31 July 2014

Eats, Shoots, & Leaves

Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves has been my favorite book since the first time I read it, back in 2007. Strange, I know: that such a huge sci-fi and fantasy fan as myself would put this (not-so-)humble book on punctuation at the top of my list. Yet there we are.

I've probably read Eats, Shoots & Leaves nearly as many times as I have The Lord of the Rings, which I've been acquainted with for far longer. Every time I do I chuckle like a madman and enjoy it thoroughly.  It's a book I can get lost in no matter my mood.

Not only is it enjoyable, it's also a handy reference.  Yes, some of the usages tend toward the British model, but the edition I have does thankfully have notes on where American usage differs. Besides, who doesn't want to sound a little British in everything they do?

I think my favorite passage in the whole book is where the author waxes poetic on the semicolon and wishes she could have had the babies of Aldus Manutius, the semicolon's inventor. Now, I know what you're thinking: semicolons are the devil! I disagree. They are overused, sometimes criminally so, but they are beautiful and eloquent and I refuse to give them up.

If my 'TO READ' stack wasn't so large already, I'd add this book back in, because it's been nearly a year since I read it last. In fact, I may do that anyway. Nothing makes me feel better than reading about the Strunkenwhite virus hoax.

30 July 2014


I was listening to one of my favorite speakers today, and he had a very good point to make about cynicism.  When you're in the shit (as he so awesomely put it), it's very easy to give in to negativity and to think that things are not going to get any better.  But it's important to fight that instinct and not only hope for, but work for, the best.

It may seem like a platitude to say that our thoughts can affect the world around us, but that's an oversimplification.  How we think about things affects how we act about things, and our actions do shape our world.

So, next time I am feeling cynical, I am going to remind myself to take positive action.

J. Michael Straczynski, one of my favorite writers, has a delightful phrase, coined during the run of his show Babylon 5:

Faith manages.

I am going to try and let it, and stop worrying so much.

29 July 2014

Customer Service Success

Who knew 20th Century Fox had such good customer service?  I recently had trouble with a Blu Ray I purchased some time ago (like April) and have only now got around to trying to watch.  Turns out it would not play in my PS3 at all, and when I tried it in a Blu Ray player, the center audio track did not work - only the music tracks.  Weird, I know.

I tried returning it to the store (Target) where I got it, but they could only replace it with a like item - which is what I wanted anyway - but they didn't have any more in stock.

Enter my sister, who decided to call 20th Century Fox and see if they'd replace it - and they did!  I actually can't believe it.  After so many nightmarish customer service experiences, it's truly wonderful to have a win.

Kind of a weird thing to blog about, I know, but I'm really impressed!

28 July 2014

Round Pond 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

This was a surprising find.  We shared a bottle at a Cru Wine Bar inside Dallas Love Field airport, enjoying it over flatbreads and a cheese plate, sliders, and one salmon salad (mine).

Lighting inside made it hard to tell more about the color than it was, in fact, red.

However, it had a sharp, peppery nose, with hints of fruit.  This was borne out in the taste: tight, sharp, but opening up beautifully as it breathed.  I bet it would have been even better if we’d had more than 30 minutes to eat and make it to our terminal.

All in all, a nice, reasonably priced bottle.

27 July 2014

Strange Dreams

I don't remember my dreams very often, but the last few weeks I've remembered quite a few.  Most of my dreams of late have been laden with anxiety, which is not entirely surprising given what's going on in my life, both professionally and personally.

In other words, lots of crap.

Last night, though, I actually had a good dream.  Things were going all right.  It was kind of nice for a change.

In other news, I'm nearly finished with Andrew Smith's Grasshopper Jungle, which I am enjoying immensely.  And I've written the first chapter of my next novel.  So, yea.  It's still fun right now, as I coast along in the What a brilliant idea phase, which is of course the best phase.

Come to think of it, the only other phase I have is the It's all crap! phase, which is, of course, terrible.

I hope to put that phase off as long as possible.

26 July 2014

Synopsis (OF DOOM)

I was surfing writing blogs a couple days ago and came across this website about how to write a 1-page synopsis:


I was so inspired I went and reworked my synopsis afterward, and it already looks way better.  I don't know that anything has been more challenging to me than working on the synopsis.

