Monday, April 30, 2007

Links you must please visit yes?

Vote yes for trees! (After all, they're only slightly more dangerous than jelly)

"We launched an investigation after we were made aware that a company were selling sheep as poodles," Japanese police said.

{seductive, "romantic" voice} "Uncle Gerry is forever...."

Traveling back in time.

This lovely one lives next to the main door to C's building. She never even things twice about the students constantly coming and going through the doors, or swiping their ID cards just below her nest. This is her second year in residence. One more, and her on-campus requirement will be complete!

When C. and I were first dating, and I was gushing madly about him to anyone who would listen (C., if you read this, please know—and los amigos will vouch for this—that little has changed!), a frequent topic of conversation was his job. As a Resident Director at a local university, this means that not only does he work in a residence hall, he happens to live in one, too. A few years out of college, and even more out of our residence halls, this was a great novelty to myself and my friends.

It even smells like a residence hall! Weird!

In the months that have passed (and that C. and I have subsequently stayed together!) the shine has worn off a little (read: a grumpy boyfriend because a few first-year students decided to set off the fire alarm at 3:45 am with burnt popcorn—or the like). The nostalgia, however, hasn’t. It’s still intriguing to walk down the hall to his apartment and see all the decorated doors, dry-erase boards, and jam-crammed living spaces. While I wouldn’t eagerly go back to sharing a room the size of a bathroom with a virtual stranger for 9 months out of the year, it feels good to hang out over there and know that the community, friendships, and quirky college events are going on all around us. In just a few weeks the students will move out, and the summer conference folks will move in. If last year is any indication, though, there will be a few days of utter silence. Whoosh, they come in, whoosh they leave.

* * *

This past weekend, I attended an entirely different sort of nostalgic event out in Forest Grove. “Faire in the Grove” held at Pacific University was quite the hilarious event. I hadn’t attended a bonafide Renaissance Faire since I was in high school. It was all there. The costumes, the sword play reenactments, the vendor booths, and the overnight campers with their tents, braziers, and mugs of mead. We wandered around a little through the Faire, taking in the sights and people-watching. In the end, I came away thrilled and a little amazed that this community exists and thrives. The looks of awe on the faces of the little kids are they ran around and watched armor-clad men bang on one another with swords was priceless. All the little girls got to wear flowered crowns, and I saw more than a couple fairy princess/ballerina tutus made of flowing pink and purple netting.

One factor I find so compelling about the whole event is the absolute acceptance of make-believe and “pretend.” Aside from the lascivious-hued holidays of Halloween and Mardi Gras, when do adults have the utter license to dress up in costumes, speak in overblown accents, and pretend to their hearts’ content? There is definitely an awkward vibe that surrounds Ren Faires—“Shouldn’t the people dressing up be just a little embarrassed? Shouldn’t we be a little embarrassed for them?” Once you look past that, however, the theory of the thing is somehow rather brilliant. And no wonder the kids love it—it’s like walking into make-believe land, and all the grown-ups are playing, too.

For more photo-documentary of this event (and proof I was there!) visit: and choose the "Faire in the Grove" photo set. There are also lots of pretty new flower pictures there too! Maybe I will have a photo-post soon of Spring Flowers in Oregon. They are popping out all over!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

April 12 is.... Nostaligia Day!

Last night on the late news, the prim, coiffed reporters announced to the world that Kurt Vonnegut had passed away.

I’m sure this is already all over the internet blogs, and everyone has heard the news. Regardless, it’s a sad thing. His website offers a poignant, fitting send off:

Beyond the scope of losing a great thinker, writer, and, yes, quirky philosopher, I find that the end of Vonnegut’s life resonates with a different sort of loss: the loss of a time, a place, and a certain sort of idealism.

It seems funny to make that statement about someone who had such a cynical, often pessimistic view of the world (pooteeweet, anyone?). I remember reading my first Vonnegut novel in high school. Mr. Jackson passed out 30 paperback-sized hardcover copies of Cat’s Cradle. He filled our brains with Ice-9 and people who pressed their feet together in order to say “I love you” (among other things). We sucked it down and filed it all away. At that point, the world didn’t seem like such a bad place. Horror and terrorism and cynicism were more just theories than anything real.

It’s funny to feel nostalgic for a theory of cynicism and pessimism. In high school I read 1984, A Handmaid’s Tale, Slaughterhouse Five, and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” among other things. And I understood them on an allegorical, theoretical level. Bad things happen. Here are some bleak ideas of the past, present, and future. But at 16, none of the problems in the world, none of the moral dilemmas facing these authors were substantial for me. It was my responsibility to educate myself on what had gone wrong in the past and what people thought about that, but I wasn’t in a place to do anything about it. The most I had to do with the terrible side of humanity was learn about it.

Life feels so different now. Shuttled from the theoretical phase of my life and into the pragmatic phase, suddenly the problems of the world belong to my generation. The horrors taking place, the bad things that authors write about, those are our problems to fix. If our society does bad things, promotes ridiculous values, or makes asinine judgments, by default--by being a functioning adult in this era—I share the responsibility for those actions. The world is weightier. The problems no longer belong to someone else.

Kurt Vonnegut’s death reminds me of that fact. His passing moves him from the realm of “now,” in which the thinking and worrying and criticizing belong to him and his generation, into the vast eternity of “was.” His role of social jester—pointing out the flaws and falls of the world—now becomes our job. There’s no longer the security of knowing that someone like Vonnegut is there to shoulder that responsibility for us.

I’m already nostalgic for a time when all I had concern myself with was education, rather than battling those dragons on my own.

Andrew Larson on writes a nice epitaph for Kurt Vonnegut:

“Vonnegut had an incomparable way of mixing bleak pessimism with avuncular warmth. He could inspire even in the moments when he was underlining, highlighting and italicizing just how fucked up and criminally insane the world really was.”

Read the rest of the article here. It’s a good one.

* * *

In other news (and speaking of nostalgia, progress, and responsibility), they started tearing down the old Jasmine Tree restaurant on 4th and Harrison yesterday. I took some pictures from my office window.

Though it wasn’t a place I went often myself, I appreciated knowing there was a kitchy old Tiki bar in downtown Portland. Now we have to go to NE for our fruity drinks and 60’s atmosphere. It always tugs at my heartstrings a little to hear about an old stand-by closing up shop in the name of “progress.” The Virginia Café is another case in point. I know that I’m the sort of person who closely affiliates places with people and places with emotions, so it makes me sad to see places that I had great times in get bulldozed for glassy, shiny, metallic “new.” You may be doing good for the world, and I’m all about green, eco-friendly building, but it’s hard to replace character once you’ve torn it down. New construction just lacks the grit and grime and quirk that give a place its soul.

Anyhow, if you’re interested, here’s the info from the Portland Development Commission on what’s happening down in the South Park Blocks and beyond. The Jasmine Tree site is considered block #153, and they have big plans in store for the area, including housing, grocery stores, and more light rail brilliance.

Here’s the planning site:

Monday, April 2, 2007

Food disasters and feasting.

Every once in a while, a rock that’s been rolling wants to stop and pick up a little moss. I had the mossiest weekend ever. It was fantastic.

As I alluded last week, I had plans to have a relaxed weekend hanging out with C. while he was on duty. We watched a pile of television, re
ad several pages, and ate some fantastic food.

Most of it was fantastic, anyhow. Our big plan for weekend cooking was to be a spectacular home-made pizza. C. wa
s going to whip together the dough while I was driving out, and we’d top it, bake it, and then relish in its delicious glory.

We got off to a slightly slow start. We were still waiting for the yeast to get bubbly when I got there, and then had to wait an hour for the dough to rise. In the meantime we snacked on hummus and flatbread, and chatted. We also may have watched some television. Whatever, it was the start of a lazy weekend!

Once the dough was looking gorgeous and well-risen, C. prepared the toppings while I turned out an excellent oblong-shaped rectangle of doughy-goodness. Then we topped it. Italian sausage, mozzarella, pepperonis, red onions, bell peppers—it was a work of art! I got the oven hot, and we set it in.

I will take responsibility for the mess that happened next. Thinking that the pizza would take longer to cook than it did, I suggested that we finish the second half of the DVD we were watching. It was only 30 minutes! The air filled with the smell of delicious pizza baking goodness. Finally, the show wrapped up, and our stomachs grumbling, we went into the kitchen to retrieve our masterpiece.

C’s face when he opened the oven was something to see. Our delicious dinner, our awesome work of art… it looked like it had been through an incinerator. The cheese was black and crispy. The crust (labored over!) was hard and carcinogenic. The red peppers, once plump and tasty, had dissolved into nothing more than charred rinds. The pepperonis were sad brittle discs. I thought C. was going to cry! I take full responsibility for the disaster, and ate two pieces of it (crunch crunch crunch) anyhow. It was awful.

The rest of the weekend’s cooking turned out spectacular, however.

Saturday brunch was a fluffy and delicate Dutch Baby with lemon juice, powdered sugar, and fresh sliced strawberries. I’ve been trying to be good and only buy things like strawberries when they’re in season, but the ones at New Seasons have been
so lovely lately, that I splurged and—yet again—made a treat out of them.

I’ve made some lovely Dutch Babies with hand-beaten, eggs, milk, and four, but the consistency is so much better when you have a device that allows you to really beat the hell out of the eggs and the batter. A Christmas eggbeater from mom fit the bill to a T. Portable! Fun! Functional! Whirrr! Whirrr!
The other winning factor in the DB combination this time around was the use of a ceramic pie pan instead of my standard square Pyrex. The presentation was much prettier, and the end result was slightly thicker and moister, with the same perfectly crisp edges.

Still making up for Friday’s disaster, we restored our good cooking streak on Sunday night with a tasty fillet of salmon, rice and fresh green beans.

We made a Soy/Ginger/Maple marinade (full of garlic and yummyness), and spooned that over the fish. We sliced a couple of red onions for flavor, and placed those on top of things as well. The sweet of the Basalmic vinegar and the maple syrup was a perfect complement to the ginger, garlic, and soy sauce. And the fish was moist and beautiful. Rice was a mix of wild and brown rice, steamed and plain. Finally, the green beans were sautéed in garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. We didn’t eat until almost 10, but it was well worth the wait.