Friday, December 30, 2005

Friday Beefcake - and a Happy New Year to you, too! Posted by Picasa

Elevations, Plans...Whatever - there are 4 of them.... Posted by Picasa

The Foursomes

Okey-dokey.....I'm playing this meme before it plays me.

Four jobs you've had in your life: academic research editor, medical data cruncher, financial database manager (and yeah, I wrote code), mortgage loan QA/QC

Four movies you could watch over and over: The Palm Beach Story; McCabe & Mrs. Miller; The Band Wagon; Mulholland Drive

Four places you've lived: Portland, OR, Chicago, IL, Cambridge, MA; Venice, CA

Four TV shows you love to watch: [Proviso: I hardly can ever watch anything uninterrupted right now - had to watch the first 3 seasons of Alias on DVD, for example. With that in mind, these are skewed to stuff that is broadcast repeatedly] - The Daily Show/Colbert Report; [adult swim] - ATHF, Venture Bros.; Countdown w/ Keith Olbermann; The Buffy/Angel universe (almost disappeared, but I am trying to catch Bones and Veronica Mars).

Four places you've been on vacation: Boston, MA, San Francisco, CA, Paris (the one in France); Victoria, BC

Four websites you visit daily: Eschaton, Digby, Steve Clemons (TWN), TBogg - merely scratching the surface...

Four of your favorite foods: pasta w/ white clam sauce; chopped liver; goat cheese; roasted potatoes

Four places you'd rather be: Paris (see above), Venice Beach, Bed (not necessarily alone), A Movie

Out of the Frying Pan.... Posted by Picasa

That 2005 Show

I just couldn't take it anymore, so just short of two weeks ago I signed up for a TimesSelect trial - over the holidays, mind you - and Paul Krugman just gave me a nice end-of-year gift with his column this morning. No revelations to anyone who reads this blog, just a marvel of compression that, within his column-inch allowance, he hits:

  • Social Security reform
  • Permanent Tax Cuts
  • Public Safety/Hurricane Katrina
  • "Brownie" and agency cronyism
  • Jack Abramoff
  • Dick Cheney's "gravitas"
  • Howard Dean - "flaky and unsound" or prescient?
  • After Downing Street
  • Where Are They Now? - Allawi & Chalabi....
  • Staying the Course - what Course?
  • L'Affaire Plame

And he concludes with these points:

"A year ago, we didn't know that Mr. Bush was lying, or at least being deceptive, when he said at an April 2004 event promoting the Patriot Act that "a wiretap requires a court order. ...When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."

A year ago, most Americans thought Mr. Bush was honest.

A year ago, we didn't know for sure that almost all the politicians and pundits who thundered, during the Lewinsky affair, that even the president isn't above the law have changed their minds. But now we know when it comes to presidents who break the law, it's O.K. if you're a Republican. "

I said to my Dad about a year ago that this one was going to be ugly, but I had no idea how that was going to play out - far beyond my expectations, anyway. If you want to see a much richer chronicle, go to digby (and, hey, fork out, too - it's deserved). As the stakes increase - as we approach the mid-term elections next November, as the various scandals (the ones we already know about...) come to trial, as the whole Bushie fata morgana falls apart - there's going to be some awful and vicious denial, and that's not going to be pretty, either. 2005 is Dead, long live 2006! Whoa!

However, in the Dept. of Silver Linings, this was the year I started this rag, and found readers beyond any expectation. That any of them keep coming back (especially when I promise, with all good will, posts that don't materialize) is an open-handed gift and miracle and I am grateful beyond the known limits of grateful. I expect to machete my way into a new gig in 2006, and to be much more entertaining, so I hope they will stick around for the fun, the thrills.

Happy New Year to all of you!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Light for a Dark World Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 23, 2005

Promises, Promises

I know, I know - RatBoy seems to be stuck in the world of cakes (of one sort or the other), but this is only because of the extra work pressure holiday anxieties can create in the very old. I've been wiped. There will be more substantive entries this weekend; I have been paying attention to the NSA story (and who knows - they may have been paying attention to me...) and much else. We are not so shallow around here...Cheers!

Friday Beefcake - Holiday Edition Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 19, 2005

Heroic Babka! Pre-Glazing! Posted by Picasa

Snow, Ice & Babka

Just seasonal luck that we get snow and ice here to fuck up my babka-shipping plans. The baking went fine (see pic above) and early taste tests are highly positive; now I have to confront UPS Tuesday morning with samples and try to figure out the best way to ship them to the RoD Blogger Bake-Off jury (there are so many posts there on the subject, I can't choose just one). Poor thing has already been through trials that would test the strongest pastry - not least the hair-raising trip back home Sunday evening on snow-slick roads (they don't know from salt here...), my sis driving, and the need to navigate, cajole and placate her in order to arrive in one piece. Babka and I succeeded, and that's a real holiday miracle.

At this point, even if I miss the shipping deadline, I'll be content - treat will arrive, eventually, and I hope it gives pleasure to these people who have become friends over the last months.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Muffin Attack - by Tristan Bronkhorst Posted by Picasa

The Muffin Man

Now that I am really committed to this Bake-Off in Bedlam, a PayPal button has been added to the sidebar. As the judging panel has expanded, my purse has shrunk, so yeah, head hanging, I could probably use some help with shipping costs....
But if you just like the ink-stained wretch content, or the graphics, or the porn, don't let that stop you - pony on up! Keeping old people alive doesn't pay that well, let me assure you.

Friday Beef Blogging - LATE EDITION Posted by Picasa

"I'm in the Milk and the Milk's in Me!" Posted by Picasa

Dough Boys (and Girls)

Please take time, for those of you unfamiliar with the splendid Republic of Dogs, to run over and check out the Blogger Bake-Off the Whole Sick Crew there (and I count myself proudly in their number) have devised for the Holidays. I will be making babka for the occasion (and will share pics of product Sunday evening), so be ready to feast your eyes, and to envy the judges!

