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Monday, July 31, 2017

Lincoln's General Order No. 252

In his General Order No. 252, issued on July 31, 1863, Abraham Lincoln was addressing the differential treatment that black prisoners of war were given by the Confederate Army.  Lincoln ordered that any indignities visited upon black troops would be replicated on an equal number of Confederate POWs. 
The order read: “For every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed,” Lincoln wrote. “For every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery, a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works, and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of war.”
Black Union soldiers faced harsh consequences when captured as POWs, with Confederate policy initially maintaining that they could be tried as criminal insurrectionists in state courts, and executed as such. The Confederate Congress also proposed to re-enslave black soldiers captured—even those who had lived as free men in the North before the war. 
War, real war, amongst ourselves is very ugly business indeed.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Zucchini Parmesan

This uses up a lot of zucchini and is a nice change from many other zucchini recipes.  And delicious as well!  Could work as a main if you used a meat sauce.
  • 2 to 2¼ pounds zucchini
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (pepperoncini), to taste
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 c. grated mozerella
  • 1 quart Marinara  Sauce
  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment. Trim ends off zucchini and cut in half crosswise, then into lengthwise slices, about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. Season on both sides with salt and pepper and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Arrange zucchini slices on baking sheets in one layer and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Roast for 12 minutes, until lightly browned and easily pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees.
  2. To assemble the dish, oil a 2-quart gratin with olive oil. Spread 1/4 cup tomato sauce over bottom of dish. Arrange a third of the zucchini in an even layer over tomato sauce. Spoon a third of remaining sauce over zucchini and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of both cheeses. Repeat with 2 more layers, ending with cheese on top. Drizzle on remaining tablespoon olive oil. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until bubbling and browned on the top and edges. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Snowden (2016)

This story is made for an Oliver Stone movie, and the director makes the most of it.  Stone will be remembered for his historic portrayals of pinch points in modern American history, and this film is no exception.
This is a complicated and at times almost unbelievable story, although at this point two things have happened.  Much of the activity that Edward Snowden revealed was happening really was well outside of bounds of what most people could tolerate, and the fact that government would facts to their will has gone so much further that on some level it is kind of passe.
Stone offers up a little bit of “the early days of Edward,” but it’s not long before Snowden is, shall we say, seeing how the sausage gets made. For those viewers who have not seen “Citizenfour” or read many of the articles written about Snowden, the mid-section of Stone’s film could prove incredibly shocking, and may force a trend of people putting pieces of tape over their laptop camera. That covert operations run by our government have the capability to turn on your laptop camera without you knowing it is only one of the revelations here. And as Snowden continues to get deeper into the rabbit hole of privacy invasion, Gordon-Levitt’s performance becomes more exceptional.  Stone made the very smart move to hire a committed, underrated actor to play the challenging lead role, and the result is a film that thrives off its central performance.  This is well worth watching and may it change the way we operate on some level.

Edvard Munch in San Francisco

Organized by SFMOMA, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Munch Museum, Oslo, this exhibition includes treasured paintings from the artist’s own collection, six of them never before exhibited in the United States.  I thought it was an astounding collection of his works.  I have seen some Munch in my past.  I saw the Museum of Modern Art exhibit in New York in 1978 twice and I love the Ernest Thiel collection of Munch's work in Stockholm.
There are enough paintings in this exhibit to really get a good idea of the painter himself.  He is deeply affected by both anxiety and death, and that leaps out of his work in every one of the multiple rooms throughout the exhibit.
Here is what the museum says about this exhibition:
A master by the age of 30, Edvard Munch (1863–1944) was among the most celebrated and controversial artists of his generation. But, as he confessed in 1939, his true breakthrough came very late in life. Featuring 44 landmark compositions about art, love, mortality, and the ravages of time, Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed uses the artist’s last significant self-portrait as a starting point to reassess a lifetime of painting. Together, these profoundly human and technically daring artworks reveal Munch as a tireless innovator and an artist as revolutionary in his maturity as he was in his breakthrough years.  This is definitely worth a trip to San Francisco to see.  Really spectacular.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Brandy Sidecar

This is a more traditional cocktail, which can spruce up low end brandy.  It is nicely balanced between sour and sweet, and very pretty.

