Saturday, April 30, 2016

Test Kitchen: What a difference a pan makes

Remember this bubble gum pink debacle?

Well, I tried it again. This time around I used lemons instead of blood oranges and I have the right pan now. And it was glorious.

You so pretty, cake.

The recipe is here. If you're like me and don't like recipes that go on for pages, don't worry about it. This is an easy cake to make.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The wind came back in a big way yesterday

Yesterday was a replay of Friday. During the afternoon the winds kicked up big time. It even knocked my lavender plant over (it survived).

Turns out it was even windier than the other day! The water in the channel was choppier than I've ever seen it.

I couldn't even walk to the end of the channel; as soon as I got to the beach the sand was blowing so much I had to turn back. It was even crazier than Friday, a real sandstorm. No one else braved it either. It was weird seeing it so deserted.

I still wanted to get my walk in, so I decided to walk to the market down the street. Big mistake. The wind was still crazy, and there's a huge construction site down the street that had dirt blowing all over the place. Again, just like a sandstorm, only dirtier.

One great thing about the walk is that one of the apartment complexes down the street has this great big American flag, and it was just dancing in the wind. I loved it with the palm trees in the background.

So far, today is just a regular soft breeze day. Wondering if it will crank up again later. I just hope all this wind will result in a bonanza of seashells. We don't get too many on our beach, for some reason.

Like I need to add to my seashell collection.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Another beautiful evening by the sea

The winds really kicked up around here yesterday afternoon. It kept a lot of people from taking a walk along the channel and beach to the point where it almost felt like I had the place to myself. Check out this wind:

Seriously, this sky doesn't even look real.

The winds had the flag at the end of the channel really flying:

I was wearing a heavy sweatshirt and the sleeves were rippling, it was so windy. It was great, though. The wind seems to be picking up right now, so we may get a repeat of yesterday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Return of the Van de Kamp's windmill!


Iconic Arcadia Windmill Will...Turn, Turn, Turn.

My family is from Arcadia and I remember the windmill from my childhood. Every single time I drive by the former Van de Kamp's (now a Denny's) I look at the roof and think of the windmill turning. It will be great to see it again.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hypocrisy, industry style

I'm not as political on the blog as I used to be, but I just couldn't pass up this one.

So, a lot of entertainment industry panties have been in a wad lately over North Carolina's passage of HB2, a bill that kept in practice separate men's and women's bathrooms based on biological gender. Supporters point out that changing this practice could endanger women and children, while opponents claim it's all about persecuting the transgender community. The law kept the status quo in place.

Apparently women and children are no longer the special interest groups du jour, as a lot of people ignore the peril it could put them in by having their bathrooms invaded by cross-dressing men claiming to identify as women. In fact, it's already happened. The big stink is that a lot of people are ignoring that aspect of the bill and focusing only on how it affects transgenders. Transgenders (or those who claim to identify as such) want to use any bathroom they choose, and they don't seem to notice or much care if it negatively affects anyone else. Phrases like "anti-LGBT", "prejudice, "bigotry", "hatred", "intolerance", "anti-gay" and "discriminatory" have been bandied about to describe the law, as if they're the only ones affected, as if they're actually having rights taken away. The bullied have become the bullies.

A lot of high-profile entertainers apparently don't care about the rights of women and children to feel safe while in a vulnerable state and they're taking it out on their fans, while patting themselves on the back for their open-mindedness and inclusivity. Among those who recently expressed their righteous outrage by refusing to grace the Tar Heel State with their exalted presence are Bruce Springsteen, Ringo StarrPearl Jam and Cirque du Soleil. Which is odd, because:

according to its Web sites, the world-famous circus act is still scheduled to hold shows in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where same-sex marriage, sex- or gender-reassignment surgery, adoption by same-sex couples and openly gay and lesbian military service is outlawed.

Note: I couldn't find it on their website (scrubbed?) but they have performed in Dubai in the past and they are going back later this year.

