Monday, November 27

Popcorn 1: Best Music of 2006

It's that time of year, yes, time for the annual best lists. Radio stations do it, book reviews and news organizations do it, so let's do it! My first installment, to be updated at will, is Best Music of 2006. In all these lists I include the best of my 2006 experiences in that genre, regardless of publication date. Get it? Okay, here we go.

Best Music of 2006

Emmy Lou Harris and Mark Knopfler -- All the Road Running

Kris Delmhorst -- Strange Conversation
Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy -- Adieu False Heart

Smokey Robinson -- Timeless Love

Bob Dylan et al. -- Masked and Anonymous (soundtrack CD)

Bruce Springsteen -- The Seeger Sessions

Andrea Zonn -- Love Goes On

Laura Cortese -- Hush

Andre Zonn - Love Goes On

Prairie Home Companion folks -- PHC, the movie, soundtrack cd

Sunday, November 26

November 25: warm day, hot music at night

Caleb was here for the week and left on Saturday the 25th, a day when the temperature got into the sixties and people went silly with raking and dogs barked at the activity. Cats lay in the sun, watching the doves and robins. My new neighbor raked and clipped all day. At night, the Blue Rags played an energetic dance show for old friends home for the holidays. "The Girl I Left (Behind Me)" got us tapping and jigging, and we never stopped till 1 a.m. Tom Sullivan celebrated his 56th birthday in the place where he'd had a skate party for his 6th, the Orange Peel. My car didn't get towed, as I knew it wouldn't. If it had, I'd have walked home, as I've done in two or three dreams, or gotten a ride. It's nice to live within walking distance just in case you have to walk. And it's good to have a dream image to inspire you.

Inside a Dog

Here's a neat site from Australia. It needs more growing but it's a beautiful start:

I took the picture from the site.

If you know some good dog books, you can suggest them there. They like other books too, but dog books are really good. I think I'll make my favorite dog book list now. See ya.

Saturday, November 25

New Food Blog

Snap! Crackle! Pop! True to my Betty Crocker designation I have started a food blog. It's at When my replacement camera comes I'll take a picture of my Berry Crocker medal.

Friday, November 24

Family Dinner

So for the curious, here's what we really did have. All recipes are from Plovokian Treasures, a treasure itself as a book, but anyway, here was the menu.

Pitsas (Finger foods, to start)

~Smoked sardines, chuncked and served with strips of purple eggplant and yellow peppers
~Small cabbages stuffed with shredded beetroot and horseradish

Black Plum Aperitif
Sparkling Prune Wine
Prune/Peach Brandy
Bosjanje Beer

Main Course

Wild Boar, spit-roasted
Blatjit Wild Grain Pilaf
Beet Greens with Pickles
Black Potato, Prune and Pepper Hotdijsh
Bread: Twisted Loaves with Seeds


Rose Hip Prune Jelly Kaks
Frozen Stirred Prune Cream served with fresh cream

Fish Last Course*

Smoked Eel Bites
Pickled Pearl Onions

Last Drink:
Pine Schnapps

* Plovakian Traditional meals usually end with fish, to clear the sweet from the palate and leave the diners with a good mouth

So Zack, you see you didn't miss any brains this time. But still wish you had been here.

Camera is on its way, last sighted in Baltimore. Like Ant and Bee's umbrella, it's on its journet.

Wednesday, November 22

Some Recipes I Won't Be Using

This Thanksgiving I will be making cranberry sauce and hashed Brussels sprounts (rather than the green beans I was asked to bring). I'm also bringing the wine. But in the spirit of colder weather and domestic time to spare, I've been looking at a couple of cookbooks from my kitchen shelf, and here are a few things I'm not making this year:

"Mama's Spawn Fritters," from We Share Our Best Cookbook, published in April of 1993 by the St. Andrew's Hospital Auxiliary in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. I guess spirits were running high along with the alewives and buds of early spring. From the recipe, submitted by Mrs. I.G. Koerber: "Papa used to bring home spawns in their casings, taken from mostly ground fish such as hake, haddock, cusk and cod.... I used to help Mama turn the casing inside out so we could scrape the eggs out into a big dish."

The "Puffed Fish" on p. 95, however, is quite good, if you really get the oven as hot as it says.


