Sunday, August 31, 2008

Harbinger.

I know it and you know it: that rain spattering and the wind hollering is the end of summer a-calling. So add these items to your list of stuff to contemplate:
  • No more white shoes, dresses or trousers after tomorrow (I know, no one cares about this but me, and actually, I don't even care about it, but just this morning, I read an article about it, and in the information-sharing spirit of this blog, I am passing this time-honored style principle to you. You're very, very welcome.). Also, possibly, no more white gloves, but no one but maybe Brooke Astor ever cared about that in about fifty years.
  • It's still tomato season for a few more weeks.
  • There are still peaches.
  • Awesome walking and bike-riding weather for several weeks.
  • Sweaters.
  • Less swamp cooler usage.
  • Also, time to send out your manuscripts again! If you have manuscripts, send them out--it's time!
  • Sleep with more covers on, which for some reason, I always find terribly comforting.
  • Pumpkin pie is in your future.
  • More baking in general.
  • Every season that passes is an index for how much closer I am--you, too!--to old age, decrepitude, and death.
See? So many reasons to be cheerful.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Slow and steady.

Just a note to say that I rode my bike to the library today to pick up a book that was on hold (Death of a Joyce Scholar, by Bartholomew Gill, because Ian Rankin recommended that, when you're traveling to a foreign city, you should read a crime novel set there, because it will give you the information you need, and we're going to Dublin! in two and a half weeks!), and either I am doing just fine for a woman of my advancing years, or my bike is awesome, or both, because it was a short trip, no incidents, even though it was hot: I made it there and back, cheerful and only a little sweaty, and now that's one more place in West Jordan that I need not fire up the Camry of Honor to which to drive, since I can just ride my bike, whee!

Friday, August 29, 2008

A little wisdom.

From Through the Children's Gate: A Home in New York, by Adam Gopnik:
We delight in children because they keep the seven notes of enlightenment, as the Buddha noted them. Keep them? They sing them, they are them: energy, joy, concentration, attentiveness, mindfulness, curiosity, equanimity. (Well, not the last, maybe, but they still keep it better than we do; they are often in pain but rarely in panic.) Detachment, too--they are detached from us in ways that we only know after; they study us exactly as monks contemplate the world, to free themselves from needing us. Their ultimate enlightenment lies in in that emancipation. What we didn't grasp before is how badly the world feels about being abandoned by the monks. As parents we are, briefly, objects of intellectual desire; we are, for a moment, worlds. We should be proud to have been as large as world, but instead, we are merely sad to be abandoned. The risk of sentimentality lies only in failing to see that the most charmed thing they will do is leave us. They have to renounce their attachment to us as the adept abandons his attachment to the world.
Getting older every single day of my life, my friends the people. Frankly, at the moment, I'm not feeling so bad about it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Michael Phelps vs. me: an eat-off.

Because I have to fuel myself to, y'know, get through my day, here's what I ate today:

Upon arising:
  1. a little orange juice to drown my Claritin
Breakfast with makeup artist daughter and grandson:
  1. an omelet with spinach and mushrooms
  2. the hashbrowns God eats when he has breakfast
  3. sourdough toast
[big gap for a little shopping with same personnel; then, lunch:]
  1. potato chips
  2. lemonade
[big gap for allergy-fueled nap; then:]
  1. leftover piece of cherry tart
Dinner:
  1. leftover tabbouleh
  2. leftover cucumber salad
  3. leftover crostini with tomato topping
  4. watermelon
Barely any evening noshing.

I know, you're asking: Where are the proprietary energy drinks? Why so little mayonnaise?

On the other hand, having leftovers from your previous evening's book group makes dinner preparation a snap. In fact, the only major calorie burning activities today? Shopping and cutting up that watermelon.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A whole hell of a lot.

Although there is some dispute as to the ins, the outs, the what have yous, apparently Michael Phelps, in full training mode, eats about 12,000 calories a day.

Twelve. Thousand. Calories. A day.

What does 12,000 calories look like? Here's how it breaks down:
  • for breakfast, a large bowl of porridge;
  • three doorstep-sized sandwiches of white bread, butter, fried egg, fried onion, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise;
  • a five-egg omelette tastefully garnished with parsley;
  • three slices of French toast liberally sprinkled with sugar;
  • three pancakes topped with chocolate chips;
  • two large cups of coffee;
  • for lunch, 1lb (that's a very large bowl) of pasta with tomato sauce;
  • two large ham-and-cheese sandwiches with more lettuce, tomato and don't forget the mayo;
  • four bottles of a proprietary high-energy sports drink;
  • for dinner, another pound of pasta;
  • a large cheese-and-tomato pizza;
  • another four bottles of the same proprietary high-energy sports drink.
Here's an article in The Guardian that explains all of this in more detail, as well as how nauseous the reporter became when he attempted to eat all of this in a feat of gonzo journalism.

