Monday, December 27, 2010

snow day! snow day! snow day!

Can't figure out what to do first:  jewelry, movie, book?  I did start making some new jewelry this weekend.  One of the women at work asked for some earrings in purple, so I made some wild-ass amethyst earrings.  I put an amethyst chip on a headpin, made two more, and wired them to the end loop of some chain, then did that twice more -- so I had three clusters of three chips each on one loop.  Then I continued attaching clusters and different sizes of amethyst up the chain, and then decided to work on some 4mm Swarovskis in smoked topaz AB2x, which somehow had a slightly purple flash and really worked with the amethyst.  It's for a woman in QC who came up to me and said she'd heard I made jewelry, could I make something purple for her?  Only a handful of people there know that I make jewelry.  Most of the people who work there are not jewelry fiends.  A few of them are, and a few appreciate nice stones and beads.  But most of the women there wear plain old hoop earrings and what I like to call "mall jewelry," meaning those little gold hearts half studded with tiny diamonds, and similar things that look like the mass-produced pieces you find at Zales or Kay.  Honestly, I hate that stuff even more than I hate cheap plastic or other cheap non-precious flashy earrings.

I'm also working on another of my "fringe" necklaces.  This is larger stones wire-wrapped together, with smaller stones dangled from the wire-wrap looks.  It's one of my signature styles, sometimes in a Y-necklace and sometimes in a plain round one.  I wore one to my interview at Dweck, one with a lot of brownish jaspers.  I wore it about a week ago and Stephen complimented me on it.  It was the first time he did so, and even though I didn't really say anything to anyone else, I was kind of over the moon.  I had kind of been waiting for him to say something about something I wore.

The new fringe necklace is in wintery blues, kind of new for me. I usually use a lot of autumn oranges and yellows in the cold weather.  But this one has some blueish jasper and agate and frosted rock crystal and demin lapis, and I think the fringe will be mostly amazonite rondels and maybe some smaller rock crystal with a few accents of peach aventurine.  We're going to Jannah's on Friday and I'm hoping to finish this and make another one in yellows and golds (I have some nice gold rutilated quartz), and let her choose the one she likes.  (She already has a lot of my orange and yellow pieces, since she loves those colors.)

Let the lazy day begin.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

some women's health stuff (men, you so do not want to read this)

I was recently diagnosed with something called lichen sclerosis.  Never heard of it before, but I can tell you, it sucks.  It sucks on toast.  It's a skin condition, primarily affecting post-menopausal women and primarily occurring in the vaginal area.  The skin gets a white bloom and then becomes very thin and sensitive, and itches like you could die from.  If you rub or scratch in any way, it gets more inflamed and can bleed.  Sometimes you get scare tissue, which can even narrow the vagina, making intercourse painful if not impossible.  And there's no cure, gang.

I've now seen three different gynecologists about this.  It ended up being three mostly because of scheduling -- the first was my regular GYN (though I hadn't seen her for some time).  When I needed to go back I was working and couldn't work with her hours, so I saw a second doctor in the practice.  Same thing again, and I saw a third.

The first doctor didn't even tell me what it was.  I had initially thought it was simply irritation from wearing pads for stress incontinence.  (Any men who have gotten this far -- I told you so!)  So the first doctor gave me some cream -- actually two.  One was for inside my vagina (I still don't know what was wrong there), and one for the sore outer area.  I should have asked more questions but I actually spent more time talking to her about the stress incontinence.  (I never did do the test for that, where they fill your bladder with water, but I've actually diminished the problem a great deal by doing kegel exercises.)

When I went back some months later, the second doctor told me the name of what I had (whatever the internal problem was must have been cured), and prescribed two creams.  One was the same cream the first doctor had prescribed, and the second was a cortisone cream.  She gave me directions very quickly and in a heavy accent, and when I got the creams, those directions were not there.  So I called to ask about it, left a message that I was calling with a question about my medications, and she never called back.  Each one just said to use twice a day, so I just kind of switched back and forth.  I since learned, on my own, that you're supposed to use the first one twice a day for a couple of weeks, to clear up the symptoms, and then the cortisone one twice a day to prevent them from coming back.

