The day isn’t wasted, I’ve learned a new thing. I didn’t know that bavarian creme used gelatin. (I still don’t care for the idea of drizzling chocolate over an innocent crepe.) Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate, but I don’t dump it on top of everything the way some people do. (ditto bacon- I’m just glad we haven’t seen chocolate bacon donuts – or maybe I just haven’t looked.)
The snow is melting pretty much as one would expect. It’s spring in New England, so we get really cold nights and some good warmth during the day. I assume the sap is running, but haven’t tapped our trees. (Lazy me!) There is a great deal of wind roaring through the trees. I am so pleased that it no longer makes me think the house is on fire.
I am depressed. The cake bell just slipped off the cake stand and shattered. I now have 8 or more (I’m not sure, they are hard to store) cake platters- you know, a plate on a raised stand. The problem is that the domes, to keep cakes, pies, or whatever fresh, yet not hidden (forgotten until they mold), only seem to come with cake stands. the last time one broke, my sister found me one, bless her, and now it’s gone again. John was just walking across the kitchen and saw it slide off. He tried to catch it, but missed. It was simply vibration from the floor to the table, to the cake stand. Oddly, I guess when it slid far enough it must have tipped, because it didn’t knock the coffee cake off the stand.
I don’t WANT to be attached to “Stuff” Stuff is what drives our consumer economy, and we don’t need as much as we use. I don’t want or need 8 cake plates, but I do want a dome to put over a cake when I’ve got one. I would even like three, for when I have a party. But at this point I am not going to buy one if I can’t get it without the plate. I also want glass- which is at least theoretically recyclable, although these shards went into landfill. At least they don’t contribute to the demand for plastic to be made. Also reenforcing my resolve is the $40 price tag, (I found one for $13, but it adds $20 for shipping) so not in the budget for this month. We’re having a hard enough time trying to reserve for Pennsic.
Willow has taken down her change jar. It’s full, and she has taken it to the bank twice to get counted. Both times someone else beat her in with a large coin collection to deposit. She’d rather not deposit it, but get bills, put them in the bottom and start burying them. The jar is supposed to pay for a road trip or some other treat for her. We’ve created a pool to see how much it will be when it’s finally counted. I am hoping we don’t have to rob it to pay for bills before the month is out.
This week was Ostara- the spring equinox. We totally skipped the candy hunt, but still did some hard boiled eggs. Last year I discovered that temporary tattoos work on eggs- remember the celtic designs? This year I was looking for the metalic ones that people use for temporary bracelets and necklaces. All the ones on the internet were $10-20, so I asked Willow, because I think the little booklets of them are a buck or two. Avi picked some up on her way home, and got enough to last us for years, since we only had enough eggs for the one set. They are pretty. I do wish I remember how I got them so much darker last year. This year I just used food coloring with vinegar, like when we were kids, with similar results. When I was done I tossed the cups of water out onto the snow, which was briefly pretty. It’s all melted away now. But maybe next year we can have a “holi” style party in midwinter. The snow makes an excellent backdrop for the colors.
Steve Raskind came up Sunday, and we had another one of Shema’s goat legs. SO good! The girls missed it, because they went to Nashua to see Doug and Phillip. Doug’s the tall young man who cosplay’s the 4th Doctor. When Steven and I were done with dinner, and watching Doctor Strange, and Chaplin’s Modern Times , we went down to Nashua and spent an hour or so there talking Science Fiction and such. Doug’s been losing weight, and bought a new outfit in January, now far too loose, so he’s asked Kat to alter it for him. It’s hard when you can’t just pop over to see him and check, for example, how does the coat fit over the jacket? He’ll come up here next week. Also she pinned and marked one shoulder, assuming the other would match, but just as someone’s feet or boobs are often a half size different, there’s no guarantee that
Willow also sewed some. We all like to have a new garment for Ostara, and I didn’t have one, so she pulled out the navy flannel we got for a new winter slip for me, and cut and sewed it up. We still need to add lace and an elastic for the waistband, so I didn’t wear it; but I have it.
Last week was our town voting day– it had been scheduled for Tuesday, but Stella rescheduled it for Thursday. We went after I got back from my acupuncture appointment. I am not sure whether it’s helping, but afraid to stop in case it might be. I don’t think that the local election was terribly important this year either, but we feel it’s a civic duty. Most of the slots only had one name, so it’s like approving or disapproving of the only volunteer. Thank goodness someone wants to volunteer! It’s a great pity that people are so focused on what they are worried about rather than what they hope for. People want a target that they’re allowed to be mad at (probably because being mad at something more big and powerful is scary, but someone weaker than you seems safer). On the national scene, Trump becomes an ever-greater embarrassment. I was listening to a podcast of the Farkas Files with Corbie, who I talked to in February as well, when she’d just put out her book. Farkas is willing to bring politics into it and asked her impression, and she described Trump as a “herring (or was it mackerel?) to the face”, a stimulus to get us paying attention again, and I think she’s right about that. She also said that she didn’t see him being around for long, although that would lead us with Pence who is anti-woman, “but that’s fixable”. Well, as we all know, people tend to trust the psychics that say things they want to hear, so I might easily fall into that category.
