Thursday, October 30, 2008

Keen Critic

On the inside cover of the Top Flight Chub notebook that I carry with me is written: Be a keen observer, a critical thinker. I need the reminder most of the time. Yesterday I was reading a book review of Michael Brooks' The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time on and the reviewer made a comment that made me chuckle. "Choose carefully, researcher: You are deciding whether posterity will view you as a visionary, reactionary, or crank."
I'm not a scientist, so any whiff of crankism around me is not only allowable, but expected if not preferred. Still, being out in the world and experiencing it demands that I pay attention. Hence my reminder to observe and think. Weather permitting this weekend, MK and I plan on getting out into the world and hopefully discovering a few natural gems here and there. I've been boning up on the geology of Pennsylvania. It seems to make the hikes more exciting.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I'm a couple of days early, but Happy Halloween! Plans, anyone? Surprisingly, despite my fondness for ghoulish things, I'm pretty nonplussed by Halloween. Maybe it just tries to hard to be scary. Want something really terrifying? How about election night! Even the thought of another Republican administration has me peeing myself a little. *shudder*
Now, back to the salt mine that is this floor project...

Monday, October 27, 2008

House Work

No, not the blog. Worse. My house. And by construction I mean remodeling. My oldest son and I are ripping out all of the carpets and trying to figure out what to do with the hardwood floors underneath. This house is really old. REALLY old, so there are good maple floorboards underneath the carpets and padding, but they've got a lot of age and wear on them. Meaning, we're going to have to rent a floor sander and completely refinish them.
What a headache this all is! But it has to be done, and it should've been done right after we bought the house. I hate wall to wall carpeting. I don't know why, maybe because it's soulless, but that seems too pat an answer. I love any kind of natural flooring: wood, cork, stone, the bones of someone's enemies. But carpet, it just bothers me.
So, please to forgive if I'm a little behind on blogging because we have to get this done. Half the livingroom furniture is crammed on one side of the room, and tomorrow it will get shifted to the otherside so that we can tear up that carpet. Then back and forth we go as we sand, refinish, etc. All with a curious beagle chewing up carpet strips and tacks. I bet a magnet would stick to her belly at this point.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dumb Ass

Sometimes I have The View on. I don't know why, Whoopie is no Rosie, and Elizabeth Hasselbeck is a talking points moron with nary an original thought cruising around her skull.
Then, what did EH pull on, what?, Tuesday? She wore a McCain shirt during the show. How desperate are these McCain supporters? Does she realize how idiotic she looks? I mean, let's just throw whatever whisp of credibility she ever possessed to be objective out the window.
As full disclosure I admit that I am an Obama supporter, and I became one late in the game after Hillary tanked. For ten minutes I did seriously look at McCain as an alternative. But then I sobered up. After the Palin pick as veep, well, what more can be said about the validity of this ticket? Palin sounds every bit as duplicitous as Cheney, and Cheney's the most hated VP in my lifetime (and I was around for Agnew).
I'm guessing that EH's gambit will backfire, just as every stunt that the McCain camp has tried so far has. I just wonder how much that shirt cost. If the RNC paid for it, probably 45K.

The Road

Spoilers! I don't reveal all, but I am chatty with the facts.

I finally read Cormac McCarthy's "The Road". It's difficult to compare this post-apocalyptic work to any other in this specific genre because of the immediacy of tone and unflinching realism. So I give Cormac an A+ for originality, which as we all know, is not an easy feat.
The book is immensely readable and compelling, seeing as I read the whole thing in one day. Yes, no, I could not put it down. I carried it with me to the bathroom, I kept it propped up while I made sauerkraut and sausage, with mashed potatoes and green beans, and I read it while I watched the Phillies beat the D-Rays, that's how vested I was in the story.
Yet and still, it is by far not a perfect novel. I particularly did not like the extremely brief appearance of the Man's dead wife. Who, or what woman, I should say, claims to have a 'whorish heart' to justify their suicide? Nobody, that's who. Perhaps that seems nitpicky, but since her death, or more importantly, her absence, seems like a pall that hangs over the Man and the Boy while they travel on the road, I feel that her character needed something more. Anything more than really the nonsense that she was given.
Also, I found myself wondering how in the world these people have survived this long - 7, 8, 11 years? - with no food. Scavenging for canned goods would only last so long, and I'm betting that it wouldn't be this long. Of course we've got the cannibals. Real cannibals, not zombie cannibals, but the Man and the Boy are not cannibals. All vegetation is dead, the animals are all dead, and the Earth is blanketed in a nuclear winter. Sounds cozy, no? I also wondered why they didn't dig up grubs and earthworms. They'd still be in the ground, eating roots and dirt. Speaking of roots, why weren't they digging up roots and eating those? Probably the survivalist in me couldn't resist picking up on these flaws.
In the end, I would still recommend the book. Especially with the movie coming out soon, or not so soon, as I read somehwheres that the release date got pushed back again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Veal Recipe

