Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Al Gore for the world

Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" is a strange little visual effort. None of the numbers and effects were new to me, I think I've seen or read about them for ages; it also seemed to jump around a bit. And not once was there any mention of the need to slow down human population growth. He did refer to how many billions of humans there will be on Earth by the end of his natural life expectancy - about 9 billion - but I suppose it opens too many cans of taboos to suggest that humans reproduce way too much and for a variety of lousy reasons. I for one have no qualms about saying that religious beliefs or societal traditions which keep the babies coming need to be halted, but for this lame world, which is like one big backward small town in its overall mentality, that would be too drastic, I suppose.
However, I don't see how Gore's message can do anything but help treat the planet's ills. The profitmongerers who are trying to discredit him live only in the present, utterly selfish, bound to their false free market beliefs. And for them, population control is bad, since it would cut into the supply of underlings needed to run their "free market" businesses. They are also denying global warming, for that, too, threatens their drive for profitmaking. I cock a snook at them, and wish them failure.
Well, I do like Mr. Gore. I have been thinking that finally getting the office he already won might ruin his life, but he's been keeping up a pretty busy schedule working on the global warming issue. Maybe it would be a comparative respite to be in the White House.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Cocking a snook

Wonderful arcane phrase used by Angela Carter in one of her pieces about an English town; it means thumbing one's nose. Evidently it originated among men engaged in cockfighting. Here's a descriptive passage she wrote about a city called Bradford, in 1970:
"At times, Bradford hardly seems an English city at all, since it is inhabited, in the main, by (to all appearances) extras from the Gorki trilogy, huddled in shapeless coats - the men in caps and mufflers, the women in boots and headscarves. It comes as no surprise to hear so much Polish spoken or to see so much vodka in the windows of off-licenses, next to the British sherry, brown ale and dandelion and burdock. Though, again, it might be a city in a time machine. Those low, steep terraces - where, at night, gas lamps secrete a mean, lemon-coloured light which seems to intensify rather than diminish the surrounding darkness - and the skyline, intermittently punctuated by mill chimneys, create so consistent an image of a typical Victorian industrial town everything teeters on the brink of parody and the public statuary goes right over the edge.
Like monstrous "genii loci", petrifactions of stern industrialists pose in squares and on road islands, clasping technological devises or depicted in the act of raising the weeping orphan. There is something inherently risible in a monumental statue showing a man in full mid-Victorian rig, watch chain and all, shoving one hand in his waistcoat a la Napoleon and, with the other, exhorting the masses to, presumably, greater and yet greater productiveness."
Off to finally see "An Inconvenient Truth" this evening at Drinking Liberally.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Another triumph

The little chocolate cake for my mom came out divinely: two layers, medium weight chocolate, delightful white Italian meringue icing garnished with shaved bits of very bittersweet chocolate.
I make this kind of icing frequently for cakes, since people around here really like it. My old copy of The Joy of Cooking calls it by this exotic-sounding name, but it's basically egg whites beaten stiff, then beaten more as you slowly pour hot sugar syrup cooked to about 225 degrees F over them, producing, if you haven't overcooked the syrup, a meringue-y concoction which is easily applied to the cake layers, and which sets up a bit as it cools. It's relatively simple, but if one overcooks the syrup, disaster may occur in the form of: the syrup seizing up and wrapping itself in glasslike strands around the beaters; or the icing sets up like concrete on the cake, especially if the sugar used in the syrup was all white. A friend of mine had this latter scenario happen, and they had to dig the cake out from under the rockhard icing. It looked like one of those amorphous buildings created by architects messing about with cement.
Our cake was divine, however, and of course it HAD to be tested this morning to see how it fared overnight...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Itchy and scratchy

Itchy eyes, scratchy throat, glad to see some rain and cold air. Then I left my umbrella somewhere.
Tomorrow, the 26th, is my mom's 89th birthday. A chocolate cake has been requested, and shall be delivered. I'm pushing this "new research" that show chocolate to be a good aide for memory functions and general alertness. Go figure!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Dragging around

We have had huge amounts of pollen from cedars and pines in the air for about a week. It's getting to me. Walking in the rain kind of helped, but it's strange the way the energy level is affected. An Rx of hot chocolate was stimulating, as was meeting a friend for dinner.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Starry night

T'was a lovely calm night for a walk. It's often the nicest after dark, and the lake was perfectly calm. Howling wind gusts get old.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