Which is odd when you consider that nothing has changed. The law kept current rules in place. None of these artists or events had a problem booking their shows in North Carolina before the bill was signed into law, but suddenly they can no longer honor the commitments they made to fans.

There's also been talk of North Carolina losing TV show business. Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz is not only refusing to license his shows to North Carolina companies, but compared the law to apartheid. Looks like the NBA All-Star game will be staying, at least until someone applies enough heat.

It all reminds me of one of my favorite of many favorite quotes from the South Park guys:

People in the entertainment industry are by and large whore-chasing drug-addict fuck-ups, right? But they still believe they're better than the guy in Wyoming who really loves his wife and takes care of his kids and is a good, outstanding, wholesome person. Hollywood views regular people as children, and they think they're the smart ones who need to tell the idiots out there how to be.

I've been to North Carolina on several occasions and was struck by how genuinely down-to-earth and normal the people there are. Sad that the entertainment industry is painting every last one of them with a hateful brush and telling them how to live and run their state.

Then this gem popped up this morning: Transparent Crew Up in Arms Over Trans-Friendly Toilets.

"Transparent" is a forward-thinking show about transgender acceptance, but the kumbaya spirit stops at the bathroom door.

Sources connected with the production tell us, members of the crew are up in arms over the unisex bathroom on the set.

The beef is that men, women and transgenders can all enter as they please, making it uncomfortable for some of the crew. Women are particularly worried about walking in and seeing a dude peeing at the urinal.

Now this is interesting...we're told several crew members are too scared to complain, for fear they'll be labeled "transphobic", which would be the kiss of death on that set.

Oh, Hollywood. Can't even practice what they're preaching to the rest of us on a show dedicated to transgenderism. Get the popcorn. Can't wait to see the fallout on this one.

Update: Just remembered something else I wanted to include in this post. Recently, at the L.A. Times Festival of Books at the University of Southern California, I had the option of using what was described as an "all-gender" bathroom in one of the buildings where I had just attended a panel. The thought of being in a small, enclosed space with my pants down and the possibility of men I didn't know anything about just inches away did not appeal to me. I passed and opted for one of the numerous porta-potties brought in for the event. Gross, but I had four solid walls around me and didn't feel the least bit unsafe or vulnerable.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The return of the Twilight Zone...sort of

I'm not sure how to feel about this. Anything involving more Twilight Zone can only be a good thing, right?

CBS and interactive-video company Interlude are resurrecting “Twilight Zone” as a mix of TV and video game

I guess we'll find out. Read the whole thing here.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

BuzzFeed nails it: 23 Pictures That Perfectly Sum Up Attempting To Be Healthy

We've all been there. Sometimes more than a few times.

My personal favorite:

This is why I had to stop getting the weekly produce boxes.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

L.A. Times Festival of Books - Sunday

Day 2 and the rain stayed away! It was typical, beautiful Southern California weather.

Crime Fiction: Cities in Suspense
Miles Corwin (moderator), Kwei Quartey, Naomi Hirahara, Cara Black

Quartey sets his stories in his native Ghana. He left to study medicine in the United States. Hirahara is of Japanese descent who sets her stories in Los Angeles. Black became fascinated with Paris in the 1990's and finally channeled her obsession into novels. In an odd twist, they all live within miles of each other, in Pasadena and Altadena.

Quartey was inspired to write Ghana-based crime fiction after seeing a documentary about crime in that country, which included a detective who used the threat of witchcraft and curses while interrogating a suspect. When he returned to Ghana after years away, he was stunned by how much it had been built up. The combination of this modernity and the traditional beliefs shown in the documentary inspired him to set his stories there.

Hirahara mentioned that she accumulated a lot of rejections before being published, but said she was never disillusioned. She also had a couple funny comments about the danger of writing real life places. In one of her stories she mentioned a local restaurant, Empress Pavilion, by name, only to later discover that it had closed down. Just to add insult to injury, it later reopened. And then there was the time one of her characters mentioned that football team that used  to be in Los Angeles...