1 1/2 oz. Brandy
3/4 oz. Orange liqueur (Cointreau or Triple Sec)
3/4 oz. lemon juice

Fill a cocktail shaker 3/4 full with ice cubes. Pour in lemon juice, orange liqueur, and brandy. Cover and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds until the outside of the shaker becomes cold and frosty. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a wedge of lemon.

My favorite story of the origin of the drink is from David Embury in "The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks" (1948).  He said that it was developed in a Parisian bistro during World War I by a friend who rode up to a favorite bar in a motorcycle's sidecar. Which bar this was is left to speculation, but it is popularly thought to be Harry's New York Bar.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Civil Rights Update

There were a number of these "street signs" at the De Young Museum's "Summer of Love" exhibit, and while many of them demonstrate real change, this is one where I think we really have a very long way to go.  On the one hand, it was 100 years after the end of the Civil War before we had legislation that rolled back hard on the "separate but equal" doctrine shamefully adapted by the Supreme Court in Plessy vs. Ferguson case in 1986.  The state of Louisiana enacted a law that required separate railway cars for blacks and whites. In 1892, Homer Adolph Plessy, who was seven-eighths Caucasian, took a seat in a "whites only" car of a Louisiana train. He refused to move to the car reserved for blacks and was arrested.  His grave is in New Orleans, and should be one of many stops in that interesting city.  So progress is slow, very slow, and a big part of it is the refusal of many to shoulder the legacy of slavery, to really own it and to then try to move forward.  The model that Germany has waged in the 20th century for owning their history is something to think long and hard about I think.  Black Lives Matter is something to strive for, to speak for, and to live for.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

I hesitate to label something that came out when I was in college as a "classic movie", but in many ways the label fits (and the truth be told, I went to college quite a long time ago.  I completely identify with the feeling that I thought getting old would take longer). It won best actor (Dustin Hoffman), Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture. 
My memory of the film was consistent with the content, but the passing years have made it refreshingly surprising that a man solo parenting a child would stand out like it did almost 40 years ago.  The story is that Mrs. Kramer is desperately unhappy in her role as mother and wife, and she leaves the family home (or apartment, as this is New York City) and the care of their 6 year old boy is left in Mr. Kramer's very incapable hands.  She goes about getting back into the work force, where she had been prior to her marriage, and where she finds her way back to her usual self. He finds his way into parenthood, and it is all well and good until she wants custody.  There are some things that are completely unrealistic about this, like how Mr. Kramer manages without any hired help, but it is a very well done window into a time of transition in work and family life in America.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ginger and Coriander Martini

Here is another one from Ottolenghi.  The ginger and coriander flavors are magnificent, and the ginger syrup requires only a blender rather than a lot of work to create.  The recipe makes enough syrup to have several batches, luckily.

1¼ oz/40ml ginger syrup (see below)
3½ oz/100 ml vodka
1¾ oz/50 ml lime or lemon juice
1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly toasted
10 cilantro leaves
When ready to serve, place 1¼ oz/ 40 ml of ginger syrup in a cocktail shaker, along with all the remaining ingredients and plenty of cubed ice. Shake hard for about 20 seconds, then double-strain (through a Hawthorne strainer and into a fine-mesh sieve) into two martini glasses. Serve at once.

Ginger Syrup

3-in/8 cm piece of ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (2 oz/65 g)
¾ cup/150 g superfine sugar
To make the ginger syrup, place the ginger and sugar in a blender with ¾ cup/200 ml of water. Blitz for about 45 seconds, until fully combined: you will make about 1¼ cups/300 ml of syrup, which can be kept in the fridge, or frozen, for future use.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Summer of Love Exhibit, De Young Museum

I was lucky enough to be in San Francisco  for reasons other than pleasure recently.  There are a number of exhibits and events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love that I was able to see.  I would definitely recommend the De Young contribution to the festivities.  For one thing, if you have a love of the poster art of the era, there are literally hundreds of examples for the seemingly endless number of incredible bands playing frequently throughout the late 1960's in the Bay Area.  The art is both varied and distinctive. 
The other interesting part of the exhibition is the clothing and most specifically, the needlework that was common was very fun for me to see.  Crochet and embroidery were widely practiced, including by me.  The fiber arts are undergoing a resurgence in popularity, perhaps heralding another period of change in America.  It made me want to go home and embroider some of my garments.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Ben-Hur (2016)

