Monday, March 27, 2006

aesthetics of hunger: breakfast, etc

Fannie Farmer's Cream Scones [Without the Cream, and other adaptations.] Cheap and easy for houseguests or breakfast guests or as a hostess gift with jam or nice honey. They don't keep well, but we toast day-old leftovers and eat them with eggs.

Sift into a mixing bowl:
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons tartrate-type baking powder or 2 teaspoons "double action" type
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Using fingers, a pastry mixer or a fork [I use the side of a knife to press chunks of butter through the tines of a fork it's easy and I'm no pastry chef], work in:
1/4 cup butter

Into another bowl, break:
2 eggs

Reserve a small amount of the egg white for topping. [I don't.] Beat the rest and add to the flour mixture with:
1/2 cup milk [I measure the milk into a 2 cup measure, then break the eggs into that, beat and then add.]

1. Add a little more milk, if needed to make the dough just firm enough to handle but still soft.
2. Turn out onto a floured [surface. Knead 1/2 minute. Pat and roll into a flat circle. Cut like a pie, into 8 wedges. Bake wedges on any old thing - a cookie dish, a casserole dish, whatever.] Bake 12-15 minutes at 450 degrees.
3. Again, add as you will lemon zest or lemon or orange extract or poppyseeds or nuts or dried fruits or old wizened apples, or cheese or herbs if you want to eat these eggs. Otherwise, they are good with honey, jam or butter. And hot coffee.

Seafood Shortcake. Or, a scone with tomato fish sauce.

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aesthetics of hunger: dinner

This is for Lindy's blog, Toast. She's gathering cheap recipes, aka "Something for Nothing" and, on April 2, when she's done, you should definately check her out. Or send her something now, chowhounds.

And so, I give you, "We could call her Tuna!"*

1 can tuna, whatever kind you like, in water
1 small can diced or whole tomatoes (you'll have to cut or break up whole tomatoes)
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced fine
1/4 of an onion, chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (this should be a hot dish)
Olive oil
Pasta, something long.

1. Heat the oil, add garlic, onion and red pepper flakes in wide, deep frying pan. Cook till garlic gets light brown. Add the tomatoes and reduce at a simmer until sauce thickens a little.
2. Cook and drain the pasta.
3. Add the tuna and its water to the tomato sauce and stir, bring the sauce back to a simmer. Sauce should be runny again. Add 2 servings of pasta and stir to cover pasta with sauce. Salt and black pepper.
4. Variations, according to your odds and ends: You can add a dried out old piece of carrot and/or celery from the bottom of your veggie bin when you add the tomato. Remove the veggies before you add the tuna. And then eat them. You can add the dregs of a bottle of dry white wine when you add the tomato. You can top with fresh parsley or fresh dill or dried dill or black olives or capers. But of these last, choose just one, it's that kind of dish.

* My little brother's suggestion for my little sister's name, before she was born. This dish also goes by pasta al tonno. The photo is of a similar sauce, but made with poached Tilapia and eaten as leftovers with a scone, not pasta. Actually, you can't very well see here how runny the sauce is. But trust me.

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sex, slumming, soup and Bill O'Reilly

Politics makes strange bedfellows, but then, so does sex. You would think I'd be all over this, but my interest wandered just after that passage about slumming Vassar girls . . . I had no idea where Lemann was going. But had I known . . . . EL at My Amusement Park read the whole damn thing, went back and read the previous installments, AND heard O'Reilly on Fresh Air. And thus she creates an engaging and interesting review of the March 27 article, "Fear Factor How Bill O'Reilly changed cable news" by Nicholas Lemann. Thanks so much, EL.

Oh wait, now I remember why I stopped reading the piece: "I never saw Nassau County, Long Island, where O'Reilly, who is fifty six grew up, in the nineteen sixties, but I'm guessing that restaurants so unpretentious that they wouldn't serve a soup-of-the-day didn't actually exist." (34) Wha? I'M guessing that's a triple negative and that Lemann thinks that they did, after all, serve the soup in the nineteen sixties. But who the hell knows?

