July's Site of the Month

A man, a plan, Photoshop: This month's website, Dudehisattva, is brought to you by frequent DailyKos poster-boy Dood Abides, who certainly has a way with Photoshop. He parodies the many misadventures of the Bush administration and skewers them weekly with satire that has you laughing like a lunatic on the way to the asylum (be a lot more fun if it wasn't so frightening). Among my favorites are the film parodies, like Pirates of the Potomac, Emblazoned Saddles, Borracho Hombre, The Rovey Horror Picture Show, and Springtime for Bush. Even when Dood's Photoshop efforts are a tad amateur, the gist still comes through: we are living in scary times, folks, and the best way to survive is to laugh. Otherwise they will be carting us all off to the asylum.



Birthday Girl

Today is my daughter Kate's 24th birthday--Happy Birthday, sugah! I'm very proud of Kate, she's smart, funny, determined, passionate, responsible, and obviously beautiful, inside and out. And she votes!

I hope you have a great day, my love. Mwah!



Time's A-Wastin'

And I'm a-wastin' it by cruising the Internets for sign generators. It all started with The Church Sign Generator, and then as I looked around, I discovered a whole world of online generators. These can be a lot of silly fun, but I'm warning you, they're horribly addictive. The ones I am most fascinated with are the ones that allow you to put your own text onto a picture of a sign or a blackboard or whatever. There's a Fast Food Sign generator, a Bar-B-Que Sign generator, a Warning Sign generator, and my new favorite, the Stephen Colbert Threat Down generator, which allows you to input both text and an image. For a huge list of online generators, visit the Generator Blog. This might be the Big Daddy of all internet time wasters. And it's a helluva lotta fun.

And for those of you who create sign generators, my friend Paula would like a Birthday Cake generator, where you can write your own message on a picture of a birthday cake. Get busy on that, willya please?



New iMovie: "Yankee Doodle Boy"

Recently I was lucky enough to run across an MP3 version of George M. Cohan singing his hit song, "Yankee Doodle Boy" (probably more familiar to most people from the 1942 James Cagney film, Yankee Doodle Dandy). I thought it might be fun to use this patriotic song to accompany a series of photographs of outspoken entertainers I consider true patriots. This might annoy a couple of groups of people--Wingnuts (who I'm always happy to piss off) and people who believe that actors, singers, and comedians should just look pretty and keep their mouths shut. It begins with Woody Guthrie and ends with Stephen Colbert, both of whom had no problem speaking truth to power.

Here is the movie, and I hope it makes you smile.



Recipe: Sweet Curry Sauce

Sweet Curry Sauce

This is the lower-fat version of a sauce I used to make with a reduction of apple juice, butter, and cream. It was wonderful, but this version lowers the fat considerably while remaining silky smooth and spicy/sweet. It's great on seared scallops or grilled shrimp or chicken, and terrific with steamed spinach, potatoes, carrots, or cauliflower.

Makes one cup of sauce:


1 T canola oil
1 medium shallot, minced
1 T sweet curry powder (I use Penzeys)
2 T minced fresh ginger
1 T minced garlic
1 T flour
1 3/4 C chicken broth (1 can)
1 T tomato paste
1 T spiced apple butter

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 T. vegetable or canola oil on medium heat. Add shallots and sweat them for 1 minute. Add curry powder and mix well, simmer for 1 minute. Add garlic and ginger, stir. Add flour and cook (but do not scorch) for at least 2 minutes. Slowly add chicken broth, stirring as you add. Add tomato paste.

Reduce slowly (on simmer) for about 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently, until sauce is thick and reduced to about 1 cup. Add apple butter, stir, continue cooking for about 5 minutes.

Turn heat off. Strain sauce through fine-mesh strainer into bowl or measuring cup. Discard bits of aromatics. Adjust seasoning with salt/pepper.

Use immediately or chill covered in fridge until you need it, microwave gently to warm.



Friday Silliness

Animals That Make Me Smile:

The Wise Old Dog:

The Bunny with a Pancake on its Head:

Here's a nice quote for Friday night that my friend terri found:

"The whole world is three drinks behind. If everybody in the world would take three drinks, we would have no trouble."
-- Humphrey Bogart

Have a terrific weekend!



Summer Idyll: By a Waterfall

Summers in Maryland conspire to keep you housebound. If it isn't the heat, the humidity, or the frequent storms, it's the damn mosquitoes that prevent you from opening the door to the outside world. These hot, humid, housebound days can lead to some serious wanderlust, and this past week I've been yearning to be by a waterfall.

