Zhadi's Den

Random essays on wine, writing, moving to San Francisco, surfing, cats (exotic and otherwise) and zombies...depending on my mood.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I know I said I was gonna write about bad movies, etc....

...but I'm not in the mood. I'm sure I will be later...but right now I'm in more of a thoughtful, musing frame of mind.

Can a frame of mind be musing, btw? Or am I turning into one of my beloved bad writers?

And how do they get so bad in the first place?

As my sister pointed out, do these people talk as incoherently as they write? Do they say "I'm going to set my feet down on the ground as to obtain food for sustenance from the store that means I have to walk there" rather than "I'm gonna walk to the store for food"? Probably not. So why the heck do they write this way? It takes DBP (King of Kings when it comes to bad writing) an entire paragraph (and a lengthy paragraph at that) to get a character across a room and out the door. People don't ever just stand with their hands on their hips. Oh no, in DBP's world, they stand on their feet (just in case you were picturing headstands instead), holding both arms in such a way as to bend their elbows and allow their hands and fingers to sit below the waist, one foot moving up and down against the floor as to indicate impatience.

What is this, a text for Mime School?

One character 'pouts her lips.' Gee, it's good of DBP to have this sort of clarification just in case the reader was wondering what body part, exactly, the character was pouting with. To paraphrase T.C. (a very GOOD writer), would they then smile their mouth or grin their teeth? The mind boggles to think that there might be someone out there who'd read "She smiled at him" and ask, 'but what did she smile at him with?"

I can only read DBP in small doses - the concentration required just to decipher exactly what the heck the author is trying to say, is headache inducing. Too many pages in one sitting could cause either blindness or brain damage. For example:

'Across the street up past the frozen statues of the long dead town's stop signs and railroad crossings, a lone figure became born from the sea of the night. It developed into the expanse of the gray moonlight that poked through the sky, its presence known along with the tool it dragged along the ground like a child and his toy.

Before they could make out what it was, the thing that was once a man became invisible in the dark as it escaped the light that sliced into the night. Stepping through, its feet inched their way back from the other side, painting its knees and legs, followed by the thing's arms and chest. The clanging echoed into their ears from the steel point of the tool it hobbled along with, causing it to strike the walkway with each passing step. '

It burns...it burns!!!! Make it stop!!!!

Oh, and that's another thing...why use one exclamation point when three or more will do?!!! And if someone is yelling, make sure that you use ALL CAPS TO GET THE POINT ACROSS THAT THEY ARE YELLING!!!!

When a character makes a mistake, it's a 'blotched attempt.' Blood runs out in drones. Or sometimes it runs out in droves.

Characters don't shake hands. They 'loaned his hand out for her to shake.'

Hee hee...and my favorite obscenity to this date: "WHAT THE F-A-A-A-C-C-K-K-K-K?!!!"

Go ahead. Say it out loud. Make sure you get all the 'k's in there.

And there are just so many more nuggets of chewy badness to savor...far too many for me to list. Hours of amusement...but not for the faint of heart.

T.C. is right. As a party game, the possibilities doing live readings of this stuff are endless. Of course, so is the potential for pulled muscles while trying to demonstrate the DBP way of walking across a room. Not to mention bodily injury when the reader is required to fall, which further fucked his legs up worse than every before. One became twisted the wrong way while the other poked bone out of his ankle. Both were useless now.'

Sigh...sheer heaven for a true connoisseur of badness such as myself.

Now I admire anyone who sits down and finishes a project, be it a short story or a novel. And DBP obviously has the desire and the drive to do so. But get an editor...take some writing classes...and stop trying to be clever and just tell the damn story!

Or not. Because then I wouldn't have nearly as much fun reading DBP's stuff, now would I?

Does this make me a bad person? I guess I'll muse about that for a while...after I read some more DBP.

What the f-a-a-a-c-c-k-k, y'know?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Worst Ever...

I'm currently enjoying some very bad writing. Not MY writing. I'm not enjoying writing badly. I'm talking about reading other writing that's just...bad. Sentences like 'he threw his finger in her direction' and 'It was non-mistakenly Randy with half of his face torn away and his chest and stomach ripped open, free of their internal organs.'

It's the literary equivalent of SHOWGIRLS or BATTLEFIELD EARTH, movies so bad that they should only be viewed in the company of friends, and under the influence of tequila. Drinking games are developed around movies like these.

