Friday, February 29, 2008

Something to Aspire To.

According to IMDb, Jodie Foster had an asteroid named after her in 1998.

I wouldn't mind if someone put my name on an asteroid.

But in the meantime, I guess I'll just have to get my kicks in other ways, including watching her free-associate about Iceland on Letterman. And that's nothing to sniff at!

Thursday, February 28, 2008


I don't know if this has made news past the UK, but we had an earthquake the other night! It did wake me up, and the thought ran through my head that it sure seemed like an earthquake--but then I thought, in my half-asleep state, that of course it wasn't an earthquake--this is England, after all! I did wonder what the boys were doing to make the house seem to shake, though....

The Guardian article is here.

This earthquake is only the second I've experienced, and the second to occur in an area not particularly known for earthquakes (the first one I experienced was in Virginia in 2003). And even though the Virginia one occurred in the middle of the afternoon, I was asleep for that one, too!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Making Peace

For a blog whose purpose was (occasionally) to talk about books, I do a surprisingly paltry amount of that. But tonight I'm proud to report that among the reams of reading I do (nearly) every day, today is a milestone of sorts: I have finally gotten past the first couple of chapters of Jürgen Habermas's The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. I still have a good chunk left to go, but the block I'd let myself have about it seems to be gone (the block had to do with the circumstances in which I begun reading it rather than the book itself, although it's pretty dense and dry at times).

Sunday Morning Rave Moment

(It's not what you think.)

Many of you reading this know that I've been dealing with migraines a lot in the last year or so, and that in general, they mean a day of lying in bed in excruciating pain, trying not to throw up, because I have started refusing to take Imitrex, and Excedrin only partly takes care of them, especially if the headache really gets going before I take it.

Well, this morning I didn't spend the hours in denial, and went ahead and took two Excedrin soon after I woke up. Which put me in, as we say, a Cornholio mood for sure! The pain has mostly disappeared, but once the tablets kicked in, I was way too wired to sit down or even stay in the house. So I figured, ok, I can get some errands run. Mainly I needed to go to Sainsbury's, but I also stopped in to the stationer's to get a steno pad for my planned trip to the British Library tomorrow, and went to the local record shop. *That* was the best part. Some kind of techno playing, and me jacked up on over-the-counter speed! The Excedrin takes away the pain but not the sensitivity to sound, and so I feel like I got a rave experience, except that nobody was dancing (not that, if I were at a rave, I'd dance either, but that's another story). I hung out looking at stuff until I started feeling faint.

But the whole thing makes me wonder: how many of us are wandering around our everyday lives, totally stoned on something and having these sorts of experiences? The supermarket by itself spaces me out, for sure, though not as entertainingly as Excedrin (which doesn't space me out exactly...). Ok, don't answer that. But I've never had as recreational a migraine as this, so I'm enjoying it--although I dread what happens when the Excedrin starts wearing off....

Now, let's see if I can coax my cd player into playing the Rage Against the Machine album I just bought for a fiver....

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Night Risotto

I seem to be making the Friday risotto something of a habit here in Cambridge. Today, rather than wanting risotto specifically, I wanted something that would involve sweet potatoes and spinach, two things I've been craving. I first thought I'd bake some sweet potatoes, steam some spinach, and maybe eat them together with some feta cheese, but then that seemed like too many components to assemble. That sounds more pathetic than it is, but I've discovered that in this kitchen of chaos, even one cooking receptacle is sometimes difficult to manage, and the most fail-safe dishes are those that involve one pot and me standing over the stove with it at all times. So in this context, risotto is the perfect solution, especially since I have (drum roll, please) given up all microwaveable ready meals that come in plastic trays (I just did some reading on xenoestrogens, and I don't need to be adding any more of those to my life!).

Anyway, the risotto:

First, I sauteed a small onion, some crushed garlic, some lemon zest, and diced sweet potatoes in a little olive oil. Then I did the usual risotto thing with the usual vegetable stock cubes, and at the end, added several large handfuls of chopped spinach and a squeeze of lemon. No cheese--I didn't think it needed it, and all I had on hand was brie, which would have been very, very wrong. I thought it needed more lemon zest and juice, but the housemates who tried it really liked it (tonight's kitchen was, as usual, chock-a-block).

In other news, I'm the proud new owner of a gently used one of these:

The photo is blurry, but what I'm talking about is not the picture of nuns smoking, cool though that is, but the screw-and-eyelet yoke that holds a fiddle bow together. More important, it's the yoke that should render my good bow playable again! The old screw's threads got stripped, so I've been suffering with the bad old bow for months--but there happens to be a music shop around the corner, and the fella gave this one to me for free! (Ok, I'm fully expecting to be hit from all sides with "free screw" jokes....)

