Saturday, April 30, 2005

Writing Quote of the Week

Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.
--Tom Stoppard

Friday, April 29, 2005

Happy Hitchhikers Day

Just a few hours away from the first showing of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I don't think my husband slept much last night, fretting about how not-perfect it might be.

Right now on Rotten Tomatoes.com it has a 56% rating. My general impression from the reviews: fans of the material will be pleased, non-fans will be flummoxed.

Here's an interview with screenwriter Karey Kirkpatrick, who also wrote Chicken Run (the only movie to get a 100% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes.com).

And if you'd like to travel back in time twenty years, if you think those were better days, here's an online version of the old text-based Hitchhikers adventure game. Mmm, even now I can smell the hydrochloric acid-based coffee from Villanova's Mendel Hall vending machine.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

What's on my iPod?

Nothing! I don't have one.*

And I don't care what's on anyone else's, whether it's another blogger's, Tom Brady's, the President's, or even Jesus'. (These have all been the subject of articles lately, but I'm not linking to them because that would indicate that I give a possum's patootie.)

I've never heard a podcast, only recently figured out what an RSS feed is (and this blog has one now), and haven't yet read the 131 articles stacked up in my inbox on how I can "leverage" my blog to promote my novels. I'm not technophobic, just techno-tired.

That said, I do have several playlists on my laptop in RealPlayer, at least one for each work-in-progress. Music inspires my writing more than anything else (other than caffeine), so it's useful to have 6 hours worth of songs-that-remind-me-of-that-one-scene-in-the-forest and another 40 hours worth of songs-my-main-character-would-love-if-she-had-electricity.

The only problem is, when I have one of these giant playlists going on random play, my attention wavers at the end of each song, while I watch the little RealPlayer doohicky on my bottom toolbar to see what song is coming up next. If I don't recognize it, I Alt-Tab over to the program to find out what album it's from.

More often, I find the right album/songs for a particular scene and just play them over and over again until I'm finished. Which is exactly what I was able to do ten years ago with a CD player and a remote control.

*which is not to say I don't want one

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Jammin' on the wind

How Cool is That? Item #7

Have you ever noticed when you're driving and listening to music, and you see a hawk gliding overhead, it always seems to be flying in time to the music, no matter what's on the stereo at the time?

I love that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Buffalo buffalo Baltimore

Okay, technically they were bison, but they are...

How Cool is That? Item # 6 (or whatever we're up to)

A herd of bison escaped from a Baltimore area farm early yesterday morning, leading police on a chase that ended in a community tennis court, where things got really interesting:





The owner, who has lost his herd before, says he's done with bison farming and will soon send them all off to slaughter. But at least they made the most of their time here on earth.

Monday, April 25, 2005

A Cornbread to Kill For

How Cool is That? Item #3

From Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant:

2 eggs
1 cup milk or buttermilk
1/4 cup cooking oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar (optional)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup white or yellow cornmeal (preferably good quality stone ground)
1 cup unbleached white flour (or half whole-wheat, half white)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, oil, salt, and brown sugar until well blended. Sift in the baking powder and whisk until foamy. Quickly mix in the cornmeal and flour. Beat until the batter is smooth. Pour into an oiled 9-inch square or 10-inch round baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

When I made this cornbread, I used half skim milk, half plain lowfat yogurt (instead of buttermilk), brown sugar (I'm a big fan of Domino's Brownulated(tm) sugar for its brick-resistance), stone-ground yellow cornmeal, and white flour only. I almost cried when I bit into it, it was so good.

The cookbook is based on the Moosewood Restaurant's Sunday tradition of spotlighting different world cuisines. Because of this book, we've tried dishes from all over the planet, from South Africa ("Tofu Bobotie") to Finland ("Sienipiirakka," or Mushroom Pie).

Hint: Scandinavian food--not for the lactose intolerant.

