Thursday, June 18, 2009


Today is my birthday, and I am sick in bed trying to get over the flu that rebounded over last weekend. It’s not a major birthday year so I’m not too upset that I’m not indulging my sweet tooth or stuffing my maw with things that are no longer good for me and stay with me longer than I would like. It’s not the worst birthday either. That was my 19th birthday when my beloved grandfather (whom I was named after) died in Ireland with my father just making the 3000 mile journey within a hour before my grandfather passed away. Despite the years in between, and ignoring my name and my birth date, I think about him, and all my grandparents, a lot. Barely a week goes by that I don’t think of all them.

Since today I am being a bed-to-couch-to-bed slug, I thought I would share some favorite things.

1. Books. Well duh!

I finally finished entering all my books into a media cataloging program called Delicious Library. It saved me the task of actually counting my books, which I traditionally do on my birthday. The total as of today is (excluding 50 blank books and 100 stripped cover mass markets) 1,961.

Entering books into Delicious Library took longer than expected as I often stopped to reacquaint myself with a book, usually baring the distresses of smoke and water from the Fire, and losing myself within it for a few hours. It’s a wonderful thing to have a few hours of quiet to read a good book.

2. Food.

I used to be a thin man until I discovered I like to eat. Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything was very instrumental in making me unafraid of cooking as well as enlarging my waistline.

In fact, Bittman got me brave enough to try recipes from tv shows. Here’s one of my absolute favorites recipes – it’s EXTREMELY easy and EXTREMELY good.

I don’t make it that often as I end up eating it right out of the pan. It’s been a while since I last made it so, the FIRST person to contact me about this will win: me cooking this for you (and helping you eat it).

Pork Scallopine with Tomato Basil Sauce

Martha Stewart & Chris Schlesinger of the East Coast Grill in Cambridge, Mass.


Makes 2 servings.

1 pork tenderloin, about 10 to 14 ounces, cut into 4 pieces, crosswise

3 tablespoons olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1 shallot, minced

1 tablespoon cognac

1/4 cup Homemade Chicken Stock

1 tablespoon grainy mustard

3 tablespoons heavy cream

2 tablespoons finely chopped plum tomato

1 tablespoon finely chopped basil

2 heads radicchio, quartered

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar


i. Stand pork tenderloin pieces on end between two layers of plastic wrap. Pound meat to a 1/4-inch thickness with a rolling pin; set aside.

ii. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Season pork on both sides with salt and pepper. Add meat to pan, and cook until browned. (There will be a release of juices on the surface of the meat after it has been turned, 2 to 3 minutes per side.) Transfer meat to a platter, and keep warm. Pour off any excess fat from skillet, and discard. Meanwhile, heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.

iii. Return skillet to heat, add the shallot, and cook for about 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat, and deglaze with cognac. Return skillet to stove, and carefully ignite with a match. When flames subside, add chicken stock and mustard; reduce to thicken, 1 to 2 minutes. Add heavy cream, tomato, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, and serve sauce over pork.

iv. Meanwhile, toss radicchio with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place on preheated grill pan, turning as it begins to color. Remove from grill pan, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and serve with pork scaloppine.

3. Movies.

Top 3 favorite movies of all time: Vertigo, The Third Man, Wings of Desire.

But oftentimes, the trailer is the best thing about a movie. Not sure why, but I love this trailer to Where the Wild Things Are.

4. Stories.

Three of my favorite FREE podcasts are from National Public Radio and involve the telling to stories.

Selected Shorts, which is an hour-long reading of various kinds of short stories by famous actors.

This American Life. Which looks at true stories united by the barest of common themes and can be funny and heartbreaking and very, very human at the same time.

The Moth Storytelling Project: An amateur storytelling “jam” where someone tells a story under 15 minutes, live and without notes. Just last week I heard the second story by Ed Gavagan, “Victims’ Impact” continuing his account of when he was stabbed in New York City. It goes to a different place then what you would expect and had me weeping at the end in how a little grace and a little forgiveness overcomes a lot of evil.

Drowing on Sullivan Street

Victim's Impact

5. The little faces that run smiling to me when I visit my nieces & nephews.

God, I think that adds years to my life.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Old Photos

One of the many personal projects I've been working on is scanning the many old photos I have. The Fire in 2000 that burned down my apartment, also took the collected negatives of every photo I had. Thankfully, one of the first things the firemen did was to pile photo albums and other irreplaceable stuff on the floor and throw a waterproof tarp over them to protect them so the photos were saved. Go Firemen!