Black discussed the differences in technology between today and the 1990's in which her novels take place. Once, at a talk, a very young woman made the comment that she writes "historical novels". That one got a big laugh. Hirahara pointed out that the main character of one of her series is not up on tech and in fact still uses a Thomas Guide to get around town.

Black frequently travels to Paris and told a crazy story about going to a shooting range there. That wasn't the crazy part. Apparently she was wearing rubber flip-flops and hadn't noticed that some of the shell casings got stuck in the soles. She didn't notice it until she was back in the U.S. unpacking from her trip. The shell casings had made it through TSA with no problem.

After the panel had ended, while everyone was gathering up their things and heading out, I overheard a couple of people in the audience mention what a great moderator Corwin was, that he asked his questions, then got out of the way so the authors could talk. I couldn't agree more, he did a great job.

Michael Connelly in Conversation with Titus Welliver
There must have been tumbleweeds blowing through the FOB after a huge chunk of attendees packed the Bovard Auditorium to get their Connelly/Welliver/Bosch fix.

Waiting patiently. I'm up in the balcony.

Michael Connelly, the author of the Harry Bosch series, chatted up his leading man much to the delight of the FOB crowd. It only lasted an hour, but I'm pretty sure they could have gone on all day long and no one would have complained.

A huge part of the discussion focused on Harry Bosch himself. Welliver commented on Harry's "perfect moral compass" and described him as not a guy with an inherent need to be liked. He likened him to an old soldier, someone who will be "soldiering on until the dirt nap". Welliver described getting the role as "the greatest gift of my career". He has been getting caught up on the Bosch novels and said that the more he reads, the closer he feels to Harry. In what I thought was a nifty comparison, he described the complex Bosch as an advent calendar. In additional good news, Welliver is also now the voice of the Bosch audiobooks.

Welliver said that some of his favorite scenes have been Bosch with his daughter, because Harry doesn't know what to do. Connelly responded to that with, "It gets worse next season." Speaking of Season 3, Connelly offered that the writing started a month earlier than previous seasons.

Another comment I thought was neat was Connelly explaining where the character of Harry Bosch had come from. He said Bosch came from a lot of different places, but specified that after reading Raymond Chandler, he wanted his own Marlowe. Damn if he didn't do just that.

During the Q&A, Connelly was asked about the creative control he has on the show. His response was that he doesn't, but that people working on the show don't want to disappoint him, and through him the fanbase as well. Amazon - to their great credit - insisted that he be involved if they were to finally bring Harry Bosch to the screen. As a condition to his involvement, Connelly insisted that the show be shot entirely in Los Angeles (except of course for the scenes that take place outside of L.A.).

There was a great moment when an audience member asked Connelly about his next Bosch novel, which comes out in November. In the novels, Vietnam veteran Harry has aged in real time since his debut in The Black Echo in 1992 (in the show, Bosch is a Gulf War veteran to adjust his age). As a result of this - and the LAPD's mandatory retirement age - he's aging out of the force, and the question was specifically how Connelly was going to handle that. He responded that Bosch would be carrying a badge, it just wouldn't be an LAPD badge. This prompted Welliver to crack, "He's doing security at Ralphs."

The funniest thing in the whole entertaining hour - which I alluded to in a previous post - was when they were discussing Harry, and Connelly turned to Welliver and his Boston Red Sox t-shirt and calmly asked, "You know he's a Dodgers fan, right?"

It was awesome.

Publishing Industry: The New and the Now
Oscar Villalon (moderator), Isaac Fitzgerald, Maris Kreizman, Josh Raab, Johnny Temple

The panel discussed the importance of being a part of the writing community, online and off, in order to publish and promote your work. Kreizman: You're having a conversation, not just shouting into a void. The popularity of her website Slaughterhouse 90210 led to a book deal. Fitzgerald pointed out that the internet means writers no longer have to be in L.A. or New York to be part of a community.

Kreizman discussed the self-publishing boom, which she touted as great, but also pointed out that self-published writers have to really hustle and do a lot of work (editing, PR, etc.) that require a lot of different skill sets, services that a traditional publisher would provide for them.

