Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Comedy Central occasionally runs an hour-long show featuring Regan. He's very funny. And in these times, a chance for a good laugh is a good idea.
Conservatives, who typically decline to argue among themselves in public, are arguing among themselves in public over Sarah Palin according to a story by James Rainey in the Los Angeles Times.
Economic instability continues. Although yesterday former Labor Secretary Robert Reich was on MSNBC with the most sensible comments of the day.
And, it's going to snow on Mars.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
The photo above was taken at Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. It is a pleasant place to visit. They try with their wines but, frankly, better wine for the same price can easily be found.
While the world's wine producers have little to fear so far from Wisconsin wine, with respect to fabulous artisan cheese, Wisconsin rules. One example: Hook's Cheese. Hook's Tilston, a blue cheese, is a current favorite but all of their cheese is excellent.
Some Tilston and a glass of good wine on a lazy Sunday sounds about right.
Read, rest and relax today!
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Set in New Jersey, the story begins with defense attorney Andy Carpenter using the law to prevent a dog from being put down. The dog turns out to be the key to reopening another case, one involving a man Andy believes to be wrongly convicted of murder. Andy and his team set about getting Richard Evans a new trial, and finding the evidence to show that Evans didn't kill his fiancee -- or his dog.
Rosenfelt puts a lot of material into 300 pages. Golden Retrievers, mobsters, thugs, reporters, conspiracies, shootings, kidnapping, explosions, government cover-ups, and what must be one of the shortest closing statements ever in a murder trial, are all part of this fast moving story. There are some bumpy elements to the writing. But for simple escapism, Play Dead is a fun book to read with a plot that will keep you guessing.
Friday, September 26, 2008
At the L.A. Times, James Rainey has a review of Governor Palin's performance during her interview with Katie Couric. Mr. Rainey succinctly, and fairly, identifies the the Governor's knowledge gap. Her very real absence of the knowledge required to lead the country in the event that 72-year-old John McCain could not is disturbing.
McCain reportedly will participate in tonight's Presidential debate. It will be interesting to watch. Then we can turn to something more relaxing: Big Ten Football.
Bill Clinton puts himself into roles in which he is to act for the public good. For example, take his oath as a lawyer. A lawyer's advocacy for a client is tempered by one thing: upholding the integrity of the judicial system, which really means putting first what is in the best interest of the community. Another obvious example is Bill Clinton asking the community to put him into positions of public trust as Governor of Arkansas (yeah, yeah, Arkansas, right -- nonetheless!) and, of course, as President of the United States of America.
What happened in Arkansas can stay in Arkansas. As for the White House, from a policy standpoint, am I glad that a Democrat was President from 1993 - 2000? Yes, of course. From a 'politics as theater' standpoint, was I glad that that Democrat was Bill Clinton? Not always.
Representative government is supposed to be about the people, not the politician. You, my literate and well-read friends, know that Mr. Clinton has on occasion put his personal - very personal - interests ahead of the public interest (don't forget the pardon-mess at the end). Politicians, like all of us, mess-up at times. But this wasn't a state legislator or obscure Florida Congressman chasing underage Congressional pages. Mr. Clinton was the President.
Maybe you've forgiven all of that. Maybe you don't think that the attitudes and behaviors of Bill Clinton while in the White House contributed to making the road tougher for Senator Gore in his presidential run. Maybe. But knowing all of that history, all of those facts, let's look at the present.
What irks today, and why I think Bill Clinton is America's most selfish adult, is that he is not helping the Democratic nominee, Senator Obama, win the White House. Instead, Bill Clinton appears to be helping John McCain.
* He invites John McCain to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative conference, and gives McCain a lavish introduction. As Jonathan Martin points out, that invite probably wouldn't have happened if Hillary Clinton were the nominee.
* Clinton is on the Today show defending McCain's suggestion to postpone the Presidential debate.
* Clinton appears on the David Letterman show, discusses the Presidential election, and does not even mention Senator Obama's name. Comedian Chris Rock appeared on the show after Clinton. In case you haven't seen it, here is Rock's response at the Huffington Post.
