I figured out why my cornmeal cake turned into a blunt instrument. I glanced at the recipe and apparently noted the proportions but misread the amounts of the two types of flour, so instead of using one cup of flour and half a cup of cornmeal, I used two cups of flour and one cup of cornmeal. Oops.

Definitely worse than Yoon's apple crumble disaster, in which she forgot to put in the sugar in the crumble topping, but I salvaged it, or at least made it edible, by adding more sugar and butter and putting it back in the oven. The cornmeal cannonball had to be flung into the dumpster, where it landed with an echoing boom.

Tell me about your worst cooking disasters.
[livejournal.com profile] yhlee and I visited the YA section of Vroman's Bookshop in a quest for the ultimately awesomely angsty YA novel.

She proposed that single-syllable, single-word titles often predict great and melodramatic angst. For example, the oevre of Ellen Hopkins-- in verse-- Crank (meth addiction), Burned (child abuse), and Impulse (suicide). (I see that her upcoming book, Identical, is about "a father's twisted obsession for one of his twin daughters," no I am not kidding.) By other authors, Safe (mother is murdered, daughter is raped), Tweak (drug addiction), Cut (cutting), and Sold (child prostitution). The lone exceptions were Hoop, about basketball, and Prom, about the prom.

But then I found Jay's Book, by the same woman who wrote Go Ask Alice, purportedly the diary of a teenager who gets slipped LSD at a party, then becomes an addict and dies, and another one which was purportedly the diary of a teenager who gets AIDS from being raped. The latter has an appendix claiming that condoms are unreliable and "renegade sperm" can charge your vagina and get you pregnant even if there was no penetration.

Jay's Book is purportedly the diary of a boy who commits suicide after getting involved in the occult. The introduction warns, The voice of every kid hooked on drugs, alcohol, or the occult joins the sad chorus, "Not me! I didn't think it could happen to me. I WAS SURE I COULD HANDLE IT.

The back cover promised animal sacrifice and Ouijia Boards, and the contents did not disappoint. It was awesome. It had orgies, psychic powers, rape, channelling, tarot cards, LSD, homophobia, cutting (I think that was when I fell to the floor), wangas (occult objects from "Haiti, land of voodoo"), racism, chanting, and pot.

Other highlights included Bootan worship (I think that was Satan spelled with a B. And an O.) and the sacrifice in a graveyard of a "teeny mewing kitten" after a Bootanic wedding ceremony.

And then the real fun begins! Jay and his cult fiend Satanic druggie friends begin writing in white on black paper. They find a bull and electrocute it with a stun gun. Each organ was immediately sealed in a fruit jar. (Paging Drs. Muraki and Jezebel Disraeli.) They drink the blood and puke.

Then Satan comes after them, and two of them die in Mysterious Car Crashes, and Jay shoots himself in the head. The afterword says, apparently not sarcastically, We feel that Jay lived a pretty full life in his short 16 1/2 years. I'll say!

In conclusion, I leave you with this immortal line of Jay's, and no, it does not make any more sense in context:

The saber-toothed crotch crickets are leaving their abode.

I feel those words of wisdom embody a sentiment we all could live by.

Yoon reports my reaction to this gem of insanity. When she says I fell to the floor, she is not exaggerating for comic effect.
Kallista is a naitan (magic user) of the North school of magic. She can control lightning, and has a hot bodyguard named Torchay who is secretly madly in love with her and carries a lot of knives. Since her magic is only useful for warfare, she's in the army. Her country is invaded, she's in trouble on the front lines, she calls out to God for help, and ZAP!

She gets tons of uncontrollable power poured into her, and is now chosen by the Gods and can do basically anything, since she now has the powers of all the cardinal directions. She also has a Significant Mark, and must find all these other people with Significant Marks. And marry them. All of them. And give them no-touch orgasms. Except mostly she doesn't actively seek them, they just show up, or she randomly runs into them, and marries them the next day. And then there are many no-touch magical orgasms. You think I am making this up, but I am not.

