Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Obituary Stiffs Director's Best Effort

Howard Zieff, best known for Private Benjamin, directed this overlooked, under-rated sweetheart of a movie, released in 1975. Jeff Bridges is at his most effectively charming -- a year after he knocked everybody's socks off in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.

Sadly, Zieff's obituary in the New York Times makes no mention of this gem.

And good luck trying to find a copy of the movie.

Friday, February 20, 2009

GM. Gone Mental?

Here's the source of my current irritation: "Automakers Seek $14 Billion More, Vowing Deep Cuts", from the New York Times, 2/17/2009.

GM says it's keeping the Buick brand.

The median age of a Buick owner is 70. (You'll need to register for a free account -- or just take my word for it.)

Even Tiger Woods wasn't able to reverse the car's aging trend. ("You can have all the ad campaigns in the world. But if you've got a vehicle that's OK for a 60-year-old or older, you're in trouble." -Anonymous Buick Dealer.)

GM is eliminating the Saturn brand.

The median age of a Saturn owner is 46. (Ditto the free account.)

In other words, there's a significant age gap between Saturn and Buick owners.

This thinking-in-reverse approach is troubling, especially when it involves billions of dollars in bailout money. The "deep cuts", apparently, include brain matter.

Time for a Tull encore.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Separated at Birth

or, Wisconsin feels Virginia's pain.

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA)
Republican Whip

John Gard (R-Wannabee)
Wisconsin whipping boy

At least Wisconsin voters had the good sense not to send our Gomer to Congress. Twice!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bye, Bye, Betty (Betty Goodbye)

A little travelin' music, Maestro. (Open link in new window.)

Hit the road, woman!

Hello, my real McCoy!

Escalloped Potatoes
(Farm Recipes and Food Secrets from the Norske Nook)

1/4 cup butter plus butter for dotting
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
1 teaspoon minced onion
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1 pint milk and 1 pint cream mixed together
6 to 8 potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (I used Yukon Gold)
Grated cheese (or not)
Diced or chunked ham (or not)

(Say "yes" to cheese.)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Place butter and flour in heavy saucepan and stir together with wire whisk until creamy. Add salt, pepper, onion, celery, milk and cream, and cook over medium heat until smooth, stirring constantly.
2. Slice the potatoes thin into 2-quart buttered casserole.
3. Pour the cream sauce over potatoes, dot with butter, and bake 30 to 45 minutes, until a fork goes in easily. (Ours needed the full 45.)

(If using cheese or ham, add it to the cream sauce before pouring it over the potatoes.)

Retirement has its rewards.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday's Op-Ed Required Reading

Frank Rich of the New York Times is in top form here.
"They Sure Showed That Obama".

This (Page 17) Headline Says It All

....about today's journalists' prime motivation in pursuing a story: GOTCHA!!

No Bombshells Apparent in Bess Truman's Family Papers

Sorry, none today.

Link to New York Times online story, which uses a more straightforward headline, perhaps written after the disappointment of no juicy discoveries set in.

Had it been otherwise -- the potential for bombs bursting in air -- we'd have seen a page 1, above-the-fold screamer.

And here's another example of how times have changed.

Mrs. Truman was also reluctant for her husband to become vice president because she feared that the news media would delve into her father’s suicide. But the suicide did not become public. (My emphasis.)

Can you imagine such restraint being demonstrated today?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Valentine's Day Breakfast for My Sweetest One

And on this special day, I'd like to dedicate this song to JoAnna.

Myopia Redux

Link to February 13 New York Times article, "Bipartisanship Isn’t So Easy, Obama Sees," by Peter Baker.

Excerpt: The party-line schism, coupled with the withdrawal on Thursday of a Republican senator, Judd Gregg, as a nominee to Mr. Obama’s cabinet, made clear the futility so far of the president’s effort to move Washington toward post-partisanship.

According to Mr. Baker, it either is or it ain’t. It’s black or it’s white. Nothing in-between. No gray matter.

So tell me. Why do so many journalists refuse to consider the possibility that Obama has a larger, more long-term plan here? (Answer #1: Probably because, since well before the election, they have consistently underestimated his ability to weather difficult situations and come out on top. Answer #2: They focus on the in-the-moment-fight, not the big-picture strategy – the latter probably requiring too much thought.)

To me, it’s a given that Obama knew the Republicans wouldn’t join him at the altar of bipartisanship, at least not right away. Instead, he knew they’d run to their favorite TV and cable enablers and demonstrate the same intransigence, obtuseness, and rigid ideology that they have all along. For crying out loud, why do you think that Mitch McConnell has a 48% unfavorable rating – up 4 percentage points in just 2 weeks!

Obama simply gave the Republicans a series of opportunities to look really bad on the public stage. And they ran with it.

And as soon as Obama stepped up to his bully pulpit, he created a sense of clarity and purpose.