In and out with the flirtatious sun, but we are wily, and can wait. Nothing much happening, unless you count the mess we are in over the Viaduct that takes Route 99 along the waterfront through downtown Seattle. It's been such a protracted cock-up that I won't go into it. A local blogger named Goldy has been examining it, along with all his comment trolls, on his blog, at I like his irreverant, cheeky style. The ideal option, I think, would be no rebuilding of the old 'duct, and lots and lots of transit, with people miraculously giving up some of their wasteful driving habits. (It's possible, I have.) Yeah, yeah, when pigs and other assorted mythical animals fly.
Oh, and I hope to hell the NASCAR track gets deep-sixed. The Hee Haw characters who run that scam of an operation are trying to get Washington State tax money to build a track down south of Seattle. They should go sell Amway, or whatever that crap is called these days.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Kick ash Wednesday

Yet another bit of a climbing workout, with a different friend; good to be almost worn out by the end of the session, best sort of therapy. Lovely walks on the home front, as we made use of a rare stretch of sunniness.
Angela Carter, my current dominant reading material, has several pieces regarding the gender wrangles, from Linda Lovelace of "Deep Throat" fame to the politics of skin mags. This is where I start to fidget, when basic human behavior gets parsed out in high-falutin' language, even if Carter is on "my" side. This is stuff that needs to be addressed bluntly and plainly, and not tarted up for college debates. Very interesting, however.
And the feminist language issue can be applied in my own neighborhood: There is a new frou frou doggy shop on our shopping street called High Maintenance Bitch. They started out making feather boas for dogs in their basement, and are now purveyors of MAKE UP and such for female doggies. I ain't kiddin'. Sort of a vulgar moniker, and of course it has drawn some complaints. The owners are all, But REAL dog people know that the word "bitch" refers to dogs, we're just trying to reclaim it! Uh huh; then why the inclusion of a high maintenance-looking human female on the signage? If they'd leave off the human bitch, I'd buy their argument, even if the whole operation seems utterly useless. "Whiskera" for doggy faces?! I guess it's better than a gun store. Well, I think someone should start a shop just for male animals, and call it Arrogant Stud, putting a prickish-looking fellow and his studly dawg on its sign. Tit for tat.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A fine run of reading

Finished The Hawkline Monster, the last short novel in the Brautigan collection. Good fun. Have gotten more into Angela Carter's collected nonfiction writing called Shaking A Leg. This woman should be as missed as Molly Ivins. She had an intelligent, outspoken, irrepressible spirit and voice. An excerpt or so from a piece called "Anger in a Black Landscape", which touches upon her antiwar views. "We think people who sell heroin are very evil and, if we catch them at it, send them to prison for a very long time. The men who deal in instruments of infinitely larger destruction acquire great wealth and respect." She said she's no expert about nuclear weapons in order to argue against them technically, "although I possess a hereditary facility for vituperation. In the old days in my father's country, Scotland, the tribal chieftains deployed their poets in territorial disputes; they made them stand on ridges above the combatants, hurling abuse at the foe,until one or the other was humiliated enough to leave the scene. Those were the days. Perhaps the time has come again to utilise these ancient skills - this time against BOTH sides." She was prescient about the possibilities of blogging, back in 1983! What a mighty blogger she'd have been!
And this - "It's sad but true that the 'irrational, subjective' arguments against nuclear weaponry and, indeed, against militarism itself, are the moral and emotional ones - and morals and emotions might be more or less the same thing, at that. I've been engaged, here, in below-the-belt arguments, because these are, perhaps, the only ones left. We must plead, harangue, protest, demand - all kinds of things! A lot more democracy; a lot less secrecy; make (oh, horrors! oh, embarrassment!) a fuss, then a bigger fuss, then a bigger fuss again. The peace movement in the USA didn't rationally argue US troops out of Vietnam. It harangued. It shouted. It screamed. It took to the streets."

Monday, February 19, 2007

Dead presidents

Seems as if the one we have, who's been dead in the water for several years by my reckoning, is out "honoring" past ones. He gets paid too many dead prezzes for existing.
One of my good friends lives down near Green Lake. She was telling me today about the latest in their battle against the rats which infest the area, as well as many other neighborhoods in Seattle, some of them quite posh. (Better grub in those 'hoods.) People persist in feeding the waterfowl at the lake, which attracts the rats, which find their way into nearby dwellings. Around here, people's compost piles and containers that aren't closed also draw the rodents. We have never had a loose compost heap, always postholed the stuff deep in the garden soil. My friend has had to set numerous traps in her basement; her big sweet dog is no help, being afraid of the critters. Our cat would fare no better, since he's kind of a cringer with squirrels and chickens.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Hanging around, skimming the papers, making bread, getting exercise, tamping down impatience and doing chores; carrying on with reading Brautigan, I have finished his pseudo-noir story and gone on with The Hawkline Monster. Not quite sure what his game plan is, but I'll keep with it. The Angela Carter stories are very strange, and will take some effort. Gave my mother the collected short stories of Wallace Stegner, which she's enjoying very much.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Dare we hope?