I have been doing another run through of my email to try to clear it. I do not “sign up” for mailings, but Willow says it’s because I sign petitions. Considering how many are asking me for donations to someone’s campaign in Nebraska or some other distant state, I suppose that’s true. So every day recently I find the tiny print that says “click here to unsubscribe”, and do. I think I spent over a half hour today doing that. I don’t even want to spend a half hour a day checking my email! I would it it was chatty notes from freinds, but mostly it’s spam. Just like the physical mail is mostly junk mail. I can only suppose that some of this advertising must be successful or they wouldn’t do it. (Not necessarily, considering how much I spent on advertising CTCW to no purpose. Maybe someone is able to convince people that it will help.) Willow doesn’t sign on line petitions because they get you on mailing lists, and she doubts they help much. (She’s probably right about that- I think people want more effort involved before they count someone as dedicated to a cause.) She says she’d rather go out and punch somebody. “I’m just saying, if I’m going to do something ineffective, I want it to feel more satisfying.”
Today Willow thanked me for the “stress baking” I’ve been doing. I DO tend to bake more when I’m stressed, or when I think people around me are stressed. Recently I read that some study had found that one should eat chocolate cake for breakfast so I decided to make one, and while looking for my “black magic cake” recipe, tripped over Mother’s Chocolate Cake in Mother’s recipe box. This was hand written in Mother’s writing (everybody say “awww”), and was clearly HER Mother’s recipe. There was also a Fudge frosting to go with Mother’s cake recipe. Good enough, I can try it. (I actually want to try one recipe from the box every week, just to experiment.) The cake wasn’t bad, but nothing special. The recipe was indeed fudge- but I think there was a transcription error somewhere between Grandmother and Mother, because it suggested that it should be boiled 1.5 to 2 minutes (depending on the season) “after boil”. After you’ve boiled it to soft ball stage maybe. Luckily, I have done candy making, and it came out very nice indeed. I also made a coffee cake.
Cake is convenient. You don’t have to do anything to it, just pick up a piece and put it in your mouth. The same goes for the easter eggs, of course. It’s one of the few times a year we have hard boiled eggs around to snack on, which is silly because they are such a perfect food. I also tried Sausage Rolls. In historical fiction, people often grab “a meat roll”, when they are going out. I sometimes wonder if these (I’m picturing sort of a medieval or Roman “Hot Pocket”) really existed, or if our modern writers are substituting them for a sandwich a modern investigator would eat. I know hand pies were used to contain leftovers, but a pie crust is short, whereas I assume a “roll” is made with bread dough, then baked or fried. I grabbed the wrong shaker and added garlic rather than salt to my dough, but that went nicely with the leftover bratwurst, and made a nice garlic loaf.
I think I started the chocolate cake on Saturday because I’d intended to do a traditional Saturday supper: beans, hot-dogs, brown bread and coleslaw. I think we had that probably forty times a year, it was so traditional (and fish-sticks or tuna cassarolle on Friday, Spagetti on Wednesday). To my distress, we had no rye flour. How could that happen? (We also were out of whole wheat flour and hot dogs, but Willow brought some home. I must now seek out rye flour because I am getting such a jones on for brown bread. It’s so simple: a cup each of rye flour, corn meal, whole wheat flour, molasses, raisins (if you like them) & buttermilk, and a teaspoon each of baking powder and baking soda. Some recipes add alspice but I don’t, although I do like raisins. This is steamed, often in a can, but I have a pudding mold, that works beautifully. It used to belong to grandfather (or probably his household). It occurs to me that this implies Grandmother brought it with her from Chicago, but didn’t use it. Other than the hot-dogs, I think it was the only part of that dinner I liked when I was a kid. I only came to enjoy baked beans and coleslaw later. That didn’t come until after I encountered sweet coleslaw with apples and raisins and (ugh) Miracle whip. Suddenly carrots and cabbage seemed much nicer.
