Experience Inspiration & Wonder July 15, 2015Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Fiction, Writing & Writers.
Writers bring ashes of the past to the surface, quilting tapestries of interwoven gilded threads.
Our words, when real, create connection.
Stories reel us in when driven by believable characters residing in the “real world” (even if that world is make believe ~ like Harry Potter and Hogwart’s).
When characters feel real, we understand where they’re coming from, we relate to their challenges, we feel their pain, and we want to see them succeed.
We keep turning pages. We wonder what’s coming next.
Wonder is why I love Mary Poppins, Nanny McPhee, Harry Potter, and Alice ~> the perfect juxtaposition between familiar elements (British nanny, boarding school) with unfamiliar elements (tea parties on the ceiling, shifting staircases, rabbit holes).
These stories cast charming and disarming spells: Expelliarmus!
Aah . . . that’s better!
A Bolt of Lightning December 8, 2014Posted by nrhatch in Fiction, Gratitude, Happiness, Life Balance.
“M-O-M! Christmas is ruined!”
“The mall exploded! It got hit by lightning and a generator blew up. It’s closed until January.”
“Yes! Christmas is ruined!”
“Calm down . . . there’s always Cyber Monday.”
“Ugh. I hate on-line shopping. No pushing. No shoving. No lines.”
Joan smiled at her daughter. “And worst of all . . . no food court!”
Cathy collapsed into a chair. “I’m going to go into serious sugar withdrawal without my weekly Cinnabon!”
Tossing the flyers into recycling, Joan stood. “Don’t worry. We’ll think of something.”
Joan found her husband tinkering at his workbench. “Paul, the mall has closed in a puff of smoke.”
“So I heard.”
“Yup. I heard Cathy’s concerns about Christmas and Cinnabons loud and clear.”
“What are we going to do?”
“Are you daft? Shopping. Gifts. Christmas. Ringing any bells?”
Paul caught Joan’s gaze. “Let’s make hand-made gifts.”
“You have sawdust for brains.”
“Hear me out. Instead of poring over flyers, hunting for parking spots, and lugging piles of stuff home, let’s create gifts from the heart. I’ll make wooden trains, planes, and puzzles for the kids. And a pipe rack for your dad.”
“What about me?”
“Your friends would love your homemade fudge or toffee . . . or one of your famous Grand Marnier cakes. You could make your mom that wreath she’s wanted.”
Warming to the idea, Joan returned to the kitchen and grabbed her recipe file.
Soon delicious aromas circulated, mingling with carols. As fragrant cakes baked, Joan created a starfish and sand dollar wreath for her mom, scented candles for her sister, and an afghan for Cathy.
Paul spent hours in his workshop emulating Santa’s elves. Sawdust flying.
Instead of waiting for the Big Day, Joan, Paul, and Cathy delivered treats to delighted friends throughout December.
Christmas morning, Cathy served fresh home-baked Cinnabons to her parents and grandparents.
Between bites, Joan grinned at Paul, “Hey, sawdust for brains! That was some bolt of lightning.”
Aah . . . that’s better!
Joan’s famous Grand Marnier Bundt Cake:
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1 small package instant vanilla pudding mix
1/2 cup cooking oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Combine all ingredients and mix well, about 5 minutes, with an electric mixer or whisk. Pour into a well-greased and floured fluted Bundt pan (or 10-inch tube pan). Bake in pre-heated 325 degree oven for about 50 minutes.
OPTIONAL: Drizzle with Grand Marnier glaze or sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. NOTE: Cake Freezes well before topping.
CHEF Left A Bad Taste In My Mouth November 5, 2014Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Fiction, Happiness, Humor.
It’s not just that you feel you wasted your time by watching it, but you feel they wasted their time by filming it, marketing it, distributing it.
CHEF is just such a movie:
* Chef Carl Casper loses his job at a prominent L.A. restaurant when he refuses to compromise his creative integrity in the kitchen.
* He teams up with his pre-pubescent son to launch a food truck in Miami.
* He reignites his passion in the kitchen by pressing paninis and frying yucca.
A plausible premise poorly prepared and implausibly served . . . with plot holes large enough to swallow a Food Truck.
The biggest problem is the time line.
In a single day, a short 24-hours, Chef and his 8-year-old son manage to clean out a dilapidated, worn out 1988 food truck (delivered with food rotting in the fridge), shop for ALL the supplies they need to trick it out, install new kitchen equipment (flat top, stove, fryers, etc.), buy food, test out the menu, and get the messed up exterior of the food truck professionally painted ~> effectively turning a rotting pumpkin into a gilded chariot overnight.