(got this link via dooce.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On my mind.

  1. What should I pack when we go to Ireland?
  2. Will the Fleet Foxes be as good on disk as they were in concert?
  3. Can I finally buckle down and get to work?
  4. Is Genji, in The Tale of Genji, as big a perv as he seems to me? Or am I missing something?
  5. Time to clean my closet out again.
  6. Are my boots the best thing ever or what.
  7. Is the meadow in fact mostly just weeds?
  8. Could I make a website that would actually make money?
  9. mortality.
  10. I miss everyone!
  11. How much time I waste.
  12. I need to revise my manuscript.
  13. The wind in the trees in the backyard sounds heavenly.

Monday, August 25, 2008

D.M.V.

Today, as it is exactly five days before my birthday and six days before the end of the month, I hauled my sorry, reluctant, and--it must be said--aging ass to the Department of Motor Vehicles (Drivers License Division) to renew my license.

[insert two hours and fifteen minutes, in which I read ninety pages of The Tale of Genji (abridged version), the book my book group is discussing Wednesday night at my house, which, by the way, what will I make for tasty and scintillating snacks? not to mention beverages?]

Apparently, my vision is just fine--no duel necessary--since the only comment she made was, "You wear contacts?" Which I don't. As a result, I have a temporary license with a picture of me that caused me to say Oy when I saw it. The examiner said, "Oy?" and laughed. Trust me on this. It's not terrible but it's not good either. Hard copy to come in the mail, two to three weeks from now.

Speaking of the mail, today the boots I ordered preemptively for myself for my birthday arrived. Oh my goodness, they are awesome:
































































I wore them to the D.M.V. for extra toughness, which it turns out wasn't really necessary, though it's always good to be prepared.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Satisfaktionsfähig.

The historian ran across this anecdote from a year-old issue of The Nation, in a review of Thomas McCraw's biography of Joseph Schumpeter, a great conservative economist of the early to mid-twentieth century:
While still in his 20s [Schumpeter] won an appointment to a chair in Czernowitz, an eastern outpost of the Austro-Hungarian Empire,where he found that his students were denied proper access to the library. Challenged to a duel by the school's librarian, he fought to help his students and, not least, to defend his honor--satisfaktionsfähig--as an Austrian gentleman. By virtue of his swordsmanship, Schumpeter drew first blood, and the library's collection was made fully available to his students. (Robin Blackburn, "Perishable Goods,"The Nation September 24 2007)
The historian has been mulling over other occasions where duels might be called for. Me, too. For instance, I have to renew my driver's license this week. What if my eye exam is dicey? Perhaps I will have to challenge the examiner to a duel? If the officers of the law insult my meadow again, definitely a duel, though I will call upon them to lay down their firearms. Fair is fair.

I can imagine all sorts of situations at work where duels might become necessary, which I shall not enumerate, but you go right ahead.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Olympics.

I've not watched a speck of the Olympics this year, until today, when we watched
  • synchronized swimming, and
  • some track and field events.
Synchronized swimming: no offense to any synchronized swimmers among my readership, but what the hell? It's kind of beautiful but also, well, absurd. Right? Am I wrong about this? On the one hand, each person is a terrific athlete, strong as hell, and can hold her breath for agonizing lengths of time. On the other hand, swimming in full makeup? with all that mess in the hair? And all the smiling? Well, there you go. Whatever that is, it's not a sport. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

We just barely watched Nancy Lagat from Kenya win the 1500 meters race, which I happen to think is one of the most agonizing track events, because you basically sprint for the whole distance. Ms. Lagat had a fantastic kick at the end, though, that put her well out of reach of the Bahrain runner, the heavy favorite. It was awesome to see. Even for a person who cannot be bothered to watch a second of the Olympics, until today.

Friday, August 22, 2008

For crying out loud.

Just saw Tell No One, a French thriller that is getting terrific reviews all around. Apparently, "it gives you an itch you won't want to stop scratching," as well as being "crisply and competently filmed" as well as "beautifully written and acted." Also, "Thrillers aren't always so thrilling, but Tell No One is -- and absorbing, sometimes perplexing and often stirring as well. " (That's Entertainment Weekly, Salon, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal talking.) It was entertaining, well-acted, nicely filmed--but, as in so many thrillers, there was a moment when the film ground to a halt so that a good ten minutes of exposition could take place, explaining everything to the nth degree. To a risible degree. Yes, during this leisurely exposition, I laughed.

Why? Too much fidelity to the novel, which was no doubt plotted so thoroughly that its covers could barely contain all the twists? Who knows. But I don't get it: how can a filmmaker not know that all the dread, adrenaline, narrative steam s/he's just spent almost two hours building up will dissipate--utterly--when the film sits down to have a cup of tea (or, in this case, several stiff drinks) whilst the troubled evildoer tells all, and all the while brandishing a pistol at our hero?

