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|Saturday, March 8th, 2014|
|A mameligele, a pastramele
I wanted to make Indian pudding this weekend. I had cornmeal and spices; I needed molasses and milk. Some shopping errands took care of this discrepancy, as well as things like wanting to visit Porter Square Books in advance of my mother's birthday tomorrow. (Also getting chased out of J.P. Licks because the fire alarm went off and fire trucks showed up, which was considerably less satisfying.) Not having a family recipe to work from, I ended up combining two off the internet—one was straightforward with too little cornmeal, the other too busy with everything else—and it turns out that corn pudding is not at all difficult to make. The results were delicious and ample. Someday I will learn how to make dessert for two people rather than a party.Nothing Traumatic Happened This Time, I Just Felt Like Making Corn Pudding in My Toaster Oven Corn Pudding
Thickly butter a 9-by-9 glass baking dish. Preheat the oven to 325°F. If your oven is a toaster oven, ignore this second step until right before the pudding goes in; seriously, it takes five minutes.
5 1/2 cups whole milk
2/3 cup cornmeal
1 cup molasses, see note
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger, see note
dash of ground clove
dash of vanilla extract
Whisk together all ingredients except vanilla in heavy large saucepan. Simmer over medium-high heat until mixture thickens, which it will do abruptly and somewhat unnervingly between the 8- and 10-minute marks. One moment you're stirring a pot of hot milk with a floating skim of spices on top and a swirling sediment of cornmeal at the bottom, the next, bam, you've got porridge. Continue to stir until it has achieved a heavy cereal consistency, about 15 minutes total; the pudding should be pourable at the end of this process, but require a spatula to get the last out. Think oatmeal or grits. If we're still talking gruel, keep it on the fire until we're not. The color will be an attractive light spice-flecked brown. Turn off heat, stir in vanilla, turn out into baking dish.
If you want to eat the pudding at this stage, that's perfectly acceptable; what you have created is a hasty pudding, so called because it took about 15 minutes. Fair warning, though: it becomes substantially more entertaining if you bake it.
90 minutes at 325°F. I set the timer in half-hour installments, checking each time to make sure it wasn't going to overcook because I am paranoid about that sort of thing, especially when a lot of sugar or milk is involved. The pudding is done when the center no longer quivers if the baking dish is shaken. It doesn't have to be sliceable, like mămăligă, just cohesive. Long before then, the other person in the kitchen with you may or may not peer in through the glass and remark, "It's breathing!" because while the body of the mixture is still quite liquid, the surface has formed a milky, caramelized skin as if on a custard, which is now inflating and deflating gently as air pockets rise and break from the boiling cornmeal. It will continue to do this for the entire hour and a half. You may be reminded of lungs or at least a practical effect imitating them. I have no idea if this is usual for Indian pudding, but it was hypnotically fun to watch. By the time the pudding was done, the skin had turned the color of candy-crack caramel and was thick and tensile enough that a spoon dug into it more than it cut. It was sweet, chewy, and delicious, clearly the next evolutionary step on from the skin that forms on the top of boiling milk. The pudding underneath is also very tasty, however, so I recommend removing the dish from the oven, letting it stand on a trivet just long enough to avoid scalding, and then serving yourself as much as feels like a good idea. If you happen to have ice cream in the house, or if you've made a point of going back to J.P. Licks several hours after the fire alarm incident in order to purchase some ordinary vanilla ice cream for your husband and some coconut-milk vanilla ice cream for yourself, a scoop on top is a great
Once I equalized the proportions between the two, the recipes from which I was working wanted about half a cup of molasses to the two-thirds of cornmeal. Rob and I tasted the pudding shortly after the initial porridge stage and determined it did not have nearly enough sweetness or flavor and added about another quarter-cup by judicious scraping-out of the Pyrex measure and the occasional spoon-dip back into the jar. On tasting the finished pudding, we thought it might have needed still more (and perhaps a little dark brown sugar to stabilize). Ditto ginger, which we did not have in the house at all, but which it clearly wanted. What I am recording here, therefore, is a combination of the recipe used tonight and the recipe as we believe it could be improved. If you want to replicate tonight's pudding, use 3/4 cup of molasses and delete the ginger. Everyone's different! You might prefer it!
