bar service for one of the 5 star restaurants. Very often, high rollers would have expensive champagne opened only to send it back untouched to return to the tables. Since the bubbly couldn't be re-sold, it was returned to my bar. We were supposed to pour it down the drain, but my bar had no cameras on it, and I felt that was a terrible waste. Thus, I split it with the servers and the kitchen staff. We all developed quite a taste for champagne that ran $50 and up. Luckily, over the years, I have found wines and champagnes that are very reasonable and quite tasty (I found even more in France – another reason to love that country).

However, I always look at an expansion of my palate as potentially dangerous to my wallet. There was a scare with the aged balsamic, but I have found an excellent vendor that is very reasonable (F. Oliver's Oil and Vinegars) and it lasts for a long time. The latest palate peril this week were presents. One was real French Macarons and the other was real Foie Gras. [Before anyone writes to me about the cruelty involved in making this please see the following video of Anthony Bourdain on Foie Gras. If you have issues with people eating meat period, please do not write me. I just spent 18 months being told that I not only needed meat to right various deficiencies, it was strongly suggested that organ meats be included. And until there is meatless bacon, I am not changing my eating habits.] Both gifts were delicately delicious and really difficult to accurately describe. It won't be easy not to consume them as if I was a vacuum. I want to savor them for as long as I can before looking about to see how much they cost to buy here. Merci pour les cadeaux, ma cher!


Let start with the novels. I re-read what I've written, decided I hated everything and wanted very much to delete the files. But that was on Monday when I didn't know what my Doctor would tell me. I was a bit cranky and terrified about everything that day. By the second dirty vodka martini (a splash of olive brine is added with the vermouth and 3 olives for me), I had changed my mind. By Wednesday, I was back to producing a couple of pages per day on each book. I'm going to take a week off working on them though to finish the horror script.

The horror script which Jon and I are looking at as more of a comedy than a horror script is coming along. The treatment was approved late last week and I'm more than a third of the way through. We have the leads cast. I won't make announcements until we have signatures and shooting dates. I can tell you that it's a fun cast and that helps with the writing. I expect to turn in the first draft by the end of the week. But first I have to find a name for a demon that has lots of tentacles. And I have to figure out numerous humorous ways of killing people. My life is very strange.

The Demon Under Glass web series is coming along in development as well. I've found three locations and the period costumes for the Victorian era. I'm still looking for 1990s era suits. I plan to solve that problem sometime this week then meet with my FX Diva about some other issues. By next Sunday, I believe I will have a shooting date for the web series.

All of this activity does not mean that I'm ready to run around wearing many hats as I once did. Most of my work has been online or on the phone. I can't see myself doing much more on a shoot than yelling at people from a chair where I'll be planted with my feet propped up. As many have told me this week, I've had some great news, but I still have a ways to go before I'm back to my regular levels of activity. So, no worries, I'm behaving.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Big News and What's Cooking

For those who haven't heard, I am deliriously happy to report that I am officially a cancer survivor! Many thanks for all of the kind thoughts, notes, prayers, Tastykakes, soft pretzels and rain dances. I still have issues to work through, but the major goal has been achieved.

Today, I am cooking very divergent dishes – Corned Beef and Cabbage and Falafel with Hummus. As it is St. Patrick's day and my late mother's Feast Day , I am making corned beef and cabbage. I had considered making an Irish dish like lamb stew or Colcannon, but the Irish-American corned beef and cabbage has a special place in my culinary history. It was, in fact, the first full meal I ever cooked for my family. I was still in high school (shout out to my peeps from Cardinal Dougherty), but that meal was the beginning of my taking over cooking Sunday dinner for the family. Incidentally, my high school alma mater is the reason I can do the Irish Jig. But I digress. The Falafel and Hummus I'm making from scratch using dried chick peas. I saw the recipes for these on Alton Brown's Good Eats. I really love both Falafel and Hummus on their own, but I really enjoy them in a pita sandwich or on a platter with a little Greek salad. I'm even going to make my own Tzatziki sauce. That is a lot easier to do than it used to be, because Greek yogurt is everywhere now. But those dishes are actually for tomorrow as I go meatless on Fridays during Lent. Today, it's all about the corned beef!

