Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New URL on Red Room

In case you ever want to re-visit my writer's page on Red Room, there's a new URL. I had to give them my "real name," the legal one, which I never use unless I have to. The address is http://redroom.com/member/roberta-l-nester .

The Winds Do Blow

This is the season for Santa Ana Winds, those hot breezes that blow in from the desert, bringing dry and unseasonable heat, sinus problems, and strange behavior.
Police and psychiatrists assert that strange things happen when these winds blow, just as they do during the full moon. More murders, domestic strife, etc.
Though the weather may be balmy and the skies swept clear and blue, I hesitate to hike deep into the woods because of the danger of fire. I heard on the local news (actually L.A.) that L.A. county had barred cyclists from the woods because of the winds. O.C. hasn't, to my knowledge, but I will think twice about it. Plus, I get horribly congested because of the pollen and dryness combined. I miss hiking though!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Final Proof!

Nina did two corrected drawings for the book, which means we can move forward. But just as we were about to do that, Karen discovered that the two poses she drew for which I wrote poems that are already in the book were not in the table of contents, which I had evidently not proofread all that well. I found that one of them was listed by its English name, the only pose to be so listed, and the other was missing altogether! So she needs to change that, and then we are really and truly done, or so it seems to me. So this is really going to happen, and I can send people their books!!! Soon, anyhow. Yay!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Business Blog

I have started a rather rudimentary page called Word Doctor on Blogspot where I will place my PayPal link. It is at http://robbi-worddoctor.blogspot.com. So if you or someone you know wants a writing or tutoring job done, either locally or on the web, I can now arrange it! I did it now because a fellow wanted me to do a job for him, and I didn't have things set up to get paid. It is too late for that job, but in any case, if I get any others, I now am ready.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Learning All the TIme

I was worried when I stopped teaching that my brain would atrophy. Well, I needn't have worried! Though I have been very active, going on hikes and yoga and the like, I do much more writing and thinking and reading than I did before, especially trying to figure out how to move on to the next stage in my career.
Now I am trying to figure out how my clients with freelance work for me to do can pay me if they are not local. I figure I need that PayPal link after all, but not in this blog. I could either put it in my Red Room page (please visit!) or make a new Word Doctor blog just for that purpose. Any suggestions?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

An experience

When I first began reading my poetry in public, I did it in some unlikely places, like out on the street in downtown Philadelphia, through a megaphone. As you might imagine, this was not the ideal venue for poetry, especially the rather quiet and meditative stuff that I tend to write. I am not a Poetry Slam natural; such a venue was made for those guys, not me. But I did it, feeling like a musician in a loud bar, with the loud and oblivious life of the city streets going on all around me, and nary an attentive listener.
Today when I went on talk radio to talk about my essay in the book Easy to Love but Hard to Raise and my forthcoming book of poetry, Balance, it was kind of like that. I guess it didn't register at first that this was talk radio, not PBS.
I grew up in a house where that kind of talk was the order the day. In the late 60s, my father and I spent many dinner hours getting dyspeptic over the mashed potatoes, screaming about the peace movement. I went to college so I didn't have to engage in pointless discussions like that, in which no one was listening and no one was even trying to be persuasive, and indeed ended up teaching students to argue persuasively and logically. So it was not the most natural place for me to be, but if one person heard me talk about the anthology, one person who might get some solace and assistance from that book, and perhaps even one person who might be interested in reading my book of poems, this will have been worth it.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Interesting Day Ahead

It is still dark out, and the rain is loud enough for me to hear it, which means it must be relatively heavy, given the state of my hearing. I was supposed to go on a hike today, but that's not happening!
However, there is plenty to do. My new computer has arrived, so after yoga class, I will begin working with my neighbor, Eric, to set it up and configure it. I have also heard from a historian who needs some help with research, and wants me to work with him. I will need to download a contract and find out what a fair fee for this job is. I am looking forward to it, and hope it works out!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I love films, but this has been a bad year for them until very recently. I think I've seen less than half a dozen since last summer! When I like a film, I am thinking how much I'd love to study it, to watch it again and again, even while I watch it for the first time.
My first time watching Hugo (the 3-D version), yesterday, was such an experience. From the very first shot, an amazing panorama of a wintry 19th century Paris,likened to the mechanical workings of a clock, I was transfixed, studying the camera angles, noting the allusions to famous films and film-makers as well as art. It would be a delicious film to teach, but sadly, I if I ever do get to do so, 3-D won't be accessible. And I can't even really afford to go see it again in that format since 3-D movies cost a lot! I am not accustomed to paying that much to go to a movie; it was more than the play last night.
The film tells the story of a young orphan, Hugo Cabret, son of a watchmaker, who lives in a clock tower at the train station, where he winds and repairs the giant station clock. This fact gave Scorcese a chance to have the character reprise the famous scene of Harold Lloyd hanging from a clock, high above the street, in the film Safety First, which is also showcased in Scorcese's movie.
The best part of the film was the director's version of the silent films of George Melies, most of which are lost. However, most of us who have studied movies have seen stills from his films, particularly the one I have put up here, Voyage to the Moon. Hugo was a love letter to cinema, from start to finish. It was beautiful, and ought to take every prize this year. It probably won't though.