Either way, enjoy. Oh, also, now you have enough corn pudding for a week or four guests, whichever shows up first.
P.S. I did not buy Vladislav Khodasevich's Selected Poems
(trans. Peter Daniels) at Porter Square this afternoon, but as soon as I'd read this poem
it was a close thing.
|Friday, March 7th, 2014|
|Saturday, March 8th, 2014|
|Winter In Seattle
Winter came to Seattle on March 1.
That was the day that the LTD Gallery opened its latest show, featuring artwork inspired by A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE.
I had been hoping to be there in person for the opening, but alas, there's too much work to do and too little time, so I had to stay home and miss it. But don't you guys in Seattle and nearby environs (Vancouver, Portland, Eugene, what have you) make the same mistake. The show will be open until March 23, and it looks as though there's some great stuff there. Check out the piece in WIRED>http://www.wired.com/underwire/2014/03/game-thrones-gallery-exhibit/
It's great to see a gallery like LTD featuring fantasy art. Those of you lucky enough to see the show, do come back here afterwards and let us know how you enjoyed it, and what your favorite pieces were. Current Mood: excited
|Farewell to the Iron Islands
Fans of fake history rejoice. I am finally done with the Iron Islands.
And why does that make me so pleased? Well, because it was the last little bit I had to write for our long-awaited and much-postponed concordance, THE WORLD OF ICE & FIRE. Which we've been working on (along with many other things) lo, these many years. ((And yes, yes, it's late, what else is new? Please do not blame my faithful collaborators, Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson. They finished their part ages ago, and tossed the ball to me. What can I say? I remain as slow as ever. And I added a lot.))
Anyway, it's done at last. At least the writing part. Now it is all in the hands of the artists, and our valiant editor Anne Groell. (This will be a coffee table book, heavily and lavishly illustrated, so there's LOTS of art)).
Assuming we don't run into any problems with the art, THE WORLD OF ICE AND FIRE will be released this fall. October, I think, but don't quote me on that.
And HEY, this means another monkey is off my back. Only a couple left gibbering up there now. That little joker monkey, HIGH STAKES. And... gulp...
SON OF KONG. Current Mood: accomplished
|The Bar Is Open!
Hey, you guys missed the fun.
Our bar opening at the Jean Cocteau was a huge success. In no small part thanks to Ernie Cline (author of the wonderful READY PLAYER ONE), who turned up with his time machine... ah.. customized DeLorean. And our own Doc Brown... ah... Jules.
Take a look. (Photos by Tara Gibbens)
Miss it? Don't worry. Doc Brown will be bringing his DeLorean back in a few weeks... for BACK TO THE FUTURE 2.
(Oh, and our Flux Capacitor Cocktail was a big hit too). Current Mood: geeky
|The Writer's Notebook
A while back, somebody asked me if I kept a notebook or its electronic equivalent with me at all times, and would I recommend that as a general practice. That’s a piece of advice that one often hears — the idea is that you’ll always be ready to jot down a new idea or a reference or some useful piece of information, rather than ending up with a handful of notes on the backs of receipts or someone else’s business cards. The short answer is yes, I keep a notebook on me all the time. I use it pretty much every day, and I’d certainly recommend keeping one handy.( But of course I have a longer answer too.Collapse )
|And touch someone
As much as I love Elementary
, I am unreasonably and continuously infuriated by the fact that, at least once an episode, every single character will use the phrase "reach out to" in the place of, say, "contact" or "get in touch with."
Is this an American thing (although they've got Holmes doing it too)? Do real-life people actually say this? I don't think I've ever even heard it outside of Elementary
, so maybe the ideolect is part of the AU they're living in where there are "DOUG Chats" and people use Bing.