Third doctor, the one I saw this past Thursday, explained things to me a little better.  Hormones are involved.  The hormones that dropping off after menopause contribute to this condition.  That's a big factor.  So she said to use the cortisone cream twice a day, and in-between, use OTC Vagisil for itching.  And she's prescribed hormones.

I had never thought about hormone replacement therapy, or rather, I only thought about it in terms of something was was used for menopause symptoms, like hot flashes.  I didn't even think about it recently, when I realized that my hair is getting thinner and my skin is getting a lot drier.  But now I'm getting to understand this whole post-menopause thing, feminine itching and all, and if estrogen and progestin are the magic bullet, bring it on.  I'm going to check in with my GP about drug interactions and such, since I have high blood pressure and Type II diabetes and am on anti-depressants to boot.

This is the age where you start to see the results of how well you did or didn't take care of yourself.  I haven't been good about my weight, went through a period where I did exercise, and periods where I walked a good deal, but I haven't been consistent about exercise.  I did stop drinking (24 years ago) and smoking cigarettes (about 6 or 7 years ago), and I feel really good about both of those.  My liver pulled through without a scar, and my upper respiratory system is great.

I'm actually kind of excited about taking the hormones.  I've been very bummed out about some of these age-related changes...I've always had great skin and thick hair.  I'd love to see that stuff improve if not reverse, or even just stop progressing.  Because I never had children, I didn't react much to the end of my childbearing ability, because when the time came to decide about children, I chose not to.  So I didn't feel too bad about no longer being fertile-- I was already used to the idea of not being a mother.  And I had sexual activity in my life for a few years after, so I wasn't feeling any lack of female-ness.

It's hard to explain this...I think I don't mind being older, but I do mind not being younger.  Does that make any sense?

One more very interesting thing, which does not involve sore genitals.  I have tried on and off to learn meditation techniques, and never even got close.  For a while, when I was with Penguin, I worked with people who were involved in the TM organization, and I was very impressed with them as people.  One fairly high-up member promised me free training and then reneged.  (I made this mistake a couple of times when I was in book publicity, of thinking that a few authors actually liked me as a friend, beyond what I could do for them and their books.)  TM was very attractive but the $3,500 price tag was a problem.

I did, however, get to meet Donovan, who was my huge favorite musician/crush when I was around 11 and 12.

So last night, I was trying to go to sleep, it actually happened, just for a moment.  As is often the case, a lot of shit was rushing around in my head, very distracting.  All of a sudden, it became silent -- and the floor fell out from under me.  That's exactly what it felt like.  My author had described it like being in an elevator and having the cable cut.  I had just that short, lovely moment -- and have absolutely no clue how I got there.  I suppose I've got to get some for-real instruction, because I definitely want that again.

Friday, December 24, 2010

must be Mitch Miller

"Must be Santa," the song Dylan sang, was written by William Fredericks and Hal Moore and originally recorded by Mitch Miller.  Mitch Miller was a music producer, I do believe (let's check Wikipedia), who was most famous for a TV show in the 60s called "Sing Along With Mitch." 

I just went to YouTube to try to find a clip of the show, which I remember vaguely as a young'un (it ran from 1961 to 1966), and was shocked to see how awful it was, though I also remembered correctly is it was a fantastic depiction of what young people called "square" in the 60s (it means "old school," but not in a good way).

Perhaps this will shed some light , for those of you under forty-five, to see where hippies came from, even beatniks.  It was in reaction to "Sing Along with Mitch."  Think Eisenhower era, conformist and conservative and bland.  Sure there was some cool stuff that came down the pipe culturally, but the majority of Americans were in the Mitch-Miller camp.  (Poll:  who thinks minstrel shows minus blackface are racist anyway?  I do.)

I had actually forgotten that Mitch's singers were all men.  Creep-a-licious!

more funny ESL

Right before I started working at Tarcher Penguin, they published a book called "Engrish," which was basically a photo book of signs, ads or labels or streetsigns, written in extremely poor English by someone who is not a native speaker of English.  The ideas are there, and then a whole bunch of worms swim around that connect to the concept but not each other. When I saw the book, it was kind of a relief to know that other people found this really funny, since I always had but wondered if it wasn't somehow racist to feel that way?  Well, I do think it's funny, and others think it's funny, and until I hear an Asian saying that it hurts their feelings, I will continue to enjoy it.  The following was copied (probably illegally) from the A.V.Club, the entertainment arm of The Onion.  I've been subscribed to the AV blog for a week or so now, and I like their coverage and, so far, their point of view.

