Monthly Archives: January 2013

Book of the Week

The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios by Eric Rasmussen


A literary detective story and a fun work of scholarship all wrapped in one, Eric Rasmussen creates a fascinating true crime story that will delight any Shakespeare, or history, buff. The Shakespeare Thefts appeals to Shakespeare fans for the obvious reasons, but this chronicling of the First Folios takes us on a romp through history that anyone who is awake will find interesting.

Printed in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, the First Folio was compiled by two actors in Shakespeare’s company, The King’s Men. Only half of Shakespeare’s plays were printed in his lifetime, so John Heminges and Henry Condell did the world a great service with the printing of roughly 1,000 copies of what has become one of the rarest, most coveted and most valuable books in the world.

After a decade of tirelessly searching, Rasmussen and his team tracked down the 232 First Folios now known to still be in existence. A quick read, this book tells some of the interesting stories behind the individual copies. From a folio that was shot, with the bullet stopping at Titus Andronicus, to a stolen copy that was turned  in by the thief because he feared his accomplices would sell it to Hitler, the entertainment is endless. Rasmussen attempts to trace copies that were defaced during the Spanish Inquisition, noting that it is perhaps the only book that got positive reviews from the Inquisitors. Although they crossed out many lines and tore out many pages, at least one of them liked some of the comedies, writing “good” on four of them. The Catholic Church wasn’t done with the First Folio. Centuries later Pope Paul VI was supposed to bless the Royal Shakespeare Company’s copy, but slyly accepted it as a gift instead! Diplomatic efforts eventually got it returned to the RSC. Rasmussen mentions some of the copies we know to be lost, such as the one burned in the 1871 Chicago fire. He also briefly traces the curious trend of private owners dying shortly after obtaining their copy. Amusing and light, this would be a great beach read for spring break or the coming summer and a nice little gift for your favorite bibliophile.

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Your Morning Cup of Links

James Joyce in Trieste, his interesting carousel of jobs and his moves to keep his family safe during the First World War. The essay is an excerpt from a book-in-progress.

Another interesting book on my radar speculates whether love (making) or work exhausted the great Raphael.

The case was made with typical robustness by Nietzsche in The Will to Power, possibly while looking at a print of Ingres’s painting. He was equally dismissive of the idea that Raphael indulged in casual sex. Great artists have to be physically strong, with plenty of sexual energy – “without a certain overheating of the sexual system a Raphael is unthinkable”. Yet despite the artist’s susceptibility to sensory stimulation and intoxication – “how wise it is at times to be a little tipsy!” – he is usually chaste. His dominant instinct “does not permit him to expend himself in any casual way”. So Raphael must have kept La Fornarina waiting while he painted his dear Madonnas. Picasso, in a series of twenty-five prints on the subject made in 1968, would square the circle. Made in the comic style of Japanese erotic prints, they depict Raphael simultaneously painting and penetrating La Fornarina, with Michelangelo and the Pope looking on, amazed (and impotent) bystanders.

The history of the goose step…and how DARPA can identify you by your walk.

In truth, it’s not a very sensible way to get around (goose-stepping injuries weren’t uncommon among soldiers), but it was taught to instill discipline among the troops. More so, it served well in ceremonial public displays — to demonstrate a leader could turn men into machines. The step invariably involved boots brought down in unison, smartly and loudly, giving a platoon the invincible sound of a well-lubricated machine. Message: Resistance is futile. For the past century or so, the goose step has been used chiefly in totalitarian regimes — that is, states where it’s exceedingly inadvisable to laugh at the military. (George Orwell wrote in 1940, “Its ugliness is part of its essence, for what it is saying is ‘Yes, I am ugly, and you daren’t laugh at me.’”) Today, the goose step is about as commonly seen as the Hitler’s toothbrush mustache, although it does live on vestigially among some ceremonial guards (Greece’s parliament, Moscow’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) and in a faraway, possibly mythical, land called North Korea.

Jeb Boniakowski dreams of an enormous McDonald’s complex in Times Square called “McWorld,” which would represent all the different McDonald’s menus around the world. We have the same dream, Jeb.