Crossposted to http://yunitsa.dreamwidth.org/681324.html
|SFF books by women which I have read in the last year
The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula Le GuinFour How to Train Your Dragon books, by Cressida Cowell
Three Hugo nomiees for Best novellaBlackout, by "Mira Grant"Magic of the Angels, by Jacqueline RaynerCatching Fire, by Suzanne CollinsEarthWorld, by Jacqueline RaynerSomething Borrowed, by Richelle MeadThe Ripple Effect, by Malorie BlackmanMockingjay, by Suzanne CollinsFar North, by Sara MaitlandThe Crown of Dalemark, by Diana Wynne JonesRoyal Assassin, by Robin Hobb
The Queen's Bastard, by C.E. MurphyThe Year of Intelligent Tigers, by Kate OrmanReturning My Sister's Face, by Eugie FosterMortal Clay, Stone Heart, by Eugie FosterSLEEPY, by Kate OrmanLong Time Dead, by Sarah Pinborough
Two unpublished novelsPatternmaster, by Octavia ButlerCity of the Dead, by Lloyd RoseWalk to the End of the World and Motherlines, by Suzy McKee CharnasGrimm Reality, by Simon Bucher-Jones and Kelly HaleThe Death Pit, by A.L. KennedyGod's War, by Kameron HurleyInto the Nowhere, by Jenny T. ColganAncillary Justice
, by Anne Leckie
(Combining the themes of International Women's Day today and World Book Day yesterday.)
Every so often someone will go on a rampage about femininity. Well, daily, probably. There's always too much of it and there's always too little of it. Women aren't feminine enough if they choose their own clothing or occupations or make any demands for equality (that's being "strident" which is a crime against femininity). Men here lately are effeminate if they aren't mean enough.
But women's femininity is a target for this kind of derogation too. Lately it's complaints about women's voices that keep cropping up. It's not the first time. I remember about fifty years ago, when columnists in the newspaper (and not just the odious misogynist troll Count Marco that the San Francisco Chronicle kept on their payroll for eons) would insist that the world would recoil in horror if women were allowed to use their screechy little voices on the radio. I was a little girl at the time, and there were very few women announcers on the radio, and no news readers on either radio or television that I could recall. So it was a thing. Women wanted in on those jobs, and some people wanted to hear women's voices in public like it was a normal thing. So now it's pretty normal that women have voices on the radio and television, though they get treated differently and all.
This time around there's a line that's being repeated about how terrible it is that young women today
are adopting "little girl voices." Never mind that the targeted speech characteristics -- rising inflection at the ends of sentences, "creaky voice," and using a higher pitch in one's natural range -- are all both characteristics that have been around in various regional dialects forever, and characteristics that men also use. It's a precious opportunity to get mad at women for being women! Not only that, but you can do it from a superficially feminist-sounding position!
I was baffled by these remarks and inarticulately annoyed by them, but of course, Language Log's Mark Liberman explained it all. You should read what he says about it.
|Saturday morning checklist
: Neglected until this AM, at which point it will be attended to again.Coin design challenge for TEC
: Vote deadline was last night; votes to be tallied and delivered this morning.New glasses
: Acquired, admired, applied and approved. Dry cleaning
: To be picked up this AM.Writing
: To be done today and tomorrow.Anxiety
: Reduced but not assuaged.
And now to get on with the day.
|Kids today, part whatever
Twice yesterday I watched people parking right ikn front of fire hydrants. Both times I reminded the kids that you can get a big fat ticket for doing it. Both times the kids shrugged it off (and the first time there was other parking nearby and visible).
Aren't they teaching these kids about this these days?
The second kid was a bit rude at first, understandable as there is an ongoing Friday night parking crisis in my neighborhood (also kids, having parties! but the only way you'd know it is the parking problem -- whatever happened to loud music anyway?). I said "I'm not threatening you, I'm being friendly by reminding you," and went on my way searching for a parking place. Oddly, and sweetly, a moment later, as I was hobbling up my front stairs, he passed by on foot and thanked me.
Obligatory political comment: if we only had a decent comprehensive public transportation system, they wouldn't be feeling this pressure to find parking places in the first place. I mean, wouldn't you rather not have to worry about designated drivers and DUIs, if there was a bus that ran afew times an hour all night and stopped within a couple of blocks of where you wanted to go?
|February Books 18) The Adjacent, by Christopher Priest
Next up for my read of BSFA nominations, this is an intricate juxtaposition of narrative segments set in different worlds and time streams, a lot of which draws from Priest's own earlier work. Several chapters are set in a near-future Islamic Republic of Great Britain, rather reminiscent of the Darkening Island of his first book; we revisit the archipelago of The Islanders
; and magicians
and twins and alternate Second World Wars
pop up too.