Am I wrong? The Onion A.V. Club agrees with me. So what was all that critical euphoria about?

[in case you're wondering, now I'm feeling guilty for possibly hurting the movie's feelings.]

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Four at a time.

I am falling in love with the library. First of all,
  • you can put books on hold without going to the library or calling the library, because you can do it online!That immediately, of course, improves the library situation to a faretheewell. This is how I was able to procure the two French police procedurals I desperately needed to read, and without buying them. Of course, having read them, now I have to buy them. In fact, I've ordered them already, but that's really another story.
After the library's robot calls you to tell you that your books have been placed on a special shelf, specially for you, then you go to the library to pick them up and check them out. And then,
  • you can check the books out without talking to a librarian, because they have a scanner dealio. And then, you can get a printout of the books you just checked out. Without talking to a librarian. (This reminds me of when singing son had spent some time at a university library, and had this pithy observation to make: "There are two kinds of librarians: nice ones, and mean ones." I will leave you to guess which kind he had encountered in the temple of learning.)
As a note, I don't believe I have any undue fear of librarians. But I do so love to slip in and out of institutions with only the machines to register that I've been there.

Anyway: besides the internet reservation system, and the robot phone lady, and the scanner dealio, the best thing about the library is finding books you didn't know about. For instance, a new Icelandic book, which wasn't as good in some ways as the other Icelandic books I was reading, but was still interesting and worthwhile. Or a book on the Middle Ages that makes the engaging argument that new archaeological evidence shows that the era was neither Dark nor an Age (discuss). Also, this book set in Laos, a detective novel and political thriller and ethnography and I don't know what all.

In addition to the latter two, which I am currently in the middle of, tonight we stopped at the King's English to buy books for two granddaughters. While there, I picked up a book and another book, both by my friends. I've started them both and they're both splendid. No reason not to proceed in this parallel fashion. The only one I think I might not finish is the Middle Ages one--unfortunately, the thesis seems to be the whole book. But I might finish looking at the pictures.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

There will be crafts.

Okay, so it's Day 2 for the summer cold (part 2). I finished the last in the series of the French detective novels (woe!) and started another novel, set in Laos, featuring a Lao coroner who happens also to have a Hmong shaman living inside him. I am on my second dose of DayQuil for the day and I might be sleeping/hallucinating a little bit. Which may explain why I am entertaining another* alternative occupation for myself, which is: seamstress.

Hear me out:

There's this skirt I bought last year at Target and it is the best skirt ever, made out of superthin cotton jersey with a raw-edged hem. It's cut on the bias in lots of panels that are just stitched together and have an elastic waist. This skirt? I could remake it a million times and it would always be light, swirly, a little bit swishy, and flattering. I just need to find a way to buy the right fabric for it. I am on the hunt for that.

Also, I have this thought that I could make over lots of things from my wardrobe, like adding some lace to the collars of things or adding raw-edged silk organza to the wrists of things. There's a shirt I love that is for some unknown reason a ridiculous length. Etc. etc. When I say lace, I'm talking some kind of cross between Courtney Love, Miss Havisham, and Gunne Sax.

Also, I think this guy's tee shirt (the one on the right) is kind of cool, but the fact that he basically made it himself using a sharpie on a Hanes tee-shirt is even cooler (via fashioni.st):

















And Laura and Kate Mulleavy, from the label Rodarte, take fabric and dye it and paint it and color it. Why wouldn't that be fun? The answer is, it would be fun.

On the other hand, maybe I should just sleep it off. But what will I do, in that case, with the sewing machine I recently bought, and also those two packets of Rit, or that shoe box I've filled with sequins and beads?

*Here are some other alternative occupations I've considered.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Some questions.

Is this photo too graphic for blogger? Why is Bruiser's belly pink? Is the pink belly Photoshopped? Why is there a television show called Wife Swap? Can Bruiser really use a remote? What is his favorite show? Is Bruiser looking forward to watching Wife Swap? And while we're on the subject of summer colds, why are there so many summer colds at the megastore? Is it a basin of contagion over there? What about all those walks she's taking? Shouldn't that ward off so much viral activity? Or is she just born under a bad sign?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Playing kiss covers beautiful & stoned.

There were many, many encores tonight at the Wilco concert, but this was one of the best:




("Heavy Metal Drummer," from I Am Trying to Break Your Heart).


One of my favorite concerts ever, in what must surely be one of the loveliest outdoor venues ever. Thanks to Dr. Write and Middlebrow for showing us the ropes.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tom's ratatouille (as told to hightouchmegastore).

I got my technique for making ratatouille from Tom Colicchio, head curmudgeon from Top Chef, and author of Think Like a Chef. As if I thought any other way.