I've always had a weird thing for waterfalls. It could be hereditary, as my mother grew up near and often played (sometimes dangerously) at Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge in our home state, Oregon. I spent my growing-up years in northern California, and we had our own waterfall in Mill Valley, Cascade Falls (so small and insignificant that it didn't even make the list of Top Seven Waterfalls in Marin County). It only seems natural to me now that my favorite example of American architecture is Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. What else could it be?

What is it about Mother Nature's water feature that intrigues us so? It could be the soothing sound of running water, which seems to be the main reason why so many homeowners try to recreate waterfalls and fountains in their backyards (although the tinkling sounds of most backyard water features make me run for the nearest bathroom). It might be the cooling effect of the water, or its representation of the power of nature, or that water in motion attracts birds, butterflies, and other creatures looking for a respite from unrelenting dryness. Or it could just be that waterfalls are beautiful, and that's enough.

Whatever it is, the mysterious attraction of waterfalls has pulled humankind to them for thousands of years, and many people have adopted the hobby of Waterfall Hunting--seeking out the most obscure and hard-to-find falls, and then capturing them on film, or ideally, on video (and I suspect some just guard the locations and keep them secret, fearing that too many visitors might spoil them). Waterfall enthusiasts worldwide have posted their finds, both common and out-of-the-way, on websites like the Waterfalls Webring, which includes links to the World Waterfall Database and Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest. It gives those of us who are trapped indoors by heat or cold or lack of funds a place to go and appreciate the beauty of waterfalls, but it also provides the information we need to actually get out and see the falls when we can.

I made the mistake of assuming that when I moved from the west coast to Maryland, I had given up the chance to see waterfalls anywhere but on the internet. I'm glad I was wrong, because as I discovered recently, Maryland has beautiful waterfalls (there's even a handy book). And so does Pennsylvania and Virginia and West Virginia and on and on...you just have to look. You don't have to wait for that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Yosemite or Yellowstone to find a waterfall to ogle--there might be one right in your own neighborhood. When the heat and humidity of my East Coast summer subside and the mosquitoes have been sated by some other unlucky soul's blood, I plan to pack a picnic and find me a waterfall to enjoy. I hope you can, too.



Scary Picture of the Week:

The "Christian Statue of Liberty." And people think that flag-burning is an abomination.



Have a Borowitz 4th!

Humorist Andy Borowitz is on it today:

In a nationally televised Fourth of July address, President George W. Bush stunned the nation by announcing that he was declaring himself independent from the United States Constitution.

“Just as our forefathers threw off the horrible yoke of British rule on July 4, 1976, today I am throwing off the yoke of this truly annoying document,” Mr. Bush said.

You can read the rest at Andy's site, but here's my favorite line:

The president said that while he was no longer required to obey the U.S. Constitution, he still respected the Declaration of Independence, “because it has a really cool treasure map on the back.”



My Parents' Bookshelf Revisited

One of my favorite summer evening activities as a child was curling up on the cool hardwood floor in front of the "Art shelf" in the living room (two shelves up from the bottom on the right-hand side of the fireplace), and poring over volumes by artists such as Dali and Goya (kinda scary, that was) and Modigliani, as well as a beautiful handcolored, handprinted edition of Chaucer. But for sheer fun, I always reached for Philippe Halsman's Jump Book.

Halsman, a photographer more famous for his work for Life magazine, asked all sorts of celebrities to pose for him in mid-air, jumping. The resulting portraits might tell us more about the subjects than any more formal sittings would. Halsman studied what each celebrity's jump revealed about their personalities, whether introvert or extrovert or something in-between, and then dubbed this study "Jumpology." Originally published in 1959, the Jump Book features some of the most intriguing and fascinating names of the time: Richard Nixon (arms down, toes pointed, with a closed-mouth grin); Adlai E. Stevenson (arms up, feet flat, huge toothy smile); Grace Kelly (shoes off, skirt hoiked up, gorgeous smile); John Steinbeck (head back and stiff, toes pointed, right finger pointing at shoes); Walter Gropius (feet apart, arms flailing, and a facial expression that seems to say "I hope you're happy you've trashed my dignity to shreds"). Actors, singers, artists, politicians, writers, captains of industry, comedians, scientists, and royalty all jumped for Halsman, and most seem to have enjoyed the experience.

There are some fairly famous studies in here, too: three photographs of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor that are quite touching, my favorite portrait of Audrey Hepburn, who, when jumping, looks like a pixie in flight, and possibly the most famous of all, "Dali Atomicus" (see photo upper right). Dali made Halsman take shot after shot of flying cats and splashing water until he was satisfied with the result (and I remember as a kid thinking "those poor cats!!!").

