Tsundoku

My beloved Mark Forsyth noted last January that he has two tsundoku (“a pile of books you’ve bought and haven’t got round to reading yet”).

I have something like that.

First, I have The Pile of Books I’ve Read, But Want to Review Before Returning to the Library:

unreturned

Then, the Pile of Shavian Poetry (thankfully Luci’s, not George Bernard’s):

luci-shaw

Then, the Pile of Apple Books – i.e., the books I took one bite of, and then put down to take a bite of something else.  If I’m not careful I shall have to make a bucket of applesauce.  So to speak.

unfinished

All that said, since I took these pictures, I’ve managed to remove a couple books from each pile.  Hurrah!

What’s in your tsundoku?

Uncut 2015 Christmas Letter

Hello, people-I-swear-to-write-but-never-do, relatives, and/or those who have filled me with a sense of obligation by mailing me something first!  Greetings of a seasonal variety to you!  May your Christmas season be full of love, hope, peace, and other fruits of the Spirit.

What follows is my attempt to sum up my year, despite the fact that you probably have learned most of this information via Facebook and, moreover, don’t expect changes of any great magnitude, because there weren’t any.  Unless you count starting on an antidepressant, in which case: there was one change of some magnitude in the past few months, and it is somewhat obvious if I forget it.   …pardon me a moment, I just realized I forgot something…

Right, so.  Life!  And the aspects thereof.  Well.  First off, there’s my…

Job: Yeaaah, I’m still at the law office.  I’ve now spent half a year as secretary for two attorneys, without more salary to show for it. Awesome.  Also awesome: doing anything with the court of appeals for the first time; we are all of us flailing about and consulting the court rules every 5 minutes.

Housing:  You may recall me living in a rental house with 3 other ladies.  As one of my erstwhile roommates got married and remained with her spouse in the house, Cecilia and I moved a whopping .8 miles north and east across Washtenaw.  This is close enough to walk between them, but far enough that anything you sent to my old address will miss me.  Except that I eventually put my mail on forward.  I meant to send you a tidy little handwritten note with my new address, but that just didn’t happen.  Sorry.

Romantic Relationships: Hahahaha, psych!  There’s been nothing of the sort for the last eight years at least.  This year, I went on 3 mediocre dates and 1 decent one, followed by some uninspired texts and no calls.  Friends have suggested I broaden my field of search to include more states, or at least the Fort Wayne seminary.  I may yet do so.

But! I am not without commitments: I have bought two new bookshelves this year and, by virtue of having a roommate who did the actual acquisition, acquired two kittens.  I’ve also become an official member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, having decided after 1.5 years in their choir that I wouldn’t just run off somewhere else.  Except for the weekends when I’m off attending weddings, when I will run most anywhere given sufficient notice.  There were three such weddings this year – those of my erstwhile housemate Hannah G. W., my other erstwhile housemate Liz C. N., and my concert-going, somewhat-indie music-supplying, lemon-jousting drinking buddy Hannah M. K., whose Astoria wedding was a delight to witness and stand up in.  I also attended my friend Zach’s ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood, which is basically like a wedding, except without a 300% markup on the celebratory cake.

There is now another wedding on the horizon, as my brother Paul is engaged to one of my dearest friends, Michelle; I am quite pleased for them (mostly because I am not the one currently dealing with obscene markups for nuptial celebration paraphernalia)(but also because I love them both dearly and, you know, hope they will carry on in delight together &c)(that said, Paul could be a bit less nauseating in his effusions of loving feeling)(someone get me a bucket).

I'm not even an engineer. Just label me "Exhausted" or "Envious" or something.

I’m not even an engineer. Just label me “Exhausted.”

Other celebrations: 12th Night (complete with Shakespeare, almond cake, and crowns); my first Feuerzangenbowle (complete with fiery sugar and carol-singing); Michaelmas (complete with more Milton than I’ve ever read in one sitting before); St. Crispin‘s Day (complete with yelling the Henry V speech to passersby on Mackinac Island); and birthday celebrations of several people, including me (complete with playing two games of Boggle at once!  Or eating Moroccan food/bowling/drinking Greek wine/reading Evelyn Waugh/however we celebrated birthdays).