I live for subtext, and yet a synopsis has to be more or less devoid of it: just the facts, and if you can squeeze in a little bit of character then you've gone above and beyond.  It's so hard, because you want to explain the why, but a synopsis is truly about what happened.

I feel much better knowing I'm not the only person who struggles with synopses.

They're still a pain, though.

25 July 2014

Supergods by Grant Morrison

I picked up Supergods expecting a philosophical and historical examination of superhero comics, and it definitely delivered that, but it also turned out to be very much a memoir of the author, Grant Morrison.

Morrison is well-known in comics circles for his writing, with stints on various DC and Marvel properties including Batman, Superman, X-Men, and more.  Morrison is definitely an interesting character, which is what makes the book work so well: he has lived a very interesting life.  He talks quite candidly about his travels, his experiments with drugs in his youth, his occult experiences, and all sorts of fascinating tales that have bled into his writing.

Where the book seems to falter a bit is in its more historical segments.  Morrison has a hard time stepping back and removing himself from telling the story of superhero comics, from the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics up to the present (at least, 2011/2012 - don’t remember which).  At times, he focuses too much on those comics that had a particular impact on him, and seems to ignore other comics that might have been just as important culturally but were beneath his notice due to taste.

That’s not necessarily bad, or unfair; it’s just the way it is, and perhaps it was inevitable given the two conflicting aims of the book.

The book had some parts that were a little dry, but it also had some parts that really sucked me in.  All in all, enjoyable.

24 July 2014

Teatime with Steven Smith Teamaker's Kandy

For teatime today I'm having a cup of Kandy, a blend of three Ceylon teas made by Steven Smith Teamaker.

Full disclosure, I've had the pleasure of meeting Steven Smith, at the 2012 Pacific Northwest Tea Festival.  He was a really cool guy and I enjoyed the chance I had to chat with him briefly about tea.

So, on to Kandy: Kandy is a blend of Dimbulla, Uva, and Nuwara Eliya teas.  The designations refer to the regions the teas are grown in Sri Lanka.

Per the packet's instructions, I googled the Palace of the Sacred Tooth while the tea was steeping.  Turns out it's located in Kandy, Sri Lanka, whence this tea takes its name.

It's a lovely brew, with a subtle spice in its aroma.  It's got a natural sweetness in its taste, which is bold but not overpowering.

I've had it in the morning several times (first thing, before breakfast) and while it was good then, it is even better now for afternoon tea, when I can relax a little bit more (and escape from the humdrum day!).

So...yeah.  Going to enjoy the rest of my cup and look at pictures of this crazy palace.

23 July 2014

The Value of Crap

Yes, it's a weird title, I know, but bear with me.

We all have our outlets, those things we do that help us unwind, overcome mental blockages, what have you.  Mine has often been, for lack of a better expression, writing crap.

There's something very liberating about letting yourself write whatever you want, knowing that no one will ever see it, that it doesn't have to be perfect (in fact, it doesn't even have to be good!).  You can express things in crap you can't always express any other way, because self-consciousness kicks in.

I'm not talking about free writing, where you just write whatever comes to mind, though that has value, too.  No, I'm talking about writing an actual story that you know is crap.  My secret crap project is a little story that I write just for myself.  I cackle with glee as I write it, even though it's absolutely ridiculous.  It's actually based on some stories my friends and I used to write when we were in seventh grade, and uses some of those same conventions.  At age twelve, none of us had strong beliefs about what made a good or bad narrative, so we just did whatever the hell we wanted.  I've tried to keep that spirit alive for myself.

What's been most exciting as I write my crap has been the ideas I've generated for my legitimate projects while doing so.  I've had plenty of flashes of inspiration for my other stories while working on my crap story.

So, I encourage everyone: write crap!  Don't be ashamed!  Okay, well, be a little ashamed.  I certainly don't share my crap with anyone.  But I'm glad I wrote it for me.  It makes me happy.

22 July 2014

Mystery? Thriller? Or something else?

So, here's my conundrum: how to you categorize a book where the main thrust is that someone is trying to kill the main character?  This is not a single, grand attempt, but rather a series of attempted murders.  So is it a murder mystery, if there's never any actual murder?  Is it a thriller, without a ticking clock?

