zirconium: tulip in my front yard, April 2014 (tulip)
Here in Nashville, we've been under frost advisories this week, which in my case has meant re-covering the hydrangea, bringing in the plants I over-optimistically set outside last week, and snapping photos of the rest:

tulips, season 3

There was a sandwich board outside one of the bars down the street advertising a drink called the "Angry Gardener." I was tempted. But there was a magazine release party already on my calendar, and I was glad about prudence prevailing over temptation when, at the gathering, Emmely Duncan handed me a glass of strawberry vodka punch laced with black pepper syrup.

front of the house

Earlier in the day, I had been thinking it was time to bin the University of Michigan sweatshirt I was wearing. It was probably ready for the ragbag a couple of years ago, but today was the day I registered all the stains it had accumulated -- as in, I should've changed outfits before leaving the house. (Considering how laid back and grunge-tolerant my neighborhood is, this is saying something.)

Of course, when I realized this, I was already too far along just to turn around, so I went into the drugstore anyway. As I looked at a display of brooms (so many things in my house getting ratty...), an older African American man walked by me. Then he turned back, exclaiming, "Michigan?" He was wearing a Detroit Tigers cap. Oh, I wish you could have seen how his face lit up.

Speaking of clothing and identity, the New York Times published a piece this past Sunday sparked Harvey Fierstein's new play. The article is titled Clothes Make the Man, and -- potential trigger warning -- it raises all sorts of unsorted-out-ness about authenticity and beauty and comfort and gender, and, and, and ...

This paragraph had me nodding in recognition -- I may not share the specific need to wear boy vs. girl clothes, but do I relate to how certain clothes are me and others are not, and how what I wear can affect how me I am at a given moment? Oh yes.



"One person I spoke to said: 'When I have my boy clothes on, I feel like I'm at a party full of strangers, and there's great effort that goes into putting my best self forward. And when I put on my women's clothing, it's like walking into another room, and my best friend is sitting there, and I can breathe,'" Mr. Mantello said. "There's a certain poignancy in a transformation that feels cellular."


And immediately following that is the passage that spooked me the most:


If the guests at Casa Valentina love looking in the mirror at their femme selves, some of the actors have struggled with it. Mr. Birney recalled having a hard time making peace with how he looked as a woman.

"I was heartbroken," he said. "I asked the makeup artist, 'Can you make me prettier?'"

Mr. McGowan and the seventh man in the play, Larry Pine, said they had to reckon with their sagging middle-aged bodies, and the girdles and corsets used in the play.

"I look in the mirror, and I see a hideous woman, absolutely hideous," Mr. Pine said. Asked if that hurt, he replied, "Yeah."
zirconium: photo of ranunculus bloom on my laptop (ranunculus on keyboard)
Par la bouche de ce canon il neige. C'était l'enfer dans notre tête. Au même moment c'est le printemps au bout de nos doigts. C'est la foulée de nouveau permise, la terre en amour, les herbes exubérantes.

Snow is falling from the mouth of this cannon. There was hell in our heads. At the same time, spring's at our fingertips. Permission's granted to step forth again, the earth's in love, the grasses exuberant.

-- René Char; translated by Ralph Freedman, Donald Justice, and Paulène Aspel
zirconium: photo of flask with feathers in and around it (flask with feathers)
The third time is confirmation, methinks: no matter what color is in the jar (Voodoo Blue, Atomic Turquoise) or how much bleach I've used, my hair will turn into a deep, vivid green. I'm not complaining: it happens to match my glasses and eyeliner. There are worse superpowers to have.

What I need, though, is to cultivate a gracious way of handling St. Patrick's Day jokes while steering the chitchat into other directions. (March 17 coincides with a sad anniversary in my personal history.) I wonder if there's an economist or Nobel laureate I could make the green in honor of...

Oho, here we go: Joseph Bienaimé Caventou. French. Pharmacist. Co-isolated chlorophyll and caffeine. Caventou, you're my man!

(When you can't berate them, make their eyes glaze over. Heh.)