Even if I don't make top dog (or top gun, or whatever...) in this one, if the reviews are good I will post my recipe. I and former roomies can testify to the comforts and virtues of good stuff baking inside when the world is frozen outside. Anticipation, friends!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Friday Beef Blogging - Early Edition Posted by Picasa

Susan in NOLA - with a Foundling Posted by Picasa

Gyppy Tummy

That's what they call a lethal GI infection in Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time. Evasive and maybe charming, until the victim dies, not long after. That's when it hits you - people you come to like wiped out, people you don't much care for surviving and thriving; so like Life! Powell takes 40-50 years to chronicle his society, its survivors and its corruptions, aesthetic and political. I am thinking we are at the point of vomiting up some bad tuck from the last 25 years, right now.

Take New Orleans, fallen off the radar now by offical pronouncement. My friend Susan is back there again (see pic above), part of an animal rescue mission. This is not sentimentality; men and women overcome by the hurricane and floods have died, but their pets may have survived, or at best been separated from their families who escaped and survived elsewhere. Regardless of the state of these animals prior to this disaster - well or ill-cared for - it strikes me that there is a conservative expectation that their owners and masters will - and should - go feral long before their dogs and cats will. That is, every man for himself, and God will sort it out, if He does not cut you down first, and if that happens you will have deserved it, just as your lost city did.

That's a Declaration of Anarchy - Free Market, of course - and if you think you are safe from that policy in Missouri (New Madrid fault), Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles (major earthquake or volcanic zones, all) - well, you're dreamers under this government. Talk to Oklahoma City about homegrown bombers - not al-Qaeda, but our own native nutcases who hate the gummint, the captains of industry and business (Jews, or, now, possibly Arabs - certainly George Soros), the hordes of Beaners on our southern border (without whom Lou Dobbs would not be able to enjoy his salad), or the stealthy Canucks up North - look just like us, talk just like us, but they are NOT us....fuck, we've got enemies on all fucking sides! Greatest country in the world, in History, and we are hoping attitude will save us.

Is it so hard to recall where we were 5 years ago? Federal budget surplus, anyone? Dodged some Y2K terrorist attacks, anyone? Panels warning more, but, what the fuck, they were Wets, at best (to borrow a Thatcherite term); tax cuts and deficits are now "our due" in The Cheney's immortal words. Fuck fiscal responsibility. The apparatus of government is being - and should be - eviscerated - what are you talking about "Common Good" for, you godless, un-Christian, income-redistributive traitor! C'mon, Atlas, Shrug!

I have a buddy who married a very bright and attractive woman. She had a lot of issues - passionately hated her family, self-esteem problems in spite of high achievement - but the thing that bugged me the most about her (as I met her at the same time as my buddy) was her romance with Ayn Rand. I couldn't figure out why she didn't see through that simple didactic gimme agenda, but I guess she did, at the end, because after my buddy built her up for 7 years, she left him. He'd made her strong enough to do what she had wanted to do all along. Nothng like empowerment, I guess, but beware of the therapeutic relationship.

There's a sense in which the Dem leadership - and far too many consultants, and journalists, and ordinary independent voters for that matter - still talk about the radical (e.g., dominant) wing of the Repubs as if they were people to be reasoned with. They are not. Like my buddy, they will marry you and suck you dry and leave you. Selfishness is a Virtue, and you are a Loser, my friend.
Winners, after all, don't have friends - only clients, only suckers.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Friday Beef Blogging - for my RoD cohort... Posted by Picasa

The Fantod - courtesy of Edward G Posted by Picasa

So, What's the Story Jerry, Part Deux

The Next Day (10/29) -
[There really is a point to this saga, I promise, so please bear with.]

Readers familiar with RatBoy - alolm will know that I don't get much time off, and I had made special arrangements for October 29th to have a free overnight to attend a semi-annual party thrown by a lawyer buddy. Last one was in the Cinco de Mayo spring bash, and for that I hadn't been able to negotiate sofa-flopping time, so this one was a real treat. And we were getting returned that hour we lost for Daylight Time (which I always accept as a birthday gift, anyway). Wee hours would be our due, and I had partied with these people, and they are eaters, drinkers, most of all talkers.

Also smart and funny. Bunch of labor lawyers (evenly split between employer/employee business), radio media, bohos, and the likes of me. Costumes were optional (best I could come up with was a bowling shirt with discrete howling/flaming skulls) - our host was in elegant black tattered robes and leather-patched wings (and a matching tail), his wife in spectacular spider-web hose and evil-french-maid's get-up. There was a harlequin with a mane of red hair (touting Green Day's American Idiot, which she had been listening to all the way up from Eugene) The most frightening couple came as Lyndie Englund and her Man-on-a-Leash, complete with loincloth (over a thong) and a keffiya - which would have been truly disturbing if he hadn't been having such fun showing off his good body. There were also Joey Ramone wigs, and two splendidly over-fed and over-loved doggies. And an electric bat suspended and flapping over the cooktop.

But there was nothing particularly madcap about the conversation. Everyone was trying to get their bearings around the Fitz/Libby indictments, what kind of response Dems would make (especially their temperament to make any concerted response at all). Old shit in Left Blogistan, but being able to spend an evening with it, with real warm bodies and hot minds, just reinforced the wonder and confusion from the day before, talking to my old friends.

What none of us knew that Saturday night was that Harry Reid was going to throw the Senate into closed session on the following Tuesday (11/1) to force the issues of distorted intelligence and blocked investigation of those distortions, nor how powerful that can-opener would be. Here was a house well-populated by pretty prosperous, well-connected and serious minded men and women, and (heads up, Sen. Wyden, Rep Wu, etc.!) feeling adrift. My friends Jeff and Susan went out of their way to tell me how much they admire Gavin Newsome, and they only live close to SF - he still bears their standard.

They act on it, too - but that's the Next Part.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

DLG - from Jeff & Susan country... Posted by Picasa

So, What's the Story, Jerry - Part 1

Now it's, like, what? 4-5 weeks? OK, buddy....

The birthday I acknowledged this year, below, has kept dishing out presents beyond my capacity to open them fast enough and appreciate them (for good or ill) at leisure. But here's a stab at it.