On the topic of ever changing technology, Fitzgerald had a neat analogy. He talked about back in the day when monks hand-wrote and illustrated books, only to have the printing press invented. Monks: "Those aren't real books." It was funny, but also drove home the point that you can't fight progress. Whatever you think of publishing in this day and age, the changes are here to stay and will probably continue to evolve. Deal with it.

In the Q&A, the panel was asked about submitting and negotiating without an agent. They cited several resources including The Author's GuildPoets & Writers and Submittable among the many online sources available. They were also asked what they think is coming in the future. Raab cited Storyhive, while Fitzgerald mentioned geotagged stories and apps. Everyone involved agreed that no matter how clever a concept is, it still requires good writing.

The panel was also asked if big publishing houses have any interest in finding new writers, or if this is just not an option. Temple, publisher and editor-in-chief of Akashic Books: "Everyone is interested in finding new writers."

Fun fact: This panel was broadcast live on CSPAN's BookTV. I got to see it later when it was re-aired and had to laugh at the offensive language warning they put onscreen when Fitzgerald dropped several F-bombs. Also, you can see me in the broadcast, so I've officially been on TV. And I looked like crap.

Except for a couple more purchases, that was the end of my awesome Festival of Books weekend. Can't wait for next year!

Here are a few more pics snapped over the weekend:

Tommy Trojan from the steps of the
Bovard Auditorium just after the
Connelly/Welliver event.

A more dramatic shot of Mr. Trojan.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wine and humor combined? Yes, please.

Found this awesomeness in the current issue of Food Network Magazine:

I may have written on the page.

They are indeed SomeWines and according to their website Sprouts carries them. Guess what just got added to my list of errands for tomorrow!

I cannot tell you how happy it made me to be greeted with this news this morning

Television Without Pity is coming back.

Some of the funniest things I've ever read on the internets were their recaps and message boards. I was beyond disappointed when it was closed down a couple years ago.

I really hope they can restore all the original archives. Supposedly they were left online, but I've had trouble accessing them (or beyond the first page of the recaps, at least). That would be awesome. Either way, I'm happy happy happy to have the little devil back.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

L.A. Times Festival of Books - Saturday

Rain didn't dampen enthusiasm for the annual Festival of Books. The event goes on rain or shine, and go on it did. I had four awesome panels today.

The Art of the Short Story
David Ulin (moderator), Karen Bender, Lincoln Michel, Tara Ison

Bender, when asked why she writes short stories: It was something she could finish. Compared short stories to dreams.

Ison said she prefers writing a solution rather than a resolution. Doesn't feel that the ending of a story needs to tie up every last thread.

Michel quoted Gordon Lish: "Write what scares you."

Ulin on story: Likes to look at family pictures and wonder what's going on outside the frame. He feels that's more interesting that what's being shown to the camera.

During the Q&A, the panel was asked about short story markets. Bender recommended reading magazines to see what they're publishing. Ison suggested checking out niche publications, while Ulin's advice was to just go for it with big name magazines.

Crime Fiction: Ulterior Motives
Paula L. Woods (moderator), Brian Panowich, Caroline Kepnes, Lou Berney, Jessica Knoll

L to R: Jessica Knoll, Brian Panowich,
Paula L.Woods, Caroline Kepnes, Lou Berney

This was a hilarious panel with a pretty formidable group of writers. Both Panowich (Bull Mountain) and Berney (The Long and Faraway Gone) were nominated for the L.A. Times Book Prize this year. Berney also has an Edgar nomination and Bull Mountain was bought by USA Network. Knoll's novel Luckiest Girl Alive  is also Edgar-nominated and has been bought by Lionsgate. Knoll will write the screenplay and Reese Witherspoon is producing. Kepnes' novel You: A Novel  is in development at Showtime.

Panowich is a firefighter in real life and joked about only being able to write when he's at the firehouse because he's got four kids at home that keep him busy there. He lives in Georgia and wanted to depict Georgians as they really are, not as toothless hicks shown in the media.