The cornbread recipe comes from the American South section. Most of the cookbook is vegetarian, but at least ten percent of the main dishes contain seafood. Each section, written by a native or someone close to the tradition, discusses how the food reflects the culture of the country, region, or ethnicity. It's where I learned that one should warm the teapot before adding leaves, and that real Italians don't use a spoon to help twirl their pasta (just a fork, twirling a few strands at a time).

I highly recommend this book. You just haven't lived until you've eaten Mahshi Filfil and Kukkakaalialaatikko.

Kids these days

They gave everything to solve our problems before they [graduated], by the grace of God. Without them, we would have gotten nothing.
--Silvia Garcia, cleaner at Georgetown University
How Cool is That? Item #4

Last month during Holy Week, while the rest of the country worked themselves into hysterics over Terry Schiavo's "starvation," a group of students at Georgetown University held a nine-day hunger strike to pressure the Jesuit college into providing a living wage to all of its contract workers. By gum, it worked. Now the people employed in housekeeping, food service, and security will earn $13/hour beginning in July, going up to $14 in 2007.

The deal also includes a guarantee for workers' right to organize without intimidation and offers new benefits, such as English as a Second Language classes and university transportation shuttles.

The wage hike will allow many of the workers to give up their second or third jobs and spend more time with their families, not to mention doing wacky, self-indulgent things like paying the rent and buying groceries.

Georgetown is a sworn enemy to both my alma maters, but I gotta raise a toast to those Hoyas. Ya done good, kids.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Now that's WJWD

How Cool is That? Item #2

Sally Goodrich of Bennington, Vermont, who lost her son Peter in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, recently visited Afghanistan to witness a miracle she helped make happen.

After the 2001 tragedy, rather than harboring a hatred for the nation who produced her son's murderers and cheering for it to be bombed back to the Bronze Age, Ms. Goodrich learned more about it, including its horrific treatment of women. She then worked to raise $180,000 to build a new girls' school in Surkh Abat, a town near Kabul.

"Peter would be all about trying to understand why the event happened," Goodrich said, adding that she had read about Afghanistan intensively before her trip and has been promoting learning about Afghanistan in schools back home.

"Had he the opportunity that day to listen to the hijackers, to sit down and talk to them, that would have been his inclination."

I can make no comment that won't sound obvious and sentimental. But Goodrich's case made me wonder if--on a smaller scale, of course--there might be a redemptive potential to the negative in all our lives. If I could turn my own grief or anger or guilt into something that would benefit others or at least shed some light on the human condition (whatever that means), then my life would have been worthwhile.

I guess that's reason #14 why I write novels. But #13 has to do with my love of pajamas, so don't go thinking I'm noble or nothin'.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

How cool is that?

Waking up from my annual Earth Day doldrums like Ray Milland at the end of The Lost Weekend, I realized it was time to focus on good news for a change. (That's lower-case "good news"--crack open a Bible if you want the Good News, but don't listen to those radio folk who tell you it's just for people like them. Because they are so missing the point.)

No clairvoyance needed to predict that the next several days will bring us a volatile stock market, spiking oil prices, and a self-combusting U.S. Senate. So let me just say "Bleah!" in advance and get it over with.

There. How much of my bitching can y'all really take, anyway? There's plenty of that to go around in the blogosphere as it is, and my neck muscles, now in a persistent state of cramp, have ordered me to take a break from the negativity or they will wrap themselves around my windpipe and start squeezing. They'll do it, too. Nasty little buggers.

So I'm declaring it "'How Cool is That?' Week" here at Seething in the Wilderness. Stick around if you'd like to smile or laugh or just go "Whoa."

How Cool is That Item #1

Hunter S. Thompson's remains will be shot from a cannon mounted inside a 53-foot-high sculpture of his "gonzo fist" emblem. The launch will be part of a big party taking place this August at his home near Aspen, Colorado.

I, for one, can't wait to see the video.