I'm going to expand upon my love of bad things in tomorrow' s posting; I'm about to leave work (yes, I blog at work!) and have a full slate of cat food shopping, dog walking, and cleaning to do this evening. But for now, I'd like to ask all of you to share YOUR favorite bad movie (I know MANOS, HANDS OF FATE is gonna be there) or writing sample. It's like blood to a vampire, folks. I thrive on it...so please feed me!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Brief Vacation

I took a brief hiatus down in San Diego to visit friends and family...went surfing, helped the parentals pack up the kitchen in preparation for remodeling...hung out with Mo, drank excellent red zinfandel (Quivera) and ate home-made chili soup, cheese & jalapeno scones, and cinnamon coffee bars topped with dark chocolate. I feel fat, sassy, and very relaxed. And not so fat 'cause I also did a heck of a lot of walking! I also brought my ankle and wrist weights with me, which added to the weight of my carry-on by six pounds. Why? It seemed like a good idea at the time...and I did wear 'em while I walked. But I think next time I'll just do without. I nearly killed myself and another passenger while hoiking the damn bag down from the overhead storage bin...

At any rate, more blogging to follow in a day or so! It was good to be gone, but it's good to be back!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

It doesn't get much better than this...

I was at EFBC this weekend for the last Twilight Tour of the year. I also went out for the entire day, including cleaning...and got to hold Pancho, Annie and Nacon's son! He weighs a ton - this little guy is pure muscle.

Rosa, his sister, is much shyer. She'll come up to the fence to say hi, but has no desire to be picked up by anyone but her mom.

Annie was locked in the denbox while these pictures were taken. Because she was hand-raised herself, she's fairly mellow about the keepers and volunteers playing with the babies...being able to interact with mother-raised cubs or kittens is very unusual, btw! But she's still a very protective mother. Normally when shes out with the cubs, she growls at anyone who comes too near the bars of the enclosure. So I was completely bowled over and honored when she not only came up to visit me and let me pet her (through the bars, mind you), but let me pet the babies as they climbed all over her and stuck their paws and noses through the mesh to check me out. Pancho stretched out upside down full length on Annie's back while I was petting her...then fell off with a thump as she walked off. They are so cute it should be illegal...

Friday, September 16, 2005

Food, Theater and Old Friends

As a result of my post on Hot Chocolate, I just discovered a great food blog - Peter's Mostly Food Blog. It's primarily about 'Restaurants around Seattle and Bainbridge Island, and other food-related nonsense,' but there are also some posts about places in San Diego, and an absolutely adorable kitten named Sushi.

Peter left a comment on my post...and I realized, after exploring the blog, that this is the same Peter who a: married my high school pal, Debbie, and b: nearly got arrested while playing a mysterious 'lurker' outside a restaurant during MFH's Molly the Trolley event. The fact that he was wearing a trenchcoat and peering through the windows of the restaurant probably had something to do with it. A damn fine lurker, that Peter.

Debbie was also involved in our theatrical endeavors. When Mo and I decided we'd try our hand at making a movie, Debbie was our camera operator (with the exception of one day when she wasn't available, so my sister filled in). When I say 'camera', I mean singular. We only had one camera and one light. But she made the most of both.

Our film efforts were very much along the lines of "Hey, I've got a barn!" and "I've got costumes!" "Let's put on a show!" Just substitute: "Hey, I know someone with a camera!" "And we've got actors!" "And we can go shopping for clothes!" "Let's make a movie!"

Mo and I wrote the script, "Lovebound in La Jolla"; about a woman whose obsession with romance novels makes it difficult for her to find a relationship 'cause she's too busy fantasizing about swashbuckling heroes. We had a blast writing cliché fantasy scenes: gypsy wildcat, pirates, gothic, film noir...we even had one especially dorky ‘30s upper class Brit sequence with our heroine and her best friend (played, respectively, by me and Mo) impressing the crowd by tickling the old ivories and singing “Rule Britannia.” It seemed like a good idea at the time.

We pulled the rest of our cast mostly from Murder for Hire’s revolving troupe of actors, all of them excited at the prospect of making a ‘real’ movie (I know, I know…but we really were that naïve). We made the mistake of assuming that just because the actor we’d used on stage as our brooding gothic hero projected extreme masculinity and magnetism in that particular over the top role, that he’d project the same on screen as the object of our heroine’s fixation. Wrong-o. While a lovely man (both in looks and personality) and a talented actor, Greg was totally wrong for the part. He came across as sweet and…well…kind of effeminate. Which could have been because he was gay, a fact that totally slipped below our self-involved and vanity-obscured radar.