So tonight, when I made ratatouille without the book, Tom kept up a running commentary:

Me, in the refrigerator: What, this pepper, and these squash and this eggplant . . .
Tom: What is that, a Rosa Bianco eggplant?
Me, over at the table: . . . and these two tomatoes. No, three. No, two. Where's that basil? And also these two little cute eggplants.
Tom: Don't forget garlic!
Me, back in the refrigerator, triumphantly: And these leeks! (with a flourish)
Tom: Onions!
Me: Leeks will be awesome.

So the technique is--and it's a good one, so pay attention--you saute each vegetable individually, with a clove of garlic, minced, in olive oil, with salt and pepper, and a couple of sprigs of of basil at the end. Then, you put the vegetable you've just sauteed into a dish, and do another vegetable, with garlic &c. &c. Tom would also have you wipe out the pan between each vegetable:

Me, after the leeks: Okay, now the squash.
Tom: You're not wiping out the pan?
Me: Now the squash.

. . . because, seriously, the overwhelming fragrance in the dish is garlic, olive oil, and basil. Wiping out the pan so the lingering aroma of, what, squash doesn't contaminate the eggplant? That seems excessively fussy to me.

Tom: Fine, but your eggplant will be redolent of squash. Wait, are you grinding Sichuan peppercorns to season? Sichuan, seriously? In a Mediterranean dish?

Okay, I admit, that was a small heresy, but I had a little grinder full of those peppercorns, and I was full of adventure.

Tom: I give up.

But the thing is, when the eggplant and squash and tomatoes and peppers are at their peak, the whole thing is ambrosial, in a Mediterranean sense, and the every-vegetable-has-its-day technique means you really can taste the flavor of each thing, but symphonically, in relation to every other thing. So I salute Tom: his fussy technique gave us a luscious dinner. Add a soft polenta and there is no dinner better, even with the geographically incorrect peppercorns.

On the town and around the farm.

Friday afternoon, as I was mentally dusting my hands off from the hard work I'd done (textbook review), I dashed out of the house, took the A-train (okay, just the TRAX) and met the historian to see Vicky Cristina Barcelona. It was the kind of film--by which I mean, set in Spain and filled with Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz--that made one want to live life to the fullest; this meant that we had a resplendent dinner at one of our old haunts, and a stirring, soulful conversation that lasted for hours.

The next morning we got up and went to the farmer's market. All sorts of doings downtown--Fiesta Days at Washington Square, the Italian Cultural Fair near the Rio Grande Depot, which contraverted our usual parking situation, but never mind. We got peaches, apricots, plums, tomatoes, basil, mint, potatoes, onions, carrots, squash, green and yellow beans, and a watermelon. Cucumbers. We came home, and the historian took Bruiser off for a morning visit to the dog park, while I got on my bike ("The Danger") and took a test ride out near the Bingham Creek Library, taking in less-traveled West Jordan.

After I got back, we got a phone call from the historian's daughter, saying they were going to take a little trip out to Kennecott ("World's Largest Open-Pit Copper Mine"). This seemed like a splendid idea--I had never been, and the historian hadn't been in so long he couldn't remember what it was like. Of course, I forgot my camera which means, on the one hand, that I didn't document any of this; on the other hand, I had a perfectly swell time, less mediated by technology than it would otherwise have been. It was great, and very exciting, because we were told to clear out for a blast at 3:15. On the one hand, we might have had the chance to observe tons of rock that contained about 1% copper, had we just gone to the far end of the parking lot for the duration of the blasting, as we were advised; on the other hand, going for ice cream seemed preferable, so we skedaddled on out of there and had ice cream at Arctic Circle. The boys played on the indoor playground in an entirely delightful way, including the baby clambering up the little slide and sliding back down, backwards and on his belly. And there were huckleberry sundaes to be had. And fries.

After that, the historian and I went home, showered, and set out again, downtown again to a little dinner and a movie. I had what I have come to think of as one of the perfect pizzas at Sicilia pizzeria, just down the street from the Broadway--whole wheat crust, artichokes and spinach and tomatoes and just a little cheese. The historian had spaghetti. The movie was The Edge of Heaven, a German film made by a German-Turkish filmmaker Fatih Akin. This film was truly marvelous. It had virtually no movie stars, with the exception being Hanna Schygulla, now in her 60s and looking it, giving an absolutely revelatory and very moving performance (the link takes you to a "then-and-now" pair of photos). She was a fixture of Fassbinder's films, and it was wonderful to see her again in such an excellent film.

Last night, I thought about writing about all of this, but I kind of didn't want to try to put it into words. I just wanted to enjoy it. And today? I spoke to the Scotlands, made pancakes for breakfast, took Bruiser for a walk, took a spin on my bike--and it's not even noon. Life is good.

Friday, August 15, 2008

They are mysteriously connected to pausing.