Cinderella couldn’t have accomplished that level of transformation with the help of her fairy godmother’s magic wand.
By Day #2, Chef, his son, and a faithful sous chef (who dropped everything to fly across country and get the show on the road) start serving Hot Cubanos on South Beach. To immediate acclaim.
A police officer parts the crowd to ask Chef and his Merry Men if they have a permit to serve food.
How’d that happen? When’d that happen?
Satisfied that they have perfected the panini, the trio commence a road trip across country, stopping for beignets in New Orleans ~ a promised treat for the son. In the time it takes to eat a bag of beignets and brush the sugar dust from their lips, a line forms around the block with people anxious to eat Chef’s Cuban sandwiches. They’re just that good!
Who knew that a food truck license from Miami would transfer to the Big Easy?
But wait! They continue on to California, with a pit stop for Pit Bar-B-Q in Austin Texas. Chef believes he has reclaimed his Culinary Integrity by serving cubans, sliders, beignets, and fried yucca ~> not exactly the inspired menu we envisioned him creating when he quit his job because he couldn’t exercise complete Creative Control in the kitchen.
Now, instead of crafting Molten Lava Cakes around frozen ganache, he and his merry band are sliding ham & cheese sandwiches out of a panini press, frying up yucca, and serving barbecue sliders . . . on store-bought rolls.
I could think up a more creative menu than that and I don’t even own a Chef’s knife.
Or a magic wand.
The food critic who panned the Chef’s mundane menu falls in love with Chef’s glorified grilled cheese sandwiches and offers to partner with him by opening up a new restaurant.
Of course he does.
So Chef abandons the food truck (and his longed for autonomy and creative freedom) to work for someone else. Again.
Why do I have the feeling of déjà vu?
Oh, right . . . because he’s right back where he started.
Of course, by following his heart, Chef reunites with his son, re-kindles the flame with his ex-wife, and they remarry.
In his new restaurant.
How’s that for a happily-ever-after ending?
Aah . . . that’s better!
Caramel Apples At The Fair October 20, 2014Posted by nrhatch in Fiction, People, Poetry.
My niece Emily, now 21, loved horses growing up ~ real ones with toothy grins and wooden carousel horses racing in perpetuity on Merry-Go-Rounds.
In August, I shared a 25-word story about Emily urging a carousel horse to go faster, Falling On Deaf Ears.
That reminded me of this horse tale from years ago.
* * *
They’ll go to horse shows and compete for first place
They’ll ride round the farm and win a horse race
They’ll see the excitement at the State Fair
And make new memories while they are there
* * * * *
The day of the Fair dawned bright and clear
Emily headed to the barn, overflowing with cheer
She saddled up Trixie with her usual care
All the while chatting about what they’d see at the Fair
They headed for the trail and cantered up and down
Until they spied the Ferris Wheel towering o’er the ground
“Oh, look, there it is! We’ll have such fun, me and you.”
Trixie neighed as if to say, “I’m excited too!”
On the midway, they smiled as they took in the sights
Clowns, rides, barkers, and colorful flashing lights
When Emily got hungry, she knew just what to do
She stopped for a caramel apple and ended up with two
“Trixie loves apples . . . and sugar cubes, of course ~
a caramel apple is perfect Fair food for a horse!”
Emily held out the caramel apple and Trixie bit in
After swallowing the treat, she shared a toothy grin
That night, with Trixie in the barn, Emily curled up in bed
Smiling at the images twirling and dancing in her head
She and Trixie had made memories they would always share
Of the day they ate caramel apples while visiting the Fair
Aah . . . that’s better!
Beyond A Reasonable Doubt September 3, 2014Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Fiction, People.
Beyond a doubt, Beyond A Reasonable Doubt is not reasonable . . .
Many facets of the contrived plot don’t make sense because people wouldn’t act that way in the real world. The performances aren’t anything to get excited about. And the timetable of the movie is way off.
That said, we enjoyed the film’s predictable twists, turns, and straight-aways.
The basic premise: An investigative reporter sets himself up as the prime suspect in a murder by fabricating circumstantial evidence after the fact to boost his career and expose a corrupt district attorney who is fabricating D.N.A. evidence after the fact to boost his conviction rate.
Life is full of pot holes on the journey from Here to There. This film emulates life. Navigate around the plot holes and you’ll reach the beginning in the end.
Aah . . . that’s better!
Short Short Stories August 20, 2014Posted by nrhatch in Fiction, Humor, Word Play, Writing & Writers.