Oh well. Like all of our MFH projects, Mo and I bumbled along in true ‘Two Stupid Girls’ fashion, got three VHS tapes full of footage…and then lost our lead actor. I like to think that we would have finished shooting the entire script if that hadn’t happened. Not that we had any means of editing it if we HAD finished…but I’m sure we would have given it our best shot.

I still have the footage, much to Mo’s dismay. She’s more embarrassed by it than I am, although I’m not quite sure why. I’m the one playing the ditzy heroine having to mouth some truly bad dialogue. True, there’s one scene where Mo is playing with her hair and you just KNOW she’s enamored with the way she looks, kind of like a little girl with a new dress. Y’know, the way they swish the skirt back and forth, and just looked SO pleased with themselves? That’s Mo in this scene.

I, of course, have no embarrassing moments.

At least not that I’m gonna tell you about.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Hot Chocolate

I'm currently a member of an online novelist critique group. My contribution for reading has been, of course, Murder for Hire, my recently completed mystery novel.

One of the comments that I received was about the numerous and lovingly detailed descriptions of food and drink in the story. One reader told me that after reading one particularly sugar laden paragraph describing cinnamon rolls and white chocolate mochas, she felt her diet slipping away.

Which, in my opinion, is just as it should be.

After all, as a writer, you want your audience to respond viscerally to what you're writing about. So I feel it's my duty to provide as much detail as possible, to inundate my readers with images so real they can smell, hear, taste, feel...


Who am I kidding? I just like to write about food. I like to read about it too. I especially like to read about it while I'm eating or drinking. I'm an equal opportunity reader-eater. Savory or sweet, wine or water. But (and this is true of my writing as well), I especially like to enjoy a good cup of hot chocolate or cocoa while reading about the same.

Those of you initiated in the Way of the Cacao Bean might be confused as to the difference between hot chocolate and cocoa. First I'll give you my definition of the two. And we're talking homemade, mind you. Not those packets of sugar, artificial flavors, and preservatives. Although I do have a soft spot for them. Many's the poor man's mocha that I've made with half a packet of Gourmet Raspberry Cocoa and rocket fuel work coffee.

But back to the real thing.

Both are made with milk (or heavy cream, depending on how decadent you want to be). And chocolate is a key ingredient. Cocoa, however, is made with powdered bitter cocoa and sugar. Mo and I used to drink it all the time, at first heavily sweetened. But as our tastebuds grew more sophisticated and wanted more flavor as opposed to sweetness, the ratio of cocoa to sugar increased until the sugar was almost an afterthought. My mother, a staunch champion of milk chocolate, swears I'm not her daughter. Sure I am, Mom! I'm just so-phis-ti-cated!
Hot chocolate, on the other hand, is made with solid bittersweet chocolate melted into the milk or cream, stirred constantly with a whisk to insure the right frothy texture.

Both cocoa and hot chocolate can be tarted up by adding cinnamon, peppermint oil, grated orange peel, Kahlua, Baileys, or the liqueur of your choice. They can be topped with marshmallows (I prefer the mini ones, but Mo prefers the large 'roast over the campfire' size) or whipped cream. Homemade whipped cream, barely sweetened, is preferable, but there's nothing wrong with the real thing in a can either. The only downside to the latter is that my cats are all addicted to it. The sound of compressed air being released is a siren song foretelling creamy delight and they won't leave me alone until they get some.

Historically any beverage made from the cacao bean was simply called chocolate, no matter how it was prepared. For instance:

'Before chocolate was a sweet candy, it was a spicy drink. Some of the earliest known chocolate drinkers were the ancient Maya and Aztecs of Mesoamerica.They ground cacao seeds into a paste that, when mixed with water, made a frothy, rather bitter beverage.'

'The Spanish didn't like the bitter flavor of chocolate. At first, Cortes and his men weren't thrilled by chocolate's taste. To spice up the brew a bit, they began heating the beverage and adding a variety of ingredients.Once the drink migrated to Europe, someone eventually got the idea to add sugar, cinnamon, and other spices to the mix, and sweet, hot chocolate was born.'
(For a contemporary example of Spanish chocolate, buy some Ibarra, which is a coarse, sweet chocolate with the cinnamon and spices already added. )

European style hot chocolate, my preferred choice, was, and still is, made with milk (or cream) and bittersweet chocolate. A cup first thing upon rising was thought to be good for one's health. Guess they were right, as it's since been proven that bittersweet chocolate in moderate amounts IS good for one's health.

