Thursday, January 31, 2008

Church, State, Beckett


In general, I think of my job job serving as communications director for this esteemed theatre festival as being work. It's often extremely fun, but it's work (as Dave would say, that's why they call it work). It's the job that pays my mortgage, separate from my extracurricular creative life -- it's the state, whereas this blog is church.

Today, though, felt more integrated. I threw a press conference lunch for 30 journalists to announce the festival's 80th anniversary season. 80 years! If you click on the link above you can see the plays -- one powerhouse modern classic after the next (Shaw, Albee, Pinter, Beckett). One of the things I like best about my position is being able to ask the directors what interests them most about the plays in order to quote them in the press releases.

I enjoyed what all of the directors had to say this year, but I especially loved what Anders Cato said about the prospect of directing Waiting for Godot. Loved it in a church sort of way, so I'm going to take the liberty of quoting him here:

"The first production that I did at BTF was an adaptation of a Beckett prose piece called Text for Nothing, starring Joseph Chaikin. Joe was a friend of Beckett and the rehearsal process brought me very close to his musical language. It often felt like Beckett was in the room when we were rehearsing, listening, with his eyes closed.

I was thrilled when Kate approached me about doing Waiting for Godot. To step back inside Beckett's world is, of course, very challenging. You have to step inside yourself and listen very closely. It's a form of cleansing. Beckett's rhythmical language helps block out all the distracting noise and clutter that we're surrounded by, and guides you back to the essential. It is about communicating what can't be communicated -- something absolutely private and universal in the same moment.

Godot is not an esoteric exercise, but a deeply emotional piece. You have to make the audience feel and laugh and be completely engaged in each moment on stage. The questions have to matter. It isn't a conversational game with clever turns, but a desperate search for solutions and answers, a search for a way out of the predicament that the characters find themselves in. Beckett's world is physical and emotional. He said in an interview: 'I'm no intellectual. All I am is feeling.' I think that's where you have to start with his plays."

Isn't that beautiful? I also think what he says about Beckett's language would make a fabulous spa treatment.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Patry Francis Liar's Diary Blog Day

I know author Patry Francis a tiny bit from her postings on Readerville. An announcement went out the other day that her debut novel, The Liar's Diary, was due to be published soon and that she'd just been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, so wouldn't have much energy to promote it. A friend of hers appealed to the blogging community to help get word out about Patry's book and more than 300 bloggers instantly signed up, including me. I haven't yet had a chance to read her novel, but I wish her the very best of luck on all fronts. Pub days (the date a book officially launches) are notoriously anticlimactic. I always seem to spend mine melancholy and pining for a marching band. I'm happy to offer the one above to Patry on her special day.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

My First Meme

Thanks to Susan Ito for this meme.

1. Spell my name as it sounds: Jeenah

2. Am I a worrier? Yes.

3. What’s my favorite CD? I don't have a favorite CD. Husband and daughter dominate the airwaves in my household.

4. Favorite colour(s)? Robin's egg blue and wasabi.

5. Does my home have an attic? No, but there's a crawlspace that I haven't seen.

6. Have I ever been to Canada? Yes -- on assignment to Vancouver Island (Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, the rare luxury hotel experience, in this case $1000-night tents, that I'd pay to return to, if I had the money) and accidentally once when I overshot Vermont on the way to Bread and Puppet Theater.

7. Have I ever gone fishing? Camp Unalayee (the backpacking camp's official site seems to be down today -- here's another link about it) in the Trinity Alps when I was 13.

8. Have I ever seen a celebrity? Yes (most recently).

9. Have I ever been on a motorcycle? No.

10. How much money do I have on me right now? $12.

11. How many cars have I owned? Two.

12. How many jobs have I had? Too many to count.

13. How tall am I? 5′7″

14. Last person to call me: My assistant who'd discovered an excellent historical fact.

15. Last thing I yelled out loud: "¡Cuidado!" (be careful) to my daughter.

16. Last person I was in a car with: My husband.

17. Last time I ate at McDonald’s: A few months ago with my daughter. I made a "healthy choice" and ate a horrible grilled chicken taco.

18. Last thing I bought: A half-gallon of High Lawn Farm 2% milk.

19. Last person I saw: My husband.

20. Last time I cried: This afternoon alone in my car when I saw a poor old man who reminded me of my father.

21. Last time I laughed: This morning at work when a board member fell asleep and started snoring through the speaker phone during a conference call.

22. What is the temperature outside? About 19F.

23. What time of the day did I get married? 2pm-ish, July 20, 1991.

24. What did I do two nights ago? Read The Perfect Scent.

25. Whose birthday is coming up next? MINE.

26. What time did I go to bed last night? Around 10pm.

27. What was the first thing I thought this morning? I need to send myself an e-mail at work to remember to do something I forgot to do Friday.

28. What are my plans for this weekend? I have to write descriptions of ten plays.

29. Lemonade or iced tea? Iced tea.

30. What do I dislike at this moment? Having to wear a splint on my fractured thumb and being too broke to buy anything from the new Boden catalog.