Well, I'm excited!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My Cousin-In-Law, the Politician

...and someone started a Facebook group in her honor--something like, "Holler for Waller: Jettie Marie for Lynchburg City Council." With a cult following of about a zillion former students, how can she lose? I'm glad to see she's interested in the environment--all the development down there is scary--but alas, I don't suppose she can do anything about Jerry Falwell's big ugly LU brand on the mountainside....

Marie Waller plans to seek City Council seat
By Alicia Petska
Monday, February 11, 2008

Long-time educator Marie Waller announced Monday she plans to seek the Ward IV seat on Lynchburg City Council.

“I have taught the theory of the governmental process for 45 years,” Waller said from the front steps of E.C. Glass High School, where she made her announcement flanked by a group of supporters. “Today, I am ready to be involved in how our government operates day to day and to have a voice in how it is accomplished.”

Waller, 68, said she’d run as an Independent. She’s the only candidate to emerge so far in the Ward IV race. Current Councilman Joe Seiffert announced last week he plans to retire.

If elected in May, Waller would be the fourth woman to sit on City Council. She said she would support the continued revitalization of Lynchburg’s downtown and take a hard look at how development is impacting the city’s environment.

Among her supporters Monday was former mayor Pete Warren, who called her an “outstanding person.” Warren does not live in Ward IV, but said he still would work for and support Waller’s campaign.

“For 45 years she has been a stellar teacher in the city schools and taught many, many students about the importance of being involved in civics and the community,” he said. “Now that’s she retired, she has the opportunity to put those theories into practice.”

Waller, a former government teacher and one-time head of the social studies department at E.C. Glass, retired last year.

Throughout her career, she often said she might have gone into politics instead of education had women had such opportunities when she was young.

“I miss teaching,” she said. “But I’m excited about this opportunity to do something and stay involved with the city.”

Of Lynchburg’s seven City Council seats, four will be up for election this May.

Only one race is contested so far. In Ward III, Babcock & Wilcox Company employee Nathanial “Nat” Marshall is challenging incumbent Jeff Helgeson.

In Ward I and Ward II only incumbents Mike Gillette and Ceasor Johnson, respectively, have announced plans to run.

The deadline to enter the Lynchburg City Council race is March 4.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Another Bill Bailey

Again, thanks to Sophie for sending this along--

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Winning Combination

One casualty of my current living situation is that some nights, it's tricky to find a suitable time to cook--not because I have such a busy schedule, but because my housemates--four boys and a girl, all undergrads--are avid cooks. I am consistently impressed by their efforts, even if some of them tend to rely on spice packets a bit--but in general, I think they get up to more extensive cooking than I do. For example, Richard made his own mayonnaise a few weeks ago! So kitchen traffic tends to be fairly heavy, and only two burners on the stove work. Because I have plenty of days where I just want to avoid people and get on with my work, I have been alternating my own cooking with meals that either don't need cooking, or--and here's where I hear the gasps of horror--eating Sainsbury's ready meals.

Those of you who know me know that I don't make a habit of eating ready meals at home in Brooklyn. For one thing, J & I consciously decided not to have a microwave in the house, which takes away the quick convenience of meals-in-a-box; when we need that sort of convenience, I often stop at the Whole Foods hot food bar on my way home.

The Sainsbury's meals are very uneven in palatability, and range from inedibly bland to quite decent, and to their credit, I almost always recognize all the ingredients. Tonight I had the chicken jalfrezi, which isn't my favorite Indian dish under the best of circumstances, but I definitely wanted Indian, and knew that the kitchen was going to be overrun. So I got it, and was pleasantly surprised--I'd compare it with a slightly better than average restaurant...certainly a great deal better than bad Indian!

But what really made the meal worth blogging about was the slightly weird way I augmented the jalfrezi. Thinking, "I really should eat something green with this," but not in the mood for a salad, I fecked a big handful of watercress into the jalfrezi while it was still steaming from the microwave. It wilted into submission, and the flavor complemented the chicken nicely. Who knew?

Friday, February 8, 2008


I meant to blog about this in a more timely fashion, but better late than never. In the continuing saga of Cooking In One Vessel on an Electric Stove Whilst Dodging Undergrad Boys, I made lemon-arugula risotto the other night, and it was wonderful.

I adapted it from the back of the Sainsbury's arborio rice box, and was glad I didn't take that recipe as gospel, because if I had, it would have been altogether too lemony.

First, I sauteed an onion, several cloves of coarsely chopped garlic, and the zest of one lemon in a mixture of olive oil and butter. Then I did the usual risotto thing with vegetable stock, and at the end added the juice of the lemon and about 100g (several generous handfuls) of arugula, or rocket, as they call it here.

Good eatin'. Sarah, my housemate and the other NYU gender studies grad, made the salad and got the wine.