This is a movie made in the epic tradition, but without the The celebrated 1959 version of the saga, once the most-Oscar-winning-picture-of-all-time, clocked in at almost four hours. The silent version was about two hours and twenty minutes, no marathon but still longer than average for its time. This movie, on the other hand, gets the job done in pretty much exactly two hours.  This version of the strange novel concocted by Union Army General Lew Wallace in 1880 entitled "A Tale of the Christ", begins as Judah Ben-Hur (jack Huston) and his onetime brother Messala (Toby Kebbell) are facing off in a chariot race.  As Ethan says it is the Moses and Ramses story retold, with Messala as the adoptee and Judah as the prince.  Messala goes off to fight with the Romans, and comes home as a conqueror while Judah becomes enslaved. The history is completely off base.  Jesus is alive throughout much of the story, but the Romans are fighting under  Caesar (it was Tiberius).  Pontius  Pilate probably was a tyrant (this is the time between client kings where there was a Roman governor, which led to the Jewish revolt), and certainly the Roman obsession with blood sport is accurate.  This is not particularly bothersome, it turns out. In the net plus department, once the action really gets going, it’s quite good. The sea battle during which Judah makes his escape is a really effective bit of action movie making—one of those scenes that compels you to exhale when it’s finally over. It’s frantic and loud, but not particularly over-the-top.  The chariot race of the cover is spectacular.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Rooibos Old Fashioned Cocktail

My spouse has been making excellent cocktails for quite some time, but we bought the cookbook Nopi after having excellent cocktails at the restaurant.  This one is quite complex in flavor, and the Rooibos syrup will leave you with plenty for either a party or ongoing evenings.
 The cocktail:
3 1/2 oz.  Bourbon
1/3 oz. Fernet Branca 
2/3 ozrooibos tea syrup (see right)
4 dashes of chocolate bitters
2 shaved strips of orange peel, avoiding the bitter pith, to serve

Rooibos tea syrup:
1 cup caster sugar
10 rooibos teabags
1 whole star anise
1 small cinnamon stick
4 black peppercorns
3 tbsp runny honey

Shake and serve.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Fabric That Tells a Story

 I clearly have an obsession with fabric.  No use denying that.  The thing that I cannot resist is artisan fabric.  Wax batiks are something that I always have a good supply of, and when I am in a country where they are made or in a fabric shop that has a nice range of options it is rare that I leave without getting just one more.  I love fabrics that have a woven pattern rather than a printed one, like jacquards and ikats.  These two kinds of fabric make up the majority of the fabric that I have on hand at any given time.  These fabrics are more complicated to make and I see that when I look at them.  It is art.

The kind of fabric that I have a lot less of is fabric that tells a story of some sort.The beauty of a child is that you can really start to work on having a good stash of storytelling prints.  This is a small quilt that I am working on that has wonderful stories in carious sections of the fabric. Something to make a back of a quilt out of, or a garment, or use for a large piece of a quilt. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Making a Receiving Blanket

You will need:
1 yard flannel (top)
1 1/4 yard flannel (for the back and the border)
matching thread
Wash and dry the flannel to pre-shrink it before cutting.
Cut 2 squares of flannel. The larger square will be the back of the blanket and the mitered border. Cut it to measure 40″ x 40″. The smaller square (the top) should measure 30″ x 30″.  This will leave a 4 1/2″ border on all sides.

Find the center of each side and mark it on all four sides on both top and bottom pieces. (I just fold it in half and mark the center with a pin.)  With right sides together, place the small square on top of the large square, (match up centered markings) and pin. (Remember that the smaller square will not reach to the other side (it will seem like it is 10″ too short!) This is how it should be!
Go ahead and pin it to both sides anyway.

When you begin to stitch the seams, start 1/4″ in from the edge. (Use 1/4″ inch seam allowances for the entire project.)

End the stitching 1/4″ from the end also.