This book had enough elements that I like in the abstract-- unconventional romances (in this case, polyamory), hot bodyguards who carry a lot of knives, complex magic systems, romances between soldier comrades, female soldiers, and a group of mis-matched heroes from different cultures and backgrounds who must work together-- that I did finish it, and yet I cannot recommend it.

It was clunkily written, poorly constucted ("This happened and then this happened," rather than "This happened, and so this happened,") read as if it was a first draft, and the succession of events is often comically abrupt. One guy shows up, displays his mark, and is married to all the other main characters in something like fifteen pages. Kallista is way overpowered, and also rather unlikable. Things keep happening more-or-less of their own accord, or because destiny or God made them happen, rather than because the characters made a decision.

Orgasm is the least interesting part of a sex scene, because one earthshaking orgasm is pretty much the same as the next earthshaking orgasm. Taking out the mechanics of sex and leaving only the orgasm is dead boring, and also un-erotic. And-- this keeps coming up, as it were-- unintentionally humorous. In a non-orgasmic instance of this problem, I dissolved into giggles every time one character very solemnly addressed a senior member of the Barbed Rose School (or some such) as "Master Barb."

Read Diane Duane's The Door Into Fire or Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series for a much better take on some similar themes and plot points.
I just discovered, via comments in my last post, why everyone was so confused in Japan when they asked what I did for a living, and I said I was a writer. Due to a pronunciation subtlety, I probably was actually saying, "I am a hill." (Sakka vs. saka.)

On other trips, I told people that my Japan rail pass allowed me to ride anything but a rat ("Nozomi," the super-fast train, vs. "nezumi," rodent) and that I was terrified of a lady's tiny, fluffy, pink-ribboned Pomeranian puppy ("kawaii," cute, vs. "kowai," scared.)

My college Japanese teacher told the class that she had worked as a waitress when she'd first come to America, and was baffled for quite some time by her customers' reactions when she asked them if they'd like a side order of lice.

Have any of you had similarly comical misadventures in language?
rachelmanija: (Default)
( May. 10th, 2007 12:48 pm)
This morning, as I sat on my floor to pick up and pack my laundry, I found a mysterious pair of shoes.

They are very nice shoes, black leather with a zip-up top, exactly the sort of shoes I would wear. Except that they are not my shoes. I do not own very many pairs of shoes, and I know the provenance of them all. Also, these mysterious shoes are a size 8 1/2, and I wear a 6 1/2. I tried them on to see if they felt familiar, and they don't. They're too large to be comfortable, so I'm sure I didn't buy them.

I pondered and pondered, and came up with these explanations:

1. I had bought them and forgotten about them due to the discovery that they don't fit, then tossed them into the back of my closet, and they ended up on the floor when I cleaned the closet, as I did recently.

2. They somehow fell into my bag when I was at someone else's house.

3. Someone broke into my house and left them there to fuck with me. Oh my God, it's Jacob! In addition to last night's Lost giving me a fear of chairs, I am now afraid of shoes!

4. Due to working on my various jobs from the instant I got up, I have not yet had any coffee this morning. That is why it took me till beginning this post to realize that they probably belong to [livejournal.com profile] umbo, who had her luggage in my bedroom yesterday.

This reminds me of my favorite message from the dojo e-mail list, from our sensei, which read something like this:

"Is anyone missing a pair of size twelve shoes? I must have put on someone else's shoes in the locker room last night, and drove home before I realized. I can't think I did that, because I wear a size nine and my feet are swimming in them."

The reason this cracked us all up is that he had, that very night, given us a lecture on alertness and paying attention to our surroundings, with particular emphasis on the idea that we should do this all the time and not just in the dojo.

...If those shoes are not [livejournal.com profile] umbo's, I am officially freaked out.