From Flower Confidential's section on Multi Color, a flower-painting factory:

"We can glitter anything," he said, moving cheerfully past the roses.


The chapter in general ("...a rose the color of blueberries. Actually, it's hard to compare this blue to any color you'd find in nature. It was more of a Las Vegas blue, a sequin-and-glitter blue. A blue you'd find in nail polish or gumballs, but not in a garden. Peter had hundreds of these blue roses...") reminded me of the the daisies that are doctored with shoe polish to pass for black-eyed Susans during the Preakness Stakes.




The window for Rhysling nominations will remain open until Saturday, February 22. My eligible poems can be viewed via this Google Doc until then.



I was thinking of baking a gingerbread Washington pie (from my Complete American Jewish Cookbook) in honor of the holiday, but we ate a a lot of dessert last night, and there are some savories higher on the list (specifically turnip cake and artichoke quiche). Also on this week's agenda: finetune 600 endnotes; relearn how to play poker; reacquaint myself with riding a bike (temperatures are supposed to reach 64 F this week); work on a birthday gift. Onward!
zirconium: snapshot of oysters enjoyed in Charleston (oysters)
This one's for the lawyers... ;-)


He often took his manuscript [of Physiologie du Goût] to court. In fact, it was in idle moments in the halls of justice that he wrote most of it. His other companion, besides his manuscript, was his dog, who went under the uncompromising name of Ida. She followed him everywhere and sat on the bench next to him both in the courtroom and in his favorite Café Lemblin. [His biographer] Monselet relates that during the hunting season the judge's presence was sometimes pungent. This was due to his habit of shooting small game birds and then carrying them around for days in the capacious pockets of his Prince Albert-like coat. As the birds became higher, his neighbors on the judicial bench became more uncomfortable, understandably enough.


-- Samuel Chamberlain, Bouquet de France


I also finally finished Amy Stewart's Flower Confidential last night (it seemed appropriate to do so on V-day), and then I turned to my Southern Living handbook to see if it had anything to say about building cold frames. (We have two window frames, one with the glass still intact. I shall probably turn them into cold frame lids eventually -- but right now it would be an elaborate variation of procrastination. Back to reading about bisphosphonates and selective estrogen receptor modulators...)
zirconium: photo of cupcake from Sweet 16th, Nashville (crackacino cupcake)
(aka what I was reading during dinner tonight)


The poularde, of course, is a young hen who has been forced by the cruelty of man to submit to an ovariotomy, so that she can be fattened more easily. Thus relieved of a myriad worrisome details, these placid hens avoid domestic cares completely. Indifferent to the chatter of the young, the rivalry of other females, and the philandering inconstancy of the male, she may devote her entire time to the pleasant business of fattening herself on the best corn. More than one critic has reflected upon this bit of skilled alteration which results in such subtle refinements of taste. Capons have suffered similar indignities with resultant plumpness and freedom from vagrant thoughts. One meditative gastronome has come up with the disquieting query: Do cannibals breed eunuchs for their choicest feasts?


[dinner tonight was hot chicken from Pepperfire, accompanied by a glass of Los Dos grenache+syrah :-) ]
zirconium: photo of squeezy Buddha on cell phone, next to a coffee mug (buddha and cocoa)
eggs baked in avocado halves

A cookbook I bought last year suggested baking eggs in avocado halves as an easy breakfast. The results were meh, but now I know what doesn't work for us (at least with this oven, which runs cooler and slower than those of typical test kitchens, based on other adjustments I've had to make to other recipes).

On the upside, the carrot wontons I made two nights ago turned out fine. I ground up a handful of carrots and seasoned them with sesame oil and black pepper...

Carrot filling

I spooned the filling into the wonton wrappers left over from the last time I made a batch of potstickers, and then steamed the lot:

Carrot wontons

I also made a decent goulash out of leftover turkey, rice, and corn (adding tomatoes, onion, cayenne, and the leftover carrot mixture). This morning I fried pancakes because we were out of bread.

