Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

Meanwhile, back at the house…

In Dance, Film, Music, RLB trivia on May 31, 2009 at 8:34 am


… the pressure is back on, after yesterday’s time-out.  But first, with a nod across the Mediterranean to our man in Tel Aviv who started the ball rolling with this vid, here’s a homey piece of real life, as it plays every single day, in this humble (yet proud and clean) French home. Granted, as evidenced on the clip, the pace does get exhausting. But once addicted to the thrill of show business, who can resist the high? Must be something like the one provided by Columbian marching powder, although I wouldn’t know from firsthand experience.  Seeing what it did to some of my colleagues and friends was sufficient excitement for me.

Back to the unrelenting press of words –  the community blog beckons with none other than the canine writer herself. Coming right up after the Sunday market and sundry matters concerned with the upkeep and maintenance of our earthbound existence.



11:30 Funny.  I had no conscious recollection of that September 7 Cattle Call post I mentioned yesterday (nor of its attendant illustration) when I glued these together a few months ago (yes, I know they’re crooked). But if I look at the stuff I jotted down on the day I threw these postcards together, I was angsting about going forth and getting rejected by yet another literary agency. Amazing all the stuff that collects just below the radar of our  awareness. Had you asked me yesterday morning what was the illustration on the September 7 post, Id’ have been completely blank. (If anyone doubts that, check what the Freudian imp just did in the preceding sentence. I’d have corrected it but I’d have missed out on a perfect case in point.)

The best things (in life are free)

In RLB trivia on May 30, 2009 at 6:00 am


I was not a good actress.

Stagefright is considered a good thing. After all, it’s an indication the actor is fully charged up with the realization of his or her own folly. Like the soldier realizing that today is different:  he’s not heading for the parade ground to strut his stuff while the band plays on. If one considers stagefright as an indicator of talent, I was really, really good except for one small detail: stagefright always peaked once I was on stage – a distressing thing for all involved. Puking while on stage is not acceptable behavior, even though the role may have called for a display of puking-related attitudes. Did I ever puke on stage? Yes. Often? No dear, you only get to do that once, especially in a small, closely-knit community.

There had been warning signs. That incident in which I clung to the curtain instead of gaily strewing the content of  my basket of (paper)  flowers, for example – it was less dramatic but fairly humiliating nonetheless. The puking on my partner was considered bad form all around. I never went back to collect the fifteen dollars still owed me for the preceding show – I figured they’d probably ram it down my throat, after using it to swab the stage.

For years, I thought the absolutely best thing acting had taught me was: if your stomach feels unsettled before a performance, make yourself puke before you walk on. Which is a useful tip I pass on, in case my putative reader is considering a career in that field. However, so much later down the line, I revise my judgment. Now, I consider the best thing acting taught me is: once you’ve attended to your gastric discomfort, be both thankful for and ruthless with your fears.  You are meant to dance on them.

Strandge? None strandger

In Irish Mist, Music, RLB trivia on May 29, 2009 at 4:46 am


Bloggers come, bloggers go. Great waves of enthusiasm crash into walls of indifference. Gobs of gloomy sulking hulk, loom and storm off.  Seventy-five people leave variations of ‘wow’, ‘awesome’ and ‘you’re the greatest’ on someone’s  (presumably) Brazilian post about knitted booties; some deserving soul in Shanghai soldiers on with nary a comment about his collection of two-headed reptiles. Mesterious ? None more. In fact, it’s downright ludicorous, once you’ve gotten your bearings – more or less.

Take… well me,  for example. Here I am, somewhere in the Midi-Pyrénées at some point in the night, pondering the mysteries that led to one of my pastiche blogs now receiving real traffic and real comments from (presumably) real people, while I continue to  amuse myself by posting pastiche comments from me to me on another of my pastiche blogs (in babelfish Spanish and Portuguese).  Yes, I consider myself reasonably sane in a moderate sort of way (hate fanaticism in anything).  But all of  it leaves room for pondering why I bother producing a community blog on which about one percent of the readers feel moved to leave a trace of their passage. As for this blog, I don’t expect it will get much in terms of direct comments  from anyone.  

So for why do we do it?  I can only answer for myself: once I’ve reduced the life and times of Soeur Saint-François to a two hundred and forty-five word opus, I can either attempt the haiku version, or babble to myself in babelfish Spanish. I choose sanity. Ergo, I babble.DSCN7376

The I Ching swears to me the dark forces will reach their apogee and climax at some point today, moving me right along into the realm of Grace  for a little spin-dry cycle. Make that extra-dry, please, while I work on my latest opus: the life and times of one of the town’s Mayors. Perhaps I should attempt it in iambic pentameter?  I have no mariachi band handy as background, so I’ll go with the Buena Vista boys instead. Olla, muchachos y muchachas.


17:45 I like this picture of me (I’m the one on the left.)haifa girls065_2

No, I don’t look anything like that now. But looking at it, I remember exactly what was going through my mind while my daughter was snapping the picture. It wasn’t a happy space – that much is probably clear to anyone looking at the shot. But it was one where I knew who and what I was,  what I was willing to put up with and what I wasn’t. From there, it was simply a question of living with my choices.

