Words, Books, and Other Magic

Happy Birthday, Star Wars

Forty years ago today, Star Wars came out and, dare I say, changed the world. Here’s my own Star Wars story.

I didn’t get to see it in May when it first came out. I was in boarding school, and we were having finals and packing to go home for the summer. It was good bye to my friends and teachers for a few months and getting used to the idea of having parents hovering around me all the time. And I was turning sixteen–that magic age when you get your driver’s license (Had I known what a non-even that was, I wouldn’t have cared at all). I went back home to California and signed up for summer school driver’s ed and driver’s training to get that all-important license by the end of summer.

While in summer school (don’t ask me to remember even one of my fellow students from that summer), I kept hearing about this movie that was fantastic. My mother wanted to spend  some time with me, so I told her about this film everyone was talking about, so we decided to go to Westwood to see Star Wars. Remember, my mother was (is) a Hungarian immigrant who lived through WWII bombs and major poverty and hunger as a child. Then Hungary went communist. Not the most stable of childhoods, although she had a loving family. She was almost twenty when she and my father escaped and lived in refugee camp for two years in Austria before coming to the US.

I remember the day well. A line snaked around the block and we took our place in it, waited a while, got our seats. Then the lights dimmed and and the now famous, but then revolutionary, scroll rolled out over the screen. I didn’t come back to this planet for the next two hours. To say I was blown away is understatement. The movie encompassed and portrayed everything a naive, yet intelligent dreamer believes in. I walked out with my insides cheering, energy bubbling through my veins, and a huge grin on my face.

Darth Vader Balloon–ABQ Balloon Fiesta

My mother, on the other hand, said, “I didn’t like it.”

I was incredulous. How could she not like it? It had good guys and bad guys, and the good guys win. The action was incredible, the effects amazing. It carried you off to a different world. Nope. She didn’t like it and didn’t understand it.

We’ve had many a conversation since then, and a few things have become clear to me. As my mother claims, she doesn’t understand fantasy or imagination. She doesn’t understand how escapism helps anything, and she views the world as it is. Her favorite reading is non-fiction, and if she reads fiction, it had better have a deep, deep serious meaning. And yes, she has admitted that she doesn’t understand how I can write books or come up with stories. She doesn’t have stories in her head. The world is as it is. She believes that’s because of her childhood and experiences.

Me? Well, I went on to see Star Wars five more times that summer, and countless since then. I took my sister the next few times and for the all the sequels. Star Wars spoke to the morally rigid, naive sixteen-year-old I was, and in many ways still am. I believe in the good guy and the good fight, wish the world could be more black and white (although really the shades of gray–not 50–give more interest to the world), and believe that deep down most people are good. Sometimes we just have to remind them of it. Loudly.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Redshirts by John Scalzi

The Librarians and the Lost Lamp by Greg Cox

Food

I recently traveled to Boston to visit the younger twin. We did a couple of tourist things–the Stewart Gardener Museum, the Aquarium, and does the science march count?–mostly it was about seeing each other. We had to eat however, and I must say the food left a lasting impression on me. While New Mexico has its own special place in delicious cuisine, I am used to it, and it doesn’t excite me. In Boston I was able to have a couple of gastronomic experiences that were different from any I’ve experienced at home.

First was the Asian Fusion sandwich I had at Foumami. It was steamed chicken on Shao Bing bread.

From Foumami’s website

Flavors of cilantro and greens melted throughout every bite (which if you don’t like cilantro is a problem, but for me, I can’t have enough.). I would have loved some Nuoc Cham to dip in, but that’s a minor quibble and I’m mixing countries and cultures. But it was different and new. At my age, that’s saying something. I would definitely go back if I could.

Second was the special prex fixe lunch we shared at the museum cafe, a very nice place to eat (Not museum food). The theme running through out the meal was nasturtiums. Every dish had them. The best course was the soup opener–a green gazpacho made from cucumber and other freshness with a yogurt foam on top. And nasturtiums. Incredible. I could drink it as an energizer every day. (If anyone reading this has access to the recipe, pass it on.) Second course was rooibos encrusted cod on celery root and nasturtium purees. With teff. First time I’ve every eaten celery root, nasturtiums and teff. Absolutely delicious. The dessert was a nasturtium cake with whipped cream, mango sherbet, and a delightful salted caramel sauce.

Third was the sushi meal I had. I love sushi and eat it fairly often, but I do live in a land locked state, and although I know delivery methods are quick, I’m still a little wary of eating sushi in New Mexico. Let’s just say you don’t come to Albuquerque for the fish. This sushi was fantastic. And at the end of the meal, they gave us Mochi ice cream, which I’ve never had before.

My mother hates eating out, even when she travels, but for me travel is all about eating out and trying new foods, so I rate this trip a success. And yes, the reconnection with Twin #2 was awesome as well. As was the march (#Resist) and the museum and the aquarium. But I don’t like to cook and unfortunately, I like to eat. Traveling gives me the ability to eat without cooking. And, no, I didn’t take pictures. I don’t do that.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling (Can you believe I didn’t pick this up before now?)

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Spring has Sprung…

…and that means I wake up each morning deciding if this day will be a breathing day or a mouth-breathing day. Ugh. Allergies. My eyes itch, my nose itches, my lips are chapped, my nose tingles,  and I sneeze often. I am not a dainty sneezer. Yup, I am at my most attractive in springtime.

The only time I don’t feel allergies this time of year is in the shower, in the bath (at least I can read in the bath) and on the volleyball court. Been playing a lot of volleyball lately. I even traveled to Arizona for their senior tournament and we won the gold for our age division. Yeah, yeah, I know, but senior games start at age 50. Get back to me when you reach that age and tell me how you feel.

Age sucks. When you’re a child you want to be older. When you’re older you don’t necessarily want to be younger, because you feel young on the inside, but you could do without the body aches. In all seriousness, you really don’t think you’re old until you move. In fact I believe I am more true to myself now because I’m too old to care what others think about my taste in movies and books. And inside, I am still the neurotic young adult I was back then. With bad knees.

Duckies!

So the whole rebirth/renewal theme. Bah, humbug. Spring is just a time for me to get through until the allergies stop. I am just as likely to re-examine my life, restart a project, renew my goals, etc., in the middle of winter as I am right now. So now it’s on to the ongoing projects started last fall (Like the book I’m co-writing with my daughter.)

But I do like the flowers.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Three Men in a Boat  by Jerome K Jerome

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

New Shocking Revelations!

Did I lure you in?  Because I am about to share some shocking revelations. Or maybe not so shocking. Whatever. >shrug<

I like pineapple on pizza. Especially with ham (or Canadian bacon).

Mmmmm, pineapple pizza.

It’s about the only pizza I like. I don’t like thick crust (it’s never cooked all the way through); I like thin crust. ChicagoStyle is a nightmare. I will eat veggie pizza, preferably with alfredo or garlic sauce, not tomato. And I love tomatoes. Pizza has never been my go to food. I’d rather eat a burger.

I don’t like wine. I have tried to like wine, but I just don’t. I spent a day on my last vacation touring vineyards. I loved learning about the process. I loved the smell of the fermentation, and even the smell of the wine, but every time I tasted it, I was sorely disappointed. So I’ve given up.

I don’t like coffee. Just as with wine, I love the smell of coffee. I love to walk by the grinder at the store and inhale deeply. I love coffee ice cream. But coffee itself…yuck. The taste is awful. And the newest research shows that coffee is good for you.

Why this post? Because recently I’ve started revealing my political leanings on my other social network sites. Up until this year, I’ve never done that. I was always afraid I might alienate a potential reader. But, heck, my readership hasn’t launched me into a stellar career, so screw it. There are some actors I can no longer watch because of who they are or what they stand for. And if there was ever a time to stand up and be brave, it’s now.  So I’m joining their ranks and standing up because I fear for the future.

