Wednesday, February 25, 2009

hypocrisy, or, quote of the day

"We believe health care decisions should be made between a patient and his or her doctor."
-Bobby Jindal, Republican response to Obama's speech, 2/24/09

Monday, February 23, 2009

'let me ask you this...'

"Let me ask you this. Red meat has been found to cause cancer in white rats. Maraschino cherries have been found to cause cancer in white rats. Cellular phones have been found to cause cancer in white rats. Has anyone examined the possibility that cancer might be hereditary in white rats?"
-Margaret, The West Wing

Friday, February 20, 2009

quote of the day

Everyone's favorite ignoramus, Rick Santorum, had this to say at a recent lecture on Islam at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln:

"A democracy could not exist because Mohammad already made the perfect law. The Quran is perfect just the way it is, that's why it is only written in Islamic."

Islamic? And is the New Testament only written in Christian?

toothpaste, or, the overwhelming drive of consumerism

I needed new toothpaste the other day and found myself transfixed in the dental hygiene aisle of my local drug store. I mean, how many damned toothpastes does the world really need?

My selection is relatively narrow, in that I use Sensodyne because unfortunately it's not just my personality that's prone, at times, to oversensitivity. But even within this one brand there are eight different kinds of toothpaste, and I can never remember, when faced with choosing one, which kinds I've tried and liked or not liked, or even which kind I currently have at home. Was it Fresh Mint or Original Flavor or Fresh Impact? What exactly does Cool Gel Fresh Flavor taste like, anyway? Did I get suckered in by the Extra Whitening last time? Which one was it that I really disliked? Why wouldn't I want Full Protection Plus Whitening, and why is there a separate Tartar Control when presumably tartar control is part of Full Protection Plus Whitening? Is their new ProNamel really going to reharden my enamel and protect my pearly whites from wine stains, fruit acids, and general wear and tear?

And that's only one brand, and a small one at that. Have you seen the ever-lengthening aisles of Crest? Of Colgate? Of Tom's of Maine? A girl could lose it in the toothpaste aisle, I swear to God.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

'she's dancing round in circles, stripping off her armor'

I've been listening this evening to Benewah Road, the most recent project from David Hoffman of Harrison, Idaho days.

On the David note, there must be something about that particular name, because it always seems like the Davids in my life are amongst the kindest, coolest people in the world.

And on the Idaho note, there's a book I might buy if I were buying books these days, by the name of On All Sides Nowhere, the story of a man who went off into the wilds of northern Idaho for graduate school (yes, they have graduate schools in the wilds of Idaho!) and has this to say about the state that Gregory Peck's character in On the Beach claimed as home:

Idaho first registered on my consciousness at the movies. In the summer of 1960 I was sixteen, and in the middle of August there was no place in suburban Pennsylvania to find air conditioning except in supermarkets or theaters. I could not spend summer days amid the cabbages and canned goods, and so to escape the heat I went with my friends as often as I could to the movies; one of the movies I sought out was an elegy for the waning days of modern civilization, On the Beach.

To the filmgoing public in 1960, keenly aware that despite all the best intentions the cold war could suddently turn hot, the movie was perfectly credibe. It was set only a few years into the future; a calendar on the wall read, ominously, "1964." Nuclear war of undisclosed origins had killed everyone in the Northern Hemisphere, and now, as a lethal cloud of radiation spread slowly over the planet, one of the last surviving groups of humans clustered in Melbourne, Australia, to await the end. It was an intoxicating, almost carnivalesque, experience. Gregory Peck played the romantic lead opposite Ava Gardner, and at one point in the film, Peck, the taciturn commander of a nuclear submarine, tells Ava Gardner about his origins. In answer to her question about his childhood home, he repies with a single word that at the time seemed more homiletic than informative: "Idaho."

Whose decision was it for Peck to calim Idaho for his birthplace? Of all the possible states the scriptwriter could have chosen, why that one? And it was a choice: for the record, Peck was born in La Jolla, California, and his character in Nevil Shute's novel from which the movie was adapted comes from Westport, Connecticut. Peck's "Idaho" drops like a stone into a wel of unknown depth; it falls without a trace, without echo. It is a piece, apparently, of purely gratuitous information.