On Arts and Letters Daily, in the "Nota Bene" section, there was a link to this awesome article (in the Guardian) on the growing alarm among the French that the semi-colon, or the point-virgule, is disappearing from use. As can be expected, some blame this sad state of affairs on (wait for it . . . ) "France's regrettable recent tendency, under the nefarious influence of ever-encroaching English, to reduce the length of its sentences." We English speakers: we are crude, insensitive, brutish bastards.

An editor, Ms. Sylvie Prioul, notes that "The short sentence has signed the death warrant of the semicolon," while journalist and author Guillemette Faure notes, "It's true that computer programmers use an awful lot of them, mainly as separators. And that's surely the last step on the line before it's reduced to a mere email emoticon."

Well! We at hightouchmegastore only wish we'd known about this sooner, and we'd certainly like to do our part: first of all, by alerting you all to this dire situation; secondly, by upping our semicolon usage, which shouldn't be a problem, since we love the semicolon--in fact, we are champions of all punctuation marks that allow for the maximum complexity in linking clauses and inserting parentheticals; and lastly, and thirdly, if you're counting, we will consider devising a feasibility study to consider whether a fund-raising effort might in fact help to save the semicolon. Think tee-shirts (see above as a hastily composed, nonetheless quite attractive design option); think bumper stickers; think--ultimately--of establishing a fund to give small grants to writers willing to preserve and extend the great complexifying, layering, and hesitational powers of this apparently and sadly underused mark.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Those days are gone forever, I should just let 'em go, but

Can these last days of August please last as long long long as possible? Some things I'm loving:

  1. walking through patches of shade--a palpable cool breath
  2. ditto, and double, for when the shady patches have damp grass in them
  3. hearing the birds chatter in the backyard while I read the paper
  4. wearing loose dresses all summer long
  5. eating the freshest most lovely food
  6. tomatoes
  7. tomatoes!

In other news, I've been living in the world of my French detective novel. It's so good that I find myself slowing down to make it last longer. There are wolves in it. Plus the title--Seeking Whom He May Devour--how much better can it get?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Megastore at the movies: daytime edition.

Yesterday, I took the train downtown to see Hancock with Dr. Write. We were supposed to eat soup, but the soup people were taking most of the month of August off for "renovation," like that's a good excuse for depriving people of their soup. When I saw their hand-lettered sign, I thought it said "rejuvenation," which is even worse. You can rejuvenate in shifts, people. Where's my gazpacho?

However, and as usual, I digress, since the main point, the thrust, the gist, the wherefore of today's post is that I have been trying, and as of today, I have succeeded in completing the superhero sweep, to wit:
  • Iron Man;
  • Incredible Hulk (Edward Norton version);
  • The Dark Knight;
  • Hancock; and, as of today, alone in the dark at Brewvies,
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
Here is my report:

When Hancock was over, I said to Dr. Write, "I thought that was good!" because the way I read the reviews, it sounded kind of lame, but I didn't find it lame, not lame at all. Sure, it could have been a little better--maybe more character development or something--but I sure enjoyed myself. And, as Dr. Write noted, "What's not to like?" Also, and maybe I just wasn't paying attention, but there was a plot development that made me turn to Dr. Write to say, "Wow, I didn't see that coming," whereupon she replied, "You didn't?" Which either is another piece of evidence that you can pull anything over on me, or else I was seriously underprepared for viewing the film. Having not read the relevant comic books or whatnot. Anyway: Will Smith is cute, Jason Bateman is even cuter. A completely passable way to spend a couple of hours.

Today, I took the train to Brewvies, which meant getting off at a stop I've never gotten off at before, which meant walking a couple of blocks in a slightly depressed area of our fair city, which was informative. There's an interesting church there, for instance. And a beauty salon that is open every day except Sunday and Monday, but which had a big closed sign in the window, and also large murals of exotically made up women on the side of the building. All told, a little slice of Salt I hadn't seen much of or known about. I consider that a bonus.

My experience as a lone woman in the brewpub theater did not disappoint. (A) I ate a swiss and shroom burger with the gardenburger pattie. Awesome. With fries, also awesome. And root beer. (B) I got to see the preview to Death Race, the ludicrousness of which looks even more grandiose than I could ever have conjured up. Staggering. (C) Also the full preview of Hamlet 2, which could be a nightmare, but the previews? Genius. (D) Hellboy was pretty awesome in and of itself. Excellent visual trope, when Selma Blair bursts into flame; the little creepy fairies were, well, creepy; the giant gears where Hellboy and Prince Nuada have their fight--wow. Danny Elfman's score--nice.

I left before the credits were over, which I almost never do, because I needed to catch the train to be on time for an appointment. The historian and I were meeting with a retirement guy. I continued my streak of barely missing the train by a whisker, so was a few minutes late. I'll tell you this--I'm not anxious to have lots more conversations, with an insurance guy or anyone else, wherein the sentence, "Of course, I'm assuming that you'll die first," is uttered--or some variation thereof--as many times as it was in the meeting today. It's hard for a sentence like that not to take the shine off your day.

