Coffee Boy ~ The Movie!

Coffee Boy, the short film based on my play, is now available to watch online!  The film was written and directed by my friend Erwan Ripoll, and features Michel Durand, Anne Fauchon, Serge Réquet-Barville and Sébastien Ferrand. With music by New Tango Orquesta. Enjoy and share with all your peeps!  For information about my play, please contact me.

For more cool stuff about the film–including a behind-the-scenes Making Of video–visit Coffee Boy‘s page at erwanripoll.com.

Cheers!

Story Lab Chicago Launches & Other Updates!

Hello Friends! So, like Happy New Year!  Boy, is this site due for an update.  October seems so far away now.  And I’ve finally posted all my photos on Flickr of my amazing California trip. To follow up on the previous post, Story Club was an awesome time, if a little mellow due to the cold November rain that evening–which has beauty in itself of course.  Hoping to get back next month to maybe snag an open mic slot.  I have a Valentines Day themed piece that could be good….

In the mean time, I have a storytelling gig coming up on Wednesday January 19, 2011 at 7:30 pm at the Black Rock Pub on Damen and Addison in Chicago. Story Lab Chicago is a new venture by the fine folks at This Much Is True.  SLC features new and new-ish writers/storytellers.  Check us out!  And visit the web site and become a fan on the Facebook.  I’ll be debuting a new story, which is still coming together, but getting there. 🙂  If you see me in Caribou this week, you’ll know what I’m doing.

Other writerly goings on these days….

~ Coffee Boy, the movie, wrapped production at the end of August and was officially released on October 15, 2010.  World wide distribution and domination is pending film festival slots and other goings on.  In the meantime, check out the film’s page on direct0r-adapter-friend Erwan Ripoll’s site HERE.  Also with this project, I have my own IMDb page. I want to think that makes me cooler than before, but I guess not really. 🙂  Still, exciting.  There isn’t much on it, though I submitted the link to this site to be included.  So, visit it and up my “Star Meter”!  (Though I think I’d have to pay for that first….)

~ Battles With Boys took another step closer to reality thanks to a handful of friends and a class room at DePaul University where I was able to share an official first draft of the show as a full length entity comprising of various short pieces.  A discussion proceeded and there is much to think about.  The next step will hopefully reach a wider audience.  More to come….

~ Mining My Life: This past year has been in part focused on organizing all that I Have. Loose pages of high school and college poetry, 7th & 8th grade assignments, ETC, are all in one handy folder in order which works for the chaos of it all.  My 19 handwritten journals plus my private cyber journal are getting the personal indexing treatment (getting there….) so that I can quickly look up things instead of spending hours trying to find it.  My journals have been particularly helpful for my CNF work–and along the way I’ve gotten inspiration for my fiction as well.  Journal #1 will come in handy for an upcoming project landing this Spring (TBA…!)  This all helps my brain process the fact that I’ve reached the age where the past is just as overwhelming as the future.

~ NewTown Writers: Leg work to be done soonly on Solo Homo 9.  Stay tuned….

~ Open Books:  One of my goals for the end of 2010 and into the new year was to do a little volunteer work.  Thanks to the fine folks at Open Books (Chicago’s leading literacy non-profit), I’ve been able to work a couple sessions of the Adventures in Creative Writing Field trip program.  So far, I’ve worked with high school girls on prose, and 3rd graders on poetry.  The little ones were more into it.  I have a couple more sessions this month as well.  If you’re so inclined, you should check out all the volunteer section at the site.  Shown below is a cool photo someone snapped of me and my 3rd graders who make you fall in love with them, then they leave and break your heart just a little.

Well, that does it for now. If I’ve forgotten anything (it happens), I’ll shoot another post.  Cool things abound in 2011.  Can’t wait!  Cheers.

