Wednesday, November 24, 2010


On Sunday I went to my book discussion meeting. The Grapes of Wrath seems topical now. When I read it as a High School student, the 1930s seemed primitive and remote. It was akin to reading about feudalism or ancient Egypt. Since then, I've seen parallels to the depression, with displaced workers after factories have closed and refugees after the Katrina Hurricane. It was fun to recognize the heavy handed propaganda techniques Steinbeck used to make readers love the ordinary people characters and to hate the corporate big guys and their evil minions.
Then, as it started to snow, I dashed over to U Village shopping center in the annual quest for Chanukah candles. My neighborhood stores can never be relied on to carry any. A few days later, I've finally gotten curious enough to check out what colors they are. First of all, the two boxes I bought were taped shut. (Because, someone might try to eat them and they want to prevent tylenolesque tampering?) And more strangely, there are no blue and no green. The mix consists of red, orange, yellow, white, and pink. The pink is completely unexpected.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ukulele Report

It is day three of my ukulele adventure. I can now play "Tom Dooley" and can sort of take a stab at "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz. Also I know how to tune the instrument, a pretty essential component of getting a song to sound recognizable.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Petrol in, petrol out

I'm sitting in the Wayward Coffee House. Just outside is the Greenwood car show. More than a thousand cars parked diagonally along sides of the road, spectators walking among them. Earlier today, Smiley and I caught the last few minutes of a rally for safer oil drilling. One hundred people rebuking pollution at the beach, thousands a few miles inland celebrating an industry that demands the causes of that pollution. And I love cars too. I was especially drawn to the Jaguars,and a Chrysler similar to the 1956 model I remember that my dad used to have. So many models I remembered, like the station wagons that carpool moms used to drive. Some really strange things too, a car made by Messerschmitt. It was low like a go-cart, with two seats in single file. There were even a few electric cars, and one had a sign explaining about plans to convert it to battery.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Alejandro allay-allay-hand row

I love the Alejandro song by Lady Gaga. But I don't like the costumes and historical references in the new video. Pop culture has to try really hard to be fresh and challenging, you know, "edgy". I want my music to be fun, and not creepy. Obviously, anything that attracts comments is a success of a sort, so panning it here may be viewed as adding to the publicity.

Most of her fans are SO GAGA over everything that she's done, that they will love future product unconditionally. That would have described me up until now, I love all of her music.

To sum up:

Jackboots and nuns in red latex? Meh.

And if you escalate to evisceration and vivisection, I'm outta here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Maddy Rations

Get me bagels. But not blueberry. Any kind of bagels but blueberry.

I think that you should make me a shopping list of what you would like to eat.

And it needs a graphic symbol. A picture of a bagel in a circle with a red line through it. And don't forget to draw little blue dots.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Post Game

I tried out game night at a Capital Hill store last night. The sign-up list showed 5 women were planning to attend, But only one other showed up, and she left before playing started. So it was me and 9 geeky guys. Not the worst thing in the world. Posting for posterity, because who knows when this will happen again: I won two games that I had never played before. They were called Tuvalu and Astro(something).

In raw food news, I have 25 pounds of tomatoes. I went shopping with mangoes in mind, but the ways of the Jedi Market are unpredictable. You never know what will be abundant and in good shape. Eating some now with cucumber and green onion.

Monday, March 29, 2010


I have my daughter mincing apples. She keeps stopping to ask if the pieces are small enough yet. It takes a long time to mince the ingredients enough.

Will I have to do this again?

Yes, every year. Also tomorrow.

I have to do this tomorrow?

Don't worry, it will get easier after you learn to use the food processor.

I could have used the food processor??? Why didn't you tell me that?

You need to have the complete charoset-making experience, grasshopper.

Haven't you seen that show?

Is that from a show? What show is it from?

The Green Grasshopper Hour.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Portal to Heck!