Berney's novel was inspired by a real life event in his hometown of Oklahoma City. Workers at a steakhouse were murdered by robbers after being herded into the walk-in freezer. He purposely didn't give the PI in his book the traditional ratty office and has him put up a funny and charming front despite his being damaged. He described it as "an illusion of stability that he can't maintain". His publisher suggested he move the story to a more exciting city, but he was able to keep it in Oklahoma City, which he described as a "mini-Austin" and more interesting than people realize.

Kepnes described her sociopath protagonist as a "veterinarian for people" in that he puts them down the way we do so humanely for sick animals. When he begins stalking a woman who shopped at his bookstore, it's due to what she refers to as "interest at first sight" as opposed to love at first sight.

Knoll talked about her character being victimized both during and after the fact, and how she hasn't learned to live with herself and therefore hates herself, despite having re-invented herself. The issue of old money versus new money is also involved.

Several of these author's books feature anti-heroes, prompting Woods to make the observation that, "Even bad people need to be the heroes of their own reality." I thought that was really interesting, not to mention great advice for writers.

Opinion: Writing Personal Essays for the Popular Press
Juliet Lapidos (moderator), Rosecrans Baldwin, Maria Bustillo

L to R: Juliet Lapidos, Rosecrans Baldwin, Maria Bustillo

Baldwin pointed out that a personal essay is not an opinion piece. You've gone through something or something changed you. It's something that happened to you, not your take on something.

They were asked about pieces they wrote that particularly resonated with readers...or not. Bustillo wrote about a piece of advice given to her by a tutor when she was attending St. John's College. She said she got a great response from St. John's alumni. Baldwin was sent to cover the Boy Scout Jamboree. One of the more disturbing parts of the experience was the discovery of Boy Scout groupies.

Since a lot of these pieces are based on personal experience and observations, the question of identifying the real people involved came up. Baldwin said he'll ask for permission from his and his wife's immediate family, but beyond that he's willing to deal with the fallout. He has lost two friends as a result of writing about them - one he described as a great friendship lost, the other he didn't care about. Bustillo said she disguises people a lot and so far hasn't had any trouble with them.

On the pitching process: Bustillo said to write your best piece, identify an editor who would love it and send it to them. Don't be shy. Find a topic that makes you wonder why no one else is talking about it. Write it and get it out there. As an editor, Baldwin gets a ton of stories about cancer survival, addiction, and experiences of going through parents' belongings after they've passed away, so if you've got something more unique, you have a better chance of getting published.

During the audience Q&A they were asked how they pick pieces to publish and what they're looking for. Lapidos said she has a lot of stuff to read, so you have to grab her in the first paragraph. As an L.A. Times editor, she's looking for pieces evocative of the city and region. Baldwin said he has to be at least slightly entertained or surprised in the first paragraph to keep reading. He also gets too many submissions set in the past - he feels there's a vitality to the present.

Another audience member asked about payment and I was kind of surprised that the one thing they didn't mention was publishers that don't pay. This is an ongoing spat in the writing world where The Huffington Post is concerned. The HuffPost seems to think that for a large number of their contributors, just getting a byline on their site is valuable enough. It probably is for some people, but others believe that any writer should be paid for their work, especially with a publication the size of the HuffPost. So I asked. Rosecrans Baldwin's prompt response: "I hate The Huffington Post." It wasn't until later that I remembered one of the weekend's most promoted FOB guests was Ariana Huffington. Oops. Bustillo piled on by commenting that it sucked that the HuffPost doesn't pay so many of their writers because they have the money. She feels they should pay commensurate with their cash flow.

Crime Fiction: Buried Secrets
Lee Goldberg (moderator), Barry Eisler, Gregg Hurwitz, James Rollins

L to R: Lee Goldberg, Barry Eisler, Gregg Hurwitz, James Rollins

I've attended so many panels with Lee Goldberg I'm surprised he doesn't get a restraining order. In fact, I think the first time I saw him was at the first FOB I attended, when he interviewed Joseph Wambaugh.