I also basked in the reflected glory of my brother John competing on Jeopardy! in January, and his return for the Tournament of Champions in November.  My own knowledge of trivia has not been sufficient to get me past the online Jeopardy! test, but it HAS won me a few rounds on LearnedLeague.com.  Aw yiss.  So much less of a timesink than either TriviaCrack or JetPunk, addictions which I have overcome!   …Sadly I have not overcome my addiction to Sherlock fanfiction; please pray for my soul and/or recommend a support group.

No one can tell this deer is wearing jeans anyway.

No one can tell this deer is wearing jeans anyway.

On the bright side, I have profited greatly from reading both The Joy of Less and unfuckyourhabitat.tumblr.com, not that you can necessarily tell by looking at my work desk or my bedroom.  But I’ve managed to dispose of some papers that had lingered for the last year or six, and got rid of some brown pants just in time to miss them at Halloween.

Other consumables:  Continuing my tradition of checking things out of the library for as long as possible, I’ve had a couple books by Milosz out for 2 years now. It’s like grad school library privileges without needing to be in grad school.  Books I actually read include some volumes on orthography, a couple intriguing books by Neil Postman, and I, Robot; generally my reading material has been more poetic, word-loving, critical, depressed, and mildly feminist.

Viewing-wise, this has been the year of my finally watching Die Hard, The Room (via RiffTrax Live), Zoolander, and White Christmas for the very first time.  National Theatre Live brought Coriolanus and Hamlet within my purview, for which I both bless and curse them.  2015 also involved an Iron Man marathon (which, lest you be deceived, involves no physical activity) and more watching of The Decoy Bride / Not Another Happy Ending than is strictly advisable.  Not to mention The Mindy Project, Inspector Lewis, and odds and ends from Parks and Rec.

I remain a member of the UMS Choral Union, which performed Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Handel’s Messiah; as mentioned above, I’m part of my church choir as well.  Occasionally I pinch-hit as an alto because we are as poor in altos as we are rich in sopranos.  Shocking, I know.

This year’s culinary adventuring included the eating of Moroccan bistilla (would recommend) and the cooking of meringues, gluten-free pizza, and gluten-free fried chicken.  There were also a fair allotment of cocktails: lots of G&Ts and a fair sampling of Drinking with the Saints.

Also wik:  I read with some alacrity the epic saga of Brother Orange; I learned more of the geography of John and Elizabeth’s neighborhood whilst dogsitting, when I accidentally walked their dog Hektor 5 miles longer than necessary;  and I did the most Pinterest-y project of my life, namely, using twine and clothespins to hang a bunch of stuff, mostly calligraphy, on my bedroom wall.

963

There you have it: a far longer summary of a year than you might want or need.  Merry freaking Christmas, y’all.  See you all in 2016, unless I don’t actually.

Much love,
(really, I promise)
Joy

Onward, majestic Frog Steed!

Onward, majestic Frog Steed!  Onward to 2016!

All About Those As

 

Hi, my name is Melpomene, and I am a pop addict.

I love pop music. Happy, peppy, boppy, poppy pop music. But only the ones that have a hint of old fashioned swing rhythms. (Eliza Doolittle, anyone?)

And my most recent earworm is a chipper, confidant, swaggering number by the rising British pop singer Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass”. It explores the omnipulchritude of all people, reaffirming the age old concern over the beauty of cures and confidence. It is absurd. And delightful.

And listening to it during one fateful grading session, I was struck with an inspiration: this song would make a great Teacher Anthem.

So I made the thing. I (and my sweet teacher friend Katey) parodied the lyrics, and now we give you, “All About Those As”. Turn on the video, and scroll down to read the lyrics with the music.

 

“All About Those As”

Because you know
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As

Yeah, it’s pretty clear, it ain’t no easy A,
‘cause I can grade it, grade it
Like I’m supposed to do
But I got those good grades that all the kids chase
And all the red pens in all the right places

I see the homework fakin’, workin’ sparknotes
We know that it ain’t real
C’mon now, make it stop
If you got questions, answers, just raise ’em up
‘Cause every one of you’s engaged
From the back row to the front

Yeah, your mama she told you to be in bed at nine
She says, “you can’t play video games on a school night .”
You know I won’t be too easy, don’t even bother to cry.
But if that’s what you’re into then just go ahead and try.