10/28, I have lunch with one of my oldest friends - the kind you can miss being face-to-face with for 10 years and it's still like you saw one another just last week. An illusion, of course, but enormously satisfying. So, he says over lunch, "I don't know what your politics are [he could make a good guess, so he's being polite..], but I can't figure out why anyone voted for this dumb fuck [meaning W]." Understand, the speaker here has made a fortune in financial management and has certainly benefitted from current tax policies, at the very least, and he's still appalled. We have a lot more to run over, so I shrug and say, "Beats the shit outta me," which is quite true, and we move on to his parents (who are like my second family) and his wife (who we will meet later in the afternoon), and his kids.

It's a fine lunch - Jeff taunts the waiter to feed me big (it was always his contention that I could outeat anyone in a sitting - god, I'm glad I haven't made that a habit!). I am, even now, thinking about how I want to attempt the polenta with mascarpone and roasted fennel and red peppers - yum. And it was a beautiful fall day here to walk a fair amount of that off. We did, with a lot of quizzing about how our various aging parents were doing, and pointing out Portland sights, and what it was like to lose my gay pussy. My own family would never ask such a question (not that there's anything wrong with it...), but that's why I needed a second.

We stroll on to a rendezvous with Susan, an art dealer (and she'll have other roles to play, just wait) and Jeff's wife. Last time I saw her was in LA after Thanksgiving at her brother's house, saying goodnight as I took my bike for a walk down the boardwalk, totally shitfaced from her brother's weed-laced stuffing. A very elegant dinner that was, and I think she was wise enough to stay a qualified designated driver, or else I wouldn't be writing this.

They had a dinner engagement with a Nike exec friend, so we had to say goodbye, but I was buoyed by the continuities, on the same day the Libby indictments came down.

Big stuff the Next Day - and next installment, or I'll never get anything posted.

[Just an aside, but my readership should be ashamed to flee from ballet posts - philistines! :-)]

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Too Much Is Never Enough Posted by Picasa

A Muse of Blue Flame

Sometimes a dancer is more than a dancer - think Pavlova, think Nijinsky, or Astaire, or Baryshnikov, and then think Farrell. I was hardly more than a baby when I saw my first dancing - probably at the movies, but I'm not sure. I am absolutely sure, though, that once knowing that you could move your body to music, that knowledge transformed both the music and the body; the body was made to move, and the music you then heard from head to toe and from the inside out.

Of the five dancers I name above, only two did I see in live performance - Baryshnikov and Farrell. Both I saw with the NYCB, in their Chicago seasons in my late youth, when George Balanchine was still alive and that company was in its late prime. The company was full of tremendous dancers (and Baryshnikov was with them to add to his already prodigious vocabulary), but it was seeing Farrell that was life-changing. The ballet was Agon, Stravinsky from the '50's and written for (and with) Balanchine. It was not made on her, originally, but I had never seen anything like it. Her partner (as in the picture above) was Peter Martins, and for all the music's and the choreography's spikiness - listen to a recording, if you can fucking find one anymore - it is a reiteration of very old courtly dances. Arlene Croce once wrote something to the effect that ballet exalts manners and civilization, but it also contains the unspeakable; Agon is like that. What I saw Farrell do was combine them, in the same moment, in the great pas-de-deux - conquest and submission, and mercy, too.

I saw her in other things - dances that had been made on her, notably two performances of Vienna Waltzes in which she carries the final act (to Richard Strauss's suite from Der Rosenkavalier), for much of it almost alone on stage, from isolation, though fleeting partnerships, to a kind of self-immolation exit the like of which I have never seen. The exit ushers in the final luscious tableau of swirling partners, but it's a renunciation (not unlike the opera's Marschallin) that you remember - and the suggestion of much darker things. To do all that is being more than a dancer. I don't even know what the word for it is.

In Venice, California, I used to sit house for some friends - looked after their cats, get a respite - and I got to know their neighbors (e.g., look down from above on the hair-transplant plugs of the guy who lived beneath them). As it happened, the woman next door started talking about a dance program and she was from Cincinnati and had known Suzy as a kid - girlfriends. Knocked me off my feet, and I told about what I had seen (with more gush), and not too long after that she brought me back, from a trip East, an autograph and a photo of her and Suzanne. A treasure, and lost now, but, whoa, while I had it, it was gold - it still is, and it was a kindness of Suzanne Farrell (who is famously shy about that sort of thing) to acknowledge a fan.

I suppose that's what has set Farrell apart in the line of great dancers I listed - all-out commitment, all-out performance, combined with a personal reticence that doesn't take to the runway, that shuns stardom. Muses don't bestow their gifts lightly - which is why poets were always appealing to them, praying to them, to show up this time. She's got a part-time company out of DC, she's coaching and staging with companies all over the world, but that unity of personal performance and the works she inspired and made new - those are gone. Yeats nailed the eternal transience of the art with:

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Where does it hurt, now? Posted by Picasa

Tristes Tropiques

Too many days of this last week have been like the pic above - for me, for my patient. Nightmares for her, broken sleep for me (plus some personal puffy-face torture on account of a tooth). We shall both be OK, but go read Joyce Maynard's piece on rescuing animals in NOLA - there will be more to come, and her published reporting is just a vestige of the full story she has to tell. I'll have more on that later this weekend.

Does make one long for a Brazil of the mind, however.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Go Ahead - EAT ME! Posted by Picasa

Many Thanks

That 3-Week Roundup is now pushing 4 weeks, but it's been an invigorating near-month - the public ice break on so many fronts, and some supremely satisfying personal reconnections. I could not be more grateful right now for my long-standing (some might say long-suffering) friends; they abide, like The Dude.

The Aged Patient and I will have a feast to remember today. Made stock last night in the splendid pot I nabbed earlier this year (its maiden voyage), found great fresh turkey parts (recipe and technique as posted below), and they will be roasted with beautiful leeks, turnips, carrots and - I think - rosemary this time. Cornbread base for stuffing is done, and there are nice criminis and mild italian sausage to fill that out (a special request of the AP). She also has sweet potatoes coming - and when you're 97, you should get whatever you want.

This was always the holiday of choice to visit my family when I lived far away. No religious trappings or conflicts, no gifts to lug, and I would promise to cook - give me something to do and a superior meal for the rest of them. Just in the last 2 weeks, I've found an archive of photographs kept by our landlords in our Chicago house, and preserved by one of my original roomies there. I don't recall exactly how this got started, but Betty and Albert welcomed us for Thanksgiving fairly early on, and as the years passed, students who had lived in the house (it was a 3-flat, really), would return for the holiday, and they would have their placecards, and they would bring a contribution of food, and we would all celebrate on Betty's good Wedgewood or Limoges. Got quite fancy after a while, but it was very cool. I'll post some of the pics when the mood hits.