Feeling the Heritage with Joe Frogger

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On Labor Day, Ernie and I bussed it downtown to see Julie & Julia (and had to walk an extra few blocks due to Oprah’s blocking of Michigan Ave.)  The film, as you probably know, is in part based on Julie Powell’s book, which in turn is based on her blog (and by the way, she has a new one.  Cool.)  Ernie bought the book on CD, which served us well for travels to Detroit this summer. The CD, with Julie herself reading & living in the moment, was a wonderful way of experiencing the book.   And I’ll say here that some of the naysayers on Amazon are just mean.  The film of course is also in part based on the life/biography of Julia Child, who I mostly knew from glimpses on PBS and SNL reruns with Dan Ackroyd , etc.  Didn’t Phil Hartman do her too, or am I making that up?  We both loved the book and the movie, and now we have a steady supply of Rose’s Lime Juice for gimlet cravings (Julie should look into getting a cut of the increased Rose’s revenue, yo.)  After the movie, we had lunch outside at Bistro 110, who all through August definitely worked the Julia Child tie-in.  We were unapologetically dorky about it with our server.  We craved sauces loaded with butter and were not disappointed.

The experience of Julie Powell’s story has naturally lead to discussions of what kind of project can I do? I’m sure I’m not the only writer who has been inspired to commence on a project of a parallel nature, and dreamed of their blog/book/life being made into a film with Ethan Hawke starring as himself.  Right?  While a few ideas ranging from the tongue-in-cheek to the legit have bounced around in our brains, I’ll keep those to myself for now.

In the mean time, I can write an occasional post here detailing a cooking/baking experience that maybe someone out there in WordPress/Facebook/InterWeb Lands may care about.  So Hello.

While my mother did not own a copy of Julia Child’s cookbook, she did have her share, a few of which I’ve acquired since her passing in 2002.  Recently, in a final purge of things in the former family home basement before my brother sold it, I picked up Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book. Originally published in 1963, my copy is the sixteenth printing from 1974, my birth year (while quickly googling the book, I saw it was re-printed/re-published in 2002.)  It’s a beautiful specimen in all its vintage glory. (Did I just call something from the year of my birth vintage??)  The drawings and photography are quite simply–awesome.  The book wasn’t exactly and everyday staple for my mom, but it was handy to have.  As it will be handy for me to have.

Flipping through it, I was amused by the section on “Heritage Cookies.” Maybe “amused” isn’t the right word.  More like fascinated.  The intro blurb conjures images of pioneers harvesting maple and making their own sour cream while also addressing the, um,  modern 1960’s palate.  Made me want to take a trip to Greenfield Village. The first Heritage entry is a recipe for Joe Froggers, rich with Autumnal spices and molasses.  Every year, I set out to get into the kitchen with a couple personal traditions on or around the first day of Fall (High Holy Day!)  I thought some of these Froggers would make a fun addition to the mix.  So I set off….

I admit to not knowing the term Joe Frogger whether in or out of relation to what is a basic molasses ginger snap type cookie.  Call me Cooky Challenged.  So, there’s a person and a story behind the recipe–I like that.  The recipe shares a little info about the cookie’s origins, but I wanted more.  Somewhere between making and baking the dough, I looked up the name and found THIS ARTICLE from Marblehead Magazine. Cool.

Let me pause to say that I was slightly miffed to discover several recipes online include rum, while Betty Crocker’s does not. This makes me wonder if there was some sort of Prohibition type thing going on in the BC world of books.  Rum is not listed anywhere in the index. I smell a conspiracy theory.  Next time I make these, there will be rum.  Oh yes, there will be rum.

I read through the recipe Tuesday morning and realized a couple things: I had to refrigerate the dough.  Okay, no problem, will adjust my plans.  And also, I would need a rolling pin.  Did we even have one?  While talking to Ernie shortly after making this discovery, I was like, Hey is there a rolling pin anywhere in this house?  He thought maybe, but also thought it could’ve disappeared in our recent move and donations to his mother’s summer garage sale.  I know I owned/had access to one a one point–but it could’ve belonged to my old roommate, Sarah.  I looked.  Didn’t find one.  So to my list it was added.