This week's bathtub reading has been issue 139 of the Paris Review (1996). From the intro to an interview of A.R. Ammons:


For most of the next decade [1950s] he worked as a sales executive in his father-in-law's biological glass company on the southern New Jersey shore. Ammons published Ommateum, his first book of poems, with Dorrance, a vanity press, in 1955; a mere sixteen copies were sold in the next five years. (A copy today would fetch two thousand dollars.)


Bedtime reading has included bits of Anthony Glyn's The Seine. I am enchanted by this sentence: "Saint Seigne tried hard; it wasn't his fault that he was turned into a river-god."
zirconium: sculpture of owl at Cheekwood, Nashville (Cheekwood owl)
Henry Parland's My Hat: "My hat / was run over..."

Jones Very's The Hand and the Foot, a sonnet. I don't agree with the thesis but it's been in my clippings pile all this time because of the final couplet.

This item in Dylan Thomas's list of Useless Presents: "once, by mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet."
zirconium: Photo of Joyful V (racehorse) in stall (Joyful Victory)
Dorothee Lang to Smitha Murthy, on her Italian class:

The next lesson will be happening tomorrow, but I haven't opened the books yet. I just can't seem to bring myself to sit and learn consecutively. And thus, the gaps in knowledge show more and more. It's like in school, when there are classes you enjoy, that seem fun, that are easy. And so you don't take them seriously until they turn more and more complicated and the pile of things to learn grows bigger and bigger. And you think, "If I had learned just a bit every day from the start, it would still be easy now." Which is a true thought and it should make you sit and start the learning, but it somehow does the opposite: it frustrates you . . .

Really, I don't know what it is. Why I am not willing to take the time to learn and instead expect to catch the verb forms in flight, by hearsay. Expect Italian to be effortless. Even though I never was good at learning vocabulary and grammar. And taking the Italian book to Majorca and leaving it there in the suitcase to bring it home didn't really solve the problem either. On the other hand, I would have felt silly learning Italian words while sitting under the Spanish sun. But then, both are Mediterranean places. And better to feel a bit silly while learning than ending up without answers.

-- in Wor(l)ds Apart (Folded Word, 2012)


Also on language: Smitha Murthy, My War with Chinese

From my photos of Israel (this one I think near the edge of Eilat), November 2009:

091102 041
zirconium: French word for "light" (on wall of Cheekwood Mansion) (lumière)

Posner spends significant firepower assailing The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. This compendium (The Chicago Manual of Style for lawyers) might seem an unworthy target. Yet he is excoriating not just the Bluebook, but also the substitution of style over substance it represents. When created in 1926, supposedly by the great appellate judge Henry Friendly, the manual was 26 pages. A recent edition spans 511 pages. Posner appears to believe that following the Bluebook is about as bad as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic -- and by reverse order of manufacture, no less. He casts the Bluebook as a neurotic reaction to external complexity; if you cannot control what is important, you make important what you can control. Posner notes that Friendly himself recommended that later editions be treated as the Greeks treated their unwanted progeny.



Beneath the great seal of the United States, Posner's chambers should have a crest of a mongoose, encircled with Kipling's dictum: "Run and Find Out."



[Posner's statement re an opinion he wrote on voter ID] has been interpreted as a recantation, yet it's less an admission of error than an admission of uncertainty. This is consistent with his general approach: to acknowledge complexity, vacuum up as many facts as possible and then do his best.



http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/10/books/review/richard-a-posners-reflections-on-judging.html
zirconium: tulip in my front yard, April 2014 (Default)
From a T Magazine profile of Carmen Almon:


Slatkin describes her as "a charming bohemian." He recalls an incident when she was painting furniture in a back room of his shop. He invited her to dinner. "She looked down at her white shoes and they were speckled with green paint. She took her brush, painted her shoes green and said, 'I’m ready.'"

http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/21/under-the-influence-carmen-almon-the-naturalist/


From a David Colman profile of Anne Fontaine:


In the last decade, many men and women have come to realize that gender is closer to polychrome than to black and white.