I had my first cup of European style hot chocolate at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. They were hosting an exhibit on the history of chocolate and were serving hot chocolate in the Museum cafe. I ordered a cup even though it was a hot summer day. The woman behind the counter warned me that it was 'awful thick and rich.' And it was. Deliciously so. And topped with some of the best whipped cream, thick and flavorful without being too sweet, that I've ever had. One sip was all it took to hook me. I had to make my own.

I've tried various brands of chocolate (I've even been known to use chocolate chips in a pinch), but my favorite brand is Callebaut. It's Belgian and it's yummy. The resulting hot chocolate is smooth, rich, and decadent. Second choice is Trader Joe's Belgian Bittersweet, the bar with the brown wrapper.

Ironically, the cup of hot chocolate that I remember most clearly, was in England, at a little cafe below the Tower of London. The weather was cold and foggy, and there was hardly anyone else out and about at that time. It was our first day in London and everything seemed extra special and kind of magical to me. The hot chocolate was made from Cadbury's powdered mix, pre-sweetened and probably heavily dosed with preservatives. But I swear, rarely has anything tasted quite as delicious as that first sip.

I can't wait to taste my first sip of European style hot chocolate in a Paris cafe.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Look into my eyes...

Originally uploaded by zhadi.
I know, I know...same cats, another angle...What you can't see is that Beezle, the black one, is using Foster's stomach as a pillow.

Five cats ain't so many...

cats PG
Originally uploaded by zhadi.
It's funny - when I tell people that I have five cats (nine, if you count my roommate's), they seem to associate it with something like a plague of locusts. I know they're picturing this constant stream of feline activity, cats peering out from behind every piece of furniture, non-stop romping, and overall chaos. Kitty weapons of mass destruction.

Well, other than the occasional wrestling match between alpha kitties, and Foster & Mouche's (the two white ones on the right) bad habit of attacking Tsavo (the big orange beast), this is actually the norm. And they'd leave Tsavo alone if he didn't screech like a hysterical woman whenever they look at him...Big baby.

It's Curtains!

Originally uploaded by zhadi.
As in, look at my new curtains! Not as in, it's over, finished, done with!

Just thought I'd share - I went to the Haight and found old sarees in a second-hand clothing store (somewhere in between vintage chic and Salvation Army), and decided they'd be just the thing to turn into a window treatment. Which is a fancy name for curtains. I'm no Martha Stewart, and couldn't get the green swag on top to drape to my satisfaction, but overall I like it.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Blog Comments

I'm not sure how they found me, but I've been getting hit by blog comment spammers! "Great Blog! I'm sure you'll want to check out this link about buying a horsetrailer with no interest downpayments blah blah blah..." It's way beyond annoying - I love reading the comments from all of you who read my postings; getting a spamment instead of real, honest to goodness feedback is like ordering champagne and getting Andres Cold Duck instead of Veuve Cliquot! Both the spamments and the Cold Duck give me a headache.

So, to try and weed out the junk, I'm utilizing the option to have anyone wanting to make a comment, type in a series of letters. I apologize to those of you who are not trying to sell me horse trailers, mortgages or drugs/devices to enhance/enlarge my non-existent penis.

"In America, we don't like our action heroes to pose like this..."

My friend, T.C., emailed me this photo today, with the above comment. I've been having my usual periodic blog writing block (spending all my energies on my book rewrites), and had to share.

What the heck is Jean Claude Van Damme doing here? By the look on the other guy's face, I suggest he:

a: stepped in something nasty

b: just ripped the seat of his pants

c: well...you tell me.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

My cat's name is Mittens!

I was all set to write a blog about life being short, chocolate croissants versus low fat muffins, not wasting time worrying about cellulite, etc, but it all seems kind of trivial when compared to what's happening down South. Maybe if I could give each and every one of those people in the Superdome a cup of coffee and a croissant I'd feel better about it. No, make that adequate water, food, blankets, and a place to sleep that's not knee deep in water.