Naw. The sunny spot only lasted for the late morning and half the afternoon, but it was enough time for a good walk with my mom, as well as an outing with my friend, her two chihuahuas, and their darling little neutered scrotums. We trotted merrily around Green Lake, and the Ferrari Brothers enthusiastically sniffed and judged as many other dog scrotums as they possibly could. Occasionally the aggressive demeanor of another usually much larger dog would set off the younger smaller chihuahua's sense of macho honor, at which point he would bark furiously and protest that his tiny deflated dog scrotum was still as powerful as that part mastiff, part pitbull's enormous dog scrotum. We had a lovely scrotum-airing outing.
The rains returned at sundown.
Say it fast, at least three times: Dogscrotumdogscrotumdogscrotum!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Book fix

Managed to get out for a book-hunting foray; procured a collection of Chekov short stories, as well as one of Wallace Stegner's. Also found a used copy of an assorted bunch of nonfiction pieces by a woman named Angela Carter, a British writer of whom I'd not heard. Title: Shaking A Leg. Got a new copy of a collection of her short stories, titled Burning Your Boats. A little dip into the first collection of essays and other items confirmed that I liked her voice.
Onward with Brautigan: Next up in the collection is Dreaming of Babylon. Main character, C. Card. Drift: Chandler-esque send-up. Oddly humorous.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Saved by the hippy dude

Well, old Brautigan is an odd one, and definitely a precurser to Hunter S. Thompson, who surely must have read Brautigan's stuff. Wiggy, trippy, quirky, sometimes unintelligible, but frequently funny, in strange ways. Disjointed, probably owing to the consumption of many joints.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Outta reads...

Went for a climbing workout today with an acquaintance; we hit it off nicely. One indicator to me is a person's reading tastes. She told me she'd been on 2 months' bedrest recently due to back surgery, and kept her sanity by reading, among other things, War and Peace, Great Expectations, Julia Child's autobiography, and some other selections I silently approved. We both agreed Anna Karenina was a favorite.
I am in a little dilemma now, as I have nothing queued up to read. Soon, to the book stores. My mother is re-reading, unbeknownst to her, the collected stories of Colette. We need some new material around here.
Late-breaking relief: My son pulled out an old Richard Brautigan book, A Confederate General from Big Sur. This ought to be interesting; I haven't read any Brautigan since my twenties. We'll see how the old pre-gonzo writer wears.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Holding steady

Kind of an off day for my mom; a hairdo perked her up a bit, though not as much as I'd hoped. We need more sunshine, and it doesn't appear to be in the offing.
Great bread batch this evening, a French bread with flax seeds in it, and upon finding we were out of tortillas, I suggested to our son that we make some. This is another dough that seems to need experimentation to get the right consistency. My usual mixture didn't seem elastic enough. They're something that could be made while camping, which appealed to him. And extremely low cost, another attractive feature.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Even cows get the blues

We were watching European Journal on one of the local public TV stations, and saw a bit on a couple who run a small dairy farm in the north of Finland, above the Arctic Circle. It is so dark and cold there in the late fall and all of winter that they have to illuminate the cow barn where their 18 cows reside, dimming the lights at night. The wife commented that the cows get depressed if the light's too low during the day. Just looking at their environment bummed me out. The wife said they were running the little operation because there was no other way to make a living up there. No doubt true, unless you had a fleet of snowplows. Grim. Maybe it's better in the spring and summer, maybe they like the isolation. We saw another bit set in Finland on EJ last week, which related the tale of an unexpected fortune a women's group came into when some old stock their group had inherited and ignored since the 1950's recently burgeoned as - Nokia. Several millions, which, astoundingly, the Marthas - that's what they called themselves - invested in the construction of public housing in a pleasant area of Finland that they thought would be a nice place for people to live. Interesting folks, these Finns. Can you imagine some women's group in this country doing something so unselfish? Maybe an American Friends Society group, but it's a challenge to think of anything similar happening in this land of materialistic junkies.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

No rest today

Up too late, awake too early, but plans had been made. Off for a sociable climbing workout, which left me exhausted but happy.
Early to bed with Carol Shields' collected short stories.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Off we go

Lovely afternoon for a brisk walk down to the Ship Canal. The maple butter supply had grown dangerously low, too.
Little evening "art walk" in one of the neighborhoods; miserable cold rainy night, but we met up with friends for wine and savories. Took the chill away.