This is something I'm struggling with as I write, because I would like to see other titles that have tackled this problem, but I don't know how to find them.  The only one I can think of that's a little bit close is Lynne Truss's With One Lousy Free Packet of Seed, but that's a comic novel, and while my story will have an element of comedy to it, I don't necessarily want that to be the driving force.

Obviously, my reading in the mystery genre as a whole needs to step up.  I already have a Holmes on the Range novel that my friend lent me, plus I read The Silkworm just this past week (more on that when the blog catches up to my reviews!), and I've got a list of books to check out:

The 9th Girl by Tami Hoag
Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway by Sara Gran
Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda
The Cove by Catherine Coulter
The Maze by Catherine Coulter
The Pelican Brief by John Grisham
The Street Lawyer by John Grisham

As I look at this list, it seems to be mostly thrillers, so maybe that's what I need. On the other hand, I'm still not sure what I need, so maybe I need more pure mystery! I'll have to see what I can find.

Meanwhile, I'm actively looking for suggestions, so if anyone comes across this and has something to contribute, please do so!

21 July 2014

K Vintners Syrah Milbrandt Vineyard 2011

I bought two bottles of K Vintners Milbrandt Vineyard (Wahluke Slope) Syrah 2011 to share with a table of ten at a dinner in Dallas, TX.  I didn’t take very extensive notes, since I’ve had so much experience with K’s wines, but I did make a few for comparison.

It had more fruit than the 2010s, which is what I’ve mostly been drinking of K’s wines lately.  It was bursting with cherry and blackberry flavors.  The tannins were a bit smoother than in years past.  What was most intriguing was this hint of almond toffee in the nose.

It was super pleasant and a true crowd pleaser, as I knew it would be.

Slightly inebriated (I had a glass of Tokaji with dessert as well), I tried to call the winery’s phone number on the cork, but only reached their voicemail.  I was going to tell them how much I loved their wine, but I ended up hanging up on the voicemail because it seemed less fun to tell a machine.

Maybe they screen their calls specifically to avoid drunk people.

20 July 2014

First person present vs past

As I work on my new novel, I've been thinking a lot about the differences between first person past and first person present viewpoints.

To me, past tense is filled with a sort of nostalgia.  It becomes memory, and lends itself perspective and, to a certain extent, reverence.  This happened, and this is what it meant, and this is how it affected me.  Present tense is full of tension, of ambiguity.  This is happening, and this is what I think it means, and this is how it's affecting me now, but maybe later I'll think back on it and realize how wrong I was.

It reminds me of early works of digital cinema.  There's something about a movie captured on actual film that makes it look like a window into the past, whereas many digitally shot films (with Star Wars Episodes 1-3 being a great example) look so immediate and in your face.  Both are valuable tools of storytelling.  The question is, when to use which?

I've decided to try using present-tense narration for my new novel.  I've never done it before, and it will no doubt be a challenge.  But sometimes the most challenging things are the most rewarding.  Hopefully it will be so in this venture.

19 July 2014

Donnie Darko

Last night I watched Donnie Darko for the first time.  I know, I know.  Why hadn't I seen it yet?  Well, I was 17 when it came out and it wasn't a huge release for me (I'm pretty sure I was waiting for the next Lord of the Rings movie for most of 2001).  I didn't really hear much about it until I was in college, and then it was from my friends who were into more...umm...experimental things, not just film.

Anyway, I finally got around to it, and to my great surprise, I actually rather liked it!  It was kind of surprising to see some of the faces in it, like Seth Rogen and Mary McDonnell, but they all - especially Mary McDonnell - played their roles well.

I was expecting the film to be a bit more of a mind[expletive removed] than it was.  Maybe because I'm such a sci-fi nerd, or maybe because we're living in a post-LOST viewership, I had no problem following the film.

I thought the ending was really nice.  I will avoid saying much, to avoid spoilers, but it had some of the most poignant silent acting I've seen in a long while.

I'm glad Donnie Darko finally came up in my Netflix queue.  Up next is more of the late, great Richard Griffiths in Pie in the Sky, which is a truly awesome show.  Though it does make me hungry...

