Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Happy Year of the Pooch! Posted by Picasa

Taking It All In Posted by Picasa

Time Regained [Core Dump 6]

I walked into this room alone, looking, listening, speaking under my breath, took a cocktail. Must have been something tonic in it, to keep me going, and then someone listened, and stayed until I finished, and then introduced me to a partner, and we danced. That was lovely. She was blonde and had keen eyes. There was also a man, taller than me and - I thought, perhaps - even shyer, but he was kind and he put his arm around my shoulder and guided me to a bay of the great room where there was the most animated conversation. I was buzzed enough to join in - no one made me feel stupid.

I turned once and saw a man I knew enter the room - a grand welcome. I flushed, as I had met him before. and tried to hide it. He had a following - the girls ran to him in greeting, gowns like flowers gathering, separating. Kisses, and words, were exchanged, and the bouquet scattered again.

And what romantic bullshit. If only.

That was sort of my Berlioz version of opening the blogosphere. There are possible variations on Ben Hecht, on Almost Famous, maybe on Nicholas Nickleby and joining the Company of Mr. Vincent Crummles. Whatever the case, I didn't know what I was getting into, but I wanted to join the Circus. I won't let go now.

Looking back over this last year's posts, I'm surprised at how much I could write into the night not that many months ago. It's just a fact that the patient I look after has become markedly more fragile and less predictable over the last year, and so I can't count on as many secure and quiet hours to post - and I'm feeling very worn. This will only turn around when I move on from here, and that will not be dependent, I hope, on my patient's mortality. She'll be 98 in June, 2006, and I have every expectation that she'll make it. But, unlike new parents, the ward doesn't increase in affection and knowledge and powers, but diminishes and weakens and becomes ever more fey.

That's tough.

Right now, I just hope to get through the experience intact, and to be able to throw more weight to the crises we all face with our fucked-up government. I've tried not to add to the din I talked about in my very first posts - merely echoing positions and rhetoric I like. My impulse is to be wonkier than I have either the time or the energy to be, and it may not be such a good fit for my sensibility anyway. I still believe, however, that we are at a moment of crisis as a nation, and that we should bring everything we have to preserve and conserve the manifold, crazy, rude, snot-nosed, generous country we want to live in against those who pervert the language of liberty, democracy and freedom.

Fuck - I want to spit those last three out, they have become so debased in the mouths of Our Leaders; let's reclaim them before it is too late.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Beekcake Friday - Gentlemen Prefer Goats.... Posted by Picasa

Friday Night Beef

This is going up now, in part, because the weekend's Core Dump needs pride of place. Tuesday will be my first bloggy anniversary, and I want to look back over the last year, see what I caught, what I missed. The last couple of weeks have been exhausting, professionally, and I took today's time off just to recover, alone. Friends, haircut, will have to wait until next Friday.
Woofy guys, OTOH, should always be welcome.
See above....

Monday, January 23, 2006

Burping the Cyberbaby

I had hoped to get something solid posted tonight (and I may still), and then an antivirus update went all buggy on me and required a few hours of maintenance and trouble-shooting. God, I do not need two patients at once!
Moreover, my box and cable constitute about 80% of my contact with the rest of the world - family, friends, business, information - and the island would indeed be desert without them. Hope the colic disappears soon, certainly in time for the 1st anniversary of this blog next week.

More later, with luck....

Sunday, January 22, 2006

And Many Happy Returns! Posted by Picasa

A Pause for Beefcake...

While the Core Dump is not completed, it's Midniter's birthday over at RoD, so the pic above is for him. Cheers, baby!

[Update: In addition, I am hugely behind in updating the Blogroll - count Freedom Camp (run by the estimable teh l4m3) plussed. More will follow.]

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Let's Put on a SHOW! Posted by Picasa

[Not] Alone Out There, in the Dark [Core Dump 5]

I forgot about this. And it's important to anyone who cares about movies at all. The Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., is having a fund drive, and I urge any and all of you to help them. Rep houses like the Brattle are a truly endangered species, and just about the only places, outside of college film societies, that we can go to for the movie past. Look at the Brattle's calendar this month - there's Werner Herzog, Antonioni, and the MUPPETS! Julian Barnes is there in February - c'mon, people!

Remember that babka in the Blogger Bake-Off last month? My consolation prize was movie tix and I asked that equivalent funds be contributed to the Brattle Fund instead. My nephew is in film school, has already started a production company, and one of my greatest pleasures is talking to him about stuff he hasn't seen - and that I wouldn't have seen either except for Doc Films and the Clark, the Aardvark, the Aero (my fave nabe), the Nuart - and the Brattle.

I am posting a pic, above, of that place. Not the world's best screen, not the most comfortable seats (it's a fucking barn, or was when I was last there...), and none of that makes the slightest difference once the lights go down and the genuine article is there before you. Some of my most thrilling moments at the movies have been in tiny lecture halls on screens designed for film strips and diagrams. The Brattle is the real deal, and I know I am not alone in this.

Go, give - Les enfants du paradis will bless you.

Breathless.... Posted by Picasa

America at 24 Frames/Second [Core Dump 4]

For a movie lover, this is soooooo hard! I think all such lists are. I like what Lindsay did with it (not for the first time).

To the unintiated, this is a list of 10 movies that could serve as a primer on America (i.e., the USA) to a visiting alien or some hermit who had, for personal reasons, missed the last 100 years of popular culture I've let it simmer for a few days and I'm still pretty happy with it, though there are personal favorites and movies I rate higher aesthetically that aren't on it. There is no particular order, and notes will follow.

Dr. Strangelove
Swing Time
The Lady Eve
Bonnie & Clyde
From Here to Eternity
Casualties of War
McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Duck Soup
Long Day's Journey into Night

I link to each through IMDb as a default.

What would I hope my hypothetical innocent would take away from this list? First, I suppose, is that we are not a simple (at least not in the sense that our current leaders want us to be) people. We can laugh at very serious things, without not taking them seriously. We make up our beauty on the fly (and conceal the hard work). We prefer to tell the truth. We worry about where we came from, we're anxious about class (and are uncomfortable talking about it), we will gamble on the future (and know we might lose - i.e., we're essentially optimists).

And there's nothing monumental or triumphant about any of these movies, and that may be a flaw in the list, but I think it is closer to the American grain than the chest-thumping that's going on now, and why that will not last. We're just too revolting, and that's what I love about us.

Friday, January 20, 2006

All We Like Sheep... Posted by Picasa

Under the Mount [Core Dump 3]

A couple of days ago, Lance's Uncle Merlin posted a meditation on Brokeback Mountain. I sent him this comment:

For Uncle Merlin -
I haven't seen the movie, but I have read the story on which it is based. The text is making the rounds pretty aggressively, and that's good for an 8-year-old tale - it's robust, and it's powerful enough to explain why it would have become a project in the first place, and why it might move a broad audience.

Still, you and I have to take it more personally. It's about people very like us - as you say, "a living moment for me...I see scenes from my life and I can't stop looking back over my life." As isolated in mountain and plain (and driven, and brave and scared) as these two guys are, they are not that distant from your buddies in NYC, or mine in PDX. Word I was getting here was,"Good, not Great," which is fine with me as a critical judgment, but nobody was talking about much beyond that.

Let's face it. We are a minority, always have been and always will be, and this will make our lives difficult, no matter how tolerant the majority culture becomes. I came out late (and with great sighs of relief on the part of my dear straight friends - they'd been twiddling their thumbs for years), but doing so gave me some perspective on that, "Are you really gay?" question from my gay brothers who had announced much earlier. Well, yeah, of course, I can say, but are you trying to stereotype me, honey?

This can become a pain.

But it is nothing compared to the pain and joy of love, and there may have been more than the ordinary obstacles for gay men (I speak for no one else) to have overcome them. I have enough close straight men and women friends to know that the landscape of love and commitment and possible fracture are just as imminent for them as they are with us. If Brokeback Mountain resonates with them, that's why. What is not universal is how you and I got there, stumbled there, in the first place, and what the stumbling and struggling did to us - doubt, defiance, bravado - and that's just assuming no severe trauma along the way. And then maybe we got some perspective, some wisdom, some balance, and - hmm - still tipped over. Lots of very attractive, deeply insecure guys out there - just very bad for us.

Merlin, just do not give up hope on this score - and don't start adding saltpetre to your oatmeal.

BTW - I drove over some of that country when I moved west from Chicago - it is as spectacular and astonishing as Annie Proulx's list suggests:

"Years on years they worked their way through the high meadows and mountain drainages, horse packing into the Big Horns, the Medicine Bows, the south end of the Gallatins, the Absarokas, the Granites, the Owl Creeks, the Bridger Teton Range, the Freezeouts and the Shirleys, the Ferrises and the Rattlesnakes, the Salt River range, into the Wind Rivers over and again, the Sierra Madres, the Gros Ventres, the Washakies, the Laramies, but never returning to Brokeback."

Never returning. Moving on.

I see, today, at Wolcott's, more dismay and bile spewing because this fucking movie is looking like a success. I mean, if we want to see a couple of real gay cowboys, let's just go rent a DVD of Giant.

I mentioned in my comment above driving through the western mountains on a move from Chicago. I did not say anything about my encounter with sheep. That happened a few months later, on the last leg of my transfer to Los Angeles. My brother (the rock on whom I lean for big moves - just ask him...) and I were one day out from LA, had driven hard through a lot of rain, and we stopped in Tracy for the night. It's a town noted for its prison and for its confluence of highways.

We got a cheap motel after dinner, parked the van as the sun set, carried our gear to a second floor room. On the other side of the chain link that fenced the parking lot was a field, really, a meadow, and it was full of sheep. They all had numbers tagged on their sides (something I'd never seen, not being a country boy), and they were doing what sheep do - clump together, be dumb, and make lovely sheep noises.

Understand, I was throwing my life into the air at this moment, stepping into a void. As I went to sleep, those sheep voices in the evening dark seemed a benediction, had a real - if inchoate - music, and insofar as I could, I blessed them back. Just ask my brother.

A Quincunx for LM Posted by Picasa

5 Things, Perhaps Random, Perhaps Not...[Core Dump 2]

This is for BG, because she started this....(and, honey, this is what passes for pop around here...not my fault):
  1. "By some chance, here they are, all on this earth; and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of the night. May God bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father, oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.

    After a little I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh, will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am."
  2. `Now it passes on and I begin to lose it,' he said presently. `O Mole! the beauty of it! The merry bubble and joy, the thin, clear, happy call of the distant piping! Such music I never dreamed of, and the call in it is stronger even than the music is sweet! Row on, Mole, row! For the music and the call must be for us.'
  3. "...Penny said, "Was it Henry James you're working on?"
    "Er...yes," said Nick.
    She seemed to settle comfortably on that, but only said, "My father's got tons of Henry James. I think he calls him the Master."
    "Some of us do," said Nick. He blinked with the exalted humility of a devotee and sawed off a square of brown meat.
    "Art makes life: wasn't that his motto? My father often quotes that."
    "It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance, for our consideration and application of these things, and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process " said Nick.
    "Something like that," said Penny...."
  4. "But then oblivion dark, on all my senses fell. Again at length my thought reviving came, When I no longer found my self the same; Then first this sea-green beard I felt to grow, And these large honours on my spreading brow; My long-descending locks the billows sweep, And my broad shoulders cleave the yielding deep; My fishy tail, my arms of azure hue, And ev’ry part divinely chang’d, I view."
  5. "God will help me, I trust, to rid myself of any desire to follow the example of...other characters in this work. I shall continue to exist. I may assume other disguises, other forms, but I shall try to exist."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Parmesan...Sauce Tomate...Aieeeeeee!! Posted by Picasa

Thursday Recipe Blogging - Eggplant - [Core Dump 1]

I had intended to unload everything on my mind in one massive post, but that's proved to be impossible, so I will come at you in sections. Here's the Aubergine Variation.

Eggplant Parmesan -

For some reason we are finding beautiful eggplant right now (in January!) and I can only assume they are arriving from our Neighbors Down South (hemispherically) - but at a buck apiece, I'm not complaining. This variation of Eggplant Parmesan worked out very well - I like the addition of an embellished ricotta and the mozzarella (not the fancy kind) give it a slightly meaty feel, though it has nothing that would give a vegetarian pause.

You could certainly make your own (simple, quick, and not long-cooked) tomato sauce, but I find bottled more than acceptable - and I always doctor mine. However, might be best to wait for real summer for anything that needed tender fresh herbs, like basil.

Here's what I did with a couple of good-sized aubergines: You will need:

2 large eggplant (about 8" long), firm and unblemished
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fennel seed
Dried (or fresh) thyme
Kosher salt
A baking sheet, preferably non-stick, and aluminum foil to cover
A colander
Paper towels

For the fillings and other enhancements:

1 pint whole milk ricotta
1 Tbs minced or puréed garlic (I used the bottled stuff this time)
Red pepper flakes, in moderation, or to taste
1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
1/2 large white onion, finely diced
2 Tbs Extra virgin olive oil
1 quart simple tomato sauce (I used Classico Tomato & Basil)

1 lb mozzarella (vac-pak is fine here]
Reggiano-Parmesan - no substitutes! [However, you won't need that much...]

A baking dish (I used a plain glazed earthenware oval)

Preheat the oven to 400 deg F. Trim the ends of the eggplant, then cut into 1/2" slices. Sprinkle both sides of each with the salt, stack in a colander, and let drain of their (potentially bitter) juices for 20-30 mins. Drizzle a bit of oilive oil on the baking sheet. Dry off the eggplant slices on the paper towels, removing most of the salt as well. Lay the slices in a single layer in the pan, sprinkle on the fennel seed and the thyme, sprinkle with the olive oil, cover the whole thing with foil and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.

While eggplant is baking (I had to do two pans - remove the baked slices to a plate to wait), sweat the diced onion in a saucepan in olive oil. Just sweat over low/medium heat until translucent, don't brown. Add the tomato sauce, plus about 1/2 cup water, and bring to a simmer. The added water will evaporate while the sauce and onions marry.

Assuming the eggplant has finished baking, reduce oven heat to 350 deg F.

In a bowl, mix the ricotta up with a fork, add the garlic, the pepper flakes, and the chopped parsley and blend. Season with salt and pepper [I pushed the salt slightly, but it disappeared in the baking]. Let the ricotta mixture rest. As it does, reduce the sauce back to it's bottled consistency, perhaps a little looser - this will be enough to incorporate the onion and mature the flavors. Cube the mozzarella.


In the baking dish, film the bottom with a spoonful of sauce. Make a layer of eggplant slices, then spoon each with enough of the ricotta mixture to cover. Spoon over these half of the tomato sauce, then spread lightly with a spatula to fill in gaps. The ricotta mixture is quite soft, so don't worry if it and the sauce seem to melt together a bit. Distribute half the mozzarella over that, then finely grate the R-Parmesan over that - generously. Then make another layer of eggplant, ricotta, sauce, mozzarella, and more R-Parmesan over the first one.

Place in the 350 deg F oven, uncovered, and bake for 45 minutes. It's done when the top layer of cheese is melted and lightly browned - bubbley and very hot. It's essential that it rest after baking for 20-30 minutes in order to pull together.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


No hot, steaming Beefcake until I do a Core Dump, omnibus post, later tonight or in the morning. This place is beginning to look like a softcore porn site, which would make the eponymous Ratty blush, and it's only because there have been so few posts between the Friday hunks. Gotta eat your vegetables, my dear friends.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

ArmyMen! - Weekend Beefcake Edition Posted by Picasa

Saturday Nite Half-Alive

Yay! the baking gods have spoken, I got a non-trivial post up, and now it's time for weekend BEEFCAKE!

In Ms. Podhoretz's Dreams (and apologies to Zoe W for even the suggestion....) Posted by Picasa

Kindergarten Nation

It's the Marriage from Hell. Glenn Greenwald, guest-blogging at digby this last week, nails the 9/11 Republicans, so called, for capitulating to Bush/Cheney fear-mongering; nothing so fierce as an angry bedwetter. "You made me pee, you Islamofascist!" They're around every corner, underneath every bed, inside every closet, on the other end of every cellphone call, commanding weapons as mundane as blowtorches, as lethal as a nuke (carried around in a handbag, like a misplaced baby, in plain sight), and, no doubt, wicked evil viruses and bugs that will make all New York City and DC (especially Sally Quinn) break out in boils and froth at the mouth and go all George Romero zombie on us. Not like they don't deserve it (per Pat Robertson - let him speak for himself), but there's not a soul on earth that Rev Pat couldn't scourge for disagreeing with him (anyone see 12 Monkeys lately?).

I'm rather sorry that SZ's poll for Ultimate Wingnut dropped Midge Decter before the finals. She's not as voluble as Malkin or Coulter, or as easy to dismiss - she's a signatory to the PNAC agenda, after all, and she's no bedwetter. Rather, she trains the vulnerable to pee the sheets - fills the troop quotas. Because we are at War - we are always at War, and always have been. Used to be the Soviets, and then they crumbled (for which she can take credit, deserved or not), and now it's the creeping Islamic Horde, which, without our eternal vigilence, will girdle the globe in a 1K Caliphate - nicely done out of crummy Hamburg flats and Florida motels. And you know what? We will have deserved it, not for the Rev Robertson's reasons (G-d hates us), but - to borrow a phrase from Garth - because we are Unworthy. Not Manly/Womanly enough, insufficently belligerant, overly tolerant of anyone (blacks, fags, Euros...) who questions our intellectual and moral leadership, and who might find us constricted and reactionary and dessicated and sour (we used to be in the radical vanguard ourselves, right?).

Why, asks Midge, do I not LEAD? The "New Class" (her term) ignores her warnings and wisdom, at their peril. Mark Steyn is her fellow-traveller, warning (thanks, TBogg!) against 3rd (or other-) worldly fecundity, the soft underbelly of Happy Western Kultur, unprepared and snoozing for the kampf to come. We are always in a decadent death-spiral to these scolds and alarmists; Decter worships Donald Rumsfeld, wrote a hagiography, sucks his fucking balls. The notion that he might be nuts (or merely pathologically evasive and thoughtless on defense policy and military strategy) seems never to have occurred to her - he has the foot Mercurial, the Martial thigh, and that's good enough.

The posture of strength is all - and when everyone stops listening (or, worse, laughs and runs away), you climb to the top of the Empire State (or in the 70's version, the WTC...), and roar and swat and beg for annihilation. Because, as Greenwald intuits, it's really defeat and destruction that the Lords of Fear court - the threat from under the bed, the silent closet, the dust bunnies. The truly lethal threats are too subtle for these people, and getting all grandiose is going to make them miss the real and truly threatening story - a story they are writing today in their own incompetence. And unless they wise up, quick, we are all gonna get fucked. As if we haven't been already, but, whatever - midterms are still in November.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

In the Black Hat...think he's sending a message? Posted by Picasa


According to the WaPo, the first candle has been lit. How many days have we to look forward to?
Two guilty criminal charge pleas, plus:

"Abramoff will also agree to cooperate in any ongoing federal investigations in Washington, said his Miami attorney Neal Sonnett. Prosecutors there are investigating several members of Congress who allegedly received favors from Abramoff or his clients."

Let the Games begin!

[Update (no doubt only The First): See ReddHedd at firedoglake for a more detailed (and expert) take.]

[Update 2: More from WaPo, and TPM has the Criminal Information document - if the same I found, it's 13 pages, pdf format.].