Music Phone
Music Phone
As always, it wouldn’t be a Cheap Toy Roundup without at least one awkward import with packing that makes random-at-best stabs at the English language, then kicks it while it lies bleeding in the gutter. Music Phone is particularly enthusiastic about the butchery: The box is positively covered with approximations of familiar English toy-packaging phrases. “The cartoon shape, interesting function,” proclaims one pink bubble of text. The green bubble next to it answers “The kid studies musical teacher To the kid’s vivid education start from here!” Random asterisks suggest that phrases like “Correctly choose standard pronunciation, graceful tweedle” are footnotes, but to what? The fun continues on the side of the box: “There is the keep company with of phone of the cartoon music phone, I can study to more music every day, more fun.” Now that’s enthusiasm! And on the back, there are even helpful instructions for phone use: “Press The Animal Head Key, Will Send Out Each Wow.” Okay, clear enough… especially by comparison with further instruction: “While converting to look for function, the telephone will send out the interjection of animal or (the numeral read a sound, color name) When you press opposite in response to of key, the telephone will deliver OK voice. When you press wrong……” But be careful! The toy you’re actually looking at in the open-fronted box may not be the real color it appears to be! “Color and packaging of the product real object have a dissimilarity to please take Music Phonereal object color as quasi.” And as a further warning, this toy has apparently killed before: “Contain the small parts has already suffocate dangerous, not for children under 3 years.” No problem; those children under 3 years whom this phone has not already suffocate dangerous wouldn’t enjoy it as much as adults will, even if it does start vivid education in malapropisms.

I have my own shorthand for this,which is simply "ESL"  English as a Second Language.  As in:  that e-mail was totally ESL. 

I realize that if this is offensive, it's not just about Asians.  I recently went poking around (did I mention this?) about the song "Little Green Bag" by the George Baker Selection.  I loved the song but found it very weird.  First of all the verse and the chorus seemed to come from two different songs.  Also, the lyrics were very strange.  The lyrics might have come from a psychedelic song, but the music, although weird, was a pretty straightforward composition, without "trippy" effects.  My researched divulged that George Baker was Dutch!  ESL!  Well, it doesn't explain the oddness of the music, but it sure says something about the lyrics.

I just check out a video on YouTube of Baker singing the song live in 2008 (oldies time: Baker was 63 at the time and the song was a hit in 1970).  You can't really hear it on the studio recording, but in the 2008 video, you can REALLY hear his accent.

Here's another one:  The Red Elvises.  Gotta love the Red Elvises.  They're a rock and surf band who I think are Russian folks who now live here.  Or something.  My friend John Andrews raved to me about them, and they're very wonderful.

I don't know why my Amazon Associates gizmo stopped working.  I want everyone to know when I kvell about my Kindle.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas songs: exceptions

I joined into a little anti-Christmas-song bitchfest on FB today with a few friends.  But I remembered a few good ones:  "Father Christmas" by the Kinks;  "Feliz Navidad" by Freddy Fender; and "Run Run Rudolph" by Chuck Berry.

Then one of the guys directed me to three YouTube videos I'd never known about.  I posted that they were going on my blog immediately.

I like the point-of-view of the Jill Sobule song, and the overall great songwriting and singing of Robert Earl Keen (though Sobule is no slouch as a singer, either).

This next one is just plain weird.  I'm guessing the song must be traditional, although I've never heard it before.  I do know that Brave Combo also recorded it, and I wouldn't be surprised if one or more of the guys in this video were from that band.

I think Dylan is supposed to look like Scrooge, but he kind of looks like Tom Petty.

I hope no one thinks ill of me for this (I don't usually admit to this very often), but I don't really like Bob Dylan.  I never got him.  And I've loved and still love some singers with very unbeautiful voices.  But he just never grabbed me the way he grabbed other people, and the way the Beatles and Stones grabbed me.  I don't think I listened to singer-songwriters at all in the 60s, but I started to like quite a few in the 70s, even (and especially) some who were unique and sometimes cock-eyed.  But Dylan was not one of them.  Of course, there are a handful of his well-known songs that I like.  I keep trying and trying...every so often, I listen to an album someone has suggested, but I still don't love him.  I just don't get him, or like him.

