Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pres. and Jacqueline Kennedy: France

[From JackieStyle, by Pamela Clarke Keogh]
> > > > While the president and first lady's official trip to France was initially seen as a fashion show for Jackie (Tish Baldrige recalls that it was quickly dubbed "the Jackie French Trip"), there were bigger stakes at hand. And Jackie knew it.

At the time of his election, Kennedy was not well known in Europe. As an isolationist or, worse, an appeaser during World War II, his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, had not helped to further our European alliances. In the eyes of world leaders like de Gaulle and, more important, Khrushchev, whom the Kennedys would be meeting in Vienna after France, JFK was a lightweight with a rich father and a good haircut who had ambled into the White House. This European trip was meant to prove them wrong.

France was a perfect stage on which to present President and Mrs. Kennedy to the world. ... < < < < <

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


The notebooks I was writing about last week were from France (Clairefontaine); then today I find out that my favorite Italian restaurant in Boston, the Marliave, is a FRENCH name -- all those years ago, ordering fettucine in there, I had thought "Marliave" must be an Italian name.

Shows what I know.

Next topic -- French things.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Since I write, I like pens & notebooks; want to share with you today my favorite notebooks and a few details:

in last couple of posts, I was misspelling "Clairefontaine" -- I left out the middle "e" I think.

Clairefontaine notebooks -- don't know all the stores you can buy them in, I get mine from The Daily Planner in NYC, ordering by phone (I send them a money order and they send me the notebooks).
Oh, OK, here' s a description right in the Daily Planner catalog, which I'll publish here -- and evidently you can't get these notebooks anywhere else, it says "exclusively" --

"Imported exclusively from France by The Daily Planner these modern and playful lined notebooks feature dynamic colors, a mix of styles and bold superimpositions. Like all Clairefontaine notebooks, they feature paper made from pulp and wood by-products from forests independently certified by PEFC as sustainably managed. 90 sheets. Available in ..."

And it goes on to list current colors. The colors and patterns change, over time. The covers of these notebooks are textured, the designs both bright and sophisticated. I love writing on the paper because it's so SMOOTH -- the pen just flows. And you can write on both sides of each sheet because the pen doesn't go through.

With less expensive, locally-purchased notebooks, I don't even think about writing on the back of the sheets. Paper's thin. I decided that's OK, though -- for a change.

In the Notebound, and the Carolina Pad notebooks, I use only the fronts of sheets, and write on every other line, instead of every line. As a result I'm flying through these notebooks -- will have to purchase a "short stack" of them; that's OK too.

Notebound is sort of wide and flat-feeling, to write on, the paper medium-smooth. Not super-smooth like Clairefontaine; that's all right, the pen gets a unique, firm "purchase" on the paper and gives me a different and good feeling when writing.

Carolina Pad regular -- paper smooth enough, and great for Project Journal -- project planning. Rings at left side: DOUBLE rings; excellent.
And Carolina Pad 100% recycled -- has a totally interesting roughness to its pages -- not "roughness" in a bad way, I should call it a healthy, fibrous texture onto which the pen fastens and rolls with your notes & ideas at a pleasantly attentive pace, and with a good feeling.

I think "Carrie Bradshaw" (Sex - City) would write in a Clairefontaine notebook if she were not at her lap-top. Tina Turner also would like Clairefontaine paper -- Tina loves quality!

Carolina -- 100 recycled, I think Henry David Thoreau (Walden Pond guy) would have liked to write in.

Carolina Pad -- regular -- President Barack Obama would like writing in the Carolina Pad / regular notebook because it's pretty plain, middle-of-the-road, and he would probably say to me, in good humor, "You're getting way too into this 'notebook' riff, my friend! Just a plain one for me, will do it!"

And the Notebound notebook. Hmmh. I cannot think of any famous people who might like writing in Notebound, so I'll write in it myself.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

best notebooks


The four best notebooks, in my opinion:



Carolina Pad

Carolina Pad, 100% recycled paper.

I buy the Carolina Pads and the Notebound at K-Mart; the Clairfontaine at The Daily Planner, a store in New York City.

Since I don't live in NYC, I call & order these notebooks, three at a time.