You will have 1/4″ inch that is not attached on both ends. These are the “flaps.”

Now stitch the opposite side the same way (make sure they are centered before pinning.) Be sure to leave about an 8 – 10″ opening on one of the sides. This is so that you can turn it right side out later.

Repeat on the opposite side.
This is how it should look after it is all stitched. All four sides are now complete and the stitching at the corners should meet. See photo below:

Receiving Blanket step 10 - themamasgirls
Fold it as shown and use your hands to smooth it out like this.

Mark a 45° angle.
Receiving Blanket step 11 - themamasgirls
Stitch along this line and stop at the arrow (where the other stitching ended.)

and trim it to 1/4″.

Using the opening that you left un-stitched, turn the blanket right-side-out. Make sure all of the corners are nice and pointed.
Receiving Blanket step 12 - themamasgirls
Pin it all the way around the blanket as shown.

Now topstitch with a  zig-zag where the top fabric and the border meet using matching thread. (The zig-zag stitching will also close the opening that you left open to turn it right side out.)

Press with a hot iron to remove any wrinkles. It’s done!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Barbecued Alaska Salmon

This is the most consistently good grilled salmon recipe that we have.  It comes from an age old Susan Hermann Loomis cookbook, and while we venture away from it, we always return to it.  Read the recipe all the way through and make the 3 parts at the same time as there is big overlap in the ingredients.

1 salmon fillet
1/4 tsp. salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 c. minced onion

1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs. white wine
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. sake
1 tsp. minced ginger
2 minced cloves of garlic

4 Tbs. melted butter
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. white wine
1 clove garlic minced
1/4 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1/3 c. minced onion

Rub salt and garlic into the salmon and sprinkle with minced onion.
Mix marinade ingredients together and pour over salmon.  Refrigerate for up 1-3 hours.
Make the sauce, first melting the butter, then adding the brown sugar, then add remaining ingredients, and salt to taste.
Put the salmon on the grill on a sheet of aluminum foil.  Pour the marinade over it.  Cook for 5 minutes.
Uncover  grill and pour 1/4 c. of sauce over salmon.  Repeat until salmon is done.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Let's Talk About Women

This is it.  Exactly.  An advertisement has a far better sense of what is appropriate to say to a woman and what is not than the sorry excuse that we have for leadership in our country.  This specifically refers to what our president said to French leader Emmanuel Macron's wife.  It is hideous on the surface, but I suspect it is worse than that.  Macron is married to a woman twenty four years his senior whereas our president is married to a woman twenty four years his junior.  How can this be, our president ponders?  It is a mystery.  Then the reason becomes clear to him.  She is an excellent specimen, judged solely on physical grounds.  Of course, many people make choices in this exact manner, but know better than to share those thoughts with others.  And not publicly.  It amounts to workplace harassment, and Reebok just wants to help out those who don't get that.  It is really a public service announcement.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

This is a very unusual movie, which was part of my mission to watch all of the movies that were nominated for an Academy Award.  That aspect was accomplished, and Michael Shannon, who plays the sheriff in the fictionalized part of the film, is exceptional.  He is my second choice in that category, maybe my third, but it was a very strong running this past year.
The story is essentially about triangles, but is one of the tensest movies I have seen in a long time.  One triangle is between Susan (played by Amy Adams), a high end art dealer, her current husband, and her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield.  Another triangle is the main character in the book, the sheriff, and the reader.  Bad things happen, and the movie has a number of threads that are all slowly pulled together in the end.  We know that Edward is badly hurt by his broken marriage to Susan.  We know that Susan has made some terrible choices.  We know that parents screw up their kids.  But this movie makes it all glaringly real.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Carrots with Truffle Oil Vinagrette

I just bought the Nopi cookbook when I was at the restaurant in May, and this is the first thing that I made out of it.

