Richard’s Ramblings and news about another blog where I post…

…Sometime in the next few days, I’ll be submitting my next version of Richard’s Ramblings. Probably will be a random ramblings one. Lately haven’t had much time to write it. My newspaper job is one of those where I tend to put in long hours right now, part of which spent learning the way things are done and making the right connections…

…Have been informed that www.americasteam.info, where I blog exclusively about the Dallas Cowboys, will be up by Monday or so. Looking forward to blogging about the Cowboys again!

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Richard Zowie, restaurant reviewer

It was quite, surreal, actually. At work, I was told to go write a short review of a local restaurant for the monthly business magazine the newspaper puts out.
 
Me, a restaurant reviewer? Sure, I love to eat and enjoy food that’s well-prepared and spicy, but I’ve never really thought of myself as someone to sit at a restaurant, sample some of the fare and write about it. But I was willing and it was easy: try their signature dishes and write what you liked about it.
 
“Which restaurant?” I asked the assistant publisher.
 
“Any of them,” he replied.
 
My first choice was the local Thai restaurant since I’ve always wanted to try out Thai food. Unfortunately, the manager and I had a miscommunication and it didn’t work out for this month. So, I tried the local Chinese restaurants. One of them fell through: the owner wasn’t in to authorize it, and he didn’t speak English. My Mandarin Chinese consists of a few phrases and a number of words and very rusty overall, so that was a no-go.
 
So, I tried out the other one in town.
 
Wow.
 
The owners couldn’t have been nicer, and I even conversed a few times–howbeit briefly–with them in Mandarin (they’re from China’s Canton Province and speak Cantonese primarily). Food was very wonderful. I dislike mushrooms and detest peas, but you know the food is good when the mushrooms and snowpeas (peas harvested when they’re in the baby stage) taste great.
 
I was telling Dan, who works with me, that I’ll have to go there a few times for lunch as a way of saying thank you for the free food they served for the review. Heck, not only did I get to take the Hunan Beef, Thai Chicken and General Tso’s Chicken home, they also cooked up a quart of cashew chicken for my family to enjoy.
 
Wow. Hao ji le!
 
Few of the things I said to them in Chinese:
 
Li Xiao Long shi zai Jiu Jin Shan sheng de (Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco).
 
Suiran wo hen xi huan ya, ke shi wo bu xi huan chi ya! (Although I like ducks, I don’t like to eat ducks).

Writing contests

I was a little discouraged to lose out on a writing contest. When I saw the winner of one magazine’s latest contest, it really made me think of something. Theme has to do with going into a bar. As I read the winner’s story, I kept thinking, “What was the point of this story?” Read it over again and kept concluding the same thing. From this, one can come to two conclusions: either I’m so far behind as a writer that I can’t recognize good writing or that this winning entry really, really sucks and that I can have some success if I work hard and keep submitting.

There was a previous contest where I submitted what I thought was a good story, saw what won and wondered why such a mediocre piece of writing would win. Maybe I’m whining, or maybe the magazine’s judges just have really bizarre standards.

Stephen King versus Simon Cowell’s forms of criticism

Yes, oh yes, I’ve heard it all before: Simon Cowell tells it like it is when he gives musical wannabes a vicious tongue lashing. So what if aspiring young singers have left his presence in tears, further humiliated in front of millions on television? They need a stiff reality check to remind themselves that while they either enjoy singing or simply wish to use a singing career to achieve fame and fortune, they should definitely not quit their day job.

Of course, Piers Morgan is the same way on Cowell’s show America’s Got Talent. This last season (I don’t watch this show anymore and have only seen American Idol in previews and short clips), one insulted performer went as far as to call Morgan a “Simon Cowell wannabe”.

For this reason, I’ve never liked Morgan and especially don’t like Cowell. As celebrity judges, that is: Cowell is said to be a much friendlier man in his private life. I simply believe that it’s unacceptable to humiliate people on television for the sake of ratings–especially when they’ve been led to believe they have something worth showing.

