Tag Archives: blogs

Reading With Fakename: Julie and Julia

For the sake of not giving anything away to those who have neither read the book or seen the movie, and for the sake of not boring those who have, I’ll try to keep the description brief.  Actually, there isn’t much to give away.  This is not exactly a plot-based book, which isn’t intended as an insult at all.  It’s a memoir.  You read it for the joy of the language and the humor.  If you want mega-plot and uber-suspense, go read Tom Clancy.  (Not that I have anything against Tom Clancy.  I think  The Hunt for Red October is a classic.)

The situation is this:  a young woman from New York City, Julie Powell, is in the emotional doldrums at age 29, and decides that what she needs is a Project (note capital letter).  She decides she will cook her way through all 500-plus recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year.  Her husband suggested she do a blog about it at the same time, so she did.  The book is almost equally about the cooking and the blog.

Today, you have to be a complete Neanderthal to even want to cook from what Julie soon abbreviates into MtAoFC.  There are seriously unnecessary steps and modern conveniences undreamed of in France in 1961.  I’m a moderate purist myself, and would, for example, have to be starving to eat canned mushrooms.  On the other hand, I consider the dawn of civilization to have begun when grocery stores started selling already-diced onions. 

When I cook (oh wait, lemme think…when was it that I did that last?) I prefer to use fresh ingredients–as if there is such a thing in our modern pesticided, herbicided, hormone-enhanced, preservative-laden world.  To get a truly “fresh” tomato, for example, you have to grow it yourself.  And even then, you have to sit by the plant in a lawn chair for its entire life cycle to protect it. 

So we follow Julie through her cooking of various dishes that even I wouldn’t eat, and I’m reasonably adventurous.  We follow her as she debates with herself about the most humane way to kill a live lobster (which she carries home on the subway!).  But two of the things I was most amused by had to do with the blog. 

In one case, a day comes when there is a massive blackout and everyone is forced to walk home from their offices in Manhattan.  Once power is restored and she’s able to check her blog, there are many messages from people she’s never met to the effect of “Are you OK?” or “I was worried about you.”  And it’s as if she recognizes at that point the power of her words.  To her readers (whom she calls her “bleaders”), the blackout in NYC became not just an event in a distant place, it was an event that affected someone they “know”.  Given the opportunity, Julie says, people will care about one another. 

The other thing that cracked me up was her reference to the comments from the regular bleaders.  One of them frequently said her blog would be much improved if she would stop using the word f*** so often.  (I’m using her spelling here–I have no problem spelling the word out myself.)  Then one day, an article is published about her “Project” in the New York Times.  Her evil boss is not pleased.  And she says, You know what?  I think my ship just came the f*** in.   

Now she’s written another book, which was supposedly published in December of last year.  It’s called Cleaving:  A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession.  There is an exerpt of it at the end of the library’s copy of Julie and Julia.  With the success of her book and the movie, she was able to quit her mind-numbing secretarial job, and she went on to become a butcher’s apprentice.  I guess finding that you have a talent for mangling lobsters to death while they flap on your kitchen table points you in a certain direction career-wise.  I plan to read the book, although it makes me a bit nervous.  I’m afraid that her ship has, indeed, come the f*** in.

More Reading With Fakename: Ziegfeld, et al.

I’ve never been to New York City (Fakename will now pause for the collective gasp), unless you count changing planes in one of their three major airports, one of which is inexplicably in New Jersey.  I feel sort of like an ad for Pace Picante Sauce.  Remember them?  Some cowpoke types are examining their bottle (bottle?  how authentic is that?) of picante sauce, when one of them says, This picante sauce was made in NEW YORK CITY!  Oh Holy Mother of God–anywhere but there.  Real picante sauce has to be made outside of NYC.  Possibly New Jersey. 

Therefore, I’ve never seen a play on Broadway.  (Oh, quit your gasping.)  I have at least once, and possibly twice, seen a touring play.  The for-certain play was Evita, which, by the way, I thought was supremely awful.  The possible play was Zorba, which may or may not have been good.  The important thing was that Anthony Quinn was there in person and at some point threw a rose into the audience, directly to me.  I kept that rose until it reverted to sub-atomic particles. 