A Hot Link

Here's another link to pre-order my chapbook, Balance, which will be out soon! I am getting more and more orders, and there are a few checks (for 5 copies) in my bag. I tried to deposit them but the system at the bank went down yesterday. Didn't make it there today.
Here's the link: http://www.victorianvioletpress.com/book_pre-orders


Last night I had an interesting experience. Though I doubtless should not have been spending money I do not have, I went to a play at the University. Only it wasn't a play... it was live theater (happening in London at one of the National playhouses) on satellite feed. What an interesting experience.
If I was apprehensive because theater on film can be so flat and boring, talky, that was not at all the case here! It was terrific!
The play was about the writer Mikhail Bulgakov, author of The Master and Margarita and Heart of a Dog, among other things. He was famous also as a playwright (White Guard).
Although he was famous as a satirist and dissident, he wrote at some point an uncharacteristic play about the early life of Stalin. This playwright, whose name I do not recall, was imagining what transpired to make him write such a piece, and created a work very much in the realm of the fantastic, reflecting Bulgakov's own work and the period of Futurism and the Silver Age in Russia.
He imagined an exchange occurring beneath the Kremlin in a secret tunnel in which Stalin, imagined as a clownish monster, exchanged roles with Bulgakov.
If you ever get a chance to see or read the play, take it. It was terrific.
There is a whole series like this, and it is very reasonable, but I know I cannot afford to go again until I pick up some work. I don't know if that will happen anytime soon.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Another Radio Interview

This coming Sunday, January 22nd, at 11 A.M.,I will be interviewed on Bipolar Nation, part of the L.A. Talk Radio network. It will be a different sort of approach to my writing, since I'll talk about my experience growing up as part of a family with many neurological differences (for example, my dad's bipolar disorder, Tourette Syndrome, and O.C.D., and my mom's anxiety, hoarding, and O.C.D., as well as my own anxiety and learning disabilities), raising a child with disabilities, and finding a way to cope by becoming a serious student of Iyengar yoga. This won't be your typical author interview, I am sure. Nonetheless, I think I can say some things that will be useful to and will resonate with this audience. Hope so, anyhow.
I am not sure whether the interview will air live or whether she will cut some and edit it first. Probably the latter.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Holy Jim Hike and a book release on Amazon

R and I just got back from a hike to the waterfall on the Holy Jim trail. It was a beautiful hike, in very wild country, at least three miles to the trail head on the bumpiest road I've ever experienced! Luckily, we were in the capable hands of John, a fellow with a huge SUV, and he guided us along the hair-raising route. There were some people out there in less trail-worthy Lexuses and the like. I can't imagine how they got where they were going!
Once we began hiking, there were lots of rustic cabins in the park, probably rentable or available to own for people who want to rough it, but not enough to tent camp. I'm sure there is no wireless or electricity there. Each of the cabins was different, some with interesting stairs, front doors, or windows evidently built by some person who wanted to make a statement.
We had to cross the creek at various points, some hairier than others. I managed to make it through without getting too wet, though at least once, one foot slipped and the icy cold water made it into my shoe. There were lovely white violets, apropos of the publisher putting out my book! I wished I had a camera so I could take pictures of them!
Many hikers, dogs, kids made their way along this same trail, all enjoying what turned out to be a beautiful day, though rain threatened. I'll see if I can find a picture of the place!
Also, I want to announce the release of Easy to Love but Hard to Raise, an anthology about raising children with disabilities, on Amazon. I have an essay in that book, which would be an excellent gift for anyone going through the difficult experience of caring for such a child and dealing with schools, family, and the world at large, which does not generally comprehend the issues involved in such an undertaking. This is an important book, one well worth reading, even if one is not herself raising such a child. It will give you an appreciation for the struggles others live through every day.
In my case, my son is grown, and we are mostly past the isolation and need for advocacy his rearing necessitated, but I still recognized in the lives and words of other the same feelings and frustrations that I knew so well, even if their kids' challenges were nothing like my son's.
Here is the link on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Easy-Love-but-Hard-Raise/dp/1933084154/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326646533&sr=8-1