It didn't quite come off for me. There are a lot of good ideas here, but the Islamic Republic is a bad one; and I had hoped for some actual plot resolution at the end, rather than juyst being expected to admire the pretty pattern of the bits of story put next too each other. (Oddly enough, The Islanders
, on its face a more discontinuous text, worked better in that regard.) So I fear that my vote will put it at the end of what is a very good shortlist.
I have a cabbage. Normally, I'd just chop it up into a stirfry (cabbage is very nice in stirfry), but it occurred to me to ask people about their favorite cabbage recipes, partly because something good might turn up, and partly because I'm going to write more about that God of Love, God of War thing, and I want to have a break from religion, politics, and other fraught subjects.
This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/1037832.html
. Comments are welcome here or there.
comments so far on that entry.
I dress for comfort and convenience, and I want pants with deep pockets. Buying online makes me happy, and trying on one item of clothing after another is more irritating than fun for me. I'll do it when I must.
For years, I've been wearing XL sweat pants from Land's End, but I've lost a little weight, and now the XLs are too loose, but L is still too small. So is 16W.
You'd think it wouldn't be so hard to find drawstring pants with pockets in an XL, but I haven't succeeded. Failing that, recommendations for pants with belt loops? Pants that run large or small so that I'm not between sizes?
I've thought about adding velcro tabs to the waistbands of the XLs. I realize this would create lumps, but there are already lumps from the stuff in my pockets. Any thoughts about modifying the XL pants?
This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/1037633.html
. Comments are welcome here or there.
comments so far on that entry.
Here's a Scottish Book Trust podcast
in which I talk with Ryan Van Winkle about Descent
. Kirsty Logan and Tim Sinclair are on before me, also talking about their new books.
I have a review of The Science Fiction Handbook
, edited by Nick Hubble and Aris Mousoutzanis (Bloomsbury, 2013) in the Morning Star
. Basically I outline the history of SF criticism as I understand it and then heartily recommend the book, which I have read and have already started lending to students.
|February Books 17) Keeping Up With the Joneses, by Nick Harkaway
Another of this year's series of Doctor Who ebooks by well-known authors - this time one of the surprisingly numerous alumni of Clare College who have gone into the sff field (China Miéville, Marcel Theroux, Rebecca Levene, going a bit further back Peter Ackroyd). It's an extended story largely consisting of Tenth Doctor stream of consciousness, the Tardis having hit a Time Mine left over from the war and come to rest in, or possibly on, a Welsh village where everyone is called Jones except for Lady Christina de Souza. Not quite as good as the sum of its parts, but there is a lovely
reference to Iain Banks near the end.
|Open up and let the Devil in
The weirdest thing about A Field in England
(2013) is not the psychedelic sequence in the last half-hour, justly top-billed as it may be; it's the seventeenth century. The film is a five-character play in an alien world, where religion and magic are so tightly intermixed that the Devil might well be an Irish alchemist and a scholarly clerk knots his hands in shaking prayer, supplicating automatically to God even as he speaks of planets, influences, the celestial bodies that hang above this world and compel it. A man is rooted out of a field like a stubborn stump, requiring the strength of four men and stout rope. Another, put to forcible use as a human dowsing rod, drops to his knees in exhaustion and coughs out runestones like a witch vomiting iron nails or hair. Time is as recursive and uncertain as within a fairy ring, which is in the strictest sense a ring of mushrooms such as surrounds the field. The mushrooms have psychoactive properties. That may not actually explain anything that happens in the film. The world of A Field in England
is occult and chaotic, desultory and explosively violent; the film has absolutely no interest in holding its audience's hand, except to give it a shoulder-snapping yank through a brashing thicket and strips of smoke, panting in terror, toward the Devil it thinks it doesn't know.