A local newspaper solicited short short stories (25 words or less) to run in the paper during the month of August.
At the end of the summer, one story will be chosen as “the winner” and its author will receive a culinary prize from . . . The Lazy Lobster.
I like lobster. Even lazy lobsters, which are easier to catch. I also enjoy playing with words, so I submitted a few short shorts:
The Best Thing About Getting Older
Audrey watched her 97-year-old neighbor sail by on a bike: “You’re such an inspiration, Vivian. What’s the best thing about getting older?”
“No peer pressure.”
[We have a 96-year-old neighbor who still rides his bike and NEVER worries about peer pressure.]
Sophia hated waiting.
A woman in purple scrubs passed by, “Sorry, Sophia. Your chemo will start soon.”
Great. More time to kill . . .
[Fiction. Through and through. The only Sophia I know is NOT undergoing chemo. Which is good since she’s only 9.]
Busted light. Sparks flew. Son professed innocence. Mom’s cross-examination shed light. Son came clean.
“I might have hit the hot bulb with a wet towel.”
[Fiction. Sort of. Borrowed from an anecdote Janna shared with me.]
Where’s the ESC Key?
Memories erased, a hard drive malfunction. A lifetime abased, software keeps crumbling. Circuits and synapses fried, no longer firing. Fumbling thoughts stumble, a graceless nosedive.
[Prompted by watching “creeping senility.” No, not mine! My parents.]
Following Our Gut Instincts
Ralph leaned over his bike’s handlebars, revealing serious belly bulge. John pointed, “That’s not a 6-pack . . . it’s a keg!
Ralph laughed, “I’m following my gut!”
[Prompted by seeing a guy in tight biker shorts with no shirt.]
Pretty Swift, eh?
Category: 19th Century Authors.
“Final Jeopardy answer.”
“Alex hasn’t revealed the clue.”
Cue clue. Contestants stumped.
Answer announced: Jonathan Swift!
[True story. Just one of the amazing Winks, Whispers, and Nudges I’ve experienced from the Universal Matrix/Web.]
A Secret Made For Sharing
Mom hid dad’s birthday cake. “It’s a secret.” Jamie nodded. Seeing dad, the cork popped and 2-year-old Jamie squealed, “Cake in ‘ere! Cake in ‘ere!”
[True story. For 2-year-old, birthday cake is too exciting to keep secret.]
How Do You Do That?
My husband waved an opaque bag, “Guess what I bought!”
The answer drifted in . . . “PEZ dispensers.”
“How do you do that?!”
“Sometimes I just know.”
[True story. Sometimes I just know. And it always freaks BFF out.]
He’s Five. I’m Three. Do the Math!
Terrified by my older brother’s taunts, I screamed for back-up. “M~O~M!!! Jamie’s gonna hit me!”
Mom (a clueless only child) replied, “Well, hit him back.”
[I am NOT a tattle tale! Or a cry baby. Stop saying that . . . or I’m gonna hit you! And don’t go running to mom. She won’t do anything anyway.]
“Stop rocking the boat!”
“Learn to sway.”
“No. I’m leaving. Today.”
“I may . . . one day.”
[Fiction. Just playing with rhyme time.]
Falling on Deaf Ears
As the Merry-Go-Round slowed to a stop, my 3-year-old niece kicked her wooden carousel horse to urge it forward. “Don’t Stop, Horsie! Don’t Stop!”
[True story. The niece in question is now 21 and knows that kicking wooden horses will not make them speed up.]
Aah . . . that’s better!
Her June 18, 2014Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Fiction, Life Balance, Mindfulness, People.
In the Spike Jonze movie, Her, Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson are perfect for each other . . . if you’re willing to overlook the fact that Samantha is the Operating System of Theodore Twombly’s computer.
The new wave of artificial intelligence packaged with a sexy voice.
Her, a quirky, amusing, and thought-provoking film, reminds me of issues raised in Robot & Frank, when Frank Langella, a retired cat burglar who’s tired of retirement, befriends a robot and creates a shared history.
In these days of cyber friendships, when gadgets and apps connect us via screens around the globe, the criteria we use to evaluate relationships is changing.
Someday, perhaps, dating an Operating System will be commonplace.
Aah . . . that’s better!
Have you seen the film? What’d you think?
Related post: The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Häagen-Dazs & Pretzel: A Fairy Tale March 22, 2014Posted by nrhatch in Fiction, Humor, Word Play, Writing & Writers.
Once upon a time, an extremely unattractive and petulant misanthrope grew tired of living in close proximity to a bunch of Nosy Parkers.