On the other hand, the meeting did make me want to leave the meeting and do something wonderful and ordinary with my beloved. Like have dinner, or talk about stuff, or take the dog for a walk, just as we're about to do, right . . . now.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Big boy(s).

Last night, makeup artist daughter and her husband and darling boy came over for dinner, as well as singing son, whose wife was off visiting a friend for the evening. The night before, my daughter called and said, "Singing son and I want to come over for dinner." Which, when you come to think of it, is as good a way to get a dinner going as any.

Well, we had a great time, not the least of which was my grandson, who toddled around the living room, playing with a ball, the blocks, a little of this and that . . .

Because he was so busy, most of these pictures are a little blurry--call it "Boy in Motion":


video

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A death and an anniversary.

While driving around today, I heard a little segment of To the Best of Our Knowledge about the 20th anniversary of the recording of The Trinity Sessions, by the Cowboy Junkies. Margo and Michael Timmins talked about the recording, which was made in a church in Ontario with a single microphone, a fact I never knew during the period of time when I was listening to this recording all the time--I just knew it sounded eerie and spare, mournful, a little spooky, and mesmerizing. Listen to this for what I'm talking about, in case you never heard it:


Blue Moon Revisited - Cowboy Junkies


Apparently, they're doing a revisiting of the session, which, hmm, strikes me as a little ill-advised, but who knows? They've got Natalie Marchant, Vic Chesnutt, and Ryan Adams helping with this new project. Maybe it will be amazing. In any case, it was sort of startling to hear this music again, which instantly made me remember a time in my life with utter clarity and vividness, the way music can.

And Bernie Mac, who is just my age, just died of pneumonia or complications thereof. This has made me feel unexpectedly sad. In what struck me as an original way, the man was truly funny.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The little idiosyncrasies that give life its je ne sais quoi.

Anyone besides me reveling in the fact that there is a movie, opening soon at multiplexes everywhere, called Death Race, starring both Joan Allen and Jason Statham? Anyone? Because it just makes me smile.

Oh, and also Ian McShane.

*************

Saturday night update: Tonight, we were going to go see Brideshead Revisited, but first drop by my niece's choir concert to hear her sing, then duck out to make a 7:05 showtime. This week has been an international children's music festival, "In Harmony," here in the city of salt. We went on Wednesday to a remembrance concert--the anniversary of the U.S.'s bombing of Hiroshima. There were several Japanese children's choirs, my niece's choir, and a Kenyan children's choir. The concert was so wonderful we decided to go to tonight's, which was the final event of the festival.

Wellll, the concert was long, just as any sensible person would know it would be, but we kept not leaving for the movie because it was also wonderful. When we left after almost three and a half hours of music--singing, dancing, an amazing marching band from Japan, orchestras, and a breathtaking final piece that involved every single performer--the historian said that it had been uplifting, a perfect word for it. Who is willing to spend time helping children learn to play brass instruments, string instruments, dance, sing? Who is willing to help them put together polished performances that they will probably never forget having been a part of? How sweet are children's voices singing together?

I think you all know how I feel about the movies, but I did not regret for one moment spending the evening this way.

Friday, August 08, 2008

After the shouting.

This week, after the departure of my brother and his family from the region, and after my folks came down from the mountain, aka their condo up in Park City, I have accomplished the following:
  • saw The Dark Knight again (with singing son)
  • mailed my manuscript to a friend who very kindly offered to read it and give me advice
  • saw The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2: The Streets (with make-up artist daughter)
  • read three novels
  • took several naps
  • made cookies
  • cooked lots of vegetables
  • sat outside in my chair to observe the morning
  • taken daily morning walks with Bruiser
  • bought a beautiful yellow shirt
  • bought purple moccasins at Target, which, according to The Sartorialist, everyone is wearing (although the ones on the blog aren't from Target)
  • had lunch with make-up artist daughter, her husband, and the darling grandson
  • rode my bike to the post office and the bank
  • saw Pineapple Express tonight with the historian
It has been, in other words, quite a wonderful week. It's the kind of week that could persuade one that ambition is for suckers.

This morning, when I was walking Bruiser, listening to Le Fil (Camille) on my little shuffle, the sky was trying to make up its mind about raining or not. The whole time, it sprinkled, and I had a wonderful feeling, made up of equal parts of pleasure in the coolness and the music, a sense of physical well-being, and a measure of unspecified nostalgia, maybe as a result of the fact that it's late summer. Something about the weather also made me feel a change in the air--though there will still be plenty of sun and plenty of heat.

Maybe I'll figure out a way to make a poem of that, maybe not. But right now, I have to get back to my novel.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

If you hire me for this job, I will kick ass and take names.