I am reminded how, several years ago, author Stephen King held a writing contest through his semi-autobiographical work On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. He presents a scenario and encourages aspiring writers to send him their stories. King published the top stories and had this to say about the entries. Keep special attention to the italicized, bold-print remarks below in the text:

On Writing contest winners from StephenKing.com:

Dear Constant Reader:

I think a lot of people harbor the secret dream of being a fiction writer. Why not? You don’t need any special tools, brushes, or even classes. All you’ve got to do is power up your laptop and you are ready to go. So when I suggested that fans of my work and/or readers of my writing book submit a writing exercise to my website I wasn’t surprised to get over 1,000 responses. Not many of them were good, but that didn’t surprise me either. What did surprise me–a little–was how many could have been good if the people who wrote them had tried just a little harder, or had brushed up their skills a little bit before trying their hands at what I think of as the Dick and Jane story. I should add that quite a few were, frankly, abysmal. I am not posting any samples of these. I have always believed that it’s very bad form (not to mention unsporting), to shoot cripples. [EMPHASIS MINE] But here are 3 “good” stories and one which is close to brilliant. Read and enjoy. Better yet, get in touch with these people and tell them what you think about their work or what you didn’t. Like the human beings who create it, writing does not exist in a vacuum.

Best wishes,
Stephen King

Audio book thoughts

Listening to President Reagan’s diaries on CD reminds me of how a few months ago I listened to one of Ann Coulter’s books. As far as ideology goes, I agree with much of what she says. But I detest the delivery and think it’s understandable and obvious why many dislike her. I wish Ms. Coulter would devote as much energy delving into an issue as she does trying to make liberals and democrats the objects of her humor.

Just my take…

Writer’s Digest and The Writer

My favorite time of the month, no doubt, is when Writer’s Digest and The Writer magazine arrive in my mailbox. Always gives me hope and encouragement, like that Stephen King book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (which is boxed up somewhere in our garage, darn it). This month they were talking about websites and blogging and how both are important to writers. So, I think what I’ll do is keep posting to this and two other free blogs to get an idea of which I like the best. If you’re reading this, tell me what you like about my blog here as well as this blog server. Especially if you’re a writer.

Big day at work tomorrow

That’s the day we start getting ready to lay out the Wednesday edition. I’ll also be going out to interview a new business owner and see if that’ll make this week’s paper. Lots of stuff regarding after-primary stories.

Have met some very interesting people, so far. I’m curious to see how many of the people I have tried in vain to contact via telephone will complain, come Wednesday, that they weren’t included in the articles. Well, I might be able to do many things in life, but making people return phone calls isn’t one of them.

Bernie Mac

I’m very saddened to learn of the premature passing of Bernie Mac. He was only 50. My family and I enjoyed watching his show The Bernie Mac Show, in syndication. I’ll miss his rantings as he addresses the viewers as “America.”

R.I.P., Mr. McCullough.

Almost getting to interview Rip Torn

So, at the newspaper I was given this press release. Rip Torn took a tour of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Article mentions that he’s from Lakeville, which is a community near Oxford, Michigan (where I work).

Wow! I thought. Rip Torn! I remember him very well. He played an evil high priest in the 1982 film The Beastmaster and was in a few other movies. What’s interesting is that he and I have a few things in common: both of us grew up in Texas, both of us are left-handed and both of us share a birthday (February 6).

How to get in touch with him? Knowing it would probably be a dead end, I looked him up online to see if he had an address in Lakeville, using his real first name–Elmore.

Nope.

No listing in Michigan, either, for an Elmore Torn (his real first name).

Then I looked at the press release and noticed it was datelined New London, Connecticut, where the academy is at. Is it possible there’s a Lakeville, Connecticut? I thought.

Sure enough, there was.

Bummer. I was looking forward to meeting him and talking with him. The only nearby celebrity we have is Kid Rock, who has a home in nearby-Ortonville.