Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tall order

Went to see Black Watch last weekend (thanks, Bert!). The play, about a Scottish regiment in Iraq, closes in Brooklyn Dec. 21, then it's going on tour. If it comes to your neck o' the woods, go. Dramatic, funny, compelling, unique ... well, just go see it.

The locale, St. Ann's Warehouse, is the site of a lot of experimental theater. One of the problems with experimental theater is that it's difficult to read about without giggling. (For me, anyway.) Take this writeup from St. Ann's calendar:
Mabou Mines DollHouse will return to New York, completing a 30-city world tour that began five years ago with its award-winning premiere at St. Ann's Warehouse. With their adaptation of A Doll's House, Obie Award Winners Lee Breuer (Best Direction) and Maude Mitchell (Best Actress) transform Ibsen's bourgeois tragedy into high comedy with a deep bite. ... Breuer turns Ibsen's mythic feminist anthem on its head by physicalizing the equation of Power and Scale. The male characters are played by actors whose heights range from 40 to 53 inches, and the women by actors almost 6 feet tall. Nothing dramatizes Ibsen's patriarchal point more clearly than the image of these little men dominating and commanding women one and a half times their size.

That's right--nothing.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

They make great Christmas gifts, and you don't even have to deal with the hordes at Wal-mart

Part of an occasional series in which we improve depressing or odd descriptions of vanity press books advertised in The New York Times Book Review by adding the phrase "Wacky high jinks ensue" at the end of them. All ad copy verbatim (except for the high jinks) from the Nov. 30 issue:

The 13th Zodiac (Ophiuchus) and the Galactic Solar System Unveiled. This visionary new book proposes that there are 13 zodiac signs, 13 lunar months with Septem(7)ber as the seventh month and A DISCOVERED GALACTIC SOLAR SYSTEM which explains why we have 2000 year NEW AGES. [The author] presents "atronomically and cosmographically verifiable facts" supporting these claims. Wacky high jinks ensue.

The Sacred and the Profane. Presented as a true story, [the author] gives an unexpected twist to the well-known saga of the Raelian Movement, offering up new alien communication to clarify the story of "Elohim, Extra-Terrestrials, Angels, Fallen Angels, and God" and the origin of the human race. Wacky high jinks ensue.

I'm thinking of writing a novel called The Sacred and the Propane, about a holy propane and propane-accessories salesman. It will be filled with "verifiable facts," and a few unverifiable ones for good measure.

Nikki Nicely has that holiday spirit

At a Wal-Mart store in Columbus, Ohio, Nikki Nicely, 19, jumped onto a man’s back and pounded his shoulders when he tried to take a 40-inch Samsung flat-screen television to which she had laid claim. "That's my TV!" Ms. Nicely shouted. "That's my TV!"

A police officer and security guard intervened, but not before Ms. Nicely took an elbow in the face. In the end, she was the one with the $798 television, marked down from $1,000. "That's right," she cried as her adversary walked away. "This here is my TV!"
--The New York Times

Friday, November 28, 2008

But ... but ... Blu-ray players were only $128!!!

Wal-Mart worker dies after shoppers knock him down

NEW YORK – A worker died after being trampled by a throng of unruly shoppers when a suburban Wal-Mart opened for the holiday sales rush Friday, authorities said.

At least three other people were injured.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., in Bentonville, Ark., would not confirm the reports of a stampede but said a "medical emergency" had caused the company to close the store, which is in Valley Stream on Long Island.

Nassau County police said the 34-year-old worker was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead at about 6 a.m., an hour after the store opened. The cause of death was not immediately known.

A police statement said shortly after 5 a.m., a throng of shoppers "physically broke down the doors, knocking (the worker) to the ground." Police also said a 28-year-old pregnant woman was taken to a hospital for observation and three other shoppers suffered minor injuries and were also taken to hospitals.
--The Associated Press

I think everyone who goes to Wal-mart at 5 in the morning to buy cheap crap should be taken to a hospital for observation.