* While he appears unable to take opportunies to praise the Democratic nominee for President, Clinton has pleanty of praise for Sarah Palin.
What possible explanation is there for the former leader of the Democratic Party to be such a wimp about campaigning for Senator Obama? The only reason I can think of is that he is completely self-centered.
Some day in the future Hillary Clinton may run again to be the Democratic nominee for President. If she does there is only one way for her to get my vote: divorce Bill Clinton.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Here is David Letterman's reaction to John McCain canceling his appearance on Letterman's show.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
For everyone else, the Festival's official web site has information about authors, podcasts, and other resources.
Monday, September 22, 2008
The novel starts with a thirty-four year old writer named David traveling to Florida to visit his grandparents. For a week, David meets with his grandfather, recording stories from World War II.
The grandfather talks particularly about one week in 1942, during the Nazi siege of Leningrad. This is the week when a then 17-year-old Lev Beniov met his wife, his best friend, and killed two Germans.
Lev meets his friend, Kolya, in prison, where they feared that they would be executed. Instead, the colonel in charge gives the pair an assignment: find a dozen eggs in five days for use in the colonel's daughter's wedding cake. This is a Herculean task because Leningrad is suffering through a severe famine.
And this task is the story of the novel. The two young men, in search of eggs, negotiate the dangerous world of a city under siege and a countryside populated by enemy soldiers and guerrilla partisans.
Author David Benioff presents a wonderfully well written book. In particular, Benioff excels in his descriptive language, which is both clear and memorable. The plot is engaging, with many unexpected turns. And within the horrors of war, the main characters are compelling and at times very funny.
City of Thieves is highly recommended reading.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I've had a lot fun reading Mr. Crumley's work over the years. As a tribute to his life and work, I'm going to re-read The Last Good Kiss, which has the famous opening line: "When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."
Note: If you are a fan of famous opening lines to novels, check this NPR page.
Friday, September 19, 2008
From today's New York Times: A performance of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" by the Royal Opera House in London will be available in full, and for free, on the web beginning October 5. The opera company is providing free access to the performance in an effort to publicize its web site, roh.org.uk.
This opportunity is yet another way that the internet is changing the world.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
There are many big problems right now. Our military is still engaged in a war in Iraq. Crisis is striking the nation's financial markets due to unfettered greed combined with the chowderheaded, anti-government, anti-regulation platitudes and attitudes of Congressional Republicans and George Bush and his administration.
If that isn't bad enough, the GOP has also nominated an incompetent person for vice president and an unprincipled person for president, John McCain. John McCain has for decades promoted the environment from which today's financial crisis has emerged. And the federal government that these Republicans have demonized and cannibalized must now step in and fix everything. This situation is . . . aggravating.
Yes, things are a mess. And in the middle of all this, small problems remain. Those leaves outside the house will fall, and the gutters must be cleaned, a job the New York Times calls "one of the dirtiest and most dangerous chores around the home."
To retain my sanity with respect to the big problems, I will continue to do what I can in the next few weeks to elect the candidate of my choice for President, Senator Barack Obama. And as for the little problems, I will consider some of these tips on gutter management from today's New York Times. These are small steps but as the cliche goes (and with leaf-management on my mind): from a tiny acorn grows the mighty oak.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Quick: Who would be a more competent leader of this nation, Sarah Palin or Martha Stewart?
My answer is Martha Stewart. Martha has that little felony conviction issue, of course, but should that disqualify her? (I don't know if there is any statute prohibiting the President or V.P. from having a felony conviction; shoot me an email if you do know). The conviction may make it impractical for her to be VP. Wait a minute. What am I thinking? With the selection of Sarah Palin it's clear that there are no barriers when it comes to becoming a GOP nominee!
The point is that American knows more about Martha Stewart and her decision making process than we know about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. And based upon Ms. Stewart's record, we know that she just would not endorse something, such as war, unless it met her rigorous standards.
We can count on Martha Stewart. For example, are you looking for an excellent lemon meringue pie? Her recipe for Mile High Lemon Pie, found in The Martha Stewart Cook Book and pictured above, is the best. The meringue on my pie burned a bit, which is not Martha's fault.
