Wednesday, December 31, 2008

reading the light

b. 3 October 1963 d. 31 December 2005

Tom's trade was light. He always had his light meter with him. He was often shooting, but it's not the camera that I remember: it was Tom stepping into the spot, into his shot, positioning his analog Sekonic to read the light.

He was the first person to point out to me, in the gentle way he had of teaching without sounding like a teacher, that a shot isn't so much about the objects in the frame -- it's about the light that brings them alive.

Miss you, friend. Still.

speaking of in your face

I have no ethics.

NYC Street Photographer Bruce Gilden

via davidbivins

NSFF: not safe for facebook

The only food group your baby needs. You've got what it takes to make a healthy baby. And it doesn't cost a thing.

From an INFACT Canada (Infant Feeding Action Coalition) poster, "a national non-governmental organization that works to protect infant and young child health as well as maternal well-being through the promotion and support of breastfeeding and optimal infant feeding practices."

The above image was deleted by Facebook yesterday as obscene, and was posted to a photo page hosted by the Topfree Equal Rights Association (TERA) [1] out of Ontario which hopes to record all the images of women breastfeeding their children that Facebook has removed per their policy regarding obscene imagery. The images were removed from personal profiles where members choose to share photographs with their Facebook Friends.

A Facebook protest group has taken shape, and over the weekend they staged a virtual nurse-in in which twenty women nursed outside Facebook's Palo Alto headquarters, and over 11,000 folks on Facebook replaced their profile picture with an image of breastfeeding.

More about that here in Time Magazine's Facebook's War on Nipples »

Related: The New York Times write up on suburban housewife Edwina Froehlich, who pioneered a return to breastfeeding in America »

[1] TERA's stated mission is: "to help women who encounter difficulty going without tops in public places in Canada and the USA, and inform the public on this issue." I take it that means breastfeeding, or no.

Update: Many of the images on the TERA site are too much information for me, but I'm shy that way -- you may have noticed that I don't post many personal photos of myself or my family online. I don't object to images of breastfeeding: I object to intruding upon peoples' personal lives. I also get a little embarrassed when people vamp in front of bathroom mirrors, but that's just me (who is also guilty of vamping in front of bathroom mirrors).

The TERA photographs are of women I don't know in intimate and vulnerable moments. Some are artfully done and lovely to look at, some are not. But the point of the controversy is that that they were originally posted in a controlled context for known friends to share an important moment in a relationship that matters to them. Facebook's action against these images demonstrates that they assume a very different intent -- the intent to arouse or titillate, the way pornography intends. I believe that's the compelling point in this dispute, along with the right to share images in what many people consider to be (but truthfully is not) a personal, private space online.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

on edge

Atari bling ring
by Sakurako Shimizu

It is connectivity, more than money or stature, that determines individual power.

Ann-Maria Slaughter paraphrasing David Rothkopf in America's Edge: Power in the Networked Century in the January/February 2009 issue of Foreign Affairs.


Do you know that God smiles when you be you?

Pastor Rick Warren speaking at TED.

I linked through to the TED lecture from John Hodgman’s piece on Obama’s selection of Warren to deliver the invocation at the inaugural.

The quote that I’ve extracted above comes at the very end of the twenty-plus minute talk in which Warren speaks to living a purpose-driven life and how crucial it is that each of us be who we are “wired to be.”

There’s heartbreak and hypocrisy in that statement, of course, because Warren’s stand against gay marriage suggests that he’s opposed to folks being who they are wired to be if they're wired to be gay.

On the upside of the Prop 8 debate, the New York Times ran a lovely piece on Mildred Loving, who combated miscegenation laws in her lifetime and voiced her support for gay marriage before she passed away this last year.

Let me know if you can read it without choking up -- I couldn’t.

the poor getting poorer index

So we at developed the Poor Getting Poorer Index — a basket of 22 equal-weighted stocks that includes the retailers, white-label manufacturers, repossession agencies, dollar stores, pawnshops and other public companies poised to capitalize on rising poverty. This year the index would have generated a positive return of about 9 percent, easily outperforming the 40 percent decline of the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.

