Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Poison Ivy

I have poison ivy. Last Friday I was taking out the rest of the hedge behind the back patio and I came across something that looked suspiciously like budding poison ivy. I just tore out the vines and dug up their roots and threw them away. By Saturday I had two patches of poison ivy erupting on both my forearms. Despite lathering myself in an oatmeal paste (the only treatment that works for me is to dry the poison ivy patches up with oatmeal) it has spread all over my arms and I have a spot of it on my face near my left ear. To keep from itching myself crazy I've been soaking in Aveeno (more oatmeal) baths. It does take away the itchiness, but soaking in the tub twice a day isn't all that practical.
I've battled poison ivy outbreaks my whole life. Once, when I was ten, I sat in poison ivy while taking a break from swimming at Perry Lake. By far the worst case of poison ivy I've ever had, in the most sensitive place imaginable. I couldn't sit down for weeks. Oh, and worst 'cure' I ever tried was applying boiling hot poultices made from goldenseal to the effected area. First off, it didn't work, and second it stained my skin green. I looked like Swamp Thing, or at least a walking fungus.
So, anyway, I've got the hedges all out and tulip tree planted to provide shade, eventually, for the patio. But damn.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Top Chef 4.7

And then there was one...lesbian that is. Looking at the four bottom dwellers last night standing before judges' table I just knew that Jennifer was going to have to go. I've said it before and I'll say it again: The judges are more forgiving to you if you've performed well previously. Apart from last week's quickfire win, Jen's been mostly in the middle, as she herself admits. Stephanie, Antonia, and Lisa have all won elimination challenges. So, pretty much it was a foregone outcome who was going to get their walking papers.
What I found most curious was that Stephanie was part of that asparagus-crouton-goat cheese travesty. How was this dish supposed to be sexy or (disturbingly) threesome-y? I shudder to think, given how it was universally loathed. And doesn't it appear that Stephanie works best when she works alone? Two weeks ago Dale nearly railroaded her into making deviled eggs wrapped in steak tartar (that sound you hear is the lurching of my stomach). Thank God Lisa talked some sense into those people.
I can't comment on this episode without congratulating Spike for finally making that fucking butternut squash soup. If I never hear him say 'shoop' again my life will be all rainbows and Hello Kitty. I know, the judges liked his soup, so good for him - but it's an easy soup to make, even without a food processor. Or, I should say, an electric food processor. I'm just sick of hearing him whine and moan about 'shoop'. So there, you've made it and they liked it, so move on!
My picks for who might get the ax this week; Nikki, Mark, or Spike, were all wrong. But I'm not giving up on them just yet. I think that one of them will be sent packing next week. We shall see what happens when the chefs of the futures invade the kitchen in next week's episode. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Are Legend

It's a fool's errand to try and compare a book to a movie, so here I am. The Will Smith movie "I Am Legend" is the third version of Richard Matheson's 1954 classic to hit the big screen. Proceeded by "The Last Man On Earth" starring Vincent Price in 1964 and "The Omega Man" with Charlton Heston in 1971. I saw the latter film when I was a kid, and I remember that I liked it, but that's about all that I can recall. In fact, I think in my mind I may have parts of "The Omega Man" mixed up with "Soylent Green" so I'm going to have to leave further comment be its own sleeping animal.
I had avoided seeing the new film adaptation when it was initially released in theaters. I don't know why, but I had some qualms. Perhaps Hollywood's treatment of other books of the macabre - especially ones that make strong statements about humanity with no pat answers - has jaded my already rheumy eyes. How would they address the vampirism in the movie? How would they handle last man Robert Neville? How would they confront the stark reality of a future devoid of hope? Simple. They gutted the story and threw in deus ex machinas whenever they wrote themselves into a corner.
Matheson's original work is dark and complex, and he manages to introduce an enigmatic outcome without it seeming lazy. On the contrary, it's the natural ending given the evolution and unfolding of events. Anything else would be an unforgivable Mary Sue-ing wish fulfillment device, decelerating into inertia and utter nonsense. The novel, you see, explores the tenuous grasp on sanity a lone human being might experience in a world turned to sheer horror. What conclusions is the protagonist to draw when he barely knows what questions to ask?
The movie doesn't trouble itself with such existential paradoxes. In fact, the movie doesn't trouble itself with much of anything. Neville has been transformed from a working stiff to a military doctor/researcher. Now, I love movies with science geek heroes, but this change in character takes Neville from being an everyman battling vampires who barely has a clue as to how this plague occurred to being someone who was privy to what exactly happened. New Neville also has a laboratory in his basement where he is working on a cure.
But, the most egregious change in this movie from the book is the introduction of the character 'Anna'. Anna, along with a young boy, Ethan, arrives in time to save Neville from the vampires. She had been living near Baltimore for the last three years, but then God told her to...Oh, what does it matter? How much suspension of belief do the filmmakers expect if they want the viewer to simply accept that God told Anna what to do? It's not just ridiculous, it's insulting. Not to mention manipulative.
I recommend to anyone who hasn't read the book, skip the movie and read the book. Then, watch the movie. Be prepared to hurl.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bela Update. Redux

As Miss Kitty says, we're living the lesbian dream. Little Bela is thriving, I had her at the vet again yesterday for her first round of shots. The vet is a curious person, one of those people who showers love on animals and is shy and odd beyond belief with people. To say that he loves Bela doesn't really convey how disturbing he behaves with her. He cuddles her, kisses her, tells her over and over that he loves her while showering more kisses (and peeing while showering for all I know now that there are the trim-line Depends). I mean, I'm glad that he likes Bela, but dude, being a puppy perv is creepy.
So, anyway, the entire vet's office thought that Bela should be shown competitively. Yeah, we're going to subject her to that inanity. Sure, I watch the Westminster dog show every year, but I don't want to be a dweeb in neutral permanent press handling a dog that would rather be rolling in recent roadkill.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


This is not my shower head, although I do have a military issue gas mask that closely resembles the one pictured here.
A few years ago a moderator for an online group I belong to took an unscientific poll of the members to see who pees in the shower. Of course everyone said that they pee in the shower. But that got me to thinking...I don't stand in the toilet, why would I pee in the shower and think nothing of it? And I certainly don't pee if I'm taking a bath. That's just disgusting, sloshing around in my own filth.
So, why is peeing in the shower acceptable, or at least common, behavior? I even have a chick friend who practiced the technique for peeing while standing when she showered (she never mastered it, it's extremely difficult to correctly guide the stream without it just spraying all over the place - at least that's what she claimed. I never tried it myself. I can barely squat outside and not pee on my shoes).
There's just so much to consider in this rich pageant called life. And now I have to take a shower.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Like, The Weather

It's been beautiful all week and I've been preparing for the spring plant. Yes, I garden. In fact, I'd have to say that I enjoy gardening even more that I do cooking. But, there's nothing as satisfying as preparing food you've grown yourself. Just pondering that makes me a little dizzy Although I can't say that meat you butcher yourself is more rewarding to prepare and masticate than what you buy at the store. Huh. Funny that. And I won't eat fish I catch. I have a fish bone phobia and don't trust my deboning skills one whit.
I bought 'cheater' tomato plants, the larger ones in big pots. German Queen heirloom. I bring them in at night because it gets down to 40F and I don't want them to freak out or anything. My dead German grandmother would be proud! I've also got starts on carrots, beets, cantaloupes and red onions going in a cold frame off the abck porch. Later I'll put in lettuce and Silver Queen sweet corn. I've never planted corn before, but SQ is Miss Kitty's favorite variety and last summer we didn't find any of it, so I figured that this year I'd give it a go.
One last little tidbit: I made a salad today from new dandelion leaves with a basalmic vinagrette. You know, every year I forget how mild tasting and refreshing those baby leaves are because if you eat some later in the spring they're as bitter as a day trader who missed the Amazon IPO back in '98.*
*I have no diea what I'm talking about, not intended as factual reporting.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Parents, can't live 'em and too much work to dig shallow graves.
Today I had the rare treat of driving my Dad to his doctor's appointment at the evil behemoth that is the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The photo at left includes some of the buildings in this complex. It's like something designed by the spawn of Caligula and Dracula on crack and meth. What is the deal with the bad parent always being the one you have to take care of in their old-ish age? My parents aren't old, btw. My dad is 69 and my mom is 68. That's not old. 80 is old, this is fringe old, at best. But, you have to keep in mind that my Dad gave up on life in his early 40s. One day he just quit going to the bars and hanging out with lowlifes and breeding horses and going to work. He sat around the house, in a recliner that started quickly to smell like ass, eating Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers and watching TV. Pretty much, that's still what he does. Have I mentioned that he's mean? He's mean. I really shouldn't drag up my childhood because I might want to write a memoir someday, a little cautionary tale for assholes who are thinking of procreating, but he used to mock us if we got straight A's on our report cards. "You think you're so goddamn smart..." What a peach, that one.
So, because I love my mother, I hauled his sorry ass to the Oakland section of Pittsburgh to see his doctor. He's fine and will outlive everyone because mean people never die. But the really cool thing, and the thing I'm kicking myself over because I didn't have a camera with me, after lunch Mom and I went for a walk outside so that I could smoke and we could stretch our legs. We found a fellow smoker, a young guy in a hospital gown and slippers hooked up to an IV on wheels smoking on the sidewalk. Mom took one look at his bare arms and said, "You should have a coat on!" To which he replied, "I have a high fever. I'm warm enough." Then I muttered, "Why do I never have a camera when the surreal pops up?"
Then we went back inside and I read two outdated issues of US Weekly waiting for Dad to finish up.
I should include a rant about the tentacle like UPMC complex sprawled across a steep hillside, called 'cardiac hill' because walking up it will give you a heart attack, but what's the point? The monster is what it is at this point. Situated in the worst locale imaginable, with almost no parking, it's not going to go away in my lifetime. In fact, it'll only get worse, bigger and more unnavigatable. I could imagine dying being preferrable to regular visits here...although the cafeteria does offer a wide array of foods at a very reasonable price. Reminds me of how I can bump into Uncle Freddie anytime I want - all I have to do is go to the Ellwood City Hospital cafeteria at lunchtime because he eats there everyday. He says that he always sees people he knows at the hospital, and if he starts choking while having the Special he'll get quick treatment.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Top Chef 4.5

The short and sweet of this episode is that Stephanie continues to impress. The long and sour of the episode is that Dale has emerged as the #1 asshat. His not even thinly veiled jealousy of Lisa winning the elimination challenge - and a trip to Italy - led to him drinking too much, picking a fight, and ridiculously posturing while, wait for it...clutching his crotch. I honestly believe that had his booze addled brain thought of it, he'd just have whipped it out and stood there waving his bits around. At first I was almost embarrassed for him, but then not so much. Clearly he thought that he was being intimidating, which is hysterical (and more than a little sad) because Lisa could soooo take him if he decided to bring it on. Dale isn't a bad cook by any means, but he's nothing special either. He falls in the middle of the spectrum and no amount of clawing and bitching is going to lift him into the culinary stratosphere, partly because of skills and partly because of mindset. Actually, I'd say largely because of mindset. He just doesn't seem able to grasp the larger scheme of a dish, evidenced by his out of hand dismissal of Lisa's bacon and miso syrup. If there's one thing that we know in this competition it's that you have to bring something delicious and unique to the table, not deviled eggs. Lisa's insistence that the Fire Team (Stephanie, Dale, Lisa) actually push the envelope on the fire theme worked in her teams favor. Stephanie's spicy grilled shrimp drew raves from the judges as well. Dale's relish? They didn't hate it and it tied in well with the other dishes. Dude, face it, you weren't going to win a trip to Italy with relish. Had Lisa not won, Stephanie would've.
The other ugly in this episode falls to Zoi. By episode two I told Miss Kitty that Zoi was in over her head. She seemed stressed to a breaking point, and it couldn't actually have helped that her real life partner was also in the competition and doing much better. I think that Jennifer does have talent and originality, and now with her girlfriend gone maybe she can focus on seriously kicking some ass. We all know that Spike heads her shit list.
Two worst cheftestants remaining? Nikki and Spike. Ryan flew under the radar this week, as did Mark. I don't know what to make of the Kiwi. Can he step it up? Anything is possible considering how the first couple of shows Lisa played a long and played it safe and was on the chopping block more than once because of it. She's definitely stepped it up. I just haven't seen one impressive thing from Mark or Ryan, and Nikki, apart from making her own noodles early on and impressing the judges with that, she's done nothing.
Next week looks like more drama than ever!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hell is for kitchens

I'm not a regular viewer of this show. Indeed, I only drop in when there's nothing better to watch on the science channel (this evening I fore-went the evolution of the button in medieval Europe and how it later became a satanic sign of pride to Puritans, Quakers, and the Amish...who knew?).
I regularly watch Gordon Ramsay's BBC show, Flip This Kitchen Nightmare, or whatever it's called. But this spawn of Chucky Americanized version of that show, with a lot of tweaks and a completely different premise, is akin to being force fed nutrients through a rubber tube inserted up your nose and down your gullet. How awful are the contestants? The men are completely vile, foul mouthed and misogynistic (in a bad way). The women are incompetent cry babies who should be armed so that they can kill the men, and then themselves after a lengthy stand off with police. Did I neglect to mention that the teams are separated by sex? A lot of the women are young, nubile hot blondes. The men...not so much. Chubby bald kitchen hacks who name call the women and back stab anyone within arm's reach. Gee, I wonder why this show isn't more of a hit? I know I wanna see more middle-aged whiners who serve raw chicken complaining about almost everything. Don't you?
This show is hideous, even as reality shows go. The contestants are so wretched that you can't help but wonder what starving orphan from Darfur would be desperate enough to eat their cooking. I'll have that with a side of salmonella because my life doesn't suck enough already, sir.
But, to be fair to the cooks on the show competing for a chance to be executive chef at Ramsay's new LA eatery, Ramsay makes life hell for them. Ridiculous hell at that. Through editing or just plain genetics, he lacks any and all appeal. I almost hate him more now than Emeril (who, btw, is a ghoul...evidenced by his copious knuckle hair).
Ach, I'm going to have to give this show up, even if it means watching how shoelaces are slowly being replaced by velcro or how installing a composting toilet can provide enough natural gas to your home to fry an egg and heat one pot of tea. I've had enough! This season just sickens me.

Beagle Update

Bela is hearty and hale, I don't want to jinx us by saying that she's thriving, but she's thriving, plus she likes her new food! It's only the third one we tried, so I'm glad that we didn't have to sink even more money into puppy chow that she'd actually chow, and that wouldn't give her diarrhea. She did have a bad bout of the runs after eating a bowl of the cat's food.
BTW, the cat hates Bela. But Whitey is all meow and no cattle. His declawed paws of fury are no match for Bela's idiot savant exuberance. I'd say more, but it's hard to follow up a sentence like that.