Hurwitz is an interesting guy. In addition to being the best-selling author of 15 novels, he also spent time writing for Marvel Comics and has a master's degree in Shakespearean Tragedy from Oxford. He's known for actually trying out things he writes about, from martial arts training to weapons training to spending time in a cult. He described himself as a big fan of anti-heroes. Evan Smoak, the protagonist of his latest novel Orphan X, is a government trained assassin turned pro-bono assassin, who Hurwitz described as "helping people who have normal lives that he can never have". He also said he prefers to think of his characters as protagonists and antagonists as opposed to heroes and villains.

Rollins, whose novels are mashups of time travel, futuristic science and fantasy worlds, said he is always looking for the newest things in science for his stories. He made a joke about having had RFID chips inserted into his fingertips and that he could feel the energy from his microphone with such a straight face that Goldberg (as well as I) totally fell for it. On a serious note, he had recently attended a "body modification" fair in San Francisco and spoke to people who actually have had chips implanted. Again, always looking for new science. He also mentioned that when friends badger him into putting them in his books, he kills their characters horribly.

Eisler, who once worked for the CIA, had written about a surveillance program and worried it went overboard. Then the Edward Snowden story broke and he realized his story didn't go far enough. He has strong opinions on the overreach of privacy by government. He made what I thought was an interesting point: That these days government knows more about its citizens than ever, while we know less and less about what the government is up to. He finds this disturbing. I agree. Eisler also walked away from traditional publishing to publish his book through Amazon. He loves that writers today have choices for reaching an audience.

So that was my action-packed Saturday. Sunday (including Michael Connelly and Titus Welliver of Bosch) coming up soon!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

My 2016 Festival of Books haul

I think I used a lot of restraint, actually :)

Savoring Italy (Williams-Sonoma)
Golden Door Cooks at Home: Favorite Recipes from the Celebrated Spa
The World Tomorrow: Scenarios of Global Catastrophe
Chocolate Cakes: 50 Great Cakes for Every Occasion
The Crazy Game: How I Survived in the Crease and Beyond
The Illustrated Sinking of the Titanic
Creative Eclairs
Pizza & Focaccia
McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant Cookbook
The Works of Edgar Allen Poe
Refund: Stories
Ball: Stories

I got to sit in on a bunch of great panels, not to mention seeing Michael Connelly and Titus Welliver in conversation about Bosch was awesome. I'll blog about all that over the next couple of days. Spoiler alert: Welliver is hilarious, and Connelly made him regret showing up in a Red Sox t-shirt. All in good fun, of course.

The FOB goes by so fast. I look forward to it for a year, then it's here and suddenly gone. This was a great one. If you've never been, I highly recommend it. And it's always a treat to hang out at the USC campus. Beautiful place.

The view from the platform at the Culver City Expo Station after I arrived home. You can see my car in this shot :)

I see you, Solara!

Friday, April 8, 2016

March reading

Only three this month. I spent the first half of the month mostly working on my short story for the Guppies anthology, so the only thing I was reading during that time was a previous Guppy collection. Plus I've been plowing through all five seasons of Breaking Bad and that's been taking up a ton of my time.

I Am Not Ashamed  by Barbara Payton

I've had this in the logjam that is my Kindle but had never gotten around to reading it until now. I was prompted to do so after watching Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, in which Payton co-stars with James Cagney and was startled not only by how genuinely beautiful Payton was, but also how good of an actress she was, holding her own with Cagney. I'd heard the story of Payton's sad fall from stardom, but wasn't expecting her to be much more than a sultry face. The fact that she had both great beauty and talent just makes her story all that much more tragic. She had both the looks and the goods, but allowed her off-screen hijinks to derail what appeared to be an extremely promising acting career.