It’s a  useful pic at the moment – both for personal reasons and for writerly ones. I know exactly what one of the characters is going to do in the passage  I couldn’t figure out two days ago. Once I figure out how to deal with a fictional conundrum, my ‘real life’ usually sorts itself out quite nicely.  Why? In my way of seeing things, writing is a variation on dreaming (at least, the way I do it.) In both cases, you ignore the obvious and the reasonable  – they only serve to justify decisions already taken anyway. You go with the irrational. I know, everybody thinks of that as scary and dangerous – oooh, impulses. Watch out ! the tiger’s on the loose, right? 

Not. Writing or dreaming (at least, the way I do those things) are maybe what others describe as ‘lucid dreaming’. I don’t know. All I know is: the only times I’ve  ever really ‘lost it’ were times when I didn’t trust my impulses. 

  It’s my energy. It’s my writing. It’s my life.

Cool features

In RLB trivia, Story material on May 28, 2009 at 5:02 am


(The Pizza Queen delivers – shot grabbed on the go in neighboring Gaillac)

“When clouds rise in the sky, it is a sign that it will rain. There is nothing to do but to wait until the rain falls. It is the same in life when destiny is at work. We should not worry and seek to shape the future by interfering in things before the time is ripe. We should quietly fortify the body with food and drink and the mind with gladness and good cheer. Fate comes when it will, and thus we are ready.” I Ching, Hexagram 5

This post is a paid announcement for WordPress – just kidding. This is RLB discovering features such as:

– number of visitors on her blog(s)

– posts they looked at

– words they used to access the blog (for example, someone located The Secret of the Parrot on my community blog by typing ‘parrot telepathic’ – I must tell the canine author, she’ll be delighted).

Today’s find is thanks to the automatically generated list of ‘possibly related posts’ at the bottom of my own. Which led to this! Cool, no? I’m perfectly willing to feed my enthusiasm on such tiny delights. Call it the mezze approach to happiness – a little bit here, a little bit there.

First order of business today: pulling together materials for the Maison de Retraite Saint-François project. That Old People’s Home contacted me, wanting use of materials I’d posted on my previous blog. Turns out they want condensed versions for a booklet they will be publishing – the woman tells me the bit about condensing the material  yesterday, with the air of doing me a favor by lightening my load. OK, a two hundred word version of the life and times of Résistance heroine Soeur Saint-François, after whom the Home is named, and the same on other  such local notables. For when? Come on, must you really ask? The week is young, Friday will do fine.

On June 2nd – oh, next week, is it? – in the second phase of this writing project, I’ll be visiting the residents of the Home along with the local figure who wrote these stories in the first place. Henry will talk about some of the events he remembers of that period – the idea being to jog the residents’ failing memories. I,  ever  faithful scrivenette, will jot down whatever snippets come up for inclusion in the third phase – the  final write-up, due next week. The memories will definitely be random, surrealistic bits since the  residents of this particular home are heavily impaired by Alzheimer’s disease. Not a boring project. We don’t do boring – a matter of principle.

Setting up

In Irish Mist, RLB trivia on May 27, 2009 at 9:06 am

“The fate of fire depends on wood; as long as there is wood below, the fire burns above. It is the same in human life; there is in man likewise a fate that lends power to his life. And if he succeeds in assigning the right place to life and to fate, thus bringing the two into harmony, he puts his fate on a firm footing. ” (I Ching, Hexagram 50)


One of the features I like on wordpress is the possibility of making stand-alone pages for specific topics. If time allows today, I’ll start setting up the page of The Travel Notebook, a project I started in a community workshop last year. It’s taken on a life of its own, as a resource for working out relationships in various pieces of fiction. The page will be titled “Mots en voyage”.


The post on my community blog will be a modified replay of a previous one on the Blog that Died – a visit to a local ‘artisan-pastellier’ who produces quality writing inks and pastels for the art trade. 


One of the things I discovered on my previous Notebook blog is the possibility of doing progressive posts on days that lend themselves to various jottings. In other words, I used the blog exactly as I would a material notebook or  a sketch pad. This may turn out to be such a day. For now, I’ll label this post ‘RLB trivia’ and see what evolves later.


(Irish Mist)

11:40 Pondering the difference between compassion and weakness, I reach the following (temporary) conclusion: if  you are willing to risk the lion or the tiger’s wrath for pulling out the arrow poisoning its blood, people can call you rash, harsh or cruel as much as they like. Slinking away is safer, no doubt about it.  But playing it safe has nothing to do with compassion. Playing it safe has to do with choosing your methods to do the pulling of the arrow – not about the necessity of it.

At issue: a complex set of relationships in a story with the working title of Irish Mist. Thinking about similar circumstances in real life, three incidents come to mind: in the first, I lost my job for giving a professional opinion no one wanted to hear (I don’t regret my decision  in the least). In the second, I quit before getting fired for doing something similar  – paid dearly, financially and emotionally, but still no regrets. In the third, I lost a friend who never forgave me for calling her bluff; this was more than ten years ago and it still hurts.