Friday, February 09, 2007


My first foray into gnocchi production had delectable results. I used a mixture of butternut squash and potatoes, and no egg, having read that the egg can impart a rubbery texture to the dumplings. The dough was a bit too sticky, but it made for extremely tender, lovely golden bites. I finished them with olive oil and butter, and roughly chopped fresh sage, grated cheese on top. Any one person could easily have devoured the entire batch. Next time, a bit more flour so they aren't so fragile when in their uncooked state. That is if I don't just eat the potato/squash mixture before I turn it into dough...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Who needs outer space?

Who needs the space program? What is gained from it besides military advances any more? This isn't based on the mad stalker astronaut incident, but rather on the program being brought to mind. It's obscenely expensive, although probably not by comparison to the Iraq disaster, but it's really just part of the military industrial thang. Cut it, along with funding for the mess in Iraq. Oh, and impeach Bush and Cheney, too.
Homer Simpson floating, weightless, in pursuit of renegade ruffled potato chips; that's the high point of the space program for some years now.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Through an eye, dimly

Dreary day. No energy to observe. Hot chocolate, stat.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The birds call it

When we went out this afternoon, there were great numbers of different kinds of birds all over our yard, up in our trees, out on the parking strip; nothing exotic, like the parrots of Telegraph Hill in SF, but an impressive collection of robins, sparrows, starlings, and bushtits, calling and tweeting away madly, dropping their excrement everywhere. The cat, who almost always walks with us, was grimacing in delight, emitting his strange little ecstatic cries as he struck hunting postures left and right. We wondered at this avian mobbing, and I suggested it could mean a weather change. As we did a little route, the cat lurked, stalked, and chased bunches of birds until I wondered if he'd drop from the exertion. Half an hour later I had to run in the rain.
Nice walk out with beloved spouse, and nipped into a joint for some pasta.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Spankin' new toilets

Our aging commodes have been whisked away, replaced by pristine efficient water-saving fixtures. We settled on one of the Toto brand models - you and your little toilet! - and I declined the suggestion from beloved spouse that we get one in Ohio State colors, with a big blue "M" in the bowl. Good old plain white never goes out of style.
My mom was thrilled, and started harking back to her days of amateur plumbing adventures with my dad. Shows you the level of her natural optimism: She remembers those escapades fondly, and there were some humdingers, ones which have been labeled for posterity as "Naked Plumbing" stories. Enough said.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Day never broke

Such gloom; one of us had a hairdo to perk herself up, the rest of us muddled through.
Evening brought distraction and fun, at a pizza party where the hosts make the most scrumptious pies with a variety of interesting toppings. One had a base coating of a pesto with ground roasted pumpkin seeds in it, topped with goat cheese; another had lots of chopped garlic, olive oil, and very thinly sliced yellow potatoes. There were several other vegetarian combinations, including an eggplant mixture which was like an antipasto spread I've had, a kind of thick ratatouille with tomatoes, peppers, and onions. These folks brew their own beer, too. We had a fine time in many good conversations, met some new people with interests in common.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday frou frou

What? I'm still pissed that Molly Ivins died. I am perfectly comfortable stating that there are many other candidates for oblivion that I would have nominated before her. Plenty of useless shits whose existence hasn't done one single positive or productive thing for this planet, and you KNOW who I'd start with...
I would love to channel her, to be a receptor for her spirit and writing ability.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Theater night

We saw a performance of Tom Stoppard's "Travesties", which was first performed in 1974. It was an ambitious piece for the little Seattle Public Theater's Bathhouse Theater to attempt, but I think they did well. The play is a strange disjointed thing, mingling James Joyce, Tristan Tzara (the originator of the Dada art movement), V.I. Lenin, and Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" in the addled memories of a former British consul who was in Zurich during WWI. Lots of wordplay, references to the above luminaries' works and philosophies which sped by so rapidly I didn't always have time to consider them, but overall it was entertaining. Impressive main role performed by an actor who is making his debut with the SPT.
Another show later this month by a different theater group is called "5 x Tennessee - One Act plays by Tennessee Wiliams." I looked over the theater group's synopses, and it sounds tempting. Put on by Stone Soup Theater here in Seattle.