Do you still like me?

Monday, December 20, 2010

properly groomed and admired

I've been growing my hair out from a bad-idea short cut during the summer, and went through a period where it stuck out in all directions and I had to wear a headband to keep it out of my eyes and looking somewhere in the neighborhood of neat.  Several days ago, I bought myself a styling brush.  Never had one before.  And blam!  all of a sudden I had nice smooth hair, no headband required.  Better late than never.

Stephen finally noticed and complimented me on one of my necklaces today.  Only took two months.  It was the same dress-to-impress necklace I'd worn to my interview, so I guess it is impressive.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

advertising design, 1900-1950

Maybe more like packaging than advertising, these things that have caught my eye.  Pre-1972 bottlecaps (the ones with the cork on the back).  Matchbook covers from the 50s and 60s.  Space-age dinnerware design and atomic-age glassware.  Soda clocks.  Soda labels.  Roller rink stickers. 

I love vintage stuff in general, but I am fascinated by the look of these things, the excitement and the ornament and the style.  The art.  Art that didn't think it was art.  Commercial items that didn't know they were beautiful.

Some of them I collect or intend to collect.  Others, I just save images (although I am bummed out at not being able to save images from eBay any more). 

First off, something I intend to collect, though I've started in a small way.  This is going to be my dinnerware set.  It was made by a firm called Iroquois, a line called Informal.  The designer was Ben Seibel, who was less well-known than another Iroquois Informal designer, Russel Wright.  His patterns, and the shape of his dishes, remind me of the kind of styles I saw as a small child.  I actually discovered Informal by accident, when I was looking at restaurant china on eBay.  I liked the idea of buying mismatched vintage restaurant china (which is also very cool. design-wise).  And I chose my pattern, which is called Garland.  It's not horribly expensive, but at a certain point, buying collectibles (even ones I would use) proved to be too much of a luxury.  So far, I have four Garland bread plates and the sugar and creamer.  Here's the pattern:
Here's a big pitcher from the set, which is the same shape as the creamer:

As with the MST3K stuff, stop here if you don't like it.

The thing I collected madly for a time was the vintage bottlecaps.  I had a friend who collected them, and one day I actually looked at some of his caps, and I was a goner.  My core collection is pre-1972 American soda caps, but I've also picked up some foreign caps, beer caps, plastic-back caps, and so on.  But the US cork sodas are to me the real beauties, and I have about 2,000 of them.  Again, I haven't been able to buy them in years, but I have a beautiful collection.  I am too lazy to scan them in right now, but I'll post some saved images, and I do own all of these caps:

One of the truly amazing things about bottlecaps, as opposed to many other kinds of collectibles, is that no one knows how many there are.  There were so many little local bottlers that occasionally one or a whole cache will turn up in an old barn or attic.  There does not exist any kind of guide or checklist.  Bottlecaps are infinite.

To be continued...

Friday, December 17, 2010

how I got this way -- post-childhood influences: MST3K

I wrote a very detailed version of this post last night, with much windy text and many clips.  It took me about two hours, and then Blogger ate it when I was trying to post.  This one will be less ambitious -- probably less text and more clips.

I've been running an occasional feature called "how I got this way," featuring the cartoons that I watched endlessly as a very young child.  But I've had plenty of TV obsessions as an adult...I believe I once went on at great length in this blog about Friday Night Lights.  But I've also gone crazy for Ren & Stimpy (the first John K ones), and never stopped watching SNL.

I was an insane fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, often known as MTS3K.  I taped episodes and watched them over and over and over.

The premise of the show, like the show itself, is pretty silly.  Two mad scientists shoot their janitor into space, placing him on a ship called the Satellite of Love.  To ease his boredom and loneliness, he builds himself a few robots (actually puppets).  Unfortunately, without the parts he used to make the robots, he can't fly the ship to return to earth.  To make things worse, the mad scientists force him to watch awful old movies. These are referred to as "experiments," though what the scientists, known as "the mads," are attempting to discover is pretty fuzzy.  (The theme song deals with the overall fuzziness this way:  just repeat to yourself, it's only a show, I should really just relax.)

