Monday, August 17, 2009

monday profundity...or something like that

the other day my nephew and nieces came for a summertime sleep over. they are used to "camping" in a trailer bigger than many manhattan apartments (the living room "pops out," if that gives you a visual on how big the camper is) so the entire concept was mind blowing for them. after liberally applying bug spray we put our sleeping bags on mattresses which we then laid out on the deck. once we snuggled in, this conversation ensued:

katie (5): auntie, do you have kids?

auntie: no, sweetie. don't you think that you'd know them if i did? they'd be your cousins.

katie (delighted at this revelation; she's figuring out how the babies come into the family, i think): ohhhh!

anela (5): auntie, are you married?

auntie: no, sweetie, i haven't found a husband yet.

kyle (8) (incredulously): are you a teenager?


you know you're in trouble when you volunteer to do something and the first thing they do is give you professional business cards (in this case, working with the American Cancer Society on one of their annual events).


the more i learn about our political process, the less i want to know, and yet the more i compulsively need to know. is there some sort of 28-day program for people in my situation?

i get why we call it sauerkraut (sour cabbage), but what's the deal with hot dog? bratwurst was too hard to directly translate from the german?


several hurricanes/tropical storms are closing in on the mainland southern u.s., but the real estate i saw a lot of on the news today was a field in upstate new york (woodstock).


today i took benadryl to control allergy symptoms and then got so sleepy i had to lie down on the couch for three hours. my sore throat was gone, but i don't remember any of it.

the neighbors go on vacation and leave their dog alone in a kennel in their yard. he is so lonely he cries for hours on end. do you call the dog catcher? go over there and visit him>turn up the music louder and repeat la-la-la-la to yourself?

i wonder if they would like to be left alone for two weeks at a time with only dry food and water to keep them company.

my town is so low-key that when i asked the local pub what time they close, the owner said: when everyone goes home, which is usually around 11 PM. so you can "close down" a bar here and make it home in time for the late news.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

when i was a kid...

no, i didn't have to walk to school in the snow, with or without shoes. today i was thinking of my personal "kid foods," foods i ate, and adored, as a kid. before i give the list i must give one caveat: my mom was mother nature before mother nature went mainstream. like, we had carob as a chocolate surrogate ("it tastes just as good as chocolate, girls!") for the record it does NOT taste just as good as chocolate. it's okay, it's just not chocolatey.

okay, so junk food was not served in abundance at my house. in fact, the one time i could count on any sort of junky food at all was the last day of school before summer break. for the morning of the last day of school, you see, found my sister and i eating our choice of sugary cereal. prior to that morning we had made our yearly pilgrimage to Lopez Village Market and had picked out any cereal we wanted. each of us got our own box. and that was it. when it was gone, it was gone for the year (are you starting to see my mom's genius? not only try to convince your kids that health foods are sugary foods, but only provide sugary foods once a year so that when the inevitable whines of "we NEVER have sugar cereal" came pouring out of our mouths she could say, "oh yes we do; for the "last day of school.").

somehow, we did manage to sneak in junk food. i don't really know how. maybe when we went to friends' homes and their cheese was velveeta. or when their lunch meat was like the "meat" you get in a oscar meyer weiner (ours, on the other hand, came from an animal). or when dad took us to the grocery store to "shop".

however i came by them, i did grow to love some junk foods. here is my top 10 list:

10. fruit loops cereal
9. swanson fried chicken t.v dinner (with the fruit pie dessert)
8. swanson chicken pot pie
7. kentucky fried chicken original recipe
6. hostess pies (especially chocolate)
5. cheetos--crunchy not puffy
4. butterfinger candy bars
3. pop rocks (any flavor)
2. twinkies
1. ding dongs

what's on your list?

