Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Putting My Blog Together This Morning Felt Like This (See Below)

Gold In Fort Knox; Mortars and Pestles and Mortars

1. Ron Paul questions whether there's gold at Fort Knox, NY Fed

By Michael O'Brien - 08/30/10 10:21 AM ET
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said he plans to introduce legislation next year to force an audit of U.S. holdings of gold.
Paul, a longtime critic of the Federal Reserve and U.S. monetary policy, said he believes it's "a possibility" that there might not actually be any gold in the vaults of Fort Knox or the New York Federal Reserve bank.

The Kitco News, a website tracking news about precious metals, that an audit was necessary to determine how much the U.S. maintains in gold reserves in case the government were to use gold to back the dollar.

“If there was no question about the gold being there, you think they would be anxious to prove gold is there,” he said.  
“Our Federal Reserve admits to nothing, and they should prove all the gold is there. There is a reason to be suspicious and even if you are not suspicious why wouldn’t you have an audit?

“I think it is a possibility," Paul said when asked if there was truth to rumors that there was actually no gold at Ft. Knox or the New York Fed.

Paul had been one of the Republicans to spearhead a broader audit of the Fed as part of the Wall Street reform bill passed through Congress this year. The provision, which was weakened somewhat in the final version, found Paul joining with a number of Democrats to require the Fed to open its books and outline its assets and liabilities.

The gold reserves, which Paul's new bill would audit, are generally seen as a guarantee on a nation's currency, but the U.S. moved the dollar away from being tied to the price of gold in 1972.

Paul stopped short of calling for the reinstitution of the gold standard and instead called for the government to allow the use of hard currency — gold and silver tender — alongside the use of the dollar.

"If people get tired of using the paper standard they can deal in gold or silver,” he said. 

Note to readers:  The above item interests me because of my lingering concern that Facebook
is possibly the realization of the oft-mooted "Communist plot" they always told us about in our youth to take over the world.  In my paranoid version of this plot, the enemy ties its adversaries (us) up in pointless activities consuming all time and attention (Facebook) while stealing a march on Fort Knox.  As the old SCTV quip goes, "makes you think" (at least a little bit).

2.  Mortars and Pestles and Mortars 

I wanted to write about something that makes me a little sad.  A long time ago, I attended graduate school in art history at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.  My principal field of concentration was Islamic art and I was fortunate enough to study under the great Islamic art scholar, Richard Ettinghausen, a pioneer and giant in the field and a lovely man and inspiring teacher.  

My first big paper for Dr. Ettinghausen was a study of various inscribed bronze Islamic mortars and pestles. What basically interested me about these three-dimensional , "everyday useful" objects (which might be considered examples of Islamic sculpture, a sort of non-existent field) was that, typical of Islamic art (I think this generalization is correct and permissible even though Islamic art is a giant field in terms of time and geography covered), they reflected a blurring of "high" and "low" art distinctions and that the artists who created them were animated by the same concern to imbue their works with spiritual meaning and beauty as were the architects, miniaturists and calligraphers.  In other words, apart from their aesthetic qualities, they reflected a world where art was "lived" and was not "apart" and put on a pedestal for admiration and celebrity/commercial purposes.
I wanted to revisit Islamic mortars and pestles on this blog and when I started doing the research on Google (which seemed the quickest route to images and information; I'm no longer a scholar with ready access to the right reference books and periodicals) by typing in "Islamic mortars" as a search term, the overwhelming number of entries were to contemporary weaponry, current military conflict and terrorism.  I shouldn't have been surprised, I suppose, but I was.  Nothing I can say will solve anything.  Nothing anyone can say, apparently, can solve anything.  In any event, please see above and below several views of a very nice example of an 11th century AD bronze Persian mortar and pestle. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Walk On Water (Kevin Ayers lyric)


Some people seem to walk on water
Some people just got it made
and never see themselves completely
never think there's any other way
But you know
it’s only a show
and you reap what you sow
in your own way.
Some people really need attention
just see what they want to see
Never more than their reflection
in someone else's fantasy
But they know
it’s only a show
and they reap what they sow
in their own way.
A pretty face will find a place
it’s an easy place to be
You're not allowed to change the picture
picture people want to see
But you know
you're only a show
and you reap what you sow
in your own way.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

13 (JBR is 13 today)

JBR is 13 years old today.  

