28 February 2009

Super. Market. Saturday.


For over a month now, I've had my sights set on visiting the year-round Farmer's Market in Ames, Iowa. This plan agreed with me in many ways...first of all, it's our old stomping grounds and full of great memories, second of all, Brent was going anyways for his Master's classes, and third of all, it would provide a chance to visit Wheatsfield Grocery Store (a co-op). There were numerous other reasons, but there is only so much time and space in this world.

The outdoor portion of the FM has been in existence since 1973, but the indoor part (the only part open this time of year) has only been available since November 2007. The space was small and cozy, and plenty of people available to ask questions. There were a multitude of products available, including soups and dips, meats (duck, goat, pork, beef), eggs, mushrooms, a veritable selection of breads, rolls, buns, jams, jellies, sauces, and seasonings. All of these things were homegrown, handmade, free-range, antibiotic-free, natural, and LOCAL! In addition, there was some beautiful handmade jewelry, trinkets, and crafts. Glorious!

I simply was unable to help myself. I purchased an whole duck, four pounds of ground pork, sausage seasonings, two goat sticks, a nice, round loaf of Italian herb bread, a bar of homemade soap, a sampling of reduced-sugar fudge, a package of sandwich sprouts, and some bracelets. All of this treasure - and I still came in under sixty dollars. The payout is much more for me, though. I bought healthier, simpler, and I boosted the local economy.

I walked out of there feeling positively giddy. It's too bad this place is an hour and forty five minutes away...I'd go every weekend if I could. I especially enjoyed talking to the ladies who run the place, and who, incidentally, provide all of the goods. They were knowledgeable, friendly, and full of suggestions. How often do you run across clerks or shelf stockers who have that kind of relationship with their products?

Like I'd be able to go Walmart or HyVee and buy "Twin Girls' Garden" ground pork, and actually be able to talk to one of the "Twin Girls." Like I'd be able to go to either one of those places and take a suggestion about growing my own sandwich sprouts from the lady who raised the ground pork I'll fix for my family later this week.

Gives a new meaning to "helpful smile in every aisle."

19 February 2009

Childhood Movie Memories Come Full Circle

Remember the first time you watched The Karate Kid?

Boy, I sure do.

This was a few months before I started really liking boys, so the Ralph Macchio appeal was not there yet. What I loved most about that movie was the fact that, after watching it, I innately KNEW karate. If I simply copied Danielsan's "paint the fence" or "sand the floor", I too would be able to compete in the All-Valley Karate Tournament.

Not only that, though, I also would face my nemesis, Johnny of the Cobra Kais, and defeat him despite having an injured leg. In the end, I would get the girl and the respect of my archenemy.

(And of course, after that, my mentor would choose me to accompany him to Okinawa, where I would learn "beat the drum" and defeat an authentic karate guy, as opposed to a Californian wannabe.)

Ahh, a wave of nostalgia washes over me. Who can forget the bitter disappointment when "wax the car" actually was useless in combat? Or when the sublime "crane technique" was way harder than it looked? That was probably my first disillusionment with Hollywood. Alas...

And now, history repeats itself. My nine-year-old has just finished reading "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and is now frolicking about the house, screaming "Expecto Patronum" and "Expelliarmus" and "Riddikulus" at top volume. While brandishing a ball-point "wand", I might add here. And the kid fully expects these spells to manifest. It's sad, yes, and yet, I am filled with a sense of deja vu.

So while his spell-yellings have not produced a Patronus, Spencer is learning this morning that it immensely annoys his brother and sister (working a special kind of magic, I guess), and that he is one spell away from a kick to the goolies.

The magic of childhood.

15 February 2009


I have wanted to watch the movie "Quills" for a long time. So, a couple of months back I put it on my Netflix queue and waited. Until this weekend.

Brief Synopsis: Geoffrey Rush plays the Marquis de Sade, an author who is somehow penning and publishing smut novels from inside the walls of Charenton Insane Asylum. Kate Winslet is the innocent laundrymaid who is friends with the Marquis and smuggles his manuscripts to the outside world. Joaquin ( ) Phoenix is the benevolent Abbe to Coulmier, who runs the place, and actually treats his patients with compassion, and is secretly in love with Kate Winslet. Michael Caine is the bad guy, Dr. Royer-Collard, who's come in to shut de Sade down on behalf of The Emperor (Napoleon), who feels France should not be subject to the evils that pour from de Sade's pen.

Throughout the story, de Sade's means of writing are slowly stripped away. First, his quills and ink are removed, so he uses a chicken bone and wine, blood and glass shards, and at the end, his own feces. His last tale is telegraphed through the inmates, and transcribed by Winslet. However, the tale is so evocative, and several of the inmates are incited to acts of destruction and violence (ending in Winslet's death). de Sade's tongue is cut out, and he dies soon after that. Phoenix eventually goes nuts, and becomes an resident of his own institution. Caine then runs the asylum with a free, and cruel, hand.

This story was sad on so many levels. First of all, how those in power obviously underestimate the common people. Because of a fear of who-knows-what, the French government sought to keep de Sade's "filth" out of the hands of the masses, fearing just what exactly?

Second, the development of Phoenix's character. In the beginning, he was an optimistic young Abbe who actually cared about his patients' well-being. In the end, his compassion led to his undoing. Moral: Being a good person doesn't always pay off, and sometimes really good people can get really screwed over.

Ultimately, I think censorship is a no-win situation. It gives a inflated sense of authority to those in power, and it undermines the power of the human mind. I think people have an innate right to ideas, and people should have the right to express themselves (in the case of de Sade, the more his right was stripped, the more violent his stories became). That's not to say free speech should go unchecked..I don't believe that either.

There's got to be the free circulation of words and ideas, as well as the education and teaching of prudence and moderation. When it is wise to speak your mind? When is it appropriate to express yourself? When will doing so help you achieve your goal? That is what society needs to learn.

A couple of sayings come to mind when I watched this film: Reap what you sow, and evil sows its own seeds of destruction. So true. I would recommend this film, although it is not for the weak-constituted. It's been a long time since I've watched a film that I couldn't stop thinking about afterwards.

11 February 2009

What Does One Feed The AntiChrist?

This week's dilemma: Snacks for the Antichrist.

I host my Universal Khaki book club this coming Sunday, and we are wrapping up discussion on Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's "Good Omens." When I host, I like going with a book-related theme when it comes to the food. You should have seen what I served when we read "Just Do It: How One Couple Turned Off the TV and Turned On Their Sex Lives for 101 Days".

As I peruse through my collection of cookbooks, here are the recipes which come to mind as food suitable (or not, maybe) for the Great Adversary.

1. Deviled Eggs
2. Angel Food Cake
3. Devil's Food Cake
4. Heavenly Cake
5. Ambrosia
6. Witches' Brew
7. Heavenly Hash Browns
8. Divinity
9. Angel Pie
10. Angel Dessert
11. Angel's Delight

To be honest, though, serving the Antichrist a dessert titled "Angel Pie" is quite ironic, bordering sacreligious. Some of the recipe names need changing, I think. Here we go...

1. Deviled Eggs
2. Angel Food Cake = Great Beast Cake
3. Devil's Food Cake
4. Heavenly Cake = Armageddon Cake
5. Ambrosia = Ambrosia
6. Witches' Brew
7. Heavenly Hash Browns = Revelations 6:6 Hash Browns
8. Divinity = Evil-inty
9. Angel Pie = Spawn of Satan Pie
10. Angel Dessert = Beelzebub's Favorite
11. Angel's Delight = Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse's Delight