The Beneficiaries of the Downturn in the New York Times

Sunday, December 28, 2008

upstairs bath (afternoon)


to have and to hold

Illus: Soviet Mayan Playing Cards via bad banana blog

Steppenwolf’s production of Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer was solid and satisfying. Still, I stepped out on to Halsted after last evening’s performance, the night strangely warm after a day in the high 50s, the ice and snow of the brittle days before having melted in the rain, wondering: what is it with guys and their poker games?

It seems to me that there’s something about the game of poker -- games of chance in general, maybe, but games of poker especially -- that men are in the habit of elevating to the realm of rite and ritual.

Am I wrong to pin it on the men? After all a woman, Shirley Jackson, wrote The Lottery, which is all about chance and the communal act. Although it’s true that women play poker, both casually and professionally and have even, I’m sure, run themselves equally to ruin, the game of the mythic West and the tables and back rooms of Vegas seem always in the imagination of writers to be played by men. Women appear in cocktail skirts or wifely attire, porting in sandwiches and refreshments, sometimes shaking their heads through the thick smoke and bad behavior.

There’s something monastic about men gathering to play. Objects are arranged and shared according to rules unspoken but understood. Fortunes are driven by brief decisions and the flick of a wrist. Everything depends on the moment of transubstantiation -- when chance intervenes and three of a kind transforms into a full a house.

As with any religious rite, the cascade of consequences that follow (in the pages of literature; in the lyrics of a Kenny Rogers song) from the way the cards are dealt and played carry that tense, tired, sweaty patina of the struggle between self-determination and chance.

The man at the pew is haunted by the same question as the man at the card table: Do we decide, or are these things decided for us?

And the question was there last night on the Steppenwolf stage, a room full of drunk men playing cards with the devil, one with an earlier score to settle, all of them with a lifetime of missed chances and fuck ups to regret. Only one of them waking painfully to the awareness that he played a role in the unhappy events that spilled around him and were his history.

Like a Midnight spent in Mass by a true believer, the game was played and everything changed for this one awakening fellow.

Only it hadn’t. His departure with the devil was long before determined; the certainty of his cold terrifying eternity was foretold by the nuns.

But then it did.

Because layered on top of the game was Christmas, and with it came a sudden, miraculous boozy intervention that might have looked, if it lay in a manger, all the world like redemption, but because it was near-sighted and smelled like whiskey on an old man’s breath it looked an awful lot like dumb luck.

Which can so easily be mistaken for a miracle, under the right circumstances.

Which these were.

The Seafarer
By Conor McPherson
Directed by Steppenwolf ensemble member Randall Arney
Featuring ensemble members Francis Guinan, Tom Irwin, John Mahoney and Alan Wilder with Randall Newsome

In the Downstairs Theatre
Thu. December 4, 2008 — Sun. February 8, 2009

Saturday, December 27, 2008

the far side reenactment flickr pool

Far Side cover
Originally uploaded by entitee
For all that post-Christmas what am I going to do with myself now, time.

Get busy »

(Here's a couple of favorites.)

Friday, December 26, 2008

c'est si bon

Ms. Kitt, a native of South Carolina, spoke four languages and sang in seven.

Eartha Kitt, a Seducer of Audiences, Dies at 81.

No slouch, Eartha.

In one of the bio clips that ran on the radio as word got out that Ms. Kitt passed away, she was laughing about the lyrics of Santa Baby, and how none of the men who laid sables under her tree ever stuck around for very long. "My prince turned out to be me," she said.

Brutalized and for awhile homeless as a child, she worked hard and pulled together an extraordinary life. As the New York Times reported:

“'I’m a dirt person,' she told Ebony magazine in 1993. 'I trust the dirt. I don’t trust diamonds and gold.'”

a crucial obligation

Charlie Rose spends an hour with Harold Pinter »

It breathes in the air. It cannot be seen, but it enters the room every time the door is opened.

Though you go to the uttermost parts of the earth, and hide yourself in the most obscure lodgings in the least popular of towns, one day there is a possibility that two men will appear. They will be looking for you, and you cannot get away. And someone will be looking for them too. There is terror everywhere.

Mr. Pinter, on the evidence of this work, possesses the most original, disturbing and arresting talent in theatrical London.