There is a plot, much good it does any of its characters. Stumbling through that hedge, away from the deafening cannon and drums of the English Civil War, the self-confessed coward Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith) falls in with three deserters whose initial absurdist quest for an alehouse presently metamorphoses into something even more Beckettian and unsettling, digging for treasure in a vast, silent, sun-fogged field that might exist on the other side of time from the earth-raining concussions of battle, though in truth they are as little escaped from it as Whitehead from the ringing of blood in his ears. A sheltered alchemist's assistant who admits that he finds "pages easier to turn than people," he was dispatched from Oxford to find and apprehend a former student of his master's who ran off with important papers. He was happy to escape that task with the death of his contemptuous commander: but like a bad penny or an appointment in Samara, the smiling, malevolent figure that faces him now is that same O'Neill (Michael Smiley), in full Royalist regalia with a better shirt and boots than Whitehead has ever owned, and he wants to use Whitehead's gifts for divination to locate the treasure. And use Whitehead he does—the mushroom-fueled third-act freakout may be the film's most visually stunning sequence, but the most horrifying is the sound of Whitehead's screams from inside O'Neill's tent, from which he emerges with a mad, blind, ecstatic smile, a transfiguring vision in a harness of endless rope. (We never learn what O'Neill did to him. It cannot have been anything as normal as sexual or physical violence. It opens him up; it makes him an unerring instrument; it leaves him hungry.) Increasingly the reality of the field seems to collapse, burning itself out from the center like the black sun of Whitehead's visions, the cold smoky mirror of O'Neill's scrying glass. From time to time, the cast are seen posed in painterly, Greenaway-like tableaux that are never quite still: the men blink, sway slightly; the wind ruffles their hair and capes and cuffs. There may be a Twilight Zone
-like twist ending. That might not be it at all.
There are also dick jokes. Good
dick jokes. Much of the movie is extremely funny, which I understand is not at all perceptible from the previous summary. Some of it's acid-black existential comedy, some of it is just one guy snapping at his unwittingly stoned companion, "What is
it with you and hands?" (I also think that "Your privy parts are doomed, homunculus!" is a hilarious thing to yell at someone.) The hallucinatory scenes are at once powerfully symbolic—a magicians' duel, a psychomachia—and as fragmentary, jump-cut, and detail-obsessing as a real trip. The sound work is extraordinary, pulling together plaintive folk songs with the unrelenting echo of drums and washes of synths and other electronic noise that manage not to feel like screaming anachronism so much as the soundtrack of a mental state. I have one track downloadable from the website and I'm hoping the rest of it is released soon. For that matter, I would own this film on DVD if it comes in the right region. I have rarely seen anything like it, especially in a historical movie. If it's typical of Ben Wheatley, I am really looking forward to his season of Doctor Who
An incomplete list of things of which A Field in England
reminded me: Jeanette Winterson's The Daylight Gate
(2012), Alan Garner's Red Shift
(1973), Aleksandr Rogozhkin's The Cuckoo
(2002), Peter Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio
(2012), the Lyke-Wake Dirge. At least one scene in Greer Gilman's Cloud & Ashes
(2009). The music of Belbury Poly, Lal Waterson, and 16 Horsepower. Caitlín R. Kiernan's The Red Tree
(2009). At this point the reader of this journal should be able to tell whether this film will interest them or not, although if the reader is ashlyme
, I'm going to be rather more actively encouraging. The cinematography, while I'm at it, is beautiful. Best black-and-white outdoor photography since Erwin Hillier in A Canterbury Tale
In the meantime, sleep.
|Baloo, my boy
A very rich evening. It began with dinner in the best and brightest of company: sovay
(now stepping out bravely on two legs), rushthatspeaks
. The menu at the Sinclair
is audacious and the service chaotic: some of us were disappointed or misled, but there were some spectacular dishes. I was particularly taken with the bone-marrow cornbread that came with the duck, with what Rush called the General Tso's brussels sprouts (an absolute transfiguration of the lowly Brassica), and with the not-too-sweet, not-at-all-gooey muffin-tin brownies, still warm, and topped with what tasted like peach Cumberland sauce. Did I say that the menu was strange? Rush was pleased with their Shirley Temple made with ultra-fierce ginger beer. Not childlike at all. I said they should have called it a Taxi Driver.