Somehow, this doesn't strike me as futility.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Better Than Mom's

From the February 9th page of the Cookie Calendar. I'll confess that the crumbly dough created some doubt as to the outcome. Not to worry. I've never seen a batch of cookies eaten up so quickly.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 (1 stick) sweet butter
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup unrefined light brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup (8 oz.) crunchy peanut butter
pinch of salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional; but not in this house)

Sift the flour and baking soda together. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugars until soft and creamy. Combine the egg, flour mixture, peanut butter, and salt. Add the butter and sugar mixture and mix until smooth.

Wrap the dough in foil or parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. (Sorry, no instant gratification here. I took the overnight advice.)

Shape the dough into 1 1/4 inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Flatten slightly (very gently) with a fork. Bake 15 minutes, or until golden. (Our oven required 22 minutes to reach a golden state.)

Remove from oven (yeah, this is what the recipe advises) and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. (They won't last that long, believe me! Not unless you make a quadruple batch.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Exhibit A

Robert Gibbs, White House press secretary, recently criticized the "myopic viewpoint in Washington".

In today's New York Times, White House Correspondent Peter Baker provides a stunning example of it.

The first 4 paragraphs in particular make me wonder where Baker has been since Inauguration Day -- and particularly what he was doing yesterday evening.

And it's labeled "news analysis". Ay-yi-yi!

You want analysis? Read Bob Herbert's column.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sexism: Still Running Rampant

It's not about the clothes.

Did anyone else notice the focus of many stories about First Lady Michelle Obama during the last month or so?

"Fashion Spotlight Shines on First Lady Obama". NPR, 1/23/2009.

"Michelle Obama: First Lady of Fashion." Chicago Sun-Times, 1/20/2009.

"First lady of fashion: Like Jackie Kennedy, Michelle Obama set to change U.S. styles". Boston Herald, 1/15/2009.

"Fashion icon: Michelle Obama's look is a new chapter in first lady style". Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1/15/2009.

"U.S. Fashion’s One-Woman Bailout? " New York Times, 1/7/2009.

"Michelle Obama's urban chic heads to D.C." CNN, 12/22/2008.

And this breathless headline from abroad.

"The First Lady of Fashion. Her hairdos. Her frocks. Her taste in food and interior design - even her friends. Every choice Michelle Obama makes from now on will face merciless public scrutiny. So how will she cope?" London Mail, 1/19/2009.

So tell me, how predictable is this headline?

"‘Mom in Chief’ Touches on Policy, and Tongues Wag". New York Times, 2/7/2009.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Headline of the Day

Courtesy of the Oshkosh Northwestern.

House on Smokey Road had pot-growing operation.

Just hang a right at the stop-and-go light.

Friday, February 6, 2009

And in this shoebox.... a collection of postcards I accumulated in 1976.

And what compelled me to take another look at them?

An article in today's New York Times, "Main Street Postcards as Muse".

[Walker] Evans is foremost a giant of 20th-century photography, the instigator of a lean, elegant documentary style that was as unvarnished as it was ennobling. He immortalized gaunt sharecroppers, dilapidated plantations and bone-dry country stores in the South; worker housing and grimy factories in the industrial North; and (with a hidden camera) the unguarded expressions of New York subway riders.

But before he was anything else, Evans was an obsessed collector of postcards. This exhibition reveals them as the through line, the wellspring of his art.

How about that? My own fascination with Main Street puts me in great company.

First group: small city main streets
Greeneville, Tennessee
Charlottesville, Virginia
Great Barrington, Massachusetts

Second group: Business district aerial views
Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Wilmington (Delaware)

Business districts at night: Amarillo, Las Vegas, Los Angeles

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Playing With Considerably Less Than a Full Deck

From the glistening lips of Sen. Lindsey Graham: “I like President Obama, but he is not leading. Having lunch is not leading. Scaring people is not leadership...we have had enough President's trying to scare people.”

I guess Lindsey missed this little tidbit.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney warned that there is a “high probability” that terrorists will attempt a catastrophic nuclear or biological attack in coming years, and said he fears the Obama administration’s policies will make it more likely the attempt will succeed. (Thoughts shared in a 2/4/2009 interview with

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

From the January 28 page of our cookie calendar



For the crust:
¾ cup (1½ sticks) sweet butter
⅓ cup superfine sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2 cups (7 oz.) pecan halves

For the topping:
½ cup (1 stick) sweet butter
¾ cup light brown sugar
5 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (I erred on the side of no such thing as too much chocolate.)

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9 x 13 in. pan with foil. Cut the butter into chunks and melt in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla. Stir in the sifted flour and salt. Press the dough into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then scatter the pecans over the crust and bake for 10 minutes more until the crust is golden brown. Remove from oven.

For the topping, melt the butter and stir in the brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Pour the hot butter mixture over the pecans/crust. Bake for 10 minutes then remove from oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips. Cool in the pan. Lift the foil and transfer to a chopping board. Cut into bars. Makes 2 dozen.

Unbelievably good! In fact, JoAnna enjoyed one with her morning coffee today.

A keeper!

Monday, February 2, 2009