Nov. 21st, 2011 10:58 pm
I wonder sometimes how people cope with living in places like Tuscany, or the Amalfi coast. Surely they cannot stand around slack-jawed all the time saying "by god, this is beautiful" - and yet how terrible it would be to grow so used to it that you barely notice the beauty around you. Maybe the awareness of natural splendor is a constant pleasing background noise to daily life. I don't know.

But I often forget that, for one month a year, this place becomes one of the most beautiful places in the world. In fact, I don't really think about autumn until it is upon us, when the suddenness of its beauty catches me entirely off guard and I stand around staring at roadsides and out of windows where everything has exploded into its fleeting moment of wonder like a very slow fireworks display.

I thought that time was winding down, but this week the Japanese Maple in the back yard lightened slightly, and dropped thousands of scarlet leaves that completely covered the grass. The dogs loved it, too, but for different reasons.

So I guess that's the last autumnal shell to detonate. Probably...
You may like your rewengie bloody, or you may like it bleak, but sitting here with this late evening salmon pate and ruby port, I will take my rewengie by way of living well, thank you very much.
I'm somewhat intrigued, and somewhat disturbed, by this Wall Street Journal article about trendy chefs embracing historical recipes as their next big thing.

Having been involved in quite a bit of amateur reconstruction of historical cuisine, I'm interested in what these chefs may produce. Most of them have better resources for obtaining exotic ingredients, and better kitchen facilities, than most of our medieval cookery, so in principle they have some advantages... and yet so many of their comments seem like the same naïve things I've heard said by others new to medieval cooking that I am a bit dubious about what they'll produce. Several of them comment about how of course lots of things need to be updated in these quaint old recipes, or how they've substituted pigs and rabbits for songbirds, which no one would want to eat of course. The worst, though, is this comment - admittedly about 19th century food rather than medieval: '"Cooking was very bland back then," says Robyn Stern, culinary research assistant for Think Food Group. [...] "Meats were either roasted or boiled, and a lot of the same spices were repeated."'

I also cannot help but chuckle at the chef in Evanston doing a 10-course menu from Apicius - if we'd charged $140 when we did that I don't think we would have gotten many takers.
Last night, [ profile] cat9 and I went to see the Actors' Shakespeare production of Twelfth Night. It was fantastic. If you're in Boston and you like Shakespeare you should see it. Even if you just like comedy you should consider seeing it.

I had heard good things about Actors' Shakespeare before, but never seen a production. And, although I knew a number of bits and pieces fro it, I had never actually seen a production of Twelfth Night. So it is difficult for me to measure the quality of this production against others either by this troupe or of this play. However, this was a damned good show.

There were no weak actors; I tried to pick a few to highlight as especially great, but the I quickly encompassed most of the cast. All of them acted the hell out of their material. They strongly embraced the musicality of the play, and the physicality, including some very nice violence. The staging was fairly simple, with a few quirky bits that they made full use of. The costuming was modern, and had a couple of nice subtleties to it.

They handled the twins in what I think is an unusual way, that initially confused me a little, but which actually worked out great. And although I believe it can be difficult to make Toby Belch likable, or the tricks they play on Malvolio more funny than tragic, all of those parts were hilarious in this production.

I think you'll like it.
mmph. The last several nights' sleep surely show that I could not be bounded in a nutshell and count myself the king of infinite space.
President Obama has endorsed a DOMA repeal bill.

About bloody time.

It doesn't seem that useful at a time when the bill is so likely to die in the house, but I suppose his taking a public stance explicitly for it represents progress.
I haven't really paid any attention to Livejournal's little Writer's Block prompts, but I stopped and looked at this one long enough to mention it:
How do you celebrate Independence Day in your country?

So, unless I'm missing something, that's about the dumbest thing I've ever seen on LJ. Which is saying a lot, I think.
Well, that was a lot of foods.

My father just took us out for the 14-course (plus 2 amuse bouche) tasting menu at Clio. There were a lot of tasty things. The fois gras with fig jam was especially delicious, but really everything was very good.

It's an odd effect to eat so many tiny things, each of which barely affects your state of fullness, that you feel overwhelmed by a tide of food. Interesting.
The other day I heard a DJ (is she still a DJ if she's playing classical music? I think so) describe the recent state of our weather as "drizmal." I think that hits the nail on the head.
I heard on the radio this morning about what I thought must be the best thing to have happened at the MFA:
Tonight, just before 7 p.m., a group of Boston artists installed a “renegade exhibition” in a pair of bathrooms at the Museum of Fine Arts.
But apparently this artistic rebellion was an echo of another one I'd just never heard of:
it was a reenactment marking the 40th anniversary of a historic event known as “Flush with the Walls.”

On June 15, 1971, six Boston artists pulled their own Banksy maneuver with the first MFA men’s room exhibition. They even printed invitations on toilet paper saying, “When you gotta show you gotta show.”
Well, that seems like a good tradition to keep alive. I guess it's disappointing that the MFA didn't go along with it, but in a way their dour opposition allows the artists to be rebellious, so perhaps they're just dutifully fulfilling their role.

I also like this tidbit from The Globe's coverage:
Cook, shaggy-haired and with a package of prints tucked in his suit pants, appeared
Surely that's true art in action.
Comment here and I'll say something nice about you. I put no geas upon you to do the same in your journal.


Jun. 3rd, 2011 11:19 pm
In more pleasant culinary news, I've started a Blogger account for medieval (and occasionally ancient) cookery. I've only put a couple of things up so far, but I have a backlog of redactions kicking around from the past few years, and hopefully I'll be more timely in posting new ones near when I actually cook them.
I am pleased to say that as of today [ profile] cat9 and I seem to be past our encounter with "pine mouth", brought on by delicious but secretly taste-disturbing stuffed dates we made last Saturday.