Meanwhile, while everything is simmering in the slow cookers, I'm looking up names of demons. I'll explain more about that on Sunday's blog.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pulled Pork, Crazy Cable News and Facing the Future

As of 11pm Saturday night, the apartment was filled with warmth and the scent of pork shoulder seasoned with Herbs de Provence roasting in the oven filled the air. It is bound for a pulled pork application in Sunday's dinner. I am having a glass of red wine while struggling through a film treatment. More on that later.

24 hour News Idiocy

According to the eleven o'clock local news on Saturday night, the tsunami warning has been lifted on the west coast. Those warnings, what they mean and how the national media covers them became both extremely important and profoundly irritating since the wee small hours of Friday morning. As I have written in a blog of yore, Jon and I live at the edge of a tsunami zone. According to the map we got in a disaster prevention brochure, if we crossed the street, we would be out of the tsunami zone. The brochure implied that there was some magical barrier running between one side of Culver Blvd and the other. Humans could cross, but water and mud could not. That edition of the disaster brochure was very specific in detailing the government response to a tsunami. [Incidentally, this year's edition of disaster brochure covered killer bees, fire ants and deadly mosquitoes. I am not kidding.]

Where was I? Oh, yes. There would be an Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) tsunami warning to the area in general. Those within a mile or so of the ocean would hear the horn sound. I've actually seen two such EBS warnings of tsunami on TV. Each time, friends who lived nearby would call to ask if I, too, saw the warning and if we were evacuating. One friend lived in the Venice canals. I told him that he was likely boned, because he'd never get out of the bottleneck in time. The other lives up a 200 foot cliff in the Palisades. If a tsunami could hit him, we were all done. In neither case did we hear the horn sound. But we know that the EBS does work.

Thus, at 2:30 am when CNN and other cable outlets announced that the west coast of the US was included in the Tsunami warning in the wake of the earthquake in Japan, I wasn't that concerned. We'd know if it was a real problem if the EBS warning came up. But the anchors were whipped up into a frenzy about the waves hitting California that I wondered if they knew something local authorities didn't. Still, no warning came up and the local outlets didn't start their morning coverage early. I began to worry about my relatives seeing the broadcasts. Craig's girlfriend's mother called their place at 3am in hysterics. According to Google maps, they were right next to the ocean and the news was saying it could hit Southern California. She tried to explain to her mother that they were 200 feet above sea level, but the poor woman was about to have a fit. There was no call from back East at our place nor had EBS sounded a warning by 8:30 am when the first wave was to hit. Some beaches and piers were closed mainly to keep idiots from going into the water or getting too far out over it. Even if a big wave didn't come, the currents were unpredictable and a rogue wave was possible. None of the local news outlets ever seemed to think we were in any kind of danger. You'd never know that by the coverage on cable. I called my father just ahead of him calling me. He was getting worried because of the continuing coverage of worst case scenarios. That really ticked me off.

I have drifted from watching cable news coverage of anything but emergencies because of how bad it has become. Maybe it's all the airtime that they have to fill that makes them sound like idiots trying to make more of a story than is necessary. The earthquake was a horrific tragedy on it's own without trying to make the US part of the peril as well. Between the hysteria and the really stupid statements during broadcasts, I think I'd be better off getting my news from Twitter.

The Next Phase

On Tuesday, I find out if I am truly clear of tumors and free to call myself a cancer survivor. I spent a lot of last week giving blood and getting various parts of my body scanned in advance of the appointment. Naturally, I've been worrying myself what ifs. I've actually managed to worry about what would happen if I get the all clear. How on earth would that be a problem? What can I say? I am an expert on worrying. The key is pressing forward despite being wigged out most of the time. Thus, while worrying, I've been making sure to get the exercise suggested to blunt the side effects from Chemo. And I've been eating a diet to correct the deficiencies in my blood. And I am researching the possible day jobs I may take along with the shoots I want to accomplish. I've always thrived on planning and making lists. Such activities naturally force one to focus on the future. And I have a whole lot of lists involving spending time in France. Yes, I am a worry wart, but I have a whole lot of things I plan on doing.