ETA: Yep, the shoes belong to [livejournal.com profile] umbo.
I am doubling a cake recipe. I just added baking powder to the flour. I now can't remember if I remembered to double the baking powder or not. It is now, of course, inseparable to all the flour.

HELP! What do I do? If I double it again and I already doubled it, what happens? If I fail to double it and it turns out I baked a cake with half the required baking powder, what happens? Which would be worse?

Doubled quantities were supposed to be four cups flour, 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powders.

ETA: I could also just dump out everything, but that seems so wasteful. Is there anything one could do to four cups of flour with an unknown quantity of baking powder in them?

ETA II: I hadn't mixed anything yet, so I scooped out the top layer and threw that out, then re-measured the flour and added correct amount of baking powder. I think.
This weekend Oyce and I were eating lunch at the Ferry Building, overlooking the bay, when we began perusing the discount book rack that was outside the bookshop, on the pavement next to us. It was an odd mix of pretty good YA (like Nancy Werlin and Paul Fleischman), decent-looking gay lit, and horrible self-help books, like Healing the Amazon Wound and Cry of the Soul-Daughter.

And then there was God is Gay.

It was a slim, yellow, self-published paperback. The back cover quotes (which we decided were sock-puppets) were decidedly strange:

Ah, it is marvellous... I read and read and then ponder over it.
--Dr. K. D. Chauhan
Jagdishnagar Society
North Gujarat, India

I just read your book and I felt 'happiness creeping over me.'
G. Rommersheim
Munich, West Germany

['Happiness creeping over me' turned out to be a quote from GiG; the narrator, Bob, feels that sensation when he talks to his soon-to-be cult leader, Daniel.]

The chapters are all headed with peculiar drawings reminiscent of the Rider-Waite tarot deck, but with more animals, some with faceted eyes and all a disturbing cross between cute and evil, like the subliminal octopus in Serenity.

It's the swinging 70s. Bob, along with God, is gay. He lives in San Francisco with his lover, Steve. Then Bob meets Daniel, who is obviously a crazy cult leader. Only Bob doesn't think so. GiG is a love letter to Daniel, Daniel's superb musculature and gentle smile, and Daniel's whack-job philosophy, which consists of crazed nattering about androids and mouseries and "the sound of hearing, the music of the spheres," not to mention "the sight of seeing, the vision of the third eye." (No, there is no scent of smelling. Alas.) Daniel points out that Asia and Asians are spiritually superior to non-Asians. (A concept which, in addition to creating many awkward encounters between obtuse Westerners and unfortunate Asians, ruined my childhood.

Bob is overwhelmed by Daniel and his circle: A very handsome, muscular man let us in. As I was introduced to him, any doubts about his gayness were resolved when he cruised me. Plus, there is gay boxing (normal boxing, gay boxers), and Daniel takes Bob out for a banana split.

But Steve, whom Bob describes in phrases like an ugly sneer crossed Steve's face, cannot appreciate the wonder that is Daniel. In fact, he accuses Daniel of being a cult leader. But Bob finally drags Steve to a meeting, where Daniel goes on for pages and pages of gibberish, including Isn't it obvious that male gays are men, with the understanding of women; who understand instinctively that war, violence, and hatred are wrong. Bob is sure this will make Steve see the light. But Steve takes Bob aside and tells him that Daniel reminds him of Charles Manson.

Horrified, Bob runs to Daniel and says, "You won't believe what Steve said about you!"

Daniel says, "Did he say I reminded him of Charles Manson?"

Since Daniel wasn't there, this convinces Bob that Daniel is clairvoyant and telepathic, because there is no other way Daniel could have known Steve said that. It does not occur to Bob that perhaps Daniel often reminds people of Charles Manson.

Needless to say, Bob dumps Steve and runs away with the perfect and telepathic Daniel. That was the point when we noticed that the book was coauthored by Ezekiel (who presumabably used to be known as Bob) and... Daniel!