The end result

Pie crust is not my strong suit. Still, it was tasty and everyone seemed to like it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What I'm planning to make for Thanksgiving

I made the pie below for Christmas last year. Then, as I approached my parents' house, I suddenly realized I had left the pie at home in the fridge.

Should I go back and get it? Doing so would have delayed my arrival almost two hours, and in the end, I decided that I simply couldn't deprive my family of my presence on Christmas for that long, just for a pie.

Then I went home and ate the entire pie by myself.*

The recipe's a wee bit labor-intensive, but the results are worth it. The twist in it is that you cook the apples in the microwave beforehand. I got the recipe from Cook's Illustrated, and the folks behind that organization (they also do the PBS show America's Test Kitchen) say it preserves the texture of the apples better than cooking on the stove top.

I will admit to using a boxed pie-crust mix. I have to draw the line somewhere.

Apple-Cranberry Pie

2 cups frozen or fresh cranberries
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar plus 1 tbsp. for top of pie
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. cornstarch
3-1/2 lbs. sweet apples (6-7 med.), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
pie crust
1 egg white, beaten lightly

1) Bring cranberries, juice, 1/2-cup sugar, 1/4-tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4-tsp. salt to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, and pressing berries until berries have broken down and thickened to jam-like consistency -- 10-12 min. Remove from heat, stir in water, and cool to room temp., about 30 min.

2) Meanwhile, mix 1/2-cup sugar, 1/4-tsp. cinnamon, 1/4-tsp. salt, and cornstarch -- add apples and toss to combine. Microwave on high stirring every 3 min. until apples start to get transluscent around edges and liquid is thick and glossy -- 10 to 14 min. Cool to room temp., about 30 min.

3) Place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack and heat to 425 degrees. Remove 1 disk of dough from fridge and roll out on generously floured -- up to 1/4-cup flour -- work surface to 12-inch circle 1/8-inch thick. Roll dough onto pie plate leaving at least 1-inch overhang. Refrigerate until dough is firm -- about 30 minutes.

4) Transfer cooled cranberry mixture to dough-lined pieplate and spread into even layer. Place apple mixture on top, mounding slightly in center, and push down any sharp apple edges.

5) Roll out second disk of dough (as above) and unroll loosely over pie, leaving 1-inch overhang.

6) Using kitchen shears, cut through both layers leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold edges under and flute. Brush top and edges with egg white and sprinkle 1 tbsp. of sugar. Cut four 1-1/2-inch slits in top of dough in X pattern.

7) Place pie on preheated baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Reduce oven temp. to 375 degrees, rotate baking sheet, and bake till deep golden brown, 25 to 30 min. longer. Cool at least 2 hours on rack.

*Not really.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Not-entirely-unconnected thoughts

--It is rather difficult to find dog poop in the yard when there are brown leaves on the ground.

--It is rather difficult to rake leaves when there is dog poop in the yard.

Thanksgiving wishes from Sarah Palin

Yeah, yeah, yeah--everyone and his brother is already linking to this.

But, wow! I have never seen anything so funny and completely appalling at the same time.

Let me say one more time: Wow.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Answering the world's queries, one at a time

Recent search queries that have stranded visitors on The Velvet Blog, with commentary:

sexy only blog
Oh, you know me too, too well.

unicorn self serve
That's the problem with unicorns. They're such loners.

lawrence of arabia bamboo shoots under fingernails
It's tad long, but, ouch, that's harsh. For true torture, you can't beat Manos: The Hands of Fate.

does yogurt make you poop
I'm not sure how to answer that. Perhaps another TVB visitor would like to reply?

sometimes it's better not to ask
I knew you'd come through.

how to leave people guessing

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's almost Thanksgiving ...

Time to rerun my grandmother's oatmeal stuffing recipe:

Saute a chopped medium onion (or, if you're feeling fancy, a big shallot) and rib of celery in oil. Add salt and pepper and two cups of rolled oats or quick-cooking oats and continue sauteing until the oats get toasty. Then stuff the turkey. (Obviously, you can cut this in half for a chicken. Or bake it in a covered dish alongside the bird with some chicken stock to keep it moist.)