I also made colcannon (potatoes with kale, onions, butter and sour cream). You can use cabbage, but I think the kale is prettier, and you can use cream rather than sour cream, but I think the point is adding calories. After all, they couldn’t generally afford meat, so I guess they made do with what they had. I was so amused to learn that the Irish don’t do corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day. Actually, they don’t tend to eat it at all. It’s an immigrant phenomenon. What they’d have with their potatoes was bacon, which wasn’t generally available over in New York. However, their Jewish fellow immigrants introduced them to corned beef as a substitute, and a new tradition was born! Sounds like the quest for an “authentic” Irish soda bread recipe. The only one that’s authentic is the one your grandmother used to make.
Tonight on the New Normal, I talked to Amy Wilson, about the Power of the Spoken Word. We talked about love spells and how the voice in the back of your head can be more powerful than your intended words during a spell. I’ve been working a bit on CTCW, another chat room meeting on Thursday, and working on the website blog. We’re starting to look at panels, but the website has been updated, and I don’t understand the new system yet, which is frustrating.
I also talked to the gentleman who bought my painting on the NH Public TV auction this year. I guess it’s time for me to set up an easle and start catching up on the portraits I need to finish (or start). I was thinking, as I read about cultural appropriation that art is just one more “Medicine Way” that I have avoided walking down, along with healing, and divination. I have managed to keep from getting anywhere by picking a path. Well, I had better get a little way on this one soon.
This week I read Persona Non Grata, one of the Medicus series by Ruth Downie. I am a sucker for stories about doctors, and also historical novels set in Roman Britain, so this was an easy series to get into. Iin the US they are published with the titles using latin phrases like Terra Incognita, Caveat Emptor, Semper Fidelis, Tabula Rasa, and Vita Brevis, but in the UK they are saddled with titles like “Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls“, or “Ruso and the Demented Doctor”, etc., I somehow missed the third book, in which Ruso and his wife go back to his home in Gaul, before heading back to Britain where Darlughdacha’s family make the Gains as uncomfortable as his Romano-Gaulish family had made the “barbarian” British girl. In the one I read last month, they’d had adopted a baby, and were going to head to Rome, where I will not be surprised (as I get into Vita Brevis) if they run afoul of his ex-wife’s sister in law. Downie does a wonderful job of maintaining the world she has created book to book, which some authors don’t manage as well. I’m quite eager, to find out what happens to them next. And while waiting for the next book in the series, I shall console myself with the next (sixteenth) book in the Libertus series (also in Roman Britain), and the next Flavia Alba book (sadly, in Rome), which is a continuation of the Marcus Falco series (20 books). Linsey Davis decided not to deal directly with the eruption of Vesuvius, although she does mention in passing how the disaster effected her characters, I can recognize that it could have been too painful for those of us who have gotten emotionally involved with these fictional characters. So she skipped ahead to have his daughter continue his work, and I look forward to watching Flavia’s relationship with the aedile Faustus. It’s probably the best realized of the universes- although Rosemary Rowe makes it hard to pick. I have also started the common tradition of re-reading the Lord of the Rings in March, although there is less pressure to read it straight through when it’s familiar.
I’ve nearly finished the Pagan Prison Advocates Guide and Talking about the Elephant (the one about cultural appropriation), and Dark Age America. Greers arguments that the law of diminishing returns is pretty convincing. The more it costs to produce something, the less real value it has. We really need to figure out what level of tech is sustainable and put our resources into developing those. We need to figure out what we really need, and give up this constant urge for “more”. He also explains very well how people really do distrust the claims of science, which seems incredible on the face of it. Between the way scientists with opposing theories disparage each other, the way new discoveries disprove old theories, and the need to chase funding can be seen to science being a tool of marketeers and politicians, science isn’t giving us much to trust. As I’ve finished those, I’ve begun a collection of interviews with various shaman from all over the world Traveling Between the Worlds.
I may not get all the way through the Drunken Botanist. It is interesting, but not being a drinker, the trivia is only academic, and the recipes and suggestions about different products, not something I’ll be pursuing. It may go back to the library next week only partly read. On the other hand, I think I’m going to really enjoy Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. I just
discovered him on the morning show when I started this latest fascination with the political scene. I had assumed he was just an amusing news commentator, but apparently he started as a stand up comic. Although, from what I’ve read so far, he started as a little kid who who could run very fast in South Africa. The very idea that people would make it criminal to marry someone from another race is so bizarre I am trying to wrap my mind around it. (a clear indication of privilege).