I am also thankful to all my readers and patrons here - that I have either seems miraculous at times (most of the time, actually). If I can cook a decent meal, I can post more. That's a promise.

[Update: Dinner was hugely successful - the AP was delighted, the turnips could not have been better (magnets for meat juices - I don't know why they are not more appreciated...), and I got to do a full-bore dinner here, something of a rarity. And we will have tasty leavings for at least a week. The remaining stock, alone, will enrich 2-3, many post-colonialist feasts! All power to the Bird!]

Friday, November 18, 2005

More Fumes...

Been a tough and volatile week here at work - I wanted to do a 3-week wrap-up of the marriage of the personal and the public, but I've just been too beat. Apologies to all who come back looking for something interesting and who are held in suspense, disappointed. Back with you this weekend.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Dangerous when cornered.... Posted by Picasa

Weasel Alert

The Rude One posted an excellent warning yesterday on the dangers of Gulo gulo, largest of the weasel family. I am with him on the likelihood of the coming year being even more savage than this one almost passed. And he's in the middle of a series, so go read.

Like Summer Tempests - Part 1

[Returning to our friends at WITW...]

THE Rat put out a neat little brown paw, gripped Toad firmly by the scruff of the neck, and gave a great hoist and a pull; and the water-logged Toad came up slowly but surely over the edge of the hole, till at last he stood safe and sound in the hall, streaked with mud and weed to be sure, and with the water streaming off him, but happy and high-spirited as of old, now that he found himself once more in the house of a friend, and dodgings and evasions were over, and he could lay aside a disguise that was unworthy of his position and wanted such a lot of living up to.

`O, Ratty!' he cried. `I've been through such times since I saw you last, you can't think! Such trials, such sufferings, and all so nobly borne! Then such escapes, such disguises such subterfuges, and all so cleverly planned and carried out! Been in prison -- got out of it, of course! Been thrown into a canal -- swam ashore! Stole a horse -- sold him for a large sum of money! Humbugged everybody -- made 'em all do exactly what I wanted! Oh, I am a smart Toad, and no mistake! What do you think my last exploit was? Just hold on till I tell you -- -- '

`Toad,' said the Water Rat, gravely and firmly, `you go off upstairs at once, and take off that old cotton rag that looks as if it might formerly have belonged to some washerwoman, and clean yourself thoroughly, and put on some of my clothes, and try and come down looking like a gentleman if you can; for a more shabby, bedraggled, disreputable-looking object than you are I never set eyes on in my whole life! Now, stop swaggering and arguing, and be off! I'll have something to say to you later!'

Toad was at first inclined to stop and do some talking back at him. He had had enough of being ordered about when he was in prison, and here was the thing being begun all over again, apparently; and by a Rat, too! However, he caught sight of himself in the looking-glass over the hat-stand, with the rusty black bonnet perched rakishly over one eye, and he changed his mind and went very quickly and humbly upstairs to the Rat's dressing-room. There he had a thorough wash and brush-up, changed his clothes, and stood for a long time before the glass, contemplating himself with pride and pleasure, and thinking what utter idiots all the people must have been to have ever mistaken him for one moment for a washerwoman.

By the time he came down again luncheon was on the table, and very glad Toad was to see it, for he had been through some trying experiences and had taken much hard exercise since the excellent breakfast provided for him by the gipsy. While they ate Toad told the Rat all his adventures, dwelling chiefly on his own cleverness, and presence of mind in emergencies, and cunning in tight places; and rather making out that he had been having a gay and highly-coloured experience. But the more he talked and boasted, the more grave and silent the Rat became.

When at last Toad had talked himself to a standstill, there was silence for a while; and then the Rat said, `Now, Toady, I don't want to give you pain, after all you've been through already; but, seriously, don't you see what an awful ass you've been making of yourself? On your own admission you have been handcuffed, imprisoned, starved, chased, terrified out of your life, insulted, jeered at, and ignominiously flung into the water -- by a woman, too! Where's the amusement in that? Where does the fun come in? And all because you must needs go and steal a motor-car. You know that you've never had anything but trouble from motor-cars from the moment you first set eyes on one. But if you will be mixed up with them -- as you generally are, five minutes after you've started -- why steal them? Be a cripple, if you think it's exciting; be a bankrupt, for a change, if you've set your mind on it: but why choose to be a convict? When are you going to be sensible, and think of your friends, and try and be a credit to them? Do you suppose it's any pleasure to me, for instance, to hear animals saying, as I go about, that I'm the chap that keeps company with gaol-birds?'

Now, it was a very comforting point in Toad's character that he was a thoroughly good-hearted animal and never minded being jawed by those who were his real friends. And even when most set upon a thing, he was always able to see the other side of the question. So although, while the Rat was talking so seriously, he kept saying to himself mutinously, `But it was fun, though! Awful fun!' and making strange suppressed noises inside him, k-i-ck-ck-ck, and poop-p-p, and other sounds resembling stifled snorts, or the opening of soda-water bottles, yet when the Rat had quite finished, he heaved a deep sigh and said, very nicely and humbly, `Quite right, Ratty! How sound you always are! Yes, I've been a conceited old ass, I can quite see that; but now I'm going to be a good Toad, and not do it any more. As for motor-cars, I've not been at all so keen about them since my last ducking in that river of yours. The fact is, while I was hanging on to the edge of your hole and getting my breath, I had a sudden idea -- a really brilliant idea -- connected with motor-boats -- there, there! don't take on so, old chap, and stamp, and upset things; it was only an idea, and we won't talk any more about it now. We'll have our coffee, and a smoke, and a quiet chat, and then I'm going to stroll quietly down to Toad Hall, and get into clothes of my own, and set things going again on the old lines. I've had enough of adventures. I shall lead a quiet, steady, respectable life, pottering about my property, and improving it, and doing a little landscape gardening at times. There will always be a bit of dinner for my friends when they come to see me; and I shall keep a pony-chaise to jog about the country in, just as I used to in the good old days, before I got restless, and wanted to do things.'

`Stroll quietly down to Toad Hall?' cried the Rat, greatly excited. `What are you talking about? Do you mean to say you haven't heard?'

`Heard what?' said Toad, turning rather pale. `Go on, Ratty! Quick! Don't spare me! What haven't I heard?'

`Do you mean to tell me,' shouted the Rat, thumping with his little fist upon the table, `that you've heard nothing about the Stoats and Weasels?'

What, the Wild Wooders?' cried Toad, trembling in every limb. `No, not a word! What have they been doing?'

` -- And how they've been and taken Toad Hall?' continued the Rat.

Toad leaned his elbows on the table, and his chin on his paws; and a large tear welled up in each of his eyes, overflowed and splashed on the table, plop! plop!

`Go on, Ratty,' he murmured presently; `tell me all. The worst is over. I am an animal again. I can bear it.'

`When you -- got -- into that -- that -- trouble of yours,' said the Rat, slowly and impressively; `I mean, when you -- disappeared from society for a time, over that misunderstanding about a -- a machine, you know -- '
Toad merely nodded.

`Well, it was a good deal talked about down here, naturally,' continued the Rat, `not only along the river-side, but even in the Wild Wood. Animals took sides, as always happens. The River-bankers stuck up for you, and said you had been infamously treated, and there was no justice to be had in the land nowadays. But the Wild Wood animals said hard things, and served you right, and it was time this sort of thing was stopped. And they got very cocky, and went about saying you were done for this time! You would never come back again, never, never!'

Toad nodded once more, keeping silence.

`That's the sort of little beasts they are,' the Rat went on. `But Mole and Badger, they stuck out, through thick and thin, that you would come back again soon, somehow. They didn't know exactly how, but somehow!'

Toad began to sit up in his chair again, and to smirk a little.

`They argued from history,' continued the Rat. `They said that no criminal laws had ever been known to prevail against cheek and plausibility such as yours, combined with the power of a long purse. So they arranged to move their things in to Toad Hall, and sleep there, and keep it aired, and have it all ready for you when you turned up. They didn't guess what was going to happen, of course; still, they had their suspicions of the Wild Wood animals. Now I come to the most painful and tragic part of my story. One dark night -- it was a very dark night, and blowing hard, too, and raining simply cats and dogs -- a band of weasels, armed to the teeth, crept silently up the carriage-drive to the front entrance. Simultaneously, a body of desperate ferrets, advancing through the kitchen-garden, possessed themselves of the backyard and offices; while a company of skirmishing stoats who stuck at nothing occupied the conservatory and the billiard-room, and held the French windows opening on to the lawn.

`The Mole and the Badger were sitting by the fire in the smoking-room, telling stories and suspecting nothing, for it wasn't a night for any animals to be out in, when those bloodthirsty villains broke down the doors and rushed in upon them from every side. They made the best fight they could, but what was the good? They were unarmed, and taken by surprise, and what can two animals do against hundreds? They took and beat them severely with sticks, those two poor faithful creatures, and turned them out into the cold and the wet, with many insulting and uncalled-for remarks!'

Here the unfeeling Toad broke into a snigger, and then pulled himself together and tried to look particularly solemn.

`And the Wild Wooders have been living in Toad Hall ever since,' continued the Rat; `and going on simply anyhow! Lying in bed half the day, and breakfast at all hours, and the place in such a mess (I'm told) it's not fit to be seen! Eating your grub, and drinking your drink, and making bad jokes about you, and singing vulgar songs, about -- well, about prisons and magistrates, and policemen; horrid personal songs, with no humour in them. And they're telling the tradespeople and everybody that they've come to stay for good.'

`O, have they!' said Toad getting up and seizing a stick. `I'll jolly soon see about that!'

`It's no good, Toad!' called the Rat after him. `You'd better come back and sit down; you'll only get into trouble.'

But the Toad was off, and there was no holding him. He marched rapidly down the road, his stick over his shoulder, fuming and muttering to himself in his anger, till he got near his front gate, when suddenly there popped up from behind the palings a long yellow ferret with a gun.

`Who comes there?' said the ferret sharply.

`Stuff and nonsense!' said Toad, very angrily. `What do you mean by talking like that to me? Come out of that at once, or I'll -- -- '

The ferret said never a word, but he brought his gun up to his shoulder. Toad prudently dropped flat in the road, and Bang! a bullet whistled over his head. The startled Toad scrambled to his feet and scampered off down the road as hard as he could; and as he ran he heard the ferret laughing and other horrid thin little laughs taking it up and carrying on the sound.

He went back, very crestfallen, and told the Water Rat.
`What did I tell you?' said the Rat. `It's no good. They've got sentries posted, and they are all armed. You must just wait.'

Still, Toad was not inclined to give in all at once. So he got out the boat, and set off rowing up the river to where the garden front of Toad Hall came down to the waterside.

Arriving within sight of his old home, he rested on his oars and surveyed the land cautiously. All seemed very peaceful and deserted and quiet. He could see the whole front of Toad Hall, glowing in the evening sunshine, the pigeons settling by twos and threes along the straight line of the roof; the garden, a blaze of flowers; the creek that led up to the boat-house, the little wooden bridge that crossed it; all tranquil, uninhabited, apparently waiting for his return. He would try the boat-house first, he thought. Very warily he paddled up to the mouth of the creek, and was just passing under the bridge, when . . . Crash!

A great stone, dropped from above, smashed through the bottom of the boat. It filled and sank, and Toad found himself struggling in deep water. Looking up, he saw two stoats leaning over the parapet of the bridge and watching him with great glee. `It will be your head next time, Toady!' they called out to him. The indignant Toad swam to shore, while the stoats laughed and laughed, supporting each other, and laughed again, till they nearly had two fits -- that is, one fit each, of course.

The Toad retraced his weary way on foot, and related his disappointing experiences to the Water Rat once more.

`Well, what did I tell you?' said the Rat very crossly. `And, now, look here! See what you've been and done! Lost me my boat that I was so fond of, that's what you've done! And simply ruined that nice suit of clothes that I lent you! Really, Toad, of all the trying animals -- I wonder you manage to keep any friends at all!'

The Toad saw at once how wrongly and foolishly he had acted. He admitted his errors and wrong-headedness and made a full apology to Rat for losing his boat and spoiling his clothes. And he wound up by saying, with that frank self-surrender which always disarmed his friend's criticism and won them back to his side, `Ratty! I see that I have been a headstrong and a wilful Toad! Henceforth, believe me, I will be humble and submissive, and will take no action without your kind advice and full approval!'

`If that is really so,' said the good-natured Rat, already appeased, `then my advice to you is, considering the lateness of the hour, to sit down and have your supper, which will be on the table in a minute, and be very patient. For I am convinced that we can do nothing until we have seen the Mole and the Badger, and heard their latest news, and held conference and taken their advice in this difficult matter.'

`Oh, ah, yes, of course, the Mole and the Badger,' said Toad, lightly. `What's become of them, the dear fellows? I had forgotten all about them.'

`Well may you ask!' said the Rat reproachfully. `While you were riding about the country in expensive motor-cars, and galloping proudly on blood-horses, and breakfasting on the fat of the land, those two poor devoted animals have been camping out in the open, in every sort of weather, living very rough by day and lying very hard by night; watching over your house, patrolling your boundaries, keeping a constant eye on the stoats and the weasels, scheming and planning and contriving how to get your property back for you. You don't deserve to have such true and loyal friends, Toad, you don't, really. Some day, when it's too late, you'll be sorry you didn't value them more while you had them!'

`I'm an ungrateful beast, I know,' sobbed Toad, shedding bitter tears. `Let me go out and find them, out into the cold, dark night, and share their hardships, and try and prove by -- -- Hold on a bit! Surely I heard the chink of dishes on a tray! Supper's here at last, hooray! Come on, Ratty!'

The Rat remembered that poor Toad had been on prison fare for a considerable time, and that large allowances had therefore to be made. He followed him to the table accordingly, and hospitably encouraged him in his gallant efforts to make up for past privations.

[More to come...]

[Note: Emphasis added above at "Stoats and Weasels" - you will see why in the following post.]

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A River Runs through It Posted by Picasa

The Light at the End of the Funnel

Seems I haven't been the only one. If Roy felt like this on Tuesday, I don't feel like such a wuss. I think I'm coming out of it, but I also think the Shock and Awe are going to be coming home - perhaps for the first time - to many people who have invested their trust and fears in this misbegotten government, and for them it is going to be a difficult awakening. Long, agonizing, no anaesthetic. It will give me no pleasure, but the bullshit must be washed away - rivers may need to be diverted, and we are seeing only a trickle so far, but the America I love can't regain her bearings without it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Ben M - b. 8 Nov 2005

My patient just had another great-grandchild - a healthy boy, named after her husband, and she was so thrilled she went blissfully to sleep. It was all worth it, after all.

Now, where's that mohel...?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Gobbles is Safe - 100% Posted by Picasa


In lieu of trying to make critical sense of this last week - and I assure you I have been plenty critical - we are having a rare food interlude. Stock up on staples and technique, because it will be well worth it.

T for Two, or a Few More

This is a recipe and method for those who have neither the need nor the taste for a Big Gobbles (pace Timmeh) on the table.


I looked today (07/11) and did not find fresh turkey in parts. Grrrrr. Admittedly, it's 2 weeks out, but I will be alert in the next 7 days. What if I want to do a rub, a marinade, or a smoke? None of these apply to this recipe, but we know that there will be dozens of frozen toms and hens flooding the frozen shelves very soon, and they will be designed for roasting whole - with their little pop-up plastic indicators and other body-mods - and that's not what we are after.

Last year, for two people, I bought one half-breast (bone in) and two ample thighs, plus 3-4 rather small turkey drumsticks for stock. With careful cooking, the drumstick meat can be used for turkey salad or any other recipe in which you might use cooked poultry.

The other essentials are:

Pancetta or other cured bacon (if smoked, blanch it before using) - very thinly sliced
Black/green peppercorns
Sage or thyme or tarragon - fresh or dried
Kosher salt (or better - grey, sea, etc.)
Broadleaf parsley
Mushrooms - white, brown crimini.and/or other of choice and availability
Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Peanut Oil or a mild oil of choice
Unsalted butter
Kitchen twine


Heavy casserole or roasting pan, with cover
Boning knife


Celery - either the innermost white ribs, or a bit of leaf. The celery flavor can ovewhelm the herbs and parsley, IMO. However, endive or fennel might work here, too. Up to you.


Preheat oven to 350 deg F.

This is a covered roast - meat will be browned (or, as everyone says now, caramelized) first, then the roasting flavorings added, and then the final cooking. Anyone who has roasted a whole turkey knows that it is not a rich meat, and that the breast can dry out - even with vigorous basting - before the dark meat is done. :This problem can be resolved by boning out the breast and thighs, seasoning them internally, then barding them with the pancetta and tying and browning them before roasting. A rolled and tied breast will take about as much time as a boned and tied leg with this technqiue, and will retain its juices. The barding will be almost completely absorbed (an argument for paper-thin pancetta, which will both encourage browning, but which will melt into the roast afterward).

Have in reserve the diced onion, carrot and celery, and 3-4 smashed cloves of garlic. Slice or dice the mushrooms (depending on type), if you want them.

Step One:

Bone out each breast, and each thigh you are using. I recommend cooking each half-breast independently. You'll need a very sharp and flexible - if not very long - knife to do this. Cut against the bone and you can't go wrong. Wash and dry thoroughly.

Once boned, you will have raw pieces of turkey that lie flat. Season them with salt and pepper (black or - I think very nice - ground dry green peppercorns), the herb of choice - I used fresh sage leaves last year (1 or 2), or a sprinkle of dried. Apply 1 or 2 very thin slices of the pancetta over this seasoning, according to the size of the meat, and roll up. Once the inner seasonings and barding is contained, wrap the outside of the breast or thigh with more pieces of pancetta, and then tie them on with kitchen twine - both to contain them and to maintain their shape during cooking.

Step Two:

Heat oil - or oil and butter combined - in the casserole or heavy roasting pan - couple of Tbs. ought to do it.. When very hot but not smoking, place the rolled and tied turkey pieces in and let them brown on all sides, turning as necessary (that is, NOT TOO MUCH) - the pancetta will help this process immensely, btw. Remember the ends. Remove the turkey to a plate when it has a nice color. The rendered fat from both the turkey and the barding will be more than sufficient to brown the veg.

Assuming the fat and browned bits haven't blackened, stir in the raw onion, carrot, parsley, etc., and season them. Their moisture will deglaze the pan of its browning juices, as you cover it for 5 minutes or so, over medium heat. Once the onions have turned transluscent, return the tied and browned meats to the casserole or roasting pan, scatter the whole garlic cloves in, spoon the sweated vegetables over all, and cover again.

Roast in the 350 deg F oven, covered, for about 15 minutes per pound of boned meat (and that's not funny - bones will conduct heat into the interior of a cut and shorten cooking time - grow up!).

Step Three:

I would start checking for done-ness 30 minutes before you expect it. You might want to turn the meat about half-way through, anyway, for even cooking. It's not going to dry out, I promise you. The relative bulk of the rolled breasts will offset the density of the thigh-meat and they will emerge thoroughly cooked and succulent.

If you are using mushrooms, add them in the last half hour. The meat will have rendered a lot of juice and they will soak it up.

I do done-ness by touch, myself, but if you have an instant thermometer, follow their directions. All roasted meats need a rest period before serving, so it's quite safe, and preferable, to let the casserole or roasting pan sit for 20 mins or so and settle before figuring out what else is necessary.
If there is much rendered fat, skim it off with a big spoon and strain the remaining veg. If it's not much, I'd just go commando and leave it. Again, turkey is a very lean meat, and if you have been careful about the browning and all, there are lots of tasteful goodies in there.

Though I haven't mentioned it to this point, removing all the cooked goodies, further defatting the remaining juices, and the addition of a deglazing agent (a nice dry white, e.g., ) and reducing the result wouldn't be a bad idea. This kind of thing doesn't need a gravy - it's lovely enough with pan juices, and leavings of the roasting process.

Step Four:

Well, there are lots of Steps Four, really. Many finishes to the presentation, all of which would require snipping off the string ties to the meat. They will be lovely, in any case, and, being boneless, will slice perfectly. I happen to like the rusticity of the onions and carrots that have cooked along with, and the slow-cooked garlic, too. Any of these with pilaf or a polenta, or roasted potatoes, would be great. I am also partial to a cornbread stuffing, but cooked separately, with mushroom duxelles and walnuts - but that's just me.

However - if it's a small party you have going, or even two of you for a romantic dinner, this is a wonderful method. If you try it, please enjoy and ask for tips and give feedback.

[Another one:] I think I got this from Alice Waters, but wherever it came from, it's great. Take a head of red radicchio, cut it in 4 wedges, put in a roasting pan, drizzle with oil oil, season with salt and pepper, roast in a medium oven until tender. I use a smallish pan (radicchio aren't very large), and cover it with foil, very much as one would roast a full head of garlic. The result has that great endive bitterness, but the roasting adds sweetness and savor, and I can't think of anything nicer with the covered roast of turkey.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Procedural Notes - Coming Attractions

Tried to post a comment tonight - on my own site - and the character-matching thingy blocked me. I'm going to dump it for a while and see what happens. If it means regular cleaning of anon bot-comments, so be it.

Great b-day weekend here - full coverage tomorrow.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Pumpkin's Empty Rictus

"But, as you know, it is not a crime to say misleading things on "Meet the Press" or other interview programs. It is a crime to say misleading or false things under oath."

That's here for Tim Russert fans.

And, so, as listeners or viewers, we can take for granted that we are not only being lied to, but that there is no critical intelligence between us and the lie. Reporters or interlocutors are pure stovepipes for whatever lie is on their panel. Done deal - nobody home.

This is absurd, and the next thing to saying - a thing that should be said - that reporters report nothing, but are instead excuses for bullshit pipelines, sewers. I mean, why the fuck bother with them if they have no critical faculties? They don't seem to mind being whores to power, and they are paid splendidly for their access, and for not much else.

What am I, are we, getting from their circuit party? Not News We Can Use. As long as you are not under oath - as if that is a very special case of public discourse - you can lie your ass off and no one will really object. It's expected. And if you were fool enough to expect to make judgments based on that info, well, tuff shit on you. Little Russ might as well say that his combative manner (as opposed to his contrasting lickspittle manner) are one and same thing - cold platters to display even more fragrant and important shit, served up fresh and steaming hot every day. Everyone forgets yesterday's stale cold dish anyway - need a new dump. And who better placed than Russert and his amigos? They were deep in this slough, they don't care, and now they are saying we shouldn't, either.

I want to take away their next meal - trick, no treat, but it might be rough trade.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Hooray! And about time...!
Posted by Picasa

Hey, Buddy, that's MY Banana! Posted by Picasa

Navy Day

My birthday, too - something my Dad, who had been a signalman, has always seemed to find meaningful (he grins when he brings it up). Though it wasn't commemorated until 1922, the U.S. Navy was formed on this day in 1775. While I didn't grow up to be that kind of sailor (see the pic above), I've always loved the water and boats; fate in all its varieties.

And I share this day with some really interesting people - these are the ones I would put candles on a cake for:
  • Erasmus (1469) - I have seen him born on the 26th, too, but I'm going to ignore that. Still, it's hard to resist a sage who said: "Whether a party can have much success without a woman present I must ask others to decide, but one thing is certain, no party is any fun unless seasoned with folly." And I love the Holbein portrait.
  • Capt. James Cook (1728) - a real sailor!
  • Nicolo Paganini (1782) - because I love the violin, because of the Caprices (a heavy vein of gold for many other musicians), because he was thought to have made a pact with the Devil to play as he did - Yay!
  • Theodore Roosevelt (1858) - the Bull Moose. When he was bad, he was pretty horrid, but he was more often very very good, and he overcompensated like hell. An American self-transformer if there ever was one.
  • Enid Bagnold (1889) - hey, National Velvet, The Chalk Garden, and more, all tough-minded.
  • Dylan Thomas (1914) - the lyre.
  • Roy Lichtenstein (1923) - "Pow!"
  • Sylvia Plath (1932) - lyric and savage.
  • John Cleese ((1939) - tall, dark and furious.
  • Maxine Hong Kingston (1940) - a big voice from (as she tells it) a small one.
  • Carrie Snodgress (1946) - whoa, I miss her!
  • Fran Lebowitz (1950) - I was thrilled to find out a few years ago that we shared a birthday, that she is a fan of James McCourt, and that she knows where to go for a steak in Portland. I'd be quaking, but I'd love to sit at table with her. As she said, ""Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine." And she prizes good manners.

