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Showing posts from 2014

Melancholy, the Flame to My Moth

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A while back, I read a blog post on divorce by Anna Spargo-Ryan.

Raw. Powerful. Relentless. That's how I would describe her writing. It has such feels. I saw the silhouettes. I heard the shouts, as well as the sighs. Most of all, I felt the sad.

It’s easy to pound on the table but hard to whisper heaviness. Most writers rely on the meaning of their words to create atmosphere. Anna also sets the mood through the cadence of her words. It sprints, halts, then barrels forward again.

You can’t really teach that stuff. Haruki Murakami's novel Norwegian Wood is a story of quiet but deep hurt. He once said, "No matter how much enthusiasm and effort you put into writing, if you totally lack literary talent you can forget about being a novelist." Well, Anna certainly need not worry about the talent part.

Her writing reminds me of a manuscript I betaed a while back. It was a coming-of-age story. A young dad, trying to tell his daughter complicated …

The Night of the Living Dog

Halloween is my favorite holiday.

This past Sunday we volunteered for The Night of the Living Dog, a Halloween zombie party benefiting the Amanda Foundation (the rescue shelter we walk dogs for). Music played, cocktails flowed, and dogs preened for the costume contest. Fun, though I hurt my back again from lifting stuff.

Me as a zombie soldier, gnawing the skull of one of my victims. I did my own makeup, which some thought was too blue. Wouldn't zombies be oxygen-deprived from all that death? The event's makeup artist redid my makeup to make it whiter with dark eye circles.

The volunteers' jobs were to set up the party, staff the tables for the silent auctions, and clean up. Ours had several signed scripts from TV shows like Dexter and CSI. Here's my partner, a dodgeball zombie with her arm lopped off. She put in a bid for a restaurant but was outbid by several others. Bummer for us, but better for the Foundation.

Me next to Oscar. The crowd was too overwhelming for hi…

Malala Yousafzai Doesn't Back Down

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At age 15, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the face by the Taliban while riding the bus from school. All because she was an activist for the education of girls in her native Pakistan.

She didn't give up.

At age 16, she addressed the United Nations. Her poise, articulateness, and charisma would be impressive for anyone, but especially remarkable for someone that young. The entire speech is inspiring, but I especially love the force of her closing, which starts at the 16:27 mark in the video.

At age 17, she is the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Her acceptance speech is here.

Congratulations, Malala.

(Cue the Tom Petty song.)

Clyde and Lisi, Professional Lickers

Clyde (left) and Lisi (right). Let them close to your face, and they'll lick it like it's candy. This photo was taken right before my face was massively molested by their tongues.

At first, Lisi was tentative going up and down steps, so my partner had to carry her. Eventually the dog adjusted. Soon Lisi was hopping on and off ledges taller than herself. Showoff.

Both Clyde and Lisi are available to good homes!

Woof and Meow at the Amanda Foundation

The Amanda Foundation is a dog and cat rescue nearby. They even have a spaymobile that drives out to provide free spay and neuter services. Last weekend we attended the orientation for volunteers. We got to walk three dogs and visit the cats, including a three-legged one who's afraid of people.

Igor (left) and Ingrid (right). Ingrid is the mom, who gave birth to three boys. She only looks deceivingly ferocious here. During our walk, she was nothing but calm and friendly. Igor was rambunctious but cared a lot about mom. Whenever he walked in front, he kept glancing back to check on her. Now that's a good kid. 

Kayley. She was supposedly high energy but turned out to be quite mellow. More into sniffing everything than walking.

As of last Saturday, all three dogs were available for adoption.


The Multiple Talents of Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black

The premise of Orphan Black: Sarah Manning (played by the talented Tatiana Maslany) discovers she is one of many clones, and the bad guys are coming after them.

The show is fast-paced with plenty of plot twists, but the best part is Maslany. Since she plays all of the clones, you might think it'd be hard to tell them apart, right? Nope. Aside from obvious characteristics like accent, she varies the gait, the mannerism, and even the eye blinks to make each clone unique. Impressive.

I don't know how Maslany keeps all the characters straight. She should be paid extra for the multiple roles she plays.

The Strange 1Q84

I love Haruki Murakami's 1Q84.

To paraphrase the blurb: a love story, a fantasy, and a mystery - all rolled into a dreamy world. In the book, Tengo is a writer asked to rewrite a fantasy manuscript for an enigmatic girl. Aomame is a fitness instructor with special skills asked to do an unusual job. Their lonely paths intertwine in this surreal world, both searching for something they yearn for. And there's a dangerous religious cult.

Like Aomame, who can't quite explain the world of 1Q84, I can't fully articulate why I like the book so much. But I shall try.

The story is imaginative. There is no formulaic plot with just the characters and the settings changed.

The characters are deeply carved. Murakami tells you a lot of backstories about how they grow up, what they like, how they act. By the end, I really knew the two main characters, liked them, and rooted for them.

The setting is intriguing. Everything seems normal, but the details are off just enough for you know …

Chefchaouen, High with Marijuana

While hiking in the Rif mountains of Chefchaouen (the blue town in northern Morocco), I came across huge marijuana fields. Big, lush, and beautiful. The country is one of the earliest growers of cannabis and continues to be a robust producer of the plant. The product is commonly sold in resin form.

Though illegal in Morocco, marijuana is unlikely to go away anytime soon. A lot of poor farmers depend on the crop for their livelihoods. One estimate of the output is $10 billion, or about 10% of the nation's economy. Recently, there's been talk of legalizing the cultivation in some form.

When I think about marijuana, I'm reminded of an Ali G skit where he and an anti-drug government agent are at a table with a spread of illegal drugs. Ali G asks the agent about the effects of the drugs. With a serious demeanor, the agent talks about paranoia, racing heart, low blood pressure, wooziness ... 
Then Ali G asks earnestly, "Is there any negative effects?" 

Colleen Hoover, the Unromantic Romantic

Colleen Hoover self-published her first book Slammed, which became Amazon and New York Times bestsellers. Eventually, the book got picked up by Simon & Schuster. The movie rights were sold. She wrote more bestselling books.

Great story, right? This is where it gets better. Reading her blog, I noticed this under "About Me":

"19) I’m very unemotional and I’m not a romantic at all. So the fact that I write romance novels that make a lot of people cry is really strange."

Unexpected, but interesting. I read on ...

"12) I had never read a romance novel before writing SLAMMED. I pretty much stuck to true crime non-fiction and biographies before then. "

Blew. Me. Away.

Never read a romance novel? The conventional wisdom in fiction writing is you have to read a lot, especially in your genre.

For most writers, it's probably a good idea to read a lot in your genre. You can learn about what makes for a good read or a bad read, what sells, what's been (overl…

Of Goats and Argan

If you tour the countryside of Morocco, you may discover Argan trees. They thrive in the arid climate.

What's remarkable are the goats, who climb all over the trees and teeter on the branches like expert acrobats. They eat the fruit and poo out the pits. In the olden days, the Berbers collected the pits and ground them to extract the oil, which is nutty in flavor and has tons of vitamin E. You can eat and wear the oil.

Argan oil is expensive but pretty fashionable these days in the West. Cosmetics companies put the oil in all kinds of products, touting its health and beautification benefits. The manufacturing no longer involves goats, though the traditional way seems more wholesome and organic. The machines are stealing jobs even from the goats.

We saw trees with multiple goats. Unfortunately, the photo below only shows one goat. But it's an arse-facing action shot, so that's pretty cool.