2 1/4 lb.  carrots, spears
tarragon leaves
parsley, roughly chopped
2 tsp nigella seeds

Truffle vinaigrette:
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp truffle oil
coarse sea salt

Boil water, and blanch the carrots for 2 minutes.  strain and run cold water over them, then dry them out.  Toss with dressing, nigella seeds and herbs to taste.
Add grated Parmesan if you would like.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Walking in the Cotswolds

 My husband and I took literally hundreds of photos during our walking vacation in the Cotswolds that all looked pretty much exactly the same.  Similar rolling hills that are thirty shades of green (thankfully we were never out and out rained on, because you don't get these colors without a lot of water involved).  Gorgeous flowers, lots of sheep, a sprinkling of cows, and medieval villages made out of the same  beautiful stone.  Some had thatched roofing, some had slate.  That was the only discernible difference.  And yet we continued to take pictures because it was so soothing and lovely to be there.
So what was so attractive you might ask?  We come from farm country, after all.  We do not have to traverse an ocean to see ewes corralling their errant offspring, we can do that right here at home.  I loved walking on public trails through people's property day after day, seeing hardly anyone when we were not in a town.  You could easily forget that hardly an inch of land is truly wild on this island, that it is all accessible and the 50,000 miles of public trails are walked each and every year by other souls.  It is a way to see and be in a place that is very peaceful and low key.  Not to mention that the food was fantastic!

Friday, July 14, 2017

No Escape (2015)

There are not a lot of action adventure movies featuring Owen Wilson, so when we saw that he was in this Netflix movie our automatic thought was "comedy".  That was our first mistake.  He plays a guy who has taken a job in an unnamed Southeast Asian country that borders Vietnam.  He brings his family with him and before they even land there is a coup and the country is a mass of heavily armed rioting anarchy.  the rest of the movie is a more or less standard chase movie, except that he is trying to get his kids out alive as well, which adds a layer of difficulty that makes this different, in some ways more annoying and in some ways more heartwarming, depending on what is happening.  Pierce Brosnan plays a role entirely familiar to him as the hard drinking carousing MI-6 agent who helps them navigate an escape route, Lake Bell is no shrinking violet as the wife, and Owen Wilson manages to be likable (as usual) amidst the chaos.  This movie was critically panned, but I definitely enjoyed it as a diversionary way to pass an evening at home.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sous Vide Salmon

Wild caught Alaskan salmon is reaching a peak right now.  We bought some at Costco this past weekend for $11.00/pound.  It doesn't get better than that.  Here is a great way to prepare it that retains the moisture.

2 6-ounce salmon fillets, skinned, and pin bones removed
¼ cup kosher salt
1 quart ice water
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the brine, whisk the kosher salt into the ice water until dissolved. Add the salmon and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to one hour).

Brining is an important step in preparing salmon sous vide. The brine keeps the albumen (white bubbly stuff) from leaching out of the salmon, as well as seasons the fish throughout and provides another defense against overcooking.
Set the Sous Vide  Cooker to 125°F (52°C) for medium-rare, or 135°F (57°C) for medium.
Remove the salmon fillets from the brine and rinse with cold water. Pat dry and place each fillet in a separate vacuum bag or zipper seal bag with two tablespoons of olive oil each, herbs, ground pepper, and slices of lemons.

Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible.
Place the bags in the water and cook for 20 minutes. (If needed, you can leave for an additional 20-30 minutes in the water without any negative effects.)
Remove the bag from the water and carefully remove the salmon. Pat the salmon dry with paper towels and set aside.
In a hot non-stick saute pan, warm one tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the salmon and sear until the skin is crispy and golden brown, about one minute

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Take Pride

I missed the Dykes on Bikes.  I skirted around the parade on Sunday.  But there was no way to be in San Francisco over Pride weekend and overlook that it was going on.  Rainbow colors were everywhere.  At my bed and breakfast in the Mission  we weren't the only straight couple but we were all like minded people.  I am sad that a Pride parade actually seems important, that we cannot just assume in this day and age that civil tights could be taken for granted, but as of November it is very clear that that is not the case, so it was heartwarming to see that there are places where businesses up and down the street wave the pride flag, just as they would the national flag.  That is where I want to be a citizen of.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Shetland (2013-)

Wow, this series is really good.  In the BBC crime drama sense of the word, that is.  It has all the elements of a great series.  The writing is very tight, and the seasons have evolved into one story arch, so that more complicated plots can be presented.  The acting is top notch.  The three characters presented in the poster on the left and many who are not pictured are compelling.  Dennis Henshall is Jimmy Peres, the lead detective in the Shetland Islands.  He is dogged at solving cases, and overall a kind man.  He has recently lost his wife, he is raising a somewhat sassy daughter, he has excellent coworkers, and he has good social support.  The one shocking thing is that there are so many murders in such a small community.  Then again, without the murders you really don't have a murder mystery.  It is a really good series, and can't wait for the next season.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za'atar, and Lemon

This is a Middle Eastern take on chicken.