Ms. Fontaine described the color [of her lipstick] as a "deep violet pink." Guerlain calls it grenade -- in this case, French for pomegranate, not the weapon.



From a 1912 New York Times primer on makeup, then becoming more widely accepted: "Touch the lips slightly with a lip-stick, but do not make your mouth look like raw beef."
zirconium: black pearl pepper plant at Cheekwood (black pearl pepper)
Good for the heart: Saffron, borage, laughing, joy, musk, cloves, galingale, nutmegs, the red rose, the violet, mace.

Evil for the heart: Beans, peas, leeks, garlic, onions, heaviness, anger, dread, too much business, travel, to drink cold water after labour, evil tidings.


-- quoted in the entry for September 12 in Charles Kightly's Perpetual Almanack of Folklore (Thames and Hudson 1987)
zirconium: Photo of Joyful V (racehorse) in stall (Joyful Victory)
Seen on a wall of Nashville's Belcourt Theatre a couple of weeks ago:
graffiti horse

Seen in Chungliang Al Huang's Quantum Soup (Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 1991):

It is reassuring to realize that Confucius had only begun to appreciate the true value of the I Ching after reaching the ripe age of seventy. What is our hurry? The yarrow is not talking us.


[Incidentally, I have owned this book since 1996 or so and am finally, slowly making my way into it. Through it? That remains to be seen. There is hope.]

Yard update: hollyhock seedlings are visible, a bit earlier than anticipated. Still too early for the primroses and yes, yarrow.
zirconium: tulip in my front yard, April 2014 (Default)
I've never met a woman who is not strong, but sometimes they don't let it out. Then there's a tragedy, and then all of a sudden that strength comes. My message is let the strength come out before the tragedy.

-- Diane von Furstenberg, in the New York Times Magazine
zirconium: me @Niki de St Phalle's Firebird (firebird)
Eastland StreetFlower arrangement on Eastland Street, last Saturday (on my way to an ice cream parlor)


As it happened, John soon fell in love with a beautiful girl called Joan Furlong (and incidentally, a furlong is a measure of track in horse racing). Joan was an extremely nice girl and John wanted very much to marry her. He knew our parents would be against this, as he hadn't finished school yet. He had no money. She had no money. Hoping to secure their approval, John invented the story that Joan was pregnant and told our parents this. These were the days when abortions were illegal and thus very risky procedures. They often led to health complications, the least of which resulted in an inability to bear children. Much to everyone's surprise, our mother (an ardent Catholic) suggested that Joan should have an abortion to quickly resolve the issue! I have often noticed (and find it ironic) that fervent Christians are very prone to changing their minds on the issue of abortion when members of their family are involved in this type of crisis.

    --Niki de Saint Phalle
zirconium: photo of bell tower seen on a walk to the Acropolis (athens bell tower)
IMG_8717

[An aside to Mary: I enjoy the checklists.]


We want to do, to make, to shape, to give form, to give life, to pass it on, for the life of others and for the whole world. We want to love and be loved, to praise and give thanks for the gift of life, of light, of love. The human quest is a constant struggle for balance, for integration. For the monk, this is done in the milking of cows. In that simple activity, God is near. In gathering eggs, in weighing fruitcakes, in putting just the right measure of sugar in jelly, in baking bread, in wrapping cheese, God is to be found. Working and praying spring from one and the same source: the human heart. There are never enough hours in a day to get all the work done that is ours to do. And there are not enough lifetimes to thank God for the one and only life we have to live.

-- Michael Downey, Trappist: Living in the Land of Desire [emphasis mine]
zirconium: Photo of graduated cylinder with black and blue feathers (measured 1)
Abby

Sometimes I try to make poetry but mostly
I try to earn a living...