Payton makes no apologies for how she lived her life, both the good and bad. Her looks and drive got her into the movies and even when the industry tossed her aside, she still remained in town, drinking heavily and eventually falling into prostitution. She makes it clear that to make it in Hollywood you have to play games of sex and politics and she tackled both aspects ruthlessly and without apology. The book is brutally honest and Payton doesn't express much in the way of regret for anything she did, pre, during and post stardom, or for how her alcoholism robbed her of her self-respect and beauty, and shredded her reputation. She also doesn't attempt to duck responsibility for her actions and what they did to her life and career; I have to respect her at least for that. But it really is a shame that she seemed determined to be her own worst enemy time and time again. She had a lot going for her and threw it all away.

In addition to all the lurid stories about Payton herself, a lot of rumors abound about the writing of this book. There are rumors that she didn't actually write it (although she agreed to having her story told and laid bare) and that she requested to be paid in red wine rather than cash so that her creditors couldn't go after the money.

There's another Payton biography that's on my to-read list, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story.

It was Christmas Eve and I was drinking more than usual and was full of the sad sentimentality of the season. I was broke and needed a trick or two. I made some teasing phone calls and finally hooked an actor friend of mine but he only had fifty dollars. I told him to come over anyway.

Fish Nets: The Second Guppies Anthology  (edited by Ramona DeFelice Long)

Like the anthology from last month, I read this to try to get a handle on what the new Guppy anthology would be looking for in terms of submissions.

Fish Nets is similar to the previous anthology in terms of content and quality. The theme was "fish nets" in any capacity, and the authors delivered a variety of takes on it, everything from actual fish nets, to fishnet stockings, to Amazing how many different things a single theme can lend itself to.

I snapped a couple more pictures with my oversized cocktail ring, now in the direction of the opportunistic trannie who had sold out his own boss for thirty pieces of silver. Adrenaline swept me like the spray of a self-tanner. It was my job to determine if my client's suspicions of thievery were legitimate, and now, thanks to a pinhole camera hidden in a chunk of blue agate, I could provide evidence that the answer was yes. All in all, very  Rockford Files. With better clothes.

A Moveable Feast - The Restored Edition by Ernest Hemingway (edited by Sean Hemingway)
A Moveable Feast is a collection of essays by the Nobel and Pulitzer winning writer, reflecting on his life in 1920's Paris. It written at the end of his life and was originally published a few years after his death. Hemingway had not finished it when he died and apparently over the years there has been a lot of discussion over the changes made from the original version, over which his fourth and final wife Mary had control. This "restored" edition was edited by Hemingway's grandson and purports to present the stories as Hemingway had originally intended, although from what I've read there is some dispute over whether or not another version was necessary, or whether it was due to continuing issues among Hemingway's heirs.

Regardless, Hemingway paints a remarkable portrait of the expatriate writing community in post-World War I Paris with little maudlin nostalgia for the good old days or for his bygone youth. The writing and talent he associated with in Paris were among the greatest that ever lived, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford and Gertrude Stein. Fitzgerald in particular is examined closely in this collection; while he comes across as weak and at times childish, Hemingway considered him a good friend and had a great respect for his talent. His opinion of Zelda wasn't so nearly kind.

Hemingway and his wife Hadley lived a financially sparse life in Paris, but were happy during those days. During this period Hemingway stopped working as a journalist and was trying to make a living/career writing fiction. He paints a picture of a deeply satisfying life, despite his poverty and not having the benefit (as the reader does) of knowing his hard work and disciplined, spartan lifestyle will eventually pay off probably more than even he could have ever imagined.

I was constantly amazed at how gentle of a figure Hemingway seems in these essays and early years, versus the rugged, boozing "Papa" image he acquired in his post-Paris years. Reading the essays is like listening to someone you stumbled across in a small bar chatting fondly about a particularly cherished part of his life. There is little pretension, despite the fact that by the time this was written, Hemingway had become one of the most famous and successful writers of all time.

A lot of the essays seem to ramble in contrast to the tight, efficient prose that Hemingway was known for. At times it sounds like we're reading early drafts where he's just trying to get everything on paper to be edited down later. Still, it's a fascinating history of a haven that spawned some of the greatest writing of this century and a look at a charmed world of literary genius that will probably never exist again.