18 July 2014

Red Rising and the Double Reversal

Don't read further if you wish to avoid spoilers from Pierce Brown's Red Rising.

I've been thinking a lot about Red Rising.  One of the things that most fascinated me with it was the character of Mustang, and her double (or, depending on how you think of it, quintuple) reversal.

In Robert McKee's Story, he talks about reversals as one of the prime ingredients of storytelling.  Given any specific trait, plot point, character, or what have you, you can apply a positive or negative value to it.  Story happens when that value reverses.

Mustang first enters the story as an unnamed girl riding a horse, making fun of Darrow's inability to ride.  I think it's fair to say we could start her relationship with Darrow at a negative value, though not a strong one.

When next we see her, she is at the Institute with Darrow.  Again, nameless, but this time less haughty.  Did her relationship value change to positive?  Maybe.  At the very least, the needle flickered.

When we come across Mustang in the game (blurgh - forgot the proper name of it), she's the Primus of House Minerva, and an enemy of Darrow.  There's a little sexual tension there, sure, but it's pretty safe to put her strongly in the negative zone for her big Named debut.

Eventually, Darrow and Mustang part ways for a while, but circumstances force them back together.  Now, Mustang, considering herself in Darrow's debt, actually rescued him after he was stabbed, and has watched over him as he healed.  A pretty strong positive swing, yes?  Now she's his friend, partner-in-crime, confidant...and of course, more sexual tension.

Things proceed in this vein through most of the book's third act, but right toward the end, we're thrown a huge curve-ball.

It turns out Mustang is the sister of the Jackal, one of Darrow's enemies.  And Darrow just sent her to her brother with half his army and weaponry.  Betrayal seems certain.  Negative!  Just when we thought things were going to turn out okay...

But then, they actually do.  Turns out Mustang was loyal to Darrow, and captured her brother just as she said she would.  So that's back to positive, then.

So...negative-a little bit positive-negative-positive-negative-positive.  Whew!

I think the character of Mustang is what impressed me most about Red Rising.  It shows a grasp of the craft that stood out to me.  It was really exciting to read.  And damn, I wish I had come up with something like that!

17 July 2014

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising was a great read for me.  I love the genre, I love Mars, and I loved the voice.  But it was, at times, a very challenging read as well.

Red Rising picks up the story of Darrow while he’s still a lowly Red, the lowest caste in the society of Mars.  As the blurb says (so this is not a spoiler), he and his kind have been led to believe they are terraforming Mars, but they have been deceived - Mars is already terraformed and they are simply working as slaves.

So begins Darrow’s journey from miner to revolutionary.

Red Rising has been drawing a lot of comparisons to The Hunger Games and Ender’s Game, and while I can see the similarities at times, I think it’s disingenuous to compare them too closely.  Red Rising is its own beast, with its own morality and its own story to tell.

One of the things that made Red Rising so hard for me - more than the violence, of which there is a lot, but I can handle that - was watching Darrow make choices that I was afraid would come back to haunt him.  I think it’s great that I identified so strongly with him, but it was troubling, too, to see this character I had come to empathize with go down what I would consider the wrong path.

I read the first 50 pages or so pretty quickly, but then, the middle of the book - from about page 50 to about page 250 - I could only read a chapter or two at a time, it was too gut-wrenching.

The last third of the book, though - once Darrow had grown into someone I could root for again - I positively devoured.

Pierce Brown’s prose was great, full of his own unique slang that felt fully realized and perfectly at home in the world he built.  Much like Jay Kristoff’s Lotus War trilogy, Red Rising built a world that was so compelling, I wanted to visit it, despite its hardships.

I ended up loving Red Rising.  It's one of my favorite books this year.  It had one of the best endings I can remember in a long time, and included a brilliant double-reversal, something that I rarely see and something that even more rarely works.  Brown pulled it off brilliantly.

I’m super jealous, to be honest.  The dude is talented, and I can't wait to see where his story goes next.

16 July 2014


I've been working on "Castellorizon," the first track from David Gilmour's On an Island.  I don't know why it took me so long to get around to doing it.  It's a beautiful instrumental piece with some of the most mind-blowing sustain ever.  That's saying something, given how awesome David Gilmour's sustain always is.