Friday, July 3, 2009

freedom, near and far

last week when i heard that there was a coup in honduras, wherein the president was hauled away in the dark of night wearing his pajamas, i thought: that's not good at all. maybe it's the word "coup." it conjures frightening images of blindfolds and machine guns. maybe it's the timing. with iran in chaos and north korea aiming missiles at hawaii, the honduras coup seemed like one more state going rogue. or, maybe it's the american in me. the idea that political battles can or should be won by strong arm tactics (beltway boxing matches aside) runs against the grain of my american sensibilities.

i looked into the honduras situation and discovered a surprise: some evangelical christian hondurans approve of the coup because, for them, it is about democracy. it turns out presidente is trying to do something unconstitutional: change articles in the constitution that are supposed to be unalterable. this doesn't sit well with them. deposing him means fighting for freedom and against a tyrannical leader. all of a sudden the mob with machine guns is making sense. good sense. (note to self: things aren't always as straight forward as they seem in a 30-second sound-bite or newsgroup headline.)


i've never been an activist. it's just not natural for me to picket or protest or be political in general. sure, i read and listen and even argue politics with friends over a beer, but i don't DO things (don't be silly!). until recently. over the last months i've watched our leaders take measures to grow huge government entitlement programs and spend money faster than the housewives of orange county. every time i turn on the news there is some new czar whose job it is to oversee billions of dollars or watch over a government-bailed-out company. i keep thinking of how my parents started a business and built a home during the 1970s when inflation was through the roof and interest rates were in the 20s. and i also think of my nieces and nephews having to pay off the "loans" my generation is taking out. it sickens me. i believe it is immoral to strap them with such a burden. so i'm doing something about it. tomorrow before the bbq and fireworks i'll be hitting the streets, attending a fourth of july tea party. i normally wouldn't attend a protest rally on a holiday (or ever), but this is just THAT important to me.

let freedom ring, wherever we are...happy F O U R T H of J U L Y everyone!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

eat, drink and be merry


do you ever get on food kicks, where you eat variations of a food/s for a period, not being able to get enough of it and're on to something else? currently, i'm into homemade pizza. we have plenty of basil and fresh tomatoes growing, so pizza magherita has been a mainstay. for store-bought healthy yumminess in a hurry, kashi's thin crust pizza magherita is a favorite. it's light on the cheese and the crust is cracker-like with no grease dripping off the bottom. sometimes i load it up with tons of veggies, or i merely freshen it up with fresh basil and tomatoes and either some pepper-mill cracked black pepper or red pepper flakes.

my newest homemade pizza adventure is from the culinary institute of america's grilling. the pizza, simply called "grilled pizza," has sauteed walla wall sweet onions (which come from eastern washington), mozzarella, basil and light tomato sauce (not too watery and definitely NOT sugary like sauce you get on so many delivery pizzas). the crust is thin and, as the whole thing is done on the grill, has that primeval food-by-fire taste that is especially delectable in summer. i've got a fire bowl, but haven't been so brave as to grill the pizza on an open flame! we'll see.


lately i've been into beer, probably because of my pizza kick. since i've been doing extreme p90x workouts and beer doesn't really go with those, i've tried to find a way have my beer without the beer baby tummy. (this is especially a problem because along with beer i like wine. and vodka. also not great "fitness drinks."). solution: light beer. i know. it's unthinkable for any self-respecting beer drinker to admit it, but there. i just did. the best light beer i've found is red hook's slim chance. it's delicious and as this reviewer notes, it tastes so good you may not realize it is a light beer. and, i'll be honest, light beer that doesn't taste light or look like a horse already drank it is the only kind of light beer that will do.

here's a beer contest that combines great crafted beer and a free bike: ft. collins, co based new belgium brewing company is giving away one of their signature "fat tire bikes" daily from memorial day through labor day. all ya gotta do is register online each day to be eligible for that day's giveaway. pretty fun. not sure where i'd ride such a bike, but i do have a nephew turning 8 this week who would think me the best auntie ever if this were his gift!


