Friday, February 27, 2009

I'd Rather Write It Down

Tiger Woods has been eliminated from the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, which is being held this week in Marana, Arizona. As a result, watching the tournament on t.v. this weekend has fallen off of my 'must do' list.

Tiger Wood and caddy Steve Williams last Tuesday at the Accenture Championship.

So this Friday morning I'm revising my to-do list. This is no burden as I love making lists. Every project starts with a pad and pen. Electronics are no substitute for writing a list of items on paper. I enjoy seeing the yellow legal pad marked-up with blue ink from the felt-tip pen.

Also, paper leaves a trail. I love finding old lists jammed in calendars and desk drawers: the list from a painting project (Navajo White and Clear Moon); the menu list from Christmas dinner; the list of folks to invite to a party; the list of items to pack for our beach vacation.

The trick, of course, is to consult the list once it is made. Without consultation, you end up with conversations like this:

Did you buy beer?

No! Dang! I forgot.

But wasn't it on the grocery list?

Yes, but I didn't look at the list while I was at the store.

These are the kind of conversations that have the effect of making you feel daffy. And unless you are Gracie Allen, daffiness is to be avoided and consulting the list is key.

So here are a few items on my weekend list thus far:

  1. Make beef shanks for Sunday dinner.
  2. Attend watercolor exhibit at local gallery.
  3. Call Carrie about walking Saturday morning.
  4. Library.
This looks good so far: The list has activities with friends, good food planned, and the opportunity to find a good book to read.

Oh -- and I gotta remember to buy some beer!

T.G.I.F.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Food and Drink: Pairing Wine with Asian Food

Today in the New York Times, Eric Asimov writes about wines (in addition to good beers) that pair well with Asian food.

This same topic was covered last fall on public radio's The Splendid Table. The program host, Lynn Rosetto Kasper, interviewed Edwin Soon, author of Wine With Asian Food: New Frontiers of Taste and Pairing Wine with Asian Food. You can listen to the podcast by clicking this link and scrolling down the page to the section on featuring Mr. Soon.

One general guideline from these sources? When choosing a wine to accompany Asian food, select a low alcohol, white wine with no oak flavors. Thus: Chardonnay? No. Riesling? Yes.








Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Highly Recommended: "Olive Kitteridge" by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge is a jewel of a book. In each of this novel's 13 chapters, author Elizabeth Strout tells a story about people living in a small town in Maine. Appearing in each chapter, sometimes as the central figure and other times in just a cameo role, is Olive Kitteridge. Olive is a school teacher, although in much of the book she is retired. But having held that job makes her a character that knows many people in her small hometown, and makes her known to many.

What a lot of these people know about Olive is that she is at times unpleasant. How, they wonder, can her husband Henry stand being married to her? Strout's outstanding writing and brilliant organization of this book shows how their marriage is woven together and why she is someone Henry could love and that we grow to like.

Other characters also grapple with the twists and turns of marriage or of having not married. Grim matters that arise in a life - loneliness, insecurity, unpleasant surprises, death - all make an appearance but the book is not over worked or overly sentimental. Instead, events are vivid. Strout creates people who look ordinary, who even seem flat on the exterior, and then reveals an amazingly clear picture of their interior life as they try and cope with new information and circumstances. These portraits really shine, which is what makes Olive Kitteridge a jewel.





For more information about Olive Kitteridge, check out Melissa Bank's positive review of the book on NPR's You Must Read This.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday Morning Time Waster

Check out the good and bad in fashion from last night's Oscars at TMZ.

My thoughts? Don't try to match your dress color with your hair color. See i.e. Melissa Leo.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Best Seller Round-Up

"Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise." - Alice Walker

A new title appears here this week, Fool by Christopher Moore. Here is a link to a review of Fool by Michael Dirda for the Washington Post.




I. The New York Times.
Published February 20, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: The Associate, John Grisham.
Nonfiction Paperback: Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama.
Nonfiction Hardcover: The Yankee Years, Joe Torre and Tom Verducci.

II. Los Angeles Times.
Published February 22, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: New Moon, Stephenie Meyer.
Fiction Hardcover: The Associate, John Grisham.
Nonfiction Paperback: Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama.
Nonfiction Hardcover: The Yankee Years, Joe Torre and Tom Verducci.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers.
For the week ending February 15, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Reader, Bernhard Schlink.
Fiction Hardcover: Fool, Christopher Moore.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List.
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association
For the week ending February 8, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: The Associate, John Grisham.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Dewy, The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, Vicki Myron.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.