This is a glory, a mystery, a triumph and a wondrous event.  

Happy birthday!!!  


We hope you have the most wonderful day and everything you'd like to happen does.


Mom, Dad, Rose, Felix, Andy, Edie, Claude, Eddie, Bunny, Junior, Princess Daisy, Honey, Tige, KingKing, Skip, Flip, Ruby and Rainbow



Saturday, August 28, 2010

Salsa Lizano (Costa Rican Dreaming On A Summer's Day)

      For lunch today, we ate various dishes we brought back from Avalon – remnants of meals we weren’t able to finish at several excellent shore restaurants this week.  Café Loren in Avalon, White Heron Grill in Stone Harbor and Axelsson’s Blue Claw in Cape May – all of these are wonderful, welcoming and highly recommended places to dine. 
           The crab cakes, crab imperial and various grilled vegetables were all superb, but as one tends to do on occ  asions like this, I wanted to spice them up and vary them a little for their “encore presentation”, so  I found myself reaching for the bottle of Salsa Lizano sitting on the table in front of me.   Although I had kept  a bottle of this Costa Rican condiment  in my cabinet for quite a while (I purchased it out of curiosity because of its Costa Rican origin during an exotic food store forage somewhere during my journeys), it took me some time to try it and I was delighted when I did.  Not only does Salsa Lizano bring various flavors to life and enhance others pleasantly without in the slightest masking them, it is also an entirely vegetarian (vegan, actually) product, which truly enhances its appeal.  Like nuoc mam, the ubiquitous Asian fish sauce, Salsa Lizano is one of those mystery ingredients that make everything livelier and better if you just add a little to your cooking.

      Wikipedia says the following about “Salsa Lizano”:
      “It is a Costa Rican condiment developed in 1920 by the Lizano Company.  It is now a product of Knorr.  It is a thin, smooth, light brown sauce (akin to such condiments as HP Sauce).  It is meant to be used while cooking or – popularly – at tableside to flavor ones food when serving.  It is slightly sweet with a hint of spiciness lent by black pepper and cumin.
      The ingredients include water, salt, vegetables (onions, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers), spices, pepper, mustard and turmeric.

      Many Costa Rican dishes are prepared with Salsa Lizano, and it is ubiquitous on restaurant tables in its country of origin.  It is commonly used with gallo pinto and tamales, and is also considered particularly complementary with eggs, rice, beans, cheese, curries and as a marinade for meat.
      Salsa Lizano is increasing available commercially throughout the North American continent, including the United States.”


      We are hoping to visit Costa Rica later this year.  (Mexico has become too crazy, unfortunately.)  I will report back about the Salsa Lizano situation in situ.
      I found the following very enthusiastic and appealing recipe for the most tipico Costa Rican dish, Gallo Pinto on another blogger's website.  I haven't tried it yet, but it looks good and should certainly be a good starting point for an interested cook.  When I'm reunited with my Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz books, I'll see what she suggests: 

Gallo Pinto – Costa Rican Rice and Beans

      This is it folks! The definitive version of Gallo Pinto. It took a long time to get here and I have a lot of people to thank, Dan for eating Gallo Pinto all the time, the Ticos for endlessly varying their national dish so that I could try 1000 different recipes, Dinger and Willow for eating the leftovers when we couldn’t face another day of rice and beans
          Gallo Pinto is a terrific recipe to perfect, it works best with leftover rice and/or beans, you can increase the amount to feed 20 without really doing anything different, it is a very hearty breakfast, it is probably the cheapest thing you could ever make, you can make a version with stuff that you have right now in your pantry, and it tastes like Costa Rica! It does take a little planning if you don’t have beans on hand. What works great is to make a big batch of beans & rice for dinner (maybe bean burgers, black bean soup, or burritos) and then when you get out of bed the next day you are 15 minutes from having breakfast on the table. I will write out the recipe assuming that you are just making the rice and beans so that you have them so you can make Gallo Pinto for breakfast for four people.