Sunday Times theater critic Harold Hobson writing of Pinter's first play, The Birthday Party, in 1958, shortly after the play closed following a brief run in London's West End. Hobson was cited in this morning's New York Times obituary for the playwright who passed away on Wednesday.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

have yourself

have yourself
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Hope you're having a late sleeping*, sun drenched waking, gift unwrapping, coffee swilling, candy eating, gleeful shouting, hold your sweet ones close to you and remember this day forever kind of day.

Merry merry to you and yours.

Posting by cameraphone from Christmas.

* yeah, right.

orange you glad

My parents were, like, ‘Sorry, no gifts, we’re doing a piñata and, here, have an orange. And that made me cry.

Brooklyn native Daniel Pantaleon whose parents hail from Chinantla, Mexico, cited in a really lovely piece about the Christmas celebration in Chinantla in this morning's New York Times.

Having a lovely Christmas. Hope you are too.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

merry merry to you and yours

Hope it's merry and bright.

(For the life of me I can't remember where I lifted this image, but I suspect it may have been the Acres, home of all things wonderful, where things are tough all over.)

full metal flak

Originally uploaded by Scotch! ©
Podium alums share a bipartisan kinship, signified by the ceremonial flak jacket that hangs in the closet of the press secretary’s West Wing office. It was placed there originally by Gerald Ford’s podium man, Ron Nessen.

Outgoing press secretaries write notes of advice for their successors and leave them in one pocket. Every previous note remains there, neatly arranged and tied together in a ribbon.

Mark Leibovich writing in Between Obama and the Press in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

popular girl dip

Posting the dip recipe because all the ink has just about worn off the recipe card that my former mother-in-law passed along to me many many years ago when I was still married to her son.

The dip recipe, modeled after a hot artichoke dip that was served once upon a time (and may well still be) in a pub in Boulder, Colorado, must be preserved because it's the sort of dip that instantly makes one popular at parties where everyone's expected to bring a hot dish.

Just this week I offered it up for a Hanukkah party and received the emailed reply: I LOVE THE ARTICHOKE DIP!!!!

So that's what we'll be bringing.

It's also nearly entirely made up of highly-saturated fats -- which means it'll kill you quick if you consume too much.

But you'll die popular.

1 large can of water-packed artichoke hearts
8 oz. cream cheese (or cheat and use the Neufchatel)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream (don't cheat here. there's nothing more horrifying than imitation sour cream.)
1 cup Parmesan cheese
garlic to taste

Cut up artichoke hearts to your liking and mix together in a large bowl with the garlic and saturated goodness.

Bake at 325º for 45 minutes.

Serve with some kind of carbohydrate engineered for dipping. Crunchy French bread works; crackers do too.

whatever I touch

For those of you keeping track: The Miser Brothers (Snow Miser, above, and his cranky sibling Heat Miser), from the annually aired The Year Without a Santa Claus, were part of the 'Hoo Girls repertoire.

Give me a ring and I'll be happy to sing it for ya. Maybe we can even get she who aspired to be a mermaid on the line.

& some bacon

Bacon bandages. Because I'm too buried to manage much else.

I thought vacation meant VACATION?

Right. The world is in an economic collapse. Be happy you're working so hard, 'hoo.

Bah. Humbug.

Plus a plug for American Science & Surplus, which is always a good time »

Via @ColonelTribune

Monday, December 22, 2008

to tamale or not tamale

Congratulations! You are now part of the few, the proud, the tamale cooks. You will notice that your life will be instantly different. You will be popular. People will invite you over. As you walk up to a crowd of people, you will hear someone say, "Isn't that the Tamale cook?" Yes folks, your simple life will never be the same. You have arrived. Please remember to be kind to the little people.

From where I also learned that Goya is the Tamale Queen »

Trying to work up the nerve to make tamales for Christmas. Although to be honest, my tamale friends, I'm not entirely sure I can afford the overhead »


It's too cold to type.

Shown above: Dante's circles of hell where, at the very center, traitors are frozen in the lake of ice, known as Cocytus, to varying depths according to the degree of their treachery.