More Notebook exposition tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Best notebooks (part 1)

Writing (blogging) about using a Project Journal while writing a novel (or whatever) has brought me to the subject of notebooks.

There's a song that goes, "I love a parade!" in a sort of jubilant attitude.

I actually love a notebook.

Like a make-up artist is drawn to all the varieties of eye shadow, lipstick, foundation, loose powder; like a mechanic who has the best pocketknife and tape measure around; like the cooking enthusiast who loves using his designer pots and pans, I --
in my free time, and so love pens and notebooks.

Another day we'll discuss expensive pens that don't write very well. (Another topic for another day.)

Today, it's notebooks.

Time being limited, I'm going to offer you four words, and then more tomorrow:




Monday, September 21, 2009

Project Journal: Novel -- example

Examples from the Project Journal of a real, published (and popular) writer: Sue Grafton.

Excerpts from her "Journal notes" for the mystery novel "K" is for Killer:

Starting off again with a fingertip stroll through my file called Homicide Set-Ups...pulling out four articles.

Here are some things I want to include:
Henry's birthday.
William and Rosie's wedding.
Maybe a plane trip just to get Kinsey out of Santa Teresa.

I went back and printed out large hunks of the G-Journal. It's so amazing to me to see the system at work. I'm hoping a new story will come into my consciousness.

How about an old-fashioned unsolved murder case?
Parents are angry because nothing's been done.
Case is old & cold, with no new leads coming in.

Going back again to pick up the two charts I made for the books I've done.

1. lists the book, the sex of the victim, the motive for the murder, the sex of the killer, and the nature of the finale.

2. lays out the set-up for each book: who hires Kinsey Millhone and what she's hired to do.


That's an example of a writer's Project Journal. From clear back -- 1993. (Doesn't seem like it should be that long ago....)

It's like the expression, "thinking out loud" -- the writer is "considering out loud," or rather "considering on paper."

Have discovered through my own experience that if you (I) pick up a pen and start writing, thoughts will occur to me that didn't before I was writing -- and thoughts and ideas will become ordered in ways they didn't before, when I was just thinking about them, even if it was one of those sensuously relaxing yet thrilling think-fests that we can have while on a long drive, or while lying down with eyes closed but not sleeping....

Friday, September 18, 2009

Project Journal

I've read from several different sources that it's good to keep a "Project Journal" as you're writing a book (or play, screenplay, whatever) -- I tried a Project Journal before I had begun my current novel, but I quit the Journal because it was taking the place of doing the book: daily I would write in the Project Journal, do the Writing Practice, do some Reading & take notes, but put off starting the novel -- (!)

Now I'm on page 267 or so of the book, and so I feel safe in adding Project Journal to the basic things I do daily for my Writing; writing in the Project Journal will not cause me to put off doing my book because I'm meeting a daily quota of pages for the book -- progress is ensured.

I can do the Proj. Journal forever, or stop if it feels unproductive.

Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone "alphabet" mysteries ("A Is For Alibi," "B Is For Burglar," etc.) keeps a Project Journal and, I believe, puts it right on-line, on her website, in case fans & aspiring writers want to look. Generous.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Two Good Books

Two good books:

"The Greek Way"
by Edith Hamilton
"The Forest For The Trees"
by Betsy Lerner

They do not have anything particular to do with one another, except that I own both. Have finished reading Lerner's Forest; have spot-scanned Greek Way.

FOREST is "An Editor's Advice to Writers"
(it says "editor" -- since publication of the book in 2000, Betsy Lerner apparently has become an agent. She has her own blog; you might like it)

[from FOREST - Lerner]:

Asking for advice about what you should write is a little like asking for help getting dressed. I can tell you what I think looks good, but you have to wear it. And as every fashion victim knows, very few people look good in everything. Chances are that you have been writing or trying to write in one particular form all your life. There are very few writers who, by switching genres, say from novels to plays, suddenly achieve great results and conclude that they have been working in the wrong mode all along. But in my experience, a writer gravitates toward a certain form or genre because, like a well-made jacket, it suits him.