The "moveable feast" in the title refers to a Hemingway quote, "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."

When I had finished the book I knew that no matter what Scott did, nor how preposterously he behaved, I must know it was like a sickness and be of any help I could to him and try to be a good friend. He had many good, good friends, more than anyone I knew. But I enlisted as one more, whether I could be of any use to him or not. If he could write a book as fine as  The Great Gatsby I was sure that he could write an even better one. I did not know Zelda yet, and so I did not know the terrible odds that were against him. But we were to find them out soon enough.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Test Kitchen: Triple Lemon Bundt Cake, aka Triple Blood Orange Bundt Cake

Original recipe is here.

I'm not usually a fan of recipes that go on and on and on, but this one was deceptively simple.

Also, blood oranges are in season and I got a bag of them from Costco last week, so I was itching to put them to use. Basically, I followed this recipe to the letter except for two things:

Every time the word "lemon" appeared in the recipe, I replaced it with the more exotic sounding "blood orange". Not that there's anything wrong with lemons, everyone loves lemons, especially me. But come on, blood orange? Ooh the drama.

Second, I don't currently own (emphasis on "currently", because I will) the pan used by Unsophisticook, which in retrospect was a mistake. The whole concept with the swirls, glaze and sugared zest just didn't work as well with my pan.

To recap, this works really well with this pan:

This not so much:

The cake itself was easy to make and turned out fine. Then I went to glaze it. What I didn't know (not having worked with blood oranges before) is that they didn't turn the glaze the vibrant shade of red/orange I was expecting. You know, like this:

The glaze turned out a very unfortunate shade of pink. Bubble-gum pink. Like, five year old girl's birthday party pink:


Also, I have got to get out of the habit of making my glazes so runny.

At this point I realized this wasn't working out, but since I was already so far in , I figured I might as well finish it off with the sugared zest garnish. Now this did turn out nice and orange.

That's quite a mix of colors, there. Looks more
like a garden than a cake.

The cake itself was pretty good, especially with the glaze and sugared zest. Again, the shape of the pan was a liability with the sugar, because it either sat on top or fell off. The swirls of the other pan would keep it on the cake.

Would I make this again? Yes, with lemon, as the recipe called for and with the pan Unsophisticook used. If I make it again with blood oranges, I would do a plain white glaze, which I think would actually make the color of the sugared zest really pop, and again, use the other pan. I don't think my vaulted cathedral pan lends itself well to glazes. I've done cakes in it that I just dusted with confectioners sugar instead of icing, and they look great.

Have a sweet day!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Food porn: Baking & Pastry edition

From BuzzFeed, 17 Baking GIFs That Are So Satisfying They're Borderline Erotic.

Yes, please.

That last one at the bottom of the page looks like an actual sponge. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

If you don't see it right away, just keep looking

Via Ma'am: Mature and Awesome Moms on FB. Seriously, even if you don't have kids, check out their photos. They are hilarious.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Edgar Allen Pooh FTW

Be sure to take notice of the tail pinned to the wall.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Words fail me

I never understood the whole parkour thing, but this...I've already watched it three or four times and I can't stop laughing. Ladies and gentlemen, Jurassic Parkour!

I think it's the floppy T-Rex head that got me.

Then, I found this:

Make sure you have your volume turned up for the second one - it's funny enough without sound, but with the music...OH. MY. GOD. GENIUS!!!

I don't know who these people behind these videos are, but they're absolutely brilliant.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Sure, it sounds soothing, but DAMN!

The part I don't understand is how this appears to have been done inside, and not say, out in the middle of a big deserted parking lot somewhere.

Burn, baby, burn:

The next video is going to be of this person's house going up in flames.

H/T to Obama is Officially The Worst President In History on FB.

Friday, April 1, 2016

It's funny cuz it's true: Culinary edition

Not an April Fools joke - via BuzzFeed Food on Facebook:

The struggle is real.

I highly recommend clicking on the link and checking out the comments. They are hilarious.