I finished reading "Memoirs of Hecate County," by Edmund Wilson. Add a middle initial of "O" and you would have the name of a 20th century evolutionary biologist, but that would be an entirely different writer. I arrived at this book circuitously. The "Pet Shop Boys" have a song that includes the phrase "Finland Station" which google and wikipedia tell me is the name of a book about the precursors of the cold war. Without being clear on whether "Finland" was fiction or non fiction, I looked for it in a bookstore, and settled for "Hecate County", a collection of interconnected short stories, by the same author.

The writing style was very American. It reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe and F. Scott Fitzgerald. There is a first person narrator who alternates casual straightforward discussion of everyday life with concern that perilous supernatural forces may be at work, because what other reason could there be for the loneliness and ennui affecting everyone in his life. "Ellen Terhune" was the most Poe-like of the bunch. Our narrator stops by to see the title character and finds her sometimes his contemporary, sometimes herself at a younger age, and then, personifying one of her ancestors. The other stories don't rely on the fantastic, even the last one "Mr. and Mrs. Blackburn at Home" where he meets someone who may well be the devil, leaves plenty of room to think that he imagined it after a few too many drinks.

I found a note online erroneously claiming that "Hecate County" contained whole passages in Russian. This seems to refer to the "Blackburn" story which has one word with the Russian suffix "ka" and then a footnote to discuss why. What it does have is extensive use of of French. This starts slowly, a word or a phrase dropped into the English sentences. I muddled through this, not really seeing that it added anything to the story. In between, he comments in English on what was said, or on whether the style of French was sophisticated or provincial or old fashioned. As the sentences stretched out into paragraphs and then multiple pages, I started flipping them over to see where it ended. An afterword written by the author John Updike confessed that he hadn't read all of the French either.

"The Milhollands" story discussed the publishing industry. It showed how publishers began to use book clubs and newsletters to promote their products, and bemoaned the fact that what gets printed, and even what sells, may have minimal content. Ironically, the plot kind of fell apart in this one. I was expecting a snappy ending that never materialized.

"The Princess With the Golden Hair" seems to have attracted the most attention of the critics. Our hero is infatuated with a delicate damsel who lives in a castle-like home in the country. She flirts and he fantasizes that she can't possibly love her husband. He reluctantly admits to himself that as a writer and an art critic, he can't afford the kind of estate where some of his fellow Hecaters entertain, and that this diminishes his marriage potential. While spending the winter in New York city, our hero meets a dance-hall hostess who becomes the unacknowledged princess in his life. Her accessibility at first doesn't seem romantic, and her family life is frightening, but he finds himself growing very attached. Their class differences scare him. He runs back to the original damsel in the story, to find that while lovely, she is hopelessly neurotic, and firmly in love with her husband.

The New York Times published a scathing review in 1946.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In the Na'vi

Where can you ride dragons?
Drink out of crude flagons
Flick your ears and swish your tail?
Bare but for scant feathers figleafing your nethers
Scamper over hill and dale
Where can you talk to trees?
And learn to dodge banshees
Brush up on your archery?
Ride a pa'li horse
And find your inner source
When you're one of the Na'vi

In the Na'vi
Yes, you can live among the stars
First the lab phase
Scientists grow you in a jar
In the Na'vi
You're there, your body is afar
In the Na'vi In the Na'vi
In the Na'vi
Use your dendrite ponytail
In the Na'vi
To communicate with quail
In the Na'vi
In the Na'vi In the Na'vi In the Na'vi (In the Na'vi)

They are blue, they are blue
They are blue and you can be too!

Trade in your transformers
Flying tanks and robots
And smart alec milit'ry crew
For some body paint
Tree climbing 'til you're faint
And maybe some cliff diving too
Hear as evening falls
The distant caterwauls
Of Nantang wolves but have no fear
Gathered 'round the fire
A Na'vi spirit choir
Emanates notes of a seer

In the Na'vi
Yes, you can live among the stars
First the lab phase
Scientists grow you in a jar
In the Na'vi
you're there, your body is afar
In the Na'vi In the Na'vi
You can be an avatar!
In the Na'vi
Use your dendrite ponytail
In the Na'vi
To communicate with quail
In the Na'vi
You can be an avatar!
In the Na'vi In the Na'vi In the Na'vi (In the Na'vi)