"Cod Sounds:" Of this tasty dish in Sarah Josepha Hale's The Good Housekeeper, Boston, 1841, and reissued by Dover under the supertitle of Early American Cookery, the writer says: "These are reckoned a great delicacy : and may be either boiled, baked, roasted or broiled. Previous to cooking in any way, the black skin all picked off, and washed clean ; then parboiled" and so on to the cooking and serving. Yum.
"Brawn," from The Country Housewife's Handbook, published by the Kent-West Kent Federation of Women's Istitutes (1975?). You wash 1 pig's head thoroughly, then put it with 2 onions, 1 pt. of water, some pepper and salt and 1 carrot into a covered pot. Simmer till tender. Lift the head on to a dish and remove the meat. then put the bones and skin back in and cook some more till it turns to jelly. Strain it, season it, put the meat back in, pour into a wet mold "to set and turn out in the usual way." Well! Very nourishing, I'm sure.
This book also contains the most charmingly named home foodstuff I've ever heard of, made from apples, pears, and plums and seasoned with lemon rind and ginger root:
"High Dumpsie Dearie Jam"
Now we come to Bulgarian Temptations, published by the Interhotels Balkantourist Resorts in Bulgairs, Sofia, 1981. I love this book, though as yet I haven't made a thing from it. But I'm sometimes lucky enough to find (at Big Lots) jars of Ajvar, a sweet red pepper spread from Bulgaria and wonderful with dark bread, cheese, and cold meat, fish and hardboiled eggs for a good Bulgarian breakfast.
Among the temptations in my cookbook are Army Salad, Blood Pudding, Pirin Hedgehog, Shashliks of Wild Boar, Mashed Nettles, Minnow Soup, Baked Lamb Guts, and Cocks Combs with Buckwheat. Now these people really know how to eat. It's no wonder I haven't chosen one recipe and tried it: where to begin?
A last suggestion. For breakfast on Thanksgiving morning, you might like to try something I've actually eaten, at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. during the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in about 1973 or '74. This is the wonderful "Brik a L'Ouef" as cooked there on the mall and written up in a small saffron-covered booklet of Tunisian Cooking. The brik is basically a raw egg sealed into puff pastry, dropped into very hot oil so that it cooks quickly. You then break through the crispy golden phyllo to the runny golden and white egg in the middle. Some strong Turkish coffee and fresh oranges go well with that, and harissaor Frank's hot sauce as a condiment.
Happy Eating

Tuesday, November 21

The Hiawatha

I've been reading fiction and criticism by David Treuer, a writer and English professor who is part Ojibwe and who was a very small boy in the Crestwood neighborhood of Washington, DC, in the early '70s when my children were small and we were neighbors. David was fair and his older brother Tony dark, mirroring their parents, Bob and Peggy. So many years later, when we've all fled for parts unknown, it's great fun to find this small boy now a very fine writer, and creating novels of the present day life of certain U. S. citizens in the late 20th century, with a strong sense of place, and of character, and a healthy literary style.

I read David Treuer's second novel, The Hiawatha, first, by chance. It took less than the prescribed 50 pages to pull me into the reality of the novel and into caring very much what happened to Simon and his kin. Involvement with the characters, carried along by the subtlety of the plot and the veracity of the style, bore me breathlessly through to the end. Now I'm reading Little, his first novel, and finding it no less compelling.

At the same time I want to continue in his Native American Fiction: a User's Manual to see what he has to say about my other enchanter, Erdrich, and the others he considers.

As I pointed out earlier, it's a matter of style and literature, not what you write about. But -- if the style and the artistry are good enough, then it's the particulars of individual human lives and their settings that hold your imagination and resonate in your head after the book is closed. Whether we're momentarily in Dublin or Minneapolis, in Albany or Troy, in Hannibal or in Colombo, we're captured and held in the net of fiction.

I wanted to like David Treuer's novels, because I knew him when he was a little boy, and I was afraid of being disappointed; but now I have to think of him as a Writer, not that young neighbor. He's a master, working on a large but also constricted canvas of human life in a certain part of this huge continent.

Don't Read Column 2!, or, My Shadow Library

These are some unsuggestions I got from LibraryThing's UnSuggester:

Riddley Walker (Russell Hoban)/ The Fiery Cross (Diana Gabaldon)
Middlemarch (George Eliot) / The Resurrection of the Son of God (N.T. Wright)
Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne) / Linked: the New Science of Networks (Albert-Laszlo )Barabasi
leaves of grass / seize the night
his dark materials / wild at heart: discovering the passionate soul of a man
make way for lucia (e.f. benson) /the dragon reborn (robert Jordan)

idylls of the king / who moved my cheese? (#2)
ahab's wife / don't make me think: a guide to web usability
one man's meat / vampire lestat
a box of matches / the hobbit (love 'em both)

alice in wonderland / sytematic theology
winnie ille pu / blindness
peter pan in kensington gardens / into thin air
norton anthology of modern poetry / the rule of four
ring of bright water / vampire lestat
rise of silas lapham / the wee, free men (!)
house of mirth / programming RUBY: the pragmatic program
the man with a load of mischief / the things they carried -- NO No NO!! I like them both!
outcast of redwall / the summons
coyote waits / his dark materials -- No! They're both fine!
voyages of dr. dolittle / nausea (?? !! seasick? )

Saturday, November 11

Veterans Day 2006

These are my father's dogtags from his days in Burma, with the Army Air Force during World War II. Because he was a Quaker he was a Conscientious Objector and could not therefore become an officer. He operated the radio in a plane flying supplies over the Hump into China. He wrote a letter home every day, on onion skin paper with his fountain pen. I have five notebooks with these letters and haven't read them all. He shipped out before I was born and came home in June of 1945, when I was 20 months old.
My mother's father, David C. Simmons, served in World War I and died not too many years after the war.
These are the people I know of in my family who served in the military.