The next night, I got these very silly bedroom slippers at TK Maxx (another difference--it's TK, not TJ, here). Needless to say, the selection was limited, but these were so bad they're good. And of course I know how to dress them up!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Hillary and the Haters

Last night, I got into a bit of a rant on Rob's blog about the way the press have been portraying Hillary Clinton. Turns out I'm in the good company of Stanley Fish:

February 3, 2008, 8:02 pm
All You Need Is Hate

Stanley Fish

I have been thinking about writing this column for some time, but I have hesitated because of a fear that it would advance the agenda that is its target. That is the agenda of Hillary Clinton-hating.

Its existence is hardly news — it is routinely referred to by commentators on the present campaign and it has been documented in essays and books — but the details of it can still startle when you encounter them up close. In the January issue of GQ, Jason Horowitz described the world of Hillary haters, many of whom he has interviewed. Horowitz finds that the hostile characterizations of Clinton do not add up to a coherent account of her hatefulness. She is vilified for being a feminist and for not being one, for being an extreme leftist and for being a “warmongering hawk,” for being godless and for being “frighteningly fundamentalist,” for being the victim of her husband’s peccadilloes and for enabling them. “She is,” Horowitz concludes, “an empty vessel into which [her detractors] can pour everything they detest.” (In this she is the counterpart of George W. Bush, who serves much the same function for many liberals.)

This is not to say that there are no rational, well-considered reasons for opposing Clinton’s candidacy. You may dislike her policies (which she has not been reluctant to explain in great detail). You may not be able to get past her vote to authorize the Iraq war. You may think her personality unsuited to the tasks of inspiring and uniting the American people. You may believe that if this is truly a change election, she is not the one to bring about real change.

But the people and groups Horowitz surveys have brought criticism of Clinton to what sportswriters call “the next level,” in this case to the level of personal vituperation unconnected to, and often unconcerned with, the facts. These people are obsessed with things like her hair styles, the “strangeness” of her eyes — “Analysis of Clinton’s eyes is a favorite motif among her most rabid adversaries” — and they retail and recycle items from what Horowitz calls “The Crazy Files”: she’s Osama bin Laden’s candidate; she kills cats; she’s a witch (this is not meant metaphorically).

But this list, however loony-tunes it may be, does not begin to touch the craziness of the hardcore members of this cult. Back in November, I wrote a column on Clinton’s response to a question about giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. My reward was to pick up an e-mail pal who has to date sent me 24 lengthy documents culled from what he calls his “Hillary File.” If you take that file on faith, Hillary Clinton is a murderer, a burglar, a destroyer of property, a blackmailer, a psychological rapist, a white-collar criminal, an adulteress, a blasphemer, a liar, the proprietor of a secret police, a predatory lender, a misogynist, a witness tamperer, a street criminal, a criminal intimidator, a harasser and a sociopath. These accusations are “supported” by innuendo, tortured logic, strained conclusions and photographs that are declared to tell their own story, but don’t.

Compared to this, the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry was a model of objectivity. When the heading of a section of the “Hillary File” reads “Have the Clintons ever murdered anyone?” — and it turns out to be a rhetorical question like “Is the Pope Catholic?” — you know that you’ve entered cuckooland.

Horowitz warns that as the campaign heats up, this “type of discourse will likely not stay on the fringes for long,” and he predicts that some of it will be made use of by Republican operatives. But he is behind the curve, for the spirit informing it has already made its way into mainstream media. Respected political commentators devote precious network time to deep analyses of her laugh. Everyone blames her for what her husband does or for what he doesn’t do. (This is what the compound “Billary” is all about.) If she answers questions aggressively, she is shrill. If she moderates her tone, she’s just play-acting. If she cries, she’s faking. If she doesn’t, she’s too masculine. If she dresses conservatively, she’s dowdy. If she doesn’t, she’s inappropriately provocative.

None of those who say and write these things is an official Hillary Clinton-hater (some profess to like and admire her), but they are surely doing the group’s work.

One almost prefers an up-front hater (although he tells Horowitz that he doesn’t like the word) like Dick Morris, who writes in a recent New York Post op-ed of the Clintons’ “reprehensible politics of personal destruction” (does he think he’s throwing bouquets?), and accuses them of invading the privacy of opponents, of blackmailing and threatening women, and of “whatever slimy tactics they felt they needed.” Morris calls Harold Ickes, a Clinton aide, a “hit man” for the president, and he calls the president “Hillary’s hit man.”

This is exactly the language of the most vicious anti-Hillary Web sites, and here it is baptized by its appearance in a major newspaper.

Horowitz observes that there is an “inexhaustible fertile market of Clinton hostility,” but that “the search for a unifying theory of what drives Hillary’s most fanatical opponents is a futile one.” The reason is that nothing drives it; it is that most sought-after thing, a self-replenishing, perpetual-energy machine.