Spam and eggs from Hawaii, lobster rolls (that’s The McHomard in Montreal!) and blueberry shakes from Maine. Montreal also has poutine. (Poutine with McDonald’s FRIES?!!? THAT IS PROBABLY CRAZY!!!) I could go on and on about the mega menu. I could explain how it will look like the fast food place in Cloud Atlas the movie except grander. But you can imagine all that. You got the basic idea. You would just gaze upon the Big Menu for hours. The Wasabi Filet O’Fish. The Pizza McPuff. The McSatay. The Cypriot Shrimp Burger. The Croque McDo.

Well, now that I’m thinking about cheese, check out the prose you can find in some awesome cheese shops, thanks to cheesemongers: our modern poets.

…a sign-browsing stroll through Fairway will reveal many delights, like this billing for Queijo de Serpa: “It is still made only at night, I am led to believe, as it was when I last visited the cheesemaker, and what I haven’t told you is Serpa’s texture and flavor are like sex. There’s just no other way to describe the effect this cheese has on me. Even though I barely remember sex.”…Take his less-than-rousing pitch for an aged mimolette: “It was Charles de Gaulle’s favorite cheese, which figures. He was an army man, and God knows army men are not too particular about what they put in their mouths. Even aged a year, mimolette is not exactly startling.”

If only all pro-lifers had this sense of humor. As the article notes though, the logic is faulty because Neville Longbottom. Duh.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this a hundred times yet or not but it is the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice and I will celebrate all year long. Here are some ways other people are celebrating; here’s why it’s one of the best novels ever; here’s a tribute to the lukewarm “romance” between Charlotte and Mr. Collins, the latter being possibly the most annoying character in literary history, and therefore, a gift to us all; here’s an awesome Guardian piece with a variety of writers analyzing a variety of characters; 10 reasons the novel still rocks after 200 years; and here’s a collection of the best P & P covers.

And lastly, ten things not to say after sex, according to Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

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Taco Tuesday – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

As Sophie B. Hawkins once said (actually she says it a lot) in her song “As I Lay Me Down,” I LOVE TACOS!! So let’s start with the good…

The Good

IT’S HAPPENING!!!!! Taco Bell’s CEO has finally announced that Cool Ranch Doritos Tacos are coming soon. As a person who has to eat gluten free, this delights me, because Nacho Cheese Doritos contain gluten while Cool Ranch flavor does not. So I have been denied this tasty treat, forced to watch my boyfriend savor the awesomeness while I sit with my stupid regular corn shell tacos, gassy with beans green with envy. But no more, NO MORE. JUSTICE! EQUALITY! FREEDOM!!!!

The Bad

Taco Bell has caved to the food police and pulled an ad after being accused of “mocking vegetables” and discouraging healthy eating. The ad rightly suggests that bringing a vegetable tray to a Super Bowl party makes you an asshole and everyone will hate you. I’m pretty sure it also means you’re anti-American. Anyway, everyone caves to the bullies, even Taco Bell. Sigh.

The Ugly

Mexican fast food wars!! Taco Bell and Chipotle throw down. Chipotle sees Taco Bell’s Cool Ranch Doritos move, responds with organic hoodies. That’s like bringing a vegetable tray to a Super Bowl party…oh wait…

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Weekly Recipe

Lobster Mac and Cheese 

Mac and cheese is one of my favorites! Here’s my deluxe version…for when someone important comes over. Lol.


Salt and pepper

A pound of elbow macaroni

4 cups whole milk

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup all purpose flour

4 cups grated Gruyere cheese

2 cups extra sharp Cheddar cheese

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

About a pound and a half worth of lobster tails

A brimming cup of bread crumbs


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Fill a large pot with water, bring it to a boil, salt it and add the pasta (I also add a drop or two of olive oil, so the pasta doesn’t stick together). When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it. Meanwhile, bring another large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the lobster tails for 4-5 minutes, until red and curling. Remove and run them under cold water until cool enough to cut through the shells and remove and chop the meat.

While the lobster and pasta are cooking, melt 6 tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan and whisk in the flour for a couple minutes. Add the milk and allow the mixture to thicken, it should take a couple minutes. Remove from the heat and add the cheeses, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir until melted, then stir in the pasta and lobster and transfer to a casserole dish. Melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter, combine with the bread crumbs and sprinkle on top. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until bubbling and a bit browned on top.

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Around the World

Reports are coming out of North Korea that parents are eating their children as the regime continues to starve the people.

Meanwhile, in South Korea: a toilet theme park. P.S. FREE ADMISSION!!

The Syrian crisis and the future of Iraq.

