Friday, February 27, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
Well, that got me to pondering. Would the end of books be a good thing or not?
I remember watching the movie “Fahrenheit 451” with great fascination. Based on Ray Bradbury’s dystopic view of the future, the movie envisions a hyper-controlled world where books are outlawed. The temperature of the title refers to the degree at which books burn. People are encouraged to seek pleasure in various hedonistic ways. But they may NOT read. One of the great twists of the movie is that the firemen have the job of seeking out and burning books. Much of the plot turns on the attempts of characters to find and keep books. The movie ends with a refugee colony of people who have memorized books. The final scene is of them walking around, quietly murmuring their memorized book.
So, of course, a book is not specifically the paper on which it is printed. For Christmas, my husband got a Kindle for me. While he was intrigued with the technologic possibilities, I read far more than he does. So he suggested getting ME one. At first, I demurred, but now that I have a Kindle, I find it a great new way to read. I can read the Kindle in places where books are not quite so handy—for example, while riding an exer-cycle.
The words on the Kindle screen are the same as the words on a printed page. The advantage, other than its shape and the instant access to books (which you “simply” download using cell-phone technology) is that you can look up word definitions or footnotes simply by clicking on the appropriate place.
But, back to college and whether or not we will see an end to books. Certainly, one of the advantages of going to on-line books is cost. Textbooks are outrageously priced. And, sadly, professors are somewhat like physicians. We order these textbooks and have no idea what they cost—just as physicians order tests or prescriptions with no idea of cost. The cost of a single textbook can be $200. Or maybe even more. The textbook that I am currently using in class (which was pre-selected by a faculty committee) costs about $50. I am aware of some college professors who write their own textbook and then require that text for class. Hmmm—can that be ethical? I don’t know if they get royalties or not.
So, how do on-line textbooks fit into this consideration? An on-line textbook is usually about half the cost of a paper one. Of course, I do wonder if you can sell the on-line version; many of my students are using second hand textbooks which naturally cost less than new ones.
Apparently, another major motivator for switching to on-line textbooks, other than cost, is that so much of what a student has access to in our present wired environment is on-line. Music, personal communication, calendars, information gathering, photo albums. . . .All on-line. So why not textbooks?
There is another consideration that causes me to pause in this mad dash to on-line textbooks. I recently read an analysis of how our wired environment is changing the way we think. The author pointed out that our tolerance for long discourse has plummeted. We simply don’t take the time to read long passages. He hypothesized that reading on-line combined with the instant availability of references that are cross-linked has changed how our brains are wired. We begin to read a piece on-line; we encounter an unknown term or a hyper-link. CLICK. We zoom away from our immediate reading task. And click again. . .and again. Next thing we know—we are far from our original assignment.
The end of books? Not for me. Oh, sure—I will keep reading my Kindle. I will surf the Internet, clicking further and further from my original place. But I will also finger the paper of a new book. I will look at the font, and admire it—even turn to the back to see if there is an explanation of the font. I will line books up on the shelves in my house. And, I will keep the 451 F firemen at bay.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Each day, the sun creeps a little higher on the horizon--the sunsets are a lovely coppery orange glow. With the promised return of spring, soup season (while not necessarily over) is winding down.
Last week, I suggested that I should have posted a RED soup, in honor of Valentine's Day in case you missed the reference. Well, here it is today--I know, I know--a week late, but hold on to the recipe until next year. Or, consider it comfort food for now. What can be more comfort food than tomato soup.
Makes 12 servings.
This is an adaptation of a MOOSEWOOD recipe.
10 garlic cloves, pressed (or very finely minced)
2 T. paprika
12 cups tomato juice (two 46 oz. cans)
2 cups water or homemade vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry sherry
3/4 lb. Fresh or frozen tortellini
6 cups small bread cubes pinch of dried thyme
3 T. olive oil pinch of dried marjoram
2 T. butter
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2) In a non-reactive soup pot, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, until sizzling golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic!
3) Sprinkle in the paprika and cook for about 30 seconds more; be careful not to scorch the paprika or the soup will have a bitter flavor. Add the tomato juice, water or stock, and sherry. Cover the pot and bring the soup to a boil; then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
4) While the soup simmers, make the croutons. Spread the bread cubes on an unoiled baking sheet and bake until crisp and dry, 10 to 15 minutes.
5) In a very small saucepan or in the microwave, heat the olive oil, butter, thyme, and marjoram until the butter has melted. Pour the herbed butter over the toasted bread cubes and toss to coat well. Let the croutons cool and crisp on the baking sheet.