Friday, January 13, 2012


Last year some time I published an essay in an anthology called Flashlight Memories, a sweet little collection about reading. I had an essay called "Confessions of a Book Addict" in it, you might recall. If you go to this URL: http://us.mg5.mail.yahoo.com/neo/launch, you will be able to get a free copy of this collection, which is a nice little read. You need a Kindle or a free e-reader app from Amazon that you can put on your phone, computer, or other device. I'm going to get one!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Selling It

Writing a book is one thing, but selling it is another. People think nothing of telling you in an offhand sort of way that they want to buy the book, but when it comes round to paying for it, lots of them don't come through. I can appreciate now how all my friends with books have felt when I didn't leap instantly to the fore with check in hand and buy the book. And I can also appreciate those who actually follow through! A belated apology to those whose books I haven't bought, and thanks to those who have sent their checks.
This isn't the piece of cake I assumed it would be when I had a list of 50 promised pre-ordered copies. Now I hope that I get the requisite 30 to earn my free copies of the book to send to reviewers and give to libraries and family members.
And no readings lined up, though I am still working on nailing down the details for that radio interview on Bipolar Radio!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A link

My publisher, Karen Kelsay, at White Violet Press, has made a Paypal link on her page at Facebook that she says I can put up. Add $4.00 for shipping costs and we'll be all square.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Stuff Happens

Unusual things tend to happen to me, fodder for sitcoms or movie plots. For example, my old car, limping along from one oil change to another, is beginning to have trouble with a sticking seatbelt on the driver's side. It has crossed my mind that I had better keep the phone charged just in case I get stuck in there.
Today I had an interview, and I was running late for it. I left later than I should have, and then got all the red lights. The traffic was hideous, and I couldn't find a space in the parking facility till I had driven in circles for fifteen minutes, crying that I was late for the interview. Then, of course, because that is the way things happen in my life, my seatbelt wouldn't budge. I wrestled with it, wiggled it, tugged it, let out a scream, and finally broke it free. Maybe that loosened it up.

The book Is Coming! The book is coming!

Balance will be released in a few weeks from White Violet Press. If you order it from me by check, it will be $12. Let me know, and I'll give you the address. If you can't order by check or live outside the U.S., order via the publisher's Paypal link:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hike on a Saturday Morning

This morning I went out on my first hike in a while. It was open access day at Limestone Canyon, which means that my friend Judy and I were handed maps and sent out on our way to puzzle it out, with the caution that there were mountain lions out there we should watch out for. Blessedly, none were in evidence today.
I had never been to Limestone, or at least, if I have, I don't remember it. I did see Dripping Springs on the map, and we were going to go there, but the springs themselves were closed to the public. That is a gorgeous place, with a waterfall and wild orchids, but it is very fragile and must be protected from rampaging weekenders and their bikes, dogs, and kids. So we went up to the Sinks overview, and started on the path to Box Springs, but never found it, also couldn't brave the exceedingly steep hill paths on the route.
There were tons of tiny holes in the ground as we walked the paths, perhaps trapdoor spider burrows, perhaps snake holes or gophers. No one seemed to be home. Most of the way, it was not an up or downhill trek, just steady walking, with gorgeous meadows, live oaks and the dusty rose grey green of late winter.
Finally, Judy spied a uniformed park ranger on the hill. It was the overlook for the Sinks, a dramatic falling away of the sandstone cliffs to a drop far below us, a miniature Grand Canyon. Spectacular!