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

not the fashion issue, more gerson, mayer on mora, political science

Except for the mail. Two letters about not buying that Gerson thing.

One letter about Jane Mayer's profile-investigation of Alberto Mora's opposition to torture policy. It didn't occur to me as I read these pieces, and I only posted on the Gerson thing, that they were both profiles of powerful conservatives. If that's the new big thing in the New Yorker, they should all be as good as Mayer on Mora, which was detailed, disturbing and interesting.

So if you are as bored with the fashion issue as I am, go read that article, in the Feb 27th issue.

I also found that I'm not interested in posting on the Political Science article from March 13, also good. When I looked for it, after Mantooth's reccommendation I found that my partner in crime (science nerd that he is) had read it and engaged me in a long discussion of it that I'd forgotten all about. So I'm pretty spent on that topic.

Except to say this; it's articles like this that make me feel like I am the clueless liberal that lost the last election because I don't know about the ideological imporance of conservative moral values. When my partner in crime began his discussion of the article with the example of the Bush admin opposition to a cervical cancer vaccine, I argued that there MUST be a material reason the admin opposed it, there was some profit motive somewhere, they had something material to gain. But the article emphasized the relation of this opposition to a vaccine to the opposition to an AIDS vaccine (which seems a plausibly right-wing ideological move) to the whole abstinence as contraception argument to a larger disregard for science, including the whole creationism thing. And this disregard for science is, at bottom, ideological and not materially motivated? Well, if you say so.

And I shouldn't be so skeptical. I knew people once upon a time (7th grade life science, it was) who did not believe in the theory of evolution. BUT THEY WERE MIDDLE SCHOOLERS. I guess I just assumed people grew out of it. But now that I think if of it this same girl was not in my 9th grade bio or 12th grade AP bio so what happened to her? Did she stop taking classes that challenged her beliefs? Was she tracked out of college-prep science? If I were prone to Gladwell type theories, I'd say it was high school tracking that isolated liberals and conservatives in this country.


The other thing that both the Mora and Political Science articles made me think of was this. Look in the background at that visual representation of the Nixon administration resignations. I wanted to make one of these for myself, but it would be like the size and complexity of a Morman family tree. (Note: This is not necessarily a polygamy joke, but it could be.)

This is a Teenie Harris photo, Teenie Harris was the photographer for the black newspaper the Pittsburgh Courier in the middle of the 20th century. And that is the short story. The Carnegie Museum of Art is doing an amazing archive project, with Pittsburghers identifying the places and figures in the photos. Check it out.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

berthold brecht goes to broadway

And other thoughts on violent musicals.

My partner in crime called my attention to this article in the New York Times, on the evolution of NPR and Renee Montagne's secret Big Mac addiction,

"That attitude [that NPR was bound to be a day late and a dollar short] began to change, he said, during the presidency of Frank Mankiewicz, from 1977 to 1983. Mr. Mankiewicz, who had been Robert F. Kennedy's press secretary and George S. McGovern's campaign manager, invoked "West Side Story," imploring NPR's journalists to "walk tall, you're Jets," Mr. Kernis recalled." Image is a publicity still type thing not from West Side Story, but of it.

And speaking of sharks, that Broadway production of Brecht's Three Penny Opera mentioned and advertised in The New Yorker could be very cool. But I have a feeling it won't be.

Films to put on the violent musicals list include:

The Sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965) - Nazism
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964) - French in Algeria
Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier, 2000) - Capital Punishment
West Side Story (Wise, 1961) - American Racism
Threepenny Opera (GW Pabst, 1931) - Serial Killings and Capital Punishment

And then there's opera-opera.

Does anyone have any more films to suggest?

On The Sound of Music, these gentlemen at reverseblog appear to have spent too much time watching films with the well disciplined and respectfully silent film society and not enough time at the movies with the rest of us.

I appreciate the honesty and the irony and everyone has a new and disorienting experience now and then and it can be interesting to write about them. But have they never been to a film in another country, say? With people of different ages? At the drive-in? There are infinate viewing situations, so get over it.

And is the repressed violence of The Sound of Music really more appropriate for moviegoers with disabilities than the pop horror of The Hills Have Eyes? Everyone has a right to Hollywood pop horror . . . well, you know the argument. I try so hard to read film blogs, but then I am so disappointed so much of the time. I liked the Oscars response here, but then this . . .

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Friday, March 10, 2006

march 6, 2006 talk and goings on, schjeldahl and hertzberg

Sometimes Schjeldahl really gets it. His description of the Goya stuff (23) makes me ache to see Goya. "A portly man lowering himself onto a toilet presents the mooniest buttock ever drawn [...] Wings have been strapped to a little dog, in the sky. They don't work. It plummets earthward." You almost don't even have to be there.

And he opens it so smartly, with a sharp invocation of war and its violent idiocy and the violent power of its critics: " 'Goya's Last Works' at the Frick isn't large, but neither are grenades."

Goya at the Frick, scroll down for the very images S. describes. Or don't. The drawings, seen on my computer anyway, actually pale in comparison to Schjeldahl's descriptions. I forget where I saw a series of Goya's little tiny Disasters of War etchings in a completely dark, circular room with warm yellow lights focussed on each drawing, separately. Very cool.

But wouldn't Hertzberg's "Count 'Em" have been better if in the middle of the second column on page 27 he'd said, "And then, hey presto!" instead of just "And then, presto!" ??

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

not that repressed queer western, the other one

1. Although you might not notice it with Philip Seymour Hoffman mincing all over the screen (brilliantly, yes) Perry and Dick are a very intimate pair.

2. This is way more obvious in the book In Cold Blood, or in the film In Cold Blood. Both of which are about Dick and Perry and "not" about Capote in the same way that the film Capote is about Capote and "not" about Dick and Perry. With a lot of attention to Dick's good looks. He looks just like a boy I held a torch for in high school. Everyone did. The "All American Boy" as he puts it.

3. I'm not saying cinematic or literary Perry and Dick are gay or homosexual or queer, but I think anyone looking at (a) the language of the book, (b) the conventions of the movie In Cold Blood and (c) the historical and biographical information given in the movie Capote might be able to make an argument that all three works are about (or maybe only participate in, but I'd say they are critical of) the common equation of queer with pathological in the US in the middle of the century. And a resistence to this. To make this argument I'd to draw on the work of Michael Rogin, not the race stuff, the queer Cold War stuff, on Manchurian Candidate. Which was just remade too, with some ironic attention to race . . .

4. In the film In Cold Blood there is a scene in the car, a similar scene occurs in the book too (44), but when I first read and saw this story, the car scene in the film hit me harder. Perry and Dick are talking about prison and, I think, Perry's friend Willie-Jay and Dick launches into a harsh string of insults, including but not limited to, "real faggot." I feel like this is like Dick is claiming, "I'm not queer," that is, marking the unique meaning of one's own romance against the names it might be called by the outside world . . .

5. As for the "western" angle, I've got a working hypothesis, that I haven't really taken the time to prove, that the road movies of the 60s and 70s were related, generically, to westerns. I'm sure I'm not the only to claim this, but, like I said, I haven't done any research on this one. Visually, I'd say, In Cold Blood might be considered a western . . . .

6. And then there is the Treasure of the Sierra Madre. I've already explored the parallels between that and this years most famous queer western.

