January 27, 2014

Happy (One-Day Belated) Australia Day!

(Even if to Australians it’s been at least two days by now but never mind all that)

koala glow

January 24, 2014

Young Man’s Fancy; Young Girl’s Blaring Klaxon of Change

This was linked to on Lilek’s work blog a week ago or so, I think, and it is amazing:

Young Man’s Fancy – 1952 American Consumers & Family Values Documentary

Sitcom-style film produced for the Edison Electric Institute. The film encouraged increased consumption of electricity through the ever increasing number of ‘must have’ household appliances. The plot pits a starry-eyed teenage girl against a geek whose main interests happen to be engineering and time study.

Absolutely amazing. I thought I’d click on it and watch the first 30 seconds or so to get an idea of the joke being made but, err, ended up watching about 15 minutes, then another 8 minutes the next day. Then it all got too excruciating and I had to stop. With five minutes to go.

Basically, this girl’s brother brings home a friend from college and obviously romance blossoms. Sort of.

The girl hates her brother and has absolutely nothing in common with the friend, but absolutely throws herself at him trying to impress him. The friend barely notices her and has nothing in common with her, and honestly I didn’t get far enough to find out if he ever notices she exists as a human being.

But, see, the thing that I wanted to post this for is because this family has had this Newfangled Electric Kitchen installed for about a week (since they’re all talking about it, it must be new, eh?) and already this poor kid is just begging for a feminist revolution. I mean come ON.

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January 24, 1984

Steve Jobs introducing the Macintosh, 30 years ago today. GOD I’m old.

So this is something I just noticed about a week ago, and yeah apparently it took me thirty years to notice:

Screen Shot 2014-01-19 at 7.12.04 PM

Before a file is actually created, it says it’s from Jan 24, 1984. Apparently it’s always done that.

The Apple website is pretty adorable today, too.

January 17, 2014

Dagmar!

Thanks and curtsies to Wheat & Weeds for posting this picture I found on Twitter the other day, because it reminded me that I really need this saved on my hard drive (I can’t count the number of times I’ve needed something from Twitter but was too lazy/distracted to have done the responsible thing and posted it here in the ol’ External Memory Drive):

arctic explorer

He is Peter Freuchen (full name: Lorenz Peter Elfred Freuchen), and of course he’s Danish. She is his third wife, Dagmar Muller-Freuchen-Gale (née Cohn), he is her second (of three) husband, and of course she was an artist. The photo is by Irving Penn.

People used to be so cool.

January 7, 2014

American Minstrel

Better-reader-than-I Brett McS left this in the comments last week in response to my little rant about reality TV and all the crap therein:

WorldNetDaily – ‘Duck Dynasty’: A decoy for dummies, by Ilana Mercer

I just think this quote from one of her Facebook friends is exactly right:

“The [Ducksters] were selected for the show because they are how you describe them. Duck Dynasty was meant to be a redneck minstrel show. They were supposed to be objects of ridicule for cosmopolitan America. They are what blue-state America imagines religiosity to be.”

So, yeah, there’s your American television, ladies and gentlemen. I totally get now why so many of us are so eager to man the ramparts to defend them as the center of of all that is worth preserving. /massive sarcasm voice

January 6, 2014

The Books of [2012 and] 2013!

(2012 is getting included as I skipped out on doing this last year)

Unlike virtuous, self-improving people with social lives like RC2, I tend to stick to novels, and I tend to be a pretty easy mark on books so if I read something about one or read an interview with an author suddenly I find myself on Amazon ordering it. I don’t actually get many as gifts, and I hardly ever get recommendations. So anything I read is very much a product of my own rather scattered online influences. In fact, I’m even on Goodreads, and hardly ever go after something one of my friends reads (says something perhaps about my limited social circle). (Incidentally, if you know me in Real Life and you’re on Good Reads, I’m pretty good at keeping that up.) Some of you who may pay attention to these things or have a keen sense of the passage of time as marked by book reviews might sense a theme, but really there isn’t much. It’s all over the place.

Once again, the rules: I don’t include here anything I’ve read before (although my rereading abilities have dwindled DRASTICALLY since those halcyon days of my youth (you may think I’m referring to time before The Child, but I think we all really know I mean time before Twitter)) or cookbooks or the sort of thing you pick up for reference, rather than read cover-to-cover.

I’m actually kind of excited about this list, because I feel like in 2012 I discovered foreign literary awards shortlists, which I would buy and add to my to-read pile, which, I might add, is HUGE, and I still have stuff there that I ordered when this list begins. But, here we go:

2011!

Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
Fiction, 2011

Stephen Kelman, Pigeon English
Fiction, 2011

Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games (treated here as a set since I read the all at once and, really let’s face it, don’t see a point in actually owning them (borrowed from a coworker))
Distopian Young Adult Fiction, 2008, 2009, 2010

Ali Smith, There But For The
Fiction, 2011

Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles
Fiction, 2011

George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons
Historical Fantasy Fiction; 1991, 1998, 2000, 2005, 2011 (yeah I read them all at once and yeah it took me about six weeks of HELL) (I recommend reading them, I don’t recommend buying anything better than the Mass Market Paperback)

Patrick Dennis, Auntie Mame
Fiction, 1954

2013!

Hillary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies
Historical Fiction, 2012 (rarely for me, I didn’t read the first one first, but it had just won the Man Booker Prize)

Kate Mosse, Labyrinth
Historical Fiction, 2005

Geraldine Brooks, Caleb’s Crossing
Historical Fiction, 2011

India Knight, Mutton
Fiction, 2012

Winifred Watson, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Fiction, 1938

P.D. James, Death Comes to Pemberley
Historical Mystery, 2011

Tracey Thorn, Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up and Tried to Be a Pop Star
Memoir, 2013

Jilly Cooper, Jump!
Fiction, 2010

Jane Harris, Gillespie and I
Historical Fiction, 2011

Giles Coren, How to Eat Out
Memoir, 2012

Compton Mackenzie, Whisky Galore
Fiction, 1947

Hannah Kent, Burial Rites
Historical Fiction, 2013

Ian Rankin, Standing in Another Man’s Grave
Mystery, 2012

Agatha Christie, Poirot’s Early Cases
Mystery Short Stories, 1937

Agatha Christie, Hallowe’en Party
Mystery, 1969

Agatha Christie, Three Act Tragedy
Mystery, 1935

Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (I usually get my Agatha Christies from a used bookstore so mine has a different title from the one on Amazon because it’s very much of Yore)
Mystery, 1939

Barbara Pym, Excellent Women
Fiction, 1952

The Awards!

Best Book of 2012: Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

Best Book of 2013: Hannah Kent, Burial Rites

Best Nonfiction: Tracey Thorn, Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up and Tried to Be a Pop Star

Most Funniest Like OMG: Giles Coren, How to Eat Out

Most Funniest Fiction Like OMG (but the above was funnier so wins overall): Patrick Dennis, Auntie Mame

Most Irritatingly Spotty But Could Have Been Good With A Decent Editor Damnit But I Mean Really What Were They Thinking And Yet I Still Want To Complete The Series: Kate Mosse, Labyrinth

Most Depressing Because Oh Lawdy The Lives Of The Puritans Were Unrelentless But Come On It’s A Novel Innit But Hey Still Totes Worth Reading: Geraldine Brooks, Caleb’s Crossing

I Don’t Do Cookbooks But Honourable Mention Goes To:

• Jamie Oliver, 15 Minute Meals
I bought this via Amazon from the UK over a year ago and I recommend getting it now before the Americanized version comes out (the show is due to broadcast here soon and they can’t have been using those 18 months for good). If you don’t have it and use it basically all the time, you’re just plain doing it wrong.

• Gwyneth Paltrow, It’s All Good
I know, it’s Gwynnie, but I bought this pretty soon after it came out last spring (Caitlin Moran convinced me since she was tweeting pretty endlessly about how it was actually good) so I gave it a shot and honest to god I’ve barely made anything else from outside of it since. Again, I know it’s Gwynnie, but it’s a really good cookbook.

And just to wrap up the Desert Island Food and Drink Category:

• Harry Craddock, The Savoy Cocktail Book
I bought this from Anthropologie years ago, actually, but then a couple of years back Peter went on a cocktail-course at a swish bar in SF for a work fun thing which happily coincided with us moving into a place with an actual ice maker and it got dusted off. It is SO good. There are other cocktail books which are really useful and lovely but this one is basically the totes-best-evs-I’m-not-even-joking perfect.

December 22, 2013

Pause… For Christina Rossetti

Back in In Our Time did a show/podcast on Christina Rossetti, and since then I feel like I’ve noticed her everywhere. This is lovely:

American Digest – Pause…. and Begin Again

Gloucester Cathedral Choir – In the Bleak Midwinter

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This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Duck Dynasty, a show I’ve never seen on a cable channel I have no access to, should never have been put on the air. Ditto Paula Deen, who if she was a male comedian would have made a living making redneck jokes, meaning both of them were put on the air for the purposes of laughing at the hicks whilst at the same time cynically monetizing off fly-over country, so anyone stupid enough to make these people famous doesn’t deserve to get upset when they get dropped the minute they get inconveniently truth-bombing about the realities of their communities. But anyway:

Part one:

National Review – The Age of Intolerance
The forces of “tolerance” are intolerant of anything less than full-blown celebratory approval. By Mark Steyn

Part two:

The Corner – Jason Lee Steorts: Steyn on Speech

And part three:

The Corner – Mark Steyn: Re-Education Camp

I am sorry my editor at NR does not grasp the stakes. Indeed, he seems inclined to “normalize” what GLAAD is doing. But, if he truly finds my “derogatory language” offensive, I’d rather he just indefinitely suspend me than twist himself into a soggy pretzel of ambivalent inertia trying to avoid the central point – that a society where lives are ruined over an aside because some identity-group don decides it must be so is ugly and profoundly illiberal. As to his kind but belated and conditional pledge to join me on the barricades, I had enough of that level of passionate support up in Canada to know that, when the call to arms comes, there will always be some “derogatory” or “puerile” expression that it will be more important to tut over. So thanks for the offer, but I don’t think you’d be much use, would you?

So did Mark Steyn just quit?

November 29, 2013

That Scottish Diaspora

Is Red still here ever?

The Independent – Like it or not, the Scots and the English are flesh and blood
Inspect the details of this diluted nationalism and one thing becomes clear. It embraces, even celebrates, a cross-border world. By Boyd Tonkin

The best bit:

Elements of bathos accompanied the unveiling of Alex Salmond’s mega-manifesto. Post-oil boom Scottish nationalism has gained emotional lift-off from tales hatched in Hollywood – rather than Holyrood – of shaggy plaid-clad warriors who gave a good hiding to those sneery English fops. Now the heirs of the Wallace and the Bruce will vote for independence thanks to “a transformational extension of childcare”, lower corporation tax, “reducing your energy bills by an average of 5 per cent” and – war cries ready – a 50 per cent reduction in air passenger duty.

That, sceptics might scoff, will really call the clans up from the glens, dirks flashing and claymores swinging. Supporters of the status quo, beware. This is no fumble but the core of a shrewd strategy. As a riposte to the “devo max” proposed by unionists, the SNP government has come up with Independence Lite. Let’s see if it sells like Irn Bru.

Read the whole thing, if you’re interested in the referendum (and it is interesting! Indeed, did you know that every country in the EU has to agree to let a new member state in? And Scotland has always relied on the EU to be their ticket out of the Union? But Spain would absolutely veto it under all circs because they don’t want the Basques getting any ideas?), but to close, here’s the really remarkable painting he starts with:

Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray

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November 28, 2013

Absolutely the Funniest Item of the Day CCCVII

The Killing does Christmas Jumper Day

Omg this is wonderful.

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Thankful for PIE

And other things, but why itemize them here.

So this year I’ve four pies, and I thought I would itemize those:

1. Pecan Pie, from the Fanny Farmer Cookbook. I’ve replaced the corn syrup with brown rice syrup, and a tablespoon of black treacle for colour. Don’t tell anyone.

2. Brit + Co: The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie. I couldn’t find Biscoff spread and I’m too stupid to have looked it up because it turns out this jar of stuff at Trader Joe’s I was just looking at the other day is basically their generic version, but I did do the sugared pecans to cut down on the size of the pumpkin goo, which I’m really not that into. Don’t tell anyone. You can’t tell from above what’s inside. Oh and I put a couple scoops of almond butter in the mix heh heh heh.

3. Mary Berry’s tarte tatin. My utterly useless bastard springform pan leaked all the sugary syrup all over the inside of my oven (there were flames, actual FLAMES on the bottom of the oven as it burned up, so I’m sure the pie will taste like it’s been smoked, which will be great, I’m sure), so I’m not even going to bother with the bloody syrup glaze at the end. But it looks alright. I suppose it’ll all fall apart when I try to turn it over though. STUPID PAN.

4. Paul Hollywood’s apple and Wensleydale pie. This popped up a couple weeks ago when he was promoting a new cookbook, and if you’ve caught on to the theme here, which is doing traditional pies but not the same. bleeding. thing. again. for the love of gin, I thought an apple pie with CHEESE would do quite nicely indeed. Plus there’s no effing cinnamon in it. WINNING.

So, hopefully there will be enough edible out of those to feed a crowd of 14 or so.

November 26, 2013

Absolutely the Funniest Item of the Day CCCVI

I got this via RC2‘s Twitter feed, and it is… superb.

Just Put the F*cking Turkey in the Oven

Best line. “You don’t need to baste it. Go for a walk.” <break; turns the camera back on for an afterthought> “I said go for a walk. You need to make sure your oven is on.”

I love Mary Risley from San Francisco. She is my holiday hero.

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November 25, 2013

Absolutely the Funniest Item of the Day CCCV

Peter sent this to me sometime last week but it’s still the funniest thing I’ve seen today:

A History of English (in under 12 minutes!)

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November 22, 2013

Jackie’s Strength

I wasn’t planning on posting anything to mark the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination (but lord if you’ve seen the Zapruder Film Stabilized…) because I wasn’t alive during the 60s and I don’t think it often contributes much to over-romantisize that particular decade, even at it’s most tragic. What would I say, as I have been doing a lot of reading about it, is that all that reading did lead me back to this: Jacqueline Kennedy’s tour of the State Dining Room, from February 1962:

You look at that, the little girl reciting her lines in an unsteady accent, and, if you’re up to it, then you watch the video of the day her husband was shot sitting next to her and waving, and I (as someone born nearly 20 years after the fact) think that’s the saddest thing. Indeed, if he hadn’t been shot through his head to slump over onto his tragic wife’s lap, would we think about the whole thing in the way we do? Maybe it isn’t the actual legacy or the lost legacy or the missing legacy or the conspiracy legacy but just the fact that Jackie was right next to him, reaching for that piece of his head that landed on the trunk of their convertible limousine.

I just think that perhaps behind every man is a woman, and perhaps it’s the woman that makes us care about the man.

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November 18, 2013

Hey Guys, I Went to ICELAND!

Some observations about the place that aren’t so surprising:

1. Everyone in Reykjavik is very young. This isn’t surprising because one is always amazed at the youth of people in European cities (where they actually go out and DO things: “Look ma, a yoof!”).

2. It smells surprisingly strongly at times of sulfur, as it does elsewhere smell of the sea when the wind is right. This isn’t surprising, just something I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about before I came. Also, the airport (at the end of a peninsula) smelled strongly of the sea (in a good, cool, salty way). Again, this isn’t surprising, just something I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about before I came. It was a lovely smell though, after all that time on planes and in airports.

3. People are very thin and healthy. Scandinavia in general but Reykjavik in particular might be the last place left in the western world where I haven’t seen a single fat person.

Observations about Iceland that are surprising:

1. There are babies EVERYWHERE. Sure we’re the only ones stupid enough to travel with a small child, but tiny babies in proper prams, with those little sock-cozies, are everywhere.

2. It’s surprisingly dry. My hair looked FANTASTIC.

3. You can still buy toy guns that look like guns.

Why did we go? Well, we haven’t been anywhere international since our honeymoon (Canada doesn’t count), and I was getting severe wanderlust and depression about getting old and dying before I’ve seen any of the world (Facebook, man, is the devil. Ooh look at all your unmarried friends frittering away their reproductive years by taking yet another trip to some far-flung land!)

The thing holding us back, obviously, besides vacation days from work (pesky work) was The Child. So we decided to stress test her by taking her somewhere across many time zones, and Iceland is on GMT, so it’s like going to the UK, but it’s only seven hours away from Seattle. So we just had to get on a short flight to Seattle and then, if she freaked out, we’d only be trapped in a tin can at 39,000 feet with a screaming four-year-old for 7 hours, instead of 10 or more!

Plus, it’s Scandinavian, and I wanted to go somewhere in Scandinavia (tak, tak), and closer than Copenhagen (see above).

As well as, I’d never seen this:

Northern Lights

So, why should you go? And why go in November?

1. The northern lights!

2. The food is amazing. It’s so nice being somewhere where people care about food.

3. The hot springs!

4. There’s nobody else there! Except other people who are interested in being there.

5. Reykjavik is such a nice town. It’s so small, and walkable, and attractive, and well-taken-care of, and lived in, and there are so many interesting places in it.

6. The most amazing geographical features are all within an hour and a half drive from your very nice urban hotel.

7. Icelandic ponies.

8. Sheep!

9. And, well, it’s a gorgeous country. Where everyone speaks perfect English (except one youngish dude at the check-out lane at a large Target-type store who obviously preferred to point at things but was perfectly cheerful doing so) and you don’t even need to get any cash out when you arrive. Even the public toilets at the national park we stopped at, which cost all of $1.65 to use, took credit cards to get through either of its two turnstiles.

10. Because it’s cool. And goodbye is “bless bless!” which is just adorable.

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