And if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a flaming liberal. I have important LGBTQ people whom I love in my life, I am the child of immigrants, I have a special needs child, and we just hooked up solar to our house.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

 

A little succor…

I did start a small, tiny, little (Yes, I know those words all mean the same thing) movement yesterday. @ActualEPAfacts was giving away a cup of Starbucks coffee ($5 gift card) to the first 20 people who responded. I was the first, but I responded with, “Don’t send me a gift card; donate it to someone in need.” The next guy responded with, “Give mine to the lawyers at Dulles.” Out of the first 20, 17 of us were gave coffee to the lawyers working pro bono for the immigrants held at Dulles.
Okay, so the lawyers probably could probably get their own coffee, but they were fighting the good fight and wouldn’t leave their stations. I admire what they did and I was proud to be able to support them in this way.
Do small gestures really help? I would argue they do. Maybe not to change the world, but to change one person’s life. No, even that might be too big. Maybe just to let someone know that they are supported and aren’t standing alone. It gives me strength when someone compliments my writing, and helps me through the next brick wall I hit in my writing. It lets me breathe better to know someone out there cares.
In these trying times, I do my small part and hope it isn’t ineffectual. Do my phone calls make a difference? Maybe not, but at least I tried. Do my posts make anyone change their mind? Probably not, but at least I stated my position and someone might take comfort that they aren’t alone in their thinking.
So here’s a cup of coffee for you, friend. Fight on. #Resist.
–Gabi
Books I’m reading now:
The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

When you can’t think of anything to blog about…

 

Random list of favorite movies (in no particular order):

Notting Hill

Shawshank Redemption

Star Wars

Harry Potter (Including Fantastic Beasts)

Almost anything Pixar

Almost anything Marvel

To Catch a Thief

Casablanca

Singing in the Rain

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

The Green Mile

Ghostbusters

Indiana Jones

Now You See Me

Second Hand Lions

The Dirty Dozen

And I’m sure several more that slip my mind at this moment.

This…because I’m still deciding whether to hide my head in the sand or be brave.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Well of Ascension by Brian Sanderson

Mistborn by Brian Sanderson

 

 

 

Crying at Commercials

I can’t watch TV any more without a box of tissues by my side. I cry at everything these days. My emotion button is so big and so easy to punch that I feel as if I’m leaking. I used to cry like this when I was a kid until my parents kept telling me to stop, so I did. It’s taken decades to let myself cry at anything again. And I love it. They’re not usually tears of sadness, just tears of emotion (Except at those dog videos on FB. Why are people posting those?). And it feels great. And then I laugh at myself and I feel even better. Here are a bunch of holiday ones to start you off.

It’s the same with movies. I just saw Moana. I cried through half of it. Not because it’s sad, but because it’s so . And because I realized that I need to hear the voice of my soul again, which is the key message of the movie. I haven’t heard it for a while and it’s time for me to listen again. I think all the crying I’ve been doing (good crying) will help clear away the muck that’s been dampening the song.

Time to sing again.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine

The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks

And the point is ….

I have been frozen. Figuratively, not literally. I can’t bring myself to write because of the explosive and uncertain times we now live in. As a student of history (yes, I have a history degree), I can’t bring myself to think that my puny little career can change anything. As a student of literature (I have two lit degrees), I know that fiction doesn’t change the world. Few, very few, books have had an effect on bringing about social progress. Yes, I know that reading fiction encourages empathy, but I don’t have enough readers to make much of a difference anyway (That is not a whine; it is a statement of fact. I write because I like to tell stories; I have long since given up the delusion that I will have enough influence to affect a difference.)

Right now I’m trying to figure out what I can do.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Rereading for escape: The Ryria Chronicles by Michael J Sullivan

Games, Puzzles, and Play

In which I look at one of my favorite pastimes.

I love games. This is my games closet.

My games closet. Probably could use some organization.
My games closet. Probably could use some organization.

