The Cheesecake I’m Not Serving

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The new line drawing is here!  The new line drawing is here! [1]

Scarletta Press‘s managing editor/idea guru Nora Evans came up with a wonderful idea to cap off the cover design of my book.  Instead of using the standard, black & white thumbnail photos of the author and artists she’ll have The Mighty Quinn’s illustrators, Aaron and Katie DeYoe, do line drawings of the author and artists, in the style of the book’s text illustrations.

I’ve always wanted to attain artist’s rendering status.  The Picasso-esque [2] sketch college roommate LMW drew of me ~ 30 years ago doesn’t count.

The picture will be something ala this style, without the spaghetti-flinging.

*   *   *

Insert your own, favorite (and graceful) segue here.  ‘Cause I’m all out of ’em.

One of the most intricate, fascinating, and overlooked (IMHO) aspects of The Gun Thing ®  is the research into what happens during actual gunfights; i.e., real, live human beings shooting at one another, as opposed to dueling computer game avatars, one-shot-takedown cinematic secret agents, or politicians shooting off their mouths.

No matter what you think you think about the various proposals to have armed guards in every nook and cranny and orifice in America, it would be worthwhile to acquaint yourself with “Your Brain Under Fire,” (Time Magazine, January 28 issue). This article gives an overview of the science behind how your brain reacts when you are shot at, or when you shoot at someone.  It’s a fascinating read – a mere three pages of text, should only take ten minutes of your time.  Or twice that if you are a NASCAR fan or were home-schooled at the Michele Bachmann Academy of Historical Reading Comprehension [3] or are a regular viewer of Toddlers & Tiaras.

*   *   *

Sitting on our counter is a delicious slice of Marionberry [4] goodness.  Not as in His royal badness, former DC mayor, Marion Barry

What’s on the counter is the remainder of a piece of Marionberry pie I hid in the freezer a couple of weeks ago (I wanted a taste of it before my son K used his I’m-returning-to-college-tomorrow excuse to finish it off).   Mere words cannot describe the berryliciousness of this treat, but since I’m not a fan of interpretive dance, language will have to suffice.  Yummers.

For the past x weeks we’ve been the beneficiaries of friend LAH’s project to cook her way through Rustic Fruit Desserts: Crumbles, Buckles, Cobblers, Pandowdies, and More, the cookbook from Portland’s legendary chef, restaurateur and James Beard Award winner, Cory Schreiber.  We’ve had fruit cobbler in the refrigerator, chocolate cake on the table, and more.  We’ve had cheesecake on the counter…but none in the boudoir.

Cheesecake in the boudoir

Believe it or not, Ripley, this particular segue will eventually make sense.

Televangelist Pat Robertson, arguably the first person to survive a partial brain abortion, has fought a lifelong battle with chronic AIM (ass-in-mouth) syndrome.  The unintentionally comical Robertson  can always be counted on to produce a bizarre brain boner during a slow news week.

Robertson’s face-palm worthy howlers have included attributing same sex attraction to evil spirits , earthquakes to voodootropical cyclones to legalized abortion , endorsing wife-beating and nuking the State Department .  The latest manifestation of his AIM comes in the form of his blaming “awful looking women” for marital monotony.

Which, of course, made me think of cheesecake in the boudoir.

*   *   *

Please give me some good advice in your next letter. I promise not to follow it.
(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Letters)

As an adolescent growing up with politically conservative parents, I looked at friends’ copies of the LA Times for actual news reportage, and read the Orange County Register [5], the only newspaper in our household, for entertainment. Besides The Register’s editorial page, few of its regular features were more entertaining than The Worry Clinic, a syndicated advice column written by George Crane .

The Worry Clinic was a six days a week venture for Dr. Crane:  two days to worry about love and marriage, and one day each devoted to worrying about business, child-rearing, personality development, and what Crane called “mental hygiene.” (As Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Green noted, apparently Dr. Crane saved the seventh day so that he could worry himself, after worrying for everyone else the other six days.).

I don’t remember if The Register printed all of The Worry Clinic columns; I do remember they ran the ones that dealt with relationships and child-reading.  Dr. Crane, who somehow managed to receive several degrees from Northwestern University, liked to say that he learned most of what he needed to know working as a farm hand during summer vacations from high school and college. It showed.

Each of The Worry Clinic‘s columns was illustrated with a line drawing of a woman and/or a man, whose clothing and hairstyles were 1940-50s suburban caricatures.  No matter that it was the 1970s, few men sported hats, let alone fedoras, and women/housewives (the terms were synonymous in Dr. Crane’s world) seldom wore Betty Boop dresses and pearl necklaces when doing the dishes.

My parents clipped select TWC columns and scotch-taped them on that most passive-aggressive of family communication devices: the refrigerator door.  I penciled snarky comments next to the columns’ particularly flaming, WTF? passages, and enhanced the illustrations with moustaches and googly eyes.  I was never called on that vandalism editorializing by my parents, who therefore, I reasoned, never re-read the columns they’d taken the time to clip and post.  The postings themselves were evidence that my parents read TWC, and for different reasons than I, who used them as a horrifying/amusing, negative barometer of sorts. Indeed, Crane’s “advice” provided many of the formative, click moments that reinforced my growing feminist understanding of the world.

 There was certain egalitarianism to Crane’s counsel.  No matter if the advice seeker was man or woman, young or old – TWC advice, in a nutshell, [6] consisted of three tenets:

1.  If wives are not slavishly praising their husbands they are nagging their husbands.
There is no  in-between.
2. All marital/family discord is due to wives not serving their husbands
enough “cheesecake in the boudoir.”
3. See (2)

Your husband ridiculed your father’ s re-telling of his How I Single-handedly Won the Battle of Iwo Jima story during Christmas dinner, and now your parents aren’t speaking to you? You obviously aren’t serving your husband enough Cheesecake in the boudoir. 

Your children are doing C- work at school and smart-mouthing you at home?  The wife should be serving her mate more Cheesecake in the boudoir. 

Although you correct them at every opportunity, your in-laws refer to your disabled daughter as “that cutesy-wootsy Mongoloid?”  Hubby needs Cheesecake in the boudoir.

Ashamed by your failure to be a loving husband after you criticized your wife for developed a bleeding ulcer when your son returned from the Vietnam War a heroin-addicted, double amputee?   Your wife needs to serve you more Cheesecake in the boudoir.  

Boudoir-free Cheesecake

This crust-free version has way less calories and fat grams, and thus less guilt (pre- or post-feminist), than your typical cheesecake.

– ½ c sugar
– 2 T all purpose unbleached flour
– ½ T pure vanilla
-16 oz Neufchatel or nonfat cream cheese, softened
-2 whole eggs
-3 ounces sweet baking chocolate, melted. (optional). [7]

1. preheat oven to 325.  Put a kettle of water on to boil.
2. Combine sugar, flour, vanilla & cream cheese in a mixing bowl.  Use an electric beater on medium speed to mix the ingredients until they are well-blended.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
3. lightly oil or spray four 5 oz custard cups with neutral [8] cooking spray/oil.  Place cups in an 8″ or 9″ square baking pan.
4. poon cheesecake batter into the cups. Drizzle spoonfuls of the melted chocolate over the surface of the batter and use a toothpick or thin-bladed knife to make as many swirly chocolate designs as your foo-foo heart desires.
5. transfer pan to oven; add hot water to the pan, enough to come halfway up the sides of the cups.  Bake for 45 minutes.
6. Use oven mitts to oh-so-carefully remove the custard cups from what is now their very hot water bath.  The individual cheesecakes will be puffy, and will “fall” a bit as they cool.  When cool enough to handle, cover the cups and refrigerate them overnight, or at least for two hours.

Serve as is, or top with one or more of the following: slices of fresh berries, a dollop of lowfat sour cream or greek yogurt  whipped with vanilla or a dash of lemon juice, shavings of best quality dark chocolate, crushed peppermints or crumbled chocolate creme de menthe thins, (or for a real treat, Ghiradelli’s Peppermint Bark )

*   *   *

Department of StartingTo Sound Like The Old Folks

All together now:  How can it be February, already?

‘Tis a relatively brief but important month, filled with several way-cool happenings, including my daughter’s birthday (number 17, yikes). February 1 has hosted its share of significant cultural events. I shall mention only the most important two:

* the 1954 birth of writer-producer-musician-actor Bill Mumy, beloved by aficionados of bad sci-fi TV as Lost In Space‘s Will Robinson.

* the 1964  attempt by Indiana Governor Mathew Walsh to ban “Louie Louie” for obscenity. Really.  The FBI started an investigation into the matter and concluded, THIRTY ONE MONTHS LATER, that they were “unable to interpret any of the wording in the record.”  Of course, adults tittering over the need for such an investigation was like blowing a dog whistle to horny American teenagers,[9] who spent hours listening to the Kingman’s famously garbled hit single, trying to figure out what the Feds thought they heard and what the rest of us thought we’d missed.  Many a youthful fantasy was shattered when kids finally bought the sheet music for the song and discovered there was not a whole lotta shakin’ going on.

In hindsight, the Your Tax Dollars At Work department should have scheduled J. Edgar Hoover for a 5 minute tutoring session with a middle school grammar teacher, who could have explained to the closeted, cross-dressing, racist, evidence-planting, Commie-baiter defender of American Values the difference between obscenity and unintelligibility.

I would have paid good money to watch those hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] Well, not quite yet.

[2] Cubist face; three eyes; one boob.

[3]  Iowa (January 2011) Bachmann declared: “We also know the very founders that wrote those documents (the US Constitution) worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States… Men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.”  Not only did the writers of our constitution not “extinguish” slavery, they implicitly upheld the institution by regulating it.  And John Quincy Adams? He was extinguished in 1848, fifteen years before the Emancipation Proclamation.

[4] Yet another reason to love Oregon, home to the crossbreed Marionberry, released in 1956. A good year for blackberry hybrids. And Chevys. And women.

[5] Even my parents recognized that the libertarian-leaning OC Register was biased in its coverage of public schools. If I came home with a story about how an African-American student sassed a Chicano student for sneezing on his ‘fro pick during lunch recess, The Register would run a story the next day about how there was yet another race riot at Santa Ana High School.

[6] An appropriate container

[7] Are you allergic to chocolate? No? Then it’s not optional.  Who am I kidding?

[8] “Neutral” refers to the taste the oil imparts, and carries no political inference.  Neutral oils are nearly flavorless; olive oils have distinct flavors and are never neutral, even if the olives are from Sweden or Switzerland.

[9] Pardon the redundancy.

The Wild Rumpus I’m Not e-Reading

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“You cannot write for children. They’re much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them.”   (Maurice Sendak)

It’s hard to imagine, in a world where we have children’s literature (ahem) with titles like Zombie Butts From Uranus, and The Fart Book: Whiff it, Sniff it, Lay it, Rip it! – Milo Snotrocket’s Gross-out Guide to Thunderpants and Toilet Tunes and Go the F*** to Sleep [1], that Where the Wild Things Are caused a bit o’ controversy when it was first published in 1963.

Some parents said that the book’s illustrations of fanged and clawed, googly-eyed creatures were too grotesque and frightening for a children’s book.  Of course, most children (and adults) thought otherwise, and Maurice Sendak’s tale of imaginative Max’s journey is now a beloved classic. Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the book’s publication by giving a copy to a child of any age who doesn’t have one, or break out your own well-thumbed copy for a re-read, and let the wild rumpus begin.

*   *   *

“F**k them is what I say. I hate those ebooks. They cannot be the future. They may well be. I will be dead. I won’t give a s**t.”      (Maurice Sendak)

With all apologies to the late, great Maurice, spinning (slowly, naturally, without the aid of technology) in his grave: I gave up (in?) and bought an eReader.

We had one in the family: MH’s birthday gift, from K and Belle and I, was a Nook .  When searching for MH’s gift I’d researched the various models available, and went with the recommendations of a techie whose name I cannot recall.  Also, I liked the Dr. Seuss-ish sound of the device.

Dead tree scrolls I’ve not forsook
Since I broke down and bought a Nook.
I like to read by hook or crook [2]
and when I look open up the Nook
I’m treated to a new ebook.

It turned out to be quite the popular device.  Belle used money from her after school job at Noodles & Company and bought herself the same version as MH.  I had leftover gift $$ to spend (thanks, Mom!) and got the HD version for me, as I want to be able to see hamster and whistle and other images from The Mighty Quinn’s cover page in glorious e-color.

*   *   *

Inauguration, schmauguration

(written on Monday, January 21: There are going to be two prayers during President Obama’s inaugural ceremony: an invocation and a benediction. I will not watch today’s ceremony, for that reason.

Various Christian conservatives are arguing over what it means to have the first “lay person” (i.e. non-clergy, first woman, to boot) give the invocation [3] and a non-evangelical [4] blather the benediction they.  As always, they miss the point.  There should be no argument because there should be no deity-invoking in a secular procedure.

The founders of our nation, when forming the nation’s governing document, made it god-free.  Religion is mentioned merely twice in the U.S. Constitution, and then only in exclusionary terms:

-“…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (Article VI, Section 3)

-“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” (from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution)

The United States is the most diverse country on the planet in terms of world view or belief systems.  Twenty percent of us are the “nones” (freethinkers, humanists, Brights, atheists/agnostics or the “non-affiliated”); the rest of us claim affiliation with denominations described [5] as mainline Protestants, evangelical Protestant, Catholic, historically black churches, Jewish, Mormon, Buddhist, Jehovah’s Witnesses, “other Christian,” Orthodox, Hindu, Wiccan, “other world religions” and “other faiths.”  One of the few things people pledging allegiance to different religious beliefs can claim in common is their willingness to be live in this country and be united through our system of governance.

The presidential oath of office, laid out in Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution, is secular, in accordance with our secular democracy.  There is no mandate nor even mention of placing a hand on (anyone’s) scriptures; no “so help me God”:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States,
and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The Constitution does not mandate religious oaths; it prohibits them. Yet once the religious verbiage got appended in the inaugural oath, woe unto those who might consider removing it (surely, that would be evidence that they are Kenyan socialists!).  And so Obama, like every pandering politician president since Chester Arthur in 1881, will follow suit, and place his hand on a collection of monarchy-upholding, Bronze Age fables one particular version of one particular denomination’s scriptures, and by doing so he’ll violate the Constitution in the act of promising to uphold it.

*   *   *

Beware literary journals helmed by MFAs [6]:

I have a file, once hard copy, now on my computer, labeled Most Pretentious Writers Guidelines.[7]  Always happy to add another entry to the file, my happiness was doubled this week, when I came across the following as I was checking out a journal that had put out a call for material.  The first blurb is from the journal’s how-we-journal-came-to-be description, the second from their About the Editors listing:

Several members of the editorial board of “The Lofty Spleen Review”[8] are graduates of the prestigious MFA in Creative Writing program at Pompeux College, one of the top five programs of its kind in the nation.  As a highly educated, highly motivated group…. 

Editor Richard Knoggin[9]  completed his M.F.A degree in Creative Writing at the prestigious Pompeux College of Cleftpan, Iowa.[10] The low-residency program he attended is rated as one of the top five in the nation….

Yeah, I get it.  Y’all think highly of your pretentious prestigious, highly educated selves.

If there’s anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot immediately!
(Douglas Noel Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

*   *   *

Happy reading.  May hilarity ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] Okay, so this title is not marketed at children.  Way too funny to share it with them.

[2] Obscure Anglo/Irish expression of disputed origins meaning “by any means necessary.”

[3] Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights hero Medgar Evers.

[4] Rev. Luis Leon, a liberal pastor at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

[5] By organizations that keep track of such things; e.g., The Pew Charitable Trusts & Religious Tolerance

[6] Use your best Mr. Rogers voice: “Can you say, prestigious?  I knew you could! Now see if you can find a reason to use it, as many times as you can.”

[7] Writers guidelines, for those of you sane enough to be non-writers or those unacquainted with the term, are guidelines from a journal or publishing house that specify their requirements for material from writers.

[8] Not the journal’s real name.

[9] Not the editor’s real name.

[10] Not the college’s real name or location.  Except in my dreams.