The live version is stunning, though it has its differences from the studio version.  In particular, the studio version has this absolutely stunning 3-measure-long multiple-bend-and-release on the second string, plus a really cool pinch harmonic lick that I still can't get quite right.

Either way, enjoy.

15 July 2014

The Wonders of Bai Hao Oolong

Bai Hao Oolong.  Formosa Oolong.  Oriental Beauty.

Whatever you call it, it's one of the best teas around.

I'm currently enjoying a cup of Steven Smith Teamaker's Bai Hao.  Its subtle peach aroma envelopes me.

I steeped it for seven minutes, as James Norwood Pratt (author of The Tea Lover's Treasury) recommends.  It's heavenly.

Every sip is a complex burst of nectar.  Fruity but woodsy, bold but smooth.

It's tea time, and I am happy.

14 July 2014

Saxum James Berry Vineyard 2011

Oh, the delights of Saxum!  My friend snagged a couple bottles of the 2011 James Berry Vineyard release, and we decanted one and shared it over a lovely meal of grilled meats.

The smell was heavenly - licorice, spice, herbs, laurel.  So many layers and nuances.

We let it sit for about 30 minutes in the decanter before pouring.  The aromas were even more refreshing as the wine opened up, revealing fruit notes as well.

On the palate, it was round and smooth, with smoke and spice leading the charge and dark fruits, like black cherry, bringing up the rear.  The finish just went on and on.

It was a wonderful bottle to share with friends.

13 July 2014

Write What You Know

One of the most frequent bits of advice writers hear is to "write what you know."

Frankly, I think that's terribly limiting advice.  Why write what you already know?  Why not write what you want to know?  What you would like to learn about?  What you've never had the chance to think about before?

That's not to say there's no value in experience.  To an extent, we are always writing what we know.  I think that's where subtext comes in.  You create something new and relate it to something old.  That's where magic happens.

I have learned so much from writing.  I've read countless books I would otherwise not have read, some of which are even reviewed here on the blog.  Books about grief, books about brotherhood, books about twins - all informed my writing.  And that's just for one project.

Books about the treasures of the pharaohs, books about quantum physics, books about Harry S Truman - all were things I wanted to know, things I wanted to write about.  With luck I'll get to all of them!

Not that anyone really reads this, but if one day someone does come across this, I challenge you: write what you don't know.  Go find out about it and make something really amazing come of it.

12 July 2014

On Mental Illness

I came across this interesting article today:

'Bleak picture' for mentally ill: 80% are jobless

It made me think of another article (also on USA Today) I read some time ago about the problems with the mental health industry here in the US.

That's not what this post is about, though.  Rather, it's about my own personal encounters with mental illness.

I have a pretty long family history of mental illness.  Several members of my mother's family have faced battles with mental illness, and some, including my aunt, lost that fight.  Members of my immediate family have dealt with it.  I myself have fought it.  When I was sixteen, I missed about a month solid of school just because I was too crippled with depression to make it out of the house.

Depression isn't the only form mental illness takes.  There's a wide gamut.  But depression and anxiety (and, to an extent, bipolar) are the ones that have most affected me.

I think of several friends I have who face crippling anxiety.  I admit, I myself have had problems with that as recently as a few months ago, but thankfully it did not last long.  Their problems are much more severe.  Anxiety isn't rational, it isn't easy to just talk yourself out of.  Your brain whirls a mile a minute and you can't stop it, even when you know it's not making any sense.

I suppose it's hard to write about something so personal, to me, and to others, without giving away details of their lives.  I apologize for this being so vague.  I do not want to infringe on my friends' or family members' privacy.

In the end, I guess I just want people to be aware.  There is definitely a stigma attached to mental illness.  Perhaps speaking out about it is the best way to fight it.  I don't claim to have the answers, not by a long shot.  But I wanted to put my two cents in.

11 July 2014

A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: A Memoir of Seventh Grade by Kevin Brockmeier

What an interesting read.  I came across Filmstrip in an issue of Entertainment Weekly, if memory serves.  Seventh Grade was an interesting school year for me - one of my best, and one of my worst - and it stands out in my mind as the year that really kindled my love of writing.