6) Serve the soup topped with croutons, grated Parmesan, and parsley. Or for a different twist, add cooked tortellinis.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Some of the artists of the 60s* (and maybe even the 70s) are revising their hits with new lyrics to accommodate aging baby boomers. They include:
Bobby Darin --- Splish, Splash, I Was Havin' a Flash
Herman's Hermits ---Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Walker
Ringo Starr --- I Get By With a Little Help From Depends
The Bee Gees --- How Can You Mend a Broken Hip
Roberta Flack--- The First Time Ever I Forgot Your Face
Johnny Nash --- I Can't See Clearly Now
Paul Simon--- Fifty Ways to Lose Your Liver
The Commodores ---Once, Twice, Three Times to the Bathroom
Marvin Gaye --- I Heard It Through the Grape Nuts
Procol Harem--- A Whiter Shade of Hair
Leo Sayer --- You Make Me Feel Like Napping
The Temptations --- Papa's Got a Kidney Stone
ABBA --- Denture Queen
Tony Orlando --- Knock 3 Times On The Ceiling If You Hear Me Fall
Helen Reddy --- I Am Woman, Hear Me Snore
Leslie Gore--- It's My Procedure, and I'll Cry If I Want To.
And Last but NOT least:
Willie Nelson --- On the Commode Again
There, I hope that provided a Friday chuckle. Any favorites here?
* For a sweet take on a 60s hit song writer--Neil Sedaka--reworking his OWN hits, visit Ginnie's blog here.
Monday, February 16, 2009
We started this mad dash by going to see Milk. This movie tells the story of the political radicalization of Harvey Milk, in San Francisco in the 1970s, culminating with his death in 1978 (along with Mayor Moscone) at the hands of disgruntled former City Councilman Dan White, played by Josh Brolin. Sean Penn is simply stunning in his morphing into the personna of Harvey Milk. The story is well-told, alternately humorous, touching, and deeply saddening.
We next saw Slumdog Millionnaire. This is clearly the feel good movie of the season. The story covers about two decades of the life of a young Muslim boy in Mumbai, India. He is a desperately poor boy who gets a chance to go on the show "Who Wants to Be a Millionnaire." As he successfully answers each question, the movie shows in flashback how he came to know information that one would not expect a "slumdog" to know. There is no deep meaning to the movie--but in the uncertain economic times in which we live, it will have deep appeal to many viewers.
More recently, we saw Doubt--the vehicle for tour de force performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep. They play, respectively, a friendly Irish priest, and a stern, tight-lipped nun named Sister Aloysius. A young nun, played sweetly by Amy Adams, sees something potentially comprising that the priest does. She eventually reports it to Sister Aloysius who is the principal of a Catholic school. Sister Aloysius begins a campaign to oust the priest, based on her firm conviction that he is a child molester. The two are locked in battle that dominates the movie--but at the end of the story, the viewer is still in doubt as to the truth.
Today, we saw The Reader. Kate Winslett plays a former Nazi SS prison guard named Hannah Schmitz. There is no question here as to why someone good would become involved in the Nazi madness in Germany during World War II. The movie really revolves around another mystery. Saying much more about the movie would give away some of the essential plot elements, but I will say that the inability of one character to read functions as a metaphor for the inability of some people to come to terms with the horror of the slaughter of millions of Jews during the Holocaust. This message alone is timely, given the current controversy of the Pope's having reinstated Bishop Williamson, who persists in denying the Holocaust.
I am not sure if we will be seeing The Wrestler. While I understand this is Mickey Rourke's comeback role, I have heard that the movie is particularly violent, and that's not my favorite topic. How ironic--since last year's top 2 movies in contention for best picture were No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood.
And the Oscar goes to. . .
Saturday, February 14, 2009
4 tsp. olive oil, divided
4 cups chopped onion
2 cups diced carrot
2 bay leaves
2 T. (about 6 cloves) garlic, divided
2 T. minced fresh rosemary, divided
2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 T. tomato paste
2 T. soy sauce
8 cups water
4 cups chicken broth (low-salt if using canned)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1) Sort and wash peas; cover with water to 2 inches above peas, and set aside.
2) Heat 2 tsp. of oil in a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and bay leaves; sauté 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
3) Add 1-1/2 T. of garlic, 1 T. of chopped rosemary, paprika, and pepper, cook 3 minutes.
4) Add tomato paste and soy sauce; cook until liquid evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.
5) Drain peas. Add peas, 8 cups water, and chicken stock to onion mixture; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 1 hour, stirring often. Discard bay leaves.
6) Place soup in blender or food processor (in batches); process until smooth. Pour puréed soup into a bowl. Repeat with remaining soup.
7) Combine 2 teaspoons oil, 1/2 T. garlic, 1 T. rosemary, and parsley. Stir parsley mixture into soup.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Then, English setters--our family has had two English setters, both rescue dogs. The first, Shannon, came to us after I answered a newspaper ad for a free dog. The owner brought her to our house, where I saw an over-weight 7 year old dog who drooled--and my husband and son saw a wonderful pet. And she was--she lived another 6 years with us.
Monday, February 09, 2009
That’s right—there have been hard times before. And people have survived.
When our son was in grade school, one of his teachers gave the class an assignment—interview your grandparents. Ask them what it was like to live in the Great Depression. So, when he was with his grandparents, our son began asking questions. Grandpa, what was life like for you during the Depression. Same question to Grandma.