and I headed to the Brattle to see Ben Wheatley's A Field in England
(2013). Which is...which is...all right, it's 90 minutes exactly, and is that Hugo long form or short form? Because holy Hobbes' Leviathan, this thing is weird. I can't even think what it's like. Alan Garner meets Hammer Horror? Withnail & I
on psilocybin? Beckett? Blake? Bergman? Tom Stoppard's Apocalypse Now
? Alchemical black comedy at any rate. Jack Daw's Pack
I think the sheer abstracted beauty of the black-and-white made it possible for me to bear the cruelty. And be advised: this film is brutal. But so much else is so Nine: high language mingling with low comedy; earth magic; Englishness; an apologetic demi-scholar in torn lace; Jack Daw's hats with battered feathers; wind in grass; soup with stoat bones; bawdry; and a scrying glass, at one point turned upon a rogue's poor tackle, manged with venery.
And one lovely unexpected moment. There are these soldiers running from a war—a ruffian, a Bardolph, and a Baldrick—fallen in with an alchemist's apprentice, all in search of a rumored alehouse. The astounding guns fade out behind them; they are wading in sweet grass; and the fool starts to sing a lullaby
Baloo, my boy, lie still and sleep
It grieves me so to hear thee weep...
A Lal Waterson moment. Whew.
is brilliant. If you haven't already, go and read it.
P.S. Ben Wheatley is now directing the new season of Dr. Who, with Peter Capaldi. This is going to be...strange.
|Friday, March 7th, 2014|
|Two new Soulcollage cards
Seena Frost, the originator of Soulcollage occasionally gets a bit too new Age-y for my taste. She has come out with a second book, which adds a little to my understanding. In this one, she recommends that each deck contain a Witness card, a Transpersonal card, like the Source, which does not belong to any suit.
Witness is best compared to a mirror. We step back and see ourselves as if in a mirror. Witness is part of Source and formless. It has no comment on what it reflects; it does not judge; it does not applaud. However, from the place of Witness we may catch a glimpse of the patterns our Neters [the consciousness she says resides in each card] are making.
You will undoubtedly discover you have an inner Committee member who is able to function as a witness. Name this card Observer and make a Committee card for him or her.
Whatever. I haven't made an Observer card (I found one image which was quite good, but frustratingly, it was a man, whereas I wanted it to be a woman). I hope to make an Observer
card soon. Anyway, here's my Witness
card:Witness - Transpersonal card
I am the One who is formless Consciousness.
I also made this card, thinking, perhaps, of all the stories I have been reading about the NSA. (The men at the bottom of the card are actually Secret Service men, waiting for a presidential helicopter to come down to the tarmac.)The Watchers - Council Suit
I am the One who watches all, seeing details which are not usually meant to be seen. Whether I watch for your benefit or detriment is unclear; what is clear is that I see much that might otherwise remain hidden.
This entry was originally posted at http://pegkerr.dreamwidth.org/1697035.html
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|Today's Exercise in Catwaxing
And besides, it needed to be done . . . .
I cleared away the backlog of empty envelopes and out-of-date correspondence occupying the space between the top edge of my keyboard and the interior backstop of my computer desk. This is the space where stuff-to-be-dealt-with gets stuck, and if I weeded it regularly like a Good Malkin, there wouldn't be a problem. But I am, at least in this, Not a Good Malkin, and the stuff back there keeps piling up until, eventually, my keyboard is in grave danger of being pushed off the desk entirely.
For today's clearance, I employed the "if nothing has happened with this envelope for at least six months, it goes out" rule, backed up by the "when in doubt, blame everything on the time the shower plumbing developed a leak and flooded part of the office" principle. The material thus accumulated went into a box that I closed and labeled "Desk Kipple, 2010-2014" (yes, that was the postmark on the envelope farthest to the back, which would have been the last time I did a major desk clearance); the box will get put away somewhere, just in case I need to excavate it for something later. Eventually, after another three or four years, I'll probably throw it out, like I only recently did the box from (I suspect) 2010. You don't want to know how far back the postmarks in that
one went. Current Mood: accomplished