It is true that some people can write well in more than one genre. Although his plays may be ignored, T.S. Eliot's brilliant literary criticism changed the way we read modern poetry and had the added bonus of reinforcing the importance of his own work in the canon. Today we have our own poet-critics, such as Czeslaw Milosz and Joseph Brodksy, our poet-novelists, such as Denis Johnson and Margaret Atwood, our novelist-critics, such as John Updike and Cynthia Ozick, and novelist-essayists, such as Susan Sontag and Joan Didion. But we are more likely to be suspicious of someone who attempts to write in more than one genre--who cross-dresses, generically speaking.

When I was getting an MFA at Columbia University, it was considered anathema, if not altogether taboo, for someone from the poetry side of the program to write a short story or for someone from the fiction side to write a poem. We suspect those who attempt creative work in more than one genre or field of being dilettantes or dabblers.

Gone is the idea of the Renaissance man.

(My feeling is the idea of "the Renaissance man" is one which should NOT be "gone.")


[from "The Greek Way"]:

Our word "idiot" comes from the Greek name for the man who took no share in public matters. Pericles in the funeral oration reported by Thucydides says:

"We are a free democracy, but we are obedient. We obey the laws, more especially those which protect the oppressed, and the unwritten laws whose transgression brings acknowledged shame. We do not allow absorption in our own affairs to interfere with participation in the city's. We differ from other states in regarding the man who holds aloof from public life as useless, yet we yield to none in independence of spirit and complete self-reliance."

This happy balance was maintained for a very brief period. No doubt at its best it was as imperfect as the working out of every lofty idea in human terms is bound to be. Even so, it was the foundation of the Greek achievement. The creed of democracy, spiritual and political liberty for all, and each man a willing servant of the state, was the conception which underlay the highest reach of Greek genius.

It was fatally weakened by the race for money and power in the Periclean age....


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

my way or the Greek way

A little more from
"The Greek Way" --
coming tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Greek Way

So -- WHY do I believe in the Good even more, the more I am disillusioned and battered by observing (and sometimes experiencing) the Bad in the world?

I thought, last weekend, it should be the opposite -- logically, the more Bad you see, the more you would become cynical and lose your illusions and not expect any Good.

And I don't feel this way by choice. I find it just occurred.

I'm thinking I can look it up in "The Greek Way" by Edith Hamilton.
It's a book about Greek philosophy; Jacqueline Kennedy read and re-read it, and passed it on to Bobby Kennedy to read after the assassination of President Kennedy.

I'm thinking of a particular passage in "The Greek Way" -- will try to find it for you.

Okay -- found it right here, on-line.

(from The GreekWay, Edith Hamilton)
The special characteristic of the Greeks was their power to see the world clearly and at the same time as beautiful. ...
Tragedy was a Greek creation because in Greece thought was free. Men were thinking more and more deeply about human life, and beginning to perceive more and more clearly that it was bound up with evil and that injustice was of the nature of things. And then, one day, this knowledge of something irremediably wrong in the world came to a poet with his poet's power to see beauty in the truth of human life, and the first tragedy was written. ...

Tragedy belongs to the poets.
Only they have "trod the sunlit heights and from life's dissonance struck one clear chord." None but a poet can write a tragedy. For tragedy is nothing less than pain transmuted into exaltation by the alchemy of poetry....

That's the stuff.
Reading that made me think of blues music -- they sing about sad things, but you feel happy after you listen to it.
("Well I woke up this morning...
[dah -- nah-nah-nah-- NAH!]
"And I was feelin' so bad...
[nah nah-nah-nah -- NAH]


Monday, September 14, 2009

the Good, the Bad, and the Lucky

(while on the subject of "Lucky It Wasn't Worse" as a title):

Had an epiphany Saturday night --

Realized that the more
bad things I see in the World,

the more I believe in Good.

Friday, September 11, 2009

ladies behaving badly (more titles)

ideas for book titles:

Lucky It Wasn't Worse

Ladies Behaving Badly

Information Superhighway


Do you remember in the early- to mid-90s when some people referred to the coming Internet as the "Information Superhighway"? I heard people say that phrase on CNBC, the financial channel.

Seems so quaint, now.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lucky It Wasn't Worse

Was imagining

"Lucky It Wasn't Worse"

as a book title.

