Michaeline: David Bowie and the Borrowers

1974 David Bowie playing guitar with his hair in that fuzzy mullet.

A screwed-down hairdo, like some cat from Japan. (Image via Wikimedia Commons. 1974 AVRO’s TopPop. Licentie afbeeldingen Beeld en Geluid Wiki)

David Bowie has been part of the world-wide cultural conversation ever since the early 70s, and even though he’s been gone for more than 15 months, he’s certainly not forgotten.

He was a man who did a lot of things well. Music was his mainstay, but he also made his mark on fashion, art, video and how we think about people who are a little different. For me, his genius lay in how he would notice how various concepts – often originating from other people – bumped together, and then he would artificially reinforce the congruence, strengthen the bond until the music (or video or other new concept) held together and made something new and fresh. He was a packrat of ideas, he acknowledged his influences, and somehow he knew just how to retrieve the right bit at the right time. What a mental filing system the man must have had . . . .

He borrowed. And people borrowed from him. And so the circle goes round.

This April, two huge ripples in pop culture took place that reminded me of David Bowie.

Japanese guys in wigs with swords, duelling. Bowie is said to have been inspired by Japanese wigs like these for his early-70s hairdo.

Some cat from Japan. (Utagawa, via Wikimedia Commons)

First, there was the lipstick-smearing thing on the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad that first aired on April 4, and was pulled on April 5 for being tone-deaf. I don’t know; someone certainly had their head stuck firmly up in the early 70s, and I wonder if the ad was simply Too Early. People are mad and unhappy in 2017, and still have a lot to say about the injustices happening.

I’m sure most of our Ladies remember when we all wanted to buy the world a Coke. (Dailymotion clip of the commerical) That peace-loving anthem came out in Continue reading

Michaeline: Multicasuality, My Word Of The Week

Nineteenth circus poster with a young lady taming several tigers and lions.

My heroine has more than one tiger to tame. I need to find out which one is the most important tiger of the bunch.

Stories aren’t always simple. In fact, although you sometimes meet a story that drives single-mindedly to its conclusion like a bowling ball dropped out of a fourth-story window, usually a story will have frills and complications. Much like our world today, many of the best stories, especially if they are long ones, have multiple causes that pile up and turn into a big, beautiful story.

When we were in class the first year, we spent a lot of time talking about main plots. There had to be one protagonist, one antagonist and one major conflict that drives the story. (-: More than once, I got the comment, “Pick a lane!” on my submissions.

We didn’t discuss sub-plots that much, and how they fit into the story, but sub-plots are mostly there to support and drive the main story even faster to its conclusion.

For example, in Pride and Prejudice we’re talking about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth wants a partner she can love and respect. Darcy thinks he wants a partner he can respect – she must be pretty, witty, kind, cultured and above all, a book reader who has shaped her mind into intelligent channels. Initially, Elizabeth sees a proud man who has no real reason, and Darcy sees a country bumpkin.

The subplots promote these initial views. Mrs. Bennet’s actions when searching for husbands for her daughters reinforce Darcy’s ideas that the neighborhood is provincial and not up to his standards. Darcy’s snubs of Mr. Wickham reinforce Continue reading

Michaeline: Villainous Love

Carol Kane gazing with a speculative look into a surprised Gene Wilder's eyes

Why should heroes have all the fun? Try out the scary side of romance with your villains! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The villain is the hero of his or her own story. It’s an interesting proposition, and I have to admit, the best villains have good reasons for doing what they do. A smart, strong villain makes Our Hero’s ultimate win a more worthy one.

So, if we have a strong, smart villain (with a fatal flaw, of course), why not expand the analogy out to his henchmen, or henchwomen, as it were? And if two characters happen to have a certain chemistry, a twisted but loving symmetry, why not give them a romance of their own?

I stumbled upon such a bad romance on YouTube this morning. I’ve never watched Rio 2 (or Rio 1, for that matter), but this song between Kristin Chenoweth and Jemaine Clement encapsulates a romance between two vibrant characters who happen to have big problems keeping them apart. Jemaine’s character Nigel is an evil cockatoo, and Kristin’s character Gabi is a poisonous tree frog. While Nigel is sleeping, Gabi sings of her impossible love for him in Continue reading

Michaeline: Gordon Ramsay Crossover Writing Lessons, Part Two

A pastry chef rolling out a crust while a young girl looks on.

Put your heart into your work, and others will notice.

When Gordon Ramsay walked into the Hot Potato Cafe, little did he know that he’d be walking right out again that evening for the first time in the history of Kitchen Nightmares.

(Am I naive to believe that these shows aren’t totally scripted? Or am I just cute? Cue the dramatic music as we cross the suspension bridge of belief.)

Anyway, we’re at the Hot Potato Cafe, where Gordon is served frozen, half-warmed potato skins – a fitting metaphor for the owners and workers of this family-owned restaurant. Mistakes have left them hollow shells, their despairing wails echoing around the space their heart and their guts should be. “Help us, Gordon! We don’t know what to do!”

