Saturday, July 26, 2008

Two great tastes that taste great together

It always kind of surprises me that I've never been in a book club. I'm a book-club kind of girl, right? I read a lot. I talk about reading a lot. So, reading + talking about reading = right up my alley, right? And yet somehow, I'm always a little bit too fickle in my reading moods and habits, not quite willing enough to submit to the schedule and the whole "other people telling me what to read" thing, to join a group.

Well, Glenna asked me this week if I'd like to co-moderate a 20th Century Book Club on Ravelry, the idea of Ravelry book clubs being that one reads and discusses the chosen book and, if the spirit leads, knits an item corresponding to the theme of that book (Example: Dante's Inferno = flame-y leg warmers). How well she knows me. Although I am a semi-contrary reader and a leisurely knitter at best, my love for early/mid-20th-century novels (we'll say 1915-1950) knows no bounds. I may choose my reading material according to the phases of the moon and the color of my socks, but that (Teddy) Roosevelt-to-Eisenhower period is nearly always on the roster. Besides, how could I say no to a book club for which I get to (help) choose the books? I said I'd do it.

The group hasn't started yet, but Glenna and I decided to each compile a list of 20 possible books, then compare notes; I spent this afternoon searching my mental to-read list and my collection of books about books (when in doubt, consult Nancy Pearl), and came up with not one, but two lists: Books I Haven't Read But Should/Would Like To, and Books I've Read and So Should Everybody Else (because I am nothing if not a literary imperialist). The results are as follows:

Books I Haven't Read But Should/Would Like To

1. Native Son, Richard Wright
2. The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett
3. Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather (What a title!)
4. A House for Mr. Biswas, V. S. Naipaul
5. Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome
6. The Flame Trees of Thika: Tales of an African Childhood, Elspeth Huxley
7. Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
8. A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor
9. All the Names (or other), Jose Saramago
10. Foucault’s Pendulum or The Name of the Rose or The Island of the Day Before, Umberto Eco
11. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
12. The Locusts Have No King or The Golden Spur, Dawn Powell
13. The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty
14. Swann’s Way, Marcel Proust
15. Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers
16. Go Tell It On the Mountain, James Baldwin
17. The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain
18. The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell
19. Amsterdam (or other), Ian McEwan
20. A Word Child (or other), Iris Murdoch

Books I've Read and So Should Everybody Else

1. I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
2. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
3. 84 Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff
4. Rebecca, Daphne DuMaurier
5. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
6. The Portable Dorothy Parker
7. Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Kate Atkinson
8. The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
9. Harriet the Spy and The Long Secret, Louise Fitzhugh
10. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman
11. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
12. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson

So, bring on the semi-enforced reading and associated knitting!

(Ravelry is still in beta and therefore is by invitation only; however, signing up is both simple and free, and I believe the waiting list is moving quickly at this point. If you'd like to read and/or knit (or crochet!) with us, check it out. The more the merrier.)

Squash blossoms

This morning at the Grand Lake farmers' market, I bought squash blossoms, one of those foods that falls under category of things I'm dying to cook with but don't know how to prepare (see also: fern, fiddlehead). We'll call them Theoretically Fun Foods.

First of all, say it to yourself a few times over: SQUASH BLOSSOM. SQUAAAASH BLOSSOM. SQUASH. BLOSSOM. It sounds like an insult, or something George W. Bush would call some poor (wrinkly, orange, delicate) intern. It's like a whole little saga of tragedy and redemption, right in the name. You know how Hemingway wrote his six-word story ("For sale: baby shoes, never worn")? Squash blossoms are like that, only vegetable.

And just look at them! They look so exotic and also vaguely geriatric--wrinkled, obviously fragile, and yet surprisingly sturdy at the base. People stuff and deep-fry them, which sounds sacrilegious for something so fine and so summery; I plan to chop them up and toss them into a frittata, and to try one raw just to get the gist. They smell good, which shouldn't surprise me (flower, duh) but does anyway (looks like wet, orange laundry).

Wish me luck. Will report back.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Have you ever pondered the very squareness of your average blanket? Square, I'm telling you. Not a strip, not a rectangle--that would be a towel--but every stitch of width accounted for by a row of length. Square, man.

I've been pondering the squareness of blankets lately as I've been working on the baby blanket I'm knitting. It's a winner of a blanket, I think; I like the pattern and I like the colors. But: blanket. Square. Pink pink pink pink white white pink pink pink pink white white. I'm dreaming in stripes these days.

Good thing there's been the AMC Mad Men marathon to keep me company. I'll bet HBO is kicking itself--they passed on the show (created by one of their own, no less, Sopranos alum Matthew Weiner), only to watch it be picked up and produced by AMC and subsequently receive sixteen Emmy nominations. It's the kind of thing you'd never see on network TV. Set at a Madison Avenue ad agency in 1960, it's hopelessly (and sometimes pleasingly) adult--not so much violent or graphically sexy as subtle, complex, and packed with precise dialogue spoken by paralytically conflicted characters. These are people that are almost universally dedicated to a lifestyle that none of them seem entirely comfortable with; they're always trying to break or escape their own situations, even as they work day in and day out to preserve what they have. In short, it makes me positively thrilled to be a child of the 80s, though the flouncy shirtwaist dresses, pencil skirts, and fantastic shoes make it almost worth a trade. (Kidding. Any man that spoke to me like the men on that show would sound like Bobby McFerrin for a week.)

