Thursday, October 30, 2003

I've just spent the day cooking pumpkin, which involves cutting it into small pieces, steaming the pieces for nearly an hour (thanks to high altitude), scraping the flesh from the rind, mashing the flesh, and then spooning it into Ziplocs in careful measurements before storing in the freezer. It's a time-consuming but satisfying process, particularly as the results prepare for a winter of pumpkin pie, bread, soup, and cookies, all of which are quite tasty and even more so when made with home-cooked pumpkin. Later on I'm going to bake up a double batch of cookies for the Halloween party at work tomorrow (We're supposed to dress up. I'm going to wear my pajamas.), from a recipe out of the Sunburst Farm Family Cookbook. It's one of my favorite cookbooks--well, that's not really fair, since all of my cookbooks are my favorites--partly because of its recipes but mainly because of the pure amusement I get from it.

The cookbook was produced by the Brotherhood of the Sun, a Santa Barbara commune in the 1970's, which is quite enough in itself. Each section is prefaced with a note about their growing and cooking methods, the best ingredients to use, and so on, as well as occasional philosophical notes. My favorite is the "Eight Paths of Right Cooking" at the end of the book. I've just discovered that the book is available through Popula, for $12. I'm not sure if it's worth it, but to further intrigue you, here's the recipe for Pumpkin Cloud Cookies.

1/2 c butter or margarine
1 c honey
2 eggs
1 c steamed, mashed pumpkin
2 c whole wheat flour [or 1 c wheat and 1 c white]
1 t baking soda
1 t sea salt
2 t cinnamon
1 t mace [or nutmeg]
2 c chopped walnuts

Cream butter; add honey. Add eggs and pumpkin. Mix dry ingredients together and add to the rest, including the nuts. Drop on greased cookie sheet. Bake in 350 oven for 15 minutes. Makes 30 cookies.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

I used to be able to lie on my bed and read for hours and hours on end until I was dizzy and disoriented--and I would do it daily as long as my mother didn't interrupt me with her fears that I would become fat and lazy. I guess she was right. Anyway, I don't have much chance to do that anymore. Yesterday, however, was a blessed exception--I spent two hours in the afternoon burning through the Roald Dahl Omnibus, and then another two or so in the evening to finish it. What bliss! And they're such delightfully snarky little stories, too--just the way short stories should be. A few are a little too creepy for my taste ("Pig", "Skin", and "William and Mary"), but others such as the classic "Lamb to the Slaughter" and "The Great Automatic Grammatisator" can't fail to please the reader.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Every now and then I have to read some science fiction to remind myself why I don't read it regularly. It's odd to think that I used to read it quite frequently as a teenager, but I believe this was because I had not yet discovered that there was such a thing as the fantasy genre. And I will admit that there is some science fiction that I do enjoy, mostly Ray Bradbury's short stories, but for the most part I find it difficult to stay interested in tales of the future, since I have not yet read one that seemed to me believable. I can't believe that people could change enough to allow the sort of apocalyptic worlds such as the Matrix or even the Global Community, and I certainly don't believe in any sort of utopia; rather, it seems that life will continue much as it always has.

Anyway, this may be a slightly drunken ramble, and I will continue to my main point, which is that Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower had little to distinguish it from any other apocalyptic science fiction except for the "God is Change" religion. Of course, that was also the boring aspect of the book. I can't decide if the scripture developed by the heroine is actually a belief of the author, or if Butler was simply trying to imagine what a woman in these circumstances might turn to in her need for meaning. Either way, I kept hoping that Lauren and her compatriots would in fact meet their goal of colonizing another planet, but instead they made their excrutiatingly long journey along the California coast, avoiding the pyromaniac drug addicts to reach a place where they might possibly have a chance of building a community. Dull, sadly, and yet I read it with unusual dedication. Perhaps it was simply the expectation that surely, at some point, something had to happen, but sadly all that happened was that I finished the book.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Why is it that the second installment in a trilogy is nearly always the worst? The only exception I can think of is The Two Towers, which is my favorite of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (because of the Ents), but that doesn't really count because it wasn't written as a trilogy. Anyway, it's always been irritating to me that one has to suffer through the middle of a trilogy--that should be the good meaty part even if there's no climax or conclusion.