About two years ago, I read a fascinating article in the New Yorker about a professor at Carnegie Mellon, Gordon Bell, who was scanning or digitizing every photo, letter, email, book, web-page, phone calls etc. that he took, looked at, or took part in, turning it into a digital file and storing it paperlessly, rather than being surrounded by the clutter of his life.

Not a bad idea. We seem to be moving towards electronic document storage anyway. The Kindle,'s paperless electronic reader for books and magazines, seems to be a big hit. Like most people, I have an iPod with 10,000 songs and a closet full of boxes of CD that have been turned into mp3s. Like most people, I have a digital camera and thousands of photos on my computer and backed up on disks.

I plan to scan old writings I have lying about (old poems, scribbling, my 2,500 + page journal I've kept for 28 years) but since I lack a replacement format for photos, it's best if I start with them first.

Here is a small selection of some random photos I've scanned. The photo above is of my bookshelves, circa 1988.

Beal Loch, near our home in the Knockmealdown Mountains, covered in rhododendrons. The loch is allegedly bottomless and haunted by the ghost of "Petticoat Loose" condemned to empty it with a thimble for eternity.

A shot of Manhattan circa 1986 from the Circle Line boat tours. Not depicted are the legions of little old blue haired ladies who nattered on without stop for the entire three hour ride.

Muir Woods, looking straight up into the sky at the canopy of redwood trees, several hundred feet high.

Famed City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, home to, and first publisher of, many of the Beat Poets, like Allen Ginsburg and owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti. First publishers of Ginsberg's famous "Howl."

San Francisco's famous Transamerica Pyramid from its base looking up.

The Green Dog Table.

There's a long story about this I'll save for another time.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The sounds of dogs howling

Only a few of you know this about me. If I’m watching TV and a commercial comes on with Billy Mays BLARING IN HIS SHRILL CRASS SMOKED OUT VOICE ABOUT THE MERITS OF SOME CHEAP PIECE OF CRAP PRODUCT!!!!!!! I get an almost emotional and physical, averse reaction to the sound of his voice that I feel in my teeth or in my spine.

It’s so bad I am compelled to change channels immediately (whether it’s my home or not) or mute the loud hairy troll and have been known to walk out of a room and even cover my ears and hum until his sonic assault is over.

My reaction is so strong, so substantial that I’ve likened myself to one of those killer trained dogs in some bad TV movie who are fine one minute, then hear their trigger word and turn into frothing, growling carnivores, except my trigger word is the sound of Billy May’s voice BELLOWING ABOUT PRODUCT X.

Even here I’ve tried to convey his ALL BUT SCREAMING voice typographically. The man is a walking, talking car siren at 4 a.m., a living alarm clock buzz, a human pop-up window advertising something plastic and cheap in an amped up voice that has clearly been altered to make it louder than the show you were just watching.

I don't care if he makes money for whatever fly by night product he's shilling, he contributes to the unnecessary increase of noise pollution. And gets on my damn nerves!

Which is why I take great pleasure in this:

Congress Pushing For Bill To Reduce The Volume Of TV Advertising

Under a new proposal taken up today, Congress would give the FCC power to limit the volume of commercial advertising to match the average decibels of the show being watched.

Under current laws, TV ads must not exceed the loudest peak in a show—but anyone who has ever been scared half to death by Billy Mays exploding onto the screen for Oxi Clean knows that is generally unacceptable.

Naturally, broadcasters and advertisers want to set their own standards—they even have their own plan to reduce ad volume set to take effect within a couple of months. Many believe that the Congressional bill with pass, but it may not be necessary if the broadcasters set acceptable limits. Either way, it looks as though loud pitchmen are going to be the only ones losing out on this. [York Daily Record]

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Cough, cough. Sniffle, sniffle...

Not sure if allergies triggered it, or if I got a case of the frog flu, but I've been laid up with some nasty summer cold.

And suddenly I realized I don't know the symptoms of the H1N1 (aka Swine Flu) virus and looked it up.

The symptoms of this new H1N1 flu virus in people are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people who have been infected with this virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting. Also, like seasonal flu, severe illnesses and death has occurred as a result of illness associated with this virus.   From the CDC

Going now, to drown in my own juices.