Because you know I’m
All about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As
Hey!

We’re bringing brainy back
Go ahead and tell the common core that.
No we’re not playing. I know you can do it
So I’m here to make sure
Every one of you’s engaged from the back row to the front.

Yeah, your mama she told you to be in bed at nine
She says, “you will not play video games on a school night .”
You know I won’t be too easy, don’t even bother to cry.
But if that’s what you’re into please just go ahead and try.

Because you know I’m
All about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As

Because you know I’m
All about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As

Because you know I’m
All about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As
‘Bout those As, ’bout those As
Hey, hey, ooh
You know you like this A

 

My teacher friends and I want to make a video of this, but we are unsure of how. Does anyone have recommendations on how to make a video?

Culinary Ingenuity, Part 2

Tonight, I made a batch of crepes, and used them to wrap up some fried rice (made with leftover mushroom risotto, of all things, plus the requisite soy sauce and egg) and chorizo into breakfast-for-dinner burritos.  There were fridge pickles to go with it, and a sweet crepe for afters.

Am I

1) marvelously effective at cleaning out the fridge;

2) consuming four times the daily sodium recommended by the AHA;

3) profoundly disturbed;

4) terribly avant-garde;

5) overly fond of crepes and incidentally fresh out of black raspberry jam;

6) the single cause of every mess in the kitchen this week;

7) the reification of the American melting pot, at least where my dinner is concerned; or

8) all of the above?

Is this a beautiful example of household economy, or some kind of cry for help?

Is this a beautiful example of household economy, or some kind of cry for help?

On a less-rhetorical note: has this kind of madness ever manifested in your kitchen?  Odd as this concoction was, I still think my dad took the cake some 18-20 years ago.  He would always prepare a Sunday evening snack to sweep leftovers out of the fridge, but eventually found that some of the space was occupied by rarely-used, mostly-but-not-quite-empty cans of frosting.  One Sunday, he decided to serve them with graham crackers.  They sold, more or less, and so after that he put the frosting out again – which was great until we ran out of graham crackers and he put out saltines instead.  But it was, I suppose, ahead of the curve on the salty-sweet fad.  What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done to use up leftovers?

A Long-Unexpected Illustration

I’m hoping it won’t be stepping over any bounds to say that Thalia and her Vati have spent the past several months working on some storybooks (if so, expect redactions in the morning, I suppose).  They tell of The Noble Adventures of Georges and Jean-Luc, and are (so far as I have seen and read) charming.

The thing about them is, Thalia writes the stories and G. R. T. does the illustration.  This is, I am assured, a wise division of labor.

But.  Thalia HAS done some illustration in the past, and whilst going through some older pictures on my laptop this week, I came across proof of the fact.

There was a day, nigh-on two and a half years ago now, when the two of us declared that we would Draw Pictures of Poetic Merit for the Baby Loon (now a much older Loon!  We shall have to call her something else) and mail them to her.

The pictures were duly drawn, but were never sent.

Our apologies, dear Baby Loon.  Here they are now, better late (we hope?) than never.

IMG_3282 IMG_3284

After she had drawn Methuselah with ice cream, a camel, and a tent, and I had drawn a peacock, a pelican, a phoenix, and an albatross around a cross, we were in a sort of groove.  So we kept drawing.

IMG_3278 IMG_3279 IMG_3308

The latter pictures weren’t necessarily meant to go together, but I find it amusing that the Jameson family crest (shown here according to the whiskey brand variation; typically there are 3 ships and a bugle) and the tale of the Nancy Bell are both rather maritimey in nature.   I suppose one could indeed say that James of the Nancy Bell is indeed Sine Metu: Without Fear!  Without any Dutch courage involved, even.

“Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bo’sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain’s gig!”