“Hell is other people,” Mizzie Borden muttered while stirring a cauldron of Cream of Newt Soup. “Always butting in where they don’t belong.”
She decided to follow Thoreau’s footsteps into the woods. She surfed MAXEDOUT.com and found a small cottage with a large oven and great curb appeal. Real eye candy.
Mizzie purchased the cottage without requesting a home inspection. An army of ants nibbling the gingerbread siding wasn’t the worst of it.
Walden Township raised property taxes, FEMA hiked flood insurance premiums, and subsidies under the Unaffordable Health Care Act never materialized.
Desperate to make ends meet, Mizzie advertised on Angie’s List as an unlicensed child care provider (a/k/a “a babysitter”).
The next day, a woodcutter left Häagen-Dazs and Pretzel in Mizzie’s care.
“I’m off to protest mountaintop removal by short-sighted privateers intent on raping the earth of its coal. Soon, there won’t be any trees left for me to cut. I’ll be back at 5.”
Häagen-Dazs and Pretzel proved to be both crude and rude.
Impatient for lunch, they pulled the gingerbread siding off her cottage and ate it. Ants and all.
When the woodcutter didn’t show on time, Mizzie shoved Häagen-Dazs and Pretzel into the oven for a “time out.”
Unbeknownst to Mizzie, the oven was blazing.
“Oh, well. I warned Häagen-Dazs not to play with matches.”
Following a half-hearted investigation plagued with bureaucratic foul ups, bribery, and corruption, the police dropped all charges. Mizzie returned home and became a writer (the best occupation for misanthropes).
Unable to find a publisher for her horror stories and fractured fairy tales, Mizzie self-published. Fueled by her recent notoriety, Eat Mor’ Children took off in a blaze of tweets.
Paparazzi became a nuisance, sitting in trees with long lenses.
“Every blessing is cursed!”
Mizzie stormed the glade, “Get off, the lot of you! Go shoot Cumberbatch’s bitches!”
When entreaties failed, Mizzie invited them for lunch. As lunch.
If not for government-sanctioned invasions of privacy, Mizzie would have lived happily-ever-after.
“No one’s gonna miss a few pesky paparazzi.”
Except for other Nosy Parkers.
NSA (National Screening Agents) intercepted Mizzie’s e-mails, including her recipes for “Paparazzi Primavera” and “Children Cacciatore.”
“Hell is other people,” Mizzie muttered, when arrested. ”Always poking about where they don’t belong.”
* * *
Join the fun ~> Susanna’s March Madness Writing Contest is Here!
Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking. ~ Lawrence Clark Powell
Related post: A Fairy Tale Tribunal
Illustrations: Wikipedia ~ Hansel & Gretel (in Public Domain)
No Regrets January 28, 2014Posted by nrhatch in Fiction, Gratitude, Happiness, Health & Wellness.
David, hat in hand, stood framed in the doorway.
“David! Come in . . . it’s so good to see you.”
He hung back. “I figured you’d never want to see me again.”
“I do want to see you. Very much. Please come in.”
He looked at Barb and frowned, “This is all my fault. You’re stuck in here because of me. If I hadn’t dropped you . . . ”
“It was an accident.”
“You make it sound like I spilled a glass of milk.” He nodded at the chart at the foot of the bed. “What do the doctor’s say?“
“Well . . . the psychiatrist is frustrated. He’s waiting for me to be angry. Or sad. Or angry. Angry would make him happy. He wants me to grieve. To rail against fate.”
“Why don’t you?”
“Besides the fact that I’m getting a kick out of doing the unexpected?”
“Yeah, besides that.”
“I don’t know. I’m just not angry. The psychiatrist is sure I’m in denial. He scowls when I smile and shakes his head when I laugh and tell him about my day. He scribbles madly on my chart when I say anything positive.”
“So you’re driving him crazy.”
Barb grinned. “Yes. And I take great pleasure and pride in that.”
“Maybe you are in denial. Maybe it just hasn’t caught up to you yet.”
“Maybe. But I don’t think so. I think I’m in a state of acceptance. At peace with the “what is.” Any day could be my last. If this is my last day, why would I want to spend it crying over spilled milk?”
“This is NOT spilled milk, Barb. You’re paralyzed from the waist down. I ruined your life. Forever.”
Barb reached out and touched the back of David’s hand, “No, you didn’t.”
“How can you say that?”
“Easy. Even in a wheelchair, I’m not as crippled as those who allow emotional scars to eat them alive. People like that walk through life without seeing the good. They are blind to the present moment. Being paralyzed may keep me from walking, but it’s not going to blind me to the wonder and delights of life.”