7. The actor who plays Perry in the film In Cold Blood supposedly played the Mexican kid in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the one who sold Bogart and his buddy the winning lottery ticket that enabled them to go on their prospecting trip. The film In Cold Blood mentions the film Treasure of the Sierra Madre. And the film also mentions various Mexico schemes (Perry and Dick make it to Mexico, but return to Kansas to be caught) including one that is suggested by a shoeshine boy, a boy who, Perry muses, they'd have to cut in on the takings, if the scheme worked out. FYI, no one considers cutting Mexican boy in in the film Treasure of the Sierra Madre. And the shoeshine boy doesn't appear in the book In Cold Blood, I don't think.

8. But on page 15 of In Cold Blood, Capote spells it out for us - read this story as one in a long line of queer western tragedies. Perry is looking at his map of Mexico,

"Sierra Madre meant gold, meant Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a movie he'd seen eight times. (It was Bogart's best picture, but the old guy who played the prospector, the one who reminded Perry of his father, was terrific too. Walter Huston. Yes, and what he had told Dick was true: He did knwo the ins and outs of hunting gold, having been taught them by his father, who was a professional prospector. So why shouldn't they, the two of them, buy a pair of pack horses and try their luck in the Sierra Madre? But Dick, the practical Dick, had said, 'Whoa, honey, whoa. I seen that show. Ends up everybody nuts. On account of fever and bloodsuckers, mean conditions all around. Then, when they got the gold - remember, a big wind came along and blew it all away?') Perry folded the map."

Top left: Perry and Capote from Capote. Top right: real, historical Capote.
Center: Real, historical Perry top, real historical Dick bottom.
Bottom: Perry right and Dick left from In Cold Blood film.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

singing along to the paranoids

take the WHAT BAD BOOK ARE YOU test.

and go to not as good as reading a good book, but way better than a bad one.

That I am this bad book is too funny for too many reasons that are too self indulgent to go into now. The quiz is pretty good too; it encourages you to be bitter, and harsh about yourself. Via My Amusement Park.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

reports from the plastic bubble: gladwell, angell, sports, death

Gladwell is interviewed by one Bill Simmons of ESPN. And he, Gladwell, explains the virtual-ekphrastic practice of reading about basketball, in Canada, at length:

"Why am I a sports fan? I'm not sure. I grew up in small-town rural southern Ontario. Neither of my parents or my brothers are sports fans, and we never had a television growing up. (In fact, my parents still don't have one, which means that when I go home I'm reduced to trying to catch the AM broadcasts of NFL games from the other side of Lake Erie). [ Really, no shit? How fucking classy. ] I don't think I saw a televised professional sports contest until I was a senior in high school. Everything I know came from Sports Illustrated, which I read at the town library. For some reason, I was a huge fan of the Spurs. I had a George Gervin poster above my bed, and I can talk quite knowledgeably to this day about James Silas, Larry Kenon, Billy Paultz and all the others -- even though I never saw any of those guys play and I'm not even sure (with the exception of Gervin) what any of them looked like. (Surely, with the nickname "Special K" Larry Kenon was black.) [ Please. ] Do you know how hard it is to understand what finger rolls are -- or even dunks -- if all you've ever done is read about them in magazines? Once, when I was in high school, Bobby Smith -- the great natural "athlete" of my hometown -- tried a dunk during a game and a great collective cry of amazement came up over the crowd, as if Bobby had just whipped out a scalpel and was attempting an on-court appendectomy. (I should point out that Bobby came up a little short, and the ball caromed on the rim about 40 feet. The locals are still talking about it). Rural Ontario is not, exactly, a hotbed of athletic ability."

Bill Simmons, in turn, sums up this baffling aesthetic and political paradox thus, "I find this amazing. Have you ever written about this? You were like the sports fan's equivalent of John Travolta in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble."

We have to assume this startling analogy was lost on Gladwell since, "we never had a television growing up," etc.

Way back when I got all those visitor from blogger, someone mentioned that The New Yorker doesn't write about sports. Well, what do you know, I found out that And he's famous for being a sports writer.


