Friday, July 25, 2008

food, food, food

I grew up with The New Yorker in every bathroom. Like many kids, I started by skipping the articles and just looking at the cartoons. Eventually I discovered the articles and fell in love with Anthony Lane.

My favorite bit though, hands down, are the restaurant reviews. "Tables For Two" looks at places I will never visit, and not just because i hate New York City, and is always witty. Furthermore, the critics mention food I've never heard of, prepared in ways I cannot imagine - it's such a wonderful flight of fancy. "Vacherin with coconut, mango marmalade and passion fruit emulsion" - I have no idea what this might be, but it does sound interesting, no?

Monday, July 21, 2008

a monday ramble

Busy weekend on the Internet - lots of student questions, problems, concerns. One of my college professors referred to her job as being "in loco parentis" which (I think) is Latin for "I'm away from my parents and you're a stand-in, so please help me by listening to what's going on and be a kind ear."

I keep a cheat sheet on this - OK, check with A to see how the broken leg is doing, has S's father gotten out of the hospital, don't mention boyfriends to N, did D lose his house, etc. I don't know if I help at all, but we all need a good vent now and then.

I'm struck by how quickly the "sandwich generation" has passed down the age line. I assumed that one started grappling with children and aging parents maybe in the late forties or fifties, but what with my aging students, the economy, and job loss, more and more of them are writing essays about American history as they try to feed children and not strangle the parent who is now living in their basement.

The Great Depression brought out the worst in many people, but the best in others. People learned frugality, mutual responsibility and not to be too proud. Can Americans do this again? Can we set aside our SUVs and plasma tvs to sav our credit card balances?

Enough profundity.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

point of view?

I woke up in the middle of the night and simply couldn't get back to sleep. After a while I gave up and turned on the radio. Indianapolis NPR plays BBC World Service at night and it's generally 1) interesting (oh, that Colin Firth interview!) and #2 eventually soothes me back to my pillow's charms.

I came in halfway through the piece, so I have only a hazy understanding of what precipitated the narration, but the story involved two scientists and the reporter roaming around on an island, studying various kinds of amphibians to see how many of them had become infected by a fungus. All animals collected were swabbed in a variety of, er, personal areas as well as the stomach, and then released. At one point they found a certain kind of newt (salamander? are they the same?) and in my drowsy state, I started to wonder how it felt in that moment.

"OK, here I am, minding my own business, looking for a meal - oops, I've been picked up by a large creature, all right, better prepare to be someone else's meal - wait, what's going on? What on earth - ew! Hey! If I'm not going to be your next lunch, don't touch me there! Oo! Oo! That tickles!"

Friday, July 11, 2008

As The Wrench Does Not Turn

One of my cherished childhood books (still one I regard with great affection) is a copy of Babar and His Castle. Did I mention that it's entirely in French? When it comes to foreign languages in general, not just French, I do reasonably well with learning nouns and adjectives and the verb bases, but I fall to pieces when matters get more complicated. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that I never learned to diagram sentences, but no matter.

I have read and reread this book I don't know how many times. I know enough French that I get the jist of the story (the pictures help) but as to specifics I'm a bit vague. I just look through it, enjoy the ambiance and smile.

This is how I feel about the NPR show Car Talk. (Sorry, no link, I'm lazy.) I know just enough about cars to get a general notion of what's going on, I enjoy the banter and silliness and when I don't understand a term, I can just blip on by. I'm a fairly faithful listener, even when the topic under discussion is hopelessly over my head... kind of like the plu-perfect tense.

Thus I was very excited about watching the first episode of the PBS series "As the Wrench Turns", a cartoon supposedly about the wacky adventures of the Car Talk hosts. I ended a truly wonderfully funny phone chat so that I could watch it. I poured myself a glass of perfectly good wine, called the dog over, and prepared....

My time would have been better spent digging out my old verb flashcards from grad school.

The concept of spoofing PBS fund drives was sound enough, and the guys' voices as as amusing as ever... but the execution was dull, the supporting cast extraneous and in my humble opinion, the show is a dismal failure. There wasn't even enough promise to it that I would be willing to give it a second chance. (sigh) This is too bad.

Now I must return to the moral qualms about whether or not I can watch the new episodes of "Dog the Bounty Hunter" in good conscience.