There is a clearly fictional chapter in which Steve later apologizes for not being wise or brave enough to embrace Daniel. Oyce and I think that Steve is now happily working for Google, and he and his handsome live-in lover sometimes do dramatic readings from GiG at dinner parties.

Having finished Gig, we then picked up a novel by bestselling fantasy author Terry Goodkind, and opened it to a six-page scene in which the heroine is menaced by... an evil chicken.

No, this is not played for laughs. There are more excerpts at fandom wank if you don't believe me.

The bird let out a slow chicken cackle. It sounded like a chicken, but in her heart she knew it wasn't. In that instant, she completely understood the concept of a chicken that was not a chicken. This looked like a chicken, like most of the Mud People's chickens. But this was no chicken. This was evil manifest.

She is terrified! For six pages! This is the heroine-- scared of a chicken.

Kahlan frantically tried to think as the chicken bawk-bawk-bawked.

In the dark, the chicken thing let out a low chicken cackle laugh.


In between being terrorized, Kahlan remembers her perfect boyfriend, Richard. Brilliant, strong, probably omnipotent, Richard comes across as a cross between Daniel and Diego. Did I mention that he is wise, too?

Richard had been adamant about everyone being courteous to chickens.
I was on several panels, including a rather intellectually elevated one on writing academic papers on anime, during which the panel of professors frequently name-dropped Foucault and Derrida, and one on writing manga, which thank God I dragged [livejournal.com profile] telophase to because otherwise I would have been the only person on the panel.

But the Panel That Will Live In Infamy was the one on Saiyuki, which consisted of me (presumably to discuss the manga) and American dub actors Greg Ayres (Goku) and Monica Rial (lots of minor characters.) I showed up on time. The room was packed with bright-eyed Greg Ayres fans, several of them armed with video cameras. (This whole panel might be on YouTube, for all I know.)

Greg and Monica didn't show up. And didn't show up. I finally said, "I know you're all here to see Greg Ayres; I'm sure he'll be here in a moment; let's just wait a bit."

Ten or fifteen minutes past the time the panel should have started, I said, "I'm sure Greg will get here eventually, but since this is a panel about Saiyuki, I'll start talking about it, and Greg can jump in when he arrives."

Crazed fangirls: Collective groan.

Me: "Let's have a show of fake enthusiasm!"

Crazed fangirls, who thankfully had a sense of humor: "Woo-hoo! Yay!"

I introduced myself and began to discuss the manga. Just as I was starting to get warmed up, Greg Ayres walked in. He looked about my age (32) or a bit older, a short guy with a pink face and wispy blue and green hair.

Crazed fangirls: Genuine hysteria.

Greg Ayres and I begin to discuss Saiyuki (both of us) and tell amusing anecdotes about the life of a voice actor (him.) This went fine until I attempted to agree with him that the relationship of Goku and Sanzo was not sexual in nature by referring to Saiyuki Gaiden, a prequel series which is licensed and scheduled, but not yet available in English.

Me: "Let me just tell you what Gaiden is, for those of you who haven't read it in scans--"

Greg Ayres (breathing smoke): "Hold it right there. Scans are totally wrong! How dare you mention scanlations! You should never read them! They're stealing, they're evil, they're--"

Me: "Um, let me clarify. I'm not talking about reading scans instead of buying the official release. I buy the English releases of everything I read in scans. I'm just talking about reading ahead."

Greg Ayres (shooting flames from his nostrils): "It makes no difference! It's still stealing! I never do that! You should never do that! It's totally immoral! And illegal! And unethical! It destroys the livelihoods of manga creators! It's like breaking into their houses and stealing! I know of many mangaka who cannot ever be licensed in English because their work had been scanned!"

Note: I wish I'd asked him who he was talking about. It's not that I think he was lying; I just wonder if there's more to the story, as an awful lot of manga that has been scanned gets licensed anyway.