Indeed, the silly stories my friends and I wrote in our school’s “IBM Writing Lab” (an after-school activity that put to use a bunch of old DOS machines with 2-color orange-and-black monitors) live on in memory and in practice, as the basis of the serialized story I am writing for my own personal amusement.

Filmstrip was nothing like I expected it to be, except this: it did, in fact, capture what Seventh Grade was like.  But the story was indeed a memoir, though one with the air of a dream: plot elements came and went, subconscious mixed with conscious, and there was even a bizarre existential crisis at one point.

The prose was so beautiful, at once rough as coal and polished as a diamond.  Does that make sense?  It was perfect in its imperfection.

My own Seventh Srade experience was different than Kevin’s; when I was in school, we had a dedicated middle school for Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Grades, whereas Kevin went to a school for Seventh through Twelfth Grades.  So while he was at the bottom of the proverbial totem pole, I was in the middle of mine.

My year was overshadowed rather completely by a severe bout with depression, and so I could sympathize with Kevin, who struggles with his own feelings and tendency to cry a lot.  I was never weepy, but I definitely struggled.

I was fortunate in my friends: I entered Seventh Grade with the same close friends I left it with.  I never had the sort of epic falling-out that Kevin did.  Indeed, most of the friends I’ve lost throughout life have simply faded away, not exploded.  But I really felt for Kevin.  I went through plenty of bullying myself.

I think what Kevin captured so well is just how it felt to be a Seventh Grader.  On the cusp of being a teenager.  Not a kid anymore, but you’ve yet to hit that high school rebellious phase.

I’ve heard it said no one ever really leaves high school; maybe no one ever stops being in Seventh Grade, either.

10 July 2014

And so it begins.

Well, I've started querying for my novel.  Hooray!

Famed land shark, superagent, and future Queen of the Known Universe Janet Reid wrote an enlightening blog post about the query process, and, in accordance with her advice, I will be enacting operational silence on it.

In other news, the new nib for my fountain pen came in last night, so I can finally write properly again.  Yea!

09 July 2014

Thoughts on thoughts

This past weekend I watched The Iron Lady.  It's something I'd meant to watch for a while, but the opportunity finally presented itself.

It was a pretty good movie.  One of the most interesting and powerful scenes, to me, was when Margaret Thatcher, played by Meryl Streep, was seeing her doctor, who was concerned how she was feeling following her husband's death.  She refused to talk about her feelings, though.  Instead, she said this:

Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become. My father always said that. And I think I am fine.

That's pretty deep.  It's something I've felt for a long time: that your thoughts can change and shape your reality.  Not to say you can, say, move mountains.  But how you think can affect your outlook on life.  If you focus on the positive, you see the positive around you.

As someone who's struggled with depression in the past, this was an especially poignant reminder to me of the power we have to direct our own thoughts.  Maybe we don't feel great.  But if we think great, sometimes, we can turn that feeling around.

08 July 2014

Missing friends

This past week, my dear friend Marcie was visiting from Seattle.  We got to hang out several times, which was awesome.  We played board games, we chatted, we celebrated a holiday and a birthday with the circle of friends we share here.

What was nicest, though, was just being in the same space and talking face to face.  We talk nearly every week, either on the phone or via Skype, but there's nothing like sitting at the table, enjoying a cup (or three) of tea and just talking.

She flies back to Seattle today.  I already miss her.

07 July 2014

Ravenswood Petite Sirah 2012

I decided to try something new, something at a price point less than $10, and Ravenswood Petite Sirah piqued my interest because it’s such an unusual grape to find in a single-varietal bottling.

The wine was tight and minty, almost cooling to the tongue.  Its acidity was pretty sharp at the beginning.  I decided to let it breathe plenty as I enjoyed it with my dinner.

Even as it developed, the tannins stayed pretty green.  It improved a bit, but still seemed awfully sharp.  I’m going to revisit it 24 hours later (recorked) and see if it’s better, worse, or the same.

Followup: It did get better after 24 hours, and after 48 hours (again recorked) and drunk out of a Pinot Noir glass it was actually pretty enjoyable.  I may get another bottle and try decanting it.

06 July 2014

Happiness is...

A new Pink Floyd album!


For those who don't know me (which, I suppose, is probably pretty much anyone and everyone who reads this - because if you know me, why not just ask me about it?), I am a HUGE Pink Floyd fan.