As for Roger Angell on the strange pleasures of cemeteries, a few weeks back, I'm with him. One of our favorite walks for a cold, snowy but sunny day is the exposed hillsides of the Calvary Cemetary in Greenfield, overlooking the Mon River and the scenic Homestead shopping development (with tribute to labor, and Lowes multiplex). Well, maybe I'm not quite with him, as he was in some idyllic New England sort of place. Frankly, on cemeteries I preferred the NYRB investigation of macabre Italy, on Mussolini's body and 20th century Italian cemetary monuments - two separate articles in the February 23, 2006 issue of that general interest periodical.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

teach film, save money

New Yorker Films (no relation) threw the book at a well meaning bunch of cinophiles and I learned about "the shakedown" at this blog, here.

Luckily, the laws don't apply if the film is "for class" so here's another reason why colleges and universities should take film studies seriously. So that everyone can watch cool (old, new, foreign, indie, classic Hollywood) films for free, even in the boondocks. When I'm teaching film, I like to get as many people, in the class or not, to the screenings so that you get that radically-different-but-shared-experience sensation. Even if you reserve actual discussion-using-spoken-language for classtime.

So I have to disagree with this, from the Sun-Time article,

"Lindsay Kralovetz, 21, a film student from Green Bay, Wis., said the experience of watching classic movies on a big screen furthers students' appreciation of the films.

'To be able to watch them with a bunch of other people that appreciate them like you do in that kind of environment is a great experience.' "

For me, it's more about watching with people who might experience the films "unlike" I do, and appreciation has nothing to with it at all. I hate the old "clapping for credit" stigma that is now attached to film classes and I tend to think that uppity campus film societies contribute to this problem rather than encouraging us to think critically and analytically about the films.

PS. Do you ever go to movies alone? Just curious . . . . I do.

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feb 21, 1925 better late than pregnant, part 4 of 4

One of the things that made the inaugeral February 21, 1925 issue of The New Yorker feel so different, so of its time, was a very timely consciousness of the relationship of New York to a culturally threatening Old Europe.

This actually had a somewhat good side, with America and New York defined, in contrast, as "democratic" opposed to, say "aristocratic," as in the following:

At a fashion show, "The democratic spirit of our time is strengthened almost daily by the arrival of Dukes and Duchesses from other republics, all eager to help America maintain its Jeffersonian simplicities [...] From left to right they were: le Duc et la Duchesse de Richelieu, the Countess Drue and the Baron de Vaux. Another democrat, Miss Marie Dressler, was their fellow judge of beauty."

Or is Dressler just a comic figure, and they are poking fun? Depends on how you look at it; two photos of Dressler. In any case, she's Canadian.

On the Italian director of the Metropolitan Opera, who gives the public what they want, "Perhaps, again, it is simply a disinclination to discover America, a reluctance which has built up a defensive disdain. He has found it as unnecessary to study American minds, American aspirations, American art, as to study American language." And this seems to make the author, signed Golly-Wogg, so angry that he becomes sort of insulting . . .

Combine this with that jab at von Sternberg and you find that what The New Yorker seems afraid of is culturally influential European immigrants, particularly those that don't learn the things the New Yorker would like them too, or, you know, jump right in the old melting pot, a popular concept at the time. This actually seems like an unpleasant part of the emergence of "American" modernism, and the new freedom from European aesthetic tradition that folks were so excited about at that time, where it merges with a kind of xenophobia.

That said, there was a beautiful portrait of the opera director by Miguel Covarrubias, less a caricature than the written profile was. In the same style as this later portrait of FDR.


On flapper jokes. For some reason when I was little I thouht flappers were mythic. Like, there hadn't really ever been any flappers, they were imagined after the fact. Maybe, maybe not. But the following joke caught my eye:

On "The Painted Lily" "She is invariably late for an appointment, and has usually forgotten something vitally important - not infrequently herself."

And it is this that gave rise to the title of series (now thankfully done - I sense my readers were bored), "Better late than Pregnant." Well, that and the Golden Girls and the fact that I was late to the anniversary party.

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