In all three instances, the behavior stems from my own temperament (a sort of genetically modified agnostic Joan of Ark, crossed with a mule-headed Antigone – note that both of these characters died young).  As a reaction it’s quite suitable for one of the characters (who, not too surprisingly, happens to die young),but  it’s all wrong for the two others in the scene. If they are to make it to the next chapter, they must finesse their way through a situation where there is no telling who is truly an ally and who is a plant for the opposing forces.

16:25 After leaving a comment on a totally unrelated subject on someone’s blog (the comment being: “it’s just a game, you know”), I come back to Irish Mist, and realize something that may be perfectly obvious: for me, as with acting,  fiction-writing has a built-in safety valve which makes these modes of self-exploration fundamentally different from the types of exploration done in psychotherapeutic settings. Although the net result may be healing through catharsis, epiphany, ‘acting-out’ repressed or forbidden emotions, acting and writing are forms of  play. I insist heavily on that word.  When you finish the chapter or the story, if you’ve done a good job of it, there’s the satisfaction of having done it ‘right’ – whether the ‘rightness’ entailed a murder, a rape, a celebration, an argument, a party with friends, a reunion with a lover. Whatever. If you haven’t done it right, you can come back and fix it – unkill the dead, unrape the raped, change the celebration to a bloodbath, the lovers into sworn ennemies. Whatever. You play with it till it feels done and then you move on. The idea is not to ‘cure’ or ‘heal’ a lingering psychic wound – the idea is to use the emotions for entertainment, exploration, discovery –  forms of self-expression that may touch off a ‘ah-ha’ moment in another human being.

I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone else, but it certainly does to me.

Jamming and pickling- 1,2,3

In Food, Mary Etteridge, Story material on May 26, 2009 at 6:11 am


And Trinculo is reeling ripe: where should they
Find this grand liquor that hath gilded ’em?
How camest thou in this pickle?

I have been in such a pickle since I
saw you last that, I fear me, will never out of
my bones: I shall not fear fly-blowing.

Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act V, Scene 1

1. The Produce – Foodwise

At the market on Sunday, the cherries were selling for 6 € per kilo, so I figured this was not the year we would be eating any. But yesterday, one of our wealthier neighbors invited us out to her country estate. The cherry trees were overladen, the woman said, please come and help yourselves. So we did.




The next step will be processing the bounty  today. The riper cherries will make jam. With the others, I’ll make a Persian sour-cherry pickle. Will add the finished products here later on.


The Produce – Story Material

There was a peculiar feeling about the estate and its inhabitants.





In a dream last night, the woman who lives here was a Jeckyll and Hyde character named Mary Etteridge. In real life, the owner of this house is one of the representatives of the old, established families of the area –  she is cultured, opinionated and probably unforgiving, if crossed. Interesting but not an easy relationship to handle. Rich in story material, though – she was one of the first women air pilots in the Département.

The tree in the foreground of the last photo is a huge linden tree. We’ve been invited back to pick the flowers for tea.


2. The Process – Whether the finished product is jam or pickle, the first step is the same. I have a nifty dual-purpose cherry pitter and garlic crusher for this part of the job. 


For the pickles: I used about five hundred grams of the cherries. Mixed them with one clove of crushed garlic, one large green onion, a handful of coriander, another of mint, a sprinkling of salt and dried ginger, sugar and a good splash of garlic-flavored wine vinegar. (Quantities, as in one-eighth of a teaspoon, and so on? No idea. I’ve been making this for years and judge by taste – I prefer this pickle quite tart, someone else might like it sweeter. You taste and adjust as you go along.)


Cook down the mixture till it’s wanting to stick to the pan. Ladle it into sterile jars.

For the jam: I weighed the remaining cherries and added the same weight in sugar. (I use a product sold here under the brand name of Gelsuc – it already contains the appropriate amount of fruit pectin for jam.) Cooked them down until the juice clung to the spoon instead of sliding off (timing depends a lot on weather conditions so, again, it’s a question of observation rather than specific rules.) Ladled into sterile jars.  

3. The Product

Et voici for the pickles (more like a relish, actually, but let’s not get into semantics for the time being). 


Et voilà for the jam:


And the product, storywise? I still have no idea what to make of the Mary Etteridge character who showed up in my dreams. Clearly a deeply conflicted woman but where does the red rocket fit in? And her 94 year-old mother who could not be disturbed?  What about the  huge coffee urn in the converted garage with the gorgeous ceiling?  In the dream, the house is set on a riverside road, somewhere in an imaginary  French village I also dreamt about years ago. À suivre – at least, in my own mind.

P.S. If anyone has followed this blog from its previous location, I would appreciate your comments about this new layout – do you find it better, worse, or just different?

A Moving Day

In RLB trivia on May 25, 2009 at 11:13 am

The space may be messy for awhile. In the process of transferring the notebook over to wordpress. I’ll probably be experimenting with formats  for a few days.