I LOVE…Libraries! Yep, first of all there’s the smell of a library. That musty scent of pages in old books…a little dusty, a little stale and dry. Used book stores have this same smell. It smells archaic but in a good sense, like lost work waiting to be rediscovered. I also love the hushed quiet of libraries. It’s an environment where if one listens, one could almost hear the ticking of the clocks…if clocks still ticked. The smell and the hush contribute to the atmosphere of a library along with the dry air and a temperature which always seems just a few degrees higher than optimum. It’s nice though, comfortable, cozy. No matter the library, there always seems to be windows with sunlight pouring through in such a way as to illuminate the dust particles in the beams of light. And I’m always, ALWAYS, reminded of Carl Sagan and that ‘mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam’, and I’m reminded of that image from Voyager 1. It completely awes me. And of course, he’s there too…Sagan. He’s in that library, alive and quite well.
Of course, the thing I love most about libraries, however, is the books. Fiction or non-fiction, every word on every page of every book on every shelf at one time existed solely in someone’s mind and imagination. Someone, through pain and patience, joy and love, created the time to write every ‘the’, every ‘of’, and every ‘is’ contained in every book. Each book is an entirely new world waiting to be entered and discovered. Worlds of heroes and villains, conquerors and lovers, empires and war, and also worlds of nature, science, elegance and love. The only requirement of entering these strange and wondrous worlds is to open the cover and turn the page. As such, the library becomes a universe to thousands of worlds.
When I enter a library some switch inside me gets turned on. This is a switch which is 99.9% of the time in lock-down ‘off ‘position, and that is the ‘horde’ switch. Anyone who knows me knows I have very few things. If it doesn’t fit in a back pack I don’t need it. However, entering a library I am instantly transformed. I want every one of those books and I sincerely believe I can actually read each and every one of them. Not only read them, but assimilate them, absorb them, learn and retain every bit of knowledge and passion they contain. And the library itself encourages and prods me. Really? I can check out up to 50 items at a time? 50?! Wow!
Oh, one more awesome thing about libraries which I love…no money changes hands. They give me the book, I read the book and return it…end of transaction. Trust.
I LOVE…Akira Kurosawa! If someone were to ask me to name my five favorite films, four of them would change depending on the day… Dr. Strangelove? The Usual Suspects? Reservoir Dogs? Life of Brian? But one film would make the list each time, and it would consistently be in the number 1 spot. Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. And if asked to write a list of my top 50 films, at least 15 of those would be Kurosawa’s…easily.
Seven Samurai was my introduction to Kurosawa and it launched a love affair which, at times, border-lines obsession. I have to get my Kurosawa fix. The fact that he directed, wrote, edited and produced blows me away. His editing is completely brilliant. He considered it the most creative part of the entire film making process. He edited daily during production, as opposed to the typical Hollywood process of editing post-production. His use of axial cuts, cutting on motion, and wipes have become idiosyncratic aspects of his style. (12 wipes in Drunken Angel (1948) Wow!)
With Seven Samurai (1954), Kurosawa’s cinematic technique changed from standard lens and deep focus photography to the use of long lens and multiple cameras. His actors never knew which camera’s footage would actually end up being used. With The Hidden Fortress (1958), he also began to incorporate use the anamorphic, or widescreen, process. His later work utilizes all 3 techniques, and quite effectively, in my opinion.
I’ll admit that sometimes when watching a film I find it difficult to forget that there is a process involved…that there’s a crew putting together this production, that there are actors, cameras, and a director calling the shots. I look for camera technique, for editing. I sometimes forget that I’m suppose to be caught up in the story being told and not focusing on ‘how’ it’s being told. With Kurosawa I do scrutinize, but I also can’t help but to get completely lost in the story, in the message, in his heroes, and in his passion.
One particular aspect of Kurosawa’s work I find compelling is his powerful use of climate and nature as plot elements. It doesn’t just rain in a Kurosawa film, it RAINS! The pounding, relentless, rain in the opening scene of Rashomon (1950), the intense heat in a bombed post-war Tokyo in Stray Dog (1949), the massive dust clouds which completely surrounds the combatants in the final battle scene of Yojimbo (1961), the use of fog in Throne of Blood (1957, Kurosawa actually had the set for this film constructed on the slopes of Mount Fuji to make use of the natural fog), the finale battle scene of Seven Samurai which becomes an immense swirl of rain and mud, and oh, wow…did he really aim that camera directly at the sun in Rashomon …not once but several times!?
I could go on to list my favorite Kurosawa films here but there would be so many. It’s easy to say that list would include all of the 16 films he made with Toshirō Mifune, most of which are considered cinema classics. Mifune, in my opinion, was one of the most compelling, powerful, and enigmatic actors to ever appear on film, and he was incredibly sexy as well. The Kurosawa/Mifune combination just seemed to work so beautifully. He was absolutely brilliant in Throne of Blood, and High and Low (1963), both films were adaptations of Macbeth and could be considered companion pieces….and watching both would be a damn fine way to spend a lazy, rainy, day in bed. Actually, ANY combination of Kurosawa films would be a great way to spend a rainy day in bed.