1 cup rice, (any will work, I use basmati)
1 tsp Vegeta Gourmet Seasoning and Spice Mix (Sazon) or half of a vegetable broth cube
1 cup black beans
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 dried ancho chilie peppers, seeds removed (any other pepper can be subbed, some will be more spicy, anchos aren’t spicy, you can also use jalapeños or bell peppers just add them when you add the garlic instead)
1 Tbsp oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves or garlic, chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped and packed
1 lime
The Beans:

Soak the beans for at least 8 hours. If you live somewhere that is really hot (e.g. Texas in the summer) you should do this in the fridge.
When the beans are done soaking change the water (add about 7 cups), add a couple bay leaves, and bring to a simmer for around 90 minutes. You will need to check the doneness of the beans at around 1 hour because the timing will vary depending on how dry your beans are. You can also do this step in the crock pot. Whatever you do, make sure that you save some of the cooking water with the beans because you will need it later.
The Rice:
Dissolve the broth cube or 1 teaspoon of Vegeta in 2 cups of water. Add 1 cup of rice, bring to a simmer, and then reduce heat to almost off for 35-60 minutes depending on what kind of rice you are using. It works best to refrigerate the rice overnight because then it drys better.
Gallo Pinto:

Toast the cumin, coriander, and dried peppers until fragrant and then grind in either a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. (Conversely, if you are short on time or don’t have the seeds you could also toast the powders and when you put in the garlic). Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the skillet and place it over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Sauté for 5 minutes, until the onions start to turn translucent. Add the garlic and the spice mixture and sauté another minute. Add a little more oil if you can’t see any and turn the heat up. Add the rice and stir fry for about a minute breaking up any chunks but don’t smoosh the rice. Once all the rice has changed color add the beans starting with just one cup until you have a pleasing ratio of rice to beans. Also add some of the bean cooking water with the beans. Gently mix and once everything is heated through adjust the spices, add the cilantro, and turn off the heat. To make the mold, press the Gallo Pinto into a small bowl, invert a plate on it, and then flip both over and lift up the bowl. Serve with the lime, salsa, tofu scramble, and fried plantains.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Quasimodo Supplement -- Quasimodo Cocktail!

I felt todays's post to be slightly ungenerous and "underfunded".

So, I decided to research both "Victor Hugo" recipes and festive drinks and those that included the name Quasimodo.

I found a considerable amount of information that I'll be sorting out for some time. The only thing I know for certain is that I will probably be visiting, as soon as I can manage any sort of European vacation, is a visit to the Quasimodo Bar in Portugal's Algarve region. It sounds HIGHLY appealing.

Germany, for some reason, seems to be home to the Quasimodo cocktail, which is simply a sweetish vodka-lemon juice drink served in a tall glass with a slice of lemon as garnish. I think it might be more refreshing in the summer with some club soda mixed in. I have absolutely no idea why it is called a "Quasimodo".


* 4 cl Vodka
* 2 cl Freshly squeezed lemon juice
* 2 cl Simple syrup


* 1 Lemon slice


Glass: Tall drink glass

Quasimodo News -- Reuters, August 24, 2010

View of Notre Dame cathedral's towers, in Paris, France. EPA/HORACIO VILLALOBOS.

By: Mike Collett-White

LONDON (REUTERS).- A British archivist believes he has uncovered the real-life inspiration for French novelist Victor Hugo's mysterious character Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

Adrian Glew, who works on the Tate collection's archives in London, was studying the seven-volume handwritten autobiography of 19th century British sculptor Henry Sibson when he came across a reference to a Frenchman whose nickname was "le bossu," or hunchback.

Sibson had been employed in the 1820s to carve stone as part of the renovation of Notre Dame in Paris which had suffered damage during the French Revolution in the 1790s.

But he fell out with one of his contractors and applied for another job at the government studios where he met a carver called Trajan.

According to Sibson, Trajan was a "most worthy, fatherly and amiable man as ever existed -- he was the carver under the government sculptor whose name I forget as I had no intercourse with him. All that I know is that he was humpbacked and he did not like to mix with carvers."

Glew immediately thought he was on to something.

"It was almost like peering into Tutankhamun's tomb and you see a glimpse of something that attracts your eye," he told Reuters.

Several Connections

He noted that Sibson was describing French artisans active in the same part of Paris where Hugo lived in the 1820s and, with his interest in the restoration of Notre Dame, the writer may have seen and even known Trajan and his hunchbacked boss.

"And also, Hugo proposed to his wife-to-be in Dreux, at a time when the team of sculptors and carvers were working there," he added.

Sibson was part of the team who went to Dreux, a town near Paris, which included both Trajan and M. Le Bossu, "a nickname given to him and I scarcely ever heard any other.

"M. Le Bossu was pleased to tell M. Trajan that he must be sure to take the little Englishman."

Further supporting his theory, Glew added, was the fact that the Almanach de Paris of 1833 listed all professional inhabitants in the area and included the carver Trajan.

That indicated he continued to work there during the period when Hugo wrote his famous novel (1828-1831). And in an early version of Hugo's "Les Miserables," the main character is Jean Trajean, a name Hugo later altered to Jean Valjean.

Glew has yet to discover Le Bossu's real name.

"It is tantalizing that we don't know what he was called," he said. "I'm still researching that."

Sibson's memoir will be on display outside the Hyman Kreitman Reading Room at the Tate Britain gallery from August 16 until the end of the month. Tate Archive celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. 

(Bottom photo:  Charles Laughton at 12)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cooler by a mile


A single day away from the echo chamber can make a difference,

but you need to work on your concentration, on "keeping your own counsel",

which isn't always easy.  Ironically, this requires collaborators.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Et in Utah ego. Some beautiful pictures of the Spiral Jetty (1970) and its creator.

We’re off to the beach (et in Avalon ego; different jetty formations there) later this morning, thank heaven, in search of familiar and unfamiliar birds. I hope my Green Wood Hoopoes are still in residence and the dolphins are out. Jane says that she can’t get the song Blue Turns To Grey (Cliff Richard and the Shadows version) out of her head. For me, it’s Maggie’s Farm (Bert Parks version from the movie The Freshman) and I can’t imagine why that is the case. I expect things will change for both of us when we see and hear the waves.

Monday, August 23, 2010

They'll sell anything (Cadogan Hotel's Green Carnation Package); Victoria Sandwich Sponge Cake

MailOnline - news, sport, celebrity, science and health stories

Sunday, Aug 22 2010 12AM 16°C 3AM 17°C 5-Day Forecast

Oscar Wilde's London life: Cadogan Hotel's Green Carnation package

By Sebastian Lander
Last updated at 6:57 PM on 22nd August 2010

It seems you can excuse quite a lot when you spend a weekend with Oscar Wilde. Not only am I writing this with a glass of champagne beside me in mid-afternoon, I am doing so in bed. And I don't feel a bit guilty. In fact, I think Oscar would have wholeheartedly approved of such behaviour. Call it going Wilde.

It was here at The Cadogan Hotel in London's Knightsbridge that the infamous author was arrested in 1895, charged with 'committing acts of gross indecency'. One floor down from me, in Room 118, a reputedly half-drunken Wilde sat waiting for the police to arrive after refusing to flee, and ended up with two years' hard labour at Reading jail.
Going Wilde: The hotel room at The Cadogan Hotel where Oscar Wilde was arrested in 1895

To mark this turning point in Wilde's fortunes, the hotel has created the 'Green Carnation' package, named after the dyed buttonhole Wilde was fond of wearing. Guests can stay in Room 118, which contains items such as a replica of his smoking jacket, and enjoy a bottle of his favourite pink Perrier-Jouet. There is also a menu dedicated to some of his gastronomic preferences - hock and seltzer (wine and soda), absinthe and, rather incongruously, Victoria sandwich sponge cake.

The Cadogan's package includes a three-course evening meal which features more Perrier-Jouet and unlimited wine in Langtry's Restaurant, part of the hotel that was once home to Wilde's friend, the actress Lillie. And this set me up nicely for a weekend spent hot on Wilde's polished heels around the city that bore him up and then tore him down.

Many of the places associated with Wilde have disappeared, but you can still reach many of them on foot - though Wilde would have disapproved of this as he preferred to take a hansom cab everywhere.

A short walk away from The Cadogan is 16 Tite Street, where the playwright lived with wife Constance and their two sons. The house is not open but Wilde is said to have used one of the rooms that looks out on to the street in which to write. There is also the church, St James's in Paddington, where the couple married in May 1884.

To experience the most animated window on to Wilde's London life, I joined guide Alan Titchard on a two-hour stroll to some of the writer's haunts, many of them backdrops to the vicious spats between Wilde and the Marquess of Queensberry, father of his lover, Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas. In Mayfair, we visited the site of the Albemarle Club - now an office block - where the Marquess left his infamously misspelled calling card 'For Oscar Wilde posing somdomite'. It was Wilde's decision to sue the Marquess for libel over the slant which precipitated his own downfall.

We also stopped off at the elegant Royal Arcade in Mayfair, where Wilde used to buy his green carnations, and on St James's Street found the wonderfully eccentric 18th Century James J. Fox Cigar merchant which supplied cigarettes to Wilde, a 100-a-day smoker.

The downstairs Freddie Fox Cigar Museum features a display of memorabilia dedicated to Wilde and famous smokers such as Churchill.

Oscar Wilde is pictured smoking a cigarette

Decadent: Oscar Wilde was a 100-a-day smoker

The walk also takes in the site of the now demolished St James' Theatre, where Lady Windermere's Fan and The Importance Of Being Earnest made their debuts.

It ends back in Piccadilly, opposite bookshop Hatchards, where Wilde had an account. From here, there are a number of places that he would have sanctioned to enjoy a dinner.

These include the imposing Langham hotel in Portland Place - the setting for a meeting in 1889 between Arthur Conan Doyle and Wilde where the seeds were sown for his novel The Picture Of Dorian Gray - and Kettner's restaurant in Soho, where Wilde used a room upstairs.

Perhaps the most quirky choice for dinner is the Courthouse Hotel near Oxford Circus, which used to be the Great Marlborough Street Magistrates Court, where Wilde brought his libel case against Queensberry.

Over the years, celebrities from Mick Jagger to John Lennon have been up before the beak in the oak-panelled courtroom but the only judgments being handed down now are those concerning the food.

Travel facts

The Cadogan Hotel's Green Carnation package costs £399 per person. Call 020 7235 7141 or visit www.cadogan.com. The London Of Oscar Wilde walk takes place every Saturday and costs £8 or £6 for over-65s and students. For details, call 020 7624 3978 or visit www.walks.com. For more on the Courthouse Hotel, call 020 7297 5555 or visit www.courthouse-hotel.com.

ADDENDUM:  I understand that the (from what I've been told by a good friend is the utterly charming) Cadogan Hotel needs to sell rooms, even if it means trafficking in past sad events in a tawdry, tasteless way, but it seems only right to at least include a recipe, taken from BBC Good Food Magazine, for Victoria sandwich sponge cake, since: a) Wilde apparently enjoyed it; and b) it looks delicious and simple to prepare.  I think it would go well with the Perrier-Jouet champagne:

Classic Victoria sandwich sponge cake
You can't go wrong with this perfect party cake - full of spongey goodness. Makes a super-simple wedding cake, too
Difficulty and servings: Easy; Cuts into 10 slices
Preparation and cooking times: Ready in 30 minutes, plus cooling 
Cake base freezes well for 3 months
  1. Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Butter two 20cm sandwich tins and line with non-stick baking paper. In a large bowl, beat all the cake ingredients together until you have a smooth, soft batter.
  2. Divide the mixture between the tins, smooth the surface with a spatula or the back of a spoon, then bake for about 20 mins until golden and the cake springs back when pressed. Turn onto a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.
  3. To make the filling, beat the butter until smooth and creamy, then gradually beat in icing sugar. Beat in vanilla extract if you're using it. Spread the butter cream over the bottom of one of the sponges, top it with jam and sandwich the second sponge on top. Dust with a little icing sugar before serving. Keep in an airtight container and eat within 2 days.