Therefore, I thought maybe I could learn something by reading the book Ziegfeld:  The Man Who Invented Show Business, by Ethan Mordden.  I can’t really explain why I finished it, other than a sort of obsessive-compulsive need to finish a book once I’ve started it.  I did sort of speed through it, hoping I would eventually get to the good part, which never materialized.  As a history of Broadway shows of the era, and if you’re fascinated by who did the lyrics, the set design, the costume design, the choreography, etc. , this book is for you.  Ziegfeld himself was apparently a very private man, so the author didn’t really know much about him.  I wish he had said so in the first sentence.  That way I could have turned the book back in to the library before I ever got out  the door.  I thought I was getting a biography.  Instead, I got the Encyclopedia of Broadway shows from, say, 1900 to 1940.  Actually, not even that.  I got the footnotes for the encylopedia article.  In other words:  don’t read this book.  Fakename considers that as much reading as she does, she has earned the right to be a book critic. 

Now I have gratefully returned to my fiction roots, reading a book by Jeffrey Deaver called Roadside Crosses.  Deaver is in my Top Five, sharing space with Robert B. Parker, John Sanford, James Lee Burke, and Nevada Barr (a nom de plume if I ever heard one).  I wish they would all put out a book a week.  In the scheme of things, I guess they are somewhat middlebrow.  Dostoyevsky, they are not.  But did you ever try to read Dostoyevsky for fun?  I don’t, at least, do lowbrow…like, say, Danielle Steele. 

Now take this journey with me:  on the inside flap of the book cover (I’m sure there’s a name for that) of Deaver’s book, it says:  ”  The Monterey Peninsula is rocked when a killer begins to leave roadside crosses beside local highways–not in memoriam, but as announcements of his intentions to kill.  And to kill in particularly horrific and efficient ways:  using personal details about the victims that they’ve carelessly posted in blogs and on social networking websites”.

Oh shit.  I could say more, but I have to log off now.  Just forget you ever heard of me, okay?

A Visit to Blogworld

Some days (or hours, or weeks, or months, or years), you just can’t get it together.  Currently, I’m busy rocketing at warp speed from one personal or work crisis to another, and don’t have a bloggable thought in my head.  Well, I did think it might be nice to talk about the newly discovered frog from Asia with fangs, that eats birds.  Maybe later. 

So at times like these, I try to catch up on what other people on my blogroll are writing about.  There aren’t many of them, which is a good thing.  If I add one more, I will become paralyzed by inaction (a primary symptom of crisis-hopping).

So today I will do shameless plugs for other people.  Not that long ago I did a plug for Davis W who is the funniest person you never met.  This link will refer you to his website review of GetMotivated.com.  This is a must-read for those of you who are rocketing from one crisis to the next.  In the small-world category, Davis used to live in Tallahassee, where I currently live, although I had no idea about that when I began reading his blog. 

Now I introduce you to masteroftheuniverse, aka, Jeff Watson.  Currently Jeff is in the middle of a sort of quest, which might be called spiritual in nature, although I hesitate to use that word because a) it may be presumptuous, and b) I don’t like to draw attention to myself in such matters, since I may be struck by lightning.  Jeff is probably the most interesting person you never met.  I can’t do justice to him by attempting to describe him…his own words are much better. 

I’m going to show you the photo that appears in the blog entry linked above.  I don’t feel TOO bad about this, he has after all put it out there on the Internet himself, but I think this is a photo he could sell.  It’s astonishing.  I know a smidgen about photography, and in large part it involves having a good camera and being there at the moment it happens, whatever “it” is.  (The so-called “F-8 and Be There” rule.)  But you can satisfy those requirements and still take a bad picture, because it takes an imagination.  First to see that the picture is possible, and second to snap it at the right moment, at the right angle.  You have to have an “eye”.  Happy viewing.


Don’t That Beat All

For those of you who aren’t from the South, this is a time-honored phrase meaning “What the fuck were they thinking?” We are prohibited from saying this out loud, due to the if-you-can’t-say-anything-nice rule. 

The occasion for this post is that today I learned that sometime in the past week, my hometown newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat, held a “Blogger’s Luncheon.”  Apparently my invitation was lost in the mail. 

The luncheon was organized by a reader, and took place in the Democrat headquarters, where attendees wore name tags with their screen names on them.  The food consisted of sandwiches from the Dem’s cafeteria, plus whatever the attendees brought with them.  What?  This is a church supper?  They should have invited me–I make a mean coleslaw. 

I have to work hard at not being too cynical, but in this case, I’m failing miserably.  This is the last gasp of a dying newspaper. 

Don’t that just beat all?