Bookstore DisplayIf you’re not a writer, you probably don’t know who the BIG SIX are. Ah, but as readers, you should. Everything on your bookshelves, I’m willing to bet, is published by one of these six media conglomerates. See the books on the table of a B&N? All from Harper Collins.

Sometime in the 90s, a massive consolidation in the publishing industry took place. After the dust from all the mergers settled, writers found themselves staring at the rock face of a publishing El Capitan with very few ways to climb.

First, there’s Hachette, which acquired Time Warner and is part of the French Media Conglomerate Lagardere. Little Brown and Grand Central are two of their imprints.

Moving right long, you’ve got Harper Collins which is part of American News Corp owned by Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch’s empire has about fifty imprints. It might be possible to go for weeks getting all your . . .

Seed PacketIn the hottest months of the summer, I serve chilled cantaloupe, cut into balls and tossed with just the slightest bit of Pernod. You don’t really taste the anise flavor, but something about it makes the melon taste even colder. Sometimes, I’ll sprinkle them with a little mint or basil chiffonade, maybe some lime.

Last year, I tried to grow the fabulous Charentais melon from France and failed. Since I love melon, the listeria outbreak struck terror in my heart. It seems, however, they’ve tracked the source down. Believe me though, after reading this article, I’m back to the drawing boards with how to raise melons. Trellises will help.

I’m offering you this report on the listeria outbreak from the Grey Lady herself. Read carefully because there will be a quiz at the end of this, people. It’s time for No Blog Reader Left Behind . . .

Walt Whitman PhotoI really didn’t know how to tie the whole Occupy Wall Street thing that has inspired me so much into my blog about life in the mountains until I got an e-mail from a friend with the following heading: Writers support Occupy Wall Street. Check it out.

And there it was! A list of 200 writers — Pulitzer Prize Winners, Booker Prize Winners, Poets Laureates of the US, writers whose books had been made into movies, writers who’d been my teachers, writers I’d interviewed for NPR, a young writer who went to high school with my daughter, a writer who used to be a neighbor, very famous writers like Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood and Michael Cunningham and lesser known writers — who’d signed the following statement:

We, the undersigned writers and all who will join us, support Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Movement . . .

I’m happy to report that my Bell’s Palsy is improving. I’ve gotten a bit of my smile back, and I’m hoping my eye returns to normal soon.

I’ve kept busy harvesting all the eggplants. What to do with them? That’s the question.

I’ve made vegetarian moussaka, eggplant parmesan, ratatouille, caponata, grilled eggplant with mint and hot chilis, and my friend, Bonnie, just gave me a recipe for marinating the grilled slices in an herb vinaigrette, which she then freezes for the dead of winter. “Try putting them on . . .

Girl with Wall Street Protest SignWhen the Occupy Wall Street kids shout “MAKE ‘EM PAY”, they don’t mean make’ em pay $15 dollars a half-pint for apple butter at Zabars. But those bankers would, because they’re too lazy — I mean, too busy, too busy gambling with your money — to make their own.

For the rest of us mere mortals (the other 99% of us) and for the 1 in 5 residents of New York City who are now living in poverty according to the latest statistics, I offer you my recipe for apple butter. There’s nothing better in the dead of winter than a slice of homemade whole wheat toast slathered with apple butter, eaten at a window while watching the birds cluster around the feeder.

And one last thought, brought to you from New York City, too, from one of those kids occupying Wall street . . .

Well, they did, actually. Or offered to. Or rather their male family members offered to on ” . . . behalf of the author who will incur all expenses” since no one could know their gender. In Austen’s case, the publisher took the manuscript from her father and then refused to publish it. Years went by — something like ten years — before she was ever in print.

I’ve been thinking about the spaces these women carved out for themselves. Such small tables, such narrow lives, such vivid imaginations, such huge accomplishments.

Look at Jane Austen’s tiny desk and quill pen in the middle of her family’s parlor. It was here she wrote and edited her books. Think of all the pages of Sense and Sensibility piled on top and everyone chattering around her.

Picassos Dora Maar. . . “The secret to wealth lies not in having many things, but in having few wants.”

Right now, I just want to stop looking like Picasso’s Dora Maar. I want be able to blink my eye, have my smile back, and look at the computer without everything seeming blurry. Few wants = great wealth.

Anyway, I’d planned to do something different with Palace of the Blue Butterfly by this time in my blog postings, but alas, I can’t quite see well enough to get the thing done.

I have to proofread and make changes to my manuscript anyway before I send the book to the e-book formatter (where it will be proofread one more time), and I thought — why don’t I just put chapters up in serial format as I go like the podcasts. This would be for folks who . . .

Kama SutraMiddle age is catching up with me. For the first time, I’ve come down with an illness that isn’t just the flu or a cold. Last Monday, I woke up with half my face paralyzed. Bell’s Palsy they tell me, a reaction to stress. Much of it was of my own making. Wait . . . ALL of it was of my own making. (Okay,okay, I’m not that spiritually high. A few jerks helped me along the way. I guess there are many teachers on the path to enlightenment.)

I’d been meaning to go inward a bit more, be a bit more reflective after the chores of summer. Looks like the universe forced me to make good on my promise. To cope I have been trying to meditate on the Heart Sutra . . .

Lillet Wine Poster. . . less to do with the things themselves than what you think those things are.

For this particular study, ten bottles of wine were opened and the participants (all maximizers) were asked to rate them. They were given all the information — vintage, price, you name it. To a one, the participants rated the expensive wine, the rare vintages and so on all highly. They were very happy drinking them. These wines were complex with great bouquet, wonderful finishes, you name it. Of course, the lesser priced wines were barely drinkable. That’s maximizers for you. They only want the best.

There was just one problem. Schwartz lied about the content of the bottles. They all contained the same wine. See? Not the thing but what you think it is. With food it gets kind of scary.

To go with the food, Schwartz served a variety of pates. Since I don’t eat fatty, stuffed goose liver with gherkins . . .

Hotel NacionalBack in the day when I was working for Public Radio, I went to Cuba ( legally, on a cultural exchange program sanctioned by our very own government who still manages to be lost in time, partying like it was 1963. Oh well . . . ) to freelance some pieces on the International Latin American Film Festival held there every year. It’s a total glamor-fest. Everyone who is anyone shows up. So there I was, recorder in hand! Anyway, we—the beautiful people, the . . .