“I just want those 5 minutes back. If I hadn’t been showing off . . . ”
“Let it go, David. I forgive you. Forgive yourself. Let go of the guilt. Let go of regret. You’re my best friend. I don’t want you to destroy your life.”
“You mean like I destroyed yours?”
“Shall I be honest?”
“Yes. Give it to me. I can take it.”
“I would not choose to be in a wheelchair. But I don’t get a choice in that right now. It is the “what is.” How I relate to that issue is the issue. I can crawl into a ball and cry . . . or I can look for opportunities to laugh and smile. I can hang on to anger . . . or I can embrace peace. I can choose to be sad . . . or choose to be happy. I choose happy.”
Barb reached out again and covered David’s hand with hers. “I want you to do the same. For me. Be happy. Live life with no regrets. Find whatever joy you can. Don’t take life for granted. Life is good, but life is short. Bad things happen. Laugh when you can.”
Aah . . . that’s better!
Is happiness an inside job? Are we buoyed up or dragged down by the thoughts we choose to think?
Is Barb right? Does hanging on to pain, regret, guilt, fear, anger, and sadness weigh us down more than losing the ability to walk?
Quote to Ponder: How refreshing the whinny of a pack horse fully unloaded! ~ Classic Haiku
Just Cause January 27, 2014Posted by nrhatch in Fiction, People.
“I don’t care what the judge said. No way am I going to convict him. He and his family have been through enough already.”
Charlie grabbed the pitcher and poured a glass of water, sloshing some over the side of the glass.
Swiping the water off the conference table with his hand, he continued, “I would do exactly the same thing if anyone did that to my wife. That animal deserved to die.”
Joe jumped in. “Even if the guy deserved it, that’s not a defense. We can’t continue to exist as a civilized society if everyone who has a gripe against someone takes the law into his own hands . . . ”
“A gripe?!” said Allison. “Give me a break! That fucker raped and tortured the defendant’s wife for hours while the defendant was forced to watch. As long as animals like that are roaming the streets, we cannot claim to be civilized. Sam did what any decent husband would have done. Not Guilty.”
“We can’t do that,” Steve said. “We took an oath. We agreed to follow the law. You heard the judge. We have no choice. He’s guilty.”
“Yeah, I heard him . . . and you heard me,” said Charlie. “I am NOT going to convict him of murder. I don’t care if we sit in this room deliberating for the next 12 months. You will NEVER get me to change my mind. That fucker, as Allison put it so well, deserved to die. That’s a sufficient defense for me. I vote to let Sam walk out of here a free man.”
Other jurors sounded in on one side of the debate or the other. Then Sue turned the tables by asking, “What about the psychiatric testimony?”
“What about it?”
“Well, the psychiatrist said that people can *snap* with less provocation than this, right?”
“Well, if Sam *snapped* that’s temporary insanity. We could find him not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.”
“We could . . . except that Sam testified that he knew what he was doing, he knew that it was against the law, and he did it any way.”
“Yeah, Sam didn’t leave us much wiggle room. It’s almost like he wants us to find him guilty.”
“You’ve got a point. Maybe he feels guilty about mowing the guy down with his car as the bastard left church.”
Cal snickered, “Perfect timing for a hypocrite like that.”
“Wait. Back up. Didn’t the judge say we could accept or reject ANY of the testimony?”
“He sure did.”
“Even undisputed testimony?”
“Yup. Hey . . . I see where you’re going. If we reject Sam’s testimony that he understood what he was doing, we can conclude that he was temporarily insane at the time of the accident.”
“Exactly! He’s not a psychiatrist . . . what does he know?”
Joe looked around the room, “You’re all determined to let this guy walk?”
Everyone nodded, except Steve.
Joe nodded in Steve’s direction, “What say you?”
“I’m not sure. The judge expects us to find him Guilty based on the law he gave us. But . . . ”
* * *
The Courtroom stood at silent attention as the jurors filed into the jury box.
Barney O’Grady sat at the prosecutor’s table chewing on a pencil. Sam Williams, the defendant, stared down at his hands. His attorney, Jack Riley, attempted to read the jurors faces.
Several jurors glanced Sam’s way. Usually a good sign. Not always.
After the preliminaries, the Judge looked at the foreman, “Has the jury reached a verdict?”
“We have, Your Honor.”
“What say you?”
“We, the jury, find the defendant Not Guilty.”
“So say you all?”
“So say us all.”
Aah . . . that’s better!
What say you? Did the defendant have “Just Cause” to do what he did? Did the Jury?