Friday, February 20, 2009

That Gal Greta Van Susteren

It's Friday afternoon and time for a catty moment: Did you see Greta Van Susteren try to bash President Obama while she interviewed former-President Bill Clinton (this post will not examine the wisdom of, or motivation for, Mr. Clinton's appearance on a Fox News program)? Think Progress has the whole story.

Van Susteren inaccurately complained that President Obama was visiting only states he won in the general election. “He’s hit…Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Colorado,” she said. "It looks like a reward." She didn't mention Arizona, Senator McCain's home state - which McCain won - and Mr. Clinton corrected her on that.

Think Progress looked at the election numbers for the specific areas the President recently visited:

Elkhart County, IN: Obama lost 44 to 56 percent
Lee County, FL: Obama lost 45 to 55 percent
Fairfax County, VA: Obama won 60 to 39 percent
Denver County, CO: Obama won 75 to 23 percent
Maricopa County, AZ: Obama lost 44 to 55 percent

I don't see any big "reward" here, Ms. Greta.

Anyway, her complaint is beyond silly; Greta, please - if you are going to be a political assassin ya gotta be sharp, not silly. Voters in states that went for President Obama were signaling that they wanted new policies. The President is reporting back that he is implementing the change that was requested. It's called communication. That's how the system works for elected officials who aren't George Bush.

Greta is from Appleton, Wisconsin, a politically conservative part of my state. As a result, she's probably comfortable being on Fox News. Appleton was also the home of United States Senator Joseph McCarthy who was famous in the 1950s for accusing people, including his colleagues, of being Communists. McCarthy was not able to back-up all those charges. Perhaps Greta should keep in mind, too, the need for real, solid, truthful speech in the media.

And enough with the cosmetic surgery! Greta, you are 54: Seek to have some grace and elegance to match your age.

Meow, meow, meow.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Skull and Bones Society Sued Over Skeletal Remains

A few weeks ago, I recommended Head Games by Craig McDonald as a good read. In Head Games, crime writer Hector Lassiter gets custody of the head of Pancho Villa. In the novel, a lot of folks try and take the this head away from Lassiter, including Senator Prescott Bush who wants it for the Skull & Bones Society of Yale University.

Yesterday the Associated Press reported that descendants of Geronimo have sued Skull and Bones over stolen bones. The suit alleges that members of the Society stole the Apache leader's remains in 1918 from a burial plot in Oklahoma, and still retains the remains in the Society's clubhouse. If these allegations are true, then this is abhorrent on so many levels.

Life and art collide again.




Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Legal Cartoon

No, I'm not talking about your opposing counsel. Here's a mid-day laugh from Courtoons. (Thanks to Above the Law).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Highly Recommended Reading: "Beat the Reaper" by Josh Bazell

What is Beat the Reaper like? Take a look at its cover art. The folks who put that together for Josh Bazell's novel perfectly captured this book's tart and frenzied essence.




Author Josh Bazell, according to this wild book jacket, holds an MD and is currently working as a resident at the University of California, San Francisco. In Beat the Reaper, Bazell draws on his medical knowledge to create protagonist Dr. Peter Brown, an intern at a chaotic hospital in Manhattan.

Dr. Brown, it turns out, packed-in quite a bit of living before turning to a career in medicine. Brown was Pietro "Bearclaw" Brnwa, a hit man for the Mafia. The book is about how Brown/Brnwa got drawn into life as a hit man, and what happens when his life in the Mafia and at the hospital intersect.

Bazell wonderfully twists the mob and medical genres together. Beat the Reaper is an original, fast-paced, and funny book that frequently offers story elements which are gross, crude, or juvenile. At the same time, it offers material that is oddly informative, and smart observations about people and institutions. Somehow, this all works.

Beat the Reaper is to reading what biting into a fresh, tart apple is to eating: it's not going to make up your entire diet, but it's good even while being a bit of a shock -- and you'd like some more, please.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Early Morning in a Fishing Village

While you settle into your Monday morning routine, some people have already finished their work day. The photos of the fish market below were taken early in the morning in a Mexican community on the Pacific Ocean. For some of these folks, bringing in the catch marks the end of the day; for others, buying fresh fish is just the start.
When the Fish Come In



Sunday, February 15, 2009

Attention Poets (You Know Who You Are!)

April is National Poetry Month and to mark the occasion Alimentum Journal: The Literature of Food is again publishing menupoems. For this project Alimentum is seeking your poems, about a dozen of which will be selected. Selected poems are distributed to participating restaurants so that diners may enjoy reading poetry while reading the menu.