  • 1 large chicken, cut up
  • 2 red onions, thinly sliced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed 
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling 
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground allspice 
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced 
  • scant 1 cup chicken stock or water 
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, plus extra 
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
  • 2 tbsp za'atar
  • 4 tsp unsalted butter 
  • 6 tbsp  nuts 
  • 4 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. In a large bowl, mix the chicken with the onions, garlic, olive oil, spices, lemon, stock, salt, and pepper. Leave in the fridge to marinate for a few hours or overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Transfer the chicken and its marinade to a baking sheet large enough to accommodate all the chicken pieces lying flat and spaced well apart. They should be skin side up. Sprinkle the za'atar over the chicken and onions and put the pan in the oven. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is colored and just cooked through.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small frying pan, add the pine nuts and a pinch of salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they turn golden. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the fat.

4. Transfer the hot chicken and onions to a serving plate and finish with the chopped parsley, pine nuts, and a drizzle of olive oil. You can sprinkle on more za'atar and sumac, if you like.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

American Hardcore (2006)

This look back at the late punk rock scene (meaning that it focuses on the 1980's rather than going back to the 1970's) across America is fascinating and horrifying at the same time.  The film was made 20 years after the events portrayed, so it was almost exclusively men, mostly white men, reflecting back on the music that they performed and enjoyed in their late teens and early 20's.  The event it focused on was the election of Ronald Reagan precipitating or accelerating the punk rock movement.  Young white men were angry and they expressed that anger on stage and in the audience of punk rock shows.  All but one of the bands portrayed were non-musicians playing three discordant notes in apparently random order and shouting out angry lyrics.  One interviewee talked openly about raping (his word) unconscious women and thinking nothing of it.  The violence in general was endemic in the movement.  It escalated as years went on and was probably the death of the music. The documentary is fascinating in that there is no judgement, or even much commentary.  The filmmakers allow their subjects to portray hardcore punk and for the audience to draw its own conclusions.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Sherlock on the Spectrum

Sherlock Holmes, as played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is definitely on the spectrum, and the familial aspect of this is well demonstrated by his brother Mycroft.  They depict their childhood as relatively loveless, with rampant competition between them, but the mother has certain aspects of Asperger's Syndrome as well (or maybe it is simply that the parents are self-centered).  I like this for a number of reasons.  One is that it puts the viewer in the shoes of someone whose brain works this way.  Sherlock cannot turn off the barrage of observations that he automatically makes every second of every day.  The other is that while Sherlock is very smart, he is also very troubled and impaired by the way his brain works.  You do not envy him but you are a bit more sympathetic to his plight.  So that is a good thing. Unfortunately,  I did not enjoy Season 4 at all, aside from this aspect.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Gordon's Cup Cocktail

Since getting back from England I have had a renewed appreciation for gin and gin based cocktails.  This is a very good one, with lots of lemon or lime juice and some muddled cucumber.  A great summer drink.

3 slices cucumber, divided (reserve 1 for garnish)
1/2 oz simple syrup
2 oz Hendrick’s gin
.75 oz fresh lime or lemon juice
Cucumber slice, to garnish
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Muddle together two cucumber slices and syrup in cocktail shaker tin. Add gin, lime juice, and ice, and shake well for 10 seconds. Fine-strain cocktail into a glass filled with ice cubes. Garnish with cucumber slice, a pinch of salt, and a twist of pepper