I think my heart is a magnet too. It attracts anything
that attracts joy like the summer grasses the swans track through.
OMG, how in love I am with joy and with yours --


-- Sandra Simonds, "Red Wand"
zirconium: photo of ranunculus bloom on my laptop (ranunculus on keyboard)
The difference between being a writer and being a person of talent is the discipline it takes to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and finish. Don't talk about doing it. Do it. Finish. - a quote from Houghton Mifflin's page about ELK


Julian Singh on "the holidays"

Another Julian Singh statement: "Chops is to magic what doing scales is to a chanteuse. Without it you cannot be a magician, with it alone you cannot be an artist."
zirconium: tulip in my front yard, April 2014 (Default)
Listening to: the USA Today stream of clips from Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer's "Child Ballads" album (link via my friend Katy). Between that and the severe weather making the sky so very grey, I'm inclined to spend the afternoon working on fairy-tale riffs (but tax prep is calling, calling).

Reading: the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook. Pages 374-75 provide pleasingly detailed advice on buying fresh shrimp:


When buying shrimp with heads, note that they spoil quicker and that the heads constitute about 35 percent of the shrimp's weight. So if a recipe calls for 2 pounds of headless shrimp, shells on, buy almost 2 3/4 pounds whole shrimp with shells to compensate.



Keep in mind that a shrimp's shell and legs make up about 12 percent of its weight, so if you're using peeled shrimp in a recipe that calls for 2 pounds headless shrimp, shells on, you'll require only 88 percent of that weight, or about 1 3/4 pounds.


Today's lunchtime reading was a couple of sections of yesterday's New York Times. I was struck by two mentions of historians brought to tears, both within Dan Barry's article about the Jackie Clarke collection in Ireland. In the first, Barry speculates on prize artifacts that would have changed Sinead McCoole's initially low expectations of the collection:


Was it the fabric flower, called a cockade, that Wolfe Tone -- Wolfe Tone! -- wore affixed to his hat when he was captured while leading a failed rebellion against the English in 1798? When Ms. McCoole showed the cockade to a scholar friend steeped in that era, the scholar began to weep.


The other immediately reminded me of how difficult it can be to define and observe the scope of academic projects (...and, really, projects in any sphere, but as you might guess, scope comes up a lot in academic publishing):


Often, as Ms. McCoole set out to begin another wearying day of academic mining, one of the fish shop's employees, Smokey Gorman, would give her a cryptic greeting: "And you haven’t even gotten to the roof yet." For a while she thought this meant that Mr. Gorman might have spent too much time in the smokehouse, but Mrs. Clarke eventually told her that Mr. Gorman was referring to some "modern stuff" that he once helped Jackie Clarke carry to a storeroom built onto the roof.

One day, with the end of her papered tunnel in sight, Ms. McCoole went to that room on the roof, where loads of bundles were wrapped in relatively recent copies of the local newspaper. Inconsequential modern stuff, she thought. But when she opened a bundle or two, she found rare political pamphlets and newspapers dating to the 17th and 18th centuries.

"Instead of being euphoric, I cried for two days," Ms. McCoole said. “I cried and I cried and I cried. It was just more things to do. I knew the job hadn't ended."

But when she recovered Ms. McCoole realized that she was immersed in something very rare and wonderful, a feeling now validated by other scholars.
zirconium: sunflower core against the sky (sunflower sentinel)
Jim Jean:


Not to get too deep, but East Nashville is so diverse. On one side of the street you got dudes in a penthouse with a Porsche, and then you still have your trash can stolen by your neighbor, and your neighbors are shooting each other next door. You can also drink beer in the passenger seat of a car, which is pretty rad.


From an East Nashvillian profile of the 5 Spot (January issue):


Collinsworth knew East Nashville was a good thing when he visited in the summer of 1999. He was dragged into the now-defunct Radio Café by the late Skip Litz, local soundman and East Nashville fixture. There was a couple onstage playing some cover tunes -- Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Chuck Berry -- for a handful of patrons. They had a Dylan songbook with them and would ask the audience to call out page numbers before proceeding to play the selected song. "Come to find out, that couple was Gillian Welch and David Rawlings as The Esquires," Collinsworth says. “It was then and there that I decided to move to Nashville."

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zirconium: tulip in my front yard, April 2014 (Default)
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