When you consider difficult and terrible challenges, calamities, and heartbreaks, we don't always remember to consider that
we may just be --


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

young, beautiful, and lucky

Yesterday we considered being tired, bored, and lucky.
(the theory: In Life, most days are boring, if you're lucky)

Made me think of Princess Diana -- when she married Prince Charles in 1981 someone asked why people were so fascinated with Diana and an onlooker stated, "Because she is young, beautiful, and lucky."

That memory inspired me to share another excerpt from Tina Brown's Diana biography, The Diana Chronicles -- In Chapter Three, "Difficult Women" Brown writes about the Spencer family:

The family was older by 250 years than that Hanoverian import of the eighteenth century, King George I, whose descendants are today's House of Windsor. The Spencers could trace themselves back to 1469, when they were a respected clan of prospering sheep farmers in Warwickshire, already in a position to lend money to the monarchy. In 1603, James I repaid the royal debts with the traditional Get Out of Jail Free card--a barony, conferred on the prosperous Robert Spencer, which forty years later included the earldom of Sunderland.

In 1699, the Spencers entwined their lustrous family tree with that of the Churchill family when the daughter of the first Duke of Marlborough, hero-general of the Battle of Blenheim, married Charles Spencer. The result was a celebrated branch of the family--the Spencer-Churchills, who were residents of one of England's most spectacular stately homes, Blenheim Palace.

The Spencers' glory days were the eighteenth century. They became powerful forces in the Whig party, dedicated to restraining the power of the monarchy and supporters of the Protestant succession; in the nineteenth century, they became Parliamentary Liberals, rivals to the Tories. They were behind-the-scenes power brokers. They helped smooth the ascension to the throne of the Hanoverian prince who became King George I.

There was no paradox in the fact that seven or eight generations of Spencers had been loyal courtiers and servants of the crown. They were servants of the monarchy THEY CHOSE. They saw themselves not as courtiers but--literally--as kingmakers, in touch with the populace but aloof from the merely rich.

In 1765, George III upgraded their barony to an earldom.

I note in that last bit how she writes, "They saw themselves..." not as courtiers...etc.

Like, part of being aristocratic is how you "see yourself," how you position yourself, even when titles are conferred.

And, doesn't "in touch with the populace but aloof from the merely rich" strike you as a rather excellent place to be?(!)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tired. Bored. Lucky.

Yesterday we considered the state of being "Fired up" and "Ready to go" (Pres. Obama anecdote).

Fired up and ready to go is all very well in a presidential campaign,
But seriously, have you ever thought about the fact that -- in Life, most days will be boring.

If you're lucky.

Teen-agers -- and some other people, too -- protest emphatically if they are forced to be "bored" -- but think about it. Most events that qualify as "excitement" are interesting in a story, movie, or TV show, but -- a large pain in the neck, if you have to endure them in real life.

Most days, in Life, will be boring -- if you're lucky.

And a companion observation: people say to me, when they are busy working, "I'm tired."

And then when they are finished with their work and they have no tasks left, they say, "I'm bored."

"I'm tired."
"I'm bored."

(It's like dealing with teen-agers.
And -- maybe it simply goes on into adulthood, same thing.)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fired up and anecdotal

On C-Span, saw part of Pres. Obama's Labor Day speech to some workers: the president told the "Fired up! Ready to go!" story.

I had heard the story -- listened to the speech on You Tube, during last year's campaign. It was a good story -- worth hearing again. The lady at the back of the room, at a small town gathering, who kept calling out "Fired up! Ready to go!" And it had become sort of a local tradition.

(The president described the lady as wearing a "church hat"; cute. Somehow we all know just exactly what a 'church hat' is...)

Started thinking of other quotes -- off the top of my head, got:

"Fired up! Ready to go!" (Pres. Obama and church hat lady)

"There you go again." (Ronald Reagan)

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself." (Franklin Roosevelt)

"Follow the money." ("Deep Throat" -- Watergate source)

"Tomorrow is another day." (Scarlett O'Hara)

I should be able to think of other quotes; but today, recovering from a cold / flu thing, that's all I got. ...

In the book entitled The Diana Chronicles author and journalist / editor Tina Brown tells story of Princess Diana -- in the mix, as an American, I found I learned a lot from the book about English aristocracy system -- how they name someone a duke or an earl (and do not say "Duke, duke, duke -- duke of earl" with musical notes floating around it -- we're not going there).

