Welcome to whatever is on my mind!

Some people use the term "nonsense" but I prefer to use the phrase "uncommonly sensed" because it's more reflective of creative types.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Plans for My Bookish Trip to New York

I’m headed to New York this Spring for Book Expo America. Since my trip is a very bookish one, I’ve started putting together a list of bookish things to do while there. Here’s what I have so far. Please feel free to list any additional suggestions in the comments.

Central Park
I’ve been to New York a number of times on business and have never had the opportunity to see Central Park. On this trip I'll make time to go there. Aside from all the books that mention the park, such as the famous scene near the end of Catcher in the Rye that takes place at the carousel, there are also statues of writers such as Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and William Shakespeare. Bronze writers - how fun is that???

The Algonquin Hotel
Dorothy Parker and the round table. Need I say more?
Note to self: pack extra snark and wit. And shoes that go with snark and wit.

The New York Public Library
I’d really like to meet Winnie the Pooh, and this is where he currently lives along with the original Piglet, Kanga, Eeyore, and Tigger. I'll ask him what it feels like to be 90 and kept in a glass cage.

McSorelys Old Ale House
Many literary types have passed through this pub  - including  John Lennon, who just happens to be one of my favorite lyricists. The pub calls itself the oldest operating saloon in New York and it’s the setting of e e cumming’s poem “i was sitting in mcsorley's” (the title makes it a bit obvious).  Oh yes, Abe Lincoln has been there, too.

Strand Books
I just want to go in there and small all those books! This is an independent family-owned bookstore that opened in 1927. If I can find a member of the Strand family, perhaps I can interview the person and find out what they know that Border’s didn’t.

White Horse Tavern
The famous place where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death (18 shots of whiskey). Other literary patrons who were more modest in their drinking behavior include Jack Kerouac, James Baldwin, and Norman Mailer. Note: by “modest” I simply mean that they stopped before the point of death.

This legendary bar is closed right now due to collapsed chimney a few years ago. But if it opens again I'll be going there to check it out and breathe in the ghosts of literary greatness. Former patrons include writers such as Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, and T S Eliot. It is rumored that Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s wedding reception took place there, also.

Minetta Tavern
Another literary tavern rife with the spirits of writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Eugene O'Neill, E. E. Cummings, and Dylan Thomas.

Pete’s Tavern
This tavern calls itself “the oldest continuously operating restaurant and bar in New York." O. Henry was a regular customer at the establishment, as it says along the edge of the awning (extra points for subtlety!). I might actually check out the food here so that I have enough energy to make it to the next literary tavern.

This is my list for now. As you can see, I’ll be drinking a lot. It seems to be a tradition for writers in New York and, therefore, I’ll be doing my part to maintain the custom. I hope my traveling buddies are diligently building up a tolerance so they can keep up with me.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Recipe: Miss Havisham’s Broken Heart Valentines

I have teenage children who refer to Valentine’s Day as “Celebrate You’re Not Single Day.” I realize that the commercialized version of Valentine’s Day is not everyone’s favorite celebration and that it can even be a painful reminder to those of us who are uncoupled, whether a teenager or not. So in an effort to have some fun with this holiday and to twist things around, a few years ago I started shaping Rice Krispie treats into hearts. Then I broke the hearts and made them “bleed.” It occurred to me that this is exactly what Miss Havisham* would do and, being a lover of literature, I have therefore named these treats after her.  I'm including it today as part of the Southern Writers "Eat My Valentine" Blog tour (see the schedule in the right margin).  Below is the recipe.

Step One:

Mix up a batch of Rice Krispie treats following the directions on the box. I do a variation of this that is 1 stick of unsalted butter slowly melted with one bag of large marshmallows. Once the marshmallows are completely melted I add a teaspoon of vanilla extract (you can use peppermint extract or another flavor to mix things up a bit.). Finally, add the Rice Krispies and Stir to coat evenly.

Step Two:
Spread out a long sheet of wax paper. Spoon about 1.5 cups of the Rice Krispie mixture onto the wax paper. Use your hands to shape this mound into a heart. You can either grease your hands or place a sheet of wax paper over the mixture as you work. Repeat this step to make more hearts until you run out of mixture.
Note - You will need to work quickly.

Step Three:
Let the hearts cool and harden - like Stella’s heart in Great Expectations :)

Step Four:
Using a knife, cut a jagged line through each heart to “break” it.

