Monthly Archives: November 2013

What Are You Eating Right Now?

Cate at dinner_2Amy and kidsCate's kid at dinner

Hello from the Dogpatch! Being Thanksgiving week, we’d like to give thanks for our readers and also let you know what we are . . . 

Eating & Reading.

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SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERALaurel Leigh: Having just started doing some work for a publisher of health-related cookbooks, my brain is swirling with low-fat, low-cal, low-cholesterol, low-GI foods not to mention pictures my doc gave me of my own recent colonoscopy. So I’m eating potato chips. I’m so embarrassed, but honesty is the best policy and it wouldn’t be fair to say, while I’m typing in this post right now, that I’m eating eggplant. I did eat eggplant today though, and I put tofu instead of hamburger in the spaghetti sauce I made a couple days ago, and I bought some carrots. So I think I get a few points back. Plus these chips, which are freakin’ good, are zero-cholesterol.

Dream of a Vast Blue Cavern by Selah J Tay-Song

What I’m reading right now is Dream of a Vast Blue Cavern by Selah J. Tay-Song. Since Selah is a Dogpatch blogger, this could seem like a pitch, but I fessed up about the Deep River Original Salted Kettle Cooked Potato Chips in the above paragraph, so you know I’m sticking to the truth today. It’s always so amazing to read a book by someone you know and then forget that you know the writer and just get lost in the story. There’s Stasia, who is an Icer and a Dreamer, meaning she can form stuff out of ice with her mind and dream foretelling visions that are significant for her underground world. This guy Glace, who is dying to hook up with Stasia only he can’t because she’s a princess and he’s her guard, so he has to be all stoic and stuff. But you just know they’re gonna get together at some point. Maybe? The other person in the story I like a lot is Larc, who’s not a very talented ice-molder but she has a great mind for politics and strategy, so she balances out Stasia’s impetuous nature and I think she’s going to factor greatly in what happens during the war that just started. The Icers just got attached by the Flames—they are busy burning through the ice the good guys just used to seal off their city. The cool thing about this book is that I’m not having a hard time believing that Icers and Flames exist. In fact I’m pretty sure they do. This book is just so much fun I know I’m gonna be sorry when it’s over, but the good news is the sequel is on the way. Okay, that last part was a little bit of a pitch, but a well-deserved one.

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Jilanne: The Writer's Shadow

Jilanne: The Writer’s Shadow

Jilanne:  Um, is it my turn? Well, I’m gonna start with the food. We’re having some folks over for a little bird. Oh, yeah, I should first say that NaNoWriMo isn’t going well (whose idea was it to have it in November??), so I’m going to console myself with food. That said, I’ll be making a 15-pounder with gravy (using golden turkey stock made from scratch- look for it on Epicurious), sweet potatoes, Sausage/Cranberry/Cornbread dressing (yeah, ya can’t call it stuffing if it’s not seeing the inside of a bird), and pumpkin pie with Straus Family Farm whipped cream. Oh, and can’t forget Cranberry Jezebel, a recipe from Cooking Light magazine circa Nov/Dec 1994. It contains fresh cranberries, brown and white sugar, horseradish and Dijon mustard. And does it make those sandwiches zing! Friends are bringing a bacon/brussel sprouts dish, mashed potatoes made with smoked paprika, kale salad, and chocolate and apple pies. Oh, and persimmon-chocolate chip bread. Hmmm, did I forget anything? A little pinot noir, a little champagne, a little of this, a little of that. I’m hungry. Gotta finish this post. Continue reading

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Every Story Needs a Villain

It’s an old saying: Every story needs a villain. But if you are a parent to a newly minted child, or even a not so newly minted one, then you are probably aware of the work of the Japanese filmmaker and illustrator Hayao Miyazaki.

The Man Himself

The Man Himself

And one of the more striking aspects of Miyazaki’s work is the (almost) complete absence of villains in his movies. The characters in his films come into violent conflict with one another and (frequently) with their natural environment; but regardless of the depth or violence of the conflict — and it is often visceral and intense — within the story, what is clear by movie’s end is that, though it might have seemed otherwise at the start, there are no clear-cut villains here. Why?

Because everybody has their reasons.

Even characters that lie, cheat, steal — even kill wantonly — by movie’s end will have been shown to be acting for reasons that make sense to them, and for that reason alone are in a way justified in their actions. And the final justification for any, and all, of these character’s actions seems to be that our environment, both natural and social, requires balance in order to operate properly.

An attempt by the end of each story to strike balance, both between the human characters, and between humanity and the natural world, seems to be a hallmark of all Miyazaki’s films.

The only obvious villain that comes to mind in the entire film oeuvre is the murderously efficient government operative Colonel Muska, from the film ‘Castle in the Sky,’ who by movie’s end — and quite unusual for any Miyazaki movie — is destroyed, killed off by his own plans. And what makes Muska so different from most characters in the filmmaker’s catalogue is that he openly works to pursue his own selfish goals of power and dominance at the expense of family and clan interests. Continue reading

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Can A Colonoscopy Make You a Better Writer?

We’ll try anything, won’t we?

Climb mountains, light candles, drink tea, drink beer, light candles, smoke dope, give up sex (now that last one’s just dumb).

It’s important to take advantage of any personal circumstance. Your best friend’s husband is having an affair with his ophthalmologist—“OMG, that animal! How could he do that? There, there, let me get you a nice cup of tea and a tissue and you sit right here and let it all out so I can take notes for a scene I’ll write later.”

When the celebrated writer Dagoberto Gilb suffered a stroke, he started writing about it, literally before he regained use of his right hand. The story “Please, Thank you” first was published in Harper’s and then in his latest collection Before the End, After the Beginning. It opens with him regaining consciousness in the hospital and includes a bit where he explains about typing entirely left-handed and how that affects his writing. The story is amazing and powerful and makes me cry when I read it. He’s such a show off.

Nonetheless, newly fifty years old, proudly joining the ranks of the middle-aged, I’m ready for my seminal-sparking physical and personal challenge. What I get is a colonoscopy screening.

I go to a dinner gathering where everyone at the table has already had a colonoscopy. I can’t even have an original disease. I don’t think that’s very fair. Do you think that’s fair? Continue reading

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Notes From Squaw Valley Writers Workshop – Day 1

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View of Lake Tahoe from Squaw Valley in Winter

As promised, I’m sharing a few notes from this summer’s Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. Continue reading

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