As I mentioned, I watched Dr. Strange for the first time with Steve. It was probably the first time I’ve ever wished that I had one of those stupidly big screens. The special effects were so good- because it matched the art I remember from Steve Ditko, Frank Bruner, and Gene Colan. It really is gorgeous, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if people who get high would want to do it while they watched this one (like they used to say about Fantasia). I also sort of watched Suicide Squad. I took it out because the trailer made it look amusing. It’s another movie with characters from comic books- DC rather than Marvel with this one. It pursues the concept of the anti-hero, which (unsurprisingly) portrays the folks in charge as simply having more power than the “villians”. They seem no less focused on their own goals, no less willing to use whatever means it takes to achieve them, and in this movie at least, no less appealing as characters. Violent psychopaths like the Joker and Harliquin are portrayed as young people in love, who simply have some mental problems. Motivations are love of wife and children, and resentment of being badly used. I am not sure that this means that the movie is glorifying bad behavior, but perhaps it is suggesting that the behavior itself should be judged without being so quick to assume who is more or less justified. In modern society this is not a surprising point of view.
I’ve continued to watch 30s films, I finally got to Chaplin’s Modern Times. There were some fun images, and clearly it expresses the frustration of the man who simply wishes to get a job and pay his own way but work is dehumanising and hard to find and keep. The version I got had a sound track (not surprising), but some of the written placards were replaced by narration, which often made it seem to simply be a story about people who didn’t speak much. They used Chaplin’s song “Smile” for the love theme. People don’t, while working. While watching Topper, Topper Returns, and My Man Godfrey I got the impression that either the Hollywood writers, or the people they were writing for did not like the rich very much. They were pretty universally shown to be silly, wasteful, vain, and uncaring. At the same time, it was OK to want what they had. In My Man Godfrey, the rich man who was redeemed was the one who’d learned the hard way how “the other half” lived. (Half, in this case meaning two parts, those being the rich, and those just scraping by.) I also watched Ninotchka (subtitled, Garbo laughs). She plays a Russian communist who falls in love with a freewheeling Frenchman, who helps her lighten up and enjoy life. There was a moment at a train station where two Germans met and “heiled” each other that was a bit chilling; did they know what was coming, or were they just making fun of what is a stupid looking behavior? It’s a Gift, was a W.C. Fields movie about a basic nice guy who just couldn’t catch a break. The whole film was a series of everyone being rotten to him and things going badly for him, only partly relieved by a last minute happy ending, and his holding up under the various abuse with equanimity if not pleasantness, (he was at least honest about recognizing that the little brats were spoiled). I don’t think I’d want to see any more of THAT sort of movie. Shadenfreude indeed!
This batch included three more mobster films: White Heat, Little Caesar, and Scarface, although apparently White Heat was from the 40s. At least now I know where “Top of the World, ma!” comes from. I have to say that it was an incredible performance by Cagney. As bad as he was, and they pulled no punches on that score, you could clearly see how the abuse of his childhood had led him to this place. It was a more mature version of his role in Public Enemy. Once again the censors worried that these movies glorified gangsters. In the beginning of Scarface there was a written statement:
This picture is an indictment of gang rule in America and of the callous indifference of the government to this constantly increasing menace to our safety and our liberty. Every incident in this picture is the reproduction of an actual occurrence, and the purpose of this picture is to demand of the government: “What are you going to do about it?” The government is your government. What are YOU going to do about it?
It has the gangsters stealing each other’s girls, abusing their own families, and killing their own friends. As the G men point out, their turf wars result in them shooting little kids in the street. Even when relaxing they are not appealing, they care nothing for the expensive stuff they buy except that it means that they are rich (well, maybe the bullet proof glass and steel shutters for the windows). They are not appealing in any way, and since it was relatively current, it was challenging the government to stop ignoring a menace to their safety. A couple of the films included the newsreel, short subject and cartoons traditionally shown with the movies. One included an interview with the girlfriend of a dead mobster, another showed footage of women practicing for the olympics. Most of what I noticed was how many scrapes and bruises the lady athletes had on their legs and arms. The camera men may have wanted to catch their boobs bouncing, but clearly they were there to excel at their sports! We have come a long way (if not nearly far enough).
And I caught the remake of Pete’s Dragon. Thankfully, it was not trying to be the same as the original. That was a charming musical comedy, this was a modern fantasy. Both had orphans named Pete who had a dragon named Elliot for a friend. The modern CG Elliot looks not unlike the old animated one- it’s green, (interestingly, it’s furry, but I suppose the first Elliot had hair), goofy looking, and able to turn invisible and breath fire. The new one was rather “dog like” in many respects. Both movies had adults who first had to be convinced of his reality, and some who had to be deterred from trying to take advantage of him. That’s about it for similarities, although both had happy endings. I was not distressed by it, as can happen with a remake. I still like the first one better. I like music.
Once again I have run late, but enjoyed telling you what we’ve been up to. Would love to hear from you.
“I had cake for breakfast this morning; I had cake for lunch and for dinner; tomorrow I’ll have to bake another. I like to keep a cake in the house.” Edna Stabler in Food that Really Schmecks