Month: September 2012

Bedridden with the Boys

Friends, it’s finally happened. I’ve gone and gotten the first illness of the year (from a coworker who will not rest until we are all as sick as he is). So I can’t get you the blog post you all deserve; my poor brainbox can’t take the pounding. Instead, while I’m resting, I’m going to share two of my favorite recuperative devices.

First up: GQ. I’m so fortunate to be bedridden with a nice, fresh issue of GQ. It’s a little like reading a magazine you bought in a foreign country. Exotic photographs – Javier Bardem in a $5000 tuxedo, for instance – alongside ads for stuff you’ve never heard of, like Clinique products for men. And the articles. This month has articles about debate science and the 18 all-time worst sports decisions, but there’s always something interesting. A few months ago, I read about a sex coach, one who actually went to watch couples having sex and offered coaching advice. Plus the whole magazine smells ever so nice. I don’t know, I think if I found myself on the cover of GQ – and women have done that – I would feel like I had arrived. Like I’d arrived somewhere with exotic advertisements that smell ever so nice.

Next: Men’s Health. I’ll be honest with you. Men’s Health is not the intellectual powerhouse GQ is, but that makes it more lovable. I have a stash of hard-copy issues near the couch, and I love the sharp diet advice. The food’s sensible, filling and tasty (and the pictures look delicious when all you can manage is tea and Ritz crackers). But if GQ is like going to a foreign country, Men’s Health is a little like hanging out in the locker room (with your invisibility cloak on). Sex advice for men from women – some of which is spot on – shares space with fitness routines meant to flatten abs and sculpt the upper body.

More importantly, there are pictures of men doing all this stuff. Sometimes there’s a poster you can pull out with a diet plan or a workout diagram and a nice picture of a dude on it.

You can get to a lot of this stuff from the Men’s Health website, too. I think they once had a video of Jason Statham doing a workout routine, but that might be the low-grade fever talking.

Whoo! When the low-grade fever starts talking about Jason Statham, it’s time to lie down and listen. And watch. And maybe take a nap. Don’t wait until your next sick day to hit the men’s magazines, ladies. It’s all so much nicer when your state isn’t altered.

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Read me a story …

Last month, a friend and I engaged in a spirited intellectual debate surrounding the following question:

Would we pay full admission prices to watch Jeremy Renner and Edward Norton read the telephone book?

We said yes. Not sure how this is going to sound to the people who spent loads of money making the most recent of the Bourne movies, but you didn’t have to go through all that. Two barstools, two phone books, and you’ve got our money.

We went on to other, slightly more taxing topics. Benedict Cumberbatch? We would watch him all by himself with the phone book, even if it was just the restaurant section with all the menus in it. I said I would pay to see it in IMAX. Kiefer Sutherland? She was not as enthusiastic; I voted for IMAX again. Hugh Jackman? She voted for IMAX; I said I would need him to actually read a story.

Later (after sobering up – we had a great deal to discuss), I had cause to think more about this. What’s hot about having someone read to you? I think it’s the confluence of three things.

You’re in bed. Everything is sexier if you’re doing it in bed. You’re relaxed. You probably have more time to devote to whatever you’re up to. You can allow yourself to become distracted by sex. People use their most seductive reading voices in the bedroom. All this is pretty hot.

It’s nurturing. Your reader is going to be at his nurturing best when he reads you a story. Reading is a special kind of caregiving; it’s encouraging you to escape reality for a little while with your reader as your companion. One of my exes read to me once when I was sick – I think he knew it was the only way he could get me to slow down enough to begin recovering. Once he got me all NyQuilled up and tucked in, he read to me from a Batman comic (a wise choice, since I’m a comic geek), in which Batman was involved with Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter. He indulged my every sleepy question until the NyQuil started working, like this:

“Does Batman know that’s Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter?”

“Yeah, looks that way.”

“Does Ra’s al Ghul know this is happening?”

“Probably, but it’s tough to say which is worse – sleeping with Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter behind his back or with the knowledge that he knows but doesn’t approve.”

“Sounds like Batman must really like her.”

“I think he does. But you know, if you were Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter, I would still go out with you.”

Now, that’s nurturing, isn’t it?

You’re having a shared experience. Sharing a story together is an experience that’s unique for every reader and every listener. It’s going to change a little with each person’s delivery, the setting you’re reading in, and of course, the nature of the material. You might find yourself indulging in an intellectual conversation – like my ex and I had over the Batman comic – or guessing about what happens next or just enjoying the ride. You can even take turns with each chapter and choose books together. A shared experience – especially a simple one like reading a book – is sexy all by itself.

The research shows that slowing down a bit before bed is good for you! Why not unwind with a couple of pages tonight? Voyeur that I am, I will be curious to know what you’re reading to each other.

Uncoupled? Fear not — the Internet is stuffed full of hot people who will read to you. For example, writer Philip Hoare and artist Angela Cockayne created a project called Dominion, which gave rise to the Moby Dick Big Read. All 135 chapters of Moby Dick are being read out loud – a chapter a day – by 135 separate readers, including several celebrities. Tilda Swinton kicked us off with that famous opening, “Call me Ishmael.” So far my favorite has been Chapter Three, in which Ishmael and Queequeg give the novel one of its identities – it is, among many things, a buddy movie. Tonight, as I write this, we are on Chapter Five, so there’s lots of time to catch up! You can download the chapters and make them your bedtime story or that afternoon staple from the classroom, StoryTime. (Damn, I loved some StoryTime.)