Here are the guidelines:

Short menu- dining-food- related poems.
12-line length limit.
3-poem submission limit.
Deadline-March 4th, 2009. (March Forth!)
Email submission to menupoems@alimentumjournal.com

IMPORTANT- Poems must be pasted into the body of the email, no attachments.

Menupoem examples can be found here.

Thus far I have one menupoem completed for submission. It's a fun subject; give it a try! At a minimum, my memupoems will be published here in April despite vague concerns about feeling like an April Fool. My friend artist Michael Taylor once said to me, 'it's not art until you allow other people to see it.' Michael and artist Virginia Hall have an exhibit opening March 8, 2009, called sensei chic and the seven deadly sins.

Best Seller Round-Up

"The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has." - Will Rogers.

In the top spot this week for hardcover fiction on all four lists tracked here is John Grisham's The Associate. Yet this morning on Amazon, The Associate, with 108 reader reviews, has an average rating by readers of 2.5 stars out of a possible 5. Now that's mysterious.

Frankly, I have zero interest in reading The Associate, in which, according to the description of the book at its Amazon link, lawyer Kyle McAvoy "becomes an associate at the largest law firm in the world [oh my!], where, in addition to practicing law, he is expected to lie, steal, and take part in a scheme that could send him to prison, if not get him killed". Who needs legal fiction when you can be mesmerized and horrified by reading the real story of two Pennsylvania judges who pled guilty last Thursday to accepting $2.6 million in kickbacks for sending juveniles to private detention facilities?

If you are looking for an action-packed mystery to read, try David Rollins' The Death Trust. This book is a fast-moving thriller in which Major Vin Cooper of Air Force Special Investigations looks into the death of a four-star general who was also the son-in-law of the United States' vice president. Although the end of the book is a bit weak, throughout the bulk of it Vin works in a world of danger, corruption, and murder that will keep you rapidly turning pages.





I. The New York Times.
Published February 15, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: The Associate, John Grisham.
Nonfiction Paperback: Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama.
Nonfiction Hardcover: The Yankee Years, Joe Torre and Tom Verducci.

II. Los Angeles Times
Published February 15, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates.
Fiction Hardcover: The Associate, John Grisham.
Nonfiction Paperback: Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers
For the week ending February 8, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The White Tiger: A Novel (Man Booker Prize) Aravind Adiga.
Fiction Hardcover: The Associate, John Grisham.
Nonfiction Paperback: Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association
For the week ending February 8, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: The Associate, John Grisham.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Dewy, The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, Vicki Myron.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

El Senor Blagojevich

Conversation at dinner, weeks ago:

Me: If Blago is impeached, he'll lose his salary and is basically unemployable. He must put on a defense to a criminal indictment. How will he earn the money to pay the legal fees?

Bill: He'll have to get a book deal.


Now it looks like he may be attempting to do just that. (Via Jacket Copy).


Thursday, February 12, 2009

T.C. Boyle's "The Women"

Via The New York Times: At the Barnes & Noble Review, illustrator Ward Sutton has a review in cartoon of T. C. Boyle’s new novel, The Women. Click here to get to the B&N site; then click "Start Slideshow" and the individual panels will pop-up for you to read.

The New York Times reviewed this book, a novel based upon the life of Frank Lloyd Wright, on January 26. A clue to reviewer Michiko Kakutani's opinion on it comes in the first sentence where he calls The Women, "T.C. Boyle's dreary new novel . . ."



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Food and Drink: Saint Valentine's Day


February 14th approaches: St. Valentine's Day. This is a critically important holiday in which the we pause to express love for all things chocolate; or rather, we pause to show the one we love the depth of our feelings by giving gifts of fabulous chocolate. In preparation for the day, I made these chocolate truffles. Truffles are a simple candy to prepare. The most important piece of advice is to use the best quality chocolate you can find. In this batch I used an incredibly delicious Valrhona chocolate.

Here is the recipe adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, and a Dorie Greenspan recipe that appeared in Parade Magazine.

Chocolate Truffles

1/3 cup heavy cream
6 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 Tbls. soft butter, cut into small dice
1 Tbls. brandy
Unsweetened cocoa powder.

Day 1: Chop the chocolate into small pieces to speed melting, then put it into a bowl with the butter. Pop the mixture into the microwave and zap until the chocolate and butter are just melted. Remove and blend together. Heat the cream until it is almost to a boil, and combine that with the chocolate and butter mixture. Stir in the brandy. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is firm, at least a few hours or overnight.