The chef is the owners’ niece. I can only assume that in an effort to save money, they brought in this young girl who has potential, but no formal training in cookery. She’s expected to follow the old menus and help keep the restaurant afloat. She says that the restaurant business isn’t her first choice of a career; she’s only here to help out the family.

Gordon storms out that evening because nobody seems to care if the business stays alive or not. And I think this is the first important lesson that this episode teaches: you can have money, you can have your basic materials and a venue, but if you don’t have the enthusiasm, it’s really hard to keep a business going. They beg him in the street for help, and he promises to come back the next day.

He creates a little excitement by having a baked potato contest. (Yes, I hear that bridge of belief creaking a little bit, but honestly, it’s pretty exciting.) The winner’s baked potato will make it on the menu that very evening, and bring back a touch of fresh, good cooking to the Hot Potato Cafe. Our young chef wins the contest, and she’s inspired to do a better job.

After a menu re-vamp, a free supply of Idaho potatoes, redecoration of the dining room and a good week-long pep talk, our cafe has its heart and guts back, and is ready to provide the best in potato dining in Fishtown. (See the menu for delicious chowder, that merges the cafe’s mission with the area’s history.)

So, this is what I learned: remember the enthusiasm that brought you to your art. Bring it back with short challenges, and then put your whole heart into your business.

The YouTube comments tell the story of what happened after Gordon Ramsay left. But that’s another story. For now, it’s enough to sit and write a little something that makes you happy, and represents what you really want to do as a writer. No half-baked empty potato skins. (If you do make literary potato skins, though, make ‘em fresh and beautiful and absolutely tasty. They have to work harder to impress, but they can outshine a plain ol’ baked potato when they are done with love and vision.)

Michaeline: Gordon Ramsay Crossover Writing Lessons, Part One

Gordon Ramsay with a lamb around his neck and shoulders.

Gordon Ramsay took this little lamb to school. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

WARNING: Profanity. (It involves Gordon Ramsay. What did you fucking expect?)

To a certain extent, art is art is art. Still, I was surprised how applicable some of the lessons Gordon Ramsay taught his restauranteurs were to the art of writing.

Here’s the deal: I’ve avoided Kitchen Nightmares and that kind of reality show because I heard there’s a lot of yelling, and humiliation just isn’t my jam. But I was feeling depressed, spending entirely too much time on YouTube, and the only interesting thing in my recommended feed was a clip from such a show. I’d seen Gordon Ramsay on things like Jimmy Fallon, so I decided three minutes of my time was not too big of a loss.

Dear Readers, three minutes turned into hours and hours of binge-watching over the last couple of weeks. Thanks to the miracle of YouTube, I’ve seen British Kitchen Nightmares, American Kitchen Nightmares, clips and full episodes, and an assorted chocolate box of Gordon Ramsay all over the modern media. And I regret nothing.

Yes, there’s yelling and sometimes humiliation. But there’s also a combination of mystery Continue reading

Michaeline: Turn, turn, turn.

Ukiyo-e of samurai and various servants doing housecleaning

A samurai’s home being turned upside down by the annual cleaning. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

So, the equinox is rapidly approaching, and no matter where you live, the seasons are ready to turn. The southern hemisphere will enjoy the second harvest, and in my little corner of the northern hemisphere, mud season has officially begun! Mud doesn’t sound all that pleasant, but believe me, after a long white winter, the mud is looking very good.

The turn of the seasons is a great time for revitalization. In Japan, spring equinox is a public holiday, so I’ll have an extra day this weekend to declutter and get ready for spring break – the end of the school year, and when I’ll be able to use up all my leftover holidays.

A good turn depends on good balance. If you are overloaded and try to corner the season, there’s a good chance you’ll flip over into the ditch. I’m going to get rid of some of the stuff that’s holding me back, on several levels.

First, let’s start at the purely physical plane. My writing desk is unusable. It’s covered in fabric, unread books, and mystery odds and ends. It’s got to go, and by next Saturday, I want to have a flat level playing area. Continue reading

Michaeline: New Penric! and Thoughts on Life-Long Love

A still life with two masks.

The fourth Penric novella by Lois McMaster Bujold is a delightful episode! (Image via Goodreads; cover design by Ron Miller)

So, first the most exciting news I had all week: Lois McMaster Bujold’s new Penric novella, Mira’s Last Dance came out this week (February 27th and 28th) on all the usual e-outlets! And it was fantastic! If you were left hanging a little bit by Penric’s Mission, then you’ll be pleased to hear that the story picks up from that point, and we get one lovely episode of courtship via political intrigue, escape and a brothel. That Penric is a delightful travelling companion, and I recommend the journey.

I’m not going to spoil you, though – Bujold reports that the novella is 28,000 words, which is perfect for a large pot of tea and an afternoon on the sofa. Spoil yourself.

What I am going to talk about is something that Mira said in the book. She’s the . . . well, the ghost/image of an Adrian courtesan who is part and parcel of the past lives that make up Desdemona. (Desdemona is the demon in Penric’s head.) She has a very clear and pragmatic view of sex and love, and mentions at one point,:

“The darling men used to imagine they’d fallen in love with me all the time. Most of them were actually in love with their own cocks.”

Ah, yes. And thus, genitalia doth betray us all. Continue reading