January 2009 Archives

Consult the Oracle


I've mentioned before my enthusiasm for Karmabanque Radio, a podcast conducted by my pals Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert. I'm thrilled to announce that Max and Stacy now have a new TV program on BBC World News called The Oracle.

On The Oracle, Max discusses current economic events with guests, while Stacy provides insights and presents statistical research to help frame the issues. In episode one, for instance, Stacy cites the "Cheech and Chong Index," which measures economic well-being based on the popularity of Cheech and Chong. At the end of each segment, Max calls upon the Oracle to help predict the answer to economic questions such as, "Are we in a recession or a depression?"

One of the ideas I liked from this first airing is the notion that low wages of U.S. workers helped create the current economic crisis. Richard Blustein, the alter ego of Yeast Radio's Madge Weinstein--another podcaster I love--also makes an appearance on the show. You can watch episode one of The Oracle in its entirety here.

Bandits With a Cause

This past weekend the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend and I went to the Autry National Center for the American West to see the exhibit Bold Caballeros y Noble Banditas. I became interested in going to this show after seeing a painting of a gun-slinging woman, Adelita by George Yepes. The image is being used to promote the exhibit.

The theme of the exhibit was the tradition of virile heroes and heroines fighting for social justice in Latino and Latina culture. Drawing examples from the historical record as well as from popular culture and the imagination, the exhibition ranged from the Old West to the Mexican Revolution to Hollywood and the Mexican cinema.

Film poster for the Bandit Queen

As I've mentioned here before, the Autry Museum has an impressive collection of material artifacts from Hollywood cowboy movies and Western serials. Many such pieces were put to use in this bilingual exhibit, in effect shifting the focus towards American (rather than Mexican) and non-Hispanic (as opposed to Latino and Latina) contributions.

For example, while there was some interesting illustrated matter dating from the Mexican Revolution on display, the larger narrative of the exhibit emphasized the way Hollywood was inspired by revolutionary leaders and events. I would have rather seen more historical artifacts pertaining to Pancho Villa than see the costume worn by the actor playing Pancho Villa in a Hollywood production.

The section of the exhibit on outlaw champions of social justice in film contained a wall devoted to macha women in Mexican cinema. I especially enjoyed the material related to the life and career of movie star Maria Felix. Although the images and posters related to Zorro and other Hollywood creations were fun to look at, I felt the presentation willfully ignored Hollywood's history of racism in depicting Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.

Despite these reservations, I enjoyed the exhibit overall and am happy to see such cross-cultural, cross-border offerings. The theme of the show has special resonance now, when a Robin Hood or two would be most welcome.

Carried Away


While reading Wonder Woman #25 I became lost in these two panels, showing Wonder Woman carrying a woman to safety.
Wonder Woman flying with a woman in her arms

It's a common superhero pose, flying through the air supporting another person. Something about this rendering, though, struck me as being really romantic. Maybe it's the soft look on the face of the woman being saved, or maybe it's Wonder Woman's matter-of-factness and the strength of that supporting hip. There's nothing lesbian or subtexty about the story here. It's just a pose that captured my imagination.

A wounded Wonder Woman carried by Donna Troy.In Wonder Woman #27, my eye was caught by the image of Donna Troy carrying a wounded Diana. While this image is more pitiful, the moment of rescue depicted also appeals to my sense of romance. Here, one woman exhibits strength and fortitude as she tends to the well-being of another.

Flying gives the upper image an otherworldly aspect. The feet-on-the-ground pose in the lower image makes the act of one woman carrying another appear real. It's unusual to see one woman carry another, in real life or in art, but certainly not impossible. But because it is so uncommon, these pictures leapt out at me.

I'm to Be Queen of the May


The Cute Little Red Headed Girlfriend and I dine out often, and in the latter part of this year we saw the cost of restaurant dining out go up significantly. As restaurants struggled with the climb in food prices, we saw portions shrink, substitutions made, and menus change frequently. More than anything, we saw the price of alcoholic drinks go up.

A few months ago, in part hoping to save money, I started making mixed drinks at home. It turns out to have been a good decision, since one of our favorite watering-holes has gone out of business as a result of the economic downturn. Supposedly people all over the country are drinking more as a result of the recession. I also read in a profile piece that lesbian "it" girl Rachel Maddow mixes cocktails for a hobby. So I feel like my new bartending habits have put me in the midst of a trend.

Because the Cute Little Red Headed Girlfriend likes drinks that ideally include a maraschino cherry and a parasol, I have concentrated on learning recipes for sweeter-tasting alcoholic beverages. I've found some that I like at cocktail blogs such as Science of Drink.

I was reading P.G. Wodehouse's novel Uncle Fred in the Springtime when I ran across a reference to an intriguing drink called May Queen. This is actually it's abbreviated name, as the character Uncle Fred (also known as Lord Ickenham) recounts in the novel:

Do we by any chance know a beverage called May Queen? It's full name is 'To-morrow'll be of all the year the maddest, merriest day, for I'm to be Queen of the May, mother, I'm to be Queen of the May.' A clumsy title, generally shortened for purposes of ordinary conversation.

Lord Ickenham is here recommending May Queen to his nephew, Pongo Twistleton, assuring that it will "alleviate the deepest despondency." It's hard to argue with that sort of recommendation, so I decided to locate a recipe. The ingredients were listed in the Wodehouse book but the proportions were vague:

Its foundation is any good, dry champagne, to which is added liqueur brandy, armagnac, kummel, yellow chartreuse and old stout, to taste.

Despite its legendary position within the Wodehouse universe, a good recipe for May Queen is difficult to track down. The best I could find was "2 or 3 parts champagne to 1 part of everything else, and lots of ice" courtesy of another Wodehouse fan.

Further investigation led me to believe that the May Queen may have fallen out of favor with the public due to the priciness of its ingredients. As I tracked them down, one by one, I was much taken with their esoteric origins.

Take, for example, Yellow Chartreuse. This herbal flavored liqueur is made by the Carthusian monks of the Grand Chartreuse monastery in France. Wikipedia tells me that the recipe for Yellow Chartreuse--which some have attempted to steal--has been kept secret for hundreds of years and that no single monk is allowed to know the full recipe at any time.

Three monks, each possessing knowledge of no more than one-third of the herbal ingredients, prepare the liqueur. That's exactly the kind of convoluted, arcane story that you can only get from the Catholic Church and I must say it appeals to me. And yes, you can expect to pay through the nose for that kind of exclusivity. I found Yellow Chartreuse available locally for $54.99 a bottle.

I had to make due without the May Queen this New Year's Eve. But eventually, I will have the necessary ingredients to happily sing, "I'm to be Queen of the May, mother, I'm to be Queen of the May."

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