French and Malian troops finally ousted the Islamists from historic Timbuktu, but as they were leaving they finally did what everyone feared, torched the centuries-old library. Fuckers. As I have oft repeated, this is a war, civilization vs. a bunch of barbaric know-nothings. Ironically, they ended up torching a bunch of Korans, since the library was a repository of Islamic and regional history. We have now lost thousands of ancient books written on practically every subject in practically every tongue imaginable.

The oldest books were from the eleventh century, when the Salt Road trading was at its peak and international traders would converge on Timbuktu. The information in these tomes was still so salient that, as the crumbling pages of the books were being preserved, people from all over the world were still trying to translate and study them to see if there was some knowledge they could use today.

Meanwhile, Islamists in Nigeria have murdered 23 people for selling meat the Islamists “didn’t approve of” and for “gambling,” aka playing an outdoor board game.

Continuing to track a story I posted last week, we are now hearing that the guards at the Kabul Embassy were told to lie about their long hours.

In happier news, Jalila Khamis has been released after ten months in jail in Sudan. I posted about her awhile back, but to refresh your memory, she is a teacher who spoke out about the war in her country and was jailed for her peaceful protest.

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Your Morning Cup of Links


Image by Alexander Dragunov. Check out what Stockholm has done to its subway system, with more cool pictures like the one above here. Called the “world’s longest art exhibition,” the metro system is 68 miles long and contains spectacular art, as you can see above, from 150 different artists.

The slow, painful death of Barnes & Noble…and therefore, American bookstore cafes…and therefore, me. B & N will be closing 20 bookstores a year over the next 10 years. The WSJ, however, doesn’t think it means the death of print books. Damn you, non-reading, anti-real book Americans, DAMN YOU!!

Speaking of shuttered bookstores, you can buy the letters from Borders’ flagship store in Michigan. They are being auctioned off for charity.

Save the wombat! For the love of the memory of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, if for no other reason. P.S. They’re also pretty damn cute.

Benjamin Franklin and Jonathan Swift were fart joke masters. Enjoy.

This week in new and ridiculous government measures: people with food allergies are now covered under the Federal Disabilities Law. As a person with a food allergy, I think this is completely absurd. Yet another gift to trial lawyers!

Hedley Twiddle discusses his obsession with J.M. Coetzee and the impossibility of “teaching” his works. I get where he’s coming from. Luckily, I had an amazing teacher in college who gave us Waiting for the Barbarians and didn’t tell us what to think about it. She recognized it provoked enough thought on its own. So began my now decade-long love affair with Coetzee’s work. Like Salman Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Coetzee is in a class by himself, one of the truly great, and rare, modern literary artists. Their works must be read, enjoyed and pondered without the dates or objectives of a syllabus in mind.

Pride and Prejudice: the playlist!

Michael J. Totten brings some sanity to the Zero Dark Thirty debate, and brilliantly echoes what I’ve been saying to friends for weeks now.

Bigelow’s critics didn’t want art, nor were they interested in a journalistic account. They wanted a cinematic op-ed piece and didn’t get it. True, neither the writer nor filmmaker articulate an anti-torture message, but those trained in the arts know this sort of thing is not always necessary or even desirable. Good novelists and filmmakers can manipulate the emotions and even opinions of their audience, but they also know that the strongest emotions and opinions are self-generated. One of the first things a student of creative writing hears from a good teacher is “show, don’t tell.” If you want the audience to think something is horrible, you don’t tell them something is horrible. You show them something that’s horrible and let them come to a conclusion about it themselves…

Journalists and consumers of quality journalism should be thankful for this; artists and consumers of quality art should be thankful, too. Activists, and those with an activist way of thinking, are the ones who have a problem with the neutral and balanced approach—not because they want to be lectured themselves, but because they want to sit in a room where everyone else is being lectured…

Zero Dark Thirty is a hybrid of journalism and drama that includes no moralizing and no op-ed flourishes. Instead, it’s a gritty crash course in reality, which doesn’t care about anyone’s political preferences. Reality isn’t liberal or conservative or fascist or libertarian. It just is.

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On this day in history…

January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger exploded and the seven astronauts on board tragically lost their lives. This is actually the hardest week of the year for NASA. Three of the program’s worst tragedies happened this week – 46, 27 and 10 years ago. Yesterday (January 27) was the anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire and Friday is the 10th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

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January 29, 2013 · 2:25 am