In sum, we know that Ms. Stewart is competent and capable. Sarah Palin . . . not so much.
Monday, September 15, 2008
During the remainder of the novel, we watch Harry try to get the attention and affection of the 22-year-old Molly by intervening in the life of another waitress, Lucille. In contrast to Harry's wealth, and Molly's youth and education, Lucille is old, poor, and has health problems. Interspersed with this are flashbacks on Harry and Anna's marriage, and scenes of Harry attempting to come to grips with being alone, and with his sister-in-law's anger over Anna's death.
Harry is selfish, aggressive and insecure. There isn't any charm in his character that could take the edge off his boorish and embarrassing activities.
I can't remember what prompted me to pick-up this book. Today, I read a review it was given in the New York Times. I concur with that reviewer.
With respect to water quality, Associated Press updated its report on drugs in drinking water. Last March, AP reported that approximately 41 million Americans are affected by trace amount of pharmaceuticals in drinking water. AP's new story is that the number of affected individuals is now up to 46 million. Hospitals and nursing homes contribute to this problem, according to a report in the Wisconsin State Journal. Generally, there appears to be no legal prohibition to treating the water supply like a trash can.
"David Foster Wallace used his prodigious gifts as a writer — his manic, exuberant prose; his ferocious powers of observation, his ability to fuse avant garde techniques with old-fashioned moral seriousness — to create a series of strobe-lit portraits of a millennial America overdosing on the drugs of entertainment and self-gratification, and to capture, in the words of the musician Robert Plant, the myriad “deep and meaningless” facets of contemporary life."
The only work by Mr. Wallace that I've read is a collection of essays in Consider the Lobster. I enjoyed the book (even with its extensive use of footnotes).
It's a sad end to the life of Mr. Wallace, who was successful in a difficult field.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Dowd continues, "Asked by Charlie Gibson what insight into Russian actions her Alaskan proximity gave her, Sarah blithely replied: “They’re our next-door neighbors. And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.”
Wow. Sometimes I can actually see Mexico from Arizona. Sometimes when I'm in Buffalo, N.Y., I can actually see Canada. I have so much international-viewing experience, and am so ready to lead this nation.
Friday, September 12, 2008
While watching the YouTube clip, above, I was so hoping that that the former beauty pageant participant would tell us that what she really wants 'Charlie, is world peace.'
And, gosh, this is not to put down the Gov's participation in beauty pageants. From what I understand, these pageants are all about the scholarship money. Why bother with attempting to fill out financial aid forms when you could instead just fill out a swimsuit!
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
At this same time in China, and other Asian countries, a major holiday is celebrated: the Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival. On Moon Festival, family and friends get together for a party, to enjoy the fruits of the year's harvest, and to gaze at the full moon.
This year Moon Festival falls on Sunday, September 14. One source states that in U.S. time zones, Moon Festival falls on Saturday, the 13th.
For good luck, Moon Festival celebrations focus on foods that are red. Favorite foods include lobster, salmon, apples, pomelo, sponge cakes (fatt koh), and in particular, moon cakes.
Moon Festival or Harvest Moon: Around the globe people are celebrating the end of summer's labor and the start of football season . . . or something like that. Make plans now to have your own full moon celebration!
Inside this tin are four moon cakes purchased at our local Asian food store. The store has a huge variety of moon cakes and the clerk helped me choose these. Of a different variety she said, "You won't like how these smell."
Accordingly, if you are new to buying moon cakes, don't be afraid to ask for help.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Amis was a prolific author, and also a prolific consumer of alcoholic beverages. Christopher Hitchens writes in the book's introduction, "[T]he world now knows what Kingsley's innumerable friends had come to realize, which is that the booze got to him in the end, and robbed him of his wit and charm as well as his health." This is a hard reminder of the potential consequences of alcohol consumption, one that launches the book with a slightly sober (yes, that had to be said) tone. Soldier on, however, because Amis' clever writing will having you laughing shortly.