Culinary Ingenuity

At work, we have the standard Mr. Coffee Coffeepot. We also have a French press, which an associate brought in a few years back. She ostensibly brought it in so anyone needing an afternoon jolt, not a full pot of coffee, could make a quick cuppa. I’ve wondered since if she didn’t just want to unload an object taking up space in her home, as no one ever uses it to make coffee. The last time it was used as such was the time I grabbed still-warm water from the water-heater to make coffee during a power outage.

More frequently, I use the French press to bring the water-heater water to boiling point for tea. It probably resents me for being its only user and filling it with such existential angst (“Am I a coffeepot, or am I a teapot?  O, if my manufacturers were to see me now!  Alas”).

…less frequently, like today, I use it to boil broccoli, asparagus, or green beans for part of my lunch. It seems a bit odd, but it works better than microwaving my veggies, and hey, built-in strainer! I also maintain that it’s less odd than making salmon with a coffeepot, or bibimbop on a waffle iron, or grilled cheese sandwiches with a flatiron:

Do your circumstances ever call for cultural ingenuity?  Please tell me about it!

Pipes Up!

I came home to an empty driveway and darkened house tonight.  This did not alarm me overmuch, but I did wonder where my housemates might be spending their Friday evening.  Annnnd then I went inside and got on Facebook, which reminded me that ah yes, they have made their way to Mackinac Island for the weekend.  Which prompts the question: what to do with an empty house?

Obvious, really: listen to really, really loud music!  And maybe vacuum up cobwebs at midnight because I can.  Mix up some really weird drinks.  Do some utterly tragic dancing.  Shower with the bathroom door open.  What can I say?  I live dangerously.

So dangerously, a thought struck.

Why just listen to really loud music when I could make it?

I don’t mean singing at the top of my lungs, nor playing the piano exceptionally ill.  No, this goes further back, back to college days and a rickety old house.

I headed down to the basement and retrieved my bagpipes.

It’s been years since I’ve even touched them.  Hillsdale had a ramshackle house for the pipers, back in the day, such that one could go and practice at any hour without disturbing anyone (much).  Whether one sounded like Donald MacLeod or a dying cat, the Pipe House was there, a judgment-free zone that mostly muffled the sounds from the neighbors.  There’s been nothing like that since – not at my parents’ house, certainly not in the apartment I shared with Thalia, not at my current home.  Not until this moment.

Down the Bagpipe diagramstairs I went to fetch the silver case.  It’s been waiting patiently for me.  I opened the case, took the pipes gently upstairs, and hunted down my water traps (which protect the reeds from getting too wet and mouldering).  There are four, but I could only find the three for the drones; in my eagerness to play, my attempts to find the fourth were half-hearted at best.  I fixed them into place, attached the dangling top joint of the long bass drone, carefully put the chanter in without disturbing the reed, zipped the bag shut, stood and blew.

The bag didn’t inflate and the chanter didn’t sound, but the noise that came out the drones vindicated every joke comparing the sound of the Highland pipes to the shrieks of a thousand tortured souls.

My kneejerk thought was Oh no.  I’ve lost all strength in my diaphragm, so much so that I can’t keep the bag inflated.  But that didn’t make sense – partly because singing ought to have kept my diaphragm strong enough; partly because the bag is meant to serve as a reservoir, pressured by the left arm to press air through the chanter and drone reeds.  So the second thought was Oh no.  I haven’t played it in years, and the seasoning wore off so the bag’s no longer airtight.  That seemed likely enough, but some examination revealed that oh hey!  I failed to zip the bag completely shut.  No wonder the chanter wasn’t sounding!

Scotty...you must have known this wasn't going to work...

Scotty…you must have known this wasn’t going to work…

Zipped properly, the bag inflated and the drones…well.  The drones still sounded bad.  But then I adjusted the second tenor drone and voila: the golden ringing tone of drones which might, just possibly, be in tune.  Sure, the stock needs new hemp wound around it to keep the reed in place, but it can be tuned!

My fingers still remember Bonny Galloway, Abide With Me, and Amazing Grace.  I got out my binders of pipe music, and it’s amazing what comes back: the hornpipes that I loved despite their being too fast for me (Honey in the Bag!); the numbers we rehearsed so much that it’s abhorrent merely to set eyes on them (ugggggh, Mull of Kintyre); the songs that accelerate like a train; and the piobaireachd with its elaborate ornamentation.