Please note, I’m aware this post does not even begin to scratch the surface of Kurosawa’s masterful 57 year legacy. Major pieces of work were neglected in my writing, but seriously…it could take me weeks to compile his accomplishments. Instead I’ll leave you with some words by a few of those in his field.
Steven Spielberg – ‘I have learned more from him than from almost any other filmmaker on the face of the earth.’
Ingmar Bergman – (in reference to his own film, The Virgin Spring) ‘touristic, a lousy imitation of Kurosawa’
Francis Ford Coppola – ‘One thing that distinguishes him is that he didn’t make one masterpiece or two masterpieces. He made, you know, eight masterpieces.’
Federico Fellini – ‘The greatest living example of all that an author of the cinema should be.’
Martin Scorsese – ‘Let me say it simply, Akira Kurosawa was my master, and the master of so many other filmmakers over the years.’
I LOVE…Cooking! It’s an act of creation requiring time and love. I will cook for myself, but when its shared with others, or one particular other, that’s when I enjoy it most.
I was taught to cook by my mother who did not enter into these teachings willingly. My mother guards her recipes as though they contain sacred scripture from the gods. The Cajun gods, of course, with lots of Louisiana French Creole thrown in. And her kitchen is her domain, very few are allowed in. My mother is the ONLY cook in the house.
She didn’t teach me as a child. As a girl I spent my time outside with my brother …exploring strange and alien planets, hunting for Big Foot, and seeing who could spit the farthest. It wasn’t till I was an adult, and went home for a visit, that she agreed to allow me passage into this realm. I sat at the kitchen table with a pencil and a yellow legal pad, she stood at the stove, and we began. Gumbo. Jambalaya. Etouffee. Sauce Piquant. Red Beans and Rice. Shrimp Creole. Cajun Rice. A basic roux. The seasonings …cayenne, bay leaf, parsley, green onion, garlic, file’ and more cayenne. And the holy trinity of Cajun cooking; onion, green pepper, and celery.
Gumbo is by far my favorite thing to cook. It’s a ritual which, for me, must being at dawn, preferably on a frigidly cold morning and when no one else is awake in the house. When I say it takes me 5 hours to cook a gumbo, I do not exaggerate. Each ingredient is allowed to slowly cook and mingle with the others before another is added to the pot. I love to cook it for friend’s when I travel, and I always travel with my own file’….it’s quite impossible to find in some places. The picture above is of the basic ingredients for a gumbo I cooked at my friend Jo’s place in Hobart, at the base of Mount Wellington. It was the dead of the Tasmanian winter, and conditions were perfect! We spent hours the night before searching the Salamanca butcher shops for just the right sausage. I think Jo liked it…she rewarded me later that day by taking me out for some amazing hiking. Thanks Jo!!
I love …Coffee! I’ll admit to being an early riser. This is not by choice, nor do I subscribe to the notion of the early bird getting the worm. Worms, in general, are highly over-rated and as far as I know can be obtained at any point throughout the day. I wake when I do primarily because my brain seems to function best in the morning. While it’s true the first thoughts to enter my mind upon waking are usually on that of writing, its only when coffee enters my consciousness that my body then becomes motivated enough to actually get out of bed.
I am not at all a coffee snob. I will drink any coffee, anywhere, and like it. In my opinion, the quality of the coffee is greatly determined by the quality of the conversation which comes along with it. Great conversation can make the worse coffee wonderful, while even the best coffee in the universe can do little to resuscitate an uninteresting conversation. That requires the work of alcohol, preferably tequila. There is no one place which is more suitable for drinking coffee than any other. My desk is a great spot for it…as is a balcony in the French Quarter, a kitchen table in Timor, a campsite anywhere, a beach in Indonesia, or just about any front porch.
Coffee shops should, in theory, also be a great place to have coffee…however there are some rules which apply:
- Firstly, when ordering coffee, there should only be two syllables involved in the process. Three, only if it includes the word ‘please’. Any more syllables and one is no longer ordering coffee but instead requesting some concoction which cost as much as a small pony and resembles actual coffee in as much as that same pony. I’ve found that if the coffee shop has a corporate office, a pretentious menu, and a drive through window the chances of my getting change back from my ten are greatly reduced.
- Secondly, coffee shops should have an atmosphere, an ambiance, which invokes socializing and lingering conversations with other people who are actually present and not on the other end of a cell phone.
- Thirdly, coffee should be served in a cup, a real cup of normal proportion, and with a saucer…always with a saucer. (Thank you, Q!)