Joel and "the 'bots" respond to the bad movies like many people do:  they talk back to the screen and make fun of the movie.  So most of the show is a terrible old movie, usually sci-fi, with the silhouettes of Joel and two robots in the lower left-hand corner, riffing on the movie.  There are also "host segments" which sometimes relate to the movie and sometimes not.  Early on, there was an "invention exchange" with the mads on every show, taking advantage of the real Joel's early career as a prop comic.  (The character is named Joel Robinson and the creator/actor is Joel Hodgson, and both are usually referred to as Joel.)

Even when it went from being a local show on KTMA in Minneapolis-St. Paul to a well-liked show on Comedy Central (and later on the Sci-Fi channel), it still had a kind of DIY look and feel to it, and it continued to be produced in the Twin Cities.

First, a very young Joel doing his stand-up/magic/prop comic act.  (I hesitate to even use the term "prop comic," since it conjures images of the awful and terrifying Carrot Top.  But hang in there -- Joel is terrific.)

Here's a little clip reel from three of the earlier "experiments."

I am particularly fond of the host segments where a particularly stupid scene from a movie is parodied by Joel and the 'bots -- especially if it involves a song.  This is from Pod People, not my top favorite episode, but one of them.  But I think it's my favorite host segment.  This clip shows the original song and then the host parody, complete with reaction from the mads.

Pod People actually had *two* really great host segment parodies.  Here's the movie clip, and the parody, of Trumpy, the pod person in Pod People:

Favorite episode, hands-down?  Manos, the Hands of Fate.  Here's a chunk that includes the bizarre Torgo with his creepy theme music.  Unfortunately, the final host segment, involving a faux-Torgo delivering pizza to the mads, has been sliced neatly in half between segment 9 and segment 10.  I'll post 10, the end of the Torgo/pizza bit, which also includes the closing credits.  You can see that pretty much everyone on the show did two or three different things, including occasionally appearing in a skit.

For instance, the guy who plays one of the mads also plays one of the robots and something else, maybe some design thing?  Joel did half of the jobs on the show. The whole cast is on the writing staff.   And Mike Nelson, the head writer who played Torgo in the last skit, took over as host after Joel left the show.  Mike's married to one of the other writers who occasionally does a skit.  And one of the other writers played a new mad scientist after one of the others left.  There's more cool stuff, but I'm sure I want you all to know what an incredible MST3K dork I am.  (The correct word for me and my ilk is "MSTies," pronounced misties."


Strangely enough, I couldn't find a clip of just the opening theme. This is the beginning of Pod People, which for some reason is not embeddable.  The theme is chock-full of exposition and low-rent props.

If you love this, it's available through Netflix, and apparently also in ten-minute segments on YouTube.  YouTube sure does rock, as I'm sure I said before.    (There are also MST3K shorts on YouTube, which are also pretty great.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

how I got this way, pt. 3

Old cartoons are a big topic on Facebook of late.  Someone started a "thing" -- maybe it was to raise awareness of something, I'm not even sure -- where people were changing their profile pictures to their favorite cartoon characters.  The first one I posted was Tobor the Eighth Man, which got a good reaction from my eccentric peers (I include myself in that "eccentric").  Then I changed it to Col. Bleep.

Until the advent of the internet, I only knew two other people who had ever seen Col. Bleep, and one was my brother, who watched it with me.  The other was my dear friend John Jorge, who actually got me a VHS tape (back in those days) with a few episodes on it.  Now I know people who have watched it *and* there are a few episodes on YouTube.

Col. Bleep was the first cartoon made for television, in 1957.  It has that mid-century atomic age design that I love.  When I think about it, it seems to me that it was all orange, blue and black -- which isn't exactly true, though it does have an awful lot of orange, blue and black.  Especially orange.

It's just so bizarre: this atomic, outer-space good guy, Col. Bleep, who travels around with a puppet and a caveman, and fights several villains -- a "space pirate," "Doctor Destructo," an evil robot, et al..(Quite a few of them have "black" as part of their moniker, just in case you somehow couldn't tell they were bad guys.)