Moby Dick is an awesome novel. Check it out and join the fun! Then you can ask yourself if you would pay box office money to hear Jeremy Renner and Edward Norton read Moby Dick.

For the record, my answer’s still yes.

Cocktailery: Say Goodbye to Summer with a Michelada

There’s still a bit of summer left, still time for an exotic drink. Something that makes one think of watching the sun set over the ocean, or hanging out by the pool before dinner, or spending a lazy late afternoon on the balcony. I’ve got just the thing: the michelada.

I first learned about this recipe from Rick Bayless on his PBS show, Mexico: One Plate at a Time. At the end of an especially challenging bar shift, I made a couple of these for myself and the chef. I don’t use any specific measurements, but if you get the proportions just right, the flavors bloom together in a very refreshing way. Don’t get scared off by the ingredients – it’s going to taste terrific!

Here’s what you need to make one:

One bottle of light beer (I mean, light-colored beer – I prefer to use Corona to keep this true to its heritage, but I have also used Rolling Rock and Miller High Life if that’s what I have on hand. I wouldn’t use a dark beer. That’s bound to overpower or disagree with the other ingredients.)

Half a lemon (use the other half for a friend’s drink)

Worcestershire sauce (Edited to add: see my notes below!)

Hot sauce

Black pepper

And here’s how you make it:

Grab a nice glass. The bar I work at serves beer in banquet goblets, which make sense for these. The curved bowl of the glass lets the ingredients swirl and mingle as you work. Use whatever you have. My preference is to use something big enough to accommodate the whole bottle of beer.

Squeeze the half lemon into the bottom of the glass. If you cup it, cut side up, in your hand, you won’t get any seeds in the glass.

Put a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce into the bottom of the glass. If you’re using the bottle, give it three or four good shakes.

Give the hot sauce a couple of shakes into the glass. You won’t need much.

Pour the beer slowly into the glass. See? All the ingredients are mixing themselves down there, aren’t they?

Stand back and admire the drink long enough for the head to come down just a bit. It’s going to make a nice savory fragrance. Then hit it with a couple of shakes of pepper – maybe a twist and a half from the grinder – and you’re done.

Now have a sip. It’s going to open with a little sparkle from the pepper, and then it gets nice and rich as the lemon and Worcestershire open up through the beer, and then the hot sauce finishes everything off with a little bloom of heat. It’s a pleasantly complex drink, great for sipping as you watch the seasons change and celebrate these last days of summer. I’m planning on watching the sun set on the equinox with one of these in hand.

Happy autumn!

**Edited to add: Last night, I learned something important when I made my michelada. I learned that it was time to throw out my bottle of Worcestershire sauce. Tonight I made one with soy sauce instead, and it is DELICIOUS. Use one packet of restaurant soy sauce — surely you’ve got one lying around. Enjoy!

The Hop Stops Here … The Next Big Thing

My friend and colleague Tina Glasneck has tagged me for a blog hop – The Next Big Thing. She’s got ten questions for me about my work in progress. The rules are asking me to answer these ten questions and then tag five other people. I am one of those horrible people who doesn’t generally tag other people (it feels chain-lettery, I don’t really know that many people, and to be honest, I should be progressing with the work in progress). So the only person I’m tagging is Tina. More about Tina below.

First, the Q and A:

  1. What’s the working title of your book? Project NSA
  2. Where did the idea for your book come from? I remember learning that the reason women can’t sleep around like men is because the hormone oxytocin, released into the female brain at the moment of orgasm, causes us to feel bonded to our sex partners. So even if we don’t care much about him beforehand, he’s going to matter to us afterwards. And I just thought that was the biggest biological RIP-OFF! I just thought we should have something to keep that from happening, and that’s the quest driving my hero.
  3. What genre does your book fall under? Contemporary interracial erotic romance.
  4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Believe it or not, I can answer this question for any of my works in progress except this one. My characters for Project NSA don’t really look like anyone working in Hollywood.
  5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Armed with the ability to enjoy sex without commitment, a headstrong playgirl will choose between her brainy best friend and her brawny fuck buddy.
  6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Neither. Once I’m done, I’m going to start submitting it directly to publishers myself.
  7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? The very first draft? I did it in a little less than 30 days, for NaNoWriMo. It’s changed A LOT since then. But that very first draft was done by that Thanksgiving. Subsequent drafts have taken … a little longer.
  8. What other books within your genre would you compare your book to? Oh, wow. I really don’t know. I try not to read too closely to what I’m writing while I’m writing, so the books that would be the answer to this question … are precisely the books I’ve got to avoid until I finish.
  9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? This book is my big chance to right the immense biological wrong that is the oxytocin bond. And if some neuroscientist reads this one day and wants to correct the oxytocin rip-off in real life, then some part of my mission as a writer is complete.
  10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? The story definitely plays with the idea that smart is sexy. I think the story will appeal to readers who like their guys brainy … and to those who enjoy a nicely built alpha male.

And now for the tagging.

Tina’s uniquely disturbing take on suspense in Thou Shall Not is definitely worth your attention. It’s not like any suspense I’ve read before. If you’ve been following her blog, you probably already kind of know what I’m talking about. If not … why aren’t you?