The closest analogy is to anti-Semitism. But before you hit the comment button, I don’t mean that the two are alike either in their significance or in the damage they do. It’s just that they both feed on air and flourish independently of anything external to their obsessions. Anti-Semitism doesn’t need Jews and anti-Hillaryism doesn’t need Hillary, except as a figment of its collective imagination. However this campaign turns out, Hillary-hating, like rock ‘n’ roll, is here to stay.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Right up there with the Chevy No-va....

This from my friend Logan, who posted it on Facebook:

Shop pulls "Lolita" bed for young girls
Fri Feb 1, 2008 2:01pm EST

LONDON (Reuters) - A chain of retail stores in Britain has withdrawn the sale of beds named Lolita and designed for six-year-old girls after furious parents pointed out that the name was synonymous with sexually active pre-teens.

Woolworths said staff who administer the web site selling the beds were not aware of the connection.

In "Lolita," a 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov, the narrator becomes sexually involved with his 12-year-old stepdaughter -- but Woolworths staff had not heard of the classic novel or two subsequent films based on it.

Hence they saw nothing wrong with advertising the Lolita Midsleeper Combi, a whitewashed wooden bed with pull-out desk and cupboard intended for girls aged about six until a concerned mother raised the alarm on a parenting website.

"What seems to have happened is the staff who run the website had never heard of Lolita, and to be honest no one else here had either," a spokesman told British newspapers.

"We had to look it up on (online encyclopedia) Wikipedia. But we certainly know who she is now."

Woolworths said the product had now been dropped.

"Now this has been brought to our attention, the product has been removed from sale with immediate effect," the chain said.

"We will be talking to the supplier with regard to how the branding came about."

(Reporting by Peter Apps, editing by Paul Casciato)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Coco Van

...or so Jenny & I were calling it on instant messenger, in a fit of pun (a pit of fun?) around Continental philosophers/philosophies--Mr. Herman Nutix, Esq.; Sick Sue? I hope she feels better soon!; a good kick in the Derrida; etc. Well, we had fun with it. (You know you're a humanities Ph.D. student when....)

Anyway, tonight as the evening's recreation I made coq au vin, and it was fabulous, if I may say so myself. I'd show pictures, but as ye know, it's not really that photogenic a food, and besides, my housemate Sarah and I devoured it before it could pose for the camera.

I made it with an eye to Delia's recipe, but as usual I only used it for the structure of the thing. So I fecked in some carrots and diced new potatoes after it had been cooking awhile. My only complaint with her recipe is that her notion about thickening the sauce didn't work so well (she said to make a paste of butter and flour and add that to the reduced liquid, but I think I'd have done as well the flour-water way, since I wound up with some lumps in it using the paste, and I had certainly put in enough butter already).

I used the Sainsbury's version of beaujolais, which does actually come from France (unlike some of their other wines, which come from Bulgaria and Mars and places like that). More than adequate for cooking, decent to drink while cooking, but I found that it wasn't really worth drinking with the meal. It needed something to take attention away from it as a drinking wine--either a bunch of merriment & shite talk like a departmental w(h)ine and cheese, or a task at hand, like putting together the Coco Van. But at about 3.50 sterling (about $7) I have no complaints.

In other news, I realize I have been very remiss about indicating which Books I'm Not Reading lately. So....

The Book I'm Not Reading: Adriana Cavarero's For More Than One Voice

...and I think I may also start posting poems. If it's good enough for Jeanette Winterson, it's good enough for me!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Meanwhile, Back at Jesus....

I'm not sure I've mentioned that the college here at Cambridge with which I'm affiliated is Jesus College--a name that creates all sorts of opportunities for unintentional hilarity, as in, "Are you going back to Jesus soon?"

Name aside, I get a good giggle every once in a while at printed materials, like these:

From the Jesus College library rules:

"Please do not let the college cat into the library."

Yes, there is a college cat, and it's black and white--very attractive, and he (?) nearly came up to me one day, only to pass by nonchalantly as though I weren't sitting there clicking to him. It seems a fairly common thing, having a college cat, and I wish we had an NYU cat--except that it would certainly come to some terrible end.

And best of all:

This morning, as I was walking to the library, I saw the notices out for Chapel events this evening. Thinking I would see something about music, I looked more closely, but what I saw was a sign that said

"TONIGHT! Film of a potentially morally improving nature!"

The film is A Room With a View, and I would almost go, except that I'd be afraid of the sorts of people wanting moral improvement on a Friday night--they might potentially want to morally improve me! So I have decided that unless I meet a crowd at the LGBT drinks earlier who want to go and crash it in order to leer salaciously at Helena Bonham Carter, I'll sit this one out. HBC isn't my type, anyway.