Last night, I realized that in my own image of myself as an academic administrator--a vice president, say, or a dean, as opposed to a mere faculty member--I would be something like Jesus clearing the moneylenders out of the temple. Except with more swearing. But still righteous.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Baking with my eyes closed.

Readers of this blog may know that there are a handful of recipes I can make by heart--a baguette, whole wheat bread, muffins, corn bread--although it's also true that I must still pay attention, as a previous incident demonstrates, wherein I accidentally used twice the amount of water for the baguettes. Still, I just ended up with twice the bread, so that wasn't really so tragic.

Anyhow, it's also true that certain cookies have a pretty basic formula, and you can play with that formula and come up with good cookies every time. For instance, shortbread. I once read a thorough disquisition on shortbread (in the late and still lamented Cuisine magazine), written by a Scot, and therefore pretty much the ultimate authority. Shortbread can be gussied up, although that's apparently heresy, but a true shortbread is basically this: 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, 4 parts flour, as well as a pinch of salt. As in, 1 c. sugar, 2 c. butter (yes! a whole pound!), 4 c. flour. I have in fact made various nutty shortbreads, with chopped pecans or almonds, and also cacao nib shortbread. Also, chocolate shortbread. Shortbread is excellent and a stellar go-to cookie.

Last night, I decided I wanted some cookies, and began with a stick of butter, softened, and about 3/4 c. sugar, which I mixed together until creamy. Then I stirred in one egg and a splash of vanilla. Astute bakers may recognize this as a semblance of the Toll House cookie recipe. I threw in some whole wheat pastry flour, about a cup and three quarters, as well as some baking powder and salt. Because we had had polenta for dinner (which was delicious, but that's a whole 'nother genre of cooking), I also added about a quarter cup of dry polenta. Then, some chopped almonds and some cacao nibs. Baked at 375 for about 10 minutes.

I once knew someone who could make a cake without a recipe. I've never done that, but I'm pretty pleased with myself for making cookies by heart. And the cookies were delicious.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Summer cold.

Whose big idea was the summer cold? It's a terrible concept. Frankly, I just don't get it, how cold germs can be hardy enough to withstand the heat. Plus, the summer cold masquerades as allergies, so there's the whole Claritin-vs.-DayQuil debate, which can lead to lying awake at night deciding if the ticklishness one feels is allergen-related or viral. Then, at 1:45 a.m., the NyQuil makes its most compelling argument, so down it goes. Sleep descends like a hammer. A twenty-four hour hammer.

After my middle of the night drug-taking, I woke up at quarter to eleven this morning. Then, after a period of great grogginess and newspaper reading, I took a nap. A several hour nap. Basically, my whole Sunday I spent behind the water-soluble wall of a LiquiCap, as it dissolved and I gradually woke up. Which puts the likelihood of being able to sleep tonight in a fair amount of doubt. But hey. I haven't sneezed today. Much.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Like a heartbeat baby, trying to wake up.

Singing son said recently, when I asked him if he'd listened yet to the new Beck, "I don't like new music, I only like old music."

Of course, even the oldest old music was new music once, but still, he has a point. It's especially great to find out how great an old song is, a song you haven't heard for a long time, or maybe, more to the point, that you never really listened to in the first place.

For instance, "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite." It's on a great album, maybe even a perfect album, Automatic for the People, and the lyrics, which I never really heard until recently, when singing son chose the song for a game of "choose the song" on our way home from Idaho, are awesome. This is a fun game, by the way, with a limited group of people with a bunch of fully loaded iPods between them.

A couple of days later, when my son was helping me pick up my bike and bring it home, he busted out this verse, as he is wont to do, wherever and whenever:
Baby, instant soup doesnt really grab me.
Today I need something more sub-sub-sub-substantial.
A can of beans or blackeyed peas, some nescafe and ice,
A candy bar, a falling star, or a reading of doctor seuss
Singing son has a little bit of an uncanny ability to mimic the voices of other singers, so his reaching up for the "candy bar" was so Michael Stipe, I could have sworn we were back in the 90s eating at The Grit in Athens, GA. I haven't been able to stop singing this bit of this song to myself now for a couple of weeks. Sometimes, this little bit of the song keeps me awake at night, because I myself need something more sub sub sub substantial.

Anyway, you can check the song out for yourself on the "Pretty Music" feature of this page (upper right hand corner), if you've never heard it, or if, like me, you never really heard it until someone pointed it out to you, while you were driving through the georgian vistas of eastern Idaho, or while waiting for someone to adjust your brakes in a bike shop.

Clarification: In my previous post, I inadvertently implied that I personally threw the baby shower for singing son and his lovely wife. This isn't so--I was just an assistant. The hostess was my daughter the make-up artist, who is a perfect hostess and the impresaria of enjoyment.
It was a swell party, thanks to her.