I would rather stay home and play games than go out anywhere. Even when we went to Costa Rica, I brought two decks of cards, and on two separate extremely rainy nights, we played canasta. That’s right. I’m forcing my children back into the dark ages. We spend many an evening playing games like Ticket to Ride, Seven Wonders, Settlers of Catan, and the latest ones I’ve tried were Carcassonne and Pandemic. And don’t forget the old stand-bys like Scattergories, Balderdash, Pictionary, and Cranium. I have one game that I love that most people haven’t heard of called Scrutinize. I don’t know why that game didn’t become a classic. It’s great.

We play card games and board games. We even play sports games, e.g., volleyball and golf. Robot Guy and I like competition so much that we used to play crazy eights in bed to see who would have to turn out the lights.

When I’m alone, I love puzzles. Sudoku, crossword, logic (especially logic), jigsaw; I love them all. My favorite video games are the ones where you solve puzzles. Just recently I subscribed to the Mystery Experience Company and they send a mystery to solve every month. I’ve only done one so far, but it was well done and of high quality. Just my sort of thing. Games Magazine has been an on-again-off-again subscription for me for years. And, yes, I am the person that does the puzzles in the back of the airline magazines.

I have yet to try one of the escape room puzzles, but they require a group and that brings up a problem. With the kids out of the house and being such a homebody, it’s basically just me and Robot Guy. In fact many games require more than two people. I’d love suggestions for two person games.

My next move is to watch a few of Wil Wheaton’s Table Top videos. I really can’t understand why I haven’t seen those yet.

–Gabi

 

Books I’m reading now:

The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Binges

In which I examine TV.

I have glommed every show I was really interested in watching on Netflix, and have now moved onto my second tier, the ones that look okay, but aren’t exactly my thing. I have a rule: if it doesn’t capture my attention in three episodes, I won’t watch again. So what shows did capture my attention? Number one is Leverage. It had the perfect blend of suspense and humor and good old-fashioned justice to keep me riveted. I aim to write stories that capture the feel of Leverage. I also enjoyed White Collar, The IT crowd, Silicon Valley, Psych, The Detectorists, and Dr. Who. I also enjoy some grittier fare: Person of Interest, Burn Notice, Midsommer Murders, Foyle’s War, and yes, even NCIS and Criminal Minds. I thought there weren’t enough episodes of Lie to Me, and The Finder, and I’ve stopped watching The Glades because I know the series ended on a cliffhanger that will never be resolved. I don’t need any more unfinished stories to haunt me the rest of my life. Get any grittier than that, and I won’t watch (Criminal Minds is right on that line).

This is Tonks. Tonks watches TV too. Especially animal shows.
This is Tonks. Tonks watches TV too. Especially animal shows.

There are a lot of other shows I like, but these are the ones that I watched on binges. I’ve tried watching other shows that people binge on and talk about, but I just didn’t get into them. I did watch BReaking Bad, but it wasn’t really binging because it took a while to watch. Robot Guy and I watched together and he isn’t a binge watcher, so I had to wait. It isn’t my kind of thing. I can recognize the great writing and the terrific acting, but I watched for two reasons: one, it’s Albuquerque, and two, everyone said I had to. No, I don’t always do what everyone tells me to, but as a member of the popular culture community, I need to be familiar with phenomena. I’ve read a few books because of that too. (shudder)

Still, Leverage stands out. I like to laugh; I like the light touch in storytelling; I like justice in an unjust world. Leverage does that perfectly. It hits the same notes I try to hit in my stories.

I don’t really have a point to this blog. It’s more like emptying my brain of extraneous thoughts, like a pensieve. Maybe it’s just to show you my taste and hope you’ll try some of my books to see if I’m spot on or completely insane to think that’s what I write. Maybe it’s because I’m so effing disgusted with the state of the world and real news right now, I just want to escape.

By the way, Game of Thrones has gone from binge to regular watching, so it didn’t make this list.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine