Sunday, April 30, 2006

Marzipan Is Good

I am a sucker for grocery-store giveaways and free samples. If someone is offering chunks of papaya speared on toothpicks, or tiny slices of a freshly made hamburger on a cocktail napkin, or braised lamb and dill-adorned sweet potatoes in a little plastic cup (little plastic fork provided so you can eat it without getting your fingers dirty), then hey! I'm in line, and I might even ask for seconds if I think I'm likely to get them.

This past week, for whatever reason, my grocery store has been promoting and offering discounts on foodstuffs imported from Germany, including such exotica as herbal teas of both the chamomile and mint variety. I admit I passed on those products this time around--I like chamomile tea a lot and think mint is OK, but I'd already bought this German brand and found it weak and not special, so why buy it again?

As part of the German foods promotions, an affable middle-aged woman was offering slices of a marzipan pound cake. Marzipan, in case you don't know, is a mixture of ground almonds, confectioner's sugar, egg whites, vanilla, and that's about it. It's good. It can be molded into shapes and eaten on its own, or it can be an ingredient in other things, like pound cake. So this pound cake tasted like almonds.

And it was on sale and I'd eaten some of it for free, so I thought, what the hell, I'll buy a damn pound cake.

The affable woman pointed me to the display where more of these cakes were available to consumers like me. And under these cakes was a pile of more marzipan goodies, not mixed into cakes, just shaped into rolls and coated in chocolate.

And I thought, Hmm. Marzipan. It's been years since I've eaten or thought about marzipan, and maybe now it's time to go all out.

I bought the pound cake, but I also bought the chocolate coated marzipan roll. I didn't check the weight and I already tossed the wrapper, but based on the size and heft I'd guess it was the equivalent of two regular candy bars.

And I ate the whole thing in 24 hours. It was really yummy, and I wish I had another. There's still the pound cake, but it's got all those other ingredients, like flour and eggs and butter. I just want more ground-up almonds and sugar.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Fresh Coat

Saviour Onassis has posted photos of his bathroom, which he recently painted ultra white. When I talked to him on the phone Sunday afternoon, he was busy painting his kitchen cupboards some shade of black--I don't know if it was ultra black or just black. In any event, we had to sing the chorus of that Stones' song--you know, the one that goes, "I see a red door and I want to paint it black...."

Yeah, yeah.

Anyway, I did some painting myself last weekend: my toenails. Saturday afternoon it was FINALLY warm enough that I could strip off my socks and give my toenails a fresh coat of polish.

I admit I get very lax about pedicures in the winter: it's just too cold to be barefoot long enough for the polish to dry. Plus I like to see how long it takes for the very last bit of polish to come off on its own. Because the last pedicure I gave myself last fall involved this industrial strength black polish with bits of glitter in it, it never did wear all the way off by itself: I had to use nail polish remover to get the last persistent bit before I painted the nails up again on Saturday.

I chose a nice spring color, a pale frosted green the manufacturer calls "grass stain." My toes look great, and if I were any less lazy, I'd post a photo of them. They won't be seeing much sandal action, unfortunately, because the weather has chilled down again and I'm back to wearing socks.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Subject vs. Object

I hate it--I really hate it--when people can't tell the difference between a subject and an object.

In grammar, a subject acts, and an object is acted upon; in English, we have different pronouns to signify the distinction between those grammatical categories. In other words, "I" is a subject while "me" is an object while "my" shows possession; "we" is a subject while "us" is an object and "our" shows possession. This shifting of pronouns (and nouns) depending on the slot the word fills in a sentence is called declension. (Not all languages bother with all these distinctions. Chinese, for example, does not decline its pronouns in this way: the singular personal pronoun, transcribed as "wo," is always "wo," whether it's a subject or an object; to make the personal pronoun plural, you add a uniform ending to "wo" and have "a bunch of I's," or "we." It makes Chinese grammar very easy to master. What makes Chinese hard to learn is its intricate, elaborate writing system and the fact that it is a tonal language--tones can be very hard for a Westerner to distinguish, memorize and pronounce correctly.)

Very small children often have a problem with the concept of declining pronouns--hence a toddler might see a cookie and declare, "Me want that!" Older people, however, often manage to master the idea--up to a point. People want to sound smart, and they've been told that it sounds smarter to say "he and I" than "him and me"–and certainly that is true if we're talking about subjects: if you informed your listener that "Him and me went to the movie," you'd sound like an illiterate yokel who couldn't find the exit sign after the film. So some people have fallen into the habit of ALWAYS saying "he and I," even though there are times when the phrase "him and me"is exactly what is needed.

Example: "Mom bought an ice cream cone for he and I."


You wouldn't say, "Mom bought an ice cream cone for I."
You wouldn't say, "Mom bought an ice cream cone for he."

You would say, "Mom bought an ice cream cone for me."
You would say, "Mom bought an ice cream cone for him."

Thus you would say, "Mom bought an ice cream cone for him and me."

The worst violation of this rule was committed by a friend of mine who, when discussing problems in her relationship with her boyfriend, would say, "I'm really worried about Mike and I's relationship."

That's right: Mike and I's relationship. Hearing that made me feel like my brain was a pat of hard, crumbling butter being scraped over burnt toast with a bent knife. In other words, it grated. I'd correct her as gently as a I could--she was, after all, an English major, an aspiring poet who claimed to love nothing in the world (not even Mike) as much as she loved words. Her grotesque abuse of certain words was not the reason we stopped being friends, but I admit that after our falling out, I took comfort in the fact that I'd never have to hear about "Mike and she's relationship" ever again.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

In a Pickle without Pickle

The Korean grocer's where I buy my kimchee (actually, the only Korean grocer's I've found in town) has been closed the last couple of times I've dropped by, with a sign on the door apologizing for the fact that the owners must attend to urgent business. This worries me: first of all, the owners are really nice, and I don't like the idea of some tragedy, great or small, befalling them. Second, how on earth am I going to make kimchee soup if I can't get kimchee?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Some New Additions to My Music Collection

Yesterday when I went to BestBuy to pick up the new Morrissey album, Ringleader of the Tormentors, I paused to wander through the store and see if there was anything else I should buy. I found a display of "Greatest Hits" album, all for a mere $7.99, and couldn't resist buying a few.

The first one to catch my eye was of course Morrissey's greatest hits, but I already had it, and paid a hell of a lot more than $7.99 for it.... Oh well. I guess it's been worth something to listen to it for all these years.

There were, of course, plenty of "best of" collections in the display I had no desire to own, but four seemed worth forking over the better part of ten bucks for, so I grabbed them and headed to the cashier. And then I came home with five new albums: Morrissey, plus The B-52's Time Capsule, James Taylor's Greatest Hits, The Best of INXS, and, uh, The Very Best of Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Some commentary:

Morrissey: I'm not going to say anything about Moz's new disk, aside from observing that it looks REALLY cool, all black-plastic vinyl-y appearing. I hope Saviour Onassis and I will review it on Genius to Spare after we've both had a chance to absorb it.

B-52's: I was in high school when the B-52's released their first album in 1979, but I was too busy listening to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie et al to give a shit about some weird boppy pop band who sang about lobsters. Of course I eventually came to appreciate their genius, but they turned up so often on the radio that I never felt the need to actually pay money for the privilege of listening to them...until now.

James Taylor: I owned Sweet Baby James on vinyl as an undergrad, and liked it a lot. JT has the perfect voice to be sad to. But then I got rid of my vinyl at some point, and never replaced JT...until now.

INXS: Like pretty much everyone with ears and a sense of rhythm, in the mid 1980s I went absolutely NUTS over "What You Need," the first song on Listen Like Thieves. I bought LTT as a casette....what crap casettes were. I loved the album, but when the tape died, I never bothered to get more INXS, partly because they never released another album I liked as well as LLT. I wasn't sure I did the right thing in buying this greatest hits collection instead of just buying LLT again, until I put the album on, and then I couldn't believe I'd lived without it. This band fuckin' rocks, and I'm mourning Michael Hutchins all over again!

Emerson, Lake and Palmer: See, I'm just not a huge fan of punk. The whole punk aesthetic was that rock and roll should kind of suck: actually knowing how to play your instruments or understanding anything about music but the most basic chord progressions was seen as a bad thing. Careful engineering was one of the things punks REALLY hated; instead of cool effects like the ones you find on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, where sound travels from speaker to speaker, a listener should just be hit by a consistent wall of loud, fast noise. And the only instruments allowed were drums, electric bass and electric guitar--no pianos, keyboards, or saxophones, or violins or harps, or anything else--certainly not weird electronic shit or ambient sounds or bells or whistles! Nope, just things you plug in and strum, and things you bang, and yelling, and feedback. And OK, I like loud guitar and I love drums (I wish I'd played the drums in band instead of the clarinet) but I also like keyboards, and saxophones, and stringed instruments besides electric guitar and electric bass.

One of the bands punks hated most was Emerson, Lake and Palmer, with all its electronic keyboard stuff and elaborate producing. I never owned any of their albums (though I owned plenty of Alan Parsons Project, another band loathed by punks, and I still love and will always love Pink Floyd, the uber-evil in punk-lore) but I did like a few of their songs, like "From the Beginning" and "Still...You Turn Me On" and their cover of Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man." So I figured, what the hell, I'll pay eight bucks to revisit this part of my adolescence and shoot punk the finger....

and I still like the three songs I liked before, but Jesus, that other ELP shit is annoying! I would start a musical movement in opposition to that nonsense too.