It's really a bizarre effect, to just have a bitter overtone to everything for (in our case) a week after eating something which did not, itself, give any signs of being bad. Since it took us a day to figure out what was going on (solved by Cat cleverly asking Google "why does everything taste bitter?"), we had condemned at least one restaurant's dishes as being wholly unappetizing. Oddly, once you've noted such displeasure it can be hard to make yourself remember, later, that it probably wasn't the food at all that was bad. Perhaps the association is stronger because of the links between memory and taste and smell.

Being now much more wary of pine nut sources, I can report that a large number of US distributers use Chinese pine nuts, a subset of which are considered the most likely vector for pine mouth, seemingly indiscriminately. Given that, I'm surprised I haven't heard of other cases before this. It may be that only a very small percentage are contaminated (or whatever - the actual cause is still elusive), or that some individuals are more sensitive than others. None of our guests experienced the same symptoms, but it's suspicious that the two hosts would happen to be more susceptible. I believe we simply had more of them, crossing some important threshold. Still, it's strange to do nothing if you eat two stuffed dates, but give you a week of bad taste if your eat three or four.

In any case, I think I shall have more hesitation eating pesto in the near future...
I just heard an ad on the radio touting a new form of relief for tinnitus: Quietus!

As if that wasn't creepy enough, they followed up with glowing quotes from, apparently, those who've tried it, like "the ringing has finally stopped!" or "I love Quietus. It's silence at last."


I know that sometimes companies check a new product name for unfortunate connotations in various languages, but this seems like a pretty big oversight in one's own language. And yes, they do seem quite serious.
I really had a very ambivalent attitude towards all the recent weather until today - it was kind of annoying to trudge through, but such is the changing of the seasons. And, on the worst days, I mostly worked from home, which is quite a bit more pleasant anyway.

But, today, we had an ambitious plan for me to get home from work, and the two of us to free the car, buy some pet supplies, and eat a quick dinner before I needed to be at rehearsal. But the snow, it would not release the car to us. We tried for a long, long time to shovel it out, to rock it free, and to push it in various clever directions, but the vile snow stole away all traction. Prior experience with these treacherous New England climes reminded us that cat litter is an excellent aid to traction - but, of course, that was the one thing that we actually needed to go out and buy. Oh bitter irony.

Eventually, tired and cold and soaked, we left it for later, and I went to take the train to rehearsal... which sat placidly in the tunnel north of Park Street waiting on some sort of snow delay.

That's enough out of you, weather.
I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, but forgot about it. I had read a comment to the effect that Twitter's length constraint wasn't that severe, really, since haiku were much shorter than 140 characters, and they contained plenty of expression. I thought it was a pretty silly way to defend the arbitrary restriction of SMS and thus Twitter, but it did make me wonder whether there weren't, in fact, haiku longer than 140 characters. It proved difficult enough that I don't think anyone would write one by accident, but here, at least, is one.
Cleansed crowns weighed strengths, frowned
Spring's wreathed blooms scourged braves' breasts' clouds
Pitched fights brought fraught thoughts
It's not great art, but at least it has a kind of narrative thread.
We have received Marian's cookbook. It is delightful.
Alright, I'm all done with August now. We had Pennsic, and that was very nice, but the number of other things that have gone awry at work, at home, with computers, and with cars is far too high. (Though we're quite happy with the new Scion so far.)

Roughly at the beginning of the month, I noticed that there was some water dripping in the basement. I talked to the upstairs neighbors, and it turned out that the guy on the third floor had been showering when it was dripping, so he said he would get in his friend who was a plumber to look at his place - we'd had some leaks around the bathtub right when we moved in, and we thought it was possible his was just leaking into the pipe chase somehow.

Well, he got called up for army service, and then we were gone at Pennsic, and there was a lot of negotiation on who could be around when and when a plumber could make it in, and the leak which hadn't really looked that bad started looking worse, and started looking like it happened whenever water was run on the second or third floors, and we had a plumber in but he was having trouble finding the source, what with the symptom being at the bottom of the main plumbing column for the house.

We finally worked out that we'd be here this morning and the plumber could do some more invasive searching for it, and when he cut a piece out of our dining room wall, there it was: a big crack maybe three feet long in the side of the cast iron pipe. The one major pipe, incidentally, that the general contractor told us they didn't replace when they stripped out the rest of the plumbing, because it seemed to be just fine.

I am awaiting the actual fix right now (the guy has to put in some supports while he splices it, because the main vertical pipe in your home gets a lot of its support from the bottom). There is a decent chance that it won't turn out to be too severe a fix; if the crack stays isolated, we just need to replace that one bit, fix up the wall, replace some sodden sheet rock in the basement, and do something about some wet and moldy parts of subflooring that were getting dripped on for an unknown period of time. It's even remotely possible that the original developer will pay part of the cost, when we show him pictures of this crack that must have been developing for a long time. Nonetheless, I'm not holding my breath that everything will work out in the easiest possible way.

It is still August, after all.


Aug. 15th, 2010 12:26 pm
It's been a long time since I slept until noon.

But it's also been a long time since I was up violently ill half the night, so it wasn't as restful as it sounds....
... after a very long day.

(On the way out our transmission exploded in Rotterdam Junction, and we got a rental truck to let us carry on. And, with that much extra space, it seemed like a good idea to bring back a bunch of stuff from storage as well, so we wound up doing quite a bit of loading and unloading today. But that's all pleasantly behind us, and sleep is before us.)



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