It seems obscure and hard to grasp for a natural egalitarian and meritocrat, as most of us Americans were raised and educated to be (I think) -- kind of like some distant and quaint Eskimo series of customs & rituals.

My ancestors came from that part of the world (U.K. countries) so I'm not being mildly cynical about someone else's deal -- it's my ancestors' deal. It still seems weird to me.

As does the apparent obsession for gossip, in England.

In Chapter 5, "The Rise of The Beast", Tina Brown writes:

The magic formula of the [Daily] Mail was a combination of curtain-twitching class envy and strident rightist politics, with the added spice of the most waspish gossip columnist in London, Nigel Dempster, whose scoops from the highest circles of the Establishment were read at every upper-class breakfast table like a ransom note. Dempster had a thirty-year reign of terror until he was felled by ill health. He was a miniaturist in tabloid takedowns. His demonic social energy seemed to take him everywhere at once; in a car he always drove at a hundred miles an hour with the horn blaring....He was dapper, fiendishly well-connected, dazzlingly anecdotal, and blessed with total recall.


This is why I like Tina Brown's writing style in that book.

"combination of curtain-twitching class envy and strident rightist politics" -- a big, satisfying bite of medium-well filet mignon

"...scoops from the highest circles of the Establishment were read at every upper-class breakfast table like a ransom note" -- a sip of rum and coke

"demonic social energy" -- a chocolate-covered cherry

"fiendishly well-connected" -- tuna sandwich on good bread

"dazzlingly anecdotal" -- to be anecdotal -- full of stories and able to tell them well -- to be anecdotal might be plenty, but to be dazzlingly so ... well ... that's just a bursting shower of strawberry sundae, I'd think ...

Whether or not you needed any more information about Princess Diana, the book is an experience, of style and English-ness. Fun.

Friday, September 4, 2009

ain't lobbyin'

Yesterday, was thinking of and recommending (meant to, anyway) Bob Dylan song: "Ain't Talkin'" -- contemplative, scary in a good way and worthwhile

yet today, felt like my own theme song could be "ain't writin'"
or -- "ain't bloggin'"


1. space

I like how the word "space" has come to be used to describe areas in a home or office or park / community -- you don't decorate the room, you design the space.

2. lobbyists

Are corporate lobbyists in Washington stopping us from having reasonable health care?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dylan: Ain't Talkin'

"They'll jump on your misfortune when you're down."

That's a line from Ain't Talkin' -- a song from one of Bob Dylan's most recent albums -- Love And Theft, or Modern Times.

Modern Times, I think.

The song is bleak; and yet you feel good when you listen to it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

President Obama and me

Yesterday we were considering President George (Herbert Walker) Bush (1988-1992) -- his phrase "kinder and gentler."

When I thought about Kinder And Gentler, I remembered that in my current workplace, and once in a former workplace, I was --
criticized for
accused of
...being "too nice."

One guy, whom I did not ask, said, "If you ask me, you're too nice."
Two others that I can think of off the top of my head, said, "You're too nice," also.

Then one weekend ago I was listening to a comedic discussion on the Comedy Channel. Several people were talking facetiously about how they were going to put together a panel to debate something. They were naming people they would invite to be on the panel and the reasons for asking them -- all in fun -- and the last guy to speak said, "And if we want to get somebody who's way too nice to everybody, we can call Barack Obama."

I considered / savored that comment several times since.
President Obama and I are criticized for the same thing -- being "too nice." Or in his case, "way too nice."

The leader of the free world and I have something else in common, too. A couple of weeks ago, now, I read an article about pop culture and Obama -- it said when the president was asked what he has in his i-pod, he began his answer with, "About 30 Bob Dylan songs."

I don't have an i-pod. But Dylan is one of my favorites.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

kinder and gentler

"EDGY" is overrated, as a goal.

Remember when President Bush (the 1988 to 1992 one) suggested "kinder and gentler"? What was that in reference to? Something was supposed to be done in a way that was "kinder and gentler" -- maybe our lives.

good idea, we're thinking

Kinder and gentler --

refers us back to Kurt Vonnegut's wall sign: "God damn it you got to be kind" (see start of this Blog)
or -- not