I now know how they feel.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

as wet as they let this wet pet get

Dr. Seuss is a high-modernist via Aric Mayer Studios »

Ars Poetica #100: I Believe

Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry

is where we are ourselves,
(though Sterling Brown said

“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I’”)
digging in the clam flats

for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

By Elizabeth Alexander, who was selected to write and deliver the inaugural poem at Barack Obama's presidential inauguration, as reported in this morning's New York Times.

Want amazing? Read Alexander's Neonantology »

Also highly recommended: Poetry interviews Alexander on Obamapoetics »

Saturday, December 20, 2008

grocery cart still life

grocery cart still life
grocery cart still life
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Posting by cameraphone from (yep) the grocery store.

au temps perdu

Photo: Susan Mikula

She can make you feel reminded of things you’ve never done.

Rachel Maddow on photographer Susan Mikula.

Mikula's polaroids are showing at the CHC Gallery in New York through January 24th.

eager for the treat

Like wine, oysters take on characteristics of the terroir, so to speak, in which they are raised; the wildly different tastes result not from biology but from the variant diets, temperatures and salinity offered by the water in which the individual oysters spend their lives.

From Gem of the Ocean in the 20 December issue of the Economist.

Not too long ago I was in the Bay Area and joined a friend for dinner at an unremarkable French something or other in San Jose. He was tasked with reviewing the restaurant: dinner was on the house and the company was stellar so I happily complied.

I can't remember my entree. Duck maybe? I do remember the oysters that came before. They were from Hood Canal on the Olympic Peninsula, where my Aunt has a place, and where the beach is thick with oyster shells thrown back to the beach post-consumption where they then act as wedding beds for future generations of their kin.

I dressed my half-shell and slid it down. I was unprepared for the tears that followed: Brief and salty, like the oyster's own liquor.

The oyster tasted of home; the home I left for Chicago that for a confluence of reasons I was just then acutely missing. Like my own Madeleine the oyster contained all of that: the chill mist, the briny smell of the Puget Sound, the table surrounded by family. Surrounded by friends.

When I was living in Seattle, in the winter months, I would pick up fresh Olympias at the Pike Place Market and serve them up per Patricia Wells' direction for a simple Bordeaux fisherman's meal: oysters on the half-shell, accompanied by hand-seasoned sausage, a green salad, a crunchy loaf of bread, and a humble wine.

I served this meal to my dad once, when he was passing through town, and it may have been that we finished two humble bottles of wine but, whatever the reason, when he pushed back from the table the man who has dined with Jim Morrison at Chicago's Playboy Mansion and devoured ribs with Muddy Waters on Nob Hill said: "That was the best meal I've ever had."

And so I've posted it here for you.

Huîtres et Saucisses
From Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking

1 dozen oysters, shells well scrubbed under cold running water, shucked
Crushed ice
8 ounces (250 g) bulk pork sausage meat
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Place the oysters on a plate of crushed ice. Arrange the oysters balancing them so they do not lose any of their liquid. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and refrigerate. Remove the oysters 10 minutes before serving.

Ed: This would be a good time to prep that salad. Toss just before serving.

In a medium-size bowl, blend the sausage meat with the thyme (herbes de provence is also nice), pepper flakes, and salt. Mix well with your hands to blend thoroughly.

Shape the pork mixture into 4 equal-size round patties about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick.

In a medium-size skillet, cook the patties over medium-high heat until golden brown on the outside and cooked all the way through, about 5 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels.

Serve the sausages immediately, accompanied by the oysters, slices of buttered, crisp-crusted bread, and chilled white wine Or red. Per your druthers. And don't forget your choice of dressing for the oysters. I dig horseradish, cocktail sauce and Tabasco.

Serves 4.

p.s. title from the walrus and the carpenter, of course »

Friday, December 19, 2008

the mango tree

a found poem

her children insist
so she takes them back

there’s our house
there’s the mango tree

they shout

there is nothing to see
only an ocean of mud

Found in A Corner of Indonesia, Sinking in a Sea of Mud in this morning's New York Times.

Lilik Kamina and her family lost their village to a mud volcano that was created during exploratory oil drilling by PT Lapindo Brantas on their island of Renokenongo in Indonesia over two and a half years ago.