Can't wait for this to come out.

05 July 2014

How quickly I run out of things to say.

Let's be frank, sometimes my thoughts aren't all that interesting.  Indeed, today I'm mostly thinking about the birthday party I'm attending this afternoon.  One of my oldest friends (we've been friends since we were 8 years old) is celebrating her 30th birthday today.

I'm reminded of the film Stuart Saves His Family.  Stuart Smalley (an SNL character from the 90s, played by Al Franken, and around which the film revolves) has to shoot 20 episodes of his self-help show back-to-back.  He brainstorms 19 topics, and then decides his topic for the 20th show is "I Don't Have to Have a Topic."

It turns out he does, as he stares blankly at the camera pretty much the entire show.

That's kind of how I feel about this new phase in the blog's life.  I try to make note of any significant thoughts I have that might later make good blog posts, but I don't always do so in time.  And sometimes, upon reflection, they're actually rather terrible.

Still, I am going to keep this up, even if there are days where I stare at the screen for 20 minutes blankly.

Hopefully those will be few and far between.

04 July 2014

Fattoria del Cerro Rosso di Monepulciano

Yet another left-field Italian wine.  Fattoria del Cerro’s Rosso is an interesting and quite enjoyable sample of what happens when you get outside of Tuscany or Piedmont.

The wine had the blood red color I’ve come to associate with Italian wines.  It had spicy, leathery notes in the nose, was well as tobacco and cloves as it developed.

The flavors were bursting with blackberry and herbs, with a nice backbone of oak.  I enjoyed this Rosso a great deal, though it was a bit heavier than the wine I had immediately before it, the Barone de Cles Primo Teroldego.  The Rosso really needed food to bring out its best, but it was still good.

03 July 2014

Being vs. Seeming

So, day two (or three, if you count Monday as the start) of my plan to post something every day.

I've been pondering Hamlet lately, particularly my time spent studying it in college.  We spent probably two months examining the play in my "Forms of Dramatic Action" class, which ended up kind of being a Theater Theory class...

Anyway, the thing that stuck most with me is how our instructor focused on one particular theme in the play, that of being vs. seeming.

I don't know how much I bought that as an interpretation of the text at the time, truth be told, though that didn't stop me from doing a research paper on it.  I don't know that it's necessarily the whole point of Hamlet.

But what I come to realize more and more - especially in writing - is how that tension is at the heart of what makes writing so fun, and what makes a good story so good.

When you defy expectations, when you throw a curve ball, when the plot takes a sharp left turn...those are the most exciting points in a story.

So maybe my professor was right after all.  Maybe being vs. seeming is, in truth, at the heart of every story.

02 July 2014

Something New

I've decided to try something new, and post every single day here.  Given my pace of reading and drinking, most of the posts will therefore be banter.  Hopefully it won't be too inane.

For some time, my sister has been begging me to watch Downton Abbey, and I finally got started on it.  I am not surprised that I got hooked, but I am curious.  It's hard to quantify what it is about Downton that is so very appealing.  Maybe it's the voyeuristic quality of peeping in to these fictional people's lives.  Maybe it's the continuing American obsession with British aristocracy.  Maybe it's just damned good writing.

Probably a lot of that.

My sister also pointed out an uncanny likeness on the show, and even made a graphic to show it, which I have included below.

01 July 2014

Barone de Cles Primo Teroldego

I haven’t had a lot of experience with wines from the Teroldego grape.  It seems to be gaining traction here in the US, though.  I think this is the second Teroldego I’ve tasted and the first entire bottle I’ve had.

The wine was a deep blood red, full of spicy, leathery scents.  It was surprising; I didn’t quite know what to make of it at first.

The taste was bright, full of blueberry flavors and easy tannins.  Once again, it was quite different from my expectations.

I often have found young Italian wines unapproachable, but this was the opposite - approachable, easy-drinking, casual, even.  It was quite enjoyable with food or without.


Books: Nearly done with The Good Son.

Bottles: Chateau Sylvain Raymond Graves 2011.

Writing: Mostly been reading the last few days.  Got a whole bunch of books at once.

Guitar: Thinking about scales again.