Amis sets down the principles for preparation of actual drinks and the tools required to assemble them. Advice is propounded on how not to get drunk, as well as how to cope with a hangover (in both its physical and metaphysical manifestations). He covers topics such as "the interesting and neglected topic of not drinking." And in the book's final section there is an extensive, and informative, quiz.
As a topic for an entire book, the subject of drinks can wear thin. Everyday Drinking, like booze itself, is best enjoyed in modest portions over time. Taken in measured amounts, this book is witty, fun, and offers some good laughs.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Palin, who could be President of the United States in a few weeks, has thus far not been available for press interviews. Presumably, she is busy memorizing sound bites that she will use at some future date. Huffington Post is reporting that ABC News will conduct an interview with her sometime next week.
If you were preparing someone like Palin to be President in a couple of weeks, what would your candidate need to know? Middle East. Status of war in Iraq. Immigration.
How to spell potato.
The McCain/Palin team isn't wowing everyone. The L.A. Times went to Pennsylvania, a key battle ground state, to get a reaction on Palin from women voters there. Not everyone loved the Gov:
When Palin belittled Obama's history as a community organizer on Chicago's South Side -- suggesting he was a do-little activist while she, as the former mayor of tiny Wasilla, Alaska, had "actual responsibilities" -- Sandy Ryan, 59, clicked the remote. "That's enough of that. I switched over to 'House Hunters,' " she said with some disgust over dessert with a group of women from the senior housing complex she manages.
Check out the whole article.
And, let's get fired up and ready to go.
This little dog is waiting for answers. Waiting for change. Waiting.
My concern about eBooks is not the format, but the impact on the price of reading. The format, if properly done, seems ideal. Imagine going on a beach vacation with 10 books to read, all available on one electronic reader. And for the college English major, or law student, the convenience of having all course materials available in one package is appealing - and also a means to prevent back injury from toting a ton of books around campus.
Yet, what about price? One benefit of real books is that they can be obtained for free from the library, or obtained inexpensively elsewhere from library book sales, on-line sources, used-book stores, yard sales, free from your friends and family, and so on. Thanks to the internet, students can search the globe for a good price on a required text. Dalley writes that when testing the Sony Reader, she found that one title she attempted to buy cost more in electronic format than in paper.
Dalley gives the Amazon Kindle a positive review. I'm not ready to jump in yet, but her column has prompted me to consider a future with eBooks. For now, however, I'll still head to the beach with my carry-on crammed with books I've picked-up inexpensively and will leave in the hotel library for other guests to enjoy - for free!
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Friday, September 5, 2008
In Margot Livesey's excellent novel, we see how known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns drive the characters' actions as they work their way through relationships with friends, colleagues, family, and through the search for romantic love.
The house of the title is in contemporary London. It is owned by actress and budding theater impresario Abigail Taylor, who lives there with her boyfriend Sean, a Keats scholar. Abigail's best friend from college, Dara, rents the lower level flat. Dara is a counselor at a women's center.
The events of the book run from the commonplace, such as love gone awry, to difficult subjects such as suicide and pedophilia. What is so engaging is how Livesey paints her characters like an artist paints a watercolor. In watercolor painting, multiple layers are applied over time to create a scene with depth and complexity. In the book, each character's life is similarly developed in layers as events from childhood through adulthood combine together to the book's conclusion. And as in watercolor where the artist can use techniques to keep color elements distinct, Lindsey has her characters at times withhold information from each other, leaving the others to act with imperfect information.
What also makes this book so interesting is its beautiful structure and organization. The novel unfolds in four sections, each from the perspective of a different character. It begins with Sean; then Dara's father, Cameron; Dara is third; and finally we hear from Abigail. This technique allows us to learn a great deal about each character while at the same time keeps the story surprising. It also give the book a compact structure inside of which the narrative easily flows. And, just as the characters must deal with information withheld and revealed, within this compact structure Livesey skillfully withholds and then finally reveals the full story to the reader.
The House on Fortune Street is good read and a very well written book.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
How many books on this list have you read?
From the Washington Post:
"Rick Davis, campaign manager for John McCain's presidential bid, insisted that the presidential race will be decided more over personalities than issues during an interview with Post editors this morning.