The land is becoming uninhabitable, inch by inch, and the air is increasingly carcinogenic. Many people of Renokenongo have lost their livelihoods; many have no where to go.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

will I stay or will I go now?

Lot of flights canceled or delayed due to weather at the Portland Jetport in Maine.

Not mine. Yet.

Shot this earlier, downtown. Posting by cameraphone.

portable office

portable office
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Killing time between the meeting's end and my
flight's departure at that place on the corner beside
the hotel with the good coffee and cookies -- know
the one?


& conversation. which was nice.

Posting by cameraphone from Portland, ME.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

organic resourcing

The idea was to start with a [Toyota] 4Runner, and take away all the parts that weren’t an incubator.

Timothy Prestero, founder and chief executive of Design That Matters, in Looking Under the Hood and Seeing an Incubator in this morning's New York Times.

In an act of "organic resourcing" Dr. Rosen and Design That Matters have created an infant incubator that relies on auto parts -- parts that are readily available in countries where incubator parts -- and the expertise that accompanies their repair -- are not.

"The heat source is a pair of headlights. A car door alarm signals emergencies. An auto air filter and fan provide climate control."

Human resources are an important part of the equation: “The future medical technologists in the developing world,” Dr. Malkin said, “are the current car mechanics, HVAC repairmen, bicycle shop repairmen. There is no other good source of technology-savvy individuals to take up the future of medical device repair and maintenance.”

Monday, December 15, 2008

desperate housewives

To our sincere regret ... it has now emerged that the text contains deeper levels of meaning, which are not immediately accessible to a non-native speaker.

The Max Planck Institute's apology for the cover of their latest journal, which the Institute believed was a Chinese classical text. However, upon circulation, the Independent reports, it was discovered that the text was an advertisement for a brothel specializing in "Hot Housewives in Action!"

According to the Independent: "The use of traditional Chinese characters and references to 'the northern mainland' seem to indicate the text comes from Hong Kong or Macau, and it promises burlesque acts by pretty-as-jade housewives with hot bodies for the daytime visitor."

protect the human

Watch closely. The imagery in this video is the kind that we've all become desensitized to -- violent and oppressive images of people in distress in far away places. Removed from our influence. Outside our concern.

But if you watch closely Amnesty International's point becomes clear: We can each make a difference.

And we should.

pears (barely there)

his husband

Mr. Buckley, who majored in psychology in college and lives with his husband and four dogs in Connecticut, films his show from home.

From YouTube Videos Pull in Real Money in the 10 December 2008 issue of the New York Times, referring to full time YouTuber Michael Buckley.

I found this easy reference to gay marriage remarkable because the subject matter of this NYT's piece wasn't gay marriage or gay men. There was nothing awkward or finger pointing about it; it wasn't mentioned to draw attention to itself. It simply established biographical context and moved on.

The New York Times started running paid same-sex engagement announcements some time back, but I couldn't recall a reference like this before, inline in an article. So I ran a quick search[1] of the NYT's archives to see how many times "his+husband" occurred in context, and this is what I found:
Two book reviews that refer to gay relationships: A 2 July 2000 review of Edmund White’s An Ideal Husband and a 22 March 1992 review of Patrick White: A Life by Andrew Sullivan.

Two articles that are concerned with same-sex marriage:
  • 15 June 2008 Gay Couples Find Marriage is a Mixed Bag by Pam Belluck -- “his husband” appears in the photo caption.

  • 22 May 2007 in Legal Status Brings Security to Some Same-Sex Marriages

  • An obituary for Gerry Studds, the first openly gay congressman, on 15 October 2007.

    On 15 July 2007 in a reference to Chistopher Walken being cast as John Travolta’s husband in the movie production of Hairspray.

    And a 6 May 2007 Modern Love column by Cindy Chupack in which she writes:
    At a Hollywood party, I told my story to a cute guy I thought was flirting with me only to learn that he already was married. To a man. He explained that he had never even dated men until he met his husband while traveling abroad. Then I told that story to my friend who was the host of the party, and he confessed that he was bisexual, which he said was often difficult for potential partners to comprehend. For example, he asked, how would I feel about dating him?