Did a little seasonal shopping for this and other things.  I needed shortening.  Our last, half used and yellowing can of Crisco was pitched in the move. I hit up our local chain supermarket, picked up a few things, but was thwarted by the kitchen aisle: No rolling pin!  Whole Foods was next–it’s a beautiful and dangerous thing to have one in walking distance and so much more rejuvenating than the supermarket.  In the baking aisle, I had a flashback to helping a friend of mine reach for the molasses at the back of the top shelf a few weeks ago.  Whoa.

Following the recipe was a pretty basic experience accompanied by my Folk music mix on my iTunes.  Adding the water to the sugar-shortening-molasses mixture made for some inedible looking soup, though.  The recipe also called for me to “Measure flour by dipping method….”  I was referred to page 5 where I learned that this basically means to just dip the measuring cup into the flour and level off with a knife.  Okay.  But this implies  to me: A larger than life bag of flour; actually keeping the flour in a canister all old school; maybe scaling down to measuring one cup at a time.  With valuable cupboard and counter space at stake, we have a normal sized bag of flour and no canisters.  I used the “Pour the flour right into the measuring cup method”  which totally works for me.  Once everything was mixed together, it all made sense.  I wrapped it, and let it hang out in the refrigerator for the rest of the day and overnight so it could do all its scientific stuff.

I did make a special trip to get a new rolling pin that evening–a focused bus ride down to Bed, Bath & Beyond.  An accomplishment among many.  Rolling out the dough yesterday afternoon definitely took me back to the work days of Christmas cut-out cookies with my mother and her mother.  It’s amazing what rolling out cookie dough can do–and I wasn’t even planning on it.  All that inherent knowledge got me though it for sure as I rolled and cut out with my 3 inch circle cutter (from a set purchased at Whole Foods, bless them.)

Later in the afternoon, while stopping at the supermarket for dinner stuff, the kitchen aisle was full of rolling pins.  I swear they were not there the day before!  Oh well, the one I got is bigger, badder, and can do more damage.

I of course had to try one from the first batch, and it was delightful.  And tasted like our heritage.  In that I mean, from my taste buds, I felt a little stirring of patriotism–in the good sense of the word.  The real patriotism and not the haters twisting the word around and making me feel ashamed.  At the same time, I still had images of watching the highly offensive yet fascinating slavery-era film, Mandingo, bouncing around my head from my Tuesday film night with friends.  The story of Joe Frogger and his wife and the cookies is a story that seems to overcome the gross racial issues from our Revolutionary and Antebellum pasts.  Right…?

Yep, all that in a cookie in my 21st century kitchen in Chicago.

According to BC, “the cookies are as plump and dark as the little frogs that lived in the pond near Joe’s cottage.”   But I gotta say, they fit  more with lily pad comparisons I’ve read.  Good and soft, but not exactly plump.  Except for that last one, where I balled up the last of the dough and just flattened it with my hands. Its lumpy density and not as circular shape gave it the rightful name of Frogger.

They’ve had their time to cool and hang out on our counter.  But now it’s time to get them into the cookie jar. We may not have flour canisters, but we do have a corner reserved for the groovy ’70’s dark green mushroom cookie jar of my youth, and that seems to be a perfect place for them.  Luckily, I won’t have to climb up on a chair to get to them.

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Band of Brothers Revisited

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This afternoon, I finished watching the special features in the Band of Brothers DVD set.  Thus completing my 2nd full viewing of the film. I’d been keeping an eye out for a discounted copy since last time I watched it, I borrowed my brother’s set.  While back in South Bend for a day trip to teach class, we ventured over to the Best Buy, and there, on the shelf in the HBO section were new copies at 50% off for a limited time.  So for only about $30, each episode plus extras was mine.  Score!  AND with cheaper Indiana sales tax to boot.  Once upon a time, Ernie had expressed interest in watching it with me–mostly I think because of Ron Livingston and his Sex & The City connection.  When I brought it up with this purchase, he’d forgotten about his initial interest.  So I was on my own.  While Ernie was down in Kansas City this past month working down at the Coterie Theatre, I had plenty of time.  Watching it solo means I can rewind parts and get as obsessive as I want.