Right back at ya: Thanks to renaissance girl for her kind words about my blog. Most of the time when I try to say "I love your blog," it comes out more like "when are you going to blog again, already?" Which doesn't have the same gracious ring, come to think of it. I appreciate the words you put out in the world, all of you. Thanks for your messages.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Cool stuff I totally needed.

A couple of days ago I bought a panini press, or a presse de panini, as the instruction booklet says--the instructions come in English and French, whichever you prefer. This reminded me of how frequently I use the occasion of a party, in this case a baby shower for singing son and his wife, who are expecting a son in October, to augment my kitchen equipment. And why not? Why wouldn't a dinner party be made more splendid by, say, creme brulee for dessert? So by all means, get a little blow torch.

Once I called my dad and asked how he was doing. He replied, "There's nothing wrong with me that about $10,000 of power tools wouldn't fix." I feel exactly the same way about the panini press, the blow torch, the twelve white soup dishes, the teeny demitasse cups, the lovely demitasse spoons, and so forth.

For the baby shower, I made paninis, with Crumb Bros. country sourdough bread, Jarlsburg cheese, and thin thin slices of Lodi Transparent apples. About the apples: we went to the Park City farmer's market, and there was this old farmer with apricots and apples. I thought it was kind of early for apples, but apparently these are about the earliest apples there are. "They're tart," he cautioned me, almost as if he wasn't quite sure I knew what I was getting into with these gorgeous, pale green, white seeded apples. Anyway: they were excellent in the paninis, which everyone loved, and which would have been well nigh impossible to produce without the new panini press.

Also, I used my mandoline, which I bought a while ago, to shave the apples into those thin, thin slices. It is really quite a fantastic machine, if a little dangerous, since you're always pretty much at a high risk of slicing yourself into ribbons. It's the perfect tool for the job, and I'm very glad to have it on hand.

Also, and lastly with regard to the paninis, I used the perfect bread knife I bought at Target, exactly the right weight, heft, and blade to cut bread into even slices, especially if you're patient and not in a hurry hurry hurry, like I usually am and sort of was today.

I also made lavender limeade, which required serious arm power on my part, since I used one of those little contraptions, a jar with the reamer that screws on top. I think I juiced about three dozen limes and lemons. There are fancier juicers, but this works better than my previous arrangment, which was basically squeezing the lime, say, with my hand into a bowl, with juice flying everywhere and, frankly, terrible piece-of-citrus to juice yield ratio.

For the apple squares, the dessert, I just needed a knife, a jelly roll pan, and a rolling pin. It's my mom's recipe, and it is super delicious and feeds about five thousand dessert eaters. I think, actually, I bought that jelly roll pan nearly ten years ago, when the historian and I threw ourselves a big party after we got married. I wanted to make brownies for the five thousand, and I needed the right pan for the job.

Open letter to an enigma.

Dear Bruiser,

Just about an hour ago, I came home from a meeting with Dr. Write, wherein we worked on the curriculum for a new course, perused Amazon for possible books, and also discussed the political future of our great nation. As you know, before I left home for that meeting, I took you for a brisk walk. You may recall that you nearly spun me off my feet when you expressed vigorous interest in a cat crossing our paths. I was a little unnerved by this. Perhaps I spoke a little too hastily, possibly even harshly, at that moment. I apologize.

But that's not the subject of this letter, Bruiser. It's about the bag of bread I found in our bed. I had to leave in a bit of a hurry this morning, so I didn't get to make the bed before I left, but I came home prepared to rectify the situation, and there, on my pillow, was a quarter of a loaf of bread, tied fast with its little twisty tie. I'm sure you know it is good bread. Very good bread. But you hadn't eaten any of it, not even a crumb.

I am 98% certain that you conveyed the bread to our bed. Because, while I may occasionally eat a little popcorn on or near the bed, and maybe sometimes I bring a slice of toast into the bedroom, in general, neither the historian nor I bring food with all its packaging into the bed, for purposes of consumption or for any purpose, really. We just don't. And there's no one else but the cat, who, to her credit, has never taken the slightest interest in human food. Except for butter, and the less said about that, the better.

So Bruiser, that leaves you. And I am curious as to what you mean by this. What are you trying to communicate to me with the bread-in-the-bed message? Is it proverbial, such as "Cast thy bread upon the bed and it shall return unto thee twofold"? Are you, too, trying to tell me, by means of an ancient metaphor, that I should return to the study of the word of God? Or, more colloquially, do you think you deserve an allowance, to be spent upon dog toys and bacon? Perhaps you feel it's time I took up my long-planned sourdough bread baking project. I am flummoxed.

As I write this, you lie upon the bed, now made, where once you planted this little possibly metaphorical communication of bread in a bag. I shall continue to contemplate it. And perhaps that is your purpose, for you are nothing if not zen-like.

Thank you, Bruiser, for the koan: what is the sound of sliced bread sleeping?

Sincerely your friend, compatriot, and comrade,

&c. & c.

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