Thursday, May 29, 2008


I've been thinking a lot lately about the workings of things. It's my version of religion and pondering my place in the universe. There's a shattering beauty in form, it's why stonies get all caught up in staring at their hands after one too many bong hits.
Anyway, while out on a nature walk earlier I came across a clutch of wildflowers that I couldn't immediately identify, so I picked a leaf and a flower and pressed it in my notebook to bring home and ID later (thanks Audubon Society field guides!). Sometimes I feel as if there's just too much. So much for the senses to process and appreciate and much too much for the mind to think about. It's haunting when not tormenting. So then I started thinking about what I really love, all the things that make life not just tolerable but exciting. Of course, first, is family. Where would I be without Miss Kitty and the kids and all the rest? Sure, my parents are annoying, but they never stop being annoying in new and clever ways. Spending time with them is like sniffing the pus gently drawn from a boil. You just can't stop yourself.
Second, I love gardening. Nothing is more gratifying than growing something and then incorporating it into a meal. That probably explains why I love making wine so much also. It's probably the Italian in me, but supper is absolutely not complete without a decent red wine. Miss Kitty and I finally sampled the mezza luna wine that we made. Initially I was distressed because it seemed harsh on the palate, but I allowed the bottle to breathe for twenty minutes or so, and then it was just perfect. We've got an alcohol content of 14.5%, which is a tad on the high side in my estimation, but I think it'll turn out being a fine wine. I think that we should make a barollo again next. Though that batch was good, I made a couple of mistakes and would like the chance to rectify that.
The natural world never ceases to be a source of amazement for me. Once Cree and I took a guided geological hike at McConnell's Mills and to see the effects of glaciation strewn across the steeply inclined landscape in the form of massive upended rock formations really put the forces of the Earth in perspective.
We're small, you know? We tell ourselves that god made us in his image, that god loves us, that we have a definite purpose and plan as designed by god...but what does any of that mean really? We are, we exist, but so does a tree, a rock, a cloud. And if god is indeed controlling the actions, thoughts, and hearts of billions of people, how is he any different than an elaborate puppetmaster Mary Sueing everybody endlessly?
No, we have free will, albeit freewill battling against our fears. What is god other than religion's ultimate tool of fear? God as boogeyman, and Satan as boogeyman times a thousand. Eh, I am ye of little faith.
Oh, and another thing I like: Puppies :)

Top Chef 4.12

And then there were three, I mean, four. The tiny speck of suspense this week revolved entirely around whether it would be Lisa or Spike who would get the boot. Secretly, and rather obviously, I had hoped that the judges would kick them both off. And why not? Antonia, Richard, and Stephanie are in a whole other league, and as easy as it is to simply trash Spike and Lisa, I'm going to resist that urge. Frankly, I'm excited about the final, and that excitement has trumped my desire to dance on Spike's grave or speculate how colossally Lisa will frak (yes, I watch BSG) up. If that girl has culinary game at all, this will be her last chance to show it.
Now, back to last night's episode: Spike, what were you thinking with those scallops? A frozen blob of indeterminent age, quality, or origin...yeah, that sounds like a winner to me. Everybody has some icy miasma in their freezer that should be thrown out. You don't instead try and salvage funky seafood. It spells doom, dude, which is why you had to toss your cutlery into a wooden box stenciled with 'Spike' on the side and toddle back home. I chuckled at his knife box, especially since he had his name on it. I doubt that it would get mixed up with anyone else's knife box, since no one else stores their knives thusly. It was sad, and almost made me feel empathy for him, which made me angry.
I can't wait for next week's finale. Antonia, I'm still betting on you!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Avoiding Work

Though that is not me in the photo, that is the comp workstation I am at right now. There's more clutter currently littered about than what is represented here. I attract clutter, it's my one true gift. Miss Kitty hates clutter and always eyes my stacks of books/magazines/notebooks with an impulse to straighten. I keep notebooks on everything. I have a recipe notebook, winemaking notebook, poisonous plants (with pictures) notebook, archaeology notebook(s), and then the random catch-all notebooks that I carry around with me in a messenger bag in case I think of something.
Oh! That reminds me: I had a dream the other night where Miss Kitty and I were in High School with Bobby Brady (of the Brady Bunch) and he had a poorly trained pet monkey. When the monkey wasn't engaged in self gratification he was biting people and turning them into zombies (it's a dream, what can I say?). Finally the dream culminated with a big showdown in the HS cafeteria with me and Miss Kitty taking an axe to the monkey and me yelling, "Fuck you and your goddamn monkey, Bobby Brady!" Then I woke up and had to pee. When I told Miss Kitty the dream she just shook her head and said, "That's actually pretty funny!"

Almost Finished

Some people cannot resist the urge to blink whenever you tell them to not blink. It's like ignoring gravity or something.
Here we have Riechter Von Sanchez, my mom, and the other son, Cree. Neither of my sons would have survived infancy if not for my mother. I was completely baby-ignorant back then, so she came and stayed with me for a month and taught me everything a new moron needs to know so as not to have authorities remove the child from your (my) custody.
Sometimes I wonder where all the time went, now that the kids are nearly adults. But then I remember the sleepless nights and spit-up stained clothes and raccoons tearing apart the trash to get at the poopy diapers and I smile that those days are gone forever.

Undeveloped Country

Who have we got here? That would be my sister, Riechter Von Sanchez in the background, and my sister's boyfriend. The other day I found a roll of film that hadn't been developed so I took it over to Rite-Aid so that I could see what was captured therein. I'm pretty sure that this was taken over Easter weekend. How exciting!
Obviously I'm just killing time until Top Chef airs tonight. *Yawn, stretch*

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Top Chef 4.11

Everything's fair in love and war, so when Antonia won the quickfire challenge she oh so wisely picked Stephanie and Richard for her team in the restaurant wars. If you're polydactyl and counting on one hand, that leaves Lisa, Spike, and Dale on the opposing team. Hmmmm, how many seconds will it take for me to figure out who's going to lose? On the one hand with six fingers we have the best of the best, and on the same hand we have...a fucking mess.
Lisa and Dale absolutely cannot work with each other for a myriad of reasons, but primarily because they are both frownie faces, notching up the negativity factor until the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic expands over the Andes and blinds innocent alpacas grazing near Machu Pichu. It's insane how dysfunctional this little family is, topped off as it is with Spike, who does nothing but distance himself from his teammates throughout the challenge.
So, when the Dale-led team finally fails and gets their collective asses brought before the judges' table...I thought, and said out loud, Lisa is toast. But no! Dale was sent packing!!! Dale!!! He really was the best of these hapless three, so to see him go before Lisa or asshat Spike is HUGE! Spike is entirely useless. I wouldn't eat a can of baked beans he opened and heated. And Lisa is just a carbuncle. Dale's a carbuncle too, but I figured he'd make it until the final four. But no, no, and NO.
Stephanie won the elimination challenge and now I'm hungry for some linguini. I definitely look for Antonia, Richard, and Stephanie to be in the final. Each of them has what it takes to be TC.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


For those who wish to see pictures of Bela, our beagle pup, here you go. It was a rainy day and I was outside smoking. She looks forlorn, don't she? Well, she's only got herself to blame because I've offered her cigarettes before and she's always turned up her nose at them.
Bela's doing really well. I had her at the vet yesterday and she's had her rabies shot and got a glowing, glimmering, all shiny bill of health and development. She's a glorious example of beagledom! We're training her per the monks of Skete method, which is a tad harsh, but she's responding to it, so who am I to argue with monks? German monks, at that. Miss Kitty bought a book...and the rest is history...

Thursday, May 15, 2008


This is turning into tv week here on U-Holler. Before I get started: Look! It's Helo on the far left! He's wearing a suit so that means that he's serious.
But who cares about all that? We're getting Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku back on the wee screen come January. Sounds like a the perfect birthday present for me. Oh, being a Capricorn never stops being amazing, especially when I'm rolling change or selling blood.
Everybody and their bastard cousin has already blogged about the premise of Dollhouse, so I'm going to skip those particulars and beg Joss to give us some lesbians. Joss! Dude, my man, PLEASE give us lesbians!!! Yes, I know, I'm a shameless beggar at the Whedon banquet of goodness, but hear me out. The man knows how to write women, especially gay women. Most men, and yes Judd Apatow - I'm staring daggers at you - have no clue how to write believable dialog for a woman, and they draw the characters so emotionally needy and train wrecky (Ally McBeal slinks to mind) that you just end up tossing a Prada slipper at the teevee.
Of course, regardless of how the characters on Dollhouse identify sexually, I'll be tuning in. I can't wait to see how this little Whedon-world is going to unfurl. Still, I'm betting that at some point the lesbian gets rolled out.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

30 Rock

If a show could be called Brechtian, then 30 Rock would be that show. Reality is something of a slippery slope, so Tina Fey wisely doesn't bother with reality and instead lovingly embraces surreality with all the fervor of a lifer on a conjugal visit.
The season finale last week was a thing of beauty. Cooter Burger? Possibly the best character name ever conceived. Doubly brilliant because Cooter's real name is something bland like James Riley and the President nicknamed him Cooter. The three people who still blindly support the hapless George Bush, The Lesser, might be offended by the third person mawkish portrayal of our fearless leader, but I would remind them that GWB nicknamed his trusted adviser Karl Rove 'Turd Blossom' and refers to Russian leader Vladimir Putin as 'Pootie'. I wish I were joking.
While I'm not joking, Tina Fey surely is. I've read a few minor complaints about 30 Rock becoming increasingly surreal to which I will respond with...I think 30 Rock is a perfectly skewed reflection of early 21st century America. We've got the self obsessed meme Jenna, the man-child run amok Tracy Jordan, uber power broker Jack, the moral (but nonjudgemental) compass of humanity Kenneth, the eye at the center of the hurricane Liz Lemon, and a supporting and guest cast that never fails to surprise and shock. I really wish they'd bring back Jack's ex-wife, Bianca. I can't go to Arby's without at some point saying, "You know I love my big beef and cheddar!". Oh, and the powers that be, while you're at it, bring back Gerhardt and his little porcelain hand!
While rampant surreality isn't everyone's cup of tea, it demands that you actually think for a minute or twenty-two, I think that Fey weaves disparate elements together in an ingenius manner that never fails to amuse and amaze me. There is no sitcom like this one. It's that rarest of creations: Something unique and original.
So, rest up, Tina Fey, on your summer hiatus, because come fall us fans are going to have our asses parked in front of the flat screen waiting to see what you've cooked up for us next.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Office

When a great show, especially a great comedy, begins its death spiral into mediocrity, a part of the collective unconscious withers. I can't say definitively that this has irreversibly occurred with the American version of The Office, but this fourth season has struggled mightily. Dwight has faded into the background, Pam and Jim are an officially boring couple, and every week I wish they would kill Michael. Not just kill the character, but the actor who plays him as well, that's how insufferable Michael Scott has become. The Michael and Jan storyline could've, should've been delicious with her bossiness and his infantile behavior, but Jan turned out to be abusive, physically, mentally, and Michael became regressed into full on infancy. And what does a big baby excel at doing? Manipulation, usually passive aggressive manipulation, but only if a temper tantrum isn't enough. Oh, how I wish Stanley was suing MS and Dunder Mifflin. Wouldn't that at least provide some fodder for the writers to nosh on?
The funniest episode all year was when Michael hit Meredith with his car. The incredulous look on Jim's face when he gets Michael to admit that he was the one driving the car, not just 'in' the car was classic. And Dwight euthanizing Angela's cat, Sprinkles by placing her in the freezer, was also a brilliant, if twisted, gag. But they've been so few and far between this year. We're much more likely to see Michael yelling 'Pam-Pam-Pam!!!!' anytime she tries to correct him. Pam, please, slowly start to poison his coffee. I would say shoot him, but messy just isn't Pam's style. I could see her poisoning him though.
Now and again I'll catch an older episode of The Office in syndication on TBS, and it reminds me of how far the show has slipped. By placing so much focus on MS's character we're missing out on the periphery characters that so often drove action.
Oh well. I'm still watching, and I hope next season is better than this writer's strike shortened one, but I'm a little nervous. Yeah.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Top Chef 4.9

It was inevitable. Poor Nikki. Why didn't you go ahead and take control? For the love of Jesus, the saints, Mary and Joseph, and all the rest, why didn't you seize the day? Carpe diem turned into just a run of the mill crapfest. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
There was no guest chef for this installment, which was a relief because often I think the guest chef is distracting to both the contestants and the viewer. Frankly, I'm just not impressed by famous chefs. Not when that ghoul Emeril is considered one.
The Quickfire was a Relay Race, where each cheftestant is tasked with a common kitchen/food preparation and the team that finishes first (duh) wins. This would've been completely unremarkable had Dale not been such a colossal baby and just made the mayonnaise. But no. He wasn't going to make any stinking mayo. I bet that if he's watching the show now being aired, he's cringing in his size 7 shoes. Stephanie made the mayo faster than Nikki could muster and Dale's Relay team lost the challenge, which prompted him to flip out.
Sheesh, dude, get a grip! I haven't seen this much nonsensical drama since 'Passions' went off the air. A knee jerk psych evaluation of his behavior would be that he's cracking up under the pressure. It's not just the competition itself, instead I suspect that this goes to the very core of how he sees himself. It's why he's a horrid team player, why he can't take direction from a woman, and why he has to assert himself in an embarrassingly posturing manner. Actually, he's lucky that he's still in the mix.
The Elimination Challenge - Wedding Wars
The Relay Race winning team, Antonia, Andrew, Richard and Stephanie got to pick either the bride or the groom to work with the menu for the wedding reception. Richard picked the bride's side, which I thought was crazy. Women can be so demanding about their special Princess-for-a-day day. I photographed my cousin's wedding and as bad luck would have it I had a fever of 103F that day. I could barely stand let alone remain perched atop a step ladder so that I could get overhead shots of the vows being exchanged. But was I cut any slack? Not on your life. I finally snuck out midway through the reception and collapsed on a sofa in the lobby of the Holiday Inn.
Anyway, to get back to other ramblings, the groom team of Dale, Spike, Nikki and Lisa is so full of tension that you can smell the impending failure across space and time. Lisa, for a change, says almost nothing, but not to worry! Dale exudes negativity like a super charged electro magnetic forcefield from Bizarro world. I can't believe no one has ever stabbed him in the kitchen. He's a nightmare. A walking, talking demon child nightmare.
The bride's team wins, with Richard getting the nod as elimination winner, which he promptly hands over to Stephanie for making the cake. You know, there's just something, dare I say it, gracious about Richard. Sure, he sometimes fails when he tries to be witty and/or clever, but underneath it all he's a great chef and a genuinely nice human being. Like the exact opposite of Dale.
For the groom's team the only thing that the wedding guests or the judges liked was Lisa's cake. At the losers judge's table Dale and Spike turned on each other. Spike, I hate to admit, was right and Dale just made himself look even more of an ass than he already does. Meanwhile, Nikki refused to take credit (blame) for the Italian menu, despite being the self-annointed queen of Italian cuisine. Nikki, Nikki, Nikki, poor thing. The world doesn't work that way. Not even a world set in a reality show. She was told to pack her knives and go, which was a surprise to no one.
I'm hoping that next week we get a break from the Dale drama.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hillary Clinton

I am loathe to say these words, but it can no longer be prettied up or spun any other way: It's time for Hillary Clinton to concede defeat to Barack Obama and leave the fight for the Democratic Presidential nomination.
I did not come to this conclusion lightly, in fact, I've been clinging to every shred of hope that I could desperately grasp at.
But no more. Hillary, if you're reading this, and I know you are, it's time to call it a day and pack your skivvies and go home. Girlfriend, the harsh truth is that you will never get the numbers. Oh, how I wish this wasn't the case! How I wish I could vote for the first woman President of the Untied States! But that's not going to happen, at least not this year. And right now, with the myriad of scandals and malfeasance associated with the current Bushie Administration, we need to focus on getting the Democrats in full and overwhelming control of the government. We don't need more of this being dragged out like an ill-refrigerated corpse.
Hillary, the most Honorable Senator Clinton, I admire you. I think you would have made an outstanding president. It's just not in the cards right now. Please step aside so that we - and the media according to Russert and Tweety - can focus on the Obama v. McCain match up and every other race that is going to dominate our every waking thought until November.
Oh, and George and Dick, don't let the door indict you on the way out. Asshats. It's like we got Nero and Caligula as leaders all at the same time.


A friend sent me this link to a live hawkcam set up outside of an office window where a female red-tailed hawk built a nest and had a mess of little hawklings. It's pretty cool, and who doesn't love tiny little raptors?
Bird watching is one of my more minor hobbies, done primarily when we're on vacation and kicking back. Although, last year while Miss Kitty and I were in the Allegheny National Forest we were specifically out and about in a bird preserve when we encountered a bear. We didn't stick around to identify any birds after that. I consider myself fairly adept out in the wild, but I still prefer to avoid bears. I'm not one of those anthropomorphism people, attributing nonsensical human characteristics to wild animals. One time, while camping with some friends, the husband of a friend insisted that a skunk that had wandered into camp was 'tame' and ended up sprayed. And yes, alcohol was involved. I'm still grateful that I didn't have to share a tent with them.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Top Chef 4.8

The show opened with a shot of Lisa smoking. Egads! I'm scandalized! How dare she throw her health down a dark well with Timmy and Lassie?!?!!1 Oh who cares. Hell, I'm smoking right now.
So, the guest judge is Art Smith, a man who slightly resembles the character of the talking snowman in the stop action animated Christmas classic, 'Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer'. This makes me like and trust him immediately and without question. Now, we all know that I'm not going to write a faithful recap of the episode. There are lots of other bloggers who do a much better job of it than I ever could, including the stellar Dorothy Snarker for Read hers, although I'm too lazy to provide a link. They're really worth the minimal effort that you would have to invest in googling her.
Apparently Art Smith has some ties to Oprah, but to me she's no bonus. But, we're in Chi-town, so there's no escaping the flesh eating bacterial influence of the Queen of Daytime. Plus, isn't she like the second richest woman in the whole wide world? Right behind JK Rowling. So what does Chef Smith ask the cheftestants to prepare in the Quickfire challenge? Uncle Ben's rice. Nice product placement there marketing and research minions. Antonia wins. I forget what she made and I can't be bothered to check.
Then, for the elimination challenge they are tasked with making a dinner for four on a ten dollar budget while saddled with a ten year old sous chef. Dale and Stephanie had assistants nearly as tall as they are, which is a meaningless observation because as long as there are step stools, height does not provide an edge in the kitchen. Some bemoaned the budget, but let's get real here. There are lots of nights that I make dinner for four and spend less that $10. Like Spam night, tuna casserole night, and especially 'let's eat at Grandma Ray's' night. The latter being by far the cheapest meal that I can provide to my hapless clan. Speaking of my mother, she called last week and this is what she said:
Mom: Hi angel.
Me: Hi Mom. What's up?
Mom: I made some bean soup that isn't very good. Would you like me to drop it off for you?
Me: Of course!
Mom: Lovely! I'll swing by on my way to Silver Sneakers.

A couple of things that I should clarify: I never turn down free food, no matter how bad it is. And, my mother is hypercritical of her cooking. She's never made a bad bean soup in her life, except for that time in 1978 when the cap came off the salt shaker, but that was more an act of God than mom's doing. She's an excellent cook, no taller than a garden gnome (one of those little Italian women), and sweet natured.
My point in this digression is that it's not brain science to make a meal for under ten bucks. Antonia won with a dish that looked so good I had to go and get myself a snack. Mark got the well deserved and long time in coming boot. He's had this panicked look in his eyes for the last three episodes, like he's just too far removed from his element (ether). Despite him accusing, seriously, judge Tom of not liking him (which just seemed sadly needy), the judges still harshly threw him to the curb.
Now, I'm going to switch my unwavering allegiance for Stephanie to Antonia. For whatever reason, Stephanie is falling apart. I don't know why, but if she doesn't pull herself together soon she's going to get the ax. And who knew that Nikki could step it up? Two weeks ago I thought that she was the unraveling thread that held the sword, but now, she's like a totally different cookie.
The two to beat: Richard and Antonia.