Friday, January 6, 2012


I have a chronic hip problem. I suspect it comes from driving a car that requires me to pile up pillows to see over the windshield, and even then, imperfectly. Then of course, I must stretch one leg out more than the other to reach the pedals. Consequently, the left hip is unevenly aligned with the right one, and this causes pain of various kinds.
Over the years, I have had physical therapy prescribed by an orthopedist, and my yoga teachers have striven to help me eliminate this pain, tightness, and lopsidedness. But now, it has gotten worse. I feel my hip bones grind against each other and note that my torso seems to fall into the hip on that left side. On the right side, my groin is painful, and I cannot do simple yoga poses that involve that groin without props anymore. Sitting with folded legs is also painful, and requires me to prop up my knees with yoga bricks.
My teachers have urged me to go back to the doctor, so I did. He pointed out a tiny cyst on my left hipbone, saying this sometimes presages the start of arthritis.I am not happy to hear that, but I hope yoga and perhaps a bit of physical therapy can ward it off. But I agreed to a shot of cortisone in the bursa;ow! I have to go back in 4 weeks.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Artist

Yesterday I went to the movies. In the past, that wouldn't have been a big deal, but I haven't gone that much this year. Partly that's because the films this past year have been utterly uninteresting to me, until very lately, and that is a first, since I love films so much, and have been a longtime student of them. Perhaps those reasons are why I was so smitten by the film I saw yesterday, The Artist.
This one would certainly have stood out, even in a crowd, since it is a silent film, crafted immaculately in silvery black and white, and without a soundtrack, except in the manner of silent films, except for a couple of well-placed scenes. The two leading actors, who are not Americans at all, but French, seem to pop off the screen, full of the requisite physical energy and charm of silent film. Their dancing chops as well as their style lends itself well to the clothing and acting styles of the period portrayed here.
But in addition to lovingly reproducing the iris shots, acting style, and other bygone techniques of the period and the look of the films of that time, this is an encapsulated history of cinema, with sly allusions to famous films. The breakfast table sequence between the main character and his wife was a pointed reference to Citizen Kane, where the slow disintegration of a marriage took place over the course of a few shots. Music, mise en scene, and the general tone (physical and psychological) pointed the viewer to Hitchcock, Wilder, and others, all filmakers who were not of that earliest era.
Some reviewers saw these references as clumsy anachronisms, but I think they misunderstood the director's effort to recreate with a loving eye the history of Hollywood. If the plot was at bottom trivial and overly melodramatic, isn't it true that the majority of films have been just that, and still are? Of course, this is not an excuse; one of the first things I was taught in a writing workshop that creating a boring story about a boring character is not acceptable, but for those who recognize the cinematic in-jokes and notice the cinematic pyrotechnics, The Artist is at least a fun day at the movies.
Even the most transitory pieces of fluff, like Busby Berkeley's chorus girl extravaganzas, are remarkable for their technical accomplishments, and this director aims to celebrate the invisible technicians behind the movies, and most of all, the amazing subtleties of the lost world of the silent film, eclipsed so totally by talkies that we imagine it reduced to a few patched together Keystone cops reels or sentimental romances. As the few restored masterpieces we have been given reveal (remember Emil Ganz's Napoleon, for example), should we overcome our presuppositions long enough to view them, we might realize that we have lost as much as we have gained in abandoning the silent film, and see that our embrace of novel technology does not necessarily mean an improvement in all cases.
Think about 3-D for example. For the most part, it has been a bust. Though Omni-Max films make for impressive experiences, they can cause headaches or even double-vision, and the latest wrinkles in 3-D technology, except for a few cases, like Werner Herzog's documentary about ancient cave paintings or perhaps Scorcese's film Hugo, neither of which I have seen, seem mostly a pointless search for novelty, appealing to children more than discerning adults.
In the past, movies were different, but this doesn't necessarily mean worse or more primitive. Certainly our technology is better now, but the art has not progressed. It has just changed. We don't turn up our noses at the statuary of the ancient Greeks or the Palace Versailles just because our aesthetic is not the aesthetic of those periods. We are able to study these artifacts for what they are, and admire them, perhaps even because the cultures they embody and exemplify differ so much from our own. Can't we do the same with film?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cat in the Box

I suppose everyone who has pets has a similar experience of having to cart the animals off to the vet at least once a year. My cat, Shadow, is extremely sensitive to any signal that seems to suggest such a visit is impending. She particularly is suspicious of the box in which she travels. If it makes an appearance, she disappears, so I try to put it out a long time before I will have to take her, and when nothing happens, she will eventually come out and eat and use her litter box, forgetting about the presence of the carrier.
I only have to mention the word "vet," or make a phone call in which her name is mentioned, and that is enough to make her suspicious. She is a smart little thing. The other cat, Whistler, beautiful though he is, with his turquoise eyes and sweet face, is not so bright. He is too fat to escape me when I go after him to put him into the carrier, and he usually ends up sadly submitting to my efforts to cram his bulk into the box and zip it up.
Quite often I cannot catch Shadow, and must cancel the appointment. Luckily, they don't penalize me for that. I'm sure it happens to many people. Even if I get her there, if she has a prescription for medication, giving it to her is often impossible. She is a very nervous cat. I think she was mistreated before I got her, perhaps because of her bowel problem, since she leaks quite a lot, and I don't mean pee.
I hope I have luck in corralling her today. She needs to go to the vet.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Another Wonderful Evening

Yesterday, New Year's Day, was one of those amazing winter days in Southern California that seem to thumb their noses at the rest of the world, as far as weather goes. It was probably 80 degrees, sunny and sparkling.
I started and ended the day in Laguna Beach, as did thousands of others, judging by the dicey parking situation. In the morning, I went to yoga class there, then home, but by evening, I was back for a feast hosted by R and M at their apartment at the beach.
Braving the crowds, we parked at a meter, and made our way to their house, where the holiday spirit still held. We were treated to delicious tamales, Spanish rice, black beans, and salad, with the humble contribution of my own cranberry upside down cake and chantilly cream.
We had a terrific evening of conversation and delicious food, topped off by a bit of Bailey's Irish Cream. Yum.
It is shaping up to be an interesting year thus far.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

San Diego, continued

After exploring the museums in Balboa Park (in truth, we only went to the photography museum, and stayed there a couple of hours), we went to the motel to set up base camp and braved the hideous traffic (as bad as L.A.'s in its way) to find the restaurant, Blue Bohemian, in the hip Kensington section of town. It was easy enough to find the restaurant, though they had no light on their sign, and it was dark by then, but finding parking was another thing. Helped by the Christmas lights still blazing in the residential neighborhood off the main drag, we parked a few blocks away and sat down by the bar to await Tracy and Chris, Richard's co-worker and her new husband. However, as usual, I had forgotten to bring crucial supplies in the suitcase--in this case, socks and a toothbrush. I brought the overnight case, which I had once stocked with enough fold-up toothbrushes and toothpaste for all three of us, but it seems I had raided this store at one time or another, and there were now none of these, save one slightly squashed minitube of toothpaste. And I had forgotten socks! So I asked R to find a Target. Though we passed one, he was unwilling to get off the freeway to do that because the traffic was so hideous he feared imminent death should he try any such maneuver, so we proceeded to look for a drug store. When none emerged, we asked someone, who told us that several blocks on the other side of the freeway, we would find one. It actually turned out to be about six or seven long blocks into terra incognito, but we found a large Rite-Aid and stocked up. By the time we made it back to the restaurant, they were there waiting for us.
I love food and cooking, but there are a number of foods I do not eat--cheese, pork (in most instances), scallops and lobster, chocolate. These foods featured prominently on the French menu before us, but that wasn't a problem. It was mostly the extremely high prices that got me. Richard had asked for a "medium" priced restaurant. If this was medium, I'd love to see expensive. The entrees averaged $25.-$30., a la carte, way too much for our meager bankroll, particularly since I lost my job. But we didn't blink an eye, and decided to go ahead. What else could we do? Though I flirted with just ordering an appetizer plate, the truth was I was hungry, so I ordered coq au vin, despite the bacon. Damn the torpedoes, I was going to have a nice dinner!
It was a rather petite plate of food for that price, actually. The sauce was promising, rich and dark, with plenty of pearl onions and chicken, though these pieces of fowl were notably mostly wing, with perhaps a bony thigh tucked into the small ramekin. Hardly what I'd expect for this price. In truth, the meat was mostly bone, and the mushrooms tiny slivers, not the hearty chunks I'd had before in this dish. Richard's filet mignon (when in Rome, right?) looked lovely, though somewhat lonely on the big white platter, which it shared with nary a vegetable or potato, but it didn't taste like much, and he never has liked most steaks. He ordered it mostly because of a recent experience at Ruth's Chris Steak house, where he had ordered the same thing and had a revelation about why steak is so highly prized by many people. This one didn't have much of a taste, truly. Chris's special, king salmon with a pesto sauce, was dry and over-cooked, and Tracy had ordered the same thing as I had. I must say though that the appetizer, mussels provincal, were lovely, a generous portion of tasty mollusks, but again, way overpriced for such a normally cheap item.
The whole thing was lubricated generously with the bottle of wine they had brought from their recent trip to vineyards in the wine district of northern CA. It was a good wine, I guess. I don't generally drink because a thimbleful is enough to get my head reeling, but I partook of some, in order to be polite.
The conversation was long and varied, definitely the very best part of the evening. More another time...