    All of these previous mentions are pre-occupied with the sexual orientation of the individuals they refer to. The YouTube article is not.

    Why, as a supporter of same-sex marriage, do I care about about this, possibly first, casual reference to a man’s husband in one of America’s leading national newspapers? Because we speak and write casually about things we find normal; about things we find self-evident.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    Marriage falling under the latter.

    Although it’s worth mentioning that my Uncle Stan was fond of saying: “I didn’t know what happiness was until I got married: and then it was too late.”

    We’ll see.

    [1] Far from comprehensive -- reviewed the first few pages of results only and tossed out all the early 1900 and late 1800 clippings that required wading through PDFs.

    a kiss is just a kiss

    He also called the incident a sign of democracy, saying, "That's what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves," as the man's screaming could be heard outside.

    President George W. Bush in Afghanistan, speaking of Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi, who had just flung his shoe at the President shouting: "This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!" As reported in this morning's New York Times.

    After flinging the shoe Mr. Zaidi was dragged outside by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's security detail who "kicked him and beat him until 'he was crying like a woman.'"

    The paper reports that "hitting someone with a shoe is a considered the supreme insult in Iraq. It means that the target is even lower than the shoe, which is always on the ground and dirty."

    Reactions to the show throwing incident »

    Update: I just received an invitation to join a Flickr group that's been created to mark the occasion »

    Another update: The journalist who flung the shoe has not been seen in public since his arrest. There are concerns that his injuries are extensive and are not being adequately treated »

    Sunday, December 14, 2008

    grand potentate's ball

    grand potentate's ball

    Grama at the Seattle Science Center.

    I think this was taken the year my grandfather was Grand Potentate of the Nile Temple in Seattle. (She still has the rhinestone studded fez that he wore.)

    Early 60s sometime -- 1963, maybe?

    I don't think she'd know anymore if I asked her.

    & an antidote

    altgeld #2
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
    I am not discouraged. Things will right themselves. The pendulum swings one way, and then another, but the steady pull of gravitation is toward the center of the earth. Any structure must be plumb to endure. So it is with Nations: Wrong may seem to triumph. Right may seem to be defeated, but the gravitation of eternal justice is toward the throne of God. Any political institution which is to endure must be plumb with that line of justice.

    From a speech Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeldt gave once upon a time, now etched into his tombstone at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.

    Wikipedia sums up Altgeldt as follows: "As governor he spearheaded the nation's most stringent child labor and workplace safety laws, appointed women to important positions in the state government, and vastly increased state funding for education. However, he is best remembered for pardoning the three surviving suspects of a bombing who were convicted after the Haymarket Riot. He also strongly disagreed with President Grover Cleveland's decision to send federal troops to Chicago during the Pullman Strike, a highly unusual stance for a state governor at that time."

    So. Not all bad.

    the windy city

    If indicted, Mr. Blagojevich would be the fifth of the last eight elected Illinois governors to be charged with a crime, and if he is sent to jail, the fourth to serve time.

    Kate Zernike, In Illinois, a Virtual Acceptance and Expectation of Corruption Among Politicians.

    Gotta admire that Midwestern consistency.

    p.s. you know, of course, that Chicago didn't get its nickname from the wind -- "Windy City" was coined to describe the politicians around here.

    Saturday, December 13, 2008

    flan in the pan (say it so it rhymes)

    la muerte

    Posting my sister's[1] flan recipe here so I don't misplace it. Company's coming for dinner and I'm going to try to add some strong coffee to the mix to see if I can emulate the flan served by a hotel in Honduras where Mr. Hoo and I stayed near Copan some years back. They shoveled it out of a giant pan and it was so good I had for breakfast the next morning. Wish me luck.

    First a note: It's been 15 years since I made this, and I never wrote the recipe down! But the key was milk AND cream, sugar, eggs, vanilla. This should come close. It's from the book written in 1965 called The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking, picked up at a thrift store a few years back:

    Flan (Caramel Pudding)

    This Spanish dessert, an immense favorite in Mexico, is made either in a large caramelized mold or in individual, caramelized custard cups, so that when the dessert is unmolded it is covered with a caramel glaze.