As you probably remember, Thompson died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound on February 20. About a week later, his wife Anita told the Rocky Mountain News, "This is a triumph of his, not a desperate, tragic failure. He lived a beautiful life, and he lived it on his own terms, all the way from the very beginning to the very end."

I think for most people suicide is a terrible act, an indication of despair. Hunter S. Thompson was a lot of things, but "most people" wasn't one of them.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Dude, Where's My Planet?

The bottom line...is that human actions are depleting Earth’s natural capital, putting such strain on the environment that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted. At the same time, the assessment shows that with appropriate actions it is possible to reverse the degradation of many ecosystem services over the next 50 years, but the changes in policy and practice required are substantial and not currently underway.
--U.N. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report
Not that you would know by reading/watching/absorbing-by-osmosis today's mainstream media, but 1,360 scientists from 95 nations got together and issued a State-of-the-Earth report a few weeks ago. It's called the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

The results are disturbing--in the last fifty years, humans have caused more damage than in any comparable period in human history, and nearly 60 percent of Earth's ecosystems have been depleted, in some cases irreversibly--but not surprising to anyone who's been paying attention over the last ten years.

Which would be about, what, three percent of us? Even I know most of what I know because I had to learn it for grad school. Even I don't sit down every morning and gobble up the latest environmental news. For anyone with a soul, it's too depressing. For anyone who cares about someone besides themselves, even if it's just their children and grandchildren, the reality is unbearable.

So we look away, concentrate on goals more attainable than reducing the size of our collective planetary footprint. Like world peace, or a cure for cancer.

But one day everyone will wake up, and we won't be able to switch the channel, flip the newspaper page, and think of something else. Because the consequences of our carelessness and greed won't just be in Alaska or Brazil or Tuvalu--they'll be in our skies, in our streams, in our blood.

And we'll wonder out loud to each other, why didn't anyone tell us? And the scientists will personally bitch-slap each one of us and scream,

WE DID TELL YOU!! DIDN'T YOU READ THE MEMOS?!?

The message needs to be spread in a way that people can grasp, in a way that mesmerizes but doesn't sensationalize. There's got to be a middle ground between a stack of insomina-curing United Nations reports and movies like The Day After Tomorrow. It's too easy to dismiss the latter as mere fiction, as if fiction can never be based on fact, as if fact can never be scarier than fiction.

I don't have the answers, I just know that we have to talk about it. We gotta "green up" before it's too late. So I pledge to you, this Earth Day weekend, to live up to my blog title and focus more on environmental issues. I'll do my best to highlight good news when I can find it, and include links to pictures of baby animals every once in awhile.

Admit it, you like pictures of baby animals. Like Balmex for the soul, they are.

Happy Earth Day

Love all of God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.
--Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Dare we hope?

Michael Griffin, the new NASA administrator nominee, wants to send another manned servicing mission to Hubble.

Is it possible that something good could come out of this second Bush administration? Possible that one person among all the nominees could actually be planning for the future, rather than counting on the Rapture to fix everything? How did this guy Griffin, who clearly believes in the value of science, make it through the Administration's vetting process?

Far be it from me to look a gift sane-iac in the mouth. I just hope he makes it through the inevitable "Do you believe in God or the Big Bang?" interrogation.

Friday, April 08, 2005

My Villanova talk

So I went back to my alma mater Wednesday and gave a talk sponsored by the Writers Club and the Concentration in Writing and Rhetoric.

First off, let me complain that we didn't even have such a concentration when I was there. We had "English major." We weren't allowed to concentrate. So I didn't, mostly. English was my third (but not final) major at Villanova.

I remember my undergraduate years as one long unofficial sleep deprivation experiment, so I was pleased to find out that the Falvey Memorial Library now has a coffee shop (I think it's called the Holy Grounds, but that may be the other coffee shop on campus).

When I was at Villanova, our late-night coffee options consisted of the vending machine off the computer room in Mendel Hall. It dispensed those little cups that had poker hands on them, where the first four cards are on the side and the last card is written in tiny letters on the bottom rim. If you're curious and not too awake, you may make the mistake of holding the cup full of boiling water over your head to see what your hole card is. Overall, it was better to spill it on your forehead than actually drink it.

Another mistake I didn't have to make twice was purchasing a cup of chicken noodle soup from this vending machine. I'm still excreting the sodium fifteen years later.

I remember during finals the school would pay for Dunkin Donuts to come and provide doughnuts and coffee for free all evening. Those were good times. Good times.

Anyway, my talk went pretty well, I guess. It was a nice-sized crowd, meaning not so small it was humiliating and not so big to make me nervous. People asked intriguing questions, some of which I even had answers to.

In the middle of the talk, one of the English profs told everyone that my books were hysterically funny, not realizing I was about to read a passage that was 100% Not Funny. Crowds just love the old bait 'n' switch.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Another master leaves us

A novel is balanced between a few true impressions and the multitude of false ones that make up most of what we call life.
--Pulitzer- and Nobel-winning author Saul Bellow
One of the greatest novelists of his generation, a transplanted favorite son of Chicago, dies at 89.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Downy Ocean

as we say here in Balmer. It's a brisk but beautiful morning, with the sun oozing up over the water, the waves shuffling against the sand, and the seagulls diving and mewling for a tasty morsel.

Wait. I'm not at the beach. I'm on a hilltop surrounded by farmland. No waves, no sand, but the biggest honkin' (literally) flock of seagulls I've ever seen. I have this terrible feeling that one of our neighbors decided to stop paying twenty bucks a month for trash pickup and instead has just strewn it over his yard to let the ever-obliging wildlife clean it up for him.

This is the same guy, after all, who decided to burn his yard waste in a steel barrel that was sitting just a few feet away from a wooden fence caked with dried brush. It's illegal to burn anything in Carroll County (other than cigarettes and maybe a cross or two). I didn't report him, because it seemed unneighborly and something a sanctimonius liberal urban migrant would do, but I did monitor the situation until the fire had died down, which is more than I can say for the guy who actually started it.

These aren't missing-teethed, old-Buick-on-cinder-blocks-in-the-front-yard people. They have what is at least a five-bedroom house, and they keep having extra buildings delivered to their property in the middle of the night (did you know a 3-car garage can fit on the back of a truck?), as if they're playing a live version of SimCity 4000. One day I expect to find an off-ramp from nowhere leading to their driveway.

Ah well, live and let live. Their place is at least two acres away, across a cornfield, and in the summer the trees block our view of the entire complex, so they're not bothering us.

Excuse me now while I fetch myself a chaise lounge and umbrella drink. It's time to close my eyes and soak up the seagulls' ambience. I can already smell those boardwalk fries cooking up at Thrasher's.

Cry summer, my scavengerial friends.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Girlie Ghetto

A big "You go, girl!" (do people still say that? Am I hopelessly lost in the 90's? Shut up.) to Candy at Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels. In this post (and a followup), she discusses the hostility toward romance/love stories/actual (gasp!) emotion in the science fiction genre.

In particular she cites a great article by Debra Doyle called "Girl Cooties Theory of Genre Literature" and an obnoxious rant by some guy who calls himself by the humble moniker of Vox Day (get it, as in Vox Dei, Latin for "voice of God"? Such wit!). I could sum up their arguments, but check out Candy's post instead.

This whole unnecessary debate makes me happy to stick to the fluffy-wuffy, flouncy-bouncy genre of fantasy, where girl cooties are quickly becoming the currency of choice. Not because I think I'm not "man enough" to write SF, but because I couldn't listen to the ever-shrinking flock of poorly endowed, gynophobic SF fans--who, lacking any emotional connection in their own lives, regard the experience of such by a novel's characters as proof of the End of the Future--without committing a whole menu of felonies.*

(I don't mean all SF fans, of course; I meant the small but vociferous segment who thinks that women should stay in their "ghettos" of fantasy and romance, forgetting that these genres provide over half of the publishing industry's total revenue. Which makes them pretty well-furnished ghettos.)

*a la Augustus Hill from Oz: "Prisoner Number 05-0421: Jeri Smith-Ready. Charges: Kidnaping, Criminal Mischief, Assault with a deadly weapon (hardcover copy of the works of Robert Forward). Sentence: 15 years. Eligible for parole in ten.

Monday, April 04, 2005

What breed of dog are you?

So tired. Too tired to think, thanks to Daylight Savings Time. It's like jet lag without the fun of air travel. Without the fun of security checks, tiny packages of stale pretzels, and blood clots forming in your legs. Come to think of it, I'll take Daylight Savings Time.

Anyway, here's a fun game to play: What Breed of Dog Are You? Brought to you by the new film Gone to the Dogs, which appears to have something to do with dogs.

I told you I was tired.

Anyway, I'm a French Bulldog, which is totally cool. They're on my list of breeds to get when I'm too old for the big dogs. A French bulldog and a whole flock of Japanese Chin.

Good night.

I hate cancer

Terrible news: Peter Jennings has been diagnosed with lung cancer. He's always been my favorite anchor, with his occasionally ironic, subversive undertones that told you, "No, I can't believe this *&*@ either."

I loved his coverage of the Millennium celebrations around the world, including a sobering stop in a refugee camp in the famine-stricken African nation of Djibouti, where fireworks were the last thing on people's minds. Television was at its best that day, doing what no other medium can--bringing the world together, giving it a good look at itself, and showing (occasionally) that what binds us is greater than what separates us.

But what I remember most is that he was "there for me" on September 11, 2001, on that terrible day and for four straight days until we finally had the courage to turn the television off, after his round table discussion with American children the morning of September 15. He was like a lifeline amid the fear and uncertainty, sharing our grief without being overwhelmed by it.

Jennings has apparently been ill for some time, unable to travel to tsunami-stricken Asia or even to do last Saturday's special coverage of the Pope's death. He will begin chemotherapy soon and plans to continue anchoring "World News Tonight" when he feels able.

Get-well wishes can be posted here. Snail mail address is ABC News, 7 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10025.

I freakin' hate cancer.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Dancin' with the big boy

Hey, Jupiter
Nothing's been the same
So are you gay
Are you blue
Thought we both could use a friend to run to
--Tori Amos, "Hey Jupiter"
Spaceweather.com tells us that tomorrow evening at sundown, Jupiter will rise and be at its closest to Earth all year long.

It's bright, it's yellow, it's our friendly neighborhood gas giant.

So step outside and say hi to the planet named after the Roman god of, er...of being in charge of other gods.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Roger Ebert gets it

This isn't an adaptation of a comic book, it's like a comic book brought to life and pumped with steroids. It contains characters who occupy stories, but to describe the characters and summarize the stories would be like replacing the weather with a weather map....It's a visualization of the pulp noir imagination, uncompromising and extreme. Yes, and brilliant.
--Roger Ebert on Sin City
He soooo gets it.

Quote of the (April Fools') Day

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.
--Mark Twain

NEW RELEASE!

This Side of Salvation

This Side of Salvation, Jeri's new contemporary YA novel!

Now available in hardcover and ebook.

“A smart, well-rounded, and unpredictable tale...bringing to light issues of belief versus free will, spirit versus body, and family versus self.” —Booklist, **Starred Review**

More about THIS SIDE OF SALVATION

Order from Indie Bound, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.com.

NOW AVAILABLE!

Shattered

"Shattered," a Shade novella!

Available here on this website as a free download in all major ebook formats, as well as a printable PDF (now with photos!).

More about "Shattered"

About the author

Jeri Smith-Ready

Jeri Smith-Ready is a Maryland author of books for teens and adults.

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