31. What did I dream about last night? I don't remember.

32. What’s the last TV show I watched? Enlightening PBS Frontline documentary, Growing Up Online.

33. What is my favorite piece of jewelry? 200-year-old wedding ring from Siena.

34. Am I a dancer? Yes.

35. Have I ever cut my own hair? Yes.

36. What is my favorite treat? Mint chocolate chip ice cream.

37. How many piercings/tattoos do I have? Just my pierced ears.

38. Where’s my favorite place to be? On a road trip with my family.

39. Is there someone I haven’t seen in a while and miss? Yes.

40. Who was the last text I sent to? I never text.

41. Do I care what strangers think about me? Yes.

42. Last person I talked to on Instant Messenger: I never instant message.

43. Last person to make me cry: It's been a long time since someone made me cry.

44. Who can I tell anything to? Three girlfriends: Susan, Anne, and Robin. I count my lucky stars for them.

45. What am I doing tomorrow? Hiking with Goose and friends and then buckling down to write a press release.

46. Do I have alcohol in my home? Tequila, vodka, and leftover Christmas ale at the moment.

47. Do I like ketchup? Yes.

48. Do I think I will be on a vacation this summer? Alas, no.

49. What colour is my master bathroom? Benjamin Moore Tropicana Cabana (light aqua...it's good, but not great...some day we'll repaint.)

50. Do I wear a bikini at the beach? Uh, no.

51. Have I ever been to the Grand Canyon? Yes, for about five minutes. It was winter. There was snow.

52. What is my favorite fruit? Peach.

53. What did I really want to do today? I wanted to run, but it's icy.

54. Am I always cold? Yes.

55. Does it annoy me when someone says they’ll call or text, but don’t? Yes. I remember and hold grudges (and generally feel terrible when I do it myself).

I tag: all bloggers who read this. If you don’t have a blog, please feel free to answer in the comments section.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tales of the Cocktail

I'm writing a novel (there I said it in public, guess I actually have to do it) in which one of the characters is a mixologist. I would love to attend Tales of the Cocktail for research, but won't be able to get away this summer. It's an annual culinary and cocktail festival that celebrates the history and culture of cocktails and food in New Orleans, July 16-20, 2008.

I hope one of you will attend and send me a full report.

Mixologists, authors, chefs, bartenders, designers, and cocktail gurus from around the world will gather to present dinner pairings, cocktail demos and tastings, seminars, mixing competitions, and design expos for both amateurs and experts. Last year the festival used 7250 mint leaves, 3580 lime wedges, 800 watermelon cubes, 560 gin soaked dried cherries, 1390 orange slices, 2 tons of ice, and more for 12,000 sippers.

In 2008, new events will include a cocktail market, cocktail cinema, seminars on subjects including eggs in cocktails, absinthe in the modern era, beer cocktails, molecular mixology, and the first-ever International Symposium of Cocktail Shaker Collectors.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Meat House

What's not to love? I'm thinking this concept will liven up the Berkshire Grown Share the Bounty Benefit Gingerbread House Competition at Wheatleigh this year. Thanks to tpc for posting a link to the Meat House on Readerville. It made my day. See Easyjo.com for the recipe and step-by-step photos.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Winter Vegetable Soup Recipe by Lulu Powers

I own 53 cookbooks (just fact-checked the count because accuracy is everything when you're a journalist) and I subscribe to several cooking magazines and frequently check cookbooks out from the library. As often as not, however, I find myself typing whatever ingredients I have on hand into the Epicurious search engine. Today's online-procured culinary inspiration is a recipe for wintery goodness concocted by Lulu Powers that originally appeared in Self magazine, January 2004. The maple syrup and cayenne pepper add scrumptious zing to this soup.

Winter Vegetable Soup

Makes 6 servings.

Ingredients

3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 cup peeled, cored and coarsely chopped Granny Smith apple
1 cup peeled and coarsely chopped turnip
1 cup peeled and chopped butternut squash (seeds discarded)
1 cup coarsely chopped carrot
1 cup peeled, chopped sweet potato
5 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock
1/4 cup maple syrup
Cayenne pepper
1 small whole-grain baguette
3 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Preparation

For soup, heat oil in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add apple, turnip, squash, carrot, and sweet potato; season with salt, then sauté 5 minutes. Add stock, bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add syrup, then cayenne pepper to taste. Cool slightly. Puree with a handheld mixer, food processor or blender. For toast toppers, cut 6 slices bread and toast them. Spread 1/2 oz goat cheese on top of each; sprinkle with chives. Pour soup into 6 large bowls; float toast on top.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert de Bulgari

I've been obsessed with Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert de Bulgari since discovering toiletries scented with the fragrance at Four Seasons Los Angeles while researching my book, Pacific Spas. I made friends with a housekeeper there who kindly supplied me with extra green tea-infused soaps and tiny bottles of shampoo to bring home and I scored a sample of the perfume at the Bulgari shop on Rodeo Drive, which I nursed for two years before asking Santa to consider giving me a bottle for Christmas. Thank you, Santa.