That's it.

(Look for Punkinsmom to dispute my grandmother's stuffing supremacy in comments in three, two, one ...)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Highlight of Deborah Solomon's interview with Karl Rove

From tomorrow's New York Times:
Solomon: Do you think you're negative?

Rove: No.

There's just no good way to answer that question, is there? Say "yes," and you're negative. Say "no," and you're still negative.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Exchange it? Thanks, I'll just keep the one I have.

The magazine that pays me to copyedit also employs writers to, well, write. And while I realize they've been hired for their technical expertise, not to be slaves to grammar and spelling, must sentences like the follwing following be so freaking commonplace in their blog postings?
Quantum is being threatened with delisting by the New York Stork Exchange.

It hurts.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Vacation postcard of the day

I post this card to point out one important fact: The changing of the guard in Quebec City involves the use of a goat.

11 PM, 29 VII, 1962


Have spent an exciting day here sightseeing. Really a big treat. Marvelous sightseeing weather. See you soon.

Capt. Jim, Nancy, Jimmy

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Yes, because we need the eggs: A one-act documentary play

Older guy sitting at restaurant bar: My wife will have a margarita, and I'll have a sea breeze.

Bartender: Yes, sir.

[Bartender makes drinks, and serves them.]

Bartender: Do you want a chicken?

Older guy: Uh ... what?

Bartender: Do you want that shaken?

Everyone else sitting nearby [silently]: Oh ... "shaken."


Friday, November 07, 2008

Things I'd rather Austin Smith would get for Christmas: A bike. A chemistry set. A complete set of Harry Potters. Warm socks.

News story #1:

Fears of a Dem crackdown lead to boom in gun sales

MIDLOTHIAN, Va. – When 10-year-old Austin Smith heard Barack Obama had been elected president, he had one question: Does this mean I won't get a new gun for Christmas?

That brought his mother, the camouflage-clad Rachel Smith, to Bob Moates Sports Shop on Thursday, where she was picking out that special 20-gauge shotgun — one of at least five weapons she plans to buy before Obama takes office in January. ...

News story #2:

Boy Killed Firing Submachine Gun At Firearms Expo

Eight-year-old Christopher Bizilj died after accidentally shooting himself in the head in what was supposed to be among the safest possible settings for youngsters to handle firearms.

The third-grader from Ashford, a well-liked "all-American boy," was attending a "Machine Gun Shoot & Firearms Expo" on Sunday at the long-established Westfield Sportsman's Club in Massachusetts. While shooting, he was supervised by a trained professional and within sight of his father, Dr. Charles Bizilj, the medical director of emergency and critical care at Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford.

Yet something went horribly wrong.

What some, including a longtime club member and retired gun designer, found most startling was that the boy was firing a 9mm, Micro Uzi submachine gun, a weapon that weighs about 5 pounds and can fire 1,200 rounds a minute. ...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Photo of the day

No comment. Really--I have nothing to add to this. (Taken around the corner from where I live.)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Pros and cons of robocalls

Pro: In the last few days, I've received phone calls from Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Alec Baldwin. (Hey, Alec, you totally deserved that 30 Rock Emmy!)

Con: I also received a call that went something like this: "We're happy to announce that Gay City News has endorsed Mark Brian Foley for State Senate. Foley is in favor of gay marriage and the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender agenda."

But here's the thing: It's a lie. Foley, a Democrat running against an entrenched Republican, Caesar Trunzo (age: approximately 105) isn't in favor of gay marriage and has pretty much not said anything on gay issues, and gay political groups are pointedly not endorsing him. What does that mean? Well, obviously, Republicans are making that call to scare the bejezus out of rubes.

Here's a tip, rubes: Gays, lesbians, etc., do not use the phrase the "gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender agenda." Fearmongers do.

Oh, and Caesar Trunzo is a scumbag.

Photo of the day

Looking toward the St. Lawrence.