Friday, June 30, 2023

June Words of Wisdom - Reading and Writing

That I can read and be happy while I am reading is a great blessing. --Anthony Trollope
Think not of the books you've bought as a "to be read" pile. Instead, think of your bookcase as a wine cellar. You collect books to be read at the right time, the right place, and the right mood. --Luc van Donkersgoed
My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way. --Ernest Hemingway  

There is something delicious about writing the first words of story. You never quite know where they'll take you. --Beatrix Potter

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else. --Gloria Steinem

Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything good. --William Faulkner

Writing leads to writing. --Julia Cameron (Write for Life)

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Recent reading: "Clark and Division"

 Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara 
I scored this critically acclaimed novel in my book bag at California Crime Writers, and since Naomi Hirahara was attending, I was also able to get it signed! 

In Clark and Division, young Aki Ito relates the story of her family - her parents and her adored older sister Rose. The young women are Nisei, first generation American-born children of Japanese immigrants in pre-World War II Los Angeles. Their father is a grocery manager and despite sometimes experiencing discrimination, Aki and Rose have a pretty content life in California. That is until Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor propels the United States into World War II.

The Ito family spends time at Manzanar before being re-settled in Chicago. Rose precedes her family to the windy city by a few months, but when the rest of the Itos arrive they are greeted with horrific news: Rose is dead, having just been hit by a subway car in the Clark and Division Station. 

Having always existed contently in Rose's beautiful, sophisticated shadow, Aki is not only devastated by her sister's death but also compelled to investigate it. When the coroner, who has ruled Rose's death a suicide, informs Aki that her sister recently underwent a highly illegal abortion, she is even more determined to find out what happened and to prove that Rose wouldn't have taken her own life. What follows is a determined journey in which Aki blooms from the mousy, subservient sister into a smart, beautiful, and relentless woman fearlessly taking on the mystery of her sister's brief life in Chicago even when it puts her in dangerous situations, while also dealing with the brutally unfair hand that life has dealt her and her Japanese-American family and community. And she does it with admirable grace and strength.
The story sucks you in and I just devoured this book. One thing that really stood out to me was that in addition to Aki, the large number of supporting characters are so well fleshed out. Each is a unique individual with their own voice. While Aki is compelling, she is also surrounded by a colorful cast that rings true.

I didn't realize it until now, but Clark and Division is the first of a series featuring Aki. The second, Evergreen, will be released in August and I'm looking forward to reading more about the life and times of Aki Ito.

Friday, June 23, 2023

So, Sidecar Doughnuts...

I'd been wanting to try Sidecar Doughnuts for some time. When I would check out their website, the flavors looked interesting and unusual, and let's face it, you can't beat a good donut. Yesterday I had to go to the Manhattan Beach mall to drop my phone off at the Apple Store for a new battery, and had to kill an hour while it was being done. I did some grocery shopping at the adjoining Ralph's, and then decided to try and find the Sidecar Doughnuts location at the mall.
I almost walked right by the shop, their signage is so small. It's also a very small place - there's no indoor seating. But I wasn't eating there anyway, so that wasn't an issue (they do have a few small tables outside). So how was my overall experience? I wish I was posting this as a rave, but unfortunately...not so much.

First thing I noticed as I approached the door was the sign informing me that Sidecar is a cashless business - always a turnoff for me. Especially when you consider that if you go in for just one donut, or one cup of coffee, you could be forced to use a card for an item that's less than $5. I just find it off-putting to be told I can't pay cash for a low-cost item.

I ordered two donuts: Meyer Lemon and Huckleberry. For some reason they don't have boxes, at least not for this small of an order, so each donut was packaged separately in individual plastic boxes. The guy waiting on me also did not offer me a bag to carry them out in. I thought it was odd that they would use such wasteful packaging for the donuts themselves, but not provide a bag. Also, the donuts are still warm, so as soon as they're boxed up, they start steaming up, which had me concerned that they would get soggy at some point. When I got them home I put them in the fridge so that wouldn't happen.

The donuts are also not cheap. The huckleberry was $4.75 and the lemon was $4.35. Still, the complete order was under $10 and I didn't appreciate the idea that I couldn't pay cash if I wanted to.

But how about the most important aspect? How awesome where these highly-touted donuts?

They were okay. Nothing special, just sort of there. I had the lemon one yesterday and am working on the huckleberry as I type this. They're okay. But what they are not are something I'm going to find myself craving. For four-five bucks per donut, they need to be spectacular and I just don't feel like these lived up to the hype. 

Because I was heading back into the mall and the Apple Store, I didn't order a coffee. I might give it a shot next time I'm there (the laptop also needs a new battery, so I will be back soon) especially since they have peppermint mocha, something I'm a sucker for. But sadly I won't be back for the donuts.

Hopefully, when I get around to checking out the Randy's Donuts on Rosecrans they won't let me down like Sidecar did. Best donuts I've ever had? Golden Donuts in Arcadia. Little family-owned place in a strip mall on Foothill. I don't know what they do differently, but they make the best damn donuts I've ever had. 

Monday, June 19, 2023

Of all the gin joints...

How beautiful is this thing?


When I opened the box, the book was wrapped in this (a brown paper bag):

Framing this? You bet I am. I just love it!
This is a really beautiful book that I haven't even begun to get into. In addition to the drink recipes, each entry has pics and info on the noir film that inspired it. I do have to say that the list of items needed to set up even a basic home cocktail bar is pretty intimidating.
You can get your copy (and other great books) from Larry Edmunds Bookstore in Hollywood.


Sunday, June 18, 2023

Happy Father's Day

For those of you who still have your Dad, hope you all have a very happy Father's Day! I do miss mine.

Kona Jim

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Yay or nay?

Oh lookie - it's a Jaws lamp! Could this be any more tempting? I think not.

Seriously, look at this thing! Especially lit up in the dark!



Monday, June 12, 2023

California Crime Writers Conference 2023

I don't know about the rest of you, but I had a wonderful weekend! Saturday and Sunday marked the in-person return of the California Crime Writers Conference, a bi-annual co-production of the Los Angeles chapter of Sisters in Crime and the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America

Cool logo, eh? Turns out it was done by the same guy who did the cover art for Entertainment to Die For.

In addition to the great panels, I met a bunch of really nice people (for some reason this genre seems to attract fun and funny peeps), and how about this - even though I've never even finished a novel, I had two books in the bookstore:

It was really nice to finally be able to attend a conference in person again. This one has the benefit of being in Culver City, the next town over from where I live, so I didn't have to fly in or get a hotel room. Ten to fifteen minutes from my apartment to pulling up in front of the hotel. Easy-peasy.
Historic Mysteries panel.

I'm already looking forward to 2025!

Friday, June 9, 2023

Monday, June 5, 2023

Theater: "Murder on the Links" at Laguna Playhouse

Murder on the Links
Written and Directed by Steven Dietz (based on the novel by Agatha Christie)
Cast: Omri Schein (Hercule Poirot), Kim Morgan Dean (Captain Hastings), Jennifer Erdmann (multiple), Brian Mackey (multiple), Jessica Mosher (multiple), Matthew Salazar-Thompson (multiple)

First, let me say that overall this was a fun romp that I really enjoyed. It's running through June 18, so you still have time to check it out. Also, this is a great theater. If you're in the middle section I don't think there's a bad seat in the house (can't comment on the side sections) and there's cheap public parking right across the street from the theater - $4 for the entire day. 
Having said that, there were several things about this production that I found jarring. I went in expecting something in the vein the Poirot series, but in this show the story is played for laughs. Once I understood that I was good, and there were some really funny moments. Also played for laughs was Poirot himself, which also took a while to get used to. Schein played him a bit goofy, which is at odds with the ultimate Poirot (David Suchet) so many fans are used to, but again, I was able to go with it once I realized that's how this production handled the adaptation.

Most jarring was the casting of a female actor to play Captain Hastings. They didn't turn Hastings into a woman, so there wasn't really any reason to do this other than needless virtue signaling. Kim Morgan Dean gave a great performance, but throughout the play her being a woman playing Hastings was a major distraction, and as both a writer and viewer, I know that anything that takes your audience out of the story isn't a good thing. I just don't see why this was necessary other than to make some sort of statement. Imagine a show where a male actor takes a role away from a female actor. I don't think I need to elaborate any more on that. Terrific performance, but distracting from beginning to end.

But like I said, this production of Murder on the Links is overall an enjoyable two hours. Plus, I hadn't been in Orange County since...probably the last time I was at Laguna Playhouse was to see Harvey in 2019. I really need to get out here more often, it was like having a vacation from Los Angeles. I wish it wasn't so far away.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Happy Jubilee to a true champion

Her Majesty The Queen of England celebrated 70 years on the throne this weekend, making her the third longest serving monarch in...well, EVER. In the history of the whole world. In history. Third longest serving ever. Even better, in about a week she'll move up to second on the list. And if she can hold out a couple more years, she'll top them all. As it stands, she is the all-time longest female reigning monarch in history.

Queen Elizabeth II is 96 years old, has been having some health issues lately, and lost her beloved and supportive husband Prince Phillip last year, so two more years may be asking a lot of the lady. But God knows she deserves to top that list and even though I'm not British, I'd love to see her do it.

Imagine being 26 years old and not only has your beloved father just died unexpectedly at the young age of 56, but as a result life as you know it will never be completely yours. Yes, you will live a life of unparalleled wealth and privilege. You will never want for anything. Except for your own will. You will live for your country and so will your children, and their children. Every decision you make, every move you make, every choice you make, is not yours, but the country's. You live well, but you live for everyone in your country except yourself.

I'm not familiar with Paddington Bear, but I'm guessing Marmalade sandwiches is a part of his story. And I just love the Queen here,

"Thank you...for everything." "You're very kind." Yeah, thank you for making me cry like a baby. Not to mention given the sorry state of leadership we have in America now, I almost wish we were part of the Commonwealth. At least it would give us some class we badly need in this moment in time.

God save the Queen.