So, a great day to all born today (I have left out many admirables, but even more wretches). And, hey, in 1871, Boss Tweed was arrested for Tammany Hall corruption - is that an apt historical echo, or what?

We'll find out!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Bunker Mentality

Two posts from Steve Clemons, following up on the post immediately below. The first nails Cheney as the - how to put this - distributive source (after Tenet), and the second reinforces Wilkerson's argument from last week contrasting true deliberation (messy as that can be) with zealous clarity (moral or not, we will discover as this unfolds). Maybe we need a - metaphorical - Bunker Buster to get to the bottom of this.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Rending the Veil of Maia.... Posted by Picasa

Thin Edge of the Wedge

I first ran across that phrase in Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love. It was a favorite of the deeply reactionary father of the fictionally comic (though, in reality, pretty tragic) family of eccentrics she described - her own. It described any incursion into the Radlett household that could threaten their insular, privileged, xenophobic and racist upper-class country life. And god knows I have been waiting for a crack to admit the entry of that thin edge in what Billmon has long been calling the Cheney Administration.

The Fitzgerald inquiry looks like it may do the trick, but it's also calling forth voices who have been itching to hammer the wedge home, too. In addition to Col. Lawrence Wilkerson USA (Ret) last Wednesday, Brent Scowcroft is due in the next issue of The New Yorker. These guys are not liberals, and maybe that's what it will take to wake up all of those who have sucked into the PNAC agenda since 2001. Unlike the fantasy Gay Agenda, PNAC's is a very real and pernicious one (and Dan Froomkin helpfully referenced it, regarding Cheney, this last week - read 'em all). I have hopped on their manifesto before, and I think for good reason.

As I wrote Lance the other day, I was engaged in a couple of NSF-funded research projects at my school in the dying years of the Soviet Empire. One was essentially academic, one was more policy-oriented. We went through mountains of published material, ran teams of translators (we had crack Slavic-language editors - that's where my "grisha" nick comes from...), and I don't think any of us could embrace the - by now notorious - Neocon/"Team B"/PNAC assessment of Soviet strength. They were dead wrong, and I think one had to be willfully self-deceived to adopt their analysis, one that inflated perceived strengths and minimized obvious weaknesses, no matter the facts on the ground. And, of course, they were eager to mark anyone who might disagree as "soft," an "apologist," an "appeaser," if not something worse. See Richard Perle and his progreny.

But this crowd missed the clear (certainly in retrospect) evidence that the Cold War hegemonies were fracturing - Solidarity in Poland, the Iranian revolution, the intransigence of religious and tribal factions in Afghanistan for the Sovs, and the cauldron that war became for the West. The Balkan collapse was telescoped for years - you lift up a rock, and there's a lot of teeming underneath. As Digby has said - banging his head against the wall - these guys have been always wrong.

I would really like to have lunch with Doug Feith, just to see how an honors grad of Harvard and Georgetown Law can be such an idiot. I mean, he wouldn't be the first I've met (or the most septic, necessarily), but - I just want to hear the bullshit flow for myself. Be like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. At the same time, my least desirable lunch would be with the Cheneys - anyone who would send a commanding General a Ken Burns documentary collection as a key to battlefield strategy in the middle of a conflict has to have Arrogant Moron inked on his forehead, A wide berth.

Why, after this dismal record, did anyone listen to these turds? Really, it doesn't take that much homework to know more than they do; could it be intimidation and sucking up, or the urge to suck off? The Rude Pundit is acute on the psycho-sexual abuses of power and its mysterious and powerful wank-and-ass-fuck factor, the BDSM of it all. The Judy Miller debacle - 69, all around - should nail both Big Press and Big Government (hiding behind Grover Norquist's merkin, pretending to be small...).

I guess the most disgusting aspect of all of this has been the corruption, deception and abuse of the American people - stoking their fears and prejudices, building straw internal enemies, throwing them off-balance, fostering ignorance and distrust, degrading them in the eyes of the world. It's a New American Century, all right, and it's unforgivable.

Friday, October 21, 2005


Readout. It's been an exhausting week on the job here, or I would have jumped into the pool by now, but I got this from a patriotic friend in an email this evening:

And it was larger than that. More tomorrow. In the meantime, do check out Wilkerson, here.
I cannot raise the Washington Post this evening - I wonder why?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Wavelengths Posted by Picasa

Power & Pinter

Been feeling kind of gnawed since the post below on Harold Pinter. I am loving Roy's post on him - a nice assessment of his theatricality and skill, and the delight in the wingnuts' fury over the Prize. My own ambivalence comes from Pinter's concentration on the cut and thrust of gaining the upper (or lower, ball-squeezing) hand in every relationship. I don't dispute David E's analysis, it's just that I am drawn temperamentally to people like Henry James, or Pynchon, or Bellow, who are acute observers of the power games and know the score, but who renounce it, expose its ugliness, or stand aside, perhaps amused and not a little appalled, and still stay out of the game. Or make their own, in Bellow's case.

Maybe it takes something infantile (and not a little feral) to pursue grown-up goals in business or politics - or the bedroom - that will annihilate your opposition, put your partner into abject submission. I just wonder whether the thrill of the conquest is worth the taste for destruction, the pleasure of hearing the vertebrae crack and the fluids ooze. As we know from Buffy and Angel, soullessness has its drawbacks. How does Karl Rove sleep these nights, the prospect of his canines being removed hovering over him? Doesn't a Power World posit only winners and losers? Deify the Players? Seems to me there are alternatives - and not wussy ones - to being a sucker in a stacked game.

More to say on this - it's late here.

Saturday, October 15, 2005