I squealed with joy this morning when Chandler Burr detailed the history of master perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena's creative process developing this scent, a process that included smelling lots of Mariage Freres teas.

Here's how the Sephora website describes the perfume's smell:

"Notes: Italian Bergamot, Tunisian Bitter Orange, Spanish Orange Blossom, Ceylon Cardamom, Jamaican Pepper, Russian Coriander, Bulgarian Rose, Egyptian Jasmine, Green Tea, Smoked Wood. Style: Lively. Delicate. Discreet."

Here's how Chandler Burr describes it in The Perfect Scent:

"...a smell as deep and strong and clear as Turkish seawater. The scent has power, a technical feat. Aesthetically it conjures a small amount of the smoothness of Darjeeling but gives in much greater proportion a rough, potent black tea from China; Bulgari's marketers called it a green tea, but it has only the freshness of green tea, not in any way the scent. There is a vaporous trace of old wood smoke from the fire used to boil this pure water, and at the same time the scent is shot through with this freshness, which is why, as Ellena intended, it smells like tea and, simultaneously, it doesn't. His idea was -- explicitly -- not to copy reality. His idea was to transform reality."

Hello, MacArthur committee...


Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Perfect Scent by Chandler Burr

I'm now reading New York Times perfume critic Chandler Burr's new book, The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York. I'm a huge fan of his writing and hope to interview him for this blog soon.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Red, edited by Amy Goldwasser

I just finished inhaling Red: The Next Generation of American Writers -- Teenage Girls -- on What Fires Up Their Lives Today and highly recommend this anthology of essays to anyone in the throes of raising said generation.

Our girls are facing some different questions than we were at their age and these poignant, raw, and passionate essays offer both hopeful and harrowing insights into their predicament.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Jeremy Toback & Renee Stahl's Sweet Big World for Little Ones

Yesterday while dithering away the afternoon looking at other people's friends on Facebook, I stumbled upon a familiar face. Jeremy Toback and I were summer camp counselors together at Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts in the mid-80s. Back in the day, Jeremy had rock star written all over him and I've periodically heard updates of his L.A. music industry roller coaster ride from a mutual friend. I was delighted to discover yesterday that he and singer Renee Stahl recently released an utterly sweet, smart, and charming CD for children titled It's a Big World. Click here to see a video of them singing Night Mantra, a hypnotic lullaby.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Learning to Run

My beloved puppy, Goose, takes such pleasure in romping through the woods, he inspires the notion that I, too, would be happier if I hurled my body through space on a regular basis. I'm nearly 43 years old and running has previously held no appeal whatsoever. I figure this means there's still plenty of cartilage left in my knees to pound. I'd like to participate in the More Magazine Half-Marathon -- if not this year, next.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Julia Cameron's Writing Diet


Julia Cameron recently published a book titled The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size. On one hand, it seems a silly and shameless marketing ploy (how many woes can "Morning Pages" cure?), but on the other, she does raise the valid point that stifled creativity often results in overeating. For me personally, the link between not writing and too much Ben & Jerry's chocolate fudge brownie frozen yogurt is clear.

Please feel free to join me in the vow to count words rather than calories in 2008.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Seven Basic Romantic Comedy Beats

Lately I've been trying to understand how plot works in traditional narratives. My experimental poetry professors at San Francisco State University, bless their hearts, never had much to say on the topic (and even if they had, I'd have scoffed at the time). I'm quite convinced now, however, that plot is the key to my artistic salvation. So in case you, too, are wondering how structure works, here is how Billy Mernit defines the "seven basic romantic comedy beats" in Writing the Romantic Comedy: How to Write Screenplays that Sell...

1. The Chemical Equation: Setup


A scene or sequence identifying the exterior and /or interior conflict (i.e. unfulfilled desire), the "what's wrong with this picture" implied in the protagonist's (and/or the antagonist's) current status quo.

2. Cute Meet: The Catalyst

The inciting incident that brings man and woman [or man and man or woman and woman] together and into conflict; an inventive but credible contrivance, often amusing, which in some way sets the tone for the action to come.

3. A Sexy Complication: Turning Point

Traditionally occurring at the end of Act 1, a new development that raises story stakes and clearly defines the protagonist's goal; most successful when it sets man and woman at cross-purposes and/or their inner emotions at odds with the goal.

4. The Hook: Midpoint

A situation that irrevocably binds the protagonist with the antagonist (often while tweaking sexual tensions) and has further implications for the outcome of the relationship.

5. Swivel: Second Turning Point

Traditionally occurring at the end of Act 2, stakes reach their highest point as the romantic relationship's importance jeopardizes the protagonist's chance to succeed at his [or her] stated goad--or vice versa--and his [or her] goal shifts.

6. The Dark Moment: Crisis Climax

Wherein the consequences of the swivel decision yield disaster; generally, the humiliating scene where private motivations are revealed, and either the relationship and/or the protagonist's goal is seemingly lost forever.

7. Joyful Defeat: Resolution

A reconciliation that reaffirms the primal importance of the relationship; usually a happy ending that implies marriage or a serious commitment, often at the cost of some personal sacrifice to the protagonist.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008