Day 2: Pour the unsweetened cocoa powder into a small bowl. With a spoon, scoop up enough chocolate to roll into a one-inch ball between your palms. If the chocolate is too firm to work with, let it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. When a few round chocolate truffles have been made, roll them in the cocoa until completely covered, shaking off the excess. Repeat until all the chocolate is used. Refrigerate the finished product.






Does the prospect of making candy fill you with dread? Most larger communities have at least one good candy store to check out, such as Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier on Atwood Avenue in Madison, Wisconsin. When buying chocolates the same rule applies as when making candy: buy the best you can afford. This is St. Valentine's Day, when quality is more important than quantity.

"Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and richness to life that nothing else can bring." - Oscar Wilde.




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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mysteries by Bernhard Schlink, Author of "The Reader" and More.

There is a lot of buzz right now about German author Bernhard Schlink. The 64-year-old Schlink, who is also a lawyer and law professor, wrote The Reader, which was subsequently turned into a movie starring Kate Winslet. Winslet is racking up praise for her performance in the movie, winning a Golden Globe and receiving an Oscar nomination.

Two mysteries by Mr. Schlink that I've read and recommend are Self's Punishment (Book 1) and Self's Deception (Book 2). These books feature Gerhard Self, a private detective. Self was a Nazi prosecutor during World War II, a grievous course of conduct that the older Self continues to struggle with. In these stories, Self is now in his late 60s, a widower who cohabits an apartment with a cat. Self drinks, smokes, flirts, fends off loneliness and solves interesting mysteries.

In Self's Punishment, the mystery begins with Self being hired to figure out who is is hacking into a Rhineland chemical plant's computer system, an investigation that leads to a murder. Self digs further and uncovers corporate crimes. In Self's Deception, Self is hired to find the missing daughter of a German bureaucrat. The missing woman turns out to have been involved in terrorist activities, activities that the government is trying to cover-up.

Both Self's Punishment and Self's Deception are entertaining and well-written mysteries. One interesting theme is that of living with the knowledge of one's complicity with wrongful actions within society, a topic that should come as no surprise given who Self is drawn-up to be, and the books' setting in Germany at a time when a significant number of the World War II generation was still alive and active. It is interesting to think about how people act when institutions go bad. The Catholic Church's sex scandals are one contemporary example of this type of crisis. Another that, while not at the level of moral disaster that was Nazi Germany during World War II, is in the news again is the steroid scandal the continues to infect Major League Baseball, including most recently Alex Rodriguez.

A third book in this series, Self's Murder, will be released in English sometime in 2009.








Monday, February 9, 2009

Amazon's Press Conference This Morning

I have this theory that Monday morning is often one of the most productive times of the week. Folks have had the weekend to stew about projects that need forward motion and matters requiring immediate action; and as for that jerk who hid from your calls last week, subpoenas are now heading his way.

But maybe that's not your Monday morning. If you have time right now, you may want to check out Gizmodo's Liveblogging of today's Amazon press conference where it is expected a new Amazon Kindle will be unveiled.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

From The New Republic: A Critical Look at Malcolm Gladwell's Best Seller "Outliers"

From The New Republic: Isaac Chotiner dismantles Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, which he calls a "shallow and irritating book." This review is a great piece of critical analysis and writing by Mr. Chotiner.

Best Seller Round-Up

"Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes." - Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan, 1892, Act III


I. The New York Times
Published February 8, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: The Associate, John Grisham



Nonfiction Paperback: Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

II. Los Angeles Times.
Published February 8, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: Eclipse, Stephenie Meyer.
Nonfiction Paperback: The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers
For the week ending February 1, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): White Tiger, Aravind Adiga.

Note
: This is one of my recommended reads.




Fiction Hardcover: The Associate, John Grisham.
Nonfiction Paperback: Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association
For the week ending February 1, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: The Associate, John Grisham.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Dewy, The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, Vicki Myron.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Food and Drink: Water

Water. Clean, drinkable water. Below are photos from a hike up into the Santa Rita Mountains in Arizona. Back in the day, folks went into these mountain to mine. Where they found potable water, I don't know. We carried our own water for this trip.

The dog is named Rocky.




Sunday, February 1, 2009

Best Seller Round-Up

"Wisdom comes with winters." - Oscar Wilde.

I. The New York Times
Published February 1, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: Plum Spooky, Janet Evanovich.
Nonfiction Paperback: Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

II. Los Angeles Times
Published February 1, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates.
Fiction Hardcover: Eclipse, Stephenie Meyer.
Nonfiction Paperback: Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers
For the week ending January 25, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates.
Fiction Hardcover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows.
Nonfiction Paperback: Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association
For the week ending January 25, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Dewy, The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, Vicki Myron.
Nonfiction Paperback: Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama.