Thursday, December 28, 2017

East of Eden

Set in the olden times in Salinas Valley California, I just can't feel sorry for someone that owns acreage and acreage of the some of the most gorgeous real estate in the county. "But, my cows are skinny." Boo-hoo. You have a sunshine, an ocean and wildflowers, c'mon man!  Now you could just open up a hotel with daily yoga and make-your-own grain bowls. Actually, they still grow stuff in this valley and are still obsessed with whether it will rain this year or not. Like, rain at all. That seems so weird to me but I live under a great big cloud for five months of the year. Literally and metaphorically. 

East of Eden, set in the Salinas Valley (that's where Steinbeck grew up) is about some Lannister style narcissistic sociopaths. But not everyone is evil, just a couple of them. When I was a kid there was a three episode miniseries of the book and I remember watching just enough to determine that Jane Seymour is evil and no altruistic Dr. Quinn or magic crepey neck cream is going to dissuade me from that notion. I'm sure there are kids now that will never ever trust Lena Headey ever again. I know, kids shouldn't watch Game of Thrones but I would bet some of them did like I watched things that were inappropriate for me. Honestly, the most traumatic thing I even watched on TV was Little House on the Prairie when Albert's girlfriend Sylvia got raped by a clown, gets pregnant, gets called a whore, gets attacked again and dies. Yes, that was an episode. I didn't leave the house for like two years. 

East of Eden is about a couple of families over a period of years so it has this epic family drama feel that is appealing. If you haven't read it, it's worth a read, the drama of the storytelling is not dated (it's excellent) but of course it has some racist language and of course sexist stuff.  Shoot, you watch a comedy special filmed last year and it seems weird.  I'm like, who thinks that stuff is funny anymore? Times have changed so quickly. Anyway, the book is still good and the audio version is excellent if you are into that kind of stuff.

One prominent liquor in the book is Ng Ka Py, a Chinese medicinal liquor which I assume you don't have in the house.  Also, I did some research and it sounds super gross. Lets go with something whiskey and kind of sweet instead. Brown Sugar Cinnamon Bourbon Cocktail:  Make a simple syrup with brown sugar instead of white--also infuse or add some vanilla and a cinnamon stick.  Add two tablespoons of this syrup, one and a half ounces of bourbon to glass with ice and stir vigorously, add a few dashes of orange bitters and garnish with a cinnamon stick.  You can rim the glass with brown sugar if you want but that seems excessive for our hard working frontier folks. 


There are handful of celebrities I would love to have as my friend. Steven Colbert, Tina Fey and John Hodgman...well, he's right up there. Super smart and funny I guess is the common denominator and he doesn't disappoint in this short memoir. He's not the type to regale you with his college sexual conquests, text you a stupid sexist joke, or expect you to know who won the football game. No, he would expect you though to know that Han shot first, which actor was the best Dr. Who, and what the Black Lotus card does. (I only know one of these three--I've never seen Dr. Who but I love the theme music for some reason). Now that I think about it, while I'd like to be his friend he'd, your knowledge is so bereft of the essential basics, we cannot be friends. We can be passing acquaintances at best....Good day to you madam.

Vacationland is the most organized funny memoir I've ever read.  Of course, he studied literary criticism at Yale. No, that is not a joke.  He does make light of how ridiculous that is though.  The whole book is self-aware enough that having two vacation homes as his biggest problem is pretty ridiculous. Warning, if you are a Trumper, you will not like this book as he is very liberal.  I'm sure you'll find that shocking. I feel like everything is so politicized now, even comedy.  I saw a comedian that never does political jokes make a feeble attempt and it was so painful.  It was like watching a mud-skipper emerge from the water and think...technically I can breathe air...but this feels wrong somehow. Oh, and it was.

This book made a short list for best humor book and won someone's list, like Barnes and Noble or someone.  But Vacationland and Theft by Finding are both great. I needed two great humor books in one year.  Hey authors, feel free to make three in 2018, we can handle it. Not only can we handle it...we need it.

John Hodgman is a drinker.  And he loves a martini.  He hates fudge with a burning passion but loves a cocktail.  Here is a variation on a gin martini that I've never tried but it sounds pretty good. This makes 4 small drinks or three larger drinks:  8 ounces of good gin, a 1/2 ounce of sweet vermouth, a 1/2 ounce of dry vermouth. Shake and strain into your glasses and garnish with either an olive or a lemon twist. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale

Have you ever heard of a hype man?  In hip-hop or rap there is a bonus guy who sings and/or raps and he "supports" the main rapper with exclamations of exuberance. I don't go to many hip hop shows but recently I saw this DJ who acted like a hype man.  He was a small pale man named Peabody.  His "hyping" included head-banging and raising his arms in front of an Apple computer.  Occasionally he would say "I'm DJ Peabody!"  It's important that you get a good feel for Peabody's voice. Pinch your nose and slowly say PEABODY. Yes, now you have it. So The Bear and the Nightingale has been hyped. But you know, it's good so it's worth hyping.

Katherine Arden is very young and gradated from Middlebury in 2011. HEY, I'M DJ MIDDLEBURY! Yeah...GET IT!  If someone says they went to Middlebury I assume they are either terribly rich, fantastically smart but probably both. They don't need hype men. We are not going to hate on Katherine because we wish her the best so she can keep writing. This book is the first in a trilogy but it does not end on a cliffhanger. Yea! It is based on Russian fairy-tales and set in the Russian middle-ages, but it is also a modern thinking fantasy novel.  It is missing that whole "the witch gets baked in a pot pie" kind of thing.  It's more of a the witch is empowered enough to have her successful Web Series optioned.  Sure she needs the influence of some very powerful men but, c'mon that's just real life. I mean, Amy Poehler can't champion everything.

This is set in a Russian winter so you will feel cold just reading it. I'm convinced I won't feel warm until May at the earliest. It's at least a two kitty lap novel.  Maybe I have a charismatic cat with another cat that acts like a hype man but that's not entirely accurate.  Although I do think a cute name for a cat would be Peabody.

Here's a Toddy variation that sounds delicious: Toby's Toddy: 1 ounce cognac, 1 ounce aged rum, 1 ounce lemon juice, 1 ounce simple syrup and 5 dashes of bitters.  Add ingredients to three ounces of boiling water in a mug. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a lemon wheel studded with cloves.