So housemates, be prepared: my pipes are up, and I don’t think I’ll put them back down.

…well, okay, except for right now, because my lips just gave out.

A Toast to Tom

Earlier this month, my housemate Cecilia requested of all and sundry that someone bring Tom Hiddleston to her.  Since none of us have made his acquaintance (and since honor demands that another friend meet him first, should it ever depend on me), the best thing I could offer was a Hiddleston-inspired cocktail.

So we set to work.  The first item of business was asking “If Tom Hiddleston were a drink, what would he be?”  Our Facebook friends were delightfully forthcoming:
            Something proper and classic, but also playful.
            Obviously mead given his asgardian roots.
            It would have to involve gin.
            Something that makes you raise your eyebrows and go ‘daaang’.
            a gin and tonic with extra lime for that dazzle that gives little playful dollop to a classic beverage.
            Something tall and delicious.

The two of us also brainstormed a fair bit: we wanted something classy and elegant, appropriately British, sweet, strong, a little fruity or perhaps a little nutty.  Then Cecilia said “Fun, but with an edge; a little bit crazy,” and I wondered if we were still talking about Tom or if we’d conflated him with his various roles.

Bottles and bottlesand bottles some more

In the end, we decided that the best thing to do was to create a drink based on Tom himself, then a few others based on our favorite characters he’s played.  I hauled bottle after bottle up from the basement, consulting Cecilia on the smell of each spirit and liqueur we proposed to combine.  Here’s what we came up with:

Tom Hiddleston
1.5 oz gin (Beefeater)The Tom Hiddleston
.75 oz St-Germain
.75 oz Pama
Dash orange bitters
Champagne to top in a wineglass (4-5 oz)

Verdict: appropriately sparkling; good and all, but more formal; not quite a pajama party or anything.
We tried adding ½ a tablespoon of Fee’s grenadine.  Adding some sweetness was a good idea, but it turned out to be too much; this whole recipe needs some work.


Loki #1
3 oz champagne
1 oz green crème de menthe
Serve in champagne flute; garnish with mint sprig

Verdict: This was mostly an excuse to use up some champagne as well as the incredibly green crème de menthe.  It’s powerfully minty, which makes it seem boozier than it really is.  It’s not that crazy, but the mint sprig adds the touch of slipping into the drinker’s face, as if to holler “LOKI’D!”

Loki #2
.75 oz green Chartreuse
.5 oz lime juice
.25 oz Maraschino liqueur
.25 oz simple syrup
¼ tsp absinthe
Stir gently and strain into cocktail glass.

Verdict: This is a paler green, but comes much closer to the “crazier than a bag of cats” taste we were going for.  It’s very similar to a Last Word, but removes the gin and adds the anise taste of absinthe.  I was well satisfied.

Coriolanus

Coriolanus
1.5 oz vodka
.25 oz Campari
.25 oz Amaretto
.25 oz Cherry Heering
.25 oz syrup
Stir in a martial fashion and strain into cocktail glass.  Sip while looking down your nose at the rabble.

Verdict:  It was quite as red as we hoped for; the strength of the vodka, bitterness of the Campari, and some visual allusion to all the blood covering Coriolanus were our chief goals.  In addition, since we were surprised by how sympathetic all the characters were in the Donmar Warehouse production, we added the syrup and liqueurs to make it go down a bit more easily.

Henry V
2 oz Laird’s Old Apple Brandy
1 oz complex syrup*
.7 oz lemon juice 
1 dash old fashioned bitters
Shake, strain, and garnish with a sage leaf.
*Boil a cup or so of sugar and water with sage, thyme, and rosemary for remembrance; strain and cool before use.

Verdict: This is something of a modified Sidecar, made with ingredients that evoked a much more rural England of centuries past.  Cecilia declared that it was “more Kenneth than Tom because of the sourness/bitterness.”  I declared that we had had enough to drink.

005

…then shall our names, Familiar in his mouth as household words – Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester – Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.