    To caramelize the mold: In a small, heavy saucepan, over moderate heat, boil 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 2 tablespoons of water, stirring constantly until the sugar melts and turns a rich, golden brown. (note from db: do not taste the sugar. very painful. i speak from experience.)

    Have ready a 6 cup mold (or 6 custard cups), warmed by standing it in hot water. Pour the caramel into the mold, turning it in all directions so that the caramel covers the bottom and sides. (note from db: I just made sure it covered the bottom, and it worked out fine.)

    4 cups milk (I recommend 3 cups whole milk and 1 cup cream or half & half)

    3/4 cup sugar
    8 eggs, lightly beaten
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    pinch of salt

    Heat the milk until a film shines on top. Remove from heat, and cool.

    Beat the sugar gradually into the eggs; add the milk, vanilla extract, and salt. (You can also just throw everything into the Cuisinart or blender). Mix well, and strain into caramelized mold or custard cups. (I never strained my mixture.)

    Place in a pan filled with hot water that reaches half the depth of the mold; and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted in the custard comes out clean. The water in the pan should not boil. Cool the custard; then chill in the refrigerator.

    To unmold, run a knife between the custard and the mold; then place a serving dish upside down over the mold and invert quickly. Serves 6.

    [1] aka She who aspired to be a mermaid »

    in defense of bettie page

    Video: Bettie Page

    a found poem

    we are

    s u r r o u n d e d

    by images of

    and sculptured flesh
    that promise

    the universe and deliver

    so little

    Manohla Dargis, defending Bettie Page and her almost ham-handed erotic aesthetic versus today's pervasive pornography, in today's New York Times.

    Bettie Page died on Thursday.

    bacon calling

    the bacon bag »

    I think I know what my brother's getting me for Christmas -- he just sent me a link to this Reuters news video: Wrap your phone in bacon »

    (mmm bacon.)

    small world


    When I was 16 my uncle died. He was young. Not a whole lot older than I am now. Maybe younger.

    The details are murky in my mind but I think it was cancer followed by complications and hepatitis.

    I knew my uncle through brief summers spent with my mother in Sonoma. She re-materialized in my life after a long absence when I was 12, and every summer after that we’d spend a little time with her. It was awkward, trying to be someone’s kid after seven years of no contact, no conversation -- a spread that was more than half my lifetime at that time -- and she wasn’t much for kids, so my sister and brother and I made every effort to be on our best behavior. We found fast enough that if we weren’t she’d leave again. Sometimes she wouldn’t talk to us. Once she left us at the county fair when she decided it was time to go home and couldn’t find us.

    My sister and I were looking for her, combing the rows of funnel cake and corndog stands and 4-H projects, when my uncle found us. K was a lot like the guy I’m married to today: solid, steady and still, with a way of scanning the situation and stepping in quietly to fill the gaps in a who was that masked man kind of way. He did what was needed and then stepped away without fuss when everything was under control.

    K said hey with his generous smile and stayed with us while we searched the fairgrounds, trying to find someone who wasn’t there. I suspect he realized before we did what had happened. He knew my mother better than we did.

    And then he drove us home. Without fuss, talking all the while about something else altogether to distract and calm us, while I was fretting that my mother was still looking for us at the fair. He took us home to where she wasn’t wondering, wasn’t worrying, maybe was thinking about going back for us later, but greeted us with a flatness of emotion that made me feel awkward for ever being anxious.

    He died in the Fall. Our family had just moved to the North end of town. I was going to a new high school and trying to get settled. My father and stepmother had just ended their tumultuous marriage; she went off to heal and he took a job that meant a long commute to L.A. and back to Denver every week or so. My sister left for college and I missed her. I was suddenly the oldest kid in the house, and the base grew when my father moved his new girlfriend and her two kids in with us, against the strident objections of me and my brothers.

    Not the best of times.

    My mother called late one night to tell me that K had died. I would have liked to have gone to the funeral but I didn’t ask for a plane ticket and she didn’t offer. I cried through the night, woke up late and cried some more. My dad was working from home and we talked a bit, I settled some, and then decided I’d head to school for my last few classes. I asked him for a ride since the buses had long since run. For some reason he couldn’t give me one just then so I decided to walk. School was about 40 minutes away on foot.