Ok, anonymous, here's the recipe for the veal dish I made last night:
  • 1lb veal scallopini
  • 1 C red wine (I used merlot)
  • 1 C beef stock
  • 2 C sliced baby portabello mushrooms
  • 3 TBS butter
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 2 TBS flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a large pan combine the wine and beef broth, heat to a simmer on low heat and reduce the liquid by half.
In a frying pan heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the veal and quickly sear on both sides, about two minutes.
Remove the veal from the pan and set aside. Heat 2 TBS butter in the pan and saute the mushrooms until tender.
In the large pan with the reduced wine/stock mixture, add 1 TBS butter and 2 TBS flour, heat until bubbling, stirring constantly. The mixture should thicken into a gravy. Add the mushrooms and veal to the gravy, salt and pepper.

I served this with sliced parsley potatoes and steamed spinach. My one kid said that it was the best thing I've ever cooked!

Lemon Balm Tea

Several weeks ago, while walking the dog, I discovered a patch of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) growing wild. I picked some and took it home to make tea. Then I went back later with a pot and a trowel and dug some up so that we could have some in the house over the winter for tea. MK immediately got hooked on the lemon balm tea. It's very refreshing, and it's supposed to be a stress reducer. I'm having a cup of it right now and feel completely relaxed. So relaxed that I could go back to bed, if I didn't have a mountain of work in front of me.
Anyway, lemon balm is easy to grow and maintain, the tea can be made from either fresh or dried leaves, and the medicinal claims that it aids in everything from painful menstrual cramps to lowering a fever to soothing the bronchial tubes, make it worthwhile addition to the home herb garden.
I didn't mean to sound so rah-rah in that last sentence, but I really do love this stuff, and can't recommend it highly enough.

Monday, October 20, 2008


I know, I'm crazy for this show. Bear with me. I mean, the Buffy comic is over a month behind on releasing the idiotic arc ending issue for the Fray crossover. Man, I can't wait for that to be over. I think the storyline never fully meshed in Joss's humongous brain. It's not hard to follow, almost nothing has happened so far, it's just - dare I say it? - poorly conceived. Like somebody spent too much time at the Double Meat Palace.
Anyway, look what's on the cover of the new TV Guide!!!! I picked up a copy while standing in line at the supermarket, buying the stuff I needed to make veal w/ mushrooms and wine gravy. I found this recipe and I thought, wow, this sounds edible! So I went to the store at some point today (my sister called while I was gone) and bought food and TV Guide.
I'm soooo hopelessly hooked on this show. It's not like crack, more like crack on crack.
I haven't read the article yet, but that's only because I've been cooking, and talking on the phone, and now blogging about something I know nothing about. Life is good.

Happy 250, dammit

The city of Pittsburgh is awash in colored light (courtesy of Lucette de Rugy) to celebrate its 250th birthday. Once a muddied outpost controlled by the French(and burned to the ground when they abandoned it to the Brits and colonists), Pittsburgh has remade itself countless times over the centuries. Once an important boat building center for river travel, then the largest glass manufacturer in the country, and of course the steel behemoth.
Now Pittsburgh in once more finding its identity. I don't know what that identity is or will be, and I don't care much because I'm too distracted looking at the pretty.
MK and I were in the Oakland section of the city Friday night to catch the Squonk Opera, "Astro-Rama" being staged outdoors at Shenley Plaza, across the street from the beautifully lit Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh campus. The sci-fi-ish opera had some good moments, but was desperately in need of some editing (not to mention better scoring, and some cogency), so MK and I wandered around to look at the shiny and the pretty.
It was a mighty chilly night out there, my friends. I hate to say it, but I'm going to have to break out the gloves and scarves.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Power Hungry, Fringe 1.5

Fringe really keeps my synaptic relays on their toes. Did you notice the bald dude from episode 1.4 exiting the elevator right before the big plunge? Nice touch, J.J. It was so perfectly executed as pure throw-away that I completely missed it the first time around, and it was Cree who picked up on it. Good one.
Also, the continued use of older technologies (homing pigeons, tapes) really resonates. Call me a luddite, but this oddly appealing. It factors into the eldritch-like atmosphere and nuance...I was going to say without missing a beat, but it's so off-beat that it's a tattooed rhythm that is entirely unfamiliar to me. How would I recognize a missed beat? Genius!
I can't say yet what I think of the Vulcan mild meld connection between Liv and Dead John yet. Initially when he popped up I was hoping that he was a Massive Dynamic bio-engineered zombie, preferrably a nonbrain dining denizen of the undead, but really, either way is five by five with me. That issue though is largely moot because he's merely a cacophony of thought vestiges rattling around Liv's consciousness. Darn it.
I'm still loving Walter. Best line of the show belongs to him: "There was a test subject, everytime she hiccuped the lights would dim." He's a wealth of non sequiturs. Gotta say that I barely notice Pacey, but that's as it should be, which is cool. I'm hoping that they give Astrid something more to do than aid and babysit Walter.
Lastly, I really love the basement laboratory, although I really wish they were somewhere other than Harvard and Boston. Stick 'em in Cleveland, or better yet, Buffalo, or even better still, Carnegie Mellon U in Pittsburgh! That's just me idly dreaming...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Visible From Outside Space

I hate weddings, I really do. I do look forward to someday legally marrying MK right here in PA, but that's different. Let me clarify: I hate other peoples' weddings. They suck with their Queen For A Day mentality, dried out chicken and rotini buffet, and watered down whiskey (the whiskey HAS to be watered down or I'd be under the table sooner than I am, cheap bastards).
As I've previously complained, next month one of my nephews is getting married and it has caused a big rift in the family. Now, to those regular readers of this blog you know that my family is crazy. But crazy in mostly an amusing way, putting the funk in dysfunctional. Maybe because we're all getting older and crankier, everyone's eccentricities are less endearing and more of a pain in the ass. Case in point: My niece, TAS, is not invited to my nephew's (TWR) wedding. My sister, Junior, is LIVID and is now saying that she won't go to the wedding either. It's all I've heard about for the past two days. Our mother, who is keeping all of this from Dad, has been sneaking, or skulking, around her basement making calls to all of us, which no one can hear because she's whispering into the mouthpiece. Dad's almost deaf, so this is useless. Really.
Anyway, here's what happened, at least this is what's being bandied about: Four years ago one of my other nephews (AWR) got married. TAS RSVPed that she'd attend the wedding, but was pregnant at the time and got ill and at the last minute and couldn't go. Well, apparently my sister-in-law has been harboring a grudge lo these few years and now is having her revenge by making sure that TAS is not on the guest list. My mother tried to intervene, in her typical dumbass fashion ("I just want everyone to get along, and it all blew up in my face."), to no avail. So, my other sister-in-law got involved and discovered that it's all over the fact that TAS is seen as unreliable, and if she says she's going to attend but then doesn't, like before, they have to pay the caterers regardless. So then Junior went ballistic, I mean, if this is all over a plate of food, and was screaming in the phone to such an extent that I set the phone down and got a shower with her none the wiser. When I got back on the line she was saying something about how TAS is now going to boycott all family funerals. Some of our best family moments have been at funerals! I'll never forget Junior's rambling eulogy at our grandmother's funeral. No one has ever teetered to a podium and spoken less eloquently about someone's life and death. Ever. I told Junior that TAS is a fool to boycott funerals. She should just wear a red dress and a hat with big feathers stuck in it. Nobody wants to be upstaged at their own funeral, so this would piss off the dead. It's the ultimate 'gotcha'.
Where was I going with all of this? Oh yes, the stupid petty family crap over a wedding that I don't even want to go to. I am going. I sent the RSVP back last week. MK has to go, she's the designated driver, and both of the kids are going. But Junior and her boyfriend aren't going, and neither is her son, because of TAS's exclusion. I feel torn. I feel as if I should call my brother (HUD), but he's not very accessible. He hates talking, and hates even more referring to 'feelings' and shit. So I'm at a disadvantage from the get-go by having to talk and having to mention that people's feelings are hurt. Of all my siblings I am closest in age to HUD, he's only 15 months older than me, but he's not much like me, personality-wise. We've worked together on family matters before, and have worked well together, but this is different because his wife is fucking nuts and vindictive. I don't know what to say about her, or to him about her. I'm not good friends with his wife, and I have in fact avoided her for decades. She talks too much about people behind their backs and it makes me feel insecure and sleazy, and not in way that I like (Hi MK!, you shameless hussy, you).
Sigh. I'm sure I'll have more to complain about before the actual Big Day arrives. Oh, and is it tacky to buy a gift not on their registry? I like to buy fire extinguishers as wedding gifts because nobody ever considers how much they need to have them on hand until they need one on hand. I figured I'd get them a couple of fire extinguishers and some gas masks, in case of a bio attack.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Glorious Philly Boo Birds

There's not much love lost between the City of Brotherly Love and the Steel City. In fact, around Pittsburgh we joke that Philadelphia is where our tax dollars go to die. That seemed funnier before the Honorable Mayor Ravenstahl started bankrupting Pittsburgh, but you get the idea.
Much of how I view Philly changed over the weekend when veep hopeful (heh) Sarah Palin ceremoniously dropped the puck before a Flyers - Rangers match-up and the Wachovia Center crowd roundly booed her. Thinking about it brings a tear to my eye. Never have I been so proud to be a Pennsylvanian. To my eastern PA commonwealthers, I say thank you. Being a Penguins fan, I am sworn to despise the Flyers, but that's going to be tougher now since your fans have the good sense to loudly and longly boo this tool.
And I can't help but wonder if she was needling Tina Fey a bit with her visit to PA, because Fey is, afterall, from the Philly suburb of Upper Darby. Naw, it couldn't be anything that petty. I mean the McC/Palin ticket trails Obama/Biden in the polls by over 14 points. Surely someone wouldn't be poking around here with only a little over three weeks left in the campaign to try and swing us in their direction when there are other battleground states where the numbers are within reach, right? No one is that base and stupid, right? Right?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Worlds Always Collide

Nothing like reading a Buffy comic while standing in the shadow of The Bard.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Art, O! Cruel Mistress

