Monday, January 30, 2006

The End Of The Magic?

According to a recent Sunday Times article, it looks as if award-winning novelist, Gabriel García Márquez has announced he's given up writing. And without any doubt, if it's true -- God, what a pity.

Widely described as the father of magical realism, García Márquez is best known for One Hundred Years of Solitude which won him a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982. This one is also one of my own personal favorites and in it, Marquez tells the story of a family and a town called, Macondo. The things that happen in Macondo are beyond surreal in a richly woven tapestry of strange murders, sleeping disorders, scientists, soldiers, and more, all revolving around the mansion of the Buendia family. This book has been constantly praised for introducing its readers to 20th century Latin American literature at its finest, with its tales of love, sadness, despair, and loss.

It has been mentioned that in recent years, García Márquez has written so little due to a reported battle with lymph cancer. But now it appears the former journalist has also lost his inspiration -- and that's the part I'm hoping can be turned around.

Simply put, in the literary world of today, many of us still want -- and need -- his brilliance. Until then, this literary giant and his work -- will truly be missed.

Well, it's Monday again, gang. Let's all try and make it a good one. Peace.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The New Face Of Leadership

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I'm sure no one would argue that many of the events and...*ahem*... "essential truths" of the first month of 2006 have been newsworthy, to say the very least. As such, a recent blog entry by a friend of mine prompted me to mention that January 2006 was also a landmark month in which 3 (yes, count them...three) women of the world won presidencies: Chile's Michelle Bachelet, Liberia's Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and Finland's Tarja Halonen.

Ironically, in the case of Halonen's win, it seems she owes some of it to late-night TV host, Conan O'Brien, whose frequent jokes about the two being look-alikes helped to put her over the top in the first round election on January 15th. O'Brien's popular show "Late Night" airs five days a week on SUBTV, a Finnish cable channel, with a few days' delay. CNN has also been following this story, and, there's also a picture here of O'Brien, so as far as the resemblance goes, once again, I'll just let you be the judge. In recent months, every time O' Brien mentioned Finland or Halonen, local tabloids report it prominently, making it sort of a national point of interest for this election -- as well as an apparent boost for Ms. Halonen against her opponent.

In any event, big congrats to Presidents-Elect: Halonen, Johnson-Sirleaf, and Bachelet.

Well done, ladies.

Before leaving this week, I'd just like to give a nod to Pub Rants a brand new blog by Colorado literary agent, Kristin Nelson. A successful agent, who, for me, clearly dispels the myth that all agents should -- or -- must live in New York, Kristin is the latest agent to take to the blogosphere, sharing her insights and wisdom with all writers choosing the often times "rocky road" to book-length publication. And what's even more unique about Kristin's blog, is the fact that along with a handful of other top agents, she's doing it -- under her own name. Kudos, Kristin.

You can also get a glimpse of Kristin's newly revamped website here

Make it a great weekend, all. Peace.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Just Think Outside The Box

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In keeping with all the latest buzz surrounding a 2005 book penned by David Hoffman, as Fruit Loopy as it might sound, breakfast cereal -- isn't just for breakfast anymore.

Hoffman, who also wrote bestseller, The Easy-Bake Oven Gourmet, seems to have done it again with his latest book titled The Breakfast Cereal Gourmet Cookbook, currently leaving the bookstore shelves -- like hotcakes. Hoffman's latest offering tells you that you can very easily experience the taste of Cap’n Crunch Crab Cakes, Lucky Charms Utah Lamb, Mocha-Cocoa Puffs Towers, and many more unique and tasty recipes, all created using your favorite morning cereal. The book also includes a brief history of cereal, interspersed with vintage photography, original advertising artwork, fascinating trivia, and contributions from several top chefs such as Rick Bayless, Gale Gand, and Sherry Yard.

Most people have heard of Rice Krispies Treats, but do you know who came up with them and why? Probably not, and this is where the entertainment factor kicks in. Not to worry though, as this book actually opens with a brief history of cereal and its varied uses throughout the last 100 years or so. Throughout the text, are pictures of the cereal boxes of yesteryear along with some "surprisingly" interesting facts on the subject of America's favorite breakfast food.

And given that only milk and soda outrank cereal in terms of what Americans buy at the grocery store, The Breakfast Cereal Gourmet is sure to leave the shelves as fast as the cereal it's celebrating.

By the way, I'll also admit that this book might even have quite a few of the most hardboiled foodies thinking "outside the box." I tried the Cap'n Crunch Crab Cakes over the weekend...and I don't mind telling you, they weren't bad at all. Mmmm...

So it seems what was once the most important meal of the day, can be eaten these days -- at any time.

Which begs the next question: Have you had your fiber yet today?

Good Wednesday, all. Peace.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Queen's Kitchen

Queen Latifah and staffers from the Food Network Channel

Since reading her autobiography a few years ago titled Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman Dana Owens from Newark, New Jersey, better known as Queen Latifah, a rising star with a keenly savvy business sense, fully captured my attention.

And today in the year 2006, long after parlaying her successful rap music career into a much broader "cinematic" scope, Queen Latifah's latest comedy Last Holiday was no doubt well received at its first public screening. This, in addition to the fact that I saw it for myself on Saturday -- and thought it was great. Still, the success of the film doesn't keep the star from feeling a bit saddened. That's because part of the movie was shot in New Orleans shortly before Hurricane Katrina. Seeing the locations again reminded her that many of those places no longer exist.

"I hope people seeing this film realize how much we need that city," she said recently. "The music is so rich. The food is so rich. I hope they can rebuild it."

Latifah plays a shy cookware salesperson who in the privacy of her own kitchen slices, dices and spices with the expertise of a master chef. And it certainly isn't any wonder -- as she was trained for the role by celebrity chef and New Orleans restaurateur Emeril Lagasse.

As a side note: Not so surprisingly, Emeril's own Food Network Channel also wanted in. Therefore, after weeks of menu planning and research, members of the Food Network Kitchens flew to New Orleans to teach Queen Latifah the basics for portraying her character.

And that's about all I'm giving away here, so for more you'll just have to catch the "queen at work" for yourself in Last Holiday... at a theater near you.

By the way, I totally loved actor Gérard Depardieu, who, as "Chef Didier" gave a very convincing performance in this movie. Then again, this might be because Depardieu actually owns two restaurants in Paris, one of which, La Fontaine Gaillon is rather well-known.

Make it a good start to the week, all. Peace.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Getting Wired

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Several major wireless carriers submitted bids Wednesday to wire New York subway stations for cellular use, including one proposal that involves four of the nation's biggest carriers forming an alliance. The bids mark a significant step in a long-running effort to make cell phone service available to the millions of New Yorkers who lose mobile phone communications when using the subways.

And yes...before you say anything, I already know that there is, in fact, a definite upside to all this, in that commuters will now be able to do things such as make and receive calls in cases of emergency, etc., etc. However, as many are already speculating -- as well as perhaps dreading -- hopefully this new venture won’t give any further rise to unwillingly being filled in on:

a) Jason's latest "booty call" on that Tiffany skank (who everybody hates anyway)


b) what Lisa thinks Nicole should wear to the club on Saturday night.

For that, I'm almost sure many of us would be just as content with our morning rides in the fully "wired" cell phone world of overland commuter trains...and buses.

Cell phones. The new cigarettes? Dunno... the jury's still out on that one for many (if not all) of us, I think.

In any event, I'm sure we'll all be interested in seeing how this new plan and proposal develops in the months ahead.

Before I wrap things up here for this week, I'd just like to remind you of a few of our upcoming events. So far, this is the current run down for what's on tap for The International Women's Writing Guild 2006

As always, we'd love to have you stop in wherever you might be across the US (as well as our European events in Geneva, Switzerland), and join us.

Make it a great weekend, all. Peace.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Capturing The Globe

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Philip Seymour Hoffman, best actor in a movie drama

In a recent interview with BBC News he reveals that he lost a reported 40 lbs to play the legendary author Truman Capote, and spent months perfecting his mannerisms and distinctive way of speaking. But how cool is that -- when you can drop that kind of poundage and reap the ultimate benefit by walking off with a coveted prize such as a Golden Globe statuette?

Hoffman managed to do just that at the 63rd Golden Globe Awards on Monday night when he walked away with the award for his eerily convincing portrayal of Capote (he looked so much like was downright freaky at times) in the movie by the same name that I first mentioned here after seeing it back in November 2005.

In other Globe news, it was also a "big winner" night for the movie, Brokeback Mountain, which managed to bag four trophies out of its original seven nominations Monday night.

Congratulations, all.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Literary Reality Bites...Continued

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In the wake of last week's never-ending fallout over author James Frey, his Larry King interview with his mom in tow, his voice quality during the sound bytes, his "essential" truths, etc., no doubt the October 2005 revelation surrounding the real identity of novelist J.T. LeRoy is still just as fresh these days.

If you've been following along since that story broke last year, you'll remember it was discovered that LeRoy, assumed to be the AIDS afflicted young man, who, at a very young age had been fed into a life of truck-stop prostitution (among other things), and whose life three published novels since 2001 are said to have been based upon, was really the very creative invention of writer Laura Albert, better known as a member of the San Francisco rock band, Thistle. Read more about that here

However, to this I'll also add that I personally have only read one of these novels, the one titled Sarah (pictured above), which I believe was the very first to be published. And, needless to say, regardless of whomever it was who actually penned this story, which by the way, was always presented to the reading public as *fiction* and nothing else, is one HELL of a storyteller. No two ways about it.

So if you're simply interested in a darn good tale of fiction that literally yanks you in by the seat of your pants from Word One, I'd say check this one out whenever possible. For me, it definitely qualifies as a fascinating, if not totally "believable" book of suffering, loss, and that literary term we've been hearing a lot of in the past week...redemption.

Good Monday, all. And given that it's once again that noteworthy time of year...

Happy Birthday, Dr. M.L. King.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Ham On The Street

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George Duran: Have Whisk Will Travel

And these days he's hosting a Food Network series by the same name called, Ham On The Street, a brand new line-up of food-related stunts that include everything from bowling with frozen turkeys in a supermarket, to grilling meatballs -- with only a newspaper for fuel. Duran also dishes out pop quizzes to people on their food knowledge and whips up some basically easy meals that just about anyone can prepare. In Wednesday night's premiere titled, "Breakfast in America," for example, he puts his own comedic spin on the traditional and not-so-traditional subject of morning fare. In addition, he also battles the tougher questions such as:

Is it really possible to cook an ostrich egg sunny side up?

How many people eat pizza for breakfast?

And of course, the one that generally rests on everyone's mind at one time (or another):

Which chicken lays the brown eggs—the rooster or the hen?

A formally trained chef in French cuisine, born in Venezuela and now living in Brooklyn, N.Y., Duran started out in radio a few years back while working as an on-air personality for comedy segments at WPLJ-FM in New York. It was there that he involved himself with the everyday antics of people on the street, asking them questions, doing stunts and cracking jokes. He moved on to WABC-New York radio in 1999 where he produced and performed more comedy sketches. He later moved into the TV world, working in production on the popular 2002 MTV show, House of Style.

In short, I found this week's debut episode to be quite entertaining, and although Duran's humor at times seemed a tad short of "fall down" funny (as I guess I somehow was expecting even though I can't really say...why??), there were a few good chuckles here and there. And, I also have to admit that spinach-and-eggy sort of breakfast pie he made at the end of the episode and put in a pizza delivery box under the name of "Funky Pizza," did look kinda... good. So check him out next week, same time, same Food Network channel if you can.

And that'll be it for me here this week, as another weekend draws near. As always, make it a good one…at least, as best you know how. Peace.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Million Little Pieces Of The Truth Becoming "Stranger" Than Non-Fiction

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It was all originally intended as a book of fiction, and James Frey had, in fact, shopped it to publishers as such for a given amount of time. Then, according to Frey's account of the events, an editor suggested that since he claimed his story was actually a roman à clef based on his own experiences as a one-man demolition squad against law and order i.e., booze, cocaine, mowing down a police officer with his car, numerous arrests -- you name it -- he should consider packaging his work as a tell-all "memoir." Ultimately, Frey did exactly that, and collected a hefty $50, 000 advance for penning his story and what is now an Oprah's Book Club selection titled, A Million Little Pieces. The book sold well, Oprah and her staff were all literally "kept up at night" by what they'd read in this chilling account of Frey's fascinating life, and seemingly, everything was as they say, hunky-dory.

That is, until someone finally asked the question that I, personally, would have been asking from the moment any book was suddenly changed from a fictional account -- to a non-fictional, truer-to-life one:

"How much of it is actually true with the supporting mug shots, police reports, and other documentation to back it up, as opposed to the plain old, everyday brand of *fiction* the author was originally willing to sell to readers in the first place?"

Then, of course, in comes the Smoking Gun website, which asks this question -- along with several others. And, as a result, in the grand tradition of the New York Times' Jayson Blair, bad publicity becomes the best kind of publicity there is, and talks of another hefty advance for a How I Duped The Entire Reading Public tell-all begin to fly. Jeez Louise...gimme a break already.

After this week's hot-topic controversy, which presently has the TV news along with several writers' websites and message boards a-buzzing, as always, it'll be James Who? by this time next week, when life goes on and the world continues to spin around on its axis. Clearly, Random House is maintaining that they're standing by Frey's story, and, I would imagine that it might just have something to do with yesterday when A Million Little Pieces ranked Number One at -- among other things. And therefore, need anyone really say... any more?

In any event, check out more here at the Smoking Gun . And yes, for the record, I also read this book last year, with Frey's claims of undergoing extensive root canal work in his mouth sans the benefit of major or local anesthetics...stopping me dead in my tracks on the old "truth-o-meter." Certainly, just about anyone who has actually experienced root canal work, would wholeheartedly agree with me.

Good Wednesday, all. Peace.

Monday, January 09, 2006

River Deep, Mountain High

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal

It appears that a Utah movie theater abruptly changed its screening plans recently and decided not to show the film Brokeback Mountain starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal pictured above. The film, an R-rated Western gay romance story, was supposed to open Friday at the Megaplex at Jordan Commons in Sandy, a suburb of Salt Lake City. Instead, it was pulled from the schedule. By the way, as also mentioned, the manager of the Jordan Commons Megaplex, coincidentally declined comment.

Now um...wait a minute. What's this, you ask? Shades of the 1960s hit movie Guess Who's Coming To Dinner starring Sidney Poitier, Kate Hepburn, and Spencer Tracy, perhaps? Referring, of course, to those of us old enough to remember this particular movie, and the similar "Eek! Oh, my God!" factor it generated which led to its banning in more than a dozen movie houses throughout the south. In any event, for my money, it certainly has all the telltale *earmarks* of it, hands down.

And, after pausing once again to check my calendar and making doubly sure that we are indeed now living in the year 2006 (yep, that's clearly what it says all right on the America The Beautiful calendar hanging here just above my desk), all I'll say is that censorship -- regardless of who feels what about whatever and not withstanding all the "I can ban whatever I want in my movie theater" ideologies of the world -- still sucks as much WIND in 2006 as it did in 1966.

End of sermonette.

Good Monday, all. Peace.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Hottest New Literary Dog Is Here

Yes, today launches Issue 1 of the Scruffy Dog Review, a brand new literary venue and the well-thought-out brainchild of some good friends of yours truly in the writing life. And certainly, at a time when we're seeing more and more short story venues disappear, this one is, without a doubt, a refreshing addition that promises to rival some of the best lit mags out there today, print or electronic.

So if you've got a short story, flash fiction, essay, play, book review, or poetry piece, check out their Submission Guidelines and always remember to: Send Them Your Best.

You can also check out the most recent Scruffy Dog Review press release here

Good Wednesday, gang. Peace.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Farris After A Few Days Off

Farris Hassan being escorted at Miami International Airport on Sunday

It's called immersion journalism in which a writer lives the life of the subject, along with the intended purpose of understanding his or her subject matter better. It has even been attempted several times by (cough, cough...*ahem*) yours truly...which is a whole 'nuther blog posting in itself.

In any case, 16-year-old Farris Hassan, recently dubbed the Ferris Bueller of 2005, returned home Sunday night to a throng of reporters and camera crews after he was able to secure an entry visa for a trip to see things for himself first-hand in Iraq.

Farris took his U.S. passport and $1,800 in cash when he left, but didn't tell his family who are Iraqi citizens now living in the US, what he was doing until he arrived in Kuwait. And needless to say, with over forty American citizens having been kidnapped since the war started in March 2003, of whom 10 have already been killed, he was a welcomed sight to his parents upon his return to Miami International Airport on Sunday. Making this caper a solid entry for the "Don't Try This Craziness Yourselves, Kids" file for the teen years.

And with his "days off" to Baghdad now behind him, Farris Hassan will be rejoining his classmates at the Pine Crest School in Florida today -- for a calculus exam.

But hey, if he chooses to pursue it, what a hell of a journalist this ballsy young adventurer is going to of these days.

Read more here

Best of luck to you,, Farris.

Good Tuesday 2006, all. Peace.