I’ve written about the film and its connection to my writing & family projects–and general WWII interest before.  So I guess this is a follow up to previous posts: Workshopping “Guns” and  The War. I’m not completely sure if this follow up will have a conclusive point, but we’ll see.

I’ll report that I’ve recently revisited my piece, Playing Guns. This past May had me working two deadlines.  I had my Solo Homo piece to work as well as my 2nd Story submission.  I wrestled with starting from scratch for this submission, but given the state of Life and Art I had to make some executive creative decisions.  I ultimately didn’t get a slot for the next round, but I feel good about my work on the piece.  I received some solid feedback and totally agreed with the things to work on as far as fitting the piece into the 2nd Story aesthetic.  I’ve also chatted with my new 2nd story pals and don’t feel discouraged at all. I love what the group does and hope to be more a part of it down the road.  This latest revision process found me restructuring and slicing and dicing (for both time and focus) and really had me looking at things with a magnifying glass.  I feel part of my problem, though, was that I was in a way trying to cram a non-2nd Story into a 2nd Story mold.  Some of it fit–and some of it didn’t.  Next time I can work on the piece with new found focus, but without any restraints (and I’ll have a better idea of what I’m doing for my next submission!)  Getting the piece readier and readier for Battles with Boys. It’s coming….

Back to the film.  I mention it indirectly in the piece.  War films and images play an important role in the story.  My interest and into obsession are a part of the story.  It’s so damn good.  I know it has its detractors and people who get their panties in a bunch over various things (various inaccuracies & poetic licenses, the anti-Stephen Ambrose camp, etc.), but I don’t get into that, and don’t let it bother me.  I appreciate and celebrate it for what it is (and before I forget, I can’t wait for the follow up, next year’s The Pacific!)  I love the story.  I love learning the stories behind the stories.  I love learning about the real guys behind the “characters.”  I love learning more about the actors (especially the lesser known ones.)  It’s EASY (pun intended) to become just a little obsessed. My “BoB” bookmarks are filled with things like THIS and THIS and THIS.  Though I do have my limits.  There are those who know which weapons came out when and who had what and noticed how they changed in the film and all that (even I, a huge Cure fan can’t rattle off remix titles like they were my own children as some fans can.)  But each to their passion, I say.  I haven’t read ALL the books.  The new one looks interesting.  I am interested in reading Tech Sgt. Don Malarkey’s (adorably played by Scott Grimes in the film), though.  I’m happy to have this film in my collection and will revisit it when inspired to–and continue to let it (and its gorgeous score) inspire me in Life and Art.

This all keeps me thinking about family and history and our own stories.  I caught Diane Rhem’s show this morning (not on Chicago Public Radio, but on Michiana Public Radio–yay internet!).  She featured Vincent Cannato, author of American Passage about the history of Ellis Island.  The subject of immigration to Canada also came up–which is what my Grandpa V’s parents did back in the day (making me part Canadian, ya know!)  I have his handwritten story about his growing up there and his move to Detroit.  One of my projects for the near future (I thought maybe today, but we’ll see…) is to start transcribing it into a Word file.  If for nothing else but to preserve and share it.  But there’s also some tidbits of inspiration in there for other projects.  It’s good stuff.

All this is connected. Other people’s old photographs and stories; MY old photographs and stories. Maybe getting a feel from their lives can add to an understanding of my own history.  I still have access to some things, but unfortunately not to everything.

Right now, I feel like I’m at the borderline of public musings and private journaling and things that will become other things.  So I’ll end here and wish you all much love.