Also bizarre was the fact that Col. Bleep was not a very appealing character.  He didn't speak (we'll get to the lack-of-dialogue part in a second), he had this kind of triangle head, his legs terminated in a single wheel instead of feet, and he certainly never smiled.  He just didn't look like a nice or a fun dude.

Hand in hand with the awful limited animation is the fact that the cartoons were pretty much narrated and there wasn't any dialogue to speak of.  There were occasional lines which were very obviously the narrator using a slightly different voice, but mostly, there was some guy saying, "Col. Bleep was patrolling the galaxy with his trusty friends, Squeak the puppet and Scratch the caveman.  What's that?  It looks like that rocket ship is in trouble!  Little did the colonel know that it was a trap set by Black Patch the Pirate! Col. Bleep will think this is a rocketship in distress and when he comes here, I'll spring my trap!    Oh, no!  Col. Bleep doesn't know it's a trap!  Get back, colonel, get back!"  and so on.

The one thing I have not been able to find is an episode  with "Squeak and Scratch blink in wonder!"  They did this bit on a bunch of episodes.  When the narrator says, "Squeak and Scratch blink in wonder," Squeak kind of gets on top of Scratch so they look kind of like a totem pole, and they blink their eyes while opening and closing their hands.  It's synchronized so that the hand is closed when the eyes are closed, and the hands open when the eyes open -- and since it's limited animation, those two pictures just go back and forth in a nice little rhythm.  It would be so much better if you could see it, but I haven't seen it myself in a good 45 years.

First up, there is a compilation of two episodes.  In "Arrival On Earth," which looks to be the first cartoon of the series, we learn that cavemen went extinct!  (Well, with the exception of Scratch, who seems to have slept through extinction.)  "War in Robotland" features Dr. Destructo and a passel of black robots.

Then we come to "Knight of Death," which features several of the bad guys.  Is it me, or does Dr. Destructo look really different?  Also, given all of his Futomic Energy, power to fly through space, and so on, why can't Col. Bleep tell the difference between a real dragon and a fake one?  (Sidebar:  how weird is it to even talk about "the difference between a real dragon and a fake one"?)

Next up is "Lunar Luger."  See Col. Bleep blow a bugle *through* his space helmet!  This episode makes good use of the cool "space noise" that accompanies the colonel.  Also, toward the end, Squeak and Scratch assume the blink-in-wonder totem pole position, but without blinking in wonder.

Now, although they don't say so specifically, I'd have to guess that this cartoon is set in The Future, what with all the space stuff (remember that this was made in 1957, before actual manned spaceflight).  So, I suppose these things will still be au courant in the future:  pirates, knights, dragons, lugers, and (my personal favorite) Morse code.  That just about killed me.  Morse code.

I hope you all still want to be my friends, in spite of this orange weirdness.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas music, Christmas spirit, Christmas burnout

Good Lord, I am sick of Christmas music already!

Now, I don't really mind the peace-on-earth-goodwill-to-all aspect of Christmas and the Christmas season.  It's actually kind of nice.  But the commercialism is hideous, of course, and has somehow managed to start around Halloween instead of right after Thanksgiving.

And the trappings of the commercialism have also become unpleasant.  All of the traditional bits and folk-customs have been co-opted by the commercialism, and so even trees, holly, wreathes, mistletoe, and the myth of Santa have become kind of repulsive to me. 

And yes, I understand that I may feel this way partly because it isn't "my" holiday.  On the other hand, Jews could not possibly make Chanukah, or any other Jewish holidays, as obnoxious to non-believers as Christmas.  Would I find Christmas less disturbing if my co-workers were talking about how much they looked forward to being with their families, or felt moved to commit to charitable causes, or let problems roll of their backs owing to the feelings of peacefulness that come with the season?  Sure.  How do I feel when they talk about how much they're annoyed by family gatherings or dislike this or that family member, or when the lunchtime conversation is largely about shopping?  Guess.

And without even going into detail about the knee-jerk over-decorating so dear to this borough...let's talk about Christmas music.  One of the women in my office plays internet radio all day, generally a station with a decent mix of 70s-00s.  Around the beginning of the month, she asked if Christmas music was OK, and trying to be agreeable, I said of course not -- not quite realizing that this was going to be pretty much an entire month of Christmas music.  She found an all-Christmas-music, all-day station.