The curious thing is that is the only time I ever heard stories from my parents about the Depression years. I just never thought to ask.
My mother’s family probably fared a little better than my dad’s. My mother’s family were mostly farmers. I previously told my mother’s story here, but a few details serve now. My maternal grandfather owned a dairy farm. Of course, that was hard work, but it also meant there was food. They had their own garden, milk readily available, probably eggs too if they had chickens, which they must have. My mother did say that clothing was harder to get—so she and her sisters used the feed sacks, which were printed with floral designs, to make into dresses.
My dad’s family made the trek from Oklahoma to California, but not for the reasons immortalized in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. My dad’s family moved, so his father could teach at a college in southern California. It was a small church-related school, so my grandfather’s salary was not lavish. Part of his compensation was the fact that his children could attend the college. (When this provision was removed from his contract, it resulted in my grandfather losing his job—but that’s another story, told here.)
My dad has said that while the family always had food, there were times when only one item was served for dinner. If they had potatoes, well, that was what they had for dinner—potatoes. My dad and his brothers also worked—in their pre-teen and teen years, and contributed some of the money earned to the family finances.
My aunt, my father’s sister, recalls that a few years beyond the Great Depression, as World War II was gearing up, that they had a Victory garden. I don’t know if they called it that, but it was a large vegetable garden where much of the produce they ate was grown.
The Depression was not the only hard times that we have been through. World War II was surely an example of hard times, for many countries. Yet, with all the difficulties that people experienced during the war, people still married and had children. My parents married in 1942 and I was born two months before the end of the war in Europe.
Hard times—yes. We are in hard times—whether at the beginning, or in the middle, or even near the end, only time will reveal. As our family stories can instruct us, there are many things we can do to survive.
And we will survive hard times. We always have.
Saturday, February 07, 2009
Bermuda was the first place out of the United States that my husband and I ever visited together--and we have been there a couple of other times. It is a lovely, entirely manageable island. When we first went there, we were charmed by its beaches, and its overall island beauty. Since then, we have begun to travel more internationally, so Bermuda is no longer a destination we long for.
However, at this time of the year--mid-February with the dreary days of winter dragging on--some Bermuda sun would be welcome.
In its place, I offer a recipe for Bermuda Fish Chowder. Perhaps the pepper will help warm you (along with the rum and sherry peppers).
Makes 10 servings.
This recipe is adapted from A COLLECTION OF RECIPES FOR OUTERBRIDGE’S*
1 tsp. salt
1 T. black peppercorns
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 bay leaves
8 whole cloves
3 large onions
8 stalks celery, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
28 oz. canned whole tomatoes, chopped
10 oz. canned beef consomme
1 cup ketchup
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 T. chopped parsley
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced
6 carrots, chopped
Dark rum, to taste
Sherry Peppers Sauce*, to taste
1) In a large pot, simmer fish fillets in 4 quarts of water with salt and a sachet bag composed of peppercorns, dried thyme, bay leaves and whole cloves.
2) In a large frying pan, sauté onions, celery, garlic and green bell peppers. Add tomatoes and consomme. Simmer 1/2 hour. Add to fish.
3) Add ketchup, parsley, Worcestershire sauce,
lemon juice, potatoes and carrots.
4) Add the dark rum and Sherry Peppers Sauce to taste and simmer 3-1/2 hours.
*Sherry Peppers Sauce is available online at Outerbridges, but the best way to get it is to visit Bermuda yourself!
I plan to post one or two more soup recipes for this season, then turn my attentions elsewhere--such as planting flowers in the spring. So, if you have any requests for a particular type of soup--let me know.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
There had been a series of unexplained deaths in the immediate Chicago area, all of them linked to people who had recently bought and taken Tylenol. And the national news was reporting hourly of another death. The only link--Tylenol, that turned out to have been tampered with. My message home--I am fine, and--no--I have not bought any Tylenol.
Any dark veil mysteries you are puzzling over?
Monday, February 02, 2009
If Candlemas day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
But if Candlemas day bring clouds and rain,
Winter is gone and won't come again.
Herewith a quote from Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac:
German immigrants in Pennsylvania found that there weren't a lot of badgers in America, but there were a lot of groundhogs, so the holiday evolved into Groundhog Day. The first reference to Groundhog Day is from 1841, in the diary of a storekeeper in Morgantown, Pennsylvania. He wrote: "Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks' nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate."
And I knew exactly when. While I was in high school, I had a one time date with a young man, whose grandparents owned a horse farm on that road I traveled several decades later. We went horse-back riding--please know I am NOT an accomplished rider--and as we rode along in the open field, we were having a pleasant getting-to-know-you conversation. Suddenly, the young man pulled up his horse, jumped off, and went running across the field. From a nearby barn, he grabbed a baseball bat, and proceeded to bludgeon a groundhog to death.