Over time our original copy of the Jump Book got lost, but thankfully Harry Abrams published a reissue in paperback in 1986 that is still in print and can be found at your local bookstore or ordered online. The book is a treasure, and you won't regret giving it a look.


Crunchy Frog Flashbacks

Everyone who knows me knows I can't resist the combination of coffee and chocolate, so when I saw Ben & Jerry's new summer flavor, I had to get some. It's called Vermonty Python, and according to the description on the package, it's "Coffee Liqueur Ice Cream with a Chocolate Cookie Crumb Swirl & Fudge Cows" (Fudge Cows...the next best thing to Anthrax Ripple). The name "Vermonty Python" took me right back to that day in 1973-ish when I first heard this: "We use only the finest baby frogs, dew-picked and flown from Iraq, cleansed in finest-quality spring water, lightly killed, and then sealed in a succulent Swiss quintuple smooth treble cream milk chocolate envelope and lovingly frosted with glucose." Mmmmmm. But despite the associations with Crunchy Frog, Anthrax Ripple, and Cockroach Clusters, it still tastes mighty fine (albeit a tad sweeter than I would like it), and it almost makes up for not being able to get One Sweet Whirled anymore. Almost.


You can't catch fish with the internet, either

(And "Tivo" is NOT your Italian waiter...)

The other day Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) tried to explain how the internet gets "clogged." In the process of this mind-bending explanation he asked "...an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?" He went on to define what the internet really was ("It's a series of tubes") and in the process revealed that he fits firmly in with others of our leaders who Haven't Got a Friggin' Clue: President Bush, who famously stated "I hear there's rumors on the Internets that we're going to have a draft," and Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), who once referred to an e-mail as a "computer letter."

This would all just be a silly interlude if not for the fact that these are the people who are in charge of crafting laws and policies dealing with the Internet and Net Neutrality. Now, you might say "Lighten up--their staff people will explain it to them," but any staff person who would allow their boss to go out in public and spew the gobbledygook that came out of Stevens' mouth is not to be trusted. Besides, how do we know they didn't already explain it, and that's just how Stevens' brain translated it? Truly frightening.

Sometime in the mid-nineties, when I was in the process of finishing up my M.A., a professor told us (in a seminar on research methods) that if we really needed more information, the best place to get it was "in the card catalog in the library." None of us wanted to tell him that the card catalog had gone the way of the Dodo by then, and that everything had been moved to databases on computers. But we did. He was shocked and dismayed (and retired soon afterwards).

One can only hope that some of our more Luddite congresscritters follow suit.

I think the thing that really shocked us about our professor's comment on card catalogs was that it was obvious that he hadn't set foot in the library in many moons. Maybe he felt that he'd learned all there was to know, and that he needn't keep up with new technologies or methods. Perhaps he was scared, as many of our older teachers and returning students were, of learning how to use a computer (I knew a couple of people who were convinced that if they even touched a key, they'd "break the Internet"). But those who were brave enough to try, to make mistakes, to learn new things, had doors opened to new worlds of research and information. It was a revelation for them, and once initiated to the mysteries of the Internets, they stayed with it, and many of them are now experts that others turn to for help. You're never too old to learn new things...but if you refuse to even TRY, then yes, please retire. I'm talking to you, Senator Stevens.

For a complete transcript of Senator Stevens' remarks and a link to the audio clip, click here.


Recipe: Warm Pasta Salad with Feta Cheese

You can adjust the amounts on this...less for one person, more for a crowd. This seems to be a good amount for two, plus leftovers (usually) for the next day. The leftovers are great cold or at room temperature.

Warm Pasta Salad with Feta Cheese

Two or three medium-to-large tomatoes, the fresher the better, chopped
two tablespoons minced red onion
generous handful of pitted black olives (any kind), drained and sliced lengthwise
bunch of fresh sweet basil, torn in pieces
1 tbl balsamic vinegar
2 tbl extra virgin olive oil
Crumbled feta cheese
1/2 to 2/3rd's pound of pasta
Salt, pepper

Put the tomatoes, onion, olives, and torn basil into a bowl and set aside. All ingredients should be at room temperature. Put the vinegar and oil into a small bowl, set aside. Crumble the cheese, set aside. Boil salted water, cook pasta until done to your preference. The best pasta, I think, is either angel hair (cappelini) or linguini, but anything will work. When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pan. Add the oil/vinegar and some salt and pepper, stir to incorporate. Add in the vegetables, stir again, and serve with crumbled feta on top. Yum!

What I love about this is that all you have to cook is the pasta. So easy, and you can add or delete ingredients depending on what you like, what's fresh, etc. I have also made it with parmesan instead of feta, and that's good, too. Enjoy!

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