- And fourthly, please don’t, in any way, assign my cup of coffee the task of saving the planet or any portion of it. I mean…really?! When your CEO gives up his SUV for a bike then we can talk about saving the planet…preferably over a nice cup of coffee!
I love…Getting Lost! And how do I know I love getting lost? Simply because I’m so amazingly good at it. I mean, I’m REALLY good at it. I can get lost anywhere. Being equipped with absolutely no sense of direction definitely helps in this endeavor. I love when people stop me to ask for directions. There’s nothing quite as wonderful as the look on their face as I tell them the location is four blocks north while I’m clearly pointing to the south.
My dear friend Pullo recently told me…. The key to becoming great at something is constant practice. The only way you’ll be able to succeed is if you love to practice what you want to be good at. Absolutely, and thank you Pullo! So I make every effort to practice getting lost because as good as I am, I want to be even better! I’m pretty certain I can somehow make a career of it.
The really great thing about successfully getting lost is that…well, that’s when the adventure truly begins! Last year I successfully got lost while exploring Magnetic Island, which is an amazing little island in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Not only did I get lost, I also managed to do so in a style which exemplifies my great skill in the art. I did accomplish finding the ferry to the island…and I did so in the dark! Once arriving at Nelly Bay, I managed to find the bus which would take me to the general vicinity of my destination on the island, which was an old World War II fort reputed as an excellent site for koala spotting. But somehow once the bus dropped me off in the middle of nowhere, I managed, rather quickly, to…umm… lose my bearings. (Please note the use of the navigational term ‘bearings’.) I don’t think I need to explain that getting lost on a ‘middle of nowhere’ island off the coast of Australia is completely different from getting lost in the ‘middle of nowhere’ downtown Cleveland. This is primarily because there are no death adders in downtown Cleveland. Here is an excerpt from my journal during that particular island excursion…..
“At some point, probably immediately after stepping off the bus, I’ve managed to get lost. Don’t panic! Getting lost is one of the things I do best. And actually, instead of saying I’m lost…because really, how lost can one be while on an island…I should say I’m ‘redefining my objective’. Apparently I’ve completely miss the trail to The Forts, and any chance whatsoever of koala spotting this morning. But as the Aussies say……no worries. The wonderful thing about getting lost, other than getting to stumble totally blindly upon cool things you have no idea exists, is you also get to return another day to carry out your original goal. In my book, this is called a win/win!”
The really remarkable thing about getting lost is that it can be done anywhere. One does not need an exotic island in the Coral Sea to practice it, though it does help to a large extent. My friend Oscar and I have been out to the Salt Lick Restaurant in Driftwood, Texas on two occasions, and both times we’ve gotten lost en route. Getting lost in the Texas Hill Country while seeking outstanding barbecue is quite simply one of life’s great pleasures. My friend promises next time we go, we won’t get lost. My very dear man….what would then be the point?
I LOVE…Zombies! Well, yeah! I mean, who doesn’t?!
I could say being from New Orleans and loving zombies go hand in hand. But, really…zombies are one of those ‘universal loves’. Everybody loves zombies!
Growing up, as a swamp person, I first learned about voodoo type zombies. Those are cool because well, you can control them and get them to do your bidding. Laundry, errands, breaking up with a boyfriend, just about anything you’ve no time for, a personal zombie will handle….it just may take a while. (It should be noted that the word ‘bidding’, when not used as a gambling or auctioning term, solely applies to zombies. There are other creatures which can be controlled, however none will do your bidding quite like a zombie.)
Later I learned about the ‘other’ zombies, the really fun zombies! CAUTION: These zombies WILL NOT do your bidding. These are the brain-craving, flesh-eating, contagious zombies. They’re not summoned from beyond the grave by a voodoo priestess or your well-meaning aunt Nora, no…these undead are usually the result of some grand scale pandemic, and that’s just the start of the fun! These guys are hungry, relentless, and hang out in very large numbers! These zombies can easily be identified by the three universally known Zombie Recognition Signs (ZRS)….which are as follows….
1 – Brian eating.
2 – A lack of personal hygiene surpassing that of a college freshmen.
3 – Really freaking poor conversationalist.
The primary reason we all love these zombies is because once they show up all the rules of society get chucked right out the window. Governments collapse, the military has a complete melt-down, and we no longer care whether the batteries in our smoke detectors are fresh. And we all have a no-fail plan for dealing with the Zombie Apocalypse. Yes, admit it, even you. We all know what we’ll do, and how we’ll do it…and we can’t wait! Zombies are the one thing which we can shoot, decapitate, or bash to a pulp indiscriminately, and no one will think a bit less of us, not even PETA. In fact, the more you kill, the more attractive you are.There is no ‘limit’ on zombie killing, no permits necessary, no catch and release programs, and it’s not required that you clean up after yourself. Zombies = life simplified!