Tag Archives: New York Times

Super coincidence

Darn you, Stephen Colbert.

On Tuesday I had jotted a blog idea on the back of an envelope and had only to fill it out. This, you recall, was the day the nation’s policymakers approved the creation of a Super Congress of 12 members, to hammer out solutions to the federal budget crisis later in the year.

I had outlined some thoughts about the notion of a “super” Congress. My mind spun the notion into a “Super-duper” Congress, beneath an “Über” Congress. I swear I wrote this, even if you don’t believe me.

As I fleshed out the outline in a hotel room Tuesday night, I flipped on Comedy Central for a little bedtime snack of super-reality.

I found Stephen Colbert interviewing New York Times Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt. Near the end of the interview, Colbert recited the very notes I had just typed in. Great minds.

You’ll notice, if you follow the link to the interview, you might or might not experience a problem with the audio. On one computer, I could get the audio; on another I could not. I did a search on “why can’t I get audio on Comedy Central?” and learned that plenty of people experience this same technical glitch.

Among them is a young person whose conservative father has cut off all of his/her access to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert; this young person was trying to find a work-around.

As a parent of a former sneaky teen, I sympathize with well-meaning parents who want to control access to inappropriate content. But The Daily Show and The Colbert Report? Seriously?

So, I correct myself. Not “Darn you, Stephen Colbert.”  So he unknowingly stole my idea. He got there first. Plus, he has a few more followers than I do. He has millions. I have hundreds.

I say, “You, go, Stephen Colbert. You’re a super, a super-duper, even an über role model.”

Oh, and I’m not even going to bother with “Satan sandwich.”

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Movies, Television and Radio, News, Politics, Technology and Social Media

El plato ostentoso

I gather the Spanish gastronomic community is deeply mourning the closing of El Bulli restaurant. For 50 years in Catalonia, El Bulli created culinary inventions that inspired chefs worldwide.

If you like food or if you like Spain, read The New York Times story about El Bulli; you’ll be captivated. During the short time I attended university in Spain, I lived on dorm food and bread and cheese. Oh, to have had the chance to go back with a little jingle in my pocket to indulge in some real cocina española.

If you like food and the words that describe it, check out Slate’s recent piece on the names of El Bulli’s menu offerings. This one caught my eye; then kept me entertained for way too long.

We’ve talked in previous posts about the wording of restaurant menus, about which you shared some of your favorites, some with tongue in cheek, hold the beef.

In the Slate piece, Jeremy Singer-Vine muses that dishes bearing such names as “Irish coffee of green asparagus and black truffle jus” cry out for satire.

Singer-Vine took the names of some 1,200 El Bulli dishes and created a technological algorithm that generates satirical sound-alikes. Though it’s not quite ready for the Wii, you can go online and play a guess-the-real-name game.

Because we have talked recently about simple versus pretentious language, I thought you might enjoy this timely diversion.

It also got me thinking about the name of my signature dish. 

In my social circles, I’m known for my pesto torte. It wasn’t mine originally, but because I have no one to whom to attribute it, and because I’ve made more than 50, and because I don’t know anyone else who makes it, it’s mine.

The problem is, when I say “pesto torte,” no one ever knows what it is. It’s fair to say some people know neither pesto nor torte.

My son’s girlfriend calls it “cheese loaf.” And you know what? That’s exactly what it is—cheese stuffed inside cheese, prepared in a loaf pan (layered with enough other ingredients to almost justify the fancy name).

I took one to my aunt and uncle’s last weekend. As I was setting it on a platter, someone said, “It’s beautiful; what is it?”

I said, “Pesto Torte,” which didn’t tell anyone a thing.

“What does that mean?”

I threw the question to my son’s girlfriend who said, “cheese loaf.”

Aha. Everyone knew immediately. Kind of like in My Big Fat Greek Wedding: “It’s a bundt.” (After several rounds about, the realization, “Oh, it’s cake!”)

In El Bulli’s defense, who’s going to pay 50 euros for a glass of asparagus juice?

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Food, News, Travel

Curse of writing

It was disheartening for me to read recently in the New York Times that cursive writing is fading away, as it is practiced less and emphasized less in schools.

You may be thinking that cursive wasn’t of any use to begin with, that your handwriting has declined and that you never use it any more. I really hope that’s not the case.

We all use computers, there’s no argument there. We rely on our typing and keyboarding skills to do our work and communicate with our friends. Still, there is plenty of room—and utility—for cursive.

I’m a big fan of the handwritten thank you note and the sympathy card. Those occasions call for personal comments written in our own handwriting, which is as much a part of us as our personalities.

Not printing. Printing is for filling out forms and making signs. It might be for writing out a Christmas gift tag or recipes. Printing is not for writing letters. The Post Office may disagree, but printing is also not for addressing envelopes into which we place personal correspondence. Written in ink, thankyouverymuch.

We all know people who print personal notes and, I know, I know, it’s better to have a printed note than none at all. I have one friend who is great at sending hand-written notes, always timely and thoughtful. But hers are not only printed, but printed in all caps—just like she talks.

Here’s the well kept secret. Cursive writing allows us to write faster and more efficiently because, but for dotting an “i” or crossing a “t,” we needn’t lift pen from paper and plunk it back down again. Just think how much energy we waste bobbing that pen up and down when we print. Cursive allows the hand to move in steady, rhythmic motions, like waves in the sea.

You say your cursive is illegible? I’ve got a reasonable amount of sympathy if you have arthritis or another debilitating condition. Consider this: cursive demands fewer movements and a more relaxed hand than printing. An NYT commenter points out that practicing our cursive is one way to preserve our fine motor abilities.

If your hand is still relatively young and able, though, I dare say you’d benefit from a bit of practice. It’s worth it.

As a child, learning cursive was one of the most intimidating things I learned to do. I remember at the beginning of second grade, looking up at the banner that spanned the top of classroom’s front wall and trying to figure out what it all meant. Why a capital Q was formed like the number 2. How the creators of cursive got from a block letter to its swirly cousin. I doubted that I’d ever master it. I struggled. I got D’s in handwriting. I worked at it and finally got it right. Where I went to school, we were given no choice. But, oh, how rewarding to have gained this important skill. I still think it’s the most valuable thing I learned in Catholic school.

Yep; etiquette and utility. Two good reasons to save this dying art by keeping up our practice.

Who’s with me (she says, anticipating resistance)?

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