    Then I did something something remarkably stupid, something I suspect I wouldn't have done if I wasn’t frayed by grief and worrying over getting to my afternoon classes on time and occupying that strange shelf between here and there that descends when the body’s going through trauma and trying beyond all measure to make things normal: I accepted a ride from a stranger.

    A brown Celica hatchback with louvres on the back window pulled to the curb. I noticed the make and model because my father’s girlfriend drove a grey version of the same. The guy inside wore dark glasses and had a beard. He leaned over to the open window on the passenger side and asked if I’d like a ride.

    I said sure. And thanks. And I got into his car.

    I told him I was going to the high school and pointed him that way. He asked me to roll up the window. They were darkly tinted. Did he ask me to lock the door? I remember it that way.

    Our conversation was pleasant, polite, and without breaking stride, about half way to our destination, he asked me if I’d like to fuck.

    Heat and fear flooded through me.

    I said no thank you, and then after a pause I told him he could let me out right here.

    He said: “I’ll tell you what,” and I looked over to see that he was holding a small shiny blade in his left hand. Probably a pocket knife. “Why don’t you lay down in my lap,” and he pulled me down with his muscled arm so that my head was resting against his jeans, warm and firm with his erection. He was steering with his left hand, the one holding the knife, his right hand firmly on my shoulder.

    He kept driving. I don’t remember what he said after that; I don’t remember what I said. In my mind I was running through the instructions I had received in teen magazines. In matters like these, when a weapon was present, the glossy richly colored pages, the ones that I could recall just then, advised giving in. The danger of injury was too high. Submit. Avoid death or severe injury. Do what he says.

    I decided against their advice.

    He took his hand off my shoulder to turn the wheel -- we were rounding a corner -- and I sat up saying: “Look -- no -- please.” With one hand I reached for the knife, with the other hand I grabbed the steering wheel. I don’t suspect I could have overpowered him on the straightaway, but because he was turning I had an advantage. The motion was disruptive enough that he said “I’m letting you out, I’m letting you out,” and he pulled up to the curb.

    I scrambled for the door, grabbed my backpack, and -- for some crazy reason -- said “thank you.”

    I got out of the car and started walking and didn’t look back. I should have looked at the license plate, I should have written it down, but I just walked, shaking, gasping and gulping and trying not to cry, walked straight ahead in the direction of my high school. My hands were sweating hard and I wiped them repeatedly on my jeans, trying to dry them. It wasn’t until I got to school, to the restroom, where I splashed water on my face and grabbed the sink, still shaking, still trying to calm down, that I realized my hand was bleeding from where I had grabbed the knife straight on, and my pant leg was smeared with blood.

    Quick coda: I went up to my teacher before class and started to cry, told her what had happened, she took me to the principal’s office and we called the police, called my father. I immediately calmed down when my daddy walked in the room and held me in a big hug. The police said there was nothing they could do -- no crime had happened, I had no license plate, and my description was vague enough to be of no use.

    Which was nearly the end.


    A few years later when I was going to school in Boulder I inherited a job from an acquaintance who was heading off to Paris to live a lovely ex-pat life. I worked for a little Napoleon booking appointments and handling payroll in his hair salon. He was stocky and strong. Clean-shaven, good-looking and short. Remarkably short. His women clients adored him. His hands were covered with a strange, nervous kind of eczema that was so severe he preferred not to wash hair and asked me to do it.

    In an effort to maximize profits he started coloring and perming women in the same appointment session. I hesitated when he asked me to book the first one. I tried to hide my horror when she came to the counter to pay for the terrible orange frizz that he had made of her hair. She smiled weakly and wrote a very large check. Years later I ran into her in a bar -- she joined our table, the friend of a friend, and recognized me. Told me she cried for days, that her hair took forever to come back. The violence of that visit, of what he coaxed her into, lingered.

    I came to hate him.

    He parked his car in the alley alongside the salon. He drove a brown Celica hatchback with tinted windows and louvres on the back. He had muscled arms, familiar hands.

    I never knew for sure, but I wondered.
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