Why Idaho? The name resonates oddly with Melbourne and San Francisco, the environments of
On the Beach. Those places set the mood of the film. To Americans in 1960, Melbournce was alien, exotic, and San Francisco brought to mind the glitz and romance of California. Set in that context, and set against the despairing hedonism of humans who number their remaining days according to the drifting global winds, "Idaho" seems dissonant. Its sound is stark, but as Peck speaks it, it sounds also moral and attractive. It seems to express Peck's loneliness, his longing for the simplicity of childhood and for the innocence of a world before the Bomb. None of the familiar mythic names of the American West, not Texas or Oregon or Colorado, would have the same aura of pure expressivity. My guess is that the name "Idaho" was chosen for its semantic emptiness. The name made sense because to most people "Idaho" meant nothing, and, meaning nothing, it could stand in for the infinite pathos of a world that would shortly cease to exist. Idaho was then, and in some ways still is, a geographic What You Will, and as a result the name "Idaho" becomes a kind of cultural Rorschach test for whoever happens to reflect on it.

chuppah, begun

(see also engagements)

going home, 2.15.09


(much better than two years ago!)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

sign this

For real. Check out the Courage Campaign, watch the video, get all teary-eyed, and sign the petition.

posted in my hallway tonight

Key phrases:

-"do not take it upon yourself to make them flee"
-tell the police that "the intruder is now one step away from your roof"


Monday, February 09, 2009

confession (also, corn soup)

I spent the weekend out on Long Island visiting Lauren. We had a lovely time together, but she, being a first grade teacher, had some school work to get done while I was there. And it was while she was grading spelling tests that I got into trouble.

I was just trying to read my book, curled up on the couch, surrounded by two attention-hogging pitbulls, not paying much attention to the television playing in the background. Until I looked up to see, on Bravo, a show by the name of the Millionaire Matchmaker. The next thing I knew it was two hours later, two hours of my life gone that I'm never going to get back, and Lauren was asking, "Are you okay over there?"

I'm still amazed that the people on that show breathe the same atmosphere that I breathe, because damn if they don''t seem like a bunch of strange and alien creatures.

Eventually I managed to tear myself away, and then we went and made a big batch of corn soup.

Indian-Style Corn Soup:

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups corn kernels (6-8 ears or 2 10-oz frozen packages)
3 cups water, vegetable, or chicken broth
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lime or lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves

Cook the onion, garlic, and thyme in 2 tablespoons butter in a 4-quart pot over medium heat until the onion turns translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the corn and half the water, cover partially, and simmer until the kernels are soft, about 15 minutes.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan over low to medium heat. Stir in the curry powder and heat gently for 1 minute to wake up its aroma, but be careful not to let burn. Remove the pan from the heat.

Puree the corn mixture in a blender or food processor and then strain it through a food mill with a medium disk or a medium-mesh strainer. If you want a smoother texture, strain it again through a fine-mesh strainer. Add the rest of the water or broth to the strained mixture.

Whisk the cooked curry, coconut milk, sugar, lime or lemon juice, and cilantro into the soup a minute or two before serving. Season with salt.

(from James Peterson's Splendid Soups)

This was incredibly easy, especially when you ignore some of the directions. We did cook the curry separately but really there's not much need to do that. We also used a stick blender to blend it right in the soup pot and didn't bother with the straining at all. And the frozen corn is pretty good, especially for this time of year, and a hell of a lot easier (and less messy) than cutting the kernels off ears of corn.

Were I to make it again, I'd forgo the thyme, which has never been one of my favorite spices, and double the curry and garlic. Tonight, for my leftovers, I tossed in a couple diced plum tomatoes. Delicious.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


I was blessed on the train yesterday, heading home after work.

I was just sitting there, reading my book, not paying much attention to the goings-on around me, when the man sitting next to me started talking. He'd glanced at my bag and had mistaken my Act Now pin for an Act Up pin and started explaining that he'd been involved with Act Up back in the '80s.

I learned quite a bit about his life in the ten minutes we spent chatting, sitting there on the A train. He is a Vietnam veteran, lost his father to a heart attack in '73, has been living with AIDS for over 20 years, went to college on the GI Bill, does volunteer work for the VA with some of those "kids" suffering PTSD after coming home from our current war(s), and wants to love Obama but is preparing for disappointment.

He was a fascinating man, clearly a kind man with a life story worth listening to, and I'm glad that he mistook my pin for another. His name was George, and he shook my hand when we parted ways, and blessed me, and thanked me for the ear.

It was one of the nicer train rides I've ever had.