Step Five:
Pour red icing or raspberry jam over the broken heart to make it bleed. You can also use cherry, strawberry, or another red colored jam.

Step Six:
Eat your broken heart out because being single never tasted so good.
Take THAT, Miss Havisham!

* Miss Havisham was the old spinster in the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations. Because she had her own heart broken on her wedding day, she taught her adopted daughter, Stella, to break the hearts of young men.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Scarpati Interview: The Scorpions Deadly Sting Cover

Interview With John Scarpati


You may not know the name John Scarpati, but I’m positive you’re familiar with his work. He’s a photographer who has done hundreds of album covers, including a number of which became gold and platinum records. Take a brief moment to look over the list on Scarpati's Wikipedia page (note: Wikipedia only has a partial list of his covers). He’s also published a book of some of his images from the 80s called Cramp Slash & Burn: When Punk and Glam Were Twins.

Scarpati is not just talented and extremely personable, he’s also a friend of mine (because I only hang around the nicest people). So I spent a few hours talking with him about some of the work he’s done and he graciously answered my questions. Below is part of our conversation on the making of the Scorpion’s Deadly Sting album cover.


Question: What is a typical job like?
Answer: There are no typical jobs. One of my favorite aspects of photography is problem solving and that no two jobs are the same. Especially if you’re doing concept photography, you never know what it’s going to take to build and bring a concept to fruition. It could be location, studio, props, getting the right team together. You can never be completely ready for a shoot and that’s what excites me about what I do. every day is a new adventure with a new set of problems.

Question: Tell me about shooting the Scorpions “Deadly Sting” cover. What kinds of problems did you have and how did you solve them?
Answer: For the Scorpions cover we needed 300 live African Emperor scorpions as part of the set.

Question: How do you find something like that?
Answer: Turns out there’s a guy named Jules Sylvester  who supplies reptiles and insects for movies and photo shoots, so I worked with him. He brought us a few different kinds of scorpions and several hundred of each so that we could pick the ones we wanted.

Question: So then Jules handled the scorpions for you?
Answer: You actually need one certified scorpion wrangler for each hundred scorpions on the set. This is required for insurance, so we had 3 animal wranglers on the set.

Question: How did all those scorpions do on the set?
Answer: They got really aggressive under the lights because the tungsten lights are very warm. So we had a small window of opportunity to work with them before they became too aggressive and feisty.

Question: Is there a way to calm them down? Or how did you handle that?
Answer: They calm down when they’re cooler, so we had to cool them off in the refrigerator.

Question: Was this a special refrigerator unit?
Answer: It was a regular kitchen refrigerator. We unpacked everything to make room and the wranglers put the scorpions in containers so we could cool them down. We went back and forth between the refrigerator and the set. We had about 5 minutes under the lights before the scorpions became too aggressive and all hell broke loose where they tried to get out of the set.

Question: Did the scorpions naturally get into the poses you wanted or did you have to work with the temperature as they became more aggressive?
Answer: If they’re calm, you can blow on them with a straw to get them into the hero pose. So we had this small window of time where the wranglers were blowing on them and I had move the camera into the set and set the shot.

Question: What about the girl? Was she on the set with these scorpions?
Answer: The girl in that shoot was a lot safer than you might think. She was photographed separately against a 20 foot by 20 foot sky backdrop and the scorpions on her were ones that had died in transit. We superglued the dead scorpions into aggressive positions and placed them on the model’s body. Then we used photoshop to put the image of the model into the picture with the live scorpions.

Question: Were you glad to be done working with scorpions when the shoot was over?
Answer: Actually, I picked the biggest scorpion on the set, which turns out was also the oldest, and I kept him for a pet for about three years until he died. It was a normal lifespan for a scorpion because he was already old when I got him, but I named him Klaus, after the lead singer of the Scorpions.

Finally, take 2 minutes to watch this short video on the making of Scarpati's book Cramp, Slash & Burn. Some of the canvases will be on display at Bongo Java in Nashville during the month of May.

Cramp, Slash & Burn... "When Punk and Glam were Twins" from john scarpati on Vimeo.

More about Scarpati:

He wanted to be a painter.
He wanted to be a rock star.
He ended up being neither – and both.

Scarpati’s Website
On LinkedIn
Scarpati's Wikipedia Page

More Info on Cramp, Slash, and Burn:
CSB Website
CSB on Facebook
Online Book Preview

Links for Scarpati's Book Eyes Wide Open:
Online Book Preview
Eyes Wide Open on Facebook