"This election is not about issues," said Davis. "This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.""
The only reasonable interpretation of Davis' statement is that since the McCain campaign does not plan to talk about the issues, and they believe that "personality" drives the election, then the McCain campaign plan is to engage solely in negative personal attacks.
This is a critical election for our country. Serious matters must be addressed and resolved: war, national security, poverty, the environment, Social Security, health care, food prices, and on and on. It is the candidate's job to explain their position on these issues. That the McCain campaign plans to spend this election period engaging in name calling, hissy fits, and nasty personal attacks is just plain wrong.
My solution? Between now and the election, plan more activities that don't involve exposure to commercial advertising. Forget t.v. and commercial radio. Read newspapers and books, go to movies and sporting events, hang with your friends. Get information on campaign issues from neutral entities, such as the League of Women Voters. Ask the candidates for detailed information about their stand on the issues. If you know who your candidate is, engage in positive discussions about the reasons why you support that person.
Being a candidate is a responsibility. Bloggers, editorial writers, political pundits and commentators have different roles. Being a candidate for President of the United States of America is a serious undertaking involving a very serious job. Rick Davis and John McCain may intend to treat the American people like fools, but we don't have to put up with it.
From September 5 through 14, Wisconsin is running an Eat Local Challenge. The ten-day challenge calls on participants to spend 10 percent of their food budget on locally produced products.
Here in Wisconsin, it's an easy time of year to get into the swing of eating locally grown food. Area farmers' markets are overflowing with vegetables and fruit, in addition to the weekly staples of eggs, chicken, beef, and cheese. For a recent dinner, we pan-fried locally raised trout, and served it with a side dish of baked heirloom tomatoes. Delicious. Tonight, the menu is roasted chicken with a side of mixed beans (pictured above), all from area farmers.
There are many good reasons to support food producers in your area. One of the most important is that locally raised food is fresh and tastes great. Give it a try.
Vinaigrette for Green Beans
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons first cold press, extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
Combine the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the garlic and let the flavors marinate for ten minutes. Steam the beans.
Remove garlic. Stir again, and then pour over the warm beans. Sprinkle with chives. Voila!
Per usual, close your eyes, and recall how it sounded when the late, great, Julia Child said the following: bon appetit!
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Monday, September 1, 2008
Why? Professional Republicans are not going to put up with all this nonsense from someone who hasn't earned their chops in the GOP world, and who cannot raise money. For those of you in a news vacuum, here is a round-up.
First, check out Steve Benen's report on CBS.com. Highlights:
* The spin for Palin is that she challenged the allegedly corrupt Alaskan United States Senator Ted Stevens. Stevens, of course, is facing seven felony counts for corruption. The truth is that Palin allied herself with him throughout her brief political career.
* Palin claim to fame as a reformer is unfounded as she did not oppose the "bridge to nowhere".
* Palin is not in charge of the Alaska National Guards when national defense matters arise, and thus has -0- national security experience.
Second, there is scandal. Troopergate. No, not Bill Clinton's troopergate or Eliot Spitzer's troopergate. Her own Troopergate! Then there is her minor child who is five months pregnant (is there a statutory rape law in Alaska?), and weird stuff including many of her public policy stands, including her support for aerial shooting of wolves and bears.
I bet when old Senator John McCain wanted to steal the spotlight from Senator Barack Obama, this not what he had in mind. In fact, this is yet another reason to call into question McCain's judgement.
Accordingly, there is an opportunity for those of us who actually know how many homes we own to have fun and run a pool concerning the time and date of Governor Palin's speech declining the nomination. Presumably, the GOP VP is to be nominated on Wednesday night; the GOP's convention web site is a bit vague. But let's stick to that schedule for the sake of the game.
It must be said, however, that the two books listed as Highly Recommended are indeed very highly recommended. A toast to quality!
The Forger, An Extraordinary Story of Survival in Wartime Berlin by Cioma Schönhaus
Alive Together: New and Selected Poems by Lisel Mueller
The Back Nine by Billy Mott
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junto Diaz
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