Molvania, jchufg!

I am too much of laughing, and the salty water is coming from my eyes and the nose. Would that you could also enjoy the armchair visit to Molvania. But if you are going to the you will be flowing the salty water also from the facial places. Is too funny and also educational learning about the folk customs and entertainment situations in Molvania.

Please be mzy guejst.

Sunday, November 5

Property Values, or Quality of Life?

My neighbor up the street, at 6 Buckingham Ct. (the yellow house below on the left) said, in answer to my question of how he like the huge houses going up across the street from him, said, "Hmmm... Well, it'll raise property values." My feeling is that property values are plenty high here already and that Kenilworth is in no danger of becoming devalued. I would prefer that my little one-block long street, containing mostly 1920s "Craftsman style" (more or less) bungalows from the 1920s and '30s stay as it is. The big houses have been, until now, up on the avenue and down on the circle. I like my little house, and its neighbors, and my neighbors like their little houses. But Progress rolls inexorably on, and a neighbor on the next street to the north decided to subdivide his lovely property, which runs through to Buckingham Ct. (as all the properties once did) and build two enormous houses on his lot. They're not McMansions, I'll give you that, but to me they don't fit in with the character of our lovely little street. here are pictures of the typical Buckingham Ct. houses, and then the new Things:

I'm not sure that you can get the scale from this display; you'll just have to accept that these houses TOWER over the bungalows. The picture on the right shows the end of the one on the left, and its proximity to the one to its right (not pictured, as you have enough here). Not to mention that the lovely Spanish style stucco house behind these two (the one whose owner did the subdividing) was formerly an impressive-looking hosue. Now you can't even see it from my street.
(And not to mention, as well, that I have had to change my house number from 7 (which my son-in-law points out is a prime number, and I want to say is one digit above where I grew up in RI, at a house numbered 6) to 9 (not prime). My daughter says, It's not a big deal, Mom, get over it. Of course I will, but I don't like it. Plus, the mailman, who has nagged me to change my address and change the number on the mailbox, keeps delivering mail to me that belongs to the neighbors at former #5, now #7.)
Some of these things are, of course, piffle before the wind, as Mr. Salteena said, and on the grand scale I KNOW that I'm lucky (NOT Blessed, mind you, just lucky) to be a middle class American and have a nice house to live in. But we act and feel from where we are, and this is my diatribe for Sunday, November 5, which is Cary's birthday (also my brother-in-law), and I should send him greetings and then go out and buy some meat and green chiles for a stew for company tonight.

Saturday, November 4

The Road

I woke up the other morning at 4:00 and was inexplicably wide awake and refreshed. By my bedside was Cormac McCarthy's new novel, The Road. So I got up and grabbed a cat and made some coffee and sat in bed and read the book. At 7:00, when it was time to quickly get dressed and go to work, I finished the book. It's a stunning story. The only McCarthy I'd read before was All the Pretty Horses, and while I don't remember much about it I do remember that the language was intricate and fascinating. I haven't been tempted to read any of his since. But this one called out to me, and I ordered it online (yes, you can get new books at a discount from wonderful online booksellers, namely, which is my choice over Amazon.)
I think I'll have to read it again, to really savor it and remember details. It's a post-apocalyptic story, very bleak and almost hopeless, but whether or not you take the ending as a hope of some better future for the human race (one reviewer speaks of a deus ex machina at the very end, a criticism that suggests a copout on the part of the writer), what transforms the black ash bleakness of the story is the relationship of love and the dogged going-on of the father and small son. Whatever is to happen next is left to our imagination. Rather than doing a copout, I think McCarthy wants us to ponder the possibilities forever. After all, an open-ended story lingers in one's mind a long time, possibly forever, something I realized at age 14 when I read Gone With the Wind.
The world of the novel is desperate and desolate and dangerous. And yet the father holds his child's hand and keeps going, toward the coast. As you read, you think, but why? what will they find but more desolation? But some essential life energy keeps them going, and the father's love for his son and the son's trust in his father. "We're the good guys, right?" "Right." To his father's insistence that they keep on going, the son always replies, "Okay." It's hope still working in a hopeless world, and the trust of a child in his parent.
And let me be maybe the first in cyberspace to link this book to two other haunting books, both by Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker and The Mouse and His Child. The former is an obvious connexion: the post-apocalytic world. But although the journey of the Mouse and his Child is set in an un-ruined world, it's still a story of love and hope in a bleak and confusing landscape. So far, a Google search to link the Mouse to this new novel yields no results. We'll see if it strikes anyone else. I've put it out on the kraken, the Hoban group on the web.

Friday, November 3

Dawn Glimpse of My Totem

The camera caught a glimpse of him from my car on my way to work. He lights my travels and inspires me. Closer-ups to come.