Me: "I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this. By the way, I am a manga creator, and there's more than one side to this issue. I know of some mangaka whose work was licensed because it had an online fanbase."

Greg Ayres: (Head explodes.)

Me: "Um... do you mind if I refer to Gaiden? I do actually read Japanese, so I theoretically could have read it in Japanese. It's just that it's difficult and I'm lazy... Oh, wait, I forgot, it's in the anime too! We can just say we're talking about the anime!"

Greg Ayres (pointing to crazed fangirl): "You!"

Crazed fangirl: "Can I hug you?"

Greg Ayres: "Uh... after the panel."

Crazed fangirl: (Hand pops up again.)

Greg Ayres: "Yes?"

Crazed fangirl: "Can you say, 'I love you, Sanzo?' In your Goku voice?"

Greg Ayres: "I love you, Sanzo."

Entire room: "SQUEEEEE!"

The panel then continued in a less awkward manner, except for a slight hiccup when Greg Ayres mentioned watching a series that has not yet been released in English. "I don't own this!" he added hastily. "I saw it at a friend's house! And it was a legal version! We watched it in the original Japanese! Without subtitles!"

Later that day, I spotted Greg Ayres walking by, as I sat behind [livejournal.com profile] telophase's table piled high with unauthorized fanart.

"Hi, Greg!" I said.

He stared at me like he had no idea who I was. As it had not occurred to me that he was seriously angry at me-- I thought we'd just had a disagreement, as reasonable people may do-- I assumed that, like I often do, he had merely failed to recognize me.

"I'm Rachel Brown!" I explained. "From the panel this morning."

A large, blinking neon sign reading, "I HATE YOU" materialized over his forehead. Shooting me a look of utter loathing, he seemed to struggle with words for a moment. Then he spat out, "You and I have very different opinions!" And turned his back, and stomped away.

If any of you ever meet Greg Ayres, I've got some good links to illegal download sites you can pass on with my compliments.
rachelmanija: (Ed among the ignorant)
( May. 26th, 2005 04:30 pm)
I posted this on someone else's LJ, but it was in response to a locked post, so I'm re-posting it here:

Once upon a time in Santa Cruz, which for those of you not from California is a college town filled with granola hippie artsy types, a group of hipper-than-thou theatre students decided to put on a performance piece that would really freak out the squares and prove how cool they were. The piece was called "The Mud People." They would strip naked, cover themselves in mud, and crawl from one end of the campus to the other, fetching up in the middle of the theatre department.

On the Day of the Mud People, the Mud People arrived bright-eyed, bushy-- um... perhaps I shouldn't go there... and early. They stripped naked in the woods (for UC Santa Cruz is built in and around a forest), covered themselves in mud, and began to crawl. They crawled and crawled, over gravel and brambles and other uncomfortable things, but soon became puzzled by the lack of mundanes to freak. Where was everybody? But the Mud People, of course, were too cool to use a pay phone (and had no change, anyway, for they had no pockets) so they just kept crawling. Hours later, they arrived at their destination, baffled and annoyed that they had met absolutely no one but an unflappable senior or two and a number of unimpressed squirrels.

The theatre department too was utterly empty. Thoroughly disappointed, the Mud People showered, dressed, and went home. It was not until the next day that they discovered what had happened. Being too cool to check the calendar or discuss their plans with others less cool than them, they had been unaware that the day they'd chosen for their grand event had been an administrative holiday.
I went to Brentano's to look for Saiyuki # 8, which they didn't have, and then became transfixed by Toni Bentley's butt-fuck memoir, The Surrender, about how she found God up her ass. I'm serious.

"I came to know God experientially, from being fucked in the ass—over and over and over again."