I can't remember if I posted about Peter David's The Woad to Wuin, the sequel to Sir Apropos of Nothing, but I found it much cruder and more contrived, with little of interest occurring and rather forgettable as a whole. The third book, Tong Lashing, however, while not as enjoyable as the first, is a nice ending to the story of Apropos, with fewer but better puns and a more coherent story line. I think one of my favorite things about these books is that not only is Apropos not a hero, what happens to him is realistically not black and white. The reader is never quite sure who is his enemy, or even if there is one--which is a nice change. And I like that the person with whom he falls in love in this book is the Ho of the Skang-Kei clan. Hee.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

At the moment I am entertaining my cat by alternately typing and swirling the cursor around on the computer screen. She's fascinated, sitting upright on my lap with her eyes fixed eagerly on the excitement I am creating. Hmm, she has also just produced an interesting stench--down, Lizzy, down!

Well, since I haven't actually finished a book for several days now, instead I'll recommend a CD I bought at Borders the other day. It was, I must admit, an impulse buy, but only a minor one since I've had Over the Rhine on my list for quite some time, ever since a friend introduced me to their music last year. Anyway, once I saw this CD it seemed silly not to buy it, since it was 2 discs for $15.99. It's the band's latest, called Ohio, and is rather more modern and streamlined than their older, more bluegrassy sound. The music is mellow and ballad-like, weaving in the musicians' backgrounds of country western, southern gospel, and rock and/or roll for a style all their own. So far my favorite songs are "What I'll Remember Most" and the title track, both on Disc 1; I haven't had much chance to listen to all of Disc 2.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Our small group of friends has been reading The Odyssey lately, as my readers know if they are also readers of Odious and Jack. I won't go into my thoughts on it, as these two have pretty much covered everything I had to say, except to insert a nice little quote which may well be Odysseus' reason for going home (to put forth an answer to a question that came up in recent conversation). Whether it is or not, I think it's the best sentiment in the book.

...then may the gods give you everything that your heart longs for;
may they grant you a husband and a house and sweet agreement
in all things, for nothing is better than this, more steadfast
than when two people, a man and his wife, keep a harmonious
; a thing that brings much distress to the people who hate them
and pleasure to their well-wishers, and for them the best reputation. Lattimore, lines 180-5

Anyway, I haven't gotten very far with The Odyssey because I got sidetracked by trying to remember what happened with Agamemnon. His infamous sacrifice comes up a lot, so I decided to go back and read Iphigenia at Aulis for the whole story.

What a weird play! It's Euripides' last and thus most cynical, as well as being unfortunately fragmented. Much of what remains is suspect, and the ending is almost certainly spurious, since a quote from Aelian suggests a much more logical and devious conclusion. I like the play, though, because nobody comes out of it retaining any sort of reputation at all. I can't say I ever thought much of Achilles anyway, but he's a real pompous jerk here, and Odysseus is just bloodthirsty. At first Agamemnon seems somewhat sympathetic, but then he caves in to his brother's emotional blackmail; and because of this I really can't feel terrifically sorry for him when Clytaemestra kills him off in Aeschylus' play (which of course I had to read next).

More than in any other Greek tragedy, the characters in Agamemnon have the disturbing quality of being completely isolated from each other. In between soliloquys that of course are not directed at anyone in particular, there are exchanges that appear to be dialogue (at least in that two characters take turns talking) but aren't at all. Perhaps it's not fair to use Cassandra as an example, but when she and the Chorus are talking, they might as well be on different planets for all the communication there is between them. But even Agamemnon and Clytaemestra are clearly (and deliberately) talking about two different things upon his homecoming, although it's also a classic example of passive argument--she's trying to get him to talk about something without actually addressing it herself, and he is refusing to acknowledge that he knows what's she's talking about.

It's a lot more fun reading Greek tragedies now that I don't have to; more and more I'm realizing the truth that freshman year is wasted on the freshmen.