Most Christmas songs are more of the heavy mantle of commercialism that has muffled any genuine "Christmas spirit."  Plus there are only so many Christmas songs.  And of course, no one is playing anything like The Messiah or other "serious" religious/classical/spiritual music.  About the closest thing to that kind of class is Pachelbel's (sp?) Canon, which has become as nauseatingly omnipresent as" Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."  And a re-recording of, say, "I'll Be Home for Christmas", is not much of an improvement on the original.  A few really excellent songs, like Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," have simply been overplayed to the 90th degree.

There are a couple of Christmas songs I actually like hearing, maybe because they're newer (relatively speaking), and have only recently made it into the canon of mainstream Christmas music.  One, of course, is Bruce Springsteen's version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," which I think was recorded in the 80s.  That one plays on the Christmas-music station (which I think is Lite-FM, re-purposed for the season).  Another is "Last Christmas," which I think is a Wham song -- never heard it before they sang it on Glee last week, but it's a decent song (although I may be sick of it by the time New Year's rolls around).  The third OK one is "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney, which is a mite corny but at least it's a Beatle.

I'm not a humbugger, really, but the closest I've felt to having any kind of "holiday spirit" were the couple of times I spent Christmas day serving meals to needy people in a church basement.  I'd love to see the shoppers and decorators do something like that.  Or instead of buying gifts, making charitable donations.  That's a Christmas spirit I could get behind.

Monday, December 6, 2010

tuna without teasing

My husband makes fun of me when I make tuna salad.  This is because I like to take the time to really make something nice.  He's out at the Big Ed jam tonight (a blues jam session in Greenwich Village every Monday night), so I was able to make tuna minus the humorous commentary.

This is how he makes tuna salad:  can of tuna on a plate.  Blob of mayo next to it.  Some form of bread. 

This is what I put in my tuna salad tonight:  chopped apple, broken walnuts, hard-boiled egg, raisins, fresh dill, olive oil, black pepper, cumin, garlic powder.  And some mayo (we use light mayo around here).

My mother made tuna salad with chopped green pepper rather than celery.  She really didn't use celery much at all.  It was some years before I learned that celery was the default.  There was also a period when she put oregano in everything (except maybe Cream of Wheat), so for a while there was also oregano in her tuna.  (I have to admit that I put cumin in almost everything I can, and thyme comes second.)

The first unusual (non-celery/green pepper & mayo) tuna salad I ever had was in Mohegan Woodlands one summer, made by the wonderful Lila Hammer.  It had tuna, mayo, canned mandarin orange segments, and pecans.  Not only was it an excellent combination, but it taught me to think outside the box regarding tuna salad.

In the early 80s, I worked on the upper west side, and there was a sandwich joint that made tuna salad with a ton of egg in it.  It was actually a mite gloppy, but it tasted wonderful.  Years later, I would get lunch from one of those salad bars, and would take tuna salad and egg salad and mix them.

The cats, of course, don't care how the hell you make your tuna salad, as long as you put down the mostly empty can for them to lick.

Confession:  I love that old-school tuna and mushroom soup casserole.  My mother used to make it, just tuna, cream of mushroom (Campbells, not diluted), and cooked broad noodles, into a dish and into the oven.  It's super-comfort food to me.  I very rarely make it, but when I do, I eat it with a lot of black pepper.  (I eat a lot of things with a lot of black pepper.)

Mac n' cheese (many opinions on this one).  My mother made it with Velveeta.  Sometimes she put in little chunks of kosher salami (we almost always had those little Hebrew Nationals around), which is amazingly good.  Elbow macaroni.  I like to use a pasta that holds melted cheese a little better, usually rotini.  I have used many, many different kinds of cheese, alone and in combination.  My favorite is probably cheddar and jack, with a little grated parm/romano on top.  Eaten with a great deal of black pepper.

I am also making some soup for tomorrow night, since Barry is having tooth and jaw problems and favors soft foods of late.  I'm cooking butternut squash and some carrots in chicken broth, and will then puree the whole thing and add some tofu.  (Have I mentioned, or mentioned lately, how much I love my immersion blender?)  There's cumin in it, just a little.  And I'll probably add my black pepper at the table.  Next project will be a pureed bean soup.