"I want to die with him in my ass"

It's... well... a pretty good read, I have to say, although I wish I knew exactly how much of the humor was intentional. A lot of it reads like Mad Libs entries where all the inserted words and phrases involve ass: "True happiness can be found... in the ass." "Love is... taking it up the ass." "The last taboo is... ass." "I never got over my childhood until I explored the joy of... ass" "My training as a ballerina prepared me for... ass."

Then I heard the sound of clapping. I went to see what was going on, and saw an author standing by a table of books, with a small audience. I went closer to see who it was, thinking that if it wasn't anyone I'd heard of, I'd check her out anyway because hey, she's on tour and some day that'll be me and maybe her book would be really cool and something I'd want to read and then I'd buy it and make her happy and justify this leg of her tour.

When I got close enough to read the sign, which advertised "Barbara DeAngelis: author of How Did I Get Here? : Finding Your Way to Renewed Hope and Happiness When Life and Love Take Unexpected Turns and
Are You the One for Me?: Knowing Who's Right and Avoiding Who's Wrong
," three things happened:

1. I realized that I knew who the author was, and that I'd flipped through some of her books before, and that I'd found them insipid, cliched, and unquestioning of defunct gender roles.

2. A woman in the audience said, quite loudly, "There's a seat here in the front!"

3. Barbara DeAngelis said, "Come on in, there's a seat right here."

Since, after all, some day it would be me up there... I pretended that I had intended to attend the thing, and obediently sat down.

Barbara DeAngelis proceeded to talk for forty minutes without break. She used words like "authenticity," "healing," "wholeness," and "transformative." She referred to Native American vision quests. She asked all of us who had had an experience we didn't expect to have happen to us occur in the last year to raise our hands. She said that we thought we'd had a good day when things like our job, our family, and our friends were all doing well, and a bad day when bad things happened to those things that we cared about, but we should have a good day because of what's inside of us, not because of outside events-- that if we were dying, we'd say it was a good day just because we were alive, so we should always say it's a good day because we're alive. She said that we don't have mid-life crises, we have mid-life opportunities for change.

I didn't want to be horribly rude and walk out, especially from my first row seat, so I amused myself by imagining how Toni Bentley would have written DeAngelis' books: How Did I Get Up Your Ass? : Finding Your Way to Renewed Hope and Happiness in the Ass When Life and Love Take Unexpected Turns into Ass and Are You the One for My Ass?: Knowing Who's Right for Your Ass and Avoiding Who's Wrong for Your Ass.

Barbara DeAngelis informed us that she had built a career out of total honesty and straightforwardness, and yet she realized that there were parts of herself that she had been hiding from the world, and so she decided that in order to be a truly authentic person, she would have to come out of the closet and reveal those significant aspects of herself that she'd been holding back out of fear.

Ass, I thought. Ass, ass, ass! Please tell us that authenticity lies in ass!.

"My psychic talents," she said. "My great work as a spiritual healer and counselor. I have helped so many people, I have so much compassion, and I wish to share that... Now... With all of you."

She looked into all our eyes, dramatically, one by one. I sat there until it went to question and answers, then I ostentatiously checked my watch, mimed "Eeek, it's late!" and fled. Even so, I'm sure she thought I was an ass.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Mar. 13th, 2005 11:26 am)
I'm not sure if the disclaimer here should be that I adore a lot of Simon and Garfunkel's music, which is why I bought the deluxe complete set on CD (albeit used), or that I am aware of their besetting sin of wussiness, and I like them anyway.

1. Art Garfunkel does not sound like the sort of person who would ever, ever rob a liquor store, and so the two songs in which his first-person narrator does just that sound a bit goofy. Also, was Paul Simon aware that there are other criminal possibilities?

Oh baby, you don't know what I've done,
I've committed a crime, I've broken the law.
While you were here sleeping and just dreaming of me,
I went and embezzled a thousand dollars.

See, isn't that more plausible?

2. I know these were all written in the sixties and maybe things were different then, but who writes graffiti in crayon?

3. The word "groovy" has not worn well.
.

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