I find it very hard to express the mixture of thoughts and emotions inside my head sometimes. I try, but when I try to write it down, I feel like I'm Ralph Wiggums from The Simpsons, in a room full of philosophy students (all working on their master's thesis, of course), who're talking about the meaning of life, and all I have to offer is "My cat's name is Mittens!"

Right now I'm just very aware that life really can be cut short at a moment's notice and it's possible to lose everything overnight. Hell, in five minutes or less. So why do I worry so much about whether my thighs and butt will expand if I eat a chocolate croissant now and again? Why wait for a special occasion or create arbitrary rules to moderate my treat intake (if I walk 20 miles this week I can have a croissant next Friday, IF my jeans aren't tight the day before), when I'm perfectly capable of moderating it with every day common sense? It's not like I'd even want to eat pastry every morning. So why should I put myself through the wringer of whether or not I deserve it when I DO want it?

Maureen, my best friend since high school, has never worried about what she ate or her weight. She's been skinny, she's been curvaceous, but always content. She eats what she wants, gets plenty of exercise in the course of her job as an nanny (walking and pushing strollers up and down the hills of La Jolla), and at 44, is in better shape than most 20 year olds. Mo uses common sense, but it's the lack of stress over it all that's the real trick. I want to be like Mo. At least as far as her attitude towards food and figure goes. I don't think I'd make a very good nanny; a crying animal gets my maternal instinct going, whereas a crying baby sends me running in the other direction.

I've always been a big one for trying to live every day to the fullest, but it's easy to forget that in the midst of daily dramas, doldrums, and life maintenance. I have, however, always lived by the idea that you can't always wait for the ideal special occasion to open that special bottle of wine you've been saving. Personal experience has taught me that you can wait forever if you have unrealistic expectations about what that special occasion should be.

About 15 years ago, Brian got a bottle of '83 Dom Perignon when he was producing a film. It was one of two bottles given to him for product placement. One bottle was opened first day of filming; our friend, Phil, was directing. The second bottle was supposed to be drunk first day of the next film for the same company. Phil was slated to produce, and Brian direct this time. The second film never happened. The Dom went into a dark corner of the bedroom closet.

Over the years, as I learned more about the shelf life and storage of wine, I urged Brian to open the Dom. He always said he would when the right occasion presented itself. I asked what would constitute this magical event and he'd always drop mysterious hints, but never give me an answer. I'm not sure if he really had something specific in mind or was just waiting for a burning bush to tell him that THIS was the time. I thought about lighting one of the rose bushes on fire and rigging a tape recorder.

On a visit to Sanford Winery (of "Sideways" fame), we started chatting with the owner, Chris, who was manning the tasting room that day. I told Chris about the bottle of '83 Dom stashed away in the bedroom closet and asked how long it would keep. His advice was to drink it immediately - it may or may not still be good. Brian said he wanted to save it for a special occasion. Chris said that maybe by opening the bottle, we'd create a special occasion. There's a similar line in "Sideways" - Maya (Virginia Madsen) tells Miles (Paul Giamatti) that the day he opens a certain bottle of wine will be the special occasion. I wonder if the writer got the idea from Chris Sanford.

I urged Brian to open the bottle, to find some event that would be worth it, or, better yet, to open it and perhaps persuade the fates to reward us with something to celebrate after the fact. He'd just tell me I wanted to drink the champagne. Well, sure I did! What champagne lover wouldn't want to try a bottle of what was now considered a top vintage year of Dom Perignon? And what oeniphile would want to risk it reaching its peak and then going downhill into something undrinkable? But I also wanted to know that something in the course of life with me would be considered special enough to warrant putting that bottle on ice.

Years passed, anniversaries came and went. We nearly divorced, got back together. More anniversaries. Stories published, screenplays optioned. One of our cats returning home after being MIA for four hellish days around Halloween. But nothing ever warranted popping the cork on that bottle of Dom.

That bottle of Dom, to my knowledge, is still lying on its side, unopened, in the bedroom closet of our house in Glendale. It drives me crazy, thinking about the possibility that it's turned into the champagne equivalent of vinegar, a top vintage year bottle wasted for lack of the right occasion. And it makes me very sad to feel that nothing that happened in our life together deserved that champagne.

Life really is short. There may never be the perfect special occasion to celebrate with a bottle of vintage champagne. So by all means, enjoy what you have while you've got the chance, before it goes bad or you lose it.

Nothing is ever squandered if you enjoy it.
Enter your email address below to subscribe to Zhadi's Den!

powered by Bloglet