None for this week. There is a lot going on with the various film projects. And I have some interesting reflections on problems the novels have brought up. And then there is the morning Jon and I spent with Craig en route to hospital tests and dealing with potential tsunamis. It seems that Ray Liotta is the least of his problems with celebrities.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Craig, Mardi Gras, Horror and Armani

Craig came by this morning. He had donuts and a script. The treats were part of a bribe to edit the script. I was afraid of peeking at it right away. The visit was a happening in and of itself. There were no sightings of the Liotta last week. Craig was mostly housebound working on the re-write of the script. Despite the lack of Liotta tales, as it always is with Craig, I was laughing my head off within moments of his arrival and kept laughing until he left. I think the frivolity threw off the rest of my day. I had to get ingredients for Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday dishes. I'd already made three kinds of stock for these dishes and knew what I wanted to make. Still, it took me a couple a couple hours to focus and figure out what I wanted to do. I'd missed the Farmer's Market again due to the late hour of waking and our visitor. But I still wanted to get in a longish walk to keep up with the exercise therapy. By noon, I figured out where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to get done aside from grocery shopping. But more on that later in the blog.

All You Need to Do

Jon and I have been told on many more than one occasion that all we need to do to kick start our careers is to write a cheap horror movie like the firs Saw or Paranormal Activity . The latter is most often suggested because of how little it cost to shoot. There is a 'how hard can it be?' question that usually goes along with the suggestion. First, Paranormal Activity cost very little in cash, but the filmmaker was already in the Industry and had a whole lot of resources available to him for free or on a deferred basis that we wouldn't have. Second, it isn't easy – at least not for us – to write a slasher film. Neither of us are into or can even tolerate torture porn. It is very, very difficult to write a script in a genre that you truly do not like or respect. Craig agreed adding that it's even hard to crib from other movies and graft something together from the parts. He apparently tried that once and ended up repeatedly shouting 'but that is stupid' at the TV screen and his computer monitor.

So what happens? We get asked to write a horror movie. What can I say? We're in LA and these sorts of things happen. We like and respect the people who asked and if their plan succeeds, it could mean a lot for our careers. But how do we do that after the diatribe above? Well, fortunately the venue this film would be aimed at does allow for a bit of humor around the edges. Sometimes, I've even noticed a bit of wrongness in their films. Jon and I really enjoy injecting wrongness into our work. And we can't help the humor. So, as far as we're concerned, we're writing a comedy with moments of terror and some gore. We really loved the film Hot Fuzz for this sort of mix. That film was one of the most violent films I've ever seen and I couldn't stop laughing. I don't know if we'd get away with that much humor, but there is funny stuff in this script. Even Craig approved before calling us twisted. A high compliment, indeed.

Yes, I know, we made a vampire film (Demon Under Glass). How is that not horror? Well, as far as we're concerned, we made a film noir with a vampire in it. Joe was the poor doomed schlub dragged into a situation that was way over his head, and Simon was the tall, hot blond who dragged him into the situation. Except that he wasn't blond and he was a guy and a vampire.

Other Updates

One of the things that delayed the blog was a trip to the nearby costume house. It's open on Sunday now. So, we were continuing our research for the Demon Under Glass web series by checking out Victorian frock coats and vests. I also took the opportunity to look at head pieces for Vegas Showgirls. That has nothing to do with the web series. It's going to be part of this year's month of fun. Best that's all you know. I think we found a range of acceptable coats and possibly some vests, but we have to make sure that the cut is from the right part of the Victorian era. Yes, that's Jon talking. I would actually smack the person nitpicking about the era of a frock coat if we successfully pull off that flashback scene. I've found that I can get the pants and shirt for the ensemble on ebay. Strangely, dressing the females in the scene is easier. There are a lot more options for rentals or purchase for females somehow. Now, I have to figure out where to find a vintage Versace or Armani suit (circa 1995) that doesn't cost $3000. Yep, I said $3000. I don't think suits, unless they are coated in 24 carat gold, appreciate over twenty years. So I have no idea why I'm running into those prices. But I've solved the Victorian version. I'll find that suit before too long.

Speaking of finding elusive things, I found a location for the bookstore. I'm fairly sure that I'll be able to secure the bar this week. I have a couple of leads on apartments that we'd have to see before making a decision.

The novels are moving along nicely. I manage to work on one or the other of them every day. I'd say that I'm nearing the halfway mark on both. In my head, I have a date for when I'll get them to my reader for editing. But, for now, I'm focusing on forward momentum.

Stay tuned.

Blog Delay

The blog will be delayed until late tonight or tomorrow. No worries. We're just up to some things that are diverting my attention.

Stay tuned.