Don't you wish your life was as exciting as mine?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

12 of 12: July

Aren't weekend 12 of 12s the best? Late, yes--what, stop my rousing of rabbles to post?--but you know what they say. For more on the history and culture of the 12 of 12 art project, check out Chad Darnell's blog.

On with the show:

8:40 - Sometimes I think these waking-up pictures are a great idea. This month, not so much.

8:55 - A friend once said that watching Dr. Who constituted some kind of basic boundary of true geekdom. Apparently I've crossed the bar.

11:37 - Leftovers from Cha Am, updating iTunes, and half-watching Rachael Ray, all of which seems like a luxurious kind of weekend time-sink.

12:40 - Fiction section, Lakeview Branch, Oakland Public Library. Kind of a quandary: checked out the much-awaited The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri; am actually more in the mood for a re-read of Haven Kimmel's The Solace of Leaving Early. Hence the indecisively empty Goodreads widget.

12:52 - Grand Lake farmers' market, home of all kinds of peachy (and other) deliciousness.

1:20 - The open road, 880 South, Hayward.

2:12 - The open road, 17 South, Santa Cruz Mountains, Los Gatos-ish.

2:34 - Meet Mount Hermon, summer camp extraordinaire, weekend-getaway spot, the true Happiest Place on Earth, geographic love of my life.

4:05 - Wine tasting at Bonny Doon Vineyard. Tasty despite a basic difference of opinion (they specialize in reds; I'm into whites and occasionally pinks).

4:13 - Mini-break pals Kendra and Amy (my Hips, as in "attached at the") and Hip Husband Tim, still at Bonny Doon.

5:40 - Crazy Mount Hermon Saturday-night buffet dinner; we used to eat the leftovers on staff. (I'm now realizing that this all looks completely unappetizing. Butternut squash, coconut-crusted mahi mahi, some kind of corn pudding, dessert; some food photographer I am!)

6:55 - Waiting with Kendra in the car at Long's while Amy and Tim run inside. Sometimes people just need soap and a birthday card, you know?

And the rest, well, it's a mystery, photographically. I was too busy off having fun. Happy July, all.

Next month: same bat time, same bat channel.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I can explain.

Well, hi there.

Yeah, I know. It's been awhile. But you won't believe what happened.

My dog ate my blog post. No. Not dogs, bears. Kodiak bears. On unicycles. Kodiak bears on unicycles ate my blog post.

Aliens stole my laptop.

I got my hand stuck down the kitchen sink drain and have been pinned inside my apartment. I survived on the bag of melty chocolate chips I'd left on the counter.

I was invited last-minute to cover the Olympics in Beijing, went over to check out the scene, got the black lung, and came home.


Okay, not really. What actually happened was the following:

I decided to write a script. Fast. I discovered the June 30 deadline for the NBC Writers on the Verge program and decided to stop stalling, write a spec script, and apply, no matter what. And then I did what any resourceful writer would: I scrapped what I already had and started from scratch. One week to outline, another to write, and I sent it off just about the time I was getting ready to pull my own hair out one strand at a time. What I submitted wasn't perfect, but I'm proud of it anyway; it's out for review with a couple of trusted writer-friends, and now I can catch the next deadline (August 8, the holy grail ABC/Disney) as it comes. All hail the power of a good deadline, right?

And then--well, not so much "then" as "meanwhile"--I decided to take a class. Something about the NPR mention invaded my brain, and I found a Writing Comedy for TV class at MediaBistro and signed up. We have lectures, meet online once a week for class chat, and--here's the fun part--there's homework. Assigned Thursday, due Saturday, fifty jokes. Every week. Let me say that although joke-writing is fun(-ish) and satisfying, fifty jokes is a lot of jokes. In case you were wondering.

And then--this is where the bears on unicycles come in--I went on vacation. Kind of. I took a week off of work and didn't go anywhere. Instead, my college roommate and freakishly close friend Al flew down from Seattle and we held a contest to see how many parts of Northern California we could see in nine days (bonus points for Nevada!). I think we did okay: we kayaked on Lake Tahoe; came out $15 and $0.75 ahead, respectively, in Reno; got caught in crazy fog on Golden Gate Bridge when the ENTIRE rest of the Bay was bathed in sunshine; played pirate mini-golf at the boardwalk in Santa Cruz; hit the Napa outlets; and watched most of the first season of Heroes, among other things. Not bad. A good time was had by all. But you see, not much time for posting. You'll have to excuse me.

Things are getting back to normal this week. My apartment is slowly recovering (complete solitude and complete sociability are equally destructive to my ability to clean up after myself, apparently). I'd forgotten what it was like to read at home, and go out once in awhile, and be a little bit aimless, and have it be okay. I'm eating fruits and vegetables and meat again (Al subsists entirely on cheese and white foods). Apparently there's TV out there besides 30 Rock, and I don't have to feel guilty for watching it? I'm learning. And I'm back.