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Night with Janis Joplin

Yes indeed, it is the 50th anniversary of the summer of love, and guess what?  San Francisco is celebrating.  We were there for other reasons, but we decided to partake in some of the merriment.  After all, I spent about 25 years following the Grateful Dead around, literally criss crossing the country to do so.  It was not Haight Ashbury in 1968, but it was pretty great. So spending a couple of hours listening to the music of Janis Joplin and the blues singers who influenced her was very fun.  The lead singer could belt it out, the band was very competent, and while they didn't completely sugar coat her downward spiral, they did not focus on it like the movie The Rose did.  It was mostly about bringing the blues to rock and roll and keeping them there, even after Janis was gone.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Nopi, London

 This was our favorite restaurant of our recent trip to England. Which was filled with great restaurants, so that is saying something.  The best part of the experience is that for the most part, you can envision making most of it in your own kitchen.  Pictured at right is a dish that is warm early vegetables that are tossed in a light dressing, something so simple yet so astoundingly delicious.  The vegetables themselves are flavorful and fresh, so you have to have a good source of food in order to pull this off, but after all, I do live in an agriculturally bountiful area.  Then comes making the lemony dressing that balances richness and brightness in equal quantities.  I literally ordered the Nopi cookbook while I was midmeal, hoping that I could recreate some of it on my side of the Atlantic.
I loved this display of food, and before we even saw this, we had eaten two of the four dishes.  That was by chance, but if I had known, I would have tried to pick at least one, because the waiter brings it directly to your table within a minute or two of ordering it.  An appetizer that you really do not have to wait for, and which has been made in large quantity (I love that, because the flavors have meshed).  The other thing that I enjoyed was the plant based emphasis that the whole menu had.  you can definitely get meat here, but if you want to avoid it or minimize it, no problem, about half the menu, maybe more, is open to you.  I would seek this restaurant out, and I would go more than once if I was in London for more than a couple of days.  That good!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Monday, July 3, 2017

Feed Sacks: The Colorful History of a Frugal Fabric by Linzee Kull McCray

I have been a fabric person all my life.  In fact, when I was in a fabric store buying this book, I was unable to keep my attention on the task at hand, which was to buy this book.  The fabric was so distracting.  That said, I really knew very little about the history of printed fabric used to package goods before reading this wonderful book, which is a compendium of feed sacks as a reflection the culture of rural America in the first half of the 20th century.  The circumstances that farmers lived along with the sheer volume of goods that they brought onto large farms was something I knew little about, and I was surprised that a book on fabric would teach me all of that, but it did.  The book has dozens of clippings from newspapers, industry magazines (one hilariously entitled Bagology), advertisements, and clothing patterns (yes, there were patterns with layouts that echoed feed sack sizes), which are fascinating windows into another time.
The fabric associated with feed sacks were unbelievably varied.  The fact that it took about four 100 lb. feed sacks to make a dress, and there were hundreds of patterns makes getting 4 the same kind of a feat.  The book is full of photos throughout, and the last section has hundreds of pictures of different fabrics.  So this is a coffee table book for those amongst us who cannot resist fabric.  Do not miss this!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Take (2016)

This is a chase movie.  Nothing more, nothing less.  The setting is France, the  main characters are American, and the movie is British, so it has some schizophrenia to begin with.  If you are looking for an American chase movie, this is not it.  The story telling isn't what you come for, and the British sensibilities about spying and corruption are decidedly different from the American take on it, so if that is what you come for, you will likely be disappointed.  I, on the other hand, like these all about the same.  It is a quick diversionary movie that did not irritate me in any way (okay, a little too much violence, but that is endemic in this genre).  I would definitely watch it on a plane, for example, but not on a date night.  I like Idris Elba quite a lot, so that goes a long way for me as well.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Trajectory by Richard Russo

I am not a huge fan of the short story, but this collection is really more the length of a novella.  The stories are all centered on University professors, college campuses, and those who write, which is a nice theme.  The crises that occur that form the center of each story are varied, and the solutions fit them nicely too.  I especially liked the story about a professor who has had trouble coping with a learning differences student and is on an Italian vacation with his brother to try to escape the trauma and shame.  He has a complicated relationship with his sibling, who has really done him wrong on a number of levels, but has somehow come out on the short end of the stick of life despite that (or maybe because of it).  In any case, there are some wise observations on life to be found here, and the short format allows for reading in a distracted environment as well.