since i've already covered starch and booze, two things that can make one a little merry, i'll go in a different direction. are there writers in your life who never seem to let you down with the cogency, clarity and sheer genious of their writing? thomas sowell is that way for me. i dare say if he weren't married and old enough to be my father...but i digress. several sowell gems, here and here. i won't brag him up beyond saying the man is a heavy duty thinker whose demeanor is light and writing sharp. you gotta love that. you also gotta love a thinker/writer/scholar who defies the essence of "identity politics" by not being the guy who "should" be taking a view (you know, because he's the wrong gender or race or whatever). oh, and for anyone who thinks conservatism is dead and received its lethal blow once a black progressive took up residence in the white house (or when an old white guy didn't!), get to know thomas sowell. you can do that, starting here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

a postcard

The other day I got a post card in the mail from SAM (Seattle Art Museum) promoting an upcoming exhibit of two collections that will run June 24 into early fall. One collection is "Remembrance" featuring the work Andrew Wyeth, the late American Realist painter (1917-2009) and the other is "Target Practice: Painting Under Attack 1949-78," a collection of Abstract pieces by various artists who sought to challenge the conventions of the painting medium.

I'm sorry, and a little embarrassed, to say I that am not familiar with the work of Andrew Wyeth. I have come to learn that he was a popular 20th C. American Realist who died in January of this year and whose work was known for its sepia, muted brown, blue and green New England scenes, seascapes and people. His work is considered by critics as "Regionalist" for its selection of these colors and subjects, by which they mean boring, unoriginal, quaint and drab. Others find true genius and beauty in his work, suggesting Wyeth's work possesses a surprising complexity; what at first seems simplistic is merely constrained genius and talent. Noting that the artist restricted himself to painting subjects in his native New England and refused to use oil (opting for what some would say is the more difficult medium of water and the unusual medium of egg tempera), they suggest the artist's creative genius lay in the fact that he conveyed emotional richness and complexity within self-imposed creative constraints. To remove those constraints would have altered and depreciated the essence of his art.

"Target Practice: Painting Under Attack 1949-78" on the other hand, is essentially about throwing off all artistic constraints. We learn from the blurb on SAM's website that this art was produced as a part of a phenomenon "that occurred in all parts of the world, and the exhibition documents why artists felt compelled to shoot, rip, tear, burn, erase, nail, unzip and deconstruct painting in order to usher in a new way of thinking." Yes, you read right: rip, tear, burn, erase...

If the picture on the promotional post card is any indication (a depiction of an artist painting his own face, literally), the exhibit will be eye opening, if nothing else. I tend not to favor the deconstructive impetus (and that's putting it euphemistically), but I am eager to learn of the movement's history, particularly its end. In my experience deconstructive movements are short lived since they must leech off a positive affirmation. What happens when there's nothing more to deconstruct (to rip, tear, burn, erase...)? Was the movement's "negative" purpose achieved in some way that has altered art? Hmmm. Maybe this would describe how the much-awarded-lauded-gifted Andrew Wyeth is regarded in some critical circles to be an illustrator rather than a true artist? He didin't rip, tear, burn, erase...anything.

At any rate, viewing these collections together will be interesting, to say the least. Not only are the two exhibits contemporaneous, and therefore comparing them is not chronologically contrived, but most things about the exhibits directly counter one another, from mode, to purpose to medium, to message/s. Although I have my pre-understandings of what I will and will not enjoy from art in general and this exhibit in specific, I'm willing to be suprised. We'll see.

Monday, June 1, 2009

smiley faced fascism

I just finished a book by Jonah Goldberg entitled Liberal Fascism. The book reads like a response to current economic and political developments, such as government bailouts of private companies and entire industries, government takeovers of car companies, the passing of huge economic stimulus bills, the accumulation of massive debt to foreign lenders, and the like. But it's not a response to any of those things. The book has been out in hardcover format for about a year now, and tomorrow will hit stores in paperback. So it is not only timely and chilling, but also a prescient read on our current American context.

Jonah argues that the American form of Fascism, what he calls "smiley faced Fascism," is a very real, if less violent, form of Fascism than that found in, say, Hitler's Germany or Mussolini's Italy. But Fascism, Jonah argues, nonetheless pervades our culture, and has for years. To illustrate, he gives a working definition of the word Fascism (because apparently we use it variously and often wrongly), and then he the walks through the various chapters of American history that have been particularly fascistic. His explication is revealing; the result frightening.

The book is heavy on argument and for good reason; Jonah knows that Americans have a natural antipathy to Fascism and a great deal of assumptions about the topic. It is necessary and good, then, that his case is cogently argued, skillfully researched and accessibly written. He understands that our assumptions on the topic are so deeply rooted that readers will think he's a bit crazy and a little mean. His task of convincing us is a huge one.

Here is a paraphrased sampling of the kinds of "arguments" I personally had with the book:

"Wasn't fascism a brief, extremely conservative period during 'The McCarthy years' or (some would argue) during the years of George Bush?"
No, Fascism in America didn't start or end with Bush, or even McCarthy for that matter. It has been around since before FDR. American style Fascism has little to do with classic Liberalism or even Conservativism, but instead has its roots in early 20th C. Progressivism. Progressives tend toward the Democratic side of the political aisle but the Republican Party has its share, as well. "Wasn't fascism primarily a European development, one that we snuffed out in WW11?" Fascism was indeed a driving ideology in Germany and Italy during WW11, but many Americans--from politicians to actors to housewives--admired aspects of Fascism (particularly those centered "Il Duce") decades before the war, and only denounced it after the world discovered concentration camps. "C'mon, isn't Fascism about jackboots, violent nationalism and genocidal racism?" Again, the most widely recognized forms of Fascism, such as those in Italy and Germany were extremely violent and obviously coercive, but American Fascism is "friendly," more American, if you will. No jackboots, stormtroopers or genocidal racial nationalism here. But Fascism IS here, as is evident in the bullying politics of the 1920s, the massive "New Deal" project of the 1930s (complete with exploitation of the Great Depression) the reinterpretation of the 1950s as culturally oppressive, and the riots and domestic terrorism of the 1960s. (Jonah does not comment on the current political and social situations, as again, his book was published before the 2008 presidential election). "How could Fascism be prevalent in current American life and the general public not fight or at least acknowledge it?" Mostly we see Fascism played out here in seemingly reasonable, culturally accepted ways such as in: the imposition of political correctness in public life, the teaching of revisionist histories and literature in schools and universities, the use of "white guilt" to promote minority groups, the proliferation of anti-American propaganda in Hollywood, the exploitation of fear regarding the climate, the imposition of racial quotas in the workplace, and the control of populations via eugenics and abortion--just to name a handful of examples.

The above is just a taste of what Liberal Fascism has to offer. There is much to be mined (and argued over!) in this book. It has recently become a bestseller, and for good reason. It's a must-read for anyone with an interest in intellectual and cultural history--not to mention a concern for America's future.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


this weekend i'm doing something i've been wanting to do for a while: starting a compost bin so i can make really good "black gold" for my new garden. several weeks ago i took an industrial-sized rectangular, lidded plastic laundry detergent container with a handle and placed it under the sink next to the regular garbage. i began throwing in scraps of vegetables, egg shells, coffee grounds and other non-animal-based items. at first i was a little scared of it, nervous to open it. what nether-worldly sights or smells might i encounter? fortunately my fears were unfounded; the coffee grounds dominate the senses so when you lift the lid you get an in-the-coffee-shop sensation rather than an in-the-black-lagoon one.

yesterday i was faced with the definitive, looming question about the bin: now that it is really full (and we don't want that lid popping off!), what am i going to do with it? in anticipation of this question, i've had my eye on a compost bin from it's low-maintenance (open the door and deposit; no churning necessary), durable (made from a composite material), affordable (about $70 as opposed to hundreds) and unobtrusive (that "garden green plastic pot" color that is so common.) so while there is much to recommend the costco composter, and i've been intending for weeks to purchase it, two thoughts struck me: 1. is there a home-made, low-tech, super-affordable way to get similar results and, 2. if i do something at home and on the cheap i can afford a much better new table top grill!

so, i decided to crawl the web in search of info. with two clicks i came to a wiki page that resolved my dilemma. i learned that with just a few bucks, a drill and a little patience, i can build my own composter. i purchased a heavy duty plastic storage container with a lid for $4, charged up the drill and made several holes on the lid and sides. i was thrilled to find out that once the material goes into the bin all i'll have to do is stir it around every few days with a rake and watch the magic happen.

with that solved, yet another question arose: do i need to put the bin in the direct sun? if so, i don't know that there's a sunny side of the house where i'd like to display a black rubber container bedecked with "polka dot" holes (the shady side of the house being the non-street side). fortunately i found out that although "hot composting"--locating the composter where there is direct heat several hours of the day--is a lot faster, i could locate my bin in the shade and accomplish my goal. in fact, from a site aptly named i found out there are several ways to make compost, with methods employing heat, worms, trenches and more!

i decided to put my bin on the shady side of the house right underneath the dryer vent (why not mix coffee dregs with downy?). i transferred the compost matter that i've collected so far into the bin and, to my delight and slight dismay, discovered that it is already gurgling with microbial activity (i was reminded of the irony that is the human fear of small things: micro-bugs cannot harm me, so why is my heart racing a little?).

during this composting 101 tutorial, i learned that the kind i'm doing--"cold composting"--is also known as "slow composting." as i mentioned above, applying heat to the matter speeds up the process exponentially, as does using warms in the bin. since i've already ruled out the hot option, i'm now faced with the question of worms. i think i'll wait and see just how "slow" it goes before i go worm shopping!

p.s saturday afternoon, after a day in the yard. i just found the best spot for the bin. it's a sunny, not-so-visible spot that backs up to the house. it's right next to the natural gas hookup, so no beauty contest going on there. also, when i lifted the lid today i noticed there are WORMS snaking through the orange peels and egg shells. i think they sneaked in when i deposited the dead stems and roots of some of last years annuals. that was a surprise! so now i'm not only doing hot composting but hot composting with worms!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

pro-gram the dvr because meghan mccain is on t.v. again

two nights ago meghan mccain made an appearance on the colbert report. if you happened to miss it, you can see the embedded vid here. and for a hilarious, spot-on (not to mention highly irreverent) piece on it, go here.

in case you don't watch colbert, don't care to click on the video link, but somehow are still interested in reading this post, let me give a little context. meghan mccain is ALL the rage. it started during her dad's unsuccessful bid for president, when she began her "mccainetteblog" and had a lot of photo ops standing behind speakers on campaign platforms. and after the inauguration it just kept going and going and going...

...largely because meghan kept it going. when she's not broadcasting f-bomb laced tweets, and writing "articles" on her blog and, she's generating faux fights with members of her new party (she only became an R days before the election), which land her on the view as well as real news programs.

the fact that a twenty-something has a dirty mouth, a penchant for mugging for the camera, and a healthy dose of naivete is not news. i know more people than i can count who fit that description. the thing is, meghan mccain really does have a huge platform at her disposal, one she did not earn, but could use. the shame is that she wastes the opportunity. on colbert her one talking point, repeated a dozen or so times was: "i'm pro-sex, pro-life and pro-gay," by which (i think) she meant that the republican party should moderate on social issues in order to appeal to young voters like her.

when mccain talks--last night, being just one example-- i swear i hear the sucking of a vacuum and not a real human voice. maybe it's her school girl tweets (getting ready to go on colbert: "i'm so f--king nervous!") or maybe her juvenile attempts at political critique ("i'm sorry we're not hip" and "karl rove is creepy."). or maybe it's because when ms. mccain talks cringe-y moments inevitably follow. is she going to talk about licking colbert's face or what a bitch ann coulter is? what's truly odd is that the girl is at once self-aggrandizing and self-conscious. she tries hard, real hard. but does she know she's not rushing a sorority? she knows she's on t.v, right? like t.v. that's recorded.

right. for a while i felt sorry for her, but the truth is meghan knows exactly what she's doing. she's silly, rude, naive, and a tool of the media--and she's loving it. her daddy is yesterday's political news so she's running down the last seconds of her 15 minutes of fame. she's the paris hilton of the right, yet fancies herself A1 pundit. i hope she's having the time of her life. it'll soon be over and then she and paris can start their own reality show.

turning. channel. now.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

food and fascism

i found an article today that combines--albeit bizarrely--two of my favorite topics: food and culture. it's archived from the UK paper times online. the surprising, almost humorous, phrase "italy bans kebabs" in the article's title caught my eye, as did the accompanying photo of a fork of enticing pasta. but reading the article neither left me all that humored nor enticed.

the article informs the reader that, in seemingly musollini-esque fashion, there is now a push by the berlosconi government to ban all foreign foods in italian cities. specifically, the "kebab" and its purveyors have been targeted in the town of lucca. officials say the move is meant to protect italian culture through promoting italian food, but critics say: not so fast food fascistas. the motivation, detractors insist, goes beyond the love of italian gastronomy into the territory of "food racism" and even amounts to "culinary ethnic cleansing."

that seems way over the top, but at the very least the controversy shows how seriously italians take their food and that's something to admire. as an american raised in the era of the golden arches, i appreciate the italian food sensibility; for example the slow food movement, which began in rome about 10 years ago when locals successfully blocked the coming of mac donald's to st. peter's square and thereby sent a powerful signal to the world about their disdain for fast food culture. but, i must say i smell an overcooked paella here.

the banning of kebabs and other "foreign foods" in lucca seems to have as much to do with socialist laziness (the kebab vendors will work longer hours and it will be "unfair" to other food outlets), selective xenophobia (notice they're not protesting schnitzel), and food snobbery (do they think they invented gastronomy?), as it does about concern for preserving food culture. besides, do backers really think italians will completely abandon bisteca alle florentina for a kebab?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

mama mia!

my mom's birthday was this week, february 18 to be exact. the day not only marks the birth of my mom, but since, 2006, also marks the death of my dad. and, to pile irony upon irony, it also marks my parents' wedding anniversary (this year would have been 42). it goes without saying then, that february 18 is a huge day--for mom and for us all.

this year was even more profound, if that is at all possible. it was my mom's 60th. and so it was a day--and a year--for something big.

ever since i can remember my mom has loved italy--the food, the pace of life, the wine, the romance. she has always wanted to go--specifically to tuscany.

enter "mom's trip of a lifetime to italy." in october i will be taking her to florence, cinque terre, venice, the chianti region and maybe rome, if she feels like it.

the family sprang the surprise on her in the evening, at an italian restaurant, of course. but the day began at home with cranberry-almond-orange cardamom scones with cream cheese and lemon curd spread, and blanc de noir domaine st. michele champagne.

it was lovely.

happy birthday, mom!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

hello, my little egg cup friends!

i've missed you. i really have. ever since i got you from kate for my birthday, you've been trusty (and cute) friends. but for a while there eggs disagreed with me. i'm not going to use the world "allergic" to describe my relationship to the little oval delights because one taste wouldn't send me to the e.r., but "sensitivity" would describe it. very uncomfortable tummy, a heavy-feeling chest. an after-easter egg sandwich found me with cell phone in hand, ready to dial 911, my chest was so tight.

but, not now! the eggs and thus the cute egg cups, spoon and special shell-cracker are BACK! how? after learning of a study that suggests the rise of peanut allergies here and in the UK might be due to hysteric regard of that food (and unnecessary avoidance of that food in pregnant women) i thought: what if i treat my condition by re-introducing eggs to my diet, a little at a time; sort of a vaccine. or an egg therapy? i did and it worked. i now feel fine eating eggs and have a soft-boiled egg at least twice a week.

now, i'm prolly not going to make a 6-egg omelette any time soon, but that's as much to do with the waist line as it is the tummy ache.

Friday, January 2, 2009

not so fast, mr. spring

so i said in my last post that the snow here has gotten dingy gray. it reminds me of the day after christmas; remnants of the main event remain, but just barely. honestly, when it's that way don't we all want it if it's christmas we want to see the snow and the lights and if it's not, let's think about new years or valentine's day.

i've been in that mode the last couple of days. shoveling piles of dog poo and scraping sandy chunks of ice, not so fun. ready for mr. spring to come, at least a little. a bit of sunshine would be you can imagine my surprise when i awoke up this moring not to piles of gray sludge, not to gritty sand everywhere you walk, not to icy holes of yellow pee. instead, winter whiteness! mr. winter brought it. what a delightful surprise.

i took the dogs for a walk up the hill at sunrise and snapped this photo.

tweet tweet

    follow me on Twitter What's News US