Art. The embodiment of truth and beauty, even and especially terrible truths and horrible beauty. How could it be otherwise? Art reflects the world. Here we have Can of Shit No. 5, created - or produced - by the self-taught Italian conceptual artist Piero Manzoni in1961. Of the 90 cans that Manzoni originally made and sold, 45 have exploded due to the extreme pressure manifested by the build up gas sealed therein. Having been subjected to shitty modern art, I find Manzoni's intent here to be a bit whimsical, especially since he sold all 90 cans at the going rate of gold per gram. I wasn't even born yet in 1961, but even tooling around the ether waiting to take corporeal form, I was amused by Manzoni's chutzpa. There is no more literal statement about what constitutes "art" in modern terms than a can of shit that costs as much as gold. More, now, as both museums and private collectors buy the stuff. I wouldn't pay a dime for it, but I'm artistically pedestrian that way. I'm a Philistine. A hack poseur floating around the periphery of the real geniuses tearing them to shreds with my exposed kitty claws at every opportunity!!!111!
And now, through time constraints, as I near my point, there's a difference, both artistically and intellectually between what Manzoni was attempting to do and what mindless shlock Jeff Koons exhibits. Am I angry and offended by Koons' boorish crap? No. There is nothing in his work to elicit much of a response from me. I mean, if I paid money to see it, then I might get angry and yell at one of the prison, er, museum guards, but just reading about him online and looking at pictures of his creations makes my inner Hello Kitty weep for all of the lost opportunity in his work. Unlike Manzoni, he seems to lack outrage, humor, and originality, not to mention theme. The best I can I surmise is that he's narcissistic (big surprise!), but not particularly self aware. At least not self aware in a useful way. Through my research into Koons I discovered that he's been sued, particularly by photographers, for artistic infringement several times and has lost most of the cases. I especially liked the cases he lost and then appealed only to have the Judge admonish him further when he lost again. I'd love to see Judge Judy rip him a new one!
NPR did a story on Koons' exhibit at Versailles today on Morning Edition. Two museum goers ended up in a heated argument in French over whether it's plastic garbage or brilliant modern art that challenged perceptions. It's been my experience that when someone in an argument over art condescendingly tells you that you simply don't know enough about art to recognize what you're looking at, and thereby are completely incapable of appreciating anything beyond four dogs playing poker with Elvis holding the baby Jesus, has lost the argument already and is afraid their dick will shrivel and rot unless they dismiss your entire existence and opinions out of hand. I call this theory: The Jennifer Gambit.

Monday, October 6, 2008


I feel really, really stupid that I didn't figure this out the very first episode of the very first season, but Peter is a total asshat and must die. Not just future Peter must die, but present Peter and it might not be a bad idea to kill past Peter, even toddler Peter. So far, every time he has set out to Save The World (tm) he's been the one that the world's got to be saved from. He's a willful buffoon who should be, I don't know, frozen in a block of ice and jettisoned to one of Jupiter's moons. Ganymede sounds good to me. Send that world killing fucker there. I'm sick of how he heaves and sighs and believes that only he knows best, when he knows almost nothing and learns not a single lesson from his mistakes. I say kill off Peter. Can we start a campaign? I hate Peter more than I do villainous Sylar. Sylar at least is honest. Peter's just one big dumbass lie dangling out there like a drunk's peen on a street in Paris. BTW, ever notice that Paris smells like pee? It was a major disappointment to me when I was there, and really explains why Germany invades it every so often. I mean, someone's got to sanitize those streets.
But I digress. I like where the Villain Chapter of Heroes is going, it's re-energized the show as a whole, but Peter...just the kill the fucker already. The character is a stone who drags down the storyline, and the actor who portrays him, Milo V-whatever, just heaves and gasps his lines to such an extent that I want to give him an oxygen mask (and strike a match at the same time).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Top Chef 5

Next month season 5 of Top Chef will begin, without Ted Allen as a judge. I've been spending some quality time this morning scrutinizing the new spate of cookie hopefuls on the Bravo website. It's so hard to glean anything about a person from a short, and not particularly snappy, bio and accompanying pic.
This is not to say that I didn't notice anything. Jamie, a NYC native and SF sous chef transplant, exudes an interesting (queer friendly-ish) vibe. But you know what? As I am no longer 12, I care less and less about those finer points. Other things engage me much more, like the actual food and whether Bravo has started to infer with the judges to such an extent that the elimination table is no longer unbiased. Case in point: Last season's Lisa and claims that the producers wanted her kept around because of the conflict she provided. Now, I have not the first clue what sort of chef Lisa is in reality, having never actually eaten anything that she's prepared, but the girl was before the judge's table more than anyone else, barely scraping by for weeks on end, yet she made it to the finale. It just seemed hinky, you know?
Also in the new season there's a local chef, Jill, from Latrobe, PA, who has relocated down the Cumberland Valley to Baltimore. Why go there? Why? She could redeem herself by still being a Steelers fan. If she's a transplant Ravens fan...I guess I'll have to get out my sewing kit and fashion a voodoo moppet. But and still, Jill, I'll be rooting for you early on, so don't screw up!
And one last observation: NO FAUX HAWKS this season at all :D